ILLUSTRATION: Brooding in a corner somewhere between art and graphic design….

“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.

Creativity is intelligence having fun!

The traditional role of the Illustrator lies in the visual narrative, it is a practice with its roots in storytelling.”  ~ Marshall Arisman

To shake up my creativity, I’ve signed up for some online illustrations courses, the first of which is both more difficult and enjoyable than anticipated.

Unit one required me to create an illustration from random items seen at a flea market.  As Lockdown is in progress, nipping off to Portobello Road market was replaced with online searches.

Stalls crammed with worn teddy bears and others stacked high with gaudy crockery, I decided to create an illustration for children, showing teddies attempting to climb into a teacup. 

Indecision meant that both a watercolour and a digital version of the teacup were created.

Drawing hyperactive teddies proved more difficult than I’d imagined, but I got there in the end.

Life Is Still Life

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.

Why Do The Birds Go On Singing?

Why do the birds go on singing? Why do the stars glow above? Don’t they know it’s the end of the world? It ended when I lost your love ~ Sylvia Dee ~

Spring doesn’t know that our lives have been put on hold.

The blue skies, birds and flowers are giving me so much joy during this terrifying time with the Coronavirus epidemic running amock around our world. 

So as I have plenty of time on my hands at the moment, I’ll share some of the flowers that are popping up in my tiny garden.

Watercolour and ink were used to create this. I didn’t realise that the ink wasn’t waterproof so it made for some interesting marks.

Hope they will brighten up your day even just a little.

Everyone’s A Critic

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.

percywc

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.

percyzoom

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.

percysketch

Babyface

It’s been such a joy painting this adorable face – he made me smile throughout the process.

sidneywatercolours

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.

sidneywc-face

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.

She’s Here Again

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.

Ruth©HereAgain-Large

 

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:

  • Quinacridone Gold
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Phthalo Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue

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.

I’m still here….Yawn!

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.

Ruth©Ink+digital

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 watercolourtwice.    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.

Hurry Up Spring!

“I sit before flowers, hoping they will train me in the art of opening up,”

So says modern poet Shane Koyczan.

For five days I’ve been sitting in front of “a host, of golden daffodils” willing them to train me in the art of capturing their glory in watercolours.

“I gazed-and gazed” but found that yellow on yellow is really difficult!  Keep it loose and there’s not enough definition – add detail and it looks overworked.  Whilst the paint was still wet I went back in with a watercolour crayon which seeemed to work fairly well.  Oh and on the vase I used a white wax crayon to (kind of) define the water line.

Daffodils©Bunch-1.fwHere’s the best one out of VERY many attempts.

Daffodils©Crop.fw

Although after reading the very talented artist Kate Osborne’s excellent post on “Cropping” I tried this….

Daffodils©Crop-1.fw

…but decided that this one is probably best?  Actually, surprisingly, cropping is also more difficult than I assumed it would be.

Frustration aside, I enjoyed using my paints again – a necessary change from designing for my ** Zazzle store.

Ever the optimist, I plan doing some cutsie watercolours of themes suitable for children, which eill be incorporated into designs for greeting cards and various other items…you guessed…for my ** Zazzle store!

“And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.”

With apologies to William Wordsworth.

** I closed my Zazzle shop in March 2017