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Spring in my Step

9 Mar

A week can change so much. While I don’t want to get ahead of myself, I’m decidedly chipper about the faint feeling of spring in the air.

Spring is without doubt my favourite season. The brighter mornings make it easier to get out of bed; you find yourself smiling for no apparent reason; and with each passing day you look a little less like the Michelin Man as another winter layer is shed. Everything’s better when the sun comes out. It’s the most dramatic transition; as if life turns from monochrome to technicolor. I’m getting a bit abstract here, but I’m coming to a point.

I’m about half way through my attempt to become ‘The Artist.’ After six weeks of drawing in grayscale, tonight I finally got the chance to experiment with colour – swapping pencil for paint. And as an apt ode to spring, our subject was the ultimate symbolic flora of the season – daffodils.

I haven’t painted in over 10 years, so my attempt is more than a little ropey but it was fun to experiment with a different medium. This was achieved with just three colours – black, white and yellow. It will be interesting to see how the results change as more colours are introduced and my technique [hopefully] improves.

I’m feeling a renewed enthusiasm for my 29 Lives challenge and this week have negotiated a number of new lives, which will keep me busy for the next month at least. More on those soon but one thing’s for sure; the winter hibernation is over.





The Art of Being Still

23 Feb

When was the last time you sat in complete silence and paid absolute attention to one thing? If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a few things on the go at any one time – responding to emails whilst on the phone; tweeting while you’re watching TV; texting when you’re crossing the road; blogging in bed. We never stop.

That’s why I am relishing this particular challenge – my life as an artist. For just over two hours every Thursday, I switch off and focus on one thing and one thing only. It’s an exercise in complete concentration and control, forcing you to focus your mind on the task in hand and forget the rest.

Tonight’s class started with two warm-up exercises to put us into a deep focused state and shut out the outside world. We were given two outline drawings to copy, only we had to draw them upside down. My first – the horse (below) turned out surprisingly well for a first go. My Picasso imitation however was a little off kilter – I started from the left and ran out of space when I got to the right hand side – a lesson in itself – sketch the full outline before you drill down into the detail.

Next up was a still life. A mismatched collection of flowers, soft toys and fruit, this was an opportunity to play about with texture. I’ve never been great at still life drawing but I’m pretty pleased with how this piece turned out, particularly considering I spent less than an hour on it.

I’m not good at still life in a literal sense. I’m better on the go; when I slow down, I invariably get sick. Saying that, after my two hour art class each week, I’m at my most relaxed. I’m learning more than just drawing skills with this challenge – it’s teaching me to take time out. And I think my drawing’s improving a little too. Happy Days.




Losing Perspective

3 Feb

Sometimes it’s easy to lose perspective. Like when it’s dark, damp and dreary outside and your alarm sounds its shrill tones at 6.30am – you feel like there could be nothing worse than getting out from under the cosy confines of your duvet. When you do finally make the leap (after hitting snooze five times, if you’re anything like me) it transpires things aren’t so bad.

It seems the same goes with drawing. Tonight, our class focused on perspective. Instead of drawing the objects in front of us (chairs and stools, in case you can’t tell from the pictures below), we were tasked with drawing the ‘negative space’ around them. This is harder than it sounds – try it. So instead of drawing the outline of the object as you usually would, with interweaving or connecting lines, you draw only the space in between the physical thing you’re looking at. In the case of a chair, this means if you can see two legs but due to the perspective you’re looking from there’s no space between then, then they should appear almost as one – with just the outer edge of both visible. The image shouldn’t really appear 3D but more like a stencil of the shape.

I’m not sure I’m explaining this well. And from my pictures, you’ll see I didn’t really achieve this but it was a useful exercise in terms of how you judge empty space in drawing and the effect this has on the size and shape of the objects you draw.

I may need to put some practice in here – I don’t think this will be solved by hitting the snooze button.





A Portrait of The Artist

19 Jan

I’ve always been a creative type. I’ve argued in the past that you’re either a logical, or artistic person. As I get older, I’m not so sure that’s the case – you can learn anything if you put your mind to it.

I loved art in school. I was actually quite good. I wasn’t a world-class talent but my week revolved around those art classes. When it came to crunch time however, like many, I decided, on advice from my teachers that an A Level in Art wasn’t going to help me greatly when it came to applying for university, so I gave it up.

I’ve always regretted not keeping it up, even as a hobby. So, when I was pondering how to pass these dark winter evenings, and what challenges I could set myself in the first part of the New Year, I decided to indulge an old passion and pick up my pencils/paints again for another stab at being ‘the artist.’

Some 13 years since I left my last art classroom, I had my first ‘drawing and painting’ class tonight at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast.

Working with charcoal, which was never my favourite medium was quite a challenge, and it turns out (as you’ll see from my pictures below) that I’m more than a bit rusty. It was interesting though to play with different techniques – drawing with your right hand, then your left (seriously tricky); using only your wrist, then your elbow, then shoulder to anchor your hand.

Funny too, given my recent return to Weight Watchers that my first subject matter was an apple. Apt for January, I guess. Though from some of the drawings, you probably wouldn’t know it was an apple, to be fair. Something kind of circular, perhaps.

Maybe I’ll get better. Maybe I won’t. But over the next 12 weeks and perhaps beyond that, I’m going to give it my best shot. At the end of the course, I’m going to attempt a self-portrait – after all, this blog is all about putting a mirror up to my life and challenging how I see myself. Arty, hey?






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