I found an amazing deal the other day on Derwent's Inktense blocks...Amazon had them for 73% off of retail, so I couldn't resist! I got them today and decided to play around a little to see how they blend with water and they are lovely. I'm excited to work with these more I've been enjoying working with watercolor paints but one problem with them is that they aren't permanent even after they've dried so it's hard to layer colors. These are permanent once dry so they shouldn't create mud when one color is put on top of another dried one.
I haven't talked much about my creative process lately, mostly because I haven't really been feeling all that creative. But I keep trying...ok, I'm trying at a bare minimum but I'm feeling like the time is coming to push myself, even push myself hard to find my artistic voice and produce at the level I really do know I'm capable of. I've fallen back into my super-procrastination ways and frankly, I'm sick of myself. So, it's time to recommit to my project and really go all out this time. Game on!
One of my favorite artists, Tara Leaver, issued a challenge on her blog today to eschew the formulas and blueprints set out by others, to stop procrastinating with the internet and such and find our own solutions to our "problems" and in doing so we are likely to find a multitude of solutions. She challenged herself to draw as many trees as she could on a page in her sketchbook. Drawing a grid with 36 spaces, using no reference images, and working quickly, she drew 36 trees and at the end found that she could have drawn more.
I could swear every blog post she writes is written solely for me. I've taken many classes, online and in person (in a variety of media), over the years from artists who aim to show you their process and produce pictures that look like theirs. It's so tempting when you love and admire the work of an artist to take their class so you can make pictures that look like theirs. I'm guilty of this to a degree. I took Flora Bowley's Bloom True e-course last year because I adore her work. I love that she shares her process (in the course that you pay for of course) and I did my best to follow along, but before I even finished my first piece I realized that I couldn't follow her process to a T and find my own voice, too. Part of me would love to paint like her but that's not my style. I saw many lovely paintings come from my classmates but most of them look like Flora's, not like theirs. I want/need to discover my own artistic voice and there are parts of Flora's process I will continue to use (like painting with my fingers!) but I can't allow myself to paint like anyone other than me.
So, Tara's post today about resisting those blueprints and formulas spoke to me and I took her tree challenge. My sketchbook page only had room for 30 trees. I too, worked quickly and used only my imagination, no reference images. I struggled a little with the final 3 but the first ones came pretty easily. It was fun to see the variety and once I was done and looked at Tara's picture I saw that there were ideas I hadn't even thought of. This was fun to do and I'm thinking of other things to do with this challenge. How amazing would it be to fill page after page with images and ideas that could inform even more pieces of art?
Now that my "work week" has begun (with yesterday really just being an extension of the weekend) I'm committing to spending more time on my art and less time procrastinating. In any given day, I've wasted much time watching TV, surfing the internet, etc...all while avoiding making art. But if I want to make my dream of being a thriving (not just working) artist come true, sitting around not making art isn't going to get me there. So, onward and upward!
Today felt like progress, if not a success. I did spend more time than intended this morning on the internet but I was finally able to pull myself away and get started. I began my art time with the 5th lesson from Derwent's Art Academy on color mixing using watercolors. I don't feel like my finished product is up to par but I'll post it at the end, anyway. There are areas of this painting that I like...the small trees in the background and the large trunk/grassy area around the large trunk. What I don't care for is how the leaves of the large tree turned out. I think I got the area too wet and the colors just ran together too much. But I can't expect to be good at everything at first and I just need to keep practicing.
Because I was able to tear myself away from the computer earlier in the day than usual, I was able to start...and finish another colored pencil bird on black paper. I've picked out several pictures of birds that I think are pretty and that will stand out on the black paper. Yesterday's picture/posting was a compilation of the sketches from those pictures. I chose one to work on today. I know I mentioned this in the post about the second bird I completed but this idea became even more salient for me today...trust, trust, trust.
I actually had a bit of a false start on this bird. After I sketched the form on the black paper, I realized that it was shifted too far to the left and the tail was too short to balance it out. I hate to admit this, but in the past, this little slip would have been enough for me to give up on it. My inner critic (and I suspect many other people's critics, too) can be really harsh and abusive. It's interesting that we allow ourselves to talk to us in ways we'd never let anyone else get away with. Anyway, in the past, I've just listened to that critic and taken what it's saying as truth but not this time. I just took a breath and grabbed another sheet of paper, sketched it again and moved forward. What's crazy though, is the need to suspend that judgement over and over and over again through these pieces. These birds are created through layers of colored pencil and the first few, in my opinion, just look like crap and I think I'm never going to get it to look how I want. But like the last bird, I just decided over and over to trust...trust the process, trust myself, trust that the magic will happen...and then it does and the bird emerges from the page....and I'm happy!
It's interesting when a project feels like a success and I know I want to try something else with those techniques that the fear and doubt creep in almost immediately...like I'd never be able to replicate that success again so why bother? How absurd is that? Why would that thought even occur to me? After last night's bird on black paper piece was done, I thought it would be great to try other colorful birds on black paper...maybe do a series of them. I'd really like to finally build up a portfolio of consistent work and try to exhibit in a coffee shop or even a gallery soon. I need to get my work out there! So, today I spent some time looking for some reference pictures of colorful birds and found several that I wanted to try. As soon as I thought that it was time to sit down and draw already, the doubts creeped in. I'm pretty sure I found plenty of things to do that wasn't making art to distract me but I persevered and finally sat down to get to work. I started with a quick pencil sketch of the bird on white paper to get an idea of the shape of the bird and then picked out the colors I wanted to use. Then I got started. Even as I worked, I kept having doubts but I was able to keep myself from getting frustrated. I worried about not getting the colors "right" and as the pencil built up in layers, the wax of the pencils made it seem like I wasn't going to be able to get the texture I wanted to differentiate the feathers. But this one was really a testament to trusting the process. I kept working, listening to my inner voice as I chose what color to use where and, importantly when to stop. As I stood up and looked at it from a distance, I was so pleased with the result...did I really just create this? So happy I didn't let those doubts and fears stop me from using these techniques again! Also, I used one of the stamps I made of Kagero's paw print in my signature. So, happy I can include her in my work!
Today ended up being utterly (no pun intended ;)...udderly...get it?) unproductive. I wasn't even sure if I was going to get a drawing done but I've pulled it out yet again. I really liked the cow from yesterday's perspective drawing so I decided to draw it again but just by itself, alone, in a field. No biggie with this one, just a basic drawing but I'm proud of myself that I did something!
Crazy...three weeks done. I managed to get each day done this week. I wasn't sure if today would happen, though. It was a rough day. I lost my dear Kagero on Wednesday 2 weeks ago and I suspect Wednesdays are going to be difficult for the near future. But I had a lesson to complete for the Derwent Art Academy so I decided to do that this evening for today's creation. It was a lesson on perspective. I totally get the concept of perspective but I seem to struggle a bit with its execution so I definitely need to spend more time practicing. Here's today's work and a compilation of week 3's work.
I'm so glad I started this daily art practice before I lost my dog. Even though I missed a few days in that first week, I feel like committing to it has helped me keep going and not give in to frustration, procrastination, fear and overwhelming grief. I'm still mourning and I guess I'll grieve her loss for a long time to come but making art is giving me an outlet and even distraction sometimes. I think today's project started with me getting out some pain and putting it onto the canvas and I ended up liking what I saw. I really liked the color combination of blues, turquoise, and purples of the last painting so I knew I wanted to use those again but I didn't know where it would go. I liked the effect of using my fingers last time so I loaded up my fingers and started applying the paint to the canvas using the same smooth motions as the last painting. I just wasn't feeling that though and I quickly started smearing the paint around then I started "drumming" my fingers on the canvas and I loved the texture that emerged. I just followed my gut in picking up more colors, darker ones, lighter ones, white, using the same motion but creating more contrast. The drumming was quick and expressive, it felt like I was working something out on a non-verbal level and I really love the result.
The photos, unfortunately, just don't do this painting justice. I'm struggling with getting the lighting just right to give accurate colors and contrast and not reflect off the glossy paint. It's really much better looking in person!
Ugh...today was a rough one. I've been doing "better" the last few days but today was difficult. The sadness was overwhelming at times and it was hard to even think of something to create. It was getting down to the wire of missing another day and I think it's really important for me to be consistent with this project so I had to think of something. So, I opted to go for a simple technique that most of us do when we had art classes in elementary school...blowing ink with a straw. I just used my sketchbook that isn't great for water media but whatever. I applied drops of various colors of acrylic ink and blew them around the paper until they soaked into the paper. I don't love it but I don't hate it either. I also worked on some watercolor pages but one I'm not willing to post cause it really sucks and the other one is drying right now, so maybe I'll post it tomorrow. I just keep trying to remind myself that this project is really about play, practice and creativity...
I started this daily art project to get into the habit of making art daily. I sometimes feel like the biggest procrastinator in the whole world and while making art brings me much joy and feels coming home over and over again, I resist making it like a pro (professional procrastinator, that is!). I know much of this is due to fear...fear of failure, fear of rejection but I think also some fear of success.
I don't really have much formal art training, just a few classes here and there, and this causes me much angst...like I don't know what I'm doing, my work is amateurish, etc. Some other things I feel like I'm missing in all this are the skills/strategies to overcome creative block, to find inspiration, to discover my own artistic language, and my artistic voice/style. I feel like at least some of this comes through art education but I could be totally wrong. Anyway, one thing I've noticed even after just one week of doing these drawings is that I really like the soft/dreamy look that a few of the drawings have. This is really interesting to me because I tend to like bright, vibrant colors. Several paintings I've completed and that are also in progress use bright jewel toned colors. But I'm really loving these softly colored drawings, especially the mushroom pictures.
Another thing I realized just this morning is related to my personal artistic language/symbolism...I love drawing/painting mushrooms! I don't particularly love eating mushrooms...except when I'm at Benihana, they know how to make them so delicious! But I realized this morning that I often refer to myself as a mushroom. My husband and I moved to the Pacific Northwest because of the wet, cloudy weather. Whenever people start going on and on about how happy they are that the sun is out and they start bugging me about going out into the sunshine, I often tell them that I'm a mushroom (while internally rolling my eyes at them ;) )...I prefer when it is dark and damp! So, it totally makes sense to me that mushrooms would be a personal symbol and part of my artistic language. How cool is this realization? I'm blown away by it and that it came after just a week of playing around. Now I have an idea for a whole series of small, acrylic paintings of mushrooms. Amazing!
I'm sticking with this daily art project indefinitely...no end date planned. Part of it is to create a daily ritual/habit of making art, especially since I'm not so good at sticking to things (as I've already mentioned). I'm also sticking with it because it's giving me an opportunity to try things on a small scale and to learn important lessons...like with today's drawing...sometimes it's best to quit when you're ahead.
Today's drawing started off nicely...yet another mushroom study. I sketched the mushroom in and got some of its color laid down then started with the background. The background looked nice to start with but seemed too simple. Maybe the real problem was that I tried to follow the reference photo too closely. I thought it all just looked too simple so I started adding stuff to the background and adding and adding. Well, I just took it too far (in my eyes) but once it's there it's there. But rather than let my inner critic rip me apart and insist that I tear that page out and dispose of it lest anyone see this disaster, I am posting it publicly in many places...it is what it is and I learned from it...so nothing was lost but much was gained.
What is one of your personal symbols...even if you aren't an artist?
Wow! Made it a whole week! I'm really proud of myself for sticking with this. I do feel more inspired and creative. I feel like I'm spending a little too much time on these because I'm not getting much other art work done but it's probably really because I'm goofing off too much. I'm being gentle with myself for now on this because I can't expect to go from 0 to 60 in just a few days. I am excited to be making art every day and I do think I'm starting to get more of a feel for my artistic language and voice. I'm particularly fond of the dreamy feel of the the two mushroom pieces (yesterday's and today's). So, here's today's drawing and a compilation of week 1. Thanks for stopping by!