Saturday, July 30, 2011

Amaryllis and Chickens

This started out as a painting with amaryllis drawn in pencil. I had other plans for this - it was never meant as a straight flower painting - but I did not intend for chickens to show up. They just forced their way in (chickens and sheep seem to do this from time to time in my work - I have no idea why, since I have little day-to-day connection with any barnyard animals except via our fridge...). Here is the line drawing inked in. (I don't usually ink in edges unless the theme is meant to be comic. The last one I inked in was Cicadas.)

Here is the piece with the first red laid in. I used a new big brush - a size 22 red sable flat named Frondine. I was experimenting with James Gurney's "BLAST" concept. the "B" stands for use the Biggest Brush that will do the job. I wet the red zones with a one inch flat and then put the color in with minimal strokes with Frondine, trying to move with the grain and direction of the petals.

Here is the piece with the base colors all down, but no refinements or cross coloring done - and only a few shadows. And below is the finished (I think) painting. 18 x 24 inches on Arches hot press. Watercolor and black Pelikan ink. You should see 17 chickens in this piece. That's how many showed up. I don't usually work with a red blue yellow triad - I don't usually use this much red.

Click any image for a closer view - largest image is of the finished painting.

Hillsborough Visitor Center

I painted this back in May, but didn't get around to posting it until now. We have the theater bug bad in our house, with four out of five of us (I'm the lone holdout) in a musical that is running four nights right now, and it's been pretty exhausting living theater hours in the night, and getting up early for work. So not much painting or drawing happened this week other than figure drawing Tuesday.

This is a house which was moved to Hillsborough, to become the historic district's visitor center. A major Civil War surrender took place in this house, but I love it for the simple lines and proportions. The gardens outside are nearly limited to plants which would have been in cultivation at that time in America - larkspur, simple roses, nicotiana, nandina, rose campion, Virginia spiderwort, herbs, hollies, silver bell tree, jasmine... This was done in my watercolor sketch pad - 10 x 12, ink and watercolor, sketching with Oldest (he was on the other side of the house, sketching the porch on that side, and leaves from a brown turkey fig tree).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FigureDrawing July 26 2011

I'll admit I have become obsessed with life drawing. I've been twice as often lately as I've posted here - two of the sessions yielded not one useful drawing. And I have struggled and been lost and have loved the entire thing. I used to be done when the session was d0ne - worn out, actually. Tonight I was sorry there were not more poses - and we went two and a half hours instead of the two of my other sessions. This is a group I haven't joined before - you have to be invited (I was grateful to be there) - and I loved the setting, the quality of the poses, and the serious but light hearted company. A wonderful group of artists.

The model is a dancer, singer, and theater person. I hope I conveyed some of that grace in these short drawings. This is the first time an entire set came out worth showing - all five of the five minute poses worked for me - and I was mesmerized as the pastel, used sideways almost the entire time, did what I wanted. It felt like I was just watching it happen, almost. There are also one 2 minute, some 15 minute, and a 25 minute pose here.

Tonight I drew rectangles in my pad beforehand, deliberately planning to place the poses in the shapes - using the whole space in each rectangle as a composition. I didn't achieve what I hoped, but these are a lot closer. My plan is to learn to see the whole space in these smaller drawings (about 6.5 by 9 inches) and then move to larger spaces for longer poses (the 25 minute pose here is about twice that size) and eventually be able to do this for full size sheets.

This group compares their drawings sometimes - which is helpful. It's also interesting to see the different approaches. Several of the others draw in the style of the Italian Renaissance - with sharp conte and white charcoal on slightly tinted paper - beautiful results made with line and hatching. Mine look more like something Impressionist, or Post Impressionist. Others draw more like Expressionists or even like Abstract Expressionists, but truer to life.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Life Drawing July 21

Working with a brush and wash or watercolor before the lines feels really uncomfortable. Tonight I felt either at sea with no anchor, or things just seemed to make sense and I watched in fascination as things happened on the page that were better than I expected. I still ended the evening feeling I had nothing to post - nothing worth looking at again.

But then I got home and looked and some of these are begining to find their way. By the last pose (final image here) I was finally thinking about the whole page. Took two hours to get there. I'm struggling so much with the medium and the change of tools, working vertical with liquid and trying not to let it drip (I may need to just see what happens if I drip a lot) that I can't apply what I know - like composition. Sometimes I get an OK image of the pose - but it's not engaging the space or the page - certainly not the edges of the page (except by accident).

So this last image I focused primarily on the placement on the page - and where the edges land. I was aiming for an up close, almost uncomfortably intimate cropping - particularly since the model's pose was so casual and open. I caught some of what I was after - more than in many other attempts. Sunday I tried another group and drew this same model (I've drawn her many times - she is a favorite among the art centers in the area). I got not a single thing I would care to ever show anyone. I was really struggling with unfamiliar tools, unfamiliar colors (the blue, still - not a good choice, I finally decided, for what I want to say about the figure). So today was a surprise, when things started to work. Switching to sienna was a big help.

And there was lots of dicussion about art and drawing during the break, and after the session. Before the session began, there were about 15 minutes when it was just the model and I in the room, waiting for starting time. We discussed Sunday's session, which she said was hard because there were over a dozen people drawing, in a complete circle around her, and she felt she could not get ideal poses in front of everyone at once - something she works hard to do (probably one reason she's a favorite). She said some people move all around the room to get the pose they want - others are obviously just grumpy about what they get. I laughed and said that poses are like poker hands, to me - you play what you're dealt. More often than you think, there's something interesting you can do with it. Part of the challenge (to me) is finding something noteworthy to feature in each pose. Whether I can do it justice is another matter...

These are all on Strathmore drawing pad - 18 x 24 inches. Sienna watercolor wash and sienna water color crayon, with some pencil in the longer poses. Click images for expanded views - a little larger than usual.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Playing with My Food - Part 2

Today, at the Eno River Farmer's Market, Two Chicks Farm had an unusual potato that they had kept with me in mind... because of the food play with the tomato we bought from them, last time (which ended up in a collaboration on That's Why, as well). They said the potato had a head, too - but that broke off before they could get it to me. They figured I still might be able to make something of it. This first photo is what happened.

And while the larger goldfish ended up in the potato salad (orange watercolor rinsed off, of course), the goggle eyed gold fish is still on my workbech, on top of my "Taschen 25" collection. (The large black fellow in this photo is Ox, by the way - my Ugly Doll).

Meanwhile the onion (which had been a jelly fish) went on to play a role in a quick still life sketch I've wanted to do for a while with onions and peppers (including the cute pepper Dearest had picked out recently - also at Two Chicks' booth). So here are some shots of the slightly more serious food play this afternoon. Every vegetable in this photo is from Two Chicks, actually.

The resulting watercolor and ink painting/drawing is a little larger than 10 x 14. I took some advice I read recently and mixed pthalo green and quinacridone magenta for the shadows. I like the result.

In the additional photos you see my drawing in preparation for ink and watercolor (above), then the resulting painting, and finally my work space with the vegetables, finished painting, and my pallette. The blue brush on the Clausen jar, the one used for this paining, is Louise. The ink was applied using a nib that's over half a century old now, passed on to me from my grandfather's art supplies. It was one of his favorites, and it's my favorite. I like feeling these connections.

I end (as I began) with some closer photos of the potato goldfish and jellyfish. Click on any image to see a larger view.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Life Drawing July 14th 2011

Tonight we had a lovely young model. Every human form is so different it amazes me. This is one of the privileges of doing this kind of drawing, and one of the treasures each model shares - this view of the variety and beauty of the human body.

I was determined, tonight, not to fall into old habits and draw the way I always do. It was a struggle. Trying to use a brush, ink washes, negaitve space, few lines... I was well outside my comfort zone, and the drawings show that. Most are pretty terrible, though they have moments or parts that taught me something. These are the best two. The smaller one (only 9 x 12), of the model in profile, is done with watercolor crayon and then water with a little blue ink. I dislike the texture - I seldom use cold press paper, and this is why. There are a few good moments in this drawing.

The other drawing here was a shorter pose (15 minutes), done on a larger sheet (18 x 24 - this is a cropping of the right side of a page). I wish the colors here, that almost violet hue on the arm, for instance, and the warm glow of the background, were true to the original, but they are actually improvements made by my camera. Usually these lose something in translation - this one gained. Again, there are some nice moments in this drawing (done almost entirely with a Niji water brush loaded with 1/2 strength Miday Blue Noodler's ink). This is done on Strathmore drawing paper (not really designed for this medium, but it stood up fairly well). I am trying to get away from newsprint. This drawing does a better job capturing the young charm of this model.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blunt Instrument

To me, a Sharpie is a blunt instrument. So is a 3/4 inch square wash brush. I was seeking something different than I usually do.

Approx 12 x 16 inches, watercolor and Sharpie on Arches hot press. Approx ten minutes.

I see lines I wish I had left out... Next time...

I also see some lines I really like... Next time...

It's all about this time while the instrument is in your hand - then it's all about next time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Duke Gardens - Saturday

After our usual visit to the Hillsborough farmer's market (Eno River Market) and walk downtown, we headed to Duke Gardens which had been flooded the evening before. The rain came from a storm which diverted my flight home to nearby Greensboro for fuel and to wait for the downpour to pass the Raleigh-Durham airport. Water was still high, and brown in the big duck pond. I parked myself on a step before this spirit house and drew it while Dearest took photos until she was about ready to pass out from the heat.

I've never observed this piece so closely before. Somehow I felt the ornamentation is Western, not from Asia... I can't put my finger on it, but the carving, shapes, proportions, etc. seem too expected, too classical. Does anyone know more about this?

Click image for a slightly larger view. Pencil and pen in drawing pad - 8.5 x 10 inches.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Festival for the Eno - 2011

One of the highlights of Durham's year is the annual Festival for the Eno which runs for three days every Fourth of July weekend. It's a fundraiser and awareness device for the preservation of the Eno river, which flows through Durham and Orange counties for much of it's length. Every year there is a new T-shirt design, and you can pick up reprints of the previous years (except some of the best designs, like the luna moth, or the four skinks, which people treasure). We bought quite a few today, since we have missed the last few years. It's always so hot that we can't go often or stay for long. A wild array of music is played on three stages across the park and artisans and environmental groups have set up booths along the many walk-ways. Though tens of thousands attend, the event is a model of green planning, with over 90% of the trash being composted or recycled. Many people gather at the concrete bridge and shallows to wade, rent kayaks and canoes, and see some of the wildlife up close. It's a congenial, thoughtful, colorful event.

Today's visit seemed really short to me, though, since I spent the majority of it on this sketch of the Grove stage. I recall the music of two musical groups while I drew. I love the cool green of the place, the informality of the crowd that gathers and changes over time, and the painting and old tobacco barn that serve as the backdrops of the stage. Before I knew it, the rest of the family was collecting me to leave.

When I started the sketch (ink and watercolor on cold press paper - 9 x 12 inches) it was less crowded. Early Sunday is a quiet time. It was more crowded (and a less attractive compoosition) when I left and took this photo for additional reference.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Life Drawing July 2, 2011

I joined another drawing group (on Meet-up) and they happened to have a session in my town today. It was great to get there in less than 10 minutes. But I was nervous, as well, for several reasons. First, I hadn't met any of these artists. This group tends to meet in people's homes (as today) and that can be more intimate, and (for me) a little more awkward with strangers. And the entire group attending today were women. I've been drawing with a group that has been all male, by coincidence. Today I knew I would be the only male in the room.

When I arrived I met the model outside. She was beautifully full figured, carried herself like a dancer (which she is) and was African-American with gorgeous skin tones. I caught myself smiling happily at her poses (including some challenging yoga positions) and the lovely way the natural light from the big windows illuminated her strong curves.

We set up in a large narrow livingroom space, which was a little difficult. Since I stood at my easel I moved to the back, and looked over the pads of several ladies who were seated. But I could see most of the poses well enough, it was a good group, pleasant, and I can learn a lot from many of them. Some have extraordinary ability to capture the pose, and do it expressively. Several create particularly beautiful lines. Unlike the sessions I attend on Thursday evenings, where no one shows their drawings, this group shows their best at the end, while everyone offers encouraging observations, and the organizer of the session photographs them to include several (without attribution) on the group's site. This encourages others to join us... Seeing the drawings (of the same poses you just drew in a quite different way, perhaps) can be amazingly instructive and inspiring. A few of us talked afterward about materials and getting back into this after years (several of them resumed only a few months ago). It was wonderful.

I still have so much more I want to do with these drawings, and I can't seem to get to a different place yet. Today, with all the other strangeness, I stuck to my usual ways. But I want to work with pen, brush, and watercolors. Eventually I want to paint figures with acrylics. But I need to loosen up more, see the lines I'm ignoring, and get more expressive.

The two red/orange drawings are Nupastel on newsprint. The other was done with a watercolor crayon - also on newsprint.

This last drawing was done before the session, to warm up a little before I headed out the door. It was done from the models/poses DVD I got for Christmas. Pen and colored pencil on sketch paper - about 13 inches high, from head to foot. I love the curve that starts in her neck and runs all the way to the inner contour of her right thigh.