My drawing and painting life
*Warning! A rather long blogpost – showing all art work from the month of April*
April went by rather quickly – or so it seems right now when I start writing. But in fact it didn’t go by in an easy way. For those who have been following my blog longer, they know I got rather ill half way through March. I suddenly lost feeling and use of half my face – which turned out to be a temporary condition called Bell’s palsy. Not a brain thing (as you might think), but a relatively superficial condition of the facial nerve. You can imagine how scary it was – especially when the first signs set in late at night. In hospital they also found another health issue: I had a high blood pressure – in fact, extremely high at the time – which could lead to much more serious problems. It took medication on both issues to get me to feel better. By the end of March I was still in the middle of getting better, though I was already getting a lot better on the paralysis of my face. The medication for Bells palsy had some nasty side-effects though. And I was still very tired by the end of the day. But not every day. How to summarize that month. I can only do it by adding some notes on my health from time to time. That was what my month was about too, after all. So a long story.
But let me start with the next month first…
A May theme?
May will be about Freedom : freedom to choose. I finally decided that last night. – You might think it appropriate in the month of May. We’re celebrating Liberation day on May 5 in my country (the Netherlands). But this wasn’t the first reason to choose to allow myself this freedom. – I feel a longing to do several things. I feel I need to be free next month. I need to cut myself some slack, I think, having been ill recently. I’ve been thinking as a perfectionist too much recently – and I want to prevent myself stacking tasks on my shoulders way too soon. But first and foremost: I don’t feel it’s time for one theme this month. I want to do many things! I really want to do abstract work. I really do. But I also I want to experiment with tools and materials. There’s a small list of things I could choose from for themes – but there’s no real winner (apart from doing abstract work; but I’m not making the same mistake as last month.). I will probably try these themes out this month and then in June I may choose just one theme. You might say that May is about Auditioning themes. 🙂 (I like that word, auditioning.) I will start by doing abstracts. And see from week to week how I will move on. Keeping on doing daily art work is the main purpose of the year of daily creating after all. Keeping it fun is important for me right now too. I want to keep those two things clear in my mind during this month. You will find out why when you read on through the process notes. April was a bit of a struggle…
April art work
I will show the art work between the process notes below.
April and recent events concerning my health have taught me a little bit about taking on too many things at the same time. At least I hope so. I will use the month of May to ponder whether I really want to return to monthly themes later on this year. I don’t know for sure right now, whether I still like it that way. Choosing themes – especially during a period when I am working on a series – and taking more than one online class to boot– may be a bit too much. But that’s my temporary conclusion – after writing most of what is below. But I’m getting ahead of the story; let’s start at the beginning.
At the start of April I chose a theme. In fact I forced myself to choose. I felt I had to… so I did. As far as my daily art project was concerned I soon found I had chosen the wrong theme for the month. It turned out I was juggling many balls and – while still recuperating from the illness and getting used to my medication – the amount of themes and work was too much to keep it going. The theme I had chosen was: Spring. It seemed a rather happy choice. I allows for drawing of budding spring flowers. It could also take me out the door to go see the changing of the trees from bare branches through buds and light green young leaves, seeing the first young birds, things like that. A happy assignment. So I took that as the first assignment for the month. But, I had taken the decision for the theme too lightly. After all I also had taken on an assignment from ‘Y is for Yellow’ class to make a series. I had meant to work on what I called ‘birds and feathers’. That was two. Ah well, I thought, easy peasy… or was it?
I started out working on the series on April 1st, day 214 out of 365 (#214/365) and I played with watercolor while painting feathers. That was fun. The idea was still fresh then….
By the way, I’ve liked blowing paint for a long time. It is partly inspired by work from a class I took in 2014 (blowing on acrylic paint) and art journaling work from Gina Rossi Armfield (check out her work online, or find her book ‘No Excuses watercolors – Painting Techniques for Sketching and Journaling’ – even the previews online made my mouth water. 🙂 But I made paintings using this technique a lot earlier.).
The series idea. What I started out with. I love the effect of splattering and blowing on paint. I thought it would be nice to use a more precise, or even detailing technique, like contour drawing and combine it with the rough and expressive elements of splatter and dripping. I started with the rough, the splatter and drip element. Fun.
For the Spring theme, I also started drawing and painting flowers (April 2nd, #215/365). That was fun too.
April 3, day #216/365. A Sunday, some stuff to do in the house. But I was home alone for several hours and had enough time to paint. I painted a vase of tulips, a watercolor painting. I was a bit hasty, didn’t have much time. (Enter the inner critic… not so well done, isn’t it, my dear…?) No. But I learned from some teachers that it’s good idea to focus on what we do like first.) But I was happy with the water in the vase, how the stems look like real tulip stems, some are almost white! Ok, not so happy with the hasty table top. I decided to leave it as is.
Meanwhile – three – a new week started, I tried to start work again (but not everyday). hat was when everything was starting to get a bit harder. To recuperate physically, I cycled to a shop to buy gluten free food, I cycled to a meeting in town. And decided that I could have a studio afternoon on Friday. I also had a date with friends on Saturday, a meeting of the book club and -oops- a concert on Friday. Oops, that turned out to be too much. I was knackered by Saturday.
As far as art work was concerned, I felt there was class work to be done (four). As I had enrolled in a watercolor course when I was ill (for the fun of it), I felt I needed to finish some of the projects. And of course there were assignments from the year long classes I am in.
First and foremost I want to do the assignments from Carla Sonheims class “Y is for Yellow” – especially since this course is geared towards working on series, working on a body of work and/or finding one’s style. Creating a body of work is part of what I want creatively for this year. For the month of April we’re supposed to be working on a series – the first of three series in fact (we decide on the subject ourselves). Lesson G falls in this period of working on our own series, so no mixed media assignments. But every two weeks we still get a nice drawing exercise.
We were asked to draw sets of girls, six at a time.Draw small, try out whether it’s easier to draw the head first and then work inward, or draw the eyes first and work out. I’ve learned to do the first in several lessons, it seems to work best for me (see the first two sets below). But of course I tried starting with the eyes (set 3) – and didn’t like it much, so I moved back to drawing from the the outer parts in. I’m sharing the ones I like and the ones I didn’t. That was all from April 4th, #216/365.
Okay – not my best work. Let’s see what’s there to like. I like top left and top right most; I love the indication of a necklace in the middle of the top row, and her hair. I found drawing teeth is not such a good idea in such a small sketch (I knew that!). I also found that trying to ‘close the mouths’ in a small drawing (where the reference has an open mouth, a smile) doesn’t work very well either. Ah well, lesson learned. I decided that drawing eyes first wasn’t my favorite approach.
Taking photographs as my reference, but from different sources, it’s hard to make them look like they belong together, when they don’t. The top left was after a photo of a young woman, dressed like someone from the Middle Ages. She was a bit stern looking; a rather different look from the girls in the other drawings, especially the bottom row (they were together in one photo). Some of these were smiling if I remember correctly. I believe I worked hard on making a drawing with a closed mouth on some of these.
Tuesday April 5, back to birds: a set of quick drawings using the technique of continuous line drawing (also known as: one liner drawing). I showed these earlier, I believe, but for the sake of the overview, here they are again. #217/365.
April 6, another set of faces – but I wanted to not just do girls. Enter some men among the women. Photo references from a newspaper magazine. #218/365
April 7, #219. Birds and feathers. I started with a feather using masking fluid. Didn’t know from the start what would happen next. Given the orientation of the feather on the page, I decided I needed one bird at the top, one below. Looking for bird photo’s I found some that seemed nice to fit in. Then everything had to dry.
I thought I might finish it later; but never got to it. I was trying to work up the courage to take off the masking fluid and see what would be necessary next….
Shall I just declare it finished now?
April 8 A studio day (#221). I started out drawing faces, from glamour magazines. Here’s the drawing. These are more detailed than the first sets. It’s partly because finally my eyes are back to normal, but also because I sank into a kind of flow and liked working in detail. I took my time, as I had the whole afternoon to myself.
The rest of the studio afternoon I worked on an assignment from B lesson in “Y is for Yellow”, which takes lots of layering (it was finished later, so for the result, see below, the April 11 piece) . I am not sharing the progress shots, because I don’t want to share the process carefully thought out by Carla Sonheim, as it is her finding and her lesson, not mine.). But here’s a peek at how I was working in the studio, spreading all my stuff on the table. I worked on two at the same time. There’s another piece on the far right, see?
Process notes continued… struggling with expectations and perfectionism
Back to my struggle with the different ideas – juggling the many balls… As I had just found a studio – yeah! – I really wanted to get to work in there too (sixth direction!). At first I worked on the bird series there (see above) and a lesson assignment (also above). But I wanted a studio for a reason: I really wanted to do things that are harder to do at home like painting on big canvases. I didn’t have all the big canvases out there straight away, but I could work on monoprints. In fact the idea started to pull at me real hard. Besides, I had an extra reason to work on those. I still needed to get used to the studio – it felt a bit strange at first. It’s a bit like a new home. You have to make it yours. Doing something that feels familiar helped me. So that was another reason to turn to gelli printing, making monoprints with the gelli plate. I started doing that by the end of the month, from April 20 (continued on April 22). And it really worked for me, fortunately! I found I could get into a rhythm in there and loose track of time. (Hurray!) And then of course I was recuperating and trying to get back to a more normal work day, which didn’t leave with me with enough time or energy to work on art very long.
All in all, many different situations that seemed to call for different things. All of this wasn’t clear right from the start – and it took me a while to see it for what it was. It feels so silly , now I’ve written it all down. But at first it felt like a struggle between two things (series and the Spring theme). I decided to give precedence at first to the series idea – Birds and feathers – over Spring. I chose birds that show up here in my garden– ones that show up here now, do that partly because of the season. Some are making nests, looking for nest material. Others are looking for nests to rob from. Well, by working on these birds at least some element of spring was covered, be it in an indirect way. (But I hadn’t thought it through well enough.)
Then I let myself be drawn to drawing faces (see above). I really loved that. But it could be labeled procrastinating – not working on the series. (Was it? I didn’t know for sure… ) I tried to pull myself back to the series work.
At the time I was really struggling with all this. I felt I *had to* finish the course I had taken because of being ill. I *had to* do a series. Had to, had to, had to. I also *had to* get back to work. Lots of expectations, only partly explicit at first. Of course that was to much *having to* and not enough to make me feel better. A bout of perfectionism – I recognize it now.
At a certain time I just felt stuck. I sat with this idea of being stuck for a while, dropped it into a Facebook group for artist from the class (a subgroup from the Yellow class in fact) and got some wonderful supportive comments. In the end I decided to just move between projects and simply allow the month to be ‘a bit of this and a bit of that’. Really deciding to do it that way felt like a relief. Pooh. The month contained some struggle and then a good conclusion by the end of it! That’s good!
More April art work
April 9 was a busy Saturday and the end of a busy week. I was going to my book club, had to present the book(s) I read and I felt that the busy week had been a bit too much. I drew a quick drawing of a vase (which I seem to have lost), just before leaving home. And I drew a ‘quickie’ view out of the window into the garden of my friends house. (#222 no photo yet)
April 10, Sunday; some house work to do too. By the end of the day I was so tired, I only felt like experimenting, painting patterns with opaque watercolor in my sketchbook. #223
April 11, #224. I worked on lesson B of Yellow class. B stands for Picasso’s blue period. I showed some of the blue blind contour drawings earlier. The mixed media assignment of the B lesson was about seeing values, lights and darks. Here’s on of my pieces finished.
April 12, 13 and 14 (#225 – 227). I went back to the watercolor course by Marieke Blokland (Happy Watercolor Course) and painted fantasy landscapes and a folk art doll in her style (the last one is a work in progress). I started to feel it’s not my style, and added birds to the middle page (just for fun).
April 15 , studio day, #228. I worked on the birds and feathers series.
April 16 through 18 (#229-#231) , more birds. I finally pushed myself back to painting:
April 19, #232, another bird painting, work in progress. It needs a bit of detailing. I couldn’t push myself to do that in the days after that.
Do I like it? I love the colors. I love these birds – especially seeing them in my garden. But this is not my kind of painting. At least not to do it day after day, if you get what I mean.
By the way, I started to paint only after doing some studies of the bird in ballpen.Obviously I used these studies to look – look – look at the bird. Drawing helped to really see the shapes, the colors, the typical aspects of this bird. The things I love: the blue cap on top, a wonderful light blue.
Then – for the rest of April – I couldn’t set myself to do many more birds. I turned to do something that was pulling me in: making monoprints.
April 20 #233 : The first day of making monoprints (see yesterday’s post). I used mostly cool colors, different types of blue (cerulean blue, sky blue, Payne’s grey) and black and white.
April 21 #234: A Thursday. I didn’t keep notes.I remember getting a phone call in the middle of a drawing or painting session.
[Edit (May 3): I found a bird drawing I made on this day. I was considering to paint a bird I love even more than the one above. I studied it using tracing paper. One drawing is a tracing of a photo in a bird book I found in the public library, the other is hand drawn.]
April 22 #235 Second day of monoprinting, using mostly warm colors, orange and browns and black and white; also darkened with green tints. (See yesterday’s post for an impression.)
April 23, #236 – More monoprinting. As I needed to go on to a burial ceremony of the mother of a friend, I didn’t have much time to make work, let alone photos.
April 24, #237 – Sunday It was a day to do house work, get some garden work done, and some rest. This day was also meant to finally do our tax work. But as my hubby was ill, that was a bit harder than usual. In the end I even managed to fit in some bird drawing. Yeah! Just to keep my mind going on this subject of the series, trying out new birds that may end up in watercolors (or not?). I used the Dutch names of the birds. I love the one bottom left – Putter(tje) in Dutch – it has such wonderful colors (in real life), the bright red face and yellow marks on its wings makes it stand out from any background.
April 25, #238 Monday. My notes are unclear. I know my men folk were ill. I was tired and had to work on my admin tasks too. I may have worked on abstract watercolor blobs to jumpstart drawing on a later day…. Or did I forget to do anything (huh? That would be a first… but totally possible given how tired I was by the end of the day).
[Edit May 3: I do have a set of four watercolor blob pieces which were made this month. After finding the April 21 drawing of the ‘staartmees’, I’m almost certain the blobs were done on April 25. I have scans but WordPress doesn’t accept them.]
Then – on April 26 and 27, #239 and #240 – took some time on the lessons on the folk art dolls in Marieke Bloklands course (Happy Water Color Course). If I did forget to do daily work on April 25 – which I don’t know for sure – I definitely made up for lost time on these two days. 🙂
April 26 / Day #239 – quick sketches. The first is close to Mariekes example (bird and wavy tree added); the second I did from imagination – but close to Mariekes examples too.
April 27 / Day #240: I finished the folk art doll I started earlier. Close to Marieke, I just did not add as many dots and stripes as Marieke.
But first I painted a girl in a fantasy landscape, close to Marieke Bloklands example, using different grey colors. Here it is in the set of that day. I couldn’t help but to put in a bird. (It looks a bit ‘weak’ in this version with just the first layer of paint- I added a second layer of paint later, but I have no scan of that version as yet.)
I started an extra piece (!), as it was a cold and windy day and I had all the time in the world – after all, it was a national holiday for the celebration of the King’s birthday – and I could go on and on painting. I started some more assignments from the course, some cards, and another Marieke inspired fantasy girl, finished on April 28th (#241).
The cards, first layer using masking fluid, were also finished the next day (April 28). I added some shadow to the stars (that was enough). I suddenly felt like drawing birds on the one with the squares. It feels a bit like a cartoon. Maybe I should do it again and write the story that connects these drawings… 🙂
April 29th, #242, studio day. It was a windy and cold, cold day. Spring had left us, or so it seemed. For days we had lots of hail and wet snow in the mornings, cold winds and some sunny spells. I went into the studio and worked on the monoprints, layering on dark colors. I tried to make landscapes by using stencils and made patterns in the paint. Like this one (WIP).
By now, after 4 sessions of making prints, I had a set of at least 40 prints.
It was time to think of finishing some pieces. I decided to cut some of them up and started work on two collages. The amount of pieces shrunk to about 30. I laid them out on the floor and made some pictures. Yes, it was a day for dark colors.
Results? By the end of the day I took a stack of 25 pieces home – to look at and look for possibilities.I left the ones that were no good at all, 5 pieces.
It was a long day. I got into a kind of flow. While engaged in the doing, I can’t see the possibilities for finished pieces anymore. But that’s no problem. I just work on what the printing leads me to. I like to think it’s a process that will lead to some good results – sometimes happy accidents – and many failures. And I accept all that.
Many of the prints I don’t like as is, but I know by now I may feel different on the next day – or that they can be used as collage fodder. Having so many I felt free to use some of the prints. I cut up several to make interesting pieces of collage fodder and started two collage pieces. I consider the two collages above as nearly done.
Future results? In a few days time I will move on with the collages and probably will end up with a series of abstract collage work. I will probably be starting from the dark prints, working some into dark pieces and some to lighter final pieces.
April 30 #243
Then on the final day of the month, Saturday 30th of April, I needed to run errands and buy some clothes. As far as the daily creating is concerned, I took some time to make some more quick girl sketches. I think that’s one of the best parts of the Happy Water Color Course – for me personally – the invitation to sketch.
This invitation also reminds me of last year’s Sketchbook Class by Cat Bennett – which contained some fun techniques and also a lot of experimenting, sketching and finding our own themes and ideas. Go back to the sketchbook, again and again. I like that.
Here’s the sketches of April 30 (#243/365)- an idea I will probably be working on – and improvising on – in the weeks to come. Girl and bird. If I don’t stick to abstracts, that is.
If I do go on, I will be changing the dress, the hairdo, the landscape, the clouds (Dutch skies!) and will probably add my own towers, and so on. That’ll be fun!
Well, if you managed to read on until the end, let me say thanks (thanks!) and applaud you. It’s quite a set, and quite a long post. A bit too long to my liking… and let’s face it, it’s way too long for internet users nowadays – but there was nothing to be done about it. It’s done.
Writing it all down has done me quite a bit of good – it helps my reflection and it helps to achieve some closure on the work and my feelings about the work of this month. I helps me see I’ve produced quite a bit of work and I am quite happy about it now. For days on end during this month I didn’t feel happy at all. I went through a spell of not being happy about the work done in March (especially during the time of being really ill, the second half of March). I also wasn’t happy about how my series went. I couldn’t get it to work. Then I also went through some work for lessons (which were not my own ideas) – I was mainly copying what the teacher did at first – and this didn’t make me happy at the time (or didn’t help make me feel better at least). More than one reason to turn on the voice of the inner critic. (Pff).
By now, I am happy enough. I am happy I did go on with the lessons for the watercolor course, as I can let it go now and start making my own versions of the girls, mixing Marieke Bloklands ideas with my own.
Finally I’m my own girl again, in more than one way. Yeah!
How do I want to go about the daily creating next month: just go with what feels right. Start with abstracts and we’ll see. (That would be the sane thing to do. I hope to stick to it).
How about the blog? I don’t know yet. Probably I will return to showing pieces once or twice a week. If only to prevent having to make such a long blogpost again next month. You, my reader, will be happier too 🙂 We’ll see.
The series. I feel I have made some fun pieces. And laid the ground work for continuing this line of work. Some time in the future. We’ll see.
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