Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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04/25/2006: "Where do *you* draw the line?"


I was showing a friend (who has started taking art lessons recently) some changes I've made to my figures...primarily fixing things like ears placed too high on the head, etc. She was surprised that I take such care because I don't paint realistically. She wondered where I draw the line between taking artistic license by exaggerating form and colors on the one hand, yet doing detailed work and fussing about ear lobes and eye lid shadows on the other hand.

I didnít really know how to answer that. I think there are some basics in terms of how the face and body are organized that I try to stick to.

face-diagram (10k image)

I get pretty close to those guidelines on the first go round, but I have to go back and fix things that just donít look right to me. The more abstract the work, the less one has to worry about proportions and related rules; ultimately every artist has to look at a piece and make a million little decisions about whatís working and what isnít.

If you look at pieces I did 5 years ago, youíll see that I took a lot more liberties with my figures than I do now. Some may say the work has become tighter, lacking spontaneity perhaps. I like to think of it as more of a refinement process. I know Iím repeating myself, but I think sometimes it takes as much courage to *not* paint ďedgyĒ work (if it speaks to your inner aesthetic), than to work a certain way only because you want to be taken seriously by critics, collectors, and fellow artists. Some artists get completely denigrated (called sell-outs) by their contemporaries simply because they paint beautiful images that donít "say" anything in particular. Peer pressure comes from both sides...at some point you have to put your hands over your ears and say LA LA LA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU!


Replies: 5 Comments

on Tuesday, April 25th, berry bowman connell said

Y'know, when I first started doing the April Show, there was this one old guy, Harry Blomme, that was so incredible. Did his art the way he wanted, no lessons, no disciplines, just drew and started painting in what he drew. Good guy, Harry, and old, too. Died a couple of years back, and we all miss the codger.
But, he had a following of some mighty diverse folks, from dudes off the street with just a few dollars in their pockets all the way to a congresswoman, Julia Carson.
He also had a couple of vultures following him that would buy his stuff BECAUSE he was old. I know what that meant. Screw them, Ide tell Harry, and he would just laugh.
His favorite line? Ya get back from life what ya put in and if all ya do is eat off of other people's work, then you're probably in for some heavy chores when ya get t'Heaven.
Lessee, that's more to the last post than this, but, I can tie them together. He didn't use the "prescribed" methods for drawing folks, but, he did do something every bit as good. He drew everybody he met. He would draw people he didn't meet. All day long this guy would draw folks of all kinds and pay no mind to any criticism whatsoever. Most times he would just give the drawing to the person it was of. Sometimes they would slip him some money, but, that's not what his gig was. It was just fine to give the things away, and if someone wanted to pay him, fine, but, if not, fine, too. Thing is, drawing faces and figures all that time made him a way better artist than some of us will ever be.
I think it's the insight he got from the sheer repetition.

As for the show I'm doing, it's on the last Friday of April, so, if'n ya got the free time, c'mon down!

on Tuesday, April 25th, Elise said

nice story Berry, I think that maybe came across more negatively than I'd intended.

I have to say that personally, I have had (to my face anyway) only positive feedback and encouragement from friends and family, and have received that support ever since I was a little kid so I guess I'm lucky in that sense.

I can tell that some people don't care for my style, which is only to be expected, and I get a little annoyed when I have painted something a little abstractly and people assume that I just don't know how to do it the "right" way, but it doesn't bother me too much.

Anyway, good luck with your show, it sounds like it will be the friday before mine. I hope that it will be a huge success...in whatever way you measure it.
:laugh:

on Tuesday, April 25th, Judy Vars said

Hi,
Thanks to you I'm getting addicted to blogging. I like your work 5 years ago and really love your newest work. The landscapes are more interesting and Alaskan the ladies have more expression. Its still abstract but more, I don't know, more interesting. Still if the ears look stupid they have got to be fixed otherwise that is what you will always see.

on Tuesday, April 25th, Judy Vars said

Oh Elise, I'm waiting for you to do a painting of one of those male models that you took pic of. If you got time a guy would be a great balance. :crazy:

on Tuesday, April 25th, Elise said

thanks for the comments about my older work as compared to the newer stuff Judy, I appreciate it!

Also, I've never found men that interesting to paint because they aren't as rounded, so they don't blend as well with the landscape. the newer new stuff will work with the male model because they won't be a part of a landscape. Hard to explain, just wait and see I guess.
:)