The Hand, Heart and Eye – Josie II

I finished Josie! The last few weeks I have had pneumonia so only worked a little at a time as I had energy. It all adds up! I am really happy with how she turned out for me. It is something to know that all the time and patience comes together. There are always things you think you could have done different, there is always that distance between the thing you say in your mind’s eye and the final result but in this case, the distance is not as great as it usually is.

When I did the original block in I did it on a different sheet of paper and then transferred the final block in to the pristine paper. I do this because I am forever heavy handed in my block-ins, erasing lots, grooving the paper a little too much. I am getting better with practice but it is a slow process developing that pencil control so I want to start my drawing with a fresh, light block in. I use a transfer method I learned at that Neoteric and that Sadie uses as well. I copy the drawing to tracing paper and then on the reverse side put a thin layer of graphite. Then I use a permanent fine point marker to lightly draw over my drawing transferring it smoothly onto the pristine paper. I love this method. You are never pushing a pencil into the paper when doing the transfer.

All that went really well on Josie. But – then I saw some changes, of course, that needed to be made to the block in and I got a little “groovy” on my drawing. That is the biggest bugaboo with the final Josie drawing. If you look closely in person you can see some of those grooves I made when adjusting the transferred block in. I didn’t really need to make those adjustments either, that’s the thing. I could have made the adjustments while drawing, and with a lighter hand.

Sometimes you can become so enamored of your own process and mark making. In doing so you put yourself smackdab in the middle of “thinking” and bugger things up. I do my best when I get out of my own way and just let my hand, heart and eye work. I am a far smarter artist when I am not thinking about the execution too much while executing. I think this is what I learned from Josie mostly…. Think first, think and look, then get out of your way and let instinct take over. Then stop and think again, look again and then fall back into the knowing.

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Josie II Graphite on Canson Paper

I am learning the same lesson when applying a print to a fabric in this little pastel study of a potato I am doing. I have never done print on fabric before, much less in pastel. I found the same process rang really true for this… get out of my way. The more I thought about the print the more forced the print became, the more fiddly the detail and the less fresh the result. I took a toothbrush and loosened the pastel up over most of the cloth and went in with a much lighter hand. I looked hard and then I put myself away and let my hand, heart and eye take over.

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WIP – Sweet Potato Pastel on Hand Prepared Paper

There is a time to think, and then there is a time to put thinking aside and just do what you know to the best of your ability and instinct. We have so much knowledge inside of us, we actually know how to do so much if we just get out of our own way. You take all this time to learn all you can and you practice all you can so that you can let go when it counts and let the rhythm and instinct guide you.

I think the rest of my art practice, for the rest of my life will primarily be this… learning to get out of my own way!

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What’s been on the table this week…

My discipline has been good lately, though I am torn three days a week when I have to work on my side business that actually brings in a meager amount of money. I will say that it is gratifying to have your own business, but not nearly as gratifying as making art.

Lisa, the Director of the Neoteric Renaissance School of Art and dear friend was over for a visit the other day and looked at some of my recent endeavors in progress. She said the most encouraging thing I have heard in a great while. She said she always recognizes my work. She said that the decisions I make regarding moving light and line through a piece, what I accent and what I down play are delicate and consistent. We talked about how these things happen unconsciously, the real signature of an artist being the little things like where you begin and end a line, the way you choose to accent the light moving through a work, etc. Delicate is not a word that I think of when I think of my work. I constantly struggle with a heavy hand. It was good to hear though, and then to let go of and get back into the learning. If it happened unconsciously then I best just be true my studies and not become too self-conscious of it.

I was quite tired today and found that it actually helped my art work a lot. It slowed my mind and all the thoughts that tend to dart all over the place and tire me out much quicker when I’m working. I put in a good five hours today.

Varo

I have made progress on the Varo! It should be done within a couple weeks, definitely by the end of June. I had a great go at it Saturday and made lots of progress. I really just have the table and box to do, the final touches to the cloth and then the face and hands of course. The face and hands will go fast, because it has to be on the money the first pass. I have been working on this one for almost a year, a little at a time.

I work slowly and I still find the act of close comparison fatiguing over time. So I just work on spurts. I generally do not work longer than ½ hour without a break, and around three or four hours before a longer break. Sometimes that is all I can put in for the day. Sometimes I go back to it after a few hours of doing something else. Often I work on my writing or book studies in between painting sessions – or play a computer game – another way I like to take a break. I do not know why I fatigue so quickly, but it does get noticeably better when I consistently work every day.

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Josie

The less I think about what I’m doing the smoother what I’m doing becomes. It is a luxury to not think about what you’re going to do next, especially when you’re learning because you’ve always got this dialogue running in your mind coaching you, the voices of teachers, of books, instructing you into the correct way to do things. I do my best when I shake all that.

With Josie, I wanted to smooth the effect in this session. I was not happy with the scratchy marks and the cumbersome execution with the charcoal. I wanted something fresher, cleaner. I looked to my right and I saw one of my super soft paint brushes. To my surprise I just took it and I started brushing the charcoal around. That’s a really bold move when you’ve spent a month working on a portrait and have never done the technique before. I could have lost everything but I got lucky. Actually, after so much study, I don’t know if it’s all just luck anymore! I was able to reconcile some problem areas and add some fresh spontaneity to the background and achieve that flat neat black background that I wanted. About three times I should have stopped and I by the end of the session I had created and lost about 3 completely different drawings. Must work on more control.

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Potato

Getting ready to work the print in the cloth. Right now it appears like a blank canvas but will have a very complex French vine and floral print. The potato came along very easily. The paint tube still needs a lot of work. I am getting faster with my pastels and more confident.

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Sadie

I have been working on my Sadie Valeri Atelier Online projects – more spheres, value strips and a couple block in progression. It was a challenge to get the block in consistent and identical in each stage. What a great exercise, doing each stage from the beginning. I am very much enjoying and learning from Sadie’s curriculum and approach. I also think I finally am happy with my value sphere!

My goal this week is to finish Josie and continue to make progress on the Varo. I have a new block in to do for Sadie and want to start a couple of small graphite drawings as soon as Josie is done. I am not enjoying the charcoal much at all. Also, it poses the same storage and framing challenges as the pastel. I still want to work in oil and graphite primarily. That being said, I am setting up to paint this week so will be focusing on that as well.

The (art) week in pictures: February 7 – 14

2/7 – Sunflowers
I painted today. I feel like I keep saying/painting the same thing over and over and over. I go from very being very effective to falling into a primitive idea of painting what I think I see. I gain control and lose control over and over again and that process not only disrupts the unity and confidence of the marks I am putting down but it exhausts me. I have painted these leaves at least ten times and every time I redo them completely. I create something I like and in trying to push it further lose it. I am getting much better about blending my edges really well though, after I have worked on an area and am stopping for the night or until it dries. It makes it much easier to go back and rework the area.

Also and importantly, I have discovered my “painting music”! Choir music! For me, it soothes the mind, raises the heart and steadies the hand. I just discovered some contemporary composers who have composed such timeless sublime pieces as  Morten Lauridsen and Arvo Part. It took my over-simplistic generalizations about the clasical music of this time by surprise. PS. Lauridsen is going to be talking about his music at a community college this week and we are going!

2/8 – Sunflowers
I surprised myself painting today. I worked on the petal part of my sunflower painting. For the longest time I had no idea how I was going to approach them. At first I started with extra care, brushing each petal slowly and very carefully. It was all wrong. I wiped it all out and looked at my brushes. I needed a bigger brush. I needed a bristle brush. I picked up a nice medium round hog bristle. Filled it with paint and then just let go. With the bigger brush I let go of the controls and let my instincts paint for me. I think that in painting our head can get away from us and we lose track of our instincts. Just like we can walk and talk at the same time without thinking about it, when you paint your best you are applying the paint without thinking about the color, value, temperature, textures all at once. Instinct. The process of learning is becoming aware of every little thing but the process of mastering is letting go of every little thing and letting your instincts take over. I know that when my instincts paint I always exceed my own expectation. I match colors and make brush strokes that I never could make if I were thinking about every little thing. Freedom in painting is discovered in those moments of trust that you will make the right mark. If you are really practicing often, seven out of ten times you will make the right mark. The other few times you just correct yourself. Realizing this is causing me to be a better painter.

I look at all the lessons I’m learning and how hard it is and it is such a simple little panting. Here is the Sunflowers so far… now all I need to do is get into the details on the leaves, etc. I am not going to do too much more with the petals.

Sunflowers. Swalton. In progress
2/11 – Josie
I drew tonight for about 3 hours. I worked in charcoal on paper from a photograph. The photo is of a dear friend who modeled for me one night and allowed me to take some photos of her poses. At first I really fought with the charcoal but as I worked, I saw how the nature of charcoal actually lends itself to a very sensitive application. It seems to read my mind simply said. I ended up having a really easy time with it and was really able to focus on the drawing. I made good progress and got a complete block in done. The only problem is now I’m not really sure what to do next as I head into the shadow shapes and starting to examine the shadows. Lisa and Matthew are coming over for critique this weekend. I think I will leave it alone until then. Tomorrow I am going to try to make class and draw from the live figure.

Here is my drawing of Jose so far:

Jose

2/12 – Figure drawing class
I went to class tonight and drew from the live figure for 3 hours. It was the same pose as two weeks ago and the same drawing. I struggled at first because the poste had drifted considerably over two weeks. After I talk to Matthew about it, he said I could either start over or I could re-work and re-block in the figure working up from the feet and legs (which had not drifted in the pose). I chose to stay with my drawing. It was a lot of fun to actually turn the figure around dimensionally in my drawing and by the end of the night I had a successful revised block in. I felt very comfortable drawing tonight. I was able to really feel and see more my growth, drawing from the model used to be such a fight for me, almost painful. Here is my drawing from tonight. I’ll continue with this drawing for the next 3 or 4 weeks, through the end of March.

Here is a snapshot of my reworked block in:

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