JusJoJan: Paintbrush

What can I say… I haven’t picked up my paintbrush all winter….

Looking back the last water-colour painting I attempted was in early November. I don’t really know why I’m not feeling particularly creative just now, sometimes I think about getting all my painting stuff out again but for some reason I keep putting it off.

I suppose it’ll come to me again when I’m ready? I hope so, anyway…

JusJoJan: Paintbrush


Self Portrait in Pencil: Take II

I wondered if trying a face-on drawing might help me get the proportions of my face more accurate, but it seems not… I’ve not really finished off this self-portrait, it’s more of an exercise in finding a true likeness than a completed study. It probably does look a little bit more like me than the last drawing I did, but my eyes still seem a bit wonky, and I still have a long way to go before I can draw myself well enough to bother trying to turn it into a painting of any kind, which is what I’d like to do eventually…

It did occur to me it may well be less humiliating just to practice drawing behind the scenes in complete secrecy until I can finally produce something I’m 100% pleased with and only share it on my blog then, but where’s the fun in that? I’m trying to teach myself that it’s OK not to be good at something while you’re learning, however old you are, because it’s only by continual practice that you get any better. This is only my second attempt at drawing a self-portrait in years, so I’m OK with how it’s turned out and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I need to be brave enough to trust in myself and my ability to teach myself, even at 59, how to portray a particular face on paper. Even if it takes me a whole year to learn to capture my own likeness successfully, I think perhaps it might do me good to keep posting each tentative attempt, hopefully seeing improvement as I go along? I’d really love to be able to draw my own features to a personally recognisable standard, not just correctly recording the contours of my face but capturing something of my expression to the extent that even I think – oh yes, that’s definitely me! 🙂

Word of the Day Challenge: Secrecy

Self-Portrait in Pencil

A pencil drawing of me, but yet not me – my first attempt in a long time at a self-portrait, done today from a recent selfie photograph. To be honest I’m really pleased that it looks like a real person – even a female person – but sadly it does not look enough like me – I’ve just not captured my own likeness well at all.

I realised all too late that my overall round-shaped face is actually quite a bit wider than I’ve drawn it here, so as a result it makes my eyes look much bigger and closer together than they appear in real life. My nose and mouth and chin aren’t too bad, I could maybe recognise myself in them, but my forehead and hairline don’t look right here either – perhaps because the initial overall proportions of my face have just been rendered wrong in the first place? Maybe using square paper rather than rectangular would be more successful, to remind me I have a face pretty much as wide as it is long?

Thankfully I’m happy enough to keep on trying to improve my drawing skills – I had great fun doing this drawing, even though I got frustrated at times that it didn’t (and still doesn’t) look as much like me as I’d have liked it to. Anyway, I’m pleased to report it’s not so bad that it’s put me off trying more portraits in the future, so that’s got to be a good thing… 🙂

Afraid of the Dark

‘Don’t be afraid of the dark’

I realise that my growing need for learning to create more light in my tentative paintings requires adding more moody darks to my artistic endeavours – I seem to shy away from applying truly dark colours, afraid of muddying the waters too much, and yet I can also see it it is only in the dramatic juxtaposition of strongest dark next to softest light that the true luminescence of water-colour painting appears… 🙂

One Liner Wednesday

Painting Portraits

I was going to say I’ve never personally painted a portrait before, but realise that’s not quite true.

One of our projects in art class at school forty-something years ago was to sit in front of a mirror and draw ourselves in pencil. I didn’t really do all that well with that task, I looked serious and uncomfortable and my face turned out a bit wonky, especially my eyes. And once later on as an adult I tried to draw myself from a photograph, and admittedly that one turned out a little better, but it was still not a great likeness.

Recently I’ve been dipping in and out of re-runs of an hour-long TV programme on Sky Arts called ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ that seems to cover random episodes of the competition over several different years, and I’ve found it really fascinating to watch.

The basic premise of each show seems to be that nine individual artists produce a self-portrait beforehand in their own time, and then all together in real time each produce a portrait drawn from a previously unidentified life model in only four hours. There are three celebrity sitters for each show, so three of the nine artists each create a portrait of one of the three sitters.

At the end of the four hours, each sitter views the three portraits of themselves and chooses their favourite to take home with them. Most of the portraits are very different in composition and style, some are more realisitic and others more abstract, some are rather standard in their view and some are spectacular in their unusual approach to colour and technique.

To my surprise, oftentimes the sitter chooses not the most obviously realistic photographic representation of self, but instead they prefer those portraits that seem to spark an alternative vision of the sitter, or manage to capture something more than the general public view hidden within their personality.

Afterwards, and independently of the sitters’ preferences, the judges shortlist three out of the nine artists, and by the end of the programme finally whittle it down to only one artists to go forward in the competition. The judges look at both the artist’s self-portrait and also the newly-completed portrait of the celebrity life sitter before deciding on who should be the winner on the day.

There are eight heats each series, the winners of which go forward to the semi-final where it seems they all paint the same sitter at the same time. From the semi-final three artists go forward to the final, where each are given a commissioned painting to produce. The overall winner for that year then receives a paid commission to paint a well-known figure for a well-known public space.

Anyway, the point of explaining all of this is that I’ve become really intrigued over the last few weeks by watching the many different ways all the different artists approach completing their portraits – they all use different sized paper, board or canvas, all prefer different mediums, and have different ways of working, and all produce very different results.

Some I liked very much, and some I thought were pretty disappointing on the day – but it’s got me thinking, if I were to try to do a self portrait now, how would that experience be for me? Where would I start? What medium would I use? How would I choose to portray myself, and how could I go about capturing that feeling on paper?

I’ve actually had my portrait painted before, in oils a good fifty years ago – by my mum, who used to be an art teacher before she got married. I still have it here in the house, a head and shoulders portrait showing a serious-looking seven-year old in a scratchy yellow dress. I remember sitting for the painting, perched on a high stool in the kitchen, trying hard not to fidget too much and failing miserably…

I recently, tentatively, took up painting again (only in August this year) so am still on a very steep learning-curve and am still struggling with it all, but I’m wondering if I might try a proper self-portrait now just to see how I get on?

Start with a drawing or two at different angles, then maybe experiment with a colour study or two in different styles – I mean, if I’m painting myself and mess it up, at least there’s nobody else to offend or upset. And I’ll always be around to try again, no matter how many times I fail – a constant and familiar muse, I suppose?

But the thing is, watching these multiple artists as they decide how to make their mark on portraiture has really inspired me to give it a go myself. It’s really helping me to understand in a way I haven’t really seen before that painting is not at all like representational photography, it really is a completely different kind of artistic creative story-telling that can be as fantastical and magical as you choose it to be…

What can I say… Watch this space, and sooner or later I might just surprise us all! 🙂

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Spectacular

Cypress Swamp in Watercolour

What with one thing or another, a whole month had flown by with no attempt at painting anything at all, so the other day I decided to try to create a very different landscape to my usual Scottish highland views.

This is my very loose, abstract take on a small segment of cypress swamp from my recent trip to visit my in-laws in Louisiana. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a start to getting back into playing with watercolours again… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Segment

Digital Colour Corrections

Sometimes I find it frustrating that my watercolour paintings (including this abstract leaf print) always dry so much paler (and less vibrant) than I might like, but luckily with easy digital manipulation I’ve discovered I can visually ‘correct’ the colour when photographing and saving it as a digital image!

Here is the original painting before and after whacking up both the contrast and saturation by 30 (whatever that numerical value represents!) – I’d wanted it to feel like a bright explosion of colour, not a dull disappointment… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Before

Rejuvenation: Learning to Play Again

I’ve been thinking recently that my blog is in need of some rejuvenation.

But the more I thought about it I realised that as my blog tends to follow whatever is going on for me in my life at any given time, it’s more likely that it’s my life that needs some rejuvenation – or more to the point, me. Truth be told I’ve been feeling old and boring and tired and thoroughly fed up with life…

I guess the Covid pandemic slowed us all down to some extent, whether just through a succession of lock-downs and restrictions or like with me, also getting sick with it and finding its long-term symptoms frustratingly reluctant to go away. Oh, and about a year ago I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my right hip, so as well as ongoing Covid fatigue the arthritis has affected my mobility more than I like. As a result, indoor activities have taken precedence nowadays over gadding about here there and everywhere.

So lately I’ve been playing around with paints – with water-colour paints in particular – in an attempt to get a bit more creative again. So far I’ve mainly been painting landscapes and plants, with varying levels of success. To be clear I’m not ever aiming towards creating intricate, accurate botanical colour studies or detailed photographic replicas of my chosen subjects, but instead I’m trying to learn to paint loosely, recreating a more abstract visual ‘feel’ of the thing.

Basically I’m experimenting loads, messing about, mixing things up, finding what works for me and what doesn’t, and this week’s exploration of different ways of putting paint on paper comes courtesy of random garden leaves – I’ve been painting onto the backs of the leaves and printing them directly onto paper. It’s enjoyable to do, but is a messy business.

Playing around and experimenting with things like this feels such fun – it feels like it’s impossible to remain neat and tidy and fully in control of the outcome. Even getting as much paint on myself as on the paper is fun, quite liberating actually. And hopefully it will prove to be rejuvenating, too… 🙂

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Rejuvenate