Monday, 7 June 2010

Experimenting with creating faces

I thought it might be worth writing about how I got over my worries about drawing/painting faces that I felt happy with. I was never confident about drawing what I felt were "real" faces, always seeing so many errors in them. Early last year I started journalling and thanks to the encouragement poured into me through reading "Taking Flight" by Kelly Rae Roberts I realised that it was perfectly acceptable to create "stylised" faces and in fact I have grown to realise that drawing faces in this way makes them really your own and adds something rather nice to the feeling when completing one.

I started off tentatively with my coloured pencils, being careful not to be too adventurous and only slowly building up the colour as I began to realise that they were ok, far from perfect...but ok. Now when I look through my journal nearly 18 months later, I can see how my confidence grew with each attempt as I got a little braver each time! Now I am a typical Aries and cannot be bothered with endless experimental pages of making up colours so my colour experiments just took place directly on the faces I painted or drew. Consequently there are some quite strange looking complexions amongst them but on the other hand, I have a perfect record of my learning journey which gives me some strange sort of satisfaction. I still have a long way to go but it has now become a joy. I no longer pick up paintbrushes, pencils or pastels with trepidation and anxiety that I will make a mistake. I just have a go and it is fun!

Going back to last year, I moved on from coloured pencils to acrylics which I was used to as I had made several toyboxes for my grandchildren with these. I was quite happy painting kings, dinosaurs and fairies on these without a second thought about my abilities and so had got fairly used to the vaguaries (is that spelt right?) of this medium. I actually found the acrylics a great way to practise my colour mixing. It would seem to me that watercolours would be easier but for some reason I felt more confident with the malleable texture of the acrylics. That gave me the confidence I needed to try working with gouache and this was a real eye opener. I really enjoyed experimenting with this, different again but a softer result.

At the same time as trying out these ideas, I was really into my journalling which contributed greatly to my being able to "free myself up" which, looking back, I think had a huge impact on my beliefs that "Yes I could create some art worth looking at....not brilliant but worth a look at least". The collage added to my understanding of colours and helped me fill pages and create a finished product around my latest attempt at a face.

I worked with oil pastels on top of acrylics too....something I have long done as I love the textures it creates....but previously I had stuck with flowers or abstracts not tried it out on faces. I rubbed down bits of faces with a light sandpaper and used gesso to cover faces that I really wasn't happy with...then painted on top of the gesso. Mixing gesso with both gouache and acrylics, and also inks and dyes, gave me other effects that I used on more surreal faces like fairy faces.

Eventually I turned to chalk pastels which for some reason I do not understand, I had always shunned...unusual for me as I have always loved experimenting with all sorts of art media, especially when I was teaching. I got inspired by a video on using pan pastels but on discovering how expensive they were I settled for plain stick pastels. What a joy! I got my flesh colours so much more easily! Why had I avoided them so long? I have no idea, I love them now. Perhaps it was just the feel of the pastels on my fingers which I still don't like very much....but I love the results and they are so easy to change/alter/go over.

So wherever you are....and I guess if you are interested in my blog, you are probably just learning like me....just have a go. Throw caution to the wind and experiment. Get the basics of various media and try them out. Find what suits you, maybe it will be a mixture of all of them, like me. You can get student quality paints and pastels that are perfectly adequate, good in fact, and they won't break the bank. My first box of gouache paints cost me £5.99 for 12 colours, only last year.

Just do it.....if you like art then you will already know what a joy it is to just try. You lose all thoughts of everything else and just get lost in what you are doing. childlike in your experiments....don't be afraid, anything you create has did it after all.

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