Yesterday I pretty much finished up the last of the things that I needed to do for the Christmas holiday. Everything that I wanted to mail out had been posted and all the gifts that I had to get or make for my own giving here in Canada were complete. I still have some wrapping to do, but that should only take a short time and I will certainly get things done over the weekend. I think I am doing pretty well.
It is a strange feeling for me to be so on top of things. I don’t think that there has ever been a time before when I was ready for the holiday so early. Perhaps it is because our families are a little smaller. Or maybe it is that we decided to downsize the holidays a bit and limit our gift giving. Probably it is a little bit of both.
As we arrived home from our daily errands of visiting the post office and stopping at the store, I felt rather odd. Usually as I return, I am planning out the days activities and work, and on a deadline to finish the latest project that I am working on. Whether it is self-imposed or a deadline for a catalog or magazine, I treat it with equal importance and I attack it with enthusiasm.
But yesterday, my “to do” list was complete. I am certainly not out of ideas, but for some reason I didn’t really feel like jumping into another project just yet. I live from project to project all year long and I suppose that I wanted to take a minute to stop and enjoy the day as it was and my surroundings and enjoy the season. After all – that is what I advise everyone else. We need to take time for ourselves and stop and just “be” once in a while. Otherwise life seems to just slip by.
I thought of all the things that I wanted to do for myself. There is some sewing that I want to do. Not mending, mind you, but creating something out of fabric. I have a few ideas of what I want to make – just for fun – and I never seem to have time to do that.
I also want to do some things with clay. Last year I had purchased some materials to do some small clay pieces and they are sitting in the box I designated for them waiting for me to find the time to work with them. This too is something that is strictly for myself. I had some ideas of what I wanted to create and while I don’t have a clue as to how to go about it, I think it will be fun to try.
And then there is painting. Since I was a young child I have always longed to paint. I don’t quite know why, but recreating images in paint is wonderfully satisfying for me an it is something that I have been longing to do. Not the type of painting that I do to create patterns so the design can be replicated over and over again, but the kind of painting where I create actual paintings. One of a kind works of ‘art’ if you will that I can call my own.
A couple of months ago I bought an entirely new type of paint (DecoArt Traditions) with the hopes of using them for my own creating. They are different from my normal DecoArt Acrylics in that they feel and work more like oils. I am unable to use oil paint because I find myself having trouble with the fumes (they make me feel rather ill) and while I do use the Genesis Heat-Set oils, there are many lessons and projects which teach with the newer Traditions paint. I invested in a rather large set of them in hopes of furthering my own education in painting and they have been waiting for me to find the time to pull them out and try them.
With all these creative avenues to follow, it was no wonder that I was in a muddle. Sometimes when we have too many directions to follow at once, it tends to stop us altogether. We are frozen and unable to mover in any direction.
But the other day on Facebook, I changed my timeline photo to a beautiful snow leopard picture and a friend of mine commented on how stunning of a creature it was. I had told her about my recent trip to Brookfield Zoo when I had visited my children in Chicago and posted another photo that I had taken of the new snow leopard cub ‘Everest’ and his mom. My friend said “you should paint it!” and it got me thinking. The photo was good and clear and it would make a nice painting I thought. So that is what I decided to do.
I haven’t painted this type of painting in years. In the past, I have done some nice paintings of wildlife and ‘big cats’ which I am very proud of. While it is good to be happy with your work, as time goes on and I got farther and farther away from when I created it, I found that I was intimidated by my own paintings and found myself wondering if I would ever be able to do as well again. I realize that may sound silly, but it is true.
It seems that by those previous paintings, I set the bar high for myself and my own expectations of what I could accomplish were great. But as the years passed by and I never really got back to doing paintings of that type, I somewhat ‘forgot’ how I accomplished them and began to lose confidence. It only has gotten worse over time.
There were several years in between where I didn’t even really paint at all – not even ‘fun’ painting – and as with most things we know how to do, if we don’t do them on a regular basis, our skills get rusty. But this past year or so I have been not only finding some success in painting from patterns others created and online lessons, but also creating my own patterns to teach. One step at a time I have been getting back into things.
But I feel that I have reached a plateau and the next step was the scariest of all – to jump back into doing something that for me would be considered “difficult.” It was time for me to push myself to my own limit and get out of my comfort zone and advance. So yesterday I jumped in.
I decided to take some photos along the way of my progress. This not only helps me remember the steps that I took, but it also gives me another perspective on what I am doing. It is odd how different my own work can look in a photo. Seeing it on a computer screen allows me to see things from a different perspective and I notice things that I perhaps didn’t notice with the naked eye. I decided not to show you my reference photo until the end, although I have shown it here before both in my blog and on Facebook. It is no secret, but I do have my own interpretation of what I am seeing and I don’t transfer everything literally from the picture to the painting. So for now, I will just show my work.
The painting size is 14” x 11” and is going to be done on masonite. I began by making a background with shades of Prussian blue and greens. I wanted it to look as if the subjects are in a shadowy cave, and I love the color Prussian blue. I also thought that the snow leopards would show up nicely.
I painted the main rocks that they are sleeping on and then began their eyes. I like doing the eyes first – even if it is done preliminary and subject to change later on. To me, it gives the painting its’ soul and if done properly, it is encouraging to me and helps me continue on.
I was happy with Everest’s eyes so far.
I then completed his mom’s eyes and put a base color on her nose. (Her name escapes me at the moment) Her nose will have much darker coloring over it, but I was testing out the colors that I was using and trying to make sure that they would work. It also helped me feel if I was heading in the right direction.
I began to work on Everest’s head, although looking back on things this morning, I realize that I probably shouldn’t have done that first. However, I think that I needed to see some progress and I was over-eager to see some results. Again I was testing out colors. I am finding it a bit of a challenge to mix and work with these new paints. Not one that I can’t overcome mind you, but something that I need to get used to. In looking back I am wondering if it was a wise decision on my part to begin with one of the main focal points of the painting. I rather think that I would have been better off feeling my way around on a more nondescript area and then by the time I get to the heads, I would be more comfortable in what I am doing. But I did what I did and we will go from here. The good thing about painting this type of fur is that it is composed of many layers, and I have the opportunity to improve on what is there without negative consequence.
A close up of the under layers. For some reason, the lighting here made the painting look a bit blown out. It looks a lot more ‘smeary’ than it actually is. But at least you get the point.
I spent the remainder of the evening basing in the undercoat on Everest’s body. This established the fur direction and the general colors and placement of the spots. By this time it was after midnight and I was really tired. It was good for me to stop and take a break and look at things with fresh eyes in the morning.
So that is where we are so far. As I looked at what I have accomplished so far, I am not discouraged, but there is much to improve upon. Some of the things, like the shape of the head and the length of the tail will be adjusted as things progress. Those are part of the process.
It dawned on me that in my excitement to see things get “done” and look like a painting, I am doing things rather backwards. Common sense tells me that I should be painting the further areas first, and closer areas afterward. While I knew that all along, I think that my eagerness to see if it would look nice or come out overtook my common sense. By painting the front areas first, I am continually adjusting the edges of the fur and mucking things up. I have decided to change tactics.
But I do believe it is salvageable and I will continue on. This is after all a learning experience for me. I will say that it is very hard for me to put myself out here when I am so fearful of the outcome. But doing so helps me to look at things from a different perspective, and hopefully encourage others to take a chance and try something new. After all, it is only a piece of masonite and some paint. If I ruin it, the loss is minimal. And if I learn from my errors, than the time that I invested is well spent.
I hope you all enjoy seeing this painting come to be. I don’t know how long it will take to complete it, but I hope that I am able to work on it until I am ‘finished’. Maybe it will inspire some of you to step out of your own comfort zones and try something new. What have you got to lose?
Have a wonderfully creative Wednesday.
-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"