I’m working on a large format drawing of a man and woman in a diptych. This is the first stages of the man, color pencil on white paper.
To be honest, I’m doing some exploring in this area myself still. However, I have learned a great deal about what it takes to be a professional artist. There are some wonderful bits of information out there on this subject and some of what I’m going to write about you might have heard before. In the end this is what works for me.
To start with, I’ll give you an idea of what is in my studio in terms of the art I’m working on. I have three images, one I working titled CALM, the other is Because I Am A Woman, third is a small still life.
With these drawings on the boards, I’ve got timelines to meet. As an artist we are often driven by timelines, just like any other job. But what makes being an independent artist so different from a regular job where someone else is setting the timelines and expectations, is simply that it is up to you to set those timelines and work towards them. Usually in a day I spend about 6 to 12 hours on my drawing, 6 days a week. A drawing will take me anywhere from 100 to 200 hours to complete. So what do I do to keep myself on track, and look at this as a job.
THE ROUTINE OF A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST
I’m a night person. I don’t do well in the morning, I take time to come out of sleep and I often have to drag myself out of bed. My schedule for the day is set from appointments, due dates and meetings. Because I have scheduled and slotted those times when I function better, I’m ok to wake up late. What is important is that you figure out what your best time sleep/wake period is (if you have an outside job, I’ll talk about that later-I can relate). I usually get into my studio around 11 am and work until 2:30- 3:00 pm, when I take a quick 1/2 break. Eat, check out the dogs, stock the fire, make phone calls to family and friends etc…. Then I’m back in the studio till 6 pm or so. At that time I go back to my house (I live only 20 feet from my studio) make dinner, and rest for a couple of hours. After dinner and probably a Netflix movie, I head back to my studio. This is my best time to work. Everything is quiet, and I’m fully focused. I usually work until around 12 to 3 am. It’s important to know that this is what works for me. The bottom line is this is a routine, I do it everyday, in some form or another. For 6 days a week I’m working on my art in some capacity. This is my job and I have a commitment to others and more importantly to myself to be professional and focused.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE THE TIME TO BE FULL TIME? Prior to taking on art full time I use to be a full time art teacher at a high school. I taught all day, dealt with kids reports, parents and went to to many meetings. I volunteered my extra time do the sets for the plays, putting on school dances and in general giving all the time. When I decided that I wanted to really work on my art I only had the time after I got home, sometimes around 7:00pm. But I was determined, after I made dinner, got into comfy clothes dealt with family, I sat down, grabbed by drawing pad and drew. For hours, pages, pages and more pages. Reading, sketching and more research, skill development and I just kept on. I completely understand what it takes and the bottom line is: you just need to do it, if you want to make it. You must give time to your art on a regular schedule. It doesn’t matter if it is only 10 hours a week, or if it is 70 hours, you must dedicate yourself to that time consistently. Please don’t mistake this post for artist who just want to have fun, that is a different category all together, this idea here is being a professional artist. .
If you want to be an artist, it doesn’t matter how much time you can give to it, but give it the time it needs.
Been working on this image a bit more, using color pencils is very time consuming.
When working with color pencils you want to create layers of colors. To achieve this you start with a base color and work up the layers with subsequent colors. I work from light to dark.
The initial layering of color looks flat and messy. But it all comes together once blended and more colors are added.
I’ve got a lot of projects underway, but one I’m working on currently is a large format piece titled CALM. As one piece it will depict two large images and is focused on the issues we face today. Bringing us back to where we are, finding a place of strength and a place of CALM within the storm surrounding us.
I’ll try and post the process and some video as well describing how I go about doing my work and working with my materials and tools. Hopefully it will inspire someone else. If anyone has any questions, just ask away.
Recently I participated in a public art project through the City of Vancouver in British Columbia and created 4 large scale portrait drawings for the project. The project itself had to deal with issues of racism, reconciliation and residential first nations schools,in Canada. It was a privilege to be a part of this project and also intimidating at the same time for an artist who is NOT first Nations. I wanted, in some way to honour the situation and respect those who went through this tragedy. Yet at the same time, being a gay female artist, I realized, that for me, it also carried a bitting reminder that racism and discrimination exists on many levels.
Using a form of facial tattoos, the images incorporated words across the face of the subject matter, these words were meant to through back into the faces of the viewer that racism is up to them to decide to be or not, the ownership is NOT on the people who are being mistreated, the ownership is on the racist believers.
The works are drawings, using my technique of color pencil on illustration board 30″ x 40″. In this case, I used a mixed media technique and added the facial word tattoos afterwards incorporating them into the folds of the skin and fading them where necessary. Each portrait took about 100 hours to create, with at least 20 hours just for the tattoo work itself.
The portraits, 20 in total, will be up and around Vancouver in July, and just recently an article written by Kevin Griffin for the Vancouver Sun art blog interviewed me about those pieces and the journey I took to create them. It was and has been an amazing journey, knowing, creating, experiencing and reaching out to others is all part of the experience of what happens when simple words impact those around us.
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