Thursday, 31 July 2008

Zen Hen

The heatwave has broken and given way to a tropical style rain storm. I am sitting surrounded by paints and inks and crayons for the first time in 3 weeks and as I began to get my equipment set up for the day ahead, I began to think back to the hot sunny afternoon we spent at
Baylam Rare Breeds Farm last week. high in a clear blue sky we watched swallows and swifts wheel and dive, in the grass about our feet, pygmy goats and Kune-kune piglets truffled and nudged for food...and basking in the dusty, sunlit corners by the barn, and in grassy pens were fat, contented hens. It was a really lovely way to spend an afternoon with my sister and her boys and it inspired me to draw one of those lucious, plump feathered girls we saw.

Following a recent exercise I did from Danny Gregory's book ~ 'The Creative License', I decided to attempt a drawing of a Pekin Hen using the zen method of drawing. Studying the image of the hen for a while I followed the contours and curves of her robust and rounded body. Tthe zen principal involves not looking at the paper, so in effect you are drawing with just your eyes and your pencil.

I used Derwent watercolour crayon for my outline (as it merges well with watercolour paints and inks afterwards) and was really pleased with the result. If you were to attempt this way of drawing, I would encourage you to glance at your work if you need to desperately reposition your pencil at any point (whereby there is no obvious way of continuity without doing so). I did this a couple of times but Im now wondering if I could have attempted a complete zen work without looking at all and what it would have looked inner critics would have probably had a field day with me, laughing hysterically at an ill positioned eye etc!!

Perhaps I might try that next time.

If you're interested in learning more about zen drawing/painting, here are a few of links for you that might entice:

'The Zen of Seeing' by Frederick Franck

'The Zen of Creative Painting' by Jeanne Carbonetti

and check out this fabulous artist: Elda Abramson - it is my dearest wish to go to Eastbourne and take part in one of her painting weekends!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

quick update

Arty blogging came to a standstill last week as I was away in Suffolk making the most of the impromtu heatwave.
Suffice to say, I have returned home full of fresh inspiration, and I look forward to posting images from some new work I will be starting tomorrow!

Check back soon!

Julia x

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

art journalling

Ive been reading a couple of books lately about art journalling, and have decided to begin a journal again with the idea of creating a daily sketch or piece of art.
Im currently being inspired by Danny Gregory ~ and Im finding alot of good things unfolding from taking his lead and noticing the small stuff.
The illustration here is from an older art journal I kept a couple of years ago and shows the concept Im trying to describe: a normal everyday situation like coffee and pain-au-chocolat. Recording those items which are fairly normal and to some, perhaps quite uninteresting, evoke memories of that sunny morning in Barcelona whenever I look at it. OK, the drawings aren't perfect, or exact reproductions of the actual items-but its how I saw it at the time, and the ink blobs and tiny bits of descriptive writing are in some way better than a photograph, capturing feelings and emotions of that time.
I intend to become an explorer in my own back garden. Im going to look into the faces of flowers and draw one without looking at the paper (a zen concept, ~ drawing with the left side of the brain, which has the power to ignore any other unimportant data coming in to create an image almost magically onto the paper ).
Im going to draw my daughters toys, clothes piled on top of the washing machine, wine bottles waiting to go to the recycling bank, shoes in the hall, gardening tools, a new batch of freshly baked cupcakes...the list is endless. I can create art everyday.
And thats the important bit for me.
As a Mum to a one year old, my time is mostly spent with her, and I love every minute of it but sometimes the artist in me misses being able to sit down and paint every day like I used to.
By beginning a daily art journal, I can let off steam by checking out of normal everyday life for 10 minutes or so (when she naps) and finding something ordinary to record. I will have that feeling of fulfillment that comes from creating with colour, and a feeling (as I have read and understood) that is of deep peace, this comes from concentrating very carefully on a single object and drawing from the soul.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Creative Space

In my dreams, my workspace is an airy studio with lots of natural light and a view over the sea. In reality I have a 'kitchen table studio' and not alot of room!
I often used to imagine that I needed the perfect workspace before I could start painting, and for a long time I felt inhibited by those thoughts and didn't do a thing.
Of course, with age comes wisdom and as the years rolled by I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to start somewhere and make the best of whatever space I had, wherever I happened to be at the time.

Now some of you artists reading this may laugh, as you've maybe always painted wherever and whenever the fancy took you, but Ive always had a big relationship with procrastination-and I came to realise that by putting off painting until I had the right location, was really just a way of avoiding the fears that went with beginning a piece of work.

I create an ambient place to work now by playing music that I enjoy, having juicy glass jars brimming with scented flowers, and sometimes burn a mix of essential oils to set the mood. I lay all of my equipment out and allow myself the delicious pleasure of looking at all my paints and brushes in anticipation for an hour or so before I begin - by the time the little one has been picked up by the Grandfolks, Im more than ready to start.

These rituals help to break down the fears long associated with opening a watercolour block up and finding a big white piece of paper staring back up at me. It allows me to slip slowly into my role of 'Artist', gradually allowing my role of 'Mum' to be discarded for a couple of hours, responsibility half forgotten as that wonderful carefree feeling of having the gift of time resonates.

I know without a doubt that one day, I'll have my studio with a view and lots of airy natural light - but for now Im more than content with the sacred artist space I create each week inside my home - or outside if the weather is good!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

9 Days of Summer

Today was hot and sunny, 28 degrees to be exact so I moved my studio into the garden and began working under the parasol, surrounded by the fragrant scent of sweet peas and the meditative buzz of honey bees...
The piece of art Ive created today is called 9 Days of Summer - its a montage of 9 different images that are inspired by the beach. After marking up my paper (which is a grid measuring 18x18cm then divided up into individual squares) I lightly draw in my chosen images and then begin to add some colour:
Im painting quite freely, adding paynes grey and just a smidgen of black watercolour to the edges of the crab and going around him with sepia ink. I like the loose feeling of watercolours, Im practising hard not to be so rigid about it, and if the paint bleeds a little Im trying not to mind - its a way of painting that is very relaxed, Im enjoying it more and more.

I gradually add colour to the other drawings, working with both watercolour and sepia acrylic ink. In the distance I can hear the soft cheep-cheep of the ducklings on the river so I take five minutes to go and see them on the water, there's a lovely refreshing breeze blowing down there which is a pleasant change from the overpowering heat of the garden.

I begin to add more detail to the work, and re-wet certain parts of the painting in order to shave watercolour crayon lead into it to create a wonderfully textured and speckled effect. When the paper is dry I edge certain parts that I want to stand out a little more in black fineline (01 nib).

The finished piece, Ive added words in and around the individual pictures - Im really pleased with this piece, it captures all the feelings and things you notice when strolling by the beach!

Right, Im off for a nice cool drink and a rest in the shade - catch you soon!

Julia x

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