Art

Here’s my latest art – both traditional and digital.

Dory Boat

Dory boats are small, flat bottomed fishing boats designed to launch and land from the beach at Pacific City on the Oregon coast. Haystack Rock is a mile off the beach and is the tallest of several large rock monoliths along the Oregon coast. This is the second small 8×8 … Continue reading

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Minto Island Poppies

Click the picture to see a larger version. The local group of artists that I belong to (Artists in Action) will be holding a sale at the end of June (at the World Beat Festival in Salem) to raise money for the group. This year members are painting 8×8 inch … Continue reading

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Poppies and Lupin

I’m testing Faber-Castell Gel Sticks. These watercolors in gel form are meant for kids. They are like a twistable crayon and come in a set of 12 colors. I thought I would try them out on a flower sketch.

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She Wolf Portrait

The last two days I’ve experimented with new art supplies. I bought a new Kuretake watercolor palette. It took a month to get here from Japan. So, I was anxious to try out the colors. I decided to use a portrait reference from the Julia Kay Portrait Party group on … Continue reading

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Four Flowers

I did these small flower studies all on the same piece of paper. The first thing I did was adhere the paper to a piece of 2mm Sintra PVC panel with some brushed on acrylic soft gel medium. I let that dry for about an hour under some heavy books. … Continue reading

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On the Willamette

I did this small study today to test out how watersoluble markers work on a smooth gessoed panel. It’s like working with a limited selection of watercolors. Also I discovered that ink just sits on top of the gesso. It does not stick or sink into it. So, if you … Continue reading

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Daffodils in the Woods

I’m looking for a way to do plein air paintings without carrying brushes or water or wet media. I did this small study to see how tempera paint sticks and brush markers handle on canvas panel. I laid in the major areas of color with the paint sticks first and … Continue reading

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Camellia Bush

  This bush is in our backyard. It’s in full bloom. I’ve been glancing at it throughout the day thinking about how I’d approach sketching it with paint sticks dabbing on the pure color. Finally, before dinner I found the time to sit down and try out my plan. Fabriano … Continue reading

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Donnottar Castle Scotland

Sketching from Google Street View. Testing tempra paint sticks on smooth paper with water. Strathmore Mixed Media 400 Series 9×12 inch (22.9×30.5 cm) paper, pencil, Mod Tempra Paint sticks, Arteza flat waterbrush, ArtGraf Viarco 6B water-soluble pencil, Kuretake #13 brush fountain pen with Platinum Carbon Black ink, and Molotow 2mm … Continue reading

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Freehand vs Traced Underdrawing

Today I did two small sketches (3.5×6 inches each) of the same photo reference to compare sketching freehand and sketching using a traced underdrawing. I did the freehand sketch first.

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Slide Miniatures

The other day I found a box of cardboard heat-seal 35mm slide mounts and an old custom built slide mounting press. I wondered if it still worked and if so, how I might put it to good use. It occurred to me that I could do miniature paintings and frame … Continue reading

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Willamette River

Winter in the Willamette Valley has its own stark beauty – cold and gray. I thought charcoal would be the best medium to express this scene interpreted from a personal photo.

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Yachats Trees Block Print

This is a seven color hand-pulled print 6×6 inches (15.2×15.2 cm). There are 10 prints in this edition. Some projects take a long time to complete. I worked on the first six colors over the course of several weeks last Spring. Then the project sat on the shelf for six months until I … Continue reading

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Sun Over Mountain

This little print (4×6 inches, 10×15 cm) is the culmination of two weeks research and planning and gathering of materials and tools. It is my first attempt at printing in color. It uses six plates to print six colors.

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Nikki – Linocut

When I first moved to Oregon and lived out in the country, I got a puppy to keep me company. I called her Nikki (wild dog of the north). She was a Collie / Husky mix – a very smart, sweet dog. I used this photo of her as a … Continue reading

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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

People Practice

People Practice

People Practice

I’m aware of two kinds of practice from other disciplines – sports and music. The first develops basic skills like shooting free throws or playing scales. Practicing drawing straight lines, basic shapes, and hatching comes under this first category of practice. The other type develops dexterity which is the ability to perform well under varying conditions. Typically this kind of practice involves repetition without repetition like shooting baskets from different points of the court or playing the same passage of music at different speeds or dynamics. These people sketches are my first attempt to develop dexterity in drawing. I used the slideshow feature in the FlickStackr app on my iPad to display Creative Commons pictures of people for 20 seconds each. I drew with my Sailor calligraphy pen on a Strathmore 9×12 inch Bristol Vellum pad of paper set up next to my iPad. When the next pictured displayed, I stopped wherever I was and moved over on the pad to begin the next drawing. Each drawing was a modified contour drawing. I looked mostly at the iPad, but occasionally I peaked at the drawing to reposition my pen. After five minutes I stopped and assessed my work. I then turned the piece of paper over and did five one minute sketches. I was surprised to find that spending three times the time did not produce three times better drawings. I figure I can do this ten minute exercise every day. We’ll see what happens in a week.

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

Kayak on Wirth Lake

Kayak on Wirth Lake

Kayak on Wirth Lake

It has been a long time since I painted with oils on canvas. I did this small study (6×6 inches, 15×15 cm) to remind myself of the process. I’m using Holbein water soluble oils. I first did an underpainting in blue and pink.

Kayak Painting Set-up

Kayak Painting Set-up

I let that dry for three days. I painted the rest in one go (alla prima wet-on-wet). I used a small palette knife, a #2 flat bristle brush, a #8 round brush, and a #4 round brush. Sometimes I thinned the paint with water, but mostly I used it straight from the tube.

I took the photo reference with my cellphone. I didn’t want to risk taking my good camera out on the kayak.

Kayak Photo

Kayak Photo

Notice I cut and pasted a better photo of my wife’s kayak into the reference.

Now that I’ve got my kit and process down, it’s time to take it on location.

Jim

Backyard Acrylic Painting

Backyard Acrylic Painting

Backyard Acrylic Painting

This is my first paint sketch done on my new paint box. I spent the last week designing and building a small paint box using a $15 aluminum box (11.5 x 7.5 x 4.5 inch) from Harbor Freight. I added a tripod mount to the bottom and a wet canvas panel holder to the inside of the lid. I also designed a folding easel and shelf system and made it out of 1/8 inch plywood which I sealed with polyurethane.

The box holds the folding easel and shelf, two 6 x 8 inch canvas panels, 10 small bottles of acrylic paint, 5 brushes, 2 palette knives, two small water containers/brush cleaners, three paper towels, and several bulldog clips. I can use the box on my lap or on a tripod. It takes less than 5 minutes to set up or put away. Here’s what it looked like in use on my lap.

Paint Box Setup

Paint Box Setup

I set up in our backyard for this first painting just to test out the system. I put Glad Press and Seal plastic wrap on the shelf and used it as a palette. Everything worked according to plan. Next time I’ll try it on the tripod.

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

Drawing with a Match

Drawing with a Match

Drawing with a Match

Here’s a fun experiment. See how much you can draw with the charcoal from one burned wooden match. Draw with the match itself and use your finger to blend.

Here was my setup:

One match drawing setup

One match drawing setup

I found I could draw one or two small objects before I ran out of charcoal.

Jim

New Lap Board Setup

Saturday I simplified my watercolor lap board setup. Previously I had a water container holder made out of card stock and I used a bulldog clip to attach my Altoids palette to the board. I also used the handles of the clips to hold my brush and pencil.

New lap board setup

New lap board setup

I modified the board by drilling three holes – one to hold the water container, one for the brush and one for the pencil. I also taped a business card sized magnetic sheet to the board to hold the Altoids palette.

This is a much simpler solution. There is less to carry and it takes less time to setup and put away.

Jim

Developmental Stages of Art

Five years ago I started drawing and painting on my iPod Touch. At that time I wrote an essay about the stages I went through using this new medium. I recently revisited that essay and discovered that it still rings true. Here it is.

Note: All the illustrations were done on my iPod Touch over the span of one year (from March 2009 to May 2010). Click each one to see a larger version in my Flickr photostream.

Developmental Stages of Art

By Jim Blodget
June 10, 2009

I’m learning a lot about drawing and painting. I’m discovering that there are developmental steps that one goes through when learning a new medium. It takes time and lots of experimentation. I haven’t figured out all the stages yet, but some of them are:

1) Fun. You start by playing – making marks on the page just to see what happens. Everything you create at this stage is exciting.

Landscape

2) Technique. Your interest is focused on “How do I get this stuff to work”? There’s a lot of frustration at this stage. I think most people quit at this stage or settle in to using a few “tricks” that work for them. It helps to study the work of others and try to duplicate their techniques. Eventually you discover ways to get the medium to do what you want, but it’s a struggle.

Cape Meares Light

3) Possibilities. Everywhere you look you see paintings. Now that you know the basics of how the medium works you can see how to represent the world in this medium. This gives you a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world. You have so many ideas you can’t do them all. This stage is very exciting.

Texture Study 2 - Clouds

4) Construction. You realize that art requires planning. You focus on composition and learning ways to lay the image out and build it up.

Infinite iPod

5) Exploration. You test the limits of the medium to see how far it can go. Along the way you discover new techniques that allow you to do things that you couldn’t easily do before.

Ankeny Boardwalk

6) Subject. You realize that painting takes time and effort and decide that you want to spend your time learning about and working on subjects that matter to you. You think about the people, places, and things that matter in your life or that interest you to the point that you want to explore them further through the analysis and discovery that is painting.

At the Water Park

7) Mood. You move beyond wanting to capture the physicality of your subject to wanting to convey how you feel about the subject.

Kristine

8) Imagination. You become interested in using art to convey ideas or to construct things that never existed before.

The Orchard

9) Approval. You go through a stage of wanting to gain approval or recognition from people you respect. You are tempted to alter your work (choose subjects or use techniques that you know others will like).

California Gold

10) Voice. You go your own way. You depart from the norm and discover new territory. You tell your own stories in ways that only make sense to you.

Two Forever

As with other forms of development, it’s complicated, messy stuff. Not so much stages or steps, but pools of experience. Creativity requires both analysis and passion.

I realized recently that the first and last pools (Fun and Voice) produce similar kinds of work. It took a long time to cycle back around to the place where I started, doing what I want, just for fun.

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

Viewfinder Sketch

Viewfinder Sketch Setup

Viewfinder Sketch Setup

I’m a photographer. I like to use a viewfinder to frame and compose a picture. Today I tried using a viewfinder made out of a 3×5 card clipped to my Moleskine pocket notebook. I first drew a frame the same size as the viewfinder and added guide marks on the edges using red erasable ink. I then sighted through the viewfinder and sketched the major shapes again using the red erasable ink. Then I used black ink to finish drawing and shading the trees. Later I erased the red guide lines with a hair dryer, and scanned the image.

Viewfinder Sketch

Viewfinder Sketch

This worked reasonably well. Next I want to tape the viewfinder so it hinges out to the side from inside the front cover.

Jim