Monday, January 2, 2012

Making Faces

One of my biggest challenges in life is to focus on just one activity long enough to get good at doing it. Everything beautiful inspires me. I want to draw, paint and make prints in each style of every artist I admire. I want to make artist's books, art dolls, sew clothing, make mobiles, do embroidery, quilting and applique. I long to redecorate our house, replant the garden, not to mention learning to speak better French, write short stories, read a lot more books and cook fantastic gourmet meals. I need to exercise more, visit more exotic places, follow cultural events in Paris better, keep in touch with family and friends more regularly. You get the picture. I never have trouble finding ways to spend my days.

A worthwhile New Year's resolution for me is based on finding limitations, narrowing my focus and restricting my daily activities. With that in mind, I have decided to lock myself in my atelier for two hours every morning and concentrate on only one subject for a month at a time. I don't take phone calls, answer the doorbell, listen to music or talk to anyone at all during that time. My first subject of focus is the human face. My aim is not to paint realistic portraits, but rather to understand faces, catch an impression and create whimsical interpretations. I want to get looser than I normally do.

The discipline of this first week turned out to be wonderfully enjoyable and inspirational for me. I drew at least four heads each day and had quite a lot of fun doing it. I noticed that focusing on faces in the studio made me really look at the faces I saw during the rest of my day. I noticed the way the light played on the planes of the face and closely regarded the shapes of the shadows. I also saw little imaginary faces almost everywhere: in the folds of fabric, the leaves of plants and the tiles on the floor. Best of all, when I closed my eyes at night I saw lots of brightly colored faces in many moods and contexts. 

This week I worked with pastels, a medium I love, because of the bright colors, but one I haven't much explored in the past. I used turpentine to melt, smear and blend the pastels. It was almost like working with paint.

Next week I will try another medium and continue to draw faces. Here are some examples from each day:

If you wish to see the complete set, you can find them here.

One of the artist's blogs I follow is Cathy Cullis. She has a very creative mind, and is always coming up with interesting ideas and projects. She's multi-talented too, so I enjoy seeing what she is working on. In early December she posted a long list of artistic projects for the new year and asked others to report on what their ideas are for the coming year. Her projects for 2012 are explained here.

As an antidote to my morning focus, in the afternoons I worked on an etching that has no faces at all:


Since Georges is using the atelier quite a lot lately, I have set up a new work station upstairs for when I want to be alone and concentrate. It is right by my favorite sunny window, with its expansive view over the roofs to the countryside beyond.


In more general news from the village, this week we were on the fringe of a huge storm that swept over northern Europe, with gale force winds. In Belgium and the north coast of France there were floods and winds that wreaked tremendous havoc. We got just a kiss from that system in the form of some rainy days and dramatic howling winds. My new years resolutions did not include going out in those conditions. There were several days, however, that offered beautiful moments for walks. Friday afternoon, it was so warm in the sun that it could have been April.

One thing that I always look at and notice are clouds. They are quite wonderful in this part of the world. They move so quickly across the sky. It's an endlessly changing show.

We are located on the highest point of land in our department. The name of our town in Latin means, more or less, the marvelous view. And it is lovely to gaze out over the rural landscape below the city walls.

When we take our tour around town, we try to stay in he sun. This little path, shaded by great trees on either side, is one exception we make, as the path is grassy and inviting.


  1. Thank you for sharing your ideas for the year ahead - and for linking to my blog. I look forward to seeing your beautiful work. Such soulful faces..... lovely.

  2. So wonderful project Nancy !
    I wish I had the same concentration and ability. I do love all the work about faces It is just fantastic one. I think I should take classes with you.

  3. Wow! I love these faces. Really wonderful! I can't wait to see what else is coming.