Monday, July 29, 2013

Indecision and Thievery

I've kidded that following the completion (birth) of the family drawing, a touch of postpartum depression settled in.  Much work & worry led up to the auction and then, suddenly, it was over.  I went home with a sense of relief, but also a bit lost.  Now what?  I finally sketched some yesterday - from the back seat while driving with my hubby & pop-in-law.  What next?  A class?  More pencil?  A different medium?  Oh the pressure!  I promised my daughter I'd start on her birthday art before August 1.  That will be next... whenever I figure out what it will be.

In the meantime, another prepackaged post from the little blue sketchbook:

These are a few of my notes from Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon.  Austin's book is crammed with great advice on developing creativity.  I highly recommend this easy read for anyone.  I read it as an electronic library book (can't write in that), hence the pages of notes.

Yes, that is a spot of chocolate on the right page - as it should be.

These notes are a good poke in the ribs while paging through my sketchbook.  I'm also slowly reading Robert Henri's The Art Spirit and James Gurney's Color and Light.  There is an ocean of info in both and my sleep-deprived brain needs time to soak it in... that is before I move on to the 845 other art books on my must read list.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tis Done

The big event is over.  The drawing resides elsewhere.  Now I can share.  I apologize in advance - not a short story.

My pop-in-law's family of 11 holds a large weekend reunion every three years.  Only two of the elders are still with us, but many of their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren attend - 202 this year.  A different branch hosts each time.  We are the smallest and my husband volunteered us to host for the first time in 2013.  Yikes!  To help cover costs, attendees bring goody baskets or handcrafted items for a family auction.  The host family usually brings larger items for auction.  One of my first thoughts three years ago was "What am I going to bring?"  That's where the story begins.

When D(raw) day revealed I could still actually draw, a tiny light flickered in my noggin.  I could draw something for the auction...  Hmmm.  At the last auction, we bought a large reproduction of the 1940ish family photo.  *HUGE FLASHING NEON LIGHT*  I will draw that!  (The photo, not the neon light.)  Woohoo!  Nearly 10 months till the reunion - plenty of time.

Christmas, New Year's, (ordered a few heavy papers and needed pencils) Spring Break, school's out... and boom.  Suddenly there was barely two months to go.  I HAVE to start.  That's when the voice kicked in.  "You can't really do this justice.  You're out of practice.  Don't even try."  But I did.  I practiced my pop-in-law's teenage face in my little blue sketchbook.

"Well, that's not too bad. I can do this."
I sketched his face on the various papers I'd ordered a few months earlier.  The gray had a nice antique look, but the texture was too rough.  The off white paper on top won out.

~ Click on any of the photos 
to see them larger. ~

Time to start the actual drawing - on that glaring blank white page...  I am not afraid of you!

the barely there beginning
I sat on the guest room floor (my future studio), measured where the heads were in relation to each other & sketched faint ovals to set the stage.  You'll have to stare for a moment to see it, but this is phase one.

On to sketching the faces.  A mostly blank paper was daring me to make the first stroke.  This face has to look like someone.  It has to look like a person people know.  This face has to look like the loved one of many relatives who will see it (if I ever get it done).

Procrastinate.                        Procrastinate.                            Procrastinate.

the junior high stage
Two weeks slipped by until I got brave and kicked myself in the patootie.  The drawing table is not set up yet, so I invented one - the ottoman.  I sat on the floor in front of the couch with the large framed photo & the paper on my legs, leaning against the ottoman - with pencils, kneaded eraser & sharpener ready.

First up, an HB pencil and very lightly sketching the shapes and shadows.
 Then going back into each face for more definition.  Constant frustration at this point.  The voice kept laughing at my junior high skills.  By face four or five, though, I finally found my mojo.

I worked on each face multiple times over the next couple of weeks - layers of added shading and detail.

During this process, I noticed holding my breath while sketching the tiny eyes.  I believe eyes are the most important feature - windows to the soul and all.  To focus better, I removed my limiting contacts, got in real close and stared intently.  So intently at times that I would feel an odd connection to the person - like I was looking through the photo back in time.  I guess you could say it took my breath away.  Lack of oxygen is not a good thing, so I had to remind myself to breath deeply.

I enjoy watching artists in process.  At the point of adding another layer of detail to the last lightly shaded face, I decided to take a stab at videoing the process.  I piled up some books, sat a flip-flop on top and poked the camera lens, aimed at the face, through the flip flop strap.  I kneeled over the paper, shooed the cat away and pushed record.

People have asked how long the whole drawing took and I said hours, not really knowing.  The video is 10 minutes adding a little more definition, so perhaps gives some idea of my slowness.  Also, sorry about that really big sigh near the end.  It was a "remember you have to breath" moment.

Continuing on - more and more layers of line and shadow.  I asked my husband's opinion.  He picked out a few faces that weren't quite there.  I adjusted & it was better.  Time to connect the dots, so to speak.  The photo has wide completely black areas, so I made up edges of arms and curls of hair and shaded in the rest.  I decided not to include the hands, arms & legs - too distracting.  I picked up a softer pencil for the darkest shadow and detail.  That last part went on and on... and on.  I kept seeing things to fix, but it was nearly reunion time & I deemed it done.  I forgot to document the "complete" stage before framing.  Sorry for the spots of glare, but here are the faces at halfway & then done.

Cecelia & brothers before the video
after the video
Ceil, Freddy & Walter

Al & Alec

Agnes & Ray

Looking at these photos now,
I still see things to fix - chin too thin, nose too long - sigh.

Tony & Tillie
Paul & Freddy

Joseph, Liz & Mary

Since I neglected to take a final photo before framing, this shot is missing some of the darkest and more subtle shading, but it's close.

To complete the story - the drawing was the last item in the auction.  I explained just a bit and went to the back of the room.  Many hours and lots of love were in that frame and I didn't want anyone to feel obligated to bid on it.  I shouldn't have worried.  It appeared to be a hit and when it was noticed that my pop-in-law was bidding on it, the others backed off and he won.  I was told afterwards that a cousin and my pop-in-law were prepared to go much higher, which would've been astounding to me and great for the reunion fund!  I remain honored and flabbergasted.  

Now that it's all over, I've given myself permission to be happy with it... mostly.  

The journey continues.  The skills will improve.  I'm ready to see where we go next.

matted & framed and ready for auction

Friday, July 12, 2013


Another prepackaged post here.  The next week is fully booked with prep for a large family event.  In the meantime:

I've become slightly obsessed with saving any tins, bottles and boxes that we've emptied over the last few months.  Several of these treasures have come in handy lately.

Side note:  Saved spice bottles were put to use during student worker appreciation week at the office.  I painted the bottles with acrylic craft paint, added wording with IdentiPens and a white Signo uniball pen, then poked the flower stems through the holes in the plastic tops.  One of the students asked if I found the idea on Pinterest.  Nope, grew out of my own brain.  She told me I should post photos, so here they are.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sketching Everywhere

We attended our city's fireworks extravaganza last night and I sketched while waiting for the sun to go down - more on that another day.

Right now we're headed in a mostly opposite direction of the last mostly serious entry.  If you're sensitive about bathroom talk, stop here and come back in a few days for the next post...

This particular evening, for whatever reason, I walked into the bathroom with my sketchbook & a green Micron pen.  I honestly don't remember if it was on purpose.  No, I wasn't really in there all that long.  It's a quick sketch.  See that little writing along the left edge.  Yup, it says "throne view."  I almost didn't share this.  Almost, but then I couldn't say . . .  Yes, you truly can sketch just about anywhere.

Update:  Less than 10 minutes after publishing this, I read today's post from James Gurney about painting in the dark at the fireworks show.  Hilarious!  You really can find a way to sketch/paint basically anywhere.

Monday, July 1, 2013

MY Voice

There has been a theme this past month in other blogs about that internal, annoyingly negative voice.  Much of it is helpful - quieting the voice, using the voice, ignoring the voice, just getting busy.  However, there are also suggestions the voice must be remnants from your parents or teachers telling you to drop art and get serious, or something to that effect.

Well, (sigh) I'm a little weary of reading that excuse - for art or anything else in life.  I'm sure it's true for others, but we're not all tortured artists - picked on and bullied by the less enlightened meanies in our lives.  I cannot think of one single person of importance in my life, or even non importance really, who ever told me to give it up.  Okay, one - my high school guidance counselor wanted me to pursue engineering, but he did not scoff when I was set on art.  In fact, the only negative comment that comes to mind is my graphic design professor telling me I needed to be more serious about developing my portfolio.  I think he sensed I was not passionate about graphic design.  It was my major because I (me, myself & only me) thought I needed to find a way to make my art pay since I (again, just me) felt I couldn't possibly be a good enough artist to make a living otherwise.  No teacher ever told me this.  Friends were supportive.  Art exhibit judges were complimentary.  The local junior college art instructors asked me to attend there.  (Seriously - not trying to brag here, just showing the lack of meanies.)  My family was completely supportive.  My parents were proud and vocal about it.  They wanted all their kids to follow whatever dreams we had.

So, where does the nagging voice come from?  The only thing I can come up with is DNA. *shaking fist*  Dang ancestors!  I believe some people are just hard-wired with a perfectionist nature and if you can't do something perfect the first time, why try?  That's what I fight.

If you're an artist, buck it up, stop blaming whoever & just get busy.  If you have an artist in your life, by all means be supportive.  But, don't feel like you have to tip toe around their fragile egos.  I find many people are too nice - complimenting regardless of what the piece really looks like.  I value my husband's opinion because I know he will be honest.  He likes to brag on me occasionally too, but he's not going to praise just to prop me up.  If I'm working on something and it doesn't feel right, he can give me perspective of what seems wrong to him.  I like that.

Now, back to work.  Time to quiet my own negative voice - to prove MYSELF wrong.

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