“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.
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.
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 have just, rashly, entered my artwork to the first round of what is the largest and most longstanding (since 1789!) open submission contemporary art show in the United Kingdom, namely the 2017 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, with its prevailing trademark chaos.
Let the nail-biting commence.
The selection Process:
12,000 digital entries will be accepted online – judging 16 March
4,000 of these entries will be short-listed for the second round – judging 18 May
Approximately 800 works will be chosen for the exhibition – final hangings 27 May
I know, right?
Ah well, at least I know that my entry fee will contribute towards a good cause; the funds raised by the exhibition go to the Royal Academy School – ensuring tuition for their students is free.
For the very last time (promise) I created a final, final, FINAL, ink drawn portrait of my youngest step-daughter, Ruth. For once the image is large, so if you want to examine it closely, click it about three times.
Fingers crossed….you just never know! **
The Summer Exhibition 2017 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, runs from 13 June to 20 August.
** I didn’t get in after all – but it was fun to have a go.
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.
So six months of chugging away for my Zazzle store has felt mind-numbingly tedious. Not that the actual designing is boring, more the (necessary) cross-media broadcasting that accompanies each and every single item.
Anyway, the possibility of emigrating to sunny Portugal now totally preoccupies me. I’ve attended overseas property exhibitions, examined online, plots of land for sale, researched property purchasing regulations and everything about private swimming pools – it’s addictive and so much fun! If this does happen, it won’t be until 2018 after my son complete his university studies.
I’m itching to paint and draw again. At the risk of being boring, I’m considering revisiting an image of my youngest step-daughter, the composition of which, inexplicably, still stimulates my creativity. Already drawn in pencil and ink, painted with watercolour – twice. This time I plan using a mixture of media and may give pastels a go.
Here to prove that I haven’t totally given up, is the ink version, but this time with some minor digital modifications.
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.
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.
First you make a triangular stencil and place it over the centre of the card. Then, using water on a brush, paint small squiggles within the triangle and follow through with a small brush containing green watercolour paint, once again, squiggling loosely. I decided to splatter as well.
The photos are a bit pants but you get the idea.
The card paper didn’t react well to wet-in-wet watercolours as does proper watercolour paper, but once the triangular stencil was removed, the overall effect was still pleasing.
Craft stores sell economically priced blank cards with matching envelopes and everything else required – just don’t get carried away and buy up the entire store as I did. In this case, less is more effective. I used some self-adhesive glitter stars and tiny gem embellishments. I already had some gold ink for writing “Happy Christmas” inside, but you can even buy stickers for that.
This was a really simple, fun thing to do.
Apologies again for mentioning Christmas so early – I find nothing more soul-crushing than walking into a store and seeing Christmas supplies on the shelves at this time of year. I’m not sure what came over me.