Confessions of an Obsessive Compulsive Artist

1. Jun, 2016

I haven't stopped lately!  I feel like I've been eating, sleeping, breathing art, so I thought I'd give those of you who are interested a little glimpse into what I do on my ever increasing work days.  

A typical day for me starts at 6am, when I get up to feed all our animals and make the old man a cup of tea.  Once dressed, I sit and go through my emails and facebook messages and answer as many messages as I can.  

Then comes the dreaded school rush, scrambling to get the kids dressed, fed and out of the door in time for school and preschool.  Once they've been dropped off, I usually then have a meeting with some one, be it, the gallery, a new client or a venue for me to exhibit at.  

When meeting is over, its home to 'process' the contents of my earlier meeting and then back to my drawing board, ignoring the piles of washing up by the sink and the lego strewn across the floors (yes, in every room 😞).  I then spend the next few hours working on my latest commission and answering any other enquiries coming in.  Before I know it, it's time to collect the kids, rush home and put the dinner on, which sometimes buys me another hour to work on my commission.  

If I happen to finish the commission, after dinner I take photos of it and email the client for approval and wait nervously for agonising minutes, hours, sometimes days for a reply, which is always a good reply, but its still nerve wracking!  I don't take the commission off the drawing board until I get approval.  If I do get approval, then its the admin again, invoicing, emailing and making sure the books are up to date and accurate.  

When the kids are finally in bed, I can then relax a bit, which is usually around 8pm, but I'm still thinking, researching exhibitions, references for pieces to exhibit and sorting things out or ordering things lkke flyers etc for upcoming events.  I also take that opportunity to keep up with the marketing side, before crashing into bed.   It is a real hurdle to switch off 😵 and before I know it, it's 6am again!  

 Being a full time artist is my favourite job in the world, but it's bloomin' hard work 😃.

 

 

8. Apr, 2016

I did it!  I stayed awake and drew for a solid 24 hours to raise funds for an amazing charity and awareness for the missing dogs that I drew. 

I got the idea that I wanted to do something about a year ago, but couldn't quite figure out how it would work, so I put it on the back burner until, to my absolute horror, a dog was stolen from someone I knew.  

My family have owned dogs, they were part of the family and when they passed on they left a huge hole in our lives, which is still there to this day.  We know they were happy to the very end and they knew they were loved by the people around them, which, I hope gave them some comfort when they said goodbye.  But, when a dog is stolen from their loved ones, it leaves the family distraught, not knowing if they are safe.  There is nothing the families can do except spread the word and hope their beloved pet is found and brought back to them. 

When Bean went missing, a huge campaign ensued and I found myself feeling helpless and frustrated that this could happen.  I had to do something and then it hit me and the 24 hour drawathon was born.

I have drawn countless dog portraits over the years and therefore know how important they can be to families, particularly where their dog is no longer with them.   I approached Beans owner about the idea and she and her family were over the moon to be asked.  Thankfully only during the next few days, Bean was found and by this time word had spread about the project and more owners of missing dogs came forward to be involved.

Whilst doing the drawathon, I had one moment of complete exhaustion, but it was those dogs and their owners that got me through.  I knew how important it was to them, which was motivation enough.

The other aspect of the drawathon was raising funds for Kit Wilson Trust for animal welfare, www.kitwilsontrust.org.uk.   They rely solely on donations to care for animals that have no families of their own.  Our pets came from Kit Wilson, my sister volunteered there when she was younger and came home with a rabbit.  We have a long history with them and the quality of their care for the animals has never faultered.  

I am pleased to say I managed to raise over £500 for Kit Wilson, which they have told me will go directly to the care of the dogs at the centre.  

It was challenging, it was hell at one point, it was fulfilling, rewarding and made a difference. Awareness for the missing dogs has increased and I hope sincerely that they and all the others currently missing will be reunited withtheir families.  Details of the dogs are on my facebook page www.facebook.com/katjenningsartist and here are some more facebook pages to look at and share to get these dogs home:

www.facebook.com/where'srafiki?

www.facebook.com/findfern

www.facebook.com/helpfindharlow   

19. Feb, 2016

I have recently been upgrading my work station to make my life a bit easier as a portrait artist.  

I have been working on my dining table whilst the kids are either at school or in bed, but the obvious downside was getting tedious as I have been getting busier, so I invested in a proper artists table and made myself somewhere permanent to work.

Whilst searching the web for the best deals an ad popped up for an artists projector.  This is a tool that a lot of artists use, particularly in portraiture, to ensure the proportions are accurate.  The use of such equipment dates back in art as long as art itself.  Some well known artists such as Carvaggio, used obscured glass to project their subjects image onto the wall so they could effectively trace the image.  

This is an extremely contraversial subject in the art world, with many considering it to be a cheat, but so many professionals use them.  So, when this ad appeared, I was so very tempted. I have never used any tools to help me with accuracy or proportions.  All my portraits are drawn by eye, with all the agony that it comes with.  Not using any form of tool for accuracy, such as the projector, the grid system or the plumb line, adds on at least two hours to each of my portraits.   But, as agonising as that is, is it a bad thing really?

From a cost perspective, it's not great.  The longer a portrait takes, the less per hour I get paid.  However, if I didn't go through this stage and was able to quickly sketch out an acurate outline, would I achieve the same end result?  

Another reservation I have is that I get so used to using a projector, I lose the ability that I have honed over the past 20 years, to draw by eye.  If I lose that ability, how can I then draw infront of people.  

You will see the portrait I have chosen to go with this blog post is 'Leo'.  This was drawn by me last spring, from start to finish, in the middle of a busy cafe, with people watching me whilst drinking tea and eating cake.  This took me 5 and a half hours approximatly.  I have been told by it's recipients that it looks so like Leo, it's like he's still alive.  Do  I want to mess with that ability?  

Well, for now, I've decided I don't want to.  I want to push myself further and try to keep getting better without these aids.  

What do you think?  How would you feel if you had ordered a portrait and found out after that a projector had been used for initial accuracy?  I'd be interested to hear your views.   

12. Feb, 2016

I know it's nearly March now, but after the Christmas break it's taken me this long to fully get back into the swing of things.  I've been side tracked with sick relatives, house decorating and the ongoing social calendars of my children.  

It really shows how much of a difference a long break between drawing sessions makes to the ability and confidence.  I've always said that drawing every day is a must in order to keep up and develop drawing skills and it turns out......I was right!  

 

I started the new year with my first commission, which, it has to be said, took longer than I expected and didn't go quite as smoothly as I anticipated either.  I spent hours just getting the proportions right, not to mention the likeness, before laying any colour down.  It's like I had forgotten how to do it.  This was not a good start to the year, having booked in an unprecedented amount of commissions for the year ahead already, I started to panic.  Yes my old friend panic had returned.  I'd missed that dear friend that pushed me to the edge of insanity before I managed to claw my way back.  

Now, normally I would have a complete meltdown at this point, which would include the door slamming, tears of frustration, rocking in the corner, pencil in hand wondering how I managed to do any drawing worth money before this.  But not this time.  No, it was a new year, I am a prize winning, professional artist with work in a gallery, I can't be behaving like this any more. I powered through the emotions and turned my thoughts positive.  The old rule of 'The Process' flashed into my mind and I realised I was just out of practice.  My head had been too cluttered with other things and focus was needed.  I knuckled down and got it done.

 

After that first hurdle of the year my next commission went a lot better and my confidence level soaring so high I've made a time lapse video of me drawing it (to be posted on facebook soon).  

 

I felt like I'd put on a pair of my favourite old boots, I was back, it feels great 😊. 

15. Dec, 2015

Posthumous portraits are probably a bit of a gloomy subject to write about at this time of year, but to me they are very fitting for Christmas.  

 

This year a friend of mine asked me to draw her a picture that was always going to be a tricky subject.  Indeed it was and one that sent both of us on an emotional roller coaster.  

Her mother died 25 years ago, when my friend was very young.  She has vague memories of her mother and a few old photos, so asked if I would create a pencil portrait of her.  She had mixed emotions when placing the order and wasn't totally sure how she would react at the finished piece.  

Drawing the portrait stirred a lot of feelings, which surprised me.  It could be because, being a mother myself, the thought of leaving my children at such a young age is heart wrenching.  It was this that made me want to finish it in time for Christmas, so she could be with her family once again at a time when family should be together.  

As I always say for every portrait, it's a process.  A process of proportions, position, light and shade, adjustments, observation and layers.  This portrait, however, was not just about those things.  It was about reuniting a mother with her daughter after many years apart.  

Posthumous portraits are one of the hardest things an artist will do.  With old photos, taken with a non-digital camera and a specific image of how they are remembered to the client, it is up to us to strike a balance between the two, but in the most sensitive way.  It is also about patience, as the client hasn't really seen their loved one for a long time in some cases, so they need time to readjust and get to know their loved one again.  It sounds like we artists bring people back to life and although it's just a drawing, it is an image that can stir many emotions when immotalised in graphite.  There's more emotion and meaning attached to it, more sentimentality, more feeling.  

It took my friend a couple of days to really figure out how she felt about the portrait and I was happy to give her that time.  I am pleased to say, she now loves it.

 I feel blessed to be given the opportunity of reuniting a mother and daughter through my art, particularly at Christmas.  It feels as though, through the presents, the food, the cards and carols, what really matters is being with the ones you love, whether still here or passed on, thats the true Christmas Spirit.  

 

Merry Christmas all,  Katharine xx