portraits

A Month of Portraits

Scanning through the pictures on the Sktchy Museum app is something I enjoy doing at otherwise idle moments. Click! and my favorites are bookmarked for whenever the next moment time presents itself at my sketch table, which is generally about every other day, especially right after dinnertime.

It’s easy to get behind on sharing them here, so today will be a bit of catch up. I will try to share what struck me about each one that made me want to try it, and a bit about materials and approach. The models are people who have posted posed pictures of themselves for others to sketch.

fountain pen and watercolor in 7X10″ Field Watercolor Journal

It’s obvious why I wanted to sketch this goofy guy with the crooked mouth! The pose inspired me to draw directly with pen in the scribble-til-it-looks right method.

Again practicing drawing directly with pen in continuous line and then adding a rapid application of watercolor, using sap green, opera, and sepia with very little mixing, to design light and shadow shapes. 

pencil and watercolor

This time I tried the softer scribble approach of using pencil for the drawing (no erasing) and wet application of the watercolor. Painting the hair this way was a revelation! Descriptive without being fussy, and it took only a couple minutes, letting the water do the work with the pigment.

pencil, gouache

Such an expressive face! I tried “sculpting” the light and shadow shapes with gouache applied somewhat thinly like watercolor, so it’s hard to tell the difference.

fountain pen and watercolor

Another pen scribble portrait. I ended up wishing I’d been more careful with the drawing. It was such a great pose! Reminded me of when my son Ben used to carry his leopard gecko around on his shoulder!

pencil and watercolor

The he-man pose and the pompadour hair. How could I resist. A darker background might have been better, but then there was something about the little-boy-blue that also seemed to fit.

Derwent Linemaker pen 0.3 and watercolor

Using lots of pen lines here made it possible for the watercolor to go on in a less self conscious way.

pencil and watercolor

Back to a pencil drawing the next day! The alternation of materials is more entertaining for my restless mind.

white gouache on black toned paper

Such a soulful pose! A completely different process of drawing and painting with white on black. I had no strategic approach, except to keep adding and lifting off the white paint, adding a touch of black gouache when I needed to reinstate the darkest black. I couldn’t be bothered with making the applications smooth, and it wouldn’t suit the edginess of the subject anyway.

Derwent Fineliner pen and watercolor

Here’s another one I wish I had drawn in pencil so that the scribbly lines didn’t distract from the beauty of watercolor. Such an incredible pose! and the hair!

Humans in Action: Pedro Loureiro on Etchr

More of my student work today, this time from Etchr Studios workshops where a lot of my favorite urban sketchers are offering classes. I met Pedro Loureiro a few years ago during the International Symposium of Urban Sketchers in Portugal. He’s a master of reportage (visual journalism) and capturing people in lively scenes. One of his Etchr courses, which you can watch on demand, is Humans in Action: Figures and Gestures in Ink and Watercolor.

(The artwork posted here is my student work)

Humans Action with Pedro Loureiro: fountain pen and watercolor in 9 X 12″ Canson Mixed media sketchbook

This is a scene I probably would never have tackled, but Pedro breaks it down into foreground, mid ground and background; simplifying, suggesting rather than detailing, and sticking to more neutral color choices to unify. No pencil here. Students were asked to just pretend we were actually on location with all the movement and visual/kinesthetic/auditory/aromatic inputs and keep the pen moving! Watching his pen move across the paper in flowing motions was ample inspiration to give it a try!

Urban Sketching, Painting Crowds with Pedro Loureiro: fountain pen and watercolor

In another workshop with Pedro I discovered my achilles heal. My perceptual capabilities break down when I have to switch from foreground figures to tiny people in the distance. (Only part of that can be attributed to my poor distance vision, haha!) Surely it’s a matter of practice. I didn’t recover from the urge to toss this paper in the trash until I added watercolor. Focusing on patterns of light and shade on the figure is the speediest way to render a figure in motion.

Urban Sketching, Painting Crowds with Pedro Loureiro: fountain pen and watercolor

This scene is the sort I love to sketch. With such a clear figure as star of the show the question is how to include figures in the background as supporting actors.  By simplifying them with simple line, no detail and neutral color washes they add interest without distraction. 

Some other watercolor teachers I enjoy on Etchr are Eleanor Doughty from Seattle and Bianca Ryala from Phillipines. But there are so many intriguing short workshops to try!

More Sparks Lit on Spark!

A busy city scene is probably the most challenging subject for an urban sketcher, especially for one like me who has lived in the countryside for the past two decades. But oh, I can’t resist the challenge. It would be marvelous to go out each day and practice in a busy location, but winter temps here in the Pacific Northwest are not amenable to on location sketching, especially in the time of Covid. So what better time to learn some new skills, sketching along on Zoom with people who excel at capturing the lively city! 

(The art shown here is my student work.)

Jedidiah Dore is a New York City artist and passionate urban sketcher/reportager who teaches a series now on Sketchbook Skool’s Spark platform called Creative Urban Sketching

Creative Urban Sketching with Jedidiah Dore: a street scene in New Orleans

One lesson was about editing a complex scene – deciding before putting pen to paper what should be included and what left out. And the scene was one I remembered well and loved from a sketch trip to New Orleans almost two years ago now!

Let’s Figure it Out with Jedidiah Dore

In another class titled: Let’s Figure it Out: Drawing People, we were timed and coached in a way to simulate live action scenes and draw decisively. Continuous line gestural drawing, while looking more at a subject, who will move at any moment, than at the paper. This is from Jedidiah’s photograph, but in the spirit of live action.

We all want to “get it right” and know we can’t possibly succeed at that with a moving scene. So it takes a certain practiced surrender to let go enough to set the hand loose from the thinking mind.  A lifetime of practice surely. Works for me, because it’s such a high to be able stop the mind for a while. Most sketchers would agree.

And I took another fun urban sketch class on Spark with someone whose style many of you will recognize instantly – Ian Fennelly! Lots of patterned pen work and zany watercolor washes which I dutifully tried. It’s not my style, but I wanted to play with different pens and was happy to go wild with it and even get tangled up in all the patterns. Such a fun way to tell a story of a time and place!

In the Home of the Beatles with Ian Fennelly

So much of what I’ve learned about drawing and painting and dancing and playing music has been a process of imagining myself in the body of the master . . . trying to hold a pen or leg or hand in the same way, watching and feeling and listening from the inside. Almost an Alice in Wonderland leap into another perception.

One of my current master teachers is a two year old boy across the street who soaks up everything in his environment, interacts with it, seeks to understand it with all his senses, and never seems to worry about getting it wrong. So I’ll take my cues from him, and above all keep it fun!

First Christmas (in our new home)

Merry Christmas to all of you! I hope you are able to be with the ones you most care about this year, one way or another. Last year we were able to be with our son Ben on Zoom, a blessing but a rather pale one compared to having him with us this year after not seeing him for two pandemic years. He had never seen our new home, his family home now, and has quickly settled in to enjoy some days with us before returning to North Carolina. 

Ben works hard as a software engineer, and also knows how to chill, and often with guitar, and often after occupying the most comfortable spot in the house – in this case our new Stressless recliner. I don’t know how many times now I have sketched him in this position in previous years. A lot.

Andrew will be joining us soon. The 1000 piece crossword puzzle is out on the coffee table and will need all of us to tackle its complexity. But first I got an interior scene sketched, to be able to pass along the holiday cheer. We must all snuggle in a bit more now, for a while at any rate, as this pandemic rages on.

Sending love and blessings and heaps of gratitude to all of you who have been joining me here. May you experience all warmth and good cheer on this holiday!

Ugly Christmas Portrait Party

I gravitate toward the color red around the holiday season. So when I got invited to the Ugly Christmas Portrait Party on Zoom with the Night Owls (on Sketchbook Skool’s Spark calendar) I had my red marker ready along with a fountain pen. The poses were quick with no time for thinking – the kind I love! Also, with no time in between for changing paper I just lined them up on two pages.

You would be right if you thought these people were having a jolly time, and with constant banter back and forth while drawing. And no, I came too late to be ready to pose.

No post processing clean up here. The first lines are always the best anyway. And scribble lines seem to come from some sensory memory of moving the crayon on the paper you were given at age 3. Once I got warmed up I could almost have sketched all night! Well, not exactly. With this dark season of the year I’m often sound asleep by 9:30.

Just a reminder that art is at its most potent when it’s done in community and with the delight of a good party!

Variety is the Spice

Variety of people, variety of paper, pen, color, technique. Just keep changing it up and it never gets the least bit boring! We artists are constantly sharing ideas on social media and my work table in the guest bedroom (for now) is groaning with sketchbooks, pens, brushes and paints. But I’m still voracious about art materials and have put them on my Christmas wish list. Is there really anything I don’t already have?

Oh yes, how about Posca Markers!

w/c in 7 X 10″ Field Watercolor Journal

I’ve discovered that I enjoy listening to other artists talk about their art and demo-ing while I “doodle” my own. It’s a kind of left brain-right brain dance which lowers the volume of the inner critic. So here I’m listening to Danny Gregory talk about why we artists love to do self portraits, and I’m making this face into my cell phone to do my own. He goes on for a while (very inspiring) so I have time to doodle to a completion of sorts. Not flattering, but an announcement about the liberation of age from the need to be more than presentable!

And that goes for the art as well.

So I watched another of his coaching sessions – this one about drawing emotion and objects of attachment – and sketched him in his serious mode while listening. 

fineliner pen

I had planned to do a bright colored watercolor of this fine subject, Marie McLeod on the Sktchy Museum app but thought the line work would be upstaged. So for variety here. . . naked pen line!

This one of Beatriz Futigami from the Sktchy Museum app began with a gulp and plunge in with direct to fineliner pen.  Trying to trust my senses more and look less critically at the outcome. It doesn’t have to look like the model, just express something real.

If you draw and paint fast enough, and don’t worry about making a mess, then the result is more expressive. This one got so messy that the only thing I could do was to keep going. The jaggedy-lined background and scribble-hair worked to reflect the raggedy intensity of her thoughts (or rather my thoughts, haha!) 

pencil drawing, inks and white gouache on beige toned paper

Gouache seems happiest to me when painted over watercolor and/or toned paper. When I finally gave up on trying to smooth the transitions, I was happy.

I bought this Noodlers Golden Ink years ago when I did an art residency in Assissi, Italy. (Ahhh! those were the golden days to move around less encumbered in this world! ) It lends that antique glow to a drawing. I had meant to work my way through all my old ink bottles doing portraits, but lost the thread and moved onto other challenges.

Hopefully you will find some idea from this smorgasbord of styles today that you would like to try. All my ideas have an element of stealing to them. Art is actually the most open source activity you can engage in. So steal liberally! And let me know what you’d like to try next and I’ll probably join you.

Character studies

I’ve almost filled up my Stillman and Birn Nova sketchbook with the three toned papers: beige, black, and gray. Time to order another I think. The Museum app keeps offering not only these great poses but inspired portrait art from artists all over the world. Have you tried it yet?

gouache and white pencil on black toned paper

Abandoning refinement in the service of drama here. The particles suspended in white gouache make for a chalky surface revealed in all its roughness when painted wetly on a black surface. You have to just let it do its thing and be ready to move on! Next portrait I painted on black though, I dispensed with the white pencil drawing which did not dissolve and could not be erased.

white and blue gouache on black paper

Rick N. is another favorite on the Museum app, willing to offer his visage in the creation of characters like this ? mad magician?

white gouache, period

No background or hair or clothing needed here! It was done in minutes. Brilliant pose Roxana!

w/c, white gouache and white gel pen on beige toned paper

By this day I was ready to take my time and try for a bit more refinement.

brush pen, watercolor, white gouache on gray toned paper

This one got a bit out of hand very quickly, drawing with the brush pen!

watercolor, gouache, white gel pen on gray toned paper

It’s fun to go in at the end of a portrait with some unexpected color bounce. Really the green is just an exaggeration of what is there. And it works so well with the violet tones.

Some last portrait efforts for Inktober

My background in watercolor painting delayed the fascination with pens and inks, which has emerged dramatically this month in my sideways efforts to draw along with others participating in the Inktober challenges.

Diamine Silver Fox ink, Noodlers Red-Black ink and white gouache on beige toned paper

In another set of portraits here I am practicing techniques with a range of materials, exaggerating sometimes, refining others. All the subjects/muses are shared freely on the Museum app (Sktchy) where you can also find online workshops. The above muse was offered by Mad lab Studio. Must have been a wig, and what a chizzeled face with great shadow shapes! – the necessary ingredient for portrait work.

Silver Fox ink, fountain pen and gel pen, white gouache on beige toned paper

When you start with a picture like this one was of Nic Rez, it practically paints itself. My favorite – the light bouncing off the lashes.

Silver Fox ink, white gouache, watercolor on gray toned paper

Nathan Mussig reminded me of my Norwegian and Scottish forebears!

Pocket Brush pen, watercolor, gouache on gray toned paper

Inspired by a long time favorite portrait artist of mine, Roz Stendahl, I put my pencil aside and went right in with the pocket brush pen and the blackest of inks! What I sacrificed in accuracy I gained back in enjoyment and expression. Good to remind myself, after all, it’s more important to me to make a picture that speaks with authority and some kind of humanity than one that gets all the features in the right place. How easy that is to forget. I told myself to keep going with the direct-to-brush-pen technique, but I must have either chickened out yet again or forgotten. . .

Sailor Fude pen, watercolor, gouache on gray toned paper

. . .because when I got back to portrait-ing a few days later, I did a careful pencil drawing of this fellow Chris Jones, and decided to practice using the Sailor Fude fountain pen, which many of my urban sketch friends use so masterfully and I have found difficult to maneuver at best. I embraced my clutziness with the pen, but the real discovery here was the strange framing of black lines around the face and the zipper bizarreness. It looks almost like a mask on a stick, so you do a double take. Gotta try that with another portrait some time. . .if I remember.

New Faces

gouache on black toned paper: Sktchy Muse is Macho Iberico

This rugged face asked for a rough treatment with the brush, so I made no effort to “clean it up”, which is not that easy to do with gouache on black paper anyway! It was kind of liberating I must say.

brown deAtramentis document ink applied with a dip pen and brush on beige toned paper: Sktchy Muse, von Mypen

In an homage to Inktober, which many of you probably participate in each October, I switched to ink and slowed down a bit to work with washes at first and line detail later.

brown ink on gray toned paper outlined with white gel pen: Sktchy Muse is Jenny L

Do you think I got a bit obsessed with the eyes? haha! It’s always like that. If you don’t watch yourself or set a timer or something, there’s usually a part that gets overworked. But then she did have amazing eyes!

Diamine Silver Fox ink on gray toned paper applied with dip pen and brush on mostly wet paper: Sktchy Muse is Cansin Guven

So the next one I decided to move quickly and not overdo, and now I’m having fun and like the result better, and can’t wait to try another!

I included the names of the models for the pictures submitted as inspiration on the Sktchy app in case you want to give it a try!

Arts Walk

I went downtown last weekend for the opening of Olympia Arts Walk, a semi annual event that was attended by thousands in pre-Covid days. Wandering around I came upon an impressive hip hop dancing performance of a group of teens in front of the Performing Art Center. Not being at the time in possession of my sketch gear, I took pictures and later did sketches of some colorful bystanders.

I keep trying to understand the style in Olympia, but have decided there is none, except maybe tattoos on all the younger generation, and in abundance. Instead there is an abundant show of individuality that is quirky and colorful from head to toe, and often purchased at thrift stores and combined in intriguing ways.

The lady in the red was participating in the Silent Disco, where the disc jockey sets you up with headphones, and you get to shake your bootie alongside other silent dancers shaking theirs!

Meanwhile we had a bit of excitement last week in finding a contractor to build our studios-in-the-garage! When he submitted the drawings for a permit, our project was promptly put in the pile where there will be an 8-week wait for a permit to start. Phooey, especially since the temperature in the garage is dropping with the fall weather.

So I have moved my studio into the house in a carpeted room where messes must stay on the table (meaning watercolor and gouache) and out to the backyard where the fall color begs to be painted!

Not to mention the mushrooms of various varieties that have scattered themselves through the grasses in familial processions.