“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” (Andy Warhol)
When I was at secondary school, I was good at languages and the first time I got 100% in a French test, I remember my “friends” at the time jeered and laughed at me for being a swot. Over the next few years, I watched as another of my academically clever friends started deliberately sabotaging her schoolwork so she could stay in this clique of popular, but ever so bitchy, girls. She left school at 16 and went to work in a butcher’s shop – I don’t know what happened to her after that. The reason I’m telling you this is because when I first read Raw Art Journaling (by Quinn McDonald), I did the exercise she suggests at the start of the book and drew a picture of my inner critic. Surprise, surprise, it turned out to be a group of bitchy, cliquey, gossipy teenage girls.
It’s very easy for me to be highly selective about what I put out there in the public domain and only show the pretty stuff that is finished, ready for sale or that I’m particularly pleased with. When I do that, I get lovely comments, but I still hear voices whispering in my ear that it’s a fluke, that I got away with it this time, and boy, wouldn’t they think differently if they could see the rubbish in my sketchbooks. I know that those voices will always be there and I’m guessing even the most successful artists would agree that there’s no critic as harsh as the one inside your own head. So part of this new life of being an artist is learning how to deal with these whispering voices, how to be constructively critical of my own work, without letting my ego go into complete meltdown every time I fail to portray on paper or canvas the vision in my head.
Today I’m sharing some sketches that are not finished works, that are not always pretty but are part of the process and part of my never ending learning curve. Like a musician practices scales or a dancer does stretches, I know that I need to just keep on practising if I ever want to get better.
I bought an A3 moleskine sketchbook earlier this year, thinking it had watercolour paper pages, but it turned out to be thin sketch paper that would just buckle if I put wet media on it. So I’m using it to practise drawing big. By big, I’m not referring to the size of the paper, but the way I approach the drawing, keeping it loose, moving my arm from the shoulder, holding the pencil or charcoal between the finger and thumb for sketching rather than sitting in the hand like you do when writing.
I remembered to take a few in progress shots of this first one that I drew.
And I keep on practising, sometimes changing media, but always trying to keep it quick and loose. If you try to overwork charcoal, you quickly lose everything to a uniform grey blur, so if it isn’t working, you simply move on and do another.
PanPastel applied with fine pointed Sofft Tool
Graphite and pastel
Charcoal, from a painting by Hans Memling
Charcoal sketch from a vintage advertising image
Faces fascinate me, I have a Faces board on Pinterest where I collect images of faces, but as I’ve started using them as references for drawing, I’m finding that a lot of photographs of models are so over-lit and photoshopped that they lose the shadows and lines that give their faces character and definition.
I did some smaller studies from my Pinterest board while I was working in the Lifeboat shop earlier this summer, experimenting with working on coloured paper.
Charcoal on pastel paper
And the joy of art is when it all comes together on a canvas – this is Bellarosa which was painted over a vibrant and messy background with lots of texture.
free and spontaneous background
initial placement of face
adding colour to the flowers and blocking out some of the background
calming the background more and adding leaves
refining the details
So there you have it, the imperfect, the unfinished and the annoyingly close to how it was ‘supposed’ to look. You can click on any of the gallery images above to see a larger view and scroll through the images. Pressing escape or clicking the X will take you out of the close up view.
I’m going to end this post with a thank you to my french teacher Mrs Dennison who gave me the positive reinforcement I needed to rise above that awful teenage peer pressure to dumb down, and the encouragement to continue to shine at what I was good at. (For the record, I studied languages right through to degree level.) It’s a lesson I’m still taking heed of today – thanks Mrs D.