January 11, 2013

Happy Second Anniversary, Bus Blog!

Practice makes perfect. Or something. (December/January 2013)

One of my favourite Ottawa artists is Blair Paul and he offers an introductory landscape course at Ottawa School of Art, which is where I took Anatomy for Artists in the fall. It starts this Sunday and I don't own most of the paints required on the course materials list. I guess that don't have common colours? More money to the art store, dammit. Well, I always chose paints by their looks. Only since I read a small book on Colour Theory in December have I more intention when choosing colour. (Did you know you can gray a colour by mixing it with a complimentary colour -- not by adding black?? Weird.)

I started going over fundamental elements of drawing and colour once the Anatomy course finished up. It's been really eye-opening. Yesterday I learned that pencil crayon artists often work on both sides of transparencies. And that scratching colour from a top layer of colour so an under-layer shows through -- something I always thought was kinda rebellious, something the kids dreamed up on their own -- is a respected technique known as sgraffitto.

Since leaving school I avoided instruction. I'd learned the hard way that I was impossibly impressionable. Flitting from one technique or idea about how to do things to the next, I was at the mercy of the last person I talked to or book I opened. Looking at other peoples' work was equally disorienting, and discouraging, too. Soon enough I just shut everything out and tried to muddle along on my own. And  now, at 37, I have done my own thing long enough that I don't get thrown off course as easily anymore. What a relief that's finally over. Impulse control - wonderful!

That's not to say that after ten years my own thing is particularly developed. I remember deciding in my twenties that the reason I must be having so much trouble dreaming up content was that I just hadn't lived enough. So I resolved to do some living before getting back into art seriously. That was another good decision, I think. Now I have some solid ideas and I'm excited about working on them.

But those unopened art instruction books, courses not taken, silenced conversations, and artists' work not viewed together left a big hole in my art stuff. I can't do many subjects and I've come to grips with only a few techniques. On the plus side, I have at least tried most things and I've developed a bit of the other things that matter, like commitment and discipline.

January 2013
So I'm working through some art books and magazines. The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature by Cathy Johnson was really good. I read a few others but that one, lent by my mom-in-law, was my favourite. More of a complete lesson on drawing for beginners along with the focus on drawing outside. She also got me a subscription to International Artist for Christmas. I'm mostly done The Sketching and Drawing Bible, also lent by my dear MIL.

At right are some remedial exercises I have been doing courtesy The Complete Guide to Drawing. Guess who I borrowed it from. :) Sorry for the terrible photo. Too big for le scanner.

I have also been practicing with Sennelier oil pastels. They're gorgeous, paint-like, but with no mess. That's useful for my non-ventilated home studio that has to be kid-safe and totally non-toxic. After reading about the dust problems of using chalk pastels, the set of Neupastels I bought last November (and fell madly in love with) has been set aside for a future where I have a suitable space. The picture at the top of the page is me sorting out flesh tone mixtures.

I wish I had a chance to get my brushes out so I'm less rusty this Sunday. I haven't painted since, oh, was the last painting I did really circa January 2011?

Happy New Year! Let the studies of trees and rocks commence!


  1. Happy New year. Rock on, or paint on! Lovely to read of your journey. Happy to visit.
    Cheers from Cottage Country!

  2. Thanks, Jenn!! Hope you are having a splendid winter. We've had piles of the gorgeous white stuff here, yum!