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January 2011

January 2011 -- Creation



  • EMG News:
    January News
  • Ask an Artist:
    Motivation and Inspiration
  • Behind the Art:
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with Angela Sasser


  • Creation


  • Poem: Creator
  • Poem: Emily, Rescue Me from Mediocrity

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  • Improvising
    Behind the Art
    by Melissa Acker

    This month's theme is 'Creation', and, strangely enough, I wasn't sure how to highlight the 'creativity' aspect of art. After all, the mere act of painting (or drawing, or whatever) is highly creative, right?

    So I decided, instead, to show way to, perhaps, help break one of the pesky art-blocks you might be in. You know the ones; all you want to do is paint, but everything you try seems to be dismal failure, which is discouraging, which only makes the whole thing that much worse.

    In short, they suck.

    Sometimes, the trick to breaking one is simply to work too fast for your conscious brain to catch up to what you are doing. Your subconscious is actually pretty damn creative, but sometimes being saddled with a constantly-critiquing thinking mind is just too much for it.

    So, let's get started!

    I am doing this piece on watercolor paper, because it is one of the more versatile supports I use. Illustration board would also work well if I didn't plan on working very wet. This time, however, I very much do.

    I completely wet the surface of the paper (I use a spray bottle and a brush), and get out my black ink. Using a brush, I dot on splashes on ink on the paper. Ink is fairly 'aggressive', meaning that given an inch, it will spread like crazy. And that's exactly what I want right now. I just want to see what the ink will, and go from there. While I'm working, I tilt the paper back and forth to let the ink run, as well.

    Alright, so here's what we have right now. At the moment, I'm not even sure if I'm going to keep this orientation or not, but we'll work with it for now.

    And now, we need some color.

    I take out my watercolors, and decide which colors I want to use. I need colors with some opacity, otherwise they will hardly show at all against the black. I pick cadmium red and cadmium yellow. I also add pthalo blue and magenta, both of which are very strong, spreading colors. With that, I have all the colors I need to make any color I want; for something like this, simple (fewer paints) is better.

    I completely wet the paper again, and start adding colors almost at random. I still have nothing in particular in mind; I just want to see what happens when I leave myself on auto-pilot, so to speak. At random, I spray the paper with my smaller spray bottle and tilt the paper to spread the colors. A word of caution, here: you do not want to completely mix the colors, or else you will have nothing but a horrible mess of ugly greys. So, on this one thing, be a tad careful.

    Now, before I go any further, I think it's about time I figured out exactly where this piece is going. I plan on the next step being done in acrylic paint, which I do not typically use very wet or abstractly, so I, personally, need a little bit of direction at this point. So I look at the painting from all different angles, and see if any of the shapes really appeal to me. This is what they look like from different angles:

    I end up deciding on this one. I think I can see what might be hilly or rocky hill-like shapes, and the circular areas in the top left could be a light source of some kind.

    Now I take out my box of acrylics and take out some random colors. I ended up picking out yellow oxide, deep magenta, and pthalo green. I grab some white as well, and start sculpting out shapes. Considering all the reddish colors in the painting, I decide to concentrate on adding green. The dark shape at the top, surprisingly, turned into a dragon, and the mound itself into coins, instead of rock. Some rather abstract, jagged shapes sort of look like grass on the left-hand side, and spikes on the dragon. I decide to keep my initial decision to make the globes the light source, and try to stay consistent with it. I try to keep lots of 'lost and found' lines and contours; that is, I leave some of the shapes up to the viewer's imagination.

    And now I'm going to switch to yet another medium, this time a dry one: colored pencil. I almost went with graphite, instead, but wanted to add more color. I take out my pencils, and, to keep with the random nature of the exercise, I decide to just use them as-is; I'll only use my pencils that are already sharp enough to use. I actually moved into a room that didn't have a pencil sharpener to motivate me to improvise.

    Some pencils are more opaque, and thus suitable for this piece, than others. Experience tells me which to use and which to avoid. At first, most of my effort went to adding reflected color to the various surfaces in the painting, such as red on the wings. I also added more coins; the difference in texture between the pencil coins and the acrylic ones adds some visual interest. I finished the sword hilt in the hoard pile, and carved out a skull as well for fun.

    When you're adding little details like this with colored pencil over an already-colored background, I've found it's helpful to lay down a thicker layer of a light or even white-colored pencil first, and then add more color on top of it. It helps it stand out a little more.

    Now, is this a finished painting? No; it's rough around the edges and the color balance is way off. But it's a useful exercise to get the creative juices flowing. I could easily use this as a color sketch to do a more finished and refined painting, if I chose to. And that's what it's all about: to get you working. Because if you don't sit down to paint, you'll never get anything done, good or bad.

    Melissa Acker

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