Saturday, June 23, 2018

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Colored Pencil

Above is the finished version of my latest colored pencil drawing in my 6 x 6 inch series, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. The drawing is from a reference photo I made several years ago. The background was abstracted and modified from the original reference. Actually I think that if I had done this drawing more recently it would have been a bit more simplified but it had already been inked when I started adding color recently.

Swallowtails are the oldest species of butterfly, they also tend to be the largest and the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is often the largest in the group. So this was a large butterfly.

I have only one in-process image for this work. Above is a scan where all of the first layer of color was applied and I had started adding the final layers of the background green. I use Faber Castel Polychromos for the top layers while the base layer are done with Derwent wax pencils. The base layer is not much more than a light layer of a light color. Keeping it light allows me more latitude with the top layers.

The Butterfly is the last of the drawings I had inked a couple of years ago when I got distracted and put the project aside and focused on photographs. I am now working on a couple of different subjects/images for the next drawings in the series.

These next three drawings are something a bit different for me. for some reason I was never interested in doing colored pencil portraits. But earlier this June I purchased a set of Prismacolor Premiere pencils, they are a creamy wax based pencil and I thought why not test drive them with some portraits. So far I have finished 3 drawings. All reference images are from the Wetcanvas photo library. As a member of the site I am free to use them.

There are some inaccuracies in the drawings, it has been over a year since I did a lot of serious drawing so my skills are rusty, but I will say that I am relatively pleased with the results. For the most part everyone at least looks human.

I am starting all of these drawings with a light pencil sketch to locate eyes, shape of head, end of nose and mouth. Next I use a kneaded eraser to remove/lighten the pencil lines until they are barely visible.  Once the graphite lines are mostly gone I start with the colored pencils working first with light colors and then adding shading and darker tones. 

I started with the woman above. The light brown skin was fun to do.

The boy above was my second portrait attempt. Not sure how I like this one. His darker skin tones were a challenge and I am not sure I used the right colors for it. I used pinks and reds though I wonder if some orange and violets wouldn't have been better. Ah well will have to work on that. Also teeth can be very tricky, The ear leaves a lot to be desired but I was getting tired of working on this so left it generalized rather than detailed.

I do have to say t hat the hair was fun, I used, I think, at least 3 different colored pencils on it, starting with a light warm grey, adding some dark brown and also black.

This little boy is the last one I have finished, and I have to say this is the one that I am happiest with. I think I got the skin tones mostly right, and the shape of the head and features. I probably should have shaded the right side of his face a bit more, but I didn't want to push it too dark, which is an easy mistake to make with any drawing (the mistake is staying too light) After doing the darker skinned boy it was a challenge to find the right colors for this very light skinned child. But at least he looks like a child, so easy to get children's faces wrong.

Now the challenge is going to be finding more subjects. I am beginning to understand why colored pencil artists like to do portraits, often on commission. It can be a challenge to find copyright free images to draw. I don't usually photograph people so I don't have many personal reference photos to use.

All of these portraits were done in my small Strathmore sketchbook 5.5 x 8.5 inches. Not the best paper for colored pencil work but not the worst either.

Now for a couple of photographs.

Gladiolas, not the most common garden flower now a days, the stalks are a bit fragile, but they do have beautiful flowers. Photographed in a neighborhood garden, I saw only the one plant in bloom, but aren't they beautiful flowers.

I am not seeing a lot of butterflies this year, well lots of cabbage whites, but not being able to drive limits my viewing opportunities. I believe the above is a European Skipper, not native but I am happy to photograph any butterfly this year. Not sure what the flower it is feeding on is, I think some kind of escaped garden flower.

That is it for today. I need to go work on my drawings for my series. In the meantime comments are welcome.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Grey Squirrel in Colored Pencil

The grey squirrel is done. Yeah, it took what seemed like forever to finish. Of course it didn't take that long, but I think this squirrel is the drawing I have spent the most time on in this series. The ducklings also took a long time, but the issue with them was the feathers and then the rocks. Again this one was started years ago and then put aside. I got a bit nervous about my abilities to render it so ended up putting it away while I worked on others. Finally I pushed myself to just get back to it and get it done.

It is the same size as the others, 6 x 6 inches on Stonehenge paper. I think the tree trunk took the most time to finish and I admit that it gave me the most anxiety. I worried that it wouldn't look like a tree trunk when done. Now that it is done I am relatively pleased with how this came out.

Again not photo realistic, but then I wasn't aiming for that. I did simplify the background behind the squirrel, in the photo there were more tree branches. I didn't want to draw attention away from the squirrel so left them out. 

It was a cold cloudless February day when I made this photo in Boston, MA. There was a couple of feet of snow on the ground so some of the light is reflected. The squirrel was looking for a handout, which I wasn't able to give as I had no food with me but it was a fairly close encounter.

The Wood Lily above is one of my next projects. For this one I had an almost finished drawing that needed to be transferred to the correct paper, and outlined in ink. I have all of the first layers of color applied. In fact the background is almost done. Again I used a red wax based pencil (Derwent) covered with a green wax based pencil and then a final layer of a Polychromos dark green. There are some areas that need a touch up and a bit more work but the background is mostly finished.

Wood Lilies are a native New England wildflower, found in open meadows, it is a lovely reddish  colored flower. Each plant usually has a single bloom. I photographed this one in the Power Line cut at Ames Nowell State Park in a nearby town.

I have just about run out of prepped drawings for the next in the series. I want to do at least 13/14 drawings so I can put a calendar together.

I love birds, though I admit to being a bit leery about using one of them for these drawings, color patterns on feathers can be very complex. Flowers are usually so much easier.  Still I want a variety of subjects so I expect that I will use the above bird as one of my drawings.

The bird is a Cat Bird. They are mostly grey so I won't have much of an issue with color patterns, except for the black cap that is. It is still just in the pencil stage, I need to check it for correctness but I think it is about good to go.

I am also trying to get back to some sketching with pen (no pencil) I have been away from it for so long that I am fairly sure my efforts are going to be pretty bad. But they won't get better unless I bite the bullet and just do it. The flowers above are Spiderwort an early June garden flower that has escaped to the woods. Drawn in a sketchbook with just pen. Not terrible, but not very good either. I will keep at it.

Early June is also the time when the peonies are in bloom. These two photos were made in my local neighborhood and show the varieties of peony's that can now be found in the garden. When I was young we had Peony's in our yard, all white ones that had a large multi petal bloom. I remember that at the time there was also a deep red color, but I don't recall pink of the above flowers or the brighter red in the flower below.

I love the smell of Peonies, but I don't love the ants that love the sweet sap the plant produces and seem to accompany all flowers. A problem if you wanted to bring some of the flowers inside.

Hope you enjoy these two photos. That is it for today. I need to motivate myself and get another of the colored pencil drawings finished. Per usual comments are welcome. .

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Lilies, Colored Pencil

I have finished a couple more pieces of my Colored Pencil project these past few days. I will post one of them today and the 2nd in my next update. Above are lilies with some other pink garden flower. This is from a reference photograph I made a couple of years ago and fell in love with because of the colors. I simplified the background a great deal so as to keep the final drawing not too busy.

I am rather pleased with how this one came out. Not photo realistic, but that is OK with me, that wasn't what I was going for with this one. Drawn on Stonehenge paper, size is 6 x 6 inches for the finished drawing.

The above image is a photograph not a scan, I did a scan but wasn't happy with the resulting quality of the image, I think the colors are more accurate with the photo

I have two more in-process scans of the Day Lilies so you can see a bit how I work. Above is an in-process scan of my working on the dark green background for the lilies. First I lay down a light covering of a red wax based pencil, then I go over the red with a green wax based pencil (Derwent Studio). The brighter green to the right side is the final layer of a Dark Green Polychromos color. All final layers are Faber Castell Polychromos pencils for this work. The red background will give me a darker green than I would get if I just used green pencils.

Prior to starting with any of the colored pencils I do an ink outline drawing of the final image, this gives me guidelines for where the colors go. Sort of like an adult coloring book, but the drawings are my work based on personal reference photographs.

The above scan shows the drawing with the final layer of dark green Polychromos background and all other sections with their under layer of Derwent's wax pencils. I choose light colors for the flowers/leaves so that I can leave light areas when I do the final layers. Color pencil like watercolor doesn't really allow light colors to show up if they are applied over dark, so light areas have to be left light from the beginning.

I have been so busy with the colored pencil drawings that I am not getting much done watercolor wise. The above painting of some fall leaves was actually started a couple years ago and just finished this week. I was experimenting with a substance that covers the paper and protects it from the paint leaving white areas. Once the substance dries (it is a rubber like liquid) the background is painted, when the paint dries the resist is removed leaving the white paper ready for painting. Hmm well that is the theory, I found that there seemed to be a bit of a residue on the paper so some areas didn't like taking my paint.

Anyway while I am not unhappy with this painting, I am not very happy with the process, so I don't think I will be incorporating that technique into much of my watercolor art.

On a trip into Boston last week I walk through the Fenway past the World War II Memorial seen in the above photograph. I know there are also markers for the Korea War and other later wars in this area. Since Memorial day was Monday this week I thought it would be an appropriate image. I made the photograph more because the the blooming Azaleas but that is just an aside.

I also visited the Fenway Rose Garden, it is too early for much to be in boom but I did find this yellow/pink rose on one of the bushes. Have to go back a bit later in June when most of the bushes should be blooming.  My Father loved roses, and since a rose is usually the flower for June (my birth month) I am also very fond of them.

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

Birds and flowers

Spring is advancing, we are getting some warm days and some cool wet days along with some that are just cloudy. Wet and/or cloudy days are not good for photography. I have managed to do a couple more watercolor paintings. Again I am drawing my main subject first with pencil then inking an outline that I then paint with watercolor. My drawing skills are a bit rusty and since I want to concentrate on controlling the paint/color and not shapes I am finding this the easiest way to work.

So the above tulip was drawn and then outlined prior to my adding paint. That said I am relatively pleased with how it came out. I am trying very hard to not overwork the paint, but it isn't always easy to just stop.

After the tulip I thought I would try a more challenging subject. So I drew an outline of a robin and then attempted to paint it. Hmm, well the shape of the bird isn't quite right (it is a bit too fat in the belly). and it was a challenge to leave the white areas (unpainted paper) but I think I got the colors almost right  Anyway it looks like a robin so I am semi happy and plan on trying more birds in the future.

The background above is only sketched in with paint. The robin was on the ground in the reference photo and I didn't want to try and paint tan dried grasses. Not a masterpiece but a learning experience that I am not unhappy with. 

It is not all watercolor work here. I have pulled out my colored pencils and gotten to work on pieces that I had started a cople of years ago and ended up putting aside for no particular reason other than I had gotten tired of working with colored pencil .

I just finished the one above, Bindweed and Birdfoot Trefoil flowers with a bit of fern. The scan isn't the best color wise but it is a fairly close approximation.

I am currently working on another flower drawing (day lilies) but have also been trying to select photos for the additional drawings, I want to do 13, enough to create a calendar. So far I have selected some additional flowers and some animals. Which reminds me that I really need to finish the squirrel. Just have to say that trees are hard to draw, which is what is holding that one up.

As a closure here are a couple of Spring photos. Above is a close up of some Red Bud flowers that I made earlier this month. Love the pink. 

The building above is my Public Library with a blooming Dogwood tree. The library actually has 2 Dogwoods in the front, but the 2nd (which is pink) is hidden by the maple tree on the right.

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

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Playing with Watercolor

Since I am not driving all over the state in search of early butterflies I have been trying to get back to my art work. My main focus is improving my watercolor skills, with mixed results. For subjects I am going through my photo archive and selecting photos that I think will be relatively easy to paint, mostly flowers at this point.

Above is a columbine, I selected a photo of an individual flower and tried to paint it without any preliminary pencil or pen work. I am relatively pleased with how it came out. Native columbines are such a  pretty late spring flower and it was fun to try and paint the rather complex shapes.

My next attempt was the above image of 3 cosmos flowers. I have painted this subject before with as I recall not much more success, for some reason these are tricky flowers to paint.

Perhaps it is the color of the flowers, pink. There is no such thing as pink watercolor paint, there are various shades of red but no pink. So to get pink you have to add water, lots of water, which makes a wet paint that I find tricky to control. I am finding it hard to get the brush loaded just right. Paper towels are necessary, at least for me so that I can remove some of the moisture from the brush prior to painting. Still I think this attempt is better than my previous attempt, which isn't saying much. After a lot more paintings maybe I will try again.


I tried something a bit different with these daffodils. I drew the image first with pencil, then inked the outline lines and then added color. I started with a light yellow wash, removed some of the paint in some areas, then allowed the paper to dry. The next session I added some darker yellow and orange shading. Allowed that to dry and then added the shadows and the background. I am fairly happy with how this one came out. At least they look like daffodils. Again the reference was one of my personal photographs.

For all my paintings I am using a half sheet of Fabriano Studio Watercolor paper, the cold press, 140 lbs 9 x 12 inch sheets. It contains 25% cotton so isn't as expensive as 100% cotton paper but stands up better to water etc. than a 100% wood pulp paper or a lighter weight paper. 

These next two photos are both of "Violets", though the ones above are wild (and I think native) while the ones in the photo below are house plants that come from another continent. I don't think they are actually related but I may be wrong.

Anyway I usually have at least one African Violet plant that I keep in my bedroom (the windows face North which my African Violets seem to love). Right at the moment one of the plants is in bloom so I thought I would share a photo of them This plant flowers a kind of salmon pink, not my favorite color, I prefer a dark purple but I tend to purchase plants that are on the sale table so they usually don't have flowers when I buy them.

Earlier this week I took a trip into Boston, got off at Park and walked across the common and through the Garden. The flowering trees were putting on a show and the swan boats were out and about on the pond. Above is a photo of a swan boat at the boarding shed. It was a beautiful day, I ended up at the Library for lunch and then headed out to the smaller Blicks store for some spare colored pencils. Next update will have a colored pencil drawing. Something old that I have finally finished.

In the meantime that is it for today, comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Finally Spring

It is the First of May, hope you have a happy May Day. I almost can't believe how long it has been since I last did a blog update. But to be honest I haven't been doing much to blog about. Playing games on my tablet, reading or listening to books, food shopping, those have been my main activities, and there isn't much in the way of interesting blog content in those activities. Hmm book reviews maybe but that has never been my thing, so I will spare my readers.

That said in the past few weeks I have pulled out my brushes and the watercolor paints and paper to do some playing around. First I painted some imaginary flowers, then I cut the resulting painting into 2 inch strips and then using an ink pen I added some top doodles. The results are in the top image, a couple of almost done bookmarks. I plan on coating them with Acrylic Medium and then calling them done. I have plans to do some more watercolor painting. I am not very good, but hopefully well get better.

These next two photos show what else I have been doing since Christmas, knitting socks. So far I have 3 pair finished, and a couple more pairs where the first sock is about half way done (I am doing the heel)

I am working with mostly wool yarns that has some nylon incorporated, the grey socks above have some Alpaca, which means a soft yarn with a lovely hand. I am knitting on double pointed needles, size 2 for the grey socks, and size one for the multi colored socks below, they yarn is dyed with gradations of color, I just knit. The socks don't have the same color gradations, but then the yarn didn't seem to have repeat gradations. I wasn't sure I would have enough for the 2nd sock so I didn't even really try to look for a repeat. Still I don't care, I love the colors in this yarn and found the gradations fun to work with.

For those who haven't tried it, sock knitting is fun and sort of addictive. Esp. if you can find a pattern that is well written and have had some experience knitting. There are various on-line sites that offer free patterns, though I found the Paton's Next Steps Four, Socks and Slippers booklet excellent for the beginning sock pattern (grey socks). I also recommend the Ravelery web site for all things knit, they have free patters and a large community of knitters. You need to join to get the patterns but the site won't bombard you with e-mails.

Our weather, here in Eastern MA was fairly warm in February (for that time of year) but March was snowy and cold so I wasn't doing many trips into Boston. Above is photo I did make on of my late March Boston visits. This is a photo of Boston City Hall from the Quincy Market area, the statue is one of Boston's past mayors, Kevin White, I think but I need to check

The above photo was made from Boston Garden looking toward Beacon Street. The pink azalea was inside the garden, and the white tree was in front of  one of the buildings on Beacon. The photo was made about a week ago, in late April. 

I made the above photo of a violet in bloom this past weekend here in Brockton. There are also various bushes in bloom and some of the trees in my neighborhood are starting to leaf out. I can say that Spring is finally arriving here in Southeastern MA.

Not sure when I will be updating the blog again. I am not currently driving so my access to woods has been severely limited. This means I won't be visiting my favorite sites for spring wild flowers this year. Lack of mobility is also going to limit the number and kinds of butterflies I can photograph. Maybe I can get back to doing more art which I can post, only time will tell, and I am sure there will be more socks.. In the meantime comments are welcome. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Happy New Year 2018 - Chicago Street Art

I want to wish all my readers a Happy 2018, may you have good health, good luck and good times this coming year.

Per usual I spent Christmas and New Year's at my sisters in Chicago. For the first part of my visit the weather wasn't too bad so on a couple of days (one cloudy) I was able to get out and about with the camera. Then a cold front came in and it was too cold to spend much time outside and with the wind chill factor dangerous to exposed skin (temps were below 10 degrees F on a couple of days) so my photography trips were called off, it was just too darn cold.

Anyway Chicago has a lot of hmm, lets call it street art. These first two photos are buildings that have been painted to call attention to themselves. Both of these are restaurants, the top one a barbecue place and the one below I think was a Mexican Restaurant.  For the barbecue place they just painted the building over the entrance. In the one below they painted the entire rear of the adjoining building, fake windows, fake arch, fake courtyard and even fake stairs. I am sure that in the summer there are tables in this area and it must be a pleasant place to sit and eat. The fountain is real.

Please don't ask me where these restaurants are, I have no clue other than on the North side of downtown Chicago and toward the lake, Lincoln Park area (I think) I do all my wanderings starting on foot from my sisters and usually walk toward the lake (east) and usually south (toward downtown) but I don't really bother with street names or addresses. If I end up over by the lake and Lincoln Park I know which buses will get me back to her house otherwise I am happy to just wander. 

But Chicago also likes to put up sculptures and other types of art works on street corners and in small parks.

The colorful bends above are to mark one of the areas that make up the City of Chicago, The sign says Lakeview East, different areas have different signs.

Above is one of the Corner Sculptures I found, I don't recall what the marker said about it. It just sits out on a street corner, I would think that they might be worried that someone would try to take it, but then again maybe not.

Near a Children's Hospital I found a small park, there was a sculpture of children playing a circle game in the center of the park, and this one on the corner, not sure what it is supposed to be.

As a final photograph, Chicago has a Nature Museum located a bit north of the Lincoln Park Zoo. It is near a pond and also fairly close to the Lake (Lake Michigan) Instead of a lawn with mowed grass they have landscaped much of the area around the building as native prairie: using native shrubs and plants. The photo above is of some flower heads (seed heads) left from last summer. I don't know what the flower is/was but thought the seed heads interesting.

I have visited the Museum in the past, they have a butterfly room with live mostly tropical butterflies, it was fun to try and photograph them, they also have exhibits showcasing native animals and their habitat.  A good place to visit with young children, when my sister and I visited food was in short supply so I suggest a packed lunch if you are in the area and want to visit.

That is it for today, not sure when my next update will be or what it will be about. I am finding that I don't have a lot of motivation to get out the camera when it is freezing cold or the ground is snow covered. Ah well, per usual comments are welcome.