Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I can't stay in denial forever.  It's no secret that I'm a summer girl, but I cave in to the beauty of Autumn so easily once I see the glorious colors of the leaves.  I've been immersing myself in learning this past week.  Well, always, but I've been doing some formal classes and am trying to expand myself as an artist.  It's a challenging time when one opens their mind to new ways of doing things.

It's not that I want to necessarily change my style, it's unique, but there is always room for improvement.  Particularly where sketching and drawing are concerned.  Right now I've got a fascination with shading and light and dry media.  I have been working on Cathy Johnson's mini-class "Watercolor Pencils".  I'm about half way through, it's been wonderful and I've learnt a lot so far.  But I can't say that I've improved much, but I'm having fun.  Dry media has always felt underwhelming to me, but it's wonderfully effective in sketchbooks.  It's something I want to get better at, just for my own personal process of journaling.

The difficult part when taking classes is that the instructors are usually masters at their art.  Their work is spectacular and inspiring, but at the same time, intimidating.  Which is what I'm finding right now. These instructors make it all look so easy and their results are always brilliant, but then again most of them have been at it a long time.  But looking at my own results makes me feel a little dispirited.  They tell you not to compare, not to copy, not to feel overwhelmed.  But you have to compare, how else do you learn. I also think you have to copy to try to get a sense of how certain things are done, particularly when you're working on something like shading. That's how children learn, it's also how we learn just about everything else from dancing to cooking.  Trying things out, experimenting with technique, stepping outside your comfort zone, peeling back the layers of your own skills--eventually it will all evolve.

Either way, I'm in that particularly vulnerable stage of learning--questioning my abilities as an artists, hating everything I produce, feeling like I am drawing with my feet. And my work has been reflecting my state, which means I haven't wanted to share much of it. Maybe it's because of my need to work with vibrant color, or that what comes out on the page is not what I intended.  I guess it doesn't matter, it's all part of the process, and my art journey, like everything else, waxes and wanes as I travel along.

So my daughter picked up this autumn leaf on her way to school the other day and we both marveled at the colors.  I set my sights on painting it in my watercolor journal but decided instead to have my first crack at watercolor pencils.  This was done in a Moleskine Sketchbook which is not one of my favorites. I don't like the color of the paper because I think it influences the picture too much. At first I was focused on the colors, trying to get them right, then I realized that the real beauty in the leaf was in its contrasts--light,shading, and movement. I happily discovered that watercolor pencils lent themselves very well to this subject even if the colors were more subtle and delicate than I'm used to.

One thing I have learnt from Cathy is that sketching is something not necessarily to be rushed. If you give yourself over to the gentle process of sketching, you'll be able to immerse yourself in each element of the subject and see it in a different way...through the artist's eye.

Thanks so much for checking in. xx