Saturday, April 27, 2013

And a splash of color...

Well, a little more than a splash, I think...  

Despite the fact that one of the prompts I did the self portrait for (from the last post) was black and white, I couldn't leave it alone...I REALLY wanted to color the self portrait in...  I had to...HAD TO!!!  

And so I did.  I know, I know...what can I say?  I'm a rebel.  So here it is in all its technicolor glory:

Did I mention in the last post how very apt I feel that quote is...especially in regards to this self portrait...

Coloring this in proved very interesting for me.  In some aspects, it turned out well.  I like the way the lips turned out (although I wish I hadn't outlined them in the Pitt pen...or would have used brown instead of black).  I like the coloring of the skin in certain places, especially the forehead  and the cheek (the one on the right in the above photo).  The shadow from the jacket (on the right side of the neck in the photo) is good.  In general, the shading is not perfect, but I can see that I'm improving, which is nice!

In other ways, the coloring highlights the flaws in the drawing part of it.  I made the head too round and too small. The forehead is too short (I noted this on the last's still true...).  The eyes are at too much of an angle, giving an alien appearance *insert spooky X-Files music here*  My nose and mouth are a little closer to my eyes in real life and my nose is wider as well.  My lips are also a little fuller.  The hair is not quite right, although it's hard for me to tell if this is  due to the roundness of the head/shortness of the forehead or if the hair not being right is what contributes to those problems.

In the end, I'm actually very happy that I colored this in.  It's given me some things to think about and work on next time.

I sometimes get frustrated when I hear people say (or read it, whichever the case may be) that it's important not to be critical of your work.  I think what people mean to say is don't be overly critical, but that's not always the way it's said.  

When you learn to read, you start off with the alphabet, one letter at a time.  Eventually, you learn to put those letters together and you can read small three letter words: cat, dog, mom, dad.  Further down the line, it gets harder, but you learn more.  The words you can read get longer and your sentences more complex...and (if you like reading) you never quit learning new words and new ideas thanks to your ability to read.  But what if you stopped along the way?  What if you decided those three letter words were all you needed?  You'd never know g-o-o-d or f-r-i-e-n-d or c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e!!!  And those are very nice words to know!  

I think that art is the same way.  You learn to draw a line and a circle.  Then you put them together and have a stick person.  Then you learn about other shapes.  And then, although not necessarily in this order,  you learn about colors...then shading...then better shading...then perspective...and the list keeps going.  If you like art, you keep learning and part of learning is figuring out what you are doing wrong so you can learn to do it right.

I'm pretty lucky in that I have a wonderful sister that I love and that I respect as an artistic person.  My sister is a talented artist and she's also...what would you call it ...a passionate learner, perhaps?  She has this awesome tenacity in regards to finding out how things are done and why they are done that way. She's very good at researching things and I'm lucky enough to get to share in the spoils of her efforts.  

The following paragraph is an example of my sister's amazing insights (it's a direct quote...I copied and pasted it right out of the email she sent): 

Yes, all of  your apple issues were lighting/shading issues.  And no, it would not fix it if your apple was lit from behind because there would not be perimeter shading in the way you did :-p    Whether it's a ball, apple, face or anything, the same principles apply when it comes to lighting/shading.  If a person draws using proper skill in lighting/shading; a second trained eye (person) will be able to tell you where the light source is coming from.  If the lighting/shading is wrong, an untrained eye can often feel that something isn't right, even if they don't know what.  You cannot skip the basics.  Lighting/shading not only gives dimension, it also contributes to the mood of the art piece.  That's part of why I so like the quote, "One eye sees, the other feels."  Whether a drawing, photo...whatever...what we see evokes some type of emotional response.  As the artist in control of your work, you decide what you want to convey and then need to understand how to make that happen.  Again, it is a process that comes with time and should never be a roadblock to your creativity.  Once you know and master the "rules", then you can learn when & how to break or manipulate them and do something wonky like this:"

Yes, she really talks like that...I know, it's hilarious, right?  She could seriously write a book on being creative, and it would be a book I'd actually want to read cover to cover.

Despite her scholarly way of speaking (or maybe because of it, who knows?), I really appreciate this kind of email from my sister.  Actually, the thing that I appreciate most about her in regards to creative things is her ability to give good criticism.  I've always emailed her pictures of my various creative endeavors, and she's always critiqued what I've done.  In all honesty, if someone else told me some of the things she's told me about my art, I would have been either really discouraged or seriously annoyed.  The reason I don't get annoyed or discouraged is because I know she tells me these things because she believes I can improve.  I've come to the realization that I'd be more discouraged or upset if she stopped critiquing me...because then I'd know she felt I'd reached the limit of my abilities and that I'd never get any better.

Because of the much appreciated constructive criticism of my sister, I can now look at my work much more objectively.  I can see what I've done well and what still needs improvement.  This is probably the best gift she's ever given me...(although she shouldn't quit trying...I hear that I'm a big fan of money in large amounts, so if she ever wants to try that I'm open to the idea...)  It's a really good thing to have someone be honest with you about your work while still being kind in their criticism.  It's an even better thing if you can be that person for yourself.  

There are so many different styles of art, and so many different views on what is good.  We all like different things and that's what makes the world interesting.  It's also what makes learning to give yourself an objective critique worthwhile.  

I hate sauerkraut.  Loathe it with a passion beyond words, as a matter of fact...  So if you asked me to tell you what to do to improve your sauerkraut, I'm not going to be able to tell you anything useful, because to me it will still be disgusting sauerkraut.  I'd actually not be able to tell you much of anything at all, because I'd be in the corner dry heaving at the thought of sauerkraut.  In order to improve your sauerkraut then, you're going to have to find some recipes and through trial and error figure out what works for you so that you can finally have some sauerkraut you're satisfied with.  And trust me, I will STILL think your sauerkraut is disgusting.

Artistic critique is similar.  Perhaps you don't have someone in your life that you get useful input from concerning your art.  The internet is a wonderful place for learning how to do things...usually at the low, low price of free.  You may find some nice people (but be aware that there are also big jerks out there) who will give their opinion on how to improve.  Even if you can't find someone with a helpful opinion, you will be able to find a ton of tutorials on how to do just about any type of artistic thing your little heart could desire.  

Watch enough videos, look at enough examples, read enough articles and eventually you'll be able to give yourself an honest critique of your own work.  You're the only one who knows what the idea in your head looks like. You're the one who has to practice getting what's in your head onto the paper.  And once it's on that paper, you're the one who decides whether it's good or not.  If it's exactly how you want it to be, that's awesome!  If it's not, look for what worked and what didn't.  Congratulate yourself (get excited!) for the good parts and figure out why you don't like the bad parts.  Then try again.  Repeat those steps enough and you're eventually going to have a whole piece that you're really proud of!

While you're busy practicing, remember to have fun and be kind to yourself.  Too much criticism is a bad thing and will discourage you.  Look for the good first, then find areas for improvement.  Be critical of your work, so that you can keep getting better, but not overly critical to the point where you become discouraged and want to give up.  

I'm going to get off my soap box now and work on improving my self portrait...after I take the time to appreciate the good parts again... 


  1. Great pst, Sweetredclover! You are very wise! I have found that the act of making art is like a muscle, it must be exercised & practiced. A wise art teacher once told me that if you stop making art at a young age (let's say 12 just for example), if you pick it up again later (let's say 30), you will still draw like a 12 yr. old...personally, I found that to be true, the more art I make (especially drawing), the better I "see" & the better the drawings.

    I love your insight here! And I do love your portrait!

    1. Thanks Patricia! I think you/your art teacher is right in my case too. I wasn't especially interested in art as a young person...I loved words. Plus, I think it was hard to want to do something when someone I was close to (my fabulous older sister) was so much better at it than I was!, as an adult, I realize that it's not a competition and that I should steal all those years of knowledge she has in there! It's kind of like cheating but I'm doing it anyway!!! :)

  2. You write so extremely well Red. How wise your sister is too and how wonderful for you to have someone who gives you total constructive criticism that can help you improve. I think you coloured 'you' perfectly! I hope to improve on the colouring too. I'm hopeless with acrylics and find the watercolour pencils the best to achieve the right effect. Keep on keeping on! :)

    1. Thanks Lynn! It really IS nice to have her for constructive criticism reasons! I use some cake watercolors (as opposed to liquid) from my local Michaels store (I don't know if you have Michaels where you's a craft store) to color this and most everything I've done recently...I'm on a roll with those babies! I have some watercolor pencils, but I'm not as good with them...I need to break them out and have a practice!

  3. I think you've done really well with getting the highlights and shading on the skintone. I always have a fear of it turning out patchy and looking like a giraffe. And re what you said about the nose and mouth in relation to the eyes, the first thing my portraiture teacher said at our first class last week was that people always seem to overestimate the distance between the inner eye and the curve at the side of the nose. I along with lots of other people in the class spent ages after setting out the features moving the nose around! I like the fact that you scanned in your drawing before colouring. I am about to follow your example on this as I drew a picture earlier this afternoon and am nervous to put any colour on it after spending so long trying to get the features right. I wish there was such thing as a printer that could photocopy and print out in pencil!

    1. Thank you! I like the coloring in part, and for some reason am more comfortable doing it that I usually am doing to pencil drawing part! (Until I get really close to done coloring and am like "DON'T SCREW IT UP!DON'T SCREW IT UP!") Woo hoo for the nose info! It's pretty hard to get the nose, I think it's the hardest part for me to draw...I'm never quite happy with them! Good luck on putting color on you drawing!!!


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