What things have you not done in ages? Put them aside for the time being as more pressing things were at stake, only to find you left it for some time? Years perhaps? So much so you’ve even kind of forgotten all about it.
Until that one fruitful day you stumble upon it once more, you start to ask yourself “Now what’s this? And why did I put it aside?”

For years I had not touched a pencil or a brush, there was no use since I was headed for a typical deskjob. I simply ignored that side of me, until I was a mere shadow of myself. Why get creative if I couldn’t even find a way to incorporate it in my daily life? In order to not be constantly faced with that aspect, I simply isolated that part of me. Pretended it did not matter to me and simply move on. Throw away the key and don’t look back.
The biggest mistake of my life to date. I lost touch to what essentially was the door to my self, the one thing that could make me feel truly alive and happy. The one true thing that gave me boundless of energy and confidence.
As the years went by, the more estranged I found myself with, well, me. I had gone through the motions as expected, auto pilot was functioning as it should, generally speaking all was well. Except of course it wasn’t. I hit the proverbial wall. In my cases it took a drastic crash to realise it couldn’t go on was it did.

I found myself being utterly unhappy with myself, with where I was in my life, with what I’ve done, and most importantly, what I had tried to cut out of my life. There was no denying, I wasn’t me without that creative aspect.

This was the beginning of my long journey, as to date it has been 5 years. 5 long years. At first I had to rediscover who I am, slowly but surely I also made room to venture into that well hidden creative aspect of my personality. I ventured into that playing ground very tentatively, and to be honest, quite hesitantly. I wasn’t sure whether I felt the same as I did in the past, or it had become something I had imagined after so many years of non-activity. So I chose a safe route, something that is not particularly my forte, I ended up doing a course of ceramics. Creative yes, but definitely not my thing. Much to my surprise I rather enjoyed foraying into the weird world of clay, and luckily for me, I work very well with my hands, but I also knew if the course ended, I would not continue it as it was a mere testing ground.

Ceramics. Hand built. © CC

After that stint to reintroduce me into the creative and learning ceramics isn’t for me, I wanted to challenge myself. I signed up for a short course drawing/painting portraits. Portraits are the one true thing I’ve always dreaded and tried to avoid, and well, it is quite hard to do. Human faces are far more complicated to simply get right on paper, our brains are wired to see and recognise faces, so any slight thing that is off we’ll notice. Young faces may be more pleasant  to look at, but it was the old and wrinkly ones that are the most interesting to draw. Not to mention more forgiving on paper. Also en face is truly challenging, en profil  is without a doubt easier, albeit also less interesting.

A few examples of the quick sketches and the eventual painted version. The quick sketches usually only last about 20 minutes per sketch, usually 3, so they are rough in their set up. The size of the paper is A1 (841 x 594 mm / 33.1 x 23.4 in) and I have this annoying habit of going over the edge, my drawing rarely fit despite the ample size. All my fellow students would go small and smaller when they corrected their sketch, me on the other hand would go bigger and bigger. I would start small, but somehow and somewhere along the way they would grow and grow, and go over the edge.

When I set my charcoal stick on paper I wasn’t sure I was up for the challenge, I feared this whole portrait thing would fail drastically and it would never even resemble something human. You could say it was my litmus test. Much to my surprise, and trepidation, I managed to somehow draw a face. I ended up feeling less anxious about the whole experience. Though I do have to note that not a single sketch or painted version could ever be used to identify the people, they are not that good. I’m not that good. Oh, yes, apparently my ‘style’ is not happy, cute and cuddly, but rather dramatic and quite bold. As I get into it, I can’t really control it, my hand does what is necessary, so bold it is. Which usually meant the people tend to look…stern and menacing.

My very first attempt. Charcoal. © CC

Does it resemble the person who modelled? No, not really, but at least it’s recognisable as an old man. It’s a start. It was also my introduction to the graces of age when choosing persons to sit for you. My third class had a young woman sit for us, she had a very angular face, and my god, I really had to struggle with trying to capture her on paper. The short course also taught me that sometimes you have a great day where the majority of things go smoothly, and then there are those days where nothing seems to cooperate. This particular day was one of the latter.

Third lesson. Charcoal. © CC

No matter how much I tried, I just could not get it right. I think at some point I just gave up on her and was glad when I could go home. My fourth class I really enjoyed, for a change I could sorta manage to capture the person.

Charcoal. © CC

Charcoal. © CC

First painted attempt. Who knew glasses could be so tough to get right? Acrylic. © CC

What did I tell you about stern and menacing? Acrylic. © CC

Same person as in the very first class. Charcoal. © CC

The painted version. Acrylic. © CC

Well, at least there is some improvement along the way!

And just for fun a year later I did some pencil studies of faces, or better said eyes. I used pictures for these, as no one can sit that long for such detailed studies

Looking up in bemusement. It becomes her. Guess who this is, if you recognise her. Oscar winning actress. Pencil. © CC

Being all pensive and worried. Spooky. Guess who this is, if you recognise him. Brit actor, and size does matter. Pencil. © CC

After so many people, now something completely different: a bit of nature thrown in. Totally random.

Autumn leaves. Ink and pastel. © CC

Autumn leaves. Ink and pastel. © CC

And now I seem to have started the year with a new project, one that sorta fell into my lap. My father picked up 2 large canvasses ( 1 x 1.2 m / 39 x 47 in) that were put on the curb. He’ll be using them in the back garden next to the 3 other ones he picked up, partly to block the shoddy fence, and adds some colour in the bleak winter months. However, whomever painted these two is a clear novice, so much so one of the paintings truly started to irk me so bad I decided to transform it into something more appealing. I can live with bad paintings – to a certain degree – or questionable techniques, but this one was just so…not good. I just need to watch out I don’t find myself painting into the wee hours again.


4 thoughts on “Forget-me-not

  1. I can tell that “Spooky” drawing was a labor of love 🙂

    I couldn’t stick with ceramics either — although I love them, the level of physical coordination necessary would be beyond me. I’m impressed at your drawing. As for me, I’d like to play the piano again. I haven’t in years. It won’t happen in the next five months — but I’m hoping that whatever happens after June, I’ll be able to get it in again in the fall.

    • It sure was an excellent excuse to look up HiRes pictures and study them! 😀

      For me ceramics just takes too long to satisfy that creative bone. Too many steps, and not to mention access to a kiln. Not even oil painting takes that long, and when a mistake is made, it’s much easier to correct. I’ll admire it for what they are, but definitely not my thing.

  2. Meryl Streep! That’s my guess for the eyes looking upwards in the first eye drawing. Hugh Grant for the second? I really both of them, and I’ve loved having a peek into your art. Yes, the faces are bold but that’s good, imo. It’s far better than insipid and characterless. Yours have character! I’m so glad you’re returning to something that is clearly an important part of you and which makes you feel so alive. Never stop, cherie!

    • Ding ding ding! You’re correct! The eyes looking up is indeed Meryl Streep. The second isn’t Hugh Grant, it’s Richard Armitage, but you were in the right country 😉

      I wish I could do them differently, but I couldn’t no matter how much I tried. It was such a massive contrast with the others at the end of each session, and we’d walk around to see each other’s work. I usually admired one woman’s work, who could capture the person in a few strokes so well. Though funnily enough I often caught her and my teacher discussing mine.

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