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

Sketchbook Skool “Seeing” Week 1 Notes

I’ve been interested in perception and observation for a long time. The first time I wrote about it was in 1974 when I was teaching several photography classes. My handout on composition included a section on “seeing” where I wrote: “Learn to observe and analyze. See with your mind as well as your eyes. Try to differentiate between “what’s there” and “what you see”. In a scene do you see a tree on a hill? Do you see the branches of the tree? Do you see the leaves or the sun reflecting through the leaves? Do you see the bird sitting in the tree? Do you see the shape the tree makes against the sky? Do you see the cool shade of the tree? Do you see the fruit of the tree? Do you see a place to sit in and relax or do you see a tall foreboding place to fall out of? Do you see summer? Do you see loneliness. Do you see life and oxygen? Wisdom? Old age? Photosynthesis? Roots? It’s all there, but what of whats there is important to you? The same subject will generate many different photographs depending on what the photographer sees”.

Also, about two years ago I did a greenhouse sketch where I took my glasses off to see the major shapes, colors, and values.

Greenhouse Sketch

At the time I wrote: “We tend to believe that everyone sees the world as we do, but I’m beginning to realize that people’s perceptions are different. We have individual physical differences – things like pupilary distance, eyeball size and shape, lens flexbility, number of rods and cones in the retina, etc. – but we have also learned to notice different things. I use the central part of my vision. I look at individual objects and detail. It’s hard for me to take in a whole scene. Luckily I’m extremely nearsighted so when I take my glasses off, I can’t see objects or detail. It makes it easier for me to notice major shapes, values, and colors. Now I need to practice seeing those things with my glasses on. It helps to focus in mid air a foot or two in front of or behind an object. It’s hard (but not impossible) to break old habits of seeing”.

This week I did the two activities and a project of my own. The first activity was to draw a piece of toast.

Toast

This was a good first exercise. It reminded me to look closely and draw the detail as you see it, to take your time, and get in the zone.

The next activity was called “Fast & Slow”. The directions were to first draw a one minute sketch with watercolor and a large brush and then (after it’s dried) to spend an hour drawing in ink on top of the watercolor sketch.

Fast & Slow

I chose the vacuum cleaner because it was close at hand and had a fair amount of detailed complexity. I set a timer for one minute, took my glasses off and painted a very quick sketch with gray watercolor using a #10 round brush on a Bee heavyweight paper 8.5×5.5 spiral bound notebook. I put my glasses back on and spent the next hour drawing with a Platinum Carbon Desk pen and Platinum Carbon Black ink. I was surprised that my quick sketch was actually quite accurate proportionally. I pretty much followed the shapes I created with the watercolor as I drew with the pen.

Fast and Slow GIF

Fast and Slow GIF

My project this week had to do with observation from a single location. I asked myself “What caught my eye”? I was doing tai chi on the back porch taking everything in and my eye kept landing on several objects. Later I took a panorama with my iPod Touch and close-ups of each object.

Caught My Eye

Caught My Eye

Why did I notice these things? My eye is drawn to contrast – the bright fireweed against the dark window and the white roses against the dark leaves. I look at highly saturated colors – the nasturtiums. I also look at objects which are novel. The two bird feeders are new and clouds are always new and interesting. I wonder what else draws my attention?

Today I sketched the six subjects using a variety of media and techniques. I started with the fireweed.

Fireweed

Fireweed

I did this fast and loose with pen and watercolor and made the mistake of trying to fill in the black window after I drew and painted the fireweed.

Next I drew one of the bird feeders. I painted with brown watercolor first and then added ink.

Bird Feeder 1

Bird Feeder 1

This (though a simple drawing) was a little more successful. While it was still wet I turned my notebook over and painted the second bird feeder. Again watercolor first and then ink.

Bird Feeder 2

Bird Feeder 2

I didn’t get the proportions right but I like the strong red shapes.

I did these first three drawings standing. I sat down in the shade and sketched the nasturtiums with Neocolor II watersoluble crayons and a Micron 02 waterproof pen. The technique I used was to first draw with the Neocolor and then blend the color with water on a #6 round brush. After it dried I went back in and added line with the Micron 02 pen.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

At this point I took a lunch break. After lunch I drew the white roses.

White Roses

White Roses

These particular roses were no longer there. So, I sat inside at the kitchen table and painted them from a reference photo on my iPad. I first did a light pencil sketch and then used a Pentel Brush pen to block in the dark background. I slowly layered in watercolor with a Kuretaki Mini waterbrush. I pulled color from the tips of Neocolor II crayons and I also used a little Lucas tube watercolor. I added ink from a Micron 02 pen after the watercolor had dried. I really like this one

Finally, I drew a little sketch of the summer sky using Neocolor II, water on a #6 round brush, and a Pentel Brush pen. Again I drew at the kitchen table and used the photo I took as a reference on my iPad.

Summer Sky

Summer Sky

The more I sketched the more closely I observed and the better I got at representing what I saw.

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

Old Camera Repair

Lately I've been cleaning up and repairing old cameras that I still have from my childhood.

比手掌還要少很多

This is a Minetta. It's a subminiature camera made in Japan in the 1950's. It takes unperforated 16mm film.

(1947) Metropolytan Clix-O-Flex

This is a Clix-O-Flex twin lens reflex made in Chicago in the 40's. It's a half frame 127 camera.

Kodak Brownie Holiday

This Kodak Brownie Holiday was given to me by my aunt Ruth when I was 5 and was my main camera until I bought a 35mm camera in college. It uses 127 film.

Kodak Vest Pocket Model B Hawk Eye

The Vest Pocket Kodak Model B was my Dad's. Made between 1924 and 1935 it too takes 127 film.

All of these cameras use film sizes that are no longer available today. I need to cut down 120 film in the darkroom to make 127 film. Luckily the left over film fits the Minetta. 120 film is 60mm wide. 127 film is 46mm. That leaves 15mm for the Minetta.

All the shutters were gummy with age and didn't work properly. I disassembled and cleaned them with alcohol. I also cleaned all the lenses and viewfinders and dusted off the cameras inside and out. Now all I have to do is cut and spool some film. I've got the backing paper and spools and I've figured out how to cut the film in the dark. I just have to straighten up and clean the darkroom.

I have a Paterson Universal developing tank with adjustable plastic reels that can handle 127 film. I'm not sure how I'll develop the 16mm film. I'll probably have to hand dunk it in an open tank or tray.

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

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.

Ob-La-Di

The last couple of weeks I've been working on and off learning how to create a MIDI backup band for my harmonica. I discovered that there are quite a few .kar files on th internet. These are MIDI files with lyrics that are usually used for singing karaoke. You can turn the lead instrument off and sing along with the band. I downloaded a few tunes including this one.

I'm using Logic Express on my old MacBook as my audio editor and mixing board. I first converted the .kar file to a standard MIDI file using QuickTime 7 Pro. I then imported the MIDI file into Logic. Each instrument comes in as a separate track. I didn't like the sound of the general MIDI piano. So, I changed to the piano sound from my Kruzweil PC88 keyboard. To do this I output the MIDI to my keyboard, plugged the audio outs of the keyboard into the MacBook and recorded the piano as an audio track.

After a lot of research, I figured out how to change the audio inputs for Logic from the Macbook's built-in input to a USB mic so I could then record my harmonica. It was NOT easy or intuitive. Logic does not see a USB mic when it's plugged into the Mac. You can see it in System Preferences, but you can't in Logic. You have to first use the Audio/MIDI Configuration tool in Utilites to create a new device call it USB Mic, assign the input to the USB mic and output to the speakers.Then in Audio Preferences in Logic you can choose the new device.

I also learned how to apply reverb, compression, and other effects to a track in Logic. There are multiple ways to do this. The best way is to use the Send feature to send the output of the track to an auxiliary channel and set the effects in that channel.

The MIDI file I found was in the key of F. My harmonica is a C harmonica. I had to figure out how to transpose the MIDI tracks to the key of C. You would think that you could do this globally with one click, but no, you have to set it for each track.

Finally I figured out how to change the tempo. I wanted to record the harmonica at a reduced tempo and play it back uptempo. You can do this by checking the Follow Tempo check box in the parameters of the track. Logic does a pretty good job of altering the tempo of an audio track as long as you don't try to do too much. I recorded at 40 bpm and upped it to 60.

I practiced and recorded the song using headphones and played along with the other instruments. It's hard. I'm not used to playing with other instruments and sticking to a set tempo. Hopefully I'll get better with practice.

You can use Logic's Bounce feature to output the mix and normalize it. I then used iTunes to change the AIFF file to MP3.