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.
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.
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.
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.