Janice Mullins: practising art later in life

Oodgeroo-Noonuccal, Australian Indigenous artist,poet, activist. Portrait by Janice Mullens.

I remember even as a small child I loved to draw. Very much a dreamer, I spent a lot of time just doodling away, but even back then my focus was on people.

After finishing high school I really wanted to pursue an artistic career but I was persuaded to get a 'proper' job and continue with art as a hobby.

Of course life gets in the way, and over the next few decades, work and family took over. I was, however, really lucky. After my split with my partner, I met a great guy who, when I told him about how much I would like to do something artistic, encouraged me to enrol in a one year art course.

Art course is a turning point

The course was fun based, allowing me to experiment with various mediums, including clay work and printing. At the end of that year I was invited to complete another year to gain a Diploma in Fine Art, which I did. I focused on painting.

It was only several years later that I actually began to take drawing a little more seriously. During the past eighteen months, I have started using charcoal, a medium that is my current obsession.

Janice Mullins’ portraiture process

Charcoal is such a diverse medium. Generally, during my painting process, I eyeball what I am doing and get down a close as possible to accurate base drawing. From there I keep working around the whole drawing to build up the tonal values I am hoping to achieve. I often work from lights to dark, backwards and forwards.

Soft pastels are the perfect partner for charcoal. They work beautifully together. I can apply charcoal with a brush for softness, or directly using pencils, willow and compressed charcoal. In spending a lot of time manipulating the application and lifting of charcoal, I can create different effects, such as with lighting, and texture.

I draw for the sheer enjoyment of it, and my focus is, as it has always been, portraiture.

Attuned to facial details

There is something about a face that captivates me. I never use aids such as grids or tracing, so I spend a lot of time working and adjusting all the facial features. With each discovery, whether it is line, or pattern, or shape that I see, I also find myself wondering about the subject's story and character. I become invested in capturing the person as accurately as possible.

I never do a practice piece. My decisions are always rather impulsive and I hope for the best. Of course I have lots of fails. However, I learn from those failed attempts as much as from my successful portraits.

My favourite paper is probably Strathmore Grey Toned paper, but I also like Canson and Fabriano drawing paper. These papers allow me to layer and lift the charcoal.

I am not set up professionally, but occasionally will do a drawing request with a pay it forward tag. The money goes to a worthy community group. It's really nice to know my artwork can be of benefit elsewhere in the community.

Contact Janice Mullins

I would love to hear from you. Do leave me a comment in the box below. If you prefer, you can see more of my work, and follow me on Instagram at janart59.

To view other artists who have been featured on my website in the last 2.5 years, please visit the Guest Artist page.

I am grateful for all the talented, productive artists and creatives from all over the world (photographer, author...) who have appeared on Louise's ARTiculations. If you are a creative and would like to be featured in this space, please contact me.

Many of them remain in my circle of friends on social media sites, and some, I have even met in person.

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