Apparently this week is the last that will focus on profiles in the Let’s Face It course. Phew. Profiles have definitely not been easy. A face in profile has a strong outline but getting the proportions right is something I seem to find very tricky indeed. I do think, however, that concentrating on profiles over the last few weeks has taken my abilities a step forward and I think this week’s painting is my best profile so far.
The lesson was taken by Kara Bullock and – as with her previous lesson that led me to create Girl in Grey and Gold – the idea was to paint all the tonal values in monochrome and then add a splash of a single vivid colour. The work of art that formed the basis of Bullock’s tutorial involved painting butterflies but I knew I would find that to be a struggle. Painting aesthetically pleasing butterflies and flowers in acrylic is probably a stretch for me right now. My solution, therefore, to make the colour element in the composition work was to create a diadem of red leaves. The leaves still are not great but I am pretty confident they are better than either flowers or butterflies would have been.
This might be my last profile for this particular course but I am going to continue to practice them. Over on my Pict Ink blog, I have embarked on a project to draw 100 ink and watercolour illustrations of faces – coincidentally also all a balance of monochrome with splashes of colour. My objective is to build my skills with constructing a wider variety of faces and to improve my ability to draw expressive faces.
This week’s Let’s Face It lesson caused me to reflect on how I have been approaching both my online art courses. In my determination to not purchase materials I am unlikely to use and in my pragmatic need to fit the lessons into my available free time, I have found that most lessons find me improvising, adapting the lessons to fit my circumstances. It has led me at times to question the value of the lessons since I am not always truly trying a new approach, experimenting with an unfamiliar medium. On the other hand, however, the lessons do inspire and encourage me to try new things and in doing so help me tweak my own style, help me find elements for my art that I either had not known about or did not know I would enjoy. Furthermore, in moulding the lessons to suit me, I am better able to hold true to while developing my own style. There is definitely something to be said for that.
This week’s lesson was taken by Robin Laws and should have involved manipulation of digital imagery and layering with and painting over collage. Despite that being the focus of the learning, out of necessity and inclination I undertook neither step. I did, however, draw my inspiration from the lesson: Laws’ exemplar was created using soft, pastel tones and – since I usually paint in bold colours – I decided to challenge myself to use paler shades and I set myself the additional challenge of including the ear, not doing my usual thing of covering it with hair.
I do think my proportions are getting better when drawing a face in profile and I am also growing more confident with making the faces I paint look more like the faces I draw, making them work with the more illustrative style I enjoy. As I also find that I am much more interested in depicting faces than bodies, I have increasingly found myself reducing the torso portion of the bust to a much more simplified shape. I think my husband’s Roman nerd influence is discernible as I have taken my inspiration from Classical herma. Incidentally, the shades in this painting are actually paler than they appear in the photograph. My husband thinks she looks a bit like Angelina Jolie. I don’t quite see it but I will take the compliment anyway.
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.
This week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Juna Biagioni. The way Biagioni paints is fascinating to watch, the way she pulls form and detail out of broad strokes and lots of layers. It is not a method I have any competence with, as became clear from my attempt at her last lesson. Perhaps more significantly, it is not a style I aspire to because it is just not “me”. I am definitely more of an illustrator than a painter. I, therefore, decided to use the essence of the lesson but apply it to a much more illustrative piece. In doing so, I could do the chunky brush strokes and the layering but not have to contend with keeping proportions realistic. What emerged on the page is not great but at least it is authentically “me”.
This week’s Let’s Face It lesson moved from 3/4 portraits to profile portraits. Ack! My nemesis. I had mixed feelings about moving onto this section of the course: trepidation because I find drawing profiles so challenging and excitement because the lessons might actually help me overcome my difficulties with profiles. The first lesson was a gentle introduction with a suggestion of a couple of techniques to assist in drawing accurate profile shapes. For reasons too dull to explain, I did not use either technique and instead just freehand drew the profile. What’s more, to make it extra challenging, I decided to draw in India ink. What was I thinking? The concentrated black ink on the left covers up a multitude of attempts at getting the profile right. I also regret not using better quality paper as the way the diluted ink saturated into the paper has left it all looking blotchy and patchy. I also let the whole drawing become way to dark. Oh dear. Hopefully the only way is up with profiles.
The next lesson I tackled in the Mixed Media Mythology course was another by Lucy Brydon. This time the subject was Halcyone (or Alcyone) whose tale in Greek Mythology is one of hubris, punishment, loss, grief, and metamorphosis. It is from her that the phrase “Halcyon Days” derives and she is also associated with kingfishers.
The lesson involved creating a splodgy, inky background. I really enjoyed creating it though it possibly ended up being a bit too vivid and bold in comparison to the figure. As the instruction was to draw a female profile and incorporate a kingfisher, my mind flitted to the Phoenix Woman painting I produced a short while ago and I decided to go with a similar composition. I also borrowed from it the idea of making the kingfisher a type of headdress rather than attempting to paint a separate bird. It helped me avoid having to paint a realistic bird but I also thought it might work thematically in terms of Halcyone’s transformation.
This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte. I knew it would be very detailed and would spark my creativity and imagination and get me rushing to put paint on paper right away and I was not wrong. The object of the lesson was two-fold: to work with a full profile; and to balance out working on two sides of a painting in two different ways, intentionally in one area and intuitively in another, and make the two sides cohere. Since I find working intuitively challenging and I also sometimes struggle to make backgrounds complement the focal image, I thoroughly enjoyed this lesson.
Laporte’s exemplar in the video tutorials was of a female figure with a swan on her head and some other whimsical, fantastical elements. We were encouraged, however, to find and utilise imagery that chimed with us. I already had an idea that I wanted to use red and other warm colours in a painting because I have not been using those colours much lately so perhaps that is where the idea of a phoenix came from. Perhaps it is also because it is my birthday today and I am now 40 and waiting for the whole “life begins” thing to kick in, the next chapter in my life. My version is a bit less whimsical than Laporte’s and I didn’t use doodles or writing or symbols but I did use spatter and dribble and dots which make me happy. I am really pleased with how this painting turned out especially when I compare it to how my adventures in mixed media painting started this year.