For the last week or more, I have been struggling with a charcoal portrait of a friend of mine, and I am not really very happy with the outcome. I can excuse some of the difficulty by noting that I only had her there in person for two sittings, and have had to rely upon a few photos I took of her pose. Right in the middle of the project, she went into labour and had to go have a baby.
I have found that photos have some advantages. They sit still, of course, and do not drift to the left as my friend tended to do. They are not subject to changing light conditions either, which can be helpful. With my Mac, I can zoom in and concentrate on certain bits, and I can adjust the contrast to create more or less dark in the darks and light in the lights, as needed.
But the photo doesn't chat with you and keep you company. And it does not helpfully peek around and say things like, "Gosh, I look kind of un-smiling."
I will keep working on it and see if it can be salvaged, and as usual, I've learned a great deal and the product is better than I could have done a year ago by a fair stretch. It's just kind of lifeless and lacks style.
Nevertheless, I'm not giving up.
Far from it. I'm actually signed up for more classes for our autumn session for October and November. Eight figure drawing classes and eight portrait sketch classes, which latter will be my first introduction to oil paint (!!!).
Funds are rather tight, and I am rather horrified that I am plunging in and taking more classes before I have finished paying for the Spring Session. I had a wonderfully generous donation from an anonymous person in Canada who gave me $2500 Cn. But the total for the spring classes came to over 3000 Euros, (which I see is over $3800 Cn! Yowch! I could have bought a motorino!) and I've got over 1100 E left to pay off.
If Andrea had not suggested that we put that remainder aside for the moment and concentrate on continuing classes, I would never be doing this. I have developed a deep terror of being in debt and normally would have flatly refused to go ahead until the last batch was fully paid up. But Andrea is going away again this winter and will again not be returning until the spring and I don't want to go another year before starting paints and colour work. The theory is that the four month hiatus should be enough time to put aside the remainder of this year's fees to give to her when she comes back.
Still, it makes me feel slightly ill the thought of going forward with something that is, simply, beyond my means. I have steadfastly refused to get a credit card all my life because I was taught, and have since observed, that only catastrophe can come of spending more money than you actually have.
I feel as if I am jumping out of an airplane without a chute.
I have just today read that Leonardo da Vinci's motto was Ostinato Rigore which, translated from his medieval Tuscan seems to mean something close to "obstinate rigor", and more or less describes how I feel about drawing and painting. I seem to be possessed by it. I don't have any idea whether it will lead to anything practical. I don't know if I am really any good at it, or even if I can become any good at it. I have seen other people's work after two years of this study and get quite depressed when I see how much further along they are than I am (I suppose I can blame some of my lack of progress on cancer treatments, but even so, I could have done more drawing whilst sitting up in bed) and look ahead and wonder often whether there is any point to it at all. The likelihood is that cancer will return before I am anywhere near my goals.
But I can't seem to stop. It knows no logic, the pressing desire to try and try and try. Even my natural procrastinatory nature has not prevailed, and I have found myself working at the easel, when work time allows, as much as ten hours a day.
It's a funny sort of compulsion. I only have to go over there and look at it, and my hand starts reaching for a bit of charcoal, while my brain is thinking, "Oh, I'll just fix this little bit here..." six hours later, I am wondering where the day has gone and why my back is aching so.