Friday, November 28, 2008

The Art Lesson

This painting started off as an art lesson for my son. I was trying to teach him how to draw a portrait in charcoal. We snagged a picture of Barack Obama off his website (my kids have been asking me to paint Obama since the election), and sat down with our materials. We started by taking a few measurements to accurately place the eyes. He got one eye finished before he got frustrated. “Measuring is boring,” he complained. How could I argue with that? Measuring is boring. He decided he’d rather have an imperfect portrait than have to measure. He finished his drawing, laughed at how goofy it looked, and left.

I didn’t really want to measure anymore either, so I decided to finish my drawing off in pastel. I thought it would be fun to do it loose and scribbly, and tried hard not to blend. I generally spend quite a bit of time standing 6-8 feet away from my paintings to check the values against the reference photo, which helps me with accuracy. No measuring involved, just eyeballs. It may not be perfect, but it was fun. Maybe next time I’ll try to teach him that.


Obama
7”x5”
Pastel on Paper
I’ve entered this painting into EBSQ’s Campaign Art show. Check it out!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Portrait of Frankie

This is my second and last portrait for EBSQ’s 2008 Portrait Swap, the lovely Frankie Paquin. I had three photos to choose from, but this one appealed to me the most. It was also the most difficult composition. I left the mirror until I was three quarters of the way finished, mostly because I was dreading it. Sometimes when I’m painting things like that I get confused and I can’t really see it correctly. In the end, it was easier than I thought it would be. I just started placing the highlights in the approximate place I thought they should be, then went progressively darker. Of course, it’s not exactly accurate, but I was more concerned with getting the feel of the mirror than an exact replica.

Here’s a link to the Portrait Swap show, if you’d like to check out the other entries.


Frankie
8”x10”
Soft Pastels on Suede Matboard

Friday, November 21, 2008

I'm IT!

Apparently, you’re never too old to play tag. I just got tagged by Vern Schwarz. Here are the rules:

1. Place a link to the person that tagged you
2. List seven unusual things about yourself
3. Tag (and link to) seven other artists at the end of your post, and post on their blogs to let them know they’ve been tagged.

It took me a long time to think up seven things about myself. I don’t know why they feel like confessions, but given the subtitle of my blog I suppose it’s appropriate:

1. I used to draw incessantly when I was a kid (pre-teen/teenager) and then went cold turkey with my art until a couple of years ago. Now I’m even more obsessed than I was back then.

2. I sometimes have a major “ugly stage” where I hate whatever I’m working on, and I seriously consider trashing it. Once in a while I actually do give up and start over, but usually I keep working and it ends up okay. After realizing that this is just part of my process, I have made peace with the ugly stage. I don’t look forward to it, but I don’t have to talk myself off a ledge either.

3. (Okay, here’s a gross one which shows my desperation in thinking up interesting things.) In high school, my best friend and I shared a locker. Just to amuse ourselves, when we were finished with our chewing gum we would stick it inside the door of the locker, especially in the ventilation slots (it stuck better there). People would walk by and comment on how disgusting it was, then ask if they could add their gum to it. It was really a work of art, a sort of community project. Until someone ratted us out, or else one of the teachers noticed gum poking out the slots, and we had to take it all down.

4. I never took art classes because I didn’t think it was possible to have a career in art (the whole “starving artist” thing seemed unappealing). In fact, I wanted to be an architect until I took my first (and last!) architecture class in college. Some of the things they made us do were mind-numbingly tedious.

5. My husband and I both grew up in southern California. It took me a few years, but I finally persuaded him to move to Washington, even though I had never been here before and we didn’t know anyone who lived here. I know it’s strange, but I just knew this was where I was supposed to be. We’ve been here 16 years now and are very happy.

6. I used to go on autopilot whenever I would drive. I’d miss my offramp, or go the wrong way and not know it, until I would all of a sudden become aware that I was completely lost. When I got pregnant with my first child and had gotten lost on the way to my OB/GYN appointment for the third time, I decided I had to change. It’s extremely rare that it happens these days, but my kids think it’s hilarious when it does. I’m just grateful my car has a navigation system.

7. I purposely chose April 15 for my wedding day because I knew it would be impossible for me to forget our anniversary. It worked. And as a bonus, we’re always motivated to get our taxes done early so we don’t ruin our anniversary with tax stress.

Now that you know more about me than you ever wanted to know, here are the artists I’m tagging: Pat Burns, Tracey Allyn Greene, Tif Matthews, Kim Niles, Frankie Paquin, Heather Simms, and Torrie Smiley. It may take them a while, or they may not want to play, and that's okay, too. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Upside Down Walker

When I saw this week’s upside down challenge on the Different Strokes From Different Folks blog, I quickly decided I would do it in pastel. I often paint upside down and knew that it would be easiest for me in pastel. My husband pointed out that it was supposed to be a challenge, and this was a perfect opportunity for me to try to paint loose.

He did have a point. Painting it upside down would take my brain out of the process, and maybe I could paint it loose. I decided I would draw it out first. This seems counter-intuitive, but I think when I don’t draw it first I’m so obsessed with getting everything correct that I can’t concentrate on how I’m painting. So I drew out my composition (upside down, of course!) and went to work. I didn’t like how the reference photo made the woman look like she had laser vision or something, so I changed the background a bit, and flipped and cropped the original.

We’re allowed to spruce it up a bit after we turn it right side up, but I decided not to. I didn't want to re-work anything and take away the point of the challenge. It was a good learning experience (even though it would have looked better in pastel!).

Here it is, painted entirely upside down except for my signature.



7"x5"
Oil on Board

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another Portrait on Velour Paper

This is a portrait of artist Tracey Allyn Greene and her cat. I had planned on painting Tracey in oils, but when I saw her photo with Poe, I decided to use soft pastels on velour paper instead. After I was about two hours into the process, I realized that my choice of paper wasn’t a good one. I debated trashing it, but Tracey was already alive on the page, so I decided to persevere. Although I wish I had done it on suede matboard instead, I’m pretty happy with the results.


Tracey & Poe
12” x 9”
Soft Pastels on Velour Paper

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shadows


5"x7"
Soft Pastel on Suede Matboard

I decided to do this week’s challenge for the Different Strokes From Different Folks blog in pastel, simply as a time saver. My projects are piling up, and I needed to do something quick.

I cropped the original photo to focus mainly on the shadows, used a pastel pencil to sketch out my composition, then layered on the pastel. Simple, quick, and easy! I love it when that happens. Sometimes the struggle is fun, or at least rewarding in some way, but the lack of struggle is always refreshing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

U.S. Capitol

If anyone wonders why I want to learn to paint loose, last week’s Different Strokes From Different Folks challenge is the perfect example. This is not something that I would normally choose to paint, mostly because of all the detail involved. It would just be too tedious.

When I saw the reference photo, I was determined to paint it loose and expressive. (That actually happens every time, but this time I knew I would do it!) I chose a small board and didn’t sketch it out first, didn’t even allow myself a paint sketch. I just picked up a brush and started blocking it in. A perfect recipe for loose, right? An hour later I had to laugh at myself. Loose and expressive clearly isn’t my thing. And I’m not going to get frustrated anymore because it isn’t. It is what it is.

What I did find, though, is that giving up my expectation of painting it loose and expressive did free me up a bit, so that’s worth something! I didn’t worry so much about it being perfect. If it wasn't smooth enough, too bad. If I accidentally put things in the wrong place (and I did!), I just let it be. And it did turn out pretty loose, for me. Painting it was a liberating experience, even if it wasn’t as loose as I wanted it to be.

Maybe I’ll surprise myself with this week’s challenge and truly paint it loose, and maybe I won’t. Either way, I’m okay with that.


6"x6"
Oil on Board