Monday, March 18, 2013

Discipline, for the nth time

One day, I might actually learn this lesson, but for now, real discipline escapes me.

(I know I have to qualify that, but hear me out. Things like the painting- and drawing-a-day projects took discipline and I'm not going to pretend they didn't; however, the painting-a-day was an ultimatum with myself (to make the technical improvements I needed within the short window available, or to give up oil painting entirely) and the drawing-a-day was... complicated, but can be boiled down to a combination of a dare with myself and the fact that I made a promise. It's different, in my head.)

Parenthetical paragraphs aside, I know I'm not entirely lacking of drive. I have work-ethic and a fire under my ass, both related to being mediocre for most of my artistic life - but I don't believe I have the sort of discipline that I need to make that final push into being a professional-level illustrator.

I'm close and I know it, but specifically: I need to learn how to make myself do the sort of drawings I need to be doing.

This was touched off more than two weeks ago. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been trying to write this thing for a while, but... well. Here's the drawing I did for Pecious Burdens, now being called The Messenger:

Pretty good, right? I did that entire wicker ball! Aren't I so goo-


 That is a shot of what the painting looks like right now. It's not the eye I'm angry about - that's a matter of losing the drawing as I painted, and it's a simple fix - but what's in this painting that wasn't in the drawing. The bird in the wicker ball came in hugely late in the process, and given that the ball and its contents are the thematic anchors I think I am justified in being furious at myself there; beyond that, I completely neglected to include in my drawing the figure's body as seen through the ball, which is one of the main things that will sell its presence.

What this means is that I've had to come to a dead stop in my painting twice now in order to draw out something essential. I should know better - I do know better - and I embarked on on such a simple piece with the specific knowledge that I'd have to sell every single inch of it as close to perfectly as I could.

Instead, I am hacking through things that should have been solved before I even put the first stroke down on my board, and I am disgusted.

It isn't really surprising to me that I've taken so long to write this post, as every time I thought about the painting still sitting on my easel I felt the anger wash through me. With no deadline and nothing to gain by forcing through it, I decided to step back entirely and let things take their course: this is a painting worth finishing, and worth finishing well, and I can only do that with a clear head.

While I'm over this latest stumbling-block in the current painting, the problem underlying it won't go away until I've put a lot of work into it. I got the memo halfway through senior year that I needed to solve everything in the drawing before I even started the painting, and for some reason I keep not doing it. Holding the Pass took so long in main part because this was the drawing I went in with:

Nothing but the figures are solved, and not even completely - I wound up entirely redrawing the swordwoman's arms entirely halfway through the painting. Having fought though that awfulness, I swore I'd learned my lesson, and I honestly thought I had: the fact that I drew out the wicker ball was a point of real pride. But all I need to do is look at what Donato does for his drawing to see how far I have to go.

Donato's drawing for Fortune and Fate

That drawing is for a pretty simple painting, but look at this - everything is there. And while it is sometimes defeating to look up at the masters for a measure of how far I still have to go, in this case it is very necessary. I need to get myself into the habit of doing drawings like that for every painting I attempt; I need to build in myself the discipline. 

I'm hoping that this is the time where it starts to sink in. I'm good enough at this point to be able to pull a good painting from a less than acceptable drawing, but I am not good enough to make it a smooth thing, and I know there are points of quality I'm losing in the process.

I can't afford to be doing anything less than my best in my art right now: I'm in an uphill struggle and losing my momentum over and over pushes the goal line further back each time. I have two more paintings ready to go into the sketch phase, and the only thing I can do at this point is turn the full force of my dissatisfaction on both of them. With enough care, I can turn out two drawings worth my time, and the paintings that will come of them should be beautiful, if what's in my head speaks true.

In the mean time, I'll finish The Messenger in spite of myself. It'll be worth the time, though I wish I didn't have to use that as my only motivation to get back into it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Drawing at the Met

I'm working on a new post, about discipline and preparedness and overcoming disgust in oneself when it becomes apparently those things are absent --

-- but since that's taking a while, here are some drawings I did at the Met yesterday.

I am really usually not so successful with these types of studies. Perhaps I just hit the right way to render, and the right size? The top one is the length of my thumb, the bottom one a little bigger.