Have you ever experienced a creative block? I was in the process of working on some sketch ideas for a composition involving a wood mouse with pine cones and acorns when I just couldn’t…I just couldn’t bring myself to draw. I figured I needed a break because I understand that as an artist this happens at times but this has been going on for three weeks now and I’m struggling to create. I haven’t been drawing and have little desire to do so. Fortunately I had a few line drawings made out on art cards stashed away from a year ago that over the past week I’ve been able to at least bring myself to start inking. I used to kick myself for starting drawings that I don’t finish but now I see the benefit of that; I may have moments just like this, where I have a creative block and can’t bring myself to draw to work on a new project. Having something that has already been drawn up and just needs to be inked allows me to bring myself out of my slump without taxing what little creative juice I have. This is one of the pieces I had stashed away from some time ago. I haven’t done any figure drawings in a while so I thought the change might be helpful. So far I got the background finished, which actually is my favorite part to ink, but I still have yet to come up with a name for this. I was inking it while listening to a podcast on the necessity of art and beauty from a Catholic perspective where the discussion turned to Mary Magdalene and now it’s stuck in my head to call it “Before Magdala” or something like that. It’s just a working title but I do like the idea of calling in Magdala. Anywho, have you ever experienced a creative block and if so, what are some things you do to get out of it?
I stumbled across a surprising tidbit today while gathering information on famous pen and ink artists. The wonderful thing about this information is that it puts to rest something I’ve been wondering about for years; where did the pen and ink technique of stippling begin? From what I have been able to gather from teachers and personal research over the years is that the term came from photography as a way of explaining how small dots could be put together to form an image. Well, actually that’s just how my high school art instructor explained it. While in college I further learned that Georges Seurat along with Paul Signac, developed what has come to be known as “pointillism”; a painting technique using dots of paint to form images on canvas. So it was from these two sources that I assumed the drawing technique of stippling emerged but my wondering never really felt resolved. The issue became something that got filed away in the back of my mind behind random, odd things like what if the earth is just a part of a cell that’s inside a huge organism.
Then today, while I was looking up pen and ink artists for a dose of inspiration, I came across Giulio Campagnola. Campagnola was an Italian painter and engraver who it turns out, developed this technique of creating smooth graduations of tone and nuances by using a delicate touch of tiny dots and dashes with his engraving tool to create engraved images. This became known as stippling. And voila! That question that got filed away was finally answered. Of all things, I wouldn’t have thought that stippling came from engraving, especially all the way back in the early1500s. Engravings typically employ lines of hatching and cross hatching to form images but Campagnola devised a way of using dots to create variations of tone and hence stippling was born. It wasn’t until the 18th century before stippling developed into a distinct technique but by then other artists had tried their hand at the technique which lent to its growing use. Campagnola left behind few examples of his work, some of which I’ve posted here. If you look closely you’ll see that sometimes he used only stippling and at other times he used a mix of hatching and stippling.
After learning this I can now also put to rest another question that I have been wondering about for years; should I be referring to my work as stippling or pointillism? Over the years I’ve used them interchangeably but then when you get into the nuts and bolts of it, my work is more in the stipple camp rather than pointillism. If I was creating my artwork using dots of paint, then it would be more accurate to call it pointillism. But then there is that gray area; what if I use colored ink? Oh the complexity. Either way I now have a better understanding of my craft. 🙂
Based upon a suggestion from my previous post, I decided that my next drawing project would involve mice. I had to forewarn my dear hubby of the subject matter because when he was a child he had a bad experience with a house mouse and has been terrified of the little creatures ever since. So I had to give him the heads up to avoid any freak outs on his end since he can’t even tolerate seeing pictures of them. I don’t tease him about it though because spiders give me the hee-bee gee-bees and since we have an attic, those little buggers have a tendency to just drop down out of nowhere when I’m walking down the hall or cooking in the kitchen. So he gets rid of spiders for me and when our cat died and two months later our house was invaded by a family of mice, guess who had to set the traps and get rid of them? So we have a nice little arrangement for who does what when these creep crawly terrors invade our personal space.
What has been a little surprising to me is that while doing a bit of research on mice I learned that there are a number of different mice. I always thought there was only field mice and house mice but no, there’s more. There’s the deer mouse (also known as the field mouse) that’s called such because its fur is the same color as deer, Then there’s the cactus mouse, the cotton mouse, the wood mouse and the harvest mouse. Of these I chose the harvest mouse to be my subject simply for it’s adorableness and because it’s known to be found among cereal grains which I thought drawing one or two of these mice among some wheat would create some intricacy in the drawing. So far I’ve been working on some preliminary sketches to get familiar with drawing wheat and mice since they’re both new subject matter for my visual vocabulary. And as usual I anticipate that drawing the fur on these little creatures will be challenging because trying to draw fur realistically in pointillism is always challenging but I think this project will be fun as well as stretch my skills a bit. 🙂
New to my growing line of stationery are my handmade Tree Frog Blank Pocket Journal Set. I sliced, folded and threaded these up over the weekend and they’re now available for your quick notes, doodles and rambling thoughts. I just adore tree frogs so these journals so far are my favorite, I even made a set for myself. So be sure to check them out at my online store and get yourself a set or two. 🙂
Well I now have this little cutie all finished and ready for a new home. It was fun working on this but I think, for now, I’ve had my fill of tree frogs. Still got my Tree Frog journal sets to complete but after that I’ll be looking for a new subject to tackle. Feel free to drop some suggestions for new creatures to ink in the comments section. 🙂