I can hardly believe that tomorrow is Christmas Eve. The last several days have gone by faster than I can believe. Last Monday I sent out all of my packages and I thought I would pretty much coast through the next week. After all – all of my deadlines were met for my magazine and woodworking projects and since we are only have a small gathering for this holiday with our families locally, there isn’t much to do.
I do have some gifts to wrap though and I have some baking to do. I need to get to that today as well as tidy up the house. And there is always that ‘last trip’ to the grocery store and post office. Today will be full.
I have spent the past several days working on a painting that I am creating. It is not large (11” x 14”) but extremely detailed and I feel that it is a learning project for me that will not only teach me to be a better painter, but a better designer and artist in general.
I haven’t painted this type of painting in years. I now remember the reason. I find that I get completed absorbed and obsessed with what I am doing. And the time that it takes to create something such as this doesn’t always fit into my schedule.
But this has been what I call my ‘vacation’ from regular work. While (as Keith says) my ‘vacation time’ looks quite similar to my work time, I don’t think that things could be farther from the truth.
To me, art is very emotional. It doesn’t matter if we are creating a painting, a woodworking project, pottery, or anything you can imagine. the driving force behind most creative people is emotion. While I love the woodworking and painting patterns that I create on a daily basis for others to do, there is something very different about making something for no other reason than desire. In some ways, I feel that I am being totally selfish in doing this, because during this process, there is no consideration whatsoever as to whether others would be able to recreate it (a concern that I have when I am designing a pattern) and there are no rules that I feel I have to follow. I can mix colors how I want, go back and change things, and don’t have to worry about organizing the process in my mine so I can do it again. It is total artistic freedom. I believe that is what makes it special to me.
With that said, along with freedom comes risk. When I began this piece five or six days ago, I looked at a blank board with fear. I wondered if what I envisioned in my head would ever make it to reality. It was then that I decided to dive in and share the step-by-steps here with you through this blog. Somehow that made the commitment stronger for me, as it gave me no real “out” if I were to stumble and fall. It raised the bar to another level and I knew myself well enough that by putting myself out here, I would have to see it through to the end. It was a safety net that I built for myself to ensure that I made it to the finish.
Yesterday was the first time that I needed that net. After finishing the mom snow leopard (for the most part) and being reasonably happy with it, I now had to deal with the cub. As I looked at the face of the mom and the face of the cub that I quickly painted that first day when I was anxious and not thinking things out, i knew that some drastic changes needed to be made.
The face looked very cartoon-like to me in comparison to the mom. The fur pattern was too organized and even, which was unnatural for an animal. The ears were pointy, almost fox-like and the fur pattern inside them was all wrong. The head shape to me was incorrect. To me, it was a mess.
Did I only paint that a few days ago? It looked like something that I did years ago or that a child did. The eyes themselves were alright, but the rest of it was what I feel the result of rushing into the painting due to being excited, and needed to go. For a brief moment, I consider taking the painting to the scroll saw and lopping the baby off.
So I got to work and really started to re-paint the entire baby. It was a long and tedious day, and there was a point after I was going at it for a while around dinner time when I felt that if I hadn’t put myself out here and shown this to the world, I would have packed it up and put it in the back of the closet to finish ‘another day.’ I kid you not. I didn’t want to face the humiliation of quitting though after so many people were here cheering me on. So I pushed ahead.
Eventually, I got to the point where the new foundation for the head was laid and the tables began to turn.
It wasn’t there yet, but there was a glimmer of hope that I would be able to salvage things. I was able to round the ears so they looked right, as well as reshape the head and define the nose and markings. I will honestly admit that this was the most difficult part of the process so far, and it was painstakingly hard to accomplish. No – this did not come easily to me. By the time I was to this point, my head hurt and I was doubtful it would ever be ‘finished’.
I walked away for a while and took a breath. It was already getting into the evening hours and I had been at it all day. But I knew that not only was the holiday approaching, but that I needed to complete this painting so that I could eventually get back to my real work of designing. The clock was ticking and as much as I would love to take all the time in the world to finish this, I just didn’t have that luxury.
After a rest and a cup of peppermint tea, I was drawn back to the painting. This time I did something different – I painted upside down. Since at that point in time, I was having the most trouble replicating the fur pattern, I turned the painting upside down and tried it that way. Not only did it help me stroke the fur better, as the natural direction of the head fur went toward the back, but it allowed me to look at things from a different perspective and get through whatever was giving me trouble. I am somewhat happy with the result.
(The previous photo has a slightly bluish cast to it because instead of taking the picture with a camera, I placed it on the scanner. I am finding as I am finishing that the detail isn’t showing up as much in the photos and the scanner does a better job of picking them up, although it tones the picture differently than the incandescent light. When the painting is complete, I will use better lighting and take good, high quality photos. For the progressions, this will have to do for now or I will NEVER get finished.)
I feel as if I climbed the final mountain and from here on it should be OK. All of the complicated overlaps and directional changes of the fur are behind me and all that I have to complete is the cub’s back and tail. Then the final toning and refining (and yes – whiskers!) will be added and I will be able to call it a day.
It is with a sigh of relief that I am writing this morning. I woke up and looked at it and I am still happy with it. That is good. I don’t know how much time I will have to paint today, but hopefully I will have just a bit. It would be nice to complete it in the next couple of days.
I thank you again for tolerating me here on this project. While I know it is ‘off topic’ to some, I do believe that as creative people, we all go through rough spots in our creative process. Some think that because I am a professional designer, that I am exempt from these times and I think I just want to show that I am not. I believe we all have our ups and downs when creating and I hope by sharing mine with you, it helps you get through your own as well.
Have a wonderful day. I think it is Monday – one of my favorite days of the week. :)
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"