Category Archives: art diary

Looking back and what’s next?

Sometimes it can feel like you’re not making any progress as an artist. Practice is slow and improvements can seem to take forever, if at all. So it can nice to look back occasionally and see just how far you have come. So this New Year, I  am taking a few moments to look back on my progress and achievements and putting some thought into what I would like to see happen in the year to come.

"All the blues"" colour pencil on paper 41x29cm

“All the blues”” colour pencil on paper 41x29cm


My year started in chaos. We moved house and my precious pencils were packed away and left untouched for a month! I felt incredibly anxious to get back to the drawing table. I suppose some part of me was afraid I would lose momentum and neglect my art for another 10 years! But I shouldn’t have worried. “All the blues” was my first full piece for 2016, and I loved it! This piece went on to become my profile picture for my burgeoning social media pages and was the first piece I uploaded to my Redbubble page to be made available as prints.

 


I picked up a paintbrush! After many failed attempts in the past, I took just one more shot. I hurt my wallet and bought some quality oil paints and started painting fruit on cheap canvas pads. For the first time in my life the paint did what I wanted. Each painting has been a bit better than the last and I am keen to paint more.


In March, I saw one of my pieces published in the gallery section of Colour pencil magazine. This was huge for me! I made sure I bought a paper copy of that month’s issue, you can’t just download something like that!


spilled bouquet 29x41 colour pencil

spilled bouquet 29×41 colour pencil

In November, I saw one of my drawings voted to be the banner for the Colored Pencils, Graphite & Pastels Facebook group. I see so many amazing works of art posted to that page, I was humbled to see my piece gracing the top of their page for a month!

 

 


In May, I took a massive leap of faith, strapped my iPhone to a plank of wood and uploaded my first YouTube video. I have since upgraded to adding voice overs and I am constantly learning new editing techniques. With 15 videos now created, I have managed to consistently upload videos fortnightly and I am really enjoying the process.


And finally, in March I opened up my own little corner of the internet and started this humble blog. Although it is a little neglected, I have thoroughly enjoyed taking the time to write about my journey.

Looking back, this year has seen some HUGE leaps for me. I am quite proud of many of the colour pencil pieces I produced and never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how much progress would be made. It would seem that all the time and efforts have made quite an impact and this is very reassuring for the future.

So whats next?

Well, I am very excited to keep working on that YouTube channel. Recording my work is hard work and time-consuming, but it is so much fun and I really hope that I can inspire others to create through it.

I have purchased Scott Christensens Paint the ocean course. I live so close to the water, but I have had no success in painting it. I cant wait to use some of those scenic photos on my phone for reference, and apply some of his techniques to create my own water filled landscapes

I hope to learn to be a better salesperson. The more art I can sell, the more time I can dedicate to my passion ( instead of dedicating time to that dreary retail job!) While I have that redbubble site, I feel very self conscious in letting people know it is there. I need to learn how to feel comfortable in marketing myself.

On the topic of sales, I will soon be setting up shop for original artwork. While I do occasionally sell pieces through Facebook, I have not set up a dedicated platform for sales. I have no idea how to do this…. but like so many things this past year,  I will learn.

I am so excited to see what opprtunites 2017 will bring. I hope I to create even better art and more and more of it. Bring it on!

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what will be the first piece of 2017

 

 

 

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Getting my own reference pictures

So, I admit… I have been somewhat lazy in the past when it comes to reference images for my artwork. I am a huge fan of photo sharing sites like Paint my photo. com  and I certainly don’t mind paying for the super high quality of the photos found on wildlife reference photos.com. I often turn to sites like these when I’m looking for inspiration.. or when I have a “Great idea” which i need to research further.

However, relying on outside sources for reference photos can be very limiting. When I have a great composition in mind, and no one has taken a photo that fits what is in my mind…  ugh!! well it can be extremely frustrating, and I can waste hours searching for the right image.

I recently purchased a DSLR camera, which I intended to use mostly as a video camera for YouTube. Although the camera is doing a fabulous job so far, it does seem like a waste of a rather nice (and reasonably expensive!) camera to relegate it solely to this task.

Small problem… the last SLR camera I used took film, and I only used it for a few months with  black and white film for a photography class. This new camera came with a thick booklet, and WAY too many buttons; and once again I leave myself in a position of having no idea what I’m doing.

So I have been watching videos and reading magazines and trying to get my head around this thing so I can get out and document some of the things that inspire me. My daughter and I went for an early morning trip to my local beach to see what we could do. A local bushfire gave the morning light a strange red cast, but we both got some great shots to add to my big book (file)  of reference photos.

That afternoon I set up a still life with a wine bottle, glass and some fairy lights and fired away. It took some efforts to get the look I wanted. My black glass table stared again, and with the help of a stereo speaker, my iPhone torch and a bottle of ajax to prop things up, I had some great successes (and many, many, many failures) getting the right reference for my next colour pencil piece.

Ooooh, the opportunities this opens up for me! I can’t wait to get out and take as many photos as I can!

But, what does it mean???

Ugh, the big questions!!

So many great pieces of art come with considerable meaning attached to them. The teachers and historians explain with great detail the significance of each element of the piece and how the artist was trying to tell some great story, highlight a social issue, or depict their own personal struggles.

And so many artists have impressive stories to tell!  They have seen something in the world and they wish to show their vision through their art. These artists are story tellers. Sometimes it is the good and sometimes it is the bad, but these artists hold a mirror up the world and demand that we LOOK!

I always quietly wished I was one of these artists. I wanted to have some huge, important story to tell as I handed over my pieces for assessment at school.  I wanted to be able to stand up and hold my art to the world and say  “This means something!!” However I have never found it to be in my personality to intentionally create art for this purpose, and at times this has made me feel like “less” of an artist.

I certainly have my own share of personal demons, and I see so many things in the world which I think demand a closer look. But I am not as bold as those story tellers. While I see plenty of stories to tell, my personal approach to life is quieter and much more optimistic. While the storms of life rage on, I take time to look for the little things, the pretty things, the millions of tiny wonders that surround me every single day. While the daily news jabbers in the background telling me to be afraid, and the thousand pressures of modern life try to grind me into submission, I try to shift my focus to studying a bee working on a flower or breathing in the colours of the afternoon light.

Now I am older, I understand that my outlook on the world IS the meaning behind my art! The two concepts are inseparable.  I want the people who see my art to stop for a moment and appreciate the little things; for example, the way the light shines through an onion skin like a stained glass window, or the moment a frog is balanced precariously amongst the flowers.  I want to hold up that artists mirror and show you magnificent things and uplifting moments! If I don’t achieve this lofty goal, I hope that my art gifts the viewer  a brief moment in their day to let go of the stresses of the world and rest their mind upon something beautiful. That is more than enough meaning for me.

Love, hate and every feeling in between

 

Every single piece of art I create sends me on an emotional roller coaster.

It starts with the inspiration! The adrenaline rush and excitement that comes with the new idea! Yes!! this is a great idea!! This is the most amazing reference photo! This will be the BEST thing I will ever make! Yayyyyy!! I write these ideas down, make a sketch, or find and file reference images. This is the top of the hill at the start of the ride.

Sometimes the idea stops right here at the planning stage… The excitement builds up, I get on with my daily chores, go to work, head to bed full of enthusiasm for my next project… Then by the time I wake up and look at what I have planned… It suddenly doesn’t inspire anymore. Sometimes the ride just stops and everyone gets off.

For the pieces that retain my interest, I am held at the top of the ride. Before I set to work, I need to prepare. I need to get on top of my housework, because I know my art will hold my attention for the next few days and the washing pile will be left ignored. I need to prepare my space, make sure I have the tools, I may need to purchase some supplies. I take the time to draw out my image; measuring, comparing, laying down the skeleton of the piece…I am at the top of the ride, anticipating the moment I can start.

When I finally set to work, I immediately plunge right down to the bottom of the ride. “Oh no, what have I started? I can’t do this! I don’t have the skills… this is too hard?”  the first layers of any drawing always look like crayon or scribble. My colour choices seem ridiculous. I doubt that I can ever build it up into something that passes for art. My hand tightens up and the self-doubt is crushing. This is the biggest dip in the ride. When I was younger many pieces ended at this point, but experience has taught me to hang on tight.

The first  rise comes when the initial section starts to look complete… I usually start with the eyes so I can reach this hill faster. A well drawn eye breathes  the first life into the piece.. and I can start to see how it just might turn out right. “Yes!! I can do this”

And so it goes over the whole drawing,  as I finish and start each section…

I can do this,

No I can’t

I Iove it, this is turning out GREAT!!

I hate it, It’s all going wrong!!

love it,

hate it,

love,

hate.

Up and down around the roller coaster. Until the finish is in sight. And I can settle on my  feelings toward the piece as a whole, good, bad or indifferent..

I have had a good run of late, many of my drawings have turned out better than I expected. They truly are the BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE!! and the ride leaves me on a glowing high point.  But I don’t feel that way this week. I like my giraffes, they have pretty faces they are fairly accurately drawn …but it is not the BEST thing I have ever done… and it leaves me feeling a little in between.

I wish I had chosen a different paper. I wish I had spent more time planning the composition. I wish I was able to put down more layers of colour before the paper would take no more. To be brutally honest, this ride has left me a little disappointed.

However this ride is not over, and it never really will be over. Now the drawing is complete I will put it away in its folder, post the images and the video. I will see this drawing many times, and each glance will bring me back to the ride. Today I feel deflated, however in a month, or a year I could feel very differently.Time and distance from the project sometimes allows the love to come back into it. I will see the things I did right, and I will probably judge the flaws less harshly or at least appreciate the lessons I have learned from those mistakes.

Why do I do this to myself?

This battle between expectation and ability is one of the things I love most from practicing art…  I suppose I must like roller coasters

 

The effort starts to show.

Art has always been a part of my life in one form or another… it is only recently that have I intentionally made time to practice and improve my results.

It has become a borderline obsession. Some part every single day of the past 2 years, is spent studying my craft. If I am not working on a larger, complete piece, I am scrawling away in my sketchbook,  watching other artists on YouTube, reading books on the old masters, or just spending the time to take in my surroundings and mentally decide which colours I would use and how I would depict the scene.

I have noticed a change in the way I see the world, yes I mean an actual change in my visual perception of the world. Colours are brighter and shadows are deeper and the highlights are brilliant.  I see the way light bounces around objects, light bouncing inside shadows, the reflexion and refraction of light through a body of water… Of course my eyesight hasn’t improved (If anything, it’s getting worse as I age!!) but with practice I have learned to notice more of these little things that build up our visual world. I suppose it’s a bit like physical excercise, constant flexing of my perceptual muscles has made them stronger!

To test out these new muscles, this week I intentionally chose a subject that has been very difficult for me in the past. I have never before drawn a tiger I was happy with. All those stripes and the changing colours of the fur has always left me stumped, but having noticed a great improvement in my work lately, I thought I would “tackle the beast”again.

This time I can say I am truly happy with the results… There are a few areas I would have liked to do differently (but there always are) but overall I am proud to say this is one of mine. The image for this post shows the result of 19 months of solid, dedicated and deliberate practice. Judging by the difference, I can say that I cant wait to see what I can do 19 months from now!!

(here is the video I made of the recent tiger drawing. Learning to video as i work… now thats a whole new ball game!! more to come )

 

 

Can you draw me a……?

The answer is usually YES!! (well for a fee)

Call me a fool, but I really enjoy taking on commissions. I know it can be a touchy subject for some artists, and commissioned work can certainly present a minefield of difficulties, but I find generally find I enjoy the challenges that come with accepting the work.

Accepting a commission always kind of feels like sitting for a test. I spend time most days working to improve my artistic skills, where I get to draw what I like, when I like. However taking on requests is a challenge to my skills. Now my family can tell you that I can be quite obstinate, and very competitive, especially with myself. So when a client hands me a reference and that little creeping  voice of self-doubt says “Can I really do that?” I cant help but to jump straight in and try to conquer whatever challenge has been laid before me.

My favorite pieces are portraits. Especially when I am given a reference photo that shows the personality of the subject/s. A big brimming smile, a gesture or characteristic moment allows me to create something really special. Clients will usually tell the story behind the reference photo and I spend so much time pouring over the details in these drawings, that I feel I get to know these people in some way. The real magic happens when I can get a result that really shows the heart of the subject.

Another favorite challenge is when I am presented with an idea for a piece that I would never have considered on my own. The picture on this post is an example one of these pieces. A client requested a black and white piece with a tree theme. It’s a great idea!! And it is something that I would never had considered without the suggestion. After about a week of searching for images and consulting with my client, we decided to do this bark and fungi. The textures were quite challenging and the values in the reference were a little difficult to work with, but in the end the client  receives a nice piece, and I had learned a few new tricks along the way. Win, win!!

Now there are always issues that pop up.. Terrible reference photos, a difficult client who wants impossible last minute changes and of course the occasional non paying customer.. All of which are annoying, and can be extremely stressful. But like all things in life, I look for my gains, instead of my losses To me, the chance to learn and grow as an artist makes commision work fun and worthwhile.

 

What’s my “style”?

I am struggling!!!

It’s been over a month since I claimed this little corner of the internet, and I still have not found a way to describe my artwork for the “about” page of this site.

I’ve never had to describe my art before. I just think something that might make a pretty picture,  pick up a pencil and dive straight in!  I have spent hours looking over pictures of my pieces, looking for points of similarity or something that would be described as “my style” but for the life of me, I just can’t see it!!

I spend a lot of time looking at other people’s artwork, and so many of them have a distinctive style. I find that I know who did the piece before I even see the name. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help but find myself feeling a little jealous of people who have found themselves a unique and recognisable approach to their artwork.

Me, I just can’t sit still enough to create such a body of work.  I love to draw using my colour pencils, and they are my favorite medium. However I quickly become bored of doing the same thing, day in day out. I tire of doing similar subjects. I love to draw portraits, but doing them everyday would become a mindless chore. I love drawing animals and birds, but they can only hold my attention for so long. I enjoy the challenge of realism, but it can be tedious and time consuming to analyse and render the details. Sometimes I just want to draw for fun, without reference or with consideration of accuracy.

For example, after last week’s experiments with oil paints,  this week I have found myself playing with my copic markers in my sketchbook. While my colour pencils sit lonely in their box upon the shelf. Of course all these different mediums result in a different style of artwork! I never try to be anything more than cartoonish with my markers! attempting realism with these wild and free creatures would send me into an uncontrollable tail spin of frustration and tears.

All this chopping and changing means my artwork always looks different to me than the piece I did yesterday. Maybe it is a case of being unable to see the forest for the trees, but from where I stand, I couldn’t tell you what my style actually is! I am going to keep working on a description for the sake of this page.. but for all my searching, so far the only thing I could tell you, is that I really seem to like the colour blue.