Dreams of Inspiration – The Work in Progress – Part 1

I’m not even sure where to start with this, or where I’m going, and I’m not done yet.  The simplest version is, I had an idea for a painting.  It came into my mind complete, and gorgeous, and I had no idea how to do it.  It was outside my realm of experience except for the fact that I’ve used oils, acrylics, paintbrushes, and canvas.

It is a portrait of Scott, with a wildly colorful background, surrounded by these bubbles of inspiration.  My first thought was, I can’t do that, I have no idea how!  My next thought was that I could figure it out and that this was an important painting to do.  For all the times I’ve told the muses, “later,” it was time to act upon it now.  That was a couple of weeks ago.  The first half of the week I researched how to create cells with acrylic paints.  Then my room became a studio in earnest as I began to experiment with what I had learned.  Everything is right there in Youtube videos, but not everything is in the same video.  I had a blast!  I started with small canvases, different color schemes, different thicknesses of paint, different strengths of alcohol, and differing amounts of water.  I could have viewed this entire process as a failure because the first few days I worked with this technique, I didn’t get the colors or the results I needed. Finally, I started to get the cells that I wanted to move forward with the larger canvas.

Then, I began building up the colors that I wanted.  I discovered how to make different types of cells with alcohol.  I was finally on the right path!

This continues to be an eye-opening experience.  I don’t know what I’m doing next until I get to that point.  I’m figuring it out as I go along.  I’m Trusting the Process.

The First Date

No pictures this time, I’m afraid.

I’m going to tell you a little story.  It’s a story about fear, of discovery, of love and despair.  It’s a story of longing and exhilaration.  It is how my process works, and for this, I need more coffee.

I believe in Muses.  I believe in Inspiration being a living thing that comes and visits; sometimes while I sleep, and also when I am awake.  The reason I believe this is because it happens to me.  It has, all my life.  I’ve had it happen with music; where entire songs with lyrics will flow through me and pass on, and once, it was a symphony.  I’ve had it happen with books, and now, it happens with art.  The images that I see are so perfect, so complete, that I feel a visceral impact of wonder, desire and awe all mixed up together.  Sometimes it is sculpture, which I am nowhere near ready for, block printing, and wood carving.  Most often though, it is paintings.  This past year, I received images of complete, 3-foot by 6-foot stretched canvas portraits of Goddesses and Gods.  These were so complete they raised goosebumps on my arms.  I told the muse that I would be willing to undertake this work at a later time, ONCE I KNEW WHAT THE HELL I WAS DOING!!!  I didn’t tell it, no, I simply told it later.

See, this has happened to me for a long time now.  From the time I was a child, I would get glimpses of paintings, of music, of prose, and I just turned aside.  I didn’t know how I was going to bring it to life.  I was afraid.  Now some of these things have definitely been beyond my skill level, such as the symphony.  I had no paper, pen, recording device, and that work of art flowed through me and was gone.  There was no waiting for me.  Perhaps it was just a glimpse of where my life could have taken me.  Many of the songs and poems I have written came to me in just this way.

Now, though, I AM working on fine art skills.  This is one of the many reasons why I am taking these art classes, and why I continue to learn.  I need these skills to bring these paintings to life, these and so many others that have come to me even in the past couple of years.  I have better than one hundred paintings waiting in the wings at the moment.  However, I’m not willing to stretch 18 square feet of linen canvas in the hope that I create something that might sort of look like the image in my mind.  Not happening.  I don’t know whether the paintings that have come to me in the past will wait until I have the skills necessary.  The great news is that new ones just keep coming.

Instead:

  1. I do thumbnail sketches of each of these paintings.  I document what I’ve imagined using pictures, sketches, words, whatever it takes to make a record of it.
  2. I study drawing.
  3. I have an atelier painting class coming up to continue to improve my skills.
  4. I’m studying color theory and harmony.
  5. I’m finding people in similar poses that I can practice drawing in preparation for these paintings.

In short, I’m teaching myself the skills I need to bring them to light.  I have asked Inspiration to be patient.  I want to complete a couple of portraits before I work on that body of work because I will need to work on all of them at the same time.  Hell, my room isn’t big enough for that!!!

Meanwhile, the Muses paid a visit about a week ago, again.  This time with a portrait of Scott.  I don’t know if I have the skill to render the vision I have in my head, but I’m going to do my best.  I’m tired of the fear.  I’m tired of saying “no” when these ideas come to visit.  See?  See it in my head?  No?

This time, I’m going with it.  This time, I want to see where it leads.  The idea came to me as a completed painting, the size, the colors, the subject.  When I get these ideas, they start as crystal clear visions in my mind. The work I see is always the work of a Master.  I get goosebumps just thinking of it.  In the past, I’ve always said, it’s not for me, not yet.  This time though, I am going to follow the muse down the rabbit hole.  My family has been supportive of this.  They are always curious about what I come up with next!  I can tell them what’s in my head, but they can’t see it any more than you can.

I told myself, “If I’m going with this, what is the first thing I need to do?  Figure out how to create the background. ”

When I took this first step, it was like getting ready for a date.  The excitement was incredible.  I love problem-solving, but this was at a whole new level.  I wandered through all the art supplies I had on hand, figuring out what I had that I could use.  I knew I needed to use acrylics for the background.  I watched videos on how to create the cells I was looking for.  I started experimenting with small canvases to see if I could achieve the technique I wanted.  I failed.  I did more research. I tried something else.  I got closer.  Finally, I achieved the cells I wanted!

It’s like I have someone looking over my shoulder cheering me on.  “Yes, like that… now, a little more color.  How about a bit darker?”  This week has been like a first date.  The muse is like someone that has had a crush on me for years that I ignored until now and finally agreed to that first date.  I’m expecting this to be a tumultuous relationship because I’m afraid.  I’m afraid he wants more out of me than I am currently able to deliver.  I’m afraid he’ll leave me if I’m not good enough!

I’m of two minds about this as well.  On the one hand, I have a firm belief that if I can think it, I can create it.  On the other, I’m seeing these masterpieces on huge canvases and I know I don’t have the skill, the time, or the materials YET to pull those off.  Yet.  How patient can he be?  So for now, I’m respectfully asking that we take smaller steps in our relationship so that we can get to know each other better and develop that trust.

I promise, my next post will be the beginning steps of the portrait!

Megan

 

Sailor

A new painting is in the works, and it is coming along nicely.  I’m not sure why, but my paintings tend to name themselves these days, so the working title, at least, is Sailor.  I like where it is going even though I have a long way to go!

Color Charts

And the learning continues.

My drawing class has ended, although I plan to keep drawing regularly.

Now, I’m working my way through Alla Prima II by Richard Schmid.  This is an amazing book.  I’ve made it to color charts, and that is where I stalled for a bit.  He used only 11 colors for his color chart combinations, and I had some difficulty choosing mine.  Many of the colors he uses are colors that just aren’t in my usual repertoire, and after having read the first half of the book, I’m changing my color palette to more closely mirror his.

I’m such a perfectionist that even starting this process was agonizing.  Then I laugh at myself for my foolishness and forge ahead anyway.  I know how important it is to know what my paints can do.  I did these charts once with my acrylic paints using a completely different set of colors, and it is now time to do it with oils.  I will have to do a set of secondary charts because there are additional colors that I use regularly and I will need to know how they mix with this lot.  For now, though, I am starting with the basics, warm and cool colors in each category of yellow, red, blue, and green.

The purpose of this is to learn how these specific colors interact with each other.  After doing the first mixing chart, I remembered a photo that I took years ago in Waipio Valley.  I never had the courage to paint it because I didn’t think I had the skill I needed to do it justice.

This one color chart just showed me most of the colors I need to use to recreate this scene. The color harmony from using Cadmium Lemon Yellow as the base color for most of it would maintain the light, ethereal feeling of the landscape.

The exciting news is that I have 10 more paint charts to go!

Drawing Class Lesson 8

I’ve been working on this drawing for three weeks now.  Every one of us is in the same boat, sight-sizing a drawing from a plaster cast.  Finally, this week, I felt comfortable enough with my measurements to put in some lines and move forward.

My measuring skills continue to improve.  What I haven’t done yet is the value scale for this drawing.  That will be the first thing I do next Thursday when I get to class.

Over time, as you learn a new skill, you also become familiar with different or better materials.  Now that I’ve been working with charcoal and cursing it’s mother in as many languages as I can think of (thankfully not many…) I finally found a working charcoal called Nitram that is AMAZING. https://nitramcharcoal.com/ It is used in place of vine charcoal.  I was curious what the big deal was, and it is a big deal.

  • It is much easier to use
  • Doesn’t break easily
  • Lasts a lot longer
  • Erases just as well as vine
  • Smudges with the best of them
  • Much LESS MESSY
  • Doesn’t need to be sharpened to a point

This is where you see me doing the Snoopy happy dance!  I just might be a charcoal convert, but the jury is still out.  Perhaps I’m just being stubborn!  Nitram is available from different art supply stores as well as Amazon.  If you haven’t tried it, do!  It is a life-changing drawing tool.

 

Babies for Springtime anyone?

I thought you folks would like to see something other than black and white drawings.  Here’s what I’m working on now, I call it Turtle Twins as a working title.

 

I’m working in Acrylics once more.  I found this amazing glass bead gel medium and I have been wondering how I can use it.  When I found pictures of baby turtles hatching from their shells covered in sand, I knew what I was painting next!  I’ve looked, and haven’t found an equivalent option for painting in oils, so acrylics it is!  The bright blue is the glass gel medium that hasn’t dried yet.  It will be much darker when it’s done.  These two cuties are 8 x 10 on masonite panels.  I will post more photos once they are finished.

Figure Drawing Workshop with Rod Cameron

Rod Cameron Workshop, March 2, 2019

 

One of Rod’s sketches, illustrating Bridgeman’s use of stacked boxes, and a gesture/mass drawing.  His favorite resource is Bridgeman, and you can tell from the blocks above.  (For additional information please check out “The Best of Bridgeman” by Dover publications.)  Rod uses the blocks to understand the shape, mass, and angles of the head and torso.

I’ve worked with Bridgeman illustrations before, although having the explanation from Rod about how to use these images makes so much more sense than trying to figure it out for myself.  Bridgeman is almost all illustrations with little to no text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an example from my practice sketches out of the Bridgeman book.

 

Rod Cameron is a very nice guy, and hugely knowledgeable about figure drawing and art.  Apparently, he rarely teaches, and it was suggested to me that if he did, I needed to take his class, and so I did.  We had maybe 7 students in this class and we were all able to get plenty of feedback from him.  After each couple of poses, he would come around and look at our work, complimenting what he liked about it and suggesting changes to make it better.

I figured out part way through the class that I was the student with the least amount of experience, based on the drawings that I saw taking form.  It has been a long time since I’ve worked from a live model and those skills were mighty rusty.  It was a great challenge and a fabulous learning experience.  Thank you, Rod Cameron, and Kipaipai Art for hosting the workshop.

I learned a lot of incidental stuff in this workshop as well.  Some of it is new, and some was a reminder of what I already knew:

  • Where to set up. if you want a straight-on model, set up in the middle. (Much of what I was drawing was a ¾ view and angled to boot because the model was on a stage).
  • Have your basic figurative information down cold. I spent much of my time referencing my notes on how many heads made up the length to the bottom of the torso, how long legs are supposed to be, etc.  I need that information memorized so that I can focus on the drawing and not on remembering something I should already know!
  • What type of charcoal to use. For these quick sketches, vine charcoal is best, and Rod was using these fat sticks of it.  Something I just haven’t seen.
  • What type of paper. Rod sketches on Craft paper, cutting sheets off of a role and putting them up on a board.  He says it’s because that paper lasts a lot longer than newsprint, which only has a life of a few years, and at this point, his sketches can be worth keeping.  (Not hubris, just fact. Give me time, I’ll get there!)
  • White Board. Rose Adare (my Atelier instructor) had a great suggestion, use a whiteboard with a marker.  When you’re done with a sketch, erase it and start over.  If you like it, take a picture!  The whole idea is that this is just practice.
  • This was about developing hand/eye coordination and skills on the fly. This was a test of what I know intrinsically, and what I still need to internalize for information about the figure.
  • This was a great reminder that I have to practice drawing larger images. Use large paper!!! I focus too much on the small, and it is important to focus on whole arm movements since this is what brings grace to an image or a figure that you are drawing.
  • Don’t forget to stand back and look at your drawing regularly. This will point out the flaws in your work quickly.  You can also use a mirror or a camera on your phone to accomplish the same task.
  • This was also a great reminder that I can’t let my frustration get the better of me. When I get frustrated my lines get REALLY DARK.  (Let’s call it passionate, shall we?)  I was definitely out of my comfort zone, and that is a great thing.  Embrace it and learn from it.  Based on what I have here, I’d say I learned a great deal from this workshop.
  • I have to practice drawing with light lines. That way I will have room for emphasis in my drawing later.  Light lines are also much easier to correct!

If you’re thinking about taking a figurative drawing class, keep these tips in mind!

New Paintings in Progress! Baby Turtles.

 

I seem to be enjoying the multiple painting thing.  Here’s what I managed so far today:

 

 

 


This is a bit of a challenge because I’m doing it in Acrylics.  I wanted to use a glass gel medium that I found a while back, and this will be the perfect opportunity!  I’ll post more updates as I work on these.

Week 7 Still Life with White Object or Sculpture

Week 7 class was frustrating for many of us.  This was the first week we started working with the casts that Rose has available for us to use, and we will be doing this for the next three weeks as well.  Here’s my “cast” as she calls them:

I keep reminding myself that Rose’s motto regarding this class is, “Be the Sloth!  Be the slowest person in the room.”  All I have to show for it so far is five or six points and the start of a line which I know to be incorrect, and a value scale with a list of where the values fall on this cast.  (This is probably the most important part of this exercise!) All of us are having a challenging time, and we’ve only been at it for a couple of hours in class.  I’ll post a pic of my progress at the end of the next class.

Work that I’m doing home in my studio includes revisions to the still life from Class 6:

 

Rose wanted me to focus on lost and found edges and to get rid of as many “lines” as possible.  Now I’m falling in love with the drawing and I have to finish it by adding the bottom of the glass.  I understand now that the lack of linework in the drawing brings the image to a new level of realism!  To do this justice, it needs another 6 hours at least.  I’m not so worried about the detail, it is the shading and blending that I am focusing on with this piece.

 

As I learned in class, you can use a piece of glass to check the curve from one side of a goblet to the other.  A sheet of slightly smoked glass or plexiglass would probably do better, but this is what I had at the time.  Hold the sheet of glass in the vertical center of your drawing and this allows you to see the reflection of one side cast onto the other.

Here’s an image showing what I mean.  In the sheet of glass, you can see a ghost of an image outside the right edge of the goblet.  I held the glass at an angle to make the ghosting more obvious.  What a great tool to have in your toolbox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I went to town on Saturday to find something white that I could draw.  There are no white statues in Kona.  I went to some thrift stores and finally found this:

I just couldn’t stand drawing something that was badly made,  and clowns or dolls are right out.  I also didn’t want to do something symmetrical which leaves out bottles, bowls, or vases.  My little 75 cent dove will do nicely!

Week 6 Still Life with Toned Paper and Proportional Dividers

I finally got around to working on my homework for class yesterday, and I hate that I lost time this week.  I gave it about 6 hours, since that is what I had available, and it needs at least another 4-6 to make me happy.  Between running a business and finishing up a current painting sometimes real life gets in the way.

I didn’t spend as much time with my measurements as I needed to be because I wanted to spend the time practicing my shading.  I thought I was careful taking a photograph of my set-up from class and I found out when I sat down to work on my homework, that the real-life image was lower than the image in the camera.  All my angles for the ellipses in the glass that I had measured on my drawing had to be corrected. (Good practice, I told myself!)  Then, I couldn’t get the proportions from the photo to match the proportions in my drawing.  So I used my proportional dividers to scale up from the photographed image to my drawing.  Basically, I had to redo the whole drawing from the picture I took because EVERYTHING WAS OFF.  Next time it will take me less than an hour and a half to figure that out.

What are proportional dividers you ask?  They are an awesome tool for scaling up or down the size of an image.  For measuring when you are sight-sizing you can use a compass or a stick to find and record 1:1 measurements, but when you need to scale up or down from the original size, proportional dividers are the tool you want.  I knew they existed, and didn’t know how to search for them because I didn’t know what they were called.  I now have two pair.

 

The black dividers are now easy to find online and I see them in stores as well.  They are a little clunky and good for basic measurements.  These are adjustable by moving that middle knob either further to the left or the right to modify the ratio.  Once you figure out what your ratio is, say 1:3, as long as you don’t move that middle screw, everything you measure with the small end (1) will be translated to three times its size on the other end of the dividers.

The second pair is a Russian drafting tool from the 1960s.  After trying the black ones, I needed something with more precision.

This is my first drawing on toned paper and I think I like it.  I still have to fix stuff and darken down the bowl of the wine glass, and I still like it so far.  I’m always amazed when a drawing of mine is recognizable.  Isn’t that silly?

 

Six hours in and a long way to go to make me happy.

There’s so much to do in this class that sometimes I have to be content with just figuring out the concept of what needs to be done and move along.  That’s what happened with my cups from the last class;  I had to be content with understanding how to measure out the ellipses.  I still have the still-life set up, and I may revisit that with toned paper.  I haven’t decided if it is the best use of my time though.