It may have taken me a week to view and then work through the final lesson of the Let’s Face It course but I got it done and, therefore, despite having skipped a few lessons, have completed the course. I feel a mixture of accomplishment and relief. I feel relief because trying to stay on top of all my art commitments while solo parenting and working has become a bit of a source of pressure, another thing to cram into my already bulging schedule. But mostly I feel like I have achieved something by undertaking and completing this course over the past 12 months. When I compare the faces I was painting in January with those I am painting now, I definitely think there has been an improvement in my ability to construct faces – still a lot of progress to be made but definite steps in the right direction. I have also learned a few more techniques and approaches with painting and mixed media to keep experimenting with and developing.
This then is my response to the final lesson of the course. I thought I would share a few progress shots since I actually remembered to take some for once. I can see that the eyes started off slightly different sizes, a flaw that was magnified as I added each new layer so that finally the eyes have ended up pretty wonky. Otherwise, however, I am fairly happy with this painting so I get to end on a positive note.
Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Kara Bullock and amazingly – thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday – I was able to start and complete the piece within the span of one day. The purpose of the lesson was to draw a full figure in a seated position with the face and hands particularly prominent in the piece. As I am prone to do, I deviated from the lesson a little in order to a) save time and b) make it more me, but I used most of the techniques demonstrated in the lesson and kept to the spirit of the lesson. I decided my figure looked like an acrobat as a rest so that then suggested the bold colour scheme. I like the combination of red and turquoise so I was happy to break out that colour palette again. While the nose got bigger and broader the more I worked on it and the hand is rather underdeveloped, I am fairly pleased with how this painting turned out – especially because I got it done and dusted in one day.
The only upside to my husband working out of town all week is that it freed up my evenings for some art time which meant that for the first time in what feels like ages I actually managed to complete two art lessons, one for each of the year long courses I am enrolled in. The Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Annie Hamman and was about painting a figure with hands in addition to painting the face. Hamman’s approach to painting is very, well, painterly. It’s fascinating to watch the way she builds up and refines that layers of paint so that precise features gradually emerge. I, however, am not remotely painterly in the way I handle paint. Despite having had regular practice since I first started exploring mixed media, I still have super limited skills when it comes to handling, manipulating and applying acrylic paint. Try as I might, therefore, I just could not refine the paint layers adequately enough so I diverged from the lesson (having already skipped a collage layer to save time) in order to use some other media to add the detail to the face and fingers. Looking for the positives, I am fairly pleased with how the hands turned out in this painting. I think the scale and angles read as correct. I took the photo of the finished painting with my phone rather than my DSLR so in reality the flesh tones are a bit warmer and the disc behind the head is metallic blue. My 11 year old commented that she looked like a female version of Jack Frost so I decided to go with that interpretation and title this piece Frost.
I actually managed to complete an art lesson this week. I worked on this in stages while cooking dinner over several evenings so I am glad it was a project that allowed me to break it down to that extent. The phased stages mean that I for once thought to take some process photos. The lesson was for Let’s Face It and was taken by Angela Kennedy. The idea was to paint a trio of female figures interlinking or interlocking in some way, subtly different but cohering through use of the media. I used ink and watercolour only because that was what I had easily to hand and those are the media I work most quickly with. Instead of adding detail to the figures’ clothing, I sprinkled salt on to create some interest. I think that also helps maintain focus on the faces. I have two sisters (and a bundle of brothers) but I don’t know that this trio are three sisters together. Maybe three witches ready for Halloween.
It has taken me almost two weeks to complete this Let’s Face It lesson but I’ve done it. It took me almost a week just to find time to watch the lesson video and then, despite skipping some steps of the process demonstrated, it took me a further week to get the piece completed. The lesson was taken by Deanna Strachan-Wilson and was about creating a simplified form of a female figure in a layered piece. One of the corners I cut was in not drawing a figure based on a photograph and instead drawing from my imagination. As such, my proportions are not realistic and I very much simplified the profile of the face plus I added a wing to balance out the composition. I actually preferred my piece before I added gesso to the figure but I wanted to try and stay true to the methods of the lesson where I could since I had jettisoned other steps. I do, however, like the warm, grungy sepia, vintage tones of the piece and especially the washes of bronze and the spatters of gold.
By taking short cuts, I actually managed to find time for two art lessons from last week. It also helped that my kids had friends over to play so they were occupied and I could find a chunk of time in which to sit at my kitchen table and get arty and make a start on this piece.
Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Kara Bullock and was more practice in drawing the face along with hands. It also involved using white gesso to paint the face and hands in greyscale. That was not something I had done before and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Perhaps that was because it almost felt like drawing with gesso rather than treating the gesso like paint. I do also really like creating pieces that are monochromatic or have very limited palettes so I added very little in the way of colour to the areas of flesh in the figure and face and I kept the background grungy and neutral. The background that Bullock demonstrated in the tutorial was really very different from the one I ended up with but it was the creation of the background that was my major shortcut for this piece so I had to try something new. Her background had been pretty textural and grungy, however, so I tried to generate that same sort of feeling but in a different way. By way of contrast to all the texture and grunge, however, I added a disc of bronze paint behind the figure. I do love to add discs and halos surrounding the figures in my art work. I don’t know why. I just go with it.
For most of my life I have told people that I can draw but I cannot paint. Whereas I could control my drawing tools to produce something approximating the vision I had in my head, I was always entirely cackhanded when it came to manipulating paint. Of course, this was a little self-perpetuating since I would choose pencil, charcoal, and ink over paint each and every time so one set of skills continued to grow while the other atrophied. It was when I emigrated to America, almost three years ago, that I thought to myself that I might try my hand at painting again – a new challenge for the new chapter in my life – and that was how and when I embarked on art journaling and exploring mixed media.
Since then – and particularly since joining Life Book – I have tried to develop my skills with paint and grow my self-confidence. It has been frustrating. For every couple of steps forward, I have at taken at least one step backwards. My ability with paint continues to be patchy, inconsistent, outwith my control. There have been times I have looked at a finished piece, many times actually, and thought to myself, “Well actually maybe I can paint”. But then there are the times when I take so many steps backwards that I feel like perhaps I am investing my time in energy on attempting something that is not progressing. Today I am back to thinking that maybe once again I can draw but I cannot paint.
Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson is a case in point. The lesson was taken by Jeanne-Marie Webb and was definitely a more painterly approach to depicting a face and figure. The idea was to use more neutral tones – I used raw umber, raw sienna, unbleached titanium and a little cadmium red – and that was something that really appealed to me. It took me all week to actually find time to tackle the lesson but I was really looking forward to giving it a try. I made a complete mess of it. By way of illustration of my previous point about my abilities, I will share the photo of the drawing beneath the painting. Despite the spectral quality of the eyes being complete blanks, I rather like the drawing. It certainly suggests potential for something interesting and – had I been working in ink and watercolour – I think I could have pulled it off. However, almost as soon as I added the acrylic and began layering the paint it all went pear-shaped. All the features drifted, became wider and chunkier, the blending got messy and patchy, and the tones became muddy and murky. And let’s not even mention how awful my painting of flowers is. Sigh. If I had the luxury of time, I would be tempted to layer more paint on top of this and see if I can pull it back and refine it. However, I don’t have time so shall let it be as it is, a testament to many steps backwards in my attempt to learn to paint with acrylic and use mixed media, and maybe it will some day be a yardstick of how much further forward I have progressed. For now, however, it is still the case that I can draw but I cannot paint.