Monday, May 27, 2013

IMC Thumbnails!

It took a little bit of work to get excited about illustrating A Midsummer Night's Dream, but when I realized how strongly I felt about Oberon's actions against Titania, I had a strong hook to work from.

I know that Midsummer is one of Shakespeare's comedies, but I just... I'm creeped out my almost all of the relationships in the play. What Oberon does, in using love-in-idleness on Titania, is drugging her with the specific intention of humiliating her into submission: the word used is 'love', but it's made explicit (haha) that she's supposed to have sex with whatever forest animal she comes across.

Anyway. I clearly have some opinions! Here are the thumbs I did while working through them.

For this year's IMC, we need to bring not only a sketch, but four thumbnails as well. Doing large (for me), clean thumbnails was an... experience. But it forced me to clear up the gestures!

I ran them by some people, and with the feedback I got I went back and made a fifth - which is the one I'm working into a sketch now.

Color studies will happen... later. I need to move into a new apartment and then unpack my studio, first!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The long and winding road

I know I talked a lot about making mistakes at just about every turn in my post about this piece, but I didn't actually... give examples. In the interest of science, therefore, here's my documentation of the process of the painting itself, with helpful notes on what I was doing, and what I did wrong. It's not so much that I like making my failures public spectacle, than it is how much I value marking my progress down for my own future edification and understanding.

See that face? That, boys and girls, is called 'losing the drawing'. Also, at this point, I had no idea what was going in the wicker ball; also also, I had no real clue what my value structure actually was.

I threw a dead bird in there because it seemed like a good idea, and painted out the eye, and knocked out some more of the orange, and started on the wicker. Can we talk for a second about how absolutely stupid it is to paint front-to-back with something like a wicker ball? Especially since I didn't even have what we'd be seeing through it referenced or drawn. God. 

Well, enough of that horror show: time to repaint the face and deal with that window.

The hair was terrible in shape and feel, and I finally accepted this and started to paint it out to redo at a later time. However, the shape I wound up carving out was right, somehow, and so I stopped.

The face itself still needed work. I also started in on the background, with some better color and value, but still not quite correct on either count.

There, that looks a lot better, doesn't it? At some point in this mess I referenced, drew, and painted in the arm and part of the midsection that one could see through the wicker ball.

I was absolutely and truly furious about the way I'd painted in the hair, so I backed away from it until I could look at it without seething.

When I came back, I decided to avoid the problem areas and work on something I knew I could execute well: hands (and flesh).

I like hands~

Hands, I know I can execute. They require care and proper effort, but I can rely on my own ability and that is a comfort.

Comforts like that are necessary when throwing myself against, say, some deeply uncooperative hair.

Time to step away from the hair again so I can work her clothes up from their first pass, finally. (value structure? what value structure?)

Oh, that value structure. 

Now that I figured that out, time to second-pass the wicker ball, because the flat colors the first time around aren't... okay.

At this point, I liked the face and the hands and hated the rest of the painting. Or, well - I was bored by the rest of the painting, and furious at how long it had taken to get so close to the end, and how at a loss I was for what to do to it to make it interesting.

So, in a fury, I threw pure cadmium red on my 000 brush and went to town.

As it turned out,  it was exactly what I needed.

I did so much wrong, and took the long way around so many times, that it's more than a little frustrating to look back on. But it came out in the end, and what I achieved in spite of myself is something to be proud of - and to learn from.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Picking back up

I am, at this moment, working through the end of a collapse.

These things happen to me occasionally. It's a part of a pattern, which is, in turn, part of who I am: I take on things, and take on things, and assure everyone I'm fine, and take on things, and joke about my workload, and take on things - and maybe I begin to incur a sleep debt I can't seem to pay off, and maybe I start finding my social life a burden - and I take on things, and begin to feel hunted and oppressed by the stress, and maybe I start to consider that I have possibly made a bad choice at some point, but usually before that can happen some small thing occurs and I hit critical mass, and I drop everything with a fury.

Ignoring my own limits has, at times, helped me achieve things: I left school with a reputation as one of the most driven students in my class, for one, and during my senior year I soared. But the crash always comes, and it always sucks.

It's often tied to depression, though not always, and I'm not really clear on what the specific cause/effect relationship is. I do know that multi-directional stress, especially when related to planning things, is a huge danger zone; I also know that I can stave off the crash to greater or lesser degrees of effectiveness by paring down my load, but by the time I start doing that it is generally too late and all I'm doing is making the angle of descent a little less steep.

This crash followed the pattern. Multi-directional stress, a large chunk of which had to do with taking point on finding and renting an apartment, and a sleep debt that felt like a black hole, and a whole load of minutiae that by themselves wouldn't have been stressful but which added up to be a monster - yeah.

I'm just angry that this one came when it did. The actual day of the collapse was the day that the Illustration Masterclass assignment email hit my inbox, and I just can't work through the lingering emotional exhaustion to get excited over them. I'm having to approach it using logic, since my actual artistic impulse is currently in the toilet: I'm doing A Midsummer Night's Dream, and within that I am going to paint Titania, because of course I am. I know my palette is going to be cool, and that her hair is going to be dark, and there are elements that have occurred to me as being lovely --

-- but I am thumbnailing from a dead place right now, and it's frustrating when I remember how incredible the rush of inspiration was for Tristan and Isolde last year.

I know with certainty that the spark is there waiting for me to dig it out, but the process is hard.

Friday, May 10, 2013

I have made some poor decisions

First: for a painting which was executed in a string of bad choices just about start to finish, I am incredibly pleased by the outcome.

Having said that - this was a long, miserable process of a painting, though for different reasons and in different ways than Holding the Pass was. That painting was too hard, an exercise in fighting through over-ambition and improving the hard way; Tithe, on the other hand, was just tedious.

(oh. its title is Tithe. it finally told me.)

Well - 'just' tedious is not quite correct. It was definitely boring to work on, and it definitely had parts that were finicky and delicate and utterly mind-numbing to do, but so much of what I hated about working on this painting is how poorly planned it was. Oh sure, I did a 'good' drawing - but what I did in that drawing was the figure, and the wicker ball. The dead bird suspended in the ball was a very late addition, which I came to after I'd painted in almost everything else; the strings were thrown in on impulse almost at the end, in a fit of rage at and disgust in how boring a painting it was. That those two things are so important, that the strings are literally the key to make this painting work, and they were afterthoughts -

Yeah, I'm left more than a little stunned at how well it came out.

Relearning lessons is always an… interesting experience, but it's nice to know that I'm past that particular brand of self-flagellation such a thing would have sparked even half a year ago. I was certainly angry at myself as I realized each mistake in turn, but in the past it would have touched off a truly savage bout of self-recriminations and mental beatdowns. This time around, there was, as I said, a fair amount of anger, but there were no spirals of rage or stirrings of deep-seated self-doubt: I knew that I was better than the mistakes I was making, and at each one I stepped up and moved onward, even if it took a couple of days away from the easel to facilitate.

It's startling to realize, but this process makes me think I've taken another step toward earning my stripes. I'm not a 'gifted' artist but I've put a lot of time and effort into being a good painter, and looking at this painting I know I'm succeeding in that regard.

I made this painting come together - I did. The searing spark of inspiration that made Tristan and Isolde flow through my fingers, the bright clear picture in my head that Dawn's Herald came from, none of that was there. I just worked on it, and it wasn't fun or easy, but I took each mistake and bad choice and I fixed them. The bird, the strings at the end: those I'll attribute to that place in my head that sometimes gives me my paintings, but those couldn't have gotten there without the painting itself being there, and it was only there because I made it happen.

There are, as always, things that could be better - better executed, more polished, less generic, just one rung up and it's out of reach for now - but so much is going right here, in the overall sense, that I'm just going to sit here and feel triumphant and maybe a little bit smug at this painting that sat there for a few months and mocked me.

(Next time I paint something this - simple? uncluttered? - I am doing it at least five inches smaller each side, because one of the things I hated about this was how much boring/tedious space there was to cover. Though it was so nice to be able to work on a face that size…)