Today’s lesson in arting: don’t snack on nuts while drawing. I took my younger kids to the Kids’ Castle at Doylestown to play and thought to grab my Brooklyn Sketchbook and pencil so that I could draw while they climbed and gallivanted. I snacked on some nuts while I was drawing and, oh jings, the oil from the nuts transferred from my fingers onto the white paper of the sketchbook. I was so annoyed with myself.
This illustration depicts Dorothy Gale. When I was wee, I worked my way through the entire series of Oz books held by our local library. It was not long after I had learned to read chapter books independently and I just gobbled them up one by one. While I have never returned to reading the books – not even to my sons – I have remained a huge fan of the movie of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. My kids are also fans so we visited Oz Park during our visit to Chicago last year. As soon as I chose my sketchbook theme, therefore, I knew that Dorothy would have to appear in its pages.
Having procrastinated for so long over putting pen to paper for my first sketchbook illustration, I thought I was done with reticence. Not so. Still fretting about the quality of the paper in the sketchbook, I was worried about drawing on the reverse of my first page. Specifically, I was worried about the ink from the pens bleeding through. I gave myself a pep talk, picked up my pens, and set to. No more postponements.
I have drawn up a list of the fictional female characters I intend to draw so I snipped those up and folded each one into a small ziploc bag. My idea is to pluck one out at random. I just feel like I’ll work better that way. I plucked out Isis, the Egyptian goddess. When I was little, I was obsessed with ancient Egypt and spent hours at the library poring over all of the books in the section for grown ups – which I was not permitted to borrow from. I found the stories of the gods to be fascinating. I am sure at the time I did not pick up on all the incest going on between the gods but I do remember reading about Isis piecing together Osiris – her husband/brother – who had been torn into chunks by their brother Set. One piece she could not find: his penis. Iris, therefore, crafted a golden phallus for Osiris. I distinctly remember chortling away at that bit of the story.
I am not usually a procrastinator. I am someone who values my available free time so I tend to make the most of it and loathe twiddling my thumbs. When it comes to art, I have more ideas and inspiration than I have available free time in which to create. So why did it take me days to actually put pen to paper and draw the first illustration in my Sketchbook? I will confess to having a little bit of a mental block about the Sketchbook Project generally. Knowing the sketchbook will be publicly available and nestled among so many other sketchbooks, that Inner Critic voice that so often whispers in my ear was telling me I was not worthy. Still, I did my best to shush that voice – and still didn’t put pen to paper. It was fear of the blank page that was blocking me. A new sketchbook full of pristine white paper was daring me to make a mark and I did not dare. This was largely fuelled by the fact that I did not know how the paper was going to react. The paper is thinner than I had anticipated and the instructions that came with the sketchbook warned against (though it fell short of a prohibition) using gesso or acrylic. I could have replaced all of the paper but I decided to just go with it and change my media instead. No liquid media, just ink pens. Time to draw. Finally.
After much internal dialogue, I opted for the thematic prompt of “People I Wish I Knew”. Given the breadth of such a topic, I have decided to narrow the focus down to (working title) “Fictional Women with whom I’d have a Cuppa and a Chat”. I wanted to steer away from real life people, whether historical or living, and I also wanted to avoid value judgments. That is why they are simply characters I would like to spend time with and talk with. If I would find them interesting, it matters not to me whether they are “goodies” or “baddies” or anywhere else on that spectrum.
Without further ado, the first illustration. My kids and I undertook a Harry Potter movie marathon this summer so that inspired my first drawing: Hermione Granger. ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ is my favourite of the novels so I chose to depict Hermione in that movie, complete with a time-turner. What I like most about Hermione’s character is that she is heroic because she is smart. She solves problems and saves the day because she is studious and diligent.
I am about to embark on a new art challenge. I registered to participate in the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project. The project has been running for a few years now but this will be my first time of participating it. My sketchbook has arrived so now I just need to dive in and start drawing. I think I have settled on a theme but I am going to give it one more day of mulling it over before making my final decision. As I complete each page, I will be sharing the illustrations here on this blog and also on Instagram. Yes, I finally set up an Instagram account. It’s exciting to have a new art challenge!
And so I come to the end! I have finished all 100 ink and watercolour illustrations of faces. I admit I am relieved. It has been very challenging to make time enough to keep up with this series and (confession) it started to feel like a chore at least a score of drawings ago.
Things I have learned from this series – aside from improving my ability with constructing faces, even just a smidge – are that I very much enjoy working in series because it provides me with focus and extra drive but that setting myself the goal of a specific number, especially 100, now feels like too much pressure; I also like working with minimal palettes, maybe not always monochrome but close – though I do also like explosions of colour from time to time; and I like to keep faces pretty monochrome with a little splash of colour – and not just because I struggle with mixing decent flesh tones.
For this final illustration, I decided to echo one of my favourite drawings from the series, Sunset, so I dubbed this one Sunrise and used the same colour scheme and feel.
Thank you, dear readers, for following along with me as I worked through this series and for encouraging me every step of the way. I truly do appreciate all the cheerleading and support. Thank you!
PS This blog might go into stasis for a bit while I take a break from working on a series project and work to make my schedule offer me more art time. In the meanwhile, I will continue to post about my mixed media experiments and art journaling over on my personal blog, A Pict in PA.
This is another experiment in the drama of red and black. One of my kids watched me adding the final details to this illustration and asked if she was an evil ghost lady. Ha ha! It wasn’t my intention for this piece to have that feel to it but I am happy to go with it. Maybe a vengeful spirit figuring out her dastardly plan.