Saturday, 30 April 2011

A Good Plan Goes Gold

JKPP member Kristijan Kozic (Kris Kozi) recently published an essay in his native Croatian on the benefits of a daily practice, learning to draw, and the role of JKPP in his undertaking. I enjoyed Kris' essay and commend his process, which he continues to this day. I'm also a big fan of daily practice - I think the best thing I ever did for myself as an artist was commit to drawing every day more than 4 years ago.

Kris' original essay can be found here:
Front page of the magazine
Kris' essay

After it was published, we tracked a surge of 80+ visits to the JKPP pool from Croatia.

Kris and I worked together to translate his essay to English.
December's essay by Irena Čorko Meštrović was devoted to the process of writing novels, and in this issue you can read something about how to dedicate time to painting. This model can be used to develop any skill.

The idea of daily time for yourself, which would also include time for creativity, was put in my mind by another Irena (Krčelić this time). She recommended the book ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron.

One of the fundamental ideas of this book is to write a page every day in the morning. One writes a stream of consciousness, without any barriers or self-criticism, in order to free the roads of creative expression.

I failed. I am not a morning guy, so I switched to evenings. The time of day didn't seem important when the main thing was to write. But then my handwriting started to bother me because it is very messy.

I tried using the computer but I am not the only user of our home computer. Therefore I couldn’t just use it whenever I wanted, so it only created anxiety, which is the reverse of the essential point of this method.

Morning or evening pages, handwritten or typed pages, it did not matter, there were no pages.

In addition, I have an affinity for writing, or, in fact, the ambition to write, so there was always a certain dose of self-criticism. I did not pass this stage, and I stopped trying to write ‘morning pages’.

But I continued to look for a model that would fit.

Coaching - a good plan goes gold

JKPP Vin Ganapathy/somannabopannaAt a coaching training I accidentally blurted out that I would like to know how to draw. The idea rolled and in early October 2010 I made a plan with the coach.

The plan was this:

Objective: By the end of March 2011. improve my ability to draw people and animals, using pens or pencils, from the current self-assessment of 3 (on a scale of 1 to 10) to 9.

Plan of action:

1) Collect 15-20 photo / drawing templates from various magazines.
2) At least 5 times a week, practice drawing for a period of 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the day and without the presence of distractions such as music, TV, or other people.
3) Through the next month explore deeper and more detailed 'how-to' web pages that I have already visited, which can help me develop my drawing skills.
4) About once a month seek reviews on the progress of my drawing from my wife and a friend who is a painter
5) By the end of the year, try to reach the level of successfully drawing the composition and / or a recognizable subject.
6) Then continue with intensive practice.

The plan was there and I just had to go on the path to mastery.

Customizing the plan and the elimination of all “distractions”.

The original plan was altered in some detail. I gave up on pictures from magazines because I was not interested in the images that were available. The idea was to draw only what I like. Politicians, and other models that appear in magazines do not fall into that category, so I found a good website with photos that I could use.

I used A4 size paper and printed the source picture on one half so that the other half remained empty for drawing.

One of the important things in the beginning was to make it very easy to do my practice. The things I needed for drawing - the marker and the template - were always in the same place, and I could start as soon as I wanted. I tried to completely eliminate the possibility of something distracting me.

I stayed with this plan and gradually got caught up in drawing. The daily 15-minute time was negligible, and the results were quickly visible.

Julia Kay's Portrait Party

JKPP Michael SchollAfter three months, it crossed my mind that I could begin to draw portraits.

Searching the Internet instructions and guides, I accidentally ran into a group on Flickr under the name Julia Kay's Portrait Party.

As politicians, models, actors and such did not suit me as models (such faces are seen the most everywhere you look), a group of people who portrait each other was exactly what I wanted.

The Portrait Party has nearly 500 members and it is a great, fun support group where people portray each other. The energy is only positive. There are no negative comments and criticism - it is an unwritten rule. Membership of the group is colorful in all directions - national, racial, professional, and anything you can think of – you can portray a bus driver from New York, a missionary from South Korea, or perhaps a professional painter from Barcelona ...

The rules are simple: portray only those persons who are in the group, no self-portraits, and the group is not for photographic portraits.

If you are interested to participate, first read the simple rules. Before applying, put some of your drawings on your Flickr profile - the group is for those who draw or paint. Then go to this page, click on "Join" button, and follow the instructions. If you are not good with English, let them know that, they will find a way to help you. Feel free to contact me and if you get stuck.

To join a group requires approval by Julia Kay – in general, for acceptance and clarification of the rules and instructions on how to post photos of yourself, your portraits of others... the usual technicalities ... Julia is a very pleasant lady.

For those who already know and for those who might want to know, if you draw or paint, I recommend this excellent group. If you do have a desire to draw, just 15 minutes a day can change it.

PS: Perhaps it should be noted that last summer when I drew a dog, my daughter (then two years old) was the only one who thought it was a dog. In fact, she said: "How ugly doggy." Everyone else thought that this was a calf, a horse or an unidentified animal. Today it's a different story - anyone can learn to draw!

See you at the party!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Interview with marker artist Nicole Little (littleoutrageous)

I asked Nicole for this interview simply because i love her marker portraits, that consistently caught my eyes while browsing through the JKPP pool and made me curious about her.

Kai: Would you tell a little about yourself?

Nicole: Okay! My favourite type of books are children's books. I like jumping and climbing on things and I believe that skipping is one of the most efficient ways to travel. Also, I am absolutely terrible with responsibility, unemployed, and almost always in love.

Kai: You say you live for two things. One of them is art. What's the other one you live for?

Nicole: That was left vague for a very p.g reason. The other thing I live for is orgasms.

Kai: You work in an unusual medium. What do you like about markers?

Nicole: I don't just like working with markers, I am a marker artist. I'm not just saying that to be snotty either, I really do think of myself that way. It took me years to get to the point where I can be comfortable calling myself an artist. I thought I had arrived when I figured out how to apply what I had learned over my decades long love affair with ink doodles, and make something roughly resembling a likeness. I look at your work, Kai, and I know that I still have a long path ahead of me with pen. But marker is unique. I use a ton of different types, mix them pretty freely with india ink, pencil, pencil crayon, and oils, and what I end up with, simply because the medium is so damn new, is a fresh thing. There are other artists out there working with markers - Pierre Willemin is doing what I'm doing with a lot less product - but right now we marker artists are forging our own path. I like being an innovator and markers gives me that. Also, the colours are pretty.

Kai: You've done a lot of double and triple portraits, even five and sevenfold portraits by combining different people or different views of the same person in one picture. What's the idea behind your preference for multiple portraits?

Nicole: Ha ha. Ya. I guess I want to make sure I get in an image that actually shows off the subject. There are so many decisions that we all make in a portrait, and sometimes you can take someone in a flattering direction or to a really an insane place. One is not necessarily more accurate than the other. You know? It's about getting aspects and adding them up to recreate the person. Like Frankenstein without the corpses.

Kai: How do you choose the couples for your double portraits?

Nicole: I fall in love with them both in the same way.

Kai: You say „Marker + Moleskine = Happiness“. What makes the magic of this combination?

Nicole: Small moleskines take marker extremely well although the larger ($$$!!!) moleskines have a different texture, which doesn't. I just fell for markers and colour in a big way and decided to invest in moleskines so that I'd value each page and put real time and effort into it. So I guess the happiness is that feeling of personal accomplishment. I must have said that a while ago though... I'm not satisfied with my work right now.

Kai: Will you be satisfied with your work one day? Is it a question of time or quality or mental attitude? What do you miss about your work?

Nicole: One day I will be dead. That will be similar to being satisfied with my work in that I will not be dissatisfied with it. I find relatively successful works to be very temporary highs - like crack cocaine.

Kai: Who inspires you?

Nicole: The flickr community inspires me massively because it inspires me to work hard. There is so much talent out there and I want so badly to be as good as the best. The Collective, an amazing art group here in Toronto, inspires me for exactly the same reason. It's friendly competition and it makes us all better. Models inspire me when they're muses and even when they're not because in the end, finding something unique in someone who seemed plain means that I get to play and spotlight and become inventive.
Mostly though, I'm inspired by challenges. As an artist, I think it's crucial that we put ourselves in tiny, tight boxes (heh heh) and then imagine and invent our way out.

Kai: What's outrageous about you / your art?

Nicole: Just a little outrageous. I'm usually kind of indignant, so the name is a reference to a personality trait, in one sense. It's a reference to little death as well, and I think that shows in my better work.

Kai: What does flickr mean to you?

Nicole: Flickr means a community, a support system, and a method of spying on other artists as a means of motivation. It's also the best place I know to spend an hour or two and actually get to see real, original art.

Kai: What does JKPP mean to you?

Nicole: JKPP is so tied into flickr for me. I love the idea of it. I love seeing different takes on the same images and people, different styles at play. I love the sense of community and acceptance that I find with JKPP members I've had the privilege of being personally connected to, and I love that I get to see that same spirit in the wider community.
JKPP is a massive talent pool that really revolves around Julia's innovation and dedication. I think it takes a true artist to set the parameters for an group like this, and the success of the group belongs first to its innovator and then to it's members.
I get so much community, so much support, so much competition, and exposure to so many talented artists.
This group has made me a better artist.

Kai: Thank you Nicole!

Nicole: Thanks for asking Kai!

View Nicole's art at her Flickr photostream here - littleoutrageous

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Interview with Stella Tooth (Stellartist)

Having worked as a print journalist and TV news pr, Stella Tooth has recently undertaken a major change of career and she is attending a two year Portraiture Diploma at the same school where the pre-Raphaelites studied. In this interview, Stella, who describes herself as "a tonal painter who is falling in love with colour", talks about her painting technique and her sources of inspiration and she explains her interest in conveying feeling and reflecting the way our faces and bodies record the lives we lead. Stella has found friendship and support of like-minded artists in Flickr groups as Lots of Landscapes and Julia Kay's Portrait Party. As she says, "Julia's movement has helped atomised artists around the world to realise we are part of a shared endeavour".
(In the photo, Stella Tooth is accompanied by Martin Beek and shows the portrait he made of her.)
Zoraida de Torres: Tell us a little about yourself
Stella Toth: I am currently a student on the two year Portraiture Diploma course at Heatherley's School of Fine Art in Chelsea, where the pre-Raphaelites studied. I began the diploma in September last year, having completed a part time portfolio course at the same institution. Having worked as a print journalist, and then news pr at both the BBC and Sky News, the hope of a new career in art represents a major change of direction mid way through my life. Although it sometimes feels like a great leap into the dark, I have to admit I'm having fun seeking the light! At Heatherley's I draw and paint from life and examples of my work can be found on 

Z: Tell us about your art
S: The human form is my inspiration - particularly the face. I enjoy the way light reveals its colour and shape and how our faces and bodies record the lives we lead. Beauty is something that cannot fail to please the eye, but I am more interested in truth and conveying feeling.
I mainly draw in charcoal and graphite and paint in oils. And my hope, at the moment, is simply to increase in competence, try out different techniques and perhaps, in time, to find my voice. At that stage I hope my work will appeal to others.

Z: Tell us about your technique
S: At the moment I am trying something new - instead of creating an underpainting, I am drawing with charcoal and fixing it prior to painting. I find it quite liberating knowing that the lines of my careful drawing will be visible as I paint so I can concentrate on how I apply it.
I would say I am a tonal painter who is falling in love with colour. My technique is smooth but I am drawn, more and more, to try a more energetic, expressive technique a la Lucien Freud.

Z: Tell us about the reaction you have had to your work
S: I started putting my work online in September via Flickr, Facebook and my website. It's mostly viewed by friends, including ex colleagues, and JKPP artists who are unfailingly encouraging, supportive and offer much valued constructive criticism. One or two have kindly asked if my work's for sale, which has definitely sent my spirits soaring!

Z: Tell us about who inspired/inspires you
S: Since September I have been studying art history and learning more about the British milieu in which I am working. Focusing on those artists that I most admire in terms of having relevance to my art, I would once have said Robert Bevan (his portraits) and Harold Gilman were those who most inspired me but, more and more, I am looking for inspiration to Euan Uglow, Lucien Freud and Tai Shen Shierenberg.
I have read many wonderfully practical art books of late, including Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and Colour, Harold Speed's Oil Painting Techniques and Materials and my former teacher Ian Rowlands' Life Drawing. My favourite art website on the moment is Google Art Project, where you can examine great art around the world close up, and Stumble Upon, which helps you discover the best of the web in the areas you have an interest. I also enjoy the Ancient Artist blog about developing an art career after 50. In addition, I watch a lot of arts programming on Sky Arts and enjoyed most a recent series called Art in Progress which captured a specific moment in an artist's creative life.

Z: Tell us (briefly) about you and JKPP
S: My fellow student at Heatherley's, Maureen Nathan, recommended I join JKPP as a way of being able to draw at home when there is no access to the life model. I had no idea back then what a gift she had given me in membership of a worldwide community of like-minded artists who offer each other encouragement, support, inspiration - and friendship. I have very much enjoyed meeting familiar faces in London and Oxford that I had only previously met online. Julia's movement has helped atomised artists around the world to realise we are part of a shared endeavour. I am now looking forward to trying something entirely new, becoming an active member and occasional contributor to Maureen's Lots of Landscapes group.

To find more about Stella Tooth and see her work, visit:
Stella Tooth on Flickr
Stella Tooth - her website

Sunday, 3 April 2011

An interview with Spanish artist Zoraida de Torres Burgos

Spanish artist Zoraida de Torres Burgos, Flickr name Arsaytoma, draws inspiration from the supportive Flickr community.
Through her membership of JKPP, she says she has become “addicted” to portrait painting and has now proposed a JKPP meet up in Barcelona in the Spring when the city is “particularly beautiful and there are fewer tourists than in the Summer”.
In her drawing (left), inspired by a photo by Martin Beek taken at the London 2010 JKPP meet up, she is pictured to the immediate right of the pillar. She speaks here about herself, her art and her involvement with JKPP.
Tell us a little about yourself
I live in Barcelona and work at home as a literary translator. I have no formal art training. I adored drawing when I was a little girl and used to paint occasionally in my adult life. In August 2009, when I was 45, I signed up for Flickr and discovered a never-ending source of inspiration and a supportive community that has encouraged me to draw and paint more and more.
Tell us about your art
My approach to art is intuitive, a way to express, without reflection, what I see or what I have in my heart. I tend to make simplified images, without perspective, volume or shadows. I use bold lines and flat colour surfaces, sometimes with decorative patterns. I love to paint people, or the everyday objects related to people's lives.
Tell us about your technique
I don't have a favourite technique. I can draw in black and white with markers, colour a scanned sketch or produce something from scratch with a graphics tablet, paint with acrylics... The subject determines the medium selected, always in an unconscious way.
Tell us about the reaction you have had to your work
At various moments of my life, a number of my drawings have been used to illustrate stories, posters etc., but it has been mostly since joining Flickr that my work has been seen outside my circle of relatives and friends. I'm always very pleased to see people's comments!
Tell us about who inspired/inspires you
The styles that inspire me most are naive art and all kinds of primitive, folk and outsider art. I'm also interested in cartoons, illustration and graphic design. And in photography, particularly press photos and the work of great photo portraitists, such as Seydou Keita. See
Tell us about you and JKPP
I discovered JKPP in July 2010, and I've become addicted to portrait painting! In addition, JKPP is a great place to enjoy the work of so many interesting artists. I've also taken the opportunity to meet wonderful people at the London meet up in December. Unfortunately, I missed the recent Oxford meet up but there will be further opportunities, since I hope there will be another JKPP meeting in Barcelona soon.
To see more of Zoraida’s work visit her Flickr photostream
To find out more about the Barcelona meet up visit