Jumping Into Digital Art

A few days ago (on a Wednesday night, surprisingly) my new Wacom Create tablet showed up! Once it was installed I had to give it a test run:

Wacom Doodle

Wacom Doodle

This tablet has pressure sensitivity, but unlike the Cintiq I had access to earlier this year, it doesn’t detect tilt-motion from my wrist. To be honest, so far I don’t miss that aspect of the tablet, and really love how lightweight and mobile it is. I don’t even mind the fact that it’s not wireless. It feels very similar to what a sketchbook is like, and instead of hunching down over it, I’m looking up at a screen.

I’ve been trying to gather resources to build a nice “digital workspace” for myself. This includes going through the art magazines I’ve purchased over the last few years and copying the resource CDs that came with them, to scour them for content. Many magazines, ImagineFX in particular, have downloadable tutorials and brushes in each magazine. Every so often they’ll have some really beautiful art inside and I’ll pick one up. Now, I have a chance to take advantage of the Photoshop brushes and tutorials they offer.

While going through one of the tutorials, I learned that some artists use 3D software to simulate models to use as reference. What a brilliant idea! My next thought was, what software should I use to do this? 3D software can get pretty expensive and can be very complicated to learn. After some research, I came across the Daz 3D Studio software. To my surprise, it is freely and legally available right now! This will be hugely useful when trying to come up with realistic lighting and anatomy references! I was skeptical at first since it seems too good to be true, and was afraid it would end up being trial software, but found an article explaining why the devs decided to make it free. They have customization packages that you can buy to add-on to the software, but on its own it’s more than enough to give me anatomy reference. They have landscape modelling software I’m going to look at as well.

This brings me to the next part of the workspace: software. There are so many programs out there for digital artists, so which one is the best? The answer to this greatly depends on what kind of art you like to do, and who your audience is. While I was researching different software online, including Corel Painter and Easy Paint Tool SAI, I found this Fur Affinity forum thread. A user by the name of Arshes Nei compares sketching and painting in 6 different pieces of software, results shown below. It’s highly educational and totally worth checking out!

Apple Still Lifes by Arshes Nei

Apple Still Lifes by Arshes Nei

Paint Tool SAI has become very popular as of late because it’s a lightweight piece of software (in comparison to Photoshop and GIMP which can be resource hogs, and slow down your computer) and is relatively easy to find. I’m going to play around with that a bit, keeping in mind that when I eventually get a Macbook (way down the road when I stop being a poor art student), I’ll have to switch to something else since there’s no Mac version.

Armed with references and painting software, I should be ready to go! I was drawing in my sketchbook when the tablet first arrived, so I may start off by translating the sketch to the laptop…

I’ll end this post with my Foundation Computer final project. We used Adobe Illustrator frequently in that class and I fell in love with vector drawing. Our final project for the class was to do an animation, any way that we wanted. I used Illustrator to draw the frames and put them together in iMovie. I recommend watching it in the highest resolution available on Youtube’s website. Enjoy!

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Janice Wright Cheney

Last week in my Visual Culture class, I was asked to do a formal analysis of a work (from a select few exhibitions) at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS). Any excuse to visit the gallery is a good one! Plus, since I’m a student now I get free access which is aaaaawesome! Anyway, a friend and I spent an hour and a half going through the entire gallery and taking everything in, but I knew which piece I wanted to write about as soon as I walked in the door.

Janice Wright Cheney had two pieces at the SKIN exhibition at the AGNS, which is sadly not there anymore (closed October 1st). One of her works was a life-sized taxidermy-form of a bear, covered in roses, entitled The Widow.

The Widow by Janice Wright Cheney

The Widow by Janice Wright Cheney

It was hard to miss, posed at the entrance to the exhibition. For my formal analysis I was only allowed to talk about the physical aspects of the piece, which left much to be desired. Normally taxidermy has a cold and morbid vibe for me, but with this piece it felt completely opposite. It’s warm and doesn’t threaten me at all. I was fortunate to talk to a nearby docent about the piece and got some interesting insight to its history: Cheney saw the bear on the side of the road and was moved to create this piece, based upon her recent loss. She had wanted to do some kind of art piece to deal with it, but loss is such a personal and vulnerable thing to describe, so the bear allowed her to project without exposing her own very personal wounds. It’s important to note that this piece isn’t simply about loss; the roses are there to represent love & survival.

The Widow (detail) by Janice Wright Cheney

The Widow (detail) by Janice Wright Cheney

The roses are all painstakingly hand-dyed and individually attached to the form with pins. It creates an absolutely breath-taking form and I found it easy to study, hard to pry my eyes away from. The bear looks very naturally posed, almost docile. Could this be a commentary on how death is just another aspect of life, beautiful in its own way? The bear above isn’t angry or threatened, but relaxed. It’s rare for a work based on death to not bother me; normally I have a kind of visceral reaction to paintings or sculptures that incorporate the death theme. This work is beautiful and moving; to turn energy from such a terrible event in her life to something so gorgeous is a hugely successful thing to me.

The Widow is no longer showing at AGNS, but there is a sister bear to the one above that might be accessible somewhere in Fredericton, NB. I would start looking at NBCCD, since she currently teaches there and resides in Fredericton (which was a pleasant surprise since that’s where I’m from!).

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

At the other end of the exhibition I was drawn in by another one of her works, Coy Wolves. They are a commentary on the recent development regarding wolves mating with coyotes. I like these pieces because of the reaction I get from them. I’m drawn to their beauty even though there’s a sort of cannibalistic-type effect with them wearing wolf pelts. Something tells me that they’re not as pretty or glamorous as they look.

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

Again, these are taxidermy forms covered in lace and textiles. The forms are thin and graceful, taking on the stylings of fashion models. Is it wrong that I would love one of these in my living room? This work walks the line between art and deco. The docent I was talking to mentioned that the gallery had actually received death threats about these pieces from animal rights activists! This is a bit ironic, since (as far as I understand) Janice only uses taxidermy forms based on animals, and fur from animals that have died naturally or were found on the side of the road. She does her work as humanely as possible and doesn’t go out hunting for sport. I really wish these activist groups would do their research before bashing work like hers.

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

From the interview I found at Archive 7:

At center of these concerns is the idea of vermin — creatures that are not wanted. Bear, coyote, rat, insects, they are all intruders on human territory, and Cheney is fascinated by the casual violence we condone in the name of wildlife encroaching on human-claim ed territory.

These pieces are dogs masquerading as something they’re not. They’re very eye-catching but a more sinister idea is hidden beneath the lace and fur.

I couldn’t take any photos inside the gallery, but fortunately you can find photos of these pieces and others at the AGNS website (NSFW, some nudity in the exhibit). Furthermore, you can find a nice big photo of Coy Wolves right here on the AGNS flickr page!

Local Pop Art

Before my recent road trip I learned of a pop art exhibit opening at our local art museum: Hot Pop Soup.  It’s on until June 10th and if you’re in the Fredericton NB area, I strongly recommend you check it out!

I’m starting to think that rainy days are some of the best days to visit galleries. When you enter the gallery from the grey skies and cold rain, the paintings seem even more alive and colorful than usual. On the day I went to see this exhibit I was in a poor mood and feeling down on myself. When I entered the gallery and saw the first painting, I was immediately uplifted and smiling.

Beaverbook doesn’t allow photography as a rule, but I can show you a few pieces from some of the artists in the exhibit that I’ve scoured from around the internet. These photos a) aren’t my own and are sourced as such, and b) are not the exact paintings you will find in the gallery. You’ll have to visit in person for those. That being said, here are a few of the featured artists in this exhibit:

LITTLE DANCING SUPERHEROES  by Alexandrya Eaton acrylic on canvas 24 x 24 in. unframed (via Gallery 78)

LITTLE DANCING SUPERHEROES by Alexandrya Eaton acrylic on canvas 24 x 24 in. unframed (via Gallery 78)

WOMAN ON THE EDGE by Alexandrya Eaton, acrylic on canvas 36 x 36 in. framed dimension: 38 x 38 in. (via Gallery 78)

WOMAN ON THE EDGE by Alexandrya Eaton, acrylic on canvas 36 x 36 in. framed dimension: 38 x 38 in. (via Gallery 78)

I really enjoyed Alexandrya Eaton‘s paintings because of the repetition of the subject, something I’m sure was inspired by Andy Warhol. Having a subject repeated using different palettes forces the viewer to see the subject in a different light, in a different way. Having some of the repetitions overlap creates a sort of optical-illusion effect. Seeing pop art like this brings a few questions to mind: how did she choose which figures overlapped? How did she choose colors, and how to color them, and even what kind of texture?

The Crimson Canoess by Peter Manchester

The Crimson Canoess by Peter Manchester

The smile on my face continued as I browsed Peter Manchester‘s paintings. He combines soft realism in seemingly calm backdrops with completely absurd situations and subjects, aliens and sci-fi being quite popular. His images have the campy fun vibe of old sci-fi movie posters and describe amazing stories about their subjects. His works are extremely enjoyable as you try to piece together what’s happening, and what’s real versus what’s not.

by Jean Rooney (via Artists Wanted)

by Jean Rooney (via Artists Wanted)

Jean Rooney‘s piece in the gallery is absolutely huge! I love seeing works that span multiple canvases, wall to wall. The image above is only a fraction of the entire painting. Upon seeing it, I was hit by a wall of nostalgia. Growing up in the 90’s means the neon colors and cassette tapes resonate with me; they brought me back to simpler days, walking to school with the tape-of-the-moment in my walkman (Weird Al’s Allapalooza and Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill, if I remember correctly.) Her works as a whole are extremely bright and demand to be noticed, whether they’re funky portraits or rolling landscapes. Shapes and patterns pop out at you, weaving different parts of the painting together in a surreal way. Work of this nature begs a closer look to take in the wonderful hues and imagery. Some of her other works are available online.

Novella   oil on canvas   24"x30" (by Cliff Turner)

Novella oil on canvas 24″x30″ (by Cliff Turner)

by Cliff Turner

by Cliff Turner

My readers may have seen me mention Cliff Turner before and will know that I’m already a fan, so seeing his name on the list of artists for this exhibit really sealed the deal. His pop art paintings (some from Technicolor) evoke different feelings in different people. Some of us get nostalgic about certain kinds of food, some of us with color palettes, some of us with cartoons. Because his paintings involve so much different subject matter, there is something for everyone to focus on. It sort of feels like what you’d get flipping through a magazine in the 70’s, all captured on a single canvas. His stunning realism continues to impress and looks especially good on the larger canvases in the exhibit.

Seriously, go check out this exhibit if you can! There is so much more there than I could describe in my tiny pokey ol’ blog here.

Though I don’t have a progress post today, there will likely be one next week. After seeing this exhibit I finally decided to start a pop-art piece of my own, an idea I’d been toying with for awhile. This will give me something to work on in between layers of the large oil painting I’m working on.

Have a great weekend guys, HAPPY JUNE!

The Owls Are All Inked

Death Owl Inks by Jess Naish Lingley

Death Owl Inks by Jess Naish Lingley

The third owl image is now inked! I’m a little surprised that I didn’t empty out any of my pens on these drawings, given all the detail I put in. I plan to look at the three as a whole and make sure the styling is consistent (line widths and such). Having done a few copic illustrations, I’ve started adjusting the way I ink to better suit the medium. For example, with copics, coloring a large area evenly is difficult since the medium dries so fast and can streak, so I tried to fill empty space as much as possible to correct for this (the exception being the sky where I plan to do some color-blending). Now the fun begins… swatching some copics in my sketchbook!

I began another project last Thursday, this one completely different than what I’ve been doing.

Abstract for bedroom in progress

Abstract for bedroom in progress

There’s a lot of empty wall space in our bedroom and I’ve been meaning to paint another abstract, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and paint something for our room. I wanted to really get away from what I’ve been doing, the researching and planning and measuring out etc etc. With this I put on some music and just went for it, only having a color palette in mind. It’s already changed a lot from where I started (LOTS of water). I started by painting on the floor so the water wouldn’t run off, which as it turns out, is really hard on my back. Thankfully it’s dry now and I’m pretty well done putting large amounts of water on it, so I’ve got it up on an easel.

For a little inspiration, I treated myself to a book at the art store:

Acrylic Innovation (via Amazon.ca)

Acrylic Innovation (via Amazon.ca)

I had a choice between two other books on acrylics but chose this one because it covers so many different styles and interviews many different artists. The other books were mainly just a list of different techniques with no context. No word of a lie, I’ve been reading this book all weekend and love every page! I’ve already learned so much about abstraction using acrylics and I’m super impressed with the material and artists involved. Most of the hyper-realism I’ve seen has been by oil painters, but there are a handful of artists interviewed in this book that really know how to push acrylics. I highly recommend it!

One last splurge I made after writing that gushing article last Wednesday about Natalia Fabia:

Hi Fructose issue 22 (via hifructose.com)

Hi Fructose issue 22 (via hifructose.com)

Hi Fructose issue 22, pick it up if you get a chance! It contains a 12-page spread interviewing Natalia. Great magazine, great price and the only ads are other artists advertising their shows.

Art-Spotting w/Paula Keppie, Alex & Nancy Schofield

Last Friday instead of the usual post-work-week-drinks at the campus pub, I headed over to the UNB Art Centre (also known as Memorial Hall) for an exhibit opening featuring Paula Keppie. I’d seen posters around campus advertising the opening but hadn’t intended on going at first, since I like to explore art in my own time and take a long time to absorb paintings. A colleague convinced me to go and I’m really glad I did.

Paula’s work is very rich and organic. She uses nature a lot in her paintings and fabrics, both as a subject and as a media. There was even a piece of the exhibit dedicated to her materials, a box with bones, feathers, branches and rocks she used to paint with.

Unfortunately I can’t find much of her work online, so I’ll post a few photos from the catalogue I picked up at her gallery opening.

Paula Keppie Catalogue

Paula Keppie Catalogue

Paula Keppie "I Will Speak To You In Stone Language"

Paula Keppie "I Will Speak To You In Stone Language"

During her artist talk she discussed some of the methods used to create these pieces. The one above, “I Will Speak To You In Stone” is a digital print on fabric. To get the design for the print, she used different combinations of paint on fabric and staining fabric with rust from a metal bucket. This piece was hung near the middle of the room and radiated so much warmth. I’m sure it would look lovely in the sun. Rust, while being so destructive can provide so much beauty.

Paula Keppie "Answer With a Syllabus of Wind"

Paula Keppie "Answer With a Syllabus of Wind"

These are more fabric-printed pieces but these also have stitching. The stitching is hard to see here but while it is straight, the lines are uneven and not spaced uniformly. Based on the patterns that staining and painting have given the fabric, I think uniform stitching would seem out of place.

Paula Keppie "Letters Home (detail)"

Paula Keppie "Letters Home (detail)"

This one is a painting done on a black canvas, using some of the natural materials I mentioned earlier. I love her use of repeating patterns and symmetry. The textures created through many many layers of paint and use of interesting brushes are lush and blend her warm palette beautifully.

Listening to her speak about her work was one of the highlights of the opening. It became immediately obvious that she feels a deep connection to her work and has much love for it. She talked about the people involved in her work and those who inspired it, read some poetry that she’d written about it and her words filled the room with her inspiration and depth. I got to talk to her briefly and she was extremely friendly and not shy at all talking about her methods of working. I really appreciate this from artists.

If you’re near UNBF campus any time soon you should check out this exhibit. I may give it a second visit, myself. Paula Keppie’s Code Exhibit runs until Nov.29th.

Earlier last week I had some time to kill before my first figure drawing studio so I stopped by Ingrid Mueller. They were getting ready to open up “Royals Rhymes and Ruminations”, a collection of works by Nancy and Alex Schofield. The works in this exhibit are similiar, in a way, to Paula Keppie’s work in that they’re both comprised of many layers. The difference with this exhibit, though, is the inclusion of surreal and life-like objects.

Elizabeth by Nancy King Schofield

Elizabeth by Nancy King Schofield (via PeterBucklandGallery.ca)

Again, I was unable to find much of Alex’s work online but I did stumble across some of Nancy’s. Her pieces in this exhibit lean more towards the “Royal” side of things. Images of queens, nature scenes and beautiful fonts dance throughout her work. She uses a lot of print-making to achieve her layers through carving into wood, using chemicals w/zinc plates and mixing it with with other various media. Her works are colorful and reminiscent of fairy tales, complex pieces with intricate layers that demand more than a second glance.

Ewe Shearing I by Nancy King Schofield

Ewe Shearing I by Nancy King Schofield (via PeterBucklandGallery.ca)

I can’t find any of Alex’s art but I encourage you to visit Ingrid Mueller to check it out in person! The exhibit runs until November 15th. His works are very similar to Nancy’s, leading me to believe they worked together, or were at least inspired by each other. They’re a bit more surreal and less life-like. Washes of colors bring together seemingly unrelated subjects. I enjoyed his pieces quite a bit, as there are snippets of old children’s books peaking out in corners of various paintings.

I enjoyed this exhibit most because there is more to it than what’s on the surface. The colors, subjects and symbolism are beautiful to look at but entice you to look longer, to figure out what brings them together.

EDIT: Ingrid Mueller has starting posting some of Nancy & Alex’s work online!

Alex Schofield - What Am I 1

Alex Schofield - What Am I 1, via Ingrid Mueller

Alex Schofield - What Am I 2

Alex Schofield - What Am I 2 via Ingrid Mueller

Nancy King Schofield - Anne with Pears

Nancy King Schofield - Anne with Pears via Ingrid Mueller

Progress 17-11-11

I may have been quiet on the blog-front but I’ve been busy on the art-front:

Male Foo Dog, Almost Done

Male Foo Dog, Almost Done

I’m almost done! All that’s left is to re-do the outlines and I should be able to handle that tonight. After that I can get cracking on the second table. Hopefully I’ll be able to go through it a bit faster now that I’m feeling better and I know what to expect from the first table.

Watercolor Shading

Watercolor Shading

In my third watercolors class we looked at different methods of shading. Using a wet-on-wet technique (wet paint on wet paper) you can get some beautiful blending and blooming effects. I was under the impression that watercolor was a very unforgivable medium, but I was wrong! Re-wetting paint after it’s dried allows some flexibility. You can continue to blend it or move it around, to a certain extent. Using complimentary colors from the color wheel, she instructed us on how to shade a tree.

I’ll admit it; landscapes terrify me. I’m willing to tackle anything else in the world as a subject. I love still lives of food, clothing, nic nacs and everything else. I love illustrations and fantasy and tattoo style artwork. But when I look at a tree and try to comprehend the pattern of the bark, the shapes of the branches or the clusters of leaves, I panic a little bit. Okay, a lot. The last class-experience I had drawing trees left a bad taste in my mouth. We’d been asked to draw a tree from our imagination. No instruction on technique, no reference, just from our minds. No matter what we drew it wasn’t right or wrong. In my mind it was a complete waste of time. I can draw “from my mind” in my own time… but I digress. This class was much better. She did a demo of how she’d start a painting and how she’d layer it to get the desired effect.

My “tree” might not have much resemblance to something you’d see outside but as a shading exercise I think it was successful. My husband said he liked it better upside down and upon further inspection, I did too, so that’s how I’m showing it to you.

Curtains in the Sun

Curtains in the Sun

It’s been over a week since I completed a still life so I decided to jump in head first with some watercolors on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon while Tim was at school. I won’t say I’m a fan of math or its instruments, but I did bust out a ruler for this to get some basic structure before laying down the paints. It was a learning experience; you can add endless layers to a painting to give it depth. It’s only limited by your patience. Mine lasted about 4-5 hours before I decided the painting was done, but realistically I probably could’ve taken it a bit further. However, I’m more of an onwards-and-upwards person so I’ll try and reflect that in my next painting.

This week I received a book in the mail I’d ordered last week that I’ve been pining over for awhile now: Artist’s Handbook. This book is a great introduction to all things art! I found that, after my oil-painting class from 2010, I’d been wanting a bit more in terms of instruction on specific technique (such as glazing, impasto, etc).Artist’s Handbook gives some brief but thorough techniques on a wide array of mediums, from pencils to paint to photography to printing. Since I don’t have the money to take every art class I’d like to (re: all of them) this should help me narrow down the field a bit. I’d highly recommend it for the artist looking for a bit more on any medium!

This week I want to finish the first end table and start into the second. As well, I have another watercolors class tomorrow night and a figure drawing studio on Wednesday! If I don’t have another progress report this week, I’ll try and put up another inspiration post, since there is so much of it around this time of year.

Technicolor by Cliff Turner

Despite suffering a nasty sinus infection this weekend, I pushed myself to go out and see Cliff Turner’s exhibit at Gallery 78 before it closed. I’d never been to Gallery 78 before, so seeing my old high school art teacher’s work was as good an excuse as any to finally check out this gallery hidden in downtown Fredericton. I have happy memories of class with him. I was a shy introverted artist in high school and after meeting him for the first time I became known as “cat”, since when I first tried to say hi he asked me to speak up, saying I looked like a cat meowing through a screen door. He was animated and always kept us on our toes with various fun art projects.

Gallery 78 is a lovely house that was built in 1976. The rich wooden window sills and doors and colorful stained glass provide a beautiful home for the art inside. I browsed through the other exhibitions that were on display and found many beautiful works of art. What I’m going to focus on in this entry, though, is Cliff Turner’s work.

SATURDAY MORNING 1980

Saturday Morning 1980, Cliff Turner, 36"x36" oils on canvas (via Gallery 78 website)

The “Technicolor” collection is composed of two parts; a collage of hyper-realistic still life and popular imagery from the 60s onwards. He describes the nostalgic works as having a dream-like quality, memories represented as slivers in the paintings. They’re watching your favorite saturday morning shows over breakfast when I was little, eating my favorite candy and playing video games. Crisp bright colors suggest pleasant memories, how everything was new and exciting. My favorite piece from the memories/popular art portion of the exhibit is this one:

SONIC LOVE HEARTS by Cliff Turner

Sonic Love Hearts by Cliff Turner, 36" x 24" oil on canvas (via Gallery 78 website)

Sonic Love Hearts detail

Sonic Love Hearts detail, Cliff Turner (via Gallery 78 website)

This piece was the one that convinced me to go to his showing. I’m completely blown away by the realism and attention to detail: the distortion on the lid of the jar, the crumpled candy wrapper, the plastic-wrapped lollipop. Everything is in such bright vivid delicious color! It brings to pleasant memories from my childhood, playing videogames with my bro & friends, eating sugary candy before I was worried about calories and chemicals. Sonic in particular has a special place in my heart since the Sega Genesis was a beloved christmas present to my younger brother and I from Mom & Dad that completely surprised us. Many, many hours were spent with it cheering and yelling and fighting and laughing. This piece caters to my love of bright colors, happy nostalgia and exquisite detail. I absolutely love every aspect of this painting.

The other “half” of this exhibit is comprised of still lifes. In this article where he discusses his exhibit, he says that the focus isn’t so much on the subject as it is the narrative these objects create. The stunning detail in the fruit on the painting below is captivating. All of the fruit and bread looks delicious but the birds aren’t eating it.

LOOKING FOR ZEUXIS by Cliff Turner

Looking for Zeuxis by Cliff Turner, 40" x 60" oil on canvas (via Gallery 78 website)

The painting below positively glows in person. Many times it’s difficult to fully capture with a camera the colors in a painting with contrasting colors, like the one below. The bright sky and feathers on the birds really bring this image to life. Perhaps there is something to bird watching after all…

YOU'RE NOT WELCOME by Cliff Turner

You're Not Welcome by Cliff Turner, 36" x 36" oil on canvas (via Gallery 78 website)

Seeing these works up close was a truly inspirational experience. Digital images tend to flatten colors a little bit and can make the works look more like photographs than paintings. Examining them in the gallery revealed the beautiful gradients and brush strokes in the background to make such a smooth transition in the bird still lives, for example. This work isn’t on exhibit at Gallery 78 any more but since he’s a Saint John resident, you may be able to find it with his other works at Handworks Gallery.

My love of painting stems from a fairly simple pleasure of putting color on a blank white canvas. I’ve been painting a lot of still lives over the past few months and was starting to feel it getting a bit stale. Cliff Turner’s work is an example of how it can be exciting and amazing to look upon. Time for me to splash down some colors and get cracking!