Lupin Sculpture

Lupin Sculpture

Lupin Sculpture

I went for a walk in the Oregon Garden in Silverton today. The Fall colors were really starting to pop. I sat near these iconic sculptures near one of the fountains to do this sketch. I drew in pencil first. I then used my Sailor calligraphy pen with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black ink. Finally I added watercolor using my Kuretake Mini waterbrush and my new homemade palette filled with a combination of Lucas and Daniel Smith tube watercolors.

I’m really starting to feel comfortable doing these sketches on location. I have more confidence with my materials and techniques and I’m working faster. I like the way this one turned out.

Jim

Coast Sketches

Coast Sketches

Coast Sketches

My wife and I spent a few days at the coast. I managed to squeeze in several small sketches. These were done on business card size watercolor paper. I was experimenting with carrying all my materials around in my shirt and pants pockets. Each sketch holds a story for me. The first one is the view across the street from our rental house. We were in a tsunami hazard zone. The road up the hill was the escape route. The second one is our house as seen from sitting on the hood of our car. I had to carry all our luggage up those stairs. The third is the view from the dining room window. The days were gray but that didn’t keep us from (picture four) walking to the beach. A large surf was coming in on Saturday. So, all the surfers were out in their wet suits. I prefer to work larger, but it’s fun to see that even a small sketch can trigger a memory.

I bought this paper on jetpens.com for under $5.

Jim

Oregon Garden Stream

Oregon Garden Stream Watercolor

Oregon Garden Stream Watercolor

Today was another beautiful summer day. I went for a walk in the Oregon Garden and sat on a bench next to a tranquil bubbling stream to do this sketch. I first sketched the scene in my Stillman & Birn Zeta series 6×8 inch spiral bound notebook with a light blue watercolor pencil. I then added ink with two pens. I first drew with a Platinum Carbon Desk pen which has a very fine nib, and then I added wider marks with a Kuretake No. 8 brush pen. Both pens are filled with Platinum Carbon Black ink. It dries quickly and is waterproof.

Oregon Garden Stream Ink

Oregon Garden Stream Ink

I added the watercolor later at home. This is the first time I’ve tried sketching across two pages in a spiral bound notebook. It’s tough to paint around the binding, but I like the way it turned out. By the way, the dog is a metal sculpture. I had no trouble drawing him, because he didn’t move.

Jim

Cuppa Tea

Cuppa Tea

Cuppa Tea

Liz Steel also showed us how she sketches tea cups. So, I also sketched my morning cuppa tea. My wife made it for me so it is special. I really connect with Liz’s method of sketching. For many years I was a filmmaker and video producer. Her workflow parallels mine in another medium which was (is) 1. Observation, 2. Analysis and planning (defining and understanding the problem), 3. Construction (this is where you lay it out and build the foundations), 4. Production (this is where you actually do the work), 5. Post Production (after a rest period, you revisit the work and see if it needs any refinement or editing, 6. Presentation (show the work and get feedback), and 7. Analysis and documentation (write notes about your process and what you learned).

I like that Liz takes a whole brain approach which includes both analysis and passion.

Sketching Architecture

Bush House Watercolor

Bush House

During the sixth and final week of Sketchbook Skool Liz Steel showed us her technique for sketching architecture. I did two sketches of houses in Bush Pasture Park in Salem, Oregon. The first (above) was Bush House and the other was Deepwood Mansion (see below).

Bush House is tough to draw from the front because it sits on a hill and you are looking up at it. I tried Liz’s method of working. I first spent some time looking at the structure. Then I did a thumbnail to learn about the basic shapes and proportions. Next I sketched with a Burnt Umber watercolor pencil and then I added ink using a Sailor Calligraphy pen with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black ink. Finally I added watercolor. I lost track of time, but I think the whole process took about an hour and a half. Drawn in Moleskine 5.5 x 8.5 inch watercolor notebook.

Here are my initial notes done on location before drawing.

Bush House Notes

Bush House Notes

With this workflow I end up doing three drawings of the house – the thumbnail, the watercolor pencil, and the ink. This allows me to warm up and practice and learn about the structure before drawing with ink. It works, but it takes a long time.

I used the same technique for sketching Deepwood Mansion – look first, then do a preliminary sketch to figure out the basic structure, next lay out the sketch with watercolor pencil, and finally draw with ink.

Deepwood Mansion Notes

Deepwood Mansion Notes

Deepwood Mansion Ink

Deepwood Mansion Ink

Deepwood Mansion Watercolor

Deepwood Mansion Watercolor

I added the watercolor later at home. This is a good way to work. It breaks it up into manageable chunks.

Looking at this again a couple of days later I see a problem. I forgot a very important point in my workflow. You are supposed to work from the whole to the parts and then back out to the whole again. I worked on each part individually and forgot to step back out and check how the parts affected the whole. As a result some of the parts look disjointed – not connected properly to the surrounding parts. The top of the chimney is not lined up with the bottom of the chimney. The middle window isn’t aligned with the top and bottom windows. The peak of the roof is squashed (actually that’s because I ran out of paper and tried to fit it in). In general I worked my way down from the top and out to the sides drawing the overall shape of the next piece and then filling in the details of the section. It was careful piecemeal observation, but each section was tacked on as I went. I got so focused on each part that I forgot to step back occasionally and consider how the parts related to each other and to the overall structure of the whole house. This is a lot to do in one go on location particularly with a complicated subject. I can see why Liz prefers to do a fast sketch which captures the structure and personality of a building instead of attempting a detailed drawing.

When I go back out to the whole I step back and look at the entire picture. I no longer shift my gaze from piece to piece. I take in the entire thing as a unit. Instead of looking at the detail I consider the overall design – such things as overall structure (this picture for instance is based on a large triangle that goes from the bottom left corner to the peak of the roof to the bottom right corner), contrast (also known as values) where I look to see how much of the picture is lights, darks, and grays (usually you want a lot of this and a little of that – in this case I have a lot of gray and little black and white), color scheme (of which there are many variations too many to list here – this one mostly has greens, browns, grays, with some blue and a touch of red), and finally I look to see how each part fits in with its surrounding parts (things like alignment, proportion, and scale). So it’s a very different mental activity than when I’m working on each part’s detail, shading, and color. This sounds much more complicated than it is. In practice it may take only two or three seconds. Then I’ll discover something that needs work and I’ll shift back to working the part.

I should note that I really like this drawing of Deepwood. It has character and a good gestalt. I often do a post production project analysis which is a fancy way of saying that after resting a bit I look at the thing with fresh eyes and try to figure out what’s what and why things happened the way they did. I’m not thinking in terms of faults and strengths as such, more of seeking a deeper understanding of how these projects evolve and why things happen with a goal of doing things differently in future projects in order to reach a desired outcome. I know now that if I draw things piece by piece, it will look this way and if I do a bit more pre-planning with periodic checks for alignment and proportion, it will look that way.

Sketching or painting on location require dynamic solutions. Things like lighting and moving subjects change over time. Also as you explore the scene you discover different pieces as you go. One of the hallmarks of dynamic solutions is the notion of “checks and balances”. Working from the whole to the parts and back out to the whole and then back to the parts and then back to the whole is a key “checks and balances” technique when working on a complicated project with many different parts. In this case I realized I didn’t do that and because of that the drawing had certain inaccuracies. Surprise, surprise – process affects outcomes or to say it in a longer way: the steps or stages that you take and the order in which you do them affect the finished product. The way you change the outcome is to change the process. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget and hard to put into practice particularly if you’ve already formed a habitual way of working.

Wisdom comes from knowing how ignorant your are and seeking understanding. I prefer to try different things and different ways of working. I don’t like doing the same thing in the same way over and over again. I say “If something isn’t working, try something else”. It might work. It might not. If not, try something else. If you’re lucky, you might discover something completely, wonderfully, unexpectedly different.

Jim

Oregon Gardens – White Blossoms

Oregon Garden - White Blossoms

Oregon Garden – White Blossoms

I went for a walk today in the Oregon Garden and tried out my new art bag and travel chair and my new lap board. Everything worked great. The first thing I did was walk around looking for an interesting subject where I could sit in the shade. I finally found a spot, deployed my new chair, sat down and looked around. I spotted two possible subjects – dark cattails in silhouette, and a large bush with spectacular white blossoms. I opened my bag and pulled out a small clipboard. I had clipped several sheets of typing paper to it before I left the house. I did two quick thumbnail sketches and a larger analytical sketch to warm up and learn a thing or two about my subject. I then pull out my Moleskine watercolor notebook and drew the white bush using a Uni-Ball Vision black 0.7 pen which is waterproof. This is a new pen for me and this was the first time I had tried it on location. I really like it. It is very smooth and the ink drys immediately and does not bleed when you add watercolor. Here are my preliminary sketches and field notes which I wrote after completing the watercolor sketch.

White Blossoms Notes

White Blossoms Notes

I protected the white highlights of the blossoms with a white Phano China Marker. It was hard to see where I put it (drawing white on white) so I kept track as best I could and worked across the page from left to right. I knew that the wax would leave a splotchy texture on this watercolor paper and give the impression of many small flowers within the large blossom heads.

I worked from light to dark waiting for each layer to dry before applying the next. Finally I added interest in the background by lifting lights and adding darks.

Here’s a photo reference I took after I was done.

White Blossoms Photo Reference

White Blossoms Photo Reference

All in all a fun and productive outing.

Jim

Backyard Composite

Backyard Composite

Backyard Composite

I’ve had this idea for a while now that I’d like to paint composite paintings that capture how I feel about a place rather than the literal scene in front of me. This is my first try. I did it in the backyard to test out my methods and equipment before taking it all on location. The idea is to first explore a space with a camera taking pictures of the elements of the space that interest me. Then combine several of the photos into a composite image using Sketch Club on the iPod Touch.

Photos of Backyard Composite

Photos of Backyard Composite

Next, to save time, I use my 3M portable projector to project the composite image onto my sketch pad or canvas and trace the image with a pencil.

Projecting the Composite

Projecting the Composite

Finally I add the color by looking at the scene and not the photograph because the eye sees more than the camera.

This is fun. The final result is a representation of the experience of the backyard on a summer day as a whole rather than a snapshot of a particular part of the place. It’s more like a poem than a description.

Pencil and Neocolor II watersoluble pastel on Sennelier Oil Pastel Pad. 5 x 8 inches (12 x 20.5 cm).

Jim

Neocolor Over Brush Pen

Neocolor Over Brushpen

Neocolor Over Brushpen

It’s hard to get a full range of values with Neocolor II watercolor crayons. They all tend to lie in the middle values. This sketch experiments with using Neocolors over waterproof ink to obtain darker values.

Neocolor Over Brushpen BW

Neocolor Over Brushpen BW

Here I’ve dropped out the color so you can see the range of values.

I chose a scene with a wide range of values. The irises were in the shade with bright sunlight behind. I took my glasses off to better see the values. I first used a middle tone gray Faber-Castell brush pen to mark in the mid tone values. Next I added light values with a light gray Faber-Castell brush pen, and then I added black with a Pigma brush pen. Then working left to right I went directly over the grays with various Neocolor crayons. Also, on the right I experimented with brushing over the pen with Neocolor washes. Next I put my glasses back on (to see detail again) and went back over the Neocolor in some areas with mid tone and light gray pen. The ink from the pen melts and blends the crayon color. The light gray pen worked the best for defining shapes with slightly darker values. Finally I used a wet watercolor brush to work over the Neocolor. I did this to strengthen the colors and to drag color into white areas of the paper.

This technique works to increase the number of values of the colors by darkening the existing colors. Both light and dark colors can be made darker. It’s a good, quick way to establish your values first and then add color. However, the neutral gray ink muddies the colors. Next I need to experiment with using complimentary colors to achieve darker values.

Jim

Computer Room

So, how do you draw a panorama of a small room showing everything on all three sides? I did this one using a projected panorama photo. I used my iPod Touch to take the panorama from the doorway of the room.

Then I used my 3M Streaming projector to project the image on my Moleskine watercolor notebook. I used a Pilot FriXion erasable pen to trace the major shapes. Then I sat and sketched the detail of the scene with a Micron 02 pen using the erasable pen sketch as a guide. That took about an hour. Here's the finished pen drawing after I erased the guide lines with a hair dryer.

After resting a bit and having a bite to eat, I came back and added watercolor using a Kuretake Mini waterbrush and Faber-Castell watercolor pencils.

Jim

Perspective Test

When I was a boy my older brother, Bob, showed me how to use an opaque projector. We used it to copy cartoon characters out of comic books. Today we have digital projectors, but they are much more expensive. For years I've been keeping an eye on pico projectors (very small, portable projectors that use LEDs or lasers for lights), but up until now they have been too expensive and too dim.

Recently I discovered the 3M Streaming projector. It costs less then $200 and is relatively bright at 60 lumens. I'm putting it through its paces. Here's my set up.

I put the projector on a tripod and aimed it straight down to project on a table in front of me. I set the projector to project the image up side down so it would look right side up to me. I put the free Roku app on my iPod Touch and used it to send photos wirelessly to the projector. It worked great and was bright enough to work with the room lights on.

I took a photo of a dollhouse that my wife, Kris, built for our daughter. I used The Sketch Club app on my iPod Touch to distort the vertical perspective of the house.

I then projected each photo and traced it with pencil.

Finally I added watercolor and pen and ink.

This worked so well that I want to use it for painting on location. The projector is very small and only weighs 11 ounces and its internal battery lasts for 2 hours.

Jim

Chemeketa Sketch

Today I went over to my old stomping grounds – Chemeketa Community College – to do a sketch. It was a beautiful day and I wanted to test out my new work method.

I started by taking a picture with my iPod Touch using the ProHDR app.

Next I used ArtRage on the Touch to create a quick color study working from the photo.

I then used Photogene to drop out the color to create a value study.

I used the value study to draw the major shapes in my watercolor notebook. I used a Pilot FriXion erasable pen so that I could erase the initial placement lines later if I wanted. Then I drew with my Mars 500 technical pen with Noodler's Bulletproof black ink. As I drew I looked at the scene to see the detail.

Finally I added watercolor using a small flat chisel brush. I looked at both my color study and the scene before me to determine the colors.

There's no way to know what the sketch would have been like had I just jumped right in and started sketching without the preliminary iPod Touch studies, but I feel they helped with the layout and color choices and they got my creative juices flowing.

 

Sketchbook Page 1

Trying out a new Stillman & Birn Epsilon series 5.5 x 8.5 inch sketchbook. It has smooth, heavy paper that takes light watercolor well with a minimum of buckling. These are backyard sketches. The top one was done with gel pens and a little watercolor. The bottom one was with erasable pen and watercolor pencils.

Here's what it looked like from my point of view.

The more I do this the more relaxed I'm getting about the process. I don't mind taking risks with new techniques. I really like the rich colors I got with the watercolor pencils. For the most part I used a wet brush to draw color from the tips of the pencils and then applied the brush to the page. At the very end, however, I drew directly with the pencils (blue, yellow, and a little red) into the still wet page. This really made the colors pop.

Jim

J.S. Cooper Block – Independence, Oregon

 

This is the J.S. Cooper Block at the corner of Main & C streets in Independence, Oregon. Independence was established in the late 1840's on the west bank of the Willamette River in Polk County a few miles south of Salem, Oregon. The river was instrumental in the development of the town and the ferries' arrivals were heralded by ringing the bell in the tower of this Queen Anne style building. It was built in 1895 by J.S. Cooper, a banker who later turned to hop growing, and still later became a state legislator.

This was harder to do and took longer than I expected. I want to sketch architecture and I thought I'd start by sketching a reference photo that I took last Fall.

I wanted to test several new things before trying to sketch on location. First, I wanted to try a new larger paper (Arches hot press 140 lb. 9 x 12 inches watercolor block). I also wanted to try blocking out the sketch first using a Pilot FriXion erasable pen and then do the finish drawing with a Faber-Castell Pitt S dark sepia pen which is waterproof. I made the mistake of doing too much detail and correction with the erasable pen. I could have saved time by just blocking in the major shapes and perspective lines with the erasable. As it was I ended up drawing all the details twice and the finished drawing looks like I traced it. I actually prefer the initial sketch done with the erasable. It has more spontaneity and life.

Anyway, I ended up doing the entire drawing again with the brown pen over the black erasable pen. I then added the darks (mostly in the windows) using a Faber-Castell Pitt brush warm gray pen. I used a hair dryer to completely erase all the black erasable ink. The drawing took several hours over two days.

I liked the pen and ink drawing. I wasn't sure I wanted to add color. So, I did a quick color version on the iPad using Procreate just to test it out.

I still wasn't sure. So, I held off for two days to think about. This morning I woke up and felt ready to add the watercolor. I used three brushes, all round, numbers 4, 8, and 10. I painted the building first, then the trees and foreground and finally the sky. I sweated the sky because I didn't want it to overpower the building. I used a spray bottle and brush to wet the area, dropped in some cobalt blue and mopped out the clouds with an old sock.

What I learned:

  • Bigger is better. I like detail and its easier to draw detail when you work larger. It does take longer however.
  • I like the hot press smooth paper. This is the first time I've used it.
  • The Pilot FriXion is an amazing pen. The ink completely disappears when you heat it with a hair dryer. Next time I will use it just for construction lines. I won't try to draw the whole subject with it.
  • It's very difficult to get perspective and proportions right. I need to practice. I didn't draw the initial angles right and the building ended up being too short.
  • I used rubber cement as masking fluid to maintain the pure whites in the signs and window trim. It worked, but I don't think it's worth the effort. It would be faster and easier to just paint around the whites.
  • I need to vary my greens. It's easy to forget to leave the lightest greens alone. You can't get them back with watercolor. You can only make them darker. Also, I need to explore other pigment combinations. Cobalt blue and lemon yellow just aren't enough.
  • Watercolor takes patience. I worked in stages from light to dark letting each pass dry completely before adding darker tones. This keeps the colors fresh.

Jim

 

Pole Building Sketch

Pole Building

You know it’s a good day when you have time to do a sketch. After lunch I took a folding chair and sat in the shade of the Empress tree and sketched the pole building. I wanted to try a new piece of kit. I’m using a collapsible measuring cup as a water container. It works great. It’s just the right size for travel and folds flat. You can use a binder clip on the handle to hold it to your work space. I did a bit of modification on the handle. I cut it a bit shorter and I flattened it by softening it with a heat gun and pressing it between two blocks of wood.

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I first took a reference photo with my iPod Touch. I then traced the building in Sketch Club with the pen tool in a separate layer and saved the sketch to the Camera Roll. I referred to the tracing while I sketched the building in my 3.5 X 5.5 inch Moleskine watercolor notebook. It helped me see the angles, proportions, and perspective.

Next I used a small, flat, chiseled brush to wet the sky and lay in a wash of blue. I then dry brushed in the green foreground and light green yellow trees. Then I added brown and brushed in the darks in the trees, windows, and shadows. I added some white back in with a white charcoal pencil around the windows and the white verticles. I used a brown gel pen to define some edges and finally I added some black with my Mars 500 pen with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black.

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Draw the ordinary.

Jim

Oregon Garden Sketch

Oregon Garden Sketch

We all went to the Oregon Garden in Silverton today for Father’s Day and had a nice walk. I stopped in the children’s garden to make this sketch while Jacob and Josh were over looking at the electric train.

Here’s the reference photo I took.

Oregon Garden Photo

Jim