Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Triceratops - GSO Museum Trip

I took the day off today, and we're celebrating my birthday. It's in December, but I decreed several years ago that I would celebrate it in April or May from now on. So today, while our two oldest went to work (summer jobs) Dearest, Youngest, and I went to the Natural Science Center in Greensboro, NC. For my long-ish sketch I was having a hard time choosing between a rhino skull and a hippo skull until I remembered that I could draw the Triceratops skeleton. No contest. What fascinating shapes, and great opportunites for playing with light and dark, positive and negative. Pencil and Pilot pen, 8.5 x 10 inches.

I got out my strange little folding chair (mine is purple), the frame of which snaps itself into shape with a delightful series of clicks, and plunked myself down right in the middle of the museum floor and spent a dreamy 45 minutes or so capturing these shapes and masses. The VERY annoying video playing in the same gallery, providing info about the dinosaurs, repeated about five times while I was there. I was not sorry to leave it behind, but I did enjoy (all five times) the paleontological opinion that Triceratops could reach speeds up to thirty miles per hour. That would have been grand to see (passing me by, of course, not giving chase).

We got lunch at the Snackbar deli on South Elm (decorated entirely in black, white, gray, and red - except the bathrooms which are over the top blue for the guys and pink for the girls) - great food. Then we picked up goodies at a bakery in Mebane on the way back (T. DiStefano's). Then home for some painting and drawing and this blog post. Next we go out for birthday pizza, and then end back home to eat the desserts and open presents. There are still hours of today left, and I'm enjoying my birthday and the company.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Figure Drawing May 19, 2011

We had a lovely model this evening, with beautiful shoulders. I've drawn her before, over a year ago. She is in her sixties, I would guess. These sketches are the 5 minute sketches (all on one page) and then two 10 minute sketches, and then the two twenty minute sketches we did last. As usual, I felt like I had finally gotten in a groove just as we finished. And also, the 10 minute poses are often my favorites - they don't last long enough. That's mostly due to the model choosing something a little more challenging (balance or twisting, etc.) for a shorter pose. The longer poses require something they can hold, so they are often more ordinary sitting postures. Some models recline for the longer poses, which I enjoy, particularly since I usually end up with a drastic foreshortening pose at least once during the evening.

I tend to leave the hands, face, and feet only suggested (if that) because I am concentrating on what I can't draw at other times - the nude torso, in particular. But I also think the suggested hands, in particular, work in these drawings, and I think it best to keep the sketches more anonymous. I'm particularly pleased with these two ten minute poses - the one on the right captured the lovely way she was holding her shoulders and hands, though it makes her look younger than it should.

These are all pencil on 18 x 24 inch Strathmore medium drawing paper. I have used up the pad, so I need to pick up another before my next session. And our usual lead artist, who runs the timer, will be in Paris for a month, drawing for several hours a day in some of the oldest open figure drawing studios in the world (one is where Ingres drew regularly) - so I need to get a battery for my timer.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Farmer's Market and Depot - Hillsborough

On our Saturday morning walks in Hillsborough, we always stop at the Farmer's Market to get greens, eggs, bread, and (of course) flowers from Marsha. Sometimes I leave her bouquets just the way she arranged them for sale, and other times (like this) I break the blooms up and recombine them in more locations in the house. These are on the sill of the big window in our stairwell. Bachelor's buttons, ranunculus, anemones.

The Cheerwine and Boylan (Birchbeer!!!) bottles were bought at the extreme other end of our walk, where the Depot is a new destination in our village. It's a pleasure to drink something old fashioned (and memory packed) as we turn and start back to our car parked near the market.

But the company I keep on these walks is my favorite part...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sketching in Roswell Again

I went back to Roswell, GA one evening recently, and I did a stylized sketch of the fashion boutique (Capricious) whose owner had previously let me sit on one of her benches in order to draw the cafe across the street. The shop was closed before I got there this time. They have lovely windows, and elegant choices displayed, and I like their sign/logo.

Fountain pen with brown Noodler's Ink (which runs nicely), blue ink, black prismacolor pen, and watercolor (limited to turquoise, French ultramarine, and a tiny bit of burnt umber).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Antique Auto Museum in Asheville

This is a 1940 Packard I sketched sitting cross-legged on beautiful wide heartpine floorboards. The small museum is part of the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. I had about 20 minutes, and an 8 x 10 inch sketch pad and a pencil. I love these old autos from the 40's, with their big fenders and tall grills.

This one is black, with shiny chrome on the bumper, grill, vents, and headlight trim, and whitewall tires. A very classy beast. Click the image for a closer look.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sketching at the Museum of Life and Science - Durham

I did a quick visit to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC recently, and did several sketches. These will also appeared on our Durham blog "Top of the Triangle." Most of the Tangelo family contributes, including Moomin Light.

This lion skull captured my interest immediately with all the curves and positive/negative spaces overlapped. This exhibit has a crank on it that makes the lion skull (and several others, including a human skull) go through the motions of chewing. The twisting, side-to-side grinding motion is captured well on the horse, for instance. The lion just opens and closes the alrmingly large mouth with the disturbingly large teeth.

These pen sketches are at opposite ends of the timeframe spectrum, with the lion skull holding still so I could take my time (about 20 minutes) while the red ruffed lemurs (below) were twitchy (like most lemurs when they're not asleep) and I was lucky if I got 20 seconds for each pose.

These lemurs are my favorite kind, with their long sensitive looking faces, the red fur, and the long dark tails like feather boas.

Near the museum, along an exercise trail, is a "brontosaurus," the last remaining evidence of the museum's old dinosaur trail. You can date the dinosaur exhibit from the fact that the brontosaurus was later found to be a mistake - a combination of bones from several dinosaurs. I grew up with brontosaurus in my dinosaur books, but my kids grew up knowing about the error. This particular, huge, sculpture was badly damaged by vandals years ago and was going to be removed, but the community rose up and ran find raisers (we have some t-shirts as evidence of our support) to restore and keep the "bronto." It features in the banner I created for our Top of the Triangle blog (link above), and is part of our image of Durham, so we were elated that it was preserved. And they didn't overdo the restoration - it still looks old and weathered. Doing this watercolor sketch made me lose track of the time, and led to my being late for the life drawing session that week.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sketching in Asheville

We picked up Daughter at the end of her first year at UNC Asheville this week. I can't believe her first year is already behind us. She really made the most of it, worked hard, played hard, started a dance club, and made impressions that have greatly expanded her view of who she is. I think she got more than her time and money's worth - and she made us very proud.

While she finished her semester, however, Youngest, Dearest and I did some touring in Asheville, including the Biltmore House grounds and gardens, and the NC Arboretum. These two sketches were done on location, but the hour in front of the subject was only enough to catch the lines with pencil and memorize the colors and light. Inking and watercolors were applied later, in the hotel room. This Biltmore gardens sketch is the most elaborate and detailed I've done to-date - and I spent about 3 and a half hours on it. It was good to go this far, and to see what I could do with the fountain pen and the little watercolor field kit which is all I carry on these trips. I'm pleased with the result. The conservatory building creates a particularly beautiful backdrop for this garden, and this sketch catches much of my feeling for the spot. The orange bricks against the cool greenish brown stucco is gorgeous.

The second sketch is of a complex redbud tree that is a central player in the perennial gardens beside/behind the main visitor center. I've loved this tree since the first time I saw it, with its crazy weave of branches and the red heart shaped leaves. It was still early in the year, in Asheville, and the leaves were still small and registered as individual red shapes, rather than a mass of overlapping darker shadows. I believe I did a better job, in this sketch, with the depth of the tree branches, using detail, line, and cooler colors to better effect than I've been able to previously.

Sketches are approximately 10 x 12. Lamy fountain pen with Noodler's brown ink, and Cotman watercolors.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Figure Drawing April 28

I got to Life Drawing late - and missed the first pose. Worse, setting up in a hurry, and jumping into drawing without any mental transition from my rush through traffic, unbalanced me. So the first sketches were largely a loss.

But I discovered something interesting. Our model was a beautiful young woman, with a nearly perfect figure and ideal proportions. There were so many lovely details: the slight curve of her forearms, the shape of her hands, her chin, the mulitiple curves of her hip bones, her elbows, her calves... I would have liked twenty minutes, for instance, on the 5 minute pose on the left side of the first photo (above). We have not drawn anyone this young or ideal that I can recall, and it was surprisingly difficult for me. It was like trying to capture a blank slate - a body upon which life hasn't drawn much yet. It made me realize that I focus on some unusual aspect of each figure - such as the long torso and prominent joints of our last model. So I struggled here. First of all because there were so many distracting details, and mostly because there was so little surface feature on her smooth, young body. It's harder to place breasts in a drawing, for instance, when they have no distinct shadows or edges - there is no obvious line of reference for connecting them with the rest of the drawing. And there are fewer hints of the bones in a younger body - and the bones are the cues that provide structure for figure drawing, the frame on which all the muscles and weight are balanced.

The second photo here is of the two twenty minute poses. These are not particularly large (the page is less than 18 by 24) and yet I didn't get as far as I would have liked. At least I finally was understanding what I was drawing, and was making some progress. Then, as usual, time's up. I always feel worn out and stiff; that I couldn't do another pose - and I always feel that I finally was getting somewhere and wishing there were one more pose...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Where I've Been - Travel and Sketching

I've been on the road a lot (again) - for work and for pleasure. Georgia, of course - but this time I discovered Roswell (thanks to Dearest for research locating something historic and interesting outside Alpharetta). Here is a sketch of Barrington Hall, a historic site. I sketched this during a thunder storm - capturing the house quickly with pencil, getting into watercolors just in time for the rain, and having to make a dash for the house's lovely porch (sketch face down, to protect it from raindrops), where I finished the sketch to the sound of the receding storm and a group of young actors rehearsing at a makeshift outdoor stage to one side of the house. I was charmed by the hall's large whiteness against the sky, the offset of the house to the right within the cage of the columns, and the bright aqua green shutters.

And this was done the following night, when I came back and checked out the historic business district in Roswell, sketching this cafe from the fashion store (Capricious) across the street. I then ate at the cafe (NINE - Street Kitchen) sitting at the table under the smaller of the tan colored umbrellas, until dark. Chicken Roma - delicious.

There will be more Roswell sketches. I've only scratched the surface with these two drawings.

And the best thing about this is that I have finally broken through to do some more significant painting and drawing while I travel for business. That means the trips will feel less like time away from my art - and I can stay in practice.