Monday, February 8, 2016

Life Portraits and a butterfly

I was hoping to post this blog update last week, but poor weather here in the Northeast caused me to have Internet connection issues so I wasn't able to do any uploading. Better late than never I guess, but I admit to feeling a bit frustrated at the time.

Above is another of my 6 x 6 inch pen and ink drawings that are meant to be used like coloring book pages. This one was also started on my vacation in Chicago over Christmas. The butterfly is from a photograph I made a couple of years ago. Last summer I didn't see a lot of Tiger Swallowtails, while the previous summer (2014) I saw a great many, but then last summer got very dry and after July I just didn't see a lot of butterflies at all.

Drawn first with pencil on Stonehenge paper then inked with one of my technical pens. I decided to fill in the black areas with pen, I suppose I should have left them open but I know I found the areas a bit confusing so I thought it would be better if I just went ahead and filled them appropriately. The background is a bit abstracted. The butterfly was feeding on a Butterfly Bush which has lots of little flowers, a bit tricky to draw so I didn't even really try. Eventually I hope to get around to adding colored pencil to this.

Last Tuesday (Feb. 2) I took the bus into Boston to make photographs and visit the new Frida Kahlio painting at the Boston MFA. The painting which is a new acquisition is on display in the Rotunda but will only be there for a couple of weeks before it heads off to conservation for documentation, evaluation and any needed conservation before it goes on permanent display in one of the galleries. The painting is of two sisters who worked for Frida's mother, and I posted a photo of it on my Facebook page along with some of the photos I made of Boston on Tuesday.

Anyway on the trip up to Ashmont I entertained myself by making sketches of my fellow passengers. The woman above was done with pen, and I didn't really mean to give her a mustache, I just wanted to shade the area under her nose a bit.  Oops, used a bit too much pen I fear. Still the drawing isn't too bad. I think I still managed to capture her look.

 After my problems with shading with the pen I switched to a mechanical pencil and drew these three passengers. I feel the best one is the 3rd drawing of the African American older man. There are issues with the middle male figure as while I was working on the drawing he change how he was holding on (he was standing) and raised the arm closest to me blocking my view of the back of his head, I didn't want to add the arm, so the back of his head is mostly unfinished.  These exercises of drawing fellow passengers are one way for me to try and keep my hand in with figure drawing.

 At the MFA I decided to check out the Modern Art wing, which I usually avoid, but they do tend to swap out exhibits in those galleries so I thought I should check them out. To my surprise in one of the rooms a Performance Artist was in residence. The exhibit is called 100 Ways to Consider Time. The artist (Marilyn Arsen) is spending 100 days in this room, moving water from one container to another by eyedropper. Also present but not in the photograph is the mechanism of a Grandfather clock, no case, just the exposed gears and pendulum. There are also benches where visitors are encouraged to sit, and slow down while they observe the artist.

Sounds become important in this situation, the ticking of the clock, the sounds of the glass eyedropper hitting the sides of the glass beakers, the sounds other visitors in the museum make while exploring the outer galleries etc. I of course decided to try and draw the artist to capture a moment of time. I also made a photograph which you can see below.. Drawn in my sketchbook with a mechanical pencil, my visit was on day 80 something so she still has a couple more weeks on exhibit.

 Photograph of Performance Artist Marilyn Arsen, 100 Ways to Consider Time.

We had our first major storm arrive last Friday with about 8 inches of heavy wet snow which stuck to trees and buildings. This is a photograph of one of the dogwood trees in front of my local Library. I made the photo early on Sat. Afternoon. Because the tree is shielded from the morning sun by the Library building most of the snow was still on the branches. It looks pretty but can be deadly if the weight of the snow causes branches to fall, there were at least two deaths attributed to falling branches over the weekend.

That is it for today, per usual comments are always welcome.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Finished Colored Pencil and other

I wanted to finish the Purple Headed Sneezeweed work before I updated the blog. I really don't like posting in-process photos of works, I sort of feel that it is OK to post the beginnings of a piece, but once the drawing reaches a certain point (over half way finished) it seems to me that posting photos sort of ruins the final reveal. You are of course entitled to your own opinion.

Anyway above is a scan of the final work. The colors aren't quite right, scanners never seem to get yellow quite right, I have a feeling it has to do with the pigments used to create the color. So I have played with this a bit in Photoshop, this is a good as I could get it. When we get a sunny or less overcast day I will try to get a photograph of the drawing and see if I can do better color wise with the camera.

This was done on Stonehenge paper, size of the finished work is approximately 6 x 6 inches. I used a combination of many colors and different brands of colored pencils, mostly underlayers of various Derwent brands, Colorsoft, Artists, and Studio with final overlays of Faber Castell Polychromos. The flower is based on a personal photograph I made last summer the background is totally my imagination, but I rather like it.

The above piece is more of my playing around with a dip pen and colored inks. I decided I needed to take a bit of time away from the colored pencil work and do some sketching from real life, fruit is always good for quick studies so above are 2 pears and an apple. I really just wanted to play with the inks so I wasn't too concerned about accuracy. Done in my Strathmore Multi Media Journal, I used Red, Yellow, Antelope Brown and Indigo Blue acrylic inks for the fruit after making the initial outline with one of my technical pens in black ink. Not wonderful, but sort of fun anyway.

One day last week I took the bus into Boston, I wanted to visit Dick Blicks and the MFA. On the way in I sketched one of my fellow passengers. Just a quick sketch, but not too bad. I used a mechanical pencil for this in one of my smaller sketchbooks.

At the large Dick Blicks in Boston I discovered that they are now carrying open stock of the Caran d'Ache Luminance colored pencils. Oh my, I am in trouble now, well my budget is. These are very expensive pencils, but they are also the most colorfast pencils on the market so of course I want them. I already have a few and now I have the opportunity to acquire more.

At the MFA they are sort of between major shows. The artwork from the Americas showing the influences of Eastern art on western art is still on-going but the Dutch paintings are gone. There are a couple of smaller exhibits of some interest, one is some of the Photographs of Hiro. He was mostly a fashion/advertising photographer still some of his photos are iconic. The other is some of the fashion illustrations of Kenneth Paul Block. I found it interesting how over time he distorted the human form to feature the fashions he is illustrating, bodies and limbs become elongated, heads and feet were made smaller. In his drawings the clothes are what is important not the faces or accurate portraits of the models. The Illustrations range from some of his earlier works to later ones, and it is interesting to see how the figure is more distorted over time, the earlier illustrations show more realistic human models, the later ones are less and less realistic.

Since I am trying to get less realistic for my own art I am trying to pay attention to how other artists do or don't use realism in their works. Not sure I am succeeding with my goal, drawing realistically is a habit that is hard to break, but I think I now have a better understanding of what Picasso was trying to do with some of his art. I am not going to go that way with mine, but I can understand why he did.

A couple of snow photographs from this past weekend. We did get some of the snow that blanketed the east coast the end of last week, but no where near the amount of snow they got to the south of us, particularly in the mid Atlantic states. We got maybe six inches of snow not several feet. But we did get wind. The photo above shows how the snow was blown about settling in patterns and layers.

The snow was just damp enough to stick to trees, so above is a small tree with its icing of snow, you can see some of the trees behind it have a coating on one side of their trunks. I always love photographing snow when it has stuck to the trees this way.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Colored Inks, and beginning Colored Pencil

The above Hibiscus flower was done entirely with various colored acrylic inks and a dip pen. I used a half sheet of Strathmore toned paper for the background. The size is about 5 x 6 inches. I did rough in a pencil outline of the flower and main leaves first but as I inked the background first I was able to erase out most of the pencil prior to starting the the flower. I didn't use any black ink on this, just various colors, red, green, antelope brown, and yellow, and oh yes a little Indigo blue in the background and on some of the leaves.

The reference is from the January Monthly challenge in the WetCanvas Pen and Ink forum.

I am relatively pleased with how this came out and may try to do more flowers this way. The only drawback is that color placement does have to be thought out a bit prior to inking, and I can only ink one color at a time so it isn't quick and there is a fair amount of pen cleaning involved. I keep a small jar of my pen cleaning solution close at hand, and always rinse that off in clean water after cleaning the pen.

I have started the colored pencil work on this inked flower, so far I have just been working on the background abstract leaves. Selecting the colors has been fun, but I think what you see is what I will be using for the rest of the background, I am using under layers of Derwent colored pencils with a top layer of Polychromos. The Derwents are wax based pencils and the Polychromos are oil based and a bit more translucent than the wax pencils.

The other day I was out for a walk in my local park and saw a tree trunk/stump in a clearing that I thought might make an interesting drawing. I made a reference photo at the time and used it as the basis for the above sketch. I used Sepia Acrylic ink and dip pen in one of my smaller sketchbooks for this drawing.

The drawing didn't actually take very long to do, but I am quite pleased with how it came out. Guess my occasional plein air landscape drawings are starting to pay off when it comes to figuring out how to suggest distance and textures with pen and ink.

The above is pretty much a doodle done in one of my sketchbooks with my Copic Multiliner pens (various tip sizes). Just playing around to see what values/textures I can come up with using just ink. No reference and not really trying to create a finished drawing, but depicting tone/texture with ink is a constant challenge so these doodles do have a purpose. 

We had more snow over the weekend, not a lot, just about 3 inches, not even enough for them to haul out the plows, but with the snow has come cold air and wind. Yesterday I went for a walk up in the Blue Hills Reservation, I was going to check out the animals at Trailside Museum, but I had forgotten about the ski slope on Great Blue Hill, so parking for Trailside was pretty impossible. Causing me to pass on the Museum and drive directly over the Houghton's Pond. The photo above was made at the pond, and shows an area that is just east of the beach. The sky was very blue yesterday though the wind was cold, so I can't say that I entirely enjoyed my walk, got a bit chilled.

Speaking of blue, I just finished reading a book about blue. It is mostly about blue dye, originally done in the Mediterranean using the gland of a sea snail, until plant indigo was introduced from the East, even then it was the preferred dye of the upper classes. The author includes all sorts of linked information, Mediterranean History, how we see blue, the chemistry of Indigo and how the historic dyeing process was rediscovered. So if you are curious about the color blue prior to our chemical dyes this is a very interesting read:  The Rarest Blue

That is it for today, per usual comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Playing with Watercolor and Pen

The one thing all of todays drawings have in common is they were done with pen and ink and watercolor. Not always pan or tube watercolor, I did use watercolor pencils for the abstract design, but since I did take the time to activate the pencil with a brush and water it is still watercolor.

Above is a small still life, bowl of fruit on one of my quilts. I rendered the quilt in a very abstract way, just to see if I could. Don't know how I feel about this, could certainly be better but could also be worse. Added the darkened background because I wanted the visual contrast. No pencil work in this one, everything was done directly.

Another of my sort of paisley doodles. I am much happier with the colors I used here. For one thing I limited the number of colors I used to fewer than I used in the last one. I don't know how many more of these I have in me right now, will just have to wait and see. In the meantime I may pull one of these into Illustrator to see if I could actually design an overall pattern that could be used for fabric. It would make an interesting challenge for 2016.

Above is another watercolor sketch/painting. Well it isn't awful but could certainly be better that is for sure. I based the painting on a photograph I made last fall in the Fens area of Boston. The black tree I did with ink, and probably should have used paint for it but... I wanted to use ink so I did. At one point I was afraid I was overworking this piece, but looking at it now, I think I mostly didn't. Watercolor is so easy to overwork ending up with muddy color and no definition. I didn't go quite as dark on the right side of the painting as it is in the photograph but I am not sure that is a bad thing.

For this one done in my Strathmore Multi-media sketchbook I did block in a few pencil marks prior to starting the painting. Not a lot of detail, but I did note where I wanted the tree, the line of the top of the bridge, a line for the top of the building, that type of thing. Note that all of today's images were done in my Multi-media sketchbook so are small about 5 x 7 inches or less.

My reference photograph for the above watercolor painting. I may attempt this one again on larger and better paper.

Sunday for us was a day of rain, lots of rain, which we still need from our dry summer and fall last year. The water levels in the lakes/ponds are looking better but I know the water table is still probably lower than it should be.

We did get a few breaks in the rain and during one of those breaks I photographed the swan pair in my local park. Just realized when I was editing the photo that Sunday was the first time I hadn't seen the signets with their parents, well I think these are the pair that had young last summer, but maybe not. Swans sort of look pretty much alike and I certainly can't tell the pairs apart. But the above pair was only the one I saw out and about so who knows if it is the same one and the young have just taken off to find mates and a home elsewhere or if the whole family left and another pair has moved in.

That is it for today. Per usual comments are always welcome.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Happy 2016, and Some Ink Work

On one hand I can't believe I let the entire month of December go by without one blog update, on the other hand it makes total sense. Thanksgiving was late in 2015, leaving just 4 weeks till Christmas. For me Thanksgiving was a wake up call, buy presents, get them wrapped and mailed, make travel reservations, figure out what I wanted to take, pack, then travel. It didn't leave me a lot of time for art or the blog. Then I spent 2 weeks in Chicago, a great place to visit but it wasn't feasible to try and make any blog updates while I was there. Though I did draw while in Chicago, that is mostly where the images in today's post were made. Then I had to travel home, and try to settle back into my life, taking care of plants, returning books to library, laundry, groceries, bills, etc. I am thankful to say that is all mostly done. So today I am belatedly turning my attention to the blog.

The above is sort of a doodle, but not entirely, I think I have it in the back of my brain to attempt to design some fabric. The above is a first attempt. I used 3 different sized technical pens then watercolor pencils to add a bit of color. The watercolor was activated with a damp brush. I am not happy with the colors, and while I think the patterns have possibilities it doesn't quite work. So expect to see some more of this type of work. Whether it will actually become a fabric design I don't know at this point, we will just have to see.

You may or may not be aware that there is currently a revival with coloring books, these are mostly aimed at adults who don't feel they can draw but love color, and are happy to spend the time and effort coloring others drawings. I thought it might be fun to design some works that could be downloaded and used by others as templates to color. The subjects are based on photographs I have made, and I have tried to create simplified outlines that can be filled in. I have yet to decide where to upload large images for download, probably in my Esty shop, so stay tuned.

Above are three mallard ducklings. the drawing and ink work are done, image scanned and it is time for me to do some coloring with this one. My drawing was done on Stonehenge paper and I inked them with my technical pens, size is 7 x 7 inches.

The flowers in the above drawing are purple headed sneezeweed and the reference photograph was one I used in my Flowers 2016 calendar. The background leaf pattern is just me being creative and doesn't really reflect the reference. Another drawing ready to be colored. I will be using colored pencils for these though I suppose I could use watercolor pencils or even watercolor. Something to think about.

I have one more drawing that needs to be inked then I need to work on a couple more of these. They have been both a challenge and fun to do.

The above photograph I made in Chicago, a bush with red berries in front of a window that was reflecting a tree and sky. I thought it was sort of fun so am posting it here.

I took the train to Chicago, and since I arrived at South Station with some time to spare I took my camera for a walk and made some Boston Photos prior to departing, so this is a December photograph of the Fort Point Channel with a view of the sheep statue and some Boston buildings as a backdrop, looking northeast. Wool was an important trade commodity for Colonial Boston. Wool produced here in the Colonies was shipped back to England to be woven into cloth. Early Colonists were prohibited from shipping 100% wool cloth between colonies or exporting it out of its place of manufacture. Of course the prohibition of shipping between colonies couldn't really be enforced. So spinning and weaving became important home industries for early american Woman and Children.

That is it for today, I want to take a moment to wish everyone reading a Happy Healthy 2016, may some of your dreams and/or wishes come true this next year, may you and yours enjoy good health, and be creative. Per usual comments are welcome. Oh, there are a few Chicago photographs on my Facebook page if you are interested in looking, link at the bottom of the blog.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Found Shoes

Oops, the found shoes project took far longer to finish than I expected, but it is now done.

Above is the inked version of the shoes just prior to my starting work with the colored pencils. I moved the child's sandal in the upper left to be a bit more in the corner and made some corrections to the laces (which still aren't quite right, but I don't care). I used my 0 sized technical pen to draw the outline. As a reminder the size is 8 x 8 inches on Strathmore's new Colored Pencil paper.

Above is the finished colored pencil drawing. I used various Derwents (Artist, Signature, Colorsoft, Studio) pencils with usually an over lay or final layer of Faber Castel Polychromos. Colors were mostly my pick though some were inspired by the actual shoe colors. I had the most fun with the high heel, which is in the original photo black. Isn't it more fun my way? I have actually seen sneakers that were almost this color of green, though the ones in my photo weren't.

I rather carefully tried to use each color in more than one place, repetition is after all one element of design. I didn't want to color the background so instead came up with this idea of something like slats. I did use a ruler to draw the lines and to get the spacing a consistent 1/4 inch. But I did not use the straight edge to actually draw the lines, so they do wobble a bit, which I think is more in keeping with the style of the rest of the drawing. The black was inked using my 1 technical pen (.5)

Actually I am rather pleased with how this came out. I like the bright colors, and like how the background works. There are some things I might have done differently, but overall I am not displeased. Oh yes, the paper, I rather liked using it for colored pencils. It has some tooth so will take 4 or more layers of pencil, but it also feels like a firmer surface than what Stonehenge paper has. Stonehenge seems to feel soft to me and tends to "absorb" color meaning you have to add more layers than you might think you need originally, with the Strathmore paper the color stays on top. Now I have to think up another project.

The above is a very sketchy drawing of a vase with flowers and was made at a friends on Thanksgiving Day. I was invited for dinner and after the feast I sat around listening to the chatter and drawing various objects. As I said very sketchy but I still rather like it.

Photographs from my local park today. I haven't been going very far afield lately for my walks. In fact most of my walking is between my home and the library. Since the days are getting shorter there is less daylight available for photographs. Ah well, Christmas isn't that far off, along with the winter solstice after which the days will start getting longer again.

Above is one of this years Signets stretching it's wings. The birder group I belong to on facebook won't let us post invasive bird photos, I totally understand, but still rather like this photo of this young swan. They are usually graceful looking birds.

Above is one of the ponds in the park. This is a section of the park that I don't usually visit or photograph, but I rather like the photo with the cat tails in front and the mostly bare trees in the distance. A very typical November day.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Journal drawings, Shoes and Thumbnails

I actually had the above penciled in for a few days prior to adding ink. I used the .03 Copic Multiliner for this one. Lots and lots of fine lines, almost as good as stipple without the dots or the huge amount of time that stipple takes even on small drawings like this one. Done in my new Strathmore Multimedia Journal (5 x 8 inches) from a personal reference photograph.

A real still life was the reference for this, a bowl full of 3 lemons and 2 limes. I used Paynes Grey acrylic ink and a dip pen for all of the line work and added watercolor for the fruit and bowl. I was mostly trying to see how well the multimedia paper in the new Journal will take watercolor. Not bad, not as good as using the real thing, but not as tricky as using the thinner sketchbook paper. I tried to avoid outlining anything, though there are a few in the areas where there are dark shadows. Semi happy with the results. I really do need to do more watercolor work though.

I have a habit of photographing what I call "Found Objects". They are usually physical objects found out of place, often on a sidewalk, but as in the case of the sneakers some on grass. Over the years I have made a collection of shoe photographs as you can see in the above scan. All of these shoes were dropped, lost or left by their owners who were not around when I made the photos.

Last week I printed out all my shoe images on one sheet and started a group of of thumbnails to come up with a good layout. A funny thing, when I was taking classes a few years ago I got so sick of drawing shoes that I think I swore I would never draw another, oops, well they do make interesting subjects, and these probably have interesting stories to tell about how they got left.

Above are the six thumbnail drawings I did using my "found" shoes. I know thumbnails can be a pia to do and for many seem like a waste of time. But note the first drawing I did above, The four shoes are centered on sheet, not only centered design wise but all shoes are about the same relative size. Not a very inspired drawing. I don't know about you but such is my initial tendency when starting a drawing, my comfort zone so to speak. In the next drawings I tried different things working the shoes larger and smaller, pulling them toward the edges  I probably should have done more drawings, but some of these I actually did some erasing and redrawing on just to change things up.

One of the first things that happens if you spend any time in Collage level art classes (other than beginning drawing) is that you will find that instructors push you to create thumbnail drawings to play with various layouts. Since I have realized that my initial layout drawings are usually pretty trite I have to admit that I am trying to stop plunging into a major drawing without at least some thought if not spending the time to do the thumbnails. Once I start with colored pencil I am going to put significant time into this piece, so the overall design should be as good as I can make it up front.

I decided that the one I liked best was the middle drawing on the right side, but rotated so that the sneaker was on the bottom.

Above is my working drawing, still just pencil right now and I am trying to decide if I like it or not. I intend to ink outlines on this and then color it using colored pencil. The drawing is being done on Strathmore's new Colored Pencil paper and I am curious as to how well it will take colored pencil.

The sneaker ended up a bit smaller than the one in my thumbnail, and I am trying to decide if this smaller version works. Drawing is approx. 8 x 8 inches in size.

 Only one photograph today, as fall slips into winter there is less and less plant material and insects to photograph. Since we haven't yet had a hard freeze I do still see an occasional butterfly (a yellow sulfur or cabbage white) but I haven't actually photographed one for a while. Above is a milk weed pod letting loose its seeds. Love how the light lights up the seed heads. Photographed over the weekend in my local park.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome.