Begin. Again.

The past several months have certainly presented us all with challenges, but they’ve also offered surprising opportunities to draw and paint with artists who are generously teaching on their websites and other online platforms. Many are offering free sample lessons as a way to attract new paying students and that seems a very fair exchange to me. A few have led me to try new subjects or materials that I’d not been attracted to before.

For example, I’ve never been much interested in pencil drawing or depicting animals. But I produced this graphite image of a sheep from a Drawing Together session, using the instructor’s reference photo. I rather like the texture of the wool and grasses. Especially the grasses.

Peggy Willett’s version of a Drawing Together topic

As I try to find my own creative style or vision, I’ve also been working in pastel and watercolor, using my own reference photos and sketches. An ascending road in wooded hillside near my home intrigues me but my paintings of it, so far, have been a struggle. So after the sheep drawing worked out so well, I carried some of the same techniques into the sketch below. Having drawn it like this, I know this place better and think any future paintings of the same location will be stronger.

Up California Avenue – graphite on paper – Peggy Willett 2021

I’ve also set myself the following 2021 goals:

  1. To develop a more disciplined and regular creative practice.
  2. To overcome my “blank page anxiety’ which I allow to keep me from marring that first perfect page in a sketchbook.
  3. To stop worrying about wrecking a piece of expensive watercolor or pastel paper. It’s just paper.
  4. To USE the (almost) embarrassing amount of art supplies I’ve acquired in recent months.

And I’ve found a new resource that I think will help me progress. “How to Pastel” a blog by Gail Sibley, has been a great resource in recent months, and I’ve joined her art-making membership community, “Ignite!” Having titled my own blog “Artfuel”, the word “ignite” resonates with me and I’m hoping the program structure will provide some much needed kindling to fire up my efforts this year.

So after a long dry spell, I begin. Again. Maybe that’s the point. To keep beginning.

Delicious colors

I am always looking for interesting objects to draw for practice. I found some beautiful radishes with frilly leaves and gnarly roots and placed them on a glass table, where they created interesting shadows and reflections as the sunlight changed over the course of a couple of hours.

Radishes copyright Peggy Willett

Translating this composition to watercolor, I added a horizon line so the radishes would not seem to float in space.  As with the pear paintings, I limited my palette to three colors, mixed and applied (patiently) in layers.

This is Quinacridone Rose, Aureolin (Cobalt) Yellow and Pthalo Blue. I used masking fluid to retain my lightest areas. Removing it damaged the thin, 140 pound paper in a couple of places. Grrr. Radishes 1 copyright Peggy Willett

I like to work in a series, so next I splurged and used a sheet of 300 pound paper. These sheets are mounted in a block and glued on three edges so they do not buckle when wet. No stretching and taping required. I love this stuff!

I changed my blue in the next two paintings to Prussian Blue. The masking fluid came off this paper without incident.

Radishes 2 copyright Peggy Willett

I took what I learned from the first two and painted one more version on the back of the heavier paper. I’d removed it from the block and used no masking fluid this time.  I got brighter greens with overwashes of pure yellow but they were SO bright that I pumped up the red in the radishes to balance the values. This version was painted the fastest and with the fewest brushstrokes.

Radishes 3 copyright Peggy Willett

I’m feeling more comfortable with watercolor as I paint more frequently.  And I’m feeling better about my drawing skills.  Onward to more complex shapes as I work my way through the pantry and into a figure drawing class.



One year later…

I began my blog almost exactly a year ago with several goals in mind:

  • To document my efforts to be a more creative person after leaving my work life.
  • As a way to share my retirement journey with friends and family.
  • To connect with others who are figuring out their own ‘seniority’ and creativity.
  • To keep and improve my writing and computer skills.

Though I hit a creative block for a few months and I’ve not posted recently, I’ve made some progress toward all these goals and hope to write more frequently in the new year.

So I begin again!

I continue to struggle with watercolor. The medium confounds me most days! So I took a break from the paints for a few months to work on my basic drawing skills, which I think will eventually make me a better painter.

Over the summer and into the fall, I drew various fruits and vegetables which were at hand from my pantry.  Good practice for form, composition and values.

Two pears

Now, I am trying my hand at translating some pencil drawings to water color.

Two pears in watercolor

More to come!