Daily Art: Chairs

In May I struggled with this challenge. I started off drawing chairs on graph paper in line and dot rendering with the intention of painting colourful 50s style brush strokes and squares in ink as a background. But the tracing paper was too absorbent so the ink came out very dark and obscured the fine drawing lines.

By the fourth day I knew I had to change what I was doing. I tried tracing the chairs onto tracing paper then arranging that on top of rectangles of graph and colour paper on top of a black card, and I liked the result. A bit of double sided tape and some black sticky dots to fix everything in place, and I now had “collage” as the ground. Then to that I added my signature and the date, and punched holes in the tracing paper for repetition of the circle element.

Partway through the month I had a big flare up of neck pain and didn’t draw for two days, so the next day I got back to it I drew a stack of three chairs. That means I have 29 collages. I want to frame them in groups.

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Daily Art: Faces

At the end of March, after a month of painting, my back needed a rest. So for April I chose a theme and medium that would allow me to do quick sketches while watching tv. Faces seemed easy enough but I still wanted a challenge, so I chose a medium I hadn’t even contemplated up until then: biro.

I’ve always hated biro. I hate how the ink blobs when you write. I hate how the point presses into and distorts the paper. I hate how it can fade out unexpectedly. But that was all to do with writing, not drawing.

Now and then I see art work in biro and it both blows me away and fills me with puzzlement. Do these artists know of some special brand of biro that doesn’t blob or distort or fade? Nothing I read suggested that, so I decided to just embrace the inconsistency.

Since this was the tool of doodles, I picked an equally humble surface to draw on: a notebook I made during my bookbinding days out of old envelopes. This turned out to be a very good pick, because something about drawing on the patterned side of the paper added an extra magic.

It did take me a few goes to get a feel for it, and straight away it was clear that bad references make for bad drawings. I started off drawing a model in a craft magazine, but those kinds of pics tend to have very even, uninspiring lighting. I didn’t want photoshopped perfection, either. And I wanted a diverse range of faces. The internet came to the rescue with free photo websites.

In the end it was the first month in which I wasn’t eager to finish. There was an appealing ease to the theme and medium that made me think I could easily make tv time drawing an ongoing habit.

But not yet.

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Daily Art: Nature’s Remnants

March’s theme was all about biological litter: bones, seed pods, shells, fossils, feathers and other remains of living things. Some I’d collected over the years, some I picked up during the month, and some loaned by a friend. Two were fakes.

They were painted with Casein on some kind of particle board (maybe marine ply) I picked up at Resource Rescue and prepared with primer and clear gesso. I set up on the craft room table with a spotlight – one thing I missed from the toy painting was doing interesting shadows.

I didn’t like Casein at first. It’s not as forgiving as gouache, thickening and drying out quickly. When I painted the red-orange leaf I found I could not get the richness of yellow I needed. the set I’d bought contained Naples Yellow, which seemed to create a dull orange when mixed with red. The red that came with the pack is Rose Red which was very pink, and I was glad I’d bought Alizarin as an extra.

Fortunately, I did not need Cerulean Blue for any of these, as it was the colour the shop forgot to include in the package.

I first learned about casein paint in one of James Gurney’s YouTube videos. He uses it as an underpainting for gouache and watercolour because it doesn’t reactivate with water. I found it did. However, in a recent video he demonstrated which paints reactivate and the casein did so. Looking close at the Alizarin tube, which appears to use an older label design, it says that it become “insoluable with time and exposure”.

By the end of the month I liked casein better and felt I had the hang of using it, but I still prefer gouache. Having thirty-one paintings, most of which I reckon are good enough to sell, left me feeling pleased with myself. But I also had a VERY sore back, and I chose the fastest medium I could think of to do in front of the tv for the next theme.

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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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28 Days

Where did they go? It seems like the last month passed in a flash. I’ve thought about writing a post several times, but nothing was quite blog-ready. Not that I wasn’t doing anything arty or crafty, it’s just that none of it was at a good stage to blog about. So here’s my work-in-progress:

Weaving: there’s a set of tea towels on the Lotas, and I’ve done a bit of class work.

Art: the daily art challenge continues. In February I drew cars using alcohol ink markers. It was a big learning curve, but I really enjoyed that. I was pretty tired of cars by the end, though – something I suspected would happen so I picked a short month for it.

March up is “Nature’s Remnants”: shells, seed pods, bones, feathers, fossils, dried leaves, etc., which will be a nice contrast from manmade object. It wasn’t on my list of subjects, but I decided to bring together ‘cats’ and ‘dogs’ and make it a ‘pets’ theme, which will allow me to draw other kinds of pets as well. That gave me room for a ‘wild card’ subject. I’m using casein paint on sealed and clear gessoed plywood boards. I’ve not used casein before, or painted on boards. The first painting was definitely a journey of discovery.

I also tried the local art association’s portrait workshop, which was great. Lots of very talented artists in there.

Sewing: nothing since January, but I’ve done a lot of thinking about what sort of clothes I’d like to make, and whether the weaving course final project will be a garment or not.

Other: I painted a huge backdrop for a James Bond party. It’s too big to keep, so it’s waiting to be dismantled. I’m a bit sad about that, but that’s the trouble with props. If you do a good job, you’re going to regret having to destroy it at the end.

One thing I do remember about the month is lots of garden contemplation. I’m planning changes to make it easier to maintain now I have an unsteady leg and less stamina. There’s going to be some serious landscaping happening in winter to improve access, and the last six months of vege garden failure is an extra motive to simplify that area, too.

‘Adapt and simplify’ is my motto of the year, and the garden is definitely one area that needs both.

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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Adjoining

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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