Self-Portrait Complete

August 24, 2019

As always, the caveat is, it’s done for now.  I’m happy with it, in fact, I’m so happy with it I want it in MY ROOM.  I seem to have this belief that I can’t really paint people well, and then I’m surprised when I do.  Hell, I’m surprised when they are recognizable!  *Shakes my head…*  Sometimes the inside of my head is no place to be.

Have I been comparing my work to other artists’?  Yes.  Sigh.
Does my art continue to improve?  Yes!
Do people enjoy my work?  Yes!
Do I still love what I do?  Yes!
Then I’m on the right track!

One of my goals for this blog is to point out that becoming an artist, frankly becoming anything, isn’t a straight line.  I’ve seen so many blogs where everything is sweetness and light, and everything moves along swimmingly according to the “Master Plan.”  This certainly hasn’t been my experience, and it is how we handle these challenges that make us who we are.

Most of my paintings feel like ongoing problem-solving sessions.  The last thing I do each day is to create a punch list of what I want to accomplish the next time I sit down to work on it.  Creating this list gives me a good starting point.  This continues to happen until I near the end of the process and THAT is when I usually start to feel the energy of what a painting can become.  My teacher, Rose Adare, hits this point before she even puts a mark on the canvas.  (That’s why SHE’s the teacher!)  I’ve only managed that a few times so far, and each time resulted in a spectacular piece.

It is important to become aware of what your process is.  Everyone has rituals that they go through as they work on something.  Become aware of your self-talk and recognize what you are saying to yourself.  Find a way to check criticism, self-doubt, and judgment at the door.  All that negativity does is make the process take longer to accomplish something that was going to happen anyway.  This painting took at least twice as long as it should have because of all the negative self-talk I was dealing with.  In some ways, it is a reverse Dorian Gray.  All the angst, frustration and judgement went into this painting and came out as a sense of peace.  It was worth the journey!

How to Check Your Drawing

When you are aiming for realism or an accurate rendering of your subject, there are many ways to check the proportions in your drawing. Here’s a list of the ones I know (and I am sure that I’ve left out a few):

  1. Stand back and compare the subject to your drawing. The greater distance will make many errors visible quickly.
  2. Take a picture with your phone for comparison. Seeing a miniature version of your work usually makes things stand out.
  3. Look at your work in a mirror. Using a mirror converts your subject to shapes instead of things and it is easier to spot discrepancies.
  4. Turn both your subject and the painting/drawing upside down. (This really only works if you are using a photograph or a picture as your subject.)
  5. For subjects that are mirror-images on both sides such as a vase or a bowl, you can use a mirror or a piece of glass to check and make sure that both sides match.
  6. For the above, trace the outline of your drawing and fold it in half. This will show you where the drawing is out of balance.
  7. Look back and forth quickly between your subject and drawing. This technique blends the two together and shows you what needs to be corrected.
  8. Check your angles and the length of your lines. Using easily recognized points, determine key angles and make certain that these angles are accurate in your drawing.
  9. Use sight-sizing.
  10. Try using a proportional divider to check your measurements
  11. Rulers work too.
  12. As do skewers. Measure, measure, measure.
  13. Measure twice, draw once!
  14. Did I mention measure?
  15. Step outside and look at your work through the window. Somehow this puts it at a remove as if it was someone else’s work.
  16. If all else fails, and you can’t figure out what is wrong, take a tracing of your subject and place it over your drawing. This will immediately show you where your drawing is off. If you are drawing from life, take a picture of your subject and print it out. Yes, it has to be the same size. Is your subject too big? Print out your problem area only. There’s no need to do the whole thing.
  17. Walk away and look at something else for a few minutes and you will be able to look at your work with fresh eyes. Do this at least every 15 minutes.
  18. Don’t forget to look at your subject. You can become too familiar with your own work and mistakes will begin to look correct.

Remember, all these suggestions are to improve the accuracy of the drawing. If you are doing quick studies or gesture drawings, that’s a completely different thing. Those are about loosening up and finding the rhythm of a pose.

Painting Atelier Weeks 4 – 6

I know it seems like I’m cheating here, but we ended up working on the same pieces for three weeks in a row. Work in class was painting a cast using one color, Titanium White and Ivory Black.

I have to admit it, I was dreading this after the last cast I tried to draw. However, this turned out to be a much faster process for me. Instead of using a pencil, I did the whole initial drawing with paint and continued on from there.

In the drawing class I think all I managed was to complete the outline of the figure and one breast, so I’m definitely getting better, faster, and more accurate.

Homework for all three weeks was another nude. Once again, I feel that it needs more work and I will have to do that later if I can find the time. This time we were painting from a photograph instead of a painting. This adds a degree of difficulty because when you copy a painting, the shading and conversion of 3D to 2D has already been accomplished for you.

This was end of Week 5
Here is the end of Week 6. Once again more to do, and I’m still happy with it!

I’m starting to look for my lost and found edges. This photo had a LOT of edges! I still need to adjust much of the tone in this painting. One of the things I do when painting from a photograph is to laminate the picture so that I can put my paint right on the picture to check whether or not my values are correct. Many of the values in this painting still need to be corrected! I will talk about this in another blog post.

Painting Atelier Week 3

For this class, things got a little more complicated. We all chose a painting of a nude to work with and copy as a study. This time we were allowed to mix our paints. This was what I did in class:

And our homework was more of the same. I have to work on that definition of simple though because this was anything but. What I thought would be simple turned out to be 7 spheres, multi-toned greenery, and architecture. I still haven’t finished it, I ran out of time this week.

Painting Atelier Week 2

During Week 2 class we had to paint a sphere using umber, black, and white.

This was about learning how shadows work and the graduation of tone without having color confuse the issue. In fact, the first two-thirds of this class aren’t dealing with color at all! This is also about learning how to work with straight paint and solvent before we start adding mediums into the mix.

Homework was about applying this skill to a simple photograph.

Underpainting of a mouse.

Dreams of Inspiration – Part 3

Once I had a feeling for where everything was, I roughed in the figure. With this painting, I worked a little bit everywhere so that I could understand how all the colors were going to work together. At this point, I already know that there will be highlights on his face and hands, and that the bubbles of inspiration will be bright (somehow).

5 hours in
11 hours in

At this time, I need to work more on the background. I like where the figure is going. I’m looking at what I already have to see what will work as a sphere. I want to use what’s already there for part of this so that it feels like a cohesive piece of art rather than two separate concepts.

I’m using a combination of organic bubbles pulled out of the background and some highlighting in gold around others as incomplete thoughts or concepts. I will also darken the background more to get the bubbles to “pop.”

Here’s the final as it is now. I went back and spent another 5 – 6 hours on the figure. I’ll probably tweak it for another week. I find that I have to walk away and look at something else in order to see what doesn’t fit, or what doesn’t quite work yet. Even as I write this, I see two more places where I should probably put bubbles since the images are already there. In truth, paintings are never finished. There is always something else I could do. The important part is being able to walk away and leave it!

Dreams of Inspiration – Part 2

It’s been a while since I’ve done a portrait. I didn’t want to be sideswiped with issues so I started up front to figure out where I thought I might have some difficulty. I had a list of things I wanted to do before I put any more paint on the canvas. I started with the general figure, and did a basic sketch. These aren’t about perfection. These are about figuring out what I don’t know. Where I’m going to have issues. Making me look closer at my subject so that I actually see what it is I’m painting. I noticed that I didn’t have the angle of his face, and I needed to be careful of this when I started working on the painting. I also realized that I had no idea how his fingers were placed.

No, my sketches are rarely gorgeous things. They are part of the process, tools to work out potential trouble spots. I was horrified to see that my sketch looks like Anthony Quinn!

So, I also did a sketch of his hands, after working on the larger image, counting and recounting until I came up with ten fingers!

I know that I want to use the bubble idea, so I practice making bubbles on one of the other canvases that I used in preparation for this painting. I already have an idea for this canvas.

Another day’s work done, and another step closer to completion!

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!