Monthly Archives: July 2016

visual blend of a drawing and digital painting of an earth elemental playing a drum by christine mitzukHow do I know when a picture is done?

I've been working on some new paintings lately. I want them to be the best that I can make them (with the skills I currently have), and at the same time they need to be done. I could paint, and repaint areas to make a piece THE BEST PICTURE EVER, but I don't think that's very realistic.

So how do I know when a piece is done? I think for me it's probably a combination of criteria, and practicing distancing myself at times from the piece. To become the observer rather than the maker. Sometimes this can be tricky.

How do I feel about the picture? or How does it make me feel? If the answer is something like "frustrated" or "it doesn't feel like it has that 'magic' yet", maybe it's time to switch to a different track of questions. I've been coming up with alternate questions to ask myself to gauge if I think something is done.

Do I like how it feels?

Does it have the mood I wanted? If not what mood does it have?

Does it have an interesting look?

Does it have a pleasant look?

Does it feel complete? If no, does it LOOK complete? If no, what's missing or tripping up the visual?

Is everything worked to the level of finish suited to their position in the visual narrative? (For me this includes use of composition, value design, color temperature, and edges).

Does something need to be played up or down, enhanced or subdued?

Are the values unified or are they isolated? This is usually a feeling for me, that it feels "splatty" if it's not unified.

Is the center of interest or theme really coming across? Can I say, "Yes this picture is about this thing"?

Because sometimes done is better than trying to make it perfect. That's not to say that I won't keep trying to make each new picture the best it can be. Sometimes it's good enough. I did what I could with it, or I learned some things from it and now it's time to try another.


Saturday August 6, NOON - 3pm, some artists (myself included) will be donating their time to create quick pet portrait sketches in front of Wet Paint Artist's Materials and Framing. With a donation to the store's chosen group, People & Pets Together, you can receive a free pet portrait. There are no reservations and the portrait is done on the spot so it's first come, first served.

Mostly people bring dogs, but Roz Stendahl drew a sun conure one year. Check out her blog here

It looks like Wet Paint will also have pet themed Origami classes, and other fun stuff. Read more here. The listing is alphabetical so Wet Paint is near the bottom of the page.

dog portrait sketches in colored pencil and brown ink by christine mitzuk
The 2 at the top are colored pencil and pigment-based brown ink on hot press watercolor paper. The one at the bottom is just colored pencil. The pen on the right is my ink filled Niji Waterbrush.

I participated a few years back and it went pretty well. This time I'm practicing with some of the neighborhood pets beforehand instead of just my critters, as well as with some photos I took of rabbits at the State Fair. I'm experimenting with ways to get an impression, the big look, a striking characteristic, and something that looks purposefully styled. So far I've played with spotting the large value shapes or color shapes, a metallic "archival" marker, and some woodless colored pencils. I also filled my Niji Waterbrush with pigment-based brown ink. It's supposed to be more lightfast than the dye-based version. I'm hoping that if I keep ink in it so the chamber and bristles stay moist that it won't get clogged. Only time will tell.

rabbit sketches on brown toned paper with colored pencil and metallic gold marker by christine mitzuk
Colored pencil on toned paper with a little "archival" metallic marker.

I've learned I like the spotting method, and that I need to simplify (go for the essentials and the "big look" instead of getting caught up in making it look "right"). One neighbor also gave me some great advice, to go with my first reaction of what I like about the critter. Plus she gave me some tips on how to either engage a dog or distract it to get either a front or side view. I think these things will really help since I'll only have 5-8 minutes per portrait.

It was FUN and intense the last time I participated so I'm looking forward to it.

oil painting of eye of golden scaled dragon with spines by christine mitzukI had a great conversation with another artist about the different ways we think about the same picture construction tools or methods. He thinks in terms of carving form out of space. I currently think in terms of building up form from the flat surface. They seem to be the same tools, just viewed from different mindsets. Or maybe they really are different but share a similar intent.

Here are some of the things we touched on. I've grouped the terms by their general use/goal.

  • line, shape, contour
  • soft edge, hard edge
  • value, tone, light, dark
  • color, temperature, intensity, dullness
  • placement, composition
  • perspective,┬ásize,┬áscale, overlap
  • volume, form
  • structure

My thought is that it would be great to be conscious of which tool and which mindset I might use at various stages of a project, so maybe checking in with the process at various points would help in achieving that. I think keeping in mind what my aim is for a picture could help in choosing how I phrase my thinking: will I be sculpting the form out of the flat surface, or assembling tonal puzzle pieces and then build upon that, or something else? Or maybe that will interrupt the "flow". We shall see.

I'm interested in how other folks think about picture making. Would you like to share your thoughts?

a photo of many drawing pencilsIn the context of getting ideas out and working out a picture, one of the things I learned at The Atelier was that maybe the media is in the way.

There are many things happening when I'm generating ideas and working out a picture (I'm guessing others have a similar experience). I'm sorting out thoughts in my head, maybe writing down key words or phrases to help the idea along, and trying to make the pencil or other media make marks.

If the mark making tool I'm using is difficult to use, getting the idea out on paper feels more difficult. For example, if I'm trying to write and the pen I'm using gets stuck or drags, so do my thoughts. On the other hand, if the pen I'm using glides across the page, I experience more flow of thoughts.

I'm not saying there's a perfect tool out there that will allow the ideas to flow freely and effortlessly and every picture will be AMAZING. What I'm suggesting is this, if getting ideas out seems overly frustrating, maybe experiment with different media, different tools. I try this out sometimes (I'd like to experiment more).

Other sticking points are that my skills aren't up to where my tastes and idea expectations are set, or that I haven't used a certain media enough to be comfortable with it. I'm thinking both of these will take practice, not being afraid of my mistakes, and a plentiful amount of play, experimentation, and doodling to get familiar with the media. I hope to remind myself of this next time I start a project.

Then there's what a tool does for me. Right now I know I think best when creating thumbnail sketches with pencil rather than on the computer. Using a soft pencil lets me skate across the page and makes getting ideas out a little easier. For getting myself in a more open, playful mindset I'm liking kid's crayons which require some effort to make marks because there's some serious drag on the paper and when layering crayon, but I'm willing to trade that physical awkwardness for the mental playground.