Something Other Than

I had a realization yesterday afternoon that just about shook me to the core.

I was toying around again with the idea of going back to a personal project I had shelved more than a year ago, (more on that to come), and had even hauled out my watercolors to start painting, when a distinctly and increasingly uncomfortable feeling began creeping up my spine. As I watched the painted sections dry, a sudden awareness came into focus like a developing polaroid: I no longer like to work in watercolor the way I have been. The worst part? I can’t remember a recent time when I did.

“Ol’ Paint, the Dapple Hobbyhorse” – ©Katie Kath 2022. Do not use without permission.

For an artist whose current career has been built on a certain medium, this is akin to waking up one morning and suddenly realizing that you have been in a souring relationship for many years and despite your numerous, desperate attempts to save it, it has, in fact, gone permanently south.

And, like many relationships that fall apart, there have been obvious (ignored) signs along the way. So many signs that you feel like a total idiot for not recognizing them in the first place. (Or, perhaps, it was the refusal to recognize them).

I’m not saying it’s time to chuck, along with my brushes, every single tube of Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton out the window, but this is a sure sign I need to step back, scrub out my old painting palette, reevaluate, and ask myself some questions. Maybe I need to expand my current color palette? Maybe I need to try some dyes? Maybe I need to take a seriously long break from watercolor altogether.

The long and short of it is, the current situation of this “relationship” needs to drastically change. I don’t know what it will look like in the end, but for now, there’s a road ahead of me and I have to travel it.

A Wee Cuppa

“Small Cup” © Katie Kath 2022. Do not reproduce without permission.

This little china cup, odd though it may be, embodies everything I associate with my Grandma. In fact, if I had to choose only one thing out of all of her many collections of objects (for she had many tchotchkes too numerous to recount here, from beer steins with painted faces lining the top of a china cabinet to a small collection of glass elephants, trunks rearing up at the ever-silent, antique cuckoo clock hanging in the hallway, its tiny bird patiently waiting to reanimate once again) I would choose this cup over anything else.

We didn’t get to visit that often since Grandma lived so far from us, so when we did it was all the more special, and I like to think she marked the occasion as well, letting me drink my morning milk from the china “milkman cup” as she called it.

I don’t know much about the cup, (or the whole set, for that matter, for I own it in its entirety now) other than that it was made in Japan, possibly in the 50’s or 60s, but it doesn’t matter that much to me whether it’s vintage or antique, worth a lot of money or chump change: the memories it holds would fill a hundred cups of its kind.

It also makes a pretty rad little still life.

Does It Make A Good Drawing?

“Two Girls Seated” charcoal, pastel – © Katie Kath 2022. Do not reproduce without permission.

Often, the most bland photographs make for the best drawings. (Likewise, the best photographs make the worst drawings. No one looks good in a drawing when they are smiling. EVER. And I stand by that!)

Take this one, for example.

As I said in a prior post, it is best to draw from life–especially if you aren’t very familiar with drawing the human figure–but this is not always possible once you step outside of art school. People generally have very little time or patience to sit for long periods of time like a paid model is willing to do.

This picture was just a snap shot, one of those you take with your phone that you’ll likely completely forget about soon afterwards. However, it stood out to me in a way that all of the other smiling family portraits did not. The composition of the figures, the positioning of the limbs and fabric (ok, I added the stripes. Artistic license.) and the contemplative look on both girls’ faces screamed to be turned into a drawing.

I’m glad I did.

Get Your Friends To Sit For You

And I don’t mean babysitting!

“Connie Seated” – charcoal on Strathmore paper. ©Katie Kath 2022. Do not use without permission.

Many people erroneously think they would make terrible models.

“Oh, I couldn’t,” they say, and list off a myriad of excuses, “I’m not attractive enough. I’m too tall/short/old/petite, I don’t like my face/arms/flab/wrinkles/scars”…you name it.

But I’m convinced something magical happens when a person is drawn.

One of my college professors once told me about a figure drawing session in which the model, after taking a look at all of the artist’s studies of her, said, “Wow, is that me? I didn’t know I looked that good!” To which, everyone responded emphatically, “UM, YES! You do look that good!”

And guess what? The model was a regular person. not a swimsuit model, not a runway model, not a Maybelline model, not super young, not super fit, just….an average person with an average life.

We artists see the beautiful in the average. So go ahead, artists: talk your friends into sitting for you in a drawing session. They may be pleasantly surprised.

Behind Blue Eyes

Much as I love “The Who,” the title has nothing to do with this post except for the fact that I began humming that tune as I began to draw and I figured someone else should get it stuck in their head tonight, too. You’re welcome.

I took up piano 4 1/2 years ago as an adult (the extremely brief time I tried to take piano when I was quite young doesn’t count because it lasted for about two seconds before I got very bored with some of the monotony involved and decided I wanted to draw stuff instead) and when I began taking lessons I could maybe tell you where middle C was and that was it. I started off playing what probably everyone starts off playing, which was “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Au Clair De La Luna.” Talk about swallow your pride.

I wish I could say now I can play Rachmaninoff, but that’s not the case. I can, however, definitely play more complex pieces these days and I love that the decision I made to learn to play piano is probably one of the better ones I’ve ever made.

Now, go forth and make some good decisions, folks. Good night.

Friday Nite is Selfie Nite

Some days are just devoid of inspiration. You want nothing more in the evening than to just hit the sack. And there’s merit in this–I am in full support of sack-hitting: sleep is the Great Restorer.

But sometimes, like exercise, it’s when you don’t want to do a thing that you should do that very thing. Starting a visual journal blog is fun. Keeping it up regularly is a different story. It’s when you are about a week into a new workout that it begins to hurt and you can either give up because of it or push through in spite of it, and end up being glad you did in the end.

Needless to say, tonight was one of those nights, but I wanted to draw something. I said in a previous post that self portraits are generally my go-to when all else fails, so for lack of something better and more creative and certainly more exciting than my face, I stuck with the fall-back plan.

Hey, at least my face is always there and always free. You gotta pay a model.

Blue Girl Waiting

I used to be vehement (adamant?) about drawing from life in the sketchbook. While it is true I still hold the sentiment that one of the best forms of artistic discovery does lie in drawing from observation, (and ya just CAN’T draw a bicycle or horses correctly from memory) I’ve since modified this belief for several reasons. Principally, since becoming a mom my time has become a series of slots throughout the day, most of which are taken up by caring for my toddler, M. The rest of the slots are generally allotted for chores (no longer having ANY clean underwear, for example) or appointments. This leaves just a very small slot for me in the evenings to draw, so I need to figure out what to sketch, and fast.

Sometimes the opportunity presents itself for drawing from observation, other times I utilize reference photos I take myself, and sometimes–like today– I’ll just dream up something. The mental image usually comes to me at some point throughout the day, making itself clearer as the day progresses, only to be completely sharpened once I put it to paper.

I mentioned I’ve been on an “old masters” kick recently (Maybe not the old old masters…more like the 19th century-masters? The Impressionistic masters?) and because of this I’ve rediscovered the luscious, page-scratchingly tasty wonders of compressed and vine charcoal. In fact, I think I’m falling in love!

Sorry, watercolors, we might need to take a little break. It’s not you, it’s me. Promise.