Friday, May 27, 2016

Wanting To Learn vs. Mastery vs. Over-Shopping

Today I was in my art supply closet putting away some supplies and looking to see if I owned odorless mineral spirts (I do not). I am very carefully, slowly and thoughtfully selecting supplies to start oil painting with and do not want to overbuy.

I have a lack of knowledge but an overabundance of curiosity. I want to do things but lack the know how. At certain points in time I have had an excess of cash so have found it easy to purchase supplies that I never use. At other times I have been in the presence of discounted art supplies and was tempted as it was on sale or at an overstock store for 90% off so I bought it not even having a real plan to use it.

Right now my current debate is which oil paint brushes to purchase and how many. I had overbought synthetic brushes at great discount from Tuesday Morning. What good did that do me now that I am tempted to buy natural bristle brushes?

One thing I have learned from taking and finishing the Drawing I class is that really all that matters is doing and practicing. Art making is a process and you learn by doing. You have to do, do, do. When it feels scary or intimidating you need to push through and just do it as that is when you learn. The struggle and frustration and trying to fix a mistake or make a thing look better is how you learn and grow because you learn through trial and error and by correcting and improving.

With the drawing class I was able to use a lot of the previously purchased art supplies from our homeschool days. However I realized that by using sets of pencils that the ones I really used were a small number compared to the set so I have untouched supplies here. Lesson learned: sometimes you save money by purchasing a la carte even though seeing a set somehow seems to be a bargain or gives you the idea that it has all you need to help you learn that medium. Also I later found out that some of what I owned was crap that only belonged in the trash bin or a pencil that was repurposed for daily writing or maybe should go to the library for patrons to use to scratch down notes of book numbers.

My advice to myself and others at this point is this:

1. Explore possibilities by reading and watching videos

2. Choose a art method to try.

3. Use a limited supply list to try that medium. Buy decent paper and decent supplies but keep it to a small number. Avoid buying sets unless you have a plan to use 90% or if you would spend more buying basics a la carte.

4. Dive in and make art with that medium.

5. Avoid shopping until it is absolutely necessary. I found myself needing a better pencil sharpener and an eraser that actually worked, for example. When I ruined one chamois by accident I had to buy a replacement. Buy the smallest size paint tube to start.

6. If you are frustrated by your end product it may be due to you lacking art fundamentals such as how to draw in general, not undestanding how to represent value, scale and/or perspective, not knowing how to draw a face or bodies or people.  Knowing color theory and helps with harmony, sometimes what is off or wrong is due to the color or too many colors being used. A decent understading of composition is necessary. Knowing to know how to use a material is self-limiting if you are frustrated with trying to represent something that looks awful in the end. Go back and learn the fundamentals so you can use that knowledge to make the art you want look the way you see it in your mind.

7. My new mindset is before you break the rules you can learn a lot by learning the rules.

By chosing to not overspend on art supplies you have no real plan to use, and therefore have no real intention of ever using, you are helping yourself focus on what it is you really want to do and how to spend your time.

The only way to get really good at someting is with practice and practice takes intention, time and energy. Get the smallest amount of necessary supplies with your money then spend your emotional and physical energy on making the art and on learning.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Attended Pan Pastel Workshop

I wanted a spring break vacation in March 2016  but my teen sons refused and begged to just stay home to sleep late and to see friends and relax at home. My husband and I are not willing to take chances leaving both kids home alone, they were 15 and 18 at the time. The older has been home alone but not both of them together and not the younger who has friends who drive. We just know that teens can have bad judgement and if it's not our son himself it can be peers. Also teens in groups can make bad decisions that a responsible teen makes when alone.

Anyhow, point being I needed an escape of some sort from my real life so I attended art workshops for half a day at Art Supply on Main in downtown Houston.

One class I took was an intro to pan pastels using PanPastel (TM).

In a nutshell the instructor explained what they are. They are a one size little plastic container with the pastel in it. Each pan is the equivalent usage of 2.5 sticks of pastel crayons. That can help you do a cost comparison. The pan pastels are applied using a sponge which is the same design as my eyeshadow.

I learned it's very important to swipe in one direction only and to do a few repeat swipes before using. The biggest mistake is to dig and scrub at the pan pastel, or to grind it. The instructor was very clear but a number of students ignored him and just wrecked the pan pastels by digging and grinding. All this does is waste material as the action kicks up clumps and spreads them all over the working area and it gets the pigment or color onto the sponge/brush in a mess instead of being nicely applied on the sponge/brush. The pan pastel at 2.5 sticks only is when used correctly! Also when you kick up flakes of color into the other pans it corrupts them. Honestly it's simple to swipe, swipe, swipe so I don't know why people choose to not follow directions!

We followed the instructor to try different colors and to see the high saturation of pigment. We saw the different use of the different shapes of the sponge "brushes" and then how to blend them at the edges.

The pan pastels are sold each separately or you can save some money by buying sets. Sets are grouped by type such as the common landscape colors and some sets are put together by certain celebrity names in the art and craft world using their favorite color palette. Here you can see crafting as a business as those artists are then using their online platforms to use an advertise their own product line. But I digress.

I faced the decision of whether to patronize the art store I was standing in or to buy at discount from Amazon. The sale price that day which realted to the art workshop weekend was just a bit lower than Amazon's everyday price so I chose to buy them at the store. I also bought some sponges. They do wear out so you need more than one in case it craps out in the middle of your current project.

The instructor focuses on portraits and lansccapes. He said everything you paint with crayon pastels, you can do with PanPastel.

PanPastels are nontoxic.

I thought I restrained myself well as I bought only a small set of landscape pastels and a blender the instructor said I must have. I bought a set of brushes that are of various shapes and I plan to start with the pastel paper pad I already own at home.

After this workshop I was busy with my Drawing I college class and here it is over two months later and I only now unpacked my shopping bag and put away the supplies. I stared a small bin in my Target ITSO organizing system for everything PanPastel related.

I also took a class on using the gelli plate which I will blog about separately.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Seeing Value Part 5

When drawing I try to make the value the shade I really think it is. At this stage I tend to be too light overall. Then when I thought I was finished I realize that the values are not dark enough. I then look over everything again and go darker and then darker and darker.

I realized after a number of drawings that I had done what books talked about, starting from light and going darker. I didn't used to understand what they meant or get how to do it. I still don't know how to plan it out, for me it is just how it unfolds. It is not that I'm afraid to go heavy and dark it's just that I don't yet have the skill to lay it down so accurately at first. I am just learning so I take it lightly and it's easy for me to go in darker.

I don't like the make it dark and erase back method of drawing. I only do that when it's by accident or a mistake or if the pencil is too thick and unintentionally colors in an area that I wanted bright. If you are going to do a lot of erasing I have learned you need to use a high quality paper so it will cost you more money.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Seeing Value Part 4

Now that I am getting better at seeing value it's really apparent when I see artworks that are out of whack with the value. It's really bothersome to me. I want to say, "If you really worked on your value your work would improve dramatically." I keep these thoughts to myself, it's not my business. This is especially true when the artist thinks they are fantastic already and they cannot see their own errors. (I will be the first to admit I have much to learn so I am humble and do not even give myself enough credit for what I am doing well, so I am not a know-it-all.)

Seeing Value Part I

I started the Drawing I class feeling a weak point of mine was seeing value and drawing to show value. The original professor was absent over half the time so we had another professor so the teaching was jumbled but I got two opinions on my work over the time of the course. By the end of the class in critique the students decided my strongest skill was in value and drawing value well. This shocked me. I am my worst critic and was thinking I was still not seeing value. But by now I do admit I am seeing it but the thing is to represent it in artwork you need to know your material and the substrate you are working on then learn the skill to get what you see in your head down on the paper or canvas. I've come to realize that any time a new medium is used there is a learning curve in how to use that medium to do what your mind wants it to, the fundamentals are there in your head so the work is learning how to use the medium. The substrate matters as does the application method in the case of painting, the brush matters too. Before making art was a big confusion to me but now I can see the smaller parts that make up the whole. It is not unlike knitting in that I can knit a great piece from a pattern but when I switch the yarn the whole thing shifts and even the needle material, even when the samed sized needle is used, matters and can change the outcome.

Seeing Value Part 2

In my sketch book one night while about 2/3 through my Drawing I class, I drew a female model's face from a photo in a magazine. I drew it a few days later and there was a big difference. I do see that I am now seeing value more. That shift is happening where I see value in everything I see. I remember when I was first taking a lot of photos. I was getting good at composition then this got in the way of me just enjoying the experience. I was at Epcot and all my brain was seeing was, "This would be a great shot" and "If I got in close there it would be an interesting abstraction." I felt my vacation was kind of ruined by my new ability to see. I was not just having fun with my friends and chatting, I had this commentary going on inside my mind. That is happening now with value. I don't just see the plants in the garden I am thinking in my head, "That's a mid point value and that side of the leaf is darker then there is a very bright spot where the sun is reflecting". I can't really stop this type of thinking from happening, it just happens. On the one hand this is good but on the other such thoughts are intrusive to just living and just looking around at my surroundings and enjoying just being in the world. I don't know if that makes sense to you.

Seeing Value Part 3

While folding laundry I watch Real Housewives to entertain me through that tedius mind numbing task. I was watching the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion. If you are not a viewer, I'll explain that the women are dressed up with full make up and sittng in bright lighting on couches being interviewed for three hours.

While watching I was seeing their lips and thinking of the value and how to draw them. I decided to write this out in case anyone is reading this and is curious how to think about value. The exception which I will not talk about is the overly modified lips of one of the housewives. For the rest of the women with natural lips, they shared a common value scale.

You can google images of the reunion show to compare what I am explaining if you like.

There are three main dark areas, the top of the lip line, the bottom and the deepest value is the line where the lips meet. The top lip is darker than the bottom lip. The upper lip has a reflection or shiny spot where their lipstick relfects the bright lights. For the bottom lip under the darkest line is a light stripe and then below running the whole length is one shade darker in value caused by the shadow. The bottom lip also has a bright spot of reflected light. In all there are at least five shades, if not six, plus the brightest white reflected part. There is cast shadow in the corners of the mouth on the face and also below the lips on the face. Each woman's lips are a bit different with which value goes where, depending on if their lips are plump or flatish and of course the shade of lipstick matters.

This is what runs through my mind now when I am trying to just watch a TV show to unwind or to pass the time while folding laundry.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Art Skills I Lack That I Want To Learn

This is a list of art skills that I felt I lacked in January 2016. I hoped that taking Drawing I at the community college would help me with some or all of these. I learned that some of these are the focus on entire classes done in year three and four of a traditional bachelor's degree in art. I was unaware of the formal structure or arrangement of topics and how they are traditionally spread over a four year degree. I have no clue what is done in a master's degree program. I assume at this point it's a matter of depth and degree and specialization. Anyway...

1. Transferring color to black and white: this is a major problem for me. This is why I love color photography but hate B&W. I cannot translate the color in front of me to B&W so I have a hard time figuring out if a color scene will be equally appealing in B&W. This was a problem when I took Photography I back in college when I was 18. I got an Incomplete in the class as I was afraid of the first time doing a critique which was the final project so I had an A going into the final and then got an I. But I digress...

2. Value: I cannot see value and knew nothing of the value scale. When I see a clump of trees and branches and sky and grass and clouds, I have no clue how to see and assign value so I can render the scene in grayscale, black and white.

3. Color blending: I have no clue how to blend colors from basic paint. I know nothing of the color wheel except very basic ideas such as complimentary colors and which are primary and secondary. I don't understand which are warm and which are cool.

4. I don't know a single thing about oil painting nor do I have any desire to do it. I know some of it is toxic and there are fumes and I don't want to be made sick by my art materials. I am unsure if I can do this in my home safely.

5. I own acrylic paints but don't use them for real painting. I don't know why acrylic is looked down upon in the art world. I don't know the pros and cons of acrylic or how it compares to oil.

6. Watercolor Painting: I love the look of watercolor and want to learn how to do it. I had written extensively about a lof of reading and a little trying I did by myself. My challenge is this: I didn't understand the paint enough to know how to mix color and match color. I don't know how to make non-muddy looking paint. I learned that you have to work fast and with confidence but I don't know how to do either. I don't know the brush and the medium enough to work with it boldly. When they say to build color up I don't even understand how to layer and get it right. I did not like waiting in between drying times before adding more layers. I prefer to work nonstop until I am tired or the thing is complete. I do not own a proper easel.

7. I don't know how to use graphite pencils properly. I don't know the differences in the types and when to use each.

8. I know nothing about charcoal.

9. I have no clue what conte is.

10. I don't really know what type of paper to use with which medium and why. What is the difference between sketching paper and drawing paper? Should ink drawing be on a different paper than graphite?

11. I love the look of chalk pastel paintings but am concerned with storage, how to store them so they do not rub off. Also it seems messy and I am not sure I want that mess made in my house. Are their airborne particles that I could breathe in and make me sick? I don't want to be made sick.

12. When I see a painting up close it does not look like what I see from far back. How does an artist make an image that is pleasing to the eye from far back but when up close applying the paint it looks a mess and incomplete? How do they know how to apply the paint so it looks great and appealing from a viewer's distance? This is a great mystery to me.

13. I want to be able to at least crudely draw a face so it looks decent, and a human body and hands. This I cannot do at present.

14. I want to be able to draw and paint in perspective instead of wonky looking buildings and weird alignments. I know nothing about perspective.

15. When drawing or painting I want to know how to paint with proper scale, depth and perspective, how to draw the close thing so it look closes and the farther away thing so it is perceived as being in the distance.

16. I don't understan the idea of starting with painting dark and then working up to light. I can't pick apart when I see in real life to translate to layers and values and working like that. When working light to dark I don't understand how the paint looks on top of the other layers and how to achieve the final color I want. I assume this takes practice but I am afraid to even start messing with paint.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Why I Chose To Take a College Class in Drawing

I finished my Drawing I class at community college this week. Really what I want to do is paint well, but I realized that painting is a problem if you do not know enough of the foundations of art. I realized by reading course descriptions and reading about learning about art making that the base foundations are traditionally taught in Drawing I. Even if you do not want to draw all the time, by taking drawing classes you learn the foundations that are the groundwork for being able to paint, whether you are painting landscapes, cityscapes, nature scenes, portraits or other scenes with people in them. So I decided to take Drawing I at a local community college. It's about a 15 minute drive on backroads and it has free parking in a safe area and the class was $250 plus textbook expenses, so I figured it was worth a try.

I almost forgot to explain why I chose an in-person course. There are four main reasons:

1. I have tried teaching myself to draw from books but when I get to certain recommendations or exercises they scare me or bore me so I don't do them. I realize drawing gets better with practice but left to my own I choose to not do the repetitive work. I felt if I had classes to show up to and assignments due then I would push through and meet the deadlines. I missed only two classes when I was out of town.

2. I realized that I could not judge my own work or see my own errors. I wanted an actual live human being to work with me to point out my errors and give advice on how I could improve.

3. I tend to quit when something gets unexciting when I am working completely alone under my own guidance. With a formal class structure and routine, I would have a finite start and end date and I would not quit the class.

4. Having taken various one off workshops I realized they are not enough to teach the basic foundations of making art. I needed the base bones. In a future blog post I will explain my personal goals more.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Other Blog

At almost eleven years of daily blogging, six months ago I set my main blog to private. The reason is I found out that members of my 15 year old son's sport team were reading it and making fun of my son including downloading his childhood photos and posting those on social media sites to make fun of him. This was not bullying per se but teaing between close acquaintences, typical snarky teen behavior in this day of having so much up online.

It was never my intention for my blog to be fodder for my kids to be made fun of or for any negativity to enter their life due to my published content so I set it to private.

I have written nothing really since then. Writing used to be an outlet for me. I have been relying on phone calls and face to face time with real life friends to vent. I vent a little on Facebook but have tried to not be a source of negative energy or toxicity in people's lives. I used to rant a lot in my blog. As I get older I don't want to contribute to the negativity in the world, there is just so much bad out there and we need less exposure to the problems and more about things that lift us up.

I did a college drawing class January through last week. I decided to publish my notes and some drawings here on this blog.

In another post I will address my soap selling business of the last two years which is still in business but I now regret ever having started. That is another story for another day. The learning and doing of the business took up a lot of my energy and time in the last three years. Since sales were low I shifted over from putting my creative energy only into making product that does not sell to doing something else like learning to draw.