Despite being a mini lesson, it still took me all week to get around to completing last week’s Let’s Face It lesson. The tutorial was taken by Angela Kennedy and the focus was on drawing and painting a variety of hair styles. This is something I have been pondering myself lately as I have noticed I tend to draw and paint hair the same two or three ways over and over. Therefore, with my 100 Faces series over on my other blog I have been trying to illustrate a wider variety of hair styles. Following advice from one of my kids, who knows I know nothing about hair or style, I have been eyeball stalking people’s hairdos for inspiration.
Kennedy’s demonstration was in simple ink pen and watercolour. This was very welcome since I was super short on time. I decided to challenge myself to work small so cut four 3X4.5″ pieces of watercolour paper. Having four little oblongs of paper in front of me made me think of either the four elements or the four seasons and so I plumped for using the latter as a theme. I used the hair of each face as a practice for a particular watercolour technique. Spring, therefore, has a wash of one colour with more concentrated areas of the same colour added in wet on wet; Summer has a concentrated wash of one colour and then I dropped water in to dilute and puddle the paint in some areas; Autumn has a wash of one base colour and then I painted two further colours on top of that base; and Winter was a wash of watercolour with table salt sprinkled into the wet paint. I was rather rushed and impatient when it came to painting the faces and experienced some bleed between colours by not ensuring one was dry before adding the next colour. It was a risk I knew I was taking yet still hoped to avoid. Working small and in a rush was perhaps not the best circumstance. Having blank space beneath the heads, I took that as an opportunity to practice my watercolour lettering again.
PS I had not removed all of the salt from the Winter piece before I photographed it as I found some patches were still a bit too damp.
This week’s Colour Me Positive theme was Opportunities. I did not have a clear idea for my page but I knew I only had a brief chunk of time in which to work in my art journal this week so I just set about laying paint down on the page and seeing what emerged. Somehow I feel better able to work intuitively in my art journal in a way that I just can’t with other, more focused art projects. I am still getting to know the Dylusions paints so I thought it would be a good idea to play with those. What I discovered was that, while the paints are wonderfully vibrant and bold, they don’t layer easily. Unless applied really thickly, the previous layer shows through too much. I also discovered that the white sucked up pigment from the previous layer. I still really like how thickly textured they are and how strong the colour is but it is useful to know the limits of these paints. Anyway, I just kept painting and printing and drawing and seeing what emerged which turned out to be a female face with a long trail of hair sweeping vertically up the page. It still had nothing to do with opportunities, of course, so I decided to chuck a quotation on the page – lines from a short poem by Emily Dickinson – using a Posca paint pen.
The subject of this week’s Let’s Face It lesson was a flower goddess. The lesson was taken by Ady Almanza who had also taught the lesson on drawing an older face. We are still working on full profiles on the course and I am finding it to be the most challenging so far. Somehow I throw out all the proportions and angles when I draw a face in full profile. I did not make any progress in that regard with this painting. Profiles continue to be my portrait nemesis. Almanza demonstrated a nifty way to use gesso to create the texture of the hair. While it was a technique I found effective, I think the rest of my painting is a bit flat by comparison so there was a bit of a disconnect there. If profiles are one art nemesis, painting flowers are another. As per the spirit of the lesson, I painted flowers and leafy vines into the hair – and instantly hated them. I think I actually might paint right over the top of them.
There were two bonus lessons this week for Life Book. The first was a sort of pep talk by Jeanne Oliver. My take away from her talk was that it made me think about setting my goals for next year, about decompressing in order to make more space for myself, about prioritising creativity within my free time, and it was also a reminder that acts of self care ultimately help me continue investing in my husband and kids – one cannot pour from an empty cup after all – so I need to quit feeling guilty for choosing art over dusting.
The second bonus lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte and was about using a more painterly approach. This is something I struggle with. Frankly, learning to paint (as opposed to draw) has been a steep learning curve for me. While I have come on in leaps and bounds from where I started – and I no longer state that I CAN’T paint – I still tend towards a more illustrative style of art. That is my default, my comfort zone, and is what I have the most successful outcomes with. However, I am always up for a challenge and it is by pushing myself out of my comfort zone that I grow the most. I decided to give myself an additional challenge of painting a face with a darker skin tone than I usually paint.
I have had this idea for a while for hair to act as a sort of halo. I have been using metallic discs and elements in quite a few of my paintings and a a few people have commented that these paintings are reminiscent of icons. Since this Life Book lesson was pretty open to possibilities, it seemed like a good time to try out my idea. I must admit that I found it tricky to work with the darker skin tones, specifically finding a midtone to balance the highlights and shadows. Using the more painterly approach, I was blending the paint on the paper and that meant I had to work quickly. That was good for getting me out of my head a bit, getting me to work a bit more instinctively than I normally would, but it was a contributing factor in my struggle to get the skin tones right. I still like the idea of this piece but I need to try it again.