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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Dot Fun

Dot Fun

Dot Fun

Here’s a bit of fun on a rainy day. I used my iPod Touch to take a picture of the “Connect the Dots” puzzle in today’s Uncle Art’s Funland in the Sunday Comics in the newspaper. I placed the photo in Sketch Club and marked the dots in another layer. I drew lines between the dots by the numbers to complete the puzzle. Then I thought it would be fun to use the dots to make other paintings. So, in additional layers I drew alternative versions and colored them in. Same dots, different interpretations. This is a variation of my 10 Point Construction experiment of creating something out of random dots.

Jim

Composition Test

I’m trying out a composition aid on the iPod Touch called Digital ViewCatcher. It uses the iPod’s camera to explore different views and try different formats. It can also show a grayscale version of the photo and a sketch version and allows you to overlay various kinds of grids. I compared it to what I could also do in Sketch Club.

Digital ViewCatcher

Digital ViewCatcher

I like the ease of using Digital ViewCatcher to quickly test out different views and formats. However, the images it saves to the camera roll are too small. Sketch Club can save at higher resolutions and I can overlay rulers and angled guidelines.

Next I put it to the test outside. I sat in a chair in the backyard with my iPod Touch and sketchbook in hand. I took a picture, cropped it and added guidelines and rulers. I drew two 3 inch squares on my sketchbook. I sketched the scene in front of me by eye in the top square. Then, looking at the grayscale/guideline/ruler image on my iPod Touch, I used a six inch clear ruler to measure and draw the guidelines with red erasable ink in the bottom square. After sketching the scene, I thought it could use a figure as a point of interest. I did a screen capture of a recent video I shot of my grandson, cropped it and added the figure. I then sketched the figure into the scene.

Composition Test Process

Composition Test Process

Here’s what my sketches looked like with the red guidelines.

Composition Test with Guidelines

Composition Test with Guidelines

I came inside, scanned the sketches, and then used a hair drier to erase the red ink. (I like to use a Pilot FriXion erasable ink pen). I then added some shading and scanned the sketches again.

Composition Test Process

Composition Test

I was surprised by how different the two sketches are. The composition aid really did help. It’s probably not worth the effort for a simple sketch, but this shows that it would be worthwhile to use this technique on a plein air painting.

Jim

Custom Wallet

Custom Wallet

Custom Wallet

I made myself a new wallet. My old one wore out and I couldn’t find a new one that I liked. I wanted a bifold that was lightweight and stayed closed when I loaded it up with all my stuff.

I discovered plans online for making your own wallet out of Tyvek (the woven plastic material that’s used to wrap buildings and to make protective clothing and shipping envelopes). First I made one using a large manilla envelope. This helped me figure out the folds. It’s a little tricky. I then made another out of the white plastic from the cover of a three ring binder and then I tried one using the clear plastic cover from a vue binder. I liked the clear plastic one. I found I could slip an inkjet copy of a watercolor in the pocket for the cover. This made a cool looking custom wallet. Everyone I showed it to loved it. The other advantage of using clear plastic is that the pocket that holds your driver’s license shows the entire card. After a week of use, I discovered that I needed more pockets for cards and a separator in the billfold area. I made another wallet with a clear plastic cover and license pocket. The rest of the wallet was made of paper. While I was testing this one, I ordered some free Tyvek shipping envelopes from the US Postal Service. Those arrived a week later and I made my current model which you see above. I used the clear plastic from a 12×12 inch memory scrapbook refill page I had on hand and the white Tyvek from a free envelope. Total cost almost nothing.

Here is a plan with dimensions in inches. Notice the scale is 3/8 = 1 inch. I should also mention that I taped down all the tabs with clear shipping tape.

Wallet Plan

Wallet Plan

I’ve been using this one now for a couple of weeks and it works and looks great. It has an outside pocket that runs the entire length of the wallet. It’s easy to slip in a 2 5/8 x 8 1/4 inch print to make a custom cover. I can also store some business cards in the same pocket behind the cover. Inside there are clear pockets on either side for identification cards or photos. These slip in from the center and each pocket has a curved opening to facilitate card removal. Behind each ID pocket there is a top loading pocket that can hold medical cards and credit cards. There are also two center loading pockets at the back. So, all told there are six pockets. The billfold is divided into two areas by a separator to keep your bills organized.

I really like this design – both looks and practicality. The Tyvek is very light and strong. It is flexible and slightly slippery which makes it easy to remove cards and put them back in. Of course the clear plastic cover is completely waterproof and should hold up well with wear.

Jim

10 Point Construction

I woke up with a question. “Can I create a painting starting with randomly placed dots?” I then laid there thinking through the mathematics. “For any number of points, n, how many lines can you draw between them?” It turns out to be a simple progression. 1+2+3+4…(n-1). I also realized that you can draw an infinite number of curves through any two points. There are a lot of possibilities with just a few dots. I decided to try 10 dots. You can draw 45 lines through ten dots. So, that gives you a lot of choices.

I used the Sketch Club app on my iPad to try out the idea.

10 Point Construction Process

10 Point Construction Process

  1. I first made 10 random dots in one layer.
  2. In another layer I drew 7 lines through pairs of dots. Notice I used just a subset of the 45 possible lines and I didn’t use all the dots.
  3. I hid the lines and drew 5 curves in another layer. This time I used all 10 dots.
  4. I showed both the lines and the curves.
  5. I filled the areas between the lines and curves with six colors.
  6. I colored the lines and curves black.
  7. I turned the canvas 90 degrees counter clockwise.
  8. I used the Waterlogue app to add texture.
  9. I used the Distressed FX app to alter the contrast and color balance and to add a little more texture.

Here’s the finished first experiment.

10 Point Construction #1

10 Point Construction #1

Next I used the same 10 random dots in another application. Inkpad uses vector graphics. It’s easier to create lines and smooth curves. I then used Sketch Club to fill in with color.

10 Point Construction #2

10 Point Construction #2

The next day I tried some additional variations. I added a texture, I varied the colors, and I tried the kaleidoscope filter.

10 Point Construction Variations

10 Point Construction Variations

Conclusions: I found this to be a good creative exercise. It’s an expansion of “doodling and noodling” where you start with something random and then make something out of it. All media evolve from a series of creative choices that take you in directions that you didn’t know existed when you started. It’s important to practice exploring without fear. Digital media allow you to explore a variety of choices. This process of building on randomness is one that can be generalized and used in other media. Any creative work is a combination of chance and choices. We need to embrace chaos, trust our judgements, try many variations, rest, review our work, and (if necessary) try again with renewed vigor.

Maples, Rhododendrons, and Firs

Maples, Rhododendrons, and Firs

Sketched this looking out the kitchen window after breakfast. Overcast, light wind, threatening rain. iPad 3, Procreate and Photogene apps.

Here’s a photo of what I saw. I took this after doing the sketch.

Procreate also makes a movie of the strokes used in making the painting.

 

Acrylic Tree

Experimenting with lots of new stuff, a new space, a new easel, new palette, new paints, and new technique. I cleaned up the den and rearranged things so I could set up a more or less perminent painting space. I modified a camera tripod to use as an easel. I'm trying a new Masterson's Sta-Wet plastic palette box which I'm using with Golden Fluid acrylic paints, and I'm both mixing colors and painting with a metal palette knife. I placed my iPad just to the right of the easel to use as a photo reference. The photo I'm using is one I took in the Oregon Garden a few weeks ago.

I haven't painted with acrylics for over 40 years. So, I'm re-learning how they mix and dry. I'm working small, 5 x 7 inches (13 x 17.3 cm), so I can work fast and have the paint stay wet.

I started by projecting the image onto the paper with my 3M Streaming projector and tracing the image with a pencil. I then applied Scotch- Blue Painter's tape for delicate surfaces to mask the edges of the painting. The paper I'm using is an Aches Hot Pressed 140 lb. Watercolor Block. I mounted the block on my homemade canvas/panel holder which is made out of 1/8 inch plywood. It has two wooden dowels that hold the panel at the top and a sliding block with a thumb screw at the bottom. It's my own design. The palette and water containers are clipped to another piece of 1/8 inch plywood. This shelf is clipped to the central stays of the tripod.

I cut a piece of Glad Press'n Seal sealing wrap to line the bottom of the palette. I sticks nicely to the bottom and is a lot cheaper to use than the special papers that come with the Masterson palette and cleanup is a breeze.

I bought a sample pack of the Golden Fluid acrylics. I comes with 10 colors in 1 fl. oz. (30 ml) squeeze bottles. The colors I used were: Hansa Yellow Medium, Pyrrole Red, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Green, Burnt Sienna, and Titanium White.

I like my new set-up. It's very comfortable and easy to move around. The tripod easel panel holder combination is stable. The mixing palette is a good size. The blue masking tape comes off easily and cleanly. The iPad works well for photo reference. I plugged it in and set the AutoLock to Never.

Pencil sketching a projected image speeds things up considerably. I only used it to place the basic shapes on the page. As I painted I looked at the iPad and as you can see I wasn't a slave to the reference photo. I simplified the values, colors, and details.

The hot pressed paper and fluid acrylic is a nice combination. You can make very interesting marks and mixes with the palette knife. If you zoom in, you can see how the wet paint blends with each stroke of the palette knife. I love it when a medium gives you a gift like that.

All in all I'd say my first experiment with acrylics was a success.

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.

 

Touch Studies

I'm always looking for ways to explore a subject before I paint it. I like to walk around and look at different angles and distances and consider various compositions, value and color schemes. It takes me a while to warm up. My second or third sketch is usually better than the first.

I'm experimenting with using the iPod Touch for these preliminary studies. I'm looking for a method that's fast and easy and flexible and convenient but above all helpful. Here's my first try.

This was done with ArtRage. I took a tracing picture and used the picture's colors to do this quick value and color sketch. I added in some color and detail in the deep shadows that the eye can see but the camera cannot. This worked pretty well and is fast.

Next I wanted to try starting with a HDR (high dynamic range) photo to see if I could capture detail in both the shadow and highlight. This could potentially save me time painting in areas that the eye can see but that the camera usually misses. This next image started with a picture taken with Pro HDR.

I can also drop out the color to see the values.

I wanted to try Artists Touch and compare it to ArtRage.

ArtistsTouch is faster, but I prefer ArtRage. Artists Touch doesn't give me the information I need. It just ends up looking like a blurry photo. With ArtRage it feels like I'm actually laying down paint with my finger. It works to warm up my hand eye coordination and creates a kind of muscle memory.

So, here's the method I plan to use the next time I paint on location.

  1. Walk around and explore various possibilities with the iPod Touch's camera.
  2. Pick a position and take a picture with Pro HDR.
  3. Use ArtRage to sketch a quick color study and Photogene to drop out the color and check the values.
  4. Use a Pilot Frixion erasable pen to block in the major shapes and perspective lines. These marks can be erased later with a hair dryer. Refer to the studies and photos to get the composition, proportions, and perspective right, and people and other things that may move or change over time.
  5. Draw with waterproof ink and then lay in the color or apply color first and then add ink drawing as needed.

Jim

“Failing to prepare is preparing for failure”.

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

 

Nampa Idaho

Nampa Idaho

We drove all day yesterday to get here. We are visiting Kris’s brother and his wife. I sketched this sitting on their back porch. Time 2 pm, temp. 86 degrees.

Done on my iPad in Sketch Club. I had to look hard to see the colors in the far hills. I think I got it.

Jim

Porch Impressions

Porch Impressions Composite

I’m continuing to experiment with using the iPod Touch to do location warm-up and value sketches. I sat in the hammock looking at the back porch and did two quick sketches. I did the first one in Sketch Club. It’s the little vertical one. Next I used Brushes to make a horizontal sketch. In both I used a very soft, large brush. I started with black and sketched in the darkest areas. I then worked with midtone gray, light gray, and white. I added color in a second layer.

The first sketch helped me in the second sketch. It improved my visual memory. I didn’t have to look up as often. I already knew the basic placement of forms and angles, values and colors.

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Sketching helps me remember what I see which is different than what a camera sees. Our eyes move from object to object. We piece together information to form an understanding of what’s in front of us. Sizes, values, colors, relationships are interpreted rather than recorded. We see a greater range of values and colors than a camera can record. Notice how dark and lifeless the original photo is. I had to enhance the color and contrast with Photogene to get it close to what I saw. Also notice that I had to zoom in and crop out a bunch of stuff.

Next time I want to try sketching in a square. That will allow me to experiment with cropping versions to different formats.

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