Month of October

Most evenings, and in some cases days, I sit on my sofa and draw while either streaming art videos or watching Blue Bloods on Cravetv. That is when I’m not working. Blue Bloods has become a favorite to watch. I love the whole family dynamic. I loved watching Magnum PI when it was out and wish Cravetv or Netflix had the whole series. Tom Selleck’s character in Blue Bloods is a step up and I love this character even more. There is something about a strong male character with honorable characteristics and integrity that appeal to my heart and soul. While at the same time, he is able to admit to making mistakes. I think too, I’ve learned more about the minds of men while watching this show than I have in real life. Most men I know don’t reveal what they reveal on the show.

I watch the show more for the family and relationship dynamics than I do for the action and adventure in the law stories (and yes, I do love action and adventure and law shows).  I haven’t read anything about this series before I started watching it and have only come to the conclusion (on my own) that the law stories are only there to support the real stories playing out in the relationships between the characters, which is how it should be. When I think about Blue Bloods and the various series of CSI, it stands out even more. CSI’s foundation are the crimes, where Blue Bloods foundation is family. I like both of them but I think I love Blue Bloods even more because of this.

I didn’t mean to do a review of the program I’ve been watching almost non-stop, but this post is about October and the show has become a major portion of what I am focused on this month. The other focus is Inktober.

Inktober has mostly taken up my sketch time. I don’t mind. In fact, I am enjoying the challenge of coming up with something new each day. With my focus being on faces, and my skill level being pretty much that of a novice, I find myself feeling as though I’m repeating myself, that is until I flip through the pages of my sketches.

With that being said here are my 3 pages so far:

They are in order of creation. You might have noticed that I started out with front facing portraits, then switched to three-quarter facing portraits. This is because I am working on the Fabulous Faces course created by Tamara Laporte. Week three is learning how to draw and paint the three-quarter face. I want to move on, and I might because what I’m working on is the drawing of them. She includes how to paint them as well but since I’m working on Inktober, I think I’ll move on to the next week and go back after October to focus on painting the faces. It isn’t that I don’t want to paint. I just want to focus on how to draw them first.

This is my first sketch following her instruction for week three, my next sketches were all done in inktober:

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There is graphite smeared all over the page. This is part of the process when I’m learning. I don’t worry about the graphite smearing not until I get better at what I’m drawing, then I try to be cleaner with my sketches. I still need to work on getting the angles and placement right which I think I did better in the last two #inktober sketches shown in my pages above.

I noticed I tend to draw faces looking in the same direction so I made a point to change them up a bit. I don’t know if it is because I learned to draw them in that direction first or if it is because I’m right handed or what. I do know at first it feels uncomfortable to try drawing something in the opposite direction so when I practice I try changing it up a bit so I don’t end up in a set pattern and so I become comfortable drawing faces in various directions.

I still want to work on different facial expressions. They are a challenge. They don’t come naturally. What comes naturally is the neutral expression in most of the faces I’ve drawn this month. I know it all will become easier as I practice more and more.

The other thing I started to do which I can do while sitting on my sofa is to create a reference journal for the tangles I like. Here is my first page which I created last night.

Page 1Sometimes I just want to flip through pages to find a design I like instead of searching through countless tangles online. I find I don’t remember the names of the tangles very well which means finding the ones I enjoy drawing can be frustrating, so having a reference will be handy.

I made the journal for my tangles by finding a printable grid online. I print it on both sides of regular printer paper. Then I fold it in half so I can use it to create signatures. I used a medium weight cardstock for a sort of cover for each signature. This is mainly to give each signature some protection and a more solid structure. I haven’t sewn them together yet. I thought it would be easier to draw on the pages before they were bound. I am also still considering how I will bind them. I’m considering the type of binding they use in the traveler’s notebooks either twine or elastic and just slip them in so they will be easy to slip in and out when using them for references when I’m working on a project. I don’t plan on having the tangles in any particular order, so they won’t be alphabetical. It would be too difficult to add new tangles I come across, so they will just end up in a random order.

I am not creating detailed step-outs. I’m doing only minimal step-outs, just enough to help me remember how to draw them. This is mainly for space purposes. I want several tangles on each page and since I will have their names over each one it will be easy to look up more details if I need them.

You might wonder why I am printing up the grid instead of buying grid paper. I have a couple of reasons for this. Lately, I have been unable to find grid paper on a decently weighted paper that my pigma micron pen won’t bleed through or ghost through. I have also found it difficult to find the size grid I want. If I do find the size grid I want usually the other side of the paper has a different grid size. I want both sides to have the same size grid. Having a printable means as long as I have printer paper and ink for my printer, I can print up my grid whenever I need more grid paper. Those are most of my reasons. I may explore the dot grid at some point if I can find a printable for it.

Once the idea of trying to find a printable for a dot grid was in my head, I couldn’t resist looking for one. I found it and probably by the time I’m ready to write another blog post, I will have incorporated it into my tangle journal signatures and have some step-outs drawn on a page or two. I may mix it in with the regular grid paper so I have options depending on what tangle I’m wanting to add to my journal.

As I fill out pages and have enough completed for a signature, I’ll bind the pages into the signature by sewing them. I think I’ll keep each signature as its own entity, especially if I use the binding system they use in traveler’s notebook covers. I can always give it a try and if I don’t like it, I can bind the signatures together within a hardcover using coptic stitch or some other stitch.

At one time, I was creating individual cards for tangles and drawing the step-outs on one side of the card. I was doing this so I would have a deck of cards I could draw from when I just wanted to pull a random tangle to create an abstract drawing. I have 56 cards so far which is a nice start but I realized something after I created them.

I don’t do random very well.

I like planning for effect. I think my #Inktober sketches reflect this very well. Every single one was an experiment with effect. I didn’t randomly pull something out of a deck of cards and use it. It was done intuitively.  Only three out of the sketches were done from a reference photo (8th,10th and 12th) and those were done in order to try and incorporate different facial expressions. The rest of their sketch was all intuitive, meaning I chose what popped into my head. Sometimes, I tried to resist what popped into my head but I soon learned resistance was futile. Whatever popped into my head, did so with persistence and stayed until I did what it wanted, then it left making room for something else to pop in. Then the cycle repeated itself until I decided the sketch was complete.

I need to wrap this up. I still have my #Inktober drawing to do for today and I have mother duties I need to attend to including cooking dinner.

 

 

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Long week and #Inktober2017

It has been a long week of working seven days with one of those days being an eight hour shift on our Thanksgiving Holiday here in Canada. I don’t mind. It is a joy to interact with people, learn their plans for the holiday and helping them to find what they need to provide their holiday meal for their family.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep up with my Inktober sketches for those seven days. My work is very physical which means I end up very tired especially after an eight hour shift. It turned out easier than I thought it would. I believe this was due to my forethought of making each sketch conform to a small area on the page.

These are page 1 and page 2 of my #Inktober2017 sketches. The pages are 7″ x 10″ which includes the area where the pages are bound. Each square is approximately 2 1/2″ x 2 3/4″, therefore each sketch is relatively small.  Some of them took only 15 minutes or so to sketch while others took a bit longer.

One of the reasons I decided to attempt the #Inktober challenge this year was the fact that I could do them while sitting on my sofa, resting while watching videos. This was important because my hours for when I work fluctuate. I don’t go into work at the same time every day. Some days I go in as early as 7am, while other days I might go to work at 2 or 3 in the afternoon or other days as late as 6 or 7pm. Therefore, it was important for me to be able to do my sketches either before I went to work or after coming home and needing to put my feet up and rest for a couple hours.

I try to do more intricate artwork on my days off as well as write a blog post, but most of the time I end up not having time for both because what I couldn’t get done on the days I work is left to be done on my days off, which means running errands or getting housework done. I usually reserve one of my days off for doing laundry which sometimes means I can work on larger pieces or paint in between loads of laundry. Today was supposed to be one of those days, however, we have an appointment today which interferes with those plans, so I’m at least working on posting on my blog.

I mentioned in the last post that I was working on another tangle page. I’m not yet finished with it, but here it is so far:

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I basically used this page as a sort of practice with various tangle patterns and learning how to make the page feel cohesive by repeating different patterns in various sections. I still have some spaces to fill and shading to do.

What I find interesting is this… when I photograph something I work on and then place it here in my blog, my mind, for some unknown reason, sees it differently. Looking at this piece in the photo, I am better able to visualize some changes I could have made, or how I could have made it more cohesive. I might still be able to do it and may play around with it to see if I can.

The thing I love about tangles is the flexibility of working with them. They can become anything you want them to be. If you look at the bottom right section, I used that tangle in one of my #Inktober2017 sketches, in particular, the one dated 7October2017, for her hair. I changed it slightly but in essence it is the same tangle. I used a similar technique on 10October’s sketch.

I have today’s sketch to do yet which will be done later this afternoon or evening. For now, I need to get ready for our appointment and then do laundry and clean up from our late Thanksgiving dinner we had last night. I don’t always get to the cleanup right away. Yesterday, I was still recovering from working seven days straight. My body ached and I felt tired. At least, I had the energy to cook our long awaited meal and run a couple of errands while we waited for the ham to cook in the slow cooker. (I love my slow cooker.)

On top of this my daughter wasn’t feeling well the past few days. One of my mornings started about an hour earlier than expected with her waking up suddenly and throwing up. On days like that it is hard to leave for work even when she reassures me she is feeling better and will be okay. This maybe why I was compelled to draw such sad faces on a few of my girls for #Inktober.

I want to talk a bit about my sketches so far for #Inktober. I did decide to focus on faces. I just wasn’t sure how it would go. I thought I would incorporate tangles too, but again wasn’t sure how. I am intrigued by the progression of my sketches. The first few obviously reflect the mind of a beginner, someone who is searching or stretching outside of their comfort zone. Some of them not coming out as well as I would have liked them to be but persevering through those uncomfortable moments of wanting to just wad them up in a ball and throw them away.

I’m glad I didn’t.

I love seeing the progress I’m making. I also love certain things about each one and the movement into the more graphic design. The graphic nature of the last few faces I did and incorporating a mandala structure around them in a way represents what I learned in my mandala journey and its influence on my practice of drawing faces. The last sketch I did yesterday, though it isn’t as obvious still contains the graphic structure but now going back and using cross-hatching to add in more dimension.

I did not expect this to happen when I started #Inktober this year and chose faces. I just thought I would work on learning how to draw different facial expressions. I never imagined it would take this turn or journey into possibly discovering a style I would embrace as my own. I am intrigued where the rest of October will take me on this journey.

 

#Inktober faces and tangles…

It is day 2 of October. For me this means the second day of #Inktober2017. I did this challenge last year when I wasn’t working. Even so, it was a challenge to work on it every day. I was glad I did for various reasons. This year, I decided to give it another go. With it comes the challenge of doing something every day even on the days I am working. I have no doubt some days will be easier than other days to complete an ink drawing so I decided to try and keep it simple.

I have a journal which has 7″ x 10″ pages. The drawing surface is more like 6″ x 10″ because of the coiled spine. Each page for #Inktober2017 will be divided into sections of about 2 1/2″ x 2 3/4″, giving me about 6 quadrants to create a small ink drawing on each page. This may morph as the days go by but for my first page this is how it is laid out. I expect each drawing will take only about 15 minutes at the most to create, though I don’t plan on timing any of them. Some could take longer depending on what I decide to create. But, most likely, they will end up being simple drawings, especially on the days I have to work.

With my focus of late being on learning how to draw faces, I thought it would be good to draw faces for each day in October.  I also enjoy drawing tangles, so I thought about trying to incorporate tangles for each day as well.  This is day 1. I did stippling for shading and the scrolled feather tangle for the hair.1Oct

This is day 2. I used a sort of scribble technique for the shading and the spangle tangle for a sort of hair or frame around the face. 2Oct

Both of these sketches took very little time and they are perfect examples of persevering through a drawing which I had no love for. In fact, I disliked both of them throughout the majority of their creation. For the second one I was tempted to discard the whole page which included day 1’s drawing. I am glad I didn’t succumb to the temptation. Neither of my sketches are perfect, and though I had various levels of dislike for them as I worked on them, in the end, I like them better than I thought I would.

I felt myself mentally going through an interesting process. In the beginning, I strive for perfection or at least as perfect as I am able to get it. I hope the drawing will be something I am proud of and love. When I realize it isn’t going as well as I had hoped, I get a bit angry with myself while at the same time I try to not be hard on myself. I go through an internal discussion with myself, telling myself not to give up on it yet. I will also find myself trying to convince myself that I am in a learning process and to not expect perfection, to just continue, it isn’t a lost cause, and maybe I could save it or it won’t be as bad as I think it will be.

Once I finally accept the imperfections, it somehow frees me to just let go. It isn’t perfect so why continue to try for perfection. This is when I let go on day 2 and introduced just scribbling to create a bit of shadow to give some depth to the face. If I had continued to try for perfection I would never have dared to try the shading as I did. It might have taken many months or I might never have discovered how scribbling can be so freeing and create such marvelous character to a sketch. Oh, I’ve seen it in other people’s work, I just never would have dared try it in my own drawings. How could I have ever imagined creating scribbly lines instead of neat and “just so” perfect placement, would make my inner artist squirm in delight?

The shading came last, it came after trying to add in the spangle tangle. When the tangle ended up looking all rough and oddly shaped, and to me simply just a mess, it was what finally broke me free and let me scribble.

Did I say I was a perfectionist? Imagine if you will, being a person who feels compelled to have perfectly straight lines, or perfectly round circles, or the exact placement of eyes or exactly perfectly shaped nostrils. What it must be like to face each imperfectly placed mark. The conversation they must have with themselves, silently within their mind. Until… they finally reach a point where it is all useless but instead of throwing it away, they say ‘the heck with it’ and just let the pencil or pen fly, go where it just wants to go, no longer caring about the end result. Then… then… to suddenly look at what is created and realizing…  yes… yes… that… that… is what was needed… that is what was needed to be learned or done on this particular piece. Then wondering, will you ever be able to do it again, or will it take having to go through the process again and again and again before the perfectionist finally steps aside and allows the free flow of creativity to occur.

I wonder how many people experience this during #Inktober….

As stated earlier and in previous blogs my focus is on learning how to create faces. I showed this one (from the week 2 class in Fabulous Faces by Tamara Laporte) in my previous post. I didn’t consider it finished and it took days for me to get back to it.

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Here she is completed.

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I used Neocolor II, Staedtler watercolor pencils, vanilla and white Craft Smart acrylic paint, and Prisma Color Pencils with a bit of graphite pencil. The more I work on faces which are more whimsical in nature, the more I love them. I don’t have to worry about getting them to look exactly like a reference picture (if I use one). That is the nice thing about learning to draw whimsical or directly from my imagination.

There was a time when I never thought I would be able to draw anything from my imagination. I always felt like I needed to have a picture or the real thing to draw from. When I did use a picture or real life, then I felt like it had to look exactly like it was in the picture or real life. I still have that issue when using something as a reference. I no longer have an issue with drawing from memory or my imagination. It is freeing in many ways. The issue with drawing from memory or imagination is whether you want to create something anatomically correct. If you do, then you need to study anatomy or find information on proper dimensions and placement for various parts and pieces whether it is animal, plant or inanimate objects. The nice thing about whimsical or fantasy, it is totally up to your imagination and doesn’t have to be anatomically correct.

Some day, maybe, I’ll find myself drawing some really outlandish creatures or characters. I love the idea of that.

I loved how my girl turned out. I love the colors I used. I am finding, I have a natural knack for selecting colors. I love everything about her and my skill at shading is improving. Looking at the first picture and comparing it to the completed picture shows a vast difference. I’m glad I took her further. I almost didn’t. Seeing how the additional layers created more depth definitely reinforces what the instructors in other classes have said. Layer, layer, layer… the more you layer the more depth that is created.

There is one more journal page I created. I do love drawing tangles. I have always loved seeing other people’s tangle creations, and especially love pages where someone creates a whole garden type image. I have attempted to create some of my own and failed miserably at it. I can’t seem to find a cohesive way to incorporate what I want so it ends up looking all disjointed. My mind just doesn’t seem to work that way.

On the other hand, this method seems to work well for me. Creating quadrants and having elements which link them all together seems to be very pleasing to my creative mind. I loved working on this piece and watching it develop. It is what gave me the idea of creating quadrants on a page for #Inktober. In some ways, this makes me think of looking through a pane glass window, you know those old windows which had small panes set into a wood frame that are put together to make a larger window. I love this and someone who saw it thought it would look good etched in glass. I think so too.

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I have no doubt this will not be the last one done like this. I am already working on another one.

There is one thing I’m learning about my art journey and my life. I am finding, if my life is chaotic or quite complex at moments, then I prefer doing art which is simple or soothing to me. Trying to do a complex piece of art when my life is already complex just seems to increase the stress level. When that happens I don’t enjoy my art so much. It is important to me that I can find peace and relaxation in my art, at least for the majority of it, in troubling or difficult times. Even so, no matter what I work on, there is always something in it which challenges me. Depending on the degree of challenge, it can put me on edge or it can be a catalyst which helps me to break down barriers or paralysis or blocks. Sometimes a simple piece of art which doesn’t challenge me very much artwise, can give me the courage to face a completely separate issue in life. It is strange how that works.

So… the next time you feel challenged in life, pick up an art supply and do something that instills peace and joy. You never know what doors it will open, or what courage may arise from it.

Art classes and more faces…

As part of the blog hop for Let’s Face It 2018 where one is introduced to the various artists who will be teaching in the course next year and being able to enter to win a seat, Toni Burt asked a question, you can see her blog post here. She wants those entering the giveaway to leave a comment telling her why you love creating faces. Here is my response:

Why I love creating faces? I never asked myself why I wanted to create faces. All I knew was faces were very difficult, sometimes impossible for me to pick up a pencil and begin. The thought of doing so created all this negative talk in my head that caused me to undermine what I am capable of doing. I have never liked it when someone told me I couldn’t do something. When someone would say that, it was like being given a key to do it anyway and prove them wrong, that I could do it. But somehow when the voices in my head told me I couldn’t do it, the words would leave me feeling defenseless, weak, and believing I couldn’t. The words and voice didn’t come with a key or drive to prove the voices wrong. Drawing faces is about taking back my power, about showing myself there isn’t anything to fear. It is about finding that window into my soul through the eyes of the portrait I’ve created. When I look at her/him, I see a part of me looking back, the part of me I can be proud of. This is why I love creating faces. Thanks for asking the question and making me think about the why.

What I don’t say, is this, I have felt a deep drive lately to draw faces. It started once I took one of Tamara Laporte’s courses. It was most likely the free course I took called “Art, Heart and Healing”. She made it so easy to draw a whimsical face, I felt for sure if I could do that lesson then I could learn how to draw more realistic faces. I never considered the “why” of it.

Since high school art class I wanted to become better at drawing people. I had the same art teacher since eighth grade, Thomas McFarland. I don’t know how he did it. How he was able to find this ability within me when no one throughout my years of school was able to do it. I still remember some of my very first classes with him and the projects he inspired the students to do. Each time I found myself amazed at what I created. The first one was to draw an animal, find a picture of an animal we wanted to draw. I have a love of horses and so I chose a young colt to draw that was resting on the ground. Another was to pair off with other students and draw their face but to use black construction paper and white chalk. I was paired with a girl who had wild curly hair, octagon shaped glasses because no one else wanted to pair with her and thought she would be difficult to draw. Then another in a later grade was to create something that would then be used as a template to carve into a tile made of a soft material which could then be used to make prints from. I chose bicycle parts. He loved it so much he asked if he could keep it. I of course said yes. I was thrilled beyond belief that he would want something I created! I wonder to this day what he did with the art he kept. The last project I remember was to do a self-portrait. I drew myself sitting on my bed drawing, which was a drawing of me drawing myself looking into the mirror as I did my self-portrait. I had on an old pair of jeans and I remember the challenge in drawing my face, my hand (which appeared larger because it was closer to the mirror) and the seam detail of the leg of my jeans in the fold by the knee.

These memories are over forty years old and yet I remember them in fine detail. My memories of my more recent pieces are not so clearly remembered. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I still have them to look at. I have none of my drawings from high school. I let someone convince me that letting go of my past was what I needed to do which included getting rid of all the precious things that went along with those memories. It is the biggest regret of my life.

I haven’t spoken to my teacher since graduating high school. I think if I were ever to do so I would tell him thank you for helping me discover my inner artist. Even though I spent almost 30 years rarely picking up a pencil to draw, I remember him and what I learned from his classes. He is a part of every drawing, painting, art journal page, or doodle I create. He has been the one nudging me throughout my life telling me I CAN DO IT. It is his face I see, his voice I hear drowning out all my negative thoughts. It is his smile I see when I complete a project knowing I’ve done my best and feel the joy in what I created.

These memories and what I am discovering about myself now, is why I pursue learning as much as I can from other artists. It is why I watch recorded videos and live streams even when they are not instructional. Observing is just another way for our minds to learn. It is why I seek out instructional videos and courses I can afford to buy or do everything possible to try and win a seat in those courses I want but may not be able to afford.

For 2018, it is my hope I can include Life Book 2018, Let’s Face It 2018 and Paint Your Heart and Soul 2018 to my art journey. Each of these courses are or have had blog hop giveaways. They are also giving an early bird discount which I hope to take advantage of over the next couple months if I have the funds to purchase them if I don’t win a spot. I have had to make some hard choices in what courses I wanted for next year. I had hoped I could include many other courses but unfortunately my budget requires me to be very selective. This is even more true this year since my daughter is now enrolled in a school program where she does all her schooling from home and I will need to purchase resources for her as well.

In regards to my art and what I have worked on since my last post, this is a picture of Exercise 2 from Let’s Face It 2016 – Kara Only course. It is a drawing of a face without using a reference photo. In other words, it is completely from my imagination and was done WITHOUT following any videos. I love how she turned out. It is meant to be another benchmark drawing so we can gauge our progress.

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This next picture is a work in progress and is from the Fabulous Faces course, week 2 where color is added to the graphite sketch. Tam introduced a tilt in the head which I chose to do as well.

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I used Neocolor II crayons, Staedtler Watercolor pencils and graphite drawing pencil. I have some more detail to add to her hair and I may add some deeper shading to her face.

I am going to try to do all my lessons for Fabulous Faces and Let’s Face It in the same art journal which is 5.5″ x 8″. However, my first lesson in Fabulous Faces was done in a different journal, all the rest though will be created in this one. I wasn’t sure how the paper would respond to wet medium. With this lesson I discovered it can pill if I’m not careful. It responds similarly to watercolor paper even though it states “draw” on the label and nothing about watercolor. It is 160lb paper. It is good to know going forward. I am glad it works well with wet medium. It didn’t buckle very much which is a good thing. The journal is from the Bee Paper Company and is part of the “bee creative.” art journal series. I’m not an affiliate. I mention it in case anyone is interested in what paper or journal I’m using. Here is a picture of the label from the journal:

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Just a note about the price, I’m in Canada which is where I purchased it, the price will be different in the US. The front side of the paper has more texture than the back side which is nice. If I want a smoother paper for drawing, I can use the back of the page. The textured side is good for painting.

I am enjoying my return to focusing on faces. I had started trying to focus on faces the end of 2016, and into 2017 with some starts and stops along the way. The other courses I was involved with distracted me, and they may again when I return to those lessons as well. For now, it is nice to just focus on faces. In a way, it makes sense I would move from mandalas to faces, from one round subject to another slightly different and somewhat round subject. Can a face be considered a mandala? Maybe not in the traditional sense of a mandala but in an abstract form of a mandala I would say yes. After all they both have their proportions and quadrants so to speak.

Time to close this post for now. Barb Owen will soon begin her live stream and I have missed too many of late due to my new job. I catch her when I can. I’m glad today is one of those days I can.

~Patti

Moving Forward

As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to start focusing on drawing faces or portraits. I have two courses as resources for learning plus all the free videos on YouTube. I decided to start with Fabulous Faces course by Tamara Laporte. You can find it here under her art classes. This is my version of the first week’s front facing portrait.

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This lesson did not use a reference photo and was focused on proportions and placement of facial features it is not meant to be a realistic drawing. Her instructions also focused on shading. What I loved most about this lesson was learning how to use layering to add depth to the shadows instead of pressure on the pencil to darken the lines. Her explanation of how using pressure can cause distortion in the paper making it difficult to erase or even to blend out helped a lot on learning how to apply her technique. I feel it has improved my ability to create contours in the face.

I then decided to use a reference photo to practice the shading techniques I learned from Fabulous Faces Week 1 class. This is the reference photo I chose from online when I searched for front facing women’s pictures. I liked this one because it gave more contrast for the shadows and showed clear highlights.

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This is the result of my second sketch. When looking at my drawing I couldn’t see the wonkiness in the eyes (the eye on the right is slightly lower than the one on the left). It wasn’t until I took a picture that I saw it. I tried fixing it but I lost something in it when I did. The thing I like about this drawing is how my shading is improving. I was using a mechanical pencil when I drew this but by the end I realized I need to use better graphite pencils which I do have just didn’t use them for this drawing or the previous one.

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I have another course called Let’s Face It, you can find it here. I purchased Kara Bullock’s “Let’s Face It 2016 – Kara Only” classes since it provides instruction for front face, 3/4 face, profile, bust and up portraits, and also the figure. I am on the first lesson and the first exercise is to do a drawing or painting from a reference photo to see where your skill level is right now. This is to help track your growth as you progress through the classes. I decided to draw another face using the same reference photo. This is the result using a better set of drawing pencils. I can definitely see a difference between this drawing and the previous one when I used a mechanical pencil.

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I know faces are not exactly symmetrical but again the eyes are off, though better aligned, one eye is larger than the other. I say this as a constructive criticism. I do this so I know what to work on for improvement. In the first drawing where they were wonky, I realized I didn’t see it because of the way I sit and draw and how I hold my sketchbook. I hold my book at an angle like I was taught to place a piece of paper when I’m writing. I’m learning that when I do this when drawing, it is difficult to see when something isn’t in its proper alignment. Tonight when I drew the last sketch I made a point of holding my sketchbook straight (not on an angle). This helped a lot with getting the eyes aligned properly.

I need to work on the hair more, however, that will come later. My main goal with this last drawing was to get alignment and proportions more accurate. I printed up a copy of the reference photo and glued it to the opposite page in the journal I am using. This helped a lot . Not only did it help to have the reference photo right there but with it sized to fit the page, it helped with working out the proportions and placement.IMG_0953I’m considering my drawings complete at this point. Mainly because if I messed with them any more I know one of two things could occur. I will either become frustrated because my perfectionist would come out of the closet and start nagging me about how it doesn’t look right and isn’t perfect which could put me off of drawing for several weeks if not longer. Or I could screw up something which I feel is pretty good at this stage of my artistic development. Since this will be used as a reference for my growth, it shows clearly that I’m not skilled with hair yet and though I’m fairly good with placement and proportions I still have a ways to go for realistic portraits. So this is a good drawing to use for this purpose.

I have learned several things from this exercise.

  1. Take pictures along the way as I’m drawing to help me see anything that might be out of kilter or needs adjustment. Taking a picture helps me to see things more clearly quicker than it would setting it aside and looking at it later.
  2. Be kind when I’m looking at what I have created. It is okay to point out to myself the things which I need improvement on but above all else give myself credit for how much I have improved.
  3. Using pencils, meant for drawing, work a lot better than mechanical pencils or pencils meant for writing.
  4. Greater dimension and depth can be achieved with drawing pencils using light layers than pressing firmly with one pass or two passes.
  5. I have also found I like using a blending stump or tortillion better and a kneaded eraser than my “fat” fingertip (“fat” only to describe how much larger the tip of finger is when compared to the tip of a fine point tortillion).
  6. Paper has a big influence on the feel and look of a sketch. There is an obvious difference between the two drawings I did from the reference photo. The first was drawn on very smooth paper and the second was drawn on a heavier and more textured paper.

I may continue to use the same photo for a while but that depends on the next lessons in the two courses I mentioned here. I plan on doing both classes in tandem. I think it will be interesting to switch from a more whimsical style that Tam does, to the more realistic style that Kara does. I naturally tend to draw realistically however I love learning how to create something completely from my imagination.

It can be rather daunting to step out of my comfort zone to draw a face. All too often I hear my inner critic tell me it is too complicated… faces are too difficult… I’ll never get it right… it will never look like the person or photo I’m drawing… and if I let the voice continue… and I let myself believe what it is telling me… it will hold me back from picking up the pencil or making any marks on the paper, or it could cause me to quit in the middle of what I’m creating because it isn’t exactly like the person or image I’m drawing.

However…

If I ignore the voice, or better yet, if I allow myself to hear the voice, acknowledge what lies beneath the words, I usually can move forward with my drawings. Most times as I move forward and progress into what I’m creating, see how it is developing, it can quiet the voice. Because, I know I still have areas to improve, that voice will still be there letting me know where those improvements are needed but another voice becomes louder. That new voice often says things like… see, I can do it… yes, it isn’t perfect but look at the eyes, look at the shading, look at how realistic it appears or how much I’ve improved in a month or a couple months… and so on.

This is my journey and I am loving it.

Ongoing progress…

It has been ten days since my last post. Time slips by in varying degrees of progression. Sometimes fast and sometimes not so fast. I’m finding it difficult to get back into the art courses I was taking before I started my new job. I know I’ll get back into them and possibly I’ll need to do it in stages by focusing on a course that is less complicated or more in line with what I want to develop. Basically, my focus since beginning my new job has been mandalas. They started out simple, or what I consider simple for myself and have gained in complexity. Today’s post is about the last two pages I have been working on.

This is a picture of the first one, which I believe I showed in my previous post.

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For me this is more complex because it isn’t a single mandala and the mandalas are intersecting. I drew the circles first, then bisected them with the grid lines which I extended out past the furthest most circle to the edges of the paper or almost to the edges. Then I began adding patterns to the different sections. Once I was finished with the patterns I added bits of shading. Here is my progress so far, which I am not sure if it is complete at this stage or not but right now I feel no need to add anything more to it.

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When I reached this point in this piece, I started another. The next one I started in my larger art journal. The page is probably twice the size of this one. I felt driven to go even more complex because the simple mandalas were no longer challenging to me. I have taken pictures of this one so far in my progression and it is not complete yet.

This is the first picture I took after I had all the inking done or at least almost done. there are two elements at the top and bottom which call to me to make it darker and add something to them. I am still contemplating what to do with them. This page is about 10 1/2″ x 14″.

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I always start my drawings in pencil first, then I ink over them. Some of the elements and patterns added later are done in ink without any pencil. This challenges me to deal with whatever ends up on the page and accepting it as it is or finding ways to incorporate it. The triangles with the circular pattern in them is an example of this. I didn’t like the first one I did. If I had done it in pencil first I would have erased it and chosen something different. Doing it in ink first made me accept what I did and then work with it. I find I am liking them more so now after adding some of the darker elements to them.

These two pictures are the beginnings of adding shading using the warm shades of grey Prisma colored pencils in an attempt to achieve a 3D effect in the grid of the diamond shapes on the outer edge of the mandala.

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As it happens when I start trying to create a certain effect, I don’t often see it as I’m working on it. Most times I have to step away from what I’m working on and come back to it a few minutes later in order to see if what I was doing actually created the effect I wanted to achieve.

The next two pictures are closeups of different parts of the page. I am still deciding what to do. Choosing to use colored pencils for the shading was a hard choice to make. I love my black and white ink work but this one is calling out to me to add color. So instead of using graphite for the shading I decided to use colored pencils.

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When I look at this piece in it entirety so far, my imagination automatically adds color to various elements. How much color I will add, I am not sure of right now. I want to retain some black and white elements while others call for color.

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Having reached this point today with this piece, I have found myself searching for what I’ll be working on next. Adding color will take some time and I know from experience I will want to work on something else as I take breaks from adding the color. This stage is more like coloring in a coloring book which for me doesn’t hold much interest. I’m slowly understanding why that is.

I thought at one time I would love working with colored pencils. However, I am learning something quite interesting about myself. I have always felt an affinity towards water. Therefore, it is not surprising to discover I love working with watercolors. Or using art supplies that can be manipulated by adding water. If I’m not using colored pencils with a liquid or wet product I find them uninspiring even though I can achieve interesting blending by using blending pencils, white or light colored pencils or blending stumps.

One of the other reasons colored pencils don’t appeal to me is they are hard on my wrist. Graphite pencils and ink pens are as well. I can do the work in stages with graphite and ink, whereas colored pencils, especially when coloring in a repeated pattern, I feel I need to complete all the same pattern in one sitting in order to achieve the same result. This can make my wrist very painful. Using brushes and watercolor or art supplies that can be manipulated with water requires a much lighter grip and therefore less stress upon my wrist.

As an artist, it is very frustrating to find myself limited or having to limit myself in order to avoid pain. It is compounded by the understanding that no one really knows what is causing the pain. At first my doctor thought it was a ganglion but the ultrasound disproved that. Then he thought it was arthritis but the x-rays results indicate my bones are healthy with no sign of arthritis. I was sent to a physiotherapist when my doctor then thought it was tendonitis. My physiotherapist feels it isn’t tendonitis and maybe arthritis even though my x-rays show no sign of it. I am hoping over time it will get better and the pain will go away. I take frequent breaks when I’m using a pen or pencil type object and the pain starts. I used to push through the pain and continue working but, that seems to just make it worse so now frequent breaks will have to suffice. Which is why, adding color to this last mandala page will take time and I will find something else to work on when I need to take breaks.

I look at my watercolor facial features study and I want to do more of them or work on watercolor portraits. I showed these in an earlier post and often find myself revisiting them as I have them on display on my mantle.

I find myself hesitant on trying this again or trying a portrait. It is silly to be so afraid of doing something because I’m afraid I won’t be able to repeat what I did before or do something as well as I did before. I sometimes feel like this was a fluke because it was my first in doing facial features in watercolor. In fact, it was my first real attempt at doing anything conceivably realistic in watercolor. It is ridiculous though to feel this way, because I took a break of days if not a week between a couple of these and I was still able to reproduce what I had learned.

I have this strange fear of experimenting with anything, of doing anything remotely creative with art supplies in which I have not already seen someone else do. Even then because it is all new to me, I have this irrational fear of something going terribly wrong. You would think my hands would fall off, or my arms would break or maybe I would go blind if I tried anything new and was not hugely successful at it. I have even let myself imagine just letting go and drawing a wonky face with eyes all askew just to get past this fear and yet I can’t seem to bring myself to do even that.

I am not sure if we develop a perfectionist personality from our environment growing up or if we are born with it. All I know is, I have a tendency to not do something out of fear of it not being perfect when I’m done with it. When I think about it, I have flashes of memory from my childhood of when I didn’t do something well enough to satisfy a parent or someone important to me. Perfectionism is a killer of creativity. Getting past it is a struggle every single time I try to pick up a tool to create something. It infects every part of my life and keeps me from progressing… IF I ALLOW IT….

I HAVE TO MAKE A CONSCIOUS DECISION EVERY MOMENT IN EVERYTHING I DO TO NOT ALLOW THIS PERFECTIONIST MENTALITY TO GET IN MY WAY OF MOVING FORWARD. It is my hope, my next post will be a post about drawing portraits and the next one after that, in doing them in watercolor. I do however retain the right to change my mind and allow myself to be inspired by whatever seems right for the moment.

Realization strikes…

I realized something the other day and today I decided it was time to write about it. I’m an artist, writer, mother, housekeeper, cashier, and so many other things I couldn’t begin to list them all. Anyone following my blog will know I recently started a new job. This was after a hiatus of no work for about a year and a half after being laid off of my previous job which I had for over 33 years. Being laid off was hard. It was very hard. The shock took a long time to wear off. Getting assistance from a financial advisor helped tremendously in helping me to understand where I was and what I could do. Even so, it was still very difficult to come to terms with the changes this had invoked in my life.

The first change of having so much free time to devote to getting back into touch with my inner artist has been priceless. It has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I didn’t have to convince myself of this. Doing my art was my inner sanctuary. It kept me sane.

Searching for a new job was stressful and beyond my comfort zone. After 33 years of not having to do interviews, write cover letters, and resumes, I was completely out of my element. On top of that I strongly disliked the idea of losing any of the free time I had to delve into my art which also helped me to delve into all those various inner chambers I liked to keep hidden away. And not to mention the time it will take from my time together with my daughter. I worked out of my home so I had unlimited time with her.

I have had people tell me if I change the way I look at things then this change in my life can be exciting and rewarding. I agreed with them. However, this was easier said than done. I tried to tell myself this change would be far better than what I had previously. I tried to tell myself, I can do anything that is placed in front of me. I tried to tell myself many things that were positive and uplifting, but all to no avail.

I often wondered why this was an issue for me. Why couldn’t I just switch my mind from thinking horrible debilitating things to uplifting and a positive outlook? I persevered. Even though I had an emotional breakdown at the first job I tried. I took three months off as my doctor suggested to just recover from all the life changing events which had occurred since 2014 with the diagnosis of breast cancer and recovery, to being laid off in 2016. By this time it was Mid-2016. After the three months I returned to trying to find a job and found I was not getting any responses to my applications. After many months I sought help and now a little over a year and a half later I am now back to work.

Returning to work though was stressful. It was nothing at all like the work I used to do, so I felt like a teenager trying to learn a new job and evaluating whether it would work for me or not. Every day I felt stressed before going into work and sometimes I felt that stress hit the night before when I reminded myself of the time I needed to go into work the next day. I wanted this stress to go away. I needed the stress to go away. I kept reminding myself it would get better each day as I became more comfortable with my job. Each day after work I would come home, tired, feet hurting, sometimes legs hurting if it was an 8 hour shift, and I would put my feet up, pull out my journal and doodle or draw mandalas or both. This is a work in progress of one I’m working on now:

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I have it a bit further along than it shows right now and I’ll show it when it is finished in a later post. Right now though, when I look at this, I realize it bears a bit of resemblance to the stress I feel in its chaotic nature.

Let me get back to that idea of changing how I look at things so that I might change the way I feel. I have often wondered why I had difficulty doing this. That is until recently. I thought about my work and how I feel once I’m there doing the job. I actually enjoy doing the job. After I’m there and I start my shift, all the stress leaves me. All I think about is being as accurate as possible as I scan the products through and learning what I need to do if a customer asks a question or something doesn’t ring up appropriately. Rarely does anything else come into my thoughts. And the activity is soothing. Even though I realized this about my job, I was still having stress before going into work, until one day I thought more about it and realized that work was now a sort of sanctuary for me where my brain can take a break from all the worries and concerns that plague me.

So now, instead of one sanctuary in my art, I now have two sanctuaries, one in my art and one in my work. The very next day when I went to work, I had no more anxiety or stress as I prepared myself to go to work. I no longer feel anxiety or stress when I think about going into work after a couple days off.

Here is the thing. For me, changing my mindset takes more than logically thinking I can do something. It takes more than my mind believing I can do something. In this case it took my whole being, mind, body and soul to find a way to embrace the work I was doing. It took more than just knowing I could do something, it took the realization of what it provides me in return. There had to be a balance. Not just doing something to get paid enough to pay my bills but to do something that brought more into my life and benefited me in ways I wasn’t expecting.

This job is no longer just about earning the money we need. It is about creating it into a sanctuary which provides my core needs/desires. I first took the job in order to help fulfill one of those core desires of needing to feel safe and secure, especially financially. Now, I realize the job helps fulfill other core desires like the need for peace and harmony. When I’m at work, I’m at peace, my mind finds harmony in the repetitive tasks of scanning and talking with the customers. It fulfills other core desires like the need to continually learn about myself and my environment and it has helped with something else which has been sorely tried throughout my life.

I have often been confronted with some of the worst in people and in some cases I found myself slowly being lowered into an abyss of darkness and believing there were more bad, hateful people in this life than good, descent people. This job is helping me to see how wrong I was. Out of the possibly hundred or more people I deal with every day, there may only be one person who would fall into that first category and I have interacted with some marvelous people who have reached out to help a stranger when they needed help without asking anything in return.

I wanted to write about this because I wanted anyone struggling with attempting to change their mindset or outlook, to know, first, it isn’t easy and second it takes making a soul connection with whatever change you are trying to make in order for you to be able to embrace it. For some, that might be easy, for others, like me, not so much. Learning this however may make it easier the next time. I also wanted others to know who may be concerned about my last couple of posts to know, life is improving. I’m finding my way. My body is getting better at handling the increased activity. And mentally I’m feeling much happier about life and about my job. I will find ways to incorporate working on more involved pieces of art but right now, my doodling, my mandalas, my doodling mandala abstract drawings are enough and accomplishing what I need my creativity to do for me.