Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wet Woods

“Wet Woods” © Sara Light-Waller, 2014
9” x 12” pen & ink and watercolor in
a Stillman and Birn Delta sketchbook.

It rains a lot here in Washington state. You’ve probably heard the joke about not letting moss grow under your feet. Here in western Washington, it can happen, quite literally.

Our forests are always dripping — with water, moss, and fantastic tree branches and roots. I have always found woods inspiring but there’s something truly magical about our trees with their dressing of moss.

As I drove through Carnation the other day, I took some pictures of the tress. As it was raining, I brought the photos home and did a small watercolor painting of the feeling I get when standing under those trees.

Wet. Peaceful. Alive.

It's a good life. :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Charles Vess Workshop

"Vasilissa went up to the hag in a terrible fright."
Casein WIP. (Photo by Tara Larsen Chang.)
So a funny thing happened to me on the way to the book signing…sounds like a bad joke doesn’t it? Well, in this case, it wasn’t a joke, it was synchronicity. I was at a book signing for “Seven Wild Sisters” at the University Bookstore in Seattle when Charles Vess mentioned that he had one spot open in his upcoming weekend workshop in Bothell.

Of course, I jumped at the chance. Why wouldn’t I?

The workshop followed a standard format. The instructor gives out an assignment prior to the first class and students arrive with a preliminary drawing, ready for initial critique. The rest of the workshop is devoted to finishing the painting, under the instructor’s watchful gaze.

In this case, we were asked to prepare a scene from a fairy tale, from one of three choices.

Charles Vess and his demonstration piece
So far so good.

I like fairy tales. Hell, I’ve been drawing my own for the Book I illustrations for the past few months. But I had to hustle, I only had two days to prepare the assignment, including the necessary research. It was fast work, but I made it. As bad luck would have it, I caught a cold that week, and arrived with my drawing, and cold medicine, in hand.

An inauspicious start. Made worse by the fact that mine was the only symbolic representation in the class. I had chosen to do a painting inspired by traditional Russian illustrator, Ivan Bilibin. Everyone else had chosen a naturalistic style, more like Vess’.

A closer look at Charles Vess's WIP
But never mind any of that…the room was filled with talented illustrators, not to mention Charles Vess, himself. And I was there to learn…and so I did. Just not in the way I first thought…

Truly, I was too sick to create anything that weekend, although I tried. I planned and re-sketched and painted. On Sunday, the last day of the workshop, I painted as fast as I could. Perhaps, faster than I ever had. *lol* I truly don’t remember.

Of course, I didn’t finish my painting. There was too much to do and too far to go with a bad cough and a running nose. Despite this, some of my painted passages were spot on, even though I’m still just getting to know casein.

I truly enjoyed Charles’ insights, the slideshows of his works in progress, and the other artists in the class.  And yet…what did I come away with. What did I learn?

Final workshop critique - there's me at the end. (Photo by Tara Larsen Chang.)
I’ve been processing these thoughts for several weeks now. One thing became clear to me very quickly - the workshop was a catalyst for change. Not in how to use of colored inks, or in the potential professional value of naturalistic vs. symbolic book illustrations.

No. What struck me during my fever-induced artistic retreat, was the bigger picture. Creativity from the high stair. Who am I as an artist? What does art look like when inspiration bubbles up from the unconscious? What happens when you don’t listen to those messages…? What happens to creativity when artists are encouraged to conform to a system? Is the goal more important than the process?

I’m still rolling around my thoughts on these questions. I probably will be for some time to come. But the summation is this — my experience at the workshop was invaluable. My creativity was sparked. So - goal met. But it was sparked with a rather long fuse. That fuse is still burning and I expect will be for some time to come.

Many thinks to Charles Vess, Tara Larsen Chang, and TLCWorkshops for a wonderful learning experience.