Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Back to Watercolor with Pen and Ink

Today's blog update is actually revisiting work I did in May (or earlier) but never got posted to the blog. What can I say, my bad. With the return of warmer weather I am spending a lot of time out and about with my camera. Photographing flowers, butterflies, Odes and anything else I see that will hold still long enough. Leaving me not a lot of time or energy for my art or the blog. That said I am trying to get back to doing daily sketches. These are just very quick drawings usually with pen but sometimes as in my last update graphite. The sketches will probably be the art I will be posting for most of the summer now that I have these pen and ink works posted.

The above is about postcard sized. On cold press watercolor paper I first laid down a wash. No real pre-planning with these, I just pick a couple of colors and then work it from there, no rules except I like to keep the colors fairly light so that the ink work will show up. Once the paper is dry I look at the resulting wash and try to think what would look good on it. For the above piece I decided that abstract/geometric would probably be best, so hauling out my compass I drew various sized circles in pencil then got to work inking.

I used my technical pens for this, mostly the 0, and the 00 tips  So here it is, not sure if I like it or not, it was certainly more work than I expected when I started it.

These next two are ATC's or Artists Trading Cards, so the size is 3.5 x 2.5 inches. For these I used hot press watercolor paper and kept the watercolor washes very simple just a couple of colors.

The above is based on some of my photos of Jack in the Pulpits. I love those flowers and have tried to use them in my art in the past, with mixed results. This card I like, course the pink might seem a bit strange but I am not going for total realism here so for me it works.

With the background colors I selected for this card, I though water so drew a couple of fish, again revisiting previous art work, though these aren't really copies of what I have done before, just similar. I textured the background to make the fish stand out. I thought about adding some texture to the fish bodies, but decided that if I did that then the fish would just blend into the background instead of standing out. I decided to do minimal ink work on the fish bodies. I am not sure about the water plants, I thought I wanted something to add a bit more interest, but after I had done it, I was kind of sorry.

This past week I spent a day in Boston, mostly so I could make photographs, but I also made a side trips to the Boston MFA and to the Public Library. While there I made this quick sketch of a fellow patron. His thumb is a bit out of wack, proportion wise, to the rest of him, but I am not totally displeased with how this came out. Done in my small sketch book with a Copic .2 Multiliner pen.  

It is surprisingly difficult to get a good photo of a waterlily. Mostly because they are usually in the middle (or at least not near the edge) of ponds, and I don't have a boat. The one in the above photo was actually next to a rock near to shore, so I was able to photograph over the rock for the above photo. I cranked up the ISO so that the shadows would show up. Finally a water lily photo I am pleased with.

This is a photo of Copley Square taken from the steps of the Boston Public Library. I can't recall the name of the church in the square but it is rather well known. What I find interesting in this photo is the John Hancock building with it's reflective glass windows. On the side facing the viewer you can see reflected clouds, making it a bit hard to actually make out the building. Fun effect and very Boston. Though when I first moved to Boston back in the 1970's the building was covered with plywood because the windows kept pooping out of their frames, took a bit of engineering and a law suit to resolve the problems. But resolve them they did, I haven't heard of any glass falling for years.

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

Plein Air in State Parks, just graphite

Spring is well advanced here in MA., trees are mostly leafed out, flowers are blooming, some butterflies and Odes are flying and I have been doing a lot of walking and photographing in my "local" state parks and Sanctuaries. Course with the leaves come those pesky caterpillars for winter and gypsy moths. UGH, I hate walking through woods and hearing the poop and leaf bits dropping. Not much I can do about it, though I do kill every caterpillar that lands on me or that I see hanging by a thread. I know not much of a defense against the on-slot but I feel better doing it.

On some of my walks I will take a small break to rest my feet and knees, and have taken to doing some small graphite sketches while I do so. So today I am showing 3 of these. The top one is from Borderland State park, shows a tree, one of the ponds and more trees in the distance. Hmm, I think I need to work on some textures for the trees in the distance. And I am not sure I conveyed the water very well.

Above is another image from Borderland State Park. There is an old farm house on the property (actually there are 2, but one is off to the side and I only drive by it, I don't walk by it) any way they have put in a couple of small garden areas near the house, this is a sketch of some of the plants, the rocks that surround the plot, a field with distant trees. Still need to work on the distant trees, but I almost like the way I blocked these in better than what I did in the first sketch.

The park represented here was Massasoit State Park, East Taunton, MA. I was down there looking for Pink Lady Slippers, it is that time of year for them to be blooming. And yes I found my Lady Slippers. Near the entrance there is this "table" made of a flat rock piled on more rocks and a concrete block, that is what is supposed to be in the drawing, with a bulletin board in the background that has a map of the park along with a couple of notices. I didn't spend a lot of time on this, but not too bad.

I am hoping that by doing these graphite sketches I will work up the nerve to do some watercolor ones. But a huge part of a successful plein air painting is knowing what to put in and what to leave out, and learning to narrow ones focus. You can't paint everything you see after all, so with these drawings I am trying to learn how to narrow my focus. Wish me luck.

I recently achieved a goal with my watercolor paints, acquiring Artist quality pigments for all the colors I had in Student paints. Now I just need to learn what they can do and how to use them.

So to help with that I am mixing color swatches. Since yellow tends to be the lightest color I am starting with my 6 yellow/orange colors and using a selected 7th color mixing swatches. The 7th color is shown in the right column, at various strengths (dilutions with water). The pair of cards above shows the yellows with turquoise. I inadvertently purchased 2 different tubes of turquoise but they are from different manufactures and actually are different pigments so the resulting color is different even though they have the same name. I found working on these cards very interesting, first the greens I was mixing are more like what I see on my walks but 2nd was the difference between the two manufactures. Now to decide which goes in my travel pallet.

I have finished more of these and will be posting them in other blog updates.

This spring I discovered that there were many more pitcher plants in Borderland State Park than I ever expected. I have been keeping an eye on them all spring and this week was rewarded by seeing them actually in bloom. Course the blooms face the water, and I don't have boots or a boat so can only photograph the back side. Still isn't this photo fun, with the new green pitchers (leaves) and the reddish blooms.

Another photograph from Borderland State Park. This year there has been a heavy I almost want to say infestation of Swollen Bladderwort, a pretty yellow flower on an aquatic plant. All of the yellow in the above photo is this plant in bloom. I don't recall ever seeing this before. Pretty but also a bit disturbing,there have to be thousands of plants to create this show.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome. As I write this it is Memorial Day in the US. It was initially started to remember and honor the solders who fought and died in the American Civil War, it has since become a day to remember all of our War dead. I am not sure their sacrifice was always given in a good cause, but we owe it to them to remember and honor it and them.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

More Ink over Watercolor, some Graphite Sketches

ACK, where has the time gone, I kept meaning to post an update to the blog, then I ended up too tired, or busy and it didn't get done. Sorry about that. Above is another of my watercolor washes with ink overlay. For this one I actually sat down and did some up-front design work instead of just winging it as I had been doing. Not sure it is much of an improvement, but at least I gave it a go.

Size is still small, about post card sized, on cold press watercolor paper, I used a dip pen with India Ink for the ink work.

The drawing is loosely based on some of of my photographs of lily of the valley. It is that time of year here in MA. and the lily of the valley is in full bloom at the sites I visit where it grows. It isn't native to the US, but as I love the smell of the flowers I can't say that I can work up any desire to see it gone.

Above is a drawing I made of a Madonna painting in Boston's MFA on one of my visits. It isn't wonderful, but then I don't like to spend too long doing these. I am not trying to totally reproduce what I see, just to create an impression. I think there is enough done for you to get the general idea. I use a mechanical pencil for these as it doesn't need sharpening and slides into the rings of the small sketchbook so it is accessible. But I am finding the lead I am currently using a bit too soft, I will have to remember to purchase something a bit harder the next time I buy refills for the pencil.

Sketches from the bus trip into Boston. Top is basically just the outline of a sleeping baby's head. I didn't have time for more as she was given back to her Mother who was seated elsewhere on the bus. Other sketches, man with cap, hand holding onto rail, and another woman passenger.  Not wonderful, I really need to get back to daily sketching, but where I will find the time I am not sure.

That comment may have you wondering just what am I doing that is keeping me so busy. Well... it is spring so plants are blooming, butterflies, and odes are flying and I have been busy visiting various State Parks and MASS Audubon sites to photograph what I can find. So far that includes a couple of new to me Elfin Butterflies, and new damselflies, along with some new wild flowers. Oh, and least I forget there are also trips into Boston to visit the MFA and make photographs of the city. But all that looking requires a fair amount of walking/hiking which leaves me too tired in the evening to want to work on art. I may have to try and do something in the morning prior to heading out on my explorations. Have to think about this. Please note that I have been posting some photos to my facebook page, link at the bottom of the blog page if you are curious.

Above is one of the butterflies I photographed this spring. Most early spring butterflies aren't all that interested in nectar, they are more into tree sap, but as more flowers appear they also seem to switch to using them as a food source.  Anyway a lot of my spring butterfly photos show them on the ground looking for minerals that they need for their diet, not on flowers. But every now and then I luck out and find one on a flower. Above is a Spring Azure Butterfly on some Dandelion flowers. I just liked this photo, hope you do also.

I made the above photo in Boston. The statue stands in front of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank Building, and is actually about life sized. Another photo that I just like.

That is it for today, hopefully I will manage another update shortly. I really have some art work already finished, it is more a question of finding the time/energy to do the actual work of putting text with images. In the meantime comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

More Watercolor and ink with some pencil sketches

Above is another of my studies using a watercolor wash background and then ink on top. The ink this time was Acrylic Indigo Blue with a dip pen. This is OK, but not what I am looking for so I have another in the works, but the inking I want to put on top of the next one is taking more planning. For the tulips I used a couple of my reference photos, but the end results don't quite do it for me. Might  have been better if I had put leaves in the background, but by the time I realized that it was too late.

Spring is arriving, the world is turning green around me, the flowers and butterflies are starting to emerge for the season. After seeing photos of a Kestrel on the facebook bird group I belong to, and knowing that there are some spring flowers that bloom in the Oak Wood, I took a trip over to Daniel Webster. The flowers were just budding so not as far along as I had hoped, I didn't see any of the Kestrels, but I did see one of the Osprey who are again back on their nest stand, and I think I saw a blue bird pair. Not a total loss but not the most successful visit either, so there are no photos, and least none I want to share. I did sit out at Fox Hill for a bit and drew the nearest tree and the line of power poles above. Done in my sketchbook with one of my technical pens. The view is open fields and wetlands, a perfect spot for Kestrels and Osprey.

I also went into Boston last week, hoping for some beautiful blooming trees on Commonwealth Ave., nada, I was either too early or too late. Even Boston Garden didn't have a lot of trees/shrubs in bloom, only one or two trees, again too early for some trees and too late for others. On the bus driving in I made the above sketches in graphite, fellow passengers.

I also visited the MFA, my main goal was to look at the Techstyle Clothing exhibit that I have been walking through but not really viewing. The clothes are very out there, and I found myself a bit impatient with some of what they had on display, totally unwearable unless you weren't going to sit down for hours. I am neither young enough or thin enough to even dream about wearing that stuff even if I had some place to wear it, which I don't.

Anyway I took the time to revisit some galleries that are old friends, Late Egyptian period, and then some early Greek statues and wares. The above sketches were made in those galleries, the woman from a relief panel, the small vase from an actual alabaster jar, and then a bust in the Greek gallery.

Spring is coming to the Fens, you can see the weeping willow is starting to green up a bit, actually it is yellow since it is starting to bloom. Anyway I just like this photo so I thought I would share. Hard to believe this is in the middle of a fairly large city, but it is.

Another trip last week had me driving down to Myles Standish State Forest in Carver, MA. I was looking for butterflies, and found several but I also found this, Trailing Arbutus, our state flower. I had never seen it in the wild before so I was thrilled when I made the ID. There was a lot of white blooming bearberry (a low ground cover) in the area and if I hadn't realized that some of the white I was looking at was different I might have missed it. That was a very good day out, two new Elfin Butterflies for my list and the Trailing Arbutus.

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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Watercolor and Pen and Ink Experiments

The above is an outgrowth of some of the exercises I have been doing from the Bert Dodson book Keys to Drawing with Imagination. The exercises I did are below. The first was the butterflies in silhouette, then since it is spring I got the idea of doing the same with a tulip shape. I was looking for some contact between shapes and I thought the tulip shape might be easier to work.

Once I finished the silhouette mode of the tulips I went on to the 2nd part of the exercise, which was to draw the images in contact and then darken the background or do a reverse silhouette. Since I had been playing with some new watercolor (to me) paints I though why not put the tulips on some painted water color paper. Above is the finished drawing. The tulips with just a darkened background didn't have a focal point, so I picked one of the tulips and added some details. Sort of OK, but I am glad this was an exercise and something I was more invested in.  Paper here and in the 2 other works on this page is cold press 6 x 6 inch Fluid Watercolor Paper that I purchased in block form from Dick Blicks last summer.

Original exercises for silhouette mode with pen and ink. I actually think I like the butterflies better, but I couldn't get the contact areas to work smoothly so used the tulips for the reverse exercise.

I purchased some additional paints, and wanting to see how they would work with one of my other paints did another wash study. The colors are Hansa Yellow Medium and Quinacridone Rose along with turquoise. The yellow and the rose are my new colors. This is another wet in wet wash which I started with the Hansa yellow in the center, then added the rose and finally the turquoise.  When it dried I thought it would be fun to add some ink work, and decided to keep to the circular theme. I drew 3 overlapping circles (using a roll of tape as a template) and added ink using my technical pens. No particular look in mind up front, I just wanted  to use various fills/textures. When I finished the outer rings I added the inner circle. Circles were drawn with pencil and then inked.

Not wonderful but kind of fun. and I do like the colors, might have been better if I had overlapped the colors a bit more, but I didn't want to muddy them which can be a concern with watercolor.

 OK at this point I was on a roll so I painted a third sheet, using the yellow and the pink but adding some purple instead of the turquoise. There is also a bit more color overlap in the wash with this one.

For a reference I selected one of the WetCanvas pen and ink forums challenge images, and using acrylic black ink and a dip pen drew the flowers in over the wash.  I did pencil sketch the outlines of the flowers first, mainly for placement but details were all done with the pen. This one I rather like, and think I need to play around with this technique a bit more to see where it can take me. Maybe I will use one of my own flower photographs next time. Maybe by the time I finish a series of these I will be more experienced with wet in wet watercolor washes.

Wednesday I took the bus into Boston for a visit to the MFA (wanted to finish viewing the Megacities Asia sculptures) and then a walk through a different area of Boston for photographs. I ended up walking the Rose Kennedy Greenway from the North End to South Station, there are some additional photographs on my Facebook page if you are interested. Anyway I did my usual on the bus ride into Boston and made this sketch of a fellow passenger. I did do other sketches but I liked this one the best. Done in my small sketchbook with a Copic Fineliner pen the .1 tip.

The above photograph is from my walk yesterday. I finally found some spring daffodils that hadn't been badly damaged by our snow and cold weather of over a week ago. I just thought these were pretty and the photo came out well. Oddly enough daffodils can be a bit hard to photograph.

Also from my Boston trip yesterday, this is the Christian Science Mother church. I am photographing this through the stand of trees that they have planted on one side of Christian Science Plaza, I like the tunnel to the left along with the still bare branches and blue sky. The reflecting pool is still empty so the plaza wasn't the best location for photos yesterday, not to mention the cement mixers that were doing something toward the front of the church.

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

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Drawings and Pen Exercises

Well that resolution didn't last very long. What I am writing about it the resolution to make a graphite drawing a day for 30 days. I managed 4 days then got sidetracked. Oops. Here are the last 2 drawings I did manage to do. One of my bottles of Acrylic Ink, in one of my small sketchbooks with various graphite pencils, I think HB, 2B, and maybe a 2H, but I can't really remember at this point.

Above is a piece of Ginger Root. I use a slice of fresh ginger to flavor my evening pot of green tea so I usually have some of this on hand. Again in my sketchbook with about the same range of pencils.

The day following this I got more involved with doing the exercises from the Dodson book Keys to Drawing with Imagination and let the graphite drawings slide.

Above is a sheet I put together of some of the exercises I have been doing. The top left was my attempt at what Dodson calls a tangle, lines are supposed to overlap, run over and behind. I found this type of "doodle" to be quite tricky to do. I certainly can't do them mindlessly. Maybe with a lot more practice I could, but since I don't entirely see the point of putting myself through that struggle I think I will just let that type of doodle slide.

The Upper Right page was me attempting Geometric doodles, much more my thing, and more like doodles I have done in the past.

The lower left sheet was done using what Dodson called a wave, I just enclosed it and repeated in in a spiral instead of across the page. Another type of doodle that I am more used to doing. I like drawing organic type shapes.

The last sheet in the lower right hand corner was from a different exercise, using Building blocks to make shapes. I didn't do a lot of these, though perhaps I should have done more, but again I felt comfortable working in this manner.  I have more exercises done but I will save them for the next blog update. Instead I wanted to write above my latest trip to visit Boston's MFA.

Last week we finally had another sunny day (we have had lots of clouds and some rain the past 2 weeks) so I made the trip into Boston on Wed. My goal was to visit the Museum of Fine Arts to take in the new exhibits and to wander around Boston with the Camera. The wander around Boston part was successful though there weren't as many trees/plants in bloom as I had hoped. Still it was just the end of March and there isn't usually much blooming at this point. Then on to the MFA.

At the MFA I was able (because I am a Member) to do a preview viewing of the new MegaCities Asia exhibit. Artists represented are all from one of the huge Asian Megacities. Many of the works were created with "found" objects. One made up of bags sort of melted together, another was old doors and windows, another bamboo and rope, another of molded and painted migratory birds. The one thing they all have in common is they are large. One area was given over to moving sculptures (made by the same artist) that cycle between movement and staying still, when they move they make noise so when all of them are moving it can get fairly noisy, sort of like a city depending on time of day.

While I was visiting the exhibit a couple arrived with stools with I think the intent to sketch one of the artworks, I thought it might be fun to sketch them with the artwork just beyond. Which is what you see in the above drawing. Below from a different angle is the construct that he/I was drawing. The "sculpture" is made up of purchased everyday objects, brooms, bags of food, an umbrella, cans of soda. The one thing they have in common is that they are predominantly green. I didn't even try to detail the sculpture in my drawing, I would have been drawing for hours, so all you see is a suggestion of some of the objects along with a rear view of a fellow artist. The pair didn't stay very long so I have a feeling they found the subject a bit overwhelming.

This is a view of the same sculpture I attempted to sketch in the above drawing, but from a different angle. Just wanted to give you a better idea of a very visually confusing structure.

There are several other new exhibits at the museum but I will wait to write about those after my next visit, which should be soon.

The red fabric flower above is also part of the Megacities Asia exhibit. There is an air blower at the base that inflates and then allows the petals to relax a bit when it stops blowing. The on/off cycle of air makes the flower seem to breath, add some wind and you get quite a bit of movement. This sculpture is placed on the lawn outside the museum. Sure hope no one attempts to mess with it.

Since it was still March when I visited Boston most of the blooming flowers I saw were in planters or window boxes. This box contained mostly white tulips with one pink one to liven up the mix. I am sure the pink was an accident but I enjoyed seeing it. White tulips lit by the sun. Happy Spring to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere.

That is it for today. As I understand it the MegaCities exhibit is on Tour and Boston is just one of the stops on the Tour, it will be here until July 17, but I am not sure where it goes next, or even if it really is on tour my MFA Preview Magazine really doesn't say. In the meantime all comments are welcome.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Graphite Drawings and some Pen Exercises

I think I have too many projects in the works at one time. LOL, the 3 main drawings for this update are from a challenge that I have taken up from the WetCanvas Drawing forum. Draw something every day from life with pencil for 30 days. So far I am managing, mostly by doing relatively simple drawings.

Why you may wonder am I doing this, well for my 6 x 6 inch ink and colored pencil works I decided I wanted to do a squirrel, I have a great reference photo and I have drawn squirrels before, some better than others so I thought this would be relatively easy, wrong, I have struggled with this drawing, which is finally I think good enough to ink. But my struggles just made me aware that I haven't been drawing enough, drawing from observation is a skill that needs to be maintained and to maintain it I have to draw so... a daily challenge is a good thing.

For day one, three whole green beans. I like having fresh green beans with my dinner so it wasn't hard to select 3 to save to draw. In my smaller sketch book with a couple of pencils, 2H and 2B, I believe.

These are seed pods that I brought home from a visit to Boston. The tree grows on the Northeastern University campus and isn't a native tree, but right now I can't recall what species it is. Again in my sketchbook with 2H, and I think the B or HB leads.

Another dried seed pod, this one from a Milk Weed plant that I picked last fall and brought home, my sketchbook again, with 2H and I think the HB and B pencils.

I don't spend very long on any of these drawings, somewhere between 15 minutes and a half hour, I think. How long I spend isn't relevant, the point is to make a drawing as accurately as I can from observation, not just shape but shading and shadows to make the drawing come alive.

And now for something completely different. These are  3 exercises that I drew in pen as part of my reading and study of Bert Dodson's book Keys to Drawing with Imagination. This very simple starting exercise called for drawing a line that meandered around ending with a closed shape and then filling the resulting shape with various fills. I have done so much of this type of work that I only drew 3 samples. I am currently working on exercise #2 and finding that one a bit trickier to do so will do the full number, 6 to 12. Starting in the upper left, a, to the right is b and the bottom is c. As you can see they got more complex as I relaxed into the project.

The purpose of this study is to see if I can pull myself a bit more away from realistic drawing so stay tuned, Right now that is something that I am not very comfortable doing so I am not sure how long this experiment will last.

I realized after I posted the colored pencil version of this Iris to the blog that I never posted the just the inked version, so here it is. Pretty simplistic after the ducklings, but just as I like the colored pencil version I also like this plain inked version.

We had rain showers on St. Patrick's day, and the rain showers brought a rainbow. The sun was starting to set so the photo looks pinker than I recall it seeming (you just don't know what a camera will pick up color wise) I didn't go looking for the gold at the end of the rainbow, but it was fun to see. The maple tree in the photo is starting to bud. Wish it luck as we are supposed to get some snow in the next couple of days.

That is it for today, hopefully for my next update I will have the inked squirrel to show off, in the meantime comments are welcome.