It won’t be difficult! I mean how hard could it be? I’ve been making art for 20 plus years! I bet it will come easily for me. Relax! Don’t think about it too much, just go do it!
That’s the conversation I was having with myself these past few weeks. What I was getting myself to do, was, start a fabric painting of an octogenarian woman. No woman, in particular, just an older woman. I wouldn’t use a reference, just think of an older woman’s face, physical appearance and so on.
I have had a plan to paint a series of older women. The world ignores older people, especially women. Their physical beauty has faded. The beauty on the inside though is remarkable! I plan to call the series, Wrinkled Beauty. I do not want to do portraits, but more character studies. I want to show their personalities, more than their likeness. This project has been on my mind for some time now.
I am very capable, most times when drawing people. I have always enjoyed using charcoal for this topic. Using fabric can’t be that difficult! I knew thinking time was over! I know what wrinkles look like! I look at myself every day. I googled images of Octogenarian women. I studied their wrinkles and creases. I stared at each image and tried to picture how they would look done in fabric. The more I researched, the more confident I became.
I stood before my empty canvas and contemplated the colors I would use. With this being my first attempt, I would keep things simple and realistic. I would use natural flesh tones. I sorted through my beige, tan, pink, peach, and light blue fabrics. I chose a lot of sheers thinking that layering them would give the details of wrinkles and creases. I lightly sketched in a head shape, neck and shoulders. Then I began!
I laid in some light-colored beiges and pinks. It was looking good! I was getting excited. As I built the forehead and eye sockets, things started going south. With each layer I glued down, the preceding layer did not blend. There was a problem with the cut edge. It showed as a sharp line. I was bothered by that. I mentally fought the idea of wanting it to look perfect. I kept telling myself that it didn’t have to be so, but every time I tried to adjust the layers and colors, it just got worse. As I worked, I remembered the feeling of inadequacy when I was in figure drawing class, oh so many years ago! I still have that drawing to refer to where I started from. It is horrible!
I continued to work a few more days and it got no better. I finally got so frustrated, that I tore the face off the canvas and threw it away. I started again. This time I would create a complete figure. The reference I used, was an old watercolor of a woman without a face. (I know it sounds strange, but it’s not) My approach would be different this time. I would not focus on the face right away, but get the body in and save the face for later.
Well, the dress, coat, and hat went ok, but the proportions were off. The woman’s face is a side view, so I thought it would be somewhat easier. Although I had the face outlined I struggled to make the face look natural. At one point, she looked like she was in a wind tunnel and all her skin was being blown away from her bones. It was pretty funny! But then it wasn’t.
I stopped working on her. A dear friend came over to see what I was doing. She encouraged me to keep at it. I am stumped at how to proceed.
I know that all worthwhile endeavors take time and hard work. I have not challenged myself in a while regarding my art. I am forcing myself to learn something new. I know too, that it may be a while before I master this. I will need to keep telling myself, “Relax, just keep at it. Not everything will be a masterpiece. Try not to be so hard on yourself. Each step is a learning opportunity!” It always sounds so good when I am telling my students that, but saying it to myself is harder to accept. We, (especially women) are so hard on ourselves.
Will we ever learn? I sure hope so, because I want to paint octogenarian women before I am one!
“Oh, the foolishness of us humans!”
I am hanging my attempts out there for you to see. Remember, they are my first attempts. I pulled the “head only”, out of the garbage to keep as a reference. The image is pretty creepy. The side view is no better! Oh well…
Go Make Art!