Monday, October 10, 2016


What a difference, appropriate materials make! I explained the problem I had with my first monochrome attempt, was the IXL charcoal blocks - used on top of the gesso paint. Well, I found some charcoal sketching pencils, hidden in my supplies cupboard, which I hoped would be more appropriate. I used the "soft" one (as opposed to medium, or hard) with great success this time.

The charcoal blended perfectly with the gesso paint and allowed me to make more expressive marks. I used a reference picture of a windmill, but added my own marks to make it appear as if, it was moving.

It's a simple study, but one of my favourites. Because it's the first time I've been able to capture "movement". It aims a little more on the abstract side (technique wise) but still a recognisable subject in the end.

I was able to complete this in about an hour. Why is it important to note the time? Because it's one of the strategies I'm using to be able to fit creative time in. It's a little window I get in the evenings, where toddlers are asleep and older siblings can watch a favourite show with dad. So small and simple projects, are what works best.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Male torso

I did a painting during the Touchstone course, which I would not normally do. It wasn't part of the course material, but I stumbled across it on the course creator's video collection.

When (or if) I ever find that video again, I'll be sure to post a link. I could not find it in my history files, and a search of the blog again, did not result in success either. It was actually a tutorial from one of the courses she runs, to demonstrate what to expect from the course. Perhaps it was removed?

So anyway, enter my abstract figure painting, in acrylic...

completed September 28

I decided to opt for a male figure, as it tends to be traditional to paint the female figure. The entire painting is different to anything I would normally do, but what I like about the Touchstone course, is how it pushes you beyond what you believe you are capable.

Not that it necessarily "forces" you to. It's however much you want to push yourself, in whatever direction you choose. It was fun to be prompted outside my regular process.

Monochrome Bromeliad

I haven't been very good at updating my progress on the Touchstone course. It has now officially completed (the live session anyway) but we are free to return to the private members group on Facebook, to continue sharing our progress. I will endeavour to continue updating this blog, with the art I made during this time.

Recently, I drew a monochrome study, as part of the course. The aim was to get a feel for the different values between white and black.

Bromeliad - click to enlarge

It was recommended charcoal and gesso (thick white paint) be used together. Although I found it really difficult to work with them. The gesso went over the charcoal, no problem, but the charcoal ate into the gesso - leaving indent marks, instead of black.

I switched to an oil pastel however and it worked much better on the gesso. If I were to do this again, I would just use my white and black charcoal blocks. It was a fun exercise nonetheless.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The worker

As one of the exercises I worked through for my online course, I chose a worker, planting rice in a paddy field. When looking for reference photos, I stumbled across the humble rice paddy worker, and there was something about them, I deeply admired...

I respect the fact their civilisation, took to feeding themselves by the sweat of their own brow. There's no industrial agriculture here, feeding extremely large populations. Their food is somewhat sacred, by maintaining their annual pact with the land, to respect the paddy field. Sacred, because they placed themselves delicately in the environment which would feed them. Complimentary to abundance.

Any civilisation which still feeds itself like this, is ahead of the Western civilisation pack, in my opinion. Because they have natural equity to farm from, instead of depletion and erosion. The people themselves also have beautiful environments to work in, without heavy pollution and cumbersome infrastructure.

So it was with great admiration and respect, I captured their important work in their sacred office. Truly worth committing to paper. The IXL charcoal blocks I worked with, complimented this earthy subject beautifully too. In some cases, like the trees and bamboo in the background, I barely had to scrape the surface.

For so many reasons, I really enjoyed working on this piece.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Vision board

One of the exercises for the Touchstone online Art course I'm doing at the moment, is a vision board. The gist is to use magazines to cut-out, whatever images and words inspire you. If you don't have magazines, then you can do an online version, using Pinterest.

I got a little stuck on this exercise, because it brought back memories of an art assignment in high school. It turned into an innocent misunderstanding with the teacher, which led to a public "dressing down", in front of my peers. So every time I thought of doing this vision board, I reached a blank!

The thing is however, I REALLY wanted to do it, because having a vision board for inspiration, would be great! So I tweaked the exercise a little, to fit in with how I could do it.

It took several hours to complete, from the depths of my imagination. It contains all the things I want to be inspired by. There's also somewhat of a cycle to it as well. I love cycles.

Basically, ideas start as seeds, then germinate. They can make us feel vulnerable and unsure at first, because they're new. It requires a little (or a lot) of grace to be inspired and make the connections, in order for the idea to bloom. Those ideas, return to the world, and we do what we can, to maintain the balance of ourselves through this cycle. She is naked because all she has is her creativity and perception.

I felt so much lighter after doing this exercise, because I climbed over a psychological barrier and was able to move to the next step. Which is basically what the entire course is about. It's making those steps we constantly tell ourselves, we're not entitled to take for some reason or another.

I would like to share some links I've obtained, via this course. They're publicly available links, which I think are worth sharing. The first is a free downloadable book, called, "The War of Art", and is written by Stephen Pressfield. I'm only up to page 50, but it has some interesting views on how we view our creativity - or, the desire to create.

The second link is from a TED talk by Tim Urban, dubbed the Master Procrastinator. It's a very easy to follow talk, which explains the dilemma of the procrastinator. It doesn't hurt that it's very amusing too.

I'm on week three at the moment, with one more week of the course to go!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Contour drawing

I'm really enjoying the "Touchstone" online art course, Tara Leaver is conducting at present. It's the end of the first week, and we've done a lot on what's called a "Manual of Self", which should be pretty self explanatory. It's designed to help us understand ourselves better, in our process of creating.

Anyway, the first art exercise, was the blind contour sketch. You basically draw an item, without taking your eyes of it, but your pen stays on the page the whole time. So you end up with a random, freestyle sketch at the end. It was much easier to do, than a sketch I would normally concentrate on all the details for.

Here was my reference picture. A Spanish Iris given to me by my mother, many moons ago...

From that, I did the contour sketch with a black pen. I thought it would look really bad, but I was surprised how well the lines merged - because I basically had to guess where the middle of the flower was, without taking my eyes off the reference picture.

After you've completed the sketch, you can add colour, while looking at the page again. By keeping the colours random and simple, it matches the style of sketch too. Of course, I used Inktense pencils for adding colour. When don't I?

The whole exercise took me only 10 minutes to complete. I loved the random  detail, while still being able to recognise what it is. I really enjoyed drawing with a black pen too.

At the same time, I'm planning for an artwork to be completed by the end of the course. I'm still developing the stages, but I'll show my progress as I go.

Friday, September 9, 2016

7 day challenge, wrap up

So I didn't finish day seven, of the 7 day challenge. Mostly because I had a pressing issue, of building chicken housing, for our new chicks.

See my other blog, for details, here.

I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. I learned a lot, about how work best. I also look forward to starting the new Touchstones art course, starting in a few days. So I only have a few days, to finish that chicken tractor!

I look forward to reporting how the course goes.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Day 6 mini challenge

The days are just flying past now. It's the second-last picture for the challenge, and it turned out to be something blue. Because it just felt like a blue kind of day. Of course, the only thing I could conceive that was blue, was a peacock!

I started with an acrylic wash, and went over it with oil pastels for finer details. I even used a bit of black pen. While it's certainly blue, I noticed something about it, which reminded me of the sunflowers I did on day four.

Both were taken from internet images, which I decided I wanted to find. Want a sunflower? Got it. Peacock? No problem. But they looked as stilted, as a photograph too. I've used internet images successfully during the challenge, but I didn't go looking for a building with archways - I just saw it and thought it looked interesting. So there was no bias when I changed it to look completely different.

Even my self-portrait was done on a whim. I took a selfie, feeling happy and carefree - so that's what transposed into my sketch. "Being" me, rather than simply making a visual image to look like me. What have I learned from this experience? I work better with concepts, rather than a definitive subject. If I start with a concept, its more likely to shape the final product, outside of the reference photograph. Rather than the photo defining the subject matter for me.

A very small detail, but I'm glad I discovered it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Day 5 mini challenge

When day 5 came around, it struck me, I wanted to do a self portrait. All this creating had revealed a little more about my creative style, so I wanted to see how that would translate into a portrait.

I chose charcoal pencils as my sketching medium.

It looks rather ordinary compared to how I feel. I could have done mad colour combinations, because that's how I'm feeling about creating right now. I'm loving the excitement of looking at the world differently. So why didn't I portray that in my self-portrait? Because charcoal is gritty, like I've had to be, over the past five days.

I've had terrible scheduling conflicts, with this particular challenge. I've had to just dig-in and persevere. But I also like the calming qualities that working with charcoal, seems to give me. Could it be, because it's a natural medium of the earth?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Day 4 mini challenge

It's always the way. When inspiration hits, it's time for bed! I went to sleep last night, excited about all the pictures I could create for day 4. Unfortunately, when I woke up and had a zillion others things to do, all that inspiration disappeared.

So when David took Peter for a walk, mid-morning, my brain was a bit deflated. I thought I might try something in oil pastels and found an image online, of some sunflowers.

While it was enjoyable to draw and get in touch with oil pastels again, I didn't have much rattling around, as far as creative juices were concerned. I also realised I'm not as keen on my drawing supplies as I once was. Which includes the different varieties of pencils and the pastels. They require a lot of concentration and time to work with, which I realise in my busy schedule, doesn't afford me the luxury.

Acrylic paint, on the other hand, is much quicker to work with. Plus you can go over it, again and again, to change things around. I need speed and flexibility to create.

So the good thing about participating in this mini challenge is, I'm realising what art supplies I can work with best, on time restraints. If I want to create art in this busy time, I have to make things a little easier where I can.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Day 3 mini challenge

So day three of the mini challenge, happened to fall on Father's Day. Unfortunately, David had to work. It did afford me the opportunity to turn my mini challenge, into a Father's day card, however.

David is not into sports cars or golf, but he does like Fedora hats, ties and smart attire! He's also partial to the colour red. So the theme was really decided by the things David likes. I enjoyed being able to make him a custom card, rather than having to sort through the limited options available at the store.

I used inktense pencils, and really wanted to use acrylic paint. I didn't have any in red through, so I went with the inktense pencils. Which meant it got more of a scratchy treatment than I would have liked. I was hoping for a more smooth finish. Thankfully, it was more forgiving as a 3D card, better than a flat image.

David like it too, which was the most important thing.

Day 2 mini challenge

While I've managed to complete a picture each day, for the 7 day mini-painting challenge, I'm behind in posting about it. So here is day 2. I started with a free, internet reference photo:

While I loved the look and feel of this image - especially all that moss growing on the stone, I went in a completely different direction. I used the picture, only for line references, which I managed to change quite a bit too.

So this is what I ended up doing from the original reference picture:

Title: Only Arbor

I wanted to keep the lines and colours simple. Remember that pink from my period ladies series, here and here? Yep, same pink. I also wanted to use the lime green as homage to the moss on the rocks. Green is a wonderful contrast to pink!

I actually had to race to finish this picture, which is why it's not perfect. But I kind of like that it's not. I almost didn't get any time to complete a picture on this day, but David gave me an hour to myself. He suddenly decided to take Peter for a walk. So I dropped everything and ran to my paint supplies!

This picture from the outset, was always going to be about perspective, vibrant colour, light and shadows. None were meant to dominate, which is why they're so simple in application. Material is acrylic paint on paper.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


I've joined a new art challenge, via a course I've signed on for. The online course is called Touchstone, and run by Tara Leaver. From what I can gather, it's about drawing you closer to your identity as an artist.

There is a free 7 day mini-painting challenge, for anyone to join in. You're meant to do a small picture, with materials and subject matter you are drawn to, but most importantly, is easy! The idea is you turn out work for the 7 days, which you CAN do. I like that idea, with a toddler to entertain for most of the day!

So here is what I did after day 1:

 Title: Tipping point of balance

It started with an Inktense pencil sketch, but then I wanted to add some acrylic paint over the top, to soften the lines.

For some bizarre reason, I've been intimidated by mixing media before, but now I like it, because I realise the freedom it gives. I can go over stuff and make them different.

I didn't realise it at the time, but I chose a stack of stones to do for the 7 day mini-painting challenge, inspired by the "Touchstone" art course. In fact, I had done some preliminary sketches long before Tara Leaver mentioned the course. So it's kinda weird it popped up as a first piece, without me realising, until I finished it today.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Crazy chicken

So I wasn't getting much inspiration happening, because I only had small blocks of time available. My inspiration tends to vacate, the minute its expected to perform on demand. So knowing this, I told myself to loosen up and go with whatever came to mind, anyway.

So of course, what else, but chickens? No reference photo, just my experience with watching them. The medium was watercolour paints, used with a very fine brush at first. I was kind of "doodling" as one does with a fine tip pen, than painting blocks of colour. Save perhaps, washing a little of the background with a larger brush.

I left it for a while. Over a week I'm sure. It was okay, but it didn't leave me with an urge to transform it. But then another block of time arrived, and instead of avoiding any creativity at all, I decided to go with whatever showed up again.

I liked the free-form of doodling, when I had no idea what I wanted to achieve. So out came my inktense pencils, to go over the original watercolour, brush strokes again.

I was kind of inspired by peacock feathers with the diamond shapes in the background, but it wasn't meant to be "feathers". Just ornamentation. No idea why. This was mindless doodling, remember.

When I applied the final stokes and washed them with water, I actually felt quite depressed. I don't know why. Perhaps I was expecting something to wow me. Or perhaps I expected something more from the marks I put onto paper? I kind of told myself, I must not be very good at art, after all.

It wasn't until I was uploading the photos from my camera though, I realised what an original treatment of a chicken, it was. And that was the purpose of the exercise, in my tiny blocks of time. When my inspiration wasn't showing up, I wasn't sticking with the regular rules. At least not in the treatment side of things. But I think my expectations of wanting to be wowed by the process, remained the same.

Sometimes I need to try "whatever", making attempts instead of avoiding the process of creating. Giving myself plenty of permission to go "crazy" if that's what's happening at the other end of the medium. So this is my crazy chicken, with a flow of energy I don't entirely understand.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Art of Play

I haven't been in my studio for a few weeks. There are valid reasons for this, but I wanted to show some of the last pictures I did before my hiatus. Not because they were great pieces - far from it, in fact, I disliked them immensely at the time. But because I want to demonstrate the art of play, or playing with your art, which requires a great deal of imperfection - I have to show you some things which might not be comfortable to view.

The benefit being, you can return to it later, and see the lessons behind each piece. There's a story to go along with these evolving pictures. I had some new watercolour tubes I wanted to try out, along with some cheap watercolour paper I got for Christmas. Cheap, being the optimal word, because...

First picture

It didn't take me long to realise, it didn't matter how much I wet the paper, the colours weren't going to bleed. If it looks like a mess, you wouldn’t believe it took me days to even get to the painting part? I spent hours pouring over pictures on the internet, to get a 1920's composition of a lady and interior decor, that didn't look like I took it from any one individual picture.

When I realised the paper was a dud, and I wasn't going to create the masterpiece in my head, I decided to try and experiment with different colour ideas and techniques.

It's a mess, yes, but it also made me realise, I like incomplete pictures, which are a little brave with colour and technique. When I realised I didn't want to play with this picture any more, I was going to pack up my supplies. But saw all that lovely paint still on my palette. I decided to use it up, playing randomly, with whatever came to mind.

Second experiment

This experiment demonstrated, the cheap watercolour paper wasn't entirely useless, if I loaded up the paint bush with lots of paint and applied it to the dry paper. Or, wet on dry, is the technical term.

The forms I could make sketching with the brush, required some confidence, but also the ability to work within mistakes. These images aren't perfect, but they're "like" enough to be recognised. I think I achieved much more movement in these simple piece, than the 1920's style picture which I tried to keep within the lines.

I also stumbled across the contrast of using warm colours (yellow/orange) with cool colours (blue/purple). Which I teased out a bit more, with some random doodles, with "plants" in mind.

Third experiment

This had bamboo as inspiration, but I added other marks and shadows, incorporating the warm colours into the cool colours. Giving it a warmer colour overall. But I also added some straight, cool colours in the background for contrast.

Having completed this experiment, I wanted to try the opposite effect...

Fourth experiment

This is a randomised plant in a pot, but I used more cool colours than warm. Instead of jumping out at you, like the bamboo, it creates an almost dormant effect, which wants to freeze on the page.

Again, I wasn't going for perfection, it was the art of play to see what effects I could achieve with different ideas. With all this in mind however, I thought I would try out one more piece. Only in Inktense pencil this time.

Fifth picture

I know, its hideous, but with its own story to tell too. Firstly, drawing within lines I've realised is my preferred approach - I feel most comfortable with this technique. However, it also stilts the creative process the most. To add movement to any picture, I have to be prepared to be more random and become comfortable doing that.

Therefore, more experiments like all the above. I have to be comfortable turning out pieces, that not only look flawed, but actually exploits the imperfectionist approach. Can I start a new art movement? Is "Imperfectionism", taken yet? Perhaps it's already covered under abstract art?

I think any artist who has created their own recognisable style, as distinct from all the rest - have challenged their own creative boundaries. Perhaps this is what we should all be doing?