Abstract Figures

Color, Design, Figure & Portrait, JenArt, Oil, People

Last week I took a 3-day workshop on abstracting figures. I’ve been wanting to really loosen up in my work and have this idea of just slapping on paint, stepping back, and voila, I’ve created a masterpiece! While I know that’s a pipedream, I’d like to work towards it anyway. So, this workshop was exactly what I needed to push me in the right direction.

Our instructor, Leslie Masters, is a wonderful older lady whose been around forever and styles herself in the most quirky bright-colored clothing; all shades of pinks and oranges! She tough but sweet at the same time and you can tell she really knows her stuff!

The first day we talked about Picasso and Matisse and started with contoured line drawings of faces from magazines. I chose a beautiful Asian model and copied her face onto tracing paper starting with simple line, more detailed line, straight lines, and curved lines. From there, we chose one to paint, using bold blocky strokes focusing on the value and shapes. Below are my classmates works from the first day:

The following day we began with looking at Pop Art especially Peter Max. I was not familiar with his work and didn’t really care for his style; flat, colorful with black outlines – very cartoony, 70’s psychedelic; think Beatles Yellow Submarine.

Our task for the morning was to work with a partner and transfer an outline of our profile onto a canvas, then create a bubbly landscape in the background that followed the curvy lines from our portrait. I must have missed the memo, because I used straight lines to create my background. I didn’t get too far with the painting and I’ll probably gesso over this one and use the canvas for something else. However, I loved the way some of my classmates turned out. Here is my partially finished design/painting.

In the afternoon we created figure collages based on images from magazines focusing on the large shapes. Next, we painted the figures in an environment – channeling the abstract artist Richard Diebenkorn.

The third and final day was really fun!! We were channeling de Kooning and our task was to create a large, loose, messy, abstract figure painting using house paints and large brushes. I chose to paint from a favorite picture of my young son when he was about 4 years old. Below is the original picture and my abstract interpretation: my pièce de résistance!

In the afternoon, we each took turns showcasing our works from the three days and gave a brief synopsis of what we learned, what we liked / didn’t. It was a great foray into abstraction; I learned several ways to approach the subject without feeling overwhelmed, great techniques to get started, and about several abstract artists. Now, I can take what I learned and hopefully approach my paintings a bit looser. We’ll see, stay tuned!

Continuous Line Drawing

Design, Drawing, JenArt, Life, Pen & Ink

A few weeks ago I was paging through the enormous Winter catalog of our local high-end, up-scale mall: Somerset Collection. This “tome” is basically a super-charged glossy Vanity Fair magazine on steroids, with ads from Versace, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Burberry, Gucci, etc. You get the picture; it’s our little slice of Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive or Paris’ Champs-Elysees right here in the Mid-West.

As I was drooling over the beautiful clothes and accessories, gagging over others, and laughing at the teeny-tiny corner descriptions that state the specifics like amount$$$, I came across a really cool ad. I have no idea what it was for, there was no teeny-tiny description in the corner just a .com address which I accidentally tore through.

It was simply a continuous line drawing done in black against a solid white background and it really struck me: here was this elegant advertisement that stood out like a beacon of simplicity against all the extravagance and opulence and it was beautiful.

This beautiful ad became my muse for the evening and I set out to explore continuous line drawing for myself. I’d been wanting a good excuse to use my new set of Prismacolor® Premier Fine Line Markers I purchased a while back but hadn’t yet broken the seal. Against the 6″x6″ Strathmore® Bristol Artist Tiles, they flew with ease; it was a perfect marriage.

This was fun! Next I experimented with Black India Ink® on Strathmore® 6″x6″ Watercolor Artist Tiles. I used a technique I had learned in my Figure Class. You use 3 – 4 gradations of ink and water to show the different values. Using a silly selfie from a girls weekend (that’s one post that will never see the light of day:)). I started laying in the values while practicing my portrait skills. It was a quick fun piece. The nose is completely messed up but I like it!

Girls Weekend Selfie
6″x 6″ Black India Ink on Strathmore Watercolor Artist Tile

It was a fun creative night inspired by a simple line drawing in an outrageous, overpriced, opulent catalog. Usually I just toss it in the recycle bin, but for some reason I hung on to this one — funny how things work out sometimes.


Design, Life

Afterhours, or as I affectionately refer to it now, as the BEAST, was our final class project for Rendering class. We had to design a restaurant bar within a very large space given a set of parameters and constraints, just as in the real world. I was very pleased with my final presentation and received a good grade, but the hours and tears put into it were countless!

It was March – Spring Break time in college.  I had the opportunity to go with friends to Florida if I finished this a bit early. I still remember working through the night, but to no avail, it wouldn’t be done in time! I was so frustrated with myself and with these classes!

This was not the first all-nighter nor the first time I missed out on something fun. I hadn’t signed up for medical school, this was Interior Design for goodness sake! Everyone seemed to have a life except me! Was it all worth it? I was beginning to doubt it. When I turned in the project, I realized that mine was so much more detailed than most of my classmates. My perfectionism had gotten the best of me AGAIN!

Afterhours Presentation

Live & Learn

Color, Design

Our second major assignment was to design a small space to be used for both living and learning, such as a student. I imagined if I had my own place what it might look like: a small one-bedroom apartment with the basic amenities plus two cats.

It’s crazy how much technology has changed in twelve years! I’m sure the ID students today are rendering giant flat screen TVs instead of tiny televisions and they surely aren’t rendering speakers hanging on the wall!

(Side note: Why did I choose a hot pink wall? I hate hot pink!)

Live & Learn Presentation

Fantasy Façade

Design, Life

For this project, we had to design our own fantasy home. The Fantasy Façade was one of my favorite assignments. I incorporated many of my wish list features. I have always wanted to live in a large cottage-in-the-woods type of home surrounded by large beautiful trees. The exterior is natural stone masonry with a large double door entryway. On the second level, french doors open to an expansive balcony off the master suite. Inside, a giant living room fireplace is made of stone for those chilly nights. An indoor/outdoor sauna and hot-tub for relaxing are a must have.

I have often wondered if one day I’ll actually find my fantasy house just the way little Susan did in the Christmas classic, Miracle on 34th Street.

Kris Kringle if you’re out there…

Color & Rendering

Color, Design
8″ x 11″ Marker on Paper

As part of the Interior Design program, we took classes on color theory and rendering by hand. We didn’t have fancy computer programs that did the work for us and I’m glad for it!  Rendering allows you to convey your ideas to clients in a visual manner by making presentations appear realistic and three-dimensional. For example, when looking at your presentation, a client should be able to tell what colors and materials, e.g. wood, stone, cloth, leather, metal, etc. are being used.

For this assignment, we had to recreate the missing half of a photograph. On the right-hand side is the photo and on the left is my rendering.


Design, Life

In 1989 I began my Interior Design classes at Michigan State University. I’ll never forget my first class assignment: creating a complete design, from soup to nuts, for a new restaurant to be housed in a renovated library in Massachusetts. The task seemed enormous! What had I gotten myself into? I knew I could draw and paint but I had never tapped into this side of my creativity before. It would prove to be a challenge! My first board was basically rejected by the professor. I was so angry with her, but even more so, disappointed with myself! After swallowing my pride I took another stab at it and this time ended up with a very nice result and a good grade to boot! The images below are my final boards submitted throughout the term.

The first task was to create a name and come up with a theme that would tie the whole design together. I settled on the name Binders and added: “Your Intelligent Choice In Fine Dining” which represented the main theme.

Once the theme was determined, it was time to design the wallpaper and carpet. It seemed simple enough, boy was I wrong! After many painstaking hours of looking at carpet and wallpaper samples, considering the theme, location, and a million other little details, I settled on an elegant flower and leaf pattern. I created a template for both, transferred them, and drew in the remaining details. Then it was time to add color. Simple, right?  I’ll spare you the gory details such as: markers drying up half-way through, running to the store at the 18th hour only to find that the colors don’t match; working on the “wrong” side of the paper; accidentally coloring outside a line and having to start all over, AGAIN; running out of supplies; hand-cramping, starving, sleep-deprivation, etc…

Next came the design of the menu. Although this task was less fraught with problems, it was very time-consuming. For those of you not familiar with Interior Design, it is a very PRECISE art form. Professors expect perfection, especially in lines, lettering, measurements, etc. Don’t even get me started with drafting!

The last part of the assignment was to design the packaging; one small and one medium box, and a take-out bag. Of course we couldn’t run to the nearest Hallmark and modify existing packages, we had to create them, from scratch. It was accomplished by scoring and folding the heavy weight paper in just the PRECISE fashion. Once created, it was time to apply the design (Refer to Gory Details of Wallpaper and Carpet).

Needless to say, I survived! Which I think is the goal of some of these intro classes – to weed out those who aren’t tough enough (or crazy enough) to complete the program. And I learned a great deal about design, materials, construction, and myself!