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Sharpening the saw…

August 14, 2015 , In: Business Tips, Metalsmithing
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Nope, not my jeweler’s saw, although it’s been getting a workout.

 

Sawing, sawing, sawing and more sawing.
One of my goals for this year was to take a drawing class. I’ve always believed I’m talentless in the drawing arena, but some of my AJE team members convinced me that drawing – which includes the process of learning to see things differently – is really a learned skill. So with their encouragement, I decided to take the plunge. Sort of.
 
Instead of a drawing class, I decided to take a beginning painting class with our Roadhouse Arts acrylics instructor, the very talented Stephanie Davis. Best of all, my husband Nick is taking it with me too, so we get some creative time in the midst of of a very busy season of our lives.
 
It’s been an interesting process over several weeks. As has been the case for centuries, beginning painters learn by copying work done by other, more experienced painters.

 

One of my favorite artists, JMW Turner, started out copying old masters before he found his own style.
(photo source)
But before we could get to the “good” stuff, we spent an entire class (and in my case a number of hours of homework afterwards) creating color charts. The idea was to introduce us to the basic concepts of color theory and then give us a chance to experiment with some of them. It was also a crash course in color mixing, learning all about the colors in our respective palettes. I honestly found this exercise fascinating.
 

 

 

 

Among other things, I learned that a little bit of Phthalo Blue (with Green Shade) goes a very, very long way.

 

 

 

With that under our belts, we set out to find still lifes that appealed to us. I chose this pretty mixed media piece by Maria Pace-Wynters.

 

Blue Poppy Garden 2, a mixed media piece by Maria Pace-Wynters
(photo source)
Stephanie told us that for our versions, we were only allowed to use two analogous colors and whatever secondary colors they create. And she also told me to simplify the background, which was a relief, because this gorgeous background is far beyond my ability to duplicate.

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t come close to the original – and as you can see, it’s also not finished. I am in awe of the other students in the class, most of whom are able to finish their pieces in less than three hours. I am not one of them. Hopefully I’ll get to finish it once my BeadFest adventure is over – I want to do a little more with the background, and I can’t get the color right for the little chysanthemum in the corner. But it was a fascinating exercise into how to “see” differently and how to establish an effective communication between my brain and my hands so that I can recreate what I’m seeing.
 
I did much better with my second project, although it is also not finished. The assignment was to take a simple two-subject still life and recreate it in different colorways to evoke four different emotions: happy, somber, calm, and sweet. I picked this simple, cheerful still life by Pam Van London:

 

[photo source]
In some ways, this project was more successful – I started with “happy” because the original was so bright and cheerful, and I think my pears actually look like pears. But in other ways, this project was extremely stressful – making color choices for the other moods was very hard, and you can see how far I’ve gotten with it.
 

 

 

 

Learning to create “volume” was eye-opening. I’ve very proud of the fact that my pears actually look a little like fat, round pears!!
Again, other students in the room whipped through the assignment and left with mostly completed pieces. I ended the evening feeling half proud (round pears for the win!) and half disgusted (they’re only colors, for heaven’s sake!) which probably means I was overthinking the whole thing.
 
Because of the work I’m having to do to get ready for BeadFest, I’m going to miss the rest of the classes this time around – but I’m planning to take the workshop when it’s offered again in the fall. The introduction to color theory has been fascinating, even though I’m at the place where it’s still more mystery than edifcation at the moment, and I am very encouraged by the (admittedly intermittent) ability to look at something and evaluate it with an eye towards replicating it. As someone without a formal art education, this has been kind of a big deal. (Plus: according to my bio, I have “an emerging interest in mixed media” and I am loving playing around with color combinations. I might even revive a bead colorway project I dreamed up a few years ago!)
 
Already, I’ve been able to put some of that newfound sensitivity to color to good use. I resolved a couple of layout issues for recent advertising pieces that was heavily influenced by incompatible colors, and I solved a design issue on a recent jewelry piece that turned out to be related to the color of an accent stone I was trying to use. I may have eventually gotten to the same place without knowing why or how, but being able to be more intentional in that process was a win.
 
So I’m sharpening my “creative saw” with pursuits that have nothing to do with my main focus of metalsmithing and jewelry-making, and already I’m liking how it’s sparking new thoughts and new ways of looking at what I do. How about you? What are you doing to keep your creative saw sharp?
 
Until next time –

 

 
 
 

 

Francesca Watson

Francesca Watson got bit by the jewelry-making bug in 2008, when she and a few girlfriends took a simple stringing class at a local bead shop. Now, she is co-owner of The Makery, a working and teaching studio and gallery in the Texas Hill Country outside San Antonio where Francesca creates and teaches metals, wire and enameling full time, and indulges an emerging interest in mixed media. She and her husband Nick have been married since 1989 and have one grown daughter.
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