Thursday, April 26, 2012

Face Book

I belong to a small group of artists who meet once a week to work together, chat, critique and generally keep each other company. Sometimes we meet at a senior center, and when that place is booked with big events we meet at a local gallery to paint, sketch, or even just drink coffee.

Today I was not ready to do any painting, and in fact all week I've been doing other things, mostly electronic in nature - working on a family tree, getting an old laptop ready to recycle, updating my iPod and figuring out how to take advantage of the new features.

Anyway, I wanted to spend my art time doing something, so I grabbed this reference book and decided to just do some modified contour drawings. Some of these are downright scary.

Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference for Artists is filled with well lit photographs of men and women of various ages demonstrating a variety of emotions, from several angles.  There are special galleries as well of people wearing all sorts of hats, ethnic headgear, safety headgear, and helmets.  There are galleries of people kissing, and one of people pronouncing phonemes.  There is a section on skulls, both men's a women's, from various angles.  When I have a little time I like to dig out the book and just draw.  I think anyone who like to draw and paint could benefit from these black and white photographs - illustrators, cartoonists, anyone interested in studying faces and expressions.

The past couple months I've been painting small (6x9 inch) watercolor portraits almost exclusively, and I'm not sure why, since I have no interest in doing commissions.

 I painted both of these for the Flickr group, Julia Kay's Portrait Party.  I enjoy the challenge of creating interesting representations of people's faces.  It's something that is very engaging for me, and is not meant for sale.

Tomorrow is the annual fund raiser for UW Rock County, and event held at Rotary Botanical Gardens here in Janesville, Taste Of Culture.  I'm taking four framed watercolors for sale.  There will be art, tasty snacks and things to drink, and music.  Should be fun, and maybe I'll sell something.  Or not.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Porch Cats

I have my computer desktop wallpaper set with an ongoing slideshow of photo references, old family pictures and a myriad of photos I have compulsively taken since I was about eight years old.  An old black and white picture came up today, a crowd of barn cats that my mother used to feed out the back door of the kitchen.  There was a slanty old wooden porch, painted gray, that caught the morning light.  She'd set out aluminum pans of milk and stale bread, and maybe a raw egg, and the cats, who were  rangy and slim from a life spent outdoors hunting for mice and gophers, would tread and cry for an easy treat. Sometimes there were as many as a dozen, though their ranks were regularly thinned by old age and misadventure.  More than once in the winter we'd find a flattened pussy cat who had snuggled up near a warm Holstein, only to have the cow roll over on the little animal.  Sometimes they were hit on the road as well, and while we wept when they died, the females produced replacement kittens regularly.  It was a thrill wait for them to be born, then listen for their high pitched kitten cries. 

I edited several cats out of this sketch.  I wanted to keep it simple, but got all caught up in pattern and trying to show the light and shadow.  Why they all are the same colors, I'm not sure.  At least one should have been a gray tiger, but somehow the calico colors just happened.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


A Studio Muse
2.5x3.5 mixed media collage

I've been putting together a short presentation for a local painting group about the 2012 WRAA Tiny Treasures Fundraiser, and to that end making a collection of ATC sized pieces to show the group.  Yesterday I wanted to assemble a couple little collages in the required 2.5x3.5 inch format, and was inspired by a ceramic pin I had inherited from my late friend, artist and teacher, Katherine Belling.  I always admired the little mask-like face, though I seldom wear the pin for fear of breaking it.  The Bellings  had vacationed in Mexico with us years ago, and I remember her breaking one of the matching earrings when it slipped to the floor.  Anyway, I used the pin as the basis for the face of this little collage, and I dug into my stash of salvaged papers, and Mom's old button tin, to finish it off.  Kathy was an inspiration to me when she was here, and after her death I was spurred on to go back to making art, so I suppose that makes her my muse. Muses were Greek goddesses who were imagined to inspire artists, poets and scientists, and later sometimes some women were described as muses when they served to inspired artists.  I seem to remember that there was a 1999 comedy featuring Albert Brooks, who courted his modern Muse in the form of Sharon Stone. 

I believe inspiration comes from many places.  For me, seeing other people's art always spurs my own ideas, and ideas from just playing around with materials.  When in doubt, I move my hands.  I doodle.  I try an online challenge.  I dip into my stash of old diaries and other vintage paper, book and magazine pages, personal photos, and assorted junk.  I play music - heck, I just play.  

After looking for a poem to comment on the topic of a muse, I found this excerpt from Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism, lines I hadn't thought of in a while, though perhaps I should have:

A little learning is a dang'rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fir'd at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of arts,
While from the bounded level of our mind,
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But more advanc'd, behold with strange surprise
New, distant scenes of endless science rise!
So pleas'd at first, the tow'ring Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky;
Th' eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last;
But those attain'd, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthen'd way,
Th' increasing prospect tires our wand'ring eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!

I'll keep in mind my lack of deep knowledge, when I give my talk to the art class this week.