Wednesday, 25 January 2012

daisy and dolls

Hullo possums!

Another week is slipping away and I am hard at it on the productivity machine. Thank-you to everyone for your comments on the painting featured in my last post; for the time being I shall distract you with other things and make you wait just a few days longer to see the finished piece!

After many years of attempting to push my sculptural work onto the backburner, I have finally started making dolls again in earnest. I have spent the past 3 years concentrating solidly on developing my drawing and painting skills, but I can no longer ignore just how much I feel inspired and refreshed by the process of bringing my characters to life in 3D form. It almost opens up a whole new compartment in my brain, this conceptualising of a character that can be observed from all angles, and I am very much at the point now where photography is informing the way I see the characters in my drawn and painted work.

As I so often say, experimentation with new ideas might be a time-suck until you manage to hit on what works- and then you run with it! There is no better cure for artistic stagnation than liberating yourself from the sorts of thoughts that restrict your creativity.

Of course, no artist is an island, and we all need a little help and inspiration now and then. Here is a little snippet of what makes me happy right now:

Now that she is getting back to her gorgeous self after 2 weeks of kitty flu and sleepovers at the vets (on fluids- very scary not seeing her eat for four days!), little Daisy is picking fights with my stuffing, trying to eat my buttons, and taking well-deserved naps in my mountains of fabric. Willow is disgusted with us and still thinks Daisy is something to eat, so for the time being there's quite a few restless nights involved in keeping the little one safe from harm and separated from the grumpy bobtail. Daisy rewards us by sleeping on our faces and jumping on any part of our worn-out, cramped old bodies should we decide to move during the night. I wouldn't part with her for the world ♥

Hope there's something warm and snuggly to give a cuddle to where you are,
Mel x

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

in progress this week . . .

Happy Thursday everyone!

Thank-you all so much for your lovely comments here and on Facebook; your feedback and support more than motivates me to keep painting! Here's a little something I've been working up for a client this week; a kind of re-imagined portrait of her daughter. Do keep posting those comments- I'd love to hear what you think!

All nice things,
Mel x

Sunday, 15 January 2012

gwendolyn and the space between

Good morning to you lovely readers, and happy Sunday!

After an overwhelming response from my friends and readers on facebook this week, after my last post on Rosa and the subject of fairytales, I'd like to introduce you now to Gwendolyn.

This was a piece included in my December show, 'Strange Creatures, Sweet Allsorts', and you can see her all framed up with the rest of the collection if you click on the 'exhibitions' button to your right.

Gwendolyn's story is, as always, very much a part of me; she stands as a metaphor of childhood books and fairytales, and celebrates the very act of reading:

Growing up as an only child is a lesson in resourcefulness. After cats, books were my best companions. While other girls of eight were obsessed with horses and dolphins, I was collecting myths. Weekends were spent sitting cross-legged on the study floor, surrounded by encyclopaedias as I chased up one reference after another to the many wives of Zeus, to the sad fate of Persephone, to the birth of comely ladies on the froth of yonder seas.
Of course, I was lucky enough too to grow up with the wonderful school adventures of a certain young wizard named Harry. Younger generations are relieved of the agony we endured in the wait between instalments, but robbed of the delicious moment when, after another twelve months (twenty years in kid-time), the piggy bank was gleefully smashed and another tome was yours for the relishing. Lewis Carroll, Enid Blyton, Antoine de Saint Exupery and Shaun Tan were just a few of my favourite authors growing up; all masters of pens that wrote words that took you somewhere else while you sat in your comfy chair, all offering up a wonderful parallel reality that you could live in long after the last page was turned.
'Gwendolyn' was an interesting and at times frustrating painting to create. I experimented quite widely with new techniques like scratching, and to a braver extent this time with optical blending (you can see in some of the last progress images that Gwendolyn's hair takes on much warmer browns and reds to create greater harmony within the image).
Compositionally, I set myself a lot of challenges as well. Because the fence and birdcage both involve sections of negative space, creating a sense of foreground and background within these two elements took a bit of fiddling blending-wise. You might also notice parts of this image are much more textural than the style I've been developing these past few months, and while I'm not altogether sure I'd necessarily use as much of these hatching techniques in future, I think they work well to create the atmosphere particular to 'Gwendolyn'.
It's funny how some images don't turn out at all how you expect them to, and I am learning to let go of this a little more. I don't necessarily mean in a bad way, just sometimes that you can't always predict the end result. Some paintings start out as an excercise in taking a paintbrush for a swim! I think the best illustrators always aim to keep fresh, and the only way to do this of course, is to try new things as often as we can.
And I say- experiment! Celebrate the resulting- and inevitable- flaws! Relish in cack-handedness! If experimentation serves as a stepping stone to greater quality and consistency- why not? Really, it's only the significance we give to perceived visual typos within our work that make them so.

Happy travels my pets,
Mel x

Monday, 9 January 2012

rosa and the warm shiver

Good morning, fellow night owls!

I am very pleased to tell you all that I have, despite predictions to the contrary earlier on in the week, ticked almost everything important off my to-do list, and now can share a little something I've been working on.

This is Rosa, my own incarnation of that wonderful story, 'Little Red Riding Hood'. As a child, I always preferred these traditional folk-takes, and 'Red Riding Hood' probably best embodies that necessary quality of a good story: to be taken somewhere else entirely. For this reason I like playing visually with the idea of a 'warm shiver': that delicious crawling down your spine, the precarious feeling that your world might be toppling, that something might be 'off the leash' so to speak, and not so nicely watching you just out of your line of vision . . .

 There are about as many fabulous versions of this story as there are illustrators in Bologna come the annual book fair, but I must say I am probably fondest of those written by Perrault and the Brothers Grimm.

Although Perrault was said to have penned what was until that time a common French folk-tale, this is generally considered to be the inspiration for the modern, sugar-coated version we heard as children. The important difference between Perrault and his predecessors though, is of course the ending: "this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding Hood, and ate her all up". Perrault's tale does not include the presence of the Woodcutter/ Hunstman, which only makes those thinly veiled innuendos that much the stronger in the wolf's invitation to Little Red, that she should 'come get into bed with me'. The wolf is used as a symbol of seduction, of dark and dangerous beauty and stealth, and quite successfully emphasises the foolishness of the young girl who goes a-wandering where she shouldn't.

Grimm's version, not unintentionally, is equally, well, grim. Red and Granny are rescued by means of that ever-capable Woodcutter gung-ho-ing his way in and playing scissors with Mr. Wolf's tummy as he takes a well-deserved nap, contented with his lady snacks. Once they are freed, the Woodcutter fills the wolf's stomach with rocks, stitches him up and plops him into the river- very much like last year's film 'Red Riding Hood' with Amanda Seyfried.

I think what I love most about these stories is that inherent danger of the wolf and what he and the dark woods represent (come on, admit it, it's a pretty sexy story!). Modern incarnations of fairytales are often like a checklist in political correctness; I think sometimes, it's nice to feel real emotion and be transported by a book- having it end not quite in the way we'd actually want it is part of the reason they're called 'fairytales' after all!

Happy reading my friends,
Mel x

Saturday, 7 January 2012

the listmaker

It all started with a list. A list longer than the hours that tick by listening to a Bob Dylan Christmas album. (Lists are much less painful of course. I don't necessarily want to gouge my eardrums out with rusty nails when I write them- come on, it's just a list).

Now that's not to say it hasn't started well. It's not without its' fair share of inspiration and good company. But I would just in fact like to know, why every week must start with one, and why, oh why, the first week of 2012 couldn't be any different.

When I was in high school, I realised my lecture notes helped me to internalise stuff purely because I was bothering to write it down. I never could decipher most of the notes I scribbled onto endless reams of paper, but it didn't matter because, just like Pavlov's dog started dribbling uncontrollably when he heard the food bell, as soon as my hand started forming the words, I'd hardwired it into my wee noggin.

And so I begin my first post of the year with a confession: I am a chronic listmaker.

The problem, of course, with writing lists is that you've basically signed a contract in your own blood that you must tick those things off on your list OR ELSE THE WORLD WILL END. Forget to call the parental units about that annoying thing you don't want to be arsed with, let that self-imposed deadline slip by you to clean that stain off the roof, fail to sort out that mountain of receipts TODAY: you are suddenly beset by a cloud of doom that won't lift until you've ticked off those things on your duty-to-do, by which time your list has doubled in size like some menacing paper hydra.

What is worse still, for poor souls like me- by this process of hand-to-brain shortcutting, we can't just conveniently 'forget' what we've written down. Our list would not function as a list of we aren't able to cross each item off. And let me assure you- there is no shame like a failed listmaker.

It is a sad and crippling condition, all the more so because lists beget more lists: I have sub-lists and tributary lists. I have scrapbooks filled with them: boxes upon boxes of them, spider-ridden and doused with mothballs to preserve the integrity of lists long past. Alright, slight exaggeration- fear not for my safety, I am only metaphorically drowning in lists.

And so. I propose a new order: listmakers I know you're out there. Put down your pens. Lower that roll of paper nice and slowly now. List-en up. Think long and hard about the reasons behind your listmaking. Think about your poor husbands, pulling their hair out over this mad habit. Think of your cat- if it could talk it probably would say: 'Mummy, please spend your listmaking time with me instead. One less list a day is all it takes to cut it out completely'. And I agree. If Willow could talk, she probably would say that. She's very clever.

I am inspired: I will kick this filthy, anti-social habit! It is the dawn of a new year and by golly, I resolve to be better! I will start right now, this very minute: there are many reasons why list-making has become the bane of my life, and I shall compile these reasons in a list . . . .

Happy New Year lovely readers! Wherever you might be, whatever you turn your hand to, I hope you make the time in 2012 to work on the dreams and lists you've sticky-taped to your heart.

All nice things,
Mel x
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