Saturday, April 23, 2016

Red Rose and pastel landscape progress

Red rose in Derwent Graphitint on paper

Yesterday, my beautiful granddaughter Sascha came home from a walk with a lovely large red rose that was blown off a neighbor's bush with about half an inch of stem. It's still sitting in its saucer on my desk. I had to sketch it, so decided to use strong, soft Derwent Graphitint watersoluble graphite pencils. Dry, they're like 8B graphite pencils with a hint of color. Washed, that hint of color becomes a lot stronger but still has a subtle graphite sheen.

When I use pencil I love the softest graphite pencils, so these have been favorites for a long time. I'm not the sort of artist who shades by five or six or more delicate layers with a hard pencil. Scribble and smudge, give me sweeping motions and strong contrast right from the start! So these are a lot of fun and I've got quite a few of them - by accident at the moment I've got maybe 3 sets of 12 but can't find one of the sets of 24 that I acquired, so I need to replace that. But having an extra won't hurt! 

How I wound up with small sets was their inclusion in trades and gift sets. One of the small sets is in an awesome zipper case with watercolor palette, hardcover sketchbook, other sketch and wash pencils and a waterbrush all in an easily carried case. Can't find its native waterbrush but have so many Niji ones it'll be easy to replace.

Iris Hill and Oak pastel plein air

This is something I started day before yesterday, when the rain stopped and I hung outside with my farrier daughter while she fixed her truck. It was sunny and beautiful, the foreground in shade with this sunlit patch beyond the trees blazing behind the iris hill. The iris patch extends far to the right too and into the distance. I might be able to finish just from what I have done already... or I might go outside again to finish, which would be truer to the scene.

I used a complementary water underpainting, scribbled masses in pastels and then washed with a waterbrush. Paper is a tan Canson Mi-Tientes Touch piece, drawing board a battered aluminum clipboard with a box underneath that exactly holds my 60 Rembrandt half stick pastels. Might hold 60 Great American half sticks even though that box is slightly larger too, have to try that. Obviously not at the same time, but pretty handy for going outside!

In fifteen minutes I have Johannes Vloothuis class online so going out won't be till later. I'll see how I feel, if he gets me all wound up to paint I might amble out, but if the chronic fatigue or arthritis bites I might not. Pretty tempting though, it's sunny and lovely out there again!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Two Red Irises in Watercolor Pencil

Two Red Irises
Watercolor pencil on pocket Moleskine Watercolor

These are the ones my granddaughter got photos of. They looked violet in the photos, but in person they're cold pink over a deep cold red, clearly in the magenta range. Lovely flowers, two of them bloomed at once and they are so striking. There may be white or pink ones out there too just waiting to bloom.

So I'm having a lot of fun lately with my favorite flowers. These life studies will be good when I want to put together a garden painting. It'll come together with various flowers I've done from life brought together in a composed landscape whether or not they bloomed at the same time or even in the same state. I have some irises from San Francisco too in my photo collection.

Recently my Kindle overflowed, so I went in using my computer and started deleting photos of artwork while keeping photo references of cats and flowers and landscapes. I'm not tossing them out, just copying into a USB key and then deleting to make room on my Kindle.

Edit: Later, Sascha brought these flowers in from beyond the goats' field aka The Dry Lot (it hasn't got a spring or well on it for them to drink from).

Unidentified light purple flowers and red clover photo

So naturally I sketched and painted these as well, from the vase on my desk. The vase is great too but not at that angle half hidden by a plastic travel coffee cup and stuff. So today got two pages in the little Moleskine Watercolor journal. Good thing I bought a couple of extra ones right before the move!

Light purple flower sprays, pen and watercolor
in pocket Moleskine Watercolor book.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Light Purple Iris from Life

 Light Purple Iris from Life, pen-watercolor
in pocket Moleskine Watercolor journal

Hen, Goat, Cat, Rocks Page
pen-watercolor in pocket Moleskine Watercolor book

Missed posting the Hen, Goat, Cat and Rocks page when I finished it. Switched over to my other pocket journal, the sleek 3" x 5" Moleskine Watercolor one. Still has 140lb cold press paper but the grain is a lot finer than the Strathmore, allows more detail and smaller sketches with fine point pens. 

Everything's from life of course. There's huge patches of irises coming up in the yard across the driveway, under and between the trees and on a hill that used to have a fountain. The first to bloom was that rich red-violet. The second is a light purple, bluer, a good tint of Dioxazine Violet with touches of blue here and there.

Now a third has bloomed with dark lower petals and light upper petals. I'll have to paint that one too, naturally! Kitten says there are bronze ones, white, pink, other colors, so I can't wait to see what blooms next. 

The jonquils are all bloomed out but there were so many of them I was thrilled. Bulb flowers seem to do well here! I hope my hyacinth survives to bloom again next year and maybe propagate itself.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Purple Flower ends a Visual Journal

Purple Flower botanical, pen and watercolor
3" x 5" Strathmore Visual Journal 140lb Cold Press paper

Well, this is it! The grand finale, a last botanical picked this morning and painted from life. These flowers bloom in great profusion right across the driveway, still on my daughter's land. The scale of the farm never ceases to amaze me, bits I think must be the neighbors' yard turn out to be still more of ours and the longer Spring blooms on, the more I see in these patches of unknown vegetation.

I liked the Strathmore Visual Journal. It has a whimsical lightweight cardboard cover printed with an example sketch and its information, which I didn't tear off but kept as a protector for the sturdy, glossy, heavy brown alligator print board. On the front cover I taped off a picture area, painted it with Daniel Smith Watercolor Primer and did a pen and watercolor rose on it - thus had a reason to keep the glossy whimsical outer cover to protect it.

It's been banged around a bit. I started it in 2011 and filled about a third of it, then left it behind when I moved to San Francisco. When I came back it was out on a bookcase with a few other supplies that hadn't been packed off into the attic. So it went through two moves without me, got handled and kept out and still protected its contents well. It has not yellowed at all, being good watercolor paper. It's 140lb cold press, probably cellulose or it would've listed a cotton or rag percentage, did not mention acid free or buffered but the evidence is there. Most likely because Pacon used a standard decent paper in it. I'll know more in a few years, but it is just as bright as when it was new.

The surface is a bit coarse. Cold Press watercolor paper has a range of textures from very fine grained to texture valleys so deep and large it might as well be listed as Rough. The sizing was just right for my techniques. I prefer not to stretch watercolor paper and to paint on the sized paper as it is. That gives me a little more control and less unwanted blurring when I want sharp edges.

Overall it's a good journal! I may replace it with another one, or get several sizes. The pocket size is very convenient and easy to fill. Big spiral binding did not get mashed or come undone over the years either, a big plus compared to some of them. It's got a double-wire spiral binding, not single wire, also the wire is coated. This is good if you don't want loose wire ends catching your sleeves or skin or scraping pages once they work loose.

Well made, reasonably priced, handy little thing. I'm happy with it and happy with all its contents. The strong paper let me play with a variety of water media and techniques and not one page leaked through to its following image, so that's a big plus for the full strength heavy paper vs. some other journals. 

Not the super quality of a Stillman & Birn journal but this was a good one and I did enjoy it. At its price, it's much easier to relax and just use it as a sketchbook! I've filled it mostly with life studies that I'll use for later reference in paintings.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Golden Barn Cat and First Iris

Golden Sutekh barn cat and first iris
3" x 5" pen and watercolor on 140lb cold press paper

Only two pages left to fill! I had to capture golden Sutekh, the long haired ginger tabby barn cat. He is magnificent! I love that cat, he's my outdoor friend just like Calcifer. Very friendly and easy going.

The first iris of the year finally opened yesterday. I knew it would be purple but the hue is spectacular! Not the blue-violet I expected but a rich deep saturated red-violet that I managed to capture by shading in Dioxazine Violet, then glazing over that with Permanent Rose. It didn't entirely come through in the photo but in person the color's a true match. I kept the green of the leaves a little muted and leaning toward Quinacridone Gold to keep the saturation emphasis on the flower.

This is a good page. I don't know what I'll do on the next two, but happily I found my pocket watercolor Moleskine after weeks of searching. It was in the art supplies bag that I had in the hospital when I had pneumonia, but slid to the bottom where a magnifying glasses holder clipped onto its elastic so when we searched before all we saw was the glasses holder. Took getting everything out of the bag to actually find it - so now I have something in hand to keep going with small pen-watercolor life sketches!

White Lily from Life, 3" x 5"
Watercolor pencil on cold press watercolor paper.

Now there's only one page left in the journal. Very tempting to finish with a sketch of Ari or Kyra or both of them together. Get back to my sweet loving fur buddy as I keep getting distracted by flowers and other animals!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dried Leaf in Pen and Watercolor

Dried Leaf in pen and watercolor
3" x 5" cold press watercolor paper.

Only three empty pages left in this little journal! It's cool coming to the end of one. I don't know what I'll do on the last pages but I love its thick paper that doesn't bleed through no matter what I do.

This morning I looked down and saw this leaf. It's old, most of them are just a reddish faded brown - but this one had deep violet-blue areas and patches, some in shadow and blued still more by reflected sky. I know sometimes they turn black as they degrade into soil, this was a stage in that process. So I had to draw and paint it, the unusual colors and sharp dark shadows grabbed me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lily in pen and ink

Lily in pen on watercolor paper, 3" x 5"

Close to the end on that little Strathmore Visual Journal. I've got only four pages left but plenty of good life studies for reference in it. This lily came from my son in law's church, it had lots of buds and no open blooms when they gave it to him after the service on Easter Sunday. Now it's sitting out in the garden with three big white blossoms on it and I love it.

I've been getting photos but it's hard to get accurate values and details on a white object with a camera. The sketches are going to be a lot of help if I turn this into a painting. 

I'd like to get back to doing some pastels but need some time to rest up from all the medical overexertion lately. My knee got a sprain, ankle is starting to feel the stress, back is screaming including an area I didn't expect up by my neck because of the position I had to be in to get an MRI of my neck vertebrae. This is ugly and all I can do is ride it out. Tomorrow will be worse, second day after overexertion always is. I've got a bad feeling I might be stuck as a full time patient for some time due to overly proactive new doctor, and I'm skeptical about whether any of this will actually be worth it in the long run.

Enough grumbling for now. I'm still going to try for something in pastels as soon as I'm up to it, and I dearly want to start experimenting with my new Bombay India Inks and dip pens. 24 colors in lightfast pigmented ink should give me some spectacular results in pen-watercolor or just colorful pen work!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Cat Calcifer and Kid Couch Cushion in Pen

2 pen drawings, cat Calcifer and baby goat Couch Cushion
3" x 5" pen on paper.

I had intended these to be pen and wash, but once I finished Calcifer I knew I wanted to keep them pen drawings. He is an elegant brown tabby who curls up on my lap every time I go out to sit in the lawn chair in front of the house. He's very classic, a mackerel tabby with narrow stripes all up and down his body instead of the swirl on the side. Big green eyes and constant purring.

This started on cold nights or rainy days when I went out to smoke but now it's all the time. He knows he can get a good long cuddle, scritch and comfy lap every time I go out. I know every time I go outside I'll have a friendly barn cat come up, three out of four times it's Calcifer.

So he's the lawn chair cushion when I first go out, then I pick him up and sit down, put him down on my lap. He just relaxes at the lap transfer. Great cat friend, I can even draw over him without disturbing him.

Couch Cushion is a dark brown and black kid, the runt of the six baby goats born two weeks ago. He's gorgeous, the color of his brown fur is very rich and the black is shiny. Like all the kids, he's a meat goat so he gets a name that's a reminder not to get too attached. Other kids are named things like Parchment, Vellum, Lunchmeat and so on. I'm hoping at least one can be literally made into goat parchment instead of just leather or fur because that stuff is expensive and a pure joy to draw and paint on.

I've used parchment before with gouache and inks for SCA scrolls, but with a steady supply I might also turn to doing serious art on it. That and there's no reason I can't work small on parchment either. It comes out so smooth that it's a pleasure for miniatures, you can use the finest pen point you have and get good clean lines. Unlike paper though, a mistake can sometimes be carefully removed by scraping with a sharp craft knife or razor blade without destroying the surface. All this is reason to treat it like the precious art material it is.

But the fur on Couch Cushion is so cool that his hide will wind up made up into just that, for permanent comfort. They get slaughtered humanely and never see it coming, my daughter's done this before. We know where our food comes from and I can't believe how good it is.

The eggs from the hens you've seen me draw before are deep brown and inside the yolks are Cadmium Orange to Cadmium Red Light in color. When my son in law makes pancakes they're yellow. But the flavor is amazing. It's like eggs but more so, very rich and so wonderful. I'm spoiled from normal eggs and it's the same way with farm raised meat humanely slaughtered.

We even get beef this way because my daughter shoes horses and sometimes gets paid in steaks and meat from local farmers. Wow. It was like I'd never tasted meat before. An odd thing happens when the animal is terrorized on the way to slaughter, literally all its adrenaline and cortisol affects the flavor. If it had a full happy life ending in a quick surprise too fast to really hurt, the meat is a lot better and richer. This is why sometimes hunted meat comes out really good (provided your hunter got it clean on the first shot).

Life's good here in so many ways.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Aerial Perspective and Lilies

 Rain Recession, watercolor 3" x 5" trees and clouds

Lilies and Stone Wall, pen and watercolor, 3" x 5"

I'm happily filling up the little Strathmore Visual Journal with its coarse 140lb cold press watercolor paper. It's small, it's handy and it's a good journal for wash techniques thanks to the heavy paper.

Rain Recession is what I painted on 3-29-2016, a view from the window over several layers of trees on a rainy-misty day. I loved the view and will probably do it many times, as Spring progresses it gets greener and greener. Living here on my daughter's farm in Arkansas, I'm surrounded by paintable scenes and almost any change in weather gives them new charm. I didn't add pen details because when I finished loosely painting, it didn't need them.

What I did though was condense trees from several angles into the painting. It's not a photo of the window view so much as an impression. I've gotten away from exact realism and even make small rearrangements on botanicals without losing the identity of the plant. It just has to be plausible. Removing a leaf or two in imagination or adding another flower that's on another plant but at an angle that'd improve the composition doesn't change that the plant can be identified by someone that knows it. It's not a portrait of that exact plant.

My son in law got that Easter lily in a pot with purple foil around it as a gift after volunteering at his church. This happens often to people who belong to big churches that really lay on the floral displays, many poinsettias go home with folks too after a big Christmas mass.

So he put it in the little garden patch in front of the house, where it tipped over and leaned against the short mossy stone wall defining it. There's stone-edged plots on both sides of the door and a pathway of big flagstones between them, which is very cool. I loved the way it looked and the day he brought it home, it hadn't bloomed yet. Now it's opening up.

So yesterday I sketched it in pencil, inked with a Pigma Micron size 01 and brought it inside to give it a watercolor finish. I do intend to paint it again later in more detail, the reflected colors on and inside the white blossom are beautiful and the inside trumpet has a smear of yellow that I thought was reflected but is actually pollen that fell off those stamens. I got a good long look at the structure and today got some more photos of it along with outdoor cat Calcifer.

He's one of three official Barn Cats who keep the rodents down around the grain kept for horses, goats and chickens. All three are sleek, well fed, perfectly groomed with silky coats and very affectionate personalities. I got a wonderful photo of him with the lilies today, one I may develop later as a serious painting.

The flowers seem to glow a bit due to the camera, but the cat's great and I can work on shading the flowers later after studying other photos where the flower's the main subject. The day is overcast, which helps!

Calcifer and the Easter Lilies

He's a sweet, super friendly lap cat. When I go outside to sit in the lawn chair and smoke, Calcifer is my number one lap warmer. Dampness, chilly weather, rain, anything inclement will guarantee a warm lap cat purring loud and cuddling. Calcifer likes it even when it's nice and sunny. Sometimes I stay out longer petting cats and talking with my daughter, the spot right outside the door has become our lounge area.

I like that habit. I'm smoking a little less because it takes a few steps and some effort to get out there, seeing a lot more of the yard and getting lots of sun on good days. It's also helped me get out of my chair a little more unless I'm really, really in bad shape. I didn't realize how much I stayed indoors till I moved here to have a good place in reach to go outside and good models always in sight. The chickens hang out there too on and off, which cuts way down on bugs. I may not need the Vitamin D supplements any more, unless it's winter and I get the winter problems that led me to take them in the first place. It's a good feeling.

Today I might be fooling around with colored inks and dip pens since my Blick order came in on the 30th. Twelve year old granddaughter got her birthday present early, a big set of Snazaroo face paints and the small set of six crayon face paints for drawing on her arms. I couldn't resist her excitement! The rest was all colored Bombay India Inks, silverpoint supplies and new dip pens, so I'll be experimenting with both period medieval stuff and modern pen-watercolor things with all those colored inks.

Crowquill dip pens give a very fine line like a Pigma Micron or Rapidograph but are as easy to clean as a brush and don't clog. Also even if I wreck a point, the nibs are so much cheaper! They also change colors as fast as a brush so I could really have some fun with the Claudia Nice style of pen-watercolor stuff!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pen Drawing, Waiting Room Plant with Shiny Black Pot

Plant with Pot, pen on watercolor paper, 3" x 5"

My past two weeks have been a nightmare of living with insufficient pain management. I had one week without any medication, in which I wasn't capable of writing my name intelligibly, then the previous drawing was during the brief time I didn't realize the fill-in prescription from my primary care clinic was for half my standard dose. That left me with less than half function, plus I had to skip a couple of shifts entirely to catch up and still have two pills left to be medicated for my pain clinic appointment.

It's over. My new doctor at the pain clinic is good and I may even get some real improvements in my health over time. I won't go into boring detail about it but the sources of my chronic pain are multiple and a couple of those conditions may be more treatable now than the last time I talked to a doctor about them. It still grates on me that some treatments that could help me a lot are illegal in this state, particularly medical marijuana and its derivatives.

So please, support medical marijuana and marijuana legalization. Prohibition 2.0 has not succeeded any more than the alcohol version did, if anything it's raised the stakes and caused far more violence, crime, public expense and deaths than the first version did. It's ridiculous that even taking dangerous drugs gets worse penalties than murder, rape, robbery and other real crimes. 

Countries that legalized drugs and treat addiction as a medical issue, like Portugal, have seen real, positive results from their policies. Wish my country would come to its senses and follow that good example.

Anyway, I'm back on my meds and the weather's lightening up. I may be able to paint or draw today, cross your fingers on that. It's still better if I do it earlier in the day before nap time and the weather's cooperating. New post if I do get in an artwork. Hopefully will post sooner than last time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Botanical Pen and Watercolor

Botanical pen and watercolor plus brush pen pine cone

Had a bad week due to problems with chronic conditions, but today went warm and sunny, flare ended or at least down to tolerable levels. My hand was shaky but it's beautiful outside, so I carefully drew and painted an interesting little blooming plant my daughter "Kitten" says is edible. Then finished the page with a pine cone, daring to try using my brush pen despite shaking. That wasn't too bad, I'm getting more familiar with the brush pen.

So here's hoping I can keep this up. Doesn't seem like spring's a good time for me but there were reasons for the flare that aren't weather, so may not be that major of a problem year to year. Stress sets off the fibromyalgia and I'm having moving-in problems getting a new doctor, or rather getting three different ones and a way lot more trouble than I used to just taking care of routine maintenance.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Leaf in Pen and Watercolor

Leaf in Pen and Watercolor, 3" x 5"

Still using the small Strathmore Visual Journal. This morning I had a medical appointment that became very stressful. I noticed a leaf on the ground and brought it in, sketched it in the waiting room.

Had some fun charging color into color on the main leaf. The original was completely dried but I brought back some autumn color into it and then gave it a dry brushed loose background because my first swipe with the brush had broken color. I loved the way that looked and just continued with the same strokes.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Kyra kitten and pen sketches

 Kyra Kitten from life, sepia pen and watercolor, 3 x 5"

 Pen sketches of Capricorn the lamb from life, 3" x 5"

Pen sketch of Kyra Kitten from life in the window, 3" x 5"

Today was a good day for sketching. I penciled those lamb sketches yesterday and inked them today, decided they did need inking. Kyra Kitten in black was my first sketch of her while she sat in the window looking lanky. Then she went to sleep on the box of my art supplies looking adorable so I had a good long time to sketch her in detail, pen and wash the sketch.

I'm getting to know my new kitten and how her features differ from Ari's. She's much more slender, very long and delicate. Her facial structure is different with a tiny, almost pointed muzzle, big ears, lovely big eyes that sometimes look dark but are a very bright blue. Her markings are a little more distinct every week, she has Siamese points broken up by the white blotch pattern that gives her white feet and the white muzzle and flame-face shape. She's adorable and unique, not your standard cat at all!

And I have still more cats to draw and profile, the small black female longhair Toothless formerly Midnight, big plump gray and white China Princess who rules the house. Outside we have three barn cats: gigantic golden Maine Coon Tom Sutekh, lovely small tortie super long hair Sekhmet and the classical brown mackerel tabby Calcifer. All of the barn cats are very affectionate and when I go out for a smoke, I get a lap cat most of the time purring and wanting pets. I love having so many cats here, they're all beautiful.

Plus there's the big flock of assorted chickens, the Muscovy Ducks that look like Tim Burton would put them in Halloween Town, the pregnant goats, two dogs and several horses. I've got so many beautiful subjects that I'd better start doing more than one a day, at least when the weather's good!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Capricorn the Lamb in pen and watercolor

Capricorn the Lamb
3" x 5" pen and watercolor

Still enjoying the small Strathmore Visual Journal. A neighbor lost a mother sheep to drowning in the pond and gave her orphaned male lamb to my granddaughter Sascha. She named him Capricorn and is having a ball playing with him in the yard. He heels like a little dog, follows her around and gets bottle fed hourly. 

So now I have yet another species to paint and draw. Capricorn has an interesting fur texture with lovely well defined Botticelli waves, so I may do some other studies before he's grown and his wool looks woolly. He's very tame and sweet. 

I'm glad to be back to daily painting or drawing and as usual, if I do any more today I'll edit them into this entry.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Kyra Kitten from Life in Pen and Watercolor

Kyra Kitten from Life, pen and watercolor
3" x 5" short hair Siamese cat with white blotches.

Kyra was sound asleep on a chair, so I managed to capture the endlessly moving Bumble Kitten inert just long enough to pencil her - and get her unusual proportions accurately. She is a very long, thin kitten. Muscular rather than bony, she sometimes resembles a leggy, furry snake! Long long neck. Long face. Long legs actually too, she just has that Siamese lanky build. Beautiful blue eyes, white muzzle and white patterns on her body and legs.

When I first met her, she seemed white all over but as she ages, the faint blotches of beige Siamese-colored fur are popping up more intensely. She now shows the unique markings that make her my Siamese Crossed With A Snowpatch!

Instead of pan watercolors, I used 24 Cretacolor Aqua Monolith pencils and washed out the penciling, keeping my colors soft and natural. The blue-green cushion's a bit lighter than life but I did that to keep the painting soft.

Love my Bumble Kitten! She's been good for Ari - she loves him and constantly teases him to play!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Hydrangea in watersoluble crayon

Hydrangea in watersoluble crayon on watercolor paper

Another page in my small Strathmore Visual Journal. The cold press paper has a very strong weave texture almost like Mi-Tientes wove side, but it's good paper and somehow I can get clean lines on it. This one involved some negative drawing and painting. I did it in three passes, with blues, greens and finally the black background with dry green and yellow ochre stems over it.

Had fun with it and may try some other floral subjects with my Neocolor II sticks. They have a great texture, soft and opaque.

EDIT: Later on, I found the watercolor pencils I was looking for and did my Hyacinth again in full bloom. It's very brilliant now in its corner of the garden, this time I brought in the two stones marking the corner of the bed. I love how it blazes there, contrasting the yellow jonquils and bright spring greens.

Purple Hyacinth in full bloom, 3" x 5"
watercolor pencil on watercolor paper, washed and detailed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

White Hen from life

White Hen, watercolor on paper, 3" x 5"

Nothing yesterday, but today I was outside and saw the white hen "Sun" sitting and strolling on a short stone fence around the garden patch in the front. I was going to paint my hyacinth again since it's opened, but Sun grabbed my attention. Had fun mostly negative painting her with loose background greens and browns, then getting the rich shaded soft green moss on the rocks.

Will be doing more tomorrow, I think.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Bradford Pear and Hyacinth from Life

 Bradford Pear flowerng tree watercolor on paper, 3" x 5"

Hyacinth bud about to bloom, watercolor on paper 3" x 5"

Two pages in my little Strathmore Visual Journal today with Sakura Koi pocket box pan watercolors. I did pencil under them but haven't inked. 

I went out to get my prescription, so while waiting painted the Bradford Pear blooming in the parking lot. I left out most of the rest, buildings and cars and asphalt, in favor of a field and some more distant trees or shrubbery. Brightened the sky too using a cobalt blue hue that I suspect is actually Pthalo Blue from its brightness - albeit Red Shade.

Bradford Pears are an invasive ornamental tree. They bloom copious white blossoms in the spring, leaf out bright and green then in the fall become gorgeous again shading from lemon yellow through oranges to red and even a red-violet. They're a bit small for trees or really large for shrubs, tend to be symmetrical and seed themselves easily. The fruits are tiny and bitter, birds eat them and spread them - and of course they are invasive so they may crowd out native shrubs and trees sometimes. But they are beautiful and still sometimes planted on purpose.

Then once I got home I set out my impulse purchase, a $1 hyacinth in a pot. Most of my life I've seen and been tempted by those springtime racks of flowering little plants, some annuals and others perennials. Usually I didn't have a place to plant it. 

Sometimes I got talked out of it in favor of buying seeds instead that somehow I never followed through on planting, if staying with people who have  a yard. But I'm disabled! The more labor intensive type of gardening is not necessarily the best idea for someone with limited physical activity!

So instead of going overboard on them I bought one little hyacinth and I love it. The color's a nice rich violet-blue and I'm sure it will bloom bright. It may even survive  from year to year the way the many jonquils around here do. Kitten helped me plant it in the patch in the front where I usually sit outside, so I'll enjoy its blooming and maybe for years more see it split and expand providing a complement to the bright yellow jonquils.

Even if it doesn't, it made me happy and I painted it.

A chicken pecked it already so we may have a problem later on - though it will be raining for the next few days so I might be doing more indoor stuff from references. Or cats. It's not like I don't have several beautiful models inside!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Jonquil and Rooster from Life

Jonquil and Rooster from Life 3" x 5"
watercolor on paper

They're not to scale, just two watercolor studies on a small Strathmore journal with my Sakura Koi pocket box watercolor set. I didn't use pen on them either, but did pencil the jonquil before painting.

It's been nearly a month since I did anything. I got bronchitis which turned into pneumonia and wound up in the hospital, which was a major bummer. Too weak to do anything, even sketch, I've spent most of the month sleeping or coughing and wishing I could paint this, that or the other thing. Today I felt up to doing so and am getting significantly better every day. The worst is definitely over.

I hate winter, but spring is here early and wonderful. Love the flowers coming up everywhere, jonquils abound around the farm house. Also the flock of gorgeous chickens including Black Marins, my favorites. They do get weird fluffs of feathers on their feet, the rooster in the painting has those fluffs.

Hopefully to be continued...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Feathers sketch

Feathers pen sketches on paper

Some fountain pen sketches of two loose feathers picked up outside. The chickens molt and their feathers float around the yard, one was curled and fluffy, the other straight and smooth. One has a gorgeous green iridescence over black that I will paint one day, the black chickens are so spectacular, the other feather was nearly white but I didn't try to convey value.

Still down with a pretty bad bug, very annoyed to be sick with so much going on and so many artistic things I want to do.

Using my fountain pen daily should help avoid its drying out and clogging, even if I only scribble or doodle.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cats and Other Life Drawings

 Cats in Pen 3 1/2" x 5"

 Hens and small objects in fountain pen

These two pages are today's art. I've come down with a brutal cold that has me exhausted, aching, snuffling, miserable and nauseated. Yet today I got outside ad sketched with a fountain pen my friend Stan gave me - it's awesome. I love the expressive line. Fountain pens are unique for sketching and give a livelier line than Pigma Microns.

Pencil sketch of trees on printer paper

Yesterday I started Johannes Vloothuis's class "Essentials of Drawing Landscapes." He insisted on our using printer paper, so I turned over a Blick package inventory list and used that. It had to do with the texture of the paper being smoother than vellum drawing paper. His sketch methods are quirky and unique to him but fascinating.

Unfortunately due to the bug I fell asleep after two hours of class, so I will have to catch up on it by downloading. Managed to attend half of it though!

I hate being sick and will still struggle to do daily art.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cats from Life in Pen

Kitten Kyra and Cat Ari sleeping condensed

While looking for Bombay India Ink Pen Cleaner, I went through all my tubs and found where the cats hid the three big Catnip Carrots. Flung those out into the room and the kitten went crazy. All three played wildly but that kitten was ridiculous, doing somersaults and handstands while strangling, kicking, chewing and washing it.

She wobbled and chased the cats around. Even grumpy matriarch China got silly and chased the kitten. Much feline gaiety later, they all crashed out so solidly they held still for more than two minutes! So I had to sketch them. I didn't pencil first either, both are just pen sketches.

The other page I did wasn't pretty, just swirls and bits of calligraphy practice and lines of block lettering in various colors in crowquill. A disorganized color chart for my Bombay India Inks. I should have just replaced the wheel of inks, got most of them anyway. But they're a little easier to store not in the wheel. Had fun with them sorting out and putting away all my new scribal goodies. 

One of my next projects will involve cleaning out my wooden scribe box to have a good place to keep these inks and dip pens and things!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Stallion and Dogs from Life

Ballpoint pen sketches of horse head two poses, dogs, hooves and feet.

Today I played with a bigger sketchbook, 9" x 12" and sketched in ballpoint pen so that I'd have a loose expressive line without worrying about pressing too hard. That can be a problem with brush tip pens or Pigma Microns, if I get carried away I mash the tips and lose their precision. I have a heavy hand. Works well in ballpoint where by going lightly I can sometimes get a nice halftone scribble too.

The paper isn't one of my beautiful archival journals or sketchbooks either, it's just a 30 sheet sketch paper pad that specifically says for illustration or perfecting techniques. It doesn't even say Acid Free. Anything that comes out really well on this probably ought to get sprayed in Make It Acid Free buffer from Krylon.

My daughter trimmed two horses at that stop, but the two year old filly was restless and bounced around a lot. Her owner was in the way of her face for most of it though I got her hooves. The stallion was sweet, patient and calm. He kept moving his head between those two poses so I was able to draw his face well. That owner also has four super friendly dogs and I sketched some of them as well, may eventually draw them all. They're fun.

Earlier we visited and she trimmed some Clydesdales. They were gorgeous and if I'd been a bit more awake I'd have drawn them too. Definitely want to have a go next time! The owner's a new customer who breeds Clydesdales and likes Kitten a lot so we'll be back in six to eight weeks looking after the giant sweet tempered horses. Maybe next time I'll sit a bit closer to them and find a good vantage point. They were stunning and very mellow.

You don't need expensive supplies to start up daily life sketching. Bob Davies recommends using the back sides of printouts and letters you get, just stick them in a report holder and sketch with whatever pen or pencils some company gave you for free. We have access to almost unlimited sketching materials.

Back in Leonardo da Vinci's time, paper was rare and all of it 100% rag expensive stuff not much cheaper than parchment. Sketchbook space thus was limited and his page layouts show it. I've been getting into medieval and Renaissance art lately - but one thing about it is a reminder of how lucky I am to have the copious supplies I do and wonderful vivid pigments with a wide variety of effects.

My Blick order came today, two days faster than the guaranteed date. I'm back to being close to a distribution center in a state that's not charging sales tax on it! Whee! It was so much fun. About a third of the order was goodies for Sascha, bound sketchbook, calligraphy pens, Pitt Artist Pens, manga paper and her own Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.

Remember how I struggled with that for a month before I began taming its thick-thin line? My granddaughter Sascha got it on her first try and loved it. She turned those big brown kitty eyes on me and bounced at me. I had to get her one for herself, she promptly used it last night to fill the first page of her sketchbook with a close-up big anime face. Well, eye, nose and hair, very emotional ECU on a character's eye. Striking design. The kid still has extraordinary natural composition skills.

I'm fondly looking at ten redundant colored inks knowing that this time I'm going to use them a lot more often. Once my stuff comes down from the attic it'll be fun, I'll have some to share when bringing this stuff to SCA events to the scribe table. Art is fun at home but even more fun out with other artists!

Plus I've got the gold leafing kit now, but I have a contest to enter that won't involve using it so that can just sit to the side for its own projects. April 16 is a contest for Pre-Print design - three different award scrolls need an original design in pen on paper that'll be printed up for volunteers to color. This is actually period, the calligrapher, gold leafer and painter weren't always the same person. Some people don't do calligraphy, just enjoy painting pre-prints.

I like doing my own illumination, the painting and gold details are the fun part after the stress of avoiding errors in calligraphy. In drawing, I make fewer errors and fixes are easier. I pencil first of course but I don't try to copy the shapes of calligraphy letters in pencil and work to those - though I might for the Pre-Print Competition. I want to create entries for all three of the awards, in the hope one of mine will win and be used regularly, colored and painted by lots of people all over the region.

I always wondered who designed the pre-prints and how they were chosen. Now I know and it's a great system. I need to do some offline research too and make it a nice authenticity project because I'm up against people like university professors who have been doing scrolls and research for decades.Against that, I have, basically, art and design experience. It's a fair challenge, a real stretch! I will be happy if any of them win and glad to have entered if none do. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cats in Pen from Life

Ari and Kyra, cat and kitten drawn from life

Today's daily art is little life drawings of both my cats, old fluffy Ari boy and young Kyra the Bumble Kitten. She's now wearing a collar that Sasha made for her, hasn't objected to it at all. Looks cute on her and does break the smooth line of her neck fur slightly.

Her contours and markings are tricky because she's in constant motion and usually folding or bending or jumping. Her gestures are graceful but I'm mostly drawing them from memory even while watching her!

The other thing I did today was begin designing my next scroll project and choosing a text. Haven't decided yet but did figure out one of the figures will be a cat washing herself and got a good gesture sketch on the practice paper. That sketch is too light to photo well but when I get to drawing it on good paper I may get a photo - or might wait till the entire scroll is done for photos. Depends on what I feel like doing at the time and whether I did other art on any given day.

For today I was still productive and thus happy.

Tomorrow supplies arrive!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Goat and Cat Pen Drawings

 Nubian goat Cara resting, from memory in pen

Nubian Goat Cara resting, Ari Cat full body and face, all from life, 

Today was an exercise in visual memory. I stepped outdoors for a smoke and saw Cara the Nubian Goat resting in the goat pen on her side. She looked interesting and though her features were hard to see in the light, she made a great silhouette with her pale gray ear distinctive. So I studied the lines of her shape, just watched her for a while, then came in and drew her immediately.

If you do this with things that you see outdoors or on the road, it speeds up life drawing a lot. You're not at a loss when the bird or animal moves. Very often life drawings get finished with the memory of a pose I just saw because the stupid bird will fly away or the cat will roll over and tuck his head down so that a second sketch would just be a furry rounded lump.

Naturally I was curious about how accurate my memory drawing was, so I went back outside to see if Cara had moved. She hadn't moved much, though she stretched her neck out to look at me. I think she'd been watching the road before, her neck wasn't that long at first. Sketched her fast outdoors, then came in and saw my fuzzy boy crashed on the back of our futon. Had to sketch the beautiful, contented Ari cat again, he just demands that sometimes with his beauty. 

He's now in an un-drawable pose up on top of the bookcase with his fluffy knees up, back a soft curve between them and tail tucked under his butt - sort of a furry lump slopping over the edge and recognizable more by color than anything else. Otherwise I might stop for yet another life drawing!

Both of these pages are on my Borden & Riley Drawing Pad, sized 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" and perforated. I love those little drawing pads, they are so convenient for life drawings and tempt me to sketch immediately by not being so large I'd have to do a lot of things to fill a page or work large. For anyone who likes to work small they're wonderful. Unfortunately, Blick discontinued them so I don't know where else I can get them. May have to go back to cutting ATC/ACEO blanks out of larger paper or buying those in packs.

I'm back to daily art again, what a relief! The big scroll project occupied me to the extent of blocking out the impulse to draw anything else until I finally decided to sketch first before working on the scroll. I'm not used to large projects any more, though I was back when I used to do scrolls regularly. Now I'm going to do more of them and try to establish a rhythm of working on longer projects. I'll still post them when they're done and progress photos when I need to say to myself "I got something done!"

Scroll progress is part of daily art. Large projects don't need to be completed to count as daily art. I must get used to that idea and not get intimidated by them!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Scroll Finished in Gouache and Pen

Award of Arms Scroll painted and finished

Detail - gold and red ornamented capital A letter

The grand finish on my Award of Arms scroll for the Society for Creative Anachronism.  I also got a detail photo of the big gold capital A in progress, though taking that photo showed me I needed to do a second layer of the gold. 

I used a 23.75kt gold dot from Jerry's Artarama, called "shell gold" because in the Middle Ages you would get gold ground fine as a pigment from a goldsmith, mix it with gum arabic and store it in a clamshell till it's used. Basically watercolor in which the pigment is real powdered gold. The best gold paint ever, anywhere, actual gold made into paint. 

Awesome cool and I always loved using it. These projects for the SCA let me really have fun with this sort of thing. Some scribes copy from medieval sources directly. I tend to freehand them and adapt designs and motifs, sometimes create my own in the spirit of the originals. This one combines style elements from more than one page in the same document, the Luttrell Psalter, dated to between 1320-1340 AD. 

Award of Arms is given for service to the society, which is extraordinary in the amount of credit and applause given to people who cook or clean up after events and meetings, do the paperwork of event permits and organize things. One way to gain rank is to be a really good fighter, win lots of tournaments and teach fighting and related arts. Another is the Arts & Sciences, my path, getting good at medieval arts and teaching them. Third is Service - the folks who check people in at events, cook and serve feasts, clean up after events, always stay late and get things done when people need help. Award of Arms is the start of getting rank in the Society - but if you'd notice, all three paths involve some sort of altruism, at least teaching people in your branch.

It's a unique balance that makes for well run, luxurious events that cost relatively little to attend compared to say a Renfaire, but are totally immersive. I've enjoyed it whenever I had access to it - something that takes having a car or a reliable ride to the local group, so that varied. If my housemates or the people giving rides weren't into it, I didn't really get involved. When they do, I love it.

This is going to dovetail nicely with my equine studies too because regionally the group's got a lot of equestrian activities - and that means painting or drawing knights on horses wearing gorgeous caparisons, but my own pride means I want to draw them and their steeds as accurately as Leonardo da Vinci or Botticelli, not as sort of awkward "hooved cat" animals. 

This is becoming a good chunk of my offline social life and it's a lot of fun. So watch for more medieval calligraphy and illumination among my posts. I've finally got my stuff together for it!

Dip pen came into it again with the pretty red decorations on the big letter. I used a Crowquill dip pen, which is the small handle with the teeny tiny pointy nib. Those are fun, like using Pigma Microns or Rapidographs but changing colors fast and easy, wipe with a facial tissue easy! I didn't have red ink yet so used Vermilion watercolor, which matched the Vermilion gouache that I used in the border and harmonized the big letter with the border. Now that it's finished I'm very happy with the colors in it!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cara the Nubian Goat - pen drawing

Nubian Goat head and neck in pen drawing

Today I went to some photos I got earlier of my daughter's farm animals and chose a good face reference of Cara the Nubian Goat. When I was getting the photo she was standing off in a good full body position but I walked closer so she came right up to the fence. She's very friendly! Wanted pets and attention, some raisins if I had any, which I didn't. So next time I'll bring raisins out. Getting a full body photo of her without the fence in between might be tricky!

Though if I sketch from life I might manage to forget the fence. There's always that!

It's fun drawing these critters. Warming up my pen drawing for more SCA scroll work, need to do some good calligraphy soon! I'd like to have that scroll done well before Gulf Wars and send it with my daughter when she goes to that week long event in March. Maybe even have two scrolls done before she leaves, but that's looking a bit dodgy unless I can pick up the pace. One at a time!

Update - I did get going on the scroll and did the hardest part - the calligraphy with a dip pen. The big fancy capital A is more drawing and pretty easy as it's penciled out and designed. The painting once that's done will be a breeze, it's just painting in gouache and fairly simple, not even a lot of shading so much as coloring and then freshen the lines with the Pigma Micron again. But the calligraphy had me sweating and stressed, the farther I got with it the more I dreaded making an irreparable mistake. A couple of lower case A's that need definition can be cleaned up with a small brush and some white later on.

Award of Arms scroll in progress with calligraphy done and border inked.

I'm very happy with how it looks. It'll be even better once the border design is painted. I might add a few gold details at the end.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Animal sketches and nature

 Gum Ball, Horse and Rooster Page pen and ink

Horse and Goat line drawings, pen on paper

Pigma micron pens and a small Pentalic wirebound journal in hand, yesterday I got in some good drawings. The first 3 1/2" x 5" page has a Gum Ball - seed head from a sweet gum tree - drawn carefully in pen and ink with stark black shading for its shadowed half. It looked really interesting. Same page I sketched a horse from a small plastic model Sascha lent me and a rooster from my own photo. The rooster's fairly detailed and recognizable, he's the sweet tame one who's not good for breeding because he's an odd mix instead of a pure Lavender Marin. 

Unfortunately, roosters can't be neutered without an operation harder than spaying a female cat, vets just can't do it with how they're built. So he's probably for the pot since he shouldn't breed. Sad really.

Second sketch page has a horse from life just in a clean contour drawing above a La Mancha goat buck also in contour drawing. I could paint either with any color or markings I wanted but kept those drawings simple. I'm still familiarizing myself with their anatomy. 

As I go out on horse shoeing trips with my daughter Kitten, I'll be doing more horse gestures and other farm animals. This is fun. Got a cool photo of our own goat Kara, the pretty horned one. She's black with pale gray-white ears and a slightly crooked horn, all the other goats are dehorned so I'll be basing goat horns mostly on Kara's. She's a different breed from the others too but I don't remember off hand, will post when I ask again since I forgot. Heh, fibro fog zaps my memory on too many things but the body proportions of the farm creatures are starting to become familiar!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Scroll border

Scroll border 

Well, been out of touch for a while partly due to weather and partly activity. Not much art but lots of outdoor activity. I went to a one day SCA event last Saturday and came back all stoked for medieval art again. 

I'd penciled this scroll border starting on the first event I went to a few weeks ago, then finished penciling sometime in between. Today I finally inked it and though I don't have a photo of it, put in guidelines and text layout, then penciled the text for an Award of Arms scroll. This is a Society for Creative Anachronism award given for service to the club by the particular Kingdom and the Kingdom always needs more of them done. 

I designed it after a manuscript page in the Luttrell Psalter that I copied out of a book that's currently up in the attic. I'll be matching the calligraphy to its period and hand lettering with a dip pen most likely, having gotten to play with them putting names on scrolls at the event. Found out I was still good at black letter calligraphy, the Old English type of style actually named Quadrata Textura.

So I'll be replacing my dip pens since those are buried, or getting extras if I can find them. I put a Speedball Calligraphy Set on my next Blick order and will be getting it soon to take advantage of the current huge coupon - 25% off orders over $225 is huge. I often plan orders to be $200 or more to get the 20% off coupons but they just beat that, so I'll be saving even more on everything.

I got somewhat blocked by working on this scroll, procrastinated on the inking but didn't sketch anything else till I got to this point on it. Now I may have to wait for the pens so I'll go ahead and sketch, paint, draw whatever comes to hand. Today was a really good day. 

Had some bitter cold days where my hands ached too much to do anything but today wasn't bad at all. Hopefully milder weather will continue - and hopefully I'll keep posting more often as I get back into daily art or art related activity.

I've got no more excuses since my stuff actually is unpacked and organized too!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Equine Studies

 Left side page, pencil on paper

Right side page, pencil on paper
Large watercolor Moleskine journal.

I did these pages a couple of days ago while out at one of my daughter's horse shoeing stops. Stu is a show horse, very beautiful and graceful. He was well behaved while his owner held his head and my daughter trimmed his hooves and nailed his new shoes on. She actually did a bunch of horses that day but my fibro caught up with me so I didn't do any more sketches.

I meant to pen and watercolor these, but once I was finished I decided I liked the look of the pencil drawings as themselves. Sometimes that happens even in a watercolor journal.

It's part of art to know when to stop. These pages are good in themselves and while I may work from them or from any sketch on them, graphite lasts as well as anything else I could put on them. Might spray fixative since I'm keeping the graphite but I'll take it outdoors in the daytime for that.

Having finally gotten all moved in, I shouuld be posting more often now and will try to get back to daily art! It was hard for about a month, even though I did quite a few drawings getting photos wasn't always easy and sometimes I forgot to date them. So let's go forward from here!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cats and Horses - Changed Plans

 Kitten Kyra ATC colored pencils on paper

Horses page, large Moleskine watercolor journal, coffee and watercolor

Well, plans change! Sorry I haven't been posting. I have barely been online since I moved on December 18th, 2015. Running aronnd offline traveling across the continent and then getting all my stuff sorted out meant very little online time.

My original plan was to stay in my daughter's house for a few days, at least till after Christmas, then rent a house at the amazing low rate of $200 a month and live comfortably on my disability payments, reduced by local cost of living adjustment. That budget does work in my favor, because the California increase was not adequate to the real costs of living in San Francisco. My budget here would have been better even in the house with all the bills. I used the last California-sized check to buy furniture for the house.

Then the owner decided not to move to New Mexico after all. Meanwhile I'd been out to the house and daunted by the fact that the driveway had a gate in it down a long rutted country lane that I could not walk that far on a good day to let in a guest, plus they'd have to phone me to get me out there to do so. Forget picking up mail, there wasn't even a mail box. Just some more lane going past a single neighbor's house that opened onto a real road right next to the post office. The people who live there do a lot of hiking.

I do not. I would need to use my power chair to go that far if it was paved, which it wasn't. I'd also need it to get from one end of the way too large house to the other and be heating or cooling enough house for half a dozen people on one disability check when I'm too sick to handle either extreme cold or heat. It would be a wonderful deal for a spry, healthy person who likes hiking and has a strong constitution for weather, plus a car. For a can't drive mobility impaired guy it would have created total dependence on my daughter every single day for everything and if anything went wrong, having to go out in Weather to get a cell phone signal. It was a nice house, but I could not live there anyway. There was no way to tell till I got here. 

So I moved into my daughter's house. I've been doing horse drawings and occasional chickens since I arrived. Yesterday we finished the massive task of unpacking everything in the stuff from the horse trailer and getting it sorted into the shed, the house or the attic. Some things I'm just sharing with the family. My five glass vases are up safely out of cat range with her glass pitchers and vases, seen and not wrecked in the kitchen. Kitchen stuff is stored or shared. Clothes in a tub tucked out of the way.

Art supplies amazingly mostly came inside after everything was said and done. I've got a few things out in the shed but all oils and acrylics are in here, all stored art is in the attic with framed pictures, almost all pastels, colored pencils and oil pastels are in here with me. I'm pretty sure all watercolors are too. There's stuff stored in the attic that I was planning on unpacking over at the rental house, but that's all staying in the attic. Anything that cold or heat would permanently damage is inside. 

I'm not sure if the spray fixative cans survived being out in the cold. One can of fixative that got left by a friend in a car after an art meeting during a Kansas winter became unusably cloudy after the freezing and thawing, but if they are, I can replace them. I should check them before I place my next Blick order. Pretty sure the Spectrafix doesn't work that way, but will find out. Everything else came through pretty well. There were a lot of things far more expensive than fixative cans that I was worried about cold, heat and moisture damaging that came through all right. Some papers and books seemed slightly damp but nothing got too warped and it'll flatten as it dries.

From several days before the move till now I've been overdoing it, on my feet too long doing too much every day. I can finally rest. Will get back to blogging regularly from here on out, back to daily as soon as I can. Now that I'm all in one place I can start working on having a set of habits again!

The posted art - little Kyra is Ari's new friend, a several months old kitten found and rescued at the rental house. Best thing about the rental house thing was finding Bumble Kitten. Ari cat loves her and he plays with her often. Colored pencils on paper. The horses are from life from riding along on my daughter's horse riding trips. I finally got coffee dark enough to give me a good mid value by using boiled down coffee that got left on the coffee maker too long! It's probably even darker now that it's evaporated for some days. Loved coffee paintings but had never successfully gotten dark ones done before!