Monthly Archives: May 2015

The early art years

I don’t believe in talent. The idea that you are born with special abilities or gifts just doesn’t sit right. It sounds so fixed. I think it gives too much credit to genetics and not enough to how you are brought up, what influences surround you but most of all little recognition to the time, effort and practice that’s put in by the individual.

Instead of innate talents, I believe that everyone has different preferences and curiosities about the world that can turn into obsessions from which skills grow. For me, it was my fascination with colour that first stirred my interest in art.

I remember in grade one we had to practice our alphabet letters on lined paper. If we finished early and the teacher was happy with our work, we were allowed to colour in the letters. I loved using every single pencil colour available and trying to keep within the lines. Take a look at the first picture book I created below. I don’t think there is one colour missing except maybe white.

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To this day, I can’t get enough of putting bright cheerful colours in my artwork.  In a previous blog post I have a black and white illustration of my pet dogs. Personally, this illustration feels half completed. I have an yearning to add colour. I know this doesn’t make logical sense as there are plenty of examples of beautiful pieces of art in the world that are in black and white only but my obsession with colour is strong.

Besides colour, as a kid I had a thing for copying Disney cartoons. I had exercise books full of cartoons of Bambi, Thumper, Fox and the Hound and any cartoons from the Golden Circle books. I spent hours and hours copying those cute characters with the big wide-set eyes. When the art teacher introduced caricature drawing into the mix, I immediately fell in love. Here is my first caricature attempt. The caricature is of my older sister and her previous husband on their wedding day.

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After I was told I was too old to play with barbies,  I went through a stage of creating endless paper doll figures and drawing on fashion outfits.  I bought bridal magazines not because I wanted to be married but I loved the dreamy wedding dresses. Then around the age of 12, I became interested in realism, particularly face portraits. There was a lot of using my fingers to measure features out and early on using a grid system to try and magnify tiny photos into large size portraits. Female portraits  were much easier to complete probably due to all those hours of curvy line cartoon practice. On the other hand, the early male portraits well just say…. I’m not going to post them here in this blog.

Below is a little girl portrait I did when I was 13 years old.

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I carried on with art classes all the way through school into year 11 and 12 TEE art. Looking back at those two years, I would have spent more than 70% of my time completing art projects for my art file and only 30% for the remainder of the subjects. Comments were made from Mum about where my real focus of study should be (and it wasn’t art). I recall many nights staying up late into the wee hours to work on the art file projects then having to get up early to do homework before school. Even though I don’t have the actual final art pieces anymore I still have my 12 year art file which I cherish.

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I think my only regret in life so far is that I didn’t end up pursuing an art career after year 12. I was very practical in my thought processes back then with my focus being on finding a course that guaranteed a job at the end of it. I didn’t question enough the popular belief around the ‘poor struggling artist’ and didn’t have a clue what jobs I could apply to having an degree in art. An art career was also not exactly encouraged by my parents and I think at the time my older sister was moving away from a graphic design course to applying for a postgraduate course in teaching. I suppose the real truth was that I didn’t have the guts to follow what I really desired deep inside- to become a working artist. I ignored the desire and for years after didn’t draw, paint or create any art.

It wasn’t until I moved into this house, that I picked up the pencil and paintbrush again. There were empty walls to be filled and we couldn’t afford at first to buy paintings. I started in acrylic and then moved onto trying out oils.

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I really loved the vibrant intensity of oils and the textures you can make with using the palette knife. I would have kept on with oils however I am a very messy painter. Paint not only ends up on the canvas but face, hands and all over the floor too. I couldn’t guarantee that the nice new flooring would stay in its nice unblemished state.

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It was around March 2013 that I first found the wonderful world of Photoshop and digital art. The first attempts of digital art were caricatures of my work colleagues which was a lot of fun. I didn’t find Illustrator until much later but the combination of the two- just brilliant. I normally create all the outlines in illustrator and colour in Photoshop. My favourite button in both these programmes is the undo and step back buttons. Wouldn’t it be great if these button existed in real life?

One significant change that has happened with the move towards digital art is the focus being on creating art that is meaningful and tells a story. I enjoy so much the challenge of coming up with an idea I want to illustrate that comments on the world and contains enough to write about it further in a blog post to share with you.

So what is your history as a artist?. Do you remember what fascinated you at the start? Do you believe in the ‘born artist’ and that talent exists?