Creative Oops

Last week on twitter, I saw a tweet asking for artists to participate in Joanne Hawker’s Creative Insight column on her blog, Origami Chicken.

Not considering that I would qualify to participate, I re-tweeted the request in the hopes that a talented artist out in twitter land might be interested in participating. Then Joanne asked me if I’d like to do it!

Of course I said yes.

I set aside a few hours one afternoon to make the painting and take the step-by-step shots I would need. I was very organized about it.

I first took photos of my studio to share, then of the supplies I would need, then the paper and how I draw my guide lines. You can see those intro photos in my Creative Insight post on Joanne’s blog. What you won’t see on that post are the following images.

Continuing the process, I snapped shots of my paint selection and how I mix paint and test out the color on paper:
selected colors

mixing

Next I paused to photograph the very first lines that make up the starting shape of the geometric painting.

first lines

Then I applied my first wash to fill in some of the shapes, and the clouds gathered, the wind started to blow, and disaster struck:

ugh

Ok, perhaps I’m over dramatizing a bit. It doesn’t look too bad I guess.

Be that as it may, the paint didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Instead of mostly sitting on top of the paper, or absorbing the paint in the beautiful way watercolor paper absorbs, the paper sucked up the paint and distributed it just under the surface in the not so beautiful way that only drawing paper can. It created a gritty, grainy texture while threatening to wrinkle and warp the paper beyond hope.

Sigh.

Yes, I had mistaken drawing paper for watercolor paper, and I knew I could not continue.

Well, at least not for the post I wanted to write.

But I did continue, taking the opportunity to just keep working on it without expectation. In a way, this was a very freeing mistake because at this point it didn’t matter what I did! To keep it loose, I used the same green paint I already had, focusing more on filling in the space with shapes.

gouache

Even before I was finished painting, I knew I would add detail lines not only with paint, but also with pencil.

gouache and pencil

It didn’t take long to complete this painting once I got over the initial disappointment of choosing the wrong paper. In the end, it was a happy mistake, not only for letting me explore something new, but also to loosen me up for the next painting I created–the one that I did use for the Creative Insight post.

How do you deal with creative “mistakes”? Do they ever derail you, or do you embrace them and incorporate them in unexpected ways?

It’s been far too long since I wrote about my process on my blog, which is always one of my favorite topics to cover. Perhaps you can imagine how much fun I had writing up a process post for Joanne’s column.

Here’s a little sneak peek of the painting I created after the “mistake” painting was finished:

Painting for Creative Insight

Head on over to the Origami Chicken blog to read the details, and also be sure to check out the other wonderful artists and illustrators who have previously written Creative Insight posts!

Patterns & Paws: Update 1

After many weeks… well, ok, after many months, I finally finished up my second round with the Patterns & Paws sketchbooks that I first posted about waaaaaay back in September. If you don’t know already, Patterns & Paws is a collaborative project I’m doing with fellow artist, Jessica Gowling (@jessicagowling on twitter). If you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of this project, it does have a few “rules” that we both follow about the order and placement of our art within the two sketchbooks. You can find out all about the project in Jessica’s thorough introduction on her blog.

I think the holidays got in the way a bit, not to mention a lot of freelance web design that came my way, but excuses aside I finally managed to finish up my turn and send the books back to 100 Mile House, BC to reunite with Jessica. I would also like to mention that my tardy reply had nothing to do with lack of inspiration. Jessica added some real gems to the books that left me overflowing with ideas.

First I want to share the pages that Jessica completed after I’d started off the spreads.

Patterns & Paws Vol. 1:

patterns & paws vol. 1

patterns & paws vol. 1

patterns & paws vol. 1

Patterns & Paws Vol. 2:

patterns & paws vol. 2

patterns & paws vol. 2

patterns & paws vol. 2

Aren’t her additions awesome!? I was so excited to see how my drawings inspired what she chose to add. Each spread was such a delightful surprise to discover.

The next images show the pages she started for me to complete. When I got the sketchbooks, I worked on these pages first, taking inspiration from Jessica’s compositions.

Patterns & Paws Vol. 1:
patterns & paws vol. 1

Patterns & Paws Vol. 2:
patterns & paws vol. 2

Jessica started off these spreads by creating a checkered pattern filled with various fur and skin textures. I immediately knew I wanted to somehow weave an image through the “open” squares, and since her textures reminded me of little critters, my mind eventually wandered to snakes eating those little creatures, and an idea was born. I actually did quite a bit of sketching to work out the composition of this one since I really wanted the illusion that the snakes were under the pattern to work. The colors of the snakes were inspired by the washi tape Jessica framed the pages with.

Patterns & Paws Vol 1:
patterns & paws vol. 1

Patterns & Paws Vol. 2:
patterns & paws vol. 2

I was super inspired by these pages. I love the collage-iness, the stamps, the inkiness, and the colors. I initially intended to use rice paper for the collaged elements. When I drew on the rice paper, I laid it on top of grid paper to use as a guide. The ink bled right through the rice paper, and I was delighted to discover the blotchy drawings on the grid paper. They harmonized so much better with Jessica’s collage that I didn’t give the rice paper a second thought. The shapes I used were inspired by the environments of the deer and walrus, as seen in the stamps. I added colored lines to connect the shapes which created a greater sense of atmosphere and helped balance the left and right pages with each other.

Patterns & Paws Vol 1:
patterns & paws vol. 1

Patterns & Paws Vol. 2:
patterns & paws vol. 2

It’s hard to say that one set of pages is a favorite, but boy do I love these. I’m going through a significant gray phase in my art lately, so when I saw Jessica’s monochromatic pencil drawings with a bit of collage, I knew I wanted to capture the feeling of her drawing while maintaining the simple palette. I painted radiating patterns with gray gouache. I worked intuitively, not sketching beforehand. Well, I admit, I had done a few similar paintings before this, but each always turns out so differently. I was really excited about the added element of surprise as I focused on the feeling of Jessica’s drawings while I painted, instead of thinking about form or composition. The end result are two spreads that harmonize incredibly well. I feel happy and soothed every time I see these.

Lastly, here are the pages that I’ve started for Jessica to soak up and find inspiration from.

Patterns & Paws Vol. 1:
patterns & paws vol. 1

Patterns & Paws Vol. 2:
collab-7a

Finally I had a chance to use rice paper! I drew graphite lines on the translucent rice paper sheet and used it as a background frame for the colorful blob prints. I made the prints by adding little globs of gouache to the surface of some card stock and smushing another sheet on top of it. Voila! Two prints! They are mirror images of each other, but I flipped one upside down, just cause.

Patterns & Paws Vol. 1:
patterns & paws vol. 1

Patterns & Paws Vol. 2:
collab-8a

It’s no secret that I love triangles and lines. I had these images in my head for a while, and I sketched some of them out in a separate sketchbook. I chose a couple that I liked particularly well as a starting point. I first drew the shapes in the Patterns & Paws books with pencil, then went over the lines with pen, and finally added the line texture with pen as needed.

Patterns & Paws Vol. 1:
patterns & paws vol. 1

Patterns & Paws Vol. 2:
collab-9a

These final two spreads are the pages where Jessica and I both create in the same space. On the previous similar spreads, we both left a lot of space for the other to work with. While these were all successful pages, I wanted to push things in a different direction. As you can see in the images above, I created two drawings that pretty much cover up both pages. I’m hoping it’ll push Jessica to cover over parts of my drawing, or just find a new way to interact with what I gave her! I’m very interested to see what she’ll add!

A little birdie told me that Patterns & Paws may already be on its way back to me, so I won’t have to wait long to see how this project continues to evolve.

Do you have a favorite spread so far? Is there an, as yet, incomplete set of pages you’re particularly interested to see complete?

I’ll share more as soon as there’s more to show!

Hidden Critters

About 5 months ago, I posted about a few drawings I was planning to make for my brother, James, and his wife, Rachel. Although I pretty much figured out what I wanted to do for the drawings back in October, I didn’t have a chance to work on it. I had hoped to make it a Christmas present, but with so much going on around the holidays, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. With my brother’s birthday coming up at the end of March, I decided to finally finish them up for a nice birthday surprise.

After talking with Rachel about the previous sketches I made, we zeroed in on three that they liked best. Rachel also had a fun idea to add a little “surprise” element to each drawing, which I was happy to explore.

I did some more sketching to work out the composition of each drawing, including the new added surprise elements.

sketch

Once the planning was over, I started drawing the originals with black and gray markers.

working on an ant drawing

Since I’d done so much preparation with sketches, the final drawings came together really quickly. Most of each is drawn with only black and gray marker, but each of the added surprise elements is a bright color that I added using prismacolor colored pencils.

little orange fish
The drawing that looks like overlapping river stones now has a little orange fish swimming in the stream above them.

blue ant
A blue ant now hides between layers of sediment.

bird nest
I added a branch, bird’s nest and leaves to the abstract birch forest. Initially I had planned to only color in the egg, but I couldn’t resist adding a fresh green to the leaves. Although having two colors in the drawing is a little different than the other two, I think it work for this drawing, and I also think the three drawings still work as a set.

All the drawings were done on 13″ x 13″ Canson drawing paper. I cut a few extra sheets when I was getting ready, so once the birthday drawings were done, I got to work on another large gray drawing of a pattern style I’ve been working with lately in sketchbooks and on smaller pieces of paper.

pattern
At this point it’s still not quite done. I hope it won’t take another 5 months to complete!

If you’re an artist, how do you like to work on final pieces? Do you do a lot of sketches beforehand and plan out what you are going to do, or do you start with a blank piece of paper or canvas and dive right in?