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.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
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.
Many beautiful flowers are currently showing off in my garden, but there are none that I want to draw or paint.
I’m fortunate to have my groceries delivered and was delighted to find this bunch of freesias for a mere £2.50 – bargain!
Combining ink drawings with watercolours is new for me and I anticipate continuing along this path, experimenting further. Using ink is such a joy so I will press on towards producing the images that are more in keeping with those that scramble around in my brain.
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. 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.
My Step-daughter’s eldest boy was distinctly despondent that I’d painted his baby brother’s portrait before doing one of him – so I’ve taken the step towards getting back in his favour – although I doubt a four-year-old would appreciate the loose painting technique used here.
An initial sketch (see bottom of page) is usually best practice to familiarise myself with the features of the subject.
In order to obtain some kind of likeness to the subject, the first details of my focus are always the eyes, lips and nose, painted with fine brushes.
Squinty eyes and flat brushes were used to block in the darkest values, using plenty of water. Once dry, the lighter washes were blocked in, leaving the lightest areas untouched.
Finally, using a higher ratio of pigment to water, I went back to re-establish some of the darkest values. I probably shouldn’t divulge the fact that his face was very red in the photograph due to a recent bout of tears, abruptly halted with the appearance of a chocolate pudding.
The resemblance isn’t quite as close as aimed for, so aspiring to meet with the high expectations of a four-year-old lad is sufficient motivation to do it one more time. Watch this space.
I make no apologies for painting yet another watercolour of the same image of my step-daughter, Ruth. Inexplicably, this particular image fascinates me and I may still do one final, very loose version. For art to work, it’s important to do what satisfies you and to keep doing it – not what other people expect or what may sell – you have to do your own thing because that is your unique voice.
Watercolour is often thought of as a light, delicate medium. Used correctly, however, it has wonderful, intense depth. In this painting I took my cue from an exercise I did in negative painting. I built up numerous layers, using the most transparent colours from a fairly limited pallet:
Despite watercolour being a fast-drying medium, waiting for each thin layer to dry wasn’t easy. Still, it provided the opportunity to stand back from my work and view it from a distance in order to evaluate it. Turning a painting upside down, viewing it in the mirror or via a photograph are other ways to help seeing it through ‘fresh eyes’.
Fifty percent of my art is detailed thinking – sometimes days of repeatedly going over the process in my head before getting the paints out. That being said, once the painting begins, I don’t really know what I’m doing and have to put my trust in the paint…but that’s creating!.
For once I’ve uploaded a large image, but you’ll need to click on it about three times to get the largest version.
“I sit before flowers, hoping they will train me in the art of opening up,”
So says modern poet Shane Koyczan.
For five days I’ve been sitting in front of “a host, of golden daffodils” willing them to train me in the art of capturing their glory in watercolours.
“I gazed-and gazed” but found that yellow on yellow is really difficult! Keep it loose and there’s not enough definition – add detail and it looks overworked. Whilst the paint was still wet I went back in with a watercolour crayon which seeemed to work fairly well. Oh and on the vase I used a white wax crayon to (kind of) define the water line.
…but decided that this one is probably best? Actually, surprisingly, cropping is also more difficult than I assumed it would be.
Frustration aside, I enjoyed using my paints again – a necessary change from designing for my ** Zazzle store.
Ever the optimist, I plan doing some cutsie watercolours of themes suitable for children, which eill be incorporated into designs for greeting cards and various other items…you guessed…for my ** Zazzle store!
You rarely get what you expect in life and despite it being almost Christmas you won’t see a stunningly beautiful festive painting as done by Lesley White nor this marvelous Thanksgiving watercolour by Carol King. But I do promise not to whine this time.
Anyone who kindly reads my witterings know that the process of setting up my online shop has wilted the neurons in my feeble brain. (Almost whined there.) The remedy? A first venture into abstract doodling mark making, some of which is influenced by images seen on the internet.
Abstract art isn’t supposed to look like anything, which is immediately freeing. It can be whatever you make of it – or whatever you don’t make of it.
With ink and watercolour paints, I soon became totally immersed in making marks and shapes for their own sake, which was most gratifying. Time zipped by.
Making repetitive gestures was both relaxing and absorbing; sometimes it felt almost unconscious as I tried not to exert too much control.
And yes, these images will be put to use in my ** Zazzle Store.
I’m considering running another site purely for commercial posts. Maybe next year.
Until then, a huge thank you to all of you who have supported me by stopping to look or comment and I sincerely do wish you all a very merry festive holiday.
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.
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!
Drawing 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.
Between you and me, I secretly hoped the course would immediately turn me into a master portrait painter, that there’d be an orchestra playing in the background as I twirled around in front of you with my masterpiece in one hand, paintbrush in the other. Patently, it’s very much a learning process and I concluded that painting layer upon layer of glazes isn’t quite ‘me’, preferring spontaneity and risk-taking for a light, fresh, painterly finish….Oh all right then, it was bloody difficult and I simply don’t have the patience so I gave up!
I did learn heaps of valuable techniques, not least how to paint with a brush in each hand – and my confidence has definitely grown, but clearly, dilligent practise is required.
It was interesting to learn that in all his work, whether portraiture, still life or landscape, Mario uses the Grisaille method of painting – a monochromatic under-painting, which is a useful and accurate process that establishes a map of the tonal values prior to adding colour and helps create the illusion of depth and form.
After deciding not to complete the painting, I had some fun with it using charcoal and pastels, then decided to put it up here anyway, maybe even start a trend for showing failed works?
There are no watermarks on this, what you may be able to see are pencil lines which would have eventually been covered if I’d taken the layers to the end and finished the painting properly.
Not too daunted for once, I’ll have another go at the portrait, using the lessons I’ve learned, but with my take on them – watch this space.
Look out for a crazy grinning woman prancing madly around an easel waving her paint brushes with quite a lot of attitude – that loon would be me.
My head frequently bubbles with detailed artistic ideas, but actually accomplishing them isn’t always easy.
I’d like to create a series of paintings portraying likenesses of people I know, with their facial features and hands taking prominence.
You may wonder why I don’t simply call them “portraits”. Well, have you ever tried to render the essence of an individual onto paper or canvas? Obtaining a true recognisable likeness is staggeringly difficult. Formidable, even. Not least because the sitter is unlikely to view themselves in the same way that the artist does and there are always critics ready to pile huge lumps of vitriol onto the artist.
Clueless but undaunted, the first step was taken; I found a photograph that makes me want to to dust off my paints.
This preliminary ink drawing was to make me look hard at her features to familiarise myself with depicting them – also to decide which elements of the photograph to include and which to leave out in the composition.
The quick pencil sketch helped me ignore the myriad details and to simplify by considering the tonal values of her face that create form. Squinting helps with this.
My lofty aspiration is to somehow infuse the painting with more personality than the merely flat one dimensional drawing (although I do quite like flat images). To cultivate an intimacy that goes deeper than a mere likeness. Ideally I hope to reveal something of what goes on behind her eyes.
If I manage to fulfil my heady blur of ambitious imagined plans, the next post should be the painting. Any resemblance to the sitter will be an indescribable relief, but mostly I’m just happy to be doing some art again!
Now if someone could just sprinkle some fairy dust onto my paint brushes…..
I hope this finds you dry. I don’t mean that in an impolite way, it’s just that I live in the new monsoon kingdom of England where pretty much everything is soggy and damp at the moment.
In other news, I’ve started painting again…somebody alert the media!!!
The above two initial attempts at painting this friend of my son left me severely disheartened and frustrated by my dearth of technical skills. At the end of the process I’d inevitably do something to ruin it. Without formal training, making progress is difficult but, as someone once said; “Practice is the best of all instructors” so I’ve stopped sulking and here I am again.
Watercolour is one of the most challenging of painting mediums in that it is unpredictable. The lack of control simultaneously thrills me and scares the pants off me. Oh yes, I know how to have fun.
The following two studies taught me much about paint manipulation. When attempting spontaneity and allowing the paint to do its own thing, it helps to be prepared for any eventuality. Using a spray water bottle and kitchen paper allows for more control, as do loud yelps and sharp intakes of breath, although this does tend to startle the other people who live here.
With this first attempt, the darkest colour was painted first and when completely dry, lighter, transparent colours were glazed over. This was in response to being educated by my friend Carol King on a fascinating process called Brunaille, except that this is in the wrong context and I used blue instead of brown. It was useful in helping me to appreciate the values of light and shadow.
The early stages look better than the finished version – the scanner makes it appear far muddier than the original and the poor girl appears to be in dire need of a shave.The second study below didn’t scan well either (honestly, not an excuse) – it is frankly clownish.Back to the drawing board. I plan to paint numerous versions and strive to feel comfortable about giving a picture to the model; I can’t seem to quite ‘capture’ her.
Now if only I could channel my inner critic to help me perceive at what point to put the brush down and step away from the painting! Less is more, stupid! So stop it. I know you too are guilty of this.
You’re so glad you read this blog post, aren’t you? Admit it; I have enriched your life.
This little watercolour painting was my attempt at humour. It was a birthday gift for my youngest step-daughter who runs her own personal training business.
After the picture was left to dry on a table in another room I forgot all about it until I overheard two teenage friends of my son talking and realised they were discussing it. One lad obviously didn’t get the joke as the other said “That’s a trainer, see? And it’s making personal remarks to the weights – the trainer is telling the weights that they’re dumb”. He still didn’t really understand it.
So I thought it would be prudent to include his explanation just in case my sense of humour is less quirky than I’d imagined and is far more strange than is conventional.
It could be said that this post leans toward self-indulgence but it is written in the hope that other artists who recognise my dilemma may even glean a morsel of comfort from reading it.
Since my earliest memories I’ve been told and accepted that I could draw and I admit that the act of being creative has immeasurably enhanced my existence. My passion was cutting hair but, since being enveloped in the vice-like embrace of M.E., hairdressing became impossible – so for two years I’ve been attempting to rediscover my self-taught drawing skills.
Inexplicably, for most of this year my energies have focused on torturing myself with self-induced pressure, whilst my innards wrestled enthusiastically. The harder I urged myself to produce, the more paralysed my hands and brain became – my illustrations became as rare as those metaphorical hens’ teeth.
Last year a very thoughtful artist friend sent me “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron, which did the trick – even though I consider the author to be slightly dippy. After revisiting the book this week my rather arthritic recovery seems to have begun once more. It feels like I’ve been given permission to enjoy being creative…scandalous!
This is not a book endorsement – it is merely an attempt to point out how easily we can become so goal-orientated that we forget to enjoy the process. So intently focused on becoming an Illustrator was I that I froze and became afraid of failing.
In addition, it is often hugely intimidating to observe the mass of incredibly talented individuals abounding on the internet – a glance at the work of some of my Twitter associates perfectly demonstrates my point.
Apparently my anxiety at feeling I have to produce something ‘great’ every time has blocked my creativity and the remedy is to take small steps rather than large leaps. I was setting impossible goals for myself.
Today, after a good mental slap, I treated myself. I sketched my son and muse solely for my own pleasure, without concentrating on best technique or medium. Don’t think I’m there yet but I hope to keep it up!