Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Face Practice with Prompts

A couple weeks ago, I learned about Galia Alena’s blog where she was hosting a 30 Faces in 30 Days Challenge. I decided to join the challenge earlier this month and started sketching faces using her prompts as inspiration.

I haven’t been able to sketch a face every day. Which means I’m taking to heart the second “guideline” for this challenge:

If a face a day is too much for you, don’t let that stop you, do what feels right for you– we’d love you to play along in whatever way feels right to you.

I like that type of guideline. So for me this may be a 30+ day challenge.

I’m committed to finishing this challenge. Regardless of how many days it takes. Because I usually don’t make it to the end and typically drop out or stop participating somewhere along the way.

Right now I’m using my larger sketchbook to create these pieces. Most take about an hour to complete.

Day One: Drips and Splashes

The first piece was created on a piece of pre-splattered, painted paper that was leftover from a previous workshop. I was trying to emulate what I created in one of Gillian’s classes. That attempt, below, kind of failed.

Day1_DripsandSplashes1

I wanted to try this prompt again and decided to move on to my sketchbook. I used a black ink wash to create the background. Once that dried, Conte pastel pencil, white ink, black ink, and thinned acrylic paint were used to create the face.

Day1_DripsandSplashes2

Day Two: Dream

I had a vague idea in my head of what I wanted to create for this prompt. I kept seeing an image of a face with closed eyes. Paint, paper, ink, Caran d’Arche crayons, and oil pastels were used.

Day2_Dream

Day Three: Text

I woke up on Saturday morning with this prompt knocking around in my head. I immediately envisioned a background with words. Before sitting down to create this piece, I burned some sage in my studio, closed my eyes, and meditated on the word “text.”

I asked my creative guides to join me and pulled out a couple pictures to use as a reference. During the process I was inspired to use the strands of her hair as lines for writing more text.

Day3_Text_VeryClose

Day3_Text_Close

Day3_Text

Day Four: Wing

Up to this point, I’ve been stuck on putting circles on the cheeks and noses of these pieces. I have no idea why. Maybe “stuck” isn’t the right word because I’m just following my intuition when sketching these pieces.

That, however, ended (for now) with the day four prompt.

I followed the same preparation process before sketching; burn sage, meditate, and ask for guidance. The piece came together almost effortlessly. Sometimes I continue to surprise myself.

Day4_Wing

This piece was created with graphite pencil and charcoal pencil. Red Conte pastel pencil adds a pop of color. Silver oil pastel was also used on the feathers of her wing.

This is my favorite piece thus far.

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Going Back to the Beginning

One of the early exercises in “Let’s Face It” is to look back at some of the face sketches, drawings or paintings that we created early on in our creative journey. It’s a great exercise to remind us of where we started and where we’re going. It will also help us see our progress throughout the course this year.

So I thought it might be amusing to share with you some of my early face drawings and paintings. It’s okay to laugh or cringe at some of these faces. I do the same thing when I look at them.

Turn on the Way Back Machine, Mr. Peabody

These drawings were created about 6 years ago. I was dealing with some health issues and used art to work through that process. This was my self-portrait. The question mark represented not knowing what would come next in this situation.

HowIFeel120110_edited

I hated drawing noses and almost always placed the eyes too high on the head.

Ironically, I made sculptural pieces, my Spirit Messengers and Ornimals, for several years. But many of those pieces had heads/faces that were imaginative and not all were based on humans.

Fast Forward

Now it is 2013. I’m taking a non-art related class though we are creating mandalas or other forms of expression in response to readings. Here I decided to create my first “portraits” in many years.

 

I notice how much I enjoyed creating these pieces. Not anywhere near “perfect” but it reminds me how much I like drawing and painting.

As time progresses, I stop making sculptural pieces and turn my focus to sketching, drawing and painting. I start finding sources with instruction and guidance on drawing faces. (Waaaay too many resources, in fact.)

However, that doesn’t mean lady confidence emerges and my paintings of faces magically appear on the canvas. Hardly.

In these two paintings from 2014, I found myself quite afraid to paint eyes and noses. Again. Instead of taking the risk that I might completely mess up the faces, I found it easier to give the appearance of eyes (or eyelids). That perfectionist voice inside, the one who says “You should know how to do this” appeared to win this round.

Breakthrough

Finally, in 2015, my love of drawing faces and the desire to put in the effort to improve my skill comes full circle. I buy Pam Carricker’s book, “Mixed Media Portraits. I sign up for online classes. I’m invited to participate in a sketching group.

Now the practice begins to pay off.

Where is this leading?

Even though I took art classes during all four years in high school and had a basic knowledge of how to draw a face, I found that it was easier to avoid drawing or painting a face at all costs. Perhaps it was some old memory of being told I “couldn’t” draw that kept me from creating faces. Or old lady perfection who was more worried about screwing up the facial features instead of just playing and experimenting.

What I can say is that if you also love to draw faces, then by all means, draw those faces. There are many resources out there with tips and tricks to get you started. Yes, practice is important, whether it’s every day or a few times a week.

It’s also important, I think, that you try really hard to get past the worry that the face you’re drawing won’t look like whomever. I told myself early on that I wasn’t going for perfect portraiture. I’m developing my own style and you should too. Make your face drawings whimsical. Make them caricatures. Give them green hair and purple eyes. Have fun with it.

In both the “Let’s Face It” class and “Drawn to Expression” I’m feeling better about interpreting the faces in a way that fits my style. Whatever that style is at this time. Finding a “style” or “expression” doesn’t happen overnight for most of us. It takes practice (which, for practice sake, might include copying). It takes having an open mind and a willingness to play and experiment. It’s an ongoing learning process.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Getting Sketchy. Getting Messy

Okay, well, where has the time gone? Each week I put “blog post” on my to-do list. And each week passes right by without writing an update.

With this new month of the new year, I’ve been busy with my volunteer work, which has brought with it a couple new responsibilities, and also taking two online classes. (Actually, I signed up for three online classes. But the third one is a free class, and, honestly, the two that I paid for are my priority.)

So, what are these two online classes?

The first class is called Drawn to Expression with UK artist Gillian Lee Smith. I absolutely love this class and it is getting most of my attention right now. This class is more process & technique based than product-outcome based. I love that I’m learning to use new-to-me materials, like charcoal sticks, graphite powder, Conte sticks, and pastels. And trying to become more expressive in my work.

The other class is Lets Face It with Kara Bullock and 15 other mixed media artists. Kara also lead the “Angels Among Us” online class that I took last fall. In “Lets Face It” the topic is faces. Full on face portrait, side view, 3/4, as well as portraiture with bust, hands, and even a full figure. This class runs the whole year and is chock full of information, process, technique, and final product.

Drawn to Expression: Week One

Most of the work I’ve created since the classes started has been in DoE. So that is where I’ll start.

We’re two weeks into the class but I’m still working through the first week’s lessons. Of course.

We started by sketching a household object. Something with interesting angles or curves. These early exercises are timed. The time limit keeps you from getting stuck in the details.

10 minute sketch-Household object

From here Gillian takes us through a variety of exercises to help us loosen up as we work with our materials-charcoal, charcoal pencil, graphite pencils, Conte crayon, and pastels. I haven’t practiced drawing this much since high school art class. It has been a great practice. I actually *want* to get into the studio to sketch or draw.

Portrait Practice

The first week has also included practice in sketching portraits. Or at least the “hint” of a portrait. When exercises are timed at 30 seconds, then one minute, then five minutes, an impression of a face is about all you get.

30 Second Portraits

Day2.30SecondSketches

One Minute Portraits

Day2.1minutesketches

Five Minute Portraits

When I started this exercise, I stood, frozen, in front of the paper. Literally. I could feel myself stop and not know where to begin. “How the heck am I supposed to draw a face in 5 minutes?,” I thought. What about those guide-lines I’m so used to putting on the paper first? I don’t remember how to draw a face!

Well that moment took up about a minute of my allotted time. The result being the first picture in the upper left corner above. Gradually, I loosened up and was able to start making sketchy, flowing lines.

Now, I love this as a warm-up exercise or to simply practice, to get your hands moving, and get something onto the paper if I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the studio. It’s a great way to get out of your head and to not worry about details and accuracy. It’s PRACTICE. Not a finished piece for exhibit or sale.

20 Minute+ Portrait Sketches

This exercise culminates with a 20 minute or longer portrait sketch. Now you get more time to delve deeper and explore a particular area in your portrait sketch. It’s kind of a balance between having the right amount of time and too much time before you get hung up in picky little details. That is, self-editing and knowing when to stop. (Or as Flora Bowley says “Spiral in, spiral out.”)

Day2.20MinutesketchA

First 20 minute portrait sketch

In this first attempt, I was more hung up on the materials, especially the graphite powder and trying to build layers. This was created on Bristol board. The surface was a bit too smooth.

Day2.20minutesketchB

Second 20 minute portrait sketch

Now I’m getting used to the materials and also the technique. I like the highlights on his chin, nose, and under the right eye. But the darks are too dark, I think. It doesn’t feel like I’m building the layers slowly and gradually enough to give the portrait a more “mysterious” feel.

Day2.40minutesketch

40 minute portrait sketch

Okay, now I think I’m getting the hang of it. I decided to very lightly sketch in some guide lines for this face first, then added in successive layers of graphite powder. I’m learning I have to add in some darker areas, then remove some of them to get the depth.

I really like the highlight on her lower lip and on the philtrum under her nose; on the right eyelid, and around her right nostril. I also like the dark shadow under her chin at the top of her neck and the light area directly below it. She looks serious and pensive. And her face isn’t even finished. It doesn’t have to be completely finished.


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Face-Off

One reason I haven’t posted much in recent weeks is that I’ve been spending a bit more time in my studio. Yay me!

Since we’ve moved, the transition to a new home, getting settled, traveling, waiting for my studio space to be completed, all impacted my ability to engage in creative activities.

Once my new space was finished and I had unpacked and set up my work areas, I poked around at some things here and there, but simply was not feeling the pull to get my butt into the studio.

I stopped working with polymer clay last year and was not feeling inclined to pick it up again. I’ve taken a couple online painting classes with Flora Bowley and Pixie Lighthorse. Both were enjoyable. I learned some new approaches to painting and felt a new release of my creative muse.

Yet something still felt “off.” I’ve been dabbling with this intuitive painting approach yet still didn’t feel it quite coming all together.

A Shimmer of Light

During the WordPress Blogging 101 course we were given a task to find new blogs to like and follow. It must’ve been through that assignment that I came across Kara Bullock’s site and her upcoming online course, Angels Among Us. I’d been thinking that I wanted try my hand at painting faces on my intuitive painting canvases. Not necessarily portraiture. But something a bit more detailed than the simple faces or the faceless beings that were appearing in some of my pieces.

Kara offers a free online tutorial when you sign up for her newsletter. That gave me enough motivation to set the wheels in motion.

From there I discovered, through a different artist’s blog post, Dina Wakley’s video for drawing and painting faces.

Now the lid on the box where my creative muse had been lurking was blown off. Combining some of Kara’s instruction with what I learned from Dina’s videos, I started drawing and painting faces with more intention.

Then, on one of my rabbit hole trips on Google and Amazon.com, I came across Pam Carriker’s book Mixed Media Portraits. Ruh-oh George. Our library didn’t carry her book so I did the next best thing. I ordered a copy from Amazon.

The Eyes Have It

Now I’ve got a basic understanding on how to draw faces. We spent quite a bit of time drawing them in my four years of high school art classes. But skills get rusty when not used or maintained.

So, for about a week, I took time each day to draw a face from my imagination.

First, a sketch that was done about 3 weeks after I started watching Kara’s videos. This was created during a weekly sketching group using a live model.

Sketching Group Live Model

Sketching Group Live Model

Here is a face sketched after watching Dina Wakley’s video. I watched the video again while drawing this face.

Face Drawn Using D.W.'s Video Guidance

Face Drawn Using D.W.’s Video Guidance

Here is a face I drew following Pam Carricker’s directions.

Face Drawn Following P.C's Guidance

Face Drawn Following P.C’s Guidance

Below are the same sketches side-by-side for comparison.

And here are a weeks worth of face sketches.

Face Practice 1

Face Practice 1

Face Practice 2

Face Practice 2

I didn’t use much shading until the final practice sketch. This does give her face a bit more depth and definition. Through this practice I noticed some similarities in the faces; the longish noses, the tiny lips. The only face that was drawn while looking at a picture of someone is the first face on Face Practice 2. It really does help to have some sort of reference because most of the other faces all seem to have a serious look and a blank stare.

Now I plan to spend time sketching just eyes, noses, and lips. It seems as I get better at drawing one facial component, the other parts suffer. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pull all the facial components together in due time. Practice, practice, practice.


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Getting Sketchy

Well, I haven’t been quite as dedicated to the 31-Day Drawing Challenge as I intended. I find the task of beginning and sticking with a practice, just about any practice, to be more and more challenging as I get older. Which seems to be the opposite of what I thought would happen. You know, you get older, have more time, more wisdom, so starting something and sticking with it should be easier.

At least that is the impression I picked up somewhere on this journey.

But I digress from the point of this post. And that is to share the latest sketches that I have completed as part of the 31-Day Challenge (which, incidentally, ended with the month of August. But who’s counting? Not me. Obviously.)

“Nest:” Trying not to be too literal and go with the first thing most people might think of, a bird’s nest, I opted for a picture of Nesting Dolls as my inspiration. Perspective was much more challenging to capture.

Nest

Nest

“Breeze”: How does one interpret this prompt?

Breeze

Breeze

“Warmth”: This prompt brings to mind several images. I went with something quick and used colors as inspiration.

Warmth

Warmth

“Forest”: Can you see the forest through the trees?

Forest

Forest

“Rain”: I’m not sure if I would’ve created this drawing in this manner if I had not visited the Van Gogh exhibit at The Clark Museum. It was in that exhibit where I saw Van Gogh’s depiction of rain as inspired by Japanese paintings (which inspired one of his paintings.)

Rain

Rain


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The Challenge of Drawing

I recently joined Craftsy’s 31-Day Drawing Challenge. Well, “joined” may not be the best word. I’m not submitting what I create on the Craftsy site. Rather, I’m sharing my drawings on my Facebook page and here in blog-o-land.

So what is this “challenge” exactly? If you go to the above link, you’ll see that Craftsy has provided a prompt for each day in August. Interpret the prompt in any way you want. Yes, the suggested format is drawing. But if you’re not into drawing or sketching, then write a poem, make some music, do an interpretative dance, take a picture. Paint a picture. Let the prompt inspire your creative muse. The format isn’t important. Letting your creative juices flow is!

My challenge is trying not to be too literal with the prompts. That’s probably why I made it through the first three and haven’t picked up my sketchbook since then. That and well, just setting aside the time. I’m trying not to put pressure on myself as I find myself falling behind (uh, oh, see the tiny beads of sweat breaking out on my forehead.)

That making time thing and just doing it, well that’s a post for another day.

Anyways, here are my interpretations for the first three prompts:

Grow” Inspired by the baby robins that were in a nest outside our kitchen window.

Grow

Grow

In Bloom” The Black-Eyed Susans are bursting in our yard.

Black Eyed Susan

Black Eyed Susan

Flutter” This brought several images to mind. Butterflies. Wings. Eyelashes. I chose a large turkey feather as inspiration.

Fluttering Feathers

Fluttering Feathers

What will you create with the prompts in the 31-Day Challenge?