Wash Challenge, week four

little gem no.8

Little Gem No. 8

Hello, it’s Friday again! Yay!!

It’s so good to reach the end of the week, but then not so great when you realise you haven’t painted again! Quick panic, and then pick up a brush…

The first Little Gem was a simple doodle to get me painting anything at all – lots of roses! Or are they Camellias? I have just discovered that I have a Camellia bush in my new back garden… a plant I have no experience of. It’s covered in buds but doesn’t seem to want to actually burst into flower – any tips, anyone?

Little Gem No. 9

By the time I reached the second Little Gem I was obviously a bit more relaxed, although I thought the colour choices were strange even as I made them. I’m fascinated to see now that they seem to have worked overall! We have Ultramarine Blue, Undersea Green, Turquoise (I think) and Green Gold – I think I also mixed some Burnt Sienna into the Undersea Green to get that neutral grey tone across the middle.

I’m very happy to say I also made it to Sketch Club on Wednesday this week – it was the first time back since I broke my hand. It was SO GOOD to be back!! My favourite musician (classical and jazz guitarist Jim Pennell) and my favourite model (Clementine), a glass of wine (or two)… what could be better!! It was a little tricky holding a pencil with my hand still in a splint, but I think it actually improved my drawing ūüėõ . Here’s a quick peek at some of the results:

Clementine 1

Clementine 1

Clementine 2

Clementine 2

Clementine 3

Clementine 3

So, What’s the Problem?

Comfortable Silence (Graphite)

Comfortable Silence (Graphite)

I’m really finding it hard to create anything at the moment! I think I’m finally¬†getting back on track¬†again after all the¬†upheaval of last year… So, what’s the problem? I ask myself this almost daily¬†at around¬†this time (11pm), not entirely surprised to find the day is over and I’ve missed¬†another chance.

So, I decided¬†I might try and share some of what¬†I’m experiencing. Maybe getting it down on paper will help me work it out, maybe if you’re stuck too it’ll help you, and just maybe you’ll have some amazing tips to share with¬†me ūüėõ .

As a bit of background, I’ve spent much¬†of¬†the past year allowing myself to be unproductive while recovering from lots of life things – an unexpected break up, illness, increased workload and ultimately¬†moving house… Happily, I’m feeling much more myself again and keen to get on with life. I’ve begun¬†spending¬†time¬†working on my neglected website and I’m starting to feel enthusiastic about¬†painting again.

However,¬†all the¬†good intentions are going nowhere as far as actually painting is concerned, and each day ends without pencil or brush touching¬†paper.¬†I’m quite¬†bemused at myself! Do I really want to paint or not? If I do, why do I keep¬†not¬†doing it?¬†Who’s kidding who? And how do I keep tricking myself out of it. As you can see, I’ve been doing a lot of talking to myself!

This weekend I finally picked up¬†a brush¬†and dabbled for a while, and the¬†results illustrated (pun intended)¬†what might be the problem… I’m facing exactly¬†what¬†I’ve been fearing: Can I¬†actually remember how to paint?! Answer: No, not really… all the practise I’ve put in over the past three years has gone. The sketching is still mostly OK, as you can see from the doves pictured… but watercolour? Forget it.

I’m not saying¬†that I can’t hit the paper with a brush covered in paint, but that’s about as far as it goes. The mental link from brain to hand is missing. You know, that special magic skill¬†that you don’t learn until after you pass your driving test. Well it works¬†for¬†painting too, and probably for¬†any skill you¬†become really familiar with. I think I’d just begun to experience, and enjoy it, when I stopped painting.

So¬†what’s been stopping me is the worry that it’s not like riding a bike and I’ll have to go through the whole awkward learning¬†process again to get it back. I’m disappointed to have lost it so quickly, a bit angry with myself really, and I’m embarrassed to share stuff that¬†I’m not thrilled about. Hence the sketch, not the painting dabbles ūüėõ .

Then last night I came across an article called “Practise isn’t Sexy” that described my problem exactly and put it in a nutshell:

“If you can’t quite seem to commit the time to learn then it’s time to admit one of two things… Either learning that particular skill is not really a priority for you or you are afraid of looking stupid.”¬†-Lindsay

I’m pretty sure I want to learn the skill or I wouldn’t keep torturing myself about it all the time, so I just have to make time and get over this fear of looking stupid!


The article is also worth a read if you have a moment or two –¬†“Practise isn’t Sexy”¬†by Lindsay.


It’s been a while…

Clementine (graphite)

Clementine (graphite)

You may have noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve shown up here, written anything, or had¬†any arty things to share with you… ¬†I’m so sorry I disappeared, a year is an embarrassingly long time to be missing in action! But it was a huge year with lots¬†of personal and professional challenges… I’m very happy to be¬†on the far¬†side of it rediscovering¬†some balance and fun!¬†If you’ve¬†been patiently waiting for something new, thank you!¬†You have amazing patience!

I did manage to keep some sketching going¬†throughout all the upheaval, mostly¬†at the weekly life drawing group at the Camelot Lounge. Many¬†of those sketches were¬†too rough or a bit too nude to be comfortable sharing on a public site ūüėõ However, I wanted to share one piece from last Wednesday’s Gyspy Sketch Club session which I’m particularly pleased with.

I have always had problems with faces and most of my drawings of the models at the club are torsos only, with no more than a vague oval and maybe some scribble where the face should be. I would love to be able to really capture a likeness, or just get some features in the right place so that my oval blob looks human! Mind you, most sketches are completed in less than¬†5 minutes so I’m generally focusing¬†on getting the limbs and body down rather than bothering with an area I know I struggle with.

Occasionally during the evening the model strikes a pose that just can’t be seen very well (it’s a busy room), or isn’t very inspiring. For these situations¬†the management have thoughtfully set up a video camera casting a slightly different view¬†of the model on a large screen. This was one of those moments and I had just 10 minutes with a beautiful close up composition that was crying out to be drawn.

I think I started off with her eye and worked away from it, trying to smudge¬†shading in and¬†sort of mapping the area, trying not to identify it in my mind as a face (try tricking your brain into this!). Then,¬†judging the distance between the outer edge of her eye and the edge of her face, & just putting in a line, next¬†looking at her nose and how the upper edge of it by the nostril is almost horizontally in line with the inner corner of her eye. And a mark here and a scribble there, creating small¬†areas of shading rather than outlines… suddenly I realised I had something that was starting to look like a face!

And then she moved to the next pose.


Life Drawing at the Camelot

Life Drawing (graphite)

Life Drawing (graphite)

This Wednesday night found me back at the Camelot Lounge for their regular Life Drawing sessions. It’s¬†been disappointing missing the last¬†few weeks and so it¬†was good to be back, even if keeping up with the five minute poses at the beginning was rather confronting! It’s horrifying how quickly your hand forgets how to communicate with your eyes and brain.

The pose pictured was one of the final set¬†and had the benefit of a full fifteen minutes, hence I managed to get some shading done as well as an outline. Despite that¬†extra time she still hasn’t got a face, and her¬†leg is far¬†more foreshortened than the angle called for – you can easily tell the bits I leave until last because I find them hardest!

I was also fascinated to find¬†that the¬†model this¬†time gave me challenges I hadn’t encountered before, being a larger lady with a beautiful curvy body. All my previous experience has been with thinner subjects,¬†so¬†my usual method¬†of estimating and mapping¬†out the distances between significant landmarks, edges or shapes suddenly¬†didn’t work so well because¬†all the gaps were larger. I was surprised what¬†a difference it made to my ability to¬†measure.

Anyway, it was a hugely beneficial exercise and very rewarding in the end… so here’s to trying an increasing¬†variety of shapes and sizes in¬†models in the future ūüôā .


Early Morning Mushrooms

Early Morning Mushrooms (Inktense Watercolour Pencils)

Early Morning Mushrooms (Inktense Watercolour Pencils)

I’m trying to get back in the habit of practising and¬†last night I ‘fooled’ my brain into a little session by sketching¬†while watching telly. Using the Inktense Watercolour pencils I got for Christmas I found an easy image of mushrooms on PaintmyPhoto and had a play. I haven’t spent much time experimenting with them yet, so it was fun to just mess around.

The sketchbook wasn’t proper watercolour paper, so no real¬†washes – the water just sat, or soaked through to the next page. However, it was very satisfying and therapeutic anyway.

The colours that come in the tin of 24 pencils are perhaps a little harsh, but with the right treatment (and paper) I think they’ll be great. I was also using some clever synthetic¬†brushes that hold water in the barrel of the handle. These are great for travelling or painting¬†outdoors as¬†you won’t need to carry a water pot.

Looking forward to the rest of the week, it seems it’s going to be a bit cooler for a few days, thank goodness. Time to clear the decks¬†and see if I can make some¬†brush strokes of real watercolour wander across a page again!