Never Ever Assume Anything!

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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.

Fabric Art by Pam Collins showing a woman facing leftWell, 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!