Thursday, December 31, 2009

Finding the Subtle Curve of a Line

Last night right before going up to bed I looked at the canvas again and decided that I had to change the chin line, so I grabbed the red water-color pencil and an eraser and within a few minutes I found the proper curve of the chin line. Don stood back and said “Wow, what an amazing difference a small change like that can make”. He was right, a small shift in that curved line changed the perception of the whole face. (The photo I posted here today was taken before I changed the chin line in the drawing last night)

I don’t sleep well at night and I tend to wake up grumpy. Don gets up early and makes an astonishing amount of noise for just one person and it usually cranks me right up because I am trying to sleep. This morning, after being kept awake once again by my snoring husband and dogs, I was trying to get a few moments of rest before I got up. Don was downstairs banging cabinet doors, letting the dogs out and slamming the back door that doesn’t close right in winter, not once, not twice but 3 times. Just as my temper began to rise, I had a perceptual shift like the line in my drawing last night. My thoughts turned from a hard line to a gentle curve and I was blessed with the realization that all that noise was being made by my best friend, (who was in fact making me coffee), and that meant he was here with me and I was not alone as so many people are. I had a keen awareness of the empty silence that would fill this house if he were gone and with than small shift in my awareness the noise he was making began to feel comfortable and it made me smile.

Today I am going to begin the under-painting layer on myself portrait. I read a little about the grisaille (French) and verdaccio (Italian) styles of under-painting last night and have a feeling that this is not something that you nail on your first portrait after reading a couple of articles online. The grisaille method, it seems, is based on neutral or brown-gray tones and the verdaccio is based on green-gray tones, the latter of which is supposed to really enhance skin tones. So today I have to decide if I want to paint the first layer of her face green/grey or brown/grey.

Off to the studio…..

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's a Start...Self Portrait Sketch Ready to Lay Out on Canvas

I am running on only a couple of hours sleep today as I had terrible insomnia last night. Don and the Dogs snoring kept me awake all night and I am really feeling it this morning, plus it is freezing (below zero) and that always kicks my pain up a notch but all that said my mood is continuing to improve now that we are post Christmas.

Yesterday I spent the day in the studio working on my self portrait sketch and ended up with a rough drawing that I am very happy with. I really enjoyed the process and was deeply stirred and touched by some of the elements that showed up in the drawing. It felt very freeing to be working on something of my own and not something with the pressure of knowing it had to be good enough to sell. I did experience some fleeting moments of guilt at not producing “real work” and thinking “If I don’t sell this what will I do with it after I paint it”.

I did the drawing on 80 pound paper because I have a ton of it in the studio and I was not sure how many sketches I might end up doing before I came up with one that I wanted to paint. Since it is a pretty thin paper I think I will just transfer the drawing to canvas instead of refining the drawing on paper first. Since I am a silk painter and work with dyes in a manner more like watercolor oils are a bit foreign to me and I have only ever done a handful of oil paintings. Since I am not well versed in the medium my final paintings tend to stray from my original drawings and it will be interesting to see if this one retains any resemblance to me after I paint it. I am sure it will come out more primitive than the drawing did but in all honesty I kind of wish the drawing itself had been more primitive, I meant for it to be but that vision shifted on me as I drew it. I think partly because I still think I have to draw “good” drawings I sometimes lack the confidence to create more primitive works like I used to.

Well, I m going to start a load of laundry, grab my coffee and head into the studio to transfer the drawing to canvas, then I will need to muster up the courage to get my oil paints out and have at it. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ghost from Christmas Past

I am sitting at my desk writing this blog post while looking at a ghost from my past; a tattered old plastic poinsettia my Dad bought me the year before he committed suicide. I have been dragging this poinsettia out of storage at Christmas time for 37 years and it gets more tired looking every year. The mice have nibbled on its red petals, some of the glued on felt has worn away from the cheap plastic, the green leaves have fallen off and were long ago lost. I have to confess that Christmas makes me feel a bit like this tired old decoration looks, tired, tattered and sad. If I could figure out a way to sleep through the November- January holidays I would. Dragging my plastic poinsettia out every year also tends to make me sad but I can’t quite give up that tradition, it would feel as if I were no longer extending an invitation to the memory of my Father for the holidays as if I were betraying him somehow. After all there is so little of him left in my memory as it is.

For the last few days I have felt this tremendous creative stirring rising up from my traditional holiday depression, it is very powerful and a bit fighting for a type A control freak like me. I tend to try to have command over my art, I produce what sells and don’t do a lot of exploration with wild abandon. Such a shame really but that is what happened once I began to sell my work, I gave up soulful experimentation for the almighty buck!

The last few days a pathway of exploration has been appearing before me and it leads back to a painting I did 9 years ago when I first got sick with a tick borne illness that would later become a Neurological and Autoimmune disease . I did a Frida Kahlo style painting representing me with my totem Raven, the sacred heart of Christ and tubes running in and out of me. That painting launched the Lyme Awareness Art Project (LAAP) which is still going on to this day. The fact that LAAP was born out of that painting and that it has helped so many people is great but it is further proof that every time I get close to doing something very deep personally with my painting I find a way to distract myself and I get really busy with some new project making it impossible to excavate a really deep thread of paintings from my shadow places.
Over the last 9 years I have felt a very powerful need to revisit that self portrait experience as a way to further explore both my illness and my healing. Last night Don and I were watching a documentary about a mentally ill but brilliant artist and we started to talk about my struggles with inherited mental illness. I brought up again my desire to do some exploration with self portraits and Don said “Why don’t you just take some time off to do it! You have been talking about it for years!!” So today I am heading into my studio with an open heart and mind as well as a little trepidation to do some sketches and see where this path will take me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Powerful Creative Urgings

The formation of a new creative idea, one that begs to pull you off the safe & structured path your on can be both exhilarating and painfully exhausting. Kind of like giving birth! Something is brewing, lots of experimenting & frustration at not having this powerful impulse immediately expressed, tonight I am feeling the labor pains of a new creation that is yet to be born.

For years I have been creating work to sell, work that I know WILL sell, yet I have always wanted to create more expressive, soulful work that pulls from a very deep place within me, without any care as to whether it sold or not. Because I do sell such a high volume of work I am very addicted to the "sale" of my work, that feeds my self-worth as an artist. So it is very scary for me to break away and to do the often strange expressive work that I would prefer to do but that seldom sells. Doing both at the same time is extremely difficult if not impossible for me so I would like to take a couple of months to immerse myself in some expressive work, but on the other hand I have a bunch of custom orders hanging over my head, that I have been putting off for months.

It goes deeper than that of course, lots of fear involved at going too deep and putting it on canvas. I am trying to find a balance and I have some very strong creative urgings right now that refuse to be ignored so I think I may try getting my oil paints out and see what happens. Tough to do with this fatigue relapse I am experiencing from the Lyme disease but also very necessary.

It takes a lot of courage to move through the earliest inner stirrings of a new creative thought, through the experimentation & failures, to the realization of a completed work of art.