Illustration Class Midterm

The focus of this class was centered around spending our time crafting one illustration. It was an amazing experience in practicing patience, as well as pushing through doubt and the anxieties of “I am not good enough to pull this off.”

About halfway through it, I was struggling with the nuances of the painting, yet loving every minute of it. I was also still hanging onto the belief that I could never be a portrait artist. And as I looked at it, I knew the face was not right. It did not look at all like my brother, the face was all wrong, the proportions of the guitar and boots were off. It was driving me nuts.

Notice the white areas around the steps and boots. These are where I took sandpaper and removed most of the paint and started over, more than once. I was also using an exacto knife around edges and to sharpen some areas. I know it is not possible, but I felt like I removed more paint than I put on!

This is the artist’s angst and I was feeling it all. It felt hopeless as far as catching my vision, but I was learning new painting techniques, and for that I was happy. Sort of a ying yang thing going on… loving it and hating it at the same time.

To me it almost looked more like my brother, Stephen, at this point. He has a rounded face, whereas my brother, Ron, has a more oval visage. So I kept seeing Stephen here, (and it was not that I mind seeing him, do not take me wrong, dear family, but it was not my intention to be painting him at this point), so frustration and artistic despair were mounting.

Stay tuned! It changes once again as the quarter progresses…

Advanced Illustration

The one class that is doing the most personal good is Advanced Illustration. Jacob opted to give us an oil painting project for the first 6-7 weeks and I lost myself in it.

Currently the class project is not finished, but I am gaining so much from it that I am not willing to rush the process. I am trying all sorts of new techniques and exploring my paradigms – only that I might break them. It is a painful, yet thrilling prospect!

Project: A poster for a musical band or singer.

My Choice: Fernando Ortega

Jacob pushed me to stick with my own style and work within it so that I am not fighting the issue of “style”. I can play with style once I master the art.

He taught this class on a very individual basis (a philosophy I wholeheartedly embrace), working with the needs of each student. We, as his students, are soaking up the experience he has garnered through years at various universities around the country. I don’t know about the others, but I feel very blessed when I get a teacher like that and I just want to be a sponge!

We identified my particular need to be to get back into my creative groove… to feel it… to allow it to flow. Jacob explained that he did not want me fighting “style” as I was learning a new technique and finding my comfort zone. I consciously placed my training into his experienced artist’s hands and went into a free-fall. Like going backwards off a building and trusting the ropes to catch you.

I ended up choosing a simple visual of a guitar player. Fernando is a gospel-folk singer and I once saw him on stage in Muncie. He sat on a stool strumming his guitar and talking with us on an almost personal level. I loved it.

My brother, Ron, was a willing model (I am very grateful to my family!!!), and after a couple of photo shoots, I found the right pose that pleased both Jacob and I.

Jacob then had us prep a masonite board (18×24) with gesso and paint a background wash in raw umber.

At one point I realized (and was told by Jacob) that I had a section out of perspective. The trick was to look at it in a mirror and immediately the gaffe was obvious. I then discovered that sandpaper can do interesting things to the underpainting… so I began playing with that as well as scratching off paint with my pallet knife. Who knows what is going to happen by the time this is finished! It became fun to see what could be produced with that technique.

Painting is the one place that is all my own. It is personal and private and I have found that place once again. It has been a bit scary because I can sometimes lose myself in its vast loneliness… but then I find myself once again, in a space so full and persistent it can be overwhelming. I am once again walking those hallowed halls of my inner being that belongs to only myself and my God. It is intense.

Sometimes I pause at the threshold and can go no further for fear of what is there, then I realize that fear is not an option I want to entertain. I gird up my courage and take that step, overcoming my own trepidation and embracing a willingness to lose myself. I can only enter if there is a willingness to allow something bigger than my left brain to consume me and to trust that it won’t annihilate me in the process.

It is not a place of comfort, nor of ease, as boundaries are stretched and perceptions challenged; yet within that space there is a comfort beyond explaining. The world disappears and I am somewhere raw and open, in a space where there is no hiding. An honest place.

Work in progress.

Illustration 3: A Famous Face

Funny thing about me, I don’t do faces. That said, it was with trepidation that I took on our third assignment to illustrate a famous face. However, it was actually quite enjoyable once I looked at the face as a matter of shapes in relationship to one another.

I wanted to do Nelson Mandela, but opted for a more familiar image who played him once in a film. I like Morgan Freeman as an actor and his face is fascinating. Maybe it is the mystery in his eyes and the humor I sense behind them. I have always been a sucker for that combination.

First I researched photos, then thumbnailed the position. Simply put, I liked it best directly in the general center of the paper… nothing too design driven, just simple.

Practice runs:

#1 Conte pencil/tan pastel paper – I was not happy.

#2 conte pencil/grey pastel paper – didn’t finish, didn’t like it. (Our teacher, Jacob Dobson, likes to tell us “don’t polish poop” – crude, but very effective. I let go of a project when I think of it that way!)

#3 Felt like it needed to be bigger!

Had loads of fun doing this one, but would have liked to try it again (and maybe again) but ran out of time. This one was turned in, but I know the face is not yet the length that I want.

What it lacked in style, it made up for in size! No doubt about it, I would love to just be an artist – as long as I had an income and time to perfect my craft.

Chalk pastels on large, light tan pastel paper.

Given more time, I think I could have gotten the likeness down. By the time Morgan and I were at this point,¬† it occurred to me that “taking a likeness” can be a very intimate experience. The artist has to get to know the subject in deep detail…to feel the other person and get to know them more than casually. It can happen even with a photo.

I then remembered that it was one of the reasons I had steered away from portraiture in the past. I am not always comfortable with that intimacy… it feels like an invasion of privacy.

Catchin’ the Breeze

Our first illustration challenge was to create a cd cover. I chose a song that has been the embodiment of my return to college and move towards the lifestyle I want¬† – no, not sailing and ocean cruising… following my heart and living in joy!

I chose an almost monochromatic theme and focused on the sun as a symbol of the hope and promise ahead… “as you walk into the light….” The main stanzas are below the photo.

Technique is watercolor and ink on illustration board.

The process was to collect photo references and work from those. I chose a photo from the trip to the Keys that had a boat on the water; however, I wanted a photo of a sailboat with the sail unfurled, so that Saturday a friend and I headed to Geist Lake and lucked out! The sailing club had a class in session and using a zoom lens I shot photos to my heart’s content!

Catchin' the Breeze

I created a youtube video of the actual song set to the photos of our dolphin swim for the nieces and nephews, so excuse that personalization. However, this is the specific song for anyone wishing to hear it – Eden’s Bridge: Catching the Breeze .

Catching the breeze
Sailing away and traveling
The seven seas
Open your door and
Step out and catch the breeze

The journey is long
But one step is all that it takes
To start
So lift up your eyes and
Pack up your courage and fill
Your heart

The horizon is distant
The sun is so bright
And the city is fading
As you walk out into the light