Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gardening day

The vulture is still on the drawing table, but I like to take little breaks in between and play with other sketches like this sad eyed hound. These sketches start out with me drawing eyes. I love drawing eyes. Sometimes it expands past the eyes, sometimes not.

TToday I've been coming to grips with the garden. A new vegetable garden has been ploughed and today was rock picking day. Newfoundland isn't known for its agriculture as the soil is poor and there are more rocks than you could ever imagine to pick out before the soil can be amended with compost or manure and ready for planting. So I spent a few hours harvesting rocks of all sizes and clearing broken sod from the ploughed ground before aged manure could be tilled into the earth.

Work like that gives you a real respect for those who came before and who had to clear land without the aid of tractors and who had to dig out endless rocks and hand till the ground to put in vital crops to see them through the winter. Its quite amazing what we take for granted now in terms of availability of food when all we have to do is provide money and we get what we want. Many years ago, physically hard work and planning as well as luck with the weather was what it took to feed a family and a bad year would mean a very lean winter.

Rising costs of fuel will drive up food costs, especially here, as everything is flown or trucked in. It would not take much in terms of shortages, trucker strikes or climate change to make a huge impact on availability of fresh food. So my aim this year is to become as self sufficient as possible and grow as much as I can which I can then process, bottle, freeze etc. Besides making economic sense, I also know just what I am eating and how it was grown. I grow organically wherever possible and am convinced that many of today's health problems are related to the processed foods that are eaten, chemicals sprayed on crops and genetic tinkering to botanical species.

I'm also getting a new little greenhouse to put some of my more tender heritage vegetables in. Its framed up and now needs shelving and the greenhouse plastic on it. The new vegetable garden is beyond the greenhouse on the edge of the meadow. Today was windy so it was pointless to even consider wrestling with huge sheets of plastic. I probably would have ended up parasailing my way to Ireland!

I ended up taking a number of photos today as I wandered around the property, seeing what plants had survived the winter. Yes has been a long time coming this year and even now things are at least two weeks late.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Vulture update
coloured pencil
copyright Jeanette Jobson

Most of the time I like my job, but today - well today scrubbing out toilets would have been wayyyyyyy more preferable.

Human nature never ceases to amaze me and the ability to let something like work overpower your sense and sensibility. Today it felt like a frustrating spiral, surrounded by people, many of whom I have known for a very long time who suddenly felt like strangers. I participated but felt as if I was on the perimeter looking at the proceedings wondering what in hell's name we were all doing.

Its just as well I have my art, as I believe its one of the things in life that keeps me sane. Or at least partially sane anyway. I forged ahead with the vulture last night without even thinking about stopping for updates then realized that I hadn't done any. Oops. I find it difficult to create progress pieces and tutorials as the 'stop and photograph' is a real intrusion on the drawing. I have to consciously make myself stop and take an image. If I get into 'the zone', well the imaging just won't happen as I get too selfish and involved in the drawing aspect.

So now time to kick back and relax a little and do some more work on pretty boy, the vulture. I will have to find out exactly what kind he is so I can give him the appropriate title. (I found out, he's an Eurasian Black Vulture) Tomorrow I'll be working til 9 or 10pm so there likely won't be an update. Unless I quit before then.

Sugar daddies, apply within.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Learning and teaching

Vulture - in progress
coloured pencil on Strathmore sketchpad 9 x 12
copyright Jeanette Jobson

Why is it that when you start something as a doodle almost it turns out well, but if you started the sme thing seriously, you'd fight with it for hours to get it right?

I was awake at 4:30 this morning and found this image of a youthful vulture (I think). I like the shapes and unique look to the bird so started drawing it. I pulled out an old sketchpad that obviously something hard had leaned on for awhile, as it has an indentation in the lower right side as you can see. And, of course the drawing is coming along quite nicely. It always seems to do that on bad paper.

I may be brave and transfer it to another sheet of paper or more likely I will turn it into a learning piece, bad paper and all.

So do we learn from our mistakes? Yes, I believe that most of us do. The learning process is all about trial and error, whether art or anything else. Of course the older we are, the more the world expects of us. They believe that older people have a greater bed of knowledge, skills and expertise, whereas we are still in a learning phase, albeit a slower one sometimes.

Because I am relatively new to teaching art, but am in my 50s, people think that I've been teaching for many years. I'm still learning that process at times and some of my students are my guinea pigs (sorry folks, but I do pre-warn you!). I do have a long period of art experience behind me though and that helps me over the humps - or at least I act well when necessary.

However, there is a world of difference between those who can draw or paint and think they can teach compared to those who can draw and paint and are able to effectively impart the knowledge and skills to others. I don't profess to be either at the moment. Feedback tells me that I do get knowledge and skills across to students and progress is made, so that's a good thing. They don't go running from the room when they hear that I'm the instructor. I believe a good teacher has a variety of skills beside her knowledge of the subject material. A teacher needs to have a strong interest in coaxing the best out of a student, supplying them with the knowledge and skills to do so and encouraging them to surpass her in ability and knowledge.

I think back to teachers who I have had and the ones that I learned the most from were skilled, empathetic, non competitive with the student, insisted on making me test the waters of areas I was uncomfortable with, praised, scolded and encouraged me both during and after my time with them.

These are people that you don't forget. These are the people who impact your art and your life.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Creating texture

graphite 9 x 12
copyright Jeanette Jobson

I often stay with living things when I'm drawing - my comfort zone I guess. But lately I've been drawn to textures and have wanted to do something more detailed depicting brick or wood. This image of an old abandoned house fit the bill nicely , the basement window either frosted over with grime or water stained board behind it.

I loved creating the texture of the rotting wood and the subtle roughness of the brickwork. I want to try my hand at rust next. I've found some old horseshoes in the barn and they may do the trick, though around the farm there's never a shortage of rust it seems!

We often shy away from subjects that have a perceived level of difficulty. Looking at something complex in shape or colour we think 'I can't do that.' But we can do that. Its all down to observation and taking your time, breaking down the image into small manageable sections so it doesn't become overwhelming.

Its a bit like life. One section at a time.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sleep and feathers

Goose feather
graphite 4 x 4
copyright Jeanette Jobson

My sleep patterns are erratic and more so when I have things on my mind or work creates unconscious thoughts. This means that I wake very early in the morning and I find that is probably one of the best times of day for drawing for me. By early I'm taking 5am, sometimes earlier.

I get a cup of coffee, wrap myself up in a soft, warm throw and my mind forgets whatever it was that woke me and concentrates on pencil and paper. I get lost in the process of drawing, so much so that I suddenly realize hours have gone by and I need to rush to get ready for work.

This morning was an early morning and this feather was the result. This is a goose feather and I was trying to capture the downy hairs around the base of the feather. No wonder goose feathers are reknowned for their ability to trap air and heat. They're quite amazing feats of engineering. I didn't exactly manage to make it as fluffy as it looked but I enjoyed the exercise.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Which came first? The drawing or the painting?

Graphite 9 x 12
copyright Jeanette Jobson

After a busy day yesterday, this image pretty much sums up what I intend to do with my Sunday.

Every teaching opportunity provides me with food for thought and the one yesterday that I gave was no different. The individuals attending were from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels. Many of them were more familiar with painting than drawing.

Its interesting to hear observations about drawing from those more used to painting. I'm of the school of thought that says to paint well you need to be able to draw well first. I was told earlier this year by a prominent painter - "You don't need to paint. You know how to draw well." From that should I infer that he meant that many of those who only paint do so because they don't have a strong background in drawing? Do they believe that painting is a shortcut? I believe that every great painter that you see will have a solid background in drawing. Without the framework of drawing, many paintings will not be seen as competent.

Many of the people attending the workshop yesterday didn't sketch or draw - they painted. The discipline of drawing and the time it takes to create a realistic image was not something that they wanted to adopt. Yes they were interested and did draw the exercises I provided and said they enjoyed the process. But I felt they wanted results - fast results. And reality. But wondered why the two weren't within grasp through dry media.

Rushing a drawing instead of building it slowly is very common in those starting out drawing realistically. Individuals try to put a 4 hour drawing into 30 minutes and then wonder why it doesn't look like the demonstration drawing. Once they know the techniques and can practice them, they need to apply them with the knowledge that the drawing will take time to produce and hard work to see results.

All art forms whether drawing or painting use similar techniques. They are simply different mediums and the mastery of those techniques takes time and practice. They are manual and observational skills learned by repetition.

Observation is another learned skill and essential to artists who want to produce realism. I as individuals to produce a drawing, all using the same reference image and the variety of interpretations of what is seen by each is quite interesting. Many simply don't examine in detail. They are looking for broader values perhaps and in so are missing highlights or variances in light patterns from their subject.

Maybe its a reflection of today's society that people want instant gratification in everything from food to service to creating art. But as with everything, you get back what you invest in terms of time and effort.

I know that I have a passion for drawing. It is something that calls to me and demands attention, so I will be more biased towards the creation of images in any dry media. I also enjoy painting too, but even in that, my foundation for a painting begins with drawing. Unless a piece is abstract - and even then there takes some planning on paper initially - I don't see how drawing can escape the painting process.