Saturday, January 10, 2009

Trying to Get Back on Track

This week I haven’t been as creative as I wanted to be. I know the reason - last weekend I started sketches for the first illustration for my story, and as I wrote about here, it wasn’t that successful or encouraging, and I’ve been finding it hard to get back into the swing of things since. I’m used to having ideas that excite me, so that it’s hard to keep me away from the studio, but lately I’ve been feeling intimidated. Mainly, the intimidation revolves around illustrating my main character. Or I should say, the lack of illustration of my man character at the moment.

I have a sketch I want to try, I just need to get started. I have been telling myself all week that I need to get tracing paper in order to transfer the sketch to the wood and clay. This has actually been an affective avoidance technique so far (although it has been a pretty busy week). But I bought some today, so there’s no holding me back now *she says sarcastically*

I have a bad attitude about this now for some reason. But even despite that I have a sneaking suspicion that once I get started it will all turn out all right, so I’m not sure what’s really holding me back.

I try to look a lot at the Children’s Book Illustration Pool on Flickr to get me inspired. It helps to look at all the artists whose work is simple and uncomplicated, because I love their work, even if the characters are almost stick figures. That helps.

About to Snow

About to Snow, originally uploaded by apriljoy45.

About to Snow 2

About to Snow, originally uploaded by apriljoy45.

About to Snow 1

About to Snow, originally uploaded by apriljoy45.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Creative Everyday

Last week I joined an online creative challenge: This is such a great idea, and a great way to stay motivated. Just today, I started a painting for a friend, and I’m just not feeling it. I was kind of playing with the idea of using polymer clay to make trees instead of the wire I’ve been using, and it worked fine, but I feel like that theme is kind of getting played out with me, so now I’m losing steam on this project. It’s small though, so I think I can pull it out.

I spent a lot of time today photographing and photoshopping images of my paintings. Now that I have my new camera they are so much better than the bad images I had before. I would like to try to enter this juried show at the Providence Art Club, so I need digital images of all my work. The show is highlighting “green” projects, and since all my paintings are done on salvaged wood, I think they qualify.

Friday I wrote about 5 pages of my story, tentatively titled “Angela Joins the Circus.” The reason I started writing this was so I would have a story to illustrate, because that’s a challenge I’ve wanted to try for a long time. I’ve also had this character in my head for years. So I finally started it last week. It took some good advise from a writer friend to get me going. He told me not to plan out the ending too carefully, to listen to the characters and allow them to tell you how the end should come. It was just what I needed to hear because I had this idea that I needed to plan out the story completely in advance, and I just didn’t know how I wanted it to end.

I also did some sketches for my first illustration for the story. I wasn’t too happy with them, and I could feel the old “oh forget it!” feeling coming over me. But I really don’t want to give up on this idea yet, so I’m going to push through it. I just need to sit down and get working on it, and let it unfold.

I think the lesson I really need to learn is to just do things my way and trust that they are the right way. To not worry about whether my “voice” is cool enough, or interesting or quirky or imaginative enough. To just going and do it and trust that it will be right in the end. That internal critic is a REALLY hard thing to ignore, but that’s got to be one of my New Year’s resolutions - to ignore the stupid critic and just make my art my way. It’s not life and death here. The worst than can happen is something might suck. Then I just try it a different way.

City Block

This is a small one I did half as a test and half as a gift for my sister for Christmas. I was thinking of switching away from all the trees and trying a city scene. I was envisioning multiple pieces that when hung next to each other would form the city. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen or not, but it was fun to experiment.

Again I used the air-dry clay, and the buildings are grouped on layers. The first layer is the three buildings in the background, and it builds up until the wall, which is the fifth layer.

This was a fun one, although a little frustrating. I finally ended up gluing the layers to each other before they were even dry, just to keep them from sliding around and pulling out of shape. Then once they were dry, I sanded the crap out of them just to make them more integrated.

The challenge in this one was the color. In the end I am happy with the way they came out - it was tough coming up with different color grays that didn’t clash with each other. There are A LOT of layers of paint and glazes on there. Also, it took me a while to realize that there had to be deep shadows between the buiding, because I couldn’t figure out why it looked so flat and dead until I went almost all the way to black in the shadows. The layers are not that thick, so I couldn’t rely on them to create the shadows on their own.

This piece is about 3.5“ wide by 5.5” tall (it's a section of 2x4, another scrap). It’s much thicker on the bottom than the top also, which was a challenge to frame. In the end, I made the frame as deep as the thickest part of the painting (about 2“), and used a .25“ spacer in between the painting and frame, instead of my normal 1/8”. That set it off enough.

At first thought this painting was really boring, but in the end I really ended up liking it. It’s a great size, it feels very substantial and solid, more like a sculpture than any of the other ones I’ve done. And my sister liked it too.

Chasing Home Series: #5

Number 5 in the series. Subconsciously I think I knew the series was winding down when I was working on this one. It’s done on a 1“ thick plank, and it has a very different feel than the previous ones I think. It’s about 11.5” wide by 9.75“ tall, and it's very heavy. I’m not sure what kind of wood this is, some kind of plywood with a thick veneer on it. It’s a left over from one of my dad’s projects. This is a green project!

This was the first time I used the self-drying clay for the large areas instead of the polymer clay you have to bake. It took a little getting used to (hint: keep it wet, because it dries FAST). The air-dry clay was used to make the little islands of land and the moon. I used wire for the trees, left over houses from #4, and polymer clay for the fence, light bulbs and bird. The light bulbs are ”hung“ using black thread. And as usual the tissue paper and gel medium to cover it all.

The theme of this one was choices. This one was just for me, not for art group. I had been thinking a lot about a time in my life when (in retrospect) I had come to a metaphorical fork in the road and had to choose how I was going to deal with something that had happened to me - whether I was going to choose to go right, and make the healthier choice, or spin off to the left. I made a conscious decision kind of late in the process that I didn’t love the picture that was beginning to form in the painting: that either choice was all good or all bad - so I hung the lightbulbs in the trees on the ”dark“ side and put the raven on the ”right“ side, just to balance it out.

I had a lot of trouble with the ground on the dark side. Initially the whole left side of the painting was dark, and I was envisioning a deep forest, but after I painted it, it just wasn’t working for me. The trees were too dimensional I think, and I just had a really hard time integrating them into the background of the ”forest.“

So then on my way into work one morning I was thinking about this painting and that half of the painting specifically, when a flash of white in the grass on the side of the road caught my eye. At first I thought it was a bird, or at least it had the shape of the bird, and that started me thinking about the color white and how it can be cold, and somehow, that translated in my head into a snowy scene for the trees. I tried to balance it out with the white of the sky on the right.

I’m still not sure how I feel about this painting. Sometimes I really like it, especially when I look at it up close, but then sometimes I think it’s a little....boring, compared to what I had in my head. I couldn’t frame it because of the wire from the trees, I didn’t flatten it enough so I couldn’t fit a frame around it. Maybe that contribute to the feeling of incompletion I get when I look at it. To be honest, at this point I think I need to put it away for awhile and get some perspective back on it. It was substantially larger than I normally work, so I spent a lot of time on it. I think I need a break from it.