Art Doesn’t Transform. It Just Plain Forms

I’d always wanted to know the difference between a mark that was art and one that wasn’t. ~ Roy Lichtenstein

I’ve only completed the second unit of the online Illustration project I’m doing.  This is the third interpretation of Broncia Koller-Pinell’s nude portrait of Marietta.  A Klimt version during his golden phase was considered, mostly because Egon Schiele was his student and because Koller-Pinell’s work had a considerable influence on Klimt as well as Schiele. 

Eventually I decided that I’ve filled the brief to choose a painting that excites me and reflect on how different artists may have interpreted it.  I think I’ve also ‘let go and experimented without fear and played, simplified and allowed myself to feel the work using different material and techniques.’

So this is my third and final image, depicting my assumption of the approach of American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.  His vivid, sensational work draws on popular imagery from advertising, comics and cartoons, with their easily strong, comprehensible lines, flattened designs  and strict colour pallet of primary colours.  His instantly recognisable two-dimensional imagery is known for colouring much of his canvas, and especially women, with his signature Benday dots.

His female nudes referenced 1960’s comic book caricatures, with his compositional technique of contrasting stark geometrical shapes and lines with the curvier form of the female body.

His artworks looked machine-made, but were carefully designed and rendered by hand.

The above image was created digitally.  I wasn’t able to reproduce the Benday dots to produce tones, but I had a go. I’ve made her look like she has a very bad dose of chicken pox, but she’s still smiling!

Art Is A Line Around Your Thoughts

“The line has almost become a work of art in itself” ~ Theo Van Doesburg

Still on the second unit of my first online illustration course, this is my version of how I suppose that Egon Schiele may have drawn a portrait of Broncia Koller-Pinell’s Marietta.

Broncia Koller-Pinell had a considerable influence on Egon Schiele.  She and her husband were his influential patrons.

Schiele’s dynamic, raw works have a beautifully frugal sense of line, the line being a dominant element in the structure of all his works.  He was more interested in contour than volume.  Schiele ranks as one of the greatest draughtsmen of all time.  He had a remarkable touch when building a line and contour of any figures, his extremely distinctive style was formed on one main foundation and means of expression – the line. 

Although there is obvious toning on the body, I perceive an appealing sense of flatness to it, as with many works by Schiele.  The lines do all the work.  Weight is the essence of form.  It is comprehending the solidity of the form.

Can you tell I’m passionate and excited by great lines?

Schiele rarely portrayed graceful nude bodies like this demurely seated female nude, most were curiously distorted and uncomfortable. His interpretation of his models presented bony, knobbly bodies in angular, knotted poses. Evidently, he liked to challenge rather than please the viewer.

His lines show a tendency to peak at points of tension (the outline of the hip, the top edge of the left shoulder and forearm), a trick that makes the contour static but not heavy.  This was difficult to replicate as the model Marietta has considerably more flesh on her than his usual models appear to have.

Carefully outlined in black crayon or ink on tinted paper, crayon has been used to decorate the figure. He often left his portraits in an unfinished state, and rarely with any background details.

ILLUSTRATION: Brooding in a corner somewhere between art and graphic design….

“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” ~ Charles Mingus, American jazz musician.

 

The second unit of my first online illustration course, was unexpectedly, both an intellectual and a creative challenge.  I’ve had to think back to school history of art lessons, analysing paintings and artists – it gave my  brain a much-needed nudge.

I was to choose a painting that excites me for some reason.

Then, I was to try out different versions of the same image, but demonstrate how different artists would have interpreted it, using a variety of materials and techniques.

The initial painting was to be faithful to the work and its meaning.

I chose an enchanting nude portrait of Marietta 1907, by female Jewish artist Broncia Koller-Pinell. I knew nothing about it or her until I stumbled  upon it when it was tacked on at the end of an Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt exhibition at the National Gallery in 2014. There is nothing quite like seeing it in real life – it blew me away, I gazed at it for a long time and couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks.

The portrait of this lovely seated female nude has a simple L-shaped composition, with little attention given to the background other than graphic elements; blocks of flat, pale colour and a gold rectangle behind her head.  In this way, she gives the nude particular significance, focusing entirely on the harmonious lines of the subject’s body.  Paintings of nude women were still considered scandalous in 1908, especially when made by a woman.  Although nude, there is nothing provocative in this pose.

I was drawn by her efficient use of line, conveying the contours of the body.  There is much information and intent in each line, which limit the functions to construction and not description of specific anatomical data.  The fluid, precise, pared back line defines the edges of the form, effectively creating the structure of the body, traces contour and leads the eye from one part of the work to another.  They have their own merit.  They inform the rise and fall of the surfaces as the line travels over the breasts, the rib cage, down to the navel, over the abdomen and finally, down to the pubic area.  They describe the mass and volume of the form.  Every single mark is intentional.

Herewith my quick watercolour, attempting to be faithful to the original painting.

This was to help me unconsciously assume the structure of the work and its meaning.  A copy of the original is below, which was a postcard bought at the exhibition.

Creativity is intelligence having fun!

The traditional role of the Illustrator lies in the visual narrative, it is a practice with its roots in storytelling.”  ~ Marshall Arisman

To shake up my creativity, I’ve signed up for some online illustrations courses, the first of which is both more difficult and enjoyable than anticipated.

Unit one required me to create an illustration from random items seen at a flea market.  As Lockdown is in progress, nipping off to Portobello Road market was replaced with online searches.

Stalls crammed with worn teddy bears and others stacked high with gaudy crockery, I decided to create an illustration for children, showing teddies attempting to climb into a teacup. 

Indecision meant that both a watercolour and a digital version of the teacup were created.

Drawing hyperactive teddies proved more difficult than I’d imagined, but I got there in the end.

As Soon As My Son Is Fit To Live With, He Goes To Live With Other People.

An empty room is a story waiting to happen, and you are the author. ~ Charlotte Moss ~

The sweet. beloved boy is now a 6’ 3” tall +man.  That soft little fat-cheeked face is angular and has stubble.  He achieved a distinction in his M.A. degree, flew the coop in July for a house-share with good friends, has just exchanged his sound engineering job for a dream lecturing position in London and he’s happy. We could not be more proud…and relieved!

There’s less laundry and the food bill has been cut by more than half but god I miss him breezing through the front door and so long to receive one of his wonderful bear hugs. 

Covid means we only “see” each other during our weekly online chat.  He’ll be spending his first Christmas day away from home with the family of a nearby school friend, so we’ll get to see him briefly, wearing our masks,  each in a corner of our sitting room.  I’ll throw one of those see-through dust sheets over him so that I can have one of his longed for hugs, plus it will make him laugh.

His room is freakishly immaculate, screamingly silent and vastly empty!  Not wanting to make it unrecognisable, (I can’t bring myself to call it our spare room) I had fun creating this watercolour to break up the now offensively naked walls.

Using beech leaves, I had my first go at mono-printing, which, if you’re interested, doesn’t really work with watery watercolour paints, so I also block-printed and then drew over the top using “pens” I’d fashioned out of beech twigs.  They worked really well, although as you can see, the ink did run sometimes off too quickly, but I fixed that by wiping the point on the side of the ink bottle.

Is it possible to have too much gold paint?  Yes, I went a smidgen too far, but think I got away with it.

I’ve ordered this inexpensive frame – and yes, the colour theme of the room is mainly blue…for boys!

Plus Ça Change

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance ~ Alan Watts ~

When updating my website, for ages now, I haven’t been able to shrug off an ever-increasing feeling of dissatisfaction – of being a little bored by my art.  It’s all safely predictable, moderately sugary and intrinsically pretty-prettyyyy pictures. 

Nothing wrong with pretty pictures, à chacun son goût!  But a shakeup has  been looming; I’ve felt creatively stale, frustrated and itching for something less stagnant. 

Much sobering reflection made it clear that progress would not come without risks.  A fresh, less rigid approach and a stripping away of complacency was imperative.

So I purposefully read encouraging blogs and appropriate books at length, boldly experimented, played around with a variety of mediums, enthusiastically made multiple interesting marks… ad nauseam. 

You’ll see from these tulips that I’ve been toiling away at it since the beginning of the first Lockdown in March.  

But!  It was staggeringly difficult to detach myself from the snug and familiar. I could not do it!  I was simply not up to the challenge!  My tentative toe-dip into diversity just didn’t happen.  It was intensely disheartening and my self-confidence was deeply bruised.  In my cupboard lies a substantial pile of discarded attempts, the backs of which will serve as scrap for practise.

It seems that these images below may just be as wildly radical and loose as I get.

The first, (poor photo) of freshly picked sedum, is definitely loose; it took three minutes to paint.  But I wouldn’t want to frame it to hang on my wall.       

This is the grisaille underpainting to give depth.  A dish cloth and ink were used to make the pattern at the base. Perhaps I should have stopped here.

Lastly, the finished watercolour of the same sedum, neglected until it faded to appealingly gnarly, grungy and almost deceased, it’s water appearing to have developed algae. 

It doesn’t exactly signal a seismic shift from my usual work, yet it is unquestionably less sweet and pretty, albeit even more controlled!  I’ve merely used a few different products and techniques, some of which didn’t work.  

This would definitely not be hung in my house; It is ugly, I genuinely loathe it and will NEVER paint sedum again!  Initially, this experiment left me feeling disconcertingly adrift and unsure of what to do next.

So why have I bothered posting if every image is a disaster? Well, I decided not to be embarrassed about my failures because we all have them and I realised that there’s no shame.  I tried something different and it doesn’t matter that the result isn’t as hoped.

It’s only natural for creative people to periodically reinvent their methods in order to progress. I’ll continue to aspire to further spasms of idiosyncrasy and looseness in the hopes of creating something that surprises me. 

At the very least these images may briefly divert you from the extraordinarily bizarre ongoing worldwide events, not least the brainless,  boorish, bovine buffoons who ostensibly purport to lead what remains of our countries.

Well done if you have made it to the end of this elaborate autoethnographic (word courtesy of my son) discourse. 

Luckily for you this post has no audio – you’ve been spared hearing the many long, shuddering sighs that accompanied it.

Drawing The Soul!

Faces are the most interesting things we see; other people fascinate me, and the most interesting aspect of other people – the point where we go inside them – is the face. It tells all.  David Hockney

Doing a portrait of someone I care about is such a pleasure, because it feels as if we’re having a relaxing conversation as I squint and scrutinise their features.

I prefer to use a highly pixelated photograph for reference and tend to focus on the eyes first (apparently it was Wil Shakespeare who said that the eyes are the windows of the soul), then the mouth and lastly the nose. Being able to communicate what lies behind the is something few artists do.

It’s always possible to tell a true (or Duchenne) smile from a polite, fake smile – the eyes are always the giveaway.

This is a pared back pencil portrait of my remarkable eldest step-daughter, Hannah, who constantly surprises me as she rises to every challenge that life throws at her, never losing her quirky humour – she lights up a room when she enters.  All of which is impossible to convey with a few pencil lines and to say in one breath.

It’s extremely tricky to capture the truest likeness of the subject in a portrait.  There’s always a teeny something that isn’t quite right.  But I relish the challenge.

The fun cartoon-like drawing below shows her very quirky side and that green is her favourite colour.

I’m sure she won’t mind me posting a recent photo of her which for me, is just so wonderfully Hannah and makes me smile.

A Rose That Never Wilts isn’t A Rose At All

It’s ok to feel delicate sometimes.  Real beauty is in the fragility of your petals.  A rose that never wilts isn’t a rose at all. ~ Crystal Woods ~

During this extraordinarily weird period of self-isolating, I’ve been distracting myself by doing some artistic exercises with inspiration and guidance by artist Ian Sidaway.

The fading roses were plucked from my garden immediately after heavy rain. I used pen and ink as well as watercolour.

Whenever I finish a drawing or painting, I always ask myself whether I’d be happy to put my picture up on the wall inside my house. Recently the answer has been a resounding “no!”. But that’s alright as they’re not meant to be finished works of art, they are merely exercises in observation and trying new techniques.

Before I go, I just want to say that if I hear one more person say “new normal” I may just lose it. It is not normal and saying it over and over does not make it true. It is temporary!

Life Is Still Life

Life is still life. It’s still tough, complicated, and more than a little messy, with lessons to be learned, mistakes to be made, triumphs and disappointments to be had, and not every day is meant to be a party. ~ Alyson Noel ~

Due to the current Lockdown because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I am into week eight of self-isolation with my husband and son, so having these images scanned is not a priority. It seems, however, that I am cannot take a decent photograph. The paper looks grey.

These are merely some drawing exercises. Sepia ink was used for the image above and with the two below, ink, oil pastels and watercolour were used. The last one was a quick first try-out on scrap paper, but in some ways I like it the best.