Wednesday 12 February 2014

100 portraits: #16 - #18

It's been a long time since I last drew a portrait for my 100 portraits challenge. In fact, it's been over one and a half years. But this year, I'm determined to draw more, sketch more, paint more, create more. So on Sunday morning, I sat down on my desk with a nice cup of Earl Grey, took one of my Moleskine sketchbooks, and starting drawing some portraits.

I used different reference images: a black and white photo from the 1950/60s, a drawing by John Briggs Potter from 1892, and and image of an old wood or copper engraving.

I like to give my portraits invented names and personalities. So here we have Margret Georgia Turner (#16). She's just graduated from school, it's 1960, and she's dreaming of having a career and independence instead of becoming a bored housewife like her mother, who never got the chance to fulfill her own dreams and potential. Karen Nordling (#17) also has dreams and ambitions, but living at the end of the 19th century, her only hope is to find a husband who not only can offer her a good living, but who'll also appreciate her intellect.

Maria Annunciata (#18) had the misfortune of being the youngest daughter of an Italian country squire. The squire has fallen on hard times, and he can't afford the dowries for all his girls, so Maria was put into the nearby convent. The end of her novitiate is close and soon she's expected to take her vows and take the veil for good. But she's a headstrong, ambitious girl, and she doesn't want to spend her life in a convent. In the quiet of the night she is dreaming about and planning her escape.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Three bowls, a cylidner, and some progress with glazing

Another four pots are finished. And although it's still far from perfect, or at least from how I meant it to turn out, there's definitely some progress in the glazing department. This time I used green for the insides, but kept it neutral on the outside. I prefer the green, it looks fresher, and it fits perfectly into my living room, which has a lot of green in it.

I used a dip in-glaze for the insides of the cylinder and one of the bowls. They come in big plastic tubs and you use a pair of tongs to dip the pots into the glaze for glazing them on the outside, or you ladle some glaze into the pot, swirl it around so it covers it all the way up to the rim, and empty it back into the pot. It gives a nice even layer, and I like the fact that it has some tiny cracks that give it texture.

For the other two bowls, I used a paint on glaze again, 'vintage green'. I think I didn't paint the layers on thick enough, even though there were three layers. The glazes are just so different to the colours I'm used to, and I have to learn to use them differently.

The outsides are looking a bit better too, compared to last time. Still a bit patchy, but altogether a lot more even, and I seem to have managed to cover everything. I used paint on glazes for all of them, two different ones, both light with a bit of a mottled effect. Most of my course colleagues seem to prefer bold, smooth colours, almost black on the outside, and bright yellows, oranges, reds and greens on the inside. But I prefer the more muted, uneven colours with different effects. I think it somehow suites the natural material they're made of better. But that's of course just my personal taste.

I'm especially pleased with my cylinder (which my teacher helped me made, of course, otherwise it would have ended up just another 'eggbowl'). While I don't really know yet what to use all the others for, this one I made with special intention - to keep my brushes in.

Friday 7 February 2014

Sketchbook exercises

One of my goals/resolutions for this year is to sketch more. A lot more. I've been saying that for ages, but this time I'm determined. For the past few weeks, I've been working on my sketches almost every day, one way or another. Sometimes, doing an ink sketch during the day, in my lunch break, and adding colour the next evening, sometimes, doing the entire sketch in one go, in the evening or at the weekend. I just sketch what's in front of me - my hands, my lunch, my art materials... Everything's good enough for practice.

It's been quite a while since I last used my watercolours, and I still need to get used to them again. But I'm working on it, and I'm really enjoying exploring them, and learning new techniques. They are perfect for sketching.

I've already almost finished the first sketchbook. Admittedly, it has such thick paper, that it only has 64 pages, and as I'm usually using a double page for one sketch, that makes only a good 30 sketches to fill the book. I'm trying out different sketchbooks to find the one(s) that suit me best. This one here is a Stillman & Birn Zeta, and I've just started a Stillman & Birn Beta too. Both are working quite well, but I want to try out an Alpha too, mainly because it has more pages.

It's been a while since I've joined Paint Party Friday, and I can't wait to hop over and see what everyone else has been up to.

Sunday 2 February 2014

Eggbowls and the magic of ceramic glazes

Last Tuesday was the last day of my pottery class, but I've already signed up for the next class, which is seamlessly starting next week. There's still so much to learn, one class certainly isn't enough, far from it. Also, it's not something you can easily do at home. Although I could definitely do with the extra practice.

The three weeks ago, I produced a couple of "egg bowls". No, they're not bowls for eggs, I call them so because they're not nice and round, but all wobbly - which in German is 'eiern', from 'Ei', i.e. egg. You can see in the first picture the lump of wet clay that my teacher cut off, to save what could be save. It still looks a bit sad.

My teacher reckoned it was because it wasn't properly centred in the first place. It was, though, centering is the one thing I manage not too bad. But there's so much else that can go wrong afterwards, when opening up or pulling. Pulling is something I still totally struggle with. I was trying to pull up a bowl, totally focused on what I was doing, when I noticed my teacher shouting and pointing. I hadn't noticed, but the wall had totally collapsed at the bottom. I had pushed and pulled too hard. There was no hope for that piece, it had to be cut off. 

Last week, I took a little break from the wheel, and spend most of the evening glazing four pieces that had been fired the week before. (My teacher had helped me throw the big cylinder, which is why it looks good. The ones I did myself are all wobbly, chunky, uneven flat bowls). Apart from the brush on glazes, I tried dip glazes too this time. The glazes still amaze and confuse me. They're texture is so different to the paints I'm used to. And not to speak of the colours. How that light mauve will turn into a shiny light green in the kiln is quite beyond me. It must be magic!

I didn't do a very good job last time I glazed my first pieces, so I'm hoping I did better with these. They should have been fired already. Can't wait 'til Tuesday to see how they turned out!

Project 365 | Januar 2014

Time flies, and the first month of the new year is already history. It was a rather a quiet, uneventful month. It began with the last days of a wonderful Christmas holiday, after which it was back to work and the usual. I've started sketching more regularly, am still going to pottery classes, and at the end of the month, went on a relaxing daytrip with my Mum. But there's one thing that's missing - and that's snow. January felt more like spring, and I really hope that February will bring us some snow at last.