Both collages I made this weekend were inspired by African mask images from my most recent issue of National Geographic. I always need a starting point, an image that starts me off in a specific direction. One of the reasons that I liked both of these mask images is that they filled up my 6″ square quite nicely while leaving me room to add ephemera.
The one I made on Saturday is titled “Visions”. Because part of the costume the figure is wearing has rick rack on it, I found some of my rick rack to include. I have a book of African animals which is where I found the image of the zebra, a nice reflection of the costume.
Sunday’s collage is titled “You Can’t Find Wisdom at the Market” as that is the name of the strange character featured in the collage. The character is from Benin, and appears at a yearly festival that honors women. Because of this, I decided to add a background of lace to represent the feminine aspect of the featured character. I used gloss medium to attach the lace and additional flat features of this collage.
Soon it will be summer, I look forward to being able to make a collage every day, though it will be more challenging while Mike and I are on our road trip through California and Oregon, up to Washington for Rainy’s graduation from Evergreen State College. I suppose that I can take some basic supplies with me, and gather ephemera along the way. I do think I will give it a try.
It is hard for me to believe that in just over one month, my daughter, Rainy, will be graduating from Evergreen State College. Yesterday I received my order for Rainy’s graduation announcements. I feel so many different emotions….joy for the young woman Rainy has become, amazement at her wealth of knowledge, happiness that she is about to graduate, awe over where she is in her life right now, excitement for what her future might bring. That is just the beginning. I didn’t know that receiving the box of announcements and addressing the envelopes would bring out in me so many different feelings and emotions. I wish I could capture the way I feel on canvas. Perhaps I should try.
I have been teaching soft pastel techniques to my Drawing & Painting students as they create an expressive self-portrait. I encourage them to layer the pastels to create depth, spraying with workable fixative between layers. I created this self-portrait to use as I demonstrated different ways of working. I have titled it “Self-Portrait with Lily”. It is 11″ x 13″, soft pastel on Mi-Teintes paper. I am bringing this up because it is a good example of layering the pastels, working to create a sense of depth. Like a few of my students, I elected to work in natural skin tones and managed to successfully portray a reasonable likeness of myself. Because I was in the process of teaching soft pastels to my students, I have also been working in soft pastels at my Tuesday night life drawing sessions. The problem with the weekly sessions is that I totally ignore the aspect of layering in my attempt to create a completed drawing in 20 minutes. Guess what….this hasn’t been working too well for me. This is my best drawing from Tuesday night, April 24th. I titled it “Craig with Rope”. In my rush to get a drawing started and finished, I don’t spray between layers so they often get a bit muddied. I also don’t take the time to push the pastel into the paper with a stump or tortillion. Because I am not pushing the pastels into the paper, they are laying on the top surface of the paper, which creates the textured appearance. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I prefer to smooth the first few layers into the paper and then allow a few strokes of the pastel to remain on the surface of the paper. This second drawing is titled “Craig Laying Down”, it is 11″ x 13″, soft pastel on Mi-Teintes paper. This third drawing is titled “Craig on Chair”, it is also 11″ x 13″, soft pastel on Mi-Teintes paper. From the 5 drawings I did that night, these were the better ones and they aren’t even that great. I left that night feeling discouraged with my drawings and thinking that next week I should switch media.
Then an interesting conversation occurred. My friend from Tuesday night, Eric, had come to North High School this past Wednesday to teach the after-school life drawing session to my students. I spoke with him about the difference between my successful pastel self-portrait and my unsuccessful experience with pastels from Tuesday night. Eric made the remark that 20 minutes isn’t very long, that he doesn’t concern himself so much with finishing a drawing, but rather he focuses on doing the best he can within the short amount of time. He works at his own pace and what gets accomplished is it. His incomplete drawings are a record of his experience with that particular pose. I thought about what Eric said, and took it to heart. This week I will change my approach to Tuesday’s 20 minute poses. I will take my pastels, a stump, and my workable fixative. I will work more slowly and not concern myself with finishing a drawing, but rather with recording the pose and working more to refine what I can and not worry about what does not get drawn.
I will let you know how this works for me.
Now that the house is cleaned, laundry done, and the garden watered, I was able to make a small collage. While I try to make one on both Saturday and Sunday, it just didn’ happen yesterday. Today’s began with the flamingos, which I found in a National Geographic magazine. I knew I wanted to include a girl, so I found one amongst all of my ephemera that I have. The rest of the collage just sort of fell into place.
I guess I am procrastinating studying for the assessment center test as I am getting ready to make some oatmeal raisin cookies. Once they are made, however, I will crack open a couple of textbooks. I need to review the roles, purposes, and functions of non-western art so that I understand its relationship to the social, political, and historical aspects of its culture of origin. There are about 12 different cultures that I need to brush up on and should be able to accomplish most of it this afternoon.
Now that the weekend is here, I had the time to revisit my pastel drawings from Tuesday night’s life drawing session. For most of the night, I worked on 11″ x 14″ Mi-Teintes toned paper. I had made the decision to work on smaller paper in hopes that I could start and finish a drawing in 20 minutes. At the time that I was drawing, I felt as if I would need to rework each drawing at a later date, but when I pulled them out today, I decided that they were a good representation of what I could accomplish in 20 minutes and decided to leave them alone. These are the 3 smaller drawings from last Tuesday.
For the final drawing of the night, I selected a larger sheet of white 19″ x 22″ Mi-Teintes paper. This was because it was the last pose of the night and we were going to have 40 minutes for this drawing. When I finished it, I really wasn’t too happy with it, but when I pulled it out this afternoon, I actually liked the vibrant colors, especially the addition of violet into her skin tones. I added just a bit more violet, smoothed out the coloration in the background, and called the drawing done.
In my Advanced Art IB class, I am teaching students to create a drypoint etching. I did this 10 years ago when I was teaching in Las Vegas, but that was a long time ago. Because it has been such a long time since I actually made a drypoint, I knew I needed to practice before moving forward with my students.
In February (before I began the unit on drypoint) I painted a series of small watercolor images in my Tuesday night life drawing session. I decided that this one, showing our model seated from the back would be a good painting to base my drypoint on.
I had a piece of Plexiglas at school that I cut to 8″ x 10″ and proceeded to create the drypoint plate. That was the easy part, as I always have enjoyed the process of hatching and crosshatching. When it came time to print, I got some advice from my friend Joan, and proceeded to make my first print using the portable etching press I have at school. The print didn’t turn out real well; Joan and I both thought that perhaps I had over wiped the plate. Re-thinking the process, my colleague and friend, Penny, let me move the etching press from her classroom next door, into my classroom. Because it is so heavy, I actually had 4 boys move the press for me. My next print, made on this press, still didn’t turn out real well; yet I was careful not to over wipe. I decided that I didn’t have the press adjusted correctly and increased the pressure. This time I got it correct. This is the artist proof, the one made with the correct pressure. I have titled it”Just Resting”. The image size is 8″ x 10″ on 12″ x 14″ paper. This was a good experience for me as I was able to persevere and work through the problems. I am ready to do a printing demonstration for my students on Monday!
This past week I was able to go to life drawing on both Tuesday and Thursday nights. I wanted to work in something other than watercolor, so I gathered up my soft pastels and some toned paper to work on. Because Tuesday was 20 minute poses, I worked on half sheets of paper, but Thursday we had 40 minute poses that allowed me to work larger, 19″ x 25″. Even with the 40 minute poses, I didn’t quite finish any of the drawings that I started, so last night I tackled 2 of the 3 drawings and completed them both. The third one is still on my easel, just waiting for me to finish later today. Interestingly, as I leafed through my sketchbook, I realized that it was this same time last year that I was working in pastels. I thought that was rather odd, until I thought about the reason behind my interest in soft pastels. This is the time of year that I am teaching portraits in my Drawing & Painting 2 classes and I always have my students create a pastel self-portrait. I show my students a power point I made featuring Witkacy, a pastel portrait artist from the early 1900’s. Then I have them practice with layering the pastels before the students begin their expressive self-portrait. Because I don’t work in soft pastels on a regular basis, I think I revive my interest in pastels as a way of refreshing my own knowledge so that I can teach the techniques to my students. I will be ready to demonstrate pastel techniques tomorrow.
This first drawing is titled “Courtney”, it is 19″ x 25″, soft pastel on brown toned Mi-Teintes paper. This was actually the final drawing of the night on Thursday. I was hesitant to use such a dark brown paper, so I saved it for the last. I consider it to be my best drawing of the night, the pose was interesting with Courtney’s face turned away from me. She was sitting on her dark green robe, which I thought was the perfect color for the brown paper. With this drawing, I worked with more natural skin tones, adding touches of blue for the shadowy areas. Courtney’s skin is very pale, which contrasted wonderfully with her dark black hair, which was pulled up and back, away from her face.
This drawing is actually on light blue Mi-Teintes paper that is 19″ x 25″, it just didn’t photograph well. It is titled “Courtney in Blue”. I am quite pleased with this drawing, even though I shortened the torso a bit, Courtney is actually quite long and thin, not as heavy as she looks in this drawing. Because I was working on blue-toned paper, I chose to work with blue pastels. I successfully captured the curve of her spine and the basic gesture of the pose. By placing Courtney slightly off center, I was able to create a more interesting composition. It also helped that I enlarged the figure to fit the paper, and cropped her on all four sides.
“Courtney in Green” is actually on a medium olive green shade of 19″ x 25″ Mi-Teintes paper, I don’t know why it grays out so much in the photograph. This is my least favorite of the drawings I made on Thursday night. I really struggled with her hand resting on her thigh, but I finally got it to at least look like a thumb on a hand. I liked the value changes evident in her face, but I just could’t carry the concept through on the rest of her body as the lighting really did wash out her pale skin tone.
I think I will work in pastels again this week when I go to the life drawing session on Tuesday night.