Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Illustration Friday: Music

I liked my last week's submission a lot, so I thought I'd create this week's entry as part of that same series. This one comes with a limerick:)

No powerful, fine, wealthy king,
His one talent was that he could sing.
So he put out his cap,
That smitten young chap,
Quite determined to buy her that ring.

I'm feeling just a tad guilty because I've been trying to stay focused on finishing up version 2 of my illustration portfolio. But these little pencil drawings are just so darn gratifying, and I couldn't stop making them:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The First Wedding Anniversary Edition

Yay! Go Us!
We celebrated in the best possible way: with a walk down to the river to feed the ducks...and the geese....and a huge flock of aggressive seagulls. Let's just say there was some screaming involved on my part. And a lot of hysterical laughter on Charley's. We met some squirrels on the way, and we fed them too. There was screaming involved there as well. It seemed that Mr. Squirrel was less than satisfied with my offering of one measly cracker.

Here's a peek at what I worked on yesterday:
This work-in-progress is my latest illustration for Marcus and Petunia. One of the things I enjoy about illustration is that it's such a fast way of working. It's a very nice complement to my slow, slow "fine art" process.

When Charley and I decided to plan a big, formal wedding in only three months, we found that we were (blissfully!) limited in many ways. We had no time to hem 'n haw about color schemes and interviewing different vendors and all that jazz. Decisions were made lickety-split. Dress? I'll take that one off the mannequin. Flowers? Surprise me. Limo? Let's just hop in the back of my mom's car. If there's one thing I love best about limitations (besides finding ways to sneak around them...or push my way through them) it's that they promote decisiveness. The same can be said for illustration. One is working with a pre-existing story so that many elements are already established, and decisions can be made BAM, BAM, BAM!

Lately I've been feeling a bit rusty when it comes to my basic observational drawing skills. It's especially apparent when I'm teaching my intro. drawing and watercolor classes. Sometimes, particularly in adult ed., it's helpful to give demonstrations. It helps the students see that art-making is not some sort of wizardry. But it's also problematic. For me, drawing and painting are very personal, quiet, focused practices–a kind of brain yoga. But when I'm demonstrating a technique, I'm trying to simultaneously draw, explain what I'm doing, and think about what the students need to see and hear. I'm in teacher mode, which means that my mind is completely occupied with my students' needs. The resulting drawing or painting is usually a little bit embarrassing. I always feel a little ego pang when I give a demo. I wonder if the students see the lack of quality in my example, and that worries me a little. Will they think that I'm a hack? Ultimately though, giving demos is about taking one for the team. As long as it helps the students dig deeper into their work, what does it matter if they do think that I'm a hack?

That being said, lately I've had a hankering for some completely self-absorbed, straight observational drawing. So yesterday I went to one of the open figure-drawing sessions at the New Art Center. As a faculty member I got to draw for free! Oh, it was so blissful. Our model was particularly good, and he had an interesting life story. For those two hours, I got to be a student again–drawing to make my own discoveries. Later, when I got back to my studio, I spread all of my gesture drawings out on my studio floor in a kind of naked-guy carpet. It was lovely to bask for a while in the smudgy charcoal and the searching, searching, searching of all my black marks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I added these yellow and orange leaves to this painting last week. At the time I wasn't sure whether they completed or destroyed the piece. But after a few days away from it, it feels resolved enough for me.

Here's an updated detail of my owl painting in progress. Although this piece is #3 on my current list of priorities, I had the time to play around with it yesterday while I was waiting for priorities #1 and #2 to dry.

This painting has a lot of new and unfamiliar features for me, so I've been letting it percolate for a long time while I work on other things. I'm glad I had that little window of time to sit down and give it some focused attention yesterday. I feel like I made some good breakthroughs. Ultimately, this will be part of a pair that includes a view looking down through the trees.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Illustration Friday: Unbalanced

A funny picture for a bright, sunny day:) I think I captured two meanings here: this match is hardly fair, and I'm clearly a little unbalanced for coming up with this!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Illustration Friday: Blur

gouache and watercolor on paper

This week's topic made me think of the way the landscape streaks by when viewed from the window of a moving car. When I was little, that blurring effect was my gateway to imagination. As a spacey, daydreaming kid, I liked the way car rides provided a time and space where I could watch three worlds magically overlap: the outside landscape, the reflection of myself inside the car, and whatever images happened to occupy my thoughts that day.

I have to confess, this image looks a heck of a lot better in the photo than it does in real life. It was a bit of a wild rush job;). I don't like to plan my images too carefully, which certainly keeps things authentic and interesting, but also has a tendency to produce mud now and then as I struggle to resolve the picture. This little painting is definitely one of my muddier creations. But I like the idea behind the image, and now that I see just how I want it to be I'll be able to recreate it in a way that makes sense technically.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Oldie Revisited. Again.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may remember this old guy:I haven't touched this piece since last January. And some of the components are even older than that. I remember painting those roses, cutting them out and dipping them in wax when I was living and painting in an apartment with a (now) ex boyfriend. That had to have been in 2004, just after I'd snagged my MFA. I remember what a fumbling time that was; out of school for the first time in my life, with no clue how to go about making work on my own. These roses were the last thing I made before I stopped painting for a whole year. I had a job working as a nanny, which turned out to be a bad match for me, and thereby became a bit of a life-sucking fiasco. My stepbrother once asked me what I did all day while the kids were in school, and when I described the various tasks and errands for which I was responsible (and which, incidentally were not part of the original job description), he exclaimed,"Oh my God! You're a butler. You buttle."
That was the start of an awakening on my part. Don't get me wrong, I was well-paid, and I even had health insurance. But I really HATE housework, and my brain (like most brains) tends to shrivel painfully without some kind of intellectual stimulation. After one year at that job, I was itching to start making art again. Something had to change. I moved home with my mom and stepdad, simultaneously chucking the boyfriend (that was a separate issue), and freeing up some income in order to rent some studio space. I sublet a tiny corner of a dark, dingy basement studio. I later found out that I was actually paying 90% of the rent for the whole space, but that didn't matter to me. Having that corner to myself helped me start painting again, and that seemed more than worth it. But I did start thinking that I could probably afford to get a better studio for the same price. That's when I found and moved into my current light-filled slice of heaven. I was working all day as a nanny/butler, and painting nights and weekends. I met Charley during this series of events, and with his and my family's encouragement and support, I finally took the plunge and quit buttling. I'd saved up enough money to paint full time for one year. I started teaching community ed classes too, and then private lessons, and now college. Every year since I quit buttling, I've been able to scrape enough income together so that I don't have to go back. Of course, things would have been different if I'd had a family to support, and if my family hadn't been able and (very) willing to help me. But I was really lucky. I am also willing to live pretty simply and ignore the holes in my jeans.
Those roses make me giddy. I've carried them with me through all that transition, and they remind me to stop for a minute and just be grateful.
Finally, I've figured out what this little piece is about, and how I will finish it. It only took five years.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Illustration Friday: Skinny

A skinny window into a world of skinny things in the mind of a skinny girl. I was in the mood for some pencil drawing this week and invested a slightly ridiculous amount of time on this piece. But I really like it:) Can you find 10 skinny things? It will help to see the better image here on flickr. Or you can just double click on the image above for a closeup.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thoughts on Teaching

These tiny mannequins are the newest addition to my arsenal of teaching tools. I realize how inaccurate (and creepy!) they are--the teeny, Barbie Doll waist on the female, the immovable shoulder girdles on both. But I have a brilliant student who is a bit too young for figure drawing courses (she's just 13, and we live in the most Puritan region of the prudish U.S.A.), but who would really benefit from studying foreshortened poses and dynamic angles. Her work is amazing--she fearlessly creates whole worlds in a beautiful graphic novel/Manga style. Her story ideas are rich and complex and delightfully dark. Exploring the figure will really help her to develop her characters and their stories more fully.

While I make occasional references to teaching in my posts, I've never written extensively about it, or even fully outlined that part of my life on this blog. It's always felt a little bit like I'd be going off topic, or that it wouldn't be very interesting (one of those "you had to be there" kind of things). But my teaching life has been evolving lately, and I've been thinking about it a lot. Furthermore, teaching has a huge impact on my own work. It's a way of sharing inspiration and ideas, of getting fresh perspectives. And it pushes me to follow my own advice, which helps me steer clear of all kinds of creatively stifling pitfalls.