Monday, January 25, 2010

Five Out Of One

I think my favorite feature of Paint Shop Pro 8 is the ability to "play" with my creations once I complete the basic drawing. I love changing skin, hair, eye and clothing colors, specifically. For the past week, I've been playing with the portrait of my friends little girl. I've transformed her into an African American, an Irish lassie, a Scandinavian with blue eyes, and a Latina nina. Hope you enjoy my results!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Date With History, Artfully Portrayed

John and hadn't been out of our apartment building due to snow, my cold, and below-freezing temperatures since December 6th (I remember the date because our associate pastor was officially ordained that day), so as soon as we heard that this past Friday would be in the mid-to-upper 40's, we decided to go on a date to the Museum of Fine Arts. What a wonderful date!

 
Since John has already written about the main exhibit we went to see in his blog,Joyful Christian Guy's Ramblings, I won't reinvent the wheel. I hope you'll click the link I just provided, as John gave great background on the Secrets of Tomb 10A exhibit. But I will share a few photos from that exhibit, as well as from galleries of 18th and 19th Century American art.

The small model boats from Djehutynakht's tomb fascinated me, mostly because I love miniature things anyway. The Egyptians made miniatures of everything that was placed in their tombs; if either the original or the replica was stolen, they reasoned, they would still carry the other into the after-life. Djehutynakht had an amazingly expansive fleet, and I'm not even sure archeologists recovered all the models (the tomb had been plundered, probably in ancient times).



I wish I remembered what type of boat this is. The fleet had kitchen boats, funeral boats, and other types that I can't remember. Some boats even carried livestock, such as this ox.




Being  a girly-girl, I loved this necklace. Actually, it looked like something my mom would enjoy, but I doubt the Museum would let  me buy it for her birthday. (Museums are so picky about that sort of thing!)





It wasn't in Djehutynakht's tomb. As I said earlier, thieves had broken into the tomb at some point, and quite naturally had taken all the jewelry. This piece, along with several other artifacts, was displayed to give a sense of what might have been in Tomb 10A.  


We finished the exhibit, and had lunch. Once we finished eating more food than my belly could hold, we headed for the Early American galleries. Being unable to visit my beloved Freedom Trail since October, I've been missing my contact with the 18th Century. Little did I know that, in the 18th Century gallery, I'd overhear a docent showing her group this silver bowl, crafted by Paul Revere:




The bowl is inscribed with all the names of the Sons of Liberty, who conceived America's independence from Britain. Evidently, at their secret meetings, the patriots would fill this bowl with wine, each sipping from it in turn. (I thought of Communion when the docent told that part of the story.) After each meeting, a different member would take the bowl home and hide it from the Loyalists.

While in that room, I enjoyed the company of dear friends, all painted by John Singleton Copley:




John Hancock




Samuel Adams




A young John Quincy Adams.

Having seen the birthplaces, homes and graves of these great men, as well as reading about them, it was nice to finally see their faces! I appreciate Copley for preserving them. I even got to tell Samuel Adams, to his face, that I think he was a rascal!


My date with John Friday was indeed wonderful, not only because I got to revisit history, but because I did so with John! I look forward to spring, when we'll be able to have historical dates more often!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Another Portrait Completed!

How long ago did I begin my digital portrait of my friend's little girl? Sometime this past summer, seems to me. Maybe September. The project seemed somewhat formidable, so I remember procrastinating for several months before starting to paint it. As it turns out, I decided not to put in the very details that scared me into my procrastination in the first place. Maybe I'll do so later, especially if the child's "Momma" asks me to do so. But I'm satisfied...and very pleased!


Friday, January 8, 2010

What's Wrong With The Box?

Everyone wants to "think outside the box" these days. And I do agree with the idea of innovation, creativity and exploration. My husband, for instance, ardently objected to wearing blue jeans until he was in his mid-50's. His box told him that jeans were for farmers. But one day, our neighbor gave him three pairs of jeans. After I coaxed him to try on a pair, he decided jeans were comfortable! Now he only wears his Dockers to church!

So, I'm not opposed to broadening one's horizons or trying new things. Having said that, however, I believe the box can be too quickly discarded. I believe, very firmly, that the box, more often than not, provides the framework for innovation, creativity and exploration.


Let me explain my position by taking you back to my verse writing class in college. My professor insisted that, before we could successfully write free verse, we needed to learn to write sonnets. Sonnets are very restrictive in their form. They must be exactly 14 lines of iambic pentameter, following one of two specific rhyme schemes. The first quatrain presents the main idea, generally in terms of a metaphor. The next quatrain adds to the metaphor, giving it a bit more complexity and texture. And then, the all-important third quatrain adds a twist (or, as my professor put it, "creates a problem"). The final couplet (not a quatrain this time) both resolves the conflict and gives the reader a new image.


To defend sonnet-writing to that class of  young adults still enamored with the free-spirited ideals of Woodstock, Betty Freidan's bra-burning, and Transactional Analysis (demonstrated in the book I'm Okay, You're Okay), my professor kept reminding us that "Freedom is in the form." To my surprise, he was right!  As I practiced taming my thoughts into iambic pentameter, using the strict rhyme scheme to select vibrant words, and using the quadrants to unfold my metaphors, I enjoyed watching my sonnets come alive. The form, rather than oppressing my creativity, generated it. I saw my writing soar with a freshness that I'd never seen in the trendy  free verse I'd been producing since high school.


In the past six years of doing digital art, I've observed the same principle. Watch the slideshow to the right of this blog. Do you notice how "cartoony" my freehand drawings are? In contrast, the portraits based on photographs convey a depth of expression that startles me. The freehand drawings are easier to do, but I think they lack depth and emotion. They're great for greeting cards and illustrations, but my artistry soars when I use the structure of photographs!



I often carry my professor's dictum, "Freedom is in the form," into my relationship with Christ. In contrast to people who live life as "free spirits" who have no concrete direction, I find solid guidance through the teachings of Scripture. Admittedly I do so very imperfectly (just as I still write sonnets very imperfectly) but I'm so thankful that God gives me a framework for my decisions, my relationships and my morals. The Lord, through His written Word, provides the structure that enables me to soar into worship. As I implement His principle of faithfulness to my husband, for instance, I enjoy our marital bond without the competition of fantasies about other men. Similarly, when I resist the temptation to gossip, I don't feel nagging guilt about hurting another person's reputation, and thus I'm free in my relationships.


As I see life, the proverbial box gives me the framework so essential to innovation, creativity and exploration. Whether I'm writing, doing digital art, or working out my Christian faith, I'm grateful for the structure. Sometimes, I'll "think outside the box," but I'm so delighted to actually have that beautiful box!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

An Artist's Passion and Patience

I just opened an email from a friend back in California. I contained a series of exquisite pencil drawings, all of wildlife. The detail, especially the fur on the mammals, fascinated me. Clearly, the artist had more patience than I do. More patience than I'm willing to have, actually! 

His art is beautiful. Not the subject matter I'd choose, but if art is anything like writing, an artist must follow subject matter that he or she is passionate about. Otherwise, the tedium of bringing a work to completion overwhelms the artist. In my case, even when I'm doing a project I really care about (such as the portrait I'm doing now of my friend's little girl), I usually come to a point at which I need my motivation rekindled. As I looked at this man's artwork, therefore, I knew only his deep love for animals could propel him through each drawing and allow him to create such beauty.


At the end of the email were the words, "I forgot to mention...the artist drew all these with his mouth." What a casual postscript! It showed a picture of the artist, giving his name--Doug Landis. So I Googled "Doug Landis" and found his website, Mouth Art.   Please visit his site, read his story, and, most of all, enjoy his drawings!

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