“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.