“Je ne travail pas, je m’amuse” ~ Jean Giraud (aka Moebius)
As you can see from the above illustrations, my long absence is because I’ve been honing my illustration and digital skills. There’s a large chunk of my recent work that isn’t documented on here, which are on my Instagram account, although there are also quite a few below.
With all the excellent, thoroughly enjoyable online courses I’m taking, (thank you Domestika) I’m simply drawing and painting whatever I want and in the process, my ‘style’ seems to be steadily emerging. Style, however, is a tricky beast as it is constantly changing and evolving, like any organism – which is true of any creative…if they’re any good.
This illustration adventure I’m on is giving me so much pleasure – I often feel inebriated with pleasure at the end of a creative day.
“Don’t wait for permission to go out and create.” Baz Luhrmann.
What is Hirameki? I’m so glad you asked! It is the Japanese word for ‘brainwave’ or ‘flash of insight’ or ‘flash of inspiration’.
My Hirameki moment was during the final stage of my first online Illustration course with Domestika. I just knew that, despite being very comfortable in a life drawing class, I was not and had never been an artist. I am an illustrator! It set me free – I no longer suffer from imposter syndrome.
I’ve previously said that I thoroughly enjoyed the course, but there was one thing that I could not get my head around. The tutor discouraged overthinking; I was to turn off my brain, adopt the mindset of a child and connect with my own inner-child. Hmmm! For years I worked as a hairdresser because I love obsessing over style, shape and design. It’s the attention to detail and the precision that excites me. Overthinking my creations is sheer pleasure.
Herewith my results of the final exercise – four double pages of a sketch book using the techniques demonstrated throughout the course.
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!
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.
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.