“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.
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.
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.
It’s been such a joy painting this adorable face – he made me smile throughout the process.
Unfortunately, despite visiting two different scanning shops and taking many, many shots over three days, this woefully poor photo is the best image I got, which doesn’t do it justice.
As predicted, the watercolour study has evolved to become the final piece; smaller portraits have their merit and I’m quite satisfied with the result.
A light touch and a soft palette of transparent colours was necessary to reproduce that wonderfully delicate freshness of the little man’s flawless, peachy-soft baby skin. Greatly diluted, these watery colours were carefully built up in layers until I felt I’d ‘captured’ him enough to please his parents.
Despite intending to paint loosely, unless the main features are detailed, it’s difficult to achieve a proper likeness of the subject. In an attempt to make it more ‘painterly’ some splashes were added and I purposefully tried to fade out at the edges so that he wasn’t overwhelmed by the business of his clothing. I do like a slightly unfinished painting, but on this occasion, it was mostly due to the fear of messing it up with overworking.
Now all I need is to stop “Baby face, you’ve got the cutest little baby face” from playing on a continuous loop in my head.