Thursday, October 29, 2015

Workshop in May

The great man himself, Joseph Zbukvic -- one of my most favourite watercolour artists.
Zbukvic's demo painting, still wet
Zbukvic's second demo painting
Zbukvic's demos at front for inspection and copying

In May 2015, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a watercolour workshop, courtesy of the Watercolour Society of WA, taught by the great watercolour artist Joseph Zbukvic.  I was also unfortunate enough to have been very, very ill with something that was directly turning into a nasty infection known here as quinsy.  However, the night before the workshop, I dragged myself to the doc, who told me it was mono/glandular fever (it most definitely wasn't) and I should stay home from the workshop (I didn't) and who took a lot of blood tests, the results of which I received while in an ambulance a day or so later.  I promise I didn't breathe on anyone -- but they couldn't have caught it anyway :)
I am so glad I went to this workshop.  Wow, a huge learning curve -- I had only been painting earnestly for about 3 months at this point so I was very very new.  I think I had done only 3 or 4 paintings at the time.  I was pretty chuffed when the great Mr. Z complimented my work and said I did not appear to be a beginner and that at least I knew how to make a wash. 

Above are the paintings that Mr Z. did, and below are my poor copies.  Poor as they may be, they are hanging on the wall as a reminder of that fairly awesome day.

My first copy from Zbukvic demo.

My second copy from Zbukvic demo.  Now you can see why HE makes the big bucks. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Jewels' Girls

In Progress at Ellis House, Bayswater

 Jewels' Girls with Kitten
12x16 (A3)

Do you remember years ago, when blogging was a pretty new thing, there was a gorgeous, absolutely stunning blog called Eyes of Wonder?  What an amazing blog (and an amazing mama blogger) that was.  I wouldn't be the only person to say that Eyes of Wonder changed the way I viewed large family life, homeschooling, homesteading, even chores and housework.  Jewels, the author, wrote beautifully and her photos were equally wonderful.

Over time, Jewels and I became internet friends ;) and recently she gave me permission to use some of her beautiful photos as inspiration for a series I'm planning to do on family.  Part of what makes her photos special is the handmade, vintage-styled clothing her children wore.  It made for gorgeous photos and I think it will make equally beautiful paintings.

As a thank-you, I made the very first painting especially for Jewels, and sent it off to her.  These are her two eldest girls.  She loved it. :)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Queens Of The Back Yard

Queens Of The Back Yard
12x16, A3 

April and May were interesting months for me.  The kind of "interesting" that the old Chinese proverb curses its foes with.  I had two trips to the ER, hospitalization, many many trips to the doctor, a surgery, narrowly avoided another surgery, and massive amounts of antibiotics, the effects of which I am still recovering from in the middle of June.

But when I could, I did manage to get some things done.  One of them being this little chicken painting which was commissioned by my online friend Wammy.  You can read about how that all came about on her blog, here.

This painting was very involved and complicated, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.  And more importantly, Wammy is thrilled with it.  I sorted through hundreds of her photos to choose ones that portrayed the personalities and some interesting poses of Wammy's beloved chickens.  I tried to match lighting (not too much directional sun, cloudy day, snow or no snow, etc) and perspective.  Wammy wanted the chicken coops in the picture too, so I needed to completely adjust the perspective on those little buildings so that I could get everyone and everything in the painting.  Wammy could tell you that I left a lot of details out! but with so many busy ladies, it could be a very overwhelming view, so I had to not put quite EVERYTHING in there.

I worked this painting completely backwards.  Everyone would tell you, work from large to small.  Big areas first, small areas and details after.  This is very good advice.  However, I did not follow it.  The reason being that I did not think I could paint a chicken.  So after spending about a week on just the layout and drawing, I picked the chicken I thought would be easiest (little blue-black Esthelle) and gave it a shot.

I was SO surprised that my first chicken looked like a chicken.  I wanted to shout the news from the rooftops, that I PAINTED A CHICKEN AND IT LOOKED LIKE A CHICKEN.  I posted it to all my friends on Facebook (believe me, I think everyone was sick of me and my chickens by the time this painting was finished).  I chose another chicken, and painted her and to my surprise, the second one worked out too!  They all worked better than I could possibly imagine, except for ONE which gave me a heap of trouble.  But I'm not going to tell you which one. ;)

So after all this incredibly detailed work on the chickens, I found myself needing to work in the background.  That is when the trouble started.  I must have reworked that background 20 times, adjusting colour and shadows and darks and lights and busyness and detail...I must have been >< this close to packing it in ten times.  But I did not think I could do all those chickens again so I had to work it out.

You can decide if it worked or not.  Wammy loves it, and I consider the whole thing a huge learning experience, very hard work, and quite an accomplishment at the end of the day.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Exhibition

Rain Dancer, watercolour 2015 A3 (#4)

I had promised my friends at Ellis House that I would enter a painting in the next members' exhibition.  Unfortunately the entry date snuck up on me and, when I realized how soon I needed to have the painting in -- Easter weekend, which is already really busy at my house anyway -- I had a bit of a panic.  But I had promised, and figured why not try?

The theme of the exhibition was Water Rhythm (or similar).  Not really having a clue as to what that meant, I figured something watery would probably do it.  You can get away with a lot as a newbie.

So the same night I finished the previous painting, which was Good Friday, we went to the Good Friday evening service at church and then I came straight home and started looking for a subject to paint.  Painting one of my own kids wasn't a good idea because I already knew I couldn't put a price tag on one of those.  So I had a look online and found a sweet photo of a girl dancing in the rain with a creative commons license to use.

I asked some friends on facebook what they thought (love it!) and the general response to the photo was good, so I quickly drew it and started painting.

I knew what I wanted to do but I had no idea what order to do it in or what colours exactly to use.  Still had the wrong yellow ;)  I made sooooooooo many terrible mistakes and finally at around 2am I gave up.  I got out a huge mop brush and dunked it in the dirty paint water and swooshed it all over the painting.

Big grey-brown drips rolled down the painting, across the girl in the orange dress, onto my desk, everywhere.  I turned the painting the other way and did it again.  I didn't have any hope of salvaging this horrible painting.

Then I went to bed.

Next morning I got up and hubby said, "I really like your new painting!"  I snorted, thinking he was teasing me but when I looked at it, it was dried and it didn't look...all that bad.  I hadn't got a frame yet or anything so my time was really short for me to get something completed for that afternoon, and suddenly I thought I would just go with this painting.  See what happened.
I bought some mat board in a grey colour and a mat cutting set.  I got the frame at IKEA.  Somehow the mat and frame worked with the second mat I made to set off the poor painting and I couldn't say that it was all that horrible.

I put it in the exhibition.

It sold.

:) :) :)

And then after that, someone else wanted the same painting done again for them.  And several other people wanted other paintings done for them.  And just like that, I knew that I was actually an artist.

I can say more about that but to put it simply:  I believe an artist is someone who is able to translate ideas from one form (sometimes unable to be spoken) to another (possibly able to be seen or heard or felt).  Some people make pictures, and that's fine...but it's not the essence of art.  When someone connects emotionally with something you've drawn or made, that's art and you are an artist.  It doesn't really have anything to do with selling stuff -- but having people willingly part with money in order to own what they've connected with is a good indicator that you have made art.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Conquered the Fear

12x16" Watercolour 2015 #3

 This is the portrait that I was afraid to paint.  It was done from a snapshot of one of my boys at around age 2.

So many challenges for a newbie.  Back-lit face, almost monochromatic colour scheme to enliven, water, light, perspective (which had to be completely adjusted from the snapshot photo), tiles, and more. 

I couldn't put it off painting it any longer though.  What is the saying:  "In life you either need inspiration or desperation."  This was a true case of desperation.

The issue was that I had moved up to a 12x16" paper, but it was a block of paper (glued on two edges).  And I had promised my friends at Ellis House that I would put something, anything, in the next members' exhibition.  Here it was Good Friday and the exhibition painting, which I had not yet started nor even planned, needed to be in the next day.  I had this little portrait drawn and ready to paint on the top of the block, and I didn't want to take it off and have to stretch the paper.  Plus, I really just needed to overcome my fear and get it done.

So I did.

I didn't have the yellow I wanted.  So I used the one I had, although I knew it would be unusual.  But it turned out.

And I loved it.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bravely Attempting the First Face

A4, watercolour, 2015 #2

Before I tackled this little watercolour portrait, I had drawn a larger picture of one of my other children, but because it was backlit and with delicate lighting and a very particular mood, I was still too scared to try painting it.  I felt satisfied with the things I'd learned from the first portrait and thought I must try to do a face, but I wasn't ready to do that one just yet.  So to keep my momentum, I found this cute picture of another son from a few years ago.  I don't normally like "photo faces" in portraits because of the obvious and unnatural posing, but this so perfectly captured his personality that I thought if I could pull off the squashy-face grin, I'd be really pleased.  Nothing like a challenge for your first face.

So here is the series of progress photos.  The first was taken just for fun with my iphone and posted for friends/family on Facebook, and the second I took to post to the local art group for their advice as to whether I should darken the background.  Opinions were mixed, but I decided to go ahead and do it.  The last photo is of the finished painting. 

My favourite part of this whole painting is the shoes.  Funnily enough, it's also the favourite part for the subject.  He loved those shiny silver sport shoes. What a privilege to be able to work at bringing back precious memories for my little ones.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Story of How I Started Painting In Earnest

A4, Watercolour, 2015 #1

Besides the fact that I really wanted to learn watercolour, we had also recently moved from overseas and brought nothing with us besides what could fit in two suitcases each.  So there was nothing on the walls of our new home, and nothing to put on them.  I was able to obtain some free picture frames that someone was throwing out, and determined to fill them with something meaningful to make our space more homey.  It's very hard when you can't hold on to things that mean something to you, and the next best thing you can do is create something with your own hands to redirect those lost orphaned feelings to a new belonging that somehow means as much as the missing item did -- because you made it yourself and put your own memories and feelings into it.

When I joined my friends at the Ellis House Community Art Centre, I was immediately taken under everyone's wings as a total newbie.  Karl, pictured above in the yellow shirt, was doing water colours too so I stuck pretty close to him at first, and he gave me good feedback and tips.

The first week I worked on a quick "sketch" of pink flowers, but it turned out poorly.  I was using Cotman tubes, which were okay, but I hadn't painted since 3 years before (and not at all before that) so I couldn't remember anything about how much water to use or how to hold the brush or how to use the water to its best advantage.  That same first week I also did a larger drawing for a painting that I was too afraid to start adding colour until I got a grip on how the paints worked.

The second week, I started work on my first portrait, of my little daughter when she was about two years old, pictured above.  I had such trouble with some parts of it but in the end, for my first effort, I was pretty happy.  It's on my piano room wall right now.

One thing that I appreciate the most about my own foray into art, is the interest that my little ones have taken in making art works of their own that mean something special to each of them.  I'll post more about that later, but suffice to say that the little ones picnicking in the back yard of Ellis House were also taken under everyone's wings when they came to visit and create art for the day, and it is so motivating for them to keep creating and learning new skills too.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Story of How I Got Hooked On Watercolour

When I was little, my favourite thing in the world to do was to draw.  A born and bred night owl, I would stay up late into the night working on sketches.  I drooled over boxes of Crayola 64 right through adulthood.  But I never took the time once I reached high school to really develop my art skills.  I was always in the music stream (flute, piano, singing) and didn't take the time to continue on with my art.  While I always dreamed of getting back to it, university and college and work and marriage and children followed one right after the other in a healthy but busy (if not overwhelming) kind of way. 

About three years ago, after a long stretch of babies and diapers and being-stuck-at-home, I finally decided that NOW was the time to figure out what I could do with art.  I had a deep natural interest in watercolour, and decided that I'd try it out.  I enrolled in an 8-week community watercolour art course at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, made myself a great big art portfolio bag to haul my supplies around in, bought a $10 set of paint pans, and joined in.

I worked on four paintings during the 8 weeks, one of which is pictured above, and all of which are in the trash now.  Primarily what I learned at that time was to be accurate in the drawing stage.  I really had to work hard on that, but once I got that into my head, the rest of it came a little more easily.  I was the only person left in the last class, but my teacher said something that stuck with me:  "You will be selling your paintings."  Of course that was encouraging!  I was determined to keep learning.

Since then, we moved overseas, I sold what little art supplies I had, and was too busy until this year to take it up again.   It is through friends who attend a little local community art centre that my interest and entry into the world of art has begun again.  This little blog is to record the progress of what I'm learning.  I'll endeavour to put everything on here, flops and all.  I hope you enjoy.