Saturday, June 24, 2006

Living in the past

Happy, and I'm smiling, walk a mile to drink your water.
You know I'd love to love you, and above you there's no other
We'll go walking out while others shout of war's disaster.
Oh, be forgiving, let's go living in the past.

Once I'd used to join in, every boy and girl was my friend.
Now there's revolution but they don't know what they're fighting.
Let us close our eyes. Outside their lives go on much faster
Oh, be forgiving, we'll keep living in the past.

Oh, be forgiving, let's go living in the past.
Oh, no, no, be forgiving, let's go living in the past.
Jethro Tull

Wet days, like today send me to the past and I rethink people, places, things. I never knwo if that's good or bad. Perhaps a little of both. Music plays a role too and Jethro Tull used to be one of my favourite bands in my youth. They still are in some ways and the classic songs transport me to times when stress didn't exist as a word even less a reality. Or if it did, there was no impact on me.

I pulled out an old portrait that I started about 17 years ago of my father. I don't even know if I can finish it as I don't know if I still have the original reference image that I used. It was to be a surprise birthday gift for him, but it never turned out that way. He died before I could finish it, so it sat unfinished in cupboards and stacked with other paintings. Til now. I've been looking at it and deciding if its worth saving or whether I should just start afresh with a new reference. The canvas is a bit limp but salvageable likely. Acrylic paint was used for the start and its still in fairly good shape, but chipped a little in places. I'll think about it for awhile and consider what to do.

I've been experimenting with charcoal on tinted paper. Soooooooo messy but satisfying all the same. Years ago, I experimented with making my own charcoal using willows which were readily available at the time. It worked but the pieces were a bit large and crumbled easily. Great for large impressionistic pieces but not good for detailed work. I used the textured side of some mi-tientes paper that I had. Its actually a pale brown but the photo shows more grey. I think I'll try the smooth side later as I'm not pleased with the textured look.

Neither of these images have come out well as photographs. Perhaps the dull day has an effect on it. I'll try a scan and see if that comes out better.

And for those needing their baby goose pics, here they are, perched on the grass in the front turning circle of the drive, being cute. The parents are still in attack mode however and go for anything that moves. Tractors, cars, horses, people...

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Portraits and art news

I've worked a little more on the baby portrait. The mouth and nose are causing grief and I've erased and redrawn them at least three times! I think I finally have the mouth right, but the nose still needs work. Then I'll start filling in tones to make the face take shape as well as the jacket.

Babies don't have substantial, concrete features to work with and I find it challenging to say the least to draw this. But I learn as I go along.

Wandering tonight I found the following sites on art news that led me off for an hour down many paths.

Artnews in Canada

Art Daily

Art News Blog

Art Knowledge News

The Art Newspaper

Arts & letters Daily

Artists in Canada

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Graphics tablet

Late last year I obtained a digital graphics tablet with the help of a friend in the United States who is in the computer industry. They can be purchased in Canada, but as with all things, if obtained at source, you can get a better price and quicker service. This tablet is a middle range one, price wise as I didn't want to invest a lot of money in one, not knowing if I would use it much.

I have experimented with it and played with a number of graphics programs on it such as Adobe Photoshop,Artrage, Dogwaffle,and Twisted Brush are just some of the available programs either for sale or to try for free. They all have a lot in common, providing a variety of mediums and supports to create art digitally.

Effective digital art has a steep learning curve, dependent on the program that you are using, especially Photoshop. And at this point, I use the most basic features and still haven't taken the time to study or experiment indepth. Time is always the challenge for me. But when I browse forums that produce extraordinary art created digitally, it always inspires me to pull the tablet back out and try again.

This watercolour started as a sketchbook doodle, which just seemed to flow. Can I recreate on watercolour paper? Its fate is in the hands of the gods of watercolour on the day that I try. I'm waiting patiently (well somewhat patiently) for my waterbrush to arrive. Russell Stutler provides a great piece on the different brushes available. Then I can take it on some sketching field trips. These are neat little brushes that eliminate the need to trek jars of water around with me when I want to do some watercolour work with pans of colour or watercolour pencils.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Its not as easy as it looks

I am doing a portrait of a friend's baby. I have never drawn a baby before and there are challenges in getting the features correctly placed. I've made a start and I know that simply seeing it on the computer screen will ensure that every error pops up at me.

The baby is a year old now and I spent some time with her as a small infant and I refer to her as 'my' baby. She's a placid easy going baby with a willing smile, even though its more a quizzical look in this image.

It seems others have been down this road before me in varying forms...

After years spent dissecting the works of the great artists, critic Jonathan Jones decided to put his money where his mouth was - and learn to draw. His modest aim was to sketch a portrait of his 15-month-old daughter, but first he had to learn the basics ...

Wet Canvas provides some insight into proportion when drawing children and babies as well as adults and teens.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Storms and animals

As I got home today, a thunderstorm was brewing. There was a yellowish cast to the light and a faint rumbling in the distance with an omninous sky seeming to lower itself to the ground to meet me.

My first thought was of the horse in the meadow. She isn't usually a horse that is spooked too easily but then again something like a mouse crossing her path can create havoc in her world. A few more serious rumblings and it was decided that she better come down from the field to the barn. Sweet feed is the ultimate control for Kit. You don't even need a lead if you have a bucket of sweet feed in your hand, she'll follow you to the end of the earth and beyond. In fact, you don't even need something IN the bucket. She just sees the red bucket and knows.

As I drove up the drive, I was met by the geese - adults and babies munching grass on the centre of the turning circle in front of the house. As I pulled up to the head of the driveway, Angelo, the large male goose, charged the car! I know he's guardian of the babies, but charging a car? Is that where the term 'silly goose' came from?

The thunder seemed to make the geese and ducks stop in their tracks a few times at the intensity of it but other than that and dealing with gusts of wind that the storm kicked up, seemed no worse for wear and actually liked the rain.

For humans, it stopped power off and on, knocked out internet connections and made me wish it were dark so that I could enjoy it properly. I always feel a good storm is wasted in the daylight.

Today's drawing is of one of the Muscovy ducks, B.D. B.D. stands for Big Duck. Yes, imiaginative I know but these are large, slow moving ducks with no quack. They are more goose size than duck size. They are the remaining two of a flock of 8. All the females (4) and one of the males were killed one night by coyotes. Three is not a crowd for males and as two seemed to buddy up, the third was sent to be companion for a Toulouse goose of a neighbour.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Still crazy after all these years

Men have called me mad, but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence--whether much that is glorious--whether all that is profound--does not spring from disease of thought--from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect. Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night - Edgar Allen Poe

When you are insane, you are busy being insane - all the time... When I was crazy, that's all I was. - Sylvia Plath

In 1992 Dr. Arnold M. Ludwig, a psychiatrist at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, published an extensive biographical survey of 1,005 famous 20th-century artists and writers, comparing their mental health with those of individuals in other, more conventional, professionals. Ludwig discovered that artists and writers experienced two to three times the rate of psychosis, suicide attempts, mood disorders, and substance abuse than did comparably successful people in business, science, and public life. Ludwig went so far as to trace various types of mental illness to different creative professions: he found that if you're a poet you're more likely to suffer from mania and psychoses; a musician or actor, drug abuse; a composer, artist, or non-fiction writer, alcohol dependence. In Ludwig's analysis, those professions which rely on precision, reason, and logic have a much lower rate of mental illness than those that rely on emotive expression, personal experience, and vivid imagery as a source of inspiration.

In other words, it could always be worse--you could be a poet.

Are suffering and art inevitably linked? Carl Jung praised the artist as the one who "makes it possible for us to find our way back to the deepest springs of life." If that sounds like a big responsibility, it is. Jung's artist, forced to carry "the unconscious psychic life of mankind," might find himself with "so heavy a burden that he is fated to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being."

Are artists crazier than other folks? Read on and find out.

Creativity and Mental Illness, by Laura Gosselink has done more research into the subject.

...although it is certainly not the case that all creative individuals suffer from manic depression, it seems that characteristics of mania and depression aid the development and expression of creative thought and action. Mania combines new and heretofore unconnected ideas at a rapid pace and has even been shown to elevate IQ scores(8). Mania also imbues the individual with relentless drive and confidence that can, very often, lead to creative output. Balancing mania, depression not only can serve as a "reality-check" to manic excesses of thought and action, but also can itself provide fuel for creativity.

What does this mean for treatment? "I want to keep those sufferings," said artist Edvard Munch. When told he could end his cycle of psychiatric hospitalizations with available treatment, he replied that emotional torments "are part of me and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and it would destroy my art"...

An article from The Guardian linking art and sex.
From Lord Byron to Dylan Thomas and beyond, the famous philanderers of the art world may have had a touch of mental illness to thank for their behaviour, psychologists report today.

So before insanity claims me entirely, I'll add my art for today then pour alcohol on the demons within (well, the study DOES expect it of me, doesn't it?). Well these are drawings from a couple of days really, plus another addition for Crack Skull Bob's Selfportrait Marathon. I have updated the image of the duck in the bucket that I did a couple of days ago. The scan didn't turn out well and this version is a digital photograph taken in natural light.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006


Father's Day is a non-event at my house these days, except in thought. My father has been dead for 16 years, my husband's for 10 years. My daughters telephoned to say Happy Father's Day to my husband even if he isn't their biological father. This makes him feel awkward and anxious to get off the phone, so he hands them over to me as soon as possible. He's not good at dealing with younger people and hasn't had a lot of interaction I guess so that makes him feel uncomfortable around them.

However, my father was a kind man and I was more attuned to him than my mother. Perhaps that is just the way with opposite sexes - mothers and sons; fathers and daughters. Together the sexes clash, opposites seem to have more 'give' to them or maybe they see some of their youth in their children or what they wished their youth was. We never were a demonstrative family in terms of affection. It was an unsaid given that we cared for each other, but words and actions to follow up were not something I ever remember. I did a portrait of my father years ago, shortly before he died - or I started one. I must dig it out and see if I can finish it. It would be a good tribute for Father's Day.

The geese allowed us to get close enough to get some photos of them and the new babies - now about a week old. Angelo, the father goose, struts around shouting and charging at everything that moves within 20 feet of the babies, while the mother goose, Lucy, just lets him get on with it with a resigned look on her face.

The broiler chicks are growing rapidly and in another 6 weeks or so will be ready for processing. I had a photo taken of me holding one of the chicks when it was a day old in my hands in the barn. I used this image as one in the Wet Canvas drawing event this weekend so decided it was about time that I did a drawing with it too. It was done with a Pigma Micron pen .005 nib.

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