Monday, 27 September 2010

Beginnings can be Slow

These are the studies I have been doing under the fig trees. Studies are different from drawings. As the name says they are a study of the subject, a way to get to know it. They are different from a finished drawing which is meant to be displayed.
I draw the trees as a way of experiencing them. Try drawing something from life. You will know it in a different way than you did before.
I didn't get a lot done last week. Beginnings can be slow, there are so many decisions. I am continuing with the drawing.

I have been second guessing my decisions. Maybe I should have done the drawing in pen rather than pencil (I question this even though I know that I don't want to use pen.)

I take a chance and throw some colour into the drawing. It has been years since I have used watercolours. I am not skilled with them and am nervous. But it feels good. I like it.
I know I want a linear drawing, but how linear? How do I bring in the depth if I am not bringing in tone? I need to bring in some shading, but how much? And how do I do it without losing my line?

I am running back and forth from drawing on the table to putting it on the easel. I cannot see how the drawing is working when it is lying on the table. I should just work on it on the easel but I am being silly.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Drawing Under the Fig Trees

As I was struggling with my new drawing, I had the suspicion that my problem is because I am working from a photo.
I work mostly from reference photos. It is not the ideal choice, but models are expensive and few people want to sit still for hours. Because I have put in hundreds of hours of life drawing, I can usually add in what photos leave out. And my figures often 'come alive'.

But this wasn't happening with the fig trees.
I realized that I needed to go and draw them from life.

Unfortunately we are coming into spring in Australia. This is a very different season than the one I grew up with in the States.

It is a dangerous time of year. The snakes have woken from winter.
My DH was away for a week. The neighbours were up north and no one else was on the land. If anything happened, who would hear me call? I hushed my apprehensions and entered the grove.

It is a place of awe. The fig trees tower into the air. It is quiet but for the occasional bird cry and rustlings in the underbrush. What are those rustlings? I keep my eyes on the ground for snakes.
I settle in to draw. I am near the bee hive. I watch them buzz over me on their way to and from the hive.
After ten minutes the buzzing gets much louder. I jump up, certain that a bee is in my hair. I leap about, rustling my hair frantically. But the buzzing continues. I desperately rip off my polar fleece vest. The poor bees little feet are caught in its bright pink loops. It thought I was a giant pink flower!

I should have done my drawing in nature over the winter.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Beginning of a New Drawing

I began a new drawing.

I have quite a few compositional sketches in my studio sketchbook. Some feel like paintings, some feel like drawings. I want this new series to have both.

I began the drawing on the table looking out the window. I have only recently moved the table there as I usually draw on my drawing table or on the easel. It is comfy sitting down.

After a few days the drawing wasn't going well. It seemed stale. I felt very discouraged.
Today I realized that it might have to do with drawing at the table. When I put it up on my easel, I saw that the proportions were out. Because I was able to step back from the drawing, I could better see what was off.
I had to do some redrawing, but it is looking better.
There is a long way to go yet.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

I Wanna Make a Cool T-shirt

I have been thinking how cool it would be to wear a t-shirt with a journal page on it.

I have already made one t-shirt through Zazzle. It was of mixed success. The image came out smaller than I expected and the colours were dulled. But I am still excited that I can put my own images on a shirt - and loved that I could put stuff on the back too. This one has a little fish on the back.
Yesterday I tried to get together a journal page T. I picked the page below (it is unfinished):
I wanted to use the figure cut out because I thought that would look better than a square stuck in the middle of the shirt. So I took it into Photoshop. I don't do much in Photoshop, usually just change image sizes. I did take a short course about a year ago, but to say my skills are limited is a vast vast understatement.
After an hour or maybe it was two I managed to rid myself of the background and ended up with:

Fantastic. I went to Zazzle and uploaded my picture. It looked kinda weird. The girl had no legs. Amazing the stuff that just doesn't occur to me. On the page she looked okay. But somehow floating on my t-shirt with no legs at the bottom of her skirt did not look right.
It would have been cool if I could have placed her at the hem of my shirt, but there is only one place you can put your image on Zazzle, in the middle of your chest. Damn.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Experimenting in the Studio

I am beginning a new series. It is related to work I have been doing, but is a bit different. I have spent weeks of drawing compositional sketches, figuring out what sizes I will work in and preparing canvases. Generally getting an idea of where this work will go.
I spent several days on this drawing. I am in the midst of deciphering the method that I will use in my new paintings. Although I paint in oils, I want to bring more drawing into these works. I thought I would try an idea where the background might look a bit like watercolours.

I drew out the composition in pencil onto heavy watercolour paper. The drawing looked good. I liked the composition. All was going well. Because you can't oil paint onto paper, I thought I would use acrylic to try the painting method. I don't have a lot of skill or experience with acrylics, I only use them for backgrounds in my art journal. So when I tried to do a wash onto the drawing it was shocking. Patchy and uneven, as you can see. The drawing was ruined.

To my surprise and relief, I wasn't too upset. Even though I had spent a lot of time on the drawing and liked it, my intention was always to experiment.
Saturday the idea was to continue experimenting. Which medium might work best for this new approach? I have put out a wax medium, a gel medium and my regular underpainting medium.
I had already drawn out the canvas. I don't usually do a detailed pencil drawing before I begin painting, but this is my experiment. It is on a cheap canvas, one I wouldn't use for a painting I intended to finish.

It was an interesting experiment. The underpainting medium is supposed to be good for watercolour like approaches, but I actually found it very dry. Similar to working with turps. Toxic as well. I had to get out of the studio.

The wax medium was different. I have never tried it before. The pigment was suspended in the wax. It was the most like watercolour, all the brush marks disappeared easily and it had that watercolour glow. As this was just what I was trying for, I was surprised when it didn't feel right for these paintings.

Finally I used the gel medium. I was sure I wouldn't want this one, but tried it anyway. The gel actually accentuates the brush strokes and I want the drawing to be point of your attention. Unexpectedly I found this very effective when I used it to follow the contours of the tree. I liked the effect and see that it might be another way of drawing, but with a brush.

I have left my experiment to dry for a few days. I will return and try some drawing over the top to see how it goes on the different mediums.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Books from Amazon!

Yippee! I received my order from Amazon yesterday. Three, count'em, three large Moleskine sketchbooks! I love these. They use my favourite paper for drawing. More of a card really. A beautiful cream with a smooth and gorgeous surface for pencil and pen. Not so great for washes, but I haven't found a journal that will take everything yet. One of the Moleskines is a prize for a draw for my Art Journaling class. The red one is because I had to see what it looked like. I love the red.

Originally I checked out the World Behind the World from the library, but even though I renewed it three times I didn't get a third of the way through. That is because it is an amazing book so dense with wisdom that I could only take in a few pages at a time.

Great reading and future art journals. So exciting.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Back to Painting

I haven't done any oil painting since the group show at Retrospect Galleries in early August. I have been in the studio doing stuff, I was clearing and cleaning for a while, then planning my new series and creating small compositional sketches for the new work. I spent a week or so on a finished drawing that I proceeded to ruin with an acrylic wash. After which I prepared a few canvases. But I hadn't done any oil painting for six weeks or so. Until today.

Drawing comes more naturally to me than painting, so I didn't realize how much I was missing the painting. I decided to finish a work that has been close to complete for many months. As I work on as many as nine paintings at one time, often I won't touch one for up to six months. This one was ready to go.

I love the ending of a painting. By then I have worked out most of the problems and I am at the point of putting the frosting on the cake so to speak. I paint in the details that bring a subtlety and depth that I love. It was a lovely day.