Thursday, August 27, 2015

Drawing to Commemorate a Lost Loved One

Here is an amazing example of "scribbling with spirit"--an artist draws thousands of items in his grandfather's tool shed as a memorial.

You can find these pictures, the whole story, and more pictures here.

This is an interesting sort of portrait, isn't it?

It has me remembering my own grandfather's workbench, my grandmother's china cabinet...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Drawing Artists at my Open Studio

I am blessed to have co-founded an Open Studio group that has been meeting once a week for about five years now.  What a great place to practice sketching!

Every now and then I don't have a project to work on, so I scribble the people and things at the big table we all share.

Here are a few from the last few months:

One of the "rules"--sort of--of Open Studio is that if you come, consider bringing food to share.  So we often have delightful munchies.  This early season watermelon just looked and tasted so very good!  I had to sketch it.

Plus, I find plates, and all dishware, very hard to draw.  It was good for me to practice.  And I need to do more.

Of course, the table where we all work is piled high with art supplies.  I find I can never go wrong drawing art supplies!  The shapes and colors always make such a lively sketch.

This may sound silly, but I am particularly proud of the paper towel roll.  That was hard for me to SEE, much less translate to two dimensions.  It was a puzzle to me how complex a simple, white, cylindrical object could be!

And of course, the people around the table are terrifically interesting and easy to practice on.  They all work on their own projects, so they tend not to move very much! Perfect subjects for sketching.

Here a made a grid spread of people and more things on the table. 

Sometimes it's fun just to do a little comic of some of my fellow makers.

Looking at people, trying to move beyond a comics style to a little more of a scribbly portrait.  Lots of practice per page.

Here I did several blind contours of the same person as I worked up to the larger portrait.   Boy, mouths are really hard to draw.

For this next one, I drew everyone around the table (including myself) and had everyone sign their names. This is a cool practice I learned from the sketchbook artist lapin.  It captures the memory of the event, allows everyone to see the drawing, and invites everyone to add their own mark to the final version.

These pages contain so many of the things I LOVE about sketchbooks. 

Where else are you going to see fresh blueberry donuts and a glue stick depicted on the same page of art?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Scribbling On the Road

One of my favorite things to do during a long car trip, assuming I am not driving the car, is to catch some quick scribbles as we go.

I keep a small watercolor sketchbook, a mister, a waterbrush, some paper towel, and a travel palette in a small bag with me in the seat.  I try to do some quick work as we go.

And as with all sketching, if I notice something and spend even a few seconds scribbling it down, it locks into my memory!  I can't remember much about the landscape I pass through, other than what I draw.

Here are a few examples from short trips in the last year or so.

First, a country road, typical in west Michigan.

Next, a construction cone.  Typical EVERYWHERE in Michigan (unless it is snowing).

Getting stopped in a traffic jam becomes an opportunity to practice perspective.

I also enjoy capturing weird signs I see along the road.  Scribbles like this aren't really about making art, but about making memories.  When I read this one, I immediately thought, "What did poor Jake do to get himself banned from this town?"  Then I realized it was probably some mechanical thing.

If I have my sketching kit along, I'm even happy to wait in the parking lot when we need to run errands.

Have you ever tried sketching from a moving car, capturing the landscape as you zoom through it at 60 or 70 miles per hour?

I have found that sketching while riding in the car helps me look at the landscape flashing by a lot more closely.  Instead of zoning out to the mesmerizing passing of concrete, I look actively, seeking colors and shapes and interesting things to capture in my book.

No more boring car rides, that's for sure!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Scribbling the People In Your Neighborhood

For a few weeks this summer I took my drawing stuff to the local farmers market and made some scribbles of the people I observed there.

It felt a little daring to stand around in a crowded place a draw people.  But it was great fun!

My area has a reputation for being conservative and not very diverse.  But going to the farmer's market and really seeing the people there (instead of just focusing on the vegetables!) helped me realize it is a lot more diverse than many people think.

What new things can we discover by drawing people in a familiar setting?

In the spirit of the farmer's market, here is a link to the wonderful song "People in Your Neighborhood" from Sesame Street (1971), featuring the grocer and the doctor.

Lots of other versions of this exist (they filmed it with different neighbors over the years) but I love this one as it involves a grocer having a "kale sale."  Not sure why that cracked me up as a kid, but it still does.

Here's hoping you have some fun and discovery scribbling "the people that you meet when you're walking down the street!"

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Scribbling Questions and Contemplations

Inspired by the work of Lynda Barry (who's books I've been re-reading because I am using two of them in classes this fall), I used my sketchbook scribbling to contemplate a question.  

Here are the results:

What a wonderful experience!

When I started those pages I only had the question in mind.  

Drawing both pictures and words with a brush pen (you can see I switched up a bit at the start) slowed my process way down.  More thoughts came to mind as I rendered each one, and the "next" drawing appeared just as I finished the last one.

I love the "contemplative essay" feel of this.  You start with a question that you don't know the answer to, and that maybe can't be answered at all.  What Barry calls "The Unanswerable Question."  And then you explore it, often by asking other questions.  And you just see where it leads you.  Most often it doesn't lead you to answer.  Instead, it leads you to different, sometimes more potent questions.  It is the exploration and the asking that matters, not the finding of an answer.

This is a great way to pay focused attention to something I've wondered about, to explore authentic and creative thoughts, to engage drawing and free-writing at the same time.  The combination of writing and drawing engages a lot of the brain and adds an interesting dimension to my sketchbook!

Give it a try!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sharing Brenda Swenson's Travel Palette

As summer winds down, a lot of us will be getting in our final travels before school begins and cold weather kicks in.  I've used up a lot of the paint in the travel palette I set up last spring and I'm considering doing something a little different.

Brenda Swenson is a watercolorist I have admired since "meeting" her as a fakulty member in Sketchbook Skool last year.  I follow her blog and suggest you check it out to learn more about watercoloring!

Recently, a friend sent me a link to this article by Brenda about setting up a travel palette.

Here is her paint set-up, using all Daniel Smith paints.

The article contains tips on how to fill the wells, and how to rewet the paints when you arrive at your destination.

I found the article very useful, so I thought I'd share it.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

More Work with a Mentor Artist

I've mentioned in earlier posts that I picked up a book by William Steig and have been copying his work in an attempt to bring some of his style into my own scribbling.

Thought I'd share a bit more of that work.

First, an artist hard at work.  I had fun with this one, done in my little sugar cane paper journal.  Instead of doing my sketch with watercolor, I used colored pencil, but I let this artist's work be water color (his canvas and palette).  It was fun to play with Steig's original.  I learned a lot about how he does faces and body posture.

Next, I copied some portraits.

I really am very interested in how he creates faces.  They are so expressive and quick.  My brain just doesn't intuit how to do this.

Finally, I tried out bringing his style into some drawings of my own.

Interesting.  I like the red-headed lady in purple.  Not so much the others, but I can feel myself seeing shapes and faces a bit differently on the paper.  I'm going to keep at it.   Scribbling and scribbling.

I always remember that I've only been scribbling with any discipline for about two years.  I'm the one in my family who "can't draw."  And art students learn by copying.  So this again was very good work for me to do.

And it has me looking at people a bit differently.  "That face," I think.  "How would Steig cartoon that face?"

It adds a whole new dimension to people watching, that's for sure!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Collaborative Scribble

Occasionally I read about artists going out together and working on a collaborative sketch.  Two artists share the same book and both draw the same subject at the same time, leaping from point to point in the drawing, mixing up their styles to create something brand new.

I tried it a few times about a month or so ago, but we worked in sketchbooks so big that I couldn't scan them.  I still can't but I decided to share this photograph anyhow, so I can share the work!

I drew this with a talented artist friend of mine, sitting at a small table in the side yard of her home.  We opened an 8.5 by 11 inch sketchbook, agreed on the height of the fence, picked pens that matched, and started to draw.  Our hands crisscrossed as we each contributed to different objects, trying to do it so that no one person draw any object completely--everything was a collaboration.

It got hard to reach across the pages, so a few times, we actually flipped the book upside down to bring the opposite page closer.  And let me tell you--THAT was a mind-bender.  I've drawn from upside down objects or photos before, but I've never scribbled an image upside-down using a right-side up model!

The process is terrific fun and as long as you agree to really mix it up, so that one person doesn't draw one whole area, your styles really do blend into a new and interesting whole!

It's a particularly fun approach to urban sketching.