Friday, April 30, 2010

The Care and Feeding of a Muse

Ya know, as I was working on these polar bear value studies, I realized that this was my opportunity to hop a boxcar on the 'Artists Like To Do Things In 100's' train.  Carol Nelson  has almost finished her '100 Portraits in 100 Days' odyssey.  Claire Beadon Carnell  is about to embark on her 'Inspirations From A Backyard - 100 paintings in 100 days' journey. And then, of course, there's the 100 Paintings Challenge website.

So it's time to take a train ride.  But instead of doing 100 different subjects, why not do a single subject a hundred different ways?  Various media, different grounds, a selection of color schemes, a myriad of methods of application (feather duster....check.  Slightly squishy potato...(ugh)...check. the cat is not interested in assisting my artistic development.  Where did I leave the Band-Aids?).  Anyway, it's the makings of a hearty meal for a Muse.

So I sat myself down in a comfy chair, Diet Coke in hand and dogs at my side, and began listing all the methods I'd like to employ on the Polar Bear.  I know there has to be about a kajillion.  Right now I'm at twenty-five.  Shows how atrophied my creative side has become.  In frustration I start to grumble to myself. "Why must artists insist on doing things in 100's?    Nice round number?  Looks pretty in a blog title?  10 is also a nice round number, and a helluva lot easier.  Why can't artists like to do things in tens?"

Because ten barely scratches the surface.  Ten is just a start.  If you do something ten times, you've learned a little from the experience.  If you do it one hundred times, and that little bit of experience gets multiplied, then you've learned a heckuva lot more.  So I give a little nod of thanks to all of the fabulous artists out there who push me beyond my lazy little comfort zone.

I was going to call this little project '100 Ways To Do A Bear', but was afraid of what kind of weird traffic it would draw to this poor little blog.  So coming soon to a computer screen near you:  'The Artistic Polar Bear: 100 Ways in 100 Days'.

So how to you feed a Muse?  Start by pouring creative juices in a pot.  Add a handful of inspiration, dollop of curiosity, a zest for exploration, a bunch of fun, a load of playfulness, a dash of whimsy, and a hearty peal of laughter.  Add other ingredients to taste.  Set it to a simmer for a lifetime.

Tickets please, this train is about to leave the station.  Let's start at the very beginning.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bearing Up

Whilst pondering the proper pigment priorities for my polar painting project, it became clear that I need to pursue perceptions of pertinent patrons that had previously pursued this particular path.

In other words, I need help.  Direction.  Organization.  A guide.  Otherwise this endeavor will be like trying to climb Mt. Everest without a Sherpa.

Enter the Art Instruction Books.  Every artist has their favorites, and two that I currently prize are  Bob Rohm's The Painterly Approach, and Kevin Macpherson's Landscape Painting Inside & Out.  Both contain some fabulous skill building ideas.  One of the first suggestions in Bob Rohm's book is to create value studies using a limited number of values or value range.  With my literary mentors to guide me, I decided that this first endeavor would be to work with a full range of four, mostly evenly spaced values.

Phooey on hue and chroma; working with just value was actually quite liberating.  And just for fun, I had to do another with the leftover paint, this time just splashing, mixing and scumbling with jubilant abandon.

I'm already coming up with all sorts of variations on this theme, and I'm just itching to try them.  Give me an idea of what exercises you use to improve your skills.  I'm in full Willing To Make A Fool Out Of Myself Publicly mode, and have a sudden yen to experiment.  (Within reason, of course.  If it involves large amounts of open flame, vats of hallucinogenic substances, or the use of arachnids in any way, shape or form, I may have to pass on trying it.  At least publicly.)

My Muse has decided to take a short vacation while Left Brain is in the pilot's seat.  To experimentation, and beyond!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bear With Me

The more I paint, the less I know about painting, or at least that's what it feels like half of the time.  A little seed of an art concept will get planted somewhere in the gray matter between my ears, where it initially lies dormant, then slowly starts to put out roots, and eventually starts to leaf out (can you tell I'm hankering to get out in the garden?).  That's usually about the time I notice it,  pounce on it, and desperately try to get it to flower.  I aspire to produce a rose.  What sometimes happens is something out of "Little Shop of Horrors".

I love color, obviously, but color doesn't always love me.  Some of the things I've painted look like you've given a blindfolded preschooler a full set of fingerpaints and a six pack of Red Bull.  Color done well is an awesome thing to behold.  Color not done well I find myself familiar with more often than not.

To try and remedy this particular artistic idiosyncrasy, it's time to go back to the basics.

I picked a simple photo subject, with a full range of values, warm and cool color possibilities, an abstract-ish background, and a cute face.


This is my kind of still life.  And we're going to start painting him with...what else?  Black and white.

To mangle a George Bernard Shaw quote, a person "progresses in all things by making a fool of themselves". 

I'm feeling rather foolish right about now.  In a good way.

My Muse is observing the proceedings, kicked back in a comfy chair with a cup of herbal tea.  To simplicity and beyond!

Friday, April 9, 2010

How Fast Is A Rhino?

When the library books are overdue, the garden already needs to be weeded, there's not a damn thing in the house for dinner, the laundry pile is so big it qualifies for it's own zip code, the dogs have the ya-ya's and are driving you crazy, and you eke out a spare minute to slap paint on any agreeable surface and post a color study....

 Rhino Study

...then a rhino is this fast.

My Muse is a blur.  To brevity, and beyond!