Someone Pass Me The Tranquilisers

I’ve just completed a superb online watercolour portrait course given by the amazingly talented professional artist and tutor, and all-round great guy, Mario A. Robinson from which I learned so much.

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?

Ruth©flop 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.

Rut©cutNot 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.

Ah the hell with it….Cue orchestra!

Paradigm Shifter

Are you a follower of rules?

I recently underwent an epiphany whilst devouring a rare treat of a book, focusing on the raw drawings and watercolours of Egon Schiele, the Austrian Expressionist.  It was edifying to note that this influential figurative artist characteristically left the backgrounds of many paintings unadorned or simply washed parts in a thin, flat, monochrome.  A master of fine line, he conveying much with a minimum of detail.  He did not bow to societal dictates.

An all-but audible ‘thunk’ occurred as my soggy neural structures were permeated: the copious purist ‘rules’ underpinning traditional techniques are not to be interpreted as rigid instruction – they are merely principles to guide.  Fine, mock all you like!

It proved impossible to get this A2 image scanned so my abysmal photograph will have to do – if you click the image a few times it looks better larger.  There’s some artistic licence with the guitar which was a struggle to accurately depict and the body proportions look wrong – which is strange since I conscientiously measured scale and ratios for the first time ever.

This study was, however, brazenly created in the knowledge that nobody will punish me for leaving the subject floating untethered on the paper.  I’m free to vociferously outline in ink or crayon.  Do I dare highlight with white paint?  Do I dare disturb the universe?

Suddenly, I feel vaguely unloosened.

Temporary stoicism by-pass & the importance of purposeful play

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!

P.S. This post by Creative Coach Dan Goodwin says it all really.