portraits

Caterpillar Time

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar

My orange spiked beauties are munching their way through the pipevine which carpets the upper studio garden. Their exponential growth is a sobering reminder that my own remaining time here is rapidly dwindling. They are already making their way down the path to their hidden places where they will transform into their paper-like cocoons to sleep until next season.  Meanwhile I am supposed to be packing for my own transition to a new (cocoon)home. 

But there are so many other things to do first! Travel arrangements, insurance, health care, moving boxes and schedules, consultations with owners and buyers and decisions about what furniture to bring/not bring/leave, and more. And then there’s the precious time to sit with friends who I won’t see for a while. 

Sylvester

And time to spend with Sylvester, who seems to know something’s going on, and plops down in my path throughout the day, purring and baring his irresistible tummy, while never allowing me to touch it! This takes time . . . to slow down and talk sweetly to him and not startle him away in my impatience to “get things done”!

Caterpillars, human friends and Sylvester. . .These feel like stolen moments, and maybe that’s the appeal. Like cutting extra thin slivers off the chocolate cake when you’ve already had “enough”.  And then there’s the stolen minutes after dinner, painting portraits.

White pencil and white gouache on black toned paper
White gouache and a touch of watercolor on black toned paper

The more playful I get with gouache, the more I like it! Like what happens with the dry brush in the hair. I’m learning to not smooth everything down.

gouache on beige toned paper

This woman is one of the indigenous Clan Mothers of the Bears Ears southwestern lands that are being threatened by fossil fuel development. You can read about them here. Their voices are powerfully moving. . .

When the land calls — you answer.

When your mother calls — you answer.

I’ll be doing some more portraits of these matriarchs who can inspire us all! 

And now, back to the packing (which I haven’t really started yet!)

Mission Accomplished!

We have a new home in the Pacific Northwest! Last week, about ten days into my Washington state odyssey, just when I was feeling a touch of despair at soon being “homeless”, we found an Olympia property that we fell in love with. When I say “we” I mean me, and my husband Bob (at home here in Sebastopol and with me on Facetime), and my dear friend Janet who was with me every step of the way, driving me around, helping me with sanity checks, while we explored the area with walks in the woods and on the beaches. And then there was our tireless realtor Connie, whose energy in this thoroughly nerve wracking endeavor never flagged. Our offer was accepted and we move in June!

My best estimate is that moving takes up 95% of ones mental real estate for weeks/months, and possibly a larger percentage of physical energy! For three days after our offer was accepted I took an average of two naps a day. So in between naps and phone calls to arrange details, I would pick up my brush and paint a bit. One day I even walked to a park across the street to sketch a “living table” for a half hour!

watercolor and pen in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook

And then a couple more portraits. . .

watercolor on beige toned paper

My weariness shows here! I couldn’t bring myself to finish the clothing!

watercolor and white gouache on beige paper

(Both portraits from pictures posted on the Sktchy app)

And now I’m home in Sebastopol again, enjoying the spring garden explosion, looking forward to seeing friends, and little by little packing and clearing. Will it never end? Ah, but yes!  Now I can see the end and am breathing deep again.

Thanks for hanging in there with me! The blog isn’t going anywhere and I hope you’ll stay with me.

Loving Gouache on Toned Paper

Catching up on posting some more recent portraits here before I head off for house hunting in Washington on Saturday! I’m taking my toned paper sketchbooks with me to continue Portrait Art for Sanity Sake 

gouache on black toned paper, Stillman and Birn NOVA Trio sketchbook

I never pursued oil painting due to the smell, which I loved but couldn’t tolerate. But gouache is similar to oil in many ways, the viscosity and opacity, so it’s a great way for a watermedia artist to play around with challenging new techniques. While I’m painting with it, it tends to feel wrong, due to so many years now working with transparent pigments, but by the end I’m usually happy I tried.

gouache on black toned paper

Pretty intense looking guy, huh. Pure soul in those eyes. I’m getting these wonderful poses courtesy of members of the Sktchy app who are artists sharing pictures of themselves or others for the purpose of creative portraiture. The most recent 30faces30days challenge/course is finished but there are always new courses coming up, if you want to check it out.

watercolor on grey toned paper finished with w/c pencil

My efforts at this pose were a reminder that, when you’re painting children, you need a lighter hand. This girl is at least five years younger than my portrait! Something to practice. . .

w/c and white gouache on grey toned paper

It would be hard to go back to painting on white paper! So I ordered another NOVA trio book to take on my trip.

When I come back in about a month, the garden will look different, so I’m taking new pictures every day of the garden as it explodes into blooms, each one of which is occupied by a butterfly at least once each day.

a busy spring palette!

Andrew here, holding a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, drying its wings after newly emerging from its chrysalid. Now they are fluttering in dizzy mating pairs and laying eggs in the vine. I hope to see legions of those munching polka dotted caterpillars before we’re gone! 

Portrait Art for Sanity Sake

watercolor on beige toned paper in Stillman + Birn NOVA TRIO sketchbook

I always learn a thing or two from Canadian artist Margriet Aasman on Sktchy. In the demo that inspired this portrait of mine she used red and blue pencils for some strategic lines and then proceeded with watercolor. It just really perked things up! along with some white accents on the toned paper. The hard part, as always, was getting the nose in the right place in this slightly off center pose.

It was easier to draw the second time. Figured I’d try it again, this time with gouache, for me a more difficult medium.

gouache on white paper

Honestly I almost gave up on gouache again, enough to throw caution to the wind with the hair. And that turned out to be my favorite part! The lesson in this, as always, is relax, take a chill pill. Painting is not meant to be torture.

watercolor on white w/c paper

Another of the Sktchy lessons in the 30faces30days March series was with a Russian artist Michael Solovyev. He uses the strangest scraggly looking brushes and makes it look like magic. He kept saying you don’t paint the figure, you paint the light!  By the end I was ready to give it a try. He’s right of course. The other brilliant thing he said was to keep the contrast down in the shadow areas. 

colored pencil, watercolor on gray toned paper

Then Andrew posted a picture on Sktchy and I couldn’t resist painting it. I got this far and it was really looking like him and that scared me. So instead of adding more paint and possibly ruining it, I stopped and photographed it. The look is androgenous and angelic, neither of which I would use as adjectives to describe my son. 

So I kept going, and then stopped again. The values weren’t right. 

So I added darker value to the side of his face and called it quits. It’s always an arbitrary stopping point. I run out of patience, time, skill, whatever and it’s time to move on!

gouache on black toned paper

The NOVA Trio toned paper sketchbook has three tones: Grey, Black, and Beige. For a while the beige was my favorite, then grey, and now black!! I love the drama of it, and by the time I finished this one, I’d decided to go over to the gouache side for a while.

Gouache on black toned paper

And today Andrew and I both decided that gouache is where it’s at. It’s F’in lit! (Can you tell I’ve been hanging out with a 28 year old?) I mean, so much drama at your finger and brush tips! especially on black toned paper.

Meanwhile we’re showing our house for sale, which means vacating the house a bit each day after making everything shipshape. Even a bit of art making helps keep us sane.

Faces in Endless Variety!

This month’s Sktchy app’s 30 faces in 30 days event has turned international with so much variety of poses! I’m way behind in posting my efforts. Although I signed up for the Sktchy School with a different teacher demo each day, I’ve not been able to watch most of them, but I’m enjoying looking at the teachers’ choice of model and approach. It’s all watercolor and gouache, and each teacher puts their personal stamp on what they do. I’ve been enjoying alternating between watercolor and gouache and trying some new techniques.

watercolor in Field Watercolor Journal with Fluid Watercolor Paper

This was Michael Creighton’s lesson. Not at all the way I usually paint but I really enjoyed this almost pointillist method of painting in brushstrokes! My impatience made it needlessly messy, but I liked the overall effect. Thank you Michael!

gouache on beige toned paper

Gouache makes for a more sculptural effect, and I like the creamy texture of the paint and the ability to paint light over dark.

pen and watercolor

I’m finding that I spend a lot more time trying to get the drawing “right” than with the painting. This one feels unfinished to me, but it was getting late and. . .so I grabbed my pen . . .What a fun subject though! He really had that blue hair with beads in it!

Pthalo blue and Quin Rose watercolor in Field Watercolor Journal

The idea for this two color portrait was from the teacher Kate Tsunoda and with an outrageously wonderful model.

watercolor

It took me forever to get this drawing close, and then it almost painted itself.

watercolor and white gel pen

This Indian gentleman with his mahogany skin was a great subject for layering of pigments.

watercolor

Another one of those characters that I would like to meet. He personifies delight! and don’t you just love his hair? an opportunity to make all those curlicues.

I just bought some more gouache colors and am looking forward to putting the paint on thicker in my next portraits!

Historical portraits

We were cleaning/clearing our massive collection of photography books last week and Andrew “discovered” a monograph of August Sander’s portraits published by Aperture Foundation 1977. Sander has been referred to as “the soul and chronicler” of post WWI Germany.  Andrew immediately started drawing from this amazing source of human history and I soon followed. 

Starting with mine here. . .

dip pen and brush with sumi ink on heavy drawing paper

I guess it’s possible that one might find such a fellow as this in an upscale bakery, but the expression, the stance. . .I don’t know. . .it seemed of another time.

And Andrew’s next:

by Andrew Cornelis

Andrew gets all this texture with two pens, one superfine Micron and a brush pen. And he’s not satisfied with copying, except the clothing maybe and the facial characteristics. And then the fun weirdness of his mind takes over and exaggerates!

Ok, so when I saw how much fun my son was having with exaggeration, I asked his advise and these two boxers I picked out to draw got a workover.

When I was done he patted me on the back and said “that’s good Mom” and I glowed a bit.

by Andrew Cornelis

Actually this was Andrew’s first real stab at portraiture, from a picture on Sktchy, minus the mushrooms which he added.

drawn with black pen and painted with sumi ink on heavy drawing paper

This is a guy from the Sktchy archives.  In the picture he was sitting in his car and must have taken a selfie. Thank goodness! His was one of the best sources I’ve run across for working with light and shadow shapes. It was almost easy to forget it was a face and just paint layer after layer of glazed shapes, without worrying about color or even subtlety. I could have kept going for a while with more detail and correction, but I stepped back and was stunned to see this fellow glowering back at me. So I figured it must be done.

To see more of Andrew’s drawings visit his Tumblr page.

I Can’t Stop!

I can’t stop painting portraits! It helps that I spend most of my time at home now, because of the pandemic, and often in my studio. And it helps that Andrew has started a daily regime of portrait sketching with me. So here’s my latest. I promise to show some of his here again soon. All poses found on the sktchy app

Watercolor on beige toned paper

Gotta love that attitude!

white gouache on black toned paper

Black and white drama without subtlety or any control of the values. Frustrating, but I’ll keep at it, because the stark values get the point across without all the niceties.

watercolor on gray toned paper with a bit of pastel pencil

The light reflecting off the glasses is what makes this such a great pose, by Rick N.

watercolor on gray toned paper

Initially it was the wispy white hair I liked, but then as I started to draw I thought, “This guy [Duke KM] probably has interesting thoughts and would be fun to talk to. That’s what happens when you draw/paint someone. You start to get really interested in them.

More fun with faces

watercolor, pastel pencil, gel pen on gray toned paper (Stillman + Birn Nova Trio sketchbook)

Every couple days I “stalk” the Sktchy app for some particularly intriguing/challenging portrait subject that other artists have drawn/painted.

Gouache on black paper

I haven’t made much headway on painting with gouache on black paper. I at least imagine it would be so much easier to use pastels since they are opaque, but I keep trying to make the water media work. Oh well, at least it’s a great exercise in seeing negative shapes!

I easily get bored with big hair, but for this I got lost in swirling with my brush and prefered the dark lilac-gray to her black hair.

More swirls with the brush and coming in at the end with some gouache color in the shadows really woke this one up.

More Faces

Most of the Muses on the Sktchy app, that is the folks who submit their picture for anyone to draw, most of them are themselves artists. Just as most of the figure models for figure studio groups are themselves artists. And that makes for some great poses with that elusive and greater sought after trait. . .Character! Here’s some more of my portrait practice.

gouache and pastel pencil on black toned paper

Those of you who are doing the #30faces30days challenge this month may recognize this muse, but do a double take. The model is a white man, but very quickly my drawing steered into person-of-color-with-a- Portland-style-man-bun territory, which I liked very much.

The caption here should read “it’s about the eyes”, and I considered cropping off the rest, but that would be too startling.

Some day maybe I’ll finish the head wrap, but by the time I got to it I was worn out. It just begs to be decorated, but then I would have to do more with the face to compensate, and I thought I’d better leave well enough alone.

I slowed down on this handsome Indian face, starting with light washes and gradually building up. Green worked really well in the shadow shapes. It’s always a bit scary to put that first brushload of green down, but it even works well in a glaze over the warm skin tones.

Portraits on Toned Paper

The Sktchy app keeps feeding my need to explore various media while practicing portrait skills; perhaps for the eventuality of finally being able to do portraits of new people I meet in person. . .unmasked. What a concept!

So here’s the latest, as I draw along with the current #30faces30days artists, only not in pencil, which is what is being encouraged this month. I’m alternating on the gray, black and beige toned papers in the 7″X10″ Nova Trio sketchbook by Stillman And Birn.

pen, watercolor, gouache on gray toned paper
pen, watercolor, white gel pen, w/c pencil

Sometimes I get frustrated enough that I just start grabbing other media and scribbling. I almost gave up on this one, then decided I’d gotten a couple of things right and should be satisfied! Perfection is just so boring anyway. Haha!

I would title this one Medusa, even though it’s a gorgeous guy. He’s also an amazing artist you can see on Sktchy, Derek McClure.

White gouache on black paper

This was another great exercise in negative thinking! meaning applying paint in the exact opposite way one does on white paper. I started the only way I could think, by drawing with a white pencil and then struggled to apply the gouache in a variety of values, but it didn’t exactly cooperate, at least not using my watercolor application methods! But if you overlook the messiness, at least it’s not a boring portrait, and my design brain got a real workout.