Girl in Grey and Gold

Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Kara Bullock.  The focus of the lesson was on rendering flesh tones in tones of grey and then introducing a pop of a single colour.  Again wanting to meld the lesson content with my own illustrative style, I drew from my imagination rather than using any reference material.  In doing so, I notice that my faces all tend to look pretty similar. I am not sure whether that is a good thing or not: does it signify that I have a strong style or does it indicate that I am stuck in a rut?  I chose yellow for my contrasting colour.  I thought it would complement the grey and add brightness to a painting that is otherwise very dark.  I find it difficult to resist metallics so I introduced some gold elements in the headpiece and around the neckline.  I enjoyed rendering the face in monochrome but I definitely need to work on making the faces I draw more varied.

Week 18 Flesh Tones in Greyscale

Sugar Skull Face

Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Karine Bosse who had previously taught a lesson that led to me painting a Mermaid portrait.  As with Bosse’s previous lesson, the medium was watercolour but this time the subject was a Sugar Skull / Calavera portrait in 3/4 profile.  I was really pushed for time and also did not have all the materials Bosse demonstrated so I improvised a bit and reduced the number of layers and steps involved in the project.  For instance, instead of creating a more patterned background I used a wash of watercolour sprinkled with salt to create some texture.  Especially given how little time I had to invest in this piece, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Week 17 Sugar Skull

Portrait in Chalk Pastel

Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was again taken by Ivy Newport but this time the subject was the creation of a 3/4 portrait using chalk pastels.  I have not used chalk pastels for a long time, a very long time in fact.  My set are over 26 years old and I think they only made the cut to cross the Atlantic with us for nostalgic reasons because I never think to use them.  I learned fairly early on that I have little aptitude with pastels and I am also too messy an artist to not smudge and smear them while working with them without intense concentration and a great deal of frustration.  I, therefore, procrastinated over this lesson until I finally decided to just give it a go.  My compromise was to not even attempt a realistic portrait but instead use the pastels as the medium for an illustration.  I sketched the drawing out in charcoal before adding colour in the charcoal and that helped me a bit.  Nevertheless, my drawing is a bit wonky with regard to the foreshortened eye.  I had real problems layering the pastel beyond two layers: blending the next layer just seemed to scrub up the previous layers.  I also have nothing smaller than the medium sized chunks of pastel so that made it tricky to add small areas of pigment or small details to the piece.  I determined to not even attempt to create a realistic hair colour so I went with blue hair simply because I had five different shades of blue in the set of pastels.  I must admit that the drawing turned out better than I expected (because my track record with chalk pastel is pretty dire) but this lesson confirmed that pastels are really not my thing.  At least I tried though.  Maybe I will try again a decade from now.

Week 16 Pastel Portrait Illustration

Older and Wiser

Aging has never been something that bothers me.  I am quite happy to confide my true age to anyone who cares to ask.  I have always been a tomboy scruff who never wears cosmetics beyond the once-in-a-blue-moon lipstick and eye shadow if I am going somewhere super fancy so I most definitely look my age.  My hair is streaked with grey.  My kids’ friends sometimes comment on it because, of course, most mothers my age dye their hair.  I explain that those are my silver wisdom stripes because, as we all know, older goes hand in hand with wiser.  This past week, two of my kids had birthdays.  One turned 9 and my oldest turned 13.  That means I am now the mother of a teenager.  I am embarking on a whole new phase of my life but that is cool.  I am the middle-aged mother of a teenager.  I embrace it.

This week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Ady Almanza.  The purpose of the lesson was to paint an older female face.  This is something I definitely need practice with.  I last painted an older female face when I produced the Gaia piece and I think I did much better with that piece.  I think what I have ended up with is, at best, a middle-aged female face.  Definitely an area of people drawing and painting that still needs work then.

Week 15 Older Female Face

Charcoal Drawing of a 3/4 Face

This week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Ivy Newport and was about using charcoal to draw a loose portrait.  Charcoal is a medium I am very comfortable with.  I used it more than any other material when I was attending weekly Life Drawing classes back in Argyll.  Of course, at life drawing I tended to draw the bodies and avoid drawing the faces so just being very familiar with the material did not mean I would find the lesson easy.  I decided to draw within a time limit in an attempt to keep me loose and also because I only had the time in which I had brownies baking in the oven free for art time.  Nevertheless, the drawing got tighter than I would have hoped.  I think that because I was not working from a reference image (which Newport was doing in the tutorial) I had to lay down too many “finding” lines to construct my charcoal sketch and that led to it being too much about line and shape than it being about light and shade.  At least I managed to create a softer face than my last effort for his course.

Week 13 - Charcoal Three Quarter Portrait

Girl with Flame Hair

Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Iris Fritschi-Cussens.  One of the things I really like about Iris’ lessons is that she approaches art in a way that enables one to take either a more painterly or a more illustrative approach and to find a way to mesh the methodology she demonstrates with one’s own style.  It seems to me to be an extension of her attitude that each of us should accept where we are with our skill level and style and embrace and develop that instead of crippling our creativity with unrealistic expectations, to just experience the joy of creativity and not be concerned with a wider audience.

The idea behind this lesson was to playfully create an interesting background and then paint a 3/4 facing portrait on top of it.  I decided, however, to twist the idea a bit and to make the background become part of the foreground: all my painting, spatter and mark-making in the background was painted around to form the negative shapes of the clothing, the hair, and the irises of the eyes.  I quite like the effect and might continue to explore this approach to negative space painting.  The face I am less happy with.  I seem to be prone to drawing my figures with a strong jawline and heavy chin.  Of course, Rossetti did likewise so perhaps I should not worry too much about drawing and painting more delicate features.  I think she has a bit of a 1930s vibe to her.  Still, I think I did a better job with Iris’ previous lesson.  What I have enjoyed with both lessons is using the Stabilo All pencil to create a dark but smudgy outline.  I think that helps me merge painting with my illustrative style of drawing, makes the paintings more “me”.

Week 12 - Three Quarter Portrait over Background


3/4 Face Mapping

The focus of the Let’s Face It lessons changed this week from front facing portraits to 3/4 facing portraits.  For the first lesson on the theme, Kara Bullock demonstrated how to map a face at that angle.  The assignment for this week was to use pencil to draw a 3/4 face.  I am actually fairly comfortable drawing a face at that angle.  Where I need practice is with full profile or close enough that the nose breaks the cheek line and also where the head tilts either upwards or downwards.  That is not to suggest, however, that I do not need any practice at all because of course I do.

It was suggested that we use a photograph as the scaffolding for our drawings.  As I am not comfortable using photographs taken by others, I contemplated looking online for a vintage (and, therefore, copyright free) photograph to use – as I had done for a similar lesson on front facing portrait – but in the end I decided to challenge myself to draw a portrait from my imagination, striving for greater realism than with the faces I drew earlier in the course.  I am fairly happy with the face as a drawing but I think I went a bit wild creating the “bohemian” hair and lost the underlying shape of the head a bit in doing so.  The face actually reminds me of someone but I cannot quite put my finger on who.

Week 11 - Three Quarter Face Mapping

Girl with Golden Disc – Finding my own Style

I have been experimenting with mixed media for over a year now which has involved trying new things, different approaches to creativity and unfamiliar media.  This has necessitated me trying to find my own style when working with those media and tools.  I am also now a third of the way through the Life Book course.  Being exposed to different tutors with their diverse styles and differing approaches to creating art has also meant trying on new styles.  It is a case of seeing what fits and what doesn’t, which approaches mesh with my own style and artistic taste and which don’t work so well for me.

I have been finding that when I get the most frustrated with attempting something new it is either because it is pushing me way out of my comfort zone – which can yield positive results – or it is because that style or approach just doesn’t connect with me so effectively.  When I am at all disappointed in my response to a Life Book lesson, I have to take a step back and figure out why.  I have to ask myself which elements I like – perhaps a colour scheme or some mark making – and what aspects are leading me to feel “meh” about the piece.  I am coming to the realisation that working intuitively is not successful for me because I always get back inside my head.  I am just too much of a control freak to let go to the required degree.  What I am, therefore, attempting to do now is find the balance between being intentional and then being playful within the parameters of what I am aiming to do.  I am also accepting the fact that my natural style is that of an illustrator.  Whether I am at the whimsical or realistic end of the spectrum, I default to a more illustrative approach rather than a painterly one.  That is completely fine by me.  It is a style I enjoy and it is where my strengths are as an artist.  All the practice with acrylic, however, is definitely helping me hone my skills with that medium.  I still have a long way to go but I have come on in leaps and bounds since starting the Life Book course.

I have, therefore, decided that – as and when time allows – I am going to revisit some of the Life Book lessons and see how successful I am at adapting them to my own style and to my own approach, meaning that balance between intentional and intuitive.  The first one I decided to revisit was actually a recent one, a lesson by Tamara Laporte on intuitive portrait painting.  My control freakery had completely asserted itself during the painting process and my style was, therefore, far too tight and rigid as a result.  I reflected on the resulting painting and analysed what worked and what did not work.  I liked the composition with the head on the right side of the paper and I liked the circular “halo” around the head.  I also liked the 3/4 facing portrait and the use of drips and splatters.  What I did not like was the hair or the geometric shapes.

I, therefore, used the elements that I had found to be successful and ditched the rest.  I wanted a more muted, neutral colour scheme so I went for browns but mixed with metallics – bronze and gold – and I worked as intuitively as I could manage on the background of the left hand side by dripping and splattering, my concession to a lack of control.  I allowed the spatter to continue into the hair of the figure in order to unify the two sides of the piece.  I am much happier with this version.  It is much more “me”.

Girl with Golden Disc A - Full

Girl with Golden Disc B - Close Up -

Girl with Golden Disc C  - Face


Primavera – or control freak painting

Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte.  The aims of the lesson were to paint a 3/4 portrait, use black and white against bolder colour and use contrasting shapes within the piece.  Another aim of the lesson was to paint intuitively, to go with the flow and do whatever comes instinctively with the media you have to hand.

I enjoyed the practice of drawing the 3/4 portrait, getting the angles right, practicing blending some skin tones again.  My style of drawing people still leans towards the illustrative but that is OK.  That is clearly just my style.  I wish I had made the hair a bit fuller and more fluid, more Pre-Raphaelite rather than the straggly hair I have painted.  I think I found all that stark black too intimidating and tried to keep it to a minimum but I should have just gone with it and been bold.  I do like the use of the white circle around the head and then the contrasting zig zag of triangles at the edge of the paper to tie the two sides of the composition together.

In terms of intuitive painting, I failed big time.  The one intuitive element for me was really the colour choice.  My mind is clearly on Spring as I went with shades of green and then pops of bright pink in a floral design using the dots that I enjoy doing so much.  However, you can see just by looking at the finished painting that I have been far too rigid.  My mark making is too crisp.  This – in short – is what it looks like when a total control freak attempts to paint intuitively.  I think I may well add this to the list of lessons to come back to towards the end of the year long course to see if I have progressed, in this specific case to see if I have become freer and looser.  Happily this week’s lesson is all about very quick, intuitive painting which sounds like just the lesson I need.

Week 15 - Black and White - Contrasting Shapes - Angled Profile