Daily Art: Cars

February is a short month so I decided I should tackle something challenging that I might not like, but also something I could do in front of the tv, like the hands and feet sketches, so I had a rest from dedicating part of every morning to painting.

In the end I picked a double challenge: Copic markers (which I’ve barely used before), and cars (which I’ve always found harder to draw than I expect). I didn’t end up doing them in front of the tv, however. Somehow I got stuck in the morning art groove and continued working on the same table in my craft room I’d set up for the toys and food paintings.

Preparation was much easier than for January’s food theme. I simply watched YouTube videos and stocked up on Copic colours. Of course, on the first day I found I didn’t have enough of the right colours for cars. All that chrome requires a variety of warm and cool greys. I also needed a blender pen. Off to the art shop again – and another trip later when I couldn’t get the right pinks for a friend’s car.

As far as mediums go, this was all new to me so I learned the most out of the themes so far. Alcohol ink markers are like watercolours on sticks… except when they’re not. The pigment is much more controllable than in watercolours, but it can be pushed around. I especially liked being able to use one pen to pick up a bit of colour scribbled on plastic, to get hues between those I had. A fine white gel pen was good for highlights, but I discovered I could then colour those highlights by drawing over them with the Copics.

The popular method is to start with black outlines and fill in with colour. Since I’d like to be able to use Copics for urban sketching in a painterly fashion, I wanted to see if I could lose the black outlines. First I bought a set of grey fine liners, then later I tried just using the markers.

There aren’t 28 pics below because the drawing of parked cars seen from above was done over three days. That seemed reasonable when I was drawing a car a day and there were several in the picture.

Once again, getting good photos proved difficult as the special marker paper seemed to reflect a lot of light, exaggerating the shadow to the right. I’ll have another go at getting good pics when I put these in the art pages in the menu.

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Before, Now, Later

I know how it looks. All this art and no craft. But you’ll have to trust me – craft IS happening. It’s just not being finished.

I’m still weaving the tea towels on the Lotas. When I tried finishing the Theo Morman inlay project that had been on the rigid heddle loom I struggled with the sticky warp for a bit before deciding the inspiration was gone. The fine warp came off and I’m now weaving a plain white scarf from the ground warp.

Most of my weaving has been class samplers, and I’m not going to post about those again until nearer the end of the course. Which I’m starting to look forward to finishing. It’s not that I’m over the weaving and learning, but just a bit tired of doing a course. I’ve been thinking about why, and I reckon it’s partly because I’m tired of uncertainty. Will my health take another dive? Will my parents suddenly need all my attention? Will WW3 start? I have a strange itch to get it done while I still can.

But then, maybe it’s just because I’m really enjoying art at the moment. Life drawing classes have restarted and I tried doing a nude from life in oils the other day and was surprised to find I could do a reasonable painting in the time we had. Aside from a few back issues, my daily art practise is still going strong. It’s amazing me how all these finished pieces are building up. I’ve gone from two portraits plus a handful of pet paintings per year, to potentially 365 small artworks.

Of course, I already know that dedicating an hour or so a day can accumulate to big achievements because that’s how wrote the first draft of my last few books. The question I’m asking myself now is… what else could I tackle in this way?

That’s another reason I’m looking forward to finishing the weaving course. I want to put what I’ve learned, both in weaving and art, into practise, but I have only so much energy to spend, and a good part of it is taken up (sporadically) by classes and weaving samplers. I am, however, looking forward to doing the final year project, which is a finished object woven using one of the techniques we’ve explored.

That might just take the edge off.

Daily Art: Food

Preparations for January’s daily art theme began a few months before the start date, when I tested all the tubes of acrylic paint to see if I had a full set of the colours I like to use and if they were still viable. A few tubes were dried up but most were okay, which is amazing because I think I bought some of them more than 20 years ago.

For the ground, I fancied painting over text of some kind – perhaps a book – so I grabbed two old magazine pages and tried priming one with gesso and the other with a clear binder medium. I preferred the gesso. Next came a hunt in op shops for a suitable second-hand recipe book, with matte paper and sewn binding. Well, it turns out most recipe book pages are shiny but I did eventually find one with mostly matte paper. Perfect bound, but that’d have to do.

Then came gluing pages into sets of four. I started by sticking two together, then the third on top, then the fourth. But that came out wonky. Since the first two pages had adhered together nicely, I glued the rest of the pages into pairs, then stuck pairs together. Much better. Then, because I had a few extra pages, I cut out the ones that had shiny-surfaced photos on them.

Next, I gessoed all the pages a spread at a time over several days. When they felt completely dry pressed the book under several heavy books.

All this time I really didn’t know if it any of this would work, but when Jan 1st came and I did the first painting, I was happy with the result. It helped that my painting approach was a bit looser than the toy paintings. Instead of looking for a complimentary colour for the background I chose a similar colour, and let it be brushstrokey and not hard-edged. The objects had only a thin bit of shading at the base of each object. This approach gave the pictures an interesting flatness, even while the object was three dimensional.

It took me a while to get the hang of the paint (and to remember that drying retardant makes it a lot easier to work with under air-conditioning!) as I haven’t used acrylics for 20 or so years. The first objects were a bit wonky looking, but I liked embraced that, deciding to not aim for the lettering on packaging to be exact.

I expected taking individual photos of the inflexible, wonky pages to be near impossible, and I was right…

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Daily Art: Hands & Feet

For the daily art of December I drew hands and feet in various kinds of pencil in an old A4 blank book. Which was much faster than the gouache paintings, and since I worked mainly from photos it could be done while watching tv in the evening.

I don’t feel I’d learned as much in December as I did in October and November, but I did gain some insights. Like that feet are nowhere near as interesting to draw as hands. Hands are more expressive. Full colour wasn’t as easy as monochrome, or using two colours in monochrome fashion, but even on days when I was up for the challenge I found full colour less satisfying. Monochrome just looked nicer.

Photographing the drawings was more difficult than I expected, with the paper showing shadows no matter how I fiddled with lighting, and no amount of adjustment of the file fixing the problem. That’s why it’s taken me so long to publish this post. Eventually I just gave up and let them be as they are.

I am so far behind now that I have all the January daily art to photograph and post now. The theme – food – was what I originally wanted to do for December, until I realised I wouldn’t have the time with Christmas and other distractions.

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So the latest addition to my list of joint and soft tissue damage is sacroiliac joint pain. Why? Who knows? As my regular physio said, it’s not like I don’t do a whole lot of stuff to try to prevent and treat these sorts of injuries, I’m just prone to them.

Thankfully, I can weave. The sacroiliac joint pain went from tolerable to bad during a few weeks when I wasn’t weaving on the floor loom so I’m pretty sure of that. I’m back at the floor loom now and the pain has been very slowly improving – not enough to attribute that to the weaving, unfortunately!

I had a day of looking at houses online, thinking that a move to more easily maintained property might be in our near future, but the thought of the effort in moving and renovating to suit our lifestyle was too much to bear, and the money we’d lose in taxes would easily cover the cost of a gardener coming in a couple of times a year plus and some changes to make maintenance easier.

As always, rather than focusing on how much I can’t wait for Christmas to be over I’m thinking about what I want to achieve next year.

Finish the 8-shaft weaving certificate course
Continue the daily art challenge
Try another local art society
Do more art at home
Simplify the garden

Trying another art society is mostly because one of them has a portrait workshop at a good time for me, but it doesn’t hurt to shop around and compare locations and vibe. The facility where I’ve been going his last year is shiny and new, but the centre management did nothing about the blinds that don’t provide full privacy for life drawing models, and I heard they’d made ridiculous demands on artists to keep it pristine. You can’t be that clean with art. Not if you’re doing it right, anyway!

And there’s the small matter of the fact the life drawing models are nearly all white women with big frontal assets. Some variety would be nice.

Still, the people seem nice and it is close to home, which is definitely an asset when you have chronic health problems.

Daily Painting: Toys (Second Half)

Painting toys has been great fun and yet I was SO ready to move on by the end of the month. The trouble was that even though I got faster at painting them, they took at least an hour, often more, and a couple of other things in my life suddenly began to demand more time. The 8-shaft weaving course work suddenly increased – we’ve had long block of up to six weeks between samplers and suddenly that went down to two – and I’ve had some health issues that required tests and appointments. On top of that La NiƱa has brought so much rain to Melbourne that the weeds have gone nuts (and the vege seeds I planted early rotted in the ground). The sort of health problems I’m having don’t go well with weeding, and I suspect one of them is the direct result of injuring myself while weeding.

But they were a lot of fun to paint.

This spaceship from the Thunderbirds ought to have gone in the last batch, but I didn’t realise Paul hadn’t photographed the last page of that sketchbook.

“Dolly” (I’ve never been much good at naming inanimate objects) was given to me by my Mum along with clothing she hand stitched. I made more clothes over the years, which certainly would have added to my enthusiasm for learning to sew my own clothes eventually.

The martian was among the toys loaned to me by my friend KRin. The scene where we first meet them is my favourite of the first movie.

I met my ex at a D&D group. I only played one other time, so I’m not sure why I bought the dice.

To mix it up a bit… a magnetic office toy. The hardest of all the paintings, though the tiny cereal and spaceman toys were tricky, too.

An old tin toy of Paul’s.

There is something deliciously goofy about KRin’s plastic octopus.

Where’s the cheese, Gromit?

I thought this was a duck, but Paul captioned the file “wooden insect”. It chirrups when you pull it along by the string.

Another movie tie-in.

A very happy dinosaur.

Anyone for tennis?

I was given this bottle of Avon ‘delicate daisies’ perfume for children when I was a child, and I always thought it was peculiar that they packaged it in a skunk named ‘Mr Sniffy’.

These cereal toys were Dad’s, I think. I always thought the mermaid was surprisingly sexy for a child’s toy.

Plastic astronauts use to turn up in the houses of one circle of my friends, like a sneaky calling card.

I thought this chair might be a bit boring as a last picture, but it led to some interesting discoveries. The Integra chair is a bit of an icon in Australia, with an interesting history. My parent bought me one when I was a teen, and I think got the small version as well for Dolly. I knew that the chair was special somehow, which is why I’ve kept and looked after it, but I hadn’t looked into it until now.

After thirty days of gouache paintings, I’ve gained some experience in using the paint and accumulated a bunch of paintings of which a good half are worth framing. For December I was planning to paint food in acrylic paint in an altered book, but realised I wouldn’t have the time in what is often the busiest month of the year. So I switched to drawing hands and feet in pencil. So far it’s going well and I can do them in the evening while half-watching the tv. Yay for multi-tasking!

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Daily Painting: Toys (First Half)

While the theme for November is toys, I have a few other aims for the month. Having bought a set of artist quality gouache paints, I want to get in some practise with them. Another goal is to up in one place and use the same lighting for all paintings. I was pretty chuffed with the first one.

However, it took me 2 1/2 hours. I can’t spare that much time every day of this month, and while I hope to get faster from practise, I need to choose toys that are simpler to paint. Like this wooden train. I left out the carriages.

While the train was one of Paul’s childhood toys, this Pink Panther was one of mine.

The colour mixing was weird. I’m using a warm spotlight on the toy, while the easel light has a cool ‘daylight’ globe. The coloured card of the background influences the slightly off-white card on the table top. As I’m mixing I’m holding a loaded brush up in front of the colour I’m matching to get as close as possible to the colour I’m seeing, but the result is startling – usually much darker that I expect. Yet it looks fine in the painting.

I have a box of amusements I used to keep on my desk when I worked in an office, including this this keyring sized Etch-a-Sketch

A bath toy.

Very old puzzles. I think they belonged to my Dad, so they might be much older than me.

My teddy bear. I was never one for soft toys, but I have a few favourites.

I had a few matchbox cars as a child. My favourite is this red Mini.

As a teenager I used to charge to solve other kids’ Rubik’s Cubes.

One of my Mum’s toys. The lid of the teapot was lost before she gave this to me, and the stalk of the apple disappeared since then.

A tiny teddy bear made by my friend, KRin.

Slinky! I did the outline and background the night before, because I knew this one would be a challenge.

Lego! Having taken out my small box of Lego, which comes out for visiting children, I decided to see if I could put together all of the sets I had. They were from the mid 70s, with the original larger figures. Paul and I made eight sets, including one minifig set, but from the remaining pieces I reckon there’s a vehicle and house set we can’t identify. Though it’s always possible there was some migration of pieces to and from my box and my brother’s.

KRin’s bean bag Totoro.

Halfway through the month, I’m both having the time of my life and starting to get a little overwhelmed. The latter is more to do with having so many other things demanding attention or sapping my energy. Some of those things are good, like returning to art classes, ongoing 8-shaft course samplers and making Christmas presents. The rest are either too personal or boring to mention here. At the same time, I’ve been exploring ideas to revamp the look of this blog, and what theme, medium and ground I’ll use for December’s daily painting.

Can’t complain I’m not occupied!

Daily Painting Challenge

As the month of October drew to a close, I had a decision to make: do I continue painting flowers for a year, or stop, or do something else? Painting the same subject for a year is strangely appealing, but when I contemplated it I couldn’t help wishing I had chosen another subject. Something I would gain more benefit from, like faces, or just ‘people’.

Not that I didn’t gain anything from painting flowers. They are a subject I’ve felt I’ve never been much good at, so I had a lot to learn from focusing on them. I could learn a lot more, but I can see that there would be a learning curve that was initially steep and exciting, then would taper off to being nearly flat with just occasional little steps up.

Better to have the benefit and fun of the steep learning curve over and over, by tackling a different theme each month. So I considered those other subjects I wished I’d chosen. Faces. Hands and feet. Pets. Birds. Then there were subjects that I wouldn’t want to study for a year, but would have fun with over a shorter time. Cars. Buildings. Food. Toys. To that list I added kitchenalia and accessories (hats, bags, shoes, etc.). I split pets into cats and dogs. That gave me twelve subjects if I included flowers.

So instead of painting or drawing the one subject for a year, I’m going to try to tackle a different one each month.

Each of the subjects is going to require different kinds of materials and levels of preparation. With toys, food, accessories and kitchenalia I can plausibly work entirely from life – which has the extra challenge of requiring me to arrange backdrops and lighting. With cars, cats, dogs, birds, faces and hands I will have to work from reference photos much of the time. Painting in a tiny sketchbook was fun, but I was very ready to work at a bigger size. I also decided to use different mediums and grounds each time, though I could also choose to use a mix for a particular subject.

The practicalities of painting every day are a challenge in themselves. First there’s keeping the time commitment to a workable length. Then there’s ergonomics. One of the reasons I decided not to paint flowers for a year was it had me sitting in awkward, hunched positions way too often and my back was starting to protest.

In fact, the reason this post is a bit late is I had a back flare up that was probably related to spending more time painting. The next post will feature the paintings from the first week of November. With me not posting about Christmas presents I’m making, things may get very art-centric for a while, but hopefully that’ll change in a few weeks.

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Light Bulb Moments

For my birthday recently I received an easel light.

It’s fantastic. It came with two very solid bases: one that clamps to the edge of the table and one that clamps to the top of an easel. My table easel is a bit light for the weight of the lamp so I’m using the table clamp, but I can see myself using the easel clamp on my floor easel if I ever have a studio. I can also see that a battery-operated version to take to life drawing classes would be very useful.

Having decided to make as many Christmas presents as possible this year, I chose to paint the cat of one recipient (but can’t show you in case they visit this blog). I did the underpainting some weeks back but it had sat around untouched since. I’ve been wondering if all the artist videos and books I’ve been looking at would influence how I worked, and I got my answer when I finally sat down to do this painting. In less than two hours I had 95% of it finished.


Considering that the last painting of that size took me … maybe eight hours… it’s quite a change. What made the difference? First, the aim to not put any paint down that wasn’t correct. Second, to not concentrate on one area but put down the colour I mixed in all the places it appeared. Third, to use more brushes so I didn’t need to wash them until the end. All which added up to less faffing about overall. All it took to finish off the painting was less than an hour’s worth of adding fine details like whiskers and making small corrections.

Those three intentional changes were thanks to the videos of James Gurney and Chelsea Lang. I wasn’t trying to paint like they do, just adopt what seemed efficient in their painting practise. I suspect the Flower-a-Day project also helped by improving analysis of colour, hand-eye coordination and simply waking up the arty cells of my brain.

It was a huge boost of confidence, but I have no expectations that the next painting will be as fast. Besides, I’m going to paint that quickly, I’ll need to line up a LOT of new subjects very soon. I have two mini pet portraits waiting, and a still life idea I want to explore, but that won’t occupy me for long. I need to put a lot more intention and planning and, well, I’ve had some thoughts on that, too.

For me, deciding what to paint can be a black hole that suck the enthusiasm out of me. I feel my subject must be worthy enough to spend my limited time on. I also worry about doing art that other people have already done – about not being original – as if anything is original these days! But I have more time now, and even if what I’m painting isn’t ‘worthy’ or ‘original’ it’s still honing my skills. Every painting is practise.

And every painting is thinking time, too. When I weave I’m thinking about what I want to weave next, and I used to plan the next book while working on the one I was writing. It’s a cascade effect I need to set in motion for art. Though maybe I am already. Now that the Flower-a-Day has been going for nearly a month, I’ve come up with a plan to continue daily painting next month, but with a new twist. But that’s going to need it’s own post.

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Flower a Day, Week 4

Encouraged by the success of the previous day’s flower using pencil, I did the same the next.

The following day, however, I had only 15-20 mins free to paint and it was raining, so I took a snap of a strawberry flower and whipped this up.

Strawberry flowers are really quite interesting, when you look at them closely. They’ve been blooming like mad and the flowers turning into berries, but we’ve not had enough warm, sunny weather for them ripen.

The following day was a rest day and I had plenty of time, so I brought some roses inside and set up with the gouache again.

I don’t know if it shows how much I was struggling. My neck had been getting cranky over the last few days, and I’d had trouble sleeping. My feet had also started to ache in the night and it spread up my legs over the day. By the evening I was having a full-on flare up and I was so tired I fell asleep in front of the tv then hauled myself off to bed at 8:30.

The next day I felt better but far from 100%, so decided to take it easy. I searched my phone for an easy flower and found this native violet.

While painting these evening primroses, I realised that painting every day in a tiny sketchbook, sometimes perched on a stool and hunched over to get a good look at a flower was probably not doing my back any good.

Still a bit sore, mostly in the neck, I found this cheery sunflower in my photos. It wasn’t too big a challenge.

Hoping to be a bit nicer to my back the next day, I chose a photo of another Clivia, but while it was more comfortable than working in the garden, it was a quite fussy painting and I spent far too long on it.

My friend KRin came over the next day with these delightfully delicate purple flowers.

Then I plucked some lotus flowers from where they were peeping out underneath the evening primrose.

And finally, I took on the challenge of this grevillea flower.

At the end of the book was a few empty pages, so I wrote about my aims and what I learned. I was definitely ready to wind up the challenge, but also excited to start a new one. Which I’d already mostly set up for by then. I’d love to keep up a daily art practise, but looking ahead I can see a few days coming on which it’ll be to be difficult to find the time. I suspect I’m going to find that daily painting was much easier in lockdown!

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