Friday, November 20, 2009

The psychiatrist is in

Its interesting how non-artistic people view the world and need to be coaxed into seeing what we see.

I'm doing some commissions and find that individuals rarely have a vision of the final piece in terms of size and what they feel is value for money.  I try to steer them in the right direction, knowing almost intuitively how a piece will translate onto different size canvases or paper.  Most people are happy to be steered and understand a little more of the process of composition, reduction and enlargement.

Commission work often consists of part psychology, part intuition, part patience, part education and a dash of luck, combined with holding your breath until the piece is accepted.  So why do it?  Because its wonderful to see different people or animals and watch them come to life.   99% of people are amazing to deal with.  The 1% that are difficult I look at as helping me learn.  I learn to anticipate the person's vision of the final piece and have never had a piece returned or major changes to do. 

This sweet dog is a start of a piece in watercolour.  Black dogs are always a challenge, but the smaller size makes it easier as there is not so much detail work.  If it were a traditional head and shoulders portrait, my work would be cut out for me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stumbling blocks

I'm in my usual multi-tasking mode and have several paintings that I'm working on simultaneously.
I'm nearing completion of one portrait with another in the wings and a commission hot on its heels.I'm using watercolour and sort of fell into a technique that almost borders on pointillism.  I lay down the usual washes of colour but start adding to them with swatches of colour, allowing the viewer's eye to blend them optically.  This technique seems to give depth to skin tones rather than flat washes.

I am moving more towards impressionistic images in portraits.  I like the edginess of them and how they make you look twice.  I've never been drawn to 'sweet' portraits with pristine shading.  It smacks of chocolate box art and those paintings of innocent faced children in fancy frocks barefoot in the grass.  It may be the image of the monied class who want to depict their child as perfect, but its not for me.  I like a portrait to be a little different and yet represent the true personality of the sitter.

I need that push of a deadline to really get into production.  Without a deadline, even if self imposed, I tend to procrastinate.  Then suddenly, time is upon me and gives the incentive to get into action.  There's also a part of me that just loves having my time filled, so procrastination of one thing leads to production in another.

Production means forward movement and completion.  There are nearly always points in a painting that I start to lose interest in the process or the subject and need to concentrate to move through that phase to get to the end.

Stumbling blocks come in many forms in art and everyone has their own, often they are similar to others.  Procrastination, loss of inspiration, production blocks, the list goes on and on.  The common thread is that many people share these blocks and many get past them to continue producing art.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009



Drawing from memory has advantages and disadvantages.  We all have an internal Utopia where nothing is true to reality and that comes out when we draw from memory.  We know shapes and volume but don't often reach perfection in creating something from our imagination.  Its edges are fuzzy and likenesses warped and molded through our experiences and visions.  It can become freeing and provide very interesting results, but if you're aiming for realism, it rarely works.

This piece came from that place in my head.  I'd seen the sun rising over the lake on the way to work and captured it in my memory then tried to recreate my version of it tonight.

This is pastel stroked over a sheet of lovely ink stained paper.  The colours work, but aren't the reality that I saw.  I think I prefer to live in that Utopia at times where colours are brighter and landscapes unreal.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Portraits in progress

Its good to be back home after a hectic few days in Toronto. I took today off to catch up on some work (and sleep) and made a concentrated effort on progressing with a couple of portraits.

I added more layers and refined shapes in the watercolour portrait that I'm working on for the portrait swap at WetCanvas and its finally starting to go where I want it to.  The ugly stage nearly had me tearing up another sheet of paper but I worked through it and am coming out the other side.

I also agreed to do another swap with someone who's sign up partner had not forwarded any images.  I know she was anxious to paint and I'm always happy to do more portraits for practice, so I am doing a small piece in oils for her.  I've had time to only block in basic shapes and values so far and will work on it more over the coming week and hopefully have it on its way within 2 weeks, provided I don't get too slap happy with the oils so it doesn't take forever to dry enough to ship.

Christmas commissions are coming in now, due to a little marketing on my part.  Its always good to have that extra work and I enjoy the challenge.  I know my own cut off point in terms of workload and don't surpass my comfort zone.  I'm also not afraid to turn down commissions if the images provided aren't suitable to provide a piece with the quality that I want to provide.