Thursday, March 31, 2016

Shapes of the Polar Bear

One not long ago I had the day off and loads of ambition for scribbling.  I wanted to draw my new toy polar bear and practice getting shapes and volume down.

Below you will see three sketches of my polar bear model.  #1 was modeled just using shapes, no lines, no pre-drawing.  I used the dye Pentel brush pen and a water brush.    

#2 below is a different angle, starting with contours and hatching, then brushing in the shadow shapes.  

#3 I did with the colored pencils, lots of scribbly motion, and WOW!!  I feel like I actually got some volume!!!  I am working on a very smooth ivory toned paper for these pictures. 

I am pleased with how these scribbly lines, the big blobs of black and gray, somehow work to show form.

And when you look at an object, in particular observing how and where light hits it, you see that object in more detail than ever. 

It makes you think, too.  I mean, light and dark, real or metaphoric, hits us all differently every minute of every day.  We are always finding our way among the lights and the darks of life.

This post comes from work I did in a class with Roz Stendahl, Drawing Practice:  Drawing Live Subjects in Public.  I recommend it!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Playing with the Black Sheep

I live less than a mile from a lovely sheep farm.  Every single time I drive by, I look at the sheep (and back at the road, and back at the sheep, and back at the road...).  Something about them captivates me.  The green field, dotted with the funny rolly rectangles on skinny legs.  Black and white and brown.

It looks like this on a frosty morning.

Something, huh?

So lately I've been thinking I'd like to draw the field, the sheep.  I can bike down there and set up along the side of the road.

But first, I thought I'd practice with a lifelike toy sheep, and get a better sense of the anatomy.  I began with two scribbles one evening.  Just to explore and see what I could learn.

First, with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and a super bright light to one side. 

I like the fat, less controllable (for me at this point, anyhow) lines for exploring shapes.  I don't try to get too fussy with the brush pen.  And I really like the loose look it gives.

Next, I tried for something with a little more finesse, and grabbed some new colored pencils.  These are Stabilo "All" pencils in red, yellow, blue, and brown.  I put them on dry, then added a little water to blend and move the pigment.

Not bad for my first time ever using these pencils--I had no idea what they would do when I added water.  Some subtle variations and mixes.  I look forward to practicing with them more.

More practice with the sheep!

I look forward to drawing them both wooly and shorn too!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring Woods

For the last few days, I've tried making my scribbles with watercolor.  I want to learn more about how the paint works, how the brushes work, how to paint to create pictures.

I'm the sort of person who has to do it to figure it out.  And as Roz Stendahl taught us in her class last month, sometimes you just have to "break" a few pictures to figure out how things work.

So I've been painting the early spring trees and just laying on layers to see what would happen.

As you can tell, it's mostly gray here this time of year, except for the red of the blueberry fields, the pink of the sunrise, and the russet of the bark of some of the pine trees.

I have learned a lot from doing these, not the least of which is that I have much to learn.

And, as usual, I had a blast doing them, really staring at one tree at a time, or my languishing fire pit, or the wonderfully deep red field next door, that will soon be green when the bushes leaf out.

It's all about to change as spring comes.  I have been very conscious of capturing these post-winter, pre-bloom days in the woods.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Practicing Values on St. Patrick's Day

Last week, on St. Patrick's day, I scribbled for the day using my new toy gorilla as a model.

I had not drawn him before.

Inspired by the holiday and some new paint, and wisdom I had read recently about the relationship between color and value...

First I did some contour studies in black and white.

The wisdom I had read (and now I regret that I didn't write the quote down) indicated that while color is a matter of taste, the value (or darkness) of the shapes that make up a picture are "fact."  If you want something to look like something (and, of course, we don't always want that, but if we do...) you have to get the values right.

I have a hard time seeing them, much less getting them down on paper.  I'm still practicing with my scribbles!

Somehow, using funky colors made it more fun to experiment and practice these ideas.

I think I'll do a blue dinosaur next.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

How An Onion (and some friends) Helped Me Be Brave

More often than not, I find that I am my own worst enemy.

Especially when it comes to creativity.

That "monkey" voice, as Danny Gregory refers to it, or the "I.C." (for inner critic) as Roz Stendahl refers to it, shows up when I least expect it.

The other day a sketching colleague posted a lovely watercolor of a purple onion on our Facebook group page.  I remarked how real it looked.  How much it looked like an onion I had.

And then I said, "I could never do that."

Dang!  That voice!!  That critical monkey voice!   The greatest enemy to all scribbling!!

Happily, members of the group encouraged me.  And one even dared me to paint an onion.

A dare!

Of course, I had to paint an onion.

This is one of my very few watercolor with no ink lines paintings.  I haven't felt ready to try such work until recently.

I should clarify that while the dare certainly helped, I actually do have a personal policy:  whenever I hear that internal voice say "you can't do that," I do it.  As soon as possible.  In this case, though, I hadn't even heard that voice creeping in when I made my comment on Facebook.  So I was glad for the friends who helped me hear it and not let it win!

I accomplished this onion portrait with only three colors and a lot of layers with drying time in between.  I focused on shape and color and value (to capture volume and shadow).  It was a challenge and lot of fun.

So there, you monkey critic voice of dismay and evil. I can too paint on onion!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Drawing My Drawing Friends Drawing

One day a few weeks ago, a sketching friend of mine invited me over.  We agreed to sit and draw each other while we were drawing each other.  That is fun!

Here are the scribbles that resulted.

Before I left the house, I warmed up with 
a very quick (4 minutes) sketch of my black cat asleep.  I did this with the Aquash light black brush pen on Tomoe River paper (which is VERY thin, not opaque, but never bleeds--ink moves around nicely on top of it).  After I did it, I wanted more black, so I went over it with the calligraphy pen.  It was an experiment worth it--I kind of like the deep black over the wash of the light black. This is picture #4 below.

When we got together, my friend and I agreed not to sit still, but to move about normally, drawing, so we had to deal with a live moving subject.  About half way through another person joined us. 

I took the Strathmore journal, some analogous Prismacolor pencils, a Pitt Caligraphy pen and a Pentel Color Brush Pen, dye based. 

Page 1 above was done with three colors of the colored pencils.   I had never tried this before and I really really liked the technique (thanks to Roz Stendahl who introduced me to it).  I'm not sure I understand how to choose what color to go where, but I scribbled with the lightest color, then corrected, corrected as I went, and then added value.  I like the vibrance the colors introduced--I like the energy in the drawings done this way.  Scribbling, looseness, seemed easy in this technique.  I didn't tense up too much.

Page 2, I used the Pitt calligraphy pen.  I like that pen.  I tried to keep it loose as well.

Page 3, I used the pentel dye based brush pen.  Hmm... values with a big pen are hard!
Values are hard for me!  But that's why the scribbling, the practice mark-making, the practice keeping energy and looseness as I try to depict what I see, what I notice.

I am very happy that I am beginning to see values in faces much more clearly.  I still need to develop skill rendering it, but I feel like I can see it.  That's good.  

I really like the incoming fuzzy hair on my friend on page 2.  I feel like my marks caught that texture well. 

I would like to continue to learn more about how to render values using a pen and hatching (as in page 2).  I always feel like my results look overdone.  Lacking subtlety.  Maybe I need lighter or thinner marks?  More scribbly-ness?

This post comes from work I did in a class with Roz Stendahl, Drawing Practice:  Drawing Live Subjects in Public.  I recommend it!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Nik and Nora Notan

In my recent class with Roz Stendahl, she introduced us to the concept of "notan."

This is the Japanese concept of patterns of light and dark in design.

Roz recommended that we look at a book by Arthur Wesley Dow entitled Composition:  Understanding Line, Notan, and Color.  I am waiting for my copy to arrive at my local library through interlibrary loan.

In the meantime, I practiced the notion with my black cat, Hattie, and my Dutch Shepherds, Nik and Nora.

#1 I used the Pental Aquash light black brush pen on my cat, Hattie.  I wanted to try this because this pen is a light and translucent black, and so you build it up by glazing, rather like watercolor.  This was the first time I'd used the pen and I like it very much.  I wanted to work on how to capture all black (or black brindled) animals, and this pen made it easy for me to improve on capturing values and showing form.

#2.  My dogs, Nik and Nora, bored with "art time," came in to wrestle in my presence (because wrestling in human presence, even in a small office, is way more fun than doing it outside or in a bigger room...).  So I decided to do gestures of them during their fast movements.  Just fast and loose and energetic scribbling.  For this I used a Pentel color brush pen, black dye based. I noticed what I felt was a big improvement in my speed and my visual memory compared to the first gestures I did of these dogs playing a few weeks ago!  Also, I noticed I was able to employ some more patience, and they returned to various positions as they played.  This was a good loosening up for me.

#3.  Nik fell asleep, so I worked on some slower sketches, focusing on values, even though he is mostly black.  Of course, he kept moving around.  I lost the values in the lower left sketch, when I tried to get more of the varieties of black in.  Too dark overall.  I find it easier to achieve values in black by glazing with the Aquash pen, than by pulling from darks as I did here.  In the other sketches on this page, where I only colored the darkest of the black areas, the modeling is a bit better, though I don't think the sketches "read" like a black dog.  I am particularly fond of the feet on the top one and the shading on the center one on this page.  This is the same Pentel Color Brush with black dye ink.  I liked how it worked with the water brush.

#4.  I went back and looked at the gestures again and, intrigued by the shapes, thought again about the Notan idea.  Inspired by what Roz showed in the webinar about how she uses tracing paper to correct some of her drawings, I thought I could do something interesting with these gestures.  So, I turned to a new page and, using a Kuretake 33 fat soft brush pen, redrew some of the gestures inside boxes, in solid black with white highlights, so I could better see and examine the shapes and negative shapes.  That was SUPER fun!!  Since I didn't capture highlights in the gestures, I put them into these drawings both from memory, from the dog lying beside me (the light is mostly the same), and from the sketches in #3.  

All of that was super fun and full of aha moments. 
These pages truly are scribbles--fast, loose, experimental.  

They are a kind of "what if?" drawing.   And it's a drawing that helped me see more than I've ever seen before!

I noticed the delicacy of how Nora holds her front feet and the tilt of her head when she is relaxed but attentive (breakfast was occurring and she is ever hopeful).

I noticed light and dark.  Just something that basic.  Light and dark.  There it is.  Patterns everywhere for all of us to see and enjoy.  But wow, I sure don't.  But I did for the few minutes it took to capture this drawing, and it changed me day.  Heck, I'm still talking about it now, a few weeks later!

What else, I wonder, is there, everywhere, for us to notice, if only we would?

Love my scribbling practice!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Practicing at the local Nature Center

A few weeks ago, I went to the local nature center in the midst of blizzard conditions.  But dang it, I had made the plan I wasn't to be deterred!  For page 1 below, I sat in the car and drew a quick sketch (not a thumbnail) of the place in the snowy woods, at the edge of a field, then got closer and drew a focus on the entry.  Then I went inside where I had the roaring fireplace all to myself.  Looking into a corner I saw stark value contrasts because of the huge windows with snowy light coming in.  These three sketches were fun for me to do as I studied value and in the snowy landscape, really the only colors were black, white and brown

For this outing, I took with me only the Tombow brush pen color 947, a waterbrush, and my Hero bent nib pen loaded with DeAtramentis Document Black ink.

My goal was to work with black and one color, just to see what the effect would be.

My bummer of the outing was that my favorite fountain pen, the Hero bent nib, which has never failed me, got persnickety--I couldn't get a thin line out of it.  Perhaps it needs cleaning.  But that limited what I had planned to do.  On the other hand, I improvised and still had a good time.  Lesson:  never go out with just one ink pen!

Page two above is a study in just the brush pen (with help from the waterbrush) of a taxidermied Great Horned owl.  It was sitting up on a high mantle, and though they offered to get it down for me, I left it where it was and did the drawing from beneath (this is how I see the real thing in my woods, after all).  This was a great exercise for me in measuring, restating lines, and shading for volume.   I do think the owl sketch conveys more of a smirk than the actual owl had (or than I intended). 

What I like:  a lot, frankly, but one thing I really like is the perspective of the columns on the doorway (bottom left, page 1).  Nailed it!  And the whole owl.  There I see progress with stamina (it took about 35 minutes) and attention, as well as with values.

I look forward to continuing to improve with values--seeing them, representing them.  Looking forward to lots more practice.  

This post comes from work I did in a class with Roz Stendahl, Drawing Practice:  Drawing Live Subjects in Public.  I recommend it!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Values and Values

Doctor's waiting room, as I waited for someone to have a procedure.  I worked today with Strathmore mm 500 paper, a Tombow dual brush pen color 947, and a Derwent waterbrush.

I knew I was going to have an hour or more to entertain myself while I waited in this room, so I decided to take only my journal, one Tombow pen and a waterbrush and see what happened.

I wanted to work on overall page layout, notetaking, values and shading with water media.

I started with the thumbnail in the top left.  I was considering whether or not to do one picture of a portion of the room on the spread.  But even in the two minutes the thumbnail took me, one of  the people left.  So I decided to do single subjects, because I thought it would be easier for me to adjust if anyone left.

My big aha moment came as I saw how to get so many different values out of the one pen.

What I really like about this spread is the values!  I feel like I am getting better at it--these sketches have more energy and personality and heft to them than anything I've been able to do before. 
Also, you can see from the notes, that really studying these folks in the waiting room led to me thinking a lot about pain (this was a pain clinic of sorts), what we endure, what we bring on ourselves (the people eating super hot foods on the waiting room TV), and how grateful I am for my health. 

Practicing seeing values (visually) helped me see values (in my life). 


This post comes from work I did in a class with Roz Stendahl, Drawing Practice:  Drawing Live Subjects in Public.  I recommend it!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Drawing from Life at Home and at Work

One day in mid February, I wanted to practice with values and very quick sketches.  I had a busy day, so I snuck in two drawing sessions:  one at home, and one at work.

This is "urban sketching" practice for me.  For as the Urban Sketchers say in their manifesto:

  1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
  2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
  3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.
  4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
  5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
  6. We support each other and draw together.
  7. We share our drawings online.
  8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.

That would be what I set out do on this day!

First, early morning at home with Pitt calligraphy pen, warming up, practicing with thumbnail concept and value.  This is images 1 and 2 below.  This was about 15 minutes... though I confess I spent a lot of time looking and taking notes and not actually drawing.

One thing I noticed about values in my home that I hadn't noticed before:  My house is in the woods (I'm very lucky) and has huge windows on all the windows of the main rooms.  Nearly floor to ceiling windows.  So there is always (in the daytime) light coming from multiple sources and a lot of brightness.  And almost any way you look at something it is backlit.  Given that three of my four animals are black (or black and brindled), and given that I look at them a lot, I realized today how much of what I see during my daily life is in high contrast!  Like the Notan idea.  That had NEVER occurred to me before.  I walked around kind of in awe--my furniture, many knick knacks, certainly my animals, backlit much of the time because of the windows!  So that was an interesting aha!  Of course, at night, it a completely different house--full of color and earth tones.  

My second drawing session today came at a lunchtime meeting.  Here I was drawing with a beloved Tombow monoball fine rollerball pen (which I think are no longer being made, and this is my last one, sigh!) on Tomoe River paper, in a handmade journal.  This is very smooth, very thin, non-bleeding paper which I love, even though it isn't completely opaque.  

My goal was to really experiment with the notion of thumbnails to think about composition and value with moving subjects in an environment I couldn't control.  This is images 3, 4, and 5.  In #3, I wanted to capture the weird shadowy lighting of the room.  I think this is pretty accurate, value-wise, and indicates to me that it wouldn't be a subject I would choose!  But it was a really valuable thumbnail to do because I SAW and UNDERSTOOD it.   

#4 is one of my colleagues.  It came out a bit more detailed than I had intended but I did it really fast, focused on the negative space around his head inside the thumbnail frame.  Actually, I'm quite enamored of this quick sketch because I felt like it did some of my main goals for my sketching:  fast, loose, yet accurate and attractive.  It was a big moment for me of thinking "progress!"

#5 is some thumbnail practice.  I did three thumbnails of the same things, but composing the picture differently each time.  It was a speaker, in dim light but with sharp light cast from above front and above behind.  I tried framing it close, mid-range, and distant.  I tried capturing the value shifts in a dim room.  It was an extremely good exercise--I learned a lot by looking and looking. 

I listed a lot of things above that I liked about the whole experience.  I'd add that I am so grateful to continually discover how much more interesting the whole world is when you draw it--even a meeting in a dimly lit room! 

This post comes from work I did in a class with Roz Stendahl, Drawing Practice:  Drawing Live Subjects in Public.  I recommend it to everyone!