Friday, 26 February 2010

Creating magic and mystery

It's good to know when you're on the same wavelength as someone else. Particularly if they've commissioned a painting from you. Particularly when the subject matter is something as specific as Goddesses. Because just because I see them in a certain way, doesn't mean the client does! So, I was happy to arrange a "work in progress" meeting, just to check that we are in tune. He had come, ostentatiously, to view the first watercolour painting, to see how the pour-on technique had created  the back-ground. And when I explained how it had worked, and pointed out the special effects it makes, he was impressed and intrigued with the outcome. Then I asked him the "Big question".................... "Would you like to see the oil painting? It's not finished yet, but it is going well"...........

"Yes" he nodded, he certainly DID!!!

I had hidden it from his view when he arrived, but now I turned it around for him to see. And got the reaction I expected and had hoped for - he leant forward to it and went "Woooooooowwwwwww!"

"Yep, its loads better than the watercolour, isn't it!" 
He nodded in mute agreement, and quietly said "I KNEW I was right to ask YOU to do it".

We stood and looked at it, as I pointed out each Goddess and my interpretaion of her and the reasons behind it. He nodded again, then said "And you've got the cardinal elements in it too". "The what?" I asked in puzzlement as I looked at the painting and wondered what it was I'd painted without even knowing it. "Earth, air, fire and water" he explained. "Ah" I said, and looked at the painting again, and realised he was right!  I had, and I hadn't even known I'd done it! That's what I love about these sort of pictures, when the magic happens, and evolves within the painting, and others see things that I haven't planned, but it adds so much MORE to the painting this serendipity.

I explained about the idea of putting the diamonds within the painting, but said that I wasn't sure they were needed now, as in a way it might be "gilding the lily" - but I would be guided by his thoughts on it. His first reaction was that he wasn't sure that they were needed, and then he grew more sure and said not to put them in. I nodded quietly, and agreed with him that each goddess is beautiful already, she doesn't need anything else to add to it.  He was sure about one thing though, straight away he said "Don't change Diana!!!" and I was in total agreement with him - I keep looking at her and she mesmerises me. She is virginal beauty, in natural state, and perfect as she is. He said she was "right" where she is, in the bottom right hand corner, and I agreed with him. I put her back there after fighting my original urge to move her away from there. So she stays.

The painting is starting to pull together, the colours of the background flowing around each goddess, creating power in the flow of light around them.

It's not finished yet, but its getting there. The client is happy, and I am happy. The magic is forming....

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Tumbled down and put out to dry

The  art workshop I attended this month was for "cottages" in line and wash so since that is both a subject matter I like, and a medium I always enjoy using, even though I hadn't done it for a while, I was happy to go along and see how the day progressed...........

Line and wash is a lovely way of depicting a subject matter, especially landscapes, as the drawing and painting work beauifully in conjunction with each other, complimenting and enhancing. Some artists paint the landscape first, then put on the pen in a loose way, but this time the tutor explained that she draws out the image in a neat way, and uses that as the backbone to her painting, but not necessarily painting within the lines, because that makes it look like a "paint by numbers" image, which is not considered creative.
I liked the way she taught - it was of the "here's what I do, this is how I do it, this is what you can do,  now get on with it" type. Which meant that we weren't all sitting there watching her for two hours and then all having to do the same picture together which stops me being creative and "doing my own thing".

She'd also brought the source material with her, which helped greatly. There were  images of pink roses around windows, nah, not for me. Images of pretty Cotswold cottages in their primped finery, nah, too perfect. Welsh cottages nestling under pine trees, mmmm.... a bit more like it. Cornish fishermens huts at Prussia Cove - now that's more like it, but I've already painted those exact same cottages already, so what else is there? Ah..................this one, now THAT is exactly what I like - a broken down stone cottage with half the roof missing. Perfect! There was a dry stone wall infront of it, and a clutter of farmyard gate, an old wooden pallet leaning against the wall, all of which didn't enhance the picture, so I'll take those out, and just paint the rest. So that's what I did. I started drawing, and loved the image, the broken tiles sliding down the roof, the skeleton of roof timbers silhouetted against the sky, the mismatched chimneys, the creeper on the barn, and the darkened doorways. I was using some Saunders Waterford paper, as the tutor had recommended. I rarely use it as I find it too much like blotting paper, so had taken some that I already had stuck to a drawing board from the last workshop I'd attended that required it. It had been a year ago, but paper doesn't go off, does it?

Well, actually, yes it does, I found!

The minute I started applying the paint I knew something was wrong. The paint didn't flow, the paper was just sucking it up, and the whole image just looked amateurish, because the paint just sat there. Weird. I've never had that happen to me before - and after thinking about it and asking others at the workshop, the nearest I can think is that the paper had dried out. Ok, I've learnt that as a lesson, lets try it all again after lunch and count the first picture as a practice piece.

Armed with a new piece (of the same paper, but some I'd had stored in a bag in a cupboard rather than exposed to the dry air of my studio) I tried again. Redrew it all, and with baited breath, mixed my paint, and dipped my brush in to do the first wash. Fine. Absolutely fine. So it WAS the paper that was off. How strange.

And here it is, the picture I completed on the day. I'm really pleased with it - its got lots of light and dark, the shadows are part of the focal point, there's tone and texture, interest and chracter. I've shown it here in its entireity on the board, and haven't even got a title for it yet. I may cut it down for the mount and frame, and I may add a few more darks perhaps in the corners of the doorways. I'm not fully sure yet. Sometimes I have to leave a picture for a while and decide if it needs any more doing to it to improve on it.

I love this type of picture. Most people at the workshop did the pretty pink roses around the window, but not me. I much prefer the drama and contrasts in this subject. Its got loads more character!

Friday, 19 February 2010

The feminine touch

The oil painting of the seven Goddesses is starting to pull together now and I'm delighted with some of the effects that I'm getting in it. I have a loose idea of how the picture will look but sometimes how it turns out even surprises me..... and I'm creating it!!!! I'm working from this watercolour I did the other week, as my starting point, and love the way the watercolours have flowed and gathered colour, texture and shape. That was why I wanted to paint it in watercolours first, to emulate that special fluid effect within the finished oil painting. But I knew the oils would depict the faces better so that is why the finished piece will be the oils on canvas. Having said that, this painting, although only half complete is alright too. It just needs more work doing on the faces, and some areas lightening and darkening but I'll return to it once the oil painting is complete. Its weird, in a way, that the two paintings are being painted in conjunction with each other, but they are both helping my thought processes, in different ways - the watercolour shown here, for the background, and the oil painting for the faces but using the basis of this background. And when the oil painting is finished, it will guide me as how to complete the faces in the watercolour. Because I think it will be a lovely painting in its own right. Different to the oil painting though...

I'm delighted with the faces I've chosen as my goddesses - there's Kali with her three eyes, Isis crying for her dead husband Osiris, Innana passionate and courageous, Demeter greiving for her lost daughter Persephone, Diana the virgin of the hunt, Astarte - Queen of the Heavens, Hecate shining and luminous - the Queen of the night. They are starting to evolve from the paper and come to life. This half finished painting is only the start, the oil painting is even better...........

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

More than papering over the cracks

Other than buying diamonds for Goddesses I'm also in the process of learning Photoshop in my spare time. An easy occupation you would think, and yet the more I do the more I see there is to learn. I've always been interested in photography but only as an aide to producing a painting. I'll see a scene I like and capture it on film (or digitally, now) with the bare thought that it would make a good painting at some point. I might be aware that the lighting is right and the scene is fine, but would be better without the guy on the scooter, or the roadsign next to the little cottage. But that doesn't really matter because I'd just take them out of the painting. Well now I'm finding out through Photoshop that minor things like roadsigns, men on scooters or even cars can be removed totally from the photo itself to improve it.

And this weeks lesson was even more interesting for me - as I delved back into history to find some well beloved images that hadn't quite stood the test of time. Well, to be more exact, some old photos that were torn, scratched and had had indefinable liquids spilt on them at some point in the past,  infact, the word "knackered" would describe them perfectly!!! LOL

The one of the puppy was the easiest to deal with. The labrador puppy was the dog I grew up with and the photo was really cute, but at some point the black and white photo had acquired some bright pink felt-tip pen on it, and the edges were torn and ripped. So it was just a case of scanning it as a black and white image (shown here) that deleted the pink and then re-building the grass and adjusting the contrast a bit to make the picture whole again. Perfect, and still verrry cute!

The picture with the people in it (all the women in it are related to me but only the youngest one is still alive and she's in her 70's now) was really interesting to do as it was in such a bad state to start with. But bit by bit I got rid of the scratches and creases, the tears and the discolouring. And this is where the "artist" gets to work. Because its very like painting a picture - you have to choose the size of the "brush" and the "tone" and "texture" and  "opacity" of all of that, and apply them in the right place to hide whatever needs hiding. All very specialised and difficult, and long winded, even for me, and I'm used to doing it when I paint a picture. Fascinating work though, to see it building up and then to see the whole picture complete again. I'm delighted with the end result and can see that all my hard work has paid off for the end result. The picture took hours to complete as there are a myriad tiny little scratches in it. It's a bit like rebuilding time!
Now all of this is great, and I'm really loving learning Photoshop, BUT its not the same as painting a picture at all. It doesn't capture the essence in the same way. I love photos but a painting picks up more of the feel of the image I think.  My way forward is still as an artist.

Back to the Goddesses now.........

Friday, 12 February 2010

On Creativity

I was chatting with an artist friend and her boyfriend the other day about life, art, and creativity (as you do!). And it always surprises me to hear that other people struggle to be creative a lot of the time. It's strange to hear because I know I am creative ALL of the time. The only thing stopping me creating artwork all day every day is "life" - the usual things that we do that constitute life and what we do with it.

Her boyfriend is a little musical (as in being musical, not that he IS a musical in itself, that would be weird!! Funny idea though...........He'd keep bursting into song at odd moments of making a cup of tea or going to the bathroom!) and he said that even if he was left to compose music all day for as long as he wanted to, he'd still get fed up of it after a couple of days, as his creativity would have run out by then. This comment interested me, because I think I could paint each day for the next fifty years and not get tired of it. And I'd never run out of subject matter, because even the most mundane subjects can be made to look interesting. I looked around the bar room and realised I could paint loads of things there, even if it's only a coat hanging on a hat stand, the way the light catches a drink in a glass, the gleam of brass, the spirit bottles against the bar mirror, and that's before I even got to surreal or abstract ideas that the room could give me. EVERYTHING can be painted and be made to look interesting. And as an artist I will never feel that I have learnt all there is to know about art, and I know an awful lot already. It's such a vast subject, and we're always learning from it. I could paint the sky every day and do a different painting each time - well I certainly could in this country with its ever changing scudding clouds!

So today I went in search of something creative to add to the Goddess oil painting that I'm currently working on. Some "magic" to add to it. I had the basic idea of what I wanted and went to the appropriate shop to look for .........stars. Heavenly stars. Shining brightly in the universe amongst the Goddesses. Glinting in the depths of the midnight dark velvety sky catching the light and flashing it back. Stars. Mmm....... in a .........crystal shop. But, do you know what? They weren't called "stars" in the shop. Nor were they called "crystals". No. they were called something even more magical................

They were called............................"diamonds"..........

Now, how magical is that? How wonderful! They'll shine like stars and are SO appropriate for the painting. And since they are for a spiritual painting, I've bought eleven. That being the special  number depicting a gateway to magical places................

Monday, 8 February 2010

Like an old familiar lover

I fall into its arms like an old familiar lover
I've missed it so.
A few days away from it and my heart aches to touch it,
to feel it again under my finger tips.

It waits, in silence, slumbering but not asleep.
Waiting, and longing, to be touched again.
And I return, knowing it is calling me.
And I have to heed its call.

To reach out to its heart,
and join mine to it.
I stare at its beauty
and know I am bewitched.

But there is more.
More to add.
More to flow between us.
The magic is still there.


.............. I've worked late into the night on it, this watercolour of the goddess painting. And I'm pleased with the way its flowing. There will be more to add when I next work on it, but sometimes I have to be away from it to get my next piece of inspiration. And that certainly seems to have worked this time - as its created poetry in me too!!!! For the first time ever!

Powerful stuff.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Fully satiated

Sometimes it's difficult to make arrangements to have a drawing session with a model, it's like any other business arrangement, where you have to find compatible days and times to suit both parties. But once done, its easy to keep to that arrangement. But also it has to be borne in mind that sometimes the model might be expecting business calls of their own, and might want to keep their mobile switched on during the time they are with me. It's not a problem......... we can work around it.

Since the last three drawings I've done of him are telling part of a story, I wanted to carry on that aspect of the series. The first drawing "Opening gambit" shows a man offering himself with no complications, relaxed and at ease. The second drawing "Feel the need" shows him lying on a settee, still relaxed but with his hand lying on his upper thigh, the need within him rising. Which leads to the third drawing "Caught in the act" as he is half turned away from the viewer, as he starts to masturbate, the need within him quite obvious. The amount of interaction with the viewer for them to decide. to depict the fourth drawing? I discussed my thoughts with my model. The most OBVIOUS pose would be to show him at the point of orgasm, with nothing left to the imagination, but I thought that that in a way would coarsen the series. I didn't need to draw the most obvious pose, I could do it in a far more subtle way - at the point when he has already achieved his orgasm, whether or not he was on his own (and that is for the viewer to decide how much they have interacted with him............). And to show him lying face down on a rumpled bed, the hint of a dint in the pillow next to him of maybe where another has just lain............. that would complete the series in a far better way. Of course, the picture on its own just looks like a man sleeping, and that in itself is a nice enough image.

So, the pose was easy, the model was happy, as he could just lie down and try not to fall asleep (the snoring might have put me off!! Ha ha!). It took me a few minutes to sort out the lighting so that I was happy with the effect, then we're off - a simple pose, but saying a lot when viewed with the other drawings. We settled down to the drawing, chatting, and sharing the same humour helps, listening to music, and the odd tutting from me as I try to get the lines to look right on the page. I'm never aware I make noises until someone in the room comments on my sighing, tutting, or gently cursing!

The picture progresses, and I'm happy. I'd almost finished it when his phone rang. He apologised as he answered it but I knew he'd been expecting a business call, and I was more than happy to immediately turn off the loud music, and to keep quiet as he answered his call. Perhaps it's my wicked sense of humour, but it amused me GREATLY that I had a stark naked man in my room having a serious conversation with someone who hadn't got a CLUE what was happening  at this end as they discussed business matters. Oh the joy of mobile phones. And that made me wonder how many people I'd spoken to in the past who might have been doing something equally naughty and I hadn't got a clue at the time! LOL
Back to the pose after the call had ended, and I'm pleased with the way its gone. The light catches the body well, at shoulder and hip. His face is hidden, the front of his body is hidden, but he is in repose, and the image tells the story I wanted it to, with subtlety. I've called it "Satiated" as I think that sums it up well and shows he has done more than *just* sleep.  I love the way the dark areas around the body tell enough of the story, the lost and found edges that make the picture look more appealing. And I think it's a fitting end to the series of drawings............