Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tonight, the part of the Blogger will be played by....

Hello all.  Furry Critic here,  filling in for Mom who is over in the corner babbling something incoherent.  I think she's having some sort of existential artistic crisis.

She's walking around mumbling things like 'textured lights' and 'limited palette' and 'cohesive body of work'.     I don't quite understand what that means, but it's keeping her busy in that stoo-dee-oo.  Not to worry, I take her out for walks and make her play ball in the yard.  But if she keeps babbling, I may need to take her to the vet.

So in the meantime, we wish you all a safe and happy Halloween.   Now if you'll excuse me,  I see a pirate, a princess, and a cute little Chilean miner coming up the front walk, and I simply must go complement them on their costumes.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cones of Learning

These are a few studies based on the self-assignment "Make Something Interesting Out Of A Not So Interesting Photo".  Just like the farmhouse studies, the photo was reduced to a four value, black and white image so I couldn't possibly cheat.  All of the colors and values had to be dredged up from the imaginative depths of Right Brain.

Funny what happens when you have to throw away the safety nets and are forced to dust off an atrophied imagination.  I wouldn't have thought twice about this exercise when I was a kid; I would have happily applied a rainbow of color without a second thought.  Now as an adult, the idea is met with a bit of trepidation, and a feeling of floundering around, looking for a lifeline.  I wonder when I lost that devil-may-care creative childhood spark.  Oh well.  Best not to test the water, just jump in with both feet and start splashing around.

Just like doing the Zentangle Polar Bear, these studies became a little freer and easier as I went along.  I could just picture my decrepit Imagination, slowly getting up out of a rocking chair, slightly bent over, joints creaking, then stretching a bit and loosening up.  I hope for the day when, just like in childhood, my Imagination is dancing a jig. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Drawing the Line

Well, one of the assignments I gave myself was to start sketching on a regular basis.  Since I know myself to be a stern taskmistress, and I didn't want to get a detention from myself, a quick jaunt to the art store produced a small sketchbook that I could carry around and use frequently.  It's being put to good use around the house, and here are some of the results:

Cheyenne in her favorite "watch the world go by" spot:  the front picture window.

Maxxine sitting by the same window indulging in her favorite autumn passtime:  stalking the falling leaves.

A maniacally merry mouse sculpture.

There are certainly more than enough of these lying around the yard, I can take one or two in to be sketched.

Whaddaya know...this is quite a bit of fun, and a nifty way to get a quick art fix when sitting down and unpacking all the art supplies just isn't feasible.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Down on the Farm

Let's have a little fun and do a value experiment today.  I wanted to take a fairly simple subject, reduce it to four values, assign color to the values, and go from there.

Wading through the massive photo collection on my hard drive, I unearthed some photos that brought back fond memories.

When I fledged from the parental nest at 18, my first rented domicile was this farmhouse. The house, barns, other various buildings, and the surrounding 55 acres belonged to a friend's parents, who had retired from the farming life.  Although it appears to be in a bucolic rural setting, this farm was the last tract of open land in a busy, sprawling suburban setting.  It was bordered on the east by a six-lane expressway, on the south by an apartment complex, on the north by a strip mall, and on the west by neighborhoods of cookie-cutter suburban housing.  Not wanting to see their former home plowed under by development, my friends parents chose to rent the house and lease the land, while spending their golden years in a smaller, more comfortable, and less drafty abode that required much less upkeep and maintenance.

Although a bit run down, the house was gorgeous.  It boasted the large country kitchen of houses of the era, beautiful, hand-crafted wood trim and floors, and an incredible panel of stained glass that topped the living room window.  (It was also haunted by the benevolent spirit of Aunt Marge, but that is a story for a later post).  It was so large that I didn't need to make use of any of the five upstairs bedrooms, having more than enough room to comfortably live on the main floor.

I resided here for almost three years, loving the house and the space, exploring the remnants of farming life that were stored in the barns, and throwing spectacular Halloween parties.  I probably would have lived there much longer, but in those years both of my friend's parents passed away, and the family chose to sell the land.  The photo above was one of the last ones taken of the house before the bulldozers arrived.  The area now boasts 55 acres of townhomes.  Ain't progress grand?  To this day, I carry a soft spot in my heart for old farm houses.

I chose a photo of the south face of the house, taken on that last day.  (The photos are black and white because I was taking a photography class at the time, and we were learning to develop b&w film.)

Then I ran it through Photoshop, reducing it to four values.

Next, I resurrected my set of colored pencils, figuring it would be easier pick ready-made colors.  I matched four of my warm greys to the greys of the value photo, and laid a thick line of each down on the paper.  Then patches of selected colors were placed next to the lines to determine the value of each color.  Two versions of the house were tried, one more of a warm-dominant, the other a cool-dominant. 

Obviously modulating intensity wasn't a concern; just putting mostly pure color down based on it's value.  A fun and intriguing first experiment, but I think I need to find an even simpler subject that has less of an emotional connection.  Like maybe a tree.  In a field.  By itself. 'Nuff said.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Giving Up Those Nagging Artistic Addictions, or A Tale of Two Brains

In an effort to push my basic skills up a notch or two, it's time to start heaving aside the artistic crutches I've been relying on, and make my brain actually think about what to do when applying medium to substrate. 

The first crutch to be examined is "Elements of Working From Photographs".  Here's what I find myself clinging to that needs to be flung aside:
  1. Having to have a 'wow' photo to start with.  When working from photos, a good artist should be able to take the most mundane photo and turn it into something interesting to look at.  If a photo is that spectacular, just take it and frame it...don't bother to paint it.  Assignment: Find some simple, unassuming photos, and make something appealing out of them.
  2. Having to directly transfer the photo in order to duplicate it exactly.  If you're not painting a realistic portrait, then does exactness really matter?  Does a landscape painting fail because it's not an exact copy of said landscape?  Nope.  Get creative.  Add stuff.  Move stuff.  Make the painting better than the photo.  Time to work on those atrophied drawing skills!  Assignment: Transfer the photo subject to the substrate by freehand sketch.  And start carrying a sketchbook around, and get in the habit of sketching for fun.
  3. Letting the colors of the photo dictate the colors that are painted.  I spend far too much time trying to duplicate the colors of a photo.  Time to start making hue, value, temperature and intensity decisions on my own.  Orange trees?  Great!  Blue dogs?  Why not!  Assignment:  Work from black and white photos.
  4. Painting only from photos.  All of the above indicates I'm in a "Copy Rut', and it restricts putting any of my own twists and feeling into a piece.  Assignment:  Start painting from real life.  Or better yet, from pure imagination!
Even though some issues have been identified and solutions proposed, I'm finding myself in a somewhat suspended stasis, vaguely yearning for specific instruction and direction.  Whatever could be the reason?  Why, it's my snarky Left Brain demanding a step-by-step learning syllabus before embarking on anything different.

Aarruugghh!  Great, another crutch.  Left Brain is now insisting on wasting incredible amounts of time scouring the Interweb, researching and investigating, planning and assigning, ordering and cataloging, until it comes up with a suitable linear synopsis to follow exactly.  Phooey.  That's the reason there's a lack of feeling or spontaneity in my work.  Left Brain insisted on literal copies and exact colors, and things being just so, which basically is the antithesis of any creativity.

Time to let Right Brain have some free reign.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bug Zapped

Sorry to have been away, but some nasty little germs went all Rambo on my poor bodily defenses and took no prisoners in the process.

Thankfully, with the aid of  much chicken soup, a comfy couch, a dog who will happily lay on my feet and keep them warm, endless old movie reruns, and more than a few days of being in a feverish semi-vegetative state, the germy little monsters have finally waved their victory flag and are off to decimate their next victim.  I'm just beginning to be able to breathe somewhat normally again, after ingesting what had to be a tanker truck full of antihistamines.

Inhale.  Exhale.  Repeat as necessary.

The blog is still a work in progress, but I didn't dare to attempt any changes while in a state of quasi-delirium.  Many of you have mentioned the lack of a colorful header - fear not! - one will be designed after a final decision is made about the template.

On the art front, I learned that my Jasiri painting did not make it into the Cincinnati Art Club's Viewpoint show.  It's a little disappointing, but it just means that I'll have to work harder, learn more, and put a better foot (brush?) forward for next year.  Congratulations to the 70 artists that made it into the show, and a big thanks to all the folks who work so hard to put the event together.

Now that I've managed an update, the wooziness is taking over again.  Back to the couch....