Two simple little drawings. The first one, the view from my front steps. The next one, a pair of shoes. In both, I’m drawing stuff I’d usually look past as too mundane or too simple, and I’m attempting to bring a sense of energy and interest through texture, all created with a single tool.
This is the Duke 551 Confucius Fountain Pen. I love the line it makes but it is SO heavy, it hurts my hand after a while. Also, if you take it out into the field and sketch a lot, you know you run out of a reservoir of ink pretty quickly. But it works well for a quick sketch from my front steps. To make it juicier, I use it as a dip pen. (See the bottle of ink in the corner of the photo?)
This sketch is with a single colored pencil, inspired by a sketch from Van Gogh’s sketchbook.
Things are slowly opening up but I am sketching a lot more at home and nearby and expect to continue to in the near future. And to keep it interesting and inspiring, I lean a lot on taking an idea or technique and applying it to familiar objects and scenes.
What has kept you inspired and making art through the pandemic? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t? I’d love to hear from you.
Today is the first day in a while that the sun doesn’t look like a burning red dot in an apocalyptic sky. Northern California has been burning all week and it’s not over yet. So many displaced, so much lost. This was our sky most of the week, as seen from my backyard. And we aren’t even near the evacuation zone.
Twice, I picked up simple tools to try and capture what was around me.
These hills are normally a brilliant straw yellow and the trees the darkest inkiest green. But today smoke from two big fires to the east and southwest of us rolls back in as more and more people I know evacuate.
Covid. A heatwave. Rolling blackouts and now these fires. Thinking of everyone that’s lost homes or evacuated suddenly. Stay safe. Take care.
If you live in California, you know we have a new season, one that never loomed over us like this every year: the season we burn. Climate Change is real. That is just science and the sooner we can agree on the overwhelming evidence, the sooner we will do something about it. Before it is too late.
A few weeks ago I did some very quick thumbnails while watching the series Avatar: The Last Airbenderwith my kids. But sketching that quickly while we watch a movie doesn’t let me really study compositions that catch my eye. So I watched some of it again, by myself, this time pausing a few minutes to sketch a still.
Here is what I captured in my sketchbook.
The notes on the bottom are my observations on compositional techniques the film uses over and over again: strong diagonals , dramatic one-point perspective, low point-of-view angles, high contrast for focus, and lots more.
This study was inspired by a talk by Eleanor Doughty, whose wonderful work is often inspired by anime. I’ll be doing more studies, not all of anime films. Next on my list is a movie I’ve been meaning to rewatch for a few years now. Seven Samurai.
I’ve been tucking a little Field Notes book and any pen or pencil I find into my pocket even when this only place I’m going is the next room. It makes it easy to do a really quick sketch anytime. Here are some recent pages.
I love using and highlighting texture in my work, so in preparation for next week’s Sketching Play/Lab session that I run with Paul Wang, I’ve been doing some texture-focussed work. I’m tearing up magazines and making little texture-cards for inspiration. It’s really addictive and once you start seeing pattern and texture, you see it everywhere.
This sketch of a rooster among the nasturtium is a small study I did for a larger piece I’ll be painting sometime soon.
You can read more about Sketching Play/Lab here and maybe we’ll see you in a play session soon.
I think these are aspen. I love the white trunks and painted in little patches of texture and color all around to highlight them.
And this unnamed tree is on the sidewalk in front of my house. Here I started with a green base for the whole image and then carved out the scene in watercolor, ink and gouache, letting the overall summer-green feel of the scene come through.
I’m trying to mark the days with sketches of the kids since our days and weeks and months are all beginning to blur. The kids are still lounging around this week. Next week, a new school year begins.
The kids will still be home. But they will be in online classrooms all day. I suspect there will be less couch-lounging. I know this is a complicated situation and the school and teachers are really trying their best. Still, lots of trepidation on my part about so many hours of online school. Wishing all educators and students in this big experiment luck as we roll into fall.
A few more sketches from Mendocino. I started this first sketch at the beach at Russian Gulch State Park. But we didn’t stay long, so I only got as far as adding a bit of color and added the dark tones (in bottom image) a little later.
This panorama along the cliffs just begged for a long sketch across a double spread of my book.
In both these pieces, I’m working with two pens, both Sailor fude pens, one with black ink and one with a lighter, brown-grey ink (a mix of a few leftover inks, all DeAtramentis Document Ink samples). The two inks together let me create depth and focus in the linework.
I spent a couple of days in a cottage near Mendocino, California, surrounded by tall redwood trees. Here are a few takes on those trees, captured in different moods.
In the warm light of late afternoon, dappled light hits the trunk of the tree, bringing out its rich, warm color.
This next piece is painted thinking of the scene before me as layers of shape and color that fit together. This lets me keep my piece abstract and just celebrate it as a tapestry of texture.
This final piece was painted on a misty morning. I was particularly fascinated by how the tops of the trees disappear into the mist.
It was lovely to spend so much time with the trees and see them in different moods and light. All the time I painted, I wondered how Laurie Wigham would paint them. (you can see her wonderful captures of the redwoods and other trees here)
I painted these three pieces using two brushes, both from Rosemary & Co. One is an old favorite, the 3/8 inch Sable Blend dagger and the other is a fun new brush for me: the Pocket Eradicator that picks up paint and lets you bring soft highlights back into a piece. I used it in that first piece on the small branches, picking up paint to lighten the top of those little branches where the light hits them. The palette? I’m trying one I haven’t used before, with deeper wells. It’s the Frank Herring palette, quite a bit larger than my usual palette.
Here are pages from my sketchbook with thumbnails, all related to different things I want to look at deeper. These bite-sized studies come first. They’re a no pressure way to understand new things, experiment and collect observations.
Color, Value, Edges and Pattern studies.
A page of gesture drawings while watching a 1milliondancestudio video, Tootsie slide. Gesture drawing is so much fun. if you get to the essence of the pose, the rest takes care of itself.
Little thumbnail layouts while watching “Avatar: The Last Airbender”. No-pausing means I capture just the very bare minimum of each composition, but even at this scale and minimal detail level, I notice compositional techniques I want to try and use in my work.