Buckle-down Time

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.

Happy Canada Day!

Dessert

I’ve been away on family visits, and I’m deep into gardening catch-up and preparation for more family visits.

I have less time in the studio but I’m continuing my study of digital illustration. I struggle with two different things:

  • I have trouble thinking of things to illustrate and,
  • When I do create something, it looks stiff and self-conscious

In this little mouse painting, I used my brushes more like I would if I were creating with analog mediums like watercolour or oil paint and I think it has helped.

Are mice fond of blackberries for dessert? I have no idea, but dessert is good. Go ahead and have an extra helping of Canada Day cake!

Krita 4.2.1 is here.

My son taught me how to use computers. I think the first oneI tried was an an IBM XT. It had two floppy drives. One held the WordPerfect software I was hoping to use, and the other held your documents. It was a terrible exercise in frustration for me–all those arcane keystrokes, I could never remember–but I was hooked.

My education in computers took a long time. As a single mom, of two, just finishing my degree in fine art, I didn’t have money to buy computers and operating systems, but there were enough of them around to find old computers whose hardware you could scavenge to build something for yourself. By the mid-nineties, my son taught me about open-source operating systems and software. He taught me about Linux. (I use Ubuntu)

I fell in love with the co-operative way Linux was built, and how it offered opportunity to people who couldn’t pop out and buy computers at a whim. My son ended up becoming a software engineer. And I’m still a fan of computers and the ideals behind open-source software.

Krita is one such software. It’s an amazing drawing program that rivals and exceeds the ability of expensive digital editing software like Adobe Photoshop. It’s both robust enough for production artwork and cost friendly enough for beginners who don’t have the money to buy visual artmaking software.

According to Wikipedia, Krita is the Swedish word for crayon and rita is Swedish word for ‘to draw’.

The newest version of Krita just came out, and I spent the tail end of last week and all weekend, trying new brush sets (offered for free by many) and the colourize mask that allows you to colour your work quickly and easily.

Above is a composition of my own that is a little Handmaid’s Tale and a little Mother of Dragon’s, and mostly neither. My very quick granddaughter noted that the expression on the woman’s face is all wrong given the miracle of a dragon hatching in your hands. She’s so right.

The other drawing is a portrait of Dominique Tipper who plays Naomi Nagata in the TV series The Expanse.

Introverting and Extroverting.

Peasant girl in Interior
Girl in Interior, 2019, digital

I feel as though I’ve talked about this before, but I took a quick browse through my previous post titles and didn’t come up with anything. So…

On the Big Five personality test, I show up as a strong introvert. I didn’t need a test to tell me that. I can spend massive amounts of time alone, and enjoy it, and I get very antsy in crowds.

But people are born to community. In times past it was a matter of survival—still is! We all need other people whether we’re introverted or extroverted.

In the past, I could get my extroverting done at my day job, and I guarded my alone time with a jealousy that may not have been entirely healthy.

Here’s the thing: When I spend a large amount of time with other people I lose myself. Yes, I know how weird that sounds, but truly, when I’m alone again, I can’t figure out who I am and where I left off. I can’t get back into the groove. I feel as though there are bits of me scattered all over the place, and I can’t gather enough of the pieces to make a coherent me.

I come to the studio, or to my writing desk, and I sit, and sit, and don’t know what I’m doing or how to begin. It’s similar to ‘page fright’—a fear of the blank canvas or a blank sheet of paper—but it’s not the same. In page fright, you’re afraid of messing up. I’m not afraid of messing up the page, I just don’t know what to do with the page, or canvas, or brush or pen.

In early March I went to Ottawa, Ontario to visit family. I had a wonderful time, but though I’ve been home for ten days now, and itching to get back to my work, it wasn’t until this weekend that I was finally able to put enough of the pieces of me together to do some creative work.

There are rhythms and reasons for everything. This is part of a creative rhythm for me and usually it’s best just to go with the flow.

 

A Monday Sort of Girl

Raven Girl2
Raven Girl, 2019 ink, digital print on altered book.

It’s c-c-c-old! It’s ‘extreme temperature’ warnings cold. When I start the car this morning, every warning light cames on: check engine, brakes warning (!), others… My away mission is necessarily cancelled. I should mind. I don’t. Did I mention it’s cold?

In truth, I’m being a baby. It is cold, but I’ve lived in the middle of Canada my whole life and it’s been colder. This is an area of temperature extremes. It can be +40 Celsius in summer and -40 Celsius in the winter. Today, it’s only -28 C. Could be worse.

Above are another two pages from my altered book. I drew the picture of the little girl and the ravens from a photo reference. Do you know the covers of Ransom Rigg’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? They’re amazing, and just a little bit creepy. I wanted that kind of feel.

This is a digital drawing. (I use an opensource software called Krita (which is amazing) and a Huion display drawing tablet.(also amazing)), I then printed the drawing on mat photo paper.

To prepare the book page I used a mixture of Higgens sepia ink and Liquitex permanent black ink to cover the print part of the book. Then with glue, more ink, and a terrific Jelly Roll gel pen, in gold, I put it all together. Some things came out as expected. Some didn’t, but the accidents were happy ones. When I put glue on the back of my digital print, it dampened the front of the image enough to turn the sepia tone green. It works. I’ll take it.

The raven girl is pretty stoic looking in her strangeness. Me too, pretty stoic. It doesn’t stop me thinking of plants and gardens though. So I finished the weekend off with this:

Garden
Garden, 2019, ink on paper. Sketchbook art

 

 

The Effort

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Last week I talked about looking, seeing and inspiration. I offered you a video on the art of Anne Bachelier. If you watched the video, you’ll hear her talk about her interest in illuminated manuscripts and she shows us a book that she has ‘illuminated’.

I find all her art fascinating. Her facility with oil paint is astonishing, but the part that inspired me most were the grittier works in the book she made.

I don’t know what sort of book Anne used. But my instinct was take an old book from my book shelves. My husband’s Grandfather used to buy boxes  of stuff at farm auctions that held all the things the auctioneer expected no one wanted. Often these boxes held books and the books were passed on to us. We both have a hard time throwing out books.

Lord Johnnie by Leslie T. White was published in 1949. The paper is pulp and fairly thin. I have no idea what the story is about. The cover has an embossed sword on it. Here’s a bit from its pages:

“I fear, sir, there is some mistake,” she said fridgidly. “I recall no cousin who–“

Abruptly her yes widened. She opened her mouth to scream, then stifled the outburst with her fan.

“Control yourself, madame! warned Johnnie. “A scene will be fatal!”

I’ve since found that painting in already published books is not my own invention. It’s a thing. If you Google Altered Books you’ll find images and how tos.

I learned some excellent things in creating art in someone else’s book.

  1. Because the paper isn’t pristine, it’s easier to make your first marks and be less precious about the drawing.
  2. Because text covers much of the page, you end up using the whole page for your composition.
  3. Though I haven’t read any more of the story in than what you see above, I found my images seemed to imply a narrative.

I suppose, if I had planned better, I could have chosen a theme and made the narrative clearer. I’m glad I didn’t, because as you can see from the work on this blog I liked to change things up.

The mediums I used were Golden Heavy Body Gel (as my glue), Golden Acrylic Gesso, various inks, pencil crayon, tissue paper and other collage elements, and gel pens. The figure with the wings was drawn digitally, printed and painted with coloured pencil and watercolour.

I needed a poem about ravens, and couldn’t find one that felt right, so I wrote my own.

Fledge

Above,

hunched in our tattered funeral array, we watch.

Soon,

the itch in her wings will lift her up.

Below,

scuttles her prey.

 

Excited about Illustration

A few years ago, as I mentioned in my last entry, I purchased a tablet on which I can draw. For my birthday, this year I received a larger Huion display drawing tablet.

Because I do visual art, and write, it occurred to me to consider painting book covers. I’ve come to realize that many illustrators are amazing artists. They know things we didn’t learn in fine art school. Above, you see some of my illustration attempts. Many of these pieces lean heavily on the work of other artists. Most are at least modified by my ineptitude.

Like many creatives, I set up way to many learning projects each year. Learning to be an illustrater didn’t get as much time as it needed, but hey, my learning time isn’t over.