The cat as a monoprint

The cat has made his appearance in my printing experiments. He’s a good subject: solid, with lots of textural qualities to explore in printmaking. And he spends an inordinate amount of time sitting on my desk on top of any artwork that might be on it.

I painted him onto my gelli plate and did a couple of pulls off it.

Then I added varying amounts of line work on both pieces, with the first pull, Cat1, having more definition and the second pull or ghost, Cat2, being more loosely done.

Here they are, the two cats. What’s hard to see here is how thick and textural the paint is on the prints. I love that bit of the process.

Cat1. Acrylic Monoprint with added ink and crayon
Cat2. Acrylic Monoprint with added ink and crayon

Posted in Animals, california, experiments, printmaking, printmaking | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A Market in India

I worked on this commissioned piece a couple of weeks ago, and really enjoyed it. I love painting markets and this market in Colaba in Mumbai took me right back to a place I miss.

Here is a little bit of my process (from when I remembered to take shots as I worked through this).

I started this one with a series of little thumbnails and then a rough drawing. More notes to myself than anything. Because this was a complex piece, not based on a single image, and I wanted to make pull together thoughts on layout as well as things I wanted to include in my final piece.

When I draw on location, I don’t always use a pencil to start with. If I do, it is only to roughly indicate perspective. Here, I marked out a lot more in pencil. Then I inked it in. I still keep my pencil lines loose so it doesn’t feel like I’m just copying them over in ink: That sort of re-drawing seems to make my drawings go lifeless.

The first bit of color on the piece is always exciting. I like working things wet-in-wet, with passages of color changing as they go along, but being continuous.

I took this shot at a point at which I paused in the piece. You can see there are no big passages of color in how I build this piece. In painting a landscape or any piece in which I feel there is a big dominant swatch of color, I might put that down first but in busy crowded places, I like working like this: creating little passages of color, recording the patchwork like quality and chaos of it, yet holding in the back of my mind the fact that they need, ultimately, to come together.

And here is the finished piece.

One of my favorite parts of creating this piece is that I could pull ideas and objects I wanted into it. Little things that made me happy, that you might not notice, like adding an Atlas cycle to the scene, hinting at the names of the stores (spot Mahavir and Jay Bharat?), deciding what fruit and vegetables to add to the market.( I resisted the urge to add mango, because when the mangoes arrive, everything else takes a back seat!), and lots more stuff that you cannot even clearly “read” in the image.

And to make it really immersive, I found a video with street sounds in India and played it while I worked on this.

Here is a little video tour of the piece with the soundtrack that played while I worked.

One day soon, I hope to be back sketching in my happy place in person. But until then, I’m enjoying hanging on to and recreating the memories.

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Day 5: One Week 100 People 2021

Wrapping up day 5 early since I plan to be away for the day sketching spring flowers today.

Only a few more sketches added. When I sketch relatively leisurely, or sketch people that are more stationary, like these people at a cafe, or my kids at home, I often loosely in color and then add just a little bit of line to pull it together. That’s how I sketched today’s set.

Here is my tally at the end of day 5.

And here is a video of the accordion book I worked in. It’s not all filled up yet, so I might just keep going until I finish it.

So what did I learn this year?

• Most importantly, I got back into the groove of sketching people on location, catching them quickly, in action. That’s something I haven’t done enough of all year long! Besides the rustiness aspect of taking a long break, I had to get reacquainted with standing around in public withy my drawing supplies, being okay with posting lots of sketches that don’t work out or get abandoned halfway because my subject is gone.

• I learnt that there are a lot of people out and about, and you can sketch them from a safe distance. With warmer weather on the way, I plan to do more of it. In California, we’re good in general with keeping our masks on and staying 6 feet apart. People complying with those guidelines made me feel safe while I sketched.

• I was relieved to find I could still work quickly and didn’t have to set aside a lot of time everyday to work on this challenge. The sketching bit took about a half hour to 45 minutes a day and blogging took another 20 minutes. At about an hour a day, a challenge is doable for a week and doesn’t upset my regular schedule, it just moves things around a bit.

I hope you found the daily posts useful. If you did the challenge (or even just followed along), I’d love to hear about how it was for you, what you tried, and what you learnt from it.

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Day 4: One Week 100 People 2021

An easy day at sketching people today. Ben arrived this morning. He comes every other week to trim the lawn and do a general cleanup. He’s quick and efficient, and used to me standing in the window and sketching him. (I like sketching standing up close but leaf blowers, edge trimmers and lawnmowers are all LOUD!)

I add most of the notes as I go along, but color soon after. The color here is more to explain and highlight stuff. The orange stuff is equipment, the rest of this piece is in neutrals.

That was going to be all my people sketching for the day. I had just one errand planned but that was a curbside pickup, not really a people-sketching opportunity. Turns out, it was not as simple as that. (Short version: the shoes didn’t fit. We had to step inside to return our curbside pickup. The child got shoes that fit, then remembered he needed baseball pants too.. it all took time.)Ah well, I got some additional sketches in. You’ll need to click this image to see it larger.

Practicing people sketching is necessary. But in the end I’m really interested in it as a storytelling device, to tell people-centric stories, even little mundane ones like this one.

Here’s my little counter for day 4, with an extra 24 people added for the day.

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Day 3: One Week 100 People 2021

Day 3. Easy day at the park. You’ll be surprised by how many kids are on the play structures and how many dogs and their people are out for a walk just about anytime the sun is out.

Here are all the sketches from this session. It was a nice relaxed one compared to my grocery run yesterday. Adding color is easy when you’re hanging around in the park, sitting on the grass with your supplies all around you.

On many of these I use a wax crayon to find those first lines of motion that captures gesture quickly.

When you draw like this in gestures, it’s really quick so getting to 100 people hasn’t been hard. All done with one hundred, but I’ll do some more over the next couple of days.

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Day 2: One Week 100 People 2021

Day 1 was so much fun, I decided to do a repeat. Except todays errand is a grocery run, which is a little more intense than a leisurely stroll around the garden store picking a few plants.

I knew I didn’t want to be in the store too long, so I actually started by picking up a coffee at the Starbucks next door and sitting in my car in the parking lot and doing some sketching before going in. Again, I’m keeping it simple, working in that same accordion fold book.

I did all my sketches in just ink and added “remembered color” as soon as I came home. I use color loosely when I use it like this. Getting too detailed would look jarring with the super loose sketches. The color helps clarify some of the actions and bits of the people that get lost in the jumble of lines in gesture sketches.

Here are some photos for context of how I’m doing this and how the sketches look before they are colored.

And here are all the sketches.

Starbucks, followed by parking lot sketches
Still in the parking lot, watching people load up their cars
Finally stepped in. You can’t go anywhere without seeing atleast one iconic “Santa Cruz” sweatshirt.

That should have been all the sketches for the day, except, just as my groceries were on the little conveyor belt ready to be scanned, the computer system went down. My sketchbook was back in my bag, but my grocery list is always on paper, so I did this relatively 6 or 7 minute sketch from my fantastic vantage point while they fired the system up again.

My groceries waiting to be scanned… and the computer system goes down.

Here’s my little counter for the day, with my people sketched on day 2 added in. Not a bad haul so far.

Have you sketched any people yet? If not, jump on and give it a shot. Try for a hundred. Or fifty. Or ten.

Posted in challenge, Everyday Sketches, people | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 1: One Week 100 People 2021

I had a repository of ideas for how I would tackle the challenge this year given that drawing in public places isn’t as easy as it used to be. And then I had this niggling thought: Was I finding alternative ways to draw (the challenge doesn’t demand the sketches be in person, but I love drawing that way) because I was too rusty to draw on the go? To just carry a sketchbook around, not care what the sketches looked like and draw while I went about my day?

So day 1 turned into a “lets see if I can still do this” kinda day. I figured it was time to plant tomatoes in the garden (it’s been 70ish degrees int he daytime for a while now) so I took my minimal toolkit to the local garden store: an accordion fold sketchbook, a fountain pen and a rainbow color pencil.

These are all basically continuous line drawings, done as I move down the aisles with my cart, stopping to pick vegetables and herbs for the summer garden.

Quick sketches like this don’t take more than a minute each. They’re not perfectly proportioned nor anatomically correct, but if you can keep your eyes on your subject and your hand moving, you will capture the spirit of the person and a sense of motion.

A little over half hour later, I had a cart full of plants and 23 little studies in my sketchbook.

Most of all, I was relieved that though I felt a little rusty at this, it comes back quick. And though its only a half hour, it is an intense half hour! So maybe I’ll do more of these quick, gestural, on-the-go sketches over the week. I do need to do a grocery run tomorrow…

Here’s my little counter for the day, with today’s people count crossed out 🙂

If you haven’t jumped on to this challenge yet because you don’t think you have the time for it, maybe gesture drawing is the answer? Quick. Imperfect. Lots of fun.

Posted in challenge, Everyday Sketches, people | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

A Day in Santa Cruz

Two weeks ago, I spent a whole day on the coast near Santa Cruz sketching with friends.

When I haven’t been out drawing for a long time, I feel rusty. Not so much with my hands, because I’ve been drawing at home. But with seeing. With finding within everything before me the sketch I want to capture on my page. And my only way past that feeling is to sketch, knowing that it will take time to see clearly.

We started our day at Natural Bridges Beach in Santa Cruz, and I didn’t try to find an unusual angle or anything out of the ordinary to start my day. I sketched this classic view of that lone standing arch. I’ve drawn this a few times, over the years. It was an easy way to slip into the day.

Then I turned to face away from the ocean and drew this grove of eucalyptus trees that hosts Monarch butterflies when they migrate through here.

We moved on to Wilder Ranch State Park after that and I sketched this abandoned machine not knowing what it was. Turns out it’s a manure spreader.

Since I had most of my lunch earlier in the day, I could squeeze in a quick sketch of Cathy and Laurie while they had their lunch. Sketched in two inks with a good amount of finger smudging involved.

I didn’t sketch these two, but here are Vivian and Uma. On the right, is Uma working plein air on fullsheet paintings!

I thought I’d draw some of the old farm structures that were around, so I started with this one.

But what really caught my eye were the shimmering color in the trees, and I tried capturing them in the next couple of pieces. I wish I had green gold in my palette that day. It’s the color of early spring and it was everywhere….

I was tired at this point, but also warmed up. And I was glad Uma was up for one more piece before we drove back home. We headed back to that eucalyptus grove I sketched in the morning and caught the warm light of the late afternoon.

I have such a great set of friends They are easy-going and fun to be with, always inspiring, and ready for a challenge. Seeing how each person captures the spirit of the place so uniquely and tries new things always pushes me to take my work a little bit further than I would on my own. And that is such a gift.

Here are the links to instagram feeds for Uma, Vivian, Cathy and Laurie.

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Life drawing and Monoprints

A couple of new monoprints, inspired by lifedrawing sessions.

I’m enjoying the tactile surfaces this process creates and for a printmaking process, it is pretty immediate.

Here are some shots from the process.
Top Left: my references, a charcoal drawing and a watercolor sketch
Top Right: acrylics painted directly on gelli plate
Bottom Left: the first pull off the plate
Bottom Right: Second pull, from sprtizing the plate with water and drawing on it again with watersoluble crayons.

And finally, a little bit of drawing on it to pull it together.

I like that monoprinting is bit of an oxymoron: the point of printing is to produce multiple copies, but with this process you can never make 2 identical prints.

Here’s the inspiration for another print. This sketch of Emily Metalskin from a lifedrawing session.

Here’s the print it inspired. It’s all about the red shoes !

Next up, I think I will be figuring what I want to do with this drawing.

I am still really enjoying playing with this process in a no-instruction, do-what-I-feel-like way. I love that I never know what will pull off the plate when I lay a paper down on it.

Posted in experiments, people, Portrait | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Quick Capture People Sketching

I thought I’d share a sped-up version of a demo I recorded recently.

One of the most common questions I get asked is: Do you do line first or color/shape first? And the short answer to that one is “I go either way”.

But the longer answer is that for quick, gestural drawings with lots of action and movement, I usually work line-first. Just because I am quickest at capturing gesture with a line-making tool.

But there are times I will go the other way. Here are some of them:
– When capturing people in the distance in a scene. Using a hard outline in the background of a sketch can flatten the illusion of space. I’ll sometimes work directly in shape with no line on figures in the distance, just suggesting their form and action.
– With more stationary poses: with someone standing or sitting, I might use shape drawing first. I enjoy the dance of shape and line together and going shape-first lets me go light on the line, leaving some of the figure “open”, without the hard edge of a line: not quite a “lost edge” but close….

Here is a one-minute video of a 3-minute sketch.
(Click on this link to see it if the video doesn’t play)

If you’re wondering how you will do 20 sketches a day during the #OneWeek100People challenge, this might be something you want to try. In full color, this takes about 3 minutes a sketch. But if you went smaller, dropped the color, or worked just in monochrome then you could shorten the time a good bit and 20 people sketches a day might not be that hard to achieve…

I filmed this little clip as one of many new demos I’m adding to the rerun of my zoom-based workshop, People Alive: Sketches Full of Life, a 4-week, people-drawing workshop starting at the end of this month that I announced just a couple of days ago. There are still a few seats left, so if you’re interested, head over here to read more or register for it:

Posted in people, Workshop | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments