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.

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.

Hello Zazzle, Goodbye Life!

Anyone who wants to make money by selling their art online, let me warn you that it is a deeply formidable task.

When I naively thought it would fun to open an online business little did I realise what I was letting myself in for. Every day sees me investing long hours on activities which do not include painting pretty pictures.  I’ve had to…..

  • Decipher what and how to adhere to the site requirements on setting up the store front.
  • Learn every damned thing alone as Zazzle don’t really offer much advice.
  • Interpret and complete complicated forms to keep the taxman happy.
  • Know what size images are required for each individual product.
  • Be proficient at using imaging software – I’m self-taught on Adobe Fireworks.
  • Think up original ideas.
  • Create new images, not just with paint and inks, but digitally as well.
  • Become a champion at tagging.
  • Delve deeply into my box of descriptive words.
  • Open promotional media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest.

Zazzle©Desk.fw

But still…all I hear is crickets.

It’s going to be a long time before I see any reward for my efforts and I’m realising that it will be necessary to open new stores with other online platforms in order to appeal to a variety of audiences.

The thing I’ve found the most difficult is to not be timid about pushing my Zazzle store on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  It’s not enough to simply upload a few items and sit back waiting for them to sell.  Constant promotion of each item is vital and I’m convinced that I’ve probably irritated my friends and lost a good few followers in the process.

On the plus side, Zazzle do print my designs on good quality merchandise and I am enjoying the process; the novelty hasn’t worn off…yet.

I just saw an article proclaiming that those who succeed with these online stores have been doing it fo approximately fifteen years, (FIFTEEN!!) producing more than one item per day – I’ll probably be dead in fifteen years.

Well, much as I’d like to, I obviously can’t sit here chatting – got to get back to consistently and persistently producing for my Zazzle shop.

Zazzle Dazzle Greetings Cards – Making Art Pay

I don’t have any controversial unmade beds nor hideous dead creatures suspended in formaldehyde to flog – and I don’t want my art just sitting around taking up shelf space – so as passion and creativity won’t generate an income, I’m commercialising; selling (very cheesy) greetings cards and other merchandise on the internet. This allows me to paint and draw what and when I want without pressure.

June-Malones_zazzle©lcards

Initial enthusiastic research rapidly dwindled into bewilderment and I had to enter a darkened room for a little lie down.

I’m currently limited to creating for greetings cards and various items such as t-shirts as my technical ignorance regarding converting images to acceptable vector file formats excludes me from contributing to Stock sites for now.

Being under no illusion, I admit my cards aren’t particularly original and realise that just because I’ve decided to put them out there doesn’t mean people will actually buy them; I’m a small voice in a very crowded room.  So definitely not a “get rich quick” scheme.  Nevertheless, even a few pennies here and there, must be better than a deft boot to the derrière.

Here is a link to the first site – my ** Zazzle store front… which will be regularly replenished.

One benefit of shopping here is that nobody will have to endure “All I want for Christmas” played on a perpetual loop just because it’s November.

Perseverance!  I’ll let you know how I get on.

** I closed my Zazzle shop in March 2017.

The Art of Wu-Wei & Coloured Pencil Bliss

Isn’t it always the way?  With this drawing of my son I didn’t try.  Really!  It was only a spontaneous sketch with barely any conscious thought…yet somehow, I effortlessly managed to accurately ‘capture’ my son and his mood.  He even likes it enough to use it on his website.

Composer©James

Striving for perfection and overthinking often sabotages creativity.  It’s a paradox!  This was only achieved because I was ‘in the flow’, in a ‘zone’; the usual self-inflicted pressure was off and I didn’t care about the outcome.  I was unleashed!

Composer©zoomDrawing with coloured pencils is extremely satisfying.  It’s just so very simple – all that is required is some paper, pencils and a sharpener.  And the results are gratifyingly fast…no drying time required.

I’ll have to cultivate this – in future, I’ll try not to try.