I’m trying to decide a stylistic theme for my next series of paintings, so I’m doing a little experimentation with mixed media and other techniques.
One method I’ve enjoyed is collage; I’ll draw on different kinds of paper, cut or tear, and assemble the pieces. I love the textural quality of torn handmade paper, and I used it liberally in this image.
I recently finished this portrait of some beautiful young people:
I thought it would be interesting to show the progress from the beginning, so I made this animated gif. (Which is my first brush with anything of the sort, so forgive the imperfection.)
I started by blocking in their shapes in olive green. Then I drew rough outlines with chalk and refined their positions, after which I blocked in the initial colors.
I began to pick out the darkest shadows with purple and blue, then activated the background with some transparent layers and strokes. I knew I’d eventually be adding two abstract elements that had symbolism for the recipient.
I focused first on the young girl, whose small features and mischievous expression I knew would be a challenge to capture both accurately and expressively; then I refined the boys’ faces.
I like to take liberties with my portraits. It is more important to me that they look like their human subjects than any specific photograph used as a reference (I work from several when possible). But at this stage I felt that the facial proportions of the brother in the middle were off, and so I made some adjustments, first in chalk:
Then in paint. After making the final adjustments, I was happy to call this portrait complete.
The linework for “Prickly Fairy,” 8×10″ on watercolor paper.
I get these irrational moments where I expect myself to do more, make more, experience more, yesterday! I felt stressed by such thoughts, so I drew a mean, unpleasant fairy. I love her; we can’t always be sugar and spice.
I got a call from a dear friend the other day; after a long winter, she had broken off a difficult relationship and started fresh. One thing she was grateful for was having her own space again, in which she can surround herself with the art, music, and decor that inspires her, and more than that, to have a clean and tidy environment.
“Have you ever noticed,” she asked, “how unhealthy people almost always live in dirty, cluttered environments?”
“Well yes,” I said sheepishly, thinking of myself. I caught a brief mental image of her lovely apartment the last time I had visited: beautiful decor—not expensive, but lovingly chosen—, clean kitchen and bathroom, good smells, and a very particular atmosphere permeating it all. When you walked into this place, you felt just the
right combination of relaxed and energized.
“So,” I asked, “do you think it can work the other way around? If you’re feeling depressed and unhealthy, would improving your environment trigger a response in your attitude and bearing?”
“Definitely!” She said.
And so for the last week or so, I’ve been giving it my best effort. Every morning I make myself a delicious soy-latte using the espresso machine I salvaged from a dumpster. Then I clean it immediately! As soon as I see the cats have used the litter box I scoop it out. I put away my art supplies every night, regardless of whether I intend to use them the next day. And I light a stick of incense when I think of it, to remind myself to enjoy this home I’m lucky enough to have.
I have observed at least some positive effect on my ability to concentrate. After I’ve cleaned or tidied up an area, I feel an immediate sense that I am capable. Satisfaction in chores may be fleeting, but the sense that I am able to affect my environment has had a profound effect on my well-being. Sometimes when we’re depressed, we feel so stuck, and we look for things to un-stick us. We self-medicate with food, or alcohol, or drugs, but why not self-medicate with small doses of cleaning or exercise? Something to actually help us out of the pit of ill-feeling, rather than just dulling our awareness of it.
I enjoy sitting in my beautiful, clean living room. I begin to feel calm for the first time in a long while. And it makes me want to pull out a sketchbook, which I have been doing, almost every night. I’ve set a gentle achievable goal for myself to draw one faery or mermaid every night. So far, so good.
This is “The Procession,” a 2-color woodblock print that I made in college. This was the first time I used the simplified figures that can be found in a lot of my work.
When I drew the first sketch for this, I wanted to do a multi-figure scene, but I’d never drawn more than one or two figures together up to that point. I simplified the figures so I could work out the placement and the basic gestures; the thought being that I could figure out more specific anatomy as a second step. But to my surprise I found that I enjoyed the figures drawn in this stylized way.
The scene was a wry comic look at the world. The tombstones say “die” and there is a person standing on the corpse in order to better give directions to the grave. The people in the front are oblivious to everything, repurposing the funeral lilies to express their love.