It’s been a while

A Dan and his Horse

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.

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.

 

Big, Bigger

When we visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) we were fortunate to see an exhibition by German modernist painters. It was a delight to see the work of a particular favourite,  Anselm Kiefer. These paintings are BIG. “Big paintings” are a particular hallmark of modernist art. I’m talking about physically big paintings, and not the quality of the work, though in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, those two things were often conflated.

Seeing these paintings kicked off a desire to make large paintings ,again. When I was a student in the 1980s I created some very large paintings. Big Red, below, is 8 feet tall by 4 feet wide. The piece was created entirely of bits of paper and spills of acrylic paint. These paintings had no backing and you can imagine what a nightmare they were to hang.

Big Red
Big Red, 1987, collage construction, 8′ x 4′

When I began to paint in encaustic, my work became smaller in size. In Progress,  2013, encaustic on panel is about 40 x 30 inches.

In Progress 2013_v1
In Progress, 2013, encaustic on panel, 30″ x 40″

This week I finished this egg tempera painting. It is bigger than the sketchbook, and alterbook works I’ve been showing you, but nowhere near as large as In Progress.

Pointless2_sm2
Pointless, Iterations series, egg tempera on panel, 20 x 16 inches

 

One more thing. A loyal reader, Regine, commented that the altered book paintings I posted  last week made her think of quilting. I don’t quilt, but I’ve long recognized that my work has an affinity with quilting. Here are two collage paintings from the 1990s that show a strong link to piecing quilts.

BouquetZokalo

You know what’s funny? Size doesn’t matter with digital work at all, at least not in the three dimensional way.  If you have enough pixels you can see the work any size you want. Think of an iMax screen and your cellphone screen.

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.