So this is the end

The erasure portrait was definitely the most challenging project of the semester. I learned so many things from the issues that came up over the period I spent working on this portrait. First and foremost, I learned the value of patience and attentiveness to the task at hand. The more time, patience, love and care you put into your work, the better it will be. I am not a machine that can just crank out extraordinary work in short periods of time. I used to think that was something kind of desirable, because it said something about your talent and ability.

When you are told you are gifted and talented from  a young age, sometimes you get this mentality that good work comes naturally for you. That you don’t have to try. I fell into this mindset, and it has not served me well. Growth comes from tackling challenges, not from sticking to the familiar. Persistence and fearlessness, and pleasure in the journey; these are all things that help growth progress exponentially. You might grow without these elements, but it will be much slower and more cumbersome.

The erasure portrait was a perfect cap to the semester for me, because next semester I will be taking a painting class. I have always enjoyed drawing, but never really took the time to learn how to add coloring to them. This project taught me a lot about getting outside a graphic, linear approach and taking time with values and shading. I was stunned by the beauty of the body of work everyone in the class had created, especially since we all have different levels of experience with art.  I am so glad that I took this class, and that I will continue to develop my artistic abilities next semester.

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The Nose Knows

Today we began to work on our charcoal erasure portraits. I have never done an erasure drawing before, so I was a little intimidated. However, it felt great to jump in. I still had some issues with getting the hang of not outlining the lines of my face, but to start with the lightest point in my face and radiate outwards. As we saw today in class, that would be the tip of the nose. Today was practically an ode to noses.

Just me and my nose!

I can’t wait to see how this develops. More to come.

Charcoal Self Portrait Prep

Today we began to prepare for our final project, a charcoal self portrait. Only instead of drawing with the charcoal, we are going to draw with light values by blacking out the canvas and drawing by erasing some of the charcoal. To prepare for seeing light values in my face, I first did a little drawing of myself according to where I found light reflecting and shadows being cast across my face.

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Sure, it ain’t the prettiest or most symbolized drawing of myself, but I see myself in it, and I am fond of it. I just thought I’d share this little aspect of prep work for this project for the time being. Much more preparation took place today which I will go into further in my next entry. So far I think this will be challenging, but if my piece comes out anything like the ones on display in the studio, I will be very proud of it. More to come!

Preppy prep prep prep.

Breakup Keepsake Jar

I had many ideas for my Summer Valentine project before I settled on this, but I was especially drawn to the concept of a valentine for an enemy; or someone who has hurt you, very badly. The font for my project will be inspired by the old adage “it’s a thin line between love and hate.” This saying made me think about how sometimes we get hurt by people we are closest to; the people who we let in and make precious memories with, but for some reason we must go our separate ways from. I wanted my valentine to deviate a little bit from traditional card form, and I found the idea of a jar containing items from a failed relationship in it interesting. Some of the items could reveal the bitterness, anger, and pain that comes from being hurt by someone you love through their physical qualities; a face scratched out from a photo, a love letter with a singed edge. The jar also appealed to me because of its keepsake box quality for numerous reasons. For one thing, a keepsake box is an extremely sentimental and romantic item, which suits the history of a valentine quite well. I am at a point where I am beginning a new chapter of my life and reflecting on old ones, so the notion of a keepsake box, something that keeps the memory of the past alive, seemed really attractive to me. The other reason a jar stood out to me was that it keeps its contents safe, but also bares all its insides to the world. It would keep the memories from the past alive, but also keep them safely contained and separate; a declaration of acceptance and moving forward.

(I tried to find an image of a love related keepsake box to back up where my inspiration came from, but I found this instead. I almost think this is better.)

Marian Bantjes & Summer Valentines

Today’s class was very exciting for me for several reasons. First of all, I was introduced to a graphic artist that I found truly inspiring, Marian Bantjes. Whereas with many modern artists, I observe their work with a respectful distance, Bantje’s work left me totally engrossed with wonder and joy. The intricacy and innovativeness of her work was mind-blowing for me. I adored the charm of her technique that blended old world design ideas with intelligent and exciting modern style. It was as though the epitome of everything I’ve ever wanted to make as an artist was laid out before my eyes. The work she has done is nearly the exact materialization of what I’ve always wanted to be able to do with my art. The genius of Bantjes herself was also overwhelming. There is no doubt that she is not only brilliant, but also an intensely focused and disciplined woman committed to her work. I realize that if I ever want to be as good as her, it would require giving all of myself to my work. A heady and daunting thought, but how rewarding it must be to have that body of work and commercial success to show for it! I am so happy to have learned about her today, because there are few living artists who resonate with me, who I believe to be truly great at what they do.

Here is some of Bantje’s work:

 

I need this book!

As if things couldn’t get any better, then professor Ruby assigned us our “Summer Valentines” project. I’m about as sentimental and nostalgic as a person can get, so I instantly fell in love with the idea of making valentines for school again. I find the idea of a hand made valentine so lovely. A week or so ago, professor Ruby discussed some of the elements of design to us, another topic I love. To me, there is something magical when the visual impact of design is broken down to the parts that make it effective. It’s like learning the precious secrets to something very powerful and mystical. Sometimes, the power of imagery seems mysterious to me; how a picture can create a mood in us, without coming forward and telling us directly why we should feel that way, possibly without even having complete information. We can look at it and instantly feel something before even understanding why. When you learn about the concepts behind design, you start to get an understanding of why things like color, composition, texture, etc. create mood and meaning like this. You can even learn how to use these tools to communicate something special with others. It is just so exciting to be learning how to use these things effectively.

Excuse my giddiness, but I feel such excitement for what I’m learning in this class that it’s taking me back to elementary school days, where I felt so much pride, privilege, and joy to be learning so many new things. When I felt certain I was going to be someone great one day. That is the confidence that learning the skills of design can give someone.

Going back to our summer valentines project, I have many, many ideas already. There are so many things to consider that would shape the outcome of the assignment. Who would I give it to? My best friend? My husband? My father? An enemy? What size should it be? Should it be shockingly small, a poster, a huge mural?  What materials would I use? What if I used scraggly wire and industrial materials? Conventional tissue and glitter? What if I made it a non-paper valentine completely, a slew of sentimental ephemera in a jar? What should the colors be? Traditional pinks and reds? Pastels? Gothic colors? And then of course, there is type, which can always add an interesting twist to the message of a graphic.

I can’t wait to research valentines and work on creating one of my own. I already have a bunch of great ideas, and I can’t wait to look for some cool materials.

The Search for the Companionship Rabbit’s Materials

Was feeling really frustrated about the superhero project yesterday. I decided on going ahead with the companionship bunny idea, but I was stumped about what natural materials to use to convey his powers and abilities. I knew that he had to be something from nature that was soft, but all I could think of was cotton. I didn’t find this very original and I knew finding enough fluffy wispy cotton like things in nature to create the rabbit’s body would be hard. I went for a walk to the gas station to get myself a drink, then I remembered that there were lots of great little pockets of nature along Commerce Dr. I decided to go on a little nature walk, and then it hit me: moss would make the perfect fur for the bunny.

It refreshed my spirit a lot to be amid nature on that beautiful, early summer afternoon. I was also shocked by how much it really sparked new thought processes as I went along soaking in the scenery on this walk that I don’t do very often. It reminded me that sometimes getting out of the house and going somewhere new can really stimulate your mind to think in new and creative ways. I just recommend carrying a pen and notepad with you wherever you go, because it’s easy for me to get sucked right back into my mental rut as soon as I get home!

Superhero project frustration

Superhero project is still in the conceptual stage at this point. Yes, I am very behind in class. Illness and other personal issues have had me working at half capacity, unfortunately. Don’t judge me; I am determined to get caught up somehow.

I have to say, this superhero project has had me completely flummoxed. I have a number of social issues out there that I care about, such as quality of life for seniors, elder abuse, homelessness, and support for the mentally ill. The common theme that I seem to come across through all of them is the element of comfort and support. I could possibly create a comforting, nurturing animal that could come to the aid of these populations, but I have fought myself with the idea the entire time. It just seems too wishy washy. Presenting a fuzzy wuzzy little lamb or bunny that comes to the rescue of the lonely would make me feel like I am presenting a new idea for a treacly children’s toy, I’ve thought at every point along the way this weekend. But as time has passed and left me with no better ideas, and these issues are truly the closest to my heart, I have decided to settle on this idea and see it through.

To me, the best animal to serve the purposes these populations need would be a rabbit. Rabbits are smart, yet tender, gentle, and comforting. The rabbit would need to be more than just your average rabbit though. I think of it as being anthropomorphic, ala Peter Rabbit. It would need to be able to provide the level of socialization and entertainment that these marginalized groups need. It would have to be a great conversationalist, play cards, and create shelter for those who need it. It would also need a pair of magic wings, so it could easily rush to whoever needed its comforting presence. It would be immortal, brave, and magical, so it would never fear the person it was helping, no matter how ill, destitute, or desperate they were. It would be the answer to what the world needs most; the strongest physical entity of unconditional love and friendship, ready to offer companionship and help to anyone who needed it without a moment’s hesitation.

Now, the question is how to create such a creature out of objects found in nature.
I’m going to think it over some more and come back to this later today. I’ll also add more insights into the films we viewed over the weekend then.

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Peter Rabbit, the inspiration behind my bunny superhero. (…I may or may not have read too much Peter Rabbit as a child.)

Critique Reflection

Our critique last Thursday was very eye opening. It was interesting comparing the style and methods of my work with my classmates. I found myself a little surprised that my work was used as part of a comparison of line style with my classmate Ruby’s. I suppose my line work is light, but I never realized how light and airy it is until it was called out on. I loved the dramatic and bold look of Ruby’s lines. I found my some of my drawings dainty and pretty, but I thought my line work was more varied than it actually was. I remember in high school that I used bold, assertive lines in a lot of my work as well. It is funny that some people used words like “quietly determined” and “intensely focused” to describe my work. That is certainly not how I would describe myself as a person. I am much more of a wanderer, experimenter, quiet observer, non-judgmental type. I guess there is a certain passiveness to that, for that is not a settled, carved in way of living or thinking. But I am not afraid to put myself out there now and then, speak up, or make a splash from time to time; in fact, I think at times I have less hesitation to do so than most others.

As I think more on how my line work may reflect my inner life, I remember my father telling me once that the best drawers would use very light lines, going back to add definition and precision as they worked. Maybe that stuck with me. I also think that it’s possible that my lines are more tentative now because I am more tentative about my artwork now. At some point during high school, I went through a terrible creative block. I criticized everything I did, and would never finish anything I started. I stopped thinking of myself as an artist the way I once did; though it saddened me, art started to slip away from my life and my sense of identity. Fortunately, I am starting to emerge from out of that, but perhaps that has a bearing on why my line work is now so delicate; I am starting to reconnect with that part of myself, but it’s like getting reacquainted with an old, distant friend. Even still, I think some of my drawings are pretty. I love my organic line drawing of a magnolia. I even like that it is unfinished. I could have completed it with another flower, or even done the other half as the magnolia after it wilted, but I decided to let it keep its integrity as the flower it was when I saw it. I think it speaks somewhat to the short life span of beauty, and the transient nature of perfect symmetry and proportion in organic matter.

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A magnolia’s beauty, suspended in a moment in time.

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My effort to capture it; sadly, I ran out of time.

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A sampling of some of our artwork. Mine is on the far left.

Chair, à la “the string technique”

Although I have finished this assignment, I thought I’d post a few pictures and thoughts about the process I went through with it. The “string technique” was certainly a challenging start to this class. I was almost discouraged by how difficult it was to slow myself down, and make sure my angles and lines were really accurate with the string. After a while, I started to get the hang of it. However, I found it an exhausting approach to drawing. I definitely think the effort was worth it though. Although I am not completely satisfied with my final drawing, I did learn quite a lot through this technique. I think it required using a completely different side of my brain, and I appreciate that– it’s good mental exercise. And like any exercise, sometimes it’s hard to get yourself out of your comfort zone even though it’s good for you! I do feel proud that it started sinking in finally, even when I sometimes thought I’d never get the hang of it.

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Everyone hard at work on their chair drawings.

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Ah, back when I was still in the grips of my struggle with the string technique.

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This is a bit closer to the finished product.

I did end up completing the chair today, and tomorrow we will have critiques on it along with the other projects we’ve done so far. Will post with final drawing and what I learned at critique tomorrow. Until then!

Blind Contour Day, Hip Hip Hooray

Today we worked on blind contour drawings. Blind contour drawings are always a great pleasure for me. As professor Ruby mentioned in class, they are wonderful for getting into a state of flow, where time seems to stop and you are completely immersed in your work. This is one of my favorite things about drawing, although it can be difficult to get into when you are worrying about every line and angle being just so, the approximation of the image you are drawing being good enough, or getting whatever is in you head out onto paper good as perfectly as possible. Right now I am in class having a lot of fun working on these drawings. We worked with sharpies and pencils, dominant hands and non-dominant hands. It’s interesting to me that my non-dominant hand draws much larger images without me meaning to. I also prefer the look of sharpies when doing blind contour drawings. Where the marker stops makes interesting little marks and dots that are very dramatic, and reveal some individuality of my process.

Professor Ruby showing everyone how to do a blind contour drawing.

Drawing with my dominant hand of non dominant hand with a Sharpie pen.

Drawing of my dominant hand, using my non-dominant hand and a pencil.

Our blind contour still life subject.

My whack at the blind contour still life.

I really enjoyed this class today. I loved the variety of subjects and materials we used, and all the different music we listened to. Most of all I loved feeling the effortless flow of drawing and the satisfaction of creating interesting pieces. Tomorrow they will be critiqued along with my string technique drawings, and our original chair & tree drawings. Should be interesting. I can’t wait to see what my portfolio will look like at the end of the semester!

Until later,

Julia