I was beginning to feel like Spring was never going to properly arrive. It’s been a right wee tease this year with some days of warm sunshine and blue skies immediately followed by the return of chilly, damp air and grey skies and flat light. At last, however, it seems as if Spring has finally and fully-fledged arrived. Not a moment too soon either as I was beginning to feel like a hermit and really felt a need – not just a want but a need – to get out and wander around in nature for a good chunk of time.
The kids were vehemently opposed to a long car journey so we stayed local and went for a wander in one of our usual haunts. It felt good to be among the trees and see the sunshine beating through the leaves, plants beginning to bud, and insects buzzing around.
We played Pooh sticks – increasingly competitively and with a little bit of cheating here and there – and the boys climbed trees and clambered across fallen logs. We saw wildlife too. I only managed to capture a turtle on camera but we also saw birds galore, lots of insects, and a running groundhog – which was one of the cutest things I have seen in a while.
The boys were able to get manky and be freely feral and I was able to complete relax allowing them to do so.
This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Misty Mawn. Misty Mawn is a mixed media artist I had heard a lot about so it was fun to experience a lesson with her and learn what her approach to art is. Hers is a much looser, much more painterly, much more intuitive style than I know I am capable of so the lesson really dragged me out of my comfort zone.
This is one of those pieces I regret not taking progress shots of because at no stage did it ever resemble or even predict what it was going to end up looking like. My initial sketch was actually a self-portrait (without glasses) and actually a rather good one so I wish I had thought to take a picture of that. It was, however, never my intention for the final painting to resemble me. Instead I was using my face as scaffolding to underpin the other layers. As soon as I started applying paint, with a large brush, the quality of the drawing disappeared and it became a mess. I was not happy with either my mixing of flesh tones nor my mark making with the brush. It was a complete and utter mess and I seriously doubted in my ability to refine that layer enough to make it worth persevering with and progressing. I managed to refine it a little more by switching to a medium brush and by improving the flesh tones but it was definitely in the “ugly stage” by then. I admit that it was then that I threw in the towel. I could not get the painting to emerge as anything worthy of escaping the trash bin using a painterly, loose approach and acrylic paint. What I decided to do, therefore, was use other media and revert to my drawing skills to pull out the facial details and make the painting cohere. That saved the day and saved the piece from going in the bin.
As an aside, the green and pink colour scheme definitely speaks to my longing for Spring. I am so done with Winter and its bleak, grey, dull days.
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.
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.