I didn’t bring anything to the Studio to paint on Sunday, and my fellow artist Candace had these bananas from Vietnam that she was sketching; so I shifted myself over to her corner and shared her still life. Very interesting bananas. I did a watercolour first and then I was at the point where I thought if I did anything else to it I would muck it up so I got out the pencils and charcoal. And I discovered that I’m a bit rusty at sketching! I found the sketch harder to do than the watercolour. Clearly I need to be doing a sketch every week as well as a weekly watercolour. Mind you, I was also thinking that I need to be doing an acrylic painting every week. I’ve really noticed how much doing a weekly watercolour has helped me and I know that I need to step it up even more than that. Do more, paint more, ponder more. A friend of mine told me a while back that I should do a painting a day and while I scoffed at that at the time, I think I might need to be moving towards doing something like that. I just know that I need to be doing more.
Ugh. I’m in insane project mode. If I was pregnant I would be overkill nesting. If that makes any sense. I’m so tired.
I’ve started painting the inside of the house because the non-stop rain has made finishing my outdoor painting projects impossible. My friend’s Facebook status pointed out that right now Northern Alberta is on fire and Southern Alberta is flooding. Strange days indeed. I feel like we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop though I hope that’s not the case. Knock on wood.
Today I painted the guest room. It’s beautiful but the last thing I want to do right now is work on a painting. I’ve been working off and on for the past three weeks on another reflection painting, but I’m still not happy with it and it seems that I need to resolve that one before I can move on to another painting; after waiting and waiting for my flowers my garden is full of the yellow and white sweetheart tulips and I’m not painting them! I did have some of the tulips in a vase in my kitchen and I did a charcoal study of one of them a couple of weeks ago. It’s very dramatic and it made me think that I might want to do a painting based on the study. I was also thinking of waiting and posting the sketch with the painting but here May is almost over and I’ve only done two posts this month and if I wait until everything is perfect before I post I may never post again. I just need to finish that first painting…oh and the master bedroom and the hallway…then I’ll get right on that. There’s so much to do right now. How did I ever have time to watch whole series of T.V. shows on DVD?
So this is actually for a friend who wanted a portrait of H.P.Lovecraft to promote his game Strange Aeons (link)—a tabletop miniatures game set in around the 1920’s in a Lovecraft-type world. I’ll have to see what he thinks of this one. I had been putting it off and putting it off and last night I decided I was just going to make myself work on it. I had a preliminary sketch done already, but I just wasn’t excited about it. So I got set up and put my i-pod on shuffle and the song that came up was “In Silence”(link) by a post-hardcore band Thursday (off of a split EP that they did with the Japanese hardcore band Envy). When I get a song that puts me “in the zone” I just set it on repeat and listen to one song over and over while I work. Last night that was the song and three hours later I was almost completely finished the drawing. While I was working I was thinking about what to do with the background (not really wanting to stick Cthulhu over his shoulder) and I started thinking about the band Envy and then about Japan and then about the tsunami and then about the sheer destructive and chaotic power of water which made me think of this wave pattern from a Japanese kimono that I had on an old postcard. The title for the pattern is “Carp: Symbol of Success in Life” and it is attributed to Yaichiro Ichida (1843-1906). I couldn’t find the image online so here is my old worn postcard.
Though now that I’ve done the drawing and I have the waves in the background, I am thinking that it might need to be in colour. And bright colour! Lots of teal waves (not brown). In black and white the waves look a bit like blankets or yarn. So this might end up being a study for a painting, we shall see.
Here is the one that I had intended to do as a painting, but it turned into a charcoal drawing. I do love the quality that charcoal gives the shadows and am very happy with this as an exploration of my shadow images. This is the corner of the living room with the shadows of my bamboo, lamp and living room blinds. The real objects in the drawing are a second lamp and a pile of mending (a ruffled skirt of Poppy’s). I know that the skirt is not recognizable as a skirt and I debated taking it out, but I felt the image needed it. Maybe if I do this view again I will make it an empty coffee table there instead. I am back and forth on how recognizable everything should be since the nature of the subject—reflections and shadows in corners and on ceilings, cropped in close—abstracts it to begin with. I guess it’s fine for the shadows to be abstracted and unrecognizable, but as soon as I put real objects in they become reference points for the viewer and need to be recognizable. Would this image work as well without the lamp and skirt in the foreground? I really liked the extreme foreground elements and the shallow sense of space, very much like old Japanese prints. Interesting though—I will have to do the next one as strictly shadows and see how it compares. I guess the first shadow work I did was all shadows and nothing recognizable, but I don’t feel that one was successful at all aside from the fact that it is the first shadow work in what may prove to be a long-term exploration of a subject.
Actually now that I’m thinking about it, maybe the problem with the first shadow painting was the lack of a reference point. Maybe the images need that to set up the space for the viewer. If I look back at the same prints I referenced in my other post—Sunday Afternoon, Good Friday, and Sackville Attic—they are all about the sense of space set up by glimpses of the ocean.
I am also starting a small woodcut based on this same image. I still have Christopher Pratt’s works in my head and he did a fair number of woodcuts and prints, mostly for yearly Christmas cards that he and his wife sent out. I love the graphic quality of woodcuts and I think the medium will work very well for the shadows. It’s just too bad that I’m a bit too lazy to do up hand-made Christmas cards. At least for this year.
I’m in the middle of working on my next shadow painting. I took my time sanding and priming 4 layers of gesso on a lovely 2 ft. by 3 ft. piece of masonite, but it wasn’t until I was done the first layer of the drawing that I realized I had used charcoal rather than paint. Apparently it wants to be a charcoal work. So far I’m pleased it; I’ll see how it goes. Hopefully I will be posting that one next week.
For now I have a quick charcoal study that I did after doing my painted self-portrait. I guess I did it because I got a lot of feedback that the painting that was very nice, but not quite “right”. My husband told me that in this one I had captured my likeness pretty much bang on and my response was that yes, I had captured my big ears, big nose, and stringy hair perfectly. Maybe that’s why it looks more like me. Maybe without meaning to I had idealized myself somewhat in the painted portrait. I’m looking at the charcoal study now and wondering if I did the opposite. Are my ears really that big? I think yes and no. Yes because they are pretty much that size, but no because I think I did a bit too much shading on them which actually draws attention to them.
I still love the painted portrait, even if it’s not a perfect likeness. And I am warming to this one. I didn’t like it at first, but I am starting to see that it just looks like me. I wish I could look like me without my glasses. They seem to have permanently altered my face so that now when I wear contacts it looks like my nose is missing something.
This is my daughter and “Poppy River” is how she refers to herself lately (her middle name is not River). My husband even said “Well done!” when he saw this drawing so I know it’s a pretty good likeness. I was very worried earlier today that I had ruined it by trying to “fix” the eyes just a teensy bit more and they ended up looking a bit vacant and (eeek!) zombie-like. It was scaring me to look at it. I’m terrified of zombies and yes, I know they’re not real. I watched 5 minutes of Walking Dead and I’ve had zombies on the brain (hahaha) ever since. But alas, zombie-Poppy is gone and I can sleep tonight.
I’ve been wanting to do a portrait of her for a while and since she will not sit still for me (I DID try…) I did this one from a photo. Not how I usually work and I was surprised/reminded that it is not easier to work from photos, just different. It did help me get over my resistance to working from photos somewhat–a good exercise to prepare me for my next shadow paintings. The boards for those are prepped and ready to go, waiting for me to just get going on them…