|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.
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!