Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Hard Look

Self Portrait in Black Hat, Pencil, 8 x 10

This pose is not one you would ask a client to take. It is not complimentary. Strong  back lighting and  the model looking down at the camera lens intensifies the darks and washes out the lights. Worst of all, the wrinkles and sags of age--no matter the age the model--are magnified.  The result  is just plain  unattractive.  A drawing no one would want of themselves. So I used myself and got an interesting shot worthy of drawing. I liked the strong pattern of black and white and the angle that gave me a hard, matter of fact, this is me now look. --But will I like it next year? Probably not.
Pistachio Nuts, Watercolor, 9 x 11

When I cleaned out the studio just before my knee thing, I stacked all the drawings and paintings I did the last three years  on the couch to go through later. Yesterday was later. Ellis had finally finished emptying my file cabinet of old design catalogues and client project files.  I could now file the drawings I wanted to keep.
Problem was I didn't want to keep any of them. Not one amazed me that I had done it.

Scolding myself for being so tough on myself and  totally negative about  my work, I sorted the loose drawings into a trash pile, a save pile, a possibly sell pile. The trash pile is on the left. The save pile is
on the right. And on the floor are drawings that might make it  to an Etsy Shop if I ever get so moved. Then I had to walk away. After sorting, I still didn't care about most of them. I'll save them all and let the kids decide, I decided climbing the stairs, where I chose to take a hard look at myself  by doing this drawing from a reference photo I shot two summers ago. These are the thoughts I had while drawing myself in a most unfavorable pose only an artist could love.

I am not a watercolorist-- though I have done some respectable watercolors.

I am not a painter of flowers--though I have done some respectable florals.

Still lifes are okay if there's nothing more interesting to paint and  as long as I love the subject. Pistachio Nuts is a favorite.

I'm at my best with a piece of charcoal in my hand and pretty okay with a pencil too.

Portraits are my preference. Portraits are what I should be concentrating on-- gestural, informal and unusual poses--just as I suspected last year thanks to my eldest son who shoved me in that direction.

I hate canvas panels. The cheapness of them, cheapen the art no matter how skillfully done. I don't like canvases stretched on 1/2" bars either; the tension is awful and the sagging surface cheapens the art painted on it as well.  Buying little canvases in bulk for little money is a waste for the portrait artist. --Whatever happened to wood wedges?

When I put my pencil down, I ordered a box of 16 x 12 and 16 x 20 gallery stretched canvases from Blick. Those were the sizes I noted the most while reading Schmid and Paul this last week. They are common sizes for head and shoulder portraits.


My Reluctant Son, Pencil, 5 x 7"













32 comments:

  1. Bonsoir chère amie,
    Il est vrai que nous ne sommes jamais satisfaites de notre travail... Nous attendons plus et plus encore... Cependant, je suis parfois surprise du regard des autres.
    Ils aiment souvent les oeuvres que nous trouvons : "bof!"... Etonnant n'est-ce pas ? et pourtant !
    Alors je pense que vous avez eu raison de conserver l'ensemble de vos dessins... Ils sont vous avec vos qualités et vos défauts.
    Ce que je vois aujourd'hui dans cette dernière publication contient votre âme et elle est belle...

    Gros bisous à vous.

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    1. Thank you so much Martine. I think it's the artist's lot to be mostly dissatisfied with her work. We are constantly striving for a perfection we do know we will never achieve. But the conclusions I reached after viewing these works were to my benefit. They pushed me towards my comfort zone--portraiture, the best of materials, the mediums I am most comfortable with. When I went back into fine art three years ago, I had no idea where I belonged, so I tried this and that till my place was clear. All the work was part of the process of becoming.

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  2. Unlike me you are really comfortable with charcoal or pencils. The drawing of your son is great and it is nice to see the helplines that you used. That way one can see your approach.

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    1. I used a grid system, which I do not regard as helplines, but as a useful tool. I didn't erase it,because I did another drawing of him using the grid lines, but dropped every other row down so I got a very distorted drawing to more clearly implicate how unhappy he was to be my model. I'll have to show it to you some time.

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  3. Hi Linda.
    Fantastic pencil drawing of your son. I don`t know how close you got to his likeness Linda, but nevertheless it is a fantastic portrait in pencil. Well done. All the best.
    Vic.

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    1. Thanks Victor. It's him right on. Gridlines are an excellent tool for achieving precision when working from reference photos.

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  4. Love the drawing of your Son. His reluctance to pose makes it all the more interesting.

    I also really like the 'self portrait' - its the sort of look my husband reckons he sees on my face too often (when I'm disapproving of something he's done) LOL

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    1. Thank you Sue. He wouldn't pose till I promised to take him to the sports store. You'd think he could have looked a bit more upbeat with that to look forward to. However, I thought his sulky expression was more interesting.

      My pose is not unlike what I look like bending over to dust a mirrored table. Don't ever do that. You'll never want to be on top again.

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  5. Het zijn zulke mooie tekeningen mijn compliment lieve groetjes Danielle

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    1. Thanks Danielle. My son yes; me? I've looked better--but I do like the starkness and the disgusted expression.

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  6. Your pencil and charcoal works are excellent! Yes, the pose is unflattering, but you have created a fascinating piece of art. And you have guts, too, for doing such a pose!!!

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    1. I like it too. Thanks. It presents a view of me, a side of me, I used to hide. There is nothing wrong with my self confidence. That's one of the advantages of age. :-))

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  7. The top one is striking and is a technique worth pursuing. However the gem in this collection is the final drawing which is stunning work. Love it.

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    1. Jon took days, patience and all the right tools at hand. So far I haven't rounded them up. I've stashed them away so well, I have no idea where I put my templates, stubs and assortment of hard leads. All I have in my box are 6Bs and HBs. I'll keep looking. I do enjoy working small in pencil, albeit graphite. It's a marvelous way to spend time with your mate in the evening and still be honing skills with regards to values and edges. Thanks Mick.

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  8. Artists in any field never like their own work, but that does not diminish the quality at all. I think your watercolors are terrific. The picture of your son is outstanding!

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    1. I almost missed you JJ. I realize that. We're too close to our work and too hard on ourselves. I was probably having a spell when I wrote this post. Thanks. I did my son years ago. I was also involved with photography at that time. I had put together a portrait setting in my studio with lighting and was trying it out on him. He was not happy. He was missing Gilligan's Island. The resulting photo--and drawing--show his sulk.

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  9. "My Reluctant Son" - phenomenal! Your self-portrait is absolutely superb too - what an expression - especially your attention to values and the way you allow the whites to just blend into the white background. Outstanding!

    I would entitle it "Self-portrait as Leonard Cohen", however.

    By the way, I know you don't like to listen to Artists Helping Artists, but this last week was a portraitist, Rose Frantzen, who had her work hang in the Smithsonian and other galleries. You might find the interview interesting.

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    1. I do like to listen to Artists Helping Artists--that's how I ordered the book on Rachel and Andrew Jackson's love affair after drawing Peggy Eaton. I give this one a listen too.

      Who is Leonard Cohen--never mind, I'll Google him.

      Thanks. I do like doing unbecoming expressions, the expressions most of us have on our faces when the camera isn't pointed at us. :-))

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  10. Dear Linda I admired both the drawings , each beautiful for a different reason than the other.

    I also admire your thoughts on your art ... I try to talk about these things with Danilo, but he listens and then says that he understands one third of what I say and sometimes surprises me in contradiction!

    It certainly does not make sense to paint subjects that we do not like, and so it is right to make clear choices. I'm learning acrylics, by a painter who never painted flowers or landscapes!

    Nothing makes me happier than to paint flowers, flowers floating in the middle of the washings, flowers that are created into random spots, or with the touch of a finger.
    The flowers are for me the symbol of continuing life, powerful and bold after any possible destruction. A beauty that disappears and reappears, becoming eternal through the seasons and the seeds.
    The creativity of each and how it flows to our own goals, it is a true beautiful mystery!It will be wonderful to accompany you in your artistic journey!
    I wish you nice days for life, health and Art!!!

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    1. I like flowers too, but they don't fascinate me as much as a person's eyes and their expression. I need the fascination to hold my interest and fire my passion for getting them just right.

      Landscapes are nice diversions from portraiture which demands a keen eye and intense concentration--and here I was looking for some relaxation in my golden years!

      We ought to get Ellis and Danilo together. Ellis listens, but a glaze passes over his eyes and I know he's only doing me a favor by being quiet while I talk, but he's not hearing a word. I don't know why I was disappointed when I reviewed the watercolor paintings. I never took to watercolor as a kid, why now? When I went out on my own to buy art supplies with the allowance I had saved up, I bought oils and a big easel. Later I bought acrylics, because oils were so obnoxious back then and I was tired of headaches. Now, that conditions have improved greatly, I'm back to oils. And here I'll stick. I can see promise in oils, charcoal and pencil. Acrylics I will save for underpaintings and landscapes;the finished acryllic surface looks too plastic to me or else I'm not handling it properly?

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  11. The expression on your face is absolutely "priceless", Linda...I like it very much...not an easy thing to do!! I don't even want to try...I would be mortified to do a self-portrait...however, I don't have to show anyone...even better, I can cheat!!! I love the portrait of your son. Ithink its an excellent portrait!!! Your work gets better and better...(love George Washington!)

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    1. It's not an unusual expression I'm afraid to say. I am a skeptic. I get digusted often--mostly at myself. But I think why not draw it? The expression is a common one among people. We have all sorts of emotions that distort our looks and make us look less than sweet. Being my most available model, I don't mind showing myself in all my moods. The expressions are challenging to paint and informative with regards to how the facial muscles look when positioned every which way. Certainly, no one else is going to let me paint them looking less than their best.

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    1. Sorry Malaysia,I can't help you. I don't know anyone who is shopping for a wedding in your part of the world. Besides 'anonymous' isn't very friendly. My advice: is to identify yourself.

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  13. The self portrait is cool....and of course the watercolor and finished son drawing is too. I am a big fan of your drawings, especially!

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    1. It was fun--and true damn it! Thank you, but if only I could paint like Celeste Bergin who has her own unique style and a wonderful sense of color :-))

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  14. Your drawings are very good as is the pistachio watercolor!
    Great excitement and color in that work!
    I am so happy to be online to be able to check out everyone's art!
    Keep on making great art Linda!
    Snow Storm Loving Michael

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    1. You've got to be kidding Michael--I don't mean about the art--thank you for that--but about snow storm loving. Yuk!

      I'm glad your computer glitches have been worked out. In a snow storm, what else have we got to keep us connected? Happy painting--and shoveling I suppose?

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  15. Truly awesome drawings, Linda. Don't ever underestimate your talent, even though that striving for perfection keeps you going! I agree on all your points as they apply to me also, apart from the canvas panels! I love them. I have two stretched linen canvases that I cannot bring myself to paint on in case I spoil them!

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    1. Thanks Sharon. I do think the best work is the work we're working on, but I don't underestimate my talent. I can draw. I can paint some might say, but not me. It's okay to know what you can and can't do well. It's great to keep trying.

      --Every blank canvas is a bit scary, linen or cotton. Who knows what the outcome will be? What I don't like about the panels is they have no bounce. I love the bounce, the give I feel when the brush hits the surface. It's lively. I also like that frames are unnecessary with gallery stretched canvases.

      I do see the value of the panels if selling and mailing them is part of the plan. I also see the value of painting small when selling and mailing are part of the plan, online sales.

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  16. I love these two portraits......skillfully done and very powerful!!!

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    1. Thanks Helen. My son was a lot more concentrated effort than the pencil I did of me. Mine resulted from a click of the iPad camera that accidently produced an interesting photograph. His drawing took a lighting set up, arguing about sitting, me giving up and saying okay I'll hurry, then several days with my pencils, sharpner, sanding block, stubs and eraser templates--which can not find at the moment. I've cleaned up so well things have gotten misplaced.

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