Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lieutenant progress and masks

Edit 5/24/2010: This entry contains a revision of a painting, based on some helpful suggestions by Linda, who commented on some anatomical issues. Thanks!

I am going to put more effort to be active in my blog. There's lots going on artistically and I haven't been posting any of it!

As many of you know, I paint mostly birds, or winged creatures. My 'people drawing skills' are at a different level (lower) than my avian abilities, which I waffle between "ughhh I need to practice more figure drawing!" and "ughhh I don't care I'll just crawl into my safe cave and keep painting birds." Of course, we all know the second choice is not acceptable! My problem, I believe, is one with perception. I'm not quite sure why, but I just have the hardest time understanding the human form, despite years of figure drawing.

I've read books on bone and muscle structure, drawn nude models, studied references, but when it comes time to put pencil to paper, it's all warped - out of proportion. I know the 'rules' but it's difficult for me to actually put it on paper. That is of course no excuse to simply give up! And so I am trying to work more with the human form, even if it feels like pulling teeth sometimes.

Below is a progress image of my latest painting, Lieutenant. Consider the giant gryphon a support mechanism for the trauma that came with drawing a human! (I kid, I kid...sort of):

And the final image (revised per a suggestion from Linda):

I am well aware that there are still some 'distortions' with the figure, though I think it's a step forward compared to my previous work. You would think Connecticut would be full of figure drawing opportunities, though a search left me with very few, with the closest being about 50 miles away! Hopefully I will find some so I can get back to practice.

I have also been working on more leather masks. This one is another 'tribute' mask to a tree species that fell due to an introduced disease. The American Chestnut used to be one of the most plentiful trees in the eastern United States. By the 1940s, they had been virtually wiped out by a blight introduced earlier in the century. Now, the only American Chestnuts that exist are in the western United States, and efforts to introduce blight-resistant chestnuts to the eastern part of the country are underway.

My most recently created mask was based on a painting I did for Hayley Lavik (which you can see in her banner), of a mask based on a celebration in her story. Below you can see the original painting (set with a stone) that I completed several months back, and the completed, 3-dimensional mask, set with a sodalite cabochon, and adorned with rice pearls:

It was a challenge to translate a 2-dimensional image into a 3-dimensional mask. I had to change a few elements, such as the thin curls (as they would have been near impossible to create in thick leather), but I think it retains the feeling of the original design.


  1. I think the lieutenant looks good :)
    If you want some feedback I think that her breasts are placed a little too high. Remember the "top" of the breast is placed at the same height as the armpit and "bottom" is about halfway down the upper arm.
    If that makes any sense ^^
    Love the blue mask! Looks very much like the original concept :)

  2. Hi Linda, thank you so much for your suggestions! The chest area of the female form is another place I tend to have difficulty. I never quite made the connection between the placement of the breast being between the armpit (top) and the arm.

    I did some alterations to her chest area, as well as her waist, and reuploaded the image. When I moved her breasts down, I realized her waist was a bit too narrow. Thanks again for your input!