Monday, July 2, 2012

Picture of Mary and Jesus

I've just about finished the sketching stage of a picture of Mary and Jesus. This photo is a bit dull, having been taken on the iPad, but it shows, somewhat roughly, the progress that's been made. The pencil strokes are very light, at this stage, so I had to increase the contrast of the photo to enable the sketch to be easily viewed on the screen.
I wasn't sure which subject pose would be win out until I began to sketch, and this one became the final choice. It seemed more straightforward than the other pose - less adjustments were needed - and it felt right. Something about the fact that they were looking deeply into each other's eyes caught my interest. There's trust and love between them.
Mary's expression will be altered slightly, as I progress - I've already adjusted the focus of her attention so that she is looking into the child's eyes. In the photo, she is looking down a little more. I would also like to introduce a slight smile to her lips - serious and serene, but loving. She has respect and joy, at the same time. The child's face seemed right to me, so I've tried to capture it as it is in the photo.
The head covering needs a lot of adjustment. It had slipped down too far, in the photo. I wanted to show some of her hair and the beautiful shape of her head but I also want to capture her modesty and respect for convention. This may have to be completed with a drawing of the covering from life, to ensure that the folds are realistic and suggestive of soft flows, rather than stiff, inflexible ridges.
There will probably be another correction of the head shape, as I can see from the photo that the shape of the skull is a little odd, under the cloth. Viewing the picture on the computer is really useful as it accentuates any errors and helps me to recognise and correct them. It's important to get the general proportions accurate at this stage, as coloured pencil drawings are very difficult to alter, later. I generally work with very light strokes to easily allow for necessary adjustments and to build up depth slowly. This way, a more accurate and realistic effect is more likely to result.
The next step is to lay the washes for the skin tones. This is a time-consuming part of the process but it's important not to rush it, with fewer, heavier strokes, if the skin is to look delicate and softly lifelike.
It's been some months, since I have done one of these portraits and I must admit that I found it quite difficult to make a start but, as usual, the world quickly melted away once I began. The heavenly peace that art brings me is difficult to articulate without sounding slightly daft. Perhaps, the fact that Jesus is the true artist and I am the instrument may explain this pure joy and contentment - Jesus is the creative source here and it seems that Mary is His apprentice, as her presence is also very much part of the process.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Drawing from Life

Today, Melanie and I did some life drawing.

I don't normally draw children from life because they are awfully fidgety:-P Melanie is no exception. Modelling bores her and she was itching to get on with her own drawing.

The result? A so-so sketch of Melanie with a sad look on her face:-/

Because our modelling session was cut short (due to my subject's lack of enthusiasm;-)), I had to finish off using memory alone. So, the likeness isn't quite good enough for a finished portrait - but, for a quick sketch, it was a useful exercise.

These coloured portraits are of Melanie, too, but they were done from photos.

Drawing from life is really good practice for lots of different reasons. It allows the artist to see the colours and form of the subject without distortion, and also to focus on the characteristics and details which are important to the composition, perspective and personality of the artwork. There can be a temptation to try and produce an exact copy of the photo, instead of drawing upon the technique and creativity that makes art a personal expression of the relationship between the subject and the beholder. I find that I use freer and bolder strokes with life drawings. That allows me to work with more confidence and, often, results in a more lively and natural looking portrait.

Melanie wanted drawing lessons, today, but I'm reluctant to restrict her creativity, at aged 8, so instead of structured lessons, we have sketching sessions together. I have to keep encouraging her progress because children sometimes compare their results unfavourably to adults' efforts. I showed her how to map out the features of her portrait accurately and, then, allowed her to proceed her own way. Happily, she made good progress and was really pleased with what she'd been able to do.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Oil Painting of my Daughter, aged 3

This is an oil painting of my daughter, aged three.

I haven't painted in oils, for quite a while, because it's so much easier to work with pencils, when you don't have a good studio space. Recently, one of our sons decided that he needed his own bedroom so my little studio has become a teenage retreat:-(

I even lost my nice chair to the study! This is what happens when the captain leaves the bridge, for a while;-)

My art station is permanently set up, in a corner of our rumpus room, now. The light's not too great but, with a bit of planning, it shouldn't be so bad. I'm not sure the family is going to welcome the fumes, when I get out the oils, though!

I love coloured pencils but there's something really special about oils. I use a good quality sable brush to get the fine details. I can get more control from using a medium sized brush with a point than with a very small brush. Sable brushes hold the paint well and don't leave hairs on the canvas. It really is worth buying a good quality brush and looking after it. I wouldn't be able to work properly with a cheap brush. It would be too frustrating and I wouldn't be able to paint the fine details.

Because I don't paint in oils very often, I don't stretch my own canvases. Here again, it's worth buying quality. As a teenager, I started out painting on canvas boards but the finished texture is harsher and the paint adheres differently to the surface. But, some of the Old Masters used to happily paint on wood so I guess it's a personal choice and a matter of style.

I'm thinking of posting my art on my family blog, Creating with Wisdom, from here on. There will be an art tab, at the top of the blog, which will have these posts on. I may still post finished paintings here, from time to time, but I'm not sure whether the posts on technique are worth continuing. I'm trying to decide whether this blog has been hibernating or whether it's died a natural death ;-)

Until next time, happy painting!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Back to Work Again

It's been a long time, since I last posted here. That may have something to do with the fact that it's been a long time since I was last able to really concentrate on my portraits. So long, in fact, that my last portrait has collected dust, and specks and spots, and has finally been confined to the trash:-(

Oh well, a new start should probably mean a new project, anyway, and maybe, a change in direction. I have lots of ideas which have been on hold, as I have been busy with the family and their school work. Just what will work, given the short bursts of time that I have to work with, remains to be seen.

My sister, Sue, has been encouraging me to venture into religious art for quite a while, now, and I must admit that I've had the thought to portray the suffering Jesus, for some years. The only thing stopping me is confidence - to dare to undertake such a project seems an awesome responsibility. It's not something I would want to do badly.

Lifestyle portraits are another art form that I love to do. Norman Rockwell is one of my very favourite artists, despite his commercial orientation. I love the wholesomeness of his postwar family scenes, rather more than his later, political work, regardless of which may be the most deserving of artistic merit. For a long time, I have had an ambition to do my own version of modern, wholesome family life, in the 21st century - perhaps, as an antidote to the negative and politically-conscious type of creativity that seems popular, these days. Among the families I know and the environment we live in, that hope-filled positivity is a reality and it would feel a bit like a personal mission to portray it in all its beauty.

My third ambition is to write a children's book. I've had an idea for a plot, since I was a young mum with just three children. The trouble is that writing is not really my strong point. I wonder if I could learn the skills or whether I really should concentrate on the illustrations and pass the story over to my talented sister - if I could persuade her to take it on, that is!

In an effort, to ease myself back into a work routine, I've been going through my old paintings and drawings. This usually makes me either giggle a little patronisingly at the so-called 'artist' of my past or cringe with shame. The picture, above, is a first attempt at an acrylic portrait, which I painted when my eldest daughters were one and four years old (they are now 18 and 21). It wasn't exactly a success and I never painted with acrylics, again - I found them flat and plasticky, compared to oils.

I also spoilt this portrait with a lack of confidence. You see, I had got the likeness. Even now, the picture straightaway takes me back to my daughters' preschool years and I can remember how excited I was to have got their appearance right. The trouble was that I was scared to finish it off, in case I ruined it. So, what I was left with was an unfinished picture which, by its incompleteness, was ruined anyway. I think this painting was a great lesson to me in taking risks. Since that time, I have been much more willing to risk destroying a picture than wasting my time coveting an unfinished project.

So, which direction now? There's too many choices! But, I must admit that, despite a bit of trepidation, I am feeling excited about getting back to it, again:-)