sktchy

Packing Memories

I’ve had the strangest feeling about moving lately, that I’m not so much packing belongings as memories and layers of personal and shared history. And if I had a more efficient/useful/reliable way to accomplish the memory thing, there would not be so many things to find boxes for!

For instance, the wind chime, a gift made by my friend Ellyn that reminds me of her warm and wonderful heart every time I see and hear it. Or the beaded talisman made by Muriel to guard my studio door. Or the metal frog fountain-head from our pond in our Albany home, dating back to when the boys were into tadpole-ing and bringing critters home to take up residence there.

The boys (well men now) are a great deal less in need of these reminders of childhood than I.  They are too busy writing the big scripts of their lives, while I am enjoying the reruns.

So these things got packed today along with birdhouses and nests and rocks from my collection. The nests that were too fragile to pack have been distributed to key locations in the yard.

This one is my favorite, nestled in the bosom of the old apple tree behind my studio, inches from the tiny new apples. The history that I leave behind is somehow as essential as that which I take with me to re-plant in the fresh soil of the north. I can finally imagine how all these mini tasks are the structure of ceremony, that of continuance as well as rebirth.

Meanwhile the evening portrait painting continues, as I pursue a variety of poses on Sktchy and much needed practice with gouache.

I have more control and dexterity with watercolor, but love coming in with the opaque white gouache at the end to perk up the toned paper and make the eyes sparkle.

Characters

white pencil and gouache on black toned paper

We all love characters! They wake us up and make us realize that being a human is an amusing business, capable of endless entertainment. And Derek McClure, of Sktchy fame, is one. . .or many as you will see here. I have sketched him in his many personas. He photographs himself at angles that distort and amuse. My lack of skill with gouache and BLACK paper help me to relax a bit and just give it a go. 

watercolor on beige toned paper

Here he is again! eye popping and jaw dropping his challenge to “paint me!!” I draw it with pencil and then just, gulp, dive in anywhere to start painting. Eventually it starts to look like someone, and so I throw caution to the wind, and keep painting, glad that no one’s looking. Telling myself that I don’t HAVE to post this on my blog. The best part is the end, coming in with white gouache for the highlights and white pencil or pastel for the hair. And, well maybe I’ll post it after all. I always do.

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.

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.

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.

Not Procreated

This month’s #30faces30days challenge on Sktchy is also a course in Procreate-ing portraits. Although it looks like a lot of fun to draw with an iPad, and certainly makes correcting mistakes a lot easier, as well as ease of switching media, I have steadfastly resisted the trend. I won’t bore you with my reasons, but it has to do with already spending way too much time on computers, what with reading the news and answering email and so much more.  Also I just love the feel of a real brush and paper. Are you bored yet?

So I just tune into the photos each day and paint the ones that intrigue, on beige toned paper with pen and watercolor and some pastel pencil. As I’ve said before, there’s so much variety in source pictures, like Baby Kohler here.

day19

At the risk of sound very weird. . .as I was working on this portrait I could almost feel the warmth of that little body on mine, and I kept getting a whiff of that unmistakable sweet sour scent of mother’s milk which I haven’t smelled (not being a grandmother yet) for about 26 years. That’s how up close and personal this remarkable image was!

day20

And then along came Mike with his kinky/curly locks, and I couldn’t resist making him gorgeous. I hope he doesn’t mind. My prerogative, as the artist, after all.

day21

This pose was a nice change, good practice for when I’m out sketching on location again. . . some day.

day23

Only a slight exaggeration of the the photo. Love that hot pink hair!

day24

And then, the prettiest black lady . . .with an ice cream sundae of hair piled high.

I can’t stop drawing!

One might feel sort of lonely these days, not getting to see your friends or family in person. But one thing is sure. As long as you have wifi and a device to watch, you don’t have to draw alone. I tuned into Sktchy school recently and got to draw Dylan with France Van Stone, a favorite drawing teacher I remember from one of the early Sketchbook Skool courses.

dylan

Well I don’t really draw like France, but I enjoyed listening to her commentary and drawing along with her. It made the time go so fast! This is pen, watercolor and pastel pencil on toned paper.

ben

The subject of these studies will remain unnamed (so that I don’t get in trouble!) I did these studies from pictures I took on Face Time using a cool filter which maps the value shapes in interesting ways, making it actually easier to get a likeness and so much fun to paint. The conversation went through various changes from relaxed to animated. What a great tool to learn portrait drawing!

andy

Same person in these two portraits here. Quite an emotional range! Unfortunately I didn’t have access to the filter I used in the previous ones but I’m still practicing mapping warm and cool shapes that show volume.

One could say that these are examples of the emotional roller coaster we all find ourselves on these days. At least it makes for good portrait subjects!

eyesBen

Like this one! from the comic strip filter on Face Time, and captured during a conversation when my subject discovered how much fun it was to mug in selfie mode!

Benoutline

Probably better if I end this post with the pensive face of a young man, perhaps trying to figure out, like the rest of us, where this crazy planet is headed.

Zoomin with the Family

My first experience with Zoom was with the family. Our family is quite small so we could see each other well in Gallery mode (sharing equal space on the screen). Funny thing, these predictable family patterns that pop up in every interaction when you get together.

zoominwiththefamily

Just so you get the geography here. . .Andrew is in Princeton, I’m in my home studio in Sebastopol, California, Ben is in Nashville, and Bob is in the house.

It took a few minutes to school Mom in how to use Zoom, and then I didn’t get a word in edgewise, because it got pretty silly with typical male teasing behaviors. So I took a picture to document this jump into contemporary family communications, and later sketched it. Not surprisingly I captured everyone in their usual roles. I’ll leave it to you to guess what those are!

Would you like to join me in a month of sketching portraits? I signed up for Sktchy’s 30 Faces/ 30 Days – April 2020  It’s a class where you get a video demo/lesson with different teachers every day of the month and can draw from the models they’ve chosen. I did it in January and learned so much! It’s also a way to experience the social connection with others by posting your work and and seeing others’ portraits.

Also you might really enjoy this article in the New York Times called The Quarantine Diaries about creative ways, including sketching/journaling, that people are finding to give shape to their experience of this historic pandemic time.

#30faces30days continues. . .

I think I’m getting addicted to painting faces, after 26 days this Sktchy challenge, which is also a course with different teachers and lessons every day. When I look at faces now I see minute variations in skin tones and am constantly mixing colors in my mind, while my fingers twitch in anticipation of sketching and my eyes can’t help but notice how the ears relate to the nose and eyes, etc., etc. I curl up on the sofa in the evening to draw and paint the muse (the picture which is one of thousands of available faces on Sktchy) of the day. Although it’s better to do all this with a live model, I’ll settle for Sktchy in the meantime!

The 30 days is almost over, and I feel like I’m just starting to get the hang of it. Here are some of the past few days’ sketches.

30faces19

Day 19 the lesson was to “let the light be your line” with teacher France Van Stone, who is a genius with graphite. But watercolor is my thing, so I made the point by slapping on some rich background negative painting at the end.

30faces23

(on gray toned paper) Lesson 23 was “Drawing Shadows with Minimal Lines”, with Patrtick Hochstenbach, but being a painter, once again, I went for color, dashed in some extra lines at the end, and really liked the effect.

30faces24 (on toned paper) Lesson 24, again with France Van Stone with graphite, was one of my favorites. I loved being told I didn’t have to finish everything and maybe it would be better if I didn’t!  And what a fabulous face to draw!

30faces25

(toned paper) Lesson 25 Lending Your Portrait a Hand with Margriet Aasman was challenging because I like drawing hands only slightly more than windows in a tall building, meaning not much. But Margriet makes you look at each joint and curve so you start to see how different each is. Nevertheless I think my impatience shows in the outcome here.

It’s all good though. Lots of good practice and learning to apply to the portrait project I’m working on at The Living Room these days. I’m up to about 17 portraits with stories now and will share move of them soon.