Oil Painting

I had heard a lot if hype about oils being awesome, so even without a lot of painting experience I was excited to take this class. The faculty member teaching it had several decades experience and that tipped my motivation to take it.

We started with grisaille painting. You paint a grey tonal painting, then paint colors over it. As you can see, my flower put one looks pretty flat, it was my first oil painting.

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I like this second one better, but the composition is a bit off. My slightly mischievous mannequin’s head is too closer to the top of the page.

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Next the teacher made us put down our brushes and use our palette knives for painting with. First it was just really scary, then it got delightfully fun. I am now a fan of the palette knife for life. We made impastos, or paintings with really thick paint. At this point it became apparent this was the most expensive class I’d taken, due to continually replacing paint tubes.

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As the class progressed, we covered and practiced a lot of basic 2D design concepts, composition, perspective, color, shading, etc. We’d often have the whole classes’ paintings out for constructive criticism (and inspiration, so many different styles and ideas!). You could visually note how everyone was improving.

Next we did alla prima, or doing a painting in one session. We brought out our brushes again. She wanted us to do these in front of our subject matter. (I named this lawn flamingo Wilfred).

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This next one was done in plein air, outside.

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Next was a huge challenge, the painting of a live model! We practiced mixing skin tones, and the day of we had about three hours to complete our figure paintings, and that needed to include our composition sketches, paint mixing, and breaks for the model (it’s not too comfy to lean on one arm for long.) Fortunately I’d done a lot of figure sketching on my own in previous months. This made it so the naked shock value was diminished. When painting or drawing, a human figure is  just a (really complicated) still life and most of your time is spent trying to figure out how to realistically render it rather than blushing at boobies. More importantly, I had some practice drawing proportions. Mine still wound up with a long torso and small head, but I was still proud I’d painted this with the considerable time restraints.

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Our final was a self portrait with a hat. If figures are complicated in a scary way, faces are terrifying. I did many sketches of myself because the first few didn’t even look like me. She gave us freedom to use non-local color and to imitate the style of portraits by the masters. I tried my brush at art-nouveau for the background, but my actual face is just kinda my own style. The cat on my head was rather a comedic element so I went funky with the rest of it. Renaissance it is not, but it does kinda work.

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At the end of the class, I was thoroughly inspired. I love painting. I joined an art gallery, got myself a plein air pochade box set up, and am planning on continuing this both as a hobby and as a way to improve my illustration skills. There’s a juried art show I’ll be entering in April. Wish me luck!

Beginning drawing figures and faces

Gesture drawings are quite tricky. The idea is to capture the energy of a pose without many details. Usually you have a minute or less to do so. I’ve been at it for over a week, and it’s very challenging. Here’s some I went back over with pen for ease of viewing and to round them off nicely.

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I’m doing more detailed figures as well, and plan to do a long one, but here’s some five minute sketches:

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Yeah, naked people. That’s the culture shock part of learning art. However, the more I draw people, the more I see their bodies as educational, challenging, and not awkward. People are all so beautifully and differently shaped, so drawing them helps me admire ask sorts of shapes and features.

I’ve also been practicing portraits.

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Art as a Connection

In drawing class last week we watched a film about Keith Haring, an artist who started as a graffiti artist in New York City.  One of the most interesting part of the film discussed how his art brought thought-provoking visual material to the everyday citizen going about their daily routine. Fine art at the time was considered to be made and consumed by elite in art galleries and other sophisticated affairs. Both Haring’s physical placement of his art and his bold, eye-catching artistic styles made his works very approachable and consumable.

There’s the documentary if you are interested. However, If you already checked out his Wikipedia page, you’ll find out the film excluded some very important elements of Haring’s life and art. He was gay, he had AIDs, and a huge amount of his work dealt with those aspects of his life. I was pretty amazed that as short as 25 years ago, even the art community feared the stigma around gay issues too much to mention it despite it being an essential element in the artist’s life.

One thing the Haring film thinking about was the role a piece of art can have in our very personal lives. Especially with internet access, the ability for a human to see hundreds of various forms of art daily is possible. When a person’s art piece sticks with us, it makes it a bit more significant.

Our digital image processes assignment this week was to review an article about an illustrator. I found some articles online on Michael Whelan, who may be the uncrowned king of making awesome covers for fantasy and sci fi books. He did the cover art for several of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels. The cover for The White Dragon caught my eye in the library. It drew me in to trying one of her books. It was my adult first fantasy novel. I went on to read all not only all of the Pern novels, but many other fantasy novels about dragons, fantasy and sci fi series, and other subtle forms of geekery. To this day, fantasy and sci fi novels are my favorites. A few years back, Brandon Sanderson wrote about his excitement over having Michael Whelan do a book cover for him. Sanderson’s story matched mine a great deal.

I didn’t know anything about Michael Whelan back when I was twelve and started in on Dragonsong. But even back then, I knew how frustrating it would be when a book’s cover or inside illustrations didn’t match the tone or the details of the story and characters. Whelan’s covers never had that issue. In my research for my review, I found out Whelan would almost always read the book before even starting his art. Sometimes when doing his cover art the book wasn’t written yet.  He did a lot of research, questioned the author about themes and details, and out of that he made his amazing illustrations. That connection was obvious to me, to Brandon Sanderson, and millions of others. Whelan’s award list from his years of illustration is impressive. What we have here is art inspiring, motivating, even connecting people across space and time.

How about you? Ever had a song connect with you exactly where you are? Found a friend through your mutual appreciation of a movie or video? Felt that when you looked at a painting, you knew exactly how the subject was feeling? Sometimes it’s a big part of our lives, and sometimes it’s just a spark of emotion. But it’s all a result of an artist knowing how to make that connection with you through their art. I am glad to be human and among artists as these.

Measured Drawings, Still Life, Sketchbook

Corners! Super exciting! Ok, maybe not, but part of the learning experience.

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This week we’ve been doing still life, practicing measuring angles and lengths with our arms and drawing tools. This next one is sideways, despite editing multiple times on my phone:

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Sideways again, making the baseball look even more warped:

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Some still life I did for an assignment.

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I did that, decided it wasn’t gestural enough, so I did a second with my little Wonder Woman figure, the cow, the lamp, a pot and a couple of rocks, and I didn’t get a picture because it was very late.
We also took bad selfies and drew one to exaggerate the features, based on an inspiration by the TA.

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And some more bits from my scrapbook and practice at home:

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That’s not including the sketches that were pretty weird, incomplete, or concept thumbnail sketches. I have been taking to heart that the best way to master something is to practice a ton.
The next assignment is an animal drawing, any form. We can even use some color. I’m playing with the idea of otters underwater. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Gesture Drawings

We did gesture drawings today.

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My practice later:

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Sorry this last one is sideways. I think with these last two I got a bit too detailed on the bodies. I need to get more gestural again.

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I thought doing line contours and gestures were for just doing different styles, but it’s been surprisingly freeing. When I’m trying to draw quickly and capture the jest of something without fretting the details, it loosens something inside of me and helps me just draw without stopping and erasing so much. I think it’s helping me capture the shape of things better.

I’m not posting my contour line drawing portrait practice. There is something about the human lips and nose that are incredibly difficult, so after I practice a great deal more I’ll post some. But I am practicing. People are just hard.

Life Reboot Reflections

This fall I’ve started an education and a part time job. It’s a lot of changes in a short time. I’ve gone from being a stay at home mom with a lot of craft hobbies to a graphic arts student and part time substitute at a preschool.

Mentally the process has been exhilarating. I love meeting people and going places. The learning itself is endless layers of interesting and challenging.

Drawing: You’ve already seen what I’ve been up to. Besides the ‘learning and drawing’ parts, we’ve also seen a couple of short films on artists, Jim Dine and Rick Barton.

Digital Imaging Processes: This class is learning to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Classtime is the instructor telling us what to do in the programs, and a couple of homework assignments using what we’ve learned. I’m using this as my ‘Intro to the graphics world’ toe-dip to see if being a graphic artist is doable. So far the answer is yes.

Math: I am taking one online course, Elementary Algebra. So far it’s been the most frustrating. I learned this stuff long ago, and learning it again when it didn’t get used at all has caused my brain to rebel a bit. Luckily my husband was a math teacher and has been a good tutor when I need tips. I really feel like my elementary and middle school teachers did an absolutely horrible job of teaching fractions. I’ve had to relearn them and it’s so unintuitive for me.

This math class consists of reading the lesson, doing the homework, and taking a quiz on the material, of which you must get at least 80%. Then after a bunch of those, you do a review quiz, of which you must get 85%. After that, then you can take the module test. I had a bloody hard time getting 85% on my review quiz, and after taking it five times I finally aced it. The other day I took my first actual math test. The test had a lot more fractions on it than the quiz had, and it only consisted of 16 questions, which means I only have to miss a few to do really poorly. Surprisingly, I got a 91%, which was a relief to me. It had many questions with fractions and while I think I’ve got them mostly figured, I’m not confident in my handling of them.

One thing I find absolutely delightful is the people, my teachers and fellow students. I love meeting new people and getting to know them, and this little life reboot of mine has had plenty of that. There’s just something delightful about a learning environment that fosters people working together for the sake of helping each person advance themselves personally.

It’s also fun to be around people just out of high school again. There’s a good variety of ages, of course, I’m not the oldest person in any of my classes. But there are a lot of 18-25 year olds around, and they are just so fresh-faced and energetic. After ten years of grudging it out and having the demands of parenthood make me be all responsible and serious, it’s a nice change of pace. You can tell most are aiming for things, or at least trying to find something to aim for. It’s a good energy to be around.

Our home life with the kids and our marriage has changed drastically! I’m out of the house most weekdays now. I’ve now seen Husbeast gracefully step into the role of After-School Coordinator. When you have four elementary children, getting them all to get home, snack, do their homework, manage their shoes/backpacks/lunches, and not squabble with each other too much in the process all takes a great deal of mental energy. Husbeast has been managing that along with getting them to do chores as well. They are finally adjusting to the school schedule (well, the older two have been fine for a while, the younger two had a longer transition) and enjoy school. Husbeast also decided to join up with the library and now takes them weekly, so managing the slew of library books without losing any is a superparent skill of its own.

The weekly library trips have been nothing short of inspiring. Last time we were part of a library, it was a small, miserly place with poor selection that still felt justified charging us $50 a year for membership. It limited you to two books at a time for your first two months of joining. That doesn’t work for a family of six who are hungry for literature. This library Husbeast joined us to is the next town over with no book limits and a wonderfully large selection. Our oldest, Foxx, has been a bookworm for years and begs to go more often than the weekly trip. Our second, Pingu, would only read graphic novels or comic books for the longest time. Husbeast found him the book series that inspired How to Train A Dragon. For the first time, Pingu is hooked on reading something! He finished the second of the series in a day, even chose to read over playing Minecraft (the love of his young life). Sweet Pea made a big huge step in finishing her first chapter book, Charlotte’s Web. Scooby is just in kindergarten, but already I can see his sounding-out skills are developing at a wonderful pace. To him the freedom of choosing his own books and looking at them are helping instill the love of literature. Of couse, we’ve hundred of books at home, but new books every week is especially exciting. Husbeast and I both grew up bookworms, so reading for personal enjoyment and development is a very important shared value for our family. We’re both just overjoyed to see their progress.

I even hit a personal goal of mine with reading recently. I’m great at zooming through fiction. I love big, fat, fantasy novels and have missed much sleep over the years due to not being able to put them down. Nonfiction books, though, don’t have the same draw to me. I don’t think I’ve gotten more than halfway through a nonfiction book in years. Well, last week, I finished Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion. I had heard of Dawkin’s rather rude media presence, so had put off reading it for over a year, but however rude he is on social media, the tone doesn’t come across in his writing. Reading it was like having a chat with a nice professor in a library next to a fire. Dawkins is a biologist with a gift for crafting a book with enough relevant details to support his case without losing me in a slew of science details with lots of new vocabulary words. As much as I support science, it’s not my field, so articles discussing the details with lots of new vocabulary words tend to lose me after the first couple of paragraphs. The God Delusion is rather a well-rounded primer starting with, “So you suspect the information supporting the existence of God is a bit lacking” and from there does a superb job tackling many hot topics the atheist and the Christians around them wind up in conflict about: science, morality, the meaning of life, the effects of religion, etc. Rather than the brisk or viscous tone I’d heard Dawkins had, his arguments pointed out the limits of ideas using the tool of reasoning. The only time he discussed negative aspects of specific people was to call out conflicts of interest or hypocrisy in ways that directly related to the issues at hand.

Overall, it was a fantastic overview of why somebody would choose to be atheist, or even choose to leave a fundamental religion. In the process of me leaving Christianity, I’ve had people project the most asinine and convoluted theories upon me. Nobody wanted to believe my very simple stated reason, “there’s no evidence that God exists or that the supernatural aspects of Christianity are true.” People really wanted to think I got Christianity wrong, or I never was a real Christian, or I was mad and hurt at it, or that I had deep dark sin in my life corroding my spirituality, or that the sneaky devil seduced me away with the ‘lies’ of science, and all sorts of nonsense. In The God Delusion the whole reasoning and the different details of it were explained in a depth and breadth of a sound intellectual. Moreover, it was conducted with the grace and respect for others of a professional. It was clear to see Dawkins wants the best for humans, and uses his powers of argument and information to make his case. I’d strongly recommend to those who have deconverted, or those who are trying to understand why somebody would deconvert, or somebody who is asking the same question I started with, “Why do I not see any physical evidence God exists or interacts with this world in any real physical way?”

Thanks for reading! Have you read anything interesting lately, or had any life changes that are helping your life along? Please share in the comments!

Contour Line Drawing and More Charcoal

I thought abstract art would be the thing challenging me most in my drawing class, but I just hasn’t discovered all the weird ways to make at yet. On Monday, we did contour line drawings, which to me seem like one of the ugliest ways to render body parts, but here we are. We started with hands, doing dominant, opposite, and blind.

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Then my shoe.

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Inspiring, no? Yeah, me neither. Then self portraits, which I haven’t done since high school, and I discovered the same concept is true now as was then: if I like it it doesn’t look like me. In this one (I was wearing a hat, not a weird hairdo) I think I resemble Mary from Downton Abbey (albeit with a much larger snozz) more than myself.

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We did two more charcoal erasing drawings, one with a sky theme and one with a wall theme. We were supposed to do the sky abstract, but I’m having the worst time abstracting my concepts. Hopefully applying the term to mean “skies of other planets” helps with that. The spacesuit here is from the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, based on Buzz Aldrin’s. I did change the patch to a world instead of an American flag because I hope by the time we get this close to Jupiter, we will be more united as a planet.

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And for my wall drawing, I didn’t get very abstract at all, but I really like how it turned out. Ironically, there’s more sky in my wall drawing than in my sky drawing. This is an adobe pueblo on a Texas ranch.

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Some more pretty sky photos, because this is the best month.

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Finally, I experimented with contour line drawing on the bumpy bus, and I got more abstract than ever because I did it quick and sloppy:

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