Friday, December 11, 2015

Two Landscapes in 3 Stages - Pencil, Pen and Watercolor

Lots and lots of photos this time! Let's start with the triumphant finish and then go to how it's done:

Hawaiian Waterfall and White Horse on the Hill
Two page spread in pen and watercolor on large Moleskine watercolor book.

These two landscapes were as dissimilar as they could be - except that I wanted them panoramic and knew I'd be painting them with summer greens. I thought they'd look good next to each other. Both are from photo references posted by Dominic_M for the December 4, 2015 Weekend Drawing Event. He asked that the references not be used after the WDE, so, any I wanted to work from later, I had to work from my art without referencing the original photo.

That challenge hit me just right and so I did the previous Stonehenge piece and clever little Gilbert Gecko on his soda can... then tackled my two favorites of the other grand landscapes. Because of the time limit, using those photos meant a mental challenge I faced many times in life. It was exactly as if I were doing field sketching without a camera. 

I didn't even get a camera till 2000 because I could never have both camera, and film, and money for developing it, all at the same tme I went with friends somewhere scenic. I tried to draw scenes and buildings I loved and failed for not sketching quickly, just drawing slow and careful. One memorable lake scene became a waterline and one pine branch in the near ground shading a corner. It was a beautiful pine branch but I didn't get the shore ,the rocks, the trees or anything else. 

I got my first digital camera, a Quickcam webcam, one day before I got my beloved Ari cat as a six week old kitten. From then I started taking a lot of pictures, I didn't have to worry about film. Then in the past few years learned to sketch - essentially by sketching that cat! Thanks, Ari!

I could finally do the kind of locality sketching I always wanted, once I had a good digital camera and didn't need to. Go fig! But it was good because even the attempt to sketch those places helped me remember those scenes vividly. In future I'll work toward drawing from memory without a photo or reference. Some of those places may not even exist any more if they flooded or got paved over or something... but I will someday do the sketches that failed.

This was a big step along the way. First, I penciled both scenes in my large Moleskine watercolor book. They're 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" which means the spread is 17" wide by 5 1/2" tall. This is also a step toward my doing a panorama covering both facing pages with the same continuous scene. 

 Hawaiian Waterfall pencil sketch
from Dominic's sister's photo (the reason to limit use, they weren't all his.)

 White Horse on the Hill pencil sketch
from photo by Dominic_M on

Success! I got enough detail in the pencil drawings to render the scene. From there I could have done watercolor first, or done pure watercolor. Gone over it with colored pencils or watercolor pencil or anything I wanted. 

Each pencil sketch is a good utilitarian plan for painting the scene, not a shaded lovely pencil drawing done in detail. This is the big reason so many pencil sketches in the past did not become entire scenes, just study of some tree bark or one pine branch or one boulder half done or something. Forget clouds unless they were a certain drifty long narrow type that comes in rows. 

If you ave o draw fast, do the big contours first, then important points of interest wih a few scribbled textures. Don't shade much unless it's important that area is a deep dark, unless you have the time. Sketching and Drawing are not the same thing.

I could have finished easily by taking out a set of 12 or 24 drawing pencils in different hardnesses and refined the pencil sketch into a beautiful pencil drawing full of textures, careful value areas with no outlines at all. Pencil realism is its own gorgeous type of art. Go for it if you like it, from life or photo.

Hawaiian Waterfall, pen stage in Pigma Micron 01 

 White Horse on the Hill pen stage in Pigma Micron size 03

I did the inking on different days. Some important life stuff happened to interrupt me, a pest control visit meant spending a day with two home care workers deep cleaning, bagging up all my food and clothes and taking down every framed picture on my walls. My room turned into chaos but I kept out the things I needed to finish the project. Day after, the exterminator came and I moved out into the hall to wait four hours for the fumes to dissipate.

I used a Pigma Mcron 03 for White Horse on the Hill first, still a fine point but not the finest. I outlined the chalk horse cutout to keep its form and then scribbled and drew closed and open lines to define everything else in the landscape. I planned for color to carry most of the tone values in this painting but shaded some clouds with hatching.

Then a day later I went to Hawaii in mind with a Pigma Micron 01. A finer pen width gave me more detail. Remember this, when you're nking a pencil sketch. The more fine a point you use, the easier it will be to get tempted to details and complex tonal values. Hawaii had more darks though, rich deep greens and striking contrasts. I knew I'd add color but that the darks from pen textures would enrich that and give me the value ranges I wanted.

If you want to simplify, use a variety of pen wdths and do them heaviest mark first. I meant to add some black accents with my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen but the Pigma Micron carried it to a nice finish. So nice that if I'd textured the hanging foliage on the left to the right value, I could have kept it a pure pen drawing. White Horse is more obviously a stage toward completion.

 Both scenes together in pen version. Shapes are easier to see and pen work 
defines water, foliage and clouds textures.

 Pencil sketch from life of my cat Ari on the bed.

In between the two watercolor finish sessions, I had Ari out in the hall waiting for the bug-killing fog to disperse. He was n his soft sided American Airlines official cat bag. He did not want to be in the bag. He yelled and rolled around and knocked himself off his tub of cat food. He then started pawing at the flap... and got hold of into a zipper tab with his toes or claws. 

He unzipped the bag from inside it!

He went romping down the hall and checked our room smelled nasty, so headed into a side hall to visit neighbors. I caught him, got hm back in the bag and a few minutes later he slept the nap of successful mischief. So in a break between the paintings, I sketched him from life. No grudge, he was happy again after we came back in.

 Hawaiian Waterfall, finish

 White Horse on the Hill, finish

I wound up overexerting helping the home care guys handle my art supplies, running around too much and doing anything myself hat I couldn't trust to them. I was wiped out with pani and exhaustion.

That became a good thing. I painted much more loosely and did more wet into wet color shifts within areas. I didn't slow down and color precisely between the lines. I made mistakes. I got some sky areas too dark in White Horse and lifted color once it was dry - for a softer lighter area than if I'd painted around it. I mixed greens and used pan greens and mixed pan greens with golds ad browns. 

On the Hawaiian scene I added flowers tat weren't there in the reference. The painting needed them and Hawaii is full of flowers. They stay if I ever work from this to do a good pastel or oil painting of the place. I just dotted them in last with a cold red that shifted with what it was near or went over. The net result was a lot more natural and flowing than if I'd noodled over it coloring between the lines in carefully chosen exact colors. 

Overall, it took a lot of work and several days to produce these two but it was well worth it! I love how they came out and both are serious works, not just quick sketches. They serve the purpose too - I can paint from them in any way I want, long after my imaginary trip ended!

Then that led to a real trip!

Next Wednesday, I'm leaving San Francisco to move back to Russellville, Arkansas with my daughter Kitten and her family. It'll be a Road Trip With Kitten. I'll be offline a bit being on the road but if I'm feeling up to it may do some real travel sketches along the way. We'll be driving two days and then I'll stay at her house till everything's turned on at mine. This was a spur of the moment decision that began with the trouble over the exterminator and will lead to a family Christmas this year, not just wait till next year!

I was going to relocate at end of February, but plans change and with everything already torn up and packed down, why not just finish the move and get it all over with instead of unpacking and packing again? I really did overdo it and she was concerned if I did that two more imes I might wnd up in the hosptal. So off we go! After the trip, I'll post any travel sketches and news!

Ari is the world's best traveling cat and will probably sleep through the trip n his cat bag. But his zipper will be pinned shut just in case!

Sunday, December 6, 2015


7" square Derwent Inktense on Stillman & Birn Delta journal

I love the rough paper of the Beta and Delta journals. It's heavy and strong with fine texture elements that give my stones a granulation effect when I wash out the Payne's Grey pencil work. I had a lot of fun varying the hues on the grass too because even in the photo, it looked greenest right at the base of the stones and had browner areas coming forward. 

I darkened the clouds in the original reference and deliberately played with them and the sky some, because of the square format. I had all this space leading up to the ancient sacred site and wanted to do an interesting sky. The photo reference by Dominic_M has a panoramic shape, very low and broad, but I expanded the sky knowing that's reality. If I was there all I'd need to do is look up.

So I had fun with this one today. I've got two more references by him that I really want to do something with. Might stick with the Inktense on all of them or branch out into another pastel for a Hawaiian waterfall scene. More to come!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Flowers and Gecko Page in Derwent Inktense

Flowers and Gecko Page
Derwent Inktense and Pigma Micron on Large Moleskine Watercolor Book

While rearranging my supplies and beginning to pack down for my move at the end of February, I found my 72 color Derwent Inktense set under a large stack of other supplies. This is the churn. I have a lot of good art supplies and that's one thing that's always kept me excited about them. If I leave them alone for a few months and immerse in others, when I come back to them it's like getting a new package from Blick.

It took a certain comfort level of supplies to reach that happy rotation level. I think some of it is seasonal and situational too. I have wonderful oil painting supplies and get tempted to use them whenever the weather leaves me frisky enough for setup and cleanup for oils... but at that point I also need to have the space to really spread out. I need a place to hang paintings to dry for weeks without choking on the fumes or bumping into them. Happily, next Spring I'll be living in a nice rural house with a studio that's not also my bedroom! I will have enough space to set up easels and work larger, to get layered and work on several paintings at once (all up above the cat's easy reach) and so I'll finally be able to use that glorious holiday set of Winsor & Newton Artists' Oils that I picked up right before I moved to San Francisco.

One of the fun results of the churn is that if I spend months working in other mediums, I come back to something difficult with more control and better skills. Derwent Inktense are very strong watersoluble pencils, well named, and when washed they are permanent. Anything that didn't dissolve still might smear but I can glaze color over color with them, I can pull color off the tips with a water brush and mix like inks or just wash over a drawing for the results I got this time with the little gecko.

He's sitting on a soda can. I loved the reference for that, he's so tiny. Even smaller than the anoles I had in my house in New Orleans and even more colorful with his red patches. My cats never caught the anoles because they weren't stupid, they climbed the walls and stayed out of reach. But they often came in my house and always brightened my stay. I like little lizards and they do cut down on flies too!

So here's today and yesterday's daily art. The novel's finished and December's going to be full of art!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Orange Tree Autumn Colors

Orange Tree
5" x 7" Pastels on Paper

The photo reference for this small landscape was posted by DAK723 on for the November 2015 Pastel Spotlight challenge, theme Autumn Colors. He had lovely landscape references. I liked this tree with its dramatic lighting a lot, especially contrasting with others that hadn't turned and two saplings that already lost all their leaves.

Sketched it on light blue Canson Mi Tientes during November but I was a tad busy writing a trashy vampire novel for Nanowrimo. So I didn't actually start painting till this morning. I used my set of 15 Caran d'Ache soft pastels, lovely thick soft pastels with a very dense feeling like Art Spectrum ones. 

I'm very fond of them. It's a small set but I've gotten good results with them, the colors are very rich and well chosen. I'm not missing anything essential in that small palette. Though if I do expand them with any others it'll probably be Art Spectrum tints.

Had some very happy news - a rent credit from my landlord for all the months the elevator hasn't been working took the sting out of being nearly housebound with it. That came at just the right time to make the holidays possible and catch up on some needed staples. I'll be moving end of February, so getting a little ahead now will carry me through without starving or doing without essentials. That rocks!

I've even indulged with a dinosaurs coloring book for myself, for those days I'm not quite up to drawing but still want to play with color!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cats from Life with Serval Zouletta

Cats from Life Page
Pentel Brush Pen and Watercolor on Moleskine 

There they are, two Ari cat life studies in pen and watercolor, five Zouletta Serval studies in pen and watercolor. I used Sepia, Quinacridone Burnt Orange (to warm the mix in Ari's fur), and Payne's Grey for serval paws and Ari cat's background. 

Zouletta was much more lively tonight at Big Cat Hospital. The folks at Big Cat Rescue put a camera in the cage whenever one of the big cats is in for treatment, so volunteers can watch to see if they're recovering okay. There's a number to call in a cat emergency, this is entertainment but also volunteering  to check on sick, often endangered big cats. 

I first got into it with Skippy the Bobcat, who had a lot of Internet fame. I posted a painting of him on Facebook an raffled it to support BCR, wound up carrying 15 months of taking care of a bobcat with that painting so feel very good about it.

Now the cat in the infirmary is Zouletta, who ate an acorn. They had to give her surgery to get it out of her small intestine. She's doing better tonight, less lethargic, less miserable looking. She gets up and moves, turns around, washes herself and the Cone of Shame is gone. I don't know if she's had a bowel movement yet but she's definitely recovering well and if she hasn't, I think she will soon. She's on the mend.

Beautiful Zouletta turned showing her face several times so I managed to get her profile, she moved too much for a full face view. Still, that's not bad for big cat studies from a live, restless big cat! I'll bet when I get to visit the Arkansas big cat rescue place, I'll find at least some of them awake and repeating poses. Good practice for when I make that trip!

Sleep well, Zouletta!

I'm also maknig progress on my novel, neck and neck with the deadline. Need to finsh by midnight tomorrow night and have only 3,606 to go. So I've got a good chance of getting it done. Wrote 4k today along with serval sketching. So that rocks. Hope I can get this last sprint in!

Cats from Life

Cats from life in brush pen 5 1/2" x 4"

Two studies of Ari in my large Moleskine along with a serval named Zouletta Serval. She was on the Big Cat Hospital live feed and that's a life drawing opportunity too. It's the same thing, the cat moves, I can't scroll back but just have to watch for repeat poses.

I plan to finish the rest of the page with cats from life, probably studies of Ari but maybe another sketch of Zouletta. She is a lovely cat. She had a transparent Cone of Shame on but I didn't document that for posterity, just failed to sketch it. I could see her head and ears well through it.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Dinosaur and Sake Set

tyrannosaur sketch and sake set
in blue Graphitint pencils dry

I got in some sketching this morning and finished what I meant to do with the opposite page - sketch a reconstruction from that view of the skull. Not 100% satisfied with it though I do like how the arm and mouth came out. Something about the head angle made it hard to do the face.

I meant to wash the watersoluble pencils but didn't, particularly because I liked the way the pottery looked without a wash.

The sake carafe and cups are from an ebook I bought on sale, "Urban Sketching" by Marc Taro Holmes. I enjoyed his video on Urban Sketching: Birds and snapped up this ebook today on a Black Friday sale. The only sale item I bought this year, money's tight. It's a good ebook, fascinating and right on topic for all the sketching I've been doing in 2015. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Life Sketches in Brush Pen

Sketches from life in Tombow brush pen

I used up one of my Tombow brush pens sketching the boot. Liked how it came out as the fading dried out ink gave me some soft middle values. The cat sketch I did on the 18th looks a little grumpy and isn't one of my best, but the later one on the 25th wasn't bad. Other stuff includes a plastic pear mostly from above, my lighter, Swiss army knife and salt shaker.

This sketchbook is nearly full! That's a good feeling, need to keep going with it.

Not much for a week but I spent most of it writing on my really lousy Nanowrimo novel. Up to 36,828 words on it and will be caught up for real in a day or so when I get back to it. Not much drawing till end of month unless I do one pastel painting - or get the novel done and still have energy to sketch!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Two Pears from Life

Two pears from life, 7" square

I got an unshapely, lumpish pear for lunch yesterday and set that up with the pretty artificial pear to draw them. Played with the background and shadows, like the soft edge I got on the cast shadows. The lighting is a bit intensified and I deliberately kept the flat surface white as contrast for artistic reasons. It's actally cream, the journal hasn't got bright white paper. I could have gradated it in very light color but didn't want the texture to distract from those soft edges or change them.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tyrannosaur and Hollyhock, Part 2

Tyrannosaur and Hollyhock Page
photo references by Joanne_N - pen and watercolor on large Moleskine

Yay, finished the good page. I wasn't sure how I'd handle the background, but a mistake provided the answer. I got a terrible blotch of the grayed blue I used for the plaster bits in the skull falling right at the tip of the bottom jaw. Splashed out onto the brown too and so I spread it over the shadows strengthening them, touched that color in over the brown anywhere I saw shadows. 

I first tried to lift it out but it was stubborn. So I used the blue again, with a little violet and a little brown to gray it, and started working around the head blending it in. That worked! I can see it when I really look but it blends in optically as just one more light-dark variation in the misty background. Looks deliberate. Turned out that was the best color and value to set off the brown skeleton.

The photo reference had a much darker background but I like the blue mistiness better for a painting. The brighter colors of the hollyhock worked nicely to set it off. I'm happy with this page. Still thinking of sketching a reconstruction of the tyrannosaur on the facing page, maybe with a magnolia because those are very ancient, primitive flowers.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Tyrannosaur and Hollyhock Part 1 - Ink

Tyrannosaur and Hollyhock Page
5 1/2" x 8 1/2" on large Moleskine watercolor book

This time the Weekend Drawing Event host on is Joanne_N, who's got wonderful images. For once a dinosaur landed in the lineup! First drawing of it is just the skeleton head and arm, though I like the pose and may attempt to do a reconstruction later. Had a bit of space to the right so adapted the pink hollyhocks photo to fit in it, noticed the hovering bee after that was done and added it. 

The weather's been beating me up, so I'll treat these as today and tomorrow's art and give them watercolor or other coloring tomorrow. Haven't yet decided on what to use except it'll be a water medium!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Kitten Kyra

First sketches of Kitten Kyra
Tombow dual tip pens on sketchbook

Today's art and yesterday's art, all caught up. Last night sketched the kitten full body sitting on a kitchen chair, today using the same reference I slowed down to sketch just her pretty face. I got her face a little too long on the first one but the second has her proportions and expression better. Very young cat.

I'll be moving back to Arkansas in a few months, probably end of February, when my adopted daughter Kitten gets her tax return and can afford teh trp to come get me. She went out to take a look at the house I'll be renting and met this adorable little waif at the house, miserably wailing for food and attention.

Took her home, washed her, fed her, found out Kyra's a loving, snuggly, sociable cat who likes everyone, human or animal. She's going to be Ari's new companion. I've been thinking of finding him a playmate for a long time and in she walked. The best cats pick themselves.

Ari tends to get along well with female cats and kittens, while Kyra loves everybody, purrs, greets and gets cuddly. I think they'll get along well! So here's the start of sketching my new model - and her unusual markings. She has points, but she's a calico in the dark areas! Dark brown ears and tail, ginger patches next to the brown and one ginger hind foot, very pale body and white patches within her points. One little brown spot on her pink nose. Sweet, cute and unique!

This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pears from Life

Pears from Life
Neocolor II artist crayons on large watercolor Moleskine

Today's painting is actually catching up for yesterday, unless I get in another sketch or something I'm still one day behind. I probably will though. This took me a while since I did the first layer lightly and washed it. The whole page curled up when I did and you can see that original wash in the background that I didn't color over because I liked it - a mix of black, Ultramarine and white layering.

I used the same light green artificial pear for all three views, rotating it to see it at different angles. It's not perfectly symmetrical and I also deliberately let it vary a bit in my rendering, not worrying if I made it a little fatter or shorter. I played with color on all three versions and pushed one way back by fading out the colors with white - which showed up more in the photo than the original. But color adjustments in photos are tricky at best, get one area looking true and some other area will be washed out or too dark or too blue or something.

It's one step more intense than the chalky looking thing in the photo, more like a solid Naples Yellow than a pale grayed beige. The shadows did do that double ring effect too. Values are about right, it just paled out because of what's probably gamut issues.

Oh wow! 200th post! Just noticed that! Yay, been at it a while with this blog. Onward!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Autumn Leaves, Two Views

 Autumn Leaves 1 
Tombow dual tip pens on sketchbook

I worked on these at the same time. First sketched the leaf shapes in pencil on the second one and inked the black background with my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, then while that ink was drying took out some Tombows to sketch two of the referenced leaves in Tombows. The colors on the browned leaf are a little closer to the photo in this but lighter in value. I liked the effect. Sketched water ripples without filling in any dark around them, it was a study for the colored pencils version and I liked how it came out. This one makes up for yesterday's weather day, no sketching. I slept like my cat yesterday and barely managed to make coffee let alone do anything else.

Autumn Leaves 2
Pentel brush pen and Prismacolor Watercolor colored pencils
large Moleskine watercolor journal

This one I put more thought, layers and technical detail into. I washed the first flat layer of colored pencils in pink, gold and bright canary yellow for the three leaves. When that flat color dried, I used a scribing tool from Derwent to incise the veins so that going dry over dried wash, I'd have clean bright contrasting lines. That worked great. Last, with several colors per leaf, I went over them detailing and doing the water drops over portions of the yellow leaf.

I'm happy with this and posted it as my entry in the Blick Colored Pencils contest, theme Autumn. Definitely happy with it as the example of my work. Much faster using these techniques than my old colored pencils stuff!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ari Cat from Life

Ari Cat from Life
8" square Tombow grays on sketchbook

I'll probably add more cat gestures to this page or something, he moved before I could get his body in. This is a typical life pose. He turned his head twice looking to the side and I had to wait for him to look back, then got up and walked away to eat. After all I was only drawing him, not offering yogurt or reaching to pet him. He's not always that keen on posing!

But he will sometimes come back to a pose again and again. I don't think he really minds it either, just knows I need to learn to draw fast!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Pines from Memory

Pines from Memory
Tombow dual tip brush pens on sketchbook

Another fast pines study in Tombow pens, playing with shapes and strokes. I added a contour sketch of a group of pines behind them to complete the page and a bit of water to the right, lake or sea that's calm. Not unhappy with this one, these tree studies. Sometimes less is more. I considered doing something in the sky and decided against it. Maybe next time.

Weather's been doing a number on me and the heavy activity of the past few days was more than my back or hips could take. So I've been taking it easy since I went out that much, the stairs wrecked my knees and the weather's picked up the theme with erratic pressure changes. All adds up to some recovery time, during which sketchbook is a major achievement.

Nanowrimo stalled and choked due to chronic fatigue but I'm not worried, it's still early in the month and always goes this way.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Rose and Rosebud in colored pens

Rose and Rosebud, 8 1/2" x 5 1/2"
Stabilo Point88 washable colored pens on large Moleskine watercolor book

Had fun with the rose reference from smudged-blue on, it was very pale pink with strong yellow-orange depths in the center. So I went about following those hues and was right about the pink Stabilo pen washing out just right for it. 

The background at first I just put several defined leaves hatched and layered in greens, blue, orange, violet. Then decided to fill in around and between all of them with random hatching, a type of background I often used for tonal areas in pen drawing. I used both greens and brown with a few accents in orange and violet because they go so well with green. 

Sure enough they washed out to a great muted midtone but all my inked lines remained strong yet softened. That's an effect I'm very fond of, It looked pretty good dry but the wash let me bring in very pale hues and shade the rose in the lightest parts, something difficult with pen work alone.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Cat, bird and botanical sketches

Ari Cat from Life, Two Views
Pen and watercolor in small Moleskine watercolor journal

Early today before I went out, I saw Ari looking at the wall and sketched him rapidly with the nearest pen, a Pigma Micron. He was so beautiful and his tail went at a lovely angle. Then later I sketched him again in another pose with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, gave it plenty of time to dry and watercolored with my Lukas 1862 pans set of 48. Combining Sepia and Payne's Grey gave me the smoky middle-dark tones of his tail and back perfectly, his tail is grayer and less brown than his back and his feet have touches of that coolness.

Then I went out on my usual every other Wednesday appointment and got done fast, started playing with the pocket brush pen again in the waiting room using my own photo of a pigeon.

Pigeon in Brush Pen and Derwent Graphitints

I made up the mysterious cool grey of his feathers by using Aubergine violet and a cool blue-green together, then added Dark Indigo in the lower shadows and Cloud Grey over the mix on his back. Legs are Cool Brown, shadow is Cloud Grey, then washed and was very happy with the effect. The bird had an odd little shape of white at the base of his tail that I reserved to keep in. Fun little project. I also got new pigeon photos yesterday on Voting Day along with possibly a seagull among them, won't know till I sort the pictures. 

Botanical sketches in Derwent Graphitints

Finally dispensed with pen work when I noticed some dried leaves on the ground and sketched them. By then I was out in the garden and just intrigued by the dead leaves, rearranged them to my liking. Over where I waited for the van, one lone white flower appealed to me so did that in Graphitints too, using my water brush to pick up some color off a yellow Derwent Art Bar for the bright center of the flower over the initial Chestnut rendering. 

Happy with all these pages, it's a good day when I can journal more than one page and not hate any of the drawings. If you do any art journaling, I'm sure you know the feeling!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pines and Fall Foliage

Pines and Sumac 8 1/2" x 11"
Tombow pens on sketchbook paper, memory 

Fall Foliage, 8 1/2" x 11" photo by BeeG on WetCanvas
Tombow pens on sketchbook paper

Yesterday was a good day, sketched in the morning with another lesson for my email student on pine structures skeleton and loose rendering, plus some red sumac from memory because I love it. I used the Muted Palette again for this one and liked how it came out. These full page sketches are bolder and a lot of fun.

Then in the evening wrote not one but two short chapters in my Nanowrimo novel, a vampire non-romance titled Forever Mine. Basically it's about a bad relationship and in the early chapters of their hazy limerence, some warning signs are already there. I'm about one day ahead already and that's great, the novel writing challenge is well in hand.

This morning I decided to work from a reference and liked the scattering of bright leaves in BeeG's Fall Foliage photo reference. Changed it to add more pines behind the tree and in the far distance, another demo. Love the way these big bright pages go fast and bold, it's not like doing little sketches in pencil that don't always show up on camera.

Today is Voting Day and tomorrow I've got my appointment, that's going to be a lot of exertion without enough rest in between. Plus this week the exterminator's supposed to be coming to fumigate and clear up the bug problem in my room. That'll take a lot of prep and everything on the shelves needs to get bagged and set aside, some serious disruption both in art and life. Not going to be fun and I'll very likely lose some days to stress and exhaustion in it. There's a limit to what home healht care people can do to help with my art supplies, some stuff I need to pack down myself and hope to get it done before they show up.

So wish me luck on all the overexertion. I may wind up sleeping like my cat when it's all done.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Harvest and Hand Page

Harvest and Hand Page
Tombow dual tip pens in sketchbook, 8 1/2" x 11"

Today tried my second new ten-color set of Tombow pens, the Portrait Palette. I was a little unsure of the pale colors, but very happy with them now. They're quite pale highlight colors. One's yellower than the other, perhaps I should have used that for the overall fill since my hand looks a bit pinkish. But the value range is very nice and I was happily surprised by how well it came out.

I've drawn my own hand from life many times. I get very self conscious of it, sometimes my hands get swollen and puffy from joint problems or other health issues and that irritates me. Today wasn't that bad and at the same time I've gotten much better at sketching - enough that I was surprised at how well it came out after getting true to proportions. On bad days if I drew my hand accurately it looked like a caricature. 

It's also minus a number of errors I used to make on hands. When I got right down to it, sketching my hand was no different from sketching a rose or my cat's leg or anything else. Well, maybe a bit more of an unfamiliar object, my cat's leg and anything else on cats is so easy now because I've done hundreds, maybe thousands of cat sketches first. Still it feels good to recognize all that practice in other things helps in tackling a difficult subject!

Yeah, my hands are funny looking, but I would not trade that for normal hands that couldn't draw this well!

So if you have trouble drawing hands, don't give up! Your best model is the one you aren't using to draw with. The more often you try, the better results you'll get until one day this happens - and your results look like a recognizably human hand! Never mind any sausage fingered successive approximations, the more you sketch, the closer you will come!

Also try to put your hand into a cool pose when you do it. Just splayed flat is a good way to get a blobby starfish with off proportions and weird squiggles for joints. Practice on a lot of different shaped objects just getting the contour line right, then go back to your hand forgetting it's a hand. Don't think of them as fingers and thumb, think of them as shapes of shadow and light, contour lines, overlapping forms. Really don't move your hand till you're done with the outline either, it's hard to get exactly the same pose if you move. Do the contour line first and then any shading or details.

I darkened most of the contour lines to make the drawing show up on a light background but could as easily have sketched a dark background around it. Either way works - and using a background is a way to fix if you get the line a little too wide somewhere. Just carve into it with opaque background color.

Have fun and try this at home!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Harvest foods in Tombow pen

Tombow dual tip pens on sketch paper

Last daily sketch of October, just decided to do a harvest theme from imagination and memory. I used my new Muted Palette set, think the pumpkin came out looking a bit cooked but otherwise reasonably happy with the rendering. Had fun with the wheat, really didn't want to do the cliche of putting corn with it. Tossed in cranberries and currants because I like them. Best item in the whole sketch is that knobbly gourd, really had fun doing that one.

Might play with some of these later or with a real setup next year when harvest decorations for Halloween are a thing from truck stops! But this completes a second month of daily sketching or drawing without missing even one. The 48 hour rule really works. I get lull days after doing something good sometimes, or just the weather catches me before I'm done. But if I just give it that extra day to catch up, I do it.

Now doing that while writing a Nanowrimo and editing a previous one is a huge challenge, so wish me luck! Might sketch for a warm-up, do a lot with these Tombow markers. Cooked Pumpkin color might work for Tawny Sabertooth fur.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Catching up!

White Horse pen and watercolor

Oops! Been keeping up daily sketching and/or painting with the 48 hour rule - if I miss a day, I catch up the day after. But toward the end of day too tired to post sometimes. So let's catch up everything we missed working backwards... above is today's White Horse done in my large Moleskine watercolor journal from my daughter's photo. She says the nearest, right side knee has a congenital deformity in my painting, so I'm still going to be working on perfecting horse anatomy. Maybe return to this reference more than once in different media till I get it right!

Broken Tree Demo

Yesterday's art for the 29th, a sketch from imagination as a demo for my email student on tree anatomy. Also to refine the memory of a couple of lightning-struck trees I saw at different times in my life. Memory sketching is fun!

Blue Rose - watercolor

Painting for the 28th, actually sketched in pencil on the 28th and painted on the 29th. Just a rose from my own photo painted blue because I felt like it. Still using up the three dabs of American Journey watercolor triad occupying my porcelain palette. It's a triad, it's got some possibilities.

Owl from Memory, tombow pens

Sketched on the 27th, think that was an extra for the day. I was making up for skipping a day but did a couple of others.

Cat "Teo" pen and watercolor

My favorite of the three pieces I did on the 27th, a cat portrait in Pentel Brush Pen and watercolor with a mixed-shaded loose watercolor background. Did use the American Journey watercolor triad for this one too, relying more on Quinacridone Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine with Joe's Yellow only used in his green-gold eyes. Accurate cat portrait.

Candy Colored Playtime (Abstract)

Same large Moleskine watercolor journal as the previous, now using only the red and yellow in the triad plus some red and yellow Derwent ArtBars washed out. Experimental textures and shapes, goofing around doing an abstract. Was done to make up for the 25th when I didn't draw. Except started it then with the crimson spattering, then waited for paint to dry and went to bed. Ths is some of why the 48 hour rule is handy. If I don't finish whatever it is and chronic fatigue knocks me down first, I still finish within a day after. With that rule I haven't missed a day completely.

Now I'm all caught up! Will be posting tomorrow of course.

November posting may be intermittent though, as November is NaNoWriMo, as always I will be participating. This year I'm editing Elder's Pride, my sabertooths book, and writing a vampire novel. Rough drafts are easy after doing Nano every year since 2000 - the idea is to write a 50,000 word book in 30 days and I only failed once on account of pneumonia slowing me to a November 25 start in 2002. One year I did 500,000 words in five and a half novels and just totally overdid it. Most times I finish the book too. 

Editing is not that easy - but if it becomes so, I can start whipping out good readable books at a great prolific pace even if I don't bother going back to a lot of the ones I wrote in the past. Some have flaws I don't want to bother fixing. Some of them I don't like the theme any more. So the real challenge for me is the rewrite, which is mostly redoing each scene from scratch in its proper point of view and paying attention to suggestions from critiquers. In effect, writing with an outline and line edit, spell check when I'm done. That last pass is mechanical and not the problem, it's the changes that give me problems. 

So I've got a reward system. Edit my scene in Elder's Pride, then if I have energy write some in the vampire novel, if it's a good day also sketch. Vamp novel is very easy because backstory is all worked out in Raven Dance for how my vamps work, know them forwards and backwards except these characters, story idea has lots of inherent conflict and so does their point in "vampire history." It goes way back to the hominids and way forward into Raven Dance. 

Which in terms of writing novels means it's like sketching something very familiar, the backstory's all done and I don't have to work it out. Just do these ones. Like sketching cats, really. Not a romance novel if you're interested, more of a horror one, very contemporary. Not all vamps evil though, just as not all people evil, not really horror of good and evil so much as conflict and tragedy. I might be smashing genre a bit or maybe not, will have to see when it's done.

Kitten just sent me horse knee anatomy diagrams, so that error can be remedied. Going to do some anatomy drawings and have a go again in another similar medium, probably watercolor pencils or Neocolor II in the big journal.

None of these have to be perfect. It's final paintings that become wall art where I like to get it that accurate. See you tomorrow!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tree in Mist in Tombow markers

Tree in Mist, 8 1/2" x 11" 
Tombow dual tip pens on sketch paper

Another tree demo for my email sudent. This time showing how to pull some branches forward and push others back with color and value. There's a bit of mist but still enough directional light for distinct shadows in this, also I was describing how grass under trees really gets when it's not on a golf course. Patchy with lots of bare spots and mud puddles, little clumps and hummocks of plants rather than smooth flat color as if perfect bright green sod just got laid.

That sod will yellow in close shade too, especially after the trees leaf out.

So often we learn to draw in kindergarten but are doing so in specific grade school symbols - a brown stick with a green ball or blob on top, maybe forked with a ball on top. Stick figures. Horizon line based on the lines you write on - all the drawings lined up on the horizon line. 

Accurate drawing means letting go of these things and finding new ways to simplify the ridiculous amount of detail in the real things. You can't paint every blade of grass but you can get the mower stripes on the lawn and people can see that's a lawn.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sketches of Ari Cat and Tree Scene

Eleven Dots 1
Abstract Art Exercise in red and black pen on paper.

Yesterday I caught up for the day before by doing an abstract art exercise from an ebook I downloaded. It looked fun and came out surprisingly well, though completing it needed repeating it in a second color. Fun to just get creative without worrying about what it is.

Eleven Dots 2
Tombow pen on sketch paper

Did the exercise again this time playing differently with the line and forms created by the line. Resulted in a completely different abstract pattern that also worked. It surprised me how well this works as a starting point, doing it twice generated such completely different results.

Then I sketched my cat from life but didn't snap a photo or post it anywhere, was sort of doing ahead for today in case I was tired. Today I finished that page with another tree demo - this time a contour drawing to show more clearly that trees thicken toward the base and narrow toward the tips, always branching smaller and smaller without bulges. Unless the tree has a tumor like an oak gall or something, but those have a particular look and aren't an upside down gradual swelling. I threw in a couple of landscape elements and more roots this time because the same principle applies to tree roots except sometimes they dive into the ground and come up again. Played with very obvious perspective diminishing cloud sizes as they moved toward the horizon and dong the waves by the sea very small to show how high the crag the tree's on is.

Worked rater well, I think. Might rearrange it a little but it's a cool design. I'm starting to just make things up and I like that.

Tree Scene and Ari Cat Page
Tombow pen on 8 1/2" x 11" sketch paper.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Landscape with Tree

Tree on a Hillside
3 1/2" x 5 1/2" pen on paper

Went out today for my clinic visit, saw this beautiful tree as the van went past it. Sketched fast to block in its general shape in pencil, then started inking details and decided to create a background out in nature with some more distant trees over the edge of a hill. Put the smaller darker one behind it to give contrast to the pale trunk and foliage and liked that, inked it in.

Sometimes a drawing begins with a life drawing and everything else in the picture is composed from memory to set it off. That's what this one is. I like how it came out. Slopes like that are common in San Francisco so this is really a combination of several views.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rooster and Rose Page

Rooster and Rose Page
pen and watercolor rooster, pen and wash rose

Finished the page with yesterday's rooster with a life sketch of a silk rose I have handy. This is the second time I've drawn from it, like this rendering a bit better. Found my Stabilo watersoluble fine point colored pens while looking for someone else and had a go to see if they were still good. They are!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pen and Watercolor Rooster

Pen and Watercolor Rooster
3" x 5 1/2" in large Moleskine watercolor journal

Today's art is small and refined. I didn't draw till late and then answered an art game of "the next sketch is..." with him as a black and white animal. Yellow feet and red face decorations didn't seem to break that up. Very tricky doing his markings justice. 

This one was fun. I do like doing accurate animals and birds. I've been a little more interested in chickens for the past few years since my adopted daughter got hers. They're fascinating birds. Very close to the lineage of dinosaur-birds, so hers have the nickname of "back yard tyrannosaurs" and are doing a fine job of eliminating spiders, worms, bugs of all kinds out there.

When I move back there with her I'll have other farm critters to sketch. Horses, lots, she has rescue horses and I'll also be riding around on her horse shoeing adventures with sketch gear in hand. Also goats, ducks, dogs, rabbits, grand kids and many assorted cats besides my own! It'll be fun.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Cat Portrait and Crooked Tree

 "Croggers" memorial cat portrait
Derwent Graphitint pencils and wash on paper

Crooked Tree Demo 
8 1/2" x 11" pen on paper

Croggers the cat was beautiful and his photo was posted for this weekend's Weekend Drawing Event at WetCanvas. I felt for the little guy and did a portrait drawing, paying close attention to markings and exact features and expression. Successful portrait, and he has that sweet meditative look that well.

Derwent Graphitint are tinted graphite watersoluble pencils, very soft, 8B softness. They dissolve fast and color brightens with water. I used them on my large Moleskine watercolor journal.

Then did a promised lesson on tree anatomy and shadow direction for my new student. She'd done a scene with one bare tree in an autumn landscape.  I let this be a winter one and implied snow with the bushes bending and stark values of the black on white. Could have added blue shadows, didn't, just kept it simple. But I like the design and may develop it into a more refined painting or drawing.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Black Eyed Susans in soft pastel

Black Eyed Susans
9" x 12" pastel on paper

Good old workhorse Rembrandt pastels on Canson Mi-Tientes paper. This is my best Black Eyed Susans to date. These flowers confound me. I've done them many times and remember three frustrating oil paintings I did in Kansas where I got lost in background details but tilted all the flowers toward me. In my defense, the sun was at my back and they actually were all tilted toward the sun - but that doesn't really fly for artistic choices. They'd have been more interesting going in different directions and showing volume.

These three are more or less pointing in the same direction but at least they're at an angle giving them some depth!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cat and Big Cat Sketches

Ari Cat from life and Ocelot face
Tombow dual tip pens on sketch paper 

Tiger skull and snarling face
black Tombow dual tip pen on sketch paper.

Caught up with yesterday's art, actually did four sketches today but not counting ahead. Three are exercises from a book: "How to Draw Animals" series by Franklin Watts UK, volume "Tigers and Other Big Cats." 

The snarling tiger was drawn from an interesting half and half example with a tiger's resting face and snarling face. I tried to mirror the snarling side just by hand, with some success but not well enough to satisfy me. That was surprisingly hard. I'm used to getting good symmetry on things like vases that demand it, but this time I really had a hard time mirroring the expression - and in my mind was also slightly disappointed in the drawing I copied, especially the nose expression and forehead wrinkling that were very simplified. No markings on the tiger in the example either, so I had to add a couple of oversimplified stripes.

Eh, they're just sketches off a book. Some days are about taking it easy and going back to basics - but it's easier to do big cats from a good reference than someone else's drawing! Not so used to copying any more!