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…

 

Continue to Learn, Learning to Continue

Freckled Girl
Freckled Girl, digital, photo reference from Pinterest

A few weeks ago I wailed about not being able to paint. I’m not going to tell you that it’s all come back to me and I’m flying. But I am painting, and I’ve been completely immersed in it all week long. Everything is different, the medium, the style, the type of painting, but I’m learning, and I’m old enough to know that learning is one of life’s most important things for me. If I’m not learning, I lose interest and everything is washed over in blues.

Above is a digital piece worked in a painterly realistic style.

My whole art education was about abstraction with elements of either the sublime and/or expressionistic. I feel like a traitor to my education,  and my mentors, but man, there’s a whole other world of art out there.

I’ts Canada Day here. Au Canada!!

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Digital Studio Setup

Digital Studio Setup

After years of creating art, usually with my head bent over a panel placed on a table or on the floor, I have succumbed to serious neck and shoulder pain.

As mentioned in my last post, I’m not painting in the traditional way right now, though what I was doing wasn’t exactly traditional either.

For years I’ve worked in encaustic. Encaustic is a mixture of beeswax, damar resin and pigment, which is heated and applied in various methods on a panel. I preferred to use regular bristle brushes to apply my wax, but because it solidifies very quickly I found that the best way for me to work was to have my panel flat on a table. A slight angle was fine too, but a vertical panel didn’t work well.

Hence, my 7 pound head was hanging over a table at a degree that made it feel more like 35 pounds and hey, I’ve got one of those nerdy, long, skinny necks, which means I was creating a lot of trouble for myself.

Now, I’m mostly working digitally and I’ve been striving to find a way to keep my posture neutral. No slumping shoulders, no out-stretched neck, no reaching arm and bent wrist.

To that end I modified a small computer table I bought at Staples. In the picture above you see it as it would be if I use it for my drawing tablet, but I took off the side panel (where the mouse would normall go) so that I could put a drawing board in this same table and use it for analog drawing too. This little table-top tilts to a 45 degree angle, and because the whole thing is small and on wheels I can easily move it out of my way when I need to use my computer for writing.

It’s early days, but I think this might do the trick. Now if I could just figure out how to get the lighting right.

In the mean time, as you can see, I’ve decided to practice. I may not have anything to say in paint right now, but drawing for me is meditative, so for now, I’m doing the equivalent of scales: drawing hands, feet, gestures, contours, and so on.

Oh and I made this very strange lady. I stole some bits of her from a drawing by Wylie Beckert.

White Hair3

Learning

by Aaron John Gregory

On our recent visit to California we attended the Pacific Grove Good Old Days. I’m not a fan of believing that the old days are somehow better then the ones we’re currently living, but it really didn’t matter because the Pacific Grove Good Old Days are basically a street fair, with arts displays, live music, midway rides for the young, and lot of things for sale including food.

It was a great deal of fun to weave through the various display and sellers booths. Among them we found a real gem–Cotton Crustacean. The booth was manned by Aaron John Gregory and sold T-shirt decorated with beautiful images of sea creatures. If you’re a prog-rock fan you may have heard of Aaron Gregory before. He’s a member of the band Giant Squid. I listen to some progressive rock, but hadn’t heard of Giant Squid before. Give them a listen. They might be just what you’ve been looking for.

Aaron is also an illustrator and designer, and draws the images for the T-shirts himself–hours and hours of night-time stippling. Stippling. I had, of course, heard of it, but it was something I’d never tried. In fact with my high and mighty fine arts degree I probably thought it was beneath me. Phah! I still have a lot to learn.

So, I tried it. Aaron uses pen and ink. His images lingered in my mind and while watching television with my husband I started out drawing a creature, cribbed from William O’Connor’s Dracopedia on my Samsung Tab A with S-pen tablet in Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro. As you can see, I didn’t get the idea of trying the stippling until I’d already added some colour. I let it stand, though it does nothing for the drawing overall. I think I need a whole lot more carefulness. Some of my dots ended up being little lines, but the process was enjoyable and I plan to do it again.

Digital Stippling

Huion: A New Tool

For a long time now I’ve wanted a digital graphics tablet, in particular, a screen tablet designed especially for artists. Last week I received a lovely gift of birthday money from my son, that he earmarked for a, someday, drawing tablet. You see these tablets, especially the ones developed by Wacom,the giant in graphic tablets, are very expensive.

But, but, but…

New manufacturers are catching up, and after I did a whole lot of research on graphic digital tablets, I found that companies like Huion, Ugee and others are producing excellent products at a fraction of the cost. A Wacom 13″ HD tablet on Ebay is still over a thousand dollars (CDN) whereas this lovely Huion 15.6″ HD tablet was about half that price. I pulled the trigger, as is obvious from the photos above.

So this brings me to a little philosophy about tools for artists. All credit to the wonderfulness of Wacom’s tablets, or Apples various devices, or any of those tools people rate as top of the line in paints, or inks, and papers. I’m glad these wonderful things are out there. But if you think you make art because you can’t afford these amazing things, think again. I hear that Shakespeare didn’t have a MacBook Pro and Scrivener. He managed to do a pretty good job of writing nonetheless.

I think artists are by their nature adapters. If they can’t afford one tool they’ll learn to use another. I haven’t tried a Wacom Cintiq, I can’t make a comparison between it and the Huion tablets.

Is the Huion tablet an excellent digital drawing tool?

I think so. The setup was easy. Krita, my preferred drawing application works well on it. Does it have problems? A couple. I hear it has more paralax (difference between where you put down your pen and where it draws) than some tablets. If it does, it hasn’t been a problem for me. One thing that annoys me a little is that the bottom right corner doesn’t respond as well to my pen touch as I’d like. I’ll figure a work around by moving my brush pallette to another  area of the screen.

So, yes, it’s a tool, but its also a toy and I love it!