By Asta Muratti, TAE Artist & Guest Writer
Soft amethyst silk of new flowers in glossy copper of grass blades, vibrant, illuminating greens of full summer, raindrops, bending and encapsulating the whole world - wonders that nature showed me felt the most enticing. Drawing and writing were always present since childhood - without any second thoughts, now it seems to me the core reason ‘why’ is the bittersweet wish to preserve those moments, to notice and to share them with others, not letting them be lost without a trace.
I guess this desire to find unity and belonging with beauty drives the pleasure of creating. Having voracious love for words, linguistics, myths urges to write, and everything that can’t be expressed through words seeks to be called to existence in different ways - drawing, painting, music, sculpture. More and more I feel there is no separation between them - even if expression of our inner world can take different forms, its source is one, and letting ourselves to dive unrestrictedly into the flow enriches our perception and gives us more ways to share the wonders with others.
As a kid, I was messing around with paints and pens, but I reckon the study, the technical process, and the craft of drawing and painting started to appeal to me later after I was enchanted by digital art. Having a deep passion for IT, photography, video, and audio production - and, more importantly, a great teacher - allowed me to be in the best learning environment possible, honing the basics of the craft. Natural media seemed to be intimidating, but the call was irresistible, and little by little, skills with pencil and paper started to accumulate. As my friend reminds me ‘If there is passion, there is no need for discipline’ - never forced into the mold of art education, I guess I missed formal training and a lot of opportunities, but at least art was the pleasure, challenging and frustrating sometimes, but elevating, liberating and curative.
Digital format never takes away from learning the basics and developing the skills, such as perspective, composition, and interplay of forms and shades, but creates the opportunities to work quicker, with no danger of upturning jars of paint. Working digitally never creates ‘bad habits’, cheating digitally does. If an artist wants to learn or just to enjoy the process, there is no need in ‘cutting corners’. Digital opportunities are invaluable especially in the first stages of learning - before we fully trained our minds and souls.
Turning image to a grayscale for seeing the relationships of tones, cropping the image in multiple ways, looking for the best composition, creating color charts to be amazed at how far ‘the real colors’ are from the ones we imagine, and using colors as far from reality as our hearts desire - all this can be achieved with ease and used as a training guide no matter the preferable media.
For digital sketching (as well as for writing, creating music or videos) we don’t need expensive equipment. With a great number of gadgets to choose from we can have just a regular tablet with a screen that works with a stylus. By installing a free app, we can turn it into an artist's studio, keeping all the functionality to read books, watch videos or do some work on the same device. I use Autodesk Sketchbook for its simplicity- after all, especially in digital painting, we bury ourselves under the flurry of effects and brushes, shifting our focus to it, and away from the ideas and feelings we wanted to express.
To work on our computers we need a drawing tablet - with a lot of options to choose from it is absolutely not necessary to make an expensive purchase, huge surfaces from top brands (like Wacom) won’t make a big difference for a beginner. A small device is much more comfortable to work with. Huion and XPPen are more than enough - levels of pen sensitivity, connectivity, and ergonomics are totally fine, and something from a line of simple Wacom devices like Wacom One or small Wacom Intuos are around $200.
Plenty of free software exists - and everyone can find their favorite. I use Krita, as it is a free open-source product with countless opportunities for creative expression, a large community, and plentiful tutorials and resources.
The bane and a blessing of this plethora of choices in the digital realm - we can be lost in trying new techniques, brushes, and effects for ages. It is undoubtedly a useful (and exciting) exploration, but if not kept in check it is able to overgrow and swallow all the time for art and creativity. Concentrating on simple tools is a much clearer path - as one single pencil and a piece of paper are limitless and able to produce true art, simple software with limited tools brings clarity and a comfortable working environment. For the majority of my work, I use only two brushes and another pair for effects like dirt, smudges, and textures.
Trying different media and different pipelines of work, the one that suits me now is a combination of both worlds, digital and natural.
Having my Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 with me allows for sketching at any time (even if I always carry paper and pencil). Making a lot of iterations in a short time, adding and removing elements, and colors, combining images with narration, descriptions, and snippets of audio and video for memory/reference in one document - the freedom of digital can be especially fulfilling in the beginning stages of the drawing/painting, especially if it is a big and long project to work with.
This one will take time to build - ‘Year of the Jackdaw’ is a digital animation, following the bird through all four seasons.
Affinity for birds is something that was present in me since I can remember, watching them, collecting feathers and later researching and studying them. As the saying goes, ‘Never paint anything you don’t know’, so the choice of the subject - a jackdaw - is perfect from the standpoint of availability. Having a noisy family right outside of the window is a chance not to miss: for five years, photo and video materials were collected, documenting habits and unique characteristics of Minerva (McGonagall), her husband Goofy, and their restless kids.
A bird so near in its natural (even if urban) environment is a stellar opportunity to create ‘field sketches’ while staying in the comfort of a cozy chair. Preliminary study of bird anatomy and the exercise in capturing the poses, attitudes, and actions quickly helps familiarize with the subject.
Even if it was planned to be a digital animation project, there is a place for natural media - it is a much longer process, that allows for another state of creative flow.
The main body of work was conducted digitally, searching for the mood, colors, composition for each season.
In this video the blended process of natural and digital shows that - for me at least - one is not the copy, precursor of subordinate to another, and there may or may not be a direct transformation of for example natural media sketch into the digital painting.
Having digital materials that can easily be shared, stored and tracked are even more valuable in case of collaborations: producing and discarding ideas that are not working, making changes on the fly - it can shorten the preparatory stages and free our time for real creative work.
I was fortunate enough to have a moment of ‘magic from the universe’ that accidentally brought my way the music and great character of Heart Song Warrior. I suppose the strength of art overcame my natural shyness and I asked his permission to make a sketch from one of his photos - that ended up as a cover for the single “Creating Space”.
Since then, images and videos were created for different songs and just for the joy of it, as music always held a special significance to me. ‘Drawing’ music was always a way to feel it deeper, to dissolve in it and gain new understanding, different from listening or playing. Allegedly Stravinsky stated ‘I never understood a bar of music in my life, but I felt it’ - perhaps it is the same state of emotional freedom and unity. Being ‘in tune’ with Warrior’s music led to the creation of the ‘Musician Hands’ project, celebrating the elegance, strength, and eloquence of music. Hands are as expressive and unique to a person as eyes, and a fascinating subject to depict, in this case alongside different instruments (guitars, keys, and a flute).
After watching the performance and listening to the music, a series of quick sketches are created digitally and one is chosen for further development.
In this case, the colors used were chosen based on planned materials - toned tan Strathmore paper and the limited set of Derwent’s traditional and toned charcoal.
Trying different combinations reveals the clearest way of visual communication.
With digital and natural media sketches for reference, the main piece is started by laying the first ‘landmarks’ defining the form. Subsequent form completion with a basic tone creates the basis for light and shadows. Details that make areas ‘special’ and allow the piece to have visual strength are placed at the last stage.
Finished main image for the First Movement.
The danger of digital here is to fight the urge to take a picture of work in progress and overlay it on a sketch or even worse on a reference image - the art piece can never be and in my mind should never be a copy, this is a road to pure frustration and endless corrections that dim the art, taking the life out of it.
As the music unfurls and blossoms, the images also grow, following the natural rhythm of the seasons, from the opulence of summer, and resplendence of autumnal brightness to the brilliance of winter and the new song of spring.
The process of creation of this image can be watched here with the music by Heart Song Warrior (“Tree of Life” is a track that sprouted the inspiration that manifested in a series of drawings, celebrating vitality, splendor, and tenderness of life).
Warrior’s channel - Musician Hands First Movement
The full post here contains more images and videos, depicting the mix of everything that comes into the creation of art (including a lot of green tea) and other chapters of this project.
Music always was present in my life with the most elevating effects of profound revelations, astonishing beauty, affirmation, calling, and curiosity. In a wondrous way the art of images intertwined with the art of songs and melodies in a way that I can only call reviving and revitalizing. This art collaboration opened up my inner self to new ways I never imagined before - I would advise every artistic soul to search for such opportunities and try this convergence and continuity, they are surely transformative.
I believe those interactions show the unity of us all, as creative individuals, interconnectedness and intertwined nature of the flow - as music and image, dance and song, digital and natural media, everything is part of the same core, and no artistic endeavor is in the void, separated from everything else. I hope art - in every way of expression- helps us to feel it, helps us to actually ‘see the world in a grain of sand’.
At the beginning of 2023, the main artistic adventure lies in a new album by Heart Song Warrior - “Solar Eclipse”.
I will gladly share the music and images of our project in another article for the TAE blog after its completion.
Julien Valiquette - social media/resources:
Facebook: Heart Song Warrior