Friday, April 29, 2016

Scenes of the Breakfast Wait

Around my house, one of the most anticipated moments of the day is breakfast.

This anticipation comes, mind you, from the two cats and the two dogs.  And as much as they love their breakfast, what they really anticipate is mine.

Could be someone in my house (spouse?) shares bites of cereal with them.  I just don't know...

Anyhow, they have positions they assume each and every morning.  So the other day, I decided to draw them.

You can see that the dogs have a much more laid back approach, but trust me, they are watching every move either human makes.  One step toward the cereal cabinet and they fly off the bed.
I did these in my Strathmore mixed media 500 sketchbook with a fineliner.

I wanted to try some unrealistic coloring with watercolor, just to practice values and such.  So I printed a copy of the sketch of the dogs onto cardstock and painted it.  Cardstock isn't the best for watercolor, of course, but it was fun to mess around. 

This is the fun of scribbling--seeing what you love in the world, and then playing with how to capture it!

What about your breakfast ritual could you draw and/or write about?

And check out Danny Gregory's terrific book Art Before Breakfast!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Drawing in the Grocery Store

For a recent bout of drawing in public, I decided to draw people in the local giant grocery store while the spouse did the shopping. 

I thought I could sit quietly in a food court corner, unobtrusive and all, but turns out the food court was remodeled and is gone! 

So, after debating whether to stand by the bananas and draw people in the fruit section, which felt creepy to me, I sat on what we call "the man bench"--basically the place where guys sit and wait while their wives shop. I've never ever seen a female sitting on one of these benches. They are at the end of the checkout lanes. 

Anyhow, wedged between the penny horse and the CoinStar change collection machine, I sat for a good half hour with my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and fast sketched people as they checked out with their stuff.

First of all, everyone was facing me directly. So I really didn't like staring to study and draw them. I did take a deep breath and remind myself that if someone asked me to leave or stop, I would just close my book, say sorry, and walk away.

But as long as no one asked me to stop, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to practice my visual memory. Glance, memorize one thing, dash it down, repeat.

This was hard work! Brain exercise! I just filled the page with people--trying to capture body shapes and some different angles, as well as people of different ages.

I had a great time and feel like I learned a lot more about the PBBP and what it can do with this sort of drawing in particular.

I want to continue to work on my visual memory and developing my skills with this tool.  Perhaps a return visit to "the man bench" is in order!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

ReDiscovering a Tree

This is a story about the first time I headed out to draw a tree after completing my Drawing Practice course with Roz Stendahl.

Let's just say I will clearly never draw a tree the same way again.

I am grateful I live in the woods with a driveway that is about a quarter mile long, which I walk with my dogs. So I look at this tree every day multiple times. But today, pen and journal in hand, it was like I had never seen it before.

Anyhow, I wound up NOT drawing the tree, but studying the tree. Discovering structures and angles and in particular, the way the branches related to each other and the negative space. It was kind of mind blowing.

I'm so very pleased with the whole experience, which I will remember thanks to the journal page.

One of the things I love most about my sketching practice is how--so far at least--it never stops showing me new wonders even in the most familiar things.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Out of Time? Draw While You Stand Around!

Not long ago I had one of those days when I thought, whoa.  No time to draw today.

I committed last February to drawing every day for at least thirty minutes.  I didn't want to blow it just because a bunch of unforeseen circumstances took control of my day.

As I headed down to my basement to feed my dogs, it hit me:  draw the dogs eating!  I have to stand around and watch them anyhow, so no one (namely the cats) bullies anyone out of their food.  That would be at least ten good drawing minutes.

I only got Nora inked before she finished eating.   Both of them ran upstairs for the post-dinner nap ritual, so I followed.   I sketched Nik as he fell asleep.

You can see from the unfinished sketch at the bottom that I tried to sketch Tim as he considered a nap with the dogs, but he left before I got much done.

Then I got dinner underway and instead of watching the news, I painted my sketches.  Good practice learning the watercolors.

Some days, you just can't sneak a good scribbling session into the day.  But you can sneak some scribbling into the cracks and it can add up to good time and good practice.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Testing A Limited Color Palette

Recently someone asked me what I use to carry watercolors out and about with me.

I use a variety of things.  Depends on where I am going and what I intend to draw and how long I"ll be.

But every single day, everywhere I go, I am using a tiny Jack Richeson child's palette, which I got at my local art store, to test drive a limited palette of just 8 colors.

I first learned about this palette from Roz Stendahl's class in Sketchbook Skool--in the klass called "Beginnings."

I popped out that paints that came with the kit to use the tiny palette.  Then I put in eight Daniel Smith watercolors which I have been testing recently, and would like to try out in some of my sketches.

What I am testing here is quite intentional.

First, the two color combination that I learned from Roz as a great way to practice monochromatic sketching:  the indanthrone blue and the burnt sienna.  I paired them together on the right for easy access and refilling.

Second, a muted tone triad (which I also first discovered thanks to Roz) of indanthrone blue, deep scarlet, and nickel azo yellow.  I like these colors and how they run a bit neutral when combined, which fits the natural subjects I tend to like to sketch.  You can see I placed that across the top row, building from the blue which I had already put down.

Third a much brighter triad of colors I love!  I learned about these colors somewhere else, and I have no idea where.  I have had them in my paintbox for a long time, and am reacquainting myself with them.  This is ultramarine turquoise, quinacridone magenta, and isoindoline yellow.  This triad filled out the second row.

Finally, I had one little well left.  So into this I put Cascade Green.  I like this color, like the green base it gives me now and then.  And I love the way it mixes with the quin magenta.

The only thing I'd like to have on here that I don't currently have is a transparent orange.  I don't own any.  Yet.

Here are some of the mixes--you'll see each triads at the top.  On the bottom left, I show burnt sienna mixed with the green (which results in browns) and the blue (which results in grays).  On the bottom right, I substituted the Cascade Green into each triad in place of the blue, just to see what would happen.

One of the best things about this palette, for me, as I learn about colors, is how inexpensive and tiny it is.  I can buy three for under $10 and use them for different color combos.  And because the wells are so tiny, if I put paints into it that don't work out, I can either wipe them out without too much loss of paint, or use them up in monochrome paintings pretty quickly.   When I find something I really like, I move it into a slightly bigger palette (made from a candy tin) which holds full and half pans.

Friday, April 22, 2016

What Do You See From Where You Work?

What do you see from your office every day--if you go to an office that is?

What do you see from the place where you work?  Maybe that's in your home, in an office, in a manufacturing plant.

What do you see from that place in your world?

I am lucky.  I have a lovely office with a humungous window.  And while it mostly looks out on a neighboring building, if I stand up and look down, I can see some open natural space and a walkway.  People often move about out there.  The trees are quite old.

I have always wanted to draw my view.  I tackled it for the first time in early March, with snow still on the ground.

What do you see when you look out at the world from the place where you "work?"

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Scenes at Home

As I've thought more about scribbling scenes more than simply objects, it has expanded what I look at and the attention I pay to it.

What are the "objects" my eye follows?  What is it I look at most of the time?

What context do those "objects" inhabit?  Co-inhabit with me?

One evening, before last Winter ended, I did two quick sketches thinking about exactly those questions.

This first one challenged me.  I wanted to focus on the person.  The dog was almost entirely obscured by an ottoman, but I didn't want that in the picture.  I wanted to include the fireplace, but I didn't want the tile work to pull away from the focus.

I had to move up and down from my seat a lot to get the dog, which I sketched in using a grape pencil.  You can see the light scribble marks.  I didn't get it the way I wanted to--I think the constant changing in my perspective kind of messed me up.  But I got the gist. of it.

I drew all of this with a Pitt F pen, except for the person, which I did with my Hero bent nib pen.  I love that pen.

I like how the composition pulls you toward the person.

I completed this in less than ten minutes, with another ten for the layers of watercolor.  I feel like I am getting better at that!

The next scene from home is one that faces me breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I know, I know... I should have a little more discipline for the cat.  But I don't.

For this one I started straight in with pen, again using the Hero bent nib pen, this time for the whole thing.  I decided not to paint the brown table top.  Just to let the cat and plate and fork me there.  I am particularly pleased with the shadows.

I can already tell that these are scenes I will be glad I looked at.  Small things, but important to me, and capturing them tells the story of who we are, how we relate to each other.  These sketches took very little time, and focused me on some of the things I most value about my life right now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Making a Scene

One of the goals I set for myself this spring is to draw not just objects, but scenes.

So one day, while sitting in an atrium waiting for my class to start, where I sit every day, I decided to draw the atrium and the students in it.

I gave myself no more than 15 minutes; I finished it in 10.

I sit in this room several times a week.  But before I drew this, if you had asked me about the plants, the color of the furniture, the paneling on the walls, even the enormous window, I couldn't have told you.  Usually when I'm there, I'm thinking about my upcoming class.

Now I could tell you about that room.

And, my class went well afterward.  I don't need to sit there and over-prepare!  Drawing might have prepared me better, anyhow!  I got centered, in the moment, relaxed, and observant. A better way to teach.

Better education through scribbling!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Exploring Contrast with Brush Pens

A few weeks ago, as I went to bed, I knew exactly what I wanted to work on during my art time the next morning.  I wanted to work with the toy model polar bear and several brush pens and slowly explore that kind of tool and high contrast black and white work.  I really like the look of that work when I admire other artists (ok, well, I admire a lot when I look at other artists).  Something about the shapes of high contrast brush pen work attracts me... hmmm... perhaps the loose look of it? The abstractions which build into something?  

I like when ink work (ink alone or with watercolor--it doesn't have to be black and white) suggests the form or scene, but doesn't fill with a lot of detail.  I guess I like the interactivity of viewing that sort of thing.  And I like the energy it seems to have.  I am not sure I'm articulating this very well.  I will think about it some more. 

Anyhow, I tell my writing students that one of the hardest things to learn when they write is to trust the reader.  That leaving gaps and taking leaps is one of the best things you can do for the energy of the story and to entice a reader to actively participate in the work, but you have to trust that when you don't write something, but only suggest it, they will get it.  And you have to trust yourself to know where to put the details and what to leave out, and so on.

Okay, I bother to mention that because that is EXACTLY what I know I am not doing (yet) in my drawing and want to learn to do better.  And the only way to do it is draw, assess, maybe ask others for their assessments, and do it again.   I am encouraged, though, because I know it will come (at least, it does for writers!).

Anyhow, below are three pages I did in about an hour this morning, with the intention of only brush pens, only black and white, and just experimenting with contrast/value and form.  What can I leave out?  What must be shown?  How far is too far?

I really liked the whole experience.  It was relaxing, intellectually engaging, creative, fun.
I continue to really like the Pentel Aquash light black pen used in #1.  Which has  me rethinking my approach to watercolor.  Since I like that layering, and with the Aquash I really see how it works, I have a new idea of how I might try this with watercolor.  I may give that a go soon.  Light washes, layered.  Yes, I know that's how you are supposed to do watercolor, and I've tried.  But somehow I feel like I "get" the concept more clearly now.

#2 I switched to a Kuretake 33 brush pen, one of my favorites because it is indestructible.  I fill their cartridges with my own waterproof ink.  It is a fat, felt tip style brush pen. Not a lot of super fine control.  I really used it to play with big black shapes.  I did discover that by laying it sideways and moving fast I could get a bit lighter value.  Like this page a lot.  Like the look of it.  I think this is something I want to continue to learn.

For #3 I switched to Platinum brush pen.  Inexpensive, felt tip style brush pen that I like because it takes Platinum Carbon cartridges, which are waterproof and easy to carry around.  Here I tried to indicate a value range through mark-making.  This would be the thing I want to continue to improve on (with brush pen and also pen and ink): if I only have a pen, indicating value.  Some things didn't work too well on this page, but it's okay.  I'm practicing.

And I don't think I've spent this much time looking at a toy since I was a little kid.  I'm getting quite fond of this polar bear!

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

Monday, April 18, 2016

Rapt About the Raptors

A drawing friend called me on this rare, sunny, winter day in western Michigan and said "let's go draw outside!"  How can one refuse an invitation like that?

So we headed to the local 
Outdoor Discovery Center, Bird of Prey Education Pavilion, where there are a dozen or so raptors who are injured, and can't live in the wild.

I took minimal supplies:  the trusty Strathmore 500 mm journal, fineliner, Pitt calligraphy pen, two colors of watercolor, and a blue Liquitex acrylic marker (used after I returned home).

The cages they live in have huge, strong, metal bars for walls, sort of like you'd see in a cartoon of a prison.   So you really have to peer between them to see the birds well.  I found this a huge challenge each time I looked from page to bird and back again.  I had to get my eyes to focus past the bars, onto the bird.  I got used to it after a few minutes.

We were the only two there (the advantage of going on a Saturday-no busloads full of school kids).

I chose to start scribbling a female red tailed hawk with a permanently injured right wing.  She was very interested in me, and hopped around for a bit, but by the time I picked up the pen to start gestures, she had mostly settled down.

The gestures (page 1) were a good start--I had a really hard time getting my hand to do what I was seeing.   I just kept drawing over and over the shapes until they started to modify.  Then I focused on the eye, the head, the feet.  Then I felt like I could do something a little more slow (page 2).  I used the fineliner for the contour shapes and inner markings, then used watercolor.  That was a challenge in the cold, sun and high wind.  They dried up almost instantly.  It was good practice.

When I finished, I still had about 15 minutes left (we had agreed to a one hour drawing time), so I started the Great Horned Owl.  She watched me for about 5 minutes, then went to sleep.   I didn't want to paint her, but I wanted to experiment with some color, so I used the Roz Stendahl method of acrylic marker in the background.  I like the effect.  I really want to paint her eyes the golden that they were....

Once again, I love the power of scribbling!  When when I couldn't get the hawk right, the gestures--over and over--did help me get it. Interestingly, the owl came out very well, with no gestures, just the initial drawing.  That scribbling warms me up for a session, helps me settle down, see what's in the world, process it, get it out of my hand... amazing.

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

Friday, April 15, 2016

Evening Sketching is Not My Thing

I learned something very important one evening not long ago.  

As much as I love sketching, doing it at the end of the day, and especially at the end of the week, is not a good idea.  I need to be very careful to schedule my sketching sessions earlier in the day.  This is not an excuse--I am really glad I learned it.  I figured if I had a busy day and needed to draw at the end of it, no big deal.  Nope.  It IS a big deal.  I was so happen to finally sketch when I sat down to it.  BUT, I quickly discovered that I was really battling to stay focused.  I felt as if the stamina I always have earlier in a day had just evaporated.

I stuck with it, though, and did about 45 minutes by the time I stopped.  I wanted to see if I could shake it off, settle down, find a different sort of groove.

The tools I used:  Strathmore 500mm paper, Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, two colors of watercolor (IN blue and Burnt Sienna)

When I started, happy to finally be scribbling a bit, I wanted to mess around with value and shadow shape work with the watercolors.  It's dark here at this time of day (I did these in late February), and I sat in the semi-dark in a room with only two lights:  the floor lamp and the computer screen.  It made for some interesting and stark lighting on the person at the computer.  I think I was SO interested in the shadow shapes that I blew proportions (in #1).  I am pleased with the angle of the arm, and the light edges on the left of the shirt, face and hand. 

Then I decided that because I felt really very tired, tonight was maybe not a good time to practice fine details, but bigger, looser shapes.  So I decided to do the same scene again, but this time, straight with the watercolors on a waterbrush (#2).  I discovered that sitting in the dark corner, as I was, I couldn't discern the color of my watercolor mixes!  Another lesson learned.  But in this second sketch, I got some other things more accurate--the shape of the shadow and reflected light on the table top.  The shadow underneath the table on the wall and floor.  Also, when squinting about values, I saw that the legs (in black pants) and the dark side of the black stool really formed one big shadow shape, so I drew it that way (as opposed to drawing "leg" and "stool" as I had in the first sketch).  To my surprise, I got the proportions better on the person, and a sense of the lighting as well.

I still had some time left in my 30 minute session, so I decided to go back to the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, but with the intention of mimicking the watercolor--not sketching details so much as laying in big accurate colors of shadow (#3).  Nik was asleep on my bed, so I turned on the overhead light as the only light and got some terrific shadow shapes on him.  He is essentially all black (dark brown with a copper brindle), so I ignored local color and just did a notan sort of thing to capture him.  His eyes are open, as he watched me the whole time. 

I learned a great deal with this round of practice about my process.  I'm pleased that when I realized I was "too tired" for one sort of sketch, I didn't quit or despair, but found a different set of skills I could practice. 

I find that I really want to get better at people.  I feel like my observation and rendering skills at animals have leapt ahead of my skills with people.   I struggle with proportions in people.  I am wondering if in my head I'm still naming things, or trying to draw what I think  I see rather than what I do see?  I'm going to work on this more.  Perhaps return to the colored pencils, as I liked them a lot for correcting and refining.

Plus, I really don't want to get all stuck in details.  I want to generally indicate people, without having to draw details.

I got a big book of Rembrandt drawings out of the library.  And found a local museum with some Asian art on exhibit. Can't wait to spend time studying that (and the people in it).

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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Frog and a Gecko Walk into a ...

Still confident from my recent victory over my inner critic, aka Ichabod, while drawing an iguana at a pet store, I headed into the local college's zoo to do today's scribbling.  I took only by Strathmore mixed media 500 journal and a Uniball Vision black pen (cheap and waterproof!).

There, a man there with two little girls huddled over some of the animals.  A lovely scene.  I quickly started to draw them and then, they left. 

So I moved on to an animal less likely to leave.

Sobering discovery:  the wonderful huge fat frogs I sketched a week or so ago were gone.  I was hoping to draw them again, to sort of compare my growth, but no--they were dissected last week in a lab.  

You never know what you're going to run into (or not run into) when you sketch out in the real world!

So, I drew another frog (this is page 1 on the left).   She was a lovely aqua blue color, and parts of here were electric red/orange because of reflection from her heat lamp.  She was also hanging from the CORNER of her glass terrarium--with two legs on one wall and two on the other.  At first I thought, oh, no way can I draw that.  The Voice of Ichabod!  So, I grabbed a chair, because Ichabod's protestations against any subject mean I'm totally going to draw that.  It took me quite a while of measuring checking, and being sure I was drawing what I saw and not what I thought I saw, because of her her odd angle and the clear walls.  During this sketch, attention to negative space was hugely helpful to me.  I think I got her feet right, so you can kind of see her angle, but I was stumped--STUMPED-- about how to indicate those glass walls.  So I didn't try.  

I had more time, so I found the leopard gecko having a nap (page 2 above).  What an odd looking creature, with heart-shaped head and big bulbous tail!  I did a lot of slow measuring and plumblines again.   Attention to the pattern on the gecko helped me show how its body moved.

I enjoyed scribbling only in black and white today.  I took on something I had no idea how to do (a frog hanging in the corner of a glass box).

Truth be told:  I'd never even noticed a frog hanging in the corner of a glass box before.  So, my word is richer today, regardless.

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Aqua Blue Iguana and I

Today I went to PetCo (a chain pet store not far from where I live).  I knew they had parakeets and I thought maybe I'd try drawing a bird.  Since my class last winter on drawing live subjects in public, I've wanted to give live animals (who are not my own pets) a try.

Yeah, well, the birds were lovely, but WOWZA:  there was an Aqua Blue Iguana in a large space right next to the birds, and I had to draw the iguana!  It's like a living version of my Allosaurus.  All you dino sketchers out there, I highly recommend finding a live iguana to draw.

I had a few kids come up and look over my shoulder, but no one stayed long.

And by the end of my hour with the iguana, I had so fallen in love with it (I mean, I spent an hour gazing into its eye!), I was ready to buy it and bring it home, but I resisted. 

Also, I must purchase some Cobalt Teal paint if I go back to sketch it again.  My colors were completely inadequate for any sense of local color.

You can see the four pages I completed below.  I don't know if the resizing of the image allows for you to read the notes, but I've included them anyway, in hopes that you can if you want to.

I used my Strathmore 500 mixed media journal, an 03 fineliner, and two colors of Daniel Smith watercolors, indanthrone blue and burnt sienna. 

What most interested me about this sketch out (and I guess what interests me most about life) is the story.

I sit down to start drawing, starting with the iguana's eye and very quickly, things start to go "WRONG!"  Note the quotes.  That voice in the head that tries to scare the creative beejeesus out of us.  Roz Stendahl calls it the Internal Critic, or the I.C.  I have named mine Ichabod.  Anyhow, piped right up and tried to stop my fun.

I've learned my best defense is to go loose, get scribbling, and remind myself I'm just learning. 

And I sketched the iguana over and over.

 So I sketched again and again.  I knew I wasn't getting the proportions right, despite measuring and looking.  Frustrating.  Ichabod chimes in that this is a waste and I should quit while I'm ahead and go draw a bird.  Or maybe a cricket.  I will never get this iguana, even if it does look a lot like the Allosaurus.  And why bother, because you don't have cobalt teal anyhow and any paint you add will not look good. 

That Ichabod--he is just hilarious, isn't it?

So I paused and took some editing notes.  What was working.  What wasn't.  None of Ichabod's chatter, but sensible observations.  

Then I started again and guess what?  My contours were suddenly more accurate than anything I had started earlier.  So I just let my pen play until I had filled two pages, then I went back to the contour that seemed most accurate to me, and built on that, restating, refining.  This is the darker pen sketch in the middle of page 2.  I got a lot of good parts of that drawing.

Then, I turned the page (I was in about 40 minutes now), and said, well, let's try a portrait again.  I spent the next 20 minutes working on that sketch and painting, ignoring local color (except for the general "blueness") and working on values.  

When I finished it had been 61 minutes total.  And I thought, well, this outing was a smashing success!  I almost quit, but I did not quit.  I got some really good experience with this iguana.  I got amazing experience with cranky Ichabod, and with "failing" at initial drawing attempts. 

Then I took a few more minutes to write out notes to capture the whole experience, so that later I remember not to get discouraged.  And also to remember the power of the 60 minute sketching session.  If I had only had 30 minutes, I would have quit before I turned that page and started that portrait.  

And while it is not the best portrait of an iguana, what happened on page 3 is so much better than what happened on page 1, well, it is totally amazing to me.

It was a stellar sketching day!  I hope you have one too!

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hattie and the Squirrel Make a Scene

I went to my front room (a tiny adventure) to watch my cat, Hattie, watch the squirrels at the feeders. It felt great to sit and watch the cat watching.  Cats are great models for being in the moment.

This got me thinking about seeing, and how my eye moved around the scene.  How could I move a viewer's eye like this?

I wanted to work on is a sense of the page as a whole composition, and leaving white space.  I made a promise to myself to not feel like I'm "wasting paper" if I leave more white space.  You'll see below I really did that with the squirrel sketch and I am much happier with the look of the page.

I selected these subjects because I knew I had to work from home today and because I liked the contrast of this scene.  Black cat, colorful squirrel.  Indoors and outdoors both included.  Immobile cat and fast moving (!) squirrel.   Some notan with the indoors being backlit and the bright white snowy outside.

Today I used a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, a Pentl Aquash light black brush, and two colors of watercolor (Burnt Sienna and In Blue).

For the image of Hattie watching the squirrel, and thinking about contrast and moving the viewer's eye I tried to draw the eye to her watching the squirrel.  She is solid black, so while I initially left her white with just some dark spots hatched in, I didn't feel that it directed the eye enough, so I used the softer tone of the Aquash to shade her and see what happened.  I kind of like it.  I left stronger contrasted lights and darks in her fur near her head, in hopes it would point us toward what she was looking at.  I left the squirrel, the object of her gaze (and ultimately ours) in broad strokes.  In the end, I couldn't quite tell if the stronger visual pull was the squirrel on the feeder because he is so contrasty, or if you looked at the cat first and then the squirrel.  But overall, I like the sense of scene.  

In the second picture of just the squirrel, I worked hard to create strong contrast areas around his eye.  I placed his patterned face next to the dark block of seed not only because that was his position (at least occasionally; he moved a lot), but because I thought it might aid in the contrast and drawing our eye to his.  I am really pleased with his eye.  And the subtle shadow across his butt--I think this is from the overhanging shepherd's hook, which is not in the sketch.

I really enjoyed working with the whole concept of directly the viewer's eye.  This is exactly like a principle (I won't go into it) in creative writing about directing a reader's experience.  And I know how subtle changes can have huge impact in that. 

Art brings amazement in the seeing, the creating, and in the product--no matter what!

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

Cabela's is a Great Place to Draw!

In late February, I headed out to Cabela's in a nearby town to draw taxidermy.  It was a sad morning because of last night's random mass shooting in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is where I used to live and some of my family still does.  I'm going to do something positive for the planet, I thought, even if I don't totally get how it works. Thus, it was a great morning to get out and draw.  

I grabbed a folding tripod stool which I wanted to try out anyhow and sat on it for an hour to draw ($10 and very comfortable!).  I didn't move at all, but just switched up what I drew.  This gave me some odd angles--it was interesting to be beneath all of them too!

No one bothered me.

I used the Pitt Calligraphy pen today, and my two colors of watercolor (Daniel Smith Burnt Sienna and Indanthrone Blue).   Strathmore mixed media paper sketchbook.

It took me an hour to do the drawings below.  

I very much enjoyed the slow drawing of the elk (the close-up).  That took me nearly a half an hour as I considered shading and shadow and put paint on in think layers.

The bear gave me FITS!!  You can see from the big head my attempts to get the eye to nose proportions correct. 

As usual, I did better once I stopped trying to do it "right" and instead just scribbled to find the shapes and proportions.  This loosened me up, so I practiced with the whole body.  I will be going back to Cabela's and drawing that bear again.

I had a little time let, so I drew the sketch of the raccoon, which is the thing I am most pleased with. 

I want to continue to work on accuracy and speed.  When something like the bear flummoxes me, need to remember to scribble until I work it out.  

Funny thing:  when I show these pages to other people, almost everyone points to that scribbly mass of the bear's head and says they like that best! 

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

Friday, April 8, 2016

Understanding Shadows at Home

Today I drew at home again.  I wanted to try two very different things in one session, to experience the juxtaposition.  

Here they are:

So first (#1 and #2)--just scribbling with the fineliner.  Human on couch, followed by dog on other end of couch (because if a person is on the couch, a dog is also on the couch).

I feel that the pen drawing of the person is the first ACCURATE portrayal I have done.  Of anyone.  Ever.  So THAT is a huge huge leap forward for me.  Thanks to the many classes I have taken through Sketchbook Skool and with Roz Stendahl and Carla Sonheim.

The dog drawing failed around the head--it does not resemble Nik at all--but what I really like about it--and did capture--is the funny position of all four of his feet.  So, I consider the drawing a success.

The gouache painting below is my first attempt at color (beyond monochromatic) in a long time.  I confess, I was nervous to use it!  I started with the fineliner sketch of Tim.  He is the only non-black animal in the house.  I cartoon him a lot, but don't do super well ever actually getting a "from life" rendering of him.

So I am THRILLED with these sketch pages, because the central image looks like him!  And here is how that happened.  First, slow.  Checking angles and plumblines.  And every time he moved, I either worked on a gesture elsewhere on the page or just waited for him to return to the first pose.   I didn't declare that all was lost when he moved and just quit (which is exactly what I would have done six months ago).  I paid really close attention to the stripes on his face and body.  And I used only three colors of gouache and spent time mixing them for what I needed--remembering how to use indigo to neutralize.

Anyhow, one thing I want to continue to work on on (or with) is color.   In this painting, the ochre is a little too sharp, so I'd like to paint Tim again sometime and work on the coloring accuracy.  I do feel like I was able to catch volume and depict the parts of his body decently--maybe not as well as I would like but surely better than a few weeks ago!

And I need to learn more to understand shading.  Shadow.  The more I learn, the quicker and more loose my work can be.

I very much enjoyed another session of drawing the creatures I live with.  We all spend time with the beings we live with, but how often do we sit quietly and really look at them?  Pay attention to them?  Appreciate seeing them?

It is a delightful experience!

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

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Making a Scene

It's one thing to draw an object.  It's another to put two (or more) objects "on stage" together and create a scene.  So I decided to give that a try, still experimenting with the Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue and Burnt Sienna two-color combo.

In this scene, you can pretty much see how it goes at my house:  dog on couch.  Human on floor.

I turned on a bright light to cast some clearer shadows, so I could practice.

I grabbed a Staedtler fineliner 03, the two watercolors, and a waterbrush, and worked on Strathmore 500 mixed media paper.

First, I did a quick light contour with the pen.  Corrected some spots (in particular the person's right leg... you can see where I refigured the outline).

Then I mixed the paints--experimenting a lot with saturation, warmth versus cool, and so on as  tried to catch the shadows and values.

This took me roughly 30 minutes.  Longer than I would have out "in the field" to practice many scenes of people moving, but pretty fast for something stationary like this.

What I really like is that I paid close attention to contrast at points where I hoped the viewer's focus would go--the dog's head on the blanket, the person's head on the floor/pillow.

I'd like to continue to improve on all of it!   Just more practice.  One thing specifically, that I mentioned on day one of the homework, I think, is that I would like to figure out how to indicate the copper brindle on a dark brown/black dog.  I really like these two colors, because they mix up nicely to the variety of colors in the Dutch Shepherd coat.

I am so grateful to have spent  this fraction of an hour studying these beings I love in  such a restful state.  I'm kind of sorry this is a double-page spread in my sketchbook, as I actually think I'd frame it if I could.  What a wonderful gift drawing gives me, of attending to, and expressing, something I value so much!

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

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Monochrome Painting and Turtles

Recently, I treated myself to two specific colors of Daniel Smith paint to us to practice monochromatic painting.  The two, Indanthrone Blue and Burnt Sienna, stand out to Roz Stendahl as terrific complements for doing a wide variety of natural objects.  You can mix to warm or cool.  You can achieve a variety of neutrals.

I plopped a little bit of each into a tiny palette, grabbed my Strathmore 500 mixed media journal and a waterbrush, a Pitt Calligraphy pen, and a Prismacolor indigo colored pencil, and headed to my local public library's Turtle Tank.

I realized that though I have sketched people in public and taxidermy in public, and my own moving dogs, I hadn't actually sketched a moving animal out in public.  I did a frog a week or so ago, but he was reliably stationary.

Turtles seemed a good choice. Turtles.  Mobile but slow.  Right?

Not so much.  

I got there and plopped right down on the floor (the tank is at toddler eye-level).  The turtles were swimming, so I watched for a minute or so waiting for them to, you know, SLOW DOWN.

There was no slowing down these turtles. 

The voice in my head popped right up:  They are moving too fast; you will never be able to get anything down unless you resort to drawing what you imagine, not what you see.

It's okay, I thought.  I'm just scribbling.  If all else fails I will practice with the two colors and enjoy the turtles!

I watched and waited, because animals often return to the same positions and angles.  The proved true with the turtles and I was able to get some accurate and interesting observations, and I rendered them in a way that's meaningful to me too!

Here are the results:

I started with light colored pencil.  Then went to watercolor. When I used the black pen, it was over the watercolor to restate some lines I wanted to remember.

It was fun experimenting with the two colors.  I wanted to see what they were and what they did, so can see in the pages that I didn't just use a straight mixed monochrome, but let the blue and the burnt sienna shine through here and there.  Not true to the turtle's colors, but I'm okay with that.  I was looking for shape, angles, value, and proportion.  I need more work with the colors in the next few days.

Side note:  I have a personal belief in always introducing interested kids to my passions:  dogs, comics, and drawing.  Because I was in the little kids' area of the library, I had several small people come up to check out the drawings.  I was able to talk to them and keep drawing.  It added to my enjoyment of the whole thing.

What I particularly like is the middle sketch on the left side of the spread.  That's one where I looked down and thought, "GOT IT!"  Then I stopped touching it immediately!

I am also glad I kept going and really had an experience--my first!--drawing a fast moving animal, and not giving up!

I look forward to more experience with the watercolors and with direct brush sketching.

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Practicing with Brush Pen and Volume

On this day, I wanted to work with the dye brush pen and the water brush pen, focusing on values and people, but to mimic some work I've done with colored pencils in a way:  I wanted to capture what I could, to practice and practice, using three minute sketches.  No fussing.  Scribbles.  Just main features, shadow shapes, volume.

I planned to draw the students in one of my classes, because they would be doing a series of quick free writing--so I just made their exercises three minutes long and explained to them what I would be doing at the same time!  Actually, this led to a terrific conversation about learning "art"--them as novice creative writers and me, their professor, as a novice visual artist.  It was really a good conversation.

Anyhow, below you'll see three pages.

First, two brush sketches I did of my dog Nora just as I left the house.  I did both of these in a total of three minutes.  Just warming up, practicing catching shapes.  The negative space stood out for me here.  These actually look like her.  I really like the quick, scribbly, but effective nature of these!

Second, repetitions of three students I saw in an atrium at school.  I don't know these students.  You can see I made a celebratory mess.  I tried wet on wet for fun.  I started and restarted.  I totally screwed some stuff up.  I like the light on the man at the top of page 2.  
And I like the shading/volume work on all four in the right column on page 3.  

Third, ten of my students done each in three minutes in one sitting as they did writing exercises.   
I rather enjoy these quick three-minute sketches.  For me, it completely shuts the internal critic down and frees me up to experiment because I can get ten tries in within a half hour.  Try.  It failed.  Do it again, and again.... so at the end of my thirty-minute session I really feel like I have experimented and learned.  I'm glad to have discovered this for future work.

What messy, fast and loose fun!  And I feel like I'm learning, getting braver, and advancing toward my goals!  YAY!

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