Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Lady Blue

I’ve been setting aside most of the lessons from “Let’s Face It” as I focused on Gillian’s daily classes in “Drawn to Expression”

However, in week 9 of “Let’s Face It,” Juna Biagioni’s mini-lesson piqued my interest. In this lesson, Juna used a more expressive approach for creating her portrait. It seemed like a perfect follow-up to everything I’ve been learning in “Drawn to Expression.”

The result was “Lady Blue.” Materials used include watercolor paper prepared with a thin coat of gesso, Conte pencils, acrylic paint, and Caran d’Arche crayons.

Background: Created with two shades of blue acrylic paint, plus white acrylic paint. Applied with a paintbrush and old credit card.

1LadyBlueBackground

First Layer: The face was very lightly sketched onto the background. The first layer for the face was created with the same shades of blue acrylic paint as the background and applied loosely to the canvas. 2LadyBlueFirstFacePaintLayer

Sketching More Layers: The face was again sketched onto the first layer of paint. First with white Conte pastel pencil and then with a darker pencil. The intent is that each layer adds to the depth of the final portrait.

3LadyBlueFirstFaceSketchLayer

4LadyBlueDarkerFaceSketchLayer

Lighter Tone Layers: Sketching is followed by adding paint in lighter tones. And more sketching.

5LadyBlueFirstFleshToneandHairLayer

6LadyBlueDarkSketchOverLightPaint

At this point, we’ve officially entered the ugly stage.

Back to the blue paints and Conte. Now it feels like this portrait is starting to come together.

7LadyBlueConteOverMoreBlue

In Juna’s lesson, she eventually used oil paint sticks and oil pastels to smooth out the skin tone. I tried the oil pastels that I have but wasn’t thrilled with the result. I opted to use Caran d’Arche crayons.

8LadyBlueFinal

I really like the expressive tone in this finished piece. I debated with myself whether or not to fill in her hair. I tried to visualize how the piece would look if the hair was a solid color. My preference was for her face to be the focal point. Leaving her hair partially complete adds to the expressive nature of the piece, in my opinion.

I could’ve cleaned up the dark lines along the left side of her face and neck as they may look a bit too much like an outline. This self-editing thing can be a bit of a back and forth battle.

Finally, I really tried to emphasize the light and dark sides of her face. I think I achieved that. This is the first piece I’ve ever created using non-flesh tone colors to indicate highlights and shadows. In the past, doing that scared me. It seemed unnatural. Perhaps it depends on the particular piece. After this exercise, I feel more comfortable using that technique.

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Frida Inspired Angel

Life has a curious way of distracting us from our other plans. Such as it is with my attempts at blogging on a more consistent basis. However you might define consistent.

Anyways, I finally put my butt in the chair and uploaded the rest of the pictures for my Frida-inspired angel. This is the angel created in the first lesson of Kara Bullock’s “Angels Among Us” online workshop. You can see the first installment here.

Picking up where the previous post left off, here are more work-in-progress (WIP) images and the finished piece.

The initial layers of her face, hair and halo have been painted. Now it was time to sketch in her shoulders, torso, necklace, and wings.

Then came the color of her necklace, dress, and texture for her wings. And a few more tweaks to her face and neck. Of course.

I found a picture of Frida online and in it she is wearing this groovy necklace made of crocheted flowers. That became my inspiration for the necklace in this painting.

At some point, you have to stop focusing on the little details and move on to the background. It’s really easy to obsess over the little details. I lost count of how many layers of paint are on her face. Or how long it took to paint in her hair, adjust the width of each row, and make sure each section landed evenly on both sides of her head.

With the background painted, she really started to pop off of the canvas and the painting finally felt like it was coming together.

10Frida_Background

An Eye Popping Background

From this point I focused on finishing her necklace and making some final adjustments to her dress and face. She had finally come together and I was super happy with how she looked.

12FridaCropped_iPhoneversion

Frida-inspired Angel (cropped)

11FridaComplete_iPhoneversion

Frida-inspired Angel (iPhone version)

I even pulled out my Nikon to take a few pictures of this piece. I’m a little rusty on taking art photos with a digital camera in manual mode. And the location where I set up this painting and my equipment wasn’t ideal. However, the resulting images give a slightly different “feel” to the painting; a more “aged” icon kind of look.

13FridaAngel_1

Frida-inspired Angel (Nikon version 1)

14FridaAngel_2

Frida-inspired Angel (Nikon version 2)

Since this painting was finished, I’ve completed a second lesson creating an angel using watercolors and am in the process of working on another angel using acrylics. I’ll share those with you after the Thanksgiving holiday.


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Grabbing the Brass Ring

During the winter, my local art guild had a creativity challenge for members. We’ve had these “exercises” before and it’s always fun to see what people create when challenged to think out of the box, out of their comfort zone, and/or out of their usual medium.

In this particular challenge we were asked to create something inspired by, or with, a found object. But not just any ol’ found object.  Nope. This time members brought a found object from their home, placed in a paper bag, to our monthly meeting. All the bags were put in the middle of the table. Then we took turns, kind of, choosing a bag from the pile. No peeking. Off each of us went with our little found object of inspiration. The deadline for revealing our found object creation would be the next month’s meeting.

What was my found object? Two brass rings about 1″ in diameter. They look like rings you might find on an apron or a belt. My first reaction? What the heck am I going to do with these?

My Creative Process

I looked at those rings and my brain came back instantly with a big blank. Kind of like a sheet of white paper or an empty canvas. Absolutely NOTHING. I put the brass rings on one of my work tables and let them sit there for a few days.

Finally, feeling a bit like Pooh Bear when he starts to think, I decided to use a word association game to stimulate some creative ideas.

poohbear_think-1

I looked at the brass rings, held them in my hand, and started writing in my sketch book. I wrote down anything that came to mind when I looked at the rings. Things like “One ring to rule the world” and “Circle of Life” and “Two rings for marriage.” Even completely unrelated phrases such as “Cool runnings” and “Square peg in a round hole” were fair game.

Then I let the list sit for a few more days. Because no ideas were coming to me. Yet. I believe you can’t force the process.

Breakthrough

This challenge came during the time I was taking Flora’s class. That meant I had several canvases strewn about the studio in different phases of creation.  A few of them were used to collect excess paint. If I had extra paint on my brushes or on my main palette at the end of a painting session, I would swipe the brushes clean on a blank canvas. This is when my breakthrough happened.

I remembered Flora telling us that one way to create an intuitive painting is to work with shapes. Repeating shapes. Abstract shapes. It didn’t have to be complicated. KISS, I say. Keep it simple, stoopid.

I picked up one of the excess paint canvases and a Sharpie marker. I started to write all the phrases from my sketch book, the ones from my word association game, onto the canvas. I started writing on the long side of the canvas, turned it 90 degrees, and continued writing on the short side. Turned it 90 degrees again and kept writing on the long side. As I wrote, even more words came to mind. I did this until all the phrases were written on the canvas in a continuous square-circle shape. It ended when I was almost near the center of the canvas.

Somewhere along the way I had an idea to paint the brass rings white and where I would put them on the canvas. I would use the circle shape as my inspiration.

Result

I don’t have a lot of process pictures. You know how it is when you get into the flow and just keep working. Who has time to think about stopping and taking pictures along the way?

This is the canvas at a very early stage when it was used to collect excess paint.

BeforeBrassRingBy the time I started writing words all over it, several more layers had been applied to the canvas. The face disappeared quickly.

The picture below is one of the few in-process pictures I found. The brass rings that started this whole piece are in the lower right corner. I attached them to the canvas with heavy gel medium.

Brass Rings In Process

Brass Rings In Process

The remaining pictures show the finished canvas.

Brass Ring Detail

Brass Rings Detail

Brass Rings Circle Detail

Brass Rings Circle Detail

Brass Rings Full Length Detail

Brass Rings Full Length Detail

"Brass Rings"  Amy A. Crawley, 2014

“Brass Rings”
11″x14″
Acrylic, Sharpie marker, found objects
Amy A. Crawley, 2014

Most of the words I wrote on the canvas were covered by paint. Though if you look at it real close, you may see a few words or letters peeking through the paint.

This piece taught me how to work with a limited color palette, repetition of shapes, and creating movement in the piece so your eye travels around the canvas.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 


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Entering The Awkward Teenager Stage

Oh goodness, I can’t believe it has been several weeks since I posted about my class with Flora Bowley. The month of March has passed so quickly. I haven’t forgotten about you. I’ve just been focused in another direction.

In my time away from the blog, I’ve received my level 2 Reiki certification, had a revelation about the direction I want to take in life, finished Flora’s class, and started researching my family tree in preparation for an upcoming trip. All good stuff.

I’ve continued to work on my paintings from the workshop. They’ve gone through several more iterations since I last posted. I refer to this as the awkward teenager stage. I like how they look. I don’t like how they look. They want more of a certain color. They want to be turned upside-down for a different perspective. They want attention. They want to be left alone. You get the picture.

This is how the two primary canvases looked at the end of my last post.

First Canvas

FirstCanvas_TranslucentLayer

Second Canvas

SecondCanvas_TranslucentLayer

The Awkward Teenager Stage

Maybe this isn’t so much about the painting entering the awkward teenager stage as much as it is an extension of that stage. Certainly the last two pictures, which show each painting’s progress up to that point, look pretty awkward. And that is the great variable in this process. You can add as many layers, marks, and colors as you like. It all depends on when you feel like the painting is starting to come together and when the painting tells you that it is starting to come together.

Does that seem convoluted?

Anyways, after all those layers I applied in the first couple of weeks, I started to add imagery. The images can be abstract or real objects. They might stay in the final piece or they may completely change. It’s all up to intuition.

First Canvas Transformation

FirstCanvas_AddingImagesAs I sat in meditation one day, an idea popped into my head on what this canvas wanted to look like. I saw an image of an angel and a tree on either side of her. So I went with that idea.

Adding an Angel

Adding an Angel

I spent quite a bit of time dancing with this angel on the canvas. Then I flipped the canvas upside down and a face appeared. (Apologies for the poor picture quality. I only took one picture at this stage using the camera on my phone.)

Face appears

Face appears

Sigh. First, I was really excited about the angel. And then that face appeared. The more I painted, or tried to paint around the angel, the more I knew that the angel was constricting my progress on this piece. She took up too much room. I felt like I was trying to create around her instead of with her. I like angels. But this one was cramping my style.

After a lot of hesitation and avoidance, I had to say “Buh-buh” to my angel.

Buh-buh angel

Buh-buh angel

This was hard to do. I was quite attached to the angel. But part of the intuitive painting process asks us to let go of things we don’t need at that moment. It doesn’t mean that the image won’t appear again in the same painting. It simply means letting go for now. And that can open us up to new and greater things.

You’ll notice that I committed to the face that appeared. Seriously committed to it. That face will become a permanent part of this painting. Below are a two more images.

Second Canvas Transformation

Here is the second canvas with the initial group of shapes and images that I added.

SecondCanvas_AddingImages

For whatever reason, I wasn’t “feeling it” when I put these shapes on the canvas. This has been a fairly consistent occurrence that I became more and more aware of during class. Often, I would paint on one canvas and really feel like I was in the flow. I’d move to the next canvas and seem to lose that momentum. Maybe this was a sign that I needed to take a break in between each piece. Maybe the music playing at that moment wasn’t right. I haven’t figured that one out, yet.

I proceeded to flip the canvas and focused on the large flower shape.

SecondCanvas_FlowerAppearsAt this point I’m trying very hard to practice non-attachment to the painting. And to keep my loud-mouth negative voice, named Ester, from squashing the whole thing. One aspect we did agree on was that we really liked the small spirits that gathered in the upper right corner of the canvas.

Spirits gathering

Spirits gathering

At this point, I walked away from the canvas. I really didn’t like it. Other than the spirits, I wasn’t liking anything about this piece. So I did something drastic. I obliterated everything except the gathering of spirits. I painted dark and moody. I had a blast doing it too.

And then something magical happened. I looked around the studio. I decided to paint on the canvas the images of some art dolls hanging on my wall. This is when the winged creatures appeared.

Winged Creatures Appear

Winged Creatures Appear

Something clicked in this instant. Taking a giant leap had provided me with a new starting point. New potential. From here I began to add contrasting colors that made the winged creatures stand out. Now we were getting somewhere.

SecondCanvas_WingedCreatures_Color

Winged Creatures Detail

Winged Creatures Detail

And that is where I’m going to end this post. Both canvases have transformed through wild colors and many layers. Images are being added, then obliterated or reworked. Each piece is coming into its own. Moving out of the awkward teenager stage and into a blooming piece of art.


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My First Two Weeks With Flora

As promised, I wanted to share with you my progress in Flora Bowley’s Bloom True online class. This class focuses on painting intuitively. That is, listening to your inner voice for direction, practicing non-attachment, getting rid of expectations, and playing. Lots of playing.

Believe me, it is not as easy as it sounds.

Listening to my inner voice isn’t hard. I’ve been doing that for a while now. Practicing non-attachment, not wondering what the final painting will look like, not letting the inner critic get too loud. Those things are much trickier to put into practice. Even playing with paint on the canvas can be a challenge at times.

Our first couple of weeks have been spent getting to know our canvas, putting lots of layers on it, playing with the paint and textures and shapes. Here is my progress so far.

If you have a cat or dog at home, you know they want to help out in the studio.

"I wonder if Mom will let me help her paint?"

“I wonder if Mom will let me help her paint?”

We experiment with how to apply the first layer of paint. Wet on wet and then blindfolded. (Um, just me. Pippin did not participate. Really. Have you tried to blindfold a cat?)

Three Canvases Ready to Go

Three Canvases Ready to Go

After this approach, we work on adding layers. Warm layers, cool layers. Lots of layers. There is no right or wrong way to add layers of paint. Nor is there any magic number for how many layers to put on the canvas. It’s all about play and listening to your intuition.

First Canvas Progress

Here is the paint progression and transformation of the first canvas. (Click on the first image to start the slideshow.)

Second Canvas Progress

I work on at least two canvases at a time. While one canvas is drying, I can paint on another canvas and stay in the flow. (Click on the first image to start the slideshow.)

At this point, the paintings have gone through the “Wow, that’s cool” stage and the “Ew, that is really ugly” stage. Several times. Toward the end of last week I was getting better about practicing non-attachment and allowing myself to say “Wait until tomorrow” before passing too much judgement onto the piece.

Many times, seeing the painting with fresh eyes in the morning has been all it takes to appreciate the process.

I still have no idea where either painting is taking me or what they will look like in the end. And that’s okay.

I’ll leave you with another cute cat picture. Pippin decided if he couldn’t help paint my canvas, he’d get creative with the drop cloth.

PippinGetsCreativeWithFloorTarp