portraits 1 – 9

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January to February 2019

I’ve been working through a portrait painting series of workshops called “Take Thirty” by Misty Mawn. This is available from her website http://www.mistymawnart.com/ .

These are my efforts from the first nine workshops. There are a couple here I really love as they are, and many that would be worth starting over again. Proportions, angles, shapes, relationships that are not right. But just to show that we all have to start somewhere, and we all have days when things just don’t work out that well – I’ve decided on “full disclosure”. So here they are – all nine so far.

What I’m finding is that I am beginning to work more quickly, less obsessing over getting every detail perfect, and more able to tune in to a more intuitive process. I say that – but I’m still aware of being quite analytical, constantly making comparisons, choices, decisions. But sometimes this process seems to slip just below the surface, so I can feel it happening, but there is equally that emphasis on the word “feel”.

Perhaps its more about the power of practising something enough that you begin to draw from that in a way that feels more natural, more personal, because its based on your own experience and knowledge of what’s worked previously.

I’ve discovered that now my creative practice has shifted into this visual form, I’m writing much less. Its as if my brain isn’t comfortable working on words and images at the same time. And yet, there is a time when I want to be able to merge the two.

I’m about to start the eighteenth portrait – so I’ll be sharing that soon.

Grace

This is Grace – a beloved dog who lived with her family for fourteen years.

This painting of her is my absolute best painting yet – and I’m proud of it but a little nervous too.

That internal critic sneaks in with “hmm – well this is good – but can you do it again …? What if this is it…?” If only that voice could be silenced.

The only option is to keep working, keep trusting myself. And finding gorgeous creatures like Grace to motivate me and make me fall in love with the process of bringing their image into being on canvas.

painting

A work in progress – nearly finished.

A few thoughts on painting …

I’m finding that I’m becoming more able to look at a rough shape in the early stage and “see” the thing I’m wanting to paint.

I’m working from a photo – I can see that, all the details, but I have to be able to see it in a different way – it’s as if I have to take the image inside and then project it back out onto the canvas.

And in that process things change a little – colours, composition.

It becomes real in my mind’s eye first – and then I need to create that on the canvas. That’s the challenge, the frustration – finding how to bring that inner vision into reality.

And another discovery – when I’m painting for someone else (as with this) it doesn’t feel right to share until they’ve seen it first. So I’m only comfortable sharing very early stages or oblique views – it’s as if – once I’ve started – it doesn’t really belong to me.

learning to see

Its time I posted these thoughts.

I started writing this in June – and for some reason wasn’t sure about sharing. But its time now…

In the last few weeks of last year I went to a short series of art classes, deliberately choosing the option that would challenge me the most, drawing and painting.

This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but never felt capable. Part of the problem is that I’d never learnt how. I’ve had a shocking tendency to think that if I can’t just naturally know how to do something straight away, then I’ll dismiss it by saying its not for me. (I know that this must be some form of self protection – but let’s not go there now…). And even when I have discovered something I’m good at, I haven’t kept working at it. Persevering hasn’t been a strength. Writing is probably the only thing I’ve really stuck at.

So – these art classes, about seven sessions – following the guidance of the tutor, his techniques, his encouragement, and sometimes, his direct acts of correction and teaching – it was a revelation.

I discovered I could draw – from a photo at least. I’m still working up to drawing from life.

So – the first session began with the instruction to try to draw the person sitting opposite. This is what I thought was a reasonable effort:

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What was I thinking?

Then later that session, following the guidance of the tutor, and working from a photograph, I managed this:

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And then the following weekend I did this drawing at home: (from a photo of Virginia Woolf’s mother, Julia Stephen).

I was learning to look – learning to see.

During the next few sessions we explored different media and techniques, mixing colours, and I discovered the joy of painting with oil.

My elderly cat Frida died towards the end of the sessions. A week or so later, I went to the next class, and tried to engage with a couple of the photos provided as prompts for painting, but it felt as if it was forced, almost as if there was a rhythm I could sense but not connect with. So I restarted using my own photo of my girl – and if there is a “flow” then I fell deeply into it.

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I didn’t quite realise what I was doing until I heard a couple of “ooh”s and “aah”s from behind me. I stepped away and walked across the room – turning back – it was as if Frida was shining through the darkness. “Ghostly” was a word one or two others used.

I remember feeling quite spooked, quite stunned that I’d come close to her likeness, and that it had such an eerie quality. I was happy – but also in quite a strange state of mind – floating. To be honest, not really in a very focused state to start the 40 minute drive home. A near miss at a round-about shocked me into paying attention, and made me realise what a strange state I was in.

Can animals come through to us?

Can we channel their energy?

Was the thin veil still open, so I was in tune with her essence?

Did she come through to me, gifting me with an ability to see and create that I longed for but hadn’t known til now?

That’s how it felt. As if she had been present – and it wasn’t a “cat” presence. It was an energy, a pressure, a transference. As if there was more to her than I had realised when she was in cat form. And I haven’t stopped, I’ve kept working.

We got another cat. A sweet, nervy, anxious creature. I painted him that summer.

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This year, I started a painting of my friend’s dog. I wasn’t happy with the background, so I started another.

Just a few weeks ago I gave them both to her. And it felt good to release them into the world.

So – this is why there hasn’t been so much writing on here lately. This new passion has taken hold. And it feels like something I will persevere with. I know I’ll have days when I’ll feel as if its all rubbish and I should give up. But I’ve seen enough to know that this is something I can do – and I love it.

My goal – to keep learning – and to find a way to combine words and images – perhaps to have text as part of a painting.

Its going to keep me busy for a long time…