Above: Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and gouache on a 9 x 12 inch page spread in my Venezia studio journal. (The bottom and right side of the spread were clipped in the scanning process, but the essentials of the page are here.)
It's my firm belief that you need to sketch every day, even when you don't feel good. Perhaps especially when you don't feel good—yes, I'll go with that.
Painting takes you out of yourself, the aches, the pains, the dizziness (as in my case above). Painting helps you move out of any petty (or major) injustices you might have experienced. Painting lets you be with your subject, your paper, your paint. That's an excellent tonic.
I wanted to show you this page spread because I wish I had a video of its creation. Since I don't I can only write about it and encourage you to experiment. Here's the thing—under that blue paint on the left side of the page spread there are about 4 layers of paint and under that a layer of textured purple strokes made with a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Brush Pen.
I drew the sketch (from a 19th century photograph) with a Pentel Pocket Brush pen. It didn't matter to me that the face was too long—this guy isn't going to complain, he's long gone as is his family. Even exhausted (as I was on this evening) it was just plain fun to move the pen about, to make thick and thin lines.
Tip: start thinking about how much fun you're having using your tools and your productivity will go way up. You won't feel choked at needing a "result."
Left: Detail of the featured page spread. Here you'll get a closer look at how lightly some of the paint was used, and how heavily paint was applied in certain areas (e.g., the teal blue areas). You'll also get to see some texture of paint. And most of all you'll get to see how ROBUST the ink of the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is, to stand up to use with gouache (if you want it to show).
When I finished the drawing I wasn't sure I wanted to get paint out as it was getting late. I picked up the purple Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Brush Pen I mentioned above and started creating solid color around the face starting at the top left. Sadly the pen was drying out and that wasn't working. I left the texture that resulted and started painting around the face with purple. Left that and started adding color to the face. Returned to the side of the painting and put in some Fr. Ultramarine Blue. Didn't like that, blended in some white near the face. Added a mix of green over the background. Didn't like that. Put a mix of white and black over a portion of the background, leaving the blue around the face edge. Didn't like the grey—don't see why I would have because I rarely use black, but the thing is sometimes you just have to let yourself try things.
Tip: Be willing to let go of earlier portions of your experiments. You might really like the doodling ink pattern you covered your background with. The idea of painting over it makes you a bit queasy. Well, at least once in your life you are going to have to work over something you labored over for ages. Life sort of works like that. It will make you a better person. Just get it over with now and paint out that background. It's all about finding out what works or doesn't work and if you don't paint one out at sometime you'll never know will you? (Oh, and of course you can do another detailed background at any time.)
I put in the red paint on the right side of the spread. Next I wrote the note about the baby shower on the same page. Went to clean my brushes. There on the sink I saw a tube of cobalt teal gouache (Holbein) and immediately grabbed my book and squeezed out worms of teal paint onto the left portion of the background, smoothing them with my large filbert. I left some of the blue and purple mix showing through at the edge of the face where it had been lightened by the use of white.
Tip: When you want to cover an area completely make sure that your earlier layers are completely dry. Use only a moist brush. Too much water in your brush will quickly reactive the underlayer—remember gouache is always watersoluble. If you find your brush is picking up the underlayer (you'll see this in the change of color coming off your brush) stop and rinse your brush thoroughly again, return it to a "moist" state by squeezing most of the water out of the brush hairs (use a towel or paper towel), dip the brush back into your paint and go again. Repeat as needed.
Holbein has great covering power, especially at that strength. (I had earlier thought that I would put some acrylic paint on this area—no need.) You can't really see any of the other layers except where I want you to.
Isn't that fun? Why aren't you trying this?
I made another stroke of teal over the red background on the right hand page. Using a small filbert (about 1/4 inch wide) I wrote the word Vertigo and added a couple strokes of red in the top left. I decided to stop that nonsense and instead, with a clean brush, added a couple strokes of the cobalt teal to the face.
By the time I went to bed at 12:15 a.m. I felt productive for getting a sketch into an otherwise crazy day and my vertigo was gone.
Painting isn't going to cure vertigo. And sometimes it can make it seem worse. The vertigo (or whatever) will pass, but you'll still have the painting, the painting practice, the productivity boost. And as I have said so many times on this blog that I can't even count them, in the time it takes for you to come up with excuses not to paint you could be washing your brushes out having already finished your painting session.
Now I ask you, which feels better?
Start organizing your supplies and tools so that you can always have some at the ready to use at a moment's notice, even after the rest of your household has gone to bed. Then when those tubes of paint call to you, answer by using them, instead of making excuses.
I'm not advocating that you stay up past your bedtime and become a wreck the next day. Far from it. I want you to sleep on a regular schedule.
What I am advocating is that whenever you find yourself a little off try reaching for the paints to bring yourself back to yourself, back to your creative mind.
Don't go at it with the attitude you're going to make a great painting. If a great painting results that's just a bonus. If you hold making a great painting out as your starting goal you might find yourself giving in to excuses—e.g., I can't really afford to stay up and put the time needed into a finished painting, even if I felt great, I have a meeting first thing tomorrow….
Realize and embrace instead, that most of the time, what you create in these circumstances is going to be "off" in some way. No matter—it's only going to take a few minutes! You'll have the experience, the extra practice, all under your belt.
In addition you have just started training yourself to draw and paint in any circumstance. It's a skill you can build on to the point where you can call on it at any time—when you have a cold, when you have vertigo, when you lose your best friend. Few of us have lives of unending strings of perfect days. If you're like me you need to work with what is—the imperfect days. And you need to work on those days.
By doing so you'll develop a skill that will help you focus your mind and your intention so that you can get back to the rest of your life's tasks. You might still walk right into a wall, but you'll feel better as you do it. (I'm glad we don't have that on video!)