Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What a Charming Face You Have

When I began 2013 with the drawing and painting of giraffe faces, I had no idea that by year's end human faces would become my passion and an almost daily part of my artistic journey.
When we last spoke (entirely too long ago because I am now obsessed with my daily drawing time), I was finishing my assignments with the mermaid themed class and getting ready to begin a series of drawing classes with the same teacher and creativity mentor, Jane Davenport. I was also beginning a yearlong commitment to two groups of artists I had only met online in the "Mermaid" class, to paint a themed page (or page spread) in their handmade journals once each month. For someone like myself, just beginning to study the ways of mixed media and storytelling with faces and figures, this was either pure madness or a crash course in learning to swim by jumping into a shark tank (same thing, I think.) Not that any of my classmates were less than lovely and supportive, but my own brain kept yelling: someone distract them while I climb out and run!

One of my first round robin journal spreads made use of a technique learned in Jane's "Mermaid Circus": photocopy a face you've previously done, glue to the new page, and paint over it. Saves time, gives you a staring point, and since you've probably grown your skills along the way, allows you to remake it into something different and hopefully improved. (This was adapted from my very first face, last shown to you in the April 29 post.) 
I had an inkling during the process of making my own two journal covers that I was going to really enjoy this monthly opportunity to do something brand new  based on whatever my favorite new techniques or themes were calling. I had learned about "one-liners" in several of Carla Sonheim's classes. You know, those drawings where you set pen to paper and don't come up for air until the sketch is complete. Your rules may involve not crossing or retracing lines or be open to whatever happens, but generally the idea is to let a simple flow of ink tell the story with as little complication as possible. I decided to do this for my own self portrait and then take it further with a technique from Carla's book "Imaginary Animals" called "Oaxacan Dotted Elephant," (except without the final coloring steps.) I just loved the result which is very much the spirit of me. The photo I used as a reference was then altered on the computer into a number of special effects, cut and collaged into a new me for the back cover. 

The cover of my international journal featured collaged and paint altered photos of myself spinning the "wheel of travel" to see where I would "virtually" journey next.

While all this new adventure was commencing, the "Year of the Giraffe" continued its monthly course. In July, we sculpted the giraffe in a medium of our choice. Considering my large stash of polymer clay from my jewelry making ventures, and the large number of canes I already had on hand, I decided to try my first sculpted clay piece. First came the base layer out of a block of beige, squeezed and finessed into shape all of a piece, nothing added or subtracted. This was then baked to a rigid condition and the design layer added.

My goal was to make the covering look like a giraffe's spots without being pedantic about it and without having to make any new canes. I turned a number of bulls eye canes into squared shapes, sliced them thinly and collaged the surface. I even used a scrappy "rose" that was made for a previous project as the eye and eyelid/lashes.

 To solve the problem of stability, I had left the area between the legs solid and now covered them with a "garden" of sorts as if the giraffe were standing in tall vegetation.

My completed sweet guy was named "Spot" and has gone on to star in two subsequent monthly projects. (Note that he has two differently spotted sides.)

In August, I finally got around to starting the Jane Davenport foundation class called "Supplies Me", which is an in depth review of all types of drawing and painting mediums melded with a basic drawing class. The first week, a focus on the use of gesso and journals, had us create a mixed media piece with glued ephemera, stamps and stencils or whatever we liked, and the first of the faces/figures we would be drawing throughout. Since I had just visited some newborn alpacas at a local farm and done some photography and quick sketches, I decided to create a simple portrait titled "Welcome, Baby!" Having drawn all those giraffes and last year some of the farm animals of Katherine Dunn, it seemed a natural thing to do.

 Being it was now August, and I had in hand the first of the round robin journals, it was time to make art for other people. One of the themes at hand was just Color!, and so I decided on a doodle of sorts that started with a stenciled image in black gesso, an amazingly dense dark black that just loves to be paired with colored pencils and acrylic paint pens.

The second page had no particular theme, so I went with a simplified version of a very complex page spread I had done for the Mermaid class. The mermaid and dolphins are all made by stamping images of my own homemade stamps on tissue, them applying them to the page with matte medium. They are then embellished with further color, mostly in colored pencil and white paint markers.

Back in week two of Supplies Me we were learning about colored pencils and drawing faces (yes!). This was the first simple sketch-along I did with Jane's video lesson.

 Next I took my journal out to the gazebo and worked up some more face types in colored pencil. I was feeling it come to me that I could really get into this thing.

 And finally, with paint blobs to add character, I took them further with more expression and detail.

The August giraffe was to be "photograf"ed! There were several options. The one shown here was "finding" a giraffe out in your daily wanderings. This poor fellow is titled "The Unfortunate Accident." Even though the auto has moved on, I can still visit him, as he is permanently adhered to a street nearby my house.

Since I don't live close enough to a zoo to just pop over for a photo shoot, the third option was to photograph a giraffe we had. Of course, Spot was the only choice and he was game for a little trip with Mom and Dad. The entire series, "Spot's Day Out", was a really fun photo shoot that unfortunately is only available at this time on my Facebook page. Here is a little taste.

Spot decides he'll sit on the dashboard on the way to lunch and shopping until Dad makes him get down.

Giving Dad the evil eye. (He hates being told what to do.)

The two make up over a great pizza lunch.

"More quarters, please!"

I want my own bag!
 Back in the "classroom," we were learning to draw the rear view and make that the subject of the week 2 mixed media piece. I had enough ideas for two different page spreads and used the inspiration of the colors on pages I had previously pre-painted with no particular project in mind. The first is a philosophical view of the short sweetness of life, the second a mix of fantasy and reality inspired by my time with the mermaids and a friend who is always full of the possibilities of life. 

Just as she is turning to face the "camera", so my art now is turning to the possibilities that can be found in a face. Stay tuned. More to come! 


  1. Wow Cheryl, I really LOVE what you are doing : with the giraffe ánd with your drawing !!!!!!

  2. Hey, Cheryl, always a delight to see what you are up to. Spot the Giraffe is adorable, and doubly so with knowing it was made from odds and ends of polymer stash.

    BTW: Your last post inspired me to sign up for Jane's "Draw Happy!" class, and I am loving it. Her "Supplies Me" class is in the #1 spot on my Want list, and I'm plotting how to receive it as a holiday gift -- with funds for additional art supplies, too.

  3. Cheryl I just love all of your work. Your faces are amazing you are a very talented and creative artist. i am so glad I found your blog again. I adore your giraff and what fun the photo shoot must have been. My shirleys twisted threads blog has morphed into