Monday, May 21, 2012

A Long Dance Ends with the Appearance of an Elephant

Many moons ago, I began dancing with a canvas.  At first, it was a perceived failure...

I did not give up on my canvas friend.  It has morphed many times.  It held a cosmos...

And then a strange girl appeared.  She did not move me.

After a generous application of cleansing gesso and enthusiastic paint play...

It has become this:

The waltz between artist and canvas is complete. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Taking a Trend to Task: Part 2

Painting and/or drawing faces in journals and canvas is hot, hot, hot right now.  That makes me happy because the human form is often a fear-inducing art subject and the more that people challenge what scares them, the more free they are to explore and communicate in all aspects of their art.  That being said, a quick survey of the "art faces" out there reveals a couple of trends that are starting to elicit yawns from me.  

In part one of this topic, I discussed the "blankness" of so many of those portraits and today, it is all about the "sameness" of the women depicted; as a rule, when someone decides to have a go at painting or drawing a face, what emerges is female, young, pretty, white, and thin.  In addition, the head is often tilted to one side and the woman is looking directly out of the painting, presumeably to draw in the viewer with a direct (blank) stare.

Throughout art history, the (white) female form has been used as the standard of beauty.  However, it is very important to note that women in art most often had a little "meat" on their bones...OK...let's be clear: they were plus-sized, with all sorts of rolls and lumps.  I could go on and on about the modern standard of beauty projected onto society by the media but that's a discussion for a different blog.  Suffice it to say that the female figure in art has been steadily shrinking in size and current mixed media trends reflect that dramtically.

As before, consider this post more of a challenge rather than an admonishment.  Experiment with portraits and figures that don't follow the herd.  Consider representing the subject that looks away from the viewer, skin tones that shy away from porcelain white, the face that has seen a little bit of living and a couple more meals than advised.  And *gasp* try drawing a male figure now & then.  That's what I see when I go out into the world.  When I paint, why would I then continually create art that makes it seem as if I'm trapped in a land of Disney princesses?  

The portraits you see here are far from perfect: the first young lady looks like she has an unfortunate goiter of some sort and the latter face has a rather unhealthy pallor but the point is that I am pushing, pushing, pushing.  I want my art to keep evolving.  If I repeatedly fall in line with what everyone else is doing, I might be blinded to exciting alternate possibilities.  Stray from the flock once in a while; sometimes that can lead down a much more interesting path.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Taking a Trend to Task: Part 1

I don't think there any denying that drawing and/or painting faces is a hot trend right now.  That's good because it means lots of people are pushing outside their artistic comfort zone.  There are more than a few artists making their bread & butter off of art that features female faces paired with a pithy or poignant phrase.  But there are trends within this trend that are driving me absolutely bonkers and that's the subject of my next two posts.

Many (dare I say the majority) of the "art faces" I see have a noncommittal stare.  I think this generic face is supposed to stand in for contentment, commitment, or (stretching the logic a bit farther), blissfulness.

Now don't get me wrong; I draw my fair share of faces with this blank expression, especially when I'm first developing a character.  But consider this: unlike other parts of the human body, facial expressions happen mostly because of muscle movement instead of joint movement.  There is just one joint in the human head (the skull and jawbone.)  Otherwise, everything is set in motion by anywhere from 30 to 40 muscles.  It is a very complex, intertwining system and long story short, when one part moves, it draws other parts with it.  The human face is in reality, very rarely, a unmoving, blank mask.

I've been teaching traditional cartooning (not anime) for over six years now and in cartooning, the face and its myraid of possible expressions is the ultimate key to telling a story in a short amount of time.  I am constantly pushing my students to move beyond the still face and to get it in motion!  It takes practice, no doubt about that, but the results set your illustrations apart from others and uniqueness is a good thing!  The sameness of all those faces out there makes me gloss over them as a whole; there's nothing different and quirky to grab my attention, to tell me a story, or to spark an emotion.

So by all means, practice those faces but as you advance, don't get in a rut! 

In Part Two of this mini soapbox, I'll address another trend within the face trend:  Why does everyone have to be female, young, white, pretty, forward-facing, and tilty-headed?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Grab Your Khakis & Art Supplies! We're Going on Safari!

Just a couple more weeks, the school year comes to a close and my summer begins!  It is just so hard to find a spare moment for blogging when I'm being pulled in so many different directions.  However, my schedule is gradually opening up and big plans are in the works for this space.  

Last summer, I found it extremely helpful to have a guiding theme for my blog.  In 2011, I did a series of posts called "The Artist's Hand," detailing various ways to impress your own unique mark upon your art. This summer, I'm plotting a brand new adventure...

I invite everyone to join me for Lost Coast Post's "Summer Studio Safari!"  Beginning Monday May 28, I'll be adventuring 'round my studio (and perhaps my charming little hometown,) looking for ways to liven up my art-making with little to zero financial expense.
During the summer months, the free time is plentiful and the pocketbook is bare so I decided to develop a studio "stay-cation" to discover fresh inspiration without the crushing debt a real, out-of-town journey would impose.  I've been brainstorming clever names for different waypoints in my art safari and I am so eager to bring my readers along for the ride.

There's no need to pack your bags or submit to airport patdowns.  Just mark your calendars and get comfy in your studios, big or small.  Perhaps my adventure will inspire you to play along!
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