Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pen and Ink from Life, more studies


Haven't managed to do another of the WetCanvas monthly challenge images yet, but I have been doing some pen drawings while out and about on my walks. After that statement I am sure you are now wondering what kind of walk has a wine bottle, a piece of broccoli and a slice of cucumber, none actually. I was visiting a friend for a monthly book club meeting and we had wine and a veggie platter with dip. To keep my hands occupied while things other than books were discussed I drew the wine bottle and a couple of the veggies with my copic .03 pen. I didn't want to actually draw the platter so just drew one piece of broccoli, and one cucumber slice. Obviously this was not a real arraignment and to be honest I even took a bit of liberty with the bottle.

Still not totally displeased with how this came out. Drawn in one of my small sketchbooks directly with pen, no pencil involved.


Drawn in my local city park, duck, a couple of geese, another park visitor, and a segment of distant shoreline. These drawings are more impressions than detailed studies. But hopefully doing them will help me keep my hand in, and even help me to improve at doing this type of drawing.


Another of my park drawings, a visitor with child feeding the ducks, it is a bit sketchy but I am not totally unhappy with it.


This started out as a cloud study, There were large cumulus clouds in the sky that evening looking pretty. Sometimes up for a challenge I decided to see if I could draw them with pen and ink. Just clouds didn't seem to be enough so I started drawing the skyline of the trees in the distance. Oops, not sure the woods are very successfully done, so I guess I should challenge myself to work on how to depict distant trees besides working on my techniques for clouds. I think part of the sky works, but some of it doesn't. That said I usually find there is always need for improvement in some aspect of my drawings.

Again all of these drawings were done in one of my small sketchbooks with either a copic pen or one of my technical pens.

Before I get to my photo postings, I wanted to comment on something that came up on an e-mail list I belong to. They question was why make art, and someone commented that they were really interested, not so much in the hows of someone making art, but the whys. In that case the art works are quilts, so there are a lot of techniques that can be used and usually those techniques are what is described by the makers on their blogs. All well and good according to this writer, but what she really wants to know is why the artist is making the particular quilt in the first place. For me that is a hard questions to answer not only about the quilts I have made but also generally about my drawings.

Obviously I don't discuss how I draw, there are plenty of how to draw books out there, and I feel that most of them aren't worth anything, drawing is a very personal occupation and every artist has to undertake the learning to draw part on their own using trial and error to learn what works for them.

But why do I draw what I draw? Hmm, that isn't any easy question for me to answer. I love animals so for me there is a challenge in learning how to draw them well, actually there is a personal challenge for me to draw anything well with a fairly high degree of accuracy. That said I am slowly learning and realizing that accuracy is not the be all/end all of a work of art, in fact when it comes right down to it accuracy can be the least important part, as long as there is enough for the subject to be recognized. Real works of art need something more, and to be honest I am fairly sure I am not there.

But I am having fun working on it so will continue to do so. Any thoughts on this subject would be of interest to me so feel free to comment.


I don't often post dragonfly photographs to the blog. I find them endlessly fascinating, but I know that others don't share my views. Still I really love this photo of a Window Skimmer Dragonfly that I made this past week at Borderland State Park in Easton, MA. And yes they do have white on their wings, that white isn't a reflection. Whether you find them as interesting as I do doesn't matter, you should still be grateful for Dragonflies, they eat mosquitoes.


Usually I post a landscape photo to go with a close up of a flower, or insect, or animal, but today I have another semi close up. This is a nuthatch, and it was looking for a handout of seeds, which I didn't have so it didn't spend too long in my vicinity. I was at Ipswich River MA Audubon in Topsfield, MA this past week which is where this photo was made. They feed the birds there, and have done so for so long that the birds (titmice, nuthatches,and chickadees) have gotten very tame and will actually fly to someone's hand to take seeds directly from them. The first time I visited Ipswich River I noticed that the chickadees seemed very tame, but I didn't actually see them feeding out of visitors hands until this visit. And no I didn't try, I wanted to make photos not feed the birds and there was no way I could do both.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome, oh I posted more Ipswich River photos on my Facebook Page, link at the bottom of the blog you don't have to belong to facebook to view.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Barn and some other landscapes


I have been trying to push myself to do more drawing. I worked hard to get my drawing skills up to a fairly high level and I really don't want to let them get too rusty. So the above pen and ink drawing done from one of the July reference photos in the Pen and Ink forum on WetCanvas. An old barn, drawn in one of my small notebooks, so it isn't very large, approx. 4 x 6 inches and it was drawn with my technical pens.

I see some mistakes, but am otherwise not displeased with this small drawing.


The above is actually a plein air landscape, drawn with pen and ink in one of my smaller notebooks while I was visiting my local park. Not wonderful, but not too bad either. Trees are supposed to be birch trees. I need to work on how to depict leaves on a tree without drawing each and every one what I did in this drawing isn't entirely satisfactory.


In the same park where I drew the landscape I also spent some time trying to draw the ducks and geese that live there from life. Very sketchy drawings as live animals tend to not hold still. The advantage of drawing ducks and geese is that I have done a fair amount of drawing them from references so have some basic understanding of how they should look, which helps, but I have some pages with some pretty weird looking sketches, where I wasn't very on the mark with the drawings.


Another park, this time a State Park in Abington, MA, and another landscape. Foreground is actually a huge rock which I was sitting on to make the drawing of the woods beyond. Should have spent a bit more time on this to get the values a bit more accurate, but it was getting late so I really didn't have the time.

People make fires at this spot even though the park is supposed to be closed after sunset, probably local teenagers who come to drink beer, no one would be able to see or hear them. The rock is off of a main trail along the edge of the lake so would be fairly easy to find even in the dark.


Two photographs today, the above was made in Boston during a recent visit and is the fountain in the Christian Science Plaza, in the summer the kids love to play in the fountain, which is allowed I have a feeling that by allowing them to play in the fountain they hope to keep them out of the reflecting pool behind. Beyond in the background is the dome of the Main CS church.


The above is a head shot of a bumble bee gathering nectar and pollen from a Milkweed flower. Even if you don't like bees I hope you like this photo, It isn't easy getting a good photo of a bee they move so much so quickly. I really like this one, and hope you do also.

That is it for today, per usual comments are appreciated. One last note I have been collecting so many butterfly photos that I though it was time I set up a separate page for them. I have just started working on it so don't have all the butterflies I have photographed posted yet but if you have a moment do take the time to check it out.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pen and Ink, Still Life, flower, and doodle


I am working on a watercolor, a not very good one at the moment but it isn't finished yet so I haven't given up hope. In the meantime I actually managed to finish a couple of pen drawings. The top two are both from WetCanvas Pen and Ink forum June Challenge photographs.

The one above is a Hibiscus, done with my technical pens 1, 0 and 00 tips in my Bee sketchbook. I have to say I really love the Bee paper, it is heavier with perhaps less tooth, and I don't think the paper is as soft as the Stratchmore sketchbooks I have been using. I like the way ink lays down on it.

I did make a pencil outline under drawing for this one. Flowers are just so complex that it is hard for me to draw them well without making some corrections, so I need to use pencil first.


The photo reference for this one was 3 oranges with a blue and white print cloth as a backdrop. I didn't really try to reproduce the print on the fabric though some of the lighter areas in the background represent the white print areas. I drew this directly in pen so the shape of the oranges isn't quite as round/accurate as it could have been. Still I am not displeased with how this came out. Again I used my technical pens for this, mainly the 1 and 0 tip.


The above is one of my pen exercises. This one was done in one of the Strathmore sketchbooks. Before ask I didn't really have anything in mind with this I just added design elements as I felt like it. no particular rhyme or reason for them.


We have been having a bit more rain the past couple of weeks, so not quite as much out and abouting for me, but I still manage most days to get in at least a mile walk if not more. I am trying to make those walks in State Parks or other nature areas, and I always take my camera along.

I have been visiting Borderland State Park quite a bit. It is the one area that I am pretty sure of seeing Dragonflies which are my most recent focus for photography, besides the flowers, birds and butterflies. Had a really fun day there last week when I spotted 2 frogs (different locations), a couple of butterflies, some new to me Dragonflies, and a blooming pitcher plant all on the same walk.

I hadn't even realized there were pitcher plants at Borderland so was thrilled to find one blooming. The day before I had been down on the cape visiting Wellfleet Bay MA Audubon, and had a fun outing there also, though the butterflies were mostly seen and not photographed. Did see some great birds including a Snowy Egret. If you are interested in seeing more photos from my outings they are on my Facebook Fan page, link at the bottom of the blog.

The photo above is one of the lakes/ponds at Borderland State Park. Visual interest is all about values, and this photograph has them. great shadows, fun reflections, to me this looks like a slightly overcast but otherwise perfect June day, which it was.


I may be chasing Dragonflies (actually I have been in the past also) but I am still after any butterfly that I can find. Above is a brownish Silver Sided Skipper. Usually the ones I have seen have a darker background color, more black than brown. Too bad this one didn't as it would have made a more dramatic photograph, black and white against the red flower. Oh well I take what I can get, and try to be happy. Silver Sided Skippers are known for nectaring at red flowers, and this late blooming azalea is certainly red. Photograph was made yesterday at the Trailside Museum in the Blue Hills, Milton, MA.

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

June, flowers and butterflies


Haven't been doing a lot of drawing these past few weeks. But I have been busy taking a lot of nature walks in various parks, sanctuaries, and Boston, and making photographs. I have also been busy reading, mostly non-fiction but still interesting. A book on Japanese design concepts, a very short book on watercolor painting that was nevertheless packed with tips and useful information, a book on the Arts of China starting with prehistoric stone age crafts, and a book on Dragonflies. The dragonfly book is beautiful full of wonderful photographs with well written text that gives information about the lives of dragonflies without getting too technical. The title is Dragonflies by Pieter van Dokkum, published by Yale University Press if you want to check it out.

I recently splurged and purchased some new tubes of watercolor paint. The above is partly my experimenting with washes using my new paints. Course I didn't limit myself to just the new colors but added in some of my older ones as well.

Over the top of the watercolor wash I drew a flower using one of my technical pens. I was using an inexpensive water color paper so it wasn't perhaps the best choice for the washes. Still I had fun playing. I really need to do more watercolors, and the ink looks kind of cool overlaying the colors. The flower is loosely based on a photograph I made of a purple clematis flower.


Still the pens need to be exercised so I have been managing to do a few doodles, the one above is kind of like snail shells linked together drifting in space. 


On one of my walks I came across an American Toad both out in the daytime (not usual) and out in the open, again not usual. It was a fairly small one so I guess you could say it didn't know any better. It jumped onto a board that was lying in this open spot in the woods (an area where park trash tends to be collected, ie: old picnic tables) I spent a fair amount of time photographing it before I ignored it and it jumped away. No toads were harmed and I got some good photographs. 

Later that day I needed to do some pen exercising so drew the above. I am a bit annoyed with myself as I initially left one of the T's out of start, I have a tendency to leave out letters if I don't pencil in words before I start lettering, concentrating too hard on forming letters and not hard enough on spelling words I guess. Any way here is a race between a toad and a snail :), who do you think the winner will be? Pure fun, drawn with my technical pens, mostly the finer tips as they are the ones the clog the easiest. 


A few weeks back I was walking in a MA Audubon sanctuary, mostly woods with a pond, but they also have an open field in this location and after my woods walk I though I would check out the field, where to my surprise I found hundreds of blackish caterpillars crawling in the grass. There were enough of them that I was sort of creeped out and left after a very short time. Well I did manage to make a couple of photographs of them and I posted one of the photos to my Butterfly Facebook group asking if anyone had a guess as to what the caterpillar was for. A fellow member suggested it was a Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly caterpillar.

This past weekend I was down in the same area (Attleboro, MA) visiting the main MA Audubon site and thought before I left the city I needed to check the field. AH, yes, what did I find but some Baltimore Checkerspot Butterflies flying around the field. Above is one of my photos of one of these beauties. They aren't terribly large, smaller than an American Lady, though larger than the Pearl Crescents, but isn't it hansom with its white, orange and black colors. I will have to go back as the field still had Checkerspot caterpillars crawling around.


 I usually reserve this spot for landscapes or photos of native wild flowers but I really like this photo so even though the flower isn't a native species I am posting the photo. I believe this is Night Flowering Catchfly and I photographed it at Borderland State Park, though it may be Forking Catchfly another similar species, I wasn't paying enough attention to plant details to remember at this point and there isn't quite enough information in the photograph. Whatever here it is for your visual enjoyment.

That is it for today. I will try to not go so long between updates, but at this time of the year I tend to spend more time away from the computer and my drawing board. Per usual comments are welcome. Oh, one last comment, I have been posting more photographs to my facebook page including one of the toad that posed for me, link at the bottom of this page, you don't have to be a facebook member to view.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Watercolor and more pen and ink


Another plein air painting, this time just of a single flower, the flower is a Canadian May flower and I was visiting Borderland State Park in Easton when I was painting. I had a wonderful view of one of the ponds and actually took a break from painting to watch a Great Blue Heron do some fishing. They are such beautiful birds. Anyway looking at this now I realize that I don't have the values right, well the scan is a bit off so that is part of it, but I have the background and the leaves almost the same value, not a good thing even if true to life. Bother, well I just have to keep working at it.

I did do a bit of pencil sketching prior to painting, then I added just a few pen lines to this piece.


I was doodling the other day and these two, hmm, illustrations I guess I will call them for want of a better word came out of the pen. No real clue why, just felt like it. I drew the one on the left first and added the caption, then I thought about the 2nd one so just drew the "cat" with a paw under, fishing for something, added the caption, and finally the mouse head peaking around the corner.

Peaking around corners seems to be the theme of these two drawings, and they have a certain amount of whimsy to them. Guess I had to get in my whimsy allotment for the month of May.


Another of my pen exercises, using all of my Technical pen tips, told you I was going to revisit the stars in my last exercise, still not sure I am done with these.


A Pearl Crescent Butterfly that I photographed yesterday at Attleboro Springs in Attleboro, MA. I believe this is a male who was seeking a mate. He was just perched on that branch gently waving his wings up and down, spreading pheromones I would guess. Hope a lady friend eventually showed up to reward his efforts, and bravery, after all he was just sitting out in the open, not really a good idea for a butterfly that might be someones snack. Crescents are a small to mid sized butterfly, larger than the Azures and Elfins I have been photographing, but smaller than Painted Ladies or Monarchs, and much smaller than Swallowtails.

This is a rather nice photo, when they aren't looking for mates they tend to flit and flutter wings making it hard to get a spread wing photograph.


Photo above was made at Oak Knoll MA Audubon site that is just down the road from Attleboro Springs. This isn't the main house but a storage shed adjunct to the main structure. I was photographing the white dogwood to the left and realized that I really like this photo with the contrasting greens/blue sky/white flowers/building. It says spring to me, even though the dogwood is a bit past its prime it is still pretty.  Unlike my painting of the mayflower this photo has a good range of values, darks, lights and midtones.

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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Plein Air, watercolor, pen and ink


I am trying to push myself to do more Plein Air work, or painting and drawing from direct field observation. Don't get me wrong I love being outside, but I prefer to be moving, going from point A to point B, listening and observing and occasionally stopping to make a photograph or to try and ID a bird or flower. I don't really care for sitting in one spot waiting for the bugs to find me and attack. But I can't draw or paint while on the move so I am trying to push myself into sitting and doing either at least a couple of times a week.

The above is this past weeks plein air watercolor painting. I was at Borderland State Park in Easton trying to paint the area by the outflow stream for the ponds. When I finished it, I though, ugh, this is terrible, but looking at it now I still find it pretty amateur but the tree isn't too bad, at least it is better than a lot of trees I  have painted in the past and I rather like the greens on the distant shore.

I really need to spend more time painting with watercolor as doing the paintings is the only way to get good at using watercolors. It can just be so fussy that sometimes I don't have the patience for it. But I sometimes need to add color to my pen and ink drawings and watercolor is the best method so I must just keep at it.


I also got in a trip into Boston this week and instead of heading into the Public Gardens I headed over to Quincy Market and then on to Columbus Park over by North Wharf on the waterfront. They have 3 of these trellises set up with wisteria vines climbing up and over. I was hoping the flowers would be in bloom and putting on a show. I was a bit disappointed as while the flowers were just starting to bloom they had pruned the vines so heavily last fall that there isn't going to be much of a show.

Anyway I sat for a while on a bench, had some lunch and then did a pencil drawing of one of the trellises. After finishing the drawing I added a bit of pen work to help shade and define features of the structures. I think I need to work on my buildings and structures.


Above is another of my pen and ink doodles with all of my technical pens. Using the larger tipped pens means that I put in dark areas as that is what they are best at. I sort of like this and think I may be using these designs for something else, Will just have to wait and see what develops.


Photographed at Borderland the same day I did the plein air painting, it isn't exactly the same view though I was sitting not too far away. I have photographed this view often as it is a favorite of mine, so here it is with spring greens in the background also with a blue sky and some clouds, looks like a perfect spring day, which it was.


I love Jack in the Pulpits, they aren't flowers that scream "HERE I AM, LOOK AT ME" esp. as they are often totally green as this one was. But their elaborate shape with the hood hiding the spadix below is so wonderfully elaborate you just have to admire them. I photographed this one at North River, a MA Audubon sanctuary in Marshfield, MA. I had been on a trip to World's End in Hingham to look for Juniper Hairstreaks (a small butterfly) and decided to go down route 3a and visit North River before going home. I was rewarded by being able to photograph and see quite a few Jack in Pulpit plants and flowers.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome, and if you are curious I place a photo of the Juniper I saw on my facebook page, link at the bottom of the blog page.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Inktense, watercolor and just Pen and Ink


This piece has actually been in the works for a while. I know it looks fairly simple, pen and ink, but I used Inktense pencils for the color on this and they needed to be activated in stages so sometimes I would need to let the work dry before moving onto another section.

The original drawing was the flower with the stems and leaves, I added the triangles as background and then added fills to the triangles. Once the inking was finished I use my Inktense pencils to color in the various areas and sections. Then came activation of the ink with a damp brush. I think that took longer to do than any other part of the small drawing.

Am I happy with it, I am not sure, it sort of does what I wanted it to do but... Colors were chosen to be complements of each other, red/green, blue/orange, yellow/violet. and the one background triangle repeating all main colors. That one I overlaid with grey to tone down the colors.

The work was done on Hot Press Watercolor paper with my technical pens and then Inktense pencils, size is 4 x 6 inches, so relatively small.



A real plein air watercolor, I hadn't done one of these since last summer, and I think it shows, not a very good watercolor, but I suppose it could be worse. I was at Ellisville Harbor where they have an Osprey stand. I chose the stand and the background hills to be my image for the painting. Not sure you get the sense of open marsh which is what I was going for. I did leave the Ospreys out of the painting, the female was sitting on her nest and while I was working on this the male stopped by to check me out. He never came to harass me so I wasn't close enough to the stand to bother them.


Photograph of what I was painting, with Osprey on the nest. I wasn't going for a lot of detail in the painting, just wanted to get the colors semi right which I found easier said than done.


Another of my "exercises" or pen doodles. This one sort of looks like an egg with bows on, no clue where this came from.


Yesterday I was at Broadmoor MA Audubon Sanctuary in Natick, MA.  I didn't see to identify a lot of birds, though I did have my glasses and I did hear a lot of birds, cardinals, chickadees, phoebes, and saw robins, canada geese, and various sparrows. I also saw and photographed a green frog, a couple of water snakes and a couple of garter snakes, it was sort of a good day to see snakes. I saw the lodge for the beavers but didn't see any, I know I was there at the wrong time of day for them to be out and about.

I didn't see a lot of flowers: several wild oat plants/flowers, a few wood anemones, some winter cress was blooming by the edge of one field, and the lily of the valley was setting buds for flowers by the path to the Sanctuary Office. That said I have been busy photographing wild flowers this week, several of those photos have been posted to my facebook page.

The photo above is of some ferns unfurling for their summer growth. The dark green sections are the reproductive fronds for this fern which will create and release the plants spores. Ferns don't flower, and don't create "seeds" but create spores that they release to the woods. If you want to read more about ferns and their reproduction you can go HERE


The above photo is still Broadmoor, and is just a section of woods with a marshy area. I rather liked this photo as it shows how the woods are slowly turning green, leaves aren't quite out yet, but they are starting to get there, a couple more days of warm weather and this scene with dappled sunlight will be mostly in shade.

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