Over the last few weeks I've been playing around with painting watercolour on a canvas; not the best mix of medium and 'ground'! If you have tried painting on canvas before with watercolour paint you will know what I mean - there is a reason why paper is the choice ground for watercolour paint. And yet, I was curious to try out the canvas option anyways. I have a pile of blank canvases in my studio, all of which have been sitting silently for well over a year now. I figured it was time to paint on canvas again, and yet I'm still so interested in watercolour paint. I just let the paint drip as it wanted to. For part of the painting I laid the canvas flat, near the end I put it upright. I also tried a newer 'watercolour markers' that Winsor and Newton have put out (in raw umber). All in all it was a fun experiment - another chance to expand my artistic experience.
This weekend I experimented with making my own 'watercolour' paint using nothing but flower petals/leaves which I found around my yard... and water. My daughter and I collected various flowers/leaves - such as dandelions, pansies, geraniums. We ripped them up with our fingers, and then them them steep in some hot tap water all morning under the sun. After a few hours, the water had mostly evaporated leaving behind a lovely natural tinted sort of paint. I had fun later painting with this all organic natural paint. It certainly behaves differently than the typical store-bought paint.
During the "Visions of Faith" art show a few weeks ago, I had a few very helpful conversations with our special guest artist, Cam Merkle. He really encouraged me to enjoy the process... not to be overly focused on the end-result. What brought on this conversation was one of my little comments, in regards to the fact that he spends 2-3 years on average per art piece (he does incredible bird carvings). I remarked, "I wouldn't have the patience for that!". Cam wisely replied that you don't need patience to do something that you love.
With this in mind, I thought about my "process". I'm quick to get at the end result... and can narrow in on that too much I suppose. So, as I gear up for the paintings I plan to work on this fall and winter, I decided to take my time and do a little 'study', with watercolour and ink. The subject's photo was taken with my husband's motion-sensored trail camera. I'm planning on using it as a subject this fall sometime.
In the last few lessons with Mackenzie, she worked on a drawing of a Manga cartoon character. This was an exercise in drawing accuracy; she did great!
Next I helped Mackenzie with her own linocut printing. She designed the image, which she drew onto the linoleum, and then I helped her by carving it out for her with a chisel. She used her current favourite "doodles"; a flower, a heart, the 'rooting for Rachel' symbol, and a cross. We had fun using different colour inks to make the prints.
Amy started art lessons with me a couple weeks ago. A few days ago I had Amy do this classic chair drawing, while focusing on seeing angles and negative shapes accurately. She is very observant. I love how this everyday object became a beautiful drawing.
Last night the Hiebert girls did a 50 minute study of a simple chair; I love how an ordinary everyday object can become a beautiful drawing with a bit of care and detail.
A chair can be a difficult object to draw because of all the different angles etc. I had the girls focus on the negative shapes and measurements to help them with accuracy. This is how their drawings turned out:
After a long summer break, Mackenzie (11 years old) started up lessons again yesterday. We have so much fun together, and I love her enthusiasm for life and her sense of humour.
I decided to try a couple alternative or unconventional drawing exercises with Mackenzie yesterday. I want to teach her to see. Or rather, to see more clearly. To see things in a new way. It's amazing how learning to see differently can affect the way someone draws, paints, or creates in other ways.
So, one of the exercises I had Mackenzie do was a Tactile Self-Portrait: She had to close her eyes and slowly feel her face, hair, shoulders etc. I asked her to draw what she felt.
The purpose of this exercise was for Mackenzie to 'think outside of the box' . To challenge her to 'see' in a different way. To translate what she felt with her fingers (tactile information) into visual lines.
I helped Mackenzie find the colours she wanted to use.
It's common to judge the value of art based on how well it represents something. This is an example of placing value in every line and colour - In this case, every line and colour change represents something to Mackenzie.
In the last few months I have come across random people who have told me how they paint a little bit, or sometimes draw, or that they would love to be able to paint or draw better... And of course there are always people who say they can't even draw a stick person. For those of you who can relate to this thinking (including those of you who cannot draw a stick person, and have always secretly wished you could...) I want to encourage you!
As you know we must exercise our bodies if we want to become strong. The same goes for the drawing skill... exercising our brain and training our eyes to see things differently can make a huge difference when it comes to putting pencil to paper. I feel like I've personally developed this skill just in the last few months, due to practicing and pushing myself.
It may be that the ability to draw well might come naturally to some people - however, I'm beginning to really believe that anyone, anyone, (with determination and desire) could learn to draw. I've stumbled across some excellent material on the left vs. right side of the brain, which includes great exercises to train yourself to see differently. I'm excited about applying this information in my art lessons. I've already seen results in my students who have received this teaching. It's exciting to see!
So you might be wondering... "So what if I can draw a tree!?" Well, there is such a satisfaction found in 'losing oneself' in drawing. A brain shift occurs when someone gets into that creative mindset, and it's such a good thing (ha - I wonder if Martha Stewart will ever include drawing on her list of Good Things).
I challenge you to grab some paper and a pencil (doesn't need to be a fancy pencil or special paper), and simply start drawing some object around you. Better yet, bundle up and sit outside with a mug of tea. Force yourself to see the lines and shapes of a tree or an old shed differently, and just put some lines down on the paper. Give yourself 30-60 minutes of uninterrupted time (if possible!), and I'm certain you won't regret that hour spent. Let me know how it goes!
For the last month or so I have been working simultaneously on a portrait and a landscape (amongst other projects here and there). This has really made me curious as to whether or not there is a connection between a portrait and a landscape painting! I have always enjoyed painting portraits. However, ever since painting the large landscape paintings for Acqua, I have had landscapes on my mind. More specifically, large landscape scenes (painted on large canvases) with no real focal point- just wide open spaces.
I have also wanted to work on my portrait drawing skills. So, I had my niece Kara come and sit for me in my studio at the end of summer. Painting/drawing in real life vs. from a photo is a very different experience! It was certainly a challenge. After two hours I set Kara free, and depended on good photographs that I took to finish it off.
My plan now is to work on another 'live sitting' portrait... and start on another large landscape painting. And I will keep wondering about a possible connection between the two different subjects.
I live in Southern Ontario on a farm with my husband, Dennis, and our two daughters. Painting out of my studio on our farm allows me to stay close to my family and to be surrounded by the natural landscape that continues to influence my work.