Journaling and art practice…

I enjoy working in this particular journal because one side of the page is blank for drawing while the other side of the page has lines for writing. Most of my journaling these days is done in a word document on my computer due to my wrist pain but occasionally I like to do some handwritten journaling which makes this journal perfect for doing just that along with practicing my art.

I generally write about my art but sometimes some personal elements creep in which is why I won’t show the handwritten side of the page in this blog. I have only recently decided to treat my handwriting more as art than writing to try and add some artistic elements to the written side of the page. I’m using some very poor pens which is frustrating. I wanted to use them up but will probably end up throwing them away before the ink is all used. They were cheap so it won’t be a huge waste, just a disappointment. I dislike throwing away something before it is completely used up.

 
I can also adhere some small individual pieces I’ve been creating to practice some tangle patterns and white on black technique. Black and white and white and black has been a secret love of mine since art class in school when our teacher had us take black construction paper and white chalk to create a portrait of a classmate. Sometimes I wish I still had my art from school but alas that isn’t the case.

These black and white tangles are part of the Project Pack #1 series of videos on YouTube, you can find them here. I started doing this a couple days ago and have done about two a day. I’m not buying the Zentangle package you can purchase to go with the Project Pack videos so I don’t have all the supplies they mention. I am using what I have. For the black paper I am using 8 1/2″ x 11″ 65lb card stock cut into four pieces, then I round the corners with my corner punch. I have a Sakura white gelly roll 08, white charcoal pencil and a tortillion. Sometimes a graphite pencil is used to add some shading like in the first spiral.

The white on black is a lot of fun and I wanted to keep what I’m doing so I used double sided tape to adhere them into my journal. This might cause me some issues with drawing on the following pages but I’m sure I’ll find a solution around that, possibly putting a layer of a couple papers between the pages will be enough to resolve any texture issues.

I need to talk about this page:

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This is my pride and joy the past couple of days as I watched it develop. I have tried, unsuccessfully to create a drawing of flower bunches or a sort of abstract garden. I found it quite frustrating to try and find ways to incorporate different designs into one piece and make it look cohesive. I finally had an idea of trying to think of it as a mandala, by creating one central flower, then branching out from it adding different elements. This seems to be the solution I was looking for.

I am now able to visualize how I can do this on a larger scale by creating three or four main focal images and working out from each of them. It might become a challenge when the designs meet at some point but I’m sure it will work itself out.

This piece is still a work in progress. Even so, I am thrilled with how it looks now and would be perfectly happy if this is all the further I took it. I will mention when I first started drawing it, I was less than pleased. It looked rather ‘blah’. The central part of the main flower didn’t seem to work for me even after the first initial inking of the basic design. I was sure this would end up in a rather ‘blah’ final piece.

Then something happened. I kept going because I remembered how ‘blah’ some of my drawings for Inktober looked until I added in some bolder lines and shading elements, so I persevered. When I added in the stippling to the center of the main flower, everything started coming together. The bolder lines, the checkerboard pattern, then the lines in the petals of the flowers, one after the other brought more depth and dimension to the piece. This thrilled me to no end.

I’m not done with it yet. I will, most likely, add more to it. Not sure what at this time though I do want to experiment with different elements of different shapes. Even if I do something that doesn’t quite fit, I know it will be okay because it will be something I will learn from.

This mandala is something I started working on towards the end of the journal spread from my previous post. I find after working on something so challenging I need something to help me relax or center myself again. Mandalas seem to help me do that.

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I don’t work each mandala the same. Sometimes I approach each one quite differently. After putting in my grid and guidelines, the guidelines being the major shapes within the mandala, I ended up working from a variety of locations. Usually, I work from the inside to the outside and on rare occasions from the outside to the inside. This one just seems to call to be from a variety of locations.

Sometimes, I look at this one and feel it is complete and at other times when I look at the details, it feels like there is a lack of detail and incomplete. I may come back at a later time and add to it but my focus right now is on my flower page above. I don’t always feel like I have to finish something I create and that is okay.

One of these days I’ll get the nerve up to create on a much larger scale. I feel pulled towards creating one of my mandalas on a wall in my house. It is frightening to think about it because no two mandalas are ever alike. I can try to recreate one of my own but it is never identical, which is scary when considering creating one on a permanent space like a wall. Yes, I can paint over it if i don’t like it but to be honest, I’ve never painted walls in my home so just the thought of needing to do so is also a bit scary. I think I’ll work my way up to it by just going to larger and larger paper, and then canvas. Maybe I’ll just save up to buy a large canvas which I can then hang on my wall.

 

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.

 

 

#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

Mandalas, Doodles and being employed…

Art this past few weeks has consisted mostly of doodling. My doodles are mostly in the form of mandalas or start in the form of a mandala and then grow from there. I have done no painting or mixed media art and I’m feeling the absence of it in my life.

I’m on my fifth week of having returned to being employed. It is a part-time position which should pay enough to fill in the gaps financially which is a welcome relief. Part-time means I work anywhere from 20 hours to 24 hours with the occasional request to add more hours if I want when they need someone to fill in. My previous work was very sedentary. This position has me on my feet for the whole time except for breaks and lunches. I find myself extremely exhausted if I work 8 hours, but still tired after a 4 hour or 5 hour shift. In my 3rd week, I contracted a cold which hit me pretty hard, and I had to miss 4 shifts. I am still recovering but at least able to work.

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I have found it a bit difficult to switch my mind off after work and get into the mindset of doing any art.  This is why over the past few weeks I have only been able to produce pieces like I have pictured in this post of the mandala/doodles. I come home exhausted, my feet too sore to be on them any more than a few minutes, so I sit with them propped up while trying to decompress as I stream videos on cravetv or netflix and doodle in my journal. It is my hope as I become more comfortable with my new job and my body becomes more accustomed to the work, that I’ll be able to turn my focus towards my art.

Today and tomorrow are my days off and though I was given the option to work an extra four hours today, I turned it down. I knew I needed some self-care time for these two days to help further my recovery from my cold and I feel a deep need to do something more than doodling, possibly work on a mixed media piece for a class I haven’t had the motivation or time for these past few weeks.

My journaling has also taken a turn from expressing my concerns over finances to expressing my experiences and concerns over my new job. It is interesting how satisfying one concern can quickly turn into a different concern and need for journaling in order to get it out so we can focus on the things we need to.

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My new position is very public. I speak with probably a hundred or more people every day. Every single person is in a different frame of mind, some happy, some sad, some angry, some criticizing, many are a pleasure to talk to and can uplift in just the few minutes we interact together. I have no doubt this will eventually come out in my creativity in one form or another as I become more comfortable in what I’m doing.

In another aspect of my life, I live in a strata which has recently been doing some work to improve the appearance, making repairs and so forth. In one area of the yard some landscaping was done to cover some gaps under the fence where our dog could get out. Some earth was used to fill it in. Today, I noticed the earth that was used was taken from a corner which was elevated and in the spring tulips and daffodils would bloom. They apparently didn’t realize this and when I looked there were bulbs lying on top of the earth that had been dug up when they took some of the earth to fill in the gaps below the fence. To me these were little treasures I took and have now stored for the fall to replant. Hopefully, they will survive and bloom in the spring in their new location. I have hopes of adding a few small gardening plots around our patio and these will be a nice beginning and possibly inspiration for some art pieces in the spring next year.

I miss the many hours I had free to play with my art supplies and spend time on classes or watching videos to learn new techniques or skills. However, I am very grateful for the job and hopefully the end of my daily financial worries. My period of not working, being challenged financially, gave me some incentive to find alternatives for the more expensive art supplies. It also challenged me in ways I never expected and I am learning things about myself. Things I wanted to learn and things I never wanted to learn.

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Those things we never wanted to learn about ourselves, at least for me, are things which make me feel vulnerable. They make me feel helpless. It doesn’t mean I am helpless, it just means it makes me feel that way, if that makes any sense. At least until I find a way around it, or what I can do that will take that helpless feeling away. The most vulnerable thing to learn is when you find out you have a breaking point. The most strengthening thing to learn is when you find out you have a creative mind that will allow you to do what you need to do to avoid the breaking point.

When I felt like I had no structure in my life, when things felt chaotic and out of control, was when I found out focusing on art with structure, such as mandalas, or something with geometric shapes and structure, helped me to gain back a sense of control. I am only beginning to understand how art connects me with understanding myself and the world around me. It is an amazing thing to witness.

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Today, I want to cry…

Here is the thing about artists. Something I am learning about myself anyway. I’m not sure every artist feels this way. I just know I do… at least today.

I just watched a short video on how society kills creativity. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here. At the end of the video, I just wanted to cry, it brought up so many memories, not just about myself, but also about my daughter.

My daughter when she was three years old, drew these amazing abstract pieces of art. I remember asking her one day what one of her drawings was and was promptly told, “It’s a machine Mama.” I laminated that picture so I would be able to keep it forever because I knew in my gut her time in public school would change her art. It did.

The other thing the video brought to mind was how I feel sitting down to do any piece of art, whether it was a class assignment or something I wanted to do on my own. The feelings that arise within me as I sit in front of a blank sheet of paper, no matter what color, or even if there is something already draw on it and I need to add to it, are confined. They do not flow freely. It is difficult to describe this feeling. It is like knowing something is there but you can’t see it, you can feel it, but you can’t reach it. It is the most frustrating feeling in the world, at least for me.

Seeing the boy, turn to observe the violinist, the sense of awe and pure joy is what all artists should feel or it is what they WANT to feel at the beginning of everything they start, but instead, many, like me, feel confined, held back, as if there is something seeking to burst free but has been tightly locked up and we have lost the key to unlock it.

I don’t recall as single moment in my life where I have been told not to do something a particular way. I do recall being shown EXACTLY HOW to do something. Penmanship lessons in first and second grade are a perfect example. (I could give a million other examples of every lesson learned in and out of school.) Letters must slant just so. The tail on the last letter must curve up, just so. Only in later grades were any of us daring enough to try and add a curl to the end or to create larger ovals on our letters, or big loops on the tails of ‘y’s and ‘g’s.

I’m good at copying. If I am really meticulous I can recreate a lesson almost exactly as my teacher if I have the same supplies she/he does. I learned how to do this through years and years of watching others in school, in society, what was acceptable and what was not acceptable. So much so, when I try to let my imagination have free reign, my imagination suddenly finds itself halted in its tracks, not knowing what to do. Or, how to do it. Or where exactly someone’s instructions, or copying ends and my imagination starts.

I felt like crying at the end of the video because I could totally relate to both the child and the adult. I find myself today, having begun a new job just this week, relating so very much with the adult in the video. I could feel my color drain from me. I have spent the past year and half, not working, at least not in the ‘normal’ sense of a job. I spent that year and half working to discover and reawaken my inner artist. I worked on trying to break down the conditioning society has placed upon me since I was a small child. And now I find myself having to shrug back into that conditioning in order to step back into the workplace to bring in the money I need to take care of me and my daughter.

I try not to write about my personal life here on this blog. This blog is supposed to be about my art, my experience as an artist, and my journey. But, I would be remiss in leaving this out. I would be horribly remiss in leaving this part of my journey out.

I am not alone in this. I have no doubt there are hundreds if not thousands of artists out there who have to suppress this part of themselves in order to survive. In order to live and work to make ends meet. This is not what I want in my life any more.

I worked my first full day on Tuesday, came home exhausted, with no energy to create. Towards the end of the evening I could barely keep my eyes open after just putting a few pen strokes on my journal page I have in progress. Today, I found it very difficult to get focused for working on my journal page so I decided to be brave and try working on sewing.

I won’t go into describing the sewing project right now other than to say it is supposed to be a quilted pillow cover. I may go into describing it in another post but not now. This was something I could easily stop and start during my day as I had to go to an appointment and ended up in an out of the house while running errands.

Writing this post tonight has me in tears for many reasons. I feel as though I am losing ground on what I have accomplished over the past year and a half. I feel as though I am reverting back to that person who was so bound up and lost in the business world and so out of touch from her inner artist. I haven’t had a chance to work on the Mandala Madness course which has also made me sad and heartbroken. Ever After 2017 which I won a seat in has also had to take a backseat. This is only the first week of returning to the workforce and I feel like I have gone into mourning over the loss of a close friend.

I feel the color drain from me. I feel like the child handing over the final lesson where he has finally written his letters as he was instructed to write them, without any creativity. I feel like I’m in a world where all is repetitive, dull, grey and somewhere there stands the violinist in a tiny little spot, under a small colorful tree, which no one sees as they go about their day.

It is hard to move forward in the world when there is so much grey around you, reminding you, and discouraging you from creating your own colorful world. It can be like trying to break through a thick brick wall, to only have another brick thrown over the tiny hole you have created that gives you that tiny bit of hope that you are on the right path.

Taking small steps in order to be ready for the big steps…

I am unable to express in the right words how satisfying it is to create something with my own hands.

When a person is young, people like to ask them what it is they want to do or become when they are older. I would come up with all sorts of things. One time it was an archeologist. Another time a teacher. Another time a police officer. And another time it was a dancer. I never dreamed of going into computers. Back then they were new, not something anyone ever thought would be a common every day thing for most everyone to have in their home, let alone be able to carry around with them.

You might be wondering why I have gone off on this tangent after reading the first sentence. Hang in there. I’m getting there.

In school, I had three teachers make suggestions for what I could do with my life. The first was my typing teacher. She suggested being a secretary. That is what administrative assistants were called back then. Yes, I was good at typing and creating professional looking letters and documentation. The second teacher was my math teacher, he suggested either teaching math or getting into something math related. Yes, because math came easy to me. The third teacher was my art teacher. He suggested I use my talent as an artist and make a career out of it.

Though I didn’t set out to get into computers, the universe set me on that path, so it might appear I had followed my math teacher’s recommendation. In reality, I just grasped an opportunity when it presented itself. I can’t say it was a right or wrong decision or a poor or good decision. It just was what it was. IT served its purpose. It fed the analytical/logical part of me and provided well for me and my daughter.

There are various reasons why I chose that route. I could get experience and education in it by entering the Air Force. College wasn’t in the cards for me, so a business degree or art degree wasn’t possible at that time, neither was a computer science degree, so I opted for a way to gain experience and some education in a career field that would provide for me.

What my art teacher didn’t know was that for some reason while in his art classes, I felt the artist in me peeking out and at times brave enough to show herself. When not in those classes, she went back into hiding.

Throughout my subsequent years, I tried at times to pick up a pencil to draw but would always become frustrated within the first few minutes. I would then put it down and not pick it back up for years.

I satisfied my need to create with my own hands in other ways. I started teaching myself how to crochet after just learning a few stitches from my mother. Then I taught myself how to knit. When my mother or I bought something that needed to be put together I was right there, taking over, working together or doing it all by myself. I always felt like I had accomplished something when I was able to put whatever it was together. I got into jewelry making, even took a class in jewelry repair which I loved and was really good at it. I had dreams of designing and creating my own jewelry but I couldn’t afford the tools and supplies it would require. I also didn’t have the space or an area safe enough for the type of equipment needed. Knitting and crocheting became my way of filling my need to create, and it went in cycles because it wasn’t enough to hold my interest.

About three years ago, I decided it was time to awaken my inner artist. It is she that craves the need to create with her hands. I started watching youtube videos and discovered Zentangle, Zentangle Inspired Art, Doodling, Zendoodling, or whatever people want to call it. I am not a natural doodler. I have never been one to sit and doodle in meetings or when on the phone, or at any other time. Watching the videos, reading on Zentangle, and this type of art made me realize this might be the way for me to awaken my inner artist without having the frustration, fear, anxiety or whatever it is that kept me frozen whenever I would pick up a pencil to draw. It had structure which my logical mind craved.

My natural inclination when I draw is to draw exactly what I see.  Anyone who is an artist will know how impossible that is to accomplish. I’m a perfectionist, if my pencil stroke is not perfect then it is wrong and I’m an awful artist, is how I felt inside. I read articles, I watched videos on Zentangle and their philosophy is nothing is a mistake. Use pen/ink and you will eventually learn to accept every line you draw and no longer think of them as mistakes. And, you learn to incorporate them into your art. Boy, did I need that!

I started drawing, first just drawing the step-outs. Then incorporating them into abstract pieces using the idea of strings. For those not familiar with this idea, this is the only place you use a pencil other than to shade. Draw a random line, straight or curved or both, creating smaller areas that are then filled in with the patterns. I found a free website tanglepatterns.com which has hundreds if not thousands of patterns and their step-outs or links to other sites with the step-outs. This got me started and brave enough to try other things.

Tangles eventually progressed into mandalas. Mandalas eventually progressed into art journaling, then eventually into whimsical art or other classes where I could gradually improve my skills as an artist and learn to experiment with different mediums, eventually expanding into mixed media art.

If you have read my previous posts you will be aware that I am taking Mandala Madness a course in how to draw mandalas given by Barb Owen of How To Get Creative. I had already been drawing mandalas for over a year when I started taking this course. I wasn’t sure how much I would learn from it. The only reason I took it was I wanted to learn how to create a mandala on canvas. I have only painted on canvas once and it wasn’t to do a mandala. I love what I create so much that I wanted to be able to create a large one on canvas to hang in my home, so I signed up for the class.

I am absolutely amazed by how much I am learning in this class and we haven’t even gotten to the canvas part yet. Even if it wasn’t part of the class I feel I have already gotten my money’s worth and more. I rarely put color with my mandalas. I love them in their stark black and white. Now, I am falling in love with color too. Here is my latest:

I call it “Royalty”. This one is made using the technique shown by Barb in her free introductory videos for how to draw a mandala using a compass. If drawing mandalas interests you at all, have a look, give it a try. I think you will be surprised how easy it is. Barb is an excellent instructor. She takes her time explaining each step along the way. The only thing you need are the tools she mentions and an imagination or you can follow her detailed instructions to try and make one just like she does in the videos.

Getting here. Being able to create this with my own two hands after years of being away from art, is so satisfying to my inner artist. It is hard to describe. Over thirty years of having my logical analytical side listened to, fed and being forefront in my life, meant my creative side was suppressed, ignored, and not listened to.  It feels good to let her out to play.

I will admit. I feel freer to play when I sit down to draw mandalas because they include my rather ordered logical analytical side. Other things like drawing whimsical creatures are more of a challenge and aren’t something I find easy to just sit down and do without thinking a lot about it first. That includes art journal pages. Working intuitively is difficult for me, unless I’m working with mandalas. This is something I am only just discovering about myself.

So… when I feel challenged by something that makes me feel uncomfortable, I often find myself reaching for paper to begin drawing a mandala or to continue working on a mandala I have started. Seeing them develop gives me the courage to work on something that feels less comfortable, like the next lesson of Peter Pan and Wendy in Ever After 2017.

Speaking of Ever After 2017 the Peter Pan and Wendy lesson, it took me days if not a week or more to get the courage up to just start sketching. I finally did, and discovered I had some difficulty going small. I wanted to fill my page with the cityscape which would leave very little room for the rest of the elements in the painting. Here is my beginning sketch on 11″ x 15″ watercolor paper:

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You might find it difficult to believe that I could go bigger than this. Believe me, the first sketch was much bigger, and the clock tower’s tip was at the top of the page. I had first tried drawing it in landscape layout but decided to switch to portrait layout, even so it took me three tries to get to this point.  I think this is the size I want and I hope it works with the rest of the elements.

I find it interesting, with my love of geometric shapes, how it took me so long to begin sketching the cityscape. Obviously I’m still working on it, trying to get the angles right and the buildings in the way I want them. The overall project is quite daunting, so I’m trying to take it one step at a time. I may draw the other elements which come much later in the process first so I can be sure they will fit in with the cityscape as it is.

I just know if this had been my first attempt to get back into art instead of starting with tangles, I would have walked away and never picked up a pencil again to draw. I’m so glad I took the approach I did three years ago which allows me to try a lesson like this one and be able to handle the anxiety it generates. Getting to this point in the sketch really gives me a feeling of satisfaction, because I did it and didn’t quit.

Madness, I say, Madness and a cute little guy…

I’ve been working on two projects this week, or should I say two classes. One from Mandala Madness and the other from Ever After 2017.

I’ll start with Mandala Madness:

These mandalas were grown from planting a seed and are from classes 7 and 8. This isn’t the first time I drew mandalas from a seed, and probably not the first time I used colored ink to do so. It is, however, the first time I was able to have them come out looking like I used a grid and not just freehand. No grid was involved with the making of these mandalas.

Just for clarification, the bright pink along one side is the washi tape I used to hide the seam where they are connected to the hinge. They have already been mounted into a signature. I now have two complete signatures and can’t wait for the rest to be done so I can bind them into a book. Not sure I like the bright pink, but I can change that later if I want.

These pages are also pocket pages so I can slip in any loose mandalas I create that are small enough to slip inside. I love how these pages feel. They have substance to them. They are not flimsy pages by any means which means the end resulting journal will have some weight to it. I will most likely use heavy cardstock but more likely chipboard for the book cover so it will have the appearance of a hard cover book. If you haven’t guessed it already, I will most likely create a mandala on the front cover, maybe even the back cover.

I usually don’t talk about personal things here. I’m going to make an exception to that for a moment. First, I’m so grateful to Barb Owen for building these classes not just for all the things I’m learning in them but also because mandalas have been an integral part of my stress relief and anxiety release process. This class has helped me to remain sane through a difficult period which is riddled with so many challenges I can’t go into right now. I will mention one.

I experience daily pain in the wrist of my dominant hand. This pain increases with the use of pens or pencils or similar objects to create/write with. We have done ultrasound and x-rays which all indicate I have a very healthy bones, so the prognosis is possibly tendonitis. I see a physiotherapist today and hopefully they will give me some helpful information and suggestions. I mention this because making mandalas may come to a screeching halt. I may be required to give it a rest, which will mean no drawing, at least with my dominant hand. I’ve been practicing with my non-dominant hand but the results are less than satisfactory and mentally an unbelievable challenge to create just a straight line. I haven’t been able to bring myself to attempt a mandala with my non-dominant hand. It is too frightening to think about what it could come out looking like.

With that said, I have found certain mediums not so painful, watercolors for one, or water soluble products which require only a light touch with a wet brush to activate. Working on other projects/classes are not so pain ridden, though they can be if I’m not careful.

One of these is Ever After 2017 which I must say is challenging in many ways. The option I have contains style development classes too so it doesn’t just challenge me in regards to my artistic abilities. It challenges me to dig deep inside to discover the reasons why I create and what I like and don’t like about something I’m working on. I’m pushed to do things as close as possible to the instructor’s lessons even if I don’t like part of the lesson. That, however, was not the case with this little bonus lesson on creating a cute bear. I so love Tam’s style. She makes it easy to create “cute” and have fun doing it.

Cute Bear

Normally this isn’t something I would come up with on my own but she makes me wish I did with extreme frequency. I tend toward realism even when I try to be whimsical or characteristic in my creations. What I’m realizing is, I am very good at copying, or rather following an instructor’s lesson almost exactly even when it is something I don’t enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy creating this adorable little guy. I’m glad there was no collage involved. I would leave collage out of any lesson if I thought it would still come out looking great but some lessons are based on the collage. It isn’t the doing of the collage which I don’t like. It is just that I don’t have an abundance of pretty papers to use and I’m not great at selecting different patterns that will look good together. I lean more towards using old text pages from books because there is no risk of offending the eyes because of poor color and pattern choices. (Okay, yes, I love, I mean absolutely LOVE the look of text behind my artwork.) Yes, I know, working with colorful pattern paper in collage is something I need to work on which is why, for now, I do the collage when instructed to do so in a lesson.

Speaking of not having an abundance of pretty papers for collage. The one thing I’m learning from Barb (from her live streams) is how to create such pretty papers instead of buying them. Or altering those not so pretty pattern papers to make them gorgeous. She has often mentioned how she likes to make all the things she uses in her projects, including the pretty papers. Before I ever knew Barb existed and I had started on my art journey, I knew I wanted to create my artwork from only those things I created, excluding paints, mediums and the tools, such as paint brushes, and palette knives and so forth. What I mean is, pretty papers, stamps, stencils, stickers and so forth, I want to be all my own creations. I don’t want to have to worry about copyright infringement if someone would ever want to buy something I created, or if I wanted to market it in a print of some sort. Besides, there is something special about being able to say, “I made that completely with my own hands and every pattern is of my own making.”

So… if I’m given the directive later today to rest my dominant hand, meaning stop using it to the point of excruciating pain, then I may focus on creating pretty paper using my non-dominant hand which could make for interesting abstract designs seeing as how I can’t draw a straight line for my life with my left hand.

First lesson from Ever After 2017

Ever since I won a seat in the Ever After 2017 course organized by Tamara Laporte, I’ve been excited to get started. The course started July 1st, so you may wonder why it has taken me so long to complete the first lesson.

The seat I won included package 2 which includes style development. Tam takes her lessons very seriously and style development is no different. She provides a workbook that asks some very poignant questions. This is important for one who really wants to develop their own style. I’ve been lost about how to do this and after reading the first set of questions and working on answering them, I can understand why finding my own style has been a challenge.

I used to think of myself as a deep thinker but realized there are areas I haven’t even considered. Answering the questions wasn’t always easy. It took days for me to pick up a pencil and begin the first art lesson after answering those questions. It took even more days after the sketch was completed to add color. Every time I approach a page no matter what it is, I have to face my inner demons. Demons that were planted in childhood of not being good enough. It is funny how something as simple as vacuuming and dusting a living room and being criticized for it, can make one think they can’t do anything well.

It took me one day to create the main character sketch, and another day to add some sketches of the embellishments being planned. It took the same amount of days to add the color, collage and details. I finished it yesterday, the 16th. Sixteen days from when the course started.  Yes, I have done other artwork in those days as well. The other artwork helped to build my confidence up and bravery up to approach this page with paint.

I don’t think the feelings I have when approaching the page will ever completely go away. What I hope will happen is my confidence will increase over time and I will be able to push through the fear and hesitation more quickly so I can experience the joy of creating.

This page wasn’t without its trials and tribulations. One area in particular on the large bear gave me trouble because I chose a color that was not suitable and was almost impossible to cover up. I ended up using gesso which then became a challenge to get the mediums I was using to work over it. Yes, I had to improvise and choose a different medium to lay down something that would accept other mediums so it would hopefully blend seamlessly with the rest of the bear. In the end, I discovered I could do it and be happy with the result.

I am not a fan of collage but Tam’s instructions are to follow the instructor’s lesson as closely as possible in order to learn what you like and don’t like in order to discover and develop your own style. So… I did the collage. My materials for collage are few. I haven’t created a variety of stock to use for collage because early on I realized I wasn’t a fan of it. At the most, I do like to use collage on thinner paper to build up thickness so it would not disintegrate under wet mediums. In that case, I generally like to use text paper from old books.

Because this is a course one has to purchase I will not go into any more details of the lesson. If you want to learn more, check out Tam’s list of courses. All of them even the free ones are phenomenal in my opinion.

Goldilocks and the Three Compassionate Bears

This is my version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears lesson that is given by Tamara Laporte. I am thrilled with how it turned out. I finished the followup questions today which I realized I should have been considering and making notes on as I worked on this lesson. I think I remembered enough of my experience to answer the questions appropriately.

I would love to do this again but with just watercolor, and maybe I’ll try it or incorporate it into the last lesson for part 1 of the course. The last assignment of part 1 is to then take what you have learned from the instructor led classes and create your own. It is early to think about that right now. I have three more lessons in part 1 and a bonus lesson to do yet and it is already over half way through the month of July.

More watercolor facial studies….

In my last post I talked about the first watercolor facial study I did for a 21 Secrets class I took. Repeating the technique was not so easy on my next watercolor study which was focused on the nose, a feature I often have difficulty with. I didn’t have any left over skin tone mix from the first one, and several days had gone by, so the skin tones do not match.

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On the same day, I also worked on a study of the mouth, mostly just the lips.

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Several more days passed before I worked on the last one, which was the left eye. This one I actually worked on today. In the class, Jodi Ohl demonstrated both the dry method and the wet method for applying watercolor to the paper and though her wet method ended up very loose, mind did not.

right eye copy

I started all of them by wetting the paper first and then applying the watercolor. I will admit the perfectionist in me immediately started trying to control exactly where the colors went. If you haven’t worked with watercolor, then you don’t know how ridiculous that statement sounds. On this last one I tried to be looser than all the others ones and was not very successful. Loose technique in anything, just may not be my style. I’m working on it though. I’m better at loose technique when it is abstract.

After I completed my watercolor study today and it dried, I decided to see how all four of the pieces looked displayed together. Here is what it looks like:

collage 2 copy

She is a bit wonky but that is to be expected since I didn’t lay down all four pieces of watercolor paper and sketch her out first so all portions would be symmetrical. Even so, I like how they all look in a collage. I may mount them this way permanently but not sure at this time.

My next venture in watercolor? Maybe, I’ll try to do her whole face and see if she ends up looking anything like the reference photo.

~Patti