Monday, February 19, 2018

Still abstractify life

The final exercise of the course, was all about still life. I was uncertain where to begin, because I'm not really a "stuff" person. I wasn't even sure what still life was - did it include furniture, or just things that once lived (ie: flowers in a vase)?

So to satisfy my curiosity, I decided to embark on a few extra projects, to see if I couldn't thoroughly explore the subject matter.

For some reason, I wanted to capture our living area, because it's where we like to do our reading, research and to relax. So I set up the "arrangement", as you're supposed to do, for a still life painting. I knew I was going to remove things (like the red, stability ball) and add extra things - like maybe a traditional piece of fruit?

The first painting I tackled with acrylic...

I call this, "the one I had to get out of my system". Because it was mostly realism, with a vague play with abstract - meaning I simplified the shapes. I liked it, but I knew it was a little vanilla, as well. So I made another attempt.

This time I wanted to exploit the space, which so intrigued me, between the couch and the bookcase.

I set it up, so I could work on two pieces at the same time. Just because I wanted to see how far I could push the same living space, arrangement. But as often happens (to me anyway) I had to rescue the one on the right - it had too much charcoal, and became the dark abyss. So I covered it with white gesso, to start again.

I quite liked it at this stage. It was rough and not too precious. But I had an idea I wanted to exploit, which meant I had to add to it again. This piece eventually became, quite the "mixed media" project.

I ended up using, acrylic paints, charcoal, inktense pencils and collage (bookcase and book spine). The reason I chose this particular arrangement, was to make a feature of that space between the couch and bookcase, in the first painting. To do that, I used a lot of angles - like arrows, to point towards it.

Yet there is nothing so obvious, as a glaring arrow in sight. It merely encourages the eye, to slide down the side of the bookcase, with the glass and apple, to where the lamp is emerging, but pretending not to notice. There is no obvious gap between the bookcase and couch, any more, but I insinuate there is. Because in alignment with that sweet, invisible spot, is the unopened book, waiting to be read.

So that was my idea, in a nutshell.

The other piece I worked on, while waiting for the gesso to dry on the other, was very simple in comparison. Also inspired by the original painting, I wanted to extend the couch, to look like it was ready to embrace you.

The apple from the original painting, became the wallpaper. No books this time. It was just a little Inktense pencil, play - and everything a living space should be. Welcoming.

Then just to stick to convention, I decided to set-up a traditional "still life" arrangement. This little blue medical bottle, and shells, normally reside in our bathroom. They had to be temporarily relocated to my studio, however, in order to pose for my still life.

Out came the Inktense pencils again...

I probably could have played with it some more, but wanted to keep it simple. What I've learned with Inktense pencils is, you need very little, and you want to keep your colours clean. The more you layer them, the more muddy they become. Which is fine, if that's the look you're going for. But I wanted vivid colours, in this case.

So with that, the course ends. But the journey of creating, doesn't! I may take a break for a little while, to begin some sewing projects I've been meaning to. I've got some kid's birthday presents to plan for, in the next 3 months. But I will definitely return to the studio again.

Until next time...enjoy your creative journey, wherever it leads you!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Abstractify: in motion

Still in week four, and what I think, is the most useful of the course material. That's not to say, the rest wasn't useful - but what it imparted, broke through the "realism" tunnel-vision I had going. There is wanting to change, and then there is knowing how to.

Which is what some of the later exercises proved to address. It's all about capturing movement in your work. Which can be helped along with music and dancing, while you paint!

I was really surprised how effective this strategy was, at imparting "energy" into the brushwork. I even splattered my carpet with red paint, as I got into it, with my whole body. Sorry carpet!

The movement of my body, interrupted the thought process, so all I could capture, was the movement. I really enjoyed this exercise, and decided to call it, "collision". Because it looked like two bodies of energy, colliding with each other.

While I worked exclusively in landscape, I was surprised to see the dynamic remained, when the picture was placed in portrait position. This was a first for me though. Capturing, energy. I felt I was doomed to do everything "flat", before realising there were strategies to help.

I used splattered paint, credit cards to mix and move the paint around, as well as my fingers. So a variety of different marks were achieved. It may look a bit messy, and without reason - but I actually spent a lot of time, trying to create balance, so the marks wouldn't be too heavy in one area, or too sparse in others.

Over all, I was happy with this particular exercise, for providing a new strategy, in being more abstract. In fact, it was completely abstract!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Abstractify: week four

As week three of my course, ended up being a mega post - I'm going to break up week four, a little more.

The first exercise, was trying to capture the essence, of an aspect in nature. In this case, a tree - and finding different ways to express what a tree is, or how it can be experienced. It was really just left up to your imagination, how you would approach the subject matter.

I opted to use my own image, from our property, than the one supplied. Mostly, because I loved the "dwarfed" feeling, it created, by standing underneath.

Loved the concept! But (once again) it proved to cause another stumbling block, because of "attachment" issues. Thus, I tried to recreate the image, rather than drawing from my imagination.

I started the trunk, with newspaper collage, but ended up covering most of it! Not to worry.

I thought the composition, created a lovely, weightless feeling at first, but I had to try "pushing" it, that little bit further...

I wanted to add more weight to the bottom, by adding some under-story plants. Effectively though, I made it look more cluttered. But what I'm learning with each exercise, is not to become "precious" about my creations. If I'm not prepared to risk ruining them, then I'm not prepared to learn what IS possible.

While I may not effectively capture the essence of the exercise (at first) I'm still practicing. Which can only make me more familiar with my process, and how to change it! I like these "failures" (to me) for learning. So they're not wasted efforts at all.

Once the course wraps up (start of next week) and I have more time, I will try new ways to explore trees again. I'm looking forward to that, because our five acres, has so many of them!! 

Abstractify: on location

I'm a little behind in posting, because I'm a little behind in completing the online course. Partly because I've been busy, and partly because, I was unmotivated by some of the course material. I discovered, "landscapes", aren't my thing! Week three of the course, was all about them.

The lessons were easy enough to follow, but I struggled with interpreting "feelings" and expression, adequately enough.

First job, was to go on location and try to capture a "scene". I chose my verandah and brought my trusty water brush, and Artbar, water soluble crayons. I quite enjoyed this part. It was a beautiful morning, there was a cool breeze and birds were all around. So an incredibly nice place to create in!

I started with the north-east, side of the verandah and tried to keep it simple. I wanted to capture that airy, sunny, morning. I believe I succeeded, and was rather happy with it. So then I moved to the western side of the verandah...

Another pleasing sketch to me - as a sketch. But I didn't really feel I was "abstractifying", very much. I was still, very stuck in realism. Then I received some feedback, by the course creator, to try pushing them a little further - to see if I could tip them, into more abstract.

I thought it was a wonderful idea, and gave it a try on the first sketch...

I really only succeeded in making it a little darker though. Which ruined the airy, sunny, feeling I had successfully captured, previously. I was a little miffed I'd ruined my initial sketch, and my confidence was low, in trying the next exercise.

Which was capturing a view from a window...and once again, it was seen through the lens of our verandah.

The colours looked pretty drab in the image, but I thought I could vamp it up, using non-local colours. I chose acrylic paints, because I need the practice!

I simplified the shapes, and while some aspects of the image, were successful on their own, like...

The brick work, and window frame. As well as ~

The horizon meeting the section of awning, worked as well. But as a whole, the window frame and awning, just looked bulky and stifled the view. 

As far as succeeding, in making a view you WANT to gaze out at - I failed! Burn. But guess what? I walked away learning something, nonetheless. I learned I needed more practice with landscapes. I also learned I was being too emotionally invested. Abstract, requires you to let go of the subject, and give it a new interpretation.

I was struggling, with detaching. Because this was my view, from my home, and I couldn't tear it apart and remake it (I suspect). But not all was lost. I rather enjoyed the last exercise of the week!

We learned all about compositions in landscapes, and were given the opportunity to simply create imaginary landscapes - using those different compositions, as guidelines. But by moving quickly through the nine squares, it didn't leave you long to ponder what you were doing. I seemed to respond well to that, lol. 

But the main objective I decided - given my former failures and learning from them, was just to have fun with it. That was going to be all I focused on. 

I chose a fun colour palette, I think, and only afterwards, did it dawn on me: how reminiscent it was of Ken Done's, earlier works. He used a lot of bright, vivid colours too.

I even incorporated some paper collage, in a few...

Remember, I was working quickly, so when I came back to fill in the final details (done in the darkest colour) I really didn't KNOW what I would pull from the paint. It's "imaginary", so you never really know what you're going to get. The only guideline, was the different rules of compositions.

I didn't know this was going to be a lighthouse, on top of a cliff, when I put the coloured paint down. But the yellow said something of "light", and then I realised there were some waves too!

I knew this was always going to be a crossroads, of sorts, but I didn't realise how busy the park would be, that emerged. Or the vague Asian feel to it. Again, not planned. It just kind of came out, as I was working between the nine squares.

I was thinking water lilies with these...but, not over thinking them.

Some kind of Caribbean location, but far too busy with details, I decided afterwards. So it became my least favourite. But still bright enough, to leave a happy feeling afterwards.

This one seemed to be favoured most, by the private Facebook Group, created for the course. I liked it's simplicity too. When the coloured paint went down, I was thinking "trees". When it came to applying the darker colour however, I changed my mind to, "sails".

So while week three had a bumpy start, and took a few days to work through the lack of confidence - it ended on a high. I enjoyed, going whacko with colours! Also fostering detachment, by working quickly and using my imagination.

I think I needed to absorb that distinction, between realism and abstract, was just letting go of what you see! Filtering through one's imagination though, takes time and a lot of practice.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


I'm not going to share every single exercise, in my online course, because some are more about experiments, than producing anything notable. Which is a great way to learn - through experimentation!

Nevertheless, this week, we're learning all about people, or figures - and how to bring them into being. I didn't realise there were so many creative ways to do this. I will share, two of the different ways we experimented with - and they're really, worlds apart.

Experiment #1

One of the exercises, had to do with exploring light and dark tones, specifically through paint. Using a naked model: we could opt for the female image supplied, or find our own. So I opted to find my own image, using a male model instead (above).

It was not my intention to give him, a "Wolverine knives" look to his hands, but I was experimenting with mark making, and trying to distract from the incomplete hands. As he was holding something in both hands, in the reference image. So I had to fudge his hands a little, in order to lose the items.

But then, we later came to do an exercise, which truly excited me...

Experiment #2 begins

This time, we were going to create figures from thin air. We could use a reference image for guidance, if we wanted to - but I was curious to see how I would go, with just my imagination, and the materials I chose.

Personally, I love incorporating newspaper prints in some of my work, through collage. And I found an awesome hand-written letter page, as my base material.

Two random pieces

I tore it up randomly, and started gluing it to my white paper. I had an idea of the figure's position on the page (conjured up in my imagination) but I was also prepared to see what would randomly appear, too.

Six random pieces

I thought this had the good basis for a seated, or crouched position. But at this stage, I still hadn't settled on the final position of the figure. It was still just an idea, forged out of random pieces of paper. Then I started adding the paint...

Acrylic Paint

This, again, was a random process. I liked the rust-coloured look, that yellow-oxide and red, made together. I also thought it complemented the vintage look of the hand-written prints, more than a more bold colour would.

To help in blending and highlighting though, I added a fair bit of white gesso.  Ever so gradually, a figure started to emerge...

Titled: "Mc Kenna Replies"
{Mc Kenna, being the surname, written on the envelope}

I decided to keep it more abstract, giving the illusion of a position, without locking it into one. My figure could've been in a crouched position, or standing on one leg.

This is the most abstract, I've gotten in this course. And it didn't make me feel uncomfortable either. Maybe because I didn't have a reference image to compare it to - did I get the proportions right, is the shading correct, etc. This was just a random process, to see what emerged.

I probably could've worked on it more, but I loved the weightless feeling to this painting - a lot more, than the heavy feeling, of the first. I didn't want to lose that, so stopped. I'm definitely going to try more of these.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Splash of colour

For the final project of the week, I was very happy to come back to reality! While an exploration of marks, was just as desirable as deviating from normal colour profiles - I only wanted the colour deviation. Illustration wise, I wanted to return a little more, to my comfort zone again - realism.

It gave me the opportunity to use one of my favourite colours though, - lime green! Now I just had to find, a suitable reference image...

Source image - free download

I ventured to, for photographic inspiration. Luckily I found some, in an adorable moggy! It helped, to go with a monochrome picture, so I wasn't tempted to veer into original colour territory.

I wasn't necessarily looking for a cat, they just popped-up in the feed, and too damn cute to pass by!

 Initial sketch

Rough sketch in charcoal, first. Then my lime-green, soft pastels went down. I've learned, it's easier to start with a light application of charcoal, then put as much of your soft pastels down, as possible. Only then, do you go in with a heavy application of charcoal, for shading, afterwards.

If you go in hard, with the charcoal first, all your pastels will have a black tinge, where they come in contact with the charcoal. So the dark shading in charcoal, was the final application to go down.

Title: Techno-Cat

I really loved how the lime green, orange and yellow went together. While picking the colours was completely intentional, I didn't know how they would look together, until it was done. The yellow and green, gave the moggy an almost fluorescent appearance. Which was perfect for the name I chose. Techno-Cat.

They look like they're resting in the lights of a rave party. David said perhaps it should have more of a smile on it's face. But I think if I were a moggy, trying to get some rest at a rave party, I'd be pretty annoyed by the bright colours and noise too!

Once again, I loved this exercise for experimentation, and ultimately, story telling. Doing something different to a realistic picture, begs to ask the question - what's going on here? Which is true of abstract art, in general. My work is not exactly, abstract yet. But I'm getting there, one exercise at a time!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Abstract Exercise

I've got to say, I'm really enjoying my Abstractify course. It always challenges me to think about how I approach a picture, or drawing. Although, the optional abstract exercise, recently, didn't exactly lead to enticing pictures.

I decided to merge my photo of gum nuts, and a magazine cover I quite liked - involving brightly coloured, Chinese lanterns. Although it sounded like a good idea in my head, I wasn't quite able to master the exercise in practice.

Not in oil pastels...

Nor in acrylic paints - the first attempt...

Or even the second and final attempt, in acrylic!

But the exercise, no matter how unsatisfactory the end pictures were, brought about some really valuable discoveries for me.

1. I don't like harsh lines when painting. It works with sketches only.
2. I really suck at making abstract art!

I dealt with the harsh lines, by trying to paint the whole picture with my fingers instead.

Some aspects of the final picture, worked in isolation. It seemed impressionistic, and got rid of those nasty, harsh lines. But as a whole, the final picture, was really quite unappealing.

Compared to the gum-nuts I painted earlier, it just didn't work. After some feedback from the course creator, I came to understand, I'm navigating between representational and abstract - I have to find the level which most appeals, to me.

On a spectrum, I lean more towards realism (representational) and less towards abstract. But as I practice more and more, that may change. I'm happy to accept realism for now, as it gives me a direction. Something I'm already connected to. Abstract will come more, later. I don't have to go full-abstract now. 

Which really helped, when I completed my final exercise for the week. More on that tomorrow.