portraits

Folded pen portraits

Chinese Ink applied with homemade folded pen and brush

My husband Bob has been having so much fun with his folded pen which he just made after a quick trip to Lowes for dowels and some light weight bendable metal. There seemed to be no limit to what he could do with it. So I asked him to make me one and give me tips. I had just a few minutes to try it out before dinner and was amazed at how much control I had with it! Enough to tackle portraits! It all depends on how you load it up with ink and position it. I was also surprised by how much drama I could get with the dark thick lines, which I normally steer clear of because the human face seems to demand more subtlety.

But after dinner, when I switched from scrap paper to my toned paper sketchbook, the folded pen wasn’t behaving as well. Blobs of ink coming out at inopportune moments. So it will take more practice, but still, the drama is there. I think I prefer to use the folded pen on white watercolor paper and do the modeling with a brush and light wash of ink.

I decided to switch to the Pocket Brush Pen for this fellow’s pose (on the Sktchy Museum app). thinking I needed more control. Of course the pocket brush pen also has a mind of its own, so I used it just for bold outlining, and for added dimension use a brush dipped in diluted ink.  At the end I added some watercolor for the red beard before declaring it Done! Always best to get out before it’s too late.

watercolor and white gouache in beige toned sketchbook

A couple more portraits here, done before the holidays. This one done with a touch of fineliner and clear choice of focus. How much of the head do you need to tell the story, and what can you leave off? The top of the head for instance?

Such a beautiful model. That makes it much harder. One can’t resist trying to get that beauty on paper. Overworked. 

 

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Museum for Cold Weather

Back to sketching portraits from the wonderful Museum Sktchy App. I know many of you also use its source photos, posed mainly by portrait artists who know what makes a really fun and expressive pose to draw and paint! I’m snuggled into my studio most days to stay warm lately, and I can easily get absorbed in these portrait sketches. Here’s the latest.

Watercolor and white gouache in beige toned Nova sketchbook

These days I’m telling myself not to “play it safe” with drawing and painting; to sketch quickly, exaggerate, embrace my own squiggly line and visual distortions. This guy Dennis was a gift. Such an appealing, and I’m betting, forgiving face.

I was working with the gray violets in the shadows, and at the end, added the greens. You can do that with transparent watercolor in a glaze-over and it (almost) works. I took out my white pastel pencil and gel pen at the end. Those finishing whites are the other fun part.

Well you get the point. . .the sultry eyes and touseled mane. This toned paper isn’t the best for watercolor subtlety, but if you stand back and look, it holds together, haha!

pocket brush pen, watercolor in Field Watercolor Journal

This is what happens when you point a camera at my son, which I did while he was here at Thanksgiving. He becomes the goofy clown. So a rapid direct brush pen sketch seemed to fit. No subtlety at all here. It might be my favorite. I’m sure it’s his!

Margriet Aasman is a master portrait artist who knows how to pose as a result, a lovely lady and great teacher on Museum as well!

If you have a favorite, let me know! It may just be the nudge I need to keep going when the Critic makes a visit and wants to trash them all!

Splatter Your Background

pencil and watercolor in 7 X 10″ Field Watercolor Journal

(thanks to Julie Kim whose picture is on Sktchy Museum)

Why is it so hard for many of us to “stay loose”, especially when drawing and painting the figure?

I’ve been seeking the cure for tightness for many years. Here’s what generally helps: 

Speed for one. Set your timer and go for it.

Splatter for two. Load your brush with juicy pigment and fling it across the paper, or tap the brush handle on your finger to knock the drops off the brush.

Willingness to dirty up the page for three.

Spritzing the paper with water so control is lost. (Of course often that results in messes, but sometimes they are messes that work!)

fineliner pen, watercolor, white gouache on beige toned paper

(thanks to E.W. Parris whose pose was on Sktchy Museum)

And painting outside the lines! You can always go back in to delineate shapes with value. And often I’ll glaze the background color into parts of the figure to get color bounce.

my student work from Bianca Rayala’s Etchr workshop: pencil and watercolor

This pose was the source for Bianca Rayala’s Etchr workshop– my copy of what she demonstrated. To get the wonderful splatter background you splatter the colors used in the figure and then spritz with water so that they run and the paint dissolves into parts of the figure, creating lost and found edges. It’s one of those easy techniques that looks hard.

my student work from a Pedro Loureiro workshop on Etchr

More messy drama. Wet on wet background drama and some spicy bounced light for this lovely Guatemalan lady.

Now are you ready to get messy?!

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!

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!

Different angles on painting faces

One of the reasons i love to paint people is that it doesn’t take much (skill? accuracy?) to communicate feeling. A little exaggeration of one aspect goes a long way. So at some point I always think “oh what the heck. It doesn’t really look like so and so, but it’s an interesting expression, so let it be!”

We were out in the back yard putting a shade cloth over our gazebo, which was letting too much light and therefore heat onto our heads! Andrew took his shirt off, since it was hot up there where he was stationed to pull the fabric across, and his head was burning so he made a sort of turban of it. And then he crouched as low as he could to get into the shade a bit. I had my hands full and no sketchbook at hand anyway, so I snapped a pic and later sketched this out.

He’s a very patient fellow with his parents, but I don’t imagine he was having fun. He had a good laugh when he saw this sketch!

gouache on gray toned paper

Another Sktchy app portrait. I loved the blue hair and the dark reflection on the one side of the glasses and was having fun playing with opaques on toned paper, doing my own thing with the color. She looks pretty heavy duty, I mean strong personality you wouldn’t want to mess with!

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.