Saturday, November 07, 2009

Doing studies

I look at creating a study before a major painting purely as practice and a way of working out colours, values, composition, and background.  Its no different than a pianist practicing a piece before a recital or knitting a swatch before starting a full sweater.

I like working out my palette with a study before I tackle a full piece. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of things if I can work out my mistakes on a small scale before committing them on a large scale.  Its cheaper also, as I'm not wasting materials.

My studies generally don't take more than an hour or two to complete.  They're not finished pieces and never will be, but they provide the template for the painting that will take place next. The study acts as a guide when I do my full piece in terms of colour placement, values, etc. 

I don't do a study for every painting that I create, as I don't want to lose the spontanaiety that comes with starting fresh.  I do use studies when I have an important painting to create or a commissioned portrait that must be correct.

Often beginning artists want to achieve results in the least amount of time so completing a study doesn't appeal to them.  It is a time saving exercise in the long run.  It also relaxes you by letting you work out potential problem areas ahead of time in prepartion for the painting you'll do.  And once, your painting has been sold or delivered, you still have a study for your files.

I'm taking part in a portrait swap on WetCanvas, which has become a bit of a ritual for this time of year.  You add your name and are paired up with another person whose portrait you create and they in turn create one of you.   They can be anywhere in the world which adds to the fun of it.  

This year, I was paired with someone in Newfoundland, the same town more or less.  So we decided that we'd take the opportunity to do some drawing from life and take some photos then work from there.  This morning I sat for him and tomorrow he will come to the farm to sit for me.

We had exchanged photos previously and I did a warm up sketch which then turned into a study in skin tones as I most likely will do a watercolour portrait. Of course, I didn't use watercolour paper for the intial drawing so the water buckled the paper.  That's ok as its only a study.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Starting from scratch

When ever I clean out my studio I find things that I have forgotten about.  This time it was some hand made paper.

Occasionally in the summer I get the urge to make paper.  Its time consuming and very messy so I take it to the garden.  In involves newspapers, water, screen frames and lots of mess.  The home made screen frames that I use aren't large, perhaps 9 x 5.  A warm sunny day helps them dry quickly which wouldn't happen as easily indoors. 

The basic principle is to dip the screened frame into the paper slurry so that a layer is deposited on the screen.  The frame is left in the sun to dry until you can peel off the resulting layer of paper.

This paper is neutral with a greyish tinge from the printers ink in the papers.  It can be bleached or coloured and additives mixed into the slurry.  I like to use flower petals and herbs that give texture with an added bonus of seed heads.  I make them into gift tags or cards which can then be planted directly into the garden and grow into herbs or wildflowers.

There is no sizing on the paper so it is very absorbent and the texture is rough.  I played around with a quick sketch of a crow using pen and wash.  The water soaks into the paper like a wick and I may try some oils or acrylics on it for the next piece.

There is something satisfying about being able to create the surface that you paint or draw on.  It gives me a sense of history.  This is something that others have done years ago and in this modern age I still like to become familiar with what has gone before. 

I will be creating some tags from some of this handmade paper and making them available on Etsy.  Keep an eye out if you're looking for something unique to add to your Christmas presents this year.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Kisses update and clean up

I haven't had a lot of time tonight to work on this piece, but have added some layers of colour and made a start on the lettering.

I wish now that I'd added an unwrapped or partially unwrapped candy but there's not room on the sheet to do this without it looking strange, so I'll leave that concept for another painting.

I've made a half hearted stab at cleaning up the studio tonight as I can't find anything on my table anymore. The surface is literally covered with things. I regained some more floor space and my drafting table is clear - more or less.  But the table still is a bit littered with stuff.

It was about a year ago that I claimed this space as my studio and looking back it was so clean and tidy then.  Amazing how things build up and collections of supplies and finished work start stacking themselves against furniture and walls.

When I can't walk around easily, I know its time to make a change. What's that saying?  A clean desk is the sign of a boring mind?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Kisses - update II

I'm pushing on slowly with more layers for these candy wrappers.  I haven't drawn or painted paper in some time and forgot how complex it can become in terms of folds and shading.  Its a good exercise in concentration!  I've barely touched the third piece on the left, but will get there.  For some unknown reason I started on the right and worked left instead of the other way around.  Either way it does work, I just need to to be more careful not to damage the work already done.

I've even pulled off some sketches during my bedtime ritual of drawing.  I tried one wrapper from memory, one from a piece of candy sitting on top of my sketchbook.  The other, a piece of unwrapped candy.  Sorry Purity, but your molasses candy doesn't taste like molasses...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Kisses update

Time changes screw me up for several days, similar to jet lag, so this morning, even if the clock said 5:30, my body clock said it was 6:30 so I got up and put down the initial layers on one of the pieces of candy that I drew last night.  Because I have to photograph the piece under artificial light, the paper has a yellowish/tan cast to it.  I'm not able to photograph in daylight until weekends as I'm at work all day and its dark either end of the day for a few months yet.

I signed up for the annual portrait swap at WetCanvas and should hear by tomorrow who I will  be painting and who will be painting me.  I joined for the first time last year and ended up doing two portraits, one of which was for someone who thought their initial partner dropped out.

There is a 4 week time limit on the portrait swap with the intention that people receive them in time for the holidays.  Last year, my original partner's piece didn't turn up until this summer!  I know life kicks in for some, but I believe that if you join something where there are specific expectations, you either notify people if problems arise or you don't sign on in the first place.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Candy and awards

There is a factory in St. John's that produces a variety of baked goods that are unique to Newfoundland.  One of these are a sticky, chewy toffee type of candy, called 'kisses' which come in several flavours and are wrapped in waxed papers of different colours.  I had a bag of these and was playing around with composition and shapes and decided to start a painting of a trio of them.

This will be watercolour and I've started the drawing for it on a half sheet of 140lb Arches cold press. I may also work on another in graphite or charcoal, perhaps a single piece to get a feel for the piece.  The folds and shapes of the paper wrapped around the roundish filling along with lettering, makes for a complex piece so it may take awhile to produce.

Billie Crain of Art by Crain has kindly bestowed the Kreativ Blogger award on me. Thanks Billie! In return I must pass it on to seven other artists and provide seven tidbits about myself that others may not know.  I have done this before so I'm not sure if I have new information about myself but here goes.

1.  I really dislike going to a hairdresser.  I just want to get it over with as quickly as possible and I go as infrequently as possible.
2.  I love jelly beans and as result buy them rarely, as I have no control over eating them.
3.  I have to be alone to draw and have to have silence, but I can paint in oils with music playing
4.  If I find a sweater or cardigan that I really like, I buy several of that style in different colours.
5.  I sleep with an electric blanket as I'm always cold.
6.  I could exist on cheese and crackers forever. But it must be good cheese.
7.  I have absolutely no sense of direction.

As I have done this previously, I think I'm wearing out my welcome passing it on, so I won't do that.  Instead I'd encourage others who would like to participate to pass on the award, share information about your self and know that your work and you are appreciated by me and many others.