When life gives you lemons, draw them, 11 x 14 inches dry pastels, graphite on paper

"When life gives you lemons, draw them". (Nikki)

"Trust your intuition, it's just like goin' fishin'; you cast your line 'til you get a bite." (Paul Simon)

Archive for November, 2010

Influence

Monday, November 29th, 2010


 

Steller's Jay, graphite on paper by Jim Drury

“Some of us loved to draw when we were very young and many didn’t, but we are all capable. There is something to be said for innate abilities, but talent alone will not help us to advance. You might inherit Grandpa’s artistic genes, but every talent needs continual development to become skill no matter what it is, and drawing is no different than learning to play an instrument or climbing a mountain in that respect…” (excerpt from the article “Extreme Drawing“).

My father was a wood carver for most of  his life, and  his love for drawing was crucial to designing all the different things people ordered. Any time he taught woodcarving, he first insisted on lessons in drawing.

As it provided the funds necessary to build a house after a career the Canadian Armed Forces, there was almost nothing he wouldn’t carve; an entire range of subjects from detailed Armed Forces crests, modern abstract pieces, as well as birds and animals. My favorites were the custom designed doors, cupboards and headboards made  for clients in Canada and the U.S. before retiring in 2002. Well, artists never really retire, they just keep moving on to try new things!

Chipmunk by Jim Drury, graphite on paper

Photography has always been one of his passions, and he’s the real die-hard kind that will sit in mosquito-infested forests waiting forever for the right shot. One time he climbed a tree to capture photos of a porcupine, then fell out and sprained both his ankles. I was about nine years old, and I remember my Mom, my brother and me holding him up while he hobbled back to the car! Here is some of his recent photography, and lately he’s been taking the time to enjoy drawing again.

My Mom was an equal and supporting partner in the creating and finishing details of all the wood work they sold. Though my mother claims to not know how to draw, they have both been, and continue to be, huge influences as far as my being an artist. When I was quite young I would ask my Mom to draw anything so I could color it. I did care what it was. It was not refined and professional, but I would coax her, “Yes, you do so know how to draw! Pleeeeeaaaase!”. Children don’t seem to have the same hang-ups we adults do about drawing.

Steller's Jay, graphite on paper by Andra Drury

Now they see my two young nieces often, one of whom drew her own interpretation of “Stellar’s Jay” after watching her Grandpa. Andra is 5 years old. Don’t you just love the addition of hearts on the branches?! I feel so inspired by children s’ work. It is pure and straight from the heart. In fact, she is so nonchalant about her abilities and unaware of how keen she is, she did not even show it — my Dad found it after she left.

If Andra chooses to be an artist, it’s due to Nature and Nurture, and also not so much about what she’s been given, but what she does with it.

Zen Garden #10 almost finished

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010


 

Zen Garden 10, 40 x 60 x 3 inches mixed media on canvas

Zen Garden 10, 40 x 60 x 3 inches mixed media on canvas.

The final stages of this paintings will be finished as it hangs on a wall. As seen  in a realistic room setting,  it will be easier to spot whatever might make the composition more interesting. Some colors may need to be re-enhanced to add more depth and definition, but I also like the overall faded look, so we’ll see. The texture continues around all 3D edges. All paintings in the Zen garden series are wired to hang in any of 4 orientations; vertically or horizontally. Below: details of left central portion as seen in the above .

Zen Garden 10 details


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Zen Garden #09 and #10

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010


 

Zen Garden 09, 48 x 21 x 2 inches Mixed Media on canvas

 Zen Garden 09 work in progress, 48 x 21 x 2 inches mixed media on canvas

The perfect painting in a room can elevate the atmosphere of the whole floor, and sets the tone for showing off the entire house. With selling the house in mind, I’m trying to choose a decent painting for our living room, because  Zen Garden 02 sold, so I decided it’s worthwhile to make two more for the series.

Zen Garden 10, 40 x 60 x 3 inches Mixed Media on canvas

Zen Garden 10 outline, 40 x 60 x 3 inches Mixed Media on canvas

Painting is always meditative, but I find it especially so when creating pieces in the Zen Garden series. This kind of work does not present the same kind of emotional concentration or intellectual challenges that other paintings do. There are few struggles and hardly any decisions to make, except to find cooperative materials. Once the outline is accomplished it’s pretty straightforward compared to other forms of painting. The outstanding difference is that each stage in these 3D paintings requires time and patience to allow areas to dry before proceeding. The Zen Gardens can be drying in stages while other work gets done too, and the multi-tasker in me is quite happy to be accomplishing many things at once!

Liquitex Blended Fibers, $12.99 U.S. (are not even metric) for 237 ml - compare quantities and deceptive pricingArt supplies are expensive. Most will last long enough to justify purchases, and much of the time you get what you pay for, but some items are ridiculously overpriced. Keeping material costs down is essential so they aren’t reflected in the final price, but quality should never be compromised. Still, there are ways to get around any dilemma, and there are alternatives for everything.

When I started the Zen Garden series ten years ago using modeling paste and textured gels, jars were about $15 for 250 ml. Since then I’ve experimented with various unusual materials, and shopped everywhere to compare prices. It’s still more economical to purchase brand-name products in larger quantities – if you can find them. There are some fun mediums available now too, like gel with tiny glass beads in it. Prices for art supplies do not seem to waver over time in either Canada or the U.S., so I reserve the brand-name mediums to sculpt the rocks and highest quality paints do the finishing touches. Here I’ll share a few of the trade secrets I’ve discovered over the years, and you can create your own Zen garden painting.

Textured paint is the best base for Zen Garden mixtureAs a base for the raked sand mixture, it’s worth purchasing a large 2 gallon (7.58 L) pail of textured paint. I purchased Behrs at Home Depot in Canada, and it looks like Ralph Loren has the market cornered in the States. Watered-down drywall plaster can be used also, but I recommend attention to how heavy the piece may be when it’s finished. Mix in copious quantities of white glue, large containers of white or light-colored acrylic craft paints, and anything water-based that will extend the liquid mixture and bind well with the dry ingredients. Sand, even popcorn kernals and/or rice can be added for texture. Other objects can be incorporated too…just use your imagination. For example, and this is my most valuable secret, unscented kitty litter from the dollar store, the non-absorbant kind, looks exactly like tiny stones and is light in weight.

Zen Garden details: applying mixture with a knife, sculpting rows

Zen Garden 09 details: applying mixture with a knife, sculpting rows

Highest quality materials are reserved for finishing surfaces and sculpting rocksThe mixture can be put in a ziplock bag with one corner cut out, but I discovered that it’s more efficient – however messy – to spread small portions out onto the surface with a knife and hand-mold it. Keep a wet cloth handy to wipe your hands and the utensil often.

Drywall plaster makes nice-looking rocks, plus it cracks well for a parched-earth look, use sparingly because of added weight. Wood filler is a lighter alternative, much less expensive than professional brand gels and mediums. Modeling pastes do not lend well to sanding or carving when dry, but wood filler can be sanded and re-shaped. Wood filler costs about $6 US for 32 ozAlso, if it dries out completely, chop it up, add water then seal the container for a day or so. This is where you can experiment with whatever helps acheive 3D effects. Art, craft, hardware, department stores and dollar stores carry generic brand basics, so it’s worth researching and shopping around.
When it’s all dry, rocks and other details are outlined and painted with pure colors, then all covered with a coat of primer. The colors are all reapplied to further enhance rocks, then brushed white, skimming across the entire surface. This process is repeated until you are pleased with the results by a final coat of white with remnants of the layers of colors poking through underneath. As far as acrylic paints, you do get what you pay for, but price differences are mostly due to pigment quality and viscosity, which, until final stages is not really an issue. Inexpensive acrylic craft paints are perfect as a filler (only).

Apply lots of watered-down colors, choosing the light source from the start, making rocks look real and more 3DZen Garden #10, above and left is already quite heavy, so about 1/4 of it will be painted rocks, keeping the sand patterns to a minimum. There is enough mixture that could dry out if it’s not used right away, plus it’s great to make multiples while all the mess, materials and utensils and are out, so I’m doing two simultaneously. There may even be enough for 3!

The necessity of work, especially if it’s at home, seems less like a chore if you dangle some kind of carrot for yourself every day. Sometimes having too much to do is more exhilarating than exhausting. Each day, though work as an artist can be considered by others as play, the energy, motivation and circumstances are unpredictable..  It takes self-discipline  to find a way to go with the flow and still get work done. The good thing about this occupation is that it is flexible in every way. The creative compulsion seeps into every other activity, and there is almost no way to not add a little something extra.