Portrait Progress: Rachael & Jason

Last year I painted two portraits. I remember thinking that I might get one done per month, apart from the month I went overseas and December. Well, that proved a little optimistic. Still, I would like to get more than two done a year.

This year I’m aiming to have two going at the same time and get four done in a year. So I’m staying at art classes for the full day, not just the morning. I rarely managed to get any writing done on the afternoon of a painting day last year, so I may as well keep painting. But in case I get sick of working on one portrait all day, I have another on hand to switch to.

At our New Year party I asked around and found a willing victim: Rachael. I told her to think about where she’d like to be in her portrait. A few days later I tweeted about having a bath full of balloons leftover from the party, and she tweeted back that this would be an awesome setting. So we had a photo shoot:

trudi_shooting rachael

After considering a close up of her face surrounded by balloons, or a painting that showed she was in a bath full of balloons, I went for the latter. The smaller the head is the harder it is to get detail in, so I chose a large canvas. After sketching in the details in red I decided to paint the sides and bath silver then, like in Cat’s portrait, leave some of this underpainting showing. Here’s an early shot:

rachael progress 1

The next week I worked on balloons:

rachael progress 2

Having done two portraits of women and starting another, I wanted a male subject for the second one. Jason, a horror writer friend, was up for it. He chose the Polly Cocktail Lounge in Fitzroy, with its furnishing in rich colours and boudoir-like atmosphere.

I chose a smaller canvas than I did for Rachael’s portrait and underpainted with gold and green (the green is looking rather blue here):

jason progress 1

Then I got stuck into the clothing. I so love painting clothing:

jason progress 2

It would be great if I had these finished by the middle of the year. Which means I should start thinking about arranging photos shoots for two new subjects for the second half. I have one willing male subject from NSW that I have to arrange a photo shoot with, and a female one who put her hand up last time I asked around, so I’ll have to see if I can make those happen.

Happy Camper

Last weekend we went camping. Since I’m supposed to stay off my feet for six months or more, when everyone went walking on the Saturday I stayed in the camp site. But that was fine with me, because a hundred metres or so away were some impressive views. I took my homemade ponchard box and did two paintings, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.

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While having lunch, I spotted a goanna snooping around the edges of the camp site.

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I took a lot of pics, but the goanna managed to hide behind things most of the time. Later, while I was sitting quietly reading and having a cuppa, I had company again. I stayed put, and to my amazement he/she came right up to my chair. I had my iPhone on me, so I took a video, but my attempts to embed it on this page haven’t worked, unfortunately.

The walkers came back a few minutes later, and with some frantic signalling I got them to approach quietly so as to not frighten off the goanna. Much snapping of photos followed – probably much better ones than I took with my iPhone.

On the way to and from the campsite we drove past a lot of bushfire damage:

Along country roads:
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A plantation:
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Even along the main highway:
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And the coal mine was still alight:
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Japanese Ink Painting

A long time ago I read a book about Sumi-e – Japanese Ink Painting – and wanted to try it. I’m not sure why I didn’t. Possibly I had no idea where to get the tools from. After seeing some calligraphy supply shops in Tokyo I found myself thinking a little set or kit would be a fantastic souvenir. Something I could use later.

So when I found this little miniature calligraphy set in a temple souvenir shop I had to have it. There was an even smaller one that I lusted after, but this one has a tiny water dropper and the pretty box. (I have to admit, I was tempted to buy both.)

After watching an instructional YouTube video, I gave it a go while watching tv one night. I chose a subject sitting right in front of me.

I used a little scrap of thick watercolour paper. Now I’m thinking a little poem or quote about a cat might make this a lovely bookmark.

In Plein Air

Another “Do you remember this?” moment: aaaages ago, with Paul’s help, I made this ponchard box:

Well, three and a half years later I finally got around to using it. We went camping with friends a few weekends ago at Bear Gully, a little seaside camping spot in Victoria. I plonked myself on a stool on the beach on two of the days and was happy to find the box works perfectly – especially the all-important storage of paintings inside the lid.

The weather was very different. On the first day it was overcast but dry:

On the second the sun was out, but fortunately it wasn’t too hot:

Painting ‘in plein air’ was challenging and satisfying, but not exactly social. Which is why it took me so long to try the box. You really need a situation in which your friends/family/other half are happily otherwise occupied and don’t mind your attention being focussed elsewhere. Or else go with other painters.

One Finished, One Begun

I’ve finished Sam’s portrait:

The smaller test painting is on the right

I’m now letting it sit on the mantlepiece for a while to see if anything starts to bother me. Like with writing, sometimes it takes a while to stop being precious and pleased with yourself to see the flaws.

In the meantime, I’ve started another:

Don’t be alarmed, it’s underpainting

Cat, a fellow writer who was visiting from Sydney on the weekend. Being a graphic designer and artist as well, she had scouted out a great location before I’d got there. Just as with Sam, the last photo was the best.

Progress Shot

I might not have a lot of craft mojo happening right now, except for a bit of embroidery while watching tv, but my painting mojo is going just fine.

I’ve been working on this portrait all year so far. Technically, it’s my second painting. I did a smaller version as a warm up after a long break from oils, and to work out an approach. There’s a tattoo, tshirt design and wall art still to be added.

Painting portraits is something I’ve wanted to do since I painted one of my ex many years ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of it before we split up, but I got such a feeling of satisfaction and fun from it that I wanted to do more.

But it takes confidence and courage to ask someone if you can paint their image. I haven’t had that until recently. In fact, this one will be finished soon, so I need to start looking for someone to be my second subject.

Portraiture might be a good Plan B for future middle-aged me. There’s a lot of uncertainty in publishing and bookselling right now. Nobody can predict what it will look like in five years, let alone ten. If it all goes belly up then, thinking in the terms of my last post, having an identity as an artist would soften the loss of an identity as a writer.

I also like the fact that, unlike with books, an original painting still has more value than copies. And the incentive to copy portraits is… well, unless it’s a portrait of a celebrity, only close friends and family of the subject might be tempted. Sure, people can paint fakes, but I’m never going to be famous enough that anyone would bother.

Craft Day: Before, During & After

On Friday, after writing the last post, I got stuck into a few side projects I’d started then put aside. I made good progress on making map coasters and turning some embroidery hoops into frames, then opened a template I created ages ago for a portable rigid heddle loom that could be laser cut from an A4 sheet of acrylic, and I tweaked it and managed to fit in a heddle.

I also made these cookies:

That night I gathered all my inkle looms and The Weaver’s Inkle Pattern Directory around the tv armchairs so I could dabble and read. Like other kinds of weaving, it always seems there’s a mountain of techniques still to learn. I decided I wanted to at least get the pick-up band done and off the loom so I can try a few new methods.

Saturday was Craft Day, and we had a lovely, relaxing afternoon. At the end of a long, chatty lunch I brought out a quilt project, then after a rather bad attempt to teach crochet to the host’s daughter (I was trying to reverse everything because she’s left-handed and I’m not and, well, I just find knitting easier to explain) I moved on to a test portrait of a friend. Here is an in-progress shot:

When it got too dark I switched to the pick-up inkle band. I made a right mess of it and had to unweave half of what I’d done. Pick-up requires focus, which is frustrating as inkle band weaving is the most portable and could replace sock knitting as my out-and-about craft. I kept thinking there must be an easier way to do pick-up. My head spun with ideas of additional overlapping heddles and such…

On Sunday I finished the map coasters, continued with the embroidery hoop frames, and spent a few hours on the pick-up inkle band. I also followed a link I found on Pinterest to a wood turner who makes inkle looms and found a curious heddle with extra slots designed to make pick-up bands easier.

Well, that made me sit up and take notice. I followed a link to the weaver, Susan Foulkes, who designed it, then watched a Youtube demo video. In the video the heddles are plastic and called the ‘Sunna’, so I googled them and found they were made in Sweeden by STOORSTĂ…LKA.

Needless to say, one of these is now winging its way to me. I’m wondering if this means inkle weaving is my next temporary obsession. My fixations on the Bond and sewing both involved me coming up with modifications and new tools. Perhaps I’ll finally get around to making a tape loom out a wooden magazine file, and there’s that laser cut acrylic loom template sitting on my hard drive.

Reshaping the Jacket

Have I mentioned how much easier it is to work on my duct tape dress model? Well, it is, and it’s much kinder on the back than bending over a table.

Working in short breaks and bits of spare time, I’ve refashioned the jacket ready for painting. First I attacked it with red chalk, then I snipped and unpicked until it was the shape I wanted.

With the shoulder pads gone, those weird shoulders still looked weird. It actually had a seam along the top of the sleeve, so I tried it on to see if I could pinch it flatter. Unfortunately, this revealed a problem I hadn’t noticed in the store:

The designer obviously didn’t expect the wearer to ever raise their arms above their head. Or even out to the side.

So I gave it a more critical look. The weirdness was more than just the shape of the shoulders. The sleeves, instead of being set at an angle to the body to allow a little room for movement, actually went straight down. Have another look at the first photo, and you’ll see what I mean.

Painting the fabric would only make it stiffer, which would turn it into a pretty straightjacket. So the sleeves had to go. I consoled myself that it was less fabric to paint, and painting under the arms would have been a challenge anyway.

So, a little machine sewing and hand sewing later, the Painted Jacket Vest was ready.

And the sleeves gave me something to test combinations of gesso, acrylic mediums and paint on.