Under Construction and Enjoying the Mess

I am always amazed by the way that things happen in life when you least expect them and how often they come at just the right time. A few weeks ago a friend of mine reached out and asked me to do a painting for her inspired by one of my drawings and her anthem, Bob Marley’s song Three Little Birds.

tree of hope

The funny thing is that although I knew the lyrics well, I realized that I had no idea what the title of the song was.

At any rate the reintroduction to the song and the reminder that although everything doesn’t always turn out the way we plan, every little thing will be alright. During the cold and cloudy winter days, this project has given me something bright and positive to focus on and the song has become my anthem for 2015.

It’s also presented an opportunity for me to spread my artistic wings in more than a few ways.

My friend is planning on putting the piece over her fireplace and wants a piece that is 24 x 36. My original tree fits is 6 x 8 and is in a vertical space, not a horizontal one so I’m not quite sure how I’m going to make that work, but one challenge at a time.

The first challenge was to figure out how to draw the birds. I requested and received a few pictures of birdies that she liked and I’ve been doing some experimenting. I accidentally put four little red birds on the branch in the first drawing because I was so excited when the birds I’d been practicing on the side actually turned out well. 🙂 Four birds also filled the space better, so it’s all good.tree of hope with birds_v1 w color

In the second practice session, I successfully incorporated the three birds, although they got a little lost among all of the bubbles so I’m re-thinking the colors a bit to make sure they pop.

3 little birds in living color

The second challenge was the size. For the past two years I haven’t created anything that is larger than 8 1/2 x 11 and the majority of my drawings are 6 x 8 or 7 x 10. I get very intimidated when I think about filling all of the white space, not to mention the challenges associated with making something look both “real” and big. Granted this isn’t a drawing based on realism, but it’s still necessary to properly translate the idea which can be more difficult in a larger space, at least for me.

As luck would have it, I started a new art class on January 15th and in just two sessions I’ve already gained more confidence in drawing “big.” This past week, while the other students drew and painted the complex relationships between the objects on the table,

still life

I drew the vase and then the bowl.

Vase and Bowl

 

Three years ago, I would have considered this to be an abysmal failure but I’ve learned to focus on where I’m at in the process and to consider the progress in my own work and not how it compares to others.

In many ways I’m as thrilled with this piece as I’ve ever been with any finished drawing. In my mind, both objects look more “real” and recognizable than any of my previous attempts at capturing a still life on paper. It’s also giving me the confidence I need to fill a much larger canvas.

When my instructor sees that I’m getting frustrated by the multiple lines and mess on my paper, he reminds me that part of art (and life) is about making a mess while we’re learning. If you think about it, in order to grow as people, it means we’re sort of “under construction” throughout life, and sometimes it’s messy.

The third challenge was the medium. Ink and color pencils have been my mainstay for quite a while now, but neither is appropriate for such a large piece. Acrylic paint is the medium I keep coming back to.

Coincidentally, the online art journaling class I’m taking has a new home and the instructor launched an updated version of the lessons.The introduction included information and thoughts about the importance of quality paper in art.

It made me stop and think.

In the spirit of starting anew and with the acknowledgement that we deserve our canvas, whatever form it takes, to be of quality, I ordered a new journal for the class. It seemed appropriate to carry the “everything is going to be alright” theme through on the cover of my new art journal.

It was also a good way to play a little with paints before I tackle a large painting.

2_3 Little Birds art Journal cover_in color_final

The back cover was the perfect place to try another version of three little birds on for size.

3 little birds journal_back cover final

The paints I used are fine for crafts and journals, but not for a full size painting, so my next stop on this journey is the art supply store for proper paints and a canvas or two.

All of these independent projects have  been a great way to experiment with mixing mediums and learning how they play nicely together (or not).

It’s also been an excellent way for me to discover and play with elements such as the Three Little Birds that will be an important part of the painting that I will be starting in the next week or so.

I’m very happy with the way both the individual drawings and the journal cover turned out; it sets a great tone to start filling the pages in between with the assignments from the lessons. It’s going to be interesting to figure out when and how to work on things for my “in real life” class, my online class, and the larger painting project that this has all been a part of.

Who knew that one little doodle would turn into a giant construction zone? 🙂

 

I’m “Drawing the Line”

Life is full of ironies if one is paying attention.

Over Thanksgiving, I registered for a drawing class at the Princeton Arts Council. The description of the class emphasized expanding on basic drawing skills and learning how to compose a piece of art from concept to completion.

It sounded challenging and appropriate for my current skill and confidence level. As luck (or fate) would have it, the class was cancelled and reminiscent of 3 years ago, I was offered the opportunity to attend a more advanced class as an alternative. Unlike 3 years ago, I accepted the alternative option without hesitation.

When I received the email that the class had been canceled, I couldn’t help but think back to the first day of my drawing class three years ago and how hesitant and uncertain I was.

What I didn’t realize then, but I know now is that art is all about lines. To quote a friend of mine, “Line quality is a big element in art and it is elementary and needs consideration. Even if ignored, line quality should be a considered choice.

To be honest, my first drawing blew me away – I seriously had no idea that anything like this was hiding inside of me. It took me weeks to complete, but in the end I was amazed at what came out of my pencils.

sunflower_first drawing in over 20 years

What strikes me now, looking back at it is the lack of certainty in the lines. They’re technically correct and the shading is really quite nice, but the lines lack confidence and purpose.

Contrast the drawing of the sunflower with a recent doodle, a surrealistic or maybe fanciful tree:

tree of hope

The lines are strong and considered.

I debated about whether or not the drawing was finished. The black and white lines were mesmerizing, but it didn’t feel “done.”

The lines were ready to be embellished with color.

tree of hope

Ironically, the description of the class I will be starting on Tuesday includes this:

Color is not just a “pretty embellishment”, but has a profound significance and role in our visual perception and, subsequently, is a powerful tool in our art making. Understanding these functions of color is the focal point of this class.

The class is geared toward “students with experience in drawing and painting.”

It’s clear that I’ll be taking a class with students far more advanced than me, but on the other hand, I’ve learned a lot about “drawing the line” and my recent experiences tell me that it’s more than OK to let those “lines” take you to a new place.

Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, but it does Build Confidence

One of my mantra’s is, “it’s never too late,” and I truly believe it. Sure there are points in life when it may be too late to achieve certain goals, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on ourselves or stop discovering the talents and interests that may have been buried by life’s circumstances.

One of the things that gets in our way of trying new things is a fear of failure, or maybe more accurately it’s a fear of not being able to do whatever we’re thinking about trying to some preconceived notion of “excellence.”

For the past 3 years I’ve enjoyed a later-in-life discovery about me; I’m an artist. In spite of the fact that I now describe myself as an artist and a writer without hesitation, there is still a fair amount of self-doubt when it comes to certain aspects of creativity.

My drawing lessons started with complex pieces of artwork which required an understanding of two-point perspective and shading. They were challenging to say the least.

progress on perspective_07_finaljpg

It took me weeks to finish the lessons that the other students finished in hours. The outcome was something I felt good about, but the process was stressful and may be the reason why my creative outlet became very abstract and I’ve stayed away from drawing “real things.”

Colorful Ink Drawing on handmade flax paper

For the past year I’ve been partial to flowers and trees.

inktober_10_19_2014tree series_seasons

 

My journal has become a place where I express my thoughts through both words and art. Surprisingly a face emerged one night a few weeks ago.

an attempt at a face

I posted it on Facebook and one of my artist friends recommended I check out an online class called “Supplies Me” and explore the possibility of learning to draw faces. (something I’ve avoided like the plague)

The video introduction to the class hooked me right away. The instructor, Jane Davenport, is all about having fun while learning. Her emphasis on practice building confidence rather than perfection is a unique way of framing an art class.

I jumped in with both feet, ordered a foreign art supply called Gesso to prep the pages of a new journal. Gesso is a white paint mixture that you use to add texture to an ordinary piece of paper. It primes the paper to allow paint or other mediums to adhere and bond to the page.

I ordered the Gesso and a brush; as soon as they arrived I prepped the first two pages of my journal.  I had a hard time deciding whether or not I should use the spiral-bound Moleskin one or this inexpensive sketchbook I picked up at the Michaels a few weeks ago.

I chose the sketchbook. The funny thing is that I didn’t realize until making the choice that there is a title on the cover of the journal; it reads, Art Education Book Five, how ironic is that?!

Instructions for the first lesson were simply to “play.” My Peerless Watercolor sheets and color pencils were what called to me – so I prepped the first two pages, including the inside cover, and started the journal in my comfort zone – trees. 🙂

9_let the journey begin

Lesson 2 was about as far from my comfort zone as I could imagine, we jumped right into drawing faces!

I experimented with a couple of faces on my own before watching the instructional video as a bit of an experiment and to have a record of my starting point. It turns out I seem to be more comfortable drawing eyes that are closed.

practice faces 12_15_2014

 

practice face_12_19_2014

Thankfully the instructor set a comfortable stage for a challenging homework assignment – draw lots and lots of faces.  I think the first one is my favorite,

practice face_12_20_2014

but there are some fun things about the other faces as well.

practice faces_0001_12_20_2014practice faces_0002_12_20_2014

I’m also learning a bit about how Gesso works and feels under my ink and pencil, what smudges and how to prevent unwanted lines and colors from ruining the pages.

In preparation for the mixed media challenge for this week, we learned some tricks to help us learn how to draw the human body.

practice faces_starting body parts

I’ve no idea where this class is going to take me – what I do know is that I’m really glad that I didn’t let my fears keep me from trying something new.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does build confidence and can open up new worlds.

Filling the Pages Between Anger and Hope

I don’t mind saying that the elegant trunk, twisting branches and feather-like leaves of the Japanese maple tree occupy my imagination and also intimidate me.

Fall Orange Leaves

I walk this route often, and for some reason I never noticed this gorgeous creation. Maybe it was because my mind was filled with worries and my focus was on the things in life I have no control over.

The instant this tree made it’s way into my life I knew that I wanted to draw it. But I couldn’t quite imagine how I could do it justice. I tucked it away until the weekend.

Normally I set aside time to write in my journal during the weekend. But – this past weekend, after writing 11 pages of web content and six blog posts the last thing I felt like doing Sunday evening was writing in my journal. So I pulled out the colored pencils and took a stab at the Japanese Maple in a low stress way.

What’s really funny about it is that I misspelled “maple.” ah well – no one is perfect.

FullSizeRender (5)

Last night I turned once again to my writing journal and once again instead of writing my thoughts I drew them.  As it turns out, the journal entry ended up including a few words.

Sometimes being alive means……

Filling the Pages Between Anger and Hope

With Dreams

japanese maple take 2

 

 

The Art of Meditation through Ink

Several months ago I was at Michael’s looking for inexpensive writing journals for my sometimes daily stream of consciousness. I found a few, one of which was clearly oriented around sketching and painting rather than writing.

Sketch, draw, live, express- Sketch book cover

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but at $2.00 the price was right and I figured the inspiration would find it’s way to me when the time was right. The unlined pages of the journal intimidated me for months.

My only experience with drawing outside of a classroom setting was after I learned how to make handmade paper. The pieces of handmade paper turned into tiny canvases and the imperfections in the paper were the foundation of many beautiful abstract pieces.

I started using only black ink and sketching things that were familiar and felt comfortable  to draw. For whatever reason I drew trees, trees, and more trees.

tree drawing on handmade flax paper

I don’t know what prompted me, but I was inspired to add color to the drawings and the trees took on the colors of fall through the use of watercolor pencils.

tunnel into fall

Even the most “perfect” pieces of paper were full of wrinkles, creases, and uneven textures.  The veins and arteries that ran through each page were the foundation for the shapes that emerged from my pens.

abstract ink drawing on handmade paper

The drawings quickly became more about the process then the outcome. The world and my worries disappeared for a few hours each night while I put pen to paper. The colors, shapes, and possibilities mesmerized and comforted me. It was a sad day when I ran out of handmade paper. (one of these days I’m going to make more)

For a variety of reasons my creative self went into hiding after I completed my last ink drawing on handmade paper in March. Then one night in September an image came to my imagination so strongly I had no choice but to try and release it onto paper.

tulip ink drawing

I was so thrilled with how my flower turned out that I stopped drawing again. I know that makes no sense, but it’s what happens to me sometimes. When I create something beautiful it makes me wonder if it was just a fluke and I talk myself out of trying to create something new just in case it was.

The funny thing about my ink journal is that there are no dates and the entries are completed in anything but a chronological order. I’ve even given myself permission to do the unthinkable and use an abandoned entry as the beginning of a new piece.

a work in progress_0

The outcome was surprising.Bursts of Color and Life

The backside of each drawing is almost if not equally as beautiful as the front; an unexpected and delightful bonus.

Sunflowers in Winter

Sunflowers in Winter - The Reverse Side

The recurring theme throughout the journal is sunflowers. I’m not entirely certain if I continue to draw sunflowers because I know how, or because they were the subject of my first drawing, or because they are a symbol of happiness. Maybe it’s a combination of all three.

I don’t suppose it really matters.

The Gift of Life - Ink Drawing of a Sunflower in Bright Inks

My ink journal is not a place where I create masterpieces or finished works of art. It’s a place where I let my mind wander and rest at the same time. It’s where I express myself without words with my medium of choice – ink. It is how I meditate through art.

I can’t wait to see how my latest meditation piece turns out.

hearts and tears_3