Conundrums of Art: which are yours?

I’m currently reading a fantastic book: 33 Artists in 3 Acts by Sarah Thornton It’s a book that presents us with some of the world’s leading professional artists. This means, people who don’t even need to physically create their works but just imagine them and get their staff to make it for them. Strange when just one look at Instagram and we see so many artists working their ass off every single day. However, this book is fantastic for one reason: it has shown me that creating things is important, but most important is why we create these things.

I’ve seen many challenges go by the 30 day challenge of this or that, the 100 day project, the index card challenge, the pattern challenge.. etc. I see the value of those efforts, it makes you sit down and create no matter what, the prize is that at the end of the process you have somewhat a body of work. I’ve attempted two of those challenges. Last year I tried the 100 day project drawing strange animals but I fell off the wagon on day 27. This year I attempted a pattern challenge but I couldn’t finish it either.

Some people say quantity over quality. In Sarah Thornton’s book it seems the opposite is true. What if you create fewer works of art but with better quality? As usual, I’m like a pendulum between the two. On one hand, I want to fill up my Etsy shop with unique clipart sets. and on the other hand, I want to draw what comes naturally, in this case, those intriguing ladies I love so much. 

Some artists really want to make a statement, political, social, etc. but some of us don’t. Some of us just follow our own sensibilities and tastes. Sometimes we will never know why we create the things we do.

Personally, I started drawing portraits from the beginning. The first watercolor attempt was my Vivienne Westwood portrait. Then my bee-complex kicked in and I started drawing all sorts of things. I took several classes and I tried the challenges mentioned before. But I realized that I don’t particularly like to doodle, so drawing birds, cups, trees and everyday objects does not motivate me at all. I do admire those incredible sketchbooks, like Liz Steele’s teacup sketches, but when I sit down to draw and I look around my house, nothing ignites the spark.

Faces, portraits, characters… that’s what drives me. And watercolor…

Getting Better

That Vivienne Westwood portrait should have discouraged me from attempting to create portraits, but as I’ve mentioned, I’m stubborn. One of the most important things I’ve learned is to loosen up when drawing.

In the image below, the first girl (top left) was done with very controlled movement.

Lamy Drawings

She’s small, you can tell I was looking at the paper, carefully considering where each feature went. In the second drawing of the same girl, I looked more at my reference image than at the paper, I held my Lamy a little looser and I drew her bigger. On the right, I picked a reference image and jumped right in, I started with the left eye and mostly tried to do a contour drawing but looking at my sketchbook a little more often. She fell off my very loosely held pen. This was a revelation.

This fondness for precision that I have is stupid. Precision has ruled most of my life. I like it when people use the precise terms to define something, when there is no deviation from the plan, or route. Even my clipart is very precise.

As I look at my intriguing lady on the right, I feel almost love for her and for my own hand. It’s like they went to play without me. This has happened also with my watercolor textures:

Texture example

After years of banging my head against the wall with color theory, I have found a way to make colors work no matter what. The clue: loosen up!

This year, I’ve been attempting to shift towards illustration work more and more, but I wonder, should I be less inclined to work for clients and more to work from my artistic self? These are the conundrums of art I constantly find myself in.

Darn, I don’t know.