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! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Circus Train is Pulling Out! Wave Bye-Bye!

I might have mentioned this before but it is worth repeating: I am one lucky woman. I seem to have found my calling (art) at, shall we say, a late stage in life. But like they say, it's never too late to find your passion and pursue your dreams. Sure, in the early years my dream may have had a paycheck and maybe fame attached, but my passion has always been the same: self expression, creative exploration, connection to a community of other artistic seekers. Then, now, and always, still the same. This year's revelation and most joyful surprise was to, on a whim, jump aboard the creative circus train that has been "The Mermaid Circus" with ringmaster and teacher extraordinaire, Jane Davenport, and legendary journal wrangler, Teesha Moore.  When I signed on and realized that there were no less than 500 others laying down good money to work beyond our comfort level and a seemingly impossible time commitment, I knew something amazing had to come from it. I have not been, for a moment, disappointed. I have learned so much and grown so far outside that cushiony box, that I have really begun to accept the title "artist" as something that may pertain to me.

As I said in the title, the official class is over for me next week, but involvement in the online class community grows daily with new connections on Facebook, and a body of work that seems to pour out of me. I have signed up to take what amounts to two years worth of drawing and dreaming classes with Jane and can't wait until Teesha decides to enter the online sphere on her own. Meanwhile any of you even the littlest bit intrigued by the possibilities this class could add to your growth and creative excitement need to run, right now, to sign up for a repeat session (set to begin September 2) of "Mermaid Circus."
 Meanwhile join me below in reviewing some of the work I have done so joyfully since I last showed you my progress at the end of June.

This "upturned face" that I drew while waiting out some rain on my vacation really represents the joyful feeling I have had since realizing just how much I love to draw.

One of our more complex lessons involved mermaids and their sea life friends. I decided to do a bit of sketching from a video filmed in the Galapagos, then turned it into a bit of a journaled page. One of the delights of this class has been how broad the type of art was, and all the possible permutations of the dual themes of "mermaid" and "circus" there could be.

Taking the sketching of dolphins from real to fantasy, and learning that a journal page can be either the beginning of a more complex, "finished" piece of art, or an end in itself. 

Again, drawn from the video, but this time with a watercolor look provided by Dylusion ink and white charcoal shading. These sketches became the basis for a couple of stamps.

A complex project commences in my Strathmore mixed media hardbound journal. The paper is beautiful and tough, has taken a lot of abuse so far. These dolphins, drawn from imagination, are partly cut out to give a view to the pages below.

The first two pages (one partially cut away) were given a surface treatment of collaged colored papers, while the far right hand page was painted with a matte acrylic, as were the dolphins.

A poem entitled "She Swam With Dolphins" was carefully penned on the underside of the elegant creatures, comically enough, forming the shape of a crab!

The finished painting, many layers and techniques later, includes stamped and over-painted original images (from my own foam stamps) of the mermaid frolicking with her friends.

This exercise introduced us to the use of watercolor and a certain clean simplicity on the page. The two "stormy" ladies on the right were Jane's creations that she encouraged us to copy for practice or turn into a similar composition of our own. The type of watercolor, new to many of us, was the Peerless transparent  watercolor, originally designed for hand coloring black and white photos. They are incredibly clear and concentrated, more of an ink. I designed the companion "rainbow wave" page and journaling to complete the story of the sisters in my own style.

Returning to one of the first lessons in face drawing, I was astonished to find that this, only my second attempt to follow Jane in drawing a simple face in colored pencil and Copic markers, would show such improvement over what I had done just a few of months before. Her eyes just captivated me and I decided she had to be used as the basis of my final unfinished assignment.

Here she is, tissue transferred, and over painted in acrylics with collaged and enhanced elements of sea life from the artist, Ernst Haeckel.

The facing page in the Strathmore journal tells the mermaid's story (as all our artwork in the class was story based,) and gave me the intended lesson of learning how to work with various mediums to achieve a black and white composition as well as a good small face.

My mermaid shaped book was far from filled with images, so I returned to the  style taught by both Jane and Teesha, of starting with collage elements and filling in with drawing and paint. Then "doodling" the heck out of it. I love all the secrets they taught us in this course about layering media and even discovered a few of my own along the way. If you'd like to see the other pages from this book, check them out in my Flickr album, Mermaid Circus.

So where do I go now? Well, I'm still not done with my lessons, having collaged an entire sixteen page "Teesha" journal that needs all it's layering to complete the story of my circus, and there are a few more pages of my shaped mermaid book looking for some new friends (maybe a Mer-man?) But I have already moved on to begin my lessons in drawing faces and figures in Jane's highly regarded basics class, Supplies Me.
 Maybe I'll see you over there.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

When Art Invites You In

I have been either a very bad girl or a very good girl, depending on your point of view. I have been making much art and traveling as well, but I have gotten out of the habit of writing about them. You see, I have lately been overtaken to the extreme by my new found love of drawing. They say that to get better at something you need to do it every day, make time for it just like a job, just do it. I guess I took that to heart this spring, because this "Mermaid Circus" class seems to have taken a turn for the obsessive. I draw and paint and letter and cut collage materials. I shop for new art supplies and make room for them in carts and boxes and closets and piles. I try them out in new combinations and make lists of even more colors to own. I post photos to my class group, and friend my classmates on Facebook. The photos show up on Flickr too, but because the class is not centered there, that venue has taken a back seat for now. I am, in short, in the hackneyed phrase and with no irony, living the dream!

The sketch on the right was done while watching a video lesson, then used as the basis for a painting in acrylics and colored pencil.
It all started with that first face drawing lesson (see the April 29 entry) in which I drew and painted along with my teacher Jane Davenport. I was hooked! I realized that I don't have to draw "real" people if I don't want to, I can learn to work first with stylized faces and character creation. Bingo! I am learning to love storytelling, and I really want to be able to draw a face with consistency and personal style. This second face, "The Upturned Face" lesson, was the start of a series of three successful journal story pages based on the same initial sketch.

Adding the first shadows and highlights, bringing it to life.

Portrait of a sweet young mermaid, later to be called Cecelia.

Now it was time to reuse the art. This is the crazy looking but well conceived beginning to a story of Cecelia and her goldfish. The face would be color copied but painted over, and the fish, also an enhanced version of a piece of journal art from three years ago.
Practicing mixed media tricks: the luminescent sea is created by painting  Golden Fluid Acrylic over the red/orange base, spraying with water and blotting. The hair has quite a bit of florescent orange and red paint. The mermaid's tail end is a piece of batik fabric collaged with gel medium. Matte, shine, glow, texture.

A second use of the painted face was made with a tissue transfer of the original: color copying direction on (supported) white artist's tissue to make a sheer version, which was matte medium applied over a copy of a (real) tattoo pattern (meant for an arm). Finally, paint and pencil enhanced to change the coloration and character of the girl.

This became "A True Tale of Caution" about a mermaid who went  "bad".

Meanwhile, it was time for Teesha Moore's sixteen page journal to take center ring. I decided to dedicate the whole thing to one story, the actual "Mermaid Circus," styled a bit after impressions received while reading the novel "The Night Circus." 

Learning about (and liking) folded small flaps as extra pages.

I had a mammoth collaging session during this week and painted and prepared the collaged story on all sixteen pages. It will probably take me months more to get the time to finish them all, but now the story is set for me with a trajectory and a style that will add consistency to the finished book.

Be sure to click on the images to see them larger and check out some of the pen work and shading.
Meanwhile back at the zoo, I was neglecting my original 2013 muse, the giraffe. In preparation for "Paint the Giraffe" month in June, May was a time to explore color, consider our preferences, analyze a bit, get to know something about pleasing palettes. The next three images are collaged pages from an inspiration journal I had begun about ten years ago. Strangely enough, they still inspired. Now that I am learning about mixing collage with pen work, I look forward to returning to these at some point to develop them further.

Purple and more purple for me, but deepened.

My favorite for many years, purple and green, but ethereal.

And yet again, with an interesting image of "art clothing".

Sometimes the man has a day free to spend with me that coincides with great weather and a peaceful place. Before the heat of summer, we enjoyed a hike on the beach of Lake Michigan and up to the summit of "Mount Baldy" one of the high points in the Indiana Dunes National Park.

Because the normal route up the side of the hill is being recovered from erosion, we were forced to hike all the way down to the beach, along the shore and then straight up the hill. It was a fabulous workout and proof that keeping fit makes life more fun.

Nearing the top and where, on a clearer day, you would have a view of Chicago fifty miles to the west across the lake.

Feeling happy, but with about a pound of sand inside each sneaker. Soon we were off the the outlet stores to find me a pair without holes.

Trying to establish a daily drawing routine in a journal, I prepped a number of pages in my Moleskine with acrylic paint, then started using them to inspire complex doodles or simple themed drawings. This one was about keeping occupied during a yard sale, but ended up looking like fireworks over New York City.
This one was full of affirmations to just draw what was in my heart, Teesha style.

This "fat mermaid" was a Jane Davenport drawing lesson that felt not quite ready for my "prime time" journal, until it was complete, and then I realized: I am ready for prime time, this is it. I'm doing good work and so proud of how far I've come in just a few years. Art has made me its friend I have bonded with it. I think we will be traveling companions for a long time to come.