“30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge post-mortem

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Just FYI, I am ALL about post-mortems, and I’ve been itching to do this since I started this whole venture!  So without further ado, here are my observations from my first time participating in the “30 in 30” challenge…

Greatest benefit:  Instead of only talking about painting and building up a body of work, I actually DID it!  And, bonus! I learned that I could actually handle the paint pretty well.  Well, most of the time…

Biggest letdown:  A sense of… I don’t know if I’d call it boredom, but rather the nagging feeling that I should have been devoting my energy to making original art and not just studies.  You can see that by the end of the challenge, I started to waffle and take more time with my paintings.  This was less because I had become a fussbudget, and more because I frequently contemplated abandoning them altogether.  I’m still not sure if I took on this challenge just as a way of putting off the more difficult task of coming up with original imagery.

The Mediums are the Message:  I tried more than a few on my acrylic paintings over the last few weeks, but I’ll save that breakdown for a future post.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this: they are NOT created equal.

(F)oil paints:  They took me for a ride, no question!  Remember Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when he first flies the Tie-Fighter (“WHOA!  This thing really MOVES!”)?  Well, that was me with oils.  It was a bit of a bumpy ride at first, but I’m proud of myself for giving them a go and getting to know them a little better – one more tool at my disposal!

Painting mistakes I made all the way through:

  1. mixed too many colours together and ended up with mud
  2. painted thoughtlessly and ended up with too many layers (i.e. more mud)
  3. didn’t take the time to establish VALUES

Things I’d like to try with my painting from here on in:

  1. less mud, more vibrant colour
  2. gestural brushwork
  3. non-linear imagery, i.e. don’t rely on the reference images as much

Saving the best for last:  The engagement with other artists who were crazy enough to do the “30 in 30” challenge, and their support, has been one of the best takeaways from this experience – bar none!  It was a welcome opportunity to connect with fellow artists, learn from each other, and see some great art.  You can bet I’ll be back when the next challenge rolls around!

(More or less) One-line summaries of each painting:

  1. Scared and nervous, but rarin’ to go!  Then I chicken out and use acrylics on PAPER.
  2. Convinced I can’t paint accurately so I try some faux 1920’s European look.  Whatever.
  3. Screw it!  Go fussy or go home!  And, miraculously, it works!
  4. Matte Medium almost makes me want to chuck the whole thing but dry brushing saves the day.
  5. First oil painting!  It’s about %300 linseed oil and is STILL not dry.
  6. Brazenly mix (water-soluble) oils with acrylics and nothing explodes.  Yet.
  7. 2nd oil painting!  I try blending and start to understand why people love oils.
  8. Try “Painting Medium” with oils and, well, let’s just forget that ever happened, ok?
  9. By this time, I’m feeling so “oiled”, I’m practically marinated.  Back to acrylics!
  10. And I get fussy-fussy-fussy, AND… run out of time to finish.
  11. Try to keep things loose and rough.  Add blue hair because why not?
  12. Learn that too many layers of acrylic paint is a bad thing.  Love her hair, though.
  13. Oils again!  And sweet perfection!  One of my favourites!!
  14. Oils aren’t so bad after all, at least that’s what I think until I start with the hair.
  15. Starting to miss the crisp detail I can get with acrylics, so this is my last oil for now.
  16. Worked my butt off on this one and I LOVE it!!
  17. I’ve had a few successes in a row and am feeling the pressure so I choke and avoid finishing this one.  Too bad…
  18. Feeling guilty because of my over-reliance on internet images so I cobble together a Franken-picture, but don’t have the guts/drive/self-confidence to finish.
  19. Feel like going out with a bang, and what could be easier than African Albino skin tones, amirite??

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Painting for September 27

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The Star’s Daughter – acrylic on panel, 6″ x 8″

I have… mixed feeling about this one.

First of all, you really should see it live and in person.  Trust me – the colours of her hair have a nice depth, and her skin tones are far more delicate than what you see here.  For some reason, WordPress just makes this one seem garish.

But wonky colours aside, I’m not sure about proceeding this way.  I can look at this painting and know exactly where I stitched stuff together (and I will always see that!), and don’t get me started on how long it took to find all the right elements!  Even when I got the right shoulder and head pose (and the hair!), it didn’t always follow that the shadows matched.  In fact, finding all the reference images ended up taking much longer than the actual painting!

What I like about this painting:

  • the fact that it’s an ORIGINAL work.  I promise: there ain’t nobody nowhere walking around looking like this!

What I like less about the painting:

  • I couldn’t find very hi-res references, so it feels a little “fudged and slurred through the difficult passages”.  But more than that, I started the painting with a sense of “why bother?”, and that’s just not the way to do it…
  • I will always and forever look at this painting and wonder “Do all the elements coalesce?  Can anyone tell it’s a Franken-painting?”

What I learned through this process:

  • coming up with original ideas is HARD.  And SCARY.
  • and ultimately, that is why some artists are strictly representational.  If it’s not directly in front of them, they won’t paint it.
  • I miss the zen factor of painting from internet images.

What I MIGHT change…

  • Her hair.  I liked my initial colour layout and just kept it that way, but now I wonder: does it look too unfinished?

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Changing Course

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The start of a beautiful friendship? or imminent disaster?

I won’t lie: I have really enjoyed the “30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge (even if I’ve only done about half of it.  I was a late beginner, after all).  It was a fantastic opportunity to force myself to get comfortable with paint, as quickly as possible.

And it worked!  Already, I can see a huge improvement in my painting over the last few weeks, and most of that can be attributed to the fact that the more confident I felt, the more I was willing to push myself.  Heck, I even tried my hand at oil painting (shocker!), and not only did my studio NOT spontaneously combust, but I also managed to churn out some pretty decent work.  High-fives all around!

BUT… there is one problem: all of the work I’ve done so far has been reproductions of images I’ve found on the internet.  To be fair, I never claimed that they were original images, and have always been careful to title them as “studies”, but still my conscience is not clear.  Someone else took the time to hire the model, the hairdresser and makeup artist, set up the lighting, rent the studio, develop the art direction, etc, etc.  I didn’t have anything to do with any of that.  All I did was say “Wow, I’d love to try painting that”, and then proceeded to do so.  Most of the artistic decisions were made by someone else.  In a way, this is just another variant of Fan Art, and I’ve already gone on at length about my problematic relationship with it.

Which means we’re right back at Square One: if I want to make completely original work, I need to photograph my own models.  I don’t have the monetary funds for that, so the next best thing is to cobble together a few choice images and hope that the result is harmonious (or at least, a mostly harmless Franken-picture, if you will).  Behold my first try (see above)!

And here’s where the fears and doubts come crashing in because now I’m the one making the artistic decisions.  My mind is constantly second-guessing, oh, just about everything, and I’m having a lot less fun.  I’m even dredging up some serious existential garbage from my subconscious, wondering “Is this what it means to be an artist?  Because, quite frankly, I don’t know if I have the strength of character to pull off a lifetime of these insecurities!”  Honestly, how does Rose Miller of Wolfgang and Rose make it look so easy? 

Just so we’re clear, I may have a few more meltdowns before this picture is done, but I promise to give it my best shot!

Painting for September 10

Face Study no.5
Face Study no.5 – oil on panel, 6″ x 8″

Face Study no.5 – oil on panel, 6″ x 8″

We have a set of Holbein Duo Water-Soluble Oils that have been sitting around since, oh, forever.  I decided to give them a go even though I have practically ZERO experience with oil paints.  You can see where this is going…

I should ‘fess up right now that today is my husband’s birthday, and at this moment, I am full of roast beef, wine, sweet potato, wine, chocolate cake, and wine.  Also, wine.  Talk about the WORST time to close yourself up in a small room and fiddle with art supplies that give off headache-inducing fumes.   But, oh… I SO wanted to get that fat, buttery, wet-in-wet oil paint look.

And I kinda, sorta, in some way succeeded… I think.. maybe?  There are parts where there’s clearly too much linseed oil, and I didn’t approach the picture with much confidence and it shows.  Perhaps it’s just a question of more practice… and nose plugs… ok, and maybe less wine.

What I’m happy with:

  • I’m just thankful that the painting is not a big blob of formless goo

What I’m less happy with:

  • believe it or not, the whole wet-in-wet thing got REALLY ANNOYING REALLY FAST.  After the first few confident strokes, it was a real letdown to realize that any little accidental smudge after that meant that you’d have to do the whole area over again.  And how the Hell do you put white highlights on a surface that’s so slippery?

What I learned with this painting:

  • that I really, really, REALLY love having control and painting this way with oils gives you as much control as herding stoned cats.

Painting for September 7

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Face Study no.2 – acrylic on panel

Here is my painting for September 7th – Day 7 (well, for me, it’s Day 2) of the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge.

What I’m happy with:

  • pretty much everything on the right side.  Those pale colours with that thin outline really make me hum with satisfaction.
  • the white highlights.  SO much easier to do on any surface that is NOT paper.

What I’m less happy with:

  • pretty much everything on the left side.  The reference image is very calm, and I somehow made her look like she walked away from a bad fistfight (“you should see the OTHER guy!”).

What I’ve learned so far:

  • because I have practically zero training in painting (and this despite the fact that I have a Fine Arts Degree – chew upon that, alma mater!), I’m a lot less comfortable making paintings that are, I dunno… paint forward?  I forced myself to use the biggest brushes possible for as long as possible on this tiny panel, but I was happiest when I could take out the detail brush, or when I could apply the paint as if I was drawing.
  • Slow-Dri Blending Gel really works.  Bless you, Liquitex.

What was going through my mind practically all the way through:

  • I suck at painting
  • y’know, if I did this with Photoshop, it would come out AMAZING

See you tomorrow!

 

The “30 paintings in 30 days” challenge

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Face Study no.1 – acrylic on paper.

I swear to you that I am not crazy – I’m just at a serious stand-still when it comes to my art!  I need a decisive kick in the pants, so against my better judgement, I’ve decided to participate in Leslie Saeta’s “30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge!

I’m just kidding – cranking out a painting a day is actually a really good idea.  I did that for a week last winter and I ended up learning so much (and bonus! I had 5 beautiful landscape paintings by the end of it).  I talk a big talk about how I want to be a serious artist, but that’s never going to happen if I can’t even decide on what I want to paint, or if I lack the skills to get those paintings onto canvas.  Thirty days of face studies should not only bring my skill level up to something acceptable, but also help me to determine if painting the figure is what I want to focus on at all.

Here we go….!

A new direction!

Violet v3a FLAT TUMBLR INSTA

I decided to stop making things harder for myself, and finally give in to the siren call of Photoshop.  I’ve been playing around with flat colour and cleaner graphics, and I’m digging it!

Allow me to introduce you all to Violet, whose superpowers include (but are not limited to) being able to balance a pre-med program, helping out in her family’s corner store on the week-ends, and attending any record listening party she can.

Prints, etc. are available on Society6!

“Violet” – Photoshop, 2016

Artistic Output of 2016… so far!

Best of 6 months 2016 part1 small
Starting at the top, left: Face Study (pencil on paper); Face Study (digital); Face Study of Nita Naldi (digital); commission of G.I.Joe’s Duke “Long Day at the Office” (digital); 5 Daily Paintings of New Zealand landscapes (acrylic on panel)

As we approach the halfway point of 2016, I thought it would be cool to assemble all (or most of) the artwork I’ve produced so far this year and get a better sense of where I want to go next. Continue reading

My complicated relationship with Fanart

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Fanart doodles of Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, being forgiven and welcomed back into the fold, because I am really, really, REALLY counting on a redemption arc

I draw fanart.  I’ve been doing it ever since I saw “The Dark Crystal” in theaters way back when, filling my sketchbooks with doodles of Jen and Kira and the Mystics and even Fizzgig (no Skeksis, though -they were too difficult for my 8 year-old self). Continue reading