Thursday, October 27, 2016

Scribbling a Buffalo Skull

A few years ago I bought my brother-in-law a buffalo skull for his new cabin.

Yeah, in my family that's a legit cool gift.

Anyhow, I borrowed it recently for a few weeks to draw it.  Bones are really hard, I find, and great to learn on because the white surface helps me see shadows really well.

Which doesn't mean I can render them really well... but I have great fun trying.  And I learn a lot.

Below are three versions of the same view of the skull.

First, ink contour lines and watercolor for the shadows.  I allowed myself to play some with color.

As often happens to me, I didn't get the scale of the object correct on the page, and ran its nose right off.  Still, I liked a lot about this drawing, particularly the teeth and the angles of the horns.

Second, I explored the shapes again, but this time with a fat brush and fun colors.

And, dang if I didn't run that nose right off the page again.  VERY frustrating to me.  I really have to map things out in advance on the page more, or something.  

I suppose if I started with a pencil drawing and fiddled with that until I got the scale right, and then went in with ink or paint, I'd be better off.  But I like the "no erase" scribbling approach to my sketchbook.  So, I just have to remember that scale failure is something I need to work on.

Or maybe I should embrace it as "my style!"

Third, I started on the left, with the nose and tried to fit it on one page, but again, no go.  This time, at least, I could cross the gutter and finish on the right page.

I really enjoyed the colors I used with this one.

The skull is complicated and unfamiliar.  For me it is hard to draw so that a viewer can tell the inside of the skull from the outside.  All those cracks and crevices--what to leave in and what to leave out?

Doing several scribbles in a row like this helps me get to know a shape.  Each piece makes the object a little bit more clear in my brain.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Quick Sketch of Grace Episcopal Church, Holland Michigan

I ran by my church one day last summer to drop something off.  And because I always have a sketchbook with me, I stood in the sunny, warm parking lot and drew the north end of the church.

This took about five minutes and is a wonderful thing to look at again now, in rainy October, and remember summer.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Watercolor Scribble of the Rose Window, Dimnent Chapel, Hope College

At Hope College in Holland, Michigan, there stands a chapel with a lovely rose window.

I attended Hope in the 1980s and had the wonderful experience of singing in the Chapel Choir for several years.

In those days, we rehearsed in the Chapel, standing on the stage at the front.  And for hours every week, for months and years, I sang to that rose window.

So recently, just messing around with watercolors, I did a little scribble to capture part of it.

No pre-drawing here, no real attempt at angles or accuracy or anything.   Didn't even pause to let the paint dry in between colors.

Just quick, energetic capturing.

It brought up a lot of memories, which was fun.

And it has me inspired to maybe try a more considered work with this subject in the future.

What images from your past might inspire new artwork for you?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

When What I Thought Was Going to Happen Didn't, and It Turned Out Better

One reason I keep a sketchbook with me all the time:  you just never know.

You never know when you're going to want to capture something in front of you.

You never know when you're going to have a long, unexpected wait, and sketching occupies the mind in positive and creative ways.

You never know when one silly drawing is going to wind up being one of your favorites.

This sketch is one that I just love.

As you can see, it's just a few lines.  My dog, Nik, was napping and I thought I'd be able to do a slow set of drawings, because, hey, he's napping, right?  Not likely to move.

So I started with a warm-up semi-blind contour drawing.

And then he moved.  Not only moved, but left the room.

I was bummed, my scribbling plans awry.  And a very unfinished squiggle of not much taking up a whole page.

But the next day, I realized I really like this contour.  It captures his profile, and there's a simplicity to it that I just really like.

So, you never know what's going to lead to a fun and meaningful drawing experience.

Which is why I keep scribbling.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Because the World Needs More Tim...

Working from a photography, I dashed out this 6 x 6 watercolor portrait of my cat, Tim.

Around the house we always say, "The world needs more Tim."  Because Tim, he knows how to live.  Everything is pretty good for him, and he is at home and relaxed no matter what is going on around him.  Friends come over, Tim lies in the middle of the crowd rolling belly up.  New puppies visit the house?  Tim waggles his tail at them and invites a game.  Dogs lie down on his kitty blanket?  No worries--Tim just curls up next to the dogs.

Really, everything is just good for Tim.  He is a cat of great acceptance and gratitude.

The world needs more Tim.

So, here's my contribution toward that, today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Working with a Plaster Venus Part Two

In my summer painting class, I did more work with the plaster Venus.  My goal was to work fast and scribbly, capturing shadow shapes.

I also played with different media, just for fun (and because my teacher said I could!).

So, first, I used some scrap kraft paper and a bright red pastel chalk.   The black line you see is something someone had started and abandoned.    I did this portrait and thought it was done.

However, my teacher suggested it would be stronger with white highlights on the face.  So I started using a piece of white chalk over the eyebrow and across the cheekbone.

He wanted me to try smudging titanium white acrylic paint on it, though, just to see what the effect would be.  So I did, because, hey, that's what scribbling is all about!  Give something a try!

You'll see below the difference in value in the white paint on mid-forehead, nose, lip and chin versus the white chalk above and below the eye.

I'm glad he pushed me to try both and learn the differences.

Next, I switched to a more fuschia chalk and tried a similar drawing on a different paper--a white Strathmore 400 drawing pad.

Super interesting to work on the mid-value kraft and then a pretty white paper.  Also interesting to see how the different textures of the paper made the chalk look so different.

I did another quick scribble on the drawing paper.  This time I used two chalks, one much darker, so that the fuschia became the middle value.

(These are 18 x 24, by the way, and completed in under five minutes each. I really was just experimenting with papers, media, contour and value.)  

After that, I decided to return to my favorite scribbling tools:  fountain pen, waterproof ink, and watercolor.  I think this is Daniel Smith sepia, which is a great paint for monochrome work because it mixes to so many different values.  This is on a piece of rough watercolor paper, about 4 x 6 in size.  

I worked more slowly on this piece--I think it took me as much time to think through and execute than all of the above combined.

Then, for fun, a final piece of work with the plaster cast.  This time, using only a brush and watercolor paint, I did the figure at a different scale.  I thought a bit about design (using columns and the rule of thirds, considering background color blocks and playing with freehand lettering).  For this, I really was just having fun.

What fun to tackle the same subject with so many different scribbling tools!  I had the luxury of a class and could do this work pretty much in one sitting.  That takes some stamina, but it also builds momentum and really allows me to compare and contrast my experience with the different art supplies. 

Still, doing a series like this over time would be interesting as well.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Working with a Plaster Venus Part One

One day I walked into painting class and the teacher had put two nearly life-sized plaster models in the center of the room, under spotlights.  Venus and Mercury.

I've done a little life drawing in the past.  But all white plaster models of people are so much easier!  The shadows stand out more clearly and allow you to practice seeing and scribbling form.

The two scribbles below were done quickly, with different water soluble media.  I focused on contours, knowing I would fill in with water on a brush in a second pass.

First, a NeoColor II crayon:

Then I went back in with a damp brush and played with shading and values of the background.

Next, keeping to the same angle, I tightened the scale of the sketch and used a tailor's chalk.  

This time, I went in with a damp brush and diluted the markings to play with shadow shapes and values inside the figure.

This experience got me to thinking about buying a small, white plaster model for work at home.  They do make them, but they are kind of expensive.   So I'm going to think about it some more.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Getting a Little Serious About Painting a Portrait of Nikolaas

During my watercolor class in the summer of 2016, my teacher encouraged me to "work big."

He had seen my scribbling work in multiple sketchbooks and thought that, if nothing else, working in a larger format would inspire me to approach my art differently and learn some things.

He was right, as most teachers usually are, especially when they ask you to try something new!

Anyhow, one of the things this inspired in me was thinking, for the first time, about whether or not I might create a piece of visual art that I would hang on a wall.

Of course, that immediately caused me to panic about "wrecking" the painting or "wasting paper and paint" if I screw up.  So I told myself, no worries!  Just do a sketch on big paper and see what happens.

I've posted some of those results in earlier posts.

For this project, I approached much the same way, but with a slightly different intention:  I wanted to see if I could capture light and shadow in a watercolor sketch of my dog, Nikolaas, lying in the sun outside the house.  No worries about how it turned out.  It was an assignment for class and nothing more.

So I began by stretching the watercolor paper on a board.  But then I penciled in different margins for the painting, leaving white all around.

Using a photo reference, and some very scribbly pen sketches I had done from my hammock while watching Nik in the sun, I penciled in the basics of the scene.

Then I painted in the background, reserving the white for the dog.  I wanted to tackle those two things separately because I knew I wanted a wet in wet background, and I didn't want it bleeding into the dog's form.

Here is a photo of the work in progress at that stage:

After this was completely dry, I tackled the figure of the dog:

I let this dry and took it into my class, wondering if I should punch up some darks, or add different textures into the foreground.  But my teacher said, "Do NOT touch it!"

So I didn't.

Other than to take it home, frame it, and put it up above the mantel in my house.

The very first piece of visual art which I have created and hung!

Would I call this painting scribbling?  No.  I was intentional and careful and really working to create something specific.  I had a higher bar for the result than I ever do for my daily scribbling practice.

But this painting is the result of the thousands of scribbles I've done over the last few years.  I'm pleased with it, but the fun factor--at least for me--is definitely higher for the scribbles in my sketchbooks.