Real Life Artist - The Learning Curve

Failure Friday - Learning From Failure

One of the things I like best about social media is the sharing that happens amongst the artist community. I gain a wealth of inspiration and knowledge from connecting and interacting. I love when I click the comment button on some intriguing work of art only to discover that there is a rich and energetic dialogue happening in real time with real people about art and life! I learn and grow from what others are studying or working on. I also get to hear about the amazing successes as well as the difficult challenges of the artists who are open to sharing their journeys. I feel encouraged in my own work with each story that is shared. Hearing about the struggles of an artist I admire helps me to be brave and to push myself out of my comfort zone. I tell myself that if they can do it I can too.

The last several months my creative focus has been painting on an ipad.  I have experienced success and a sense of deep satisfaction with some of the digital paintings I have created. I have loved the success and aknowledgement of my work and the growing sense of confidence that has developed as a result.

Starting from that position of strength and confidence it is time for a new challenge and to push myself beyond my comfort zone. So back to the drawing board I go using my traditional art materials, drawing large and using an easel.  This is a way for me to practice bravery and seek growth.  

I decided to share one of my recent, more challenging experiences. My goal is to maintain a positive perspective and evaluate my skills  to determine where I need to grow and how best to go about improving.  My intention is to be a problem solver rather than upset about my failures. I want to learn from them.  The reference image I used is on the left. 

I'm working on my easel and on large paper trying to stay loose. What that means is that I'm trying not to think too much but focus on getting the forms in and placing them accurately. I didn't do any measuring or comparing other than using my eye to gauge how the drawing matched up with the original and checking angles using my charcoal. I believed in general I was doing "ok". I told myself it was perhaps too wide at the cheek bones but that I could fix that later. A small voice was telling me the eyes were too far apart but I didn't listen. Being a relatively new artist I sometimes imagine I won't be able to repeat a feature and do better than the one I see in front of me. That right eye was shaped ok and I didn't want to move it. 

I can tell you now I should have stood back, looked carefully, measured and made corrections in placement of everything long before I started adding details.  Since I didn't do that things begin to go from ok to bad to worse quickly. The harder I worked the more confused I got because when I changed one eye the cheekbone looked off and vice versa.  I kept changing the shape of the face, moving the jawline up then down, wider then more narrow. I think I changed the mouth at least ten times. No matter what I did it just was "off". I was frustrated and discouraged and began using swear words... Time to take a break!

Instead of taking a break I decided to take a photo of the drawing and the original.  I loaded them both into my iPad and opened Procreate which is the painting app I use. Using layers I outlined the features on the original and  the features on my drawing. Then I overlaid the outline from my drawing over the original and guess what happened? The errors were revealed with ease. Very helpful information! The nose was too long, that right eye is too high and too far from the center line. Having the nose too long made everything below it wrong. In an effort to make it right I had over rendered the mouth and completely lost my way in terms of how to draw a mouth or the shape of the face. Lots of problems!

Once I saw what errors I had made I was able to try again. I stayed in the iPad and experimented. I still found it difficult to render the mouth properly and depicting how her head was tilted down slightly. All of the parts of the face are connected and each nuance of movement changes the relationship between structure and form so getting these things right were important. If I want to control the expressiveness of the face I need to be able to accurately recreate the form of the face in various positions and at various angles. 

 The lessons here are pretty obvious. Take my time, stand back OFTEN to check my work, render shapes not features. (My brain is tricky and will deceive me but I don't need that Information, it isn't helpful.)  I need to correct as you go and move on when things truthfully look to be in place not 'sort of in place'. Trust myself but don't trust myself!  Measure angles and relationships. Be careful and be loose about the drawing at the same time.  Its a lot to pull off but its worth it because in the end what I want is to do beautiful work! 

I've shared about the usefulness of the iPad as a learning tool many times as a teacher in Paint and Pixels  but I never tire of sharing how i use it as an essential tool for drawing.

 Below is a little video I did many months ago for Jeanne Oliver's Living Studio series. I basically talk through a charcoal drawing  where I find myself in a similar situation as the one I described above. I figure out the corrections and changes I want to make by taking a photograph and moving it into Procreate. In this case I go back to the easel and make the changes on paper. Its like magic and I LOVE using this tool! 

Ok back to the drawing board for more practice, practice practice!!

love, Robin