portraits

And We’re In

Our movers showed up early on a sunny hot morning  exactly a week ago now, and they rolled out the red carpet!

A nice touch. And they were cheerful and anxious to get it right. We were anxious too, traffic directing as the boxes came rolling in 6 or 7 deep and sometimes a bit squished; and with the heavy furniture getting carried up the stairs accompanied by loud grunting and shouted commands (I had to leave for this part because it was so unnerving!)

But no one was injured, and only one piece of cheap furniture crumpled, and so far everything else made it intact. Phew!

Precious

And when they were ready to leave I got to meet the co-driver of the monster truck, Precious! She had to come along on the run, because no one was at home to care for her. But I got the sense she was well loved and cared for and even content to watch much of the drama from the bed behind the drivers seat.

art studio-to-be in the third garage bay

And here is my studio! I can certainly set up a table and do some painting here until we find a contractor to do the work. Actually right now I’m on my computer at the back of the space.

bounty from the garden

I’ve been wandering the garden every chance I get to make new discoveries. The abundance of this summer garden is mind boggling to me. After struggling to garden with clogged irrigation, gophers, deer, and hard clay soil I can scarcely believe this. The green lawn strikes my California senses as a bit scandalous, but during the rainy season here it rains so much that each neighborhood has collecting ponds to capture the overflow and send it draining down to the Sound. 

Ms. Willow

One of my favorite spots is the shade of this willow out front. It’s a green mansion, and several degrees cooler than the rest of the sunny garden. The bunnies we’ve been seeing every day must have gone to their underground homes during this extreme heat wave, but we have seen them lounging on the front lawn. It’s hard to think of them as pests, though the gardeners here say they eat everything.

white pencil and gouache on black paper

And ending with the only sketch I’ve done this week of unpacking, done inside and with the fan blowing on me! Last day of the big heat is today, and then more exploring Olympia wonders. 

Thanks for joining me!

Mother’s Day Packing

I have now trudged back through three decades of accumulated art, books, and papers, armed with a tape gun, an essential tool these days. Wrap those sturdy boxes up tight, they advise, so even if the movers throw them onto the truck, the contents will land intact.

My flat files are empty, if not flat. My bookshelf is empty except for a cow’s skeletal head, which I want to keep, but haven’t figured out how to pack yet.

And I’m collecting various treasures off the walls, like the art studio quotes which have sustained me through the treacherous narrows of brutal self critique. Here’s one:

When you’re in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you – your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics. . . and one by one, if you’re really painting, they walk out. And if you’re really painting YOU walk out.

-Philip Guston

the pink tape will go on boxes headed for my studio

Notice that although the boxes are filled, I have not finished taping them shut. I have a terrible fear that I will forget something important and be unable to locate it on the other end, or even next week. My memory relies too much on things that I must locate, like keys, and sketchbooks and old paintings.

But you’ll want to know if I will have a studio again in my new home in Olympia, Washington. Yes, but it will be a garage conversion and take a bit of time. And it will be quite lovely and spacious and I will find spaces to make art until it is completed. And thank you for asking!

Sunday was of course Mother’s Day and I was blessed to be able to spend it in person with one son and on the phone with the other. It was a packing day, but ended with martinis and sketching in the garden.

yes, it was my first martini, in memory anyway

This is an old game we play and both enjoy it. Sketching each other quickly. The martini loosens the inhibitions. Whether that helps the result is debatable. Here’s Andrew’s of me.

by Andrew

I was very happy with this one. It was flattering and made me look quite pleasant in the way I like to think of myself!

And then today he sent this picture to his brother Ben (who lives in Nashville) with the message “You’ve ben my muse for so long”

Andy draws Ben on the front step of our house, circa 2001.

We all got a chuckle out of that. I hope I saved the portrait he did in one of the mystery boxes in the garage!

Packing is letting your history sift through your fingers again, losing and finding chunks of memory and having to decide which are important enough to keep. Touch decisions, every one. No wonder I’m so exhausted!

and more faces. . .

Here’s my latest efforts with a favorite subject. . .FACES! Starting with a couple characters sketched from August Sander’s photography collection, capturing an era.

watercolor graphite on heavy weight drawing paper

It was probably a lucky accident that I chose to paint this picture with a cake of watercolor graphite. It’s so gritty, just like any war. I doubt this officer had just emerged from a battle when the picture was taken, but the gritty portrait makes it seem so.

 

sumi ink on heavy drawing paper

Such an earthy workman, this varnisher. I exaggerated his big wooden clogs to celebrate his groundedness. (might have overdone it!)

 

watercolor on beige toned paper

This woman was so lovely in that delicate way of some redheads, and I struggled terribly trying to get the eyes and nose right, measuring and remeasuring, and still the features had a life of their own. And she became a different person. Perhaps someone else I once knew?

 

watercolor and pastel pencil on gray toned paper

I just noticed the heart I painted on her cheek! No doubt making up for how frustrated I got with this one.

 

pen, watercolor, gouache on gray toned paper

This one is all about the smile. One of these people who I would love to meet, full of humor and delight.

If you’re a watercolor or gouache artist or want to learn, you might want to join me for the next month of 30faces30days in Sktchy Art School

where you’ll have a different teacher doing demos every day all month!

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 30 Faces 30 Days

I do love faces! And Sktchy is doing another 30faces30days challenge/course, this time 30 teachers demo-ing pencil drawing portraits. Not really my thing, so I’m doing a parallel play thing, painting the poses that are chosen.

watercolor, pen, pastel pencil on gray toned paper

A difficult pose, this one, chosen for that very fact. The human countenance is so rubber. It swells and shrinks in different gyrations of expression. 

A theatrical pose. One imagines an actor on stage in a tense scene of morbid anticipation.

white gouache and white gel pen on black toned paper

I loved the challenge of painting the white and light values rather than the dark. It’s the kind of reverse thinking that tickles new brain cells.

Inktober Continues

I’ve fallen in love with ink all over again, dipping into it on a daily basis. And not just black ink, but colored inks. All thanks to the Inktober challenge and the Sktchy School app and my son Andrew, who decided to do it with me.

sumi ink and brush

Day 7: Fancy The source photo is courtesy Sktchy and the teacher of the day who selected it: Dylan Sara

by Andrew
Day 8: Teeth. Golden, red-black and sumi ink on toned paper with white pastel
Day 8: Teeth. by Andrew
Day 9: Throw (back). Sumi ink
Day 9: Throw. by Andrew
Day 10: Hope. by Andrew
Day 11: Disgusting. by Andrew
Day 12: Slippery. Noodler’s Golden ink, Higgins violet and black inks
Day 12: Slippery. by Andrew
Day 13: Dune. Higgins red and blue inks, red-black and sumi inks and brush
Day 14: Armor. Sumi ink
Day 15: Outpost. Noodler’s golden and Higgins blue and sumi ink and brush

The word prompts are just there to get you going, not to slavishly adhere to them. It’s all about ink-love. But I better get going with Day 16. The sun has already set!

Anxious

 Have we used up all our anxiety on police brutality and racial injustice, the pandemic, global warming, and the upcoming elections? Apparently not.

Once again there are dark smoky skies raining ash and a neon red hot sun, and we’re spending our days checking the evacuation maps and nights  listening to our cell phones ding/beep/shriek at us about new warnings. 

My family of three is still here, watching and waiting, and not so close to the fires as we were a month ago. But oh lordy, my friends across the plain are evacuating and it’s another deja vu. 

It calms me down to sketch people. This guy is from the Sktchy app that has the interesting poses. When I finished it this afternoon I realized he looked like an evacuee, waiting to find out if his house burned down.

I never really spent much time learning to paint with gouache. It’s really quite different from other mediums. But I’m determined to make use of the black toned paper in my sketchbook and I need to use an opaque medium. So I will just muddle through and keep trying til it becomes more natural. I finished it off a bit with pastel pencil.

I thought I’d save this one for Halloween! I mean we can’t go trick or treating this year so maybe I’ll just sketch more of these. I made a pretty girl look a bit goulish. She did have yellow hair though.

Decided to sign up for the Inktober challenge on Sktchy and practice some new ink portrait licks with tips from the teachers.  I’m hoping it will keep me from the anxieties lying in wait at every turn. Want to join me?

FaCeS

I have been an art store junky for many, many years. And so I am quite well equipped to tackle new materials whenever the fancy seizes me. I recently purchased a Stillman + Birn’s Nova Series toned paper sketchbook with beige, black and gray pages. 

I’ve been loving the beige paper for my portraits, after a long run of doing them on the gray, with pen, watercolor and a few touches of pastel pencil. The Sktchy app supplies me with the most wonderful subjects, which they call “muses”. Like this adorable guy Zel.

But in order to break into the black paper section of the sketchbook, I got out my gouache paints with the pastel pencils.

This may be the dawn of the up-in-your-face faces! All my fine watercolor skills flew out the window. How liberating. Gotta do more of these.

Meanwhile my in-person model is available and I’m taking advantage, in yet another, more familiar style of watercolor-what-you-can-before-it-moves.

We actually had breathable air today and a sun we could see and even a blue sky!