December 31, 2008

My to-do list for 2009

2008 was a year that brought in some drastic changes in my personal life, that most of the time Art had to take a back seat. I quit my job and we have relocated to a different country couple of weeks ago and I am still settling down to the new place and most importantly, new weather! Its time for art again once all the dust settles down and here is a preliminary list of what I'd like to accomplish this year.
A collage of all ATCs done for a recent Art Trade
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan
1. Participate in all the VSDs this year - I love the Virtual Sketch Date and look forward to it every month. Though I started late this year, I hope I don't miss a month next year.
2. Participate in at least 10 Different Strokes projects -I love this project mainly because of the references that Karin chooses, they make wonderful subjects. She also sets the bar higher each time and motivates the fellow participants. The DSFDF project runs fortnightly, and I hope to make it on time for at least 10 out of a possible 24.
3. Paint a series of photos from my Europe trip - I had visited a lot of towns during my visit this summer and had taken loads of reference images. I'd like to start working on them instead of the photos just lying around. This would be a collection of series, with photos from every single place we went to.
4. Start selling from my blog - I have done some preliminary research and will start posting smaller works for sale. I plan to commence this shortly, in the earlier part of 2009 itself. It will be a part of this blog or I might have a separate blog for sales, I am yet to finalize on that. To start with, I will be selling Realistic Landscapes/Cityscapes done in Acrylics, around the size 8 * 10 inches.
5. Not to have an unfinished painting in my studio - this is more to do with a work culture. I have this habit of working on multiple paintings at once. When the count is withint 2 or 3 this is manageable but when the number shoots up too high, it ends up in a mess. Having seen first hand how messy things can get, I decided I need to get rid of this habit, once and for all.
6. Work on my portrait and figure drawing skills - I commit to do a minimum of 1 portrait each month, which makes it 12 for the year. If there is time, I shall do more. I also commit to work on different media for these portraits. They would be done in colored pencil, Acrylics, Graphite, and maybe in Ink as well.
7. Do some plein-air painting - I'd like to give plein air painting a shot this year. I greatly admire several artists who work plein-air and I think it will change my whole approach to a painting in handling the details and color. I know its ridiculous that I am not committing to a specific number of paintings I plan to do, but I can assess that better once I make a start.
8. Go a little easy on Art Trades - I love ATC trades, and I am quite addicted to them. I tend to jump in at the first chance if there is a trade happening, and most of the times I do this without assessing my current work load properly. While trades are great fun, they tend to take away a lot of time from my own art. I do not want to do more than two trades this year.
There are other things related to working habit, like making time for art everyday and sketching something or the other, those I don't think need to be mentioned here explicitly.
Have a colorful New Year and may all your dreams come true!

December 30, 2008

As another year goes by...

This is what I started the year with, making a set of goals for 2008. Now that we are at the end of the year, I think it's time to revisit them. Broadly speaking, it makes no sense for me to go over each of the plans and see if I have achieved them. I did not have any time for art for half the year, and most of the work this year was done in the last 3 months. However, there have been some positives worth mentioning.

Prehistoric Trade Cards
A collage of ATCs from a recent Prehistoric Trade
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan
1. Getting better at composition - I read a couple of books on composition and design elements in paintings. It gave me a great idea into what exactly is meant by "planning" a painting and doing preliminary studies. I really think I have gotten better, and that's not just by reading a few books. I tried setting up my own still life arrangements, and was fairly successful with a couple of them.
The completed paintings don't show the many different alternate arrangements that were rejected outright, but that's where bulk of the learning lies. It has certainly helped me grow and it has changed the way I approach paintings.
2. Getting my self portrait and my daughter's done - The self portrait was done for a challenge on WetCanvas. I moved out of my country recently and wanted to present my mom with a portrait of my daughter. My motivation was higher than ever to get it done, because my mom would miss her granddaughter a lot and this was all I could do. I completed it within the available time and my mom is mighty pleased with it.
Between my self portrait that was done sometime in March, and my daughter's that was done in December, I think I have improved significantly. My daughter's was a much tougher portrait but I think I did much better there. I also had a chance to look back at my husband's portrait that I had done 5 years ago when he was still my boyfriend. It looks so ridiculous now, I seemed to have just scribbled something. I'd like to have another go at his portrait maybe in the coming year.
3. Sketching from life - it was one of my plans to sketch more from life with a stress on human figures. I took part in a sketchcrawl for this purpose and also did sketches of simple still life set up usings day today objects. Cannot say I have improved greatly, because I did not spend the kind of time required for it in the first place. One thing is after the sketchcrawl, I did not sketch figures at all. I'd again like to spend time on it this year.
4. Participating in projects - I did 4 Art trades this year, and took part in the last 3 VSDs. I also did take part in 2 of the Different Strokes projects. Online projects are always great fun, besides offering some great learning as well. This was something I had not planned for at the beginning of the year, but was glad it came across.
5. Working from reference photos - Reading some books on composition and paying closer attention to composition has helped me work better with reference photos. In the last 3 months or so, I have stopped working from references from others. I have switched to using my own sketches or photos for my paintings and I am loving it so far. I'd like to continue this way and completely stop using images from others.
The biggest plus this year was my visit to several museums in Europe, during my trip this summer. It was a huge learning experience for me. Can't say it was a great year, and I certainly look forward to a much better year in 2009. Lots more art to come.

December 18, 2008

My Masterpiece

Ever since my daughter was born in mid 2006, it has been my wish to paint her. If I had captured every pose that I wanted, my house would be running out of space now. I never got to doing it though, as I was too apprehensive to try my hand at her. Whether the artist in me was good enough to satisfy the mom in me was the big question. No matter what the artist did, the mom would always feel that justice has not been done to the original masterpiece.

Anyway after mustering sufficient courage, I went ahead with it, near life size. The piece measures 20 * 30 inches. Capturing her million dollar smile was such a big challenge. Her naughty smile and her endearing eyes took much more time than I ever imagined. Neither the artist nor the mom are satisfied, for obvious reasons. While the artist feels there is always scope some improvement, the mom is quite convinced no artist can ever match her precious princess. :-)

My Masterpiece
Acrylics on Canvas, 20 * 30 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

This would not have been possible without the help of my dad, who was guiding me through every step and was pointing out minor mistakes and suggesting changes. After every time when I thought I had got the resemblance right, my dad would point out at least 2 mistakes, and so it was a very slow progress. I should quickly add though, that he did not touch the canvas and it is entirely mine.

I posted the portrait on WetCanvas and got some very valuable feedback. Almost everyone felt that the foot was oversized. It was pointed out by my dad too earlier, but since I was too engrossed in getting her face right, I did not pay attention to the foot. Also, when the see the image in real, since the canvas is quite large, the proportion did not strike me. It looked terrible though when I saw the image on my system, in a smaller size. I have now corrected the foot, made it more like a baby's than mine :-D I also made the face a tad more chubby, just one more stroke and I feel it has made a huge difference. See the updated version below.

My Masterpiece - updated
Acrylics on Canvas, 20 * 30 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

This painting has been done from a photo of my little girl on her first birthday, so she is all dressed up wearing the traditional South Indian attire. I hope I get to paint a little more of her. Your comments are welcome.

December 13, 2008

December Virtual Sketch Date

This time the VSD is held much earlier so as to accomodate the holiday season. I loved the reference, the two little cottages and the snow. But I wasn't entirely happy with the white background and foreground and wanted to give it more color. So I decided to make it an early evening shot instead of the good daylight shot that it is in the reference.

Winter Evening - Acrylics on Canvas, 9 * 12 inches
copyright Nithya Swaminathan

Check out all the entries in the Virtual Sketch Date blog on Sunday, 14th Dec. Your comments and critiques are welcome.

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