Another in my bird series. The last two were in egg tempera. This one is in oil, and I think I’ll go back to egg tempera for the next one. The downside, and the upside, are that they take a long time to make. I love this slowing down of process. Almost all my work in the recent past were things that were finished in a week or less. The egg-tempera paintings take much longer. It’s a painstaking matter of making mark after mark, in some ways not unlike the abstract collages I made in my early years as an artist.
New Work in Egg Tempera
I haven’t posted anything here in a long time, but I have been working. Above are two pieces in a potential series.
These paintings are made in egg tempera which requires many many layers of transparent pigment suspended in an egg yolk and water mixture. But I’ve told you about egg tempera before. The process is long, and sometimes tedious, but that’s just fine in times of Covid19 because what else are you going to do, eh?
I’m so fortunate to have paintings to make, and stories to write. So, onward to the next painting, which I think I will call Song Bird.
Yes, there will be a bird.
Geeking out on Arthur Rackham
The thing that made me want to be an artist were the illustrations in books. No one I knew had paintings on their walls when I was a kid, but the pictures in the Sunday school books were amazing. I wanted to make drawings just like that.
Fast forward to university, where “illustrations” were not a part of my fine art studies. I learned to disregard this kind of work as not serious.
I’m past wanting to be considered a serious artist, and I can finally look again at the story illustrations that enthralled me as a kid. I still love them, especially the older, complicated, many-mark kind. Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) pushes all my delight buttons. Above is a drawing I did based on one of his (mine has a rat with a crow, rather than a baby) and then I painted it in gouache, a wonderful medium that sometimes rewards you by creating a glow in your work.
Here’s another gouache painting, with more than a few problems, but some of that glow is there.
The instinct, during these darker and cold days of the year, is to hunker down in the lovely warmth of my home–a warmth I’m very grateful for–and not go outside at all. But a curious thing happens. Everything begins to feel stale and a bit pointless. I think it’s because we don’t get enough sensory stimulus. I decided, cold or not, I really ought to get outside most days if possible, even if it’s just for a short walk.
On this mornings walk a hare dashed forward planning to race across my path, at the last moment it saw me and veered to hide behind the wheel of a parked school bus. Moments later it whizzed across the way behind me. It was an excellent experience. I smiled all the way home.
I’m beginning to be more comfortable with digital work, and am finding my own style, which surprisingly is not unlike my analogue style. Lately I’ve been drawing chickens. Here’s a lovely lady done with the excellent charcoal brush by Ramon Miranda. Ramon creates brushes and training videos for the opensource drawing software, Krita. If you’re interested in digital artwork check out this software, you’ll like it.
Everything is Possible
The very best to all of you in 2020!
I thought of listing some of the things I accomplished this year, but depending on how you look at it, it either sounded like a brag, or not a big deal.
One brilliant thing that happened this year was that I began to get used to being unemployed. My identity of being a competent and useful worker bee took a serious hit when I first left work, and it began to feel too late to accomplish anything with my creative work.
It was brilliant, when bit by bit, I began to realize there were positives. I didn’t have to stick to what I had been doing. I could look at things I really wanted to do when I ten, or 20, or 30. I love making abstract paintings, but when I was a kid, I really wanted to make realistic drawings in intense detail. I went back to my sketchbook, and forward to digital work. I didn’t stick to any one medium or any one style. I explored it all and my plan is to continue doing so.
I spent the whole of 2019 in revision hell. Some writers love to revise, but I don’t—didn’t. I like it a whole lot better now. I revised two novels and a novella and managed only one short story of new material.
I found a little book called Writing into the Dark, by Dean Wesley Smith, and man, that book made a difference to my confidence as a writer. It felt so good to hear that someone else writes as I do. As though they are reading a story. I’d never heard anyone else describe how it was for me, and I’ve read a zillion writing books. My first drafts were what is usually called ‘shitty’. Which is what made the revision so trying. I have some new tools to deal with that now. It’s called cycling. Write about 500 words, revise, continue. How is it I didn’t know that many writers do that?
I’m contented. For me it was a very good year. It was best when I didn’t listen to the news too much, though even that eventually boiled down to a bit of perspective.
Take the long views, my dears, and go forth with courage. Happy 2020.
Everything is an Experiment
So this (grisaille painting) turned into that (coloured painting)
I’d intended some colour from the start. I thought I might make this an egg tempera painting, but I wanted to add colour with some texture. Egg tempera is very smooth. I thought I might mix oil or powdered pigment with cold wax medium. Cold wax is a mixture of beeswax, damar resin and solvents. It makes the oil paint very thick and it dries matte.
The thing is that given the fine detail of this painting, I found it difficult to add thick paint to such small areas in a concise way. In the end, I used oil paint and a thinning Alkyd medium to glaze the colours on.
Painting is like life in that way. Sometimes you do what YOU want. Other times you do what the painting (life) wants.
I must add that I stole the title of this post. Artist Laureen used it in an Instagram post. She’s a very wise lady.
I’m working on all fronts: Digital work, sketchbook work, and egg tempera painting as well as writing.
This whole year has been a year of revision. I’ve revised The Spell (YA fantasy)for the umpteenth time. I revised Hannah’s Hearing (a comedic novella about a woman’s struggle with aging). And I’m still revising The Chronos Project ( a time travel novel set in 2067 and 1940 Berlin). I also wrote and revised a short story I’m calling An Intercession.
NOTE to self. Do not spend a whole year revising. I’m getting better at it, but I much prefer writing first draft and it was hard for me to spend a whole year fixing, rather than making.
I like egg tempera, but its a fragile medium, and recently I put a four panel piece on the floor to photograph. I took the shots, and walked away. Big mistake. I have a dog and a cat and they licked off much of the work I’d done. I’m thinking I may change mediums in the new year. No problem. It’ll be fun to learn something new.
I hope you are all beavering away at your special projects. May they go well! Keep making.
It’s been a while
I haven’t done much writing of late, and that includes blogs. I’m not sure if I’m suffering from writers block or just tired of trying to sort out a recalcitrant time travel novel.
But I’ve been busy. My daughter and I are doing Inktober19. Check out our work at @Michelification and @evebarbeau on Instagram. Our styles are quite different, and somehow similar.
Above is a painted version of a digital drawing I did some time ago. A Dane and his Horse, is digital art made in Krita, an opensource software that is excellent! Check it out too, if you’re interested. By the way, I used a still from The Last Kingdom as my source for this image, and followed it fairly slavishly because this was a practice in digital painting more than anything else. Check out The Last Kingdom Twitter feed and watch the series on Netflix. Or better yet, read the book by Bernard Cornwell.
Summer hasn’t been all fun and games, though happily there was enough of that to make it feel like summer, but now it’s time to push forward on the creative front.
Above are two digital pieces, the top not yet complete. I found some movie stills as reference material because they help me think about the whole scene, rather than just the characters. And figures in movie stills do more natural looking things than when you are working from a model, or from most photographs.
Happy autumn everyone. Another time for growth, but of a different kind.
Better Than You Thought
Time distance makes such a difference to your perception!
When I received a gift of a new laptop for my birthday, I was left with a perfectly usable but older laptop with some USB issues. That laptop made me feel guilty because though I love new tech, I hate rampant materialism. I wanted to give that laptop to someone who would be happy to have it.
I found that someone, but it required me to mail it to another city. Okay, no problem. But how to protect it while Canada Post had their way with it. Surely, I had some bubble-wrap somewhere.
I found some, wrapped around a roll of old paintings. (In my house, almost every bedroom closet and all available spaces are filled with paintings.)
I unwrapped the roll of paintings labelled Lilith series part II and found the above works. I created them circa 1995-97. Two of them each measure 31″ by 96″ and the other is 31″ x 108″. All are acrylic and collage on canvas.
I’m surprised to find that they’re quite good. Amazing what a little time and emotional distance can do. I’ve had a couple of experience like that lately. Not long ago I read an old story and thought. Wow! That’s pretty good.
So, don’t be hating the stuff you made. It isn’t fair to you and to the creations. Keep working, it’s the only thing you never run out of, the work. And the work is really where it’s at.
Mind you it’s nice to be a little surprised, now and again, at how you nailed it.