Saturday, February 01, 2014

Pushing through

 Leapfrog - SOLD
30" x 40"  oil on canvas

One of the most common issues I see with people learning to draw and paint is giving up too soon.If expectation is not met in a short period of time, boredom sets in or a feeling of "I can't do this."  The point at which that feeling is reached is usually the pivotal point for a piece of art.  The bones of the piece are in place, but the final vision can't be seen, so the maker becomes frustrated and it is easier to stop than forge ahead. Keeping the vision that inspired in the first place and knowing that it will take time and hard work to reach that vision seems to be the issue.

When I started this painting of  boats, I screwed up the initial drawing.  That could have been enough for the inner voice to say "stop", but I didn't let it.  I redrew the piece then started on the painting.  All the way through, I revised and resolved problems.  The process of creating is one of constant conversation in my head that guides my hand and eye in what to put where, what colour to choose, and whether it works for me or not.   I don't let the inner voices get to me much anymore.  I shut them down and its quite amazing how quickly they retreat when they're stood up to.  If I let them in, they'll tell me that I can't draw or paint; that I should stop because what I'm painting is rubbish and I should go take up knitting again.

The half way point in any drawing or painting is full of pain and questions.  Its meant to be.  It forces you to think through, seek the vision, resolve the problems and know that what lies ahead WILL work.

Still reading the biography of Lucien Freud, it seems none of us are alone in this journey of self doubt.  Freud used to lie on the floor and cry or have total tantrums when starting most paintings, or sometimes part way through, as they frustrated him so much.  But he kept going.  That is key.  Half way is half way - to hell or heaven.  I choose heaven.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Blurring the line between reality and photography

 Leapfrog - in progress
30" x 40"  oil on canvas

I am the first to encourage technology use in art - up to a point.  When reliance is completely on a subject that can only be scrutinized through an artificial lens, the view point becomes skewed and a lot of valuable information is lost.

Of course, not everything can be seen in real life and some things simply don't sit still long enough to do detailed paintings or drawings.  However, with experience and a keen eye for repetitive motion, capture of light and lots of practice, even fast moving subjects such as animals and children can be painted or drawn.  The masters had this down to a science obviously, when digital images or even cameras were not the tool of choice or ability to assist painting tasks.

I am sure that if many of these people were alive today they would use photography and digital technology and photo editing and projectors, etc., etc. to make their life easier.  But I don't believe they would rely on them for all the information they needed.

I use photos for reference.  I have little choice in winter when boats are in sheds or upended on wharves or docks with snow and ice piling around them.  I use photos as the bones of a piece.  They are my idea and provide the structure that shows me shapes and colourways.  But I don't stick with them to record each detail.   I draw by hand, though if I'm really in a hurry and really need accurate placement I will use a projector to find relationship points that are my guide to completing a drawing.  But mostly I draw by hand/eye/mind and enjoy the fact that my pieces aren't exactly as an initial photograph looks.

Once the drawing is done and the palette decided on, I toss the photo and go on instinct.  I add colours that others may not see.  My mind and my experience see colours within colours, within shadows, within light.  I only refer back to the photo to ensure that I'm capturing light or shade in the right sections.   There is so much freedom in not being dictated to with a mechanical image that lies about colour and shadow depth, warmth or coolness and even shape.

So use a photograph, but let it be the starting point for your creativity.  Move outside the lines and the colours.  See the real object wherever possible and let its shapes and colours inform you.  You will gain a lot of knowledge from reality and it really needs to be your partner in creating a painting that is art, instead of a painting that is a copy of a photograph.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Boogie boarding

 No, I haven't taken up surfing, just added a tool to my sketching arsenal. 

The Boogie Board is an LCD writing tablet measuring 8.5".  Its a paperless way to sketch, lightweight, portable and an easy way to capture ideas.  I can't save images or words on it, but can photograph them.  I think there is a newer version of this board out that has wifi capability but for quick sketches, this works well for me. 

I have so many sketchpads and odd bits of paper lying around the house, this becomes one more way to draw.  I can use a finger or the stylus that's included.  With a press of a button the screen erases and I can start over again. 

Here's a quick sketch of a puzzled looking dog done in about 10 minutes to give an idea of what drawing looks like on this device.