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Posts Tagged ‘making your dreams happen’

Tossed away.

A subset of my doodles on FlickrIn fall of last year I had an opportunity. A gallery owner in New York City saw my doodles on Flickr and invited me to join a group show in spring 2009. (Several artists on Flickr were asked to join.)

I rejoiced in being invited yet hemmed and hawed about whether I’d accept. In the end I signed up, making a vague notation in my brain about April being a key month for getting the paintings done. Then I went on with my life.

Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went, as did the new year. I made the intention to Finish what I start. President Barack Obama was inaugurated. I rejoiced again.

I bought canvases for the art show, gessoed them, set them aside in my writing room. Looked at them most days, noted that it was time to begin painting, procrastinated.

In early February I decided to get serious about starting the pieces. I cleaned off my work table, filed three months’ worth of bills. We took on a Mexican exchange student from February 7-21. A pinched sciatica kept me in bed for almost two weeks.

By the time I sat down to paint, I had frittered away four months. I looked up the date when the paintings needed to be in Manhattan. February 28. The show was in early April. I missed the deadline. 


Second chances.

A subset of my doodles on FlickrI have a new opportunity. Our community, which boasts an inordinately large number of artists and craftsmen, holds an annual art studio tour. This year the tour happens the weekend of May 2-3. I will be showing in a gallery with a handful of other artists—real artists.

Here is my chance to make the leap.

When Obama was inaugurated, I did a quick doodle. As soon as I finished it, I knew I wanted to do a series of Obama faces on 12″x12″ canvases for the New York City art show. My problem was never a lack of ideas; rather, it was a lack of follow through.


Showing up.

I picked up the paintbrush in March. When I started, I painted to the tempo of a little voice saying, I don’t know how to do this. I’ve never painted on canvas. If gessoed, I figured, canvas should act similar to gesso on wood. I was wrong.

Painting is a process. This painting, the first in a series, is a work in process. I thought it was almost done, but then I realized that I hadn’t learned how to control—or, rather, let myself lose control—of the paintbrush. 

When I began thinking about painting on canvas, QM suggested that I do a post about my process. I agreed even though I had no idea if my ideas about process would work. I’m not done with this painting, but I can tell you this—it’s not the actual process that’s important. What matters is that you have one. 


Learning process.


My original "quick and dirty" Obama doodle, pen and ink on graph paper. I enlarge it to fit my canvas and drew the outline onto tracing paper.

My original "quick and dirty" Obama doodle, done with pen and ink on graph paper. I enlarge it to fit my canvas, add a background, and draw the outline onto tracing paper.





Step One: Transfer the image outline to canvas

I transfer the image outline to the canvas using good ol' carbon paper, the kind used in days past for typing mimeographs. This prep work takes a lot longer than I expect, about half a day.





Step 2: Paint first layer of gouache (watercolor) on canvas

I paint the first layer of gouache (watercolor) on canvas, starting with Obama's face. I don't like this color of blue; it's too purpley. I still haven't figured out how to mix colors to find the right one nor how to use my brush as a tool versus an obstacle.





Never working with watercolor on canvas, I'm afraid to make mistakes. I notice when I'm bold with color, I end up going too dark, such as the brick red portion of the circle behind Obama.

I paint slowly. I'm afraid to make mistakes, and I notice that when I go bold I end up adding too much paint, like in the orange portion of the circle beside his head. I need to dig in but I'm stuck at not wanting to mess it up. I procrastinate again.





I add more paint and texture to the face, going in dark and then using lighter paint to emphasize shadow. Now that the face is coming into focus, my ideas about the background are changing completely. Good thing gouache is maleable.

Finally, I pick up the brush after a hiatus. I add more and more paint and texture to the face. To create dimension---shadow and light---I go in dark with shades up to black and then use light paint to take away the dark. Now that the face is coming into focus, my ideas for the background are changing. Good thing gouache is maleable.





While watching American Idol, I find that I loosen up with the paint. I'm also trusting that I can fix mistakes, that nothing is permanent. I experiment with using the brush the way I would a pen.

While watching American Idol, I loosen up. I'm trusting that I can fix mistakes, that nothing is permanent. Also, if the room is kind of dim, I have a better time seeing contrast. I notice that I have too much light paint on the tip of Obama's nose. I'll go in next time and put in more shadow at the bottom.





In my original doodle I forgot to capture Obama's mole next to his nose. I got it this time, although I'm not sure if I'll change it to blue to match the rest of his skin.

In my original doodle I forgot to capture Obama's mole next to his nose. I got it this time, although I'm not sure if I'll change it to blue to match his skin. I notice his eyebrow is too dark, but I can go in, lighten it and add texture to make it look more natural. (Although, is "natural" a consideration when his entire face is bright blue?)





His mouth needs work; it's clownish looking to me, and I've barely touched his teeth and gums. But I am enjoying his cheeks and those deep crevices he gets when he smiles. Also, I experiment using the brush the way I would a pen. Amazingly, painting is not that different than drawing.

His mouth needs work; it's clownish looking to me, and I've barely touched his teeth and gums. But I am enjoying his cheeks and those deep crevices he gets when he smiles. Also, I experiment using the brush the way I would a pen. Amazingly, painting is not that different than drawing.




Overcoming fear.

Here’s what I know. I’m the only person who’s ever stopped me from realizing my dreams. I’ve gotten out of my own way this time. Next time I might be right back in the middle of the road with my hands out in front of me yelling STOP! But not today.

My goal is to paint six pieces for the early May show. I have less than a month to go, and I can only paint in the evenings and on weekends. I went to a carpenter and asked him to make me wood boards to paint on. Canvas works, but I still like wood best.


Just painting.


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Gouache postscript.

Thanks to QM’s curiosity, I’m adding these excellent links on the topic of gouache.

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Breaking Bad Behavior

  • I’ve skipped my usual evening beer these past several nights. I get the craving right about 6, and if I’m cooking dinner (like I was last night) the craving is especially strong to drink a cold bottle of beer while I’m whipping up the chicken tenders and potatoes. But by the time we sit down to eat, the craving is gone and it doesn’t return until same time next night.
  • My new morning-computer-usage rule is that I don’t turn on the computer until a) I’m dressed, b) my face is washed, c) hair combed, and d) teeth brushed. Even if what I get dressed in is workout pants and t-shirt, I don’t allow myself to open the laptop until all of the above are met. Why? I was finding myself on too many weekend and weekday working-from-home days in my pajamas at noon with teeth still not brushed. Gross.
  • My other computer rule is to limit personal usage. Limit to what?, I don’t know, but just curb my time. No hanging out on the computer checking stats every twenty minutes, no perusing political blogs to see what every little move of Obama‘s is being scrutinized, no wasting oodles of time.
  • And on the positive side (no more Don’ts) I will make time for yardwork and painting. I have dreams about both—having a yard with lovely flowers and plants and producing several finished pieces of art for a May 1 gallery tour.



Speaking of Bad Behavior…

Have you ever been on autopilot while you’re driving and before you know it you’re singing along with a bad song? I did that the other day, found myself belting all the words to Paul Simon’s Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.

Make a new plan, Stan, you don’t need to be coy, Roy, now listen to me. Hop on the bus, Gus, yaaa don’t neeeeed to discuss muuuch! Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yo’self free.

So this morning I am sweeping the floor and generally picking up the house and guess what song is playing in my head? And guess what song has been playing in my head almost every day since I zoned out in the car and inadvertently started singing those words?

Yep. It’s stuck, on a continuous loop. It’s like I was hypnotized and now any time I go into a non-thinking mode, I find my mental airwaves broadcasting Paul Simon.

Aaack! How do I banish him from my head?? Please, someone, help! (QM, how did you finally get Easy Like Monday Morning out of your head?)



Speaking of Bad Songs…

I’ve taken to calling two friends of mine The Skipper and Gilligan. The Skipper is my friend Patty, and Gilligan is her little buddy, Agi. Yesterday Patty and Agi called me to have me tell them again why they are The Skipper and Gilligan.

“Because, Patty, you call Agi your little buddy.”

“And who are you?” they ask.

“I’m Ginger, or Marianne.” (It just depends on my mood. Yesterday I was Ginger.)

Then I proceeded to sing—complete with passion and sound effects—the entire theme song to Gilligan’s Island, which blew them away. Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…

Yep, I know the entire theme song to Gilligan’s Island, Beverly Hillbillies, and Green Acres. I might know others but those are the only ones I can think of now.

How ’bout you? Do you know by heart any TV series theme songs?


What are your Saturday morning musings?

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