This painting took three tries. The first one was the right technique but the wrong color, the second one was the right color but the wrong composition, and this one isn’t quite the right technique, but bugger if I was starting it a fourth time.
While this wasn’t quite the technique I had wanted to use, I think it’s interesting and might be worth pursuing in another context. Initially I did a set of washes on clayboard and drew over them–I screwed up the colors and had to start over. Next I did a single wash over illustration board, so the base color would by god be uniform–that would have worked if it had been a uniform wash, and if I’d done the cactus darker, but I didn’t, and wound up with some really weird issues with pale cactus and it was all just sort of maddening. So I screamed “Damnit, I have technology to fix this!” and scanned the sketch and colored it (rather loosely) in big splotches of blues and purples, and printed THAT out, and sealed it over the piece of offending illustration board, coated it with clear gesso, and set to work with pen and colored pencil to refine it into something worthwhile.
Because it printed rather darker than I was expecting, I wound up using colored pencil to lighten it in a lot of places. Which is an interesting technique, and gets a cool texture–I may have to try it again. Mind you, it wasn’t what I initially intended to do with this piece, but the notion of starting the damn thing a fourth time made me want to run screaming into the night, so I decided to finish it as is.
Prints are available, as always, and the original is for sale. (At 10 x 18, it’s a pretty big piece…)
Clearly the problem is not me. Clearly the problem is my art supplies! Therefore I must drive to Jerry’s at once and buy a bunch of Prismacolors and some more inktense watercolor pencils and oooh, look, they have ALL the colors of PITT pens! Ooooooh….
Got up. Looked at the painting I worked on for four hours last night. Realized immediately that the technique was perfect and the colors were completely wrong. Probably not fixable without another few hours of work. Sighed heavily. (Still, the technique was good! I figured that bit out! The trick is to use the watercolor pencils to make the hatchmarks, then carefully coat them in Soft Gel Medium, which softens them a little, but leaves the linework. The Inktense brand works really well for that.)
Turned to next piece, which I had carefully sketched out last night while watching Venture Brothers. Put a wash of blue-violet acrylic over it to make sure colors are bloody well unified this time. Washed out most of the pencil lines. Put head in hands, expressed desire to abandon art and become a medical test subject. Re-drew sketch. Discovered splotches of blue-violet on good pants. Sighed more heavily. Got more coffee. Got back to work.
…and woke up, and looked at the piece, and said “no, no, the lines are too fine.”
Part of the problem with these is that I’m floundering in both technique and setting–normally I’ve got at least one of the two. But at least I’m establishing parameters–the lines in this one are too delicate, the lines in the previous one were too bold, ergo it should fall somewhere in the middle.
In theory, anyway.
It may turn out later that I am deeply wrong and there are no lines at all and I should be rendering these in soft pastel or oils or glass mosaic tiles.
But I get the impression there are lines. And they have to be somewhat obvious, if subtle–they have to be large enough to SEE, anyway.
I am not much closer to setting it in a place–there may need to be cactus, which is a little baffling, and I have been wandering around with the phrase “where the bones of jackrabbits converse with the bones of owls” muttering in the back of my brain at random intervals, which helps a lot less than you’d think.
Time to hit the art supply store and get some pen nibs and see if I can’t get some linework that way…
It is a sad thing for the artist to be reduced to clutching her head and going “Is this what you wanted? Is this where you belong? Is this it?” To an image which is after all nothing but a collection of lines that she came up with in the first place.
It isn’t quite where it belongs, or how it needs to be rendered, but it’s a step. I think. I don’t even know any more. Time to sleep on it, clearly.
Prints, in case anyone is interested in this succession of near-misses…
These paintings are starting to drive me nuts, and attempting to complain about it makes me sound crazy, or worse yet, like a muse-ridden artiste.
I cannot figure out where these things go. I didn’t know when they were rabbits with masks, and I wasn’t entirely sure when they were odd blobby things with masks–although the cut paper collage kinda worked for those at least–and now that they’ve morphed into strange tall spirits with masks and vague animal correspondences, I have no idea at all.
The question of where something goes is about half “what background do I put it in?” and about half “what world does this belong in?” and I am not close to answering either, except that I keep finding what doesn’t work.
Which is progress of a sort, but it tries my patience sorely having to figure this out by trial and error, and I am not a terribly patient person. I want to grab them by their long robes and shake them until they tell me where they belong, but of course they don’t have mouths and would only look at me with vague bemusement, and anyway, they’re too tall and also they’re drawings, which puts something of a damper on things.
In my less sensible moments I start to wonder if the problem is that they don’t talk, and so are incapable of telling me where they belong, and I toy with this idea until I realize that it’s, y’know, batshit insane.
This is too much like art.
Generally speaking, I’m an illustrator–no, stop, I know some of you are about to leap to my defense because you think I’m putting myself down, but hear me out. Illustration is fine. Illustration is “I have this idea and I draw a picture of it.” I am illustrating these various weird little worlds or tidbits or vignettes or ideas, and that is fine. I am all about that.I don’t know when “illustrator” became a derogatory term–frankly, I usually introduce myself as an illustrator when people ask “What do you do?” because if I say “artist” they get all kinds of bizarre ideas, whereas “illustrator” implies that I draw things that look like what they are and can do it to a deadline and people give me money for it. And as this is, in fact, what I generally do, all is right with the world.
Being an artist is not better than being an illustrator. Scrape this pernicious belief from your mind. Being an artist is a broader term, the genus, if you will, and “illustrator” defines me nicely in time, space, and employability. Artisticus illustratrus. And this is fine.
The nice thing when you’re drawing a thing that looks like a thing is that you just keep going until the whole surface is covered and the thing looks like itself and then you do a little more fiddling with highlights and stop.
These things, though…jeez. The whole evolution has involved a lot of beating of head against walls and sketchbooks and lots of sketching, which is annoying because I hate sketching. I do it dutifully but without enthusiasm. But I have drawn dozens of these things, in variations, some of which fail utterly and some which work (and why does that one work when the hands are so different than the rest, but that one fails, which looks just like all the others?) and they sort of want to be scribbly but maybe it’s not the right sort of scribbly and I scrawl backgrounds behind them and none of the backgrounds really fit but there’s something to these blasted creatures and they seem to matter so I can’t stop.
I am aware of how this sounds. Believe me. I despise all this froofy artist mystic bullshit, because it’s dreadfully unnecessary and just makes decent people think they are Not Cool Enough To Make Art. This is not how painting usually is for me–usually I curse over the shape of the hand or the nose or the chicken and if I am struck with that palpable a sense of Not Working, I give up and move on. I do not agonize over my art. My artistic suffering involves sore thumbs and gold leaf on the dog and getting sick of drawing little dragons and occasionally dropping Masonite on my foot.
All this maundering about these baffling, infuriating creatures with their blank little faces makes me feel like I’m drifting out of my normal species into something else–Artisticus fruitbaticus, or Artisticus takingselffartooseriouslyus and there are far too many specimens of that out there already.
It was quite a whirlwind trip. The Florida leg was on the beach, and I saw terns and willets and sanderlings and lots of dead moon jellyfish. The Southern Independant Booksellers Association was a great bunch–my table had a line! We ran out of books in twenty minutes! I had to turn people away! (I felt bad about that.) But the enthusiasm was awesome, and it was great to get out there. The Baltimore leg was on the harbor, and I spent the morning at the aquarium, which was unbelievably amazing and awesome and oh my god, the little blubber jellies! And the mudskippers! And the paradise tanagers in the aviary, and the razorbills in the alcid bird exhibit and, and…
Well, it was all awesome. And I found myself wedged on a couch between Esther Friesner and Nancy Springer, talking about cat rescue, and wondering when my life took such a peculiar turn. But anyway.
All this leaves little time for art, but there’s this, anyway.
Unlike other spirits of this type (for lack of a better term) the deer do not merely appear and fade away. Instead they will act as guides for anyone brave or foolish enough to follow them into the forest.
Where you wind up may bear no resemblance to where you thought you were going, and I can’t even claim that it’s where you’re needed or supposed to be. But it’s usually interesting, anyway.
It’s been a lousy couple of days here and there’s crap going down that promises long-term suckage, so I’m a little fragile right now…which is probably why this article made me break down and cry at the keyboard.
I’m probably the only person on earth who would bawl over this, but man, stuff like this is seriously the only reason I want to be rich.
Still the odd silent apparitions with masks. This one is about a third the size of Owlform, more of a study of the character design than anything else, and I wanted to do it on illustration board so that it would soak up the ink better, so that I didn’t keep scraping it up with the tip of the colored pencil, which is a peril of working on gesso and clayboard. (I borked the robes a little on one edge. Unfortunately, the scribbly style makes fixing that kinda thing nearly impossible. Damnit.)
I am unsure of the tail. It may not have needed the tail.
The more I stare at this, the more I get annoyed by it. I like the design, but the execution fell down and is bugging me. Damnit again.
Anyway, original is for sale, as I would like it to be taken out of my studio and my sight, prints are availalable as always–drop a line or a comment or a note, etc.