Sunday, March 30, 2008

Almost All Week Long

Well, except for Friday, I managed to draw every day this week. How about you guys? I even fit in a quick colored pencil sketch today from a photo taken yesterday when we went to ... wait, that comes later ... The sketch was done on Stonehenge paper with Aqua Monolith pencils.(Yes, those pencils that Laura got me hooked on some time back -- so much so that I recently upgraded my set from the 24 pencil version to the 72 pencil BONANZA! No new shoes for me for a while ... ) I haven't done any water brushing on this yet, but might some time this week.

You've already seen the paintbrush section of this page, but here are some flowers from the back yard last Sunday. Over the past week, the Virginia bluebells and the Celandine Poppies began blooming under the trees. The redbuds are coming out, and the dogwoods buds are getting fat. The Bradford pears are losing their petals, making it look like it is snowing when the breeze kicks up.

Monday I drew the dish soap. I don't know why -- was it because it was blue? On Tuesday I got my new video camera! It is just like Diahn's -- I was so impressed with hers that I had to get one -- but it turns out that she is a much better videographer than I am. Okay -- this is little and light and I have plenty of opportunities to practice.

BTW, the camera is listed as being blue -- but it's not really -- more purple when the light hits it just right. My car is like that, too -- I actually thought it was dark blue when I bought it, but as I was driving it home the sun came out, and the hood was PURPLE! I was thrilled. I mean, who has an occasionally purple car? Me, that's who!

Wednesday evening I gathered things together for a silent auction at work to benefit the Alzheimer's Association. During my gathering together of things, I found this raspberry pink jacket that I got last year and had forgotten about. Darn it -- and the cold weather is nearly gone. I decided to keep it or give it to my daughter. On Thursday, I just drew a candle that sitting there handy. My enthusiasm shows. But -- I got Janey's new Zine -- and it is GREAT. So Thursday was good.

Friday, after an incredibly, um, long and challenging day at work, I went out to eat with my parents, who had come into town for the weekend. It was late when we got home, so I skipped drawing. To make up for it, I drew a clementine Saturday morning while I waited on my parents, my sister, and our friend Marcia to come over. Then, along with DH, we went to Dollywood for the day to see the Festival of Nations. It was cloudy most of the day, and rainy at the end, but we had a blast. Not a good day for rides, but great for shows. We heard loads of different types of music, took a lesson on how to play the Bodhran, saw all types of dancing, and nearly every country did some version of Rocky Top. This sent certain members of our party over the edge, particularly when it was done in Russian, so that by the end of the day my sides hurt from laughing so hard. Once we got home, I took a hot bath and drew my slippers. I mean, really -- you just can't top a day like that.

Again, I have to say that I'm impressed with those of you who REALLY fit in the time to draw every single day. I tend to "quick draw", so it isn't that time consuming -- but making the habit stick IS.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

All Week Long

Last Sunday Diahn and I went out on a sketching expedition. We didn't find any lighthouses, but we did find plenty of dead bodies! After a stop at Jerry's for some essential shopping, we moved on to the McClung museum, with the idea of sketching the latest exhibit, only to realize that the exhibit was not all that ... um ... sketchable. It was fascinating -- an exhibit of forensic anthropology featuring the Body Farm, the first of which is here in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee, and which you have probably read about if you are a Patricia Cornwell fan. Fascinating -- unsettling -- and while parts of it are not for the weak of stomach, I would recommend this exhibit especially to anyone in the health care field -- it is an eye opener.

So, we made our way over to Panera -- nothing like decomp to make you crave a cup of hot coffee and a chocolate croissant -- and did some sketching. It has been way too long since I sketched, and it shows!

The realization that my drawing skills have quickly deteriorated, and inspired by Danny Gregory's recent podcasts of interviews with artists about their sketchbooks, I made the decision to try to draw every day this past week. So it was an iPod shuffle and mandarins on Monday ...

Blooming flowers on Tuesday and raincoats on Wednesday -- when you have nothing else to say, you can at least write about the weather...

Accessories on Thursday and shopping trips on Friday. And still, the weather is a topic. Such an interesting life... (let's roll our eyes -- all together now!) I may add some color to this page today, and I might not. It just depends.

Saturday we shopped even more, and then I cleaned the house, which includes a thorough washing up of all the watercolor brushes. I'm ashamed to say that I'd put some of them away dirty...

Well -- I did it, drawing daily, for one week -- maybe next week, too!
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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Far Far Away

Far, far away from here is a lighthouse. In Oregon, actually. But I saw the photo in my watercolor teacher's pile of vacation pics, and it was a gloomy day with no lighthouses or seashore in driving distance, the rocks looked interesting, and DH has been wanting a lighthouse painting for over a year -- ever since I gave one away to a friend of ours. So, I painted it. I THINK it's finished. The "unfinished" shoreline at the bottom just feels right to me, and I really want to leave it that way.

The plans for today are to meet up with Diahn to make a trip to Jerry's and then go do some sketching. Lighthouses are not on the agenda, but if we HAPPEN to run across one in Knoxville, we will most certainly document it!

And on a side note -- I've long thought that one can tell a great deal about a church by the way its members drive as they are leaving the parking lot. Think about it, people.

Music of the day -- Jack Johnson "Sleeping Through the Static" and "In Between Dreams" . Lovely laid back stuff. Thanks Diahn and others for the recommendation!
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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Small Sketch

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Well, our weekend was cold and wintry with light snow flurries all day Saturday. I brought a stack of work home Friday, thinking that I would probably be snowed in and could use that excuse to finally get caught up. The big snow never came, but I decided to put off procrastinating and get my REAL work done anyway. I went so far as to skip Saturday morning's watercolor class and managed to finish off all the work I brought home -- so even though there is still a stack left on my desk at work, I am much more prepared to face it tomorrow morning.

And I managed to knock off this little watercolor, ink, and pencil sketch of some salt marshes from a photo on Wet Canvas. There's something about this kind of quiet, empty, almost desolate landscape that I really love. It will go into my box of imaginary travel sketches!
I hope your weekend was a good one, and that you stayed warm and dry.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Value Studies for Michael

Post disclaimer: Non-art people will be bored. Most art people will be bored. This is for Michael, who may also be bored with it, but ... oh well.

Further disclaimer: I'm LEARNING, not a teacher. This post is the result of a conversation that just needed pictures. :-)

This is a prime example of why you look at the colored pencil POINT rather than the color painted on the barrel of the pencil to see what color it is. You shouldn't completely trust those sly colored pencil manufacturers!

(This is Prismacolor Scarlet Lake - 923)

All of the following examples are done with prismacolors.

What I did -- took my jumble of colored pencils and semi-randomly made some nice colored squares on a small piece of Stonehenge paper.

I scanned them in color, then switched the scanner to grey scale and rescanned to see the actual color values.

The top two rows -- Pink (929), Orange ( ), and Rosy Beige (1019)
then Pale Vermillion (921), Canary yellow (916), and Apple Green (912)

It's easy to look at the colors and see how the Pink and Pale Vermillion and Orange are near values, but when you look at the grey scale you can also see how the Orange and the Apple Green are nearly the same value even though they are very different colors. So we can figure out that if an entire drawing is done in colors of all similar value, it is going to feel kind of washed out, even though the colors themselves are really nice.

These are the bottom two rows. I was a bit surprised at how light the blue in the upper middle showed up; I would have thought it was a darker value than it appears here on the grey scale.
The colors are: An Olive Green That I Just Dropped Which Then Rolled Under The Desk So It Is Now Irretrievable, Electric Blue (1040), and Scarlet Lake (923)
The bottom row: Violet (932), Imperial Violet (1007), and Dahlia Purple (1009)

This really shows how, even though the red is BRIGHT, it is a dark-ish value. It can brighten up a dark passage without changing the value a whole lot, but if you're going for RED IMPACT, it might get lost in near values. And, comparing the temperature of the colors on the bottom row, you can see how there can be a neutral purple, cool purple, and warm purple.

Sigh. At least that's how I figure it is. Books, books, books, study, study, study, and practice, practice, practice. That's the trick.

And for those of you who always want to know what music I'm listening to, I've got Jeff Buckley's "Grace" album playing now -- I'd forgotten all about how wonderful he was until I caught that cute kid with dreadlocks on American Idol singing the Buckley version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Yep, I decided to watch a little American Idol this season to finally see what all the fuss is about. Not near as good as the Rock Star shows have been, but getting reminded of this beautiful album was well worth the time. So iTunes scored a sale off of me because of the show -- they should be happy! :-)
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Monday, March 03, 2008


Fickle, I tell you! I'm talking about pastels. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won't, you just never ever know.

Let's talk about MARCH MADNESS. I don't mean silly basketball, but the real thing. Well, I had this bright idea that I was going to give myself the challenge of trying to do a pastel landscape every night except Thursdays in the month of March. Sounds like a good idea, right? So, of course, on Saturday March 1, I have to prep a bunch of boards and paper to do it all on.

I start out with a stack of archival mat boards, and using a pre-cut mat, measure off an 11" x 14" area on each of them. Then I sketch in a border around THAT, just to give a little wiggle room. That way matting anything that happens to be framable will be simple -- it is already on the right place on the board ... yada yada yada.

The boards are prepped with a mix of acrylic matte medium, a squirt of brown acrylic paint (thanks, Zelma!), and a few spoonfuls of something-or-other-oxide-I-think grit, which I got from Paul at one of his workshops. I do all of this on a table out in the garage, with the door open for ventilation. Something about that grit makes me not want to inhale too deeply... Basically what I'm doing is making my own inexpensive sanded surface. Tons cheaper than Colorfix or Wallis, and you can customize the color and amount of grit. I accidentally mixed up more stuff than planned, so I was able to prime six mat boards AND about six 11 x 14 pieces of 300# watercolor paper. You can basically use this to prep anything for pastel use, or so I hear.

Notice the baggie of white powder in the bottom right corner? That's the grit. It stays out in my garage, and it just occurred to me that I should label it. (I wonder how many hits I'll get on this site because of the phrase "baggie of white powder"?? Sorry, guys -- wrong stuff!)

Well, of course the boards had to dry. And I had to gather some reference photos.

Sunday, March 2. If I'm going to do a painting every day but Thursday, I'm ALREADY a day behind.

Oh well. I'm using a photo from Wet Canvas that has had my eye for a long time. I think this is my favorite part of it all, and something I've started doing because it just feels so fun. I sketch out the drawing with a medium charcoal pencil - just a few lines -- and then take a filbert paintbrush and water and start making - you guessed it -- CHARCOAL washes. So much fun. I get to block in the medium darks, and then the real fun begins. While it is still wet, I draw back into it with the charcoal pencil. It makes the blackest black you ever saw. I could just do this all day long. Once it dries, the fickle pastel work starts.

A short while later I'm here. There's only a couple of places where I used the wet brush on the pastel -- on the dock in the lower right corner, on the very dark area in the upper right, and on the blue boat. Of course, it's bed time and I know I'm going to have to finish it on Monday. That means that as of March the 3rd, I will be TWO pieces behind.

At this point it occurs to me that a boat caught in the weeds along with a bunch of debris is not exactly a landscape. Huh. Next step -- modify the self imposed challenge from a pastel landscape every day except Thursday to several pastel pieces a week with a focus on the landscape. That feels better.

I don't know if it is finished (at the top) or not. It has to percolate for a week before I know. I may try to make it smoother, and I may want to leave it rough. I would love to hear thoughts about that -- ideas about the composition -- anything to help! My real goal for this month is to explore this medium, explore this new (to me) sanded surface, and learn what it might or might not do, so input is a good thing!

WHAT I LEARNED: This one was done on 300# cold press watercolor paper (prepped like above.) The watercolor paper is hard and bumpy, and the acrylic medium did not smooth it all out like I had thought it would, so the texture showed through on everything, making detail really difficult. However, look at how very very dark I was able to go -- I think that was because of the texture. So there were pluses and minuses.

And I was reminded that pastel is FICKLE!!! Will I make it through this March madness, or will I return to my senses? We shall see ...