Sunday, 25 May 2014

Creating a Focus

Warm up practice for Soul Food lesson with Mitsi
Lists - I love them!  I make a list then check off everything I've done at work and in the house.  It gives me a sense of moving forward and accomplishing.  Many of you probably do the same thing.
But do you have a list for your art?  Unfortunately, I don't.
No list means bouncing from acrylics to photography to sketching then suddenly I'm working with fabric and whoops I'm back to acrylic again only this time it is abstract but I starting to make my own sketchbook which I put aside because I want to work on a quilt I started last year but never got around to finishing because I found an online course I just had to take. Of course, I want to make my own cards plus paint a picture of my great nephew and I also need to start that magazine collage picture I dreamed three years ago and started collecting paper for. 
Does this sound familiar?
The choices are endless and they are all tantalizing.  With the internet there are reams of ideas and courses and examples and inspiration for us to look at.
The problem?
No focus.
There are only 24 hours in a day and sleeping and eating are important! 
With great advice from Roz Stendahl I am putting some SELF-EVALUATION, FOCUS, and GOALS into action (go check out Roz's advice on these subjects but don't forget to come back and see where I am going with this post!).
Here's what I did. 
After some pre-thinking in which I wandered around my house in a daze, putting the dish soap in the fridge and a few other not-paying-attention events, I finally sat down at my desk and in 30 minutes I listed everything I could possibly think of at the moment that I wanted to try, learn, investigate and get good at.  Then I prioritized the list to the top four that really spoke to me.  Then I figured out how much of these projects I could realistically work on given the other commitments in my life (important commitments of course - family, work, walking the dog, etc.)
And voila!  I now have an ART LIST!
Note that I only spent 30 minutes.  I have this fear that all this thinking and planning and goal setting and evaluating will eat up my free time and I will become a slave to it instead of making time for art. You could spend an hour, or fifteen minutes or three days thinking and planning.  It is totally up to you.
Now I know which direction I want to go for the next month. You can choose to make your plan for  a week or two weeks or three months, but I figured a month would be good for me to test out whether it really is a realistic list or whether I am even good at following this list at all.
My list focuses on my Soul Food online lessons, sketching outdoors, sketching people, and participating in the summer skool spin-off class from the online course Sketchbook Skool that just finished.
If I focus on only these activities I should (ideally) see some advancement in these areas at the end of the month when I evaluate.  Then I can see what's working, what's not and change direction if I need to. 
The question is "Can you keep focused on what you have set out to work on this month or are you going to get distracted and run around your art table like a chicken with its head cut off trying to do a million things at once?"
So if you see me post pictures of the photos I've taken for this cool online photography class or I suddenly show you the latest wooden sculpture I've made, you will know that my focus was a bit off!
Oh yes, one more thing.
I made the list this morning. 
Cross your fingers for me and I'll keep you updated with how it's working and some of the pieces that come out of it.  I may end up looking like the person in the picture at the beginning of this post!
How do you manage your art focus? 
What do you do to keep from going in 50 directions at once? 
Is it a structured focus with written goals and evaluations or do you just set your mind in one direction and go with it? 
If you haven't made a focused art list, maybe you'd like to try it along with me. 
I'd love to hear what you're doing and how it's going!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

This One is Going On My Wall!

Hello everyone!
Yes I have been doing some art almost everyday!  Hurray!  Most of it has been in my sketchbook but I did complete another lesson from Soul Food at community thrive
This lesson came from Mitsi.  She had me painting in a style so foreign to me that I was uncomfortable for most of the painting.  But you know, it was a good kind of uncomfortable actually, and with all the art I have been doing this year, the most important lesson I have learned is to not give in to that inner critic, to the monkey on the back, to the duke of deception whispering in your ear that your work is stupid and you should quit (I'm stealing these monikers for that voice in the head from other smart artists  - Quinn McDonald, Danny Gregory and Cat Bennett).  KEEP WORKING IT!  Chances are you will like it in the end.  If not, as Roz Stendahl says, you will have learned something and you had fun!
Another thing I learned while doing this painting is that I don't know when to stop adding to the background.  I really, really wanted to leave some white space, and I had these two great spray paint colors by Molotow - Dare Orange and Grasshopper Green - but I covered most all of it up - the white space and the spray paint.  I was quite devastated for awhile about the whole thing. 
After a few days when I had a couple of hours early one morning, I figured it was time to finish the piece.  The figures are outlined with charcoal and colored in with oil pastels.  Most of the white features are from sketches cut from ordinary computer paper, except for the dog's eyes - white acrylic paint - and the dog's teeth - liquid paper (for correcting spelling mistakes) from my desk drawer. 
I literally had no idea what I was doing, and no end goal in mind.  Mitsi encouraged us to put symbols and marks that had meaning to us, to use what we had on hand, to think about people in our lives and to pour our thoughts out onto the canvas. 
I had no symbols and marks to pull from because I'd never really thought about that much before, and I sure was working hard at figuring out how to use the art supplies, never mind thinking about people and my feelings.  Finally, getting frustrated and crotchety and lost, I let go at trying to figure out HOW to do this painting and just LET the painting happen. 
I started thinking about important people in my life - about my family - and halleluia the painting started to click!  My creatures became happy looking (believe me - at one point they were extremely dismal) and it felt good to be working.  I even threw in a couple of symbols (two stick figures representing my two children and a couple of elongated numeral fours symbolizing the four human members of my family).
The faces are weird.  The colors are funky.  I fell in love with this picture.  Then I realized why.  This is a portrait of MY FAMILY! 
And that is why this picture is going on my wall!
As for my sketchbook, I haven't taken any pictures of my work yet, but I'll get some done and when I do, I'll share it with you.
Thanks for dropping by!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Sketches from Vancouver

 Hello and happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there!
I started writing this post last week but didn't get it finished for you.  Better late than never so here it is! 
I'm back from a quick trip (May 01st to 05th) to Vancouver with my Dad and sister Kris to visit my wonderful sister Rena and brother-in-law Kent.  It was a whirlwind trip with two days of travel and three days of sightseeing, laughter and not a whole lot of sleep.  In amongst touring Grouse Mountain, Capilano Suspension Bridge, the Vancouver Aquarium and Granville Island, and between the talking, the jokes, the eating (awesome fish and chips at Pajo's in Stevenson), the music and the photos....I snuck in a few sketches. 
It's harder than I thought to take time to sketch when I travel.  I want to see EVERYTHING and try EVERYTHING and taste EVERYTHING.  Well, not quite everything but you get the picture.  There is so much to see and do that I find it hard to stop and take time to draw.  Plus, when you travel with others you must be considerate and not make them wait too long for you while you put on the last bit of details on a building (At this point I must say a big "thank you" to my patient family!).
Then of course, I had to get over that weird feeling of being some kind of artist imposter.  You know, the kind that people point and laugh at saying, "who does she think she is, pretending to be some kind of artist! Ha ha ha!"  Apparently according to Danny Gregory this is just a mad, mean monkey on my back and I have to shake him off and boot him over to the side.  Well, in Hawaii I started hauling the monkey down, and in Vancouver I think I gave him a good shake to the side.  I must say I totally enjoyed sketching on my trip, though I was a bit s-l-o-o-o-w-w.  Finishing up at home in the evening actually is a common practice.
So on this trip I bounced between a small 5 1/2" x 3 1/2" moleskin journal and my 6" x 9" Robert Bateman that I've used for most of my sketches.   The Bateman is not for watercolor but it manages quite well if I don't use too, too much water.  I didn't try watercolor in the moleskin though I think it could handle okay. 
Anyway, I have two pictures to show you from my trip, both from the Robert Bateman journal. 
This is the Vancouver skyline, Leah style, sitting on a huge chair near the site of the Olympic Torch (that's the best description I can give because I don't know any street names or dock names).  While the others went for a walk along the dock walk, I stayed behind with my Dad and gleefully pulled out my paint box (Windsor & Newton field kit which I'm really getting to know and like), my brushes, my pen, my iPod, my headphones and prepared to draw.  Then I choked -- there was so much to look at!  How could I choose?  So what did I do?  I decided to draw a whole big city skyline with tons and tons of details.  Did I tell you I had 15 - 20 minutes?  Yikes!
What I ended up doing is drawing, pretty accurately as I could, the shapes of the buildings.  Then I quickly added a sort of version of the windows on each building.  That was it. That was all I had time for.  Later at home I added my impression of what I had seen - a whole row of yellow trees along the sea wall.  I don't know what is exactly there but that is all my memory picked up on.  The color I added later also.  The sky is much more blue in real life but I like the cloudy effect it shows here.
This is a picture I made while waiting for my turn on the table at my sister's massage therapy office in Langley.  I had 1 1/4 hours to draw so I decided to try a Tommy Kane style picture, putting in as much detail as I possibly could. The actually drawing took more just over an hour and I managed to lay in only a couple of watercolor splashes before my time was up.  It's real easy to slide into a zone when drawing this way, but getting the perspective correct?  Nope.  Didn't happen.  I took a photo of the corner so when I was home I would be able to finish all the color.  I found out later during my online class how much time Tommy Kane puts towards a picture, and learnt more about his shadowing and coloring and crosshatching - none of which I put into the picture above. But I didn't know!  I can't wait to try again.  His pictures are phenomenal! And he doesn't always have correct perspective either!

Oh yeah - the assage I had was awesome!