It certainly has been a while since I last made a post. I had many good intentions, but was very swiftly overwhelmed with everything I wanted to do and it inevitably led me to a downward spiral in which almost nothing got done.
But life is a series of falling down and getting back up again and here I am, getting back up.
And to begin, here is a small update of what I have been working on.
Most of last year was dedicated to Sculpture. Primarily, I was making bonsai pots out of concrete, some more artistically leaning than others. I set up an Etsy shop and even sold a few, but it was a venture that came with a few problems that I’ve found hard to reconcile. Concrete is heavy. It’s also pretty fragile. The weight makes for really high shipping fees and when you have a product that needs to ship all the way from Australia, well, it gets expensive.
I did also experience breakages on items that I thought were really well wrapped. I seriously underestimated the amount of cushioning my delicate, chunky, babies would need. Luckily, those were sent to my parents and I didn’t have any unfortunate customer care situations to manage. It did however show me how easily I could end up with an unfortunate mishap.
I do love sculpture and I thoroughly enjoy mixing it up with bonsai and other plants, but after giving it a year, I think its safe to say that it’s an activity best left as a hobby for now.
So where does that leave me and my Fine Arts degree? Spiralling in self doubt and existential dread. I did a lot of that. It seriously messed with my productivity. It took a stern pep talk from myself, and a really long time, to pull myself out of that mess and come up with a plan. A project. Something.
Enter my saviour: Alice in Wonderland.
I decided to choose a book, any book, and make a cover illustration for it. No pressure. No time limit. Just me and the art and however long it takes. I am so glad that I chose Alice.
This painting has giving me my confidence back. It’s bright and colourful and it makes me happy. When I look at it, it reminds me that yes I can do this. I do make good art.
And thanks to Alice I have a sudden wealth of new ideas just waiting to be painted. Of course, I need to finish her still. She has a good couple of hours left to go, but they’re hours I’m excited to get to.
I haven’t taken a tonne of progress shots, but I will be sharing what I have in a future post.
Last year I attempted to do another round of 12 short stories in 12 months. I got 6 stories into it before I realised it was taking too much of my time and seriously impacting the progress on my current novel WIP. It was a really tough call to make, but I made the decision to quit the challenge half way and save what was left of my crumbling sanity.
With the short stories no longer a priority I threw myself into Draft Two. It took a lot of self bribery (in the way of chocolate and clothes) but I got. It. Done.
Unfortunately, it still wasn’t done done.
I am currently deep into edits of draft three and have made it to 50000 words. It is going slower than I had hoped and with the current state of the world, I am finding it increasingly difficult to get much done. Not to mention that I have suddenly become a quarantine-Home-school mom and what time I did have has suddenly shrunk to almost nothing.
But the book is coming along. I am making progress. I even have an excerpt to prove it. 😉
“What does it do?” Autumn heard herself ask. She could not look away from the candle. She couldn’t stop the gaping pit of dread that grew inside of her.
She knew what the candle did. Of course she did. This was a gift like all the other gifts, made to fix her. Only, Zanele had never given her a gift before. Zanele had never even hinted that she cared about Autumn’s lack of manifestation. Zanele was a safe witch.
But not anymore. Just like the rest of them, Zanele was here presenting a gift. Like the rest of them, Zanele wanted her to change.
Zanele began to explain the magic and the more she spoke, the more the pit of dread grew.
“At it’s core, it’s a spell of waking, but there’s a lot more to it. It has threads for breaking barriers and some others to uncover hidden things. And the last bit, the really tricky one, is a thread of life giving. It took me months to work out the intricacies, otherwise I might have gotten this to you sooner.”
This was complicated magic. Difficult magic. Not entirely sanctioned magic. Waking? Life giving? Autumn swallowed.
“I can’t take this.”
Autumn reached out and pushed the candle away from herself. Just the brief touch made her feel like she might throw up.
“Of course you can.” Zanele pushed the candle back. “I’m giving it to you.”
Autumn’s eyes shot up to Zanele’s. She stared, wide eyed. “Is this even… legal?”
“I might be treading some fine lines but, “ Zanele shrugged. “This is for your Affinity, I don’t think anyone would object.” She leaned in close then, a spark of laughter back in her eyes. “Just don’t light it in a graveyard. You might wake up the inhabitants and then we will be in trouble.”
Autumn’s eyes went wide. “It can do that?”
Zanele pushed away from the counter, she laughed. “Not without a very elaborate spell, it can’t.”
Autumn was not convinced. She stared at the candle, horror plain on her face. Zanele spoke softly.
“It’s fine, Autumn. Light it, focus on your core. The only thing that will awaken is your Affinity. I promise you that.” She pressed her shirt straight. “But I do need to get going. Message me if you need to talk more, okay?”
Just a quick couple of photos showing the process from lumps of clay to a recognizable Rat Thing. Step one in creating this Rat Planter.
The cloud was thick and acrid. It coursed into the kitchen intent on assault. Jessica stumbled back. An oven mitt (rust brown with bruises from past battles) fell to the floor. Jessica swore and then she hacked, her words getting caught on the soot and the quickly thinning air. She cleared her throat as best she could and then she threw herself back into the haze. One hand trailed the ground. She found the mitten by feel alone. Her eyes beat furiously. A steady stream of tears coursed down her cheeks. She pushed forward.
Jessica pulled the oven door fully open and thrust her mitten covered hand inside. Her fingers curled, gripped and yanked. She snapped up, clunked her latest victim onto the stove top and made a run for the patio doors.
Jessica dragged in air. It felt like a drug. Behind her, a thinning cloud of smoke wafted toward the doors and to freedom. She looked back at the kitchen and shook her head.
“Oh Jessie girl, you really need to stop doing this.”
It had become a habit of hers to turn to baking when an art block came on. Following a recipe allowed her to create without also having to deal with the tricky business of creative thinking. And giving herself that space, that time to keep her hands busy while her mind wandered, it worked. Exactly one baking session later and Jessica was ready to face the clay once more.
It had also become a habit of hers to get lost in the work while her saviour slowly turned to char.
Today’s hero-turned-burn-victim should have been a sticky date pudding. Now it was just an imagined memory on the tongue.
Jessica shrugged. It’s not like she actually wanted all of those calories.
Here are the process videos for my Buhle Painting. Still a bit skwonky and all over the place, but I am starting to feel more at home in Photoshop. Huzzah!
The first Video is the initial sketch. I took a pretty long time figuring out how to place her arms. This video is mostly me drawing arms and then erasing arms and then drawing arms and then erasing arms… you get the idea. 😛
The second starts with a few quick colour comps before diving into the final piece.
Disclaimer: Yes, I know I shouldn’t do backgrounds last. 😛
Donna curled her fingers over the handle bar and pushed, her knuckles white against wrinkled skin. She heaved with all the strength her eighty-three-year-old body could muster. The shopping trolley groaned, but it remained rooted to the sidewalk.
“Oh bugger that!”
Donna kicked at the back wheel lodged in a crack. A crack that was proving itself a worthy opponent in an unsanctioned duel. Donna huffed ,and with hands on bony hips, she scanned her surroundings.
The hazy noise of traffic swam through the air, and everywhere she looked, people moved. This one hurrying to a meeting, his briefcase swinging in a dangerous rhythm. That one talking on her phone as if every word coming from her mouth was the most pressing. All of them milling about like busy ants. All of them the same and none of them willing to stop and help an old lady out.
“Not this old lady.”
Donna surveyed her trolley again. Thick blankets bulged out of the top, her worldly possessions tucked safely beneath them. She had some freshly scavenged groceries in one corner, and an assortment of pots and pans were tied securely to the trolley’s sides. They clanged as she went about her day. Donna liked that. She called it her music. By all accounts it was a lot more pleasant than that drivel people listened to these days. But until Donna could get her trolley free, she would not be listening to her music.
Donna squatted beside the trolley and wrapped her hands around the frame. If she wanted the trolley free, she would have to lift it. The trolley was heavy and Donna old, but she couldn’t see any other way. She, like the people flowing around her, had a very busy and very important day ahead of her. Donna flexed her fingers, tightened her grip and lifted. That is to say, she tried to lift the trolley. There was a brief moment where the wheel hovered above the crack, but then the trolley thunked back down and Donna’s breathe wheezed out.
“Excuse me, ma’am, let me help you with that.”
Donna looked up at one of those “Tech” people. They were easy to spot in a sea of suits and ties. Their casual clothing stood out like one great big middle finger to the status quo. Donna had no idea what they actually did, but the world was changing faster than she could keep up, and they had something to do with it.
The Tech guy shuffled to the front of the trolley, and Donna got out of his way. In a matter of seconds, he had the trolley free and standing on smooth sidewalk once more.
“Thank-you,” Donna said. “I don’t know what I would have done without you. It’s my anniversary today. I’m going to the park to have lunch with my husband.”
The words gushed out of Donna. They always did when someone looked at her like she was a real person. Donna was so used to being glanced over, or stared at like she was some kind of incurable disease, that when someone showed her a thread of dignity, she grappled for a connection. She wanted to feel seen, and she would do anything to hold onto that feeling for just a little bit longer.
“Well congratulations,” the Tech guy said. He reached into his wallet and drew out a five-dollar note. “Here. Its not much, but happy anniversary. Get something good for dessert.”
Donna could feel the tears gathering as she took the money and hugged it close. “Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. John likes those cookies with the jam in the middle. I’ll get some of those.”
“That’s a great choice.” The Tech guy smiled. “Well, enjoy your meal. Your husband is a lucky man.”
Donna smiled, and the Tech guy left. Just like that, she was invisible again, but her heart was lighter than it had been moments before.
Donna got behind her trolley and pushed it down the street. The park John loved best was not far. There were lots of trees and a beautiful pond where people would come to feed the ducks. John liked ducks. Aa messy kind of elegant, he’d say. Not show-offy like the swans or scavenging rats like the pigeons. They got the balance right. They reminded him of Donna. Donna wasn’t so sure she liked being thought of as a duck, but she liked the idea of messy elegance, and so she let John tell her she was like a duck and married him all the same. It wasn’t a fault that John chose such strange ways to compare things. He tried, Donna knew what he meant. That was all that really mattered.
Donna could see the park now, but first, she needed to stop and get the cookies. She turned down a side street and made her way toward a petrol station. Petrol stations were usually more expensive than grocery stores, but they would let Donna buy stuff without hassling her. Grocery store staff got real antsy when she walked in. They would try to usher her out quick as possible, using their bodies as shields to hide her scruffy form from other shoppers. It didn’t matter to them that she had money. She lived a different kind of life, an unacceptable kind of life, and for that she couldn’t be trusted. It was ridiculous. Donna had never stolen or done any sort of dishonest thing in her life. She certainly couldn’t say the same for some of those fancy rich folk that got to do whatever they damn well pleased. Donna shook her head. It was better to pay a little extra for the cookies.
True to form, the petrol station cashier barely gave Donna a second glance. The cookies were bought and paid for, and Donna left the store happy to have been treated like a regular person. She pointed her trolley toward the park and clanged her way down the sidewalk.
Donna had set up her picnic blanket beside the pond. Ducks waddled about the perimeter, their beady little eyes on the meager spread. Donna’s excitable chatter rose above their quacking, “The bread buns are a little stale, but they’re still good. And you have to try the apples. They’re only a little bit bruised, but so very sweet.”
She smiled at her husband. “I met a nice young man today. He helped me when my trolley got stuck. And he gave me money to buy the cookies. They’re the ones with the jam in the middle. He said you’re a very lucky man to have me.”
Donna leaned over. She brushed her fingers against the faded photograph that sat opposite to her. The man in the picture was a much younger John than Donna could truly recall, but when she propped the picture up against a rock like that, it still felt like John was looking at her.
“I think I’m the lucky one,” Donna whispered. “With you by my side, I was never invisible.”
I’m just in with a quick update on the things I’ve been busy with, primarily in the vein of “how not to do things!”
I am excitably working toward a tutorial series on concrete sculpture, but to do that, I first need to remember how to do it properly. Aha! Also, I need to work out the intricacies of recording process. I’m having some success on that front, but also plently of failures. I’m learning how to edit video. Next on the list will be audio.
In the meantime, I am getting plenty of “What not to do” footage and it will totally add to the completeness of the series so we can pretend I did it on purpose. 😉
A quick, visual journey of my activities:
Let us begin with a snapshot from the art of plaster moulds:
Hark! A tub of curing concrete scuplts! Note all the bugs and leaves that have fallen in. Also the strange surface floaty bits that I have, without any scientific backing whatsoever, decided must be related to the petroleum jelly used as a release agent. I am probably wrong.
This, a small concrete sculpture that broke on demoulding because I got the cement to aggregate ratio wrong. Ah, relearning you old fiend!
And this, a giant pile of clay scraped from the depths of this one piece mould that really would work better as a two piece mould, but here we are!
And Finally, a lovely demonstration of myself working on the part of the sculpture that’s facing AWAY from the camera. Also see: Wobble because I’m hitting the charging cable.
Here is MerMay number 6! I went with a barnacle and seaweed look for this Mermaid. I rather like the barnacles and think I will explore them further throughout Mermay.
Video wise I have mostly removed the wobble. Except for that time I hit my phone with my shoulder… 😛 There is a small bit of sketch lost on the top of the screen which I do need to address, but otherwise I am pretty happy with my “making videos for YouTube” progress.
I hope you enjoy and Let me know what you think! 🙂
I have very recently been diving head first into recording process videos for my art and dun dun dun… Here is the very first video up on YouTube!
I do still have a bunch of kinks to iron out. Mostly this is related to just getting the camera angle right/minimising wobble etc. And should be relatively easy fixes… should be…
But for now, here is the video, wobble and weird angles included, of a charcoal sketch for MerMay2018!
Please let me know what you think, and if you have any advice for recording large, easel based works, I am all eyes!
Do you know what makes me happy? Painting! Painting makes me happy! All that smooshy wooshy messy turpentine smelly gloriousness that is Painting Makes. Me. Happy.
When it comes to activities like painting or writing, being interrupted every few minutes is kind of infuriating. There is something beautiful about the creative process and getting into “the zone”, but if you’re like me, the big blocks of time are limited. What I do have, though, is loads of little bits of time. I have started using those little bits for simple exercises. First one?
Blobby Body Manequins!
Yes, there is probably a more eloquent way to express what I’m doing, but it sure as heck won’t be as fun as yelling BLOBBY BODY MANEQUINS!
In an effort to train myself to draw from memory, I’m… dun dun dun… drawing from memory. These little sketchy guys below are all about trying to understand the body posture, weight distribution etc. You can see that the earlier ones the weight is way too much to the back of the figure. I’ve been gradually bringing the weight forward, but I’m not quite there yet. How the body moves is a subtle thing with lots of little moving parts.
Heck, I HAVE a body. I move it ALL THE TIME. Surely I know how it all works?
Ha. ha. ha.
Ocasionally I will do the movement myself, and then get back and try to draw it. What I won’t do is look at actual reference for this. This is all about translating what I know into a visual form. In theory, I understand how it should look.
Now its up to the practice.
This week I have been busy with the first bit of homework for the Magic Box course over at The Oatley Academy. Its a self guided course in all things digital painting. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while now and have finally had the chance to dive in. My brain is fried and I’m only on module 1!
But it has been awesome. It’s helping me with figuring out how to use reference effectively, how to plan a painting and specifically, how to create colour comps with a soft gradient. Random side note, in all three years of Fine Arts studies, not one lecturer actually broke down how to PLAN a painting. Isn’t that crazy? How did I go through three years of Art Study and never do colour comps? HOW?!
I’m begining to feel way more comfortable with the Gradient and Lasso tools than I did at the start of this week and I’m really starting to enjoy the effects I can create with them. Here are the results of my learning:
Next up, Brush techniques!