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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Watercolour Flowers - Progress!

I had blogged earlier about my fail with watercolours, now I'm happy to report some progress! 

Today I tried the watercolours again, after reading about the colour wheel and trying it out on the sketchbook. I felt I always used the same warm colours repeatedly so this time why not try a colour I don't use often? I also tried sketching some flowers (species of which I believe doesn't exist but who's caring?) and then painting them. 

The pics below show the flowers as I painted:

After sketching, I painted the basic colours I wanted.

 Felt the page was too empty, so added some background shading and flower shapes.

Added some finer detail and definition to the petals with colour pencils.

Not perfect yet, but I'm proud of myself for the progress I made. It's all about taking pride in the small steps before the bigger ones! Not only that, I also realized that by doing so I achieved one of my personal goals for the month! Hooya~!

Seems that a few things helped:
- Knowing your equipment, eg, how much water comes out of my water brush, how much paint it can hold, how to press the brush to the paper. Practising with your equipment beforehand can make a big difference in results. This includes a few failures. :p
- Reading and researching what you can on your topic. I don't normally use purple and would not have done so if I didn't read about it in the library book I borrowed.

Onwards to the next goal!

Learning to Paint

So I made myself a promise to really properly learn to paint with watercolours and to practise, practise, practise in my unused sketchbook. Unfortunately, my first attempt did not turn out well! I tried to do some highlights on the girl's hair but it started with a disaster and turned into a calamity. -_-!!!

Still, nothing is lost. I was in despair for a while, after all, not very encouraging to see your first work turn out ugly, yah? But I also thought that there were parts of the painting that I liked, so I started jotting them down. Then I thought about the ugly parts (ie the hair!) and jotted down what I thought I could do to do nicer stuff in the future.

This ties in with what I read about deliberate practice. Practising 10,000 times does not necessarily help you to improve, if you don't know what you have to do to improve in the first place. As you practise, you have to deliberately think about your strengths and flaws and ways to overcome them. You have to be aware about the end result you are trying to achieve and the steps you need to take in between to get there.

So this is what I have tried with this painting. Now I have a sense of the parts I need to do better, I can try again! Wish me luck!

Could this be better? Yes. Is this the end? No. 

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Goals for July

After half a year, it's time to ask myself: how I am progressing with my personal goals? 

Something Old
I finally restarted my piano this year. After finally having access to one, I realised how absorbing and fulfilling it is to play music that I loved. [I especially love the music of Les Miserables!] I rediscovered my writing skills and am finding that as long as I make the time for it, blogging is not really that difficult for me. 

Art and creativity is also something that recurs again and again, whether it's drawing, doodling or larger pieces. I keep going back to my markers and I am loving my watercolours. 

Photography was also pursued in many formats, film, digital and iPhone, and again, recurred again and again. I am loving taking photos with Pusheen >D and I keep wanting to put a camera in my bag.

These made me realize that although I have a wide variety of interests [gym, journalling, violin, piano, french, japanese, reading etc, etc] there are some that I kept going back to again and again. I guess you can call them my core interests and these are the ones that will define me for life. 

Something New
Yet, I am ever curious to keep trying other stuff. So I will continue trying new stuff, new craft, new instruments (!), new languages and just trying to make the best of it however I can with my highly limited time and lifespan. These include:

- Learning French, Spanish, Italian, Indonesian, Cantonese (argh!!!) 
- Playing the violin (I really, really ought to practise more)
- Crafting (bookbinding, journalling, sewing and others) 
- Writing, blogging

And reading, reading, reading......

I do want to improve in what I do, rather than remain stagnant, so I thought of giving myself skill upgrades. This is when I either do additional research into a topic of interest or 'upping' the level of something I am currently doing. So for the rest of 2016, these are...

My Skill Upgrades
- Playing a grade 8 piece on the piano
- Learning how to do watercolours properly (started already, with a book from the library)
- Reading up on the various photography masters and doing film photo projects based on them (I started reading Henri Cartier-Bresson but no photo project yet!) 
- Blogging at least once a week 
- Doing some art at least once a month (to produce some really proper work!) 

And to keep learning fresh,

My New Learning
- Continue to learn French grammar
- Practise the violin (I know, this comes up again and again......)
- Continue journalling and learning from other journalling gurus I follow online
- Writing, writing, writing. Writing book reviews. Writing diary entries. Writing better blog posts and reviews. Writing short stories. Writing a book. (Even if it doesn't get sold.)

Ok, so I know the limits of myself and my own time. I definitely won't be able to finish all these goals at once which is why I've been setting myself monthly ones. I have to pick and choose and try to balance my choices out. 

So my personal goals for this month of July:
- Read up on my next photography master: Daido Moriyama
- Practise watercolours and do at least 2 pieces in my watercolour sketchbook (Otherwise, I buy for what??) 
- Practise the violin (This is now crucial as my violin teacher will be away for a month! Help!!!) 
- Start planning to write my book. Read and research first with the book I got. (Crossing fingers for this) 

Ambitious enough? (sweat) But even if I don't meet all of them, and you know I don't always, er, at least I would hope the journey getting there makes it worth it. I might not reach the level of proficiency I would wish for but I would have gotten higher than where I was at first. 

Crossing my fingers and wish me luck! 

Henri Cartier-Bresson [What I learned]

Readers of my blog [few you may be, but much treasured!] will know that I had just finished reading The Mind's Eye by Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the most well-known photographers of the 20th century and responsible for the concept of the 'decisive moment'. After that, I was intrigued enough to find out more, so I bought another book which was a mix of biography and photo portfolio to learn more about him.

What I read was exciting in that it made me think more about what photography meant to me. There were lessons I picked up from the book and from his work, some of which I felt could be applied to my own photography skills, some I couldn't quite agree with, but hey, you can't win them all. These I have put in the form of Nutshells for me to remember much more easily. 

So here, in a nutshell, are:

My HCB Nutshells

Know your Geometry
The Golden Ratio, the Golden Mean, the Rule of Thirds, Cartier-Bresson considered knowledge of these essential for good photography and used them in many of his most famous work. To him, you had to have a good understanding of how geometry affected composition to take a good photo. "In the beginning, there was the Word... Well, in my case: 'In the beginning, there was geometry.'" he said in an interview. 

What I've Done
This shot is one that I feel shows geometry. The man is walking along a path which acts as a line of symmetry between the blocks of flats which flank him on either side. A flaw might be that the trees are not exactly symmetrical but at least they break up the monotony of the flats. (Plus, you can't always choose to move trees!) Could this shot have worked without the man? I don't think so, because I feel he adds some human element to it. 

Nutshell: Be familiar with rules of composition and apply them in your photos.

Get yourself in and look at people.
No staying behind the camera and no selfie sticks for Cartier-Bresson. To really know where to catch the action, you have to be a participant in it. That means no telephoto lens from a distance, unless you are a tabloid paparazzi. Get into the midst of things, observe the people around and get up close to them. 

What I've done
To get my shots at the CNY bazaar in Chinatown, for one, I actually had to be in the bazaar, instead of driving through in a car, or standing at the side alleys! I also had to observe the people around me and how the stall owners and customers were interacting.

Nutshell: Observe what's around you and participate 

The last nutshell is one I especially like, that seems to encapsulate everything about photography: 

“To photograph: it is to put on the same line of sight the head, the eye and the heart.” 
Taken from Goodreads.

So have the head remember the rules, have the eye observe all and let your heart tell you when to press the shutter button. Practise, practise, practise till all of it is so embedded in your head it becomes a reflexive action. And take at least 10,000 photos. :)