Category: Art

The Time it Takes

Time.

I often ponder on time. My time, the time I have to do or accomplish certain things, the time I get to spend with my kids, family and friends. Time for myself, time for exercise, time to dream. I never realised how much time would go into planning my time and deciding how much time to spend on each of my priorities (that includes writing 5 school speeches this week and attending rugby matches). And as an artist, time takes on a new dimension.

The challenge is that the longer a piece takes, the less its actually worth. With each passing hour my wage per hour reduces and the fact of the matter is that I will in all likelihood never really earn what I spent in hours.

Pastel Waterbuck Painting
‘Kobus’ 40cm x 60cm Pastel Pencils on Pastelmat

Having attempted to be more ‘loose’ and spend less time on detail has proved to be a disaster. What you don’t see is that behind the scenes I am also trying different other mediums, attempting different subjects and playing around. Not a lot – those commissions are waiting for me you know – but just trying something different here and there. Trying to see if there is another way to add to my income. The fact of the matter is that this is my only income.

Having tried different things I have come to one not-so-astounding (at this point) conclusion. I love detail. I flourish on trying to get the hair just right, creating the texture on a nose or horn. I just love discovering details in my subjects that I’ve never noticed, exploring the feeling of the detail, imagining what touching them would feel like. That is me – I am the can’t-back-down-from-detail freak.

Drawing vs Photo
‘Kobus’ Drawing vs Reference Photo

Detail takes time.

Detail doesn’t allow fat sloppy lines and a couldn’t-care-less attitude. Detail is patient and precise. Detail sometimes doesn’t allow me to sleep 8 hours.

In the end I want to create art that I am proud of. Art that is me, art that combines a sensitive hand with a love for all things alive. I want to capture the essence and grace of our animal kingdom – whether its a well-loved dog of questionable breed or a majestic kudu.

And that takes time.

Bespoke Pet Portraits

I have been very blessed recently to book quite a few Pet Portrait Commissions – to the extent that I actually now have a waiting list! I am so thankful for the support and trust.

For those who don’t know – I used to be a photographer. One of the things I loved most about being a photographer was the knowledge that I was capturing memories that would last a lifetime. In a way it feels like doing these portraits is a little like that too and it really warms my heart. I am having fun capturing the furry kids of the world in pastel pencil!

These are my most recent completed portraits and I am already working on a horse portrait for another client.

For progress photos please follow me on Facebook and Instagram and contact me if you are interested in having your own pet’s portrait commissioned. I will assist you with choosing the best images for the artwork and give some tips and tricks on how to get them!

Pencil Blessings

One Moment of Insane Courage

Have you ever read a phrase that just embedded itself in your mind even though you cannot really remember the context?

Last week an artist friend of mine asked me how I market my work and there it was, popping into my mind like a Perdespookbossie.  Also referred to as the Candelabra flower, they seemingly pop up out of the earth with a head of dark reddish pink flowers.  Once dry they roll around (presumably scaring horses in the process!) like a tumble weed, scattering their seeds.

My tumbleweed came out of nowhere: I market via one moment of insane courage.  It started me thinking though.  A lot of what we do as artists are moments of insane courage.  Even taking the leap to identifying yourself as an artist takes courage – it means putting yourself and your vision and your interpretation out there in the world for people to see and, well, lets face it: judge.

More often than not we don’t even need the judgement of others as we are usually our own worst critics.  But as I have mentioned before, we cannot evolve and develop without a measure of self criticism.

You might find yourself facing fear of a different kind when presented with a new challenge – something simple like an item you have never drawn, a medium you have never used or an audience you didn’t prepare for.  Yet it is in accepting those challenges and facing your fears and just realising that the only way out is through that you discover courage and experience growth.  In those moments your boundaries shift, your intuitive artistic nature expands and you open a new world within yourself.  One moment of insane courage might just be saying yes when you want to shout no or drawing that first line when all you want to do is start a new drawing.

In my experience marketing yourself is very much the same.  The worst that can happen is a ‘no thank you’. Making peace with the negative responses means accepting that we are all different and that we are all entitled to prefer different versions of art.  A ‘no thank you’ shouldn’t ever be seen as personal – especially where art is involved.  Grab that moment and show your work, show yourself and you will be surprised at the amount of yesses that will follow in the wake.

There are moments when I am unsure whether its me or the courage that is insane, but I am thankful for those glimmering moments. Fear doesn’t stop bad things from happening and it certainly doesn’t stop failing – but it does stop life. In my life, art is life and my wish (as I mentioned on my Facebook page today) is that your love for being creative will always outweigh your fear of failure.

No go forth and make art!

Pencil Blessings

Drawing Tips: Pencil Facts | Part 3 – Caran d’Ache Luminance

Imagine applying pencil colour to paper… imagine the lead glides over the paper effortlessly, like a warm knife through soft butter, leaving a delicious line of vivid colour.  It might help that the beautifully made pencil does this with a suave Swiss accent!

Luminance – as the name suggests – sports an amazing array of 76 luminous colours.  What I love most about the Luminance colour range is the fact that they are really natural, soft shades often not found in other sets.  They are just so… usable – especially as a wildlife, or animal artist.

From an artist point of view this is the limousine of pencils.  The lightfastness ratings are spectacular ( have a look at my blog here on why that is important!) and the pencils sport a generous 3.8mm soft oil-based core that holds a point fairly well.  Luminance pencils blend exceptionally well with solvents and blenders and enables you to do multiple layers.  I also don’t find that wax bloom is a big problem when doing multiple layers, which is a real plus.

But there is one more trait that sets the Luminance pencil apart from other pencils (*drumroll*) – the fact that the light colours are so opaque that they actually are visible when applied over darker colours.  The Luminance white is viewed as one of the best white pencils around.

Colours are also available open-stock, which means you can buy singles instead of replacing an entire set when your Violet-Grey is reduced to the length of a peanut.

Not an artist?  There is no reason you cannot use a limousine to run to the corner café for milk and bread!  I imagine these must be absolutely heaven to colour with.  They apply and blend so smoothly that you might just become addicted to colouring!

Let’s chat about price then.  Caran d’Ache is a premium brand demanding a premium price, but having tested and used a myriad of pencils I can honestly avow that the Luminance pencil is worth every penny.  Their is a quality to the pencil that is unparalleled – both in build and pigment.  Even the packaging is impressive!

Neither Rome nor limousines are built in a day, so go out, buy a few colours and try them and don’t forget to get a white pencil (insider’s tip: use the white to blend colours together, then layer more colour on top to get a nice rich depth)…you know you want to!

I will be discussing pastel pencils, coloured pencils, paper and other odds and ends too, so keep an eye on my Facebook page for new blogposts.

In the meantime – here is a little look at some of the progress photos of ‘A Mother’s Love’ that I completed earlier this year.

Pencil-Blessings!

The Problem with Perfectionism

I read a quote the other day by Kim Collins: ‘Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection’.

As a self-confessed left brain creative, I admit that ‘perfection’ is something always on my mind.  I watch endless hours of youtube art channels by amazing artists who have, in my opinion anyway, attained that hallowed place where perfection meets art.  I watch how they effortlessly seem to simply put pencil to paper and create pieces of art imitating life in a way I have rarely seen. I analyse each moment, the way they hold the pencils, the direction they draw in, the colours they use.  On my screen the dogs and horses of the world come to life, the big cats seem ready to pounce and the birds ready to fly away.

With each drawing I focus on something that I want to be better in, whether it be a more realistic anatomically correct drawing, or maybe better contrast and shading, or simply using colour in a smarter way.  I spend eons staring at the reference image (yes – I work from reference images!) trying to recreate it.  I want it to be perfect, but I never seem to actually get to perfect.  Looking at the finished piece I concentrate on the flaws and when someone asks me to try a human face or an eagle I cringe away, too afraid that I won’t do it justice.

Right there perfectionism becomes my enemy.  When wanting to attain a level of perfection to such a degree that you shy away from even trying, perfectionism is no longer your friend.  And yes – guilty as charged!!

Then a funny thing happened.  Andre – the amazing human behind artsavingsclub.co.za, sent me a few tester pencils to review.  Included were two pastel pencils.  I have been a little hesitant to try pastel pencils as I know they can be messy, but I tried them and was immediately in love with the rich pigment.  Two pencils and I suddenly wanted more!  My mom, who has been slowly acquiring her own selection of pencils had purchased a set that proved difficult to colour with for the same reason – messy.  So, I swopped two sets of colouring pencils that I don’t use anymore for her pastel pencils, ordered a couple of my favourites from the other brand, patiently waited for the Pastelmat and there I was, ready to do it.  But of course, wanting to be perfect, I was afraid to do something big.  I decided on a Lilac-breasted Roller – smallish, bright and hey, I’ve done one before right?  So how hard could it be?

It ended up being more fun than I ever anticipated and I even used some of my other coloured pencils in between and it became a lovely experiment with no intention of being perfect.  I had no expectation and could enjoy the process of creating free from the burden of chasing perfection.

As I mentioned I had done a Lilac-Breasted Roller before, and that is where the biggest aha-moment happened.  I could directly compare the images and even I am able to admit the difference between the version I did late in 2016 and this one is big.  It might not be perfect, but there is a definite improvement and isn’t that what the pursuit of perfection is actually about?

So here I am making a midweek May 30th resolution – I am unfriending Perfect.  I am letting it go and focusing on the fun, and hopefully in another year-and-a-half I can draw another Lilac-Breasted Roller.

Would you like to see the difference?  I am cringing at the prospect of sharing this, but here goes.  Practice might not make perfect, but it does fuel improvement!

As a sidenote to this – notice the funny-looking white stuff on the 2016 image?  That is because I wasn’t using artist-quality archival mediums as I am now, but at that point I was just starting my drawing journey.  That however is a blogpost all on its own!

Now go out and create something that scares you silly!

What If?

Last night I sat until late packaging prints – I am delivering a whole batch tomorrow and I am very excited, but its been a lot of work trying to get the packaging, labels and certificates done and signed.  In the background I had music playing and while I worked I pondered.

What If? What if – just like the other times – I had set the proverbial pencil down again?

People often ask how the ‘drawing-thing’ happened.

“Did you always draw – from when you were a child?”

No, not really actually.  Though I distinctly remember being twelve and sitting at my desk in the corner of my room with the afternoon sun on my back and looking up at a photo of myself as a baby, and the sudden urge to draw it.  Using my simple HB pencil and a sheet of printing paper, I drew what could be deemed as my first and only self-portrait.  If I close my eyes I can still see that drawing in my mind, and I know it must still be somewhere in one of my boxes of childhood memories.  It was good I think.  My mom loved it – but then, she always was my most ardent supporter.  It looked like the photo, and I pinned it to my board – often thinking I should try something else but also mostly thinking that it might have been a fluke and wondering whether I would in fact be able to.  So I didn’t.

Years passed.

My son was small, a year or so old when I tried again.  I bought acrylic paint, two canvases and painted our cat.  He looked slightly skew, but it was a cat.  Then I painted a zebra, and again I felt happy with it.  Happy that it looked like a zebra, but frustrated that it lacked the detail I so love in wildlife art.  So yet again the paint and brushes were filed and I let it go.

More time passed.

About 3 or 4 years ago I tried charcoal, but found it too black – I discovered I like colour.  One day I walked into a shop and impulsively bought a set of coloured pencils.  I drew a bird or two and suddenly something clicked into place.  Over the next 2 years I drew a handful of images and started reading up on coloured pencil techniques.

And then, in January 2017 I decided to make a resolution – I was going to take my art more seriously.  Shutting my eyes as I swiped, I invested in artist quality pencils and paper.  This site is the result of that resolution.

So what if?  What if this time, like every other time, I allowed myself to be dissuaded by the doubts and fears.  What if my drive to do better had once again dimmed my spirit instead of fueling the need to learn.  What if in that one moment when the art dream was knocking on my door once again, I had decided that it was just that – a dream?  What if I missed out on the fun I am having now?

I am by no means where I want to be – I learn with each piece.  But it has awakened a part of my being that is floating deliriously happy at the prospect of each new drawing.  I have also by no means ‘arrived’ – a serious amount of water is needed to fill that dam.  But I am, quite literally, living the dream of building and filling that dam.

People often say that ‘what ifs’ shouldn’t be pondered,  but usually this is because of opportunities missed.  So don’t miss that bus.

Go out and chase your dream.  Open the door to that idea that keeps knocking on your door.  Pursue it with fervor and wild abandon, breathe it like you would air.

Shouldn’t we all have one excitingly idyllic dream to give life to?

What if you just did it?

Commissions

Good news – I am now accepting pet and wildlife commissions!

Basic commission pricing will be as follows for the Pastel original – this is for a single subject on a clean background (custom quotes will be done for additional subjects and/or more detailed backgrounds):

70cm x 50cm : Starting at R8500 – subject to quote

A3  (40cm x 30cm): Starting at R4800

A4: (24cm x 30cm): Starting at R2500

Commissions will be done using the highest quality mediums to ensure longevity.

I will need a well-lit high resolution image and at this point I am only accepting commissions of animals.  To reserve your spot, should there be a waiting list, a 50% booking fee will be required, as well as the completed commission contract.   The balance of the fee will be due on completion and acceptance of the portrait.

Send me a message via the handy contact form or email me at henriette@thecountrycreative.co.za

The story behind Tlou

Tlou is a very special drawing to me.

In October 2016 I had the privilege of visiting the Chobe region with my now-fiancé and our two boys.  During what felt like the peak of the drought we spent a few days at Senyati Lodge near Kasane.  What made Senyati special was the man-made waterhole and underground hide.  Climbing down into a narrow tunnel that runs underground to the hide, you could view the wildlife at the waterhole from only a few paces away – so close that the kids would come running to tell about an elephant bathing at the fountain – splattered with mud from said bath!  The unique vantage point also gave new perspective on these majestic creatures as they towered over us.  More than once my heart beat in my throat as one stepped closer and I could just imagine an elephant standing on the hide!

It was during one of these afternoons that I photographed Tlou.  Every afternoon literally dozens upon dozens of elephants would visit the oasis.  Around us the vegetation was scarce – with no rain the grass had dwindled to mere stubs here and there and the trees were mostly barren.  Around the waterhole it was green and lush.  This little guy came rushing into the patch of mud from the overflow and promptly started playing in the mud.  His tiny little trunk was going everywhere, swinging around and spraying mud just about everywhere aside from over his body!  We watched him for quite a while and ever since Christo and I would often just refer to ‘our little elephant’.

In the end I drew him for Christo and I am excited to share our little elephant Tlou with you!

Watch out for prints of Tlou available soon!

Much love

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