Posted at 09:16 AM in Archival Qualities, Art Materials, Brush Pens, Commercially Bound Journals, Definitions, Gouache, Hair, Japanese Lined Journal, Journal Practice, Journaling, Markers, Paints, Paper, Pentel Brush Pens, Portraits, Pre-painted backgrounds, Reviews, Visual Journaling, Washi Tape, Watercolor, Why Draw? | Permalink | Comments (11)
Tags: fun factor, gouache, gouache characteristics, gouache set, limited edition gouache set, Montana Acrylic Markers, Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, portraits, Schmincke Horadam Gouache, visual journaling, Washi tape
Above: Two entries from my current, ongoing Finch Series. Montana Acrylic Marker for background and underpainting, with Pentel pigment brush pen sketches and gouache all in a Japanese Lined Journal. Click on the image to view an enlargement. You'll be able to read all about Nigel and Pete if you do.
I love working in a series because it gives me an opportunity to explore a topic, work repeatedly with a certain medium, or look more closely at a particular subject (in today’s series: Finches).
In December I started working to capture the various aviary birds at the nursing home. I wanted to look at their personalities. I was also playing with text and lettering while I put together a new online class (which I hope to release in the fall).
I didn’t post these Finch portraits earlier because for awhile I thought Hamish might become the poster child for IFJM 2016.
The series is on-going and open ended (as the birds are switched around every so often in the aviary). But it is on a short hiatus recently as I’m not working in a Japanese Lined Journal and I really want them to be on the same paper—at least that’s the current thinking. Tomorrow that might change if I show up at the aviary and find a new cast of characters.
Most of the time I fill in the backgrounds of journal pages done on this paper AFTER I have sketched and painted, but for this series I covered the spread with Montana Acrylic Marker first (and incompletely) and then sketched and painted on top of that surface. The ink in the Pentel pigment brush pen (squeezy gray barrel) has a slightly different finish when it dries on the acrylic surface and I think it’s fun to play with that.
Above: Another portrait executed in the same fashion as the one above. Hamish didn't become the face of International Fake Journal Month 2016, I thought he looked a little too intense. But hey, he is intense. Click on the image to view an enlargement. You'll be able to read about Hamish if you do—and get an "eyebrow update."
I hope you take a moment this week to devise a series that you would enjoy working on—fill some pages.
You might think about favorite objects you have around your house and capture them each on their own page, or in groupings. You could then journal about special memories each object brings up. You might sketch a loved one for days on end and write down your conversations. (Check the category “Richard” for sketches and discussions I have with Dick.) You might sketch something every morning on your daily walk and use those sketches to feed a daily meditation about life, exercise, gratitude, weather, or more.
Over time, when we stop to capture some aspect of our lives in a visual journal series, we also capture ourselves at that moment in our lives. Things that seem mundane and superficial, lowly and not worth notice or attention, become visible as the sheer weight of the growing number of entries in the series and our focused attention begin to provide a context for the other choices and decisions we make in life.
By noticing something simple I believe that as the days pass we can actually discover something profound about our world, and learn something true about ourselves.
Series also allow us to refine our vision, our thoughts, and our skills.
I hope you’ll give it a try and work in a series.
Posted at 04:00 AM in Backstory, Birds, Brush Pens, Commercially Bound Journals, creativity, Eyebrow Update, Gouache, IFJM, Japanese Lined Journal, Journal Practice, Portraits, Process, Productivity, Project Friday, Projects, Richard, series, Sketching, The Drawing Life, Visual Journaling, Working in a Series | Permalink | Comments (12)
Tags: birds, commercially bound journals, Finches, gouache, Japanese Lined Journal, Montana Acrylic Markers, Pentel pigment brush pen, Project Friday, working in a series
Above: 11 x 15 inch sketch on cheap ("I'll fall apart if you put wet media on me like you're trying to do" Paper), with Pentel Pigment brush pen and Pentel Dye-based brush pen with water. Selfie, showing my painting shirt, sketched while standing before a mirror in the bathroom. I was sketching Dick on this evening and I flicked my brush up by my shoulder and even though he was sick and only half awake he started up and said, "Did you just wipe your brush on your shirt?" R: Huh? [looking up.] Did I? I don't know. D: You just wiped it right there. [Pointing to my shoulder.] R: Yeah, probably, I don't even notice. Look what I've got on. It hardly matters.—We laugh. I'm wearing a 20-year-old cotton sweatshirt, three sizes too big and torn out beneath both arm pits (seams just gave way) and all the hems at the neck and sleeves are frayed. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
A couple times a year I take a little time to evaluate what I’ve been up to, what has been working, what goals are still unmet, and what new goals I see emerging. For the past several years I’ve been sharing my end-of-year self-evaluations on my blog. It allows me to share a little bit more of my life with readers, and model what I think is an essential behavior for effecting change in a creative life.
The look back at 2015 is harder this year. I lost a lot of people: two cousins, an aunt, an uncle, and several friends. Sometimes the deaths were expected because of advanced age. Other times not. Both are difficult to deal with, but both also insist that you take time to reflect on the importance of each individual in your life and the gifts of understanding, compassion, and friendship they bestowed on your life. Death also reminds me to hold my friends closer, to talk to them more. It works against my natural inclination to hunker down and work and work. When we lose people who loved life and fully participated in life it’s a reminder to keep seeking balance in our own lives as well, and to carry on their influence.
2015 was also a hard year for me physically. The hours I’d been putting into eldercare for Dick’s parents took their toll. I was ill from the end of December 2014 through May 2015. I had one week during that time when I wasn’t suffering from a cold, bronchitis, flu, or pneumonia.
It was a wake up call to change how I was living. I always got my cycling and physical therapy in before that, but I had been running on empty for too long. I was susceptible to every germ that visited the folks.
Dick and I had many discussions about how I could go forward in a healthy way, participating in eldercare for his folks. It’s interesting to me, and not a little humorous, that this change and realignment of boundaries over eldercare happened to coincide exactly with the folks’ own diminishing abilities to remember whether I had been there for six three- or four-hour visits a week, or two. Recently in fact my father-in-law announced on the phone to his daughter that I was dead, despite the fact that I’d happened to see him the three previous days in a row. We’ve shifted the dynamic of how I spend my time with them to protect my health, my work efforts, and ensure that they have companionship on a regular basis for what we believe, and hope, will be many more years to come.
In spite of this shift in balancing eldercare needs it was well into cycling season before I was able to get on my bike and ride outside again. I found it took several months before my lungs and legs worked as a unit. Even with that late start I was able to log 2,468.12 miles on the road in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I was able to keep that up with the help of a fabulous massage therapist, David Wicklund, and because I kept doing my physical therapy exercises for my neck and shoulder. I was even able to to keep up with a sometimes grueling online teaching schedule in May and July, typing eight hours or more a day, because of the strength I developed and the support.
Self-evaluation time is also an opportunity for me to focus on gratitude and not only am I grateful to David for helping me meet my health goals in 2015, I’m grateful to all my friends who “didn’t give up on me” all those weeks when I couldn’t leave the house because I was either ill or glued to the computer.
And I'm grateful to Dick, as well, for his patience, in putting up with what was a pretty crabby and out of sorts house-bound "Munchkin."
Throughout my life, however, there has been one key marker of how a given year really went—how many journal pages did I finish?
If the page count runs below “normal” I can look quickly to see what else was happening in my life that offset the journaling “effort.” I see quickly where the time traps are in my life. I find this an accurate and easy assessment asset to have—it allows me to organize and prepare for the next year.
I do not count any pages or sheets generated at life drawing co-op sessions as I’m able to generate up to 30 sheets of work in a two-hour period under those conditions. It would skew my totals for me to include them.
This year I created a total of 1145 journal pages. An average year in pages (just a little over my 3 pages a day norm).
Update 12.31.15 at 6:50 p.m.: A reader asked why I don't count volumes for a year? Since I make my own books (typically) and they are of different thicknesses, the volume count is useless to judge productivity. But I always mention my letter span for each year when I do my wrap up and I got caught in the digressions and forgot.
This year I filled volumes A through M. The loose pages are in boxes which get labeled differently and don't get a letter.
Of that total 1065 pages were in journals; 39 pages were in my small loose sheets journal; and 41 pages were in my large loose sheets journal. Loose sheet journal pages are done on a variety of different papers I want to experiment on, typically cut to 9 x 12 inches or smaller and stored in labeled boxes. This year I also worked on 11 x 15 inch and larger sheets.
A tendency to get larger and larger is something I have NOT really been trying to fight at all for the past three years. But this year’s loose sheet total is different in that I typically don’t work on loose sheets of the larger size—I just make paintings instead. This total of 80 loose sheet journal pages is low, compared to past years. Given that I spent so much of spring working on new work for the dog-art show (mentioned below), the low total for loose sheets is not surprising to me.
Now you can begin to see that in order to retrieve any of this material for later use either for bon mot in a conversation, notes I’ve developed for a class, or sketches I need so I can complete a painting, indexing my journals is essential for the way I work. You can read about how I index my journals here.
Above: 9 x 12 inch sheet of paper on which I did some quick, bad math about the 5 journals I had going on 11.27.15. I ended up finishing the Nideggen journal on December 28. The Kilimanjaro (misspelled on the chart) was completed on December 30. The last few days of December I did begin a new small pack journal (approx. 5 x 5 inches) to carry with me. It will become the first journal of 2016. I also lifted the ban on “loose sheet journal pages.” Read more about this chart in the post. Click on the image to view and enlargement.
I thought it might be fun for you to learn a little bit more about that total, so I’ve included my “chart” that I did one day during the Thanksgiving Day weekend, when I happened to look up at the shelf and see that I had five journals in progress at the same time.
Now normally I like to keep only one journal, but because of the excessive amount of typing and video editing I had been doing it was unwise to carry one of my usual 8 x 8 inch or so journals about with me. I needed something smaller. And having something smaller meant I still wanted something larger when I wasn’t out and about.
Since 2010 I’ve typically had one Fabriano Venezia 9 x 12 inch journal going in the studio. I do studies for paintings, portrait practice (sketching Dick, friends, and also people on TV). Additionally I collect tid-bits from things that I read and paste them in that journal. It’s an idea generating tool even more than my regular journal—because let’s face it, sometimes my regular journal is “simply” about my day, the way paint feels on the paper (typically some paper I love because I made a journal specifically out of it because I love that paper), and whether or not I’ve sketched more snow piles in a given winter than my friend Ken Avidor. (I am it seems a little competitive after all. Who knew it would come down to snow piles!)
Note: I no longer recommend Fabriano Venezia Journals in any size, as I have had two of them split at the binding on me after only light use, and recently a student wrote to me explaining the same thing had happened to him. I will be posting a review about this in the near future. I mention it here because I didn’t want you to think that past use of this commercially bound journal was an endorsement of future use.
Since 2013 I have used my favorite Japanese Lined notebooks (which have paper covers and sewn signatures) for the most private of my journals—the journals in which I write about my on-going projects, my thoughts about things that are happening around me. All the stuff I used to have in my visual journals but which filtered out as I taught more and more classes and brought journals to class for students to look at.
For me the journaling and sketching process, because it is the way I use my mind to think about the world, must first and foremost be about me as the primary audience, no one else. And I need to protect the privacy of that act of creation. This means that older journals might be brought to classes, and I would bring high quality prints of pages containing techniques or work I wanted to share with students, but I was no longer comfortable with so many people “rummaging in my mind.” Every artist is different on this score.
I don’t mind talking about things in my life or my creative process after the fact, but when something is on-going I like to keep it private. This ensures my responses and reactions are authentic and not showmanship. I don’t have time for that in my life. First and foremost I have to get my essential work done in the limited time I have on earth. And I do this best alone with my journal.
Think about this: If in a given year I do 1,145 journal pages and I post three times a week, sometimes with more than one image, but usually just with a single image, that means I’m only posting 156 to 220 images on average in a given year.
That’s 13 to 19 percent of my journal pages.
I’m posting things that I feel comfortable sharing or feel compelled to share. I look for pieces in my journal to share because they will allow me to talk about the topics I believe I’m ready to talk about, whether it’s eldercare or a new experiment I want to discuss with you because you need to try it too.
There’s a lot of editing going on here. (Says the woman who has written over 2 million words on this blog…Now you know why so many of my friends are exhausted all the time talking to me about all the things that interest me!)
I point this out so that readers are reminded to give thought to what they share online or in creative groups. I want to encourage people to think about how what they share impacts or effects their creative lives. Sometimes sharing is benign, but you have to be clear about your expectations in sharing. I share to pass along information I find helpful. Not to make friends (though who doesn’t love to influence people?). Be clear about why you are sharing work, with whom you’re sharing it, and what the value to you is in the sharing. It is important that you always protect your creative core.
The Japanese Lined Journals have been perfect for my process. I’ve seen a return to the chaotically organized way I journaled when I was an undergraduate. And I love it. I also love that the paper is cheap and buckles when I paint on it. As the books fill they have the most incredible texture that includes a symphony of paper rattling sounds. (Yes, I have the paper sickness.)
I had one of these lined journals in play on November 27, when I realized I had a lot of journals in progress.
I also had a 9 x 12 inch cold press watercolor paper journal—Kilimanjaro from Cheap Joe’s. I began it during the summer, sometime before the Minnesota State Fair. I was testing it to see whether or not I’d be taking one of them to this year’s Fair, for my journal. I did not.
I still had to finish the book however. I’m not compulsive about finishing books (really). If paper in a book is bad I’ll often just run through it doing a bunch of studies or warm up sketches. But the paper in this book is lovely, just not what I wanted to sketch on at the Fair.
I decided that finishing the book would help be explore cold press paper more, and support my return to painting and using a real brush. (It’s so heavenly to lay the Niji down and pick up a real brush.)
Book 5 in the chart was a small 5-1/2 inch square book made as a mock-up/test sample in 2001—it contained Rives Lightweight. That’s a paper that’s too light to paint on but which loves pen and pencil work. I had some in the studio when the mock-up was made. It never got used. It was so small it was perfect for carrying in my bag when bag-weight considerations were a top priority.
Actually I fell in love with this paper, especially the way the Sakura Pigma Sensei pens worked on it—their sharp tips cutting into it creating lines that looked more etched than drawn. I began to consider if I could give up paints in my journal for the joy of using those pens on that paper. And all that happened at the exact same time I was picking up a real brush for the first time in a long time.
The universe does like to send you little challenges now and then, to make you consider if you’re on the right path, and distract you from the big challenges that are just around the bend.
The other book on the chart is a 7-1/2 inch square Simple Round Back Spine book that I made with Nideggen. It too was a sample, but it was one I made in a live class, and because one of the students tore his paper incorrectly when I turned my back for no more than 30 seconds (really!!) and I had to give him several of my signatures so he could complete his project (administration had let two additional students sign up on the morning of the class, and while I had over prepped on cut materials we were barebones on any extra paper), the book is thinner than usual for that style when I make them.
Well after the State Fair I thought it would be a fun book to use in a month, and I really wanted to work on toned paper again. I stopped carrying it when my shoulder reacted and it sat neglected for a month before I picked it up again. You can never really neglect a book filled with Nideggen—they call to you.
But there I was on November 27 talking with Dick in the TV room and I happened to glance up at the shelf I keep the in-progress journals on and I freaked out.
As soon as the conversation was over (and I couldn’t get him out of the room fast enough) I started counting pages and making this chart. My math skills are not the greatest when I’m in a panic so I overestimated how many pages I would have to do each day to fill them up. Then I hit the ground running really really hard, gobbling up pages through the day and into the evening. Staying up late in fact.
When I finally did look up from the frenzy at the end of the first week and do a quick recount and some more division to find out how many pages I needed to do a day to finish them all by the end of the year, I realized I was actually not going to need to do 4 pages a day (my usual is 3 pages a day). I realized that I would run out of pages before the end of the month.
Then of course I had a good laugh, and I wrote this post.
But something great came out of this drive to finish. I painted more with watercolor and with gouache, sometimes spending longer than average on each page, while still doing more pages.
I focused on my goals of working with watercolor while my work world was toppling in around me, and the need to take the folks to this appointment or that appointment cropped up every other day.
The great thing that came out of this chart, however, was my ability to really focus my time between work, family, and art for the final month of the year.
In any end of year wrap up there is another thread I examine, besides the number of journal pages, to gauge my creative health.
I look at my non-journaling art—did I create stand alone paintings and participate in shows, and what type of time effort did the shows take, when compared to the return (in sales, recognition, commissions, and so on.)
I participated in three art shows this year. With friends Linda, Dean, and Marcia I set up in Linda’s space for the May Art-a-Whirl. (I didn’t have time to paint new work for that show and instead just offered prints for sale, already framed. The show was a complete bust for me, except for the interesting 3-days of time spent with Linda, Dean, and Marcia.
One of the things you learn when you show your work is whether or not people like what you’re putting out there. The other thing you learn is whether or not you’re hitting the price points. I kept my costs low by buying low cost (but attractive and serviceable) frames, spending money on good quality mats, and doing my own printing on my archival printer. Since my work was priced pretty much at cost, even if I had sold all of it I would not have covered my costs for printer ink, food for gallery visitors, and port-a-pottie rental. (We all shared in the last two expenses.) It was a risk I was willing to take because I wanted to see “what the price point was.”
I’m sad to report I can’t be sure I have any real information from that experience. Well, I have one piece of knowledge, I need to engage more with people coming in and actively discuss my work. Perhaps because I was just coming out of an almost 5-month long quarantine I didn’t engage people as much as I typically do. So energy level becomes something else I need to take into account when planning to participate in a show.
Later in the year I was asked to participate in a dog-art show. I created new work for that show. I showed only original paintings, no prints. But again I had mat and frame costs I had to keep down.
At this show I also didn’t make any sales, despite pricing my art lower than ever before. (It had been a couple years since I’d participated in a show and I thought my art prices should remain stagnant.) The difference was that many people came out to the show and complete strangers told me all the things they loved about my work. So while the work wasn’t priced right for them, it was at least appealing to them. That's a good bit of information to have.
I keep time sheets on everything I do. (Seriously, everything. Dick jokes that I would have a punch-card clock like Bill Murray’s character Bob in “What About Bob?” if he didn’t dissuade me twice a year.) From those records I can see that the efforts to create and package the art for those shows was definitely “lost.”
I was also pleased and excited to invited to participate in the “Love Letters” show at the Groveland Gallery. You can see the piece I created for that show here. It was for sale and it didn’t sell, despite a low price. It was a personal piece and I had no expectations that it would sell. I believe that sometimes you participate in shows because of a number of factors totally unrelated to sales. I’m very happy to have participated in this show.
In no small way the dog-art show and the invitation for “Love Letters” allowed me to move back into painting with gouache, after so many months of not being able to hold a brush at times. I look at that outcome as the real benefit of all the time spent on those activities.
When I take all of the above into account I see themes and tendencies emerge. I see areas I need to watch or time will be dissipated. I see where I need to put my focus for development of my own skills and for where I want to go as a teacher.
I see how I am able to manage “it all” even when deep into something I wonder if I can get through it.
As humans we have an immense capacity to get through really horrible shit. So the small things that happen to us need not derail us, and the bigger things, the things which leave huge holes in our heart, don’t leave us broken. We remain active and searching.
An evaluation at the end of the year, when the “stats” are in, revitalizes me. I’m ready to go for the next year. I know how I need to balance things, and moderate my expectations. I go into the new year with a realistic set of expectations and goals, many of which will probably be achieved. All of which I know are worth pursuing because I’ve consciously examined all aspects of my life and made choices that support those goals and expectations.
Sure there are many things not yet finished or goals reached. But the focus isn’t on those “failures.” The focus is on the nature of the events and my actions and my choices so that I can rethink and go at it again.
The other capacity we have as humans is our ability to adapt. Self-evaluation gives you an opportunity to do just that. To look honestly at what’s been accomplished and what is yet to be accomplished and make a plan.
It’s time to open the new day planner and write the lists and set the dates and show up to make it happen.
I hope you all have a fantastic and creative 2016. Thank you for spending your time checking in with me, for writing in, for playing along on Project Fridays, for writing to tell my your own materials experiences, for telling me which types of classes you are eager for, and especially for caring about paper.
Catch you in the new year. I’ve got some new commercially bound sketchbooks I’m going to review, I’ll finally get around to discussing the new color palette, and I can’t wait to get to the zoo!
Remember to sketch out in public as much as you can. You’re a role model for kids everywhere whose parents told them “You can’t grow up and be an artist, you have to work for a living.”
Show up and sketch and let those children see what’s possible: that life is a lot of hard work, but it’s a lot easier if you’re having fun sketching!
And yes, this was a 4,158 word post. It’s the end of the year—and I’m going with it. Thanks for staying up and reading it.
Posted at 03:12 PM in Backstory, Brush Pens, Commercially Bound Journals, creativity, Elder Care, Exercise, Experiments, Failure, Goals, Instructions, Japanese Lined Journal, Journal Practice, Ken Avidor, Nideggen, Paper, Pentel Brush Pens, Portraits, Productivity, Projects, Random Thoughts, Rants, Richard, Self Assessment, Self-evaluations, Self-Portraits, Single Sheet Journaling, Sketching, Statistics, Unbound Journals, Visual Journaling, Why Draw? | Permalink | Comments (14)
Tags: art shows, bicycling, bicycling miles totals, bookbinding, creative life, eldercare, end of year wrap up, expectations, goals, journal pages, journaling, self evaluation, statistics, visual journaling
Above: Sketch made with the Pentel brush pen with pigmented ink and color added with various acrylic markers. (Japanese Lined Journal, slightly grey paper, approx. 8.75 x 11 inches.) I used this sketch from my journal to day because it shows my Editing Eye in action, not content to stop at a really bad drawing, it took another view and another go at it. And when that got a bit confused or wonky it was about to judge what was off and tell me what to fix. The point is not to get to a perfect drawing, but to find a way to see and learn; and prepare for the next time. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I've written a lot in the past two weeks about self-evaluations, being honest with yourself about why you want to draw, and the fear that stops many people.
Today I have one short thought.
I don't think an internal critic has any value in our creative lives.
What does have a place in our creative lives is an “artistic/style” editing voice. I call this the Editing Eye.
He can help you see issues in your work in a constructive way on which you can build.
For me the Editing Eye, or simply editor, is not the Internal Critic. I don't think in those terms.
I believe it is important that you find a way to create a healthy vocabulary for yourself about what you want to call any of these "entities.” Then focus on keeping that editor at hand, to aid you in improving your piece of art. And, if necessary, to help you silence any negative voices you might hear. or have bouncing around in your head.
The Editing Eye will never tell say, “You’re worthless,” or “Your art is shit.” That’s the way the internal critic functions.
The Editing Eye will provide clear and specific criticism with a direction for how to fix something. This is positive. It entails seeing what is really there, judging its artistic and stylistic merits, and assessing ways to get out of the mess you drew yourself into.
Your Editing Eye will say, “Your forehead on this portrait is too wide and tall. You need to work on your visual measuring, perhaps even step back to appropriate exercises.” He has given you a specific criticism and given you a way to work out of it. Sure it’s going to be more work, but he’s your partner and he’s up for the extra work. He also believes you're up for the work.
The Internal Critic is always suggesting ways you can quit early for the day, or simply give up.
You can tell the difference if you listen to the vocabulary each uses. Yes the Editing Eye will give you criticism, but it is always framed in a positive way with a specific way for dealing with the issue.
I think of it this way—in one or more of William Kent Kruger's books his main character, Cork, is told by his shaman that every soul has two dogs, and the dog you feed is the dog that grows strong.
Now all this was discussed in scenes about the choice between love and hate, between living an expansive life or shutting down to achieve revenge.
But I think it applies equally to the the artistic mind. You can feed the entity which criticizes things with sweeping and meaningless generalizations, or you can feed the entity which uses a positive and specific vocabulary to help you see clearly what is in front of you and change it in specific ways, so that you can achieve your goals.
You feed one by listening to it. That’s how it grows stronger. It’s your choice which you feed.
It's helpful, if your mind is going to be distracted in a negative way, to ask yourself, “Which dog do I want to feed? Which dog am I feeding? What kind of life do I want to have?"
Posted at 04:00 AM in Brush Pens, Commercially Bound Journals, creativity, Definitions, Editing Eye, Experiments, Internal Critic, Japanese Lined Journal, Journal Practice, Markers, Pentel Brush Pens, Perfectionism, Productivity, Sketching, Visual Journaling | Permalink | Comments (8)
Tags: acrylic markers, art vocabulary, Editing Eye, Internal Critic, Japanese Lined Journal, Pentel brush pens, portraits, visual vocabulary
Above: One of my goals this year has been to draw as many interesting noses, ears, and beards as I can. Even on days when I can't get out and draw people from life, I might stay up late and get some practice in, sketching from TV or from old photographs I've collected. (Sketch in an approx. 7 x 9 inch Japanese Lined Journal. Pentel Pigmented brush pen and Pentel dye-based [watersoluble] brush pen, with a background of red Montana Acrylic marker over washi tape) Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Students taking my “Drawing Practice: Drawing Live Subjects in Public” this summer are now six weeks out from the intensive first 30 days of class. It’s the time I suggested they do a self evaluation to assess how their drawing practice is going.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I advocate regular self evaluations throughout the year, less frequently the longer a habit has been in place. I post a summation of my end of year evaluations.
Use my blog's search engine to find "self-evaluations" and "self-assessments" or click on those terms in the category list in the left column.
For me, evaluations allow me to see trends that are developing, new interests that are taking over the old ones, and areas where I need work on my skill set.
I also strongly recommend that people participating in International Fake Journal Month (IFJM) do a self evaluation shortly after the last day of April, when the project ends. I think it’s a great way to look at how the project went and what was gained. If new media were used during the project it’s also a great time to assess what additional exploration in media is needed, to make it a useful addition to the artist’s tool box.
I often receive notes from readers after I post an evaluation, or after IFJM about their own evaluations. In the case of the latter, participants can ask to have their evaluation posted on the Official IFJM blog. I think it’s another way that everyone in the project can learn a little more than they would working only on their own.
Recently a participant in IFJM wrote to tell me that she had read her 2012 IFJM wrap-up (which is what I call those evaluations).
She raised some very serious and important questions:
I was surprised (and frustrated) to see that I could use the same words to write about this [year’s fake journal. Does anyone else] have the feeling of always being at the same place and unable to see any progress? And if so, how do you fight these feelings? Is there something that helps you to see things in a different light?
I’m sharing my response to her question on my blog, because I hope that my students will keep these thoughts in mind as they go forward with their drawing practice, and go forward with their self evaluations. I hope that I can encourage other readers to take up the practice of regular self evaluation.
I firmly believe that regular, honest self evaluation is the best tool any creative person has to burst through feelings of stagnation or a sense of lack of progress.
First, don't be discouraged if you complete an evaluation and realize it could stand in for your previous year’s evaluation (or your quarterly evaluation…). Use the knowledge of the similar patterns and results to look deeper.
Ask yourself, “Are things really the same?”
Look minutely at things when you ask this. Look minutely at the way you work and handle media, and the way you created your project.
Take the project planning, organization, and resultant “product” apart and look a little deeper.
Look at your life. What is the same? What has changed? Circumstances sometimes seem stable, but can change in a moment. The circumstances of our personal, family, and work lives all effect our creative lives.
Here’s just one example. Perhaps one year you were changing jobs and juggling a new schedule and that took time away from your project. The next year you were busy with family obligations which devoured your time. What you may be looking at, if finding time for your project in both years was an issue, is that you worked hard at busting the grasp of work over your entire life in the first year. You were poised to enjoy that freedom the next year, only to be faced with greater than usual family duties.
The voids we create when changing our habits, will be quickly filled, unless we are alert to the subtle changes. We can only become aware of many of the possible subtle changes, over the long, long course of years.
And that’s just one aspect of how one set of variables might superficially make your two consecutive evaluations look identical. The combinations of life, work, and art are endless.
At other times we have a sense that nothing has changed when actually a LOT has really changed, but we are too close to things. That's why I'm suggesting you look really deeply at all aspects of your project AND your life. In that way you can find the things that are different, the things that are the same, and maybe even some things that need to change before you take the next step—whatever the next step is.
We need to be careful to not be tripped up on that last element—the order in which change needs to take place. Keep that in mind when you do your evaluation and come to believe you have not made progress. Look at how you can break the steps towards your goal down. What steps did you leave off?
Maybe this example will sound familiar to you? You have a problem with procrastination. It scuttles your creative work. Last year you organized your life so you would have 30 minutes a day for drawing (or you fill in the blank) and you found you could do that, but this year it wasn’t repeatable. When you look deeply at both evaluations you may find, if you’re honest with yourself, that in the first year you marked your calendar each day, you told everyone of your plans, and solicited help from friends and family to stay on track, but by year two your helpers had returned to their habitual ways, and you had returned to using all your time to care-take their needs as a way to procrastinate.
The real issue is that you didn’t clear away that obstacle of your habit of stepping in and using your energy to help everyone in your family or friendships to do their work.
That’s the real first step that needs to be addressed for long-lasting change.
I Want Change To Happen The Way I Want It To Happen
Good luck with that. We aren't omnipotent. It isn't possible.
I tend to do self evaluations two to four times a year. They are usually “quarterly” or completed after a major project ends.
If I feel, at a self evaluation, that things aren't changing in the directions I want them to change, then I need to see to it that I'm clearer about what my goals are.
If we have vague notions about our goals, then we really can't move towards them.
So for instance, if my vague idea is that I want to have my art in more shows, but for all of 2014 I don't put any deadlines on my calendar and I don't create work for any shows, it's not going to happen. (I give myself a pass for last year because there was no point to putting dates on a calendar, because of all the ups and downs related to eldercare.)
From this example you might see something in your life that you can change to help you change your process, your approach, and the outcome.
How Specific Are Your Goals?
Saying, “I want to improve my drawing skills” or “I want to learn watercolor,” are both too vague as statements to serve as goals. They will not allow you to see any real improvement over the course of a project or several months of creative work.
Being specific means digging down honestly to what is really needed. Then you need to identify steps to make that goal doable in a “small” chunk of time.
You might decide that you want to improve your drawing skills, but after honest examination of your current skill level, you might realize the only way to do this is to take a basic drawing class and study for a month or two using the most basic of tools and approaches.
Or you might decide that the drawing "issue" you want to learn/improve/overcome is how to apply your already considerable pencil sketching skills to direct sketching in ink. Or you might realize that you already draw fairly well, but the dissatisfaction in your drawing skills lies with your desire to draw recognizable portraits of people—so your efforts would go there.
Once you’ve identified a more specific area of concern or interest, then you can break that goal into doable steps which will be more “visible” to you on a shorter time line.
Only when we have clear goals and criteria, can we judge accurately (and not with the silly pooh-poohing of a nay-saying internal critic), the result of any project or progress toward a goal.
How Do I Work Forward From Two “Identical” Self-Evaluations?
If two consecutive self evaluations look dishearteningly similar to you, turn up the scrutiny level you’re using to compare them.
Begin by looking at everything you can think of in your two projects (or time periods), your life, and you attitude to your artwork (beginning with the time you allot your artwork in your life).
Sit down and ask yourself how clear your goals are.
Write your goals down and be very specific, e.g., deadline for jpgs for National Watercolor Society—Date, Month, Year, etc.
Note: When you put a deadline like that on your calendar, remember to ALSO work backwards from that date to have all the INTERMEDIATE STAGES listed with their deadlines.
For instance, if you need jpgs and you can’t scan your own work you need to work backwards from that deadline three weeks to allow one week for having someone else shoot photographs, or scan for you, and two weeks for them to get that material to you. (The amount of time you have to allow will vary, and it will be specific, because it will be based on sitting down and finding a vendor to do each necessary task, and then calling them to schedule time after finding out how much time they need.)
When you’ve written down all your specific goals, and the dates related to them, next write down where you want to go with your art and any aspects of your life that are under scrutiny because of this realization.
I would write that out clearly, with as much specificity as well.
If, for example you want to learn to work in encaustic (I just picked that out of the air) write down WHY you want to learn this medium in very specific terms.
It is critical to have this WHY written down. When the learning gets tough you will need to look at that statement and remember why you chose this course of action in the first place. If you did it just on a whim, you’ll be apt to allow yourself to let go of the learning at the first sign of difficulty.
Also, if you did pick encaustic just on a whim, the necessity of writing down WHY you want to learn a new medium will expose the whim and allow you to question if this is a good use of your time at this moment in your life. We all have to make choices about how to use the limited time we live. Make conscious choices based on your goals. Weed out the distractions and the activities which dissipate your energy and time.
Next, break down what you have to do to get where you want to be. If you want to learn encaustic (to keep the same example) do you have to take classes? That might be the best action, because certain equipment will be available to you in a class. Working on your own will mean you’ll have to spend a significant amount just to try something you may not like after all.
Find a class. Find a tutor. Find a mentor. Be realistic about the budget you have for getting new knowledge, etc.
Write all that down as a plan. This plan will have contact information for teachers, suppliers, etc. These will be the people to call or write to first, so that you can get information from them for your time line. You’ll get deadlines and course offering dates from them. Put it all on a calendar.
If you believe that you’ve made no progress since your last evaluation, or since the start of a given project (that you thought you had designed well-enough to meet your goals), FIGHT THOSE FEELINGS BY TAKING ACTION.
Don’t beat yourself up for not creating the perfect plan in the first place. The more you work creatively the more you’re realize things rarely go strictly according to plan (and that’s a good thing).
You can’t expect yourself to be all-seeing and all-knowing.
You can demand of yourself the willingness to look honestly at your process and progress and admit when things don’t go well—and take steps to change those things.
That’s all that anyone can do.
The early examinations you do of your process, projects, and life are the first action you take.
I believe you will find, if your are brutally honest with yourself, that there is SOMETHING that is different from what you did and who you were, and where you were artistically last year, from this year.
Take that as a positive, even if what you find is a negative (e.g., less work produced, work produced that you don't like as much). Why is it a positive? Because you have noticed it and it's your key to change.
If you’ve done any planning, even if your goals were not specific enough to show real progress in the limited time you had, you’ll see movement. You'll find that you've actually moved along on your path, but you just haven't moved as obviously as you would like. The very fact that you stated your goals and now have to revise them with more specificity is evidence that you are in a different, and better place!
Minute movement doesn't mean you aren't moving, it means that you have to be a little more patient. And maybe your expectations were totally out of line when judged against the time you could put into your art/projects, etc.
Start breaking goals and projects down. Take a hard look at your break down. Make your goals even more specific. Then make a plan of action.
ACTION always changes things.
Taking ACTION is how you fight those feelings that nothing has changed from the last evaluation, those feelings that nothing will change.
Analyzing whether those feelings are based on truth (is there more you're not seeing?) allows you to then take action to move things in the direction you want to go.
Consider the discovery of your previous self evaluation or project wrap up looking like the current one, as a wake-up call. This is a gift the universe is sending you.
Now you need to take action to change things the way you want them to be.
And you need to be KIND to yourself and remind yourself that nothing happens overnight. Change that is substantial and meaningful certainly doesn't.
For instance, many people can develop a habit of journaling daily after doing a project like IFJM. That's one of the bi-products that many report they benefit from. But just because someone is journaling daily doesn't mean that that journaling is going to fulfill him or get him to reach his artistic goals. What he has is the habit to do something. The next step then is to guide and craft that doing into the thing that he values most.
There are tons of examples—someone can learn to paint, but he never takes time to know who he really is. Consequently he will never have anything to SAY in his paintings. Has he achieved a goal of painting regularly? Yes. But is there real fulfillment in those paintings? Probably not.
Again, use this as a wake up call to dig a little deeper into what you see is the same about your project wrap ups or evaluations. Don’t over look what was going on in your life at both times. Use the information you gather to set up an action plan.
Remember we're all human and aspects of our lives and our goals are going to leap forwards at times. Other times aspects of our lives and goals will seem to remain static. And at still other times change happens slowly, but it does move us forward.
We can’t dictate the rate at which things will change. But if we are aware of our goals and have a plan, then we can take advantage of those situations when a leap is possible!
And that’s the real goal—to be constantly assessing how things are, and where we want to go, so that we are prepared, when circumstances open and allow for a leap.
Posted at 04:00 AM in Backstory, Breaking Habits, creativity, Experiments, Goals, IFJM, Instructions, Internal Critic, Japanese Lined Journal, Journal Practice, Perfectionism, Productivity, Projects, Self Assessment, Self-evaluations, Sketching, Statistics, Why Draw? | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: action, action plan, breaking habits, creative process, creativity, daily practice, drawing practice, goals, internal critic, Japanese Lined Journal, perfectionism, project planning, self evaluations, setting goals, sketching, why draw?
Above: Sketch in one of my Japanese lined paper journals—brush pen, acrylic marker. The text is all readable so I'll leave you to click on the image and view the enlargement and read it.
I like to recommend television shows and movies every now and then on a Friday post. I have mixed feelings today because for many in the US this will be a holiday weekend. (I know I intend to stay inside in the a.c. and work.) But perhaps you'll have time for a little TV viewing too.
I've been watching "Murdoch Mysteries" on Acorn. All 8 seasons are there. I started at the beginning and worked my way through.
I have some problems with the show. The number one problem is that Yannick Bisson, the actor who plays Detective William Murdoch is too good looking. His features are too symmetrical. He doesn't have funny ears, he's always clean-shaven, his hair is always slicked down with product appropriate to the 19th Century.
In short it's a disaster. But I do try now and then.
So here's the other thing—I find the show vaguely disturbing in a way I couldn't put my finger on until about a week into my viewing. It's the 1800s and when you are convicted of murder (or caught as someone always is in each episode) you're hung. Plain and simple.
None of that is shown (well I think there was one episode where a hanging took place), but the knowledge that the hanging is going to happen without possibility of intervention really bothers me.
A whole awareness (from years of studying the time period in literature and history) looms around me as I watch. Prison conditions are awful, the poor have even fewer resources and recourse. It's a layer of grim beneath the very bright and often jovial surface of this "who-dun-it" series.
There is about the show a tone of wonder and amazement and interest in science that comes from the detective's character himself. We see him invent night vision goggles, luminol, and any number of forensics advances. He is a huge supporter of "fingermarks." The way these innovations are built into his character and the show is actually quite charming. He's obviously, from his actions, somewhere on the Aspergers continuum. While he can deal with science and facts he has difficulty interacting with people in many situations. And because of early childhood experiences we know that his devotion to the Catholic church has made him the way he is—a fierce agent for Truth. (He deals constantly with the negotiation between Truth and Justice.)
And then we have the many "real" historical characters who have walk-ons: writers, performers, scientists, politicians. It's quite fun.
But then there is that gloom that nothing can dispel.
Still I couldn't stop watching. I have, because of rainy days, and preference, worked my way through every episode except the season 8 finale. One of the main characters was about to have a big, positive change and now it seems something grave indeed is going to happen. I can't bear to watch it until I know that season 9 is on offer.
Call me a wimp. I can't bear that I should know the particulars of his suffering longer than it takes me to watch them be resolved in the new season. The character is the "comic" relief in most episodes, but Constable Crabtree has been given rather a lot to do in season 8 and he's now my favorite character.
I can't wait for season 9. But I can't watch it one week at a time, so it will be a long wait for me. Even though I just learned that they have tapped William Shatner to play Mark Twain in an upcoming episode.
Well good. Something to look forward to.
I do recommend this series. It's well done. It presents a puzzle, it solves a puzzle, it gives us character development. Sometimes characters frustrate us, other times the 1800s frustrate us. Sometimes we laugh.
Can my affection endure a long separation?
We'll have to wait and see.
Now about Showing Up
If you click on the image for today and read the long quotation at the bottom of the page you'll find artist Mark Bradford's thoughts on "artist's block."
I liked the quotation so much I'm looking for a way to work it into my handouts for my upcoming "Drawing Practice" class. I'll have to go in and edit something, but that's easily done thanks to the computer/word processor, something that Murdoch did not invent or have available for his use.
NOTE: If you are looking for this show on television in the US and don't want to subscribe to AcornTV, you can find it on Ovation under the title, "The Artful Detective." My brother informs me that now that season 8 has completed its run they have begun again with season 1 episodes. You might want to check them out.
Posted at 04:00 AM in Backstory, Commercially Bound Journals, creativity, Friday Double Feature, Hair, History, Japanese Lined Journal, Journal Practice, Pentel Brush Pens, Portraits, Television | Permalink | Comments (20)
Tags: Calvin Tomkins, Comedy and Rage, Mark Bradford on Artist's Block, Murdoch Mysteries, portraits, Season cliff hangers, symmetrical faces, the justice system in the 1800s, TV Binge watching
Above: First sketch while watching "Ironclad." Pentel pigment ink ColorBrush with fine tip and washes with Pentel dye-based ink ColorBrush and Niji waterbrush. Japanese Lined Journal (7 x 10 inches).
Note: All the images in today's post are made with the same media in the same book as the first image—Pentel pigment ink ColorBrush with fine tip and washes with Pentel dye-based ink ColorBrush and Niji waterbrush. Japanese Lined Journal (7 x 10 inches). Some also contain color from 15- and 30-mm Montana Markers. If you click on any of the images they will expand so that you can see them in greater detail.
Back in January when I was house-bound with bronchitis I did a lot of video streaming. I didn't have a lot of energy. I'd sit at the computer and try to get some work done, and then go eat lunch and lunch would turn into sketching. I just really wanted to be out and about at the zoo and life drawing.
I can honestly say I watched so much film and TV that I became impatient with it! (Never ever thought that would happen.) I also became pretty grumpy. Dick had to deal with that. I did try to apologize, but then we both started laughing half way through my apology because we both knew things weren't going to change until I got well.
During times like that I really need a project to keep me sane. Sometimes a project lasts for a month or a week. Today I'm showing you my self-imposed project of two half-day's duration, i.e., I started it one evening, and I finished it the next morning: I sketched my way through "Ironclad."
Look I don't know why I selected this movie to watch in the first place. If I'm not feeling well I tend to lean towards comfort food like Westerns or Film Noir. Perhaps I saw that Paul Giamatti was in it (as King John!), or Brian Cox (I am a fan of Brian Cox). The truth is, as I made my way through "Ironclad" (and believe me this is a movie you make your way through, you don't just watch it) so many of my favorite actors stopped by for a visit that at one point I actually thought my fever had returned.
"Ironclad," if you don't already know, is a movie about that happens AFTER King John signs the Magna Carta. No one follows through on what is agreed, and King John decides he's pretty pissed off, so he goes after the barons big time. Enter our "heroes," a rag-tag band of men who've served in whatever war de jour was going on, and who happen to be fond of the Baron, played by Brian Cox. It's shear lunacy coupled with a death wish, but they all sign on to travel to a strategically located castle and hold it against the king. The pope has abandoned them all by invalidating the Magna Carta, but that doesn't dissuade our motley crew.
(Some of it didn't jive with the few details I recalled from history class, but I wasn't watching the movie for historical accuracy. I was watching because it was a motley crew movie.)
So in the initial scenes the movie seems like the "Magnificent Seven," guys signing on for a bit of a lark, pushing back a bandit bully. Very quickly, however, the movie turns into the "Alamo."
The movie is not for the squeamish. This is a WAR movie. It is a gruesome movie. While shell-shock "seems" to be a "modern" invention, there were all sorts of ways to mess up men's minds in war when all that was on offer was a million arrows and some burning oil. This movie is a catalog of 13th century siege warfare—along with those arrows and oil, you'll see all sorts of blades used to impale, pierce, and dismember; tongues will be lost; people will hang (or hang themselves); you'll see interior views of human anatomy. At times it seemed as if modern CSI techniques were applied to give us accurate blood-spatter patterns. Gory does not even begin to describe this movie. By the end of the evening (when I had watched about half the movie) I admit I was a bit overcome by the futility, not just of war, but of the whole history of man, after watching characters I had grown fond of, and others I'd known only for seconds, meet some graphic end.)
Don't think you can watch a little of this movie to see what it's like. Very quickly into the movie people start dropping like flies. I stopped cataloging various ways to kill a person with a blade when I got to 15 (and the movie had hardly started).
Above: This is the last sketch I did that evening. It was time to go to bed.
I have a movie sickness. Once I start a movie I pretty much have to always finish it, no matter how bad (i.e., poorly written, shot, acted, etc.) or how violent, gross, etc. Exceptions fall into the "definitely not funny—" and "endangerment of kids and animals—" categories. There are other categories, but frankly I'm finding it hard to think of a movie I started but didn't finish recently, so we'll just leave it at that.
In part I keep watching because I want to believe that sometime during the movie making and editing process someone took charge and said "hey, we can still save this." And I want to see that last minute save. I just need to know what happens. It's the same reason I read books from start to finish, even if I don't like them—but I make one condition with books, I have to love the first two pages or I do stop reading. Why I give movies a pass I'm not really sure. Maybe I still hope that 3 act structure is alive and well. Maybe I'm just jaded and waiting to be surprised.
Above: First sketch made when I resumed viewing the next evening. This is also my favorite sketch of the series. I believe that the other sketches "set me up" to do this one. I knew what I wanted to do with the ink and the washes and how I wanted to show that greying beard.
On this particular day I kept watching because the movie was beautiful. It was grainy and gritty, but crisp. Everything was so clear I thought my eyeglass problems had been solved. (I drew all of these without my glasses.)
And the cameraman loved the faces. Absolutely loved the faces, from every angle you could imagine. So if I couldn't go to life drawing I decided life drawing was coming to me. I picked up my pen and started to sketch. (I did stop the video for each of the sketches shown here. They took from 15 to 30 minutes. Then I'd go back to watching.)
So that's what I did on January 25 and 26 this year. And while I really can't recommend that you watch "Ironclad" (because it is definitely not everyone's cup of tea), I will encourage you to pick a movie with strong facial visuals ("Long, Hot Summer" is a fun one, pretty much any Billy Wilder film would be a good choice, "Manchurian Candidate" with Frank Sinatra, any of Hitchcock's movies, anything by Akira Kurosawa; the list is endless) and watch and sketch and watch and sketch and watch and sketch, as fast as you can, one right after the other (as soon as you get to another face that interests you, which with luck will only be a few moments).
Experiment with your paint if you want, use only pen, use pen and wash. Do whatever works for you to get something down on paper.
Do NOT stop to consider what you're getting down, just keep working as you would when you are at life drawing: turn the page and keep working. Some of your sketches will work, others might be less successful—you'll know 2 days later when you take them all out to look at them again.
It's a good way to get some sketching practice in if you're housebound, have missed life drawing, or are living with someone who shows signs of becoming weary of posing for you. (My being ill was really hard on Dick in so many ways.)
Caveat: I advise you to avoid selecting a horror movie for this project. (Especially if you are staying up late alone.) If you want to watch "Ironclad" you can see it streaming right now on Netflix.
Oh, and some people may wonder why I didn't sketch James Purefoy who was the "hero" or main character. Everyone else was a lot more animated; his character was brooding, glum; and he has borderline symmetrical features and you know how I feel about that.
Posted at 04:00 AM in Backstory, Beards, Brush Drawing, Brush Pens, Commercially Bound Journals, Film, Hair, History, Instructions, Japanese Lined Journal, Journal Practice, Markers, Paper, Pens, Pentel Brush Pens, Portraits, Project Friday, Projects, Reviews, Sketching, Television, Visual Journaling, Why Draw? | Permalink | Comments (3)
Tags: Brian Cox, Charles Dance, commercially bound journals, Ironclad, Japanese lined journals, King John, Montana Markers, movies, Pentel brush pens, Project Friday, sketching from movies, sketching when sick
Above: Two Pentel fine-tipped pigment Colorbrush sketches, with shading done with their dye-based brush pens and a Niji waterbrush. Background color is Montana Marker with some washi tape. Click on the image to view an enlargement and read below to see why I've put this image here today.
Since I've already looked at Jean Reno once this week (Wednesday's post on the Kunst & Papier watercolor journal had a sketch of him) I thought I'd wrap up the week with another look at him and a TV recommendation.
First I have to say that I find Reno's face fascinating. Second I have to say that I find symmetrical faces (i.e., the ones that society seems to find more beautiful) almost impossible for me to draw.
Today's post is an example of this. Now one could argue that the face on the left of the page spread opening this post, was my warm up. But I'm not going to be that kind to myself. The actor I was sketching is pretty much gorgeous by all the standard measures of TV "beauty." Just look at that square jaw which is the one thing in the sketch that is NOT exaggerated.
Left: Detail of the Jean Reno portion of the first page spread so you can see some of the layers of ink. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
One could argue that because I was just warming up I didn't have my measuring in line yet and made his eyes too close together and his head too narrow (in some areas) and his nose too long…whatever.
I will just tell you that yes it was a warm up, but I'd drawn earlier in the day and all those sketches turned out wonderful. I just get stymied by symmetrical features. I need a little bit of wonkiness to hide my wonky lines. And there is no hiding when you are drawing someone conventionally beautiful.
I also need a little bit of "wonky" to hold my interest as I sketch. Sketching a symmetrical face typically isn't fun for me. I like to see the wear and tear of life on a face.
After finishing the sketch on the left I spent a few moments watching the rest of the show and then stopped the video (I was not drawing from memory so I don't even have that excuse) and drew Jean Reno, French actor and star of "Jo" a police procedural show set in Paris (more on this in a moment).
I had absolutely no difficulty drawing Reno, five minutes and I was adding shading. (The mid-line on the nose isn't a restatement, there is actually a shift in his nose there and originally I thought I was going to paint over this sketch so I wanted a "note" to remind me of a value shift.) I think we can all agree that the finished sketch bears some resemblance to Reno, while the sketch on the left looks rather like a superhero cartoon poorly sketched.
Will I stop trying to sketch "beautiful" people? Of course not. I learn something every time I try. But I will spend much more time sketching faces that have been lived in, because it is more fun to look at those faces, see those shapes and lines and values of light.
Now about that TV recommendation. I found "Jo" available for streaming on Acorn. There seems to be only one season from 2013. Reno plays a Paris police commander solving crimes that take place at iconic Paris sites. Believe me this isn't a tourist show, it's the standard type of police procedural, where a crime happens and the squad investigates. What is puzzling here is that his crew all seem to be native English speakers and there is no discussion as to why this is—perhaps this is the way things are in the EU now? It doesn't matter to me. I can suspend disbelief for that. I find it so fun to watch Reno act that it doesn't matter to me what is happening around him. The rest of the cast is typical to this genre: a good looking officer (who I'll probably never try to sketch—Tom Austen, look him up!), a funny-goofy-nerd-type, a female boss, and so on. Jill Hennessy has a recurring role as a nun who runs a shelter for battered women. When he isn't solving murders Jo is dealing with his own shortcomings and trying to mend relations with his estranged daughter (to tell you more about her and her mother would spoil the unfolding of things).
I've watched 3 episodes (there are only 8 so I'm rationing them for times when I want to sketch from the TV because you know I'm going to sketch Reno!) and enjoyed them all. If you like the original "Law and Order" (the Jerry Orbach years were my favorite; talk about sketching fun; and he got all the good lines), you'll probably enjoy this show. It's not as snappy, but it moves along at a good pace and has interesting story lines. And who knows, maybe you'll get a sketch or two done too.
Oh, yeah, and it doesn't hurt that as this character Reno has a beard! (Part one of a five-part series on why I love sketching beards begins at that link.)
Posted at 04:00 AM in Backstory, Brush Drawing, Commercially Bound Journals, Curiosities, Japanese Lined Journal, Pentel Brush Pens, Portraits, Random Thoughts, Reviews, Sketching, Television, Visual Journaling, Why Draw? | Permalink | Comments (11)
Tags: beards, beauty, drawing faces, Jean Reno, Pentel brush pens, police procedurals, sketching beauty, sketching Jean Reno, symmetrical faces, TV show Jo
Above: While watching a TV show one night the excellent actress Jean Marsh was dying and sick in bed and it struck me as an interesting angle to work. I had already scribbled some yellow Montana acrylic marker on the page. I had a red watercolor brush pen I wanted to work with so I sketched quickly with it. I didn't like the line quality or result so I went in with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen to define some areas and detail. I didn't like that either and was upset I was loosing what I wanted to capture. I decided to throw down some gouache quickly and see is I could get any of what I had originally hoped to get. Then I made notes. Continue reading below. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Messes give me details about where I have been and where I'm trying to go. In images like the one I posted today they show me when my experiments work and when they don't but ALSO what portion of the experiment worked.
That's valuable information to have. Just because something didn't work doesn't mean our time spent on it was wasted. In fact if we don't spend time experimenting we can't see over the top of the hill to the next thing we want to try.
Because of tis I find pages like this one from a lined paper Japanese Journal that I like to work out various ideas (written and visual) in so helpful.
I can pinpoint immediately where things don't work like the angle of the forehead or the length of the nose, given her position, But I can also rule out various approaches that don't work as executed and need to be refined in a different way, or are simply not something that's going to work for me.
Pages like this one contain so much information that they make me absolutely giddy. I can't wait to get back into the journal and make more of them. This is work. This is FUN. This is where learning and discovery happen. It doesn't matter that there isn't something "pretty" and delightful at the end of the 20 minutes. What matters is the new possibilities you just unearthed and can now pursue.
Look for and identify happy accidents you want to play more with and even create a "style" out of.
Find rich textures and experiment with recreating them in other paintings or drawings where they help you communicate focus.
Make repeated tries in the same image to capture what you see, WITHOUT worrying about "muddying up things." Take notes if you think you are loosing the plot.
Identify the weaknesses you see so that you can work on them and remedy them.
These all add up to strategies for doing the next image quickly, efficiently, and with greater fun.
I encourage you to take time to experiment and embrace the resultant mess on your journal page when (not if) something doesn't quite go as you expected.
Look for where you can go next—whether that means to a book on anatomy, another life-drawing session, or more considered work on a better paper choice.
Mine your messes for insights that will take you somewhere new. Really churn up your page. You'll learn a ton.
Posted at 04:00 AM in Breaking Habits, Brush Pens, Commercially Bound Journals, creativity, Gouache, Instructions, Japanese Lined Journal, Journal Practice, Perfectionism, Sketching, Visual Journaling, Visual Vocabulary, Why Draw? | Permalink | Comments (11)
Tags: experiments, insights, messes, sketching, using experiments to see where to go next in our art
Above: Sketch of actor Michael Kitchen as "Foyle" in a 8.5 x 11.5 inch Japanese Lined Journal. Pentel Brush Pen (ColorBrush) with Pigmented ink, shaded with a Colorbrush with dye-based, fugitive ink and a Niji Waterbrush. Color is all from Montana Markers (15mm tips). Click on the image to view an enlargement.
When I’m stressed and want to relax I don’t listen to classical music, or Gregorian Chants, or even my Carlos Nakai Native American flute DVDs. Those are all wonderful and helpful in some ways, but now with so many issues floating around in my head (from what e-commerce solution I should go with for my online classes to how to make sure I get in the necessary doctor visits for my elderly in-laws) I need something more soothing and more engaging than those options.
I need to watch an episode of “Foyle’s War.”
Who’s Foyle and what war is he fighting?
Foyle is widowed Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle of Hastings, Sussex England, during and just following WWII. (Some of the episodes contain a subplot about his relationship to his son who is a fighter pilot in the RAF.) The war Foyle is fighting is the war at home in England: the crimes (murder, black marketeering, bigotry, espionage, etc.) that occur on the home front during wartime.
Foyle is played by the fabulous Michael Kitchen and it is from his portrayal of Foyle that the calmness I experience is derived. Since 2002 I’ve watched as Foyle out thought masterminds and bunglers, and aged gracefully, always with quiet demeanor, never in anyone’s face. He is the poster boy for modesty and courtesy even when facing despicable people. He uses his wits to prevail. He has a dry wit and is never mean spirited. He champions the frail and the outsider. He stands up to those in power who misuse their power. He lives simply and frugally and enjoys spending his spare time fly fishing.
He is the epitome of remaining calm and carrying on—in his case carrying on in his pursuit of justice despite how messy and murky the war has made the world.
Kitchen often plays “calm” characters, characters who listen and understand more than they might discuss. You can see this in his portrayal of Berkeley in “Out of Africa” and in the character George Briggs he plays in “Enchanted April.” As an actor Kitchen is able to project a sound groundedness that is so essential in the character of Foyle. His portrayal of Foyle is as much about the stillness of being in the moment as it is about action. He plays the stillness as action, and I have never seen it done better.
The way Kitchen plays Foyle from the show’s early episodes in 2002 where his face was more angelic, to the final episodes released in January where that face has aged gracefully into a full measure of compassion, it is impossible for me to not feel less stressful when I watch.
Things do not always turn out the way they “should.” Justice and what we want and think are right are sometimes mutually exclusive. But Foyle’s demeanor reminds us that with the world in chaos around us we can be decent, kind, loyal, and demanding all at the same time. I feel calmer just seeing that model of behavior.
I think I’ll go watch the final episode right now! (And then start rewatching from the first episode. I have to also point out that there is an excellent supporting cast of characters.)
I recommend that you watch this series. You’ll find the complete series on Acorn right now (both streaming or to purchase as a DVD set). Often it is replayed on PBS stations. It also seems to be available on Hulu right now.