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.

Why so Serious?

 

In 2015 I purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S-pen. I particularly wanted this model because the tablet had Wacom pressure sensitivity built in.Which means you can write/draw natural way. Lines are darker/lighter and thicker/thinner depending on how much pressure you apply, just as they are with traditional mediums.

Above you can see a selection of drawings and paintings I’ve created using this tablet and Infinite Painter Software.

You know what I noticed about these pieces? Overall they are less * serious* and more playful. I was, mostly, just messing around, and trying things out. What fun! Not fun in the ha-ha! way but fun in the completely engrossed way of searching and discovering.

Judging Improvement

celmissia_coriacea
Celmissia coriacea, 2002 Digital Drawing

One of the hardest things in the making of art is judging improvement in your skills. We talk about the necessary 10,000 hours of practice that make you good at something. We think about that and decide maybe it isn’t 10,000 hours of practice that is needed, but instead, you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to make you a master.

I’m old. I’ve had tens of thousands of hours of practice in all manner of things, and I don’t think I’m a master of anything. There are things other than practice that make you a better artist. An intimate familiarity with the things of music are a necessary tool but that knowledge alone doesn’t make art. What is necessary is an openness to experience, and an understanding that experience in one domain has an echo in another. That somehow, curiously, everything is fractal and this is that. This is a hard thing to practice.

So how do you judge? Sometimes you know you’ve reached a point of excellence by the reactions of others in your creative domain. Sometimes you know because one day you find that you, yourself, know that this thing you made is good. And sometimes you have no clue at all. You just keep doing it because there is something more to be said and something more to be proven, or understood.

My son enables my passion for new technologys. In 2001 he gave me a Wacom Graphire II. One of Wacom’s tiny digital drawing tablets. With the use of the included pen and a software that supported the hardware, you could make a painting direct to digital.

I made the painting above with this little Wacom tablet, in a software called GIMP. (I was all about Linux in 2001, and still have one Linux only computer). The lines are wobbly, but, art-wise, this painting is no worse than many I make today.  In this case, I have no clue as to whether I’ve improved, so I’ll keep on keeping on until I do. Hmmm, how did I get that watercolour like look…

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Harvest
Harvest, 2005, Olympus point and shoot,

Above you see a harvest from my garden. I took this photo in the first few years we lived here.

It’s a holiday here in Canada, and though my weeks aren’t straitlaced by a nine-to-five job, I have decided to take the day off. Today is a fill up on gratitude day–oh, and turkey, and roasted vegetables, and pumpkin pie, and…

Have a good day!!

On Writing: What’s your process?

Synapse
Synapse, 2014, encaustic on panel

I’m not thinking of whether you outline, write your thesis sentence first, or how you develop your characters. What I’m considering is the physical process.

It’s interesting to hear about the processes writers employ. Many get up very early in the morning before any other family members are up, and in this early morning solitude they invite their characters to play, blithely typing away as they watch. Some only write late at night. Some write in coffee shops and so on.

It is said that Thomas Wolf wrote with a pencil on paper, using the top of his refridgerator as his desktop. And yes, he was tall, and refridgerators were shorter in those days.

A number of writers, Kevin J. Anderson is one, dictate their novels into a small recorder while they hike or walk. They then use Dragon Naturally Speaking software to transcribe the spoken word to text.

I find that I have a more intimate connection to my story if I write longhand in a lined book. And it is easier on my back to sit in a recliner and write in a notebook than on my laptop. The problem is transcribing drives me crazy. Writing with a pen or pencil isn’t the hard thing. Reading handwritten narratives, is for me the hard thing. Tougher, still if you’re trying to type what you are reading, while you’re reading.

20180903_101106

Recently, in a Joanna Penn podcast, her mother, Jacqui Penn, also a writer, described her writing process. She writes her stories longhand in a notebook, reads it into a recorder and let’s Dragon take care of the transcription. She then edits on her computer.

This sounds brilliant to me. Her reasons for working this way, is that she finds sitting at the keyboard for long periods of time very hard on her. Yes! Me too. Sore neck, sore back, sore wrists…

I know that people write longhand less and less often. Times change. Technologies come along and do a brilliant job, but I hear that longhand writing is actually very good for you brain. (Check this, and this) And Google Docs has a facility whereby you can dictate a document on your cellphone without an intervening software like Dragon. There are plenty of issues to be sure. You have to tell dragon your punctuation marks along with the words, and Google only understand things like period and comma, but hey, what’s another learning curve! I’m going to give it a try.

What’s your best process?