Doodling & Flowers

My first week at NSCAD was fantastic, better than I could’ve hoped for! It’s so inspiring to be surrounded by other artists and really encourages me to up my game in terms of skills. I thought we’d be starting with basics for drawing, but we were assigned pretty detailed homework, and I’ve got over 3 hours of drawings due next Thursday. I may share some sketches when I’m done if I feel they’re up-to-snuff, but won’t be sharing every single thing along the way, simply because there will be so much to photo/scan. I will have hundreds of drawings by end of semester.

In our studio class we were introduced to an exercise called Zentangle. You basically divide up a small piece of paper into several sections, and fill each of those sections with doodles/patterns. It’s extremely relaxing and creatively soothing. I highly recommend it to everyone! It’s great for creative block as well, since it’s more intuitive and doesn’t require a lot of thought. Check out the website for techniques and for videos of other people zentangling.

Doodling with black & white oil pastels.

Doodling with black & white oil pastels.

This is a larger version of that sort of doodle done with black & white oil pastels. I’m not a huge fan of pastels as I find them hard to use and blend, but the longer I worked on this, the better I felt about it. I’ve never really been confident working in black and white (with paint and pastels) but the only way to conquer that is to practice practice practice. Hopefully with more practice I’ll get better at pastels and feel more comfortable working with them.

Having fun with zentangling.

Having fun with zentangling.

This is a photo out of the moleskin journal I got for xmas last year; I finally have a use for it! It’s so much fun to doodle and not worry about the outcome. It’s also a great way to kill time if you’re bored! I predict that I will go through dozens of micron pens for this kind of thing. Maybe I’ll involve color soon as well. These kinds of doodles could be a great jumping-off point for a painting, as well.

Gorgeous multi-colored Hydrangea at Public Gardens.

Gorgeous multi-colored Hydrangea at Public Gardens.

On Saturday we went downtown so I could get some architecture sketching in, and walked through Public Gardens. Tim pointed out these hydrangea and I was immediately taken by their beautiful subtle shifts of color. I would love to paint these sorts of flowers and colors.

Alright, off to more drawing homework! Take care everyone!

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Zoe Pawlak

Haute Design, an interior design blog, introduced me to Zoe Pawlak‘s work. Zoe does custom work for clients based on the spaces they live in, working closely with them from the conception phases of the work, all the way to staging the finished painting. She got her BFA at NSCAD (hurray!) and went onto study painting after that in Montreal and Mexico. Her use of vivid colors is striking and refreshing, like a fruity drink on a hot sunny day.

The next three pieces you’ll see are of the same subject, but painted very differently. There are some that might think that painting the same subject over and over would be too easy, but I disagree. In my own work I usually start with research sketches, followed by several sketches of what I want to paint, followed by a final sketch which I may ink depending on materials. I’ve usually drawn something 4-5 times before I go to paint it, which helps me familiarize with the subject matter, especially when it’s something I’ve never drawn before (like Owls!). It can really test your patient to work on the same subject continuously.

Heaven Hold On, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 48 by Zoe Pawlak

Heaven Hold On, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 48 by Zoe Pawlak

All three of these works have very different vibes to them. I love the tropical palette used above, the sun and the water in saturated soft splashes of color. Her multi-colored hair draws your attention to her whimsical expression and the birds above her.

Far, Far, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 48  by Zoe Pawlak

Far, Far, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 48 by Zoe Pawlak

This painting has a more graphic-style to it, with flatter colors and harsher shadows. Using the complimentary palette of pink and yellow gives these simplistic colors depth.

Semblance, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 48 by Zoe Pawlak

Semblance, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 48 by Zoe Pawlak

There’s a lot of texture in this piece. The colors are softer and there’s a lot more happening with the background. I like how she takes each painting to a different level of completion. These pieces are plenty different, different enough that I’d want to display them side-by-side. The Haute Design article has several photos of how her clients display her work.

Swimmer, Acrylic and oil on Canvas, 48 x 72 by Zoe Pawlak

Swimmer, Acrylic and oil on Canvas, 48 x 72 by Zoe Pawlak

The deep blue hues of this painting drew me in pretty quickly. The cape flowing from her shoulders draws the eye up to the carefully detailed surface of the water.

Taken Away, 48 x 48, Oil on Canvas by Zoe Pawlak

Taken Away, 48 x 48, Oil on Canvas by Zoe Pawlak

Some of the paintings Zoe does lean a bit towards abstraction. The above landscape, painted in light soft colors looks like something from a dream, or a foggy landscape painted in the early morning. Paintings like this really show off her skills with brushstrokes. Some of her lines are stark, others carefully softened and others still half-blended, keeping the texture of the brush visible.

Large Flowers (Taupe background), Acrylic and oil on Canvas, 48 x 72 by Zoe Pawlak

Large Flowers (Taupe background), Acrylic and oil on Canvas, 48 x 72 by Zoe Pawlak

The flowers above are so beautifully bright and really stand out against the taupe background. I like the geometry in this composition, the cool greens in the stem blossoming into warm bright petals up top.

Here’s a video showing her working away as well as showing off her work to potential clients. Being able to hand-pick clients and showing work all over the world are goals that I would like to accomplish, some day. Watching her in her element is very inspiring. The music is really pretty too, definitely worth two minutes of your time.

ZOE PAWLAK from Liam Mitchell on Vimeo.

Tutorial by Rob Sheridan and the Issue of the Chuck Close Filter

Short entry today, because I a) have been trying to sort out moving-related stuff and b) need to keep working on my first paid commission! May show some teasers soon but it’s supposed to be a surprise so I’ll have to be a ninja about it.

Clicking the image below will take you to a digital coloring tutorial by Rob Sheridan for his piece, “Mascots”.

"Mascots" by Rob Sheridan

“Mascots” by Rob Sheridan

The tutorial is mainly Photoshop-based and very thorough; he talks about how he got the textures in the wood paneling of the walls as well as the dingy old carpets. His attention to detail is pretty amazing. For example, he drew, from scratch, the labels on the beer cans by researching old labels from the 70’s and redrawing them vector-style. For the magazine cover and the playing cards, he found high-res scans (or scanned them in himself) and warped/yellowed them to look appropriate. I like this tutorial because he really takes advantage of Photoshop for digital artwork by using tools like the perspective tool and the many filters that come standard with SP. Very inspiring work, must have been painstaking; totally worth it though, looks fantastic!

I came across an article on my feed yesterday titled My Chuck Close Problem by Scott Blake. The article describes a project (coded by Blake) that essentially recreates Close’s style in a program accessible online through a web browser. You’d submit a photo and get it back Chuck Close-ified. Blake is/was very proud of this project and a huge fan of Close. Unfortunately, when it became popular Close demanded that Blake take it down. It’s worth taking 15 minutes or so to read through the article for more details.

Scott Blake Self Portrait (via Hyperallergic)

Scott Blake Self Portrait (via Hyperallergic)

The website was free to use, so Blake wasn’t making any money off of it. Nevertheless, Close claims that Blake was “devaluing” his work. On the one hand, I can understand where Close is coming from. No one wants to have their style (in Chuck’s case, something extremely personal to him, developed over many years because of his physical condition) copied and used in ways they can’t control. On the other hand, nothing made with this “Chuck Close filter” will ever be as good as what Close does himself. The program uses already-painted squares from previous paintings and rearranges them to mimick the photo. Anyone familiar with Close’s work knows that his process is much more involved than simply gridding out a portrait.

It’s a tricky subject and I’m not quite sure which side I come down on. A lot of the comments on the article criticize Blake for spending so much time (10 years!) on a project that’s based so heavily on another artist’s work. Even though Blake put a ton of effort into this, I’m leaning towards agreeing with these artists. It’s fine and dandy to spend time on fanart, or studies or copies of other work, but in order to be successful as an artist you need to try and come up with, and explore, original ideas. Blake argues that he’s taking Close’s work in a different enough direction but I have to disagree there.

Either way, the article brings up an important discussion about what constitutes copying, and about stealing/borrowing/building off of someone else’s idea; at what point does it become your own?

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!

Must-Sees at the MoMA

Our upcoming roadtrip is taking us through NYC, meaning I will get a chance to see the Museum of Modern Art! I wasn’t sure what they had on display, so I visited their website and discovered that, thanks to Google’s art project “Artworks”, most of the work is available to view online! I plan to go to MoMA with somewhat of a battle plan, since we only really have one full day there and we’ll want to explore other areas of the city. Here are some of the paintings I want to get a closer look at: the links at the top take you to the high resolution versions at Google Art Project, and clicking the images will take you to Wikipedia for more information (or Google Art Project if there was no wiki entry).

The Starry Night by Van Gogh

The Starry Night by Van Gogh

The Starry Night by Van Gogh

The Birth of Venus by Botticelli Sandro Botticelli

The Birth of Venus (Botticelli)

The Birth of Venus (Botticelli)

Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais

John Everett Millais - Ophelia

John Everett Millais - Ophelia

Charing Cross Bridge by Claude Monet

Charing Cross Bridge, Monet

Charing Cross Bridge, Monet

Marie-Antoinette With The Rose by Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Marie-Antoinette With The Rose by Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Marie-Antoinette With The Rose by Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

The Two Crowns by Sir Frank Dicksee

The Two Crowns by Sir Frank Dicksee

The Two Crowns by Sir Frank Dicksee

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse

The Lady of Shalott by Lord Alfred Tennyson

The Lady of Shalott by Lord Alfred Tennyson

I’m hoping that seeing these pieces in person will help give me a better understanding on how they were composed, maybe some hints on technique. Starry Night has been a favorite of mine for awhile (this may or may not have been influenced by his recent appearance in Doctor Who) and so has Ophelia. I remember being struck by Ophelia for the first time while sitting in English class in middle school. I believe the Lady of Shalott was there as well. I applaud the teachers the show art in their classrooms! It’s a great way to get conversations going and you never know who you might inspire!

Seeing how the masters rendered both nature and fabrics in stunning detail has always fascinated me. I’m also excited to see some more abstract works, especially since my abstract course last summer. I have such a better appreciation for the likes of Monet and Gogh, and am itching to see their works close up.

Looking over the museum maps, it looks like I’ll be starting on the top floor and heading downwards. With any luck I’ll be able to see all of these paintings and not feel too overwhelmed. I’m also told that the MoMa has an excellent cafe with delicious mochaccinos, so I know where to go to fuel up! I’d like to get a look at some of the current exhibitions at well, but we’ll see how I feel after the fifth floor…

…any pieces you guys would recommend visiting?

Cherry Blossom Waterfall & Owl of Life

Things came together for me pretty quickly once I put a list together and got going! Friday night I sketched out some cherry blossoms on a separate piece of paper and tried to figure out what shape I wanted them to take on the painting. Saturday afternoon, I began painting them on using transparent layers and, after working through Sunday afternoon as well, I finished it off last night. Originally I had wanted to have an “echo” effect with the flowers and tried stamping them on and sanding them down. Neither of those techniques turned out so I just went ahead and painted with thin, transparent colors. I was going to keep it one color but quickly changed my mind once I saw what they looked like in pink against the background.

Cherry Blossom Waterfall
Cherry Blossom Waterfall by ~soulexposed on deviantART

I’m very happy with the way this turned out, seeing as a week ago I had no idea what to do with it. By stepping outside the original idea I had for this painting I was able to figure out how to finish it off. It’s going in our bedroom, right above the bed where the light from the window will hit it.

On Thursday night I asked Tim for advice on what to do with the life owl drawing, and he gave me some suggestions that allowed me to finally finish it off as well.

Owl of Life
Owl of Life by ~soulexposed on deviantART

I ended up shading the fruit and books a little bit more so they stood out from the owl. This pushes the owl to the back a bit but I don’t mind, since he’s so colorful already anyway that it would be hard to hide him. One down, two to go!

Getting out of the slump…

I’ve been a bit slack on the posting over the last little while, which is not a great way to start off 2012! Artistically I’ve been feeling a bit stale as well, with no classes in sight and no solid goals to work towards. I’ve decided that this just won’t do.

The last time I was stuck on a painting and wanted to finish it, I made a list of all the things left to do to get it into a “finished” state. After completing the list, not only did the painting look great, but I felt accomplished. The piece in question is the textbook still life I did a while ago for Tim. It made sense to get a list going of steps left to complete since there were so many details in the painting itself that it was easy to get lost. I used this strategy on my abstract self-portrait and it worked just as well.

When coming up with a to do list of what I’m currently engrossed in, I decided that my Life Owl drawing is not finished. After consulting with Tim (he has a completely different and refreshing perspective on things), we decided parts of it need more shading so that the work as a whole is more dynamic. The other piece that’s been on my mind for awhile has been the abstract. You can tell that I’m feeling weird about it since it doesn’t even have a proper name yet. I haven’t been able to make up my mind about where to take it next and I think that’s because I’ve been going about it the wrong way.

I’ve been looking at it in terms of what’s already there and how to make pieces come forward and push others back. While looking through my pinterest boards for abstract art inspiration, I came across a bunch of wallpaper patterns that have been attracting my attention and then it came to me: what I currently have looks like a background, so why don’t I add some kind of pattern to the foreground? I’m going to add a pattern of cherry blossoms on top of it, some transparent and some opaque. I’m armed with a list and ready to paint, so let’s hope I can finally cover some ground on this!

So this isn’t a picture-free post, here’s what I’m looking at for inspiration on the abstract:

Paintings based on double exposures, by Pakayla Biehn.

Paintings based on double exposures, by Pakayla Biehn. (via Booooooom.com)

marilyn-monroe by fab ciraol

marilyn-monroe by fab ciraol

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms (via ArtBooksTea)