My days (when not at the day job/when I don’t have other boring grown-up appointments) generally start with 2 hours of charcoal drawing and 2-4 hours of oil painting (consisting of masters studies/experimenting with techniques/ commissions/juried show pieces).
I love charcoal drawing and I love oils. However, it’s very focused technical work. After 3-4 hours of analytical work my brain is toast. That’s when I know it’s time to bust out my watercolors (or gouache).
Yes, I still have to use my brain to do a watercolor piece. But I try to just make something simple, small, and experimental. I also know very little about water-based medium so the pressures off to be a pro. I paint a flower or a woodland creature and just try to have fun. (And Painting on paper makes my bad ones very disposable!)
But it’s still creative and my hand and brain still have to communicate!
What’s your creative reward for doing hard things? (You know, aside from things like tv and ice cream. Though I’m a fan of those too!)
An example of an analytical charcoal exercise. This is from the “Asaro Head” an awesome tool for analyzing planes of the face. (My Watts Atelier homework).
Fun watercolor experiment. Perdy flower!
I recently had the great joy of attending a 5-day portrait painting workshop in Encinitas, with the amazing artist, Meadow Gist. I love portraiture, and I have had several classes with Meadow in the past, so I knew it was gonna be good. Some teachers really resonate with me when they explain things (and others sound like they’re speaking a foreign language). Meadow is one of those teachers who speaks a language I understand, and I feel like my growth during this workshop was largely due to her skill as a teacher. Here are two of my more successful pieces from the workshop.
Another drawing for the Watts Atelier “skill building challenge.” My skills are getting a work out!
These (below) are some quicksketches I did as practice from the Watts Atelier online program. (If you haven’t heard me say it before: it is an awesome program). And I have FINALLY discovered a way to get my butt in the chair to do some drawing work. My typical modus operandi is to avoid practicing my drawing until I encounter something so difficult in a painting project that I am forced to practice my drawing again. Really, I should be practicing drawing every darn day.
Sooo when I saw an interview with artisit Teresa Oaxaca, I was totally blown away when she said that she listens to audiobooks while working. I just assumed it was too difficult to listen to an audiobook and work at the same time- perhaps my head would explode with the effort of trying to do both at the same time. But, low and behold, it has done quite the opposite. Listening to an audiobook while I draw seems to distract me from the voice that says things like: “This is haaaard. I can’t do this! I’m never going to be a real artist! I hate this. It’s boring. Don’t make me do it!” Instead, that part of my brain is like: “Oh no! Poor Robinson Crusoe! What’s gonna happen next?” (you might guess the current audiobook of choice) while the rest of my brain gets down to work. And here’s the hillarious and amazing part of this discovery: I now can’t wait to draw. The part of my brain that loves stories is now tied to the part that practices drawings and it can’t wait to see what happens next.
I won’t claim that it’s not still challenging to draw- it is. But I will say that it’s a heck of a lot more fun to sit down and begin the task.
So the Watts Atelier online program is amazing. It is so content rich that I kind of want to jump up and down and shout it out to the internet! Granted, I miss being in the classroom at Watts Atelier (there’s nothing quite like the camaraderie and joy of working hard, side by side with real folks) but it is really a program to be reckoned with.
And to make it EVEN BETTER (impossible- right? Wrong.) they added a cycle of friendly competitions to keep students motivated. Each student submits a weekly assignment leading up to the final piece on week four. Winners get an original Jeff Watts drawing!
Talk about a fun way to motivate growth!