Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Waiting for the paint to dry..

Layers, layers and more layers. This isn't actually as blue in the background as it looks in this picture. It is getting a bit brighter and things are starting to get a little tighter. I had to lighten some areas on her face just a little, so I have some white glow going on in places that I will cover in flesh color later. While waiting for the paint to dry, I slapped some gesso on a couple canvases and browsed the web.

Jessica Torrant has a very interesting post on her blog that got me thinking about strengths and weaknesses and the big "secret" to success.

One of my biggest strengths is the ability to keep on plugging in. I am the kind of person that can do the same thing over and over as long as I can see progress or know it will pay off in the long run. Tedious tasks are always given to me because I am the one who can see it to the finish. Jessica states "Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness." I have never heard that before, so I had to really think about that for a while. She is right. One of my biggest weaknesses is that I will keep plugging in beyond reasonability. Ack. The past couple days examples of that have pounded my brain and its a little frustrating to realize how many times I have done that.


One of my biggest weaknesses is losing faith in my own ideas. I have a lot of sketches. I have a lot of notes. Most of them never made it to any form of media because I had no faith that it would be any good. If I didn't lose faith in the idea itself, I would lose faith that I could execute it properly.

Jessica says "Your greatest weakness is your greatest strength. If you can overcome that perceived weakness, you are free, and that is the greatest power besides love on earth!"

Last week in my Initial Layers post I was tossing the idea of revisiting these old sketches to get the creative juices flowing. After reviewing some old ideas, I decided to start with this one. This idea is about 8 years old or older. That is a long time for a painting to sit unpainted. I cannot say I am going to do it justice this time, but giving it a try is going to be much farther than it has ever been.

Jessica goes on to talk about visualization. Please go read her post if you haven't done so yet. She does a wonderful job of explaining this. Interestingly enough Bobby Chiu just put out another podcast about the visualization as a tool. I am one of those people who love to believe messeges are sent to me for a reason. I have decided that visualizing is my next lesson... and I really need to get "The Secret".

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Another Layer

This is drying very fast. I am really surprised. The layers I am adding are very very thin. Each layer seems to pack a little more punch on chroma. I am going to go in and reinforce my darks today. Yesterday was mostly the indian red and burnt sienna. The sienna dilutes the red and makes it more semi transparent. It also makes a very nice warm red. I am going to have to paint something that focuses on that red because I am becoming a fan of the color.

Gotta make this quick so I can get my layer put on and then become a slave to the hungry mobs in the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Initial Layers

Initial layers of color started here. I like this ugly phase. Its like that awkward preteen phase. You see the beauty, but things are just a little out of place just yet. I used David Rourke's method of couching and I really like the way the paint smears around.

The kids are out of school for the rest of this week so they can have a long holiday weekend. Not sure how much painting I will get done the rest of this week. I will put some paint here and there and let her dry.

I have dug up some ancient sketchbooks and ideas are brewing. It is funny how awful things looked back then and they were major breakthroughs for me. Back then, imagination was king and skill were second. Today, my skill is getting focus and the ideas are just dead. So I was thinking that maybe if I revisit some of the old ideas with a new skill I might be able to come up with something pleasing? It is worth a try. One of my major goals is to do some surreal/abstract work. I have never just let myself cut loose and just make a playground of strangeness. I always envisioned my progress to lead to more surreal art with a classical flair. I think I have been "waiting" for the precise time. Quite honestly, I am not sure what the hidden rules are to get started. I will have to think about that and get back to you.

Monday, November 20, 2006


In another life I (AKA Years ago) I made an old fashioned ceramic bed doll complete with historical costume and handpainted face. My cousin, Tammy and I lived like sisters most of our lives and she was living with me at the time. She watched as I cleaned and painted her. She helped me design her historical gown and underclothing. I went all out on this doll because I am a hound for details. Tammy fell in love with her. She was gorgeous and although I enjoyed the process tremendously, I never had an opportunity to do more.

That following Christmas, I packed the doll up carefully and shipped her off to my dads wife. Tammy was devistated. Although I did all the artistic work, she felt as though she helped give birth to a Victorian beauty and I had just taken away her parental rights. Not only had I given away our baby, I gave her to the mortal enemy who had never had a nice thing to say to or about either one of us. I promised that one day, I would make another and it would be hers to keep for the rest of her life. Alas, as I stated before, I never had an opportunity to do another. The shame of this violent act has haunted me for nearly 13 years and Tammy makes sure I remember to feel bad about it. Like I said, we are practically sisters.

Tammy has been watching the progress on this painting and she is falling in love with it. By all laws that unite us in sisterhood, I owe her this painting, so she hints every time I talk to her on the phone. The story of the doll has come up several times since I started this painting in an effort to spark the guilt I should be feeling. "Sometimes saying I'm sorry isn't enough Anna!" She likes to remind me.

She doesn't watch my blog, so I am fairly safe talking about it here. The learning experience remains the same no matter what wall it ends up on. I am picking through this blog, in particular his post on Glazing. His article on Renaissance layering seems very informative as well. Since my back layers are dry to the touch, I am hoping to put on that first thin layer of color. In the meantime I will ask anyone that reads this.. What do you think? Should I give this to Tammy? Or should I just let her squirm?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Drawing closer.. The Artist's Way.

I am -> <- that close to getting ready to spray her down and move on. Some fiddling with that left eye (our right) and a bit of shadow work on that left hand (our right) and it will be time to move on. Once I spray her, the hard part is supposed to be over.

Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

If any of you have read this book, then you will understand the following dialogue I had in my head.

Creative child: Wow.. Look at my drawing! I am really remembering how to do this stuff again!

Inner Critic: Mmmm... Yeah you sure are. You have fixed that right eye.. what? four times? Maybe more? It's still not right. You suck.

Creative child: Yeah, but look at the drapery. I love doing drapery!

Inner Critic: Ok, so if you chop off the head, the drapery can be the star of the show. Speaking of chopping off the head, I can't believe you put that up so high on the canvas. A frame is going to cause brain damage.

Creative child: Okay okay okay! It is too high. But do you see how adding the background makes her pop forward? I really like that. I will remember about the frame next time.

Inner Critic: You are not seriously considering doing another one are you? This one is not even done. Please don't tell me you are thinking of this as a success! You have yet to ruin this with paint.

Creative child: If at first you don't succeed, try and try again, right?

Inner Critic: It's not like this is original work you know. These are copies of someone elses work. What happened to "I want to be able to do my own original paintings".

Creative child: Well, if I try really hard on these, then maybe I will be able to do my own stuff even better!

Inner Critic: Oh good lord! You are a 40 year old woman with a demanding family. You don't have time to do all this foo foo painting stuff. Your family should come first. How many hours did you spend in front of that easel putting charcoal on, the wiping it off, the putting it back on that stupid drawing this weekend? I will tell you how many! So many you couldn't keep track!

Creative child: Okay okay okay, so I will do laundry and clean the house today. I will not touch it until tomorrow or later. I need to give my eyes a break anyway. Sheesh!

Inner Critic: Good! Because your family is getting tired of this already. It's one thing when you spend a couple hours, but this is ridiculous. You could have used your time to clean your house or do laundry or any number of things. Your irresponsibility is amazing... Just amazing.

Creative child: Well at least I have something to show for all that time unlike laundry and housecleaning where it just gets messed up again as soon as I do it.

Inner Critic: Admit it, you need to pack up your art supplies and put them away until your kids are all grown. In fact, chances of you becoming good enough to call yourself professional are slim to none, so maybe you should give your art supplies away along with a lot of other junk you have laying around here.

Creative child: I am not going to go away, you know, if that is what you are trying to do. You tried to get rid of me before and I just came back so maybe you just need to be quiet. I will fix the eye. I will do some laundry and clean up some of this messy house today. If I feel like doing another one, I am going to do another one. You are not the boss!

Inner Critic: Oh yeah? If at first you don't succeed..

Me: Hey you two.. SHUT UP!

Friday, November 10, 2006

One Burned Dinner.. So far

Some progress made. I still need to fix those hands. Today will be face and hands day because that is bugging me tremendously. I could play with the drapery all day and those hands will not stop mocking me. I scribbled in some hair areas. I will go in and define that stuff later. I got a much better photo to work with (Thank you Nickel from Wetcanvas!) and discovered that there is a lot more details in the face and hair, as well as the drapery. It is kind of handy to have both images to work with. That way I get a good grasp of the values I am looking for.

I am being forced to put a sheet over this when I am not working on it because I keep wanting to do a drive-by fidget. Getting into the
zone is just too easy on this one. I have not kept track of the time I have put into this, but I can honestly admit to one burned dinner. I will keep track of that instead. You know that this has the zone suction attribute when I get a box of art supplies in from Dick Blick and I don't even bother to open it until the day is done!

I am hoping to get to the point of getting paint on this canvas by the time the weekend is over. I don't want to rush it and if it doesn't happen, that is okay. That just means that I spent more time with my husband and kids than I did with the Woman With a Lute.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What is your motivation Anna Sellers?

Bobby Chiu put out another Video. Todays topic is Motivation. Please go take a listen even if you don't read the rest of my blog entry.

I listened to this video right after getting the kids off to school. It is midnight and I am just now making an entry. The reason: I had no defined definition of my motivation. So here are some ideas that I have come up with as logical excuses.

I do art because I really hate laundry. My life doesn't really leave room for art. I have to make it. I am the mom of 6 kids and a husband. (Yes hes a kid too.) I toy with the idea of becoming famous accidently, but I am not holding my breath in hopes of being accidently discovered. My artistic goals are not wrapped around a financial end. With 6 kids and a husband, I have a lot of laundry to hate! Dishes come in a close second and I have no dishwasher.

I am preparing for retirement. When I get empty nest syndrome, it is going to be a huge shock. This is a pretty full nest. My imagination tells me that I am going to be putting clean clothes out of the closet into the washing machine and wash clean dishes that are in the "holiday stash" in July if I don't find something to occupy my mind.

I use art as therapy. Art is my stress reliever. I can get into the zone and block out the rest of the world. It is my meditation. It is my happy place. It calms me when I am worried or angry. It lifts my spirits when I am down and depressed. Art gives me comfort when nothing anyone can say is relieving. Art gives me an excuse to think about things that a normal person would believe to be absurd.

Art is my voice. At least I hope it will be. There are paintings in my head that I lack the skill to paint. There are stories in my mind that I want to tell. I have had many experiences in my lifetime that I cannot lend to words alone. Art is universal and speaks to people that do not understand english. I don't know a word of Italian, but I am moved by the art of many artists who's names end in a vowel. Though I don't seek fame, I do hope that someone out there sees something I have done and it speaks to them.

Art is my hope. I came from here to here With a little luck and a lot of hard work, maybe I can do something that resembles Cascade in thoughtfulness. My Maternal Instinct may not quite look like this, but I like this painting. When I am having a bad day perhaps I can take out my Artists Block like Jafabrit to return to a visionary period These are not dead people that are from some other century with some amazing genius that has been wiped out of all DNA existance. These are people that live and breath today that are inspired to share an emotion, idea or even belief with someone other than their own minds. There are so many more out there that it would take a page to list them all. I hope to join the ranks of those people. To do that I must learn and practice and read and try out what I read. Then read more and figure out why it doesn't work just to try it again and figure out how to make it work so that I can move on to the real reason I am motivated to do all this stuff.

My true motivation to keep improving my art is so I can make the art that is in my head. Who knows, once I get these paintings I have locked in my mind out on some form of canvas, paper or wooden panel, I will be done forever. I hate that I lack the skill to attempt the handfull of paintings in my head that have been there for years. Of course, the only way to really know that for sure is to do them in an acceptable manner that pleases me and see what happens.

So.. What is your motivation?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Progress on The Lute Player


I am having a tremendous amount of trouble with those fingers. My head does not want to wrap around the shapes she is using. The drapery is off a bit on both arms. I am trying to discover what the best underpainting colors would be. I also need to make sure I have the colors for the layers that I need. While I complete this drawing, I may need to order paint. I am not very happy with the charcoal I am using. There are some pieces that are not releasing the charcoal. That can be a bit frustrating.

I am getting anxious to finish this drawing and move on. I have to be careful at this point because I am prone to rushing a step in my anxiousness. I will catch mistakes that I could have corrected early, or worse, see a blantant mistake too late in the game.

I was going to dismiss the harp in the back, but after staring at this for a while, I think I will put it in. There is something soothing about it that makes this whole thing ooze with calm.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Lute Player - A visual Training

I have been bitten by the muse.

Bobby Chiu reccomends copying artists you admire several times. First copy their drawing, then copy their color, then copy their styles to add to your arsenal of skills. I am taking his advice.

I have been out of the drawing habit for far too long. When I was going to the studio my drawing skills improved by leaps and bounds. Drawing is not like riding a bike. If you don't use it, you do lose it. Knowing this, I have been half intimidated to draw anything at all. After listening to Bobby's kind words, I found a brave cell in my brain and decided to go for it. The worse that could happen is that I could waste some paper or some paint and canvas right?

Charcoal is very forgiving. Correcting mistakes is as easy as wiping down an area and redrawing it. I am a member of Wetcanvas. They have an article on underpainting called "Underpainting - A primer for the new painter" that I reccomend to anyone that wishes to copy an old master painting. Before you can open a tube of paint, you must get an accurate drawing to work with.

In order to train my mind, I am doing this in a less than conventional method. I have drawn in a rough grid, but I don't want to be dependant upon it. I am very familiar with the sight size method, but don't have the resources to blow this painting up in a 16x20 size. So I am adapting and adjusting. The grid serves more to line things up each time I take a new picture into photoshop than as a guide in my drawing.

I am using my small printed copy to get basic shape and lines put on my canvas and as I go, I am taking pictures and placing the original in a 50% fill layer over my drawing to compare. Once I make a comparison, I go back to my drawing on my canvas and make adjustments.

The Lute Player
Charcoal on Canvas

As you can see, there are errors everywhere. This is the slow way to do this, but it is a very important lesson for my visual training. Each time I step away from the computer, I have to memorize angles and curves and placements. Each correction is making me painfully aware of its relative position within this painting. The goal of doing this drawing in this method is to get back to my ability to truly see and make better estimates. As I go, I am noticing myself recognize mistakes before I consult my overlay. That is the most important reason for doing this using this method. In all honesty, I am so bad that I should be doing sight size drawings. While I do appreciate the value of doing such work, I simply cannot drill through another bargue drawing.

I am currently reading "The Practice and Science of Drawing" by Harold Speed with the classical group on Wetcanvas. You can join us HERE. This book is amazing. Speed discusses the emotional/mental reasons to draw and study classical art. Between Speed, Bobby Chiu, the wonderful people on Wetcanvas and my own willpower, I think I can tackle this to at least a presentable result. ... And if all else fails, Bobby says to do it again.. so you can't do it again if you didn't do it at least once.