Thursday, February 12, 2015

One From Column A and One From Column B, (Part Deux)

If thinking about all the work I did in the last post about 2014 didn't tire you, well, it tired me! And yet, that was just a minor part of the everyday art I was producing. Throughout the year I worked with two of my favorite teachers, Carla Sonheim, and Jane Davenport. Both have very different approaches to inspiration and education, but both equally committed to helping her students find joy in the work, and success in advancing her skills.

This was my second ""yearlong" with Carla, although I will admit that I only participated for the first half of the lessons, as frequent guests and travels took over my attention and time in the second half of last year. Carla's "Year of the Fairytale," was an intensive class in various processes of developing illustrations for any purpose, but specifically aimed at learning to illustrate children's storybooks. Having taken Jane Davenport's fantasy based "Joynal" the previous autumn, I assumed this would be the class to follow up. Unfortunately I was not a fan of the actual stories that are the basis for traditional fairy tales, and not as inspired as I thought I would be. What did inspire though was Carla's fantastic lessons in interesting new mediums and materials.

My "Happily Ever After" 

The first tale, "The Frog Princess" worked on character development. I chose to do for my three illustrations the princess, the princess as frog, and the magic bread. Each item was researched and drawn over and over to develop a character based in real life features, then stylized. We learned to layer pan pastels with water color for our final pieces.

Drawing and redrawing to refine and choose a character

Each of my three final pieces had lettering as an integral part of the illustration
The second tale, a traditional French story with many animals and plants to be illustrated, began with drawing 100 imaginary plants by looking at photo references of things that were not traditional land based plants, and using parts and pieces to make them fanciful. All our practice work this month was done in graphite on vellum.
One of several pages of my own designs for plants. I never made it to 100 because I got a bit carried away with the complexity of each.
The animal practice portion of the lessons involved using real life reference photos and using an "eraser" drawing method to subtract graphite for all the highlighted textures. This was a great deal of fun and much easier than the additive way of working from light to dark values.
The character, Bonne-Biche, in development
The final mixed media drawings were done on an unusual substrate called Yupo, which had a similar look to the vellum, but is made of polypropylene, and made for watercolor painting. The paint sits on the surface rather than sinking in and can be fashioned with the subtractive method as the erasure of graphite. It also pools and mixes on the surface and creates interesting areas of light and dark, not totally under control. The drawings were completed with pencil shading.

Here is my watercolor painting of Bonne-Biche.

For the character, Beau-Minon, I used a photo of my own cat as the basis for the eraser drawing on vellum.

And here is Beau-Minon in water color on Yupo.
The third story for which I completed my lessons was the very short and well know, "Princess and the Pea."  After creating a modern princess character for my story, I worked out my composition with the parts and pieces of her room in collage scraps. The favorite composition was then completed in paint on mixed media paper with unusual paint applicators such as a credit card.

It was a dark and stormy night when she knocked at the castle door.

The princess faces her challenge head on.

The one teacher I have acquired in the last two years who sees me through a creative session almost every day is Jane Davenport. She is one of the most joyful people I have had the pleasure to have met on the great big Internet, and her lessons have brought me such a long way toward feeling accomplished at drawing faces, telling stories, and being part of a community that creates for the sheer love of image and color.  

Jane has us make our own journals for most of her classes. This one, an epic and expensive book of good quality watercolor paper was mostly unused at the end of "Joynal," so....

I flipped it over and created another side for the "Express Yourself" class. It is still half empty and continues to be used for other Jane classes as needed.

The theme of "Express Yourself" is facial expression, most especially in learning to vary the eyes and mouths, plus the tilt of the head. We started with a gallery of miniatures of all the expressions we could think of.

Learning to tilt the head down and partially close the eyes for demure, shy, sad, etc.

A lesson in going beyond your comfort zone. After creating a beautiful calm face with lovely normal feature, we learned to overlay color and detail to create depth with glazing, and tell the story of a different sort of woman.

Pouty and kissy mouths, and a pouty face.

Mixed media on black gesso for drama

The altered book that I often work Jane's classes in was started for "Joynal" and is a child's fairytale book. Here is the start of a page of a broad smile with teeth based on a photo of Marilyn Monroe.

The mixed media Marilyn was pretty but a bit too soft and "chalky."

After a basic session in Photoshop, the colors sing! Jane offers a course called "Print and Scan" which teaches Photoshop basics along with many other aspects of refining and preparing artwork for printing and/or sale.

Probably my favorite finished page from the whole class. After an in-depth lesson in drawing an eye, I added the notes to the opposite page and the surround and gave the eye a trompe l'oeil torn page to peek through. 
An artist and teacher new to me, Danielle Donaldson, led a two week workshop in some new techniques on four very specific projects. "The Land of Light and Shadow" gave me a different perspective on what a class could be and four different completed projects in a short time.

"Anatomy of an Artist Taking Flight"

"Hippo Love, It's a Part of Us"

As Danielle's class rolled seamlessly into Jane's "Frolicaholic," the Creative Girl character was tweaked to become the cover of my Frolicaholic Journal.
"Frolicaholic," the expanded version of Jane's "Draw Happy" was offered live last spring, and was some of the most fun I've had in any of her classes. We made an awesome shaped book and filled each page (or page bits) with each week's new lesson in how to believe in yourself and your art.

"Building Confidence"

"Start the Art"

"The Lizard Brain"

"Your Style"
Meanwhile, back to work Jane's most basic class, "Supplies Me," which I had started the previous summer and was fitting in when I found the time.

In colored pencil week, I learned to draw with depth and texture, blending colored pencils

In marker week, I got a nice start with my Copic alcohol markers, then turned that drawing into a mixed media piece with collage and paint pens, ink and colored pencil.

A mixed media piece during a lesson on simple or "lolly" legs

Watercolor week: watercolor on texture paste (and always colored pencil!)

My ink week girl had a collage inspired friend, plus hair and dress from the scrap box.

For pastels week, a mixed media piece that used Shiva oil paint sticks (previously only tried for fabric painting)

And for acrylics week, a 3/4 turned face, my final painting of the class, and one of my proudest achievement of the year.

In just a couple weeks I will be beginning another intensive Jane class, brand new and based on her Amazon top rated new book: "Drawing and Painting Beautiful Faces." Won't you come join me?


  1. Oh, gosh, you have been busy! As I said before, you really seem to live an artful life, and it's looks wonderful! :-)

    1. Thanks Annika! Learning to slow down a little this year and take it easier on myself. Quite enjoying my year long class so far, with Carla Sonheim and Lynn Whipple.

  2. I finally found the time to view all the fabulous art you did in the past year! You did a huge amount of work; I find you always very inspiring! I particularly like your trompe l'oeil eye, the eraser cat as well as the yupo one and the plant studies you made. I think that some of the faces bear your features. I am a big fan of Carla Sonheim too and am taking the Fred Lisaius class tomorrow, though I haven't done the previous ones.
    Have a good and creative week,

    1. Thanks, Suzanne, for taking the time to comment. I rarely know who is checking out my posts or what they think! I watched the intro video that Steve Sonheim did on Fred. I'm sure you will have a wonderful experience in his class.