Do something, anything!

Do Something, Anything! Getting Started…On My Self Portrait

One of my 2018 New Year Resolutions is to PAINT MORE. I want to get in the studio and do something! I spend a lot of time on my computer – responding to email queries and enquiries, and writing blogs but also, for the last six months or so, sitting for hours editing and preparing videos for my next online course. And sometimes, it seems that I’m just not painting. Argh. So today is blog writing day and I wanted to share something about my pastel work. So, it was a good reason to get into the studio and do something.

So there I was this morning, in the studio, and stuck. I was overwhelmed by the many choices of subject matter. Sooooo many possibilities!

Time was of the essence so I did what I always recommend to others when they’re staring at a blank canvas – do something, anything!! I grabbed a used piece of UART paper and with pipe insulation, brushed the pastel around to create an overall surface of colour.

Do something, anything! Original piece of UART 240 with swatches from a teaching lesson

Original piece of UART 240 with swatches from a teaching lesson (on edges)

Now for the subject….a night scene? a dog walker? I had thumbnail sketches for both of these. Then I remembered the challenge I had set for this week’s Friday Challenge in the HowToPastel Facebook group – a self-portrait in profile. Yes, that’s what I’d do!

I love working from life best but a profile? Right now, it would take too much effort to set up mirrors. Time for a selfie…where I can’t see what I’m taking! I snapped a few, mostly missing the subject (me!) altogether, but here’s the one I worked from. Not very clear but good enough to grab some info from and get a quick pastel going.

 

Do something, anything! Reference photo - me in profile!

Reference photo – me in profile!

Do something! I then zoomed into the photo to try and see what's going on!

I then zoomed into the photo to try and see what was going on!

Time for a quick sketch to set out values and become familiar with the subject. I already knew the format I wanted to work with ie. the square of the UART paper.

Do something, anything! Quick thumbnail sketch with HB pencil, 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 in

Quick thumbnail sketch with HB pencil, 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 in

 

The initial drawing:

Do something, anything! Drawing in pencil on 6 x 6 in used UART 240 paper

Drawing in pencil on 6 x 6 in used UART 240 paper

 

Then I set the timer for 30 mins and off I went! I added a few more minutes at the end but here’s the whole process, step-by-step.

I went a bit crazy with the colours (all Unison), picking them as I needed them. I rarely go overboard like this but it was kinda fun to play in the jewel box!

 

Do something, anything! First colours applied. I was looking rarely at the photo and exaggerating any colours I saw there.

First colours applied. I was looking carefully at the photo and exaggerating any colours I saw there.

 

Do something, anything! Added in the dark areas quickly - just the big shape - with a dark purple.

With a dark purple, I added in the dark areas quickly – just the big shape.

 

Do something, anything! Started to add more pressure to the dark areas, added some darker indications on the face, and also began work on the eye.

Started to add more pressure in the dark areas, added some darker indications on the face, and also began work on the eye (argh). Used the negative space to carve out profile more accurately.

 

Do something, anything! Highlights added. These are the only light parts in the painting.

Highlights added. These are the only light parts in the painting.

 

Do something, anything! Tweaked everything - facial features, hair, background (added squiggle in charcoal to say something...)

Tweaked everything – facial features, hair, background (added squiggle in charcoal to say something…). Almost there.

 

Do something, anything! Decided to add some lighter strokes in the hair. Also changed the lighting on the cheek. And a few more final touches here and there. About 45 mins? Gail Sibley, "Me in Profile," Unison pastels on UART 240 grade, 6 x 6 in.

Decided to add some lighter strokes in the hair. Also changed the lighting on the cheek. And a few more final touches here and there. About 45 mins? Gail Sibley, “Me in Profile,” Unison pastels on UART 240 grade, 6 x 6 in.

 

And in black and white:

Do something, anything! Gail Sibley, "Me in Profile," Unison pastels on UART 240 grade, 6 x 6 in - in black and white

Gail Sibley, “Me in Profile,” Unison pastels on UART 240 grade, 6 x 6 in – in black and white

 

After 45 minutes, good enough!

 

And just because, here are the pastels I used:

Do something, anything! Unison pastels used

Unison pastels used. Yummy huh?!

 

So that’s how I deal with overwhelm – do something, anything!!! Pick up a pastel, make a mark, and off you go! Yes, I know, easy to say, harder to do. But it really can work! Try it and see what happens!

 

I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment. Was this idea helpful? Β Was the step-by-step progression of use? And also, let us know what are the ways you overcome that feeling of not knowing where to start or what to do once you do get into the studio.

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. I wrote an earlier blog called Just DO!

PPS. Β An impressionist guest blogger awaits you next week!

 

 

20 thoughts on “Do Something, Anything! Getting Started…On My Self Portrait

  1. Kimberly

    This was helpful. I always start off with grand ideas and then when time to execute I don’t know what to do and I get confused. It is better to just go in and do something!!!! I like how this turned out. I think I will try it myself.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks Kimberly. Yes, a ton of ideas can actually be worse than having none at all! It can be overwhelming. So try making marks on paper and soon you’ll find yourself thinking about a particular piece you want to do. It will help show you the direction for that day. Yes, do something, anything!!
      And for sure try a self-portrait in profile!

      Reply
  2. Steve Morales

    Gail,
    Very cool! Your work always looks so fresh and spontaneous. Question: Why did you choose the green on the chin and lower cheek?
    Steve Morales

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks so much Steve!!
      Answer: I actually saw the green in the photo. Remember I said I exaggerated the colour I saw? Well take a look at the photo and compare the colour on the cheek and chin with the upper part of the face. Can you see that it leans more towards green than orange say? I don’t think about the colour but rather I try to paint what I see. Make sense?
      I’ve added a closer photo under the original one so you can see what I mean.

      Reply
  3. Jean Sullivan

    Wow. Thanks, Gail. Loved seeing your process on this. I may not get the challenge complete because of the mirrors problem and I’m painting from life until the end of the month, but if I have time I’ll sneak this in between doing life paintings/sketches.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks Jean. It was pretty funny trying to take a selfie without looking at myself. Half the time I missed capturing the mirror altogether!
      Good for you painting from life for the month – there’s nothing like it! But yeah, try and squeak this one in. It can be small and quick!!

      Reply
  4. Curtis Eley

    That was fun….loved watching the progression….and the color exaggeration! The likeness was spot on as well!! I like it when other artists show their progression AND their reference photos. Especially like to see how the painting differs from the reference photo….what was left in or out; how something was changed…

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks Curtis!! Glad it was helpful. And yeah, since I was working from a photo rather than life, it definitely made sense to include the reference photo. Like you, I love seeing what artists leave in and leave out – can be illuminating sometimes!

      Reply
  5. Paige Axelrood

    Gail – I love your painting – fabulous colour, loose, expressive, creative and dynamic! The progression is very helpful. And, your black and white translated image perfectly captures the values. Thank you! I hope to try this in the months ahead. It will certainly be a new experience for me.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks Paige! I hope you do try it. It was really fun to push the colour and get the marks down. Like I said, I put on the timer and went for it. So I didn’t have time at the end to pick away at it πŸ˜€

      Reply
  6. Val

    You are so right about just do something….ANYTHING!!! lol I found myself in a real quandary a few weeks ago. I am pretty new to pastel and just want to try everything and end up doing….nothing. So I picked out a small box of pastels and a song played on my computer. ‘Starry Night’. That’s it! I’m going to paint a Vincent!!! I did much to my amazement. I painted Cypress and Corn Field. The colours are off as I wouldn’t allow myself to switch any. If I do say so myself I was and still am pretty impressed!
    Thanks Gail, I find you so inspiring and great fun watching your videos. Hoping to try one of your online courses soon.
    Cheers, Val

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Hah Hah Val!! I so know that feeling of paralytic overwhelm!! That’s basically what I was facing before I started in on the self portrait. And that’s an awesome way to get started!! Thank you for sharing. It’s amazing what can get the juices flowing when we surrender to the process rather than resisting it.

      Thanks for your kind words. Pastels 101 is coming in a couple weeks!!!

      Reply
  7. Ruth Burley

    Thanks Gail! I enjoyed the progression! I love the fact that you use unconventional colors for your portrait! I want to do more of that – colors, I mean. Haven’t jumped into portraits yet. That’s coming some time this year. Thanks again!!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks Ruth! I guess they could be considered unconventional colours in the big picture but they are conventional for me. What I mean by that is those are the colours I reach for first. I know I can always tone them down if I have to. So jump in! Pastels are soooo forgiving and allow for easy changing up! Look forward to seeing what you do with portraits πŸ™‚

      Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Glad you are finding lots to keep you reading and looking at my blog Rosie πŸ˜€ It was so fun using those colours. As I always say, you can always mute bright colours so why not start there?!

      Reply

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