It's exciting as a parent to watch your child excel in a special talent... my youngest daughter (8 yrs old) recently spent time with me in my studio. While I was working on my own art project, she worked on her own. She drew out a self portrait (she was looking at a photo), and did so completely unassisted. I couldn't believe how well she did! She had the right proportions and everything.
When it came time to painting, I suggested some paint-mixing tips (i.e. skin colour - mix in a bit of blue with the red and yellow, into white.... for the hair - raw umber and yellow with some of the skin colour...). I was very proud of her results. :)
Shortly after the last blog I wrote, my Opa passed away. He was such a pillar in our family, and so it was a great loss to lose him. It's hard to express in words the feelings this stirred up in me. Losing him meant losing not just a special family member, but also losing a connection to my heritage. It's that feeling that life will never be the same again. Who will tell us the stories of adventures growing up in Paraguay? What it felt like escaping persecution in Russia? How to grow sweet potatoes from a ring of vines? Who else will be as impressed with me when I try to play the mandolin?
As I was sorting through photos to put together the slide show for the funeral, I instantly fell in love with two photos of my family from the 1950's having a picnic in Niagara - a year after they all immigrated from Paraguay. It features my Opa, Oma, my mom, my uncle, a few of my great Uncles and Aunts, and my great Opa and Oma. It shows the classiness of that era - wearing sunday best out for a picnic. They brought out their good china, and their wooden chairs. What a beautiful time to live. What a challenging time to live also. I felt the appreciation for what they all did for us... the sacrifices and adventures they lived so that their (our) future generations would be able to live this 'privileged' life.
I found that the best way to remember my Opa and this special heritage was to devote my creative energy to capturing this moment in time. I felt such an instant passion for this art project... the passion I had been waiting for! I began by sketching out the 'characters' with watercolour:
Next I drew out in detail the image on a large wood panel - which I husband built for me. It's approximately 3x4 feet. He painted about four coats of primer on it first.
For this painting I wanted to experiment with a different method... which was perhaps 'risky' (trying something new on a beloved project). I used acrylic paint - which I haven't used since high school. I did a combination of watering it down, and mixing it with a glazing medium. When watered down acrylic paint acts much like watercolour paint. I love this look! As for the glazing, I did multiple thin layers of colour. With the exception of fixing areas, I didn't use white at all. For example - for the flesh tones, I did layers of blue, yellow, red, umber... in this way I approached the painting like I would a watercolour painting.
In the next photo it shows how I first established the tones with pure raw umber paint:
Because this was a whole new method of painting for me, I had to re-do many areas... sometimes as many as 3 or 4 times. Acrylic paint is so tricky! And especially when mixed with a polymer medium... it dries almost as soon as it touches the panel. And so if I wasn't happy with an area, I re-gesso'd it over and over again will I got it 'right'. I eventually embraced the 'rustic' feel of it, with all of its imperfections. I loved the challenge. The background took me 3 tries to get it right:
I ended up combining elements of the two original family photos I found... plus added in a personal detail that the family will appreciate. I'm happy with how it turned out. I'm excited to be working on the next painting in the similar style... another family portrait from the 50's. Stay tuned for updates on the next project!
For the last couple months I have been experimenting with ink and watercolour. Truthfully, at first, part of me just wanted to sit by the warm fire (during the middle of the unexpected November snowstorm). Oil painting restricts to the studio. So I literally thought, 'What can I work on in the house, by the warm fire?'. I love drawing, and I do love portraiture. So I remembered the picture I took of my Oma and Opa, 2 years ago. I have been wanting to use this picture for something. So I began to draw it. And then I outlined it in ink. And then I painted it with watercolour. I enjoyed it so much, I kept finding other photo's to capture in this similar style. It borders on illustration I suppose. I am working on some more for Christmas presents which I will post at a later date.
A couple times this week I enjoyed some quality drawing time in the woods. I've been spending the last year or more devoted to painting the trees in the woods, and I have strongly felt the need to take a breather from oil painting in my studio. Typically I work on a larger-scale, I wanted to step back and work on a smaller-scale. I'm fascinated with detail, and especially with the challenge of capturing that detail in art form. So I packed up a simple sketch book and my favourite 4B and 6B pencils. It seemed so suitable to be out in nature, as I attempted to draw nature. I also had the perfect soundtrack around me - the singing birds, the bullfrogs, the squirrels scampering around me. Well, that, and also I did sneak in time to listen to the new Coldplay album. Here are some of the drawings I completed.
Zach loves superhero's, and cartooning is definitely one of his specialties. So this project captured his attention. I just added a new element to what he's use to doing... watercolour and ink. After drawing out Batman, Zach outlined it in ink, and then painted in the black parts with liquid ink. Lastly he painted the rest with watercolours. I love how 'painterly' it turned out.
The last few lessons with Amy were spent working on this beautiful self-portrait. If you know Amy, you can easily see the resemblance. She has such a natural instinct for drawing accurate shapes, lines etc. I'm excited to see what she will create in the next year ahead.
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.
Because I'm starting a couple new paintings this week, I thought it would be fun for my girls to have projects to work on beside me. To make it even more exciting for them, I gave them some old canvas's to work on. Danae picked out a picture of panda bears, and Ava found a picture of a toad and a chick. I warned the girls that I wouldn't just let them quick draw something out. I told them I would treat them as "art students", and give them actual instruction. I helped Danae "cheat" a bit by lightly penciling in a few of the angles of the panda bear arms for her, but Ava was on her own. I was actually quite impressed with how perceptive Ava was with noticing details, angles of lines, shapes etc. I made Ava go back and erase often, challenging her to see accurately - because I knew that she could. Quite often we revert to drawing what we think we see, not what our eyes actually see.
I will post the completed paintings when they are finished.
Today Mackenzie finished a painting project. First I had her draw the horse up-side down, in order to help her draw the lines and shapes with accuracy. She was very happy with how this turned out! Next we used a painting by Franz Marc, "The Red Horses" (1911) as an inspiration for the colour scheme. Mackenzie was happy to add her own personal design marks on the horse as a finishing touch.
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.
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.