I can’t stop…

I’ve been working on my drawing for Life Book 2018 week one “Garden Fairy” lesson with Tamara Laporte. I wanted to go in my own direction with this which is why I’m taking my time. I am so in love with my first sketch I wasn’t sure if I wanted to paint it. This is my first sketch, which was done on watercolor paper.

IMG_1267If you read my previous post you would know I was working on trying to draw the dragon. I couldn’t get the body right so I chose to have him leaning over her shoulder. When I added his scales is when I finally connected with him. As I drew the girl, she just seemed to call out for elfin ears.

The above picture shows how I roughly sketched in flowers but they didn’t feel right to me. This lesson is about considering what we want to leave behind and what we want to bring forward with us. Taking this into consideration I knew I needed to change the flowers, so I worked more on my drawing.

I love drawing mandalas. Therefore, I want to continue bringing mandalas into my artwork so I erased the flowers and added a mandala. I have plans for the center of my mandala.

Tulips are my favorite flower. Last year, I saved some bulbs when some work was being done which caused several bulbs to be dug up. The person doing the work in our complex didn’t seem to care and left them all lying exposed so I gathered them up and replanted them. I wanted to honor this and it felt right to include a couple tulips in my sketch.

IMG_1271This is where I stopped while I considered what I wanted to do. Since my sketch was drawn on watercolor paper, I didn’t want to waste it with a graphite drawing so I decided to see if I could recreate it on a lighter weight mixed media paper. The next picture is my attempt to do just that.

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She isn’t exactly like my first drawing. She is close enough and I think she came out rather well. I’ll work on her some more later. For now, this is where I stopped with my second drawing.

I can’t stop drawing her. I pulled out my sketchbook where I was working out the drawing of my dragon and drew another sketch of her. This time with a worried or concerned look on her face. I’m trying to learn different facial expressions and since I seemed to be obsessed with drawing her it made sense to try a different expression.IMG_1275

Then I took out my other journal where I not only draw but also write. A few days prior, I had put down some backgrounds using acrylic paint, mostly just using a card or palette knife to scrape the paint around. I had no idea what I would put on these backgrounds. In my previous post, I wrote about the first background I worked on where I created a mandala.  IMG_1258

On another page, I tried creating a mandala using the dot technique with paint but that didn’t come out so well. I wasn’t going to show it here but after thinking about it, I decided to show it. First, because I wouldn’t be authentic as an artist to just show the “good” stuff. If someone reading this is struggling with their art, they should see that we all struggle and have moments where what we work on doesn’t come out the way we want it to or even passably good. And, that is OKAY. So here it is, including my thoughts I had put on the page.

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I might get better with practice, and maybe this would have looked better with a black background which is what I have seen in all the dot techniques used to create mandalas or other dot artwork. Creating dots is harder than it looks. I used different sized brush handles. Even so, one has to remember that with each dot created if you don’t replenish the paint between each dot the subsequent dot will be smaller. If you don’t use the same “pressure” the dots can be different sizes. I didn’t expect perfection and knew this would take some practice. I also learned that maybe I should also create guidelines, at least in the beginning until I become better at it. For now, this isn’t something I want to pursue, even with this small sampling I realized I just don’t enjoy making dot after dot after dot, which might be why I’m not a fan of stippling, though I do use it occasionally.

A day or so ago, I drew another one of my elfin girls on the third page. I drew her in pencil first, and then I went over the pencil with an Elegant Writer pen meant for calligraphy. In my testing of my pens to see if they would bleed when wet, I found I loved the effect when the ink from this pen became wet. I wanted to play around with this. Here is the results. I added a bit of white to her eyes and for highlights but other than that, the shading is from using a small wet brush to make the ink from the Elegant Writer bleed. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE HOW THIS TURNED OUT, so much so, I felt the need to write about it which is what brought me to writing this post.

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In regards to my previous drawings. I will eventually paint the first drawing that is on watercolor paper. The second that is on mixed media paper I plan to complete in graphite. I have a feeling I’m not done with drawing my elfin girl and expect she will turn up again and again. But… most of all, I have a love of INK and want to play more with it.

Other thoughts:

It may seem strange for me to still be working on week one of Life Book 2018. I see some people doing the lessons as soon as they are released. I started that way for Life Book 2017 which was fine if all I wanted to do was copy the lesson as close as I could with what was being taught. This worked well for the first half of the year. Starting a new job set me back a bit but I also realized, though I was learning by doing the lessons as they were taught, I needed to explore more on my own.

Copying exactly as a teacher instructs doesn’t allow for experimentation. It also doesn’t allow much for failures from making my own choices therefore I don’t learn what works and what doesn’t work. I don’t want to be copying a teacher’s styles and techniques my whole life so I need to learn what works or doesn’t work for me.

When I first considered Life Book as a course of instruction, I did so because I wanted to use art as a way to help me. It is hard to look at one’s life, thoughts and emotions and feel like one is out of control or felt as though they had wasted the majority of their life. I had so many feelings, not just about my past but what had transpired in the past few years, that I needed to find a way to process it all.

Most people who felt as I do or had gone through similar experiences would probably see a therapist. Believe me I considered it. However, when I was diagnosed with cancer and started the process of fighting it and recovery, I decided to see a therapist. I took my daughter with me for I felt she would benefit as well. This whole situation was terrifying to her. At no time during that session did I feel like this person would be able to help me or my daughter. I wasn’t expecting miracles in just one session but I did expect some effort on this person’s part to help us or to just give us an indication of how they might be able to help. In the end, the only thing we walked out with was the understanding that I was already doing what I needed to do. With this in mind I started looking into art as a way to help me do it even better. This is when I discovered Life Book.

I haven’t stopped with just Life Book. I look at other courses as well. I look at them to give me one of two things. Either they will help me learn how to art journal in a way which will help me work through my emotional journey, or they will help me increase my skills and gain further knowledge in various art techniques. The wonderful thing about Life Book is it does both and introduces me to a lot of wonderful teachers.

Last year, because my main focus was on just copying the art as close to exacting as I could, I didn’t learn as much as I had hoped to in the area of processing my emotions when working on my page. What I was processing was only the technical aspects of the techniques being taught. I wanted to change that. I didn’t want to do art, just to do art, I wanted to find ways to have my art and my emotions come together and express themselves on the page.

In consideration of this, I decided to chose a word for the year. I had never done this before. I decided to do this to see if it helped bring focus into my life and help provide direction. For 2018, I chose balance as my word for this year to try and bring more of a balance between the emotional art journey and the technical art journey. It also has the added benefit of helping me to focus on finding balance in all areas of my life.

Knowing this, I knew I couldn’t rush through my lessons. Let me explain something.

I have always wished I could think faster on my feet. Wishing it though has never resulted in it actually happening. Instead of wishing for it, I decided to understand myself better, which meant being honest with myself. I have no idea how people view me unless they tell me. During my life, I have had people tell me I am rather intelligent. While this might be true, I have to refrain from believing my inner critic when he/she tells me I’m not smart at all. After all, if I were smart I would think faster on my feet and be able to respond to people in the way I wish I could. That is if I would believe what my inner critic says.

I, however, have come to understand, First, I AM intelligent. Second, my intelligence demands that I take my time to consider what I know or don’t know, and sometimes if I need to know more, it requires research. Third, I am also not quick to understand my own emotions and sometimes it takes me a while to dig into them to understand what they are and what triggered them. Because of this, almost every situation I’m in, I am not quick to respond because my way of doing things is, first to understand what I am feeling, why I feel that way and to take time to think about it and not jump into quick conclusions or decisions. People wanting quick responses and quick answers get frustrated with me, and yes, I get the impression that they might think I’m dumb but this is because they do not know me and I don’t always think to say that I need to think about this before I answer. I will admit that sometimes I over think things, and sometimes it is difficult for people to understand why I need to think about something that should only require a simple answer.

There is no surprise that this is how I approach my own art. We are at the end of January and to know that week one has taken me four weeks and I’m still not complete isn’t a concern for me. In the past it might have been but that would have been before I took the time to do my own self-analysis to understand why I do things as I do or why I react to things as I do and so forth. Doing my own self-analysis doesn’t mean I am always right. In fact, there are times when I need to re-evaluate because something doesn’t add up to what I had previous thought about myself. There isn’t anything wrong with that and I am sure therapists are having to do this all the time with their clients. There is just no way someone can know everything there is to know about another person and besides, we humans whether we want to admit it or not, are changing all the time. I will be the first to admit that this is even true for myself.

I have no doubt there would be a lot of people who would argue this point. Their egos would want them to believe they know themselves implicitly. I love the part in The Matrix where Neo is told “Know thyself”. On one hand we already know everything there is to know about ourselves while on the other hand, we know absolutely nothing about who we really are.  Neo walks out of the room, so confused, believing he isn’t what people believe him to be. He doesn’t believe in himself. He doesn’t believe it until circumstances put him into a position where he has to reach inside of himself to be what he needs to be, proving to him that he has always had it inside of himself to be whatever he needs to be.

This is true for all of us. Sometimes what we need to be isn’t at all what we think we should be. It is no different for me in my art. I think my art should be realistic, not whimsical or even be mandalas. If someone had asked me back in high school what kind of artist I would be, I would have said my art would be ‘realism’. I had never heard of mandalas or at least I don’t remember hearing about them back then so I would not have even considered myself to be a mandala artist. And yet, that is what I have become. I also lean more towards whimsical at this stage which I would never have thought possible because back in high school I had trouble drawing anything from my imagination.

Why am I writing about all of this? First, because I need to explore the depths of these things for myself and writing is how I do that. Second, because this is just an example of how my mind works and why I am not quick on rebuttals or responses in various situations. I have to THINK about whatever it is that requires my response. My thought processes are not short. They can be long and involved and writing helps me to work my way through my thought processes.

I use the same process for my artwork. Consequently, I don’t expect immediate answers or results. I don’t sit down and immediately make decisions on what I’m going to create and then create it. Oh sometimes I do but most times like the Garden Fairy, I need to go through this process.

I knew when I first watched Tam’s Garden Fairy lesson that I would draw a female face but I knew it wouldn’t be a copy of the face she drew. I knew from my meditation that my animal would be a dragon. But that is all I knew. It took a while of thinking about my dragon to understand I didn’t want to copy a dragon I found online. To draw him took research of looking at various pictures then setting them aside to start sketching on my own and only referring to pictures once in a while to get shape and form properly in perspective. It took more contemplation on what I wanted to represent my garden.

The third reason I write about all of this is hopefully so other artists who are new to exploring their own abilities learn that there isn’t anything wrong with taking their time to complete a lesson. The wonderful thing about online classes, especially ones where you can download them or have lifetime access to them is this, you can do them in your own time, at your own speed and repeat them as often as you like AND do them in whatever form you want to do them in. Classroom instruction doesn’t give you this flexibility, nor do the online instructions which give you only a limited time access and no downloadable content. My advice especially for beginners is choose courses wisely and take advantage of YouTube’s free content.

I want to write about one other thing. I know this is getting long but after writing the above and having a break to go off and work and think about other things, I had this thought come to me. I don’t PHYSICALLY practice my artwork every day. I do THINK about my artwork EVERY day. If I’m not physically practicing, I am viewing other people’s artwork, reading about it or watching videos, or thinking about how I might go about doing some technique or trying different things. I might consider in my mind, what if, I do this, or what if, I do something else, or what if, I combine this and that. In my mind I’ll try and imagine what might be the result of doing that ‘what if’ and in some cases it might take me to my art table to see if what I imagined is in fact what happens. Most times though I’m thinking about sketching or painting, especially watercolor and how I blend, or push the paint around. In my mind, I’m creating a number of art pieces.

Here is where some people might consider me crazy, but it is a proven fact that athletes do improve from just meditating on running or doing whatever physical activity they want to do more than if they just practice it physically. I believe this is also true for artists. If it weren’t true then I could never explain how I improved in my portrait sketches after months of not physically doing any drawing and only thinking or using my imagination and creating sketches mentally. So don’t underestimate the power of the mind. If you don’t have the time to physically do the work, I bet you have plenty of mentally free time where you can do the work in your imagination. Waiting in lines at the grocery store for instance, or waiting in a doctor’s office when you don’t have a small travel pack of art materials to play around with. Or waiting in traffic. Or walking the dog. I could go on and on. My point here is I probably create more in my head than I do in physical substance and there isn’t anything wrong with that. In fact,  I believe it is key to learning and becoming a better artist. I just can’t stop…  I do it all the time, sometimes even in my sleep.

What do you think? Let me know. Or just write a comment to let me know you were here and read my post.

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.