Friday, November 30, 2012

Representing Some Serious Bum Time

12112703graphite-line-drawinggraphite line drawing, which may or may not ever be worked up into a finished something
Writers may be more familiar with the term; at least, that’s were I came across it first when attending writers groups and seminars (once upon a time, I wanted to be an Author).  “Bum Time” is the thing that happens when your bum hits the chair, and not all of it is good, but that doesn’t matter, very little of it makes it to publication, but that’s the point. Bum time represents work that doesn’t always make it to the finished stage, but by giving it a name, you remind yourself that indirectly, it is essential to get to where you are going.  
In writing, two things need to happen. Butt hits chair, and fingers hit keyboard, repeatedly (or pen scribbles on foolscap, whichever makes your boat float)
In art, it’s not much different.  You sit (or stand) and do art. If you don’t feel like doing art, you still do art. If it’s ‘just not happening today’ you still make lines, swaths, blocks of colour or whatever on the page. Keep moving, don’t edit, don’t judge whether it’s good or bad, just keep going. Eventually, as writer, you will have a big heap of words, and even on a bad day, somewhere in that slush you will find a treasure. Maybe even just one short phrase that you can build on later, on a better day. In the meantime, you’ve been doing something essential to your craft—practising. The day of may feel like torture, but remember, you will be rewarded later, maybe moments later when Eureka! slams into your brain, maybe years later, when you finally realize you can make something happen.
12112704graphite-line-drawinggraphite line drawing, parts of this I love, other parts not so much, so this page goes nowhere, but someday I may ‘lift’ elements I like, but it’s guaranteed that the time spent was a learning experience.
When I was a child, a young adult, an art student, and an adult before my best before date (like now I’m after my bbd) I spent a lot of time not doing art. I didn’t do art, because whatever I did really sucked. It never occurred to me that it really did suck because I hadn’t been at it long enough.
I just read an interview with a successful sci-fi writer. She talks about starting her first novel at the age of eight. It was ten pages long and it was really bad, but if you write a ten page novel at the age of eight, it’s a huge accomplishment. If you do this as an adult, you will likely see it as a BIG FAT FAILURE, but the problem is, if you haven’t started yet, FAILURE is what you have to start with, fight through, and keep going. So there are tricks for adults to get you through, and calling it Bum Time is one of them.  Another term is ten thousand hours, as in, unless you are some sort of freak of nature, you won’t be a genius at anything unless you’ve put in ten thousand hours of practice. And again, if you started when you where five years old, you would have gotten serious praise for every little squeak that escaped your trombone, but as an adult, you’ll like achieve noise complaints from the neighbours.  Somehow, the struggle to achieve is no longer cute after a certain age.  So you need quash those inner, and possibly outer, negative voices, and just go, go, go, and leave the judgements for later. Much later, years later, when you look at the page you wrote, or drew, or made, with a sense of wonder.
Life is always too short if its full of opportunities lost to inaction, but it just might be long enough to achieve something wonderful if you keep plugging away at what is truly important to you.
12112705graphite-line-drawingI think this was page three of some random sketches that seemed to be going nowhere, and Eureka! see the lower right hand corner, that one is destined to become my Year of the Snake linocut for a Print show and exchange in February, in fact, in my stack I’ve already developed it into  a nice graphic line drawing that still needs some spacing adjustments before transfer to linoleum.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Midnight Forest—adventures in clayboard

12112701midnight-forest725”x7” scratchboard, coloured pencil, watersoluble pencil, watercolour,  india and sepia ink
Midnight Forest looms large within the space of five by seven inches. It began as an abstract coloured pencil on scratchboard, but the Greenman/ Cernunnos pushed himself to the fore on this one, and I always pay close attention to messages from the deeps.  I'm not pagan (or any other religion), but I do believe that we humans need to remember the natural world that we emerged from and indeed are still an integral part of whether we wish it or not.
As for the art notes. This is another clayboard. The first layer was a red prisma-color stick  (think artist quality wax crayon), followed by many scratches in an abstract composition, after which I applied peacock blue coloured pencil, and more scratching in preparation for a layer of Gamboges Yellow watercolour. I was fully expecting that scratched areas would go in bright yellow and the coloured pencil to stay put. It didn’t! The coloured pencil lifted and mixed as pigment, and I ended up with a lot of greens, not my intention or expectation.  I layered over with brown ink and a lot of wiping to warm things up again, and then worked with that and followed up with more scraping back including using sandpaper.
And that is when the face emerged, which I brought forward with my black ink brush.  More scraping in the highlights, adding in red, and last but not least, very lightly sanded back the portions of the india ink to reveal the coloured pencil layers beneath.  I thought I would share the technical journey, as it is one that can be applied to any style of art, and, FRANKLY, Google will not find you without LOTS OF WORDS. Now there’s a bluntly honest statement.  Otherwise, I would love to just post the image and let it speak (or not) for itself.
Midnight Forest at FineArtAmerica

Thursday, November 22, 2012

We, The Creatures, a declaration in scratchboard

12112201creatures727”x5” scratchboard
I’ve long been aware that animals in general are not considered fit subjects for fine art, but here is an excerpt from a local ‘call to artists’ with fine art defined as: “The selective re-creation of reality, to express human perspectives and values in a highly skilled fashion, incorporating creative innovation through the medium of painting, drawing,….”
It’s a definition that pretty much rules out a natural landscape or a painting of an animal. In some ways, I get that. There are endless Robert Bateman look-a-likes and Group of Seven Wannabes (the former I loath, and the latter I love) but to erase the ‘other’ by refusing to acknowledge the sentience of animals is a mistake that the scientific community, with their mandate to search for truth however discomfiting, has finally rescinded. Not so the ‘fine art’ community that still cleaves to the Judaeo-Christian trope that Man is the supreme being and the ultimate creation of god, an attitude that transcends actual religious belief (hence in the last century, plenty of irreligious scientists would argue vociferously about the absence of emotion in animals). Now in the twenty-first century, we have an elite arts community that is convinced that any thoughts about non-human life-forms are trite and without consequence and only the mind and works of man are exulted enough to be worthy of exploration. 
I’m not trying to argue that my art is, or is or is not, ‘fine art’. This is not for me to judge.  I am arguing that it is dangerous and narrow-minded to shut out the natural (or non-human) world from consideration.  That as artists and art lovers we should be opening our minds to other possibilities, not shutting them out. And while it is impossible for me to see the world from any point of view than my very own as an individual and a human, the exercise of imagining the ‘other’ is a worthy one.  If there was a little more of that going on perhaps we wouldn’t be treating this planet as both larder and latrine.
And for a little further reading. What is it like to be a bat?  (about defining consciousness, written by a philosopher, but much touted by the scientific community as the explore consciousness in other species.
And, GOOD NEWS, for a change. Just north of where I live, a giant mega-quarry proposal has been scrapped. The power of people who care for more than their pocket books.
Ugh, and having spent over an hour attempting to write something semi-intelligent for a change, I’m hitting the ‘post’ button and firing this off for better or worse.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No Glitter for This Hamlet


Hamlet, Shakespeare, Scene IV
…What is a man,(35)
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason(40)
To fust in us unused. Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on the event—
A thought which, quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward—I do not know…
Yet another Hamlet on mulberry paper. Of course it’s a series, albeit one slow to come forth.  It’s a 9x12 gelatin print on mulberry paper, worked up with coloured pencil, sepia ink (looks black on screen but isn’t) and for the final highlights, thick white gouache. Somehow, the gold or silver ink did not seem appropriate for the mood of the piece but it needed a lift from filled in background.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Works In Progress—Scratchboard and Linocut

It should be Life Drawing Tuesday, but the image I wanted to post isn’t quite ready yet; it requires some finishing, so instead, some WIP’s.  I’ve decided I’ve been frittering away too much time on the computer on my art days,but I never have a clue as to exactly how much time. It’s just a stretch break, right? Oh, well, I had to pee, so might as well check my email while I’m at it, right? Jeepers, I’m stuck for ideas, maybe I should surf the web to see if something jogs my creativity, just a few moments, right?
Well, I have no CLUE what it all adds up to, and by the end of the day, I feel disheartened about all the time I wasted.
SOOOOOO… this morning, I DID NOT TURN ON THE COMPUTER.  I left it dark, cold and dead. And then I sat at my chair and settled in for some serious bum-time.  Two hours turned into four turned into six.
I learned two things. A) I get more done without the computer to distract me (duh!) B) Making art does take serious bum time, and clearly I hadn’t been wasting quite as much time at the PC as I had accused myself of doing.  It’s not like I finished seven masterpieces in the space of a day. In fact, the scratchboard work is 5x7, and, well, you can see how far I got, and I still intend to paint in colour when I’m done scritching and scratching. But I am much happier, knowing that I spent most of my day making art, rather than staring at a screen.
close-up-linocut1  close-up-linocut2
These are macro close-ups of my latest linocut. Another Work In Progress.
Enough for now. I still have chores to do.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mapping the Moon—Mixed Media Gelatin Print

Detail of Mapping the Moon, gelatin print with coloured pencil and permanent ink on 5”x7” paper.
Another one of my favourite abstracts that I was sitting on like a hen on eggs for many moons (pun intended).  I let the piece ‘speak to me’ and it turned itself into the moon, as I worked over it in violet and red and ochre pencils I remembered a night last summer when the news reported a pending ‘super moon’, and I actually bothered to set my alarm, crawl out of bed, grab my binoculars and stand out on my front porch at midnight getting a good look at it. I’ll never be sure how much of an event the super moon was, as perhaps its giant looming presence in the night was due to my own attention, but it did leave a permanent impression on my mind as I could see the details of its alien landscape in my lens and clearly see that there was and is another world out there and pretty close by.
I grew up in the era when putting a man on the moon was an exciting event, and I miss those days, when problems closer to home on this planet did not loom so dangerously close.  I still believe that scientific curiosity and exploration is healthy for the human race and surely beats dropping bombs on people when it comes to promoting ones culture.
Sales info for Mapping the Moon

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Imagination—Claybord trial and review

Another ‘tools of the trade shot. I like these, as it shows both scale and process.  No need to describe what I used excepting that search engines can’t read pictures.
I’m using Claybord, which was a gift from a friend (yah, THAT friend, from the USA who sends me surprise care packages of art supplies and books).  I’ve heard of clayboard before, but never tried it.
I will admit that I found it somewhat frustrating, and in order to combat that, I ended up laying in far more nit-picking details than I usually do, but in the end, I like the result, so I need to learn patience.  I still have another piece left. For those of you wondering what it’s like, it’s smooth and has the consistency of an old-fashioned top quality chalk board (not the kind you can buy in the school section of the dollar store). I’ve heard that it was easy to alter a water colour image but I found that it stained instantly and could not be lifted out with water, so I needed to sand out some highlights at the end stage and poke back into it for detailing with a very fine brush.  I also left some fingerprints behind, which I think is a not a bad thing for this piece and I truly believe that finished art should reveal process, but I’m not foud of materials that get accidentally marked so easilly. I used Inktense water soluble pencils for this one, and again, I really had to fight to get the depths in, as the pigment just sat on the surface. On the other hand, the wax-based Prisma colours went in like cream. So I may try a dry piece next time.
The nice thing about claybord is that, unlike works on paper, this one is ‘ready hang’ as is without a frame, just like an oil on canvas.
I drew the initial image/lines very quickly, off the cuff, without a plan, but as soon as the image was down, I thought it much looked and felt like an illustration of ‘chasing the muse’ which is ‘slippery as a fish’. Funny how the subconscious speaks in cliches, or should I call them Archetypes (sounds much more impressive that way).
12110601imagination72 5”x7”
I’m posting this one to FineArtAmerica.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Life Drawing Tuesday

Here’s me, finishing up a piece this very morning from last Tuesdays session. It was a very dynamic pose and I drew it from several angles, and therefore ran out of time during the session, and so finished up at home.
So I thought todays topic would be, Why Life Drawing? Or Why draw naked people?
Some people may look at my life drawings and think I have some particular love for figure drawing, but my real motivation is practice. There is no better way to learn to draw or improve drawing skills than to draw from life. The human body is a hard task master. You either get it right, or wrong. I know all to well that that sinking feeling I get when a ‘drawing goes south’ (usually five minutes in to a half-hour (or longer) pose).  Without any outside input at all, there is plenty feedback for better or worse right before your eyes. 
Life drawing hones hand-eye co-ordination, but it also produces or reveals that mysterious thing called ‘style’.  Style is what makes your art look like no other persons art; style is like a signature or hand-writing, and just as in hand-writing, the faster you go, the less time you have to make text-book perfect letters.
In life-drawing, it is often the quickies that reveal your personal style. Time-constraints, whether they are one minute, five minute or one hour poses press you into getting things down fast and not fiddling with photographic perfection. You’ll learn how and when to take short cuts, and some of them may be beautiful, or not so much. It really doesn’t matter, as right or wrong, you are always learning something.
Things I’ve learned from life drawing:
My peculiar (I know it is) style.
I love coloured pencils more than paints, pastels, and charcoals.
To see negative space. (something that I’ve tried to deliberately to learn without success, but after years of Life Drawing Tuesdays, yep, I see them now)
Anatomy and proportion. (continuous improvement, and one can never know enough, and not just for humans, as it’s easy to see parallels and apply this knowledge to other living creatures)
To make a line on paper that matches up to the line in my minds eye (another on the continuous improvement list, as in, not there yet, but always getting closer to an unattainable goal)
And best yet, the ability to draw without a reference. This is something I struggled (and still struggle) to do all of my life, to draw from the imagination. There is nothing wrong with using a reference, doing research and finding a reference, but the more you can do without, the more freedom of expression you have.  I’m finally getting somewhere with this.
Well, that’s my list for now. I’m sure there’s more. If you do life drawing, I’d love to hear your list.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Very Small Art—gelatin printmaking

Sometimes I hold on to very small bits of my gelatin prints for a very long time. This one sat at the back of my printmaking studio, waiting to be finished, or declared finished. I get mesmerized by the random elements in a gelatin print, and this one was no exception as it was pulled from a very mouldy gelatin plate, one so old that it left a glazed sheen on the paper. I finally brought all that to fore with a violet pen and hand-mixed gold ink. The original is 2.5x3.5 inches and gifted to a friend and mentor in the USA.
very-small-artSee the reading glasses in the corner? They are essential to getting something like this done (I don’t need them for reading—yet)
12110101very-small-art3And a super close-up, as I scanned this in 600dpi. I love getting in close to the work, and I love looking at scanned close-up where I can see more things than with the naked eye—well maybe not when it’s the occasional cat hair.
I posted this one to Fine Art America, where you can play with magnify function (look for cat hairs!), also, I always find it somewhat absurd to be selling a ‘print’ of ‘print’, but in this case the original is already spoken for.


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