Saturday I drove to the Oregon Garden. Cold and clear. A perfect day to get out for a walk in the garden and catch up on my homework for Liz Steel’s Sketching Now Foundations course. Founder’s Square is a large open structure that’s used sometimes for outdoor weddings. In the summer it’s surrounded by vegetable gardens. Up the hill is the garden resort. I knew ahead of time that I wanted to sketch either the resort or the large structure which is Founder’s Square. I have walked here many times and photographed the location from various vantage points. The view of the resort did not appeal to me. So, I walked around the square to pick the best angle for context. I wanted to show the structure’s placement in relation to the gardens and resort. I was also looking for depth and composition with a photographer’s eye. I picked a spot that had a foreground, middle ground, and background (for depth) and that was out of the way of foot traffic (although there was hardly anyone else around).
I got some new watercolor paints for Christmas. Above are the original colors that came in a small toy palette I got as a stocking stuffer. The colors were really weak. So, I replaced them with my other major present which was a set of Daniel Smith watercolors.
Week 4 assignment for Liz Steel’s Sketching Now Foundations course. We are learning to construct volumes. In this exercise we first draw a wireframe outline as if we can see through the objects. I used a red Pilot FriXion erasable pen. Then we add black ink, and then watercolor. I erased the red lines with a hairdryer (heat erases the FriXion ink, cold brings them back). These are three of my favorite art books – “Art and Visual Perception” by Rudolf Arnheim, “Van Gogh’s Flowers and Landscapes” by Janice Anderson, and “Varieties of Visual Experience” by Edmund Burke Feldman. I’ve been practicing drawing straight lines. I think it is starting to pay off. My lines are looking less wobbly. It’s hard to get the angles and sizes right. I didn’t get the top book right to start with and that effected everything else. Also, lettering is hard when it’s on a slanting surface. I didn’t know how to do white lettering. I used a white charcoal pencil, but it didn’t show up very well on the light blue book. Also, I need to practice doing background washes. I should start with a juicier mix and work faster.
I’m testing a new sound module from Korg that includes a very nice piano sample. Here’s my first test recording.
I think it sounds very much like a real piano. Keep in mind this is all happening on an iPad.The app has a built-in recorder. It can only output as a M4a file however. I had to import the file into iTunes and convert it to MP3 to use it in this blog.
This is for week 3 of Liz Steel’s Sketching Now Foundations course. We are looking for and painting shapes. First we are drawing the shape of two overlapping objects of the same color, paint the negative spaces around the objects, and then paint the shadows.
This is my new standing work station in the computer room. It consists of (from bottom to top) an anti-fatigue foam mat on the floor, a seven drawer craft cart (which is great for storing art materials), and on top is an adjustable tilt-top tray table. I modified the tray table. The top was made from pieced together bamboo and it warped almost immediately. So, I replaced it with 1/2 inch birch plywood.
I decided to practice drawing straight lines. Mine are wobbly. (See the next post for examples).
Drawing is both a physical and a mental activity. You need to practice to gain physical strength and dexterity – to make that muscle, bone, nerve, spinal cord, brain connection and turn that conscious action into an automatic one and make it a permanent hardwired path. You need to form good habits and strengthen the right muscles. You also need to relax with a goal to draw effortlessly.
I spent the last four weeks practicing drawing straight lines. I collected and scanned all my practice drawings and created this PDF to document my process and findings.
I did three small sketches today for Sketching Now Foundations online course by Liz Steel. This week 2 assignment is to draw buildings carefully first and then foliage with looser marks. The point is to compare careful vs looser ways of working.
I did these all in a small Moleskine Plain Journal 3.5 x 5.5 inches (9 x 14 cm). I used my small Kaweco Sport fountain pen with extra fine nib and Noodler’s Bulletproof Black ink. I wanted to travel light and carry everything in my shirt pocket.
I did the first two drawings at home. First I did the back of our house. Then I did the house across the street. Later we went out to the bank. I did the final drawing while waiting at the service desk.
Some days you’re hot. Some days you’re not. I just was not in the groove today. I did enjoy working with the Kaweco Sport pen. It feels very comfortable in my hand. The Moleskine journal is convenient to carry, but I prefer to work on larger, better paper. I did like combining both the analytical approach of drawing the building (angle, length, relationships) and the free form mark making of the foliage. A little play after a little work is good.
Pure line work looks very flat. It describes the shapes but not the volumes. I’m used to adding tones or colors to my drawings. These line sketches seem lacking and I’m not sure if it is just my expectations or if I need to work on something felt but not known.
Today I worked on the week 2 assignment for the Sketching Now Foundations course offered online by Liz Steel. The assignment was to set up a still life with three objects – one with straight edges, one with curved edges, and one free form or textured.
Today I’m working on an exercise for Sketching Now Foundations course by Liz Steel. Doing both blind and point to point contour drawings at different speeds. This week we are working on feeling edges. I’ve done blind contour drawing before, but I haven’t done point to point contour drawing.
I worked standing up. I usually work sitting down, but I read somewhere that it is better for your health to work standing up so I thought I’d give it a try. I placed my pad of paper on a tripod stand that I have for my iPad. It worked well. I had more freedom of movement and felt looser and more relaxed.
I started with a “30 Line” warmup. I guess I should explain that since it’s my own invention. I always draw better after warming up, but I realized this morning that I really have no idea which is better – drawing for a set time (say two minutes) or drawing a set number of lines (say 30 or 40). So today I’m trying a set number. I counted to myself as I made each mark. When I reached 30 I found I hadn’t finished the subject. So, I continued to 40. Okay, so I cheated. I’ll rename it next time. I think it helped. My first blind contour wasn’t half bad. It was fun doing a fast blind contour. Next time I’d like to use a fine tipped pen instead of a calligraphy pen just to compare the emotion of the line.
Point to point is a modified contour drawing and you don’t do it blind. You first place your pen on the page, pick a point in the subject and follow the edge of the subject with your eyes noting the shape, angles, and length. Next you follow with your eyes slowly back to the starting point. Finally you slowly trace the edge again with your eyes as you move the pen in sync with your eyes. You continue to do that point to point around the subject. It’s an interesting technique. The results are pretty accurate, but it takes a long time and requires a lot of concentration.
I did the fast point to point roughly two times faster. By this time I had drawn the same subject five times. So, I knew the shapes well. I felt comfortable working faster. The proportions suffered a little bit (the vertical lengths are off), but I like the feel of this last drawing. It doesn’t feel as stiff as the slow one.
Here’s a photo of my subject taken after I was finished drawing.
Contour Exercise Photo
At this point process is more important than subject.
Strathmore Bristle 300 series 11x 17 inches (27.9 x 43.2 cm) paper, green Sailor calligraphy pen with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black ink.
This is an assignment for the Sketching Now Foundations course I’m taking from Liz Steel. We are Comparing pen and pencil sketching. I did the pen version on the left first starting with the cup. I then drew the top curve of the kettle, the handle, the spout, the middle curve, the left and bottom of the kettle, and finally the spoon. I then added a little blue watercolor to the cup and some gray for the shadows. I followed the same route with the pencil drawing on the right using a water soluble graphite pencil. I then added gray watercolor and pulled some of the graphite out of the drawing with a waterbrush to get the grays on the cup and a few other places.
I feel equally comfortable using both pen and pencil. I like both versions. The drawing with pen on the left is wonkier. It always takes me a while to warm up so the drawing with pencil is more accurate.
By the way, it really helps if you set up the objects you want to sketch like you would for a good photograph. I place them on a seamless white backdrop and light them from above with a soft large light source (I used a large Chinese lantern with a bright compact fluorescent bulb inside).
This helped me see the edges more clearly because the objects were not surrounded by a cluttered background. It also helped me see the cast shadows. Notice I actually have two light sources. The hanging lantern was to the right and I also had the overhead ceiling light on above and to the left.
Stillman & Birn Zeta series spiral bound 5.5 x 8 inch notebook, Mars 500 technical pen with 0.4mm tip and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink, Kuretake Petit waterbrush, General’s Sketch & Wash water soluble graphite pencil, Lucas watercolors in my home made 15 color travel palette.
I drove my wife, Kris, to the dentist today to have her teeth cleaned. I sketched the office while I waited in the car. I wanted to try using my technical pen with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink in it. I’ve been using a 0.5mm tip. I recently cleaned up an old 0.4mm tip that’s been sitting in my desk for 35 years. I let it soak overnight in a solution of Murphy’s Oil Soap (1 part soap to 10 parts water). That did the trick. Sure is fun to get an old favorite working again. I like the extra fine line.
Stillman & Birn Zeta series spiral bound 5.5 x 8 inch notebook, Mars 500 technical pen with 0.4mm tip and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink, Kuretake Petit waterbrush, Lucas and Daniel Smith watercolors in my 15 color home made palette.
This is my new travel watercolor palette. I made it from a plastic fluorescent light fixture grid panel that’s made up of 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) squares. I cut out a piece of the grid and then molded some InstaMorph plastic to fashion a bottom plate. I made the lid the same way cutting out the grid to leave just a frame. I taped one edge to make a hinge and filled the wells with Lucas and Daniel Smith tube watercolors. When closed the palette measures 3.5 x 2 x 0.75 inches (8.5 x 5 x 1.8 cm) a very convenient size that’s easy to carry in a pocket or bag. I hold it shut with a rubber band. I also attached a magnetic sheet top and bottom to hold it in use on my setup board when painting on location.
Stillman & Birn Zeta series 5.5 x 8 inch spiral bound notebook, Mars 500 technical pen with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink, Lucas and Daniel Smith watercolors.
Here’s a photo of the palette open and closed in my hand so you can get an idea of its size.
Travel Palette Photo
Next I made a chart of all the 50/50 mixes that can be made with these 15 colors.
15 Color Mix Chart
It takes a long time to do these charts, but it is well worth the effort. It’s important to start with clean colors and to keep them clean while you are working. That means cleaning the brush every time you pick up a color to mix it with another color, cleaning the mixing area when it gets full, and changing the cleaning water often.
Here are some of my discoveries:
When mixing it works best to mix light colors into darker/stronger colors.
Don’t put down wet paint right next to another square with wet paint in it. The two colors will bleed into each other. You can see that on the far left in the third and fourth rows. From then on I worked in a checkerboard pattern, waited until the paints had dried and then filled in the rest of the blank squares in the checkerboard.
I like the mixes made with Phalo Blue especially combined with my gray mix to make a nice Payne’s gray, with Viridian to make black, with Alizarin Crimson to make a nice dark brown, and Burnt Sienna to make gray.
I also like the mixes with Ceruleum Blue. Mixing it with Viridian makea a lovely turquoise. Mixing it with Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber creates nice grays.
I am not happy with the Lucas Cadmium Red Hue. It does not mix well. I need to find a better warm red.
I like the wide variety of greens and earth colors in these mixes.
I was surprised by the number of dark value mixes. Here’s a black and white picture of the chart. Notice how many of the colors are darker than mid tone gray.
15 Color Value Mix Chart
I guess I should have realized how many dark blues and browns I had in my palette, but I didn’t until I saw this chart.
I’m pretty happy with my color choices in this palette – particularly here in the Pacific Northwest where we have a lot of greens and browns and our skies show many grays and blues.