stillman and birn toned paper

It’s time for nature journaling

There’s so much for me to learn about the mystique of Pacific Northwest nature, the flora and fauna which change dramatically each week, so different from the areas of northern California where I lived for the past 37 or so years before moving to Olympia, Washington this summer. I want to know the names of trees and other plant life and birds and bugs and learn their habits. And what better way than to have an illustrated nature journal! So I ordered a sketchbook to be dedicated to this pursuit – a beige toned Stillman and Birn Nova sketchbook, 8 X 10″ soft cover.

and to inaugurate it, took my stool out to the front yard to sketch the march of mushrooms across the lawn with pen and gouache, in the process meeting yet another of my friendly neighbors walking by. Mushrooms are abundant here where we have been getting some rain most days for a while now, while the sun plays hide and seek.

Tolmie State Park has a glorious beach on the Puget Sound and trails through the forest with markers to answer some of the questions that arise as you encounter massive root systems connecting the understory of trees growing in community, branches that resemble giant fuzzy tarantulas, and trees with “legs” growing on rotting stumps or fallen trees called nurse logs. I’ll be back to many of those to put them in the journal. But these fairy-like mushrooms on their exquisitely lichen and moss covered host tree totally captivated!

And then more mushrooms in the yard, and new favorite caterpillars! Woolly Worms, which have been making their way across the Chehalis Trail where I walk. One day I noticed something about the similarity of shape and color with the tiny pinecones around them – another clever nature camouflage? Unfortunately many of the Woolly Worms never make it across the trail as cyclists are not able to see them in time, not to mention walkers like me with poor vision. I’ve taken to walking with eyes down so as not to smoosh them.

And that’s really saying something, because in that position one is apt to miss some piece of the gaudiest show of autumn color I have ever witnessed, anywhere. Lest you think I am exaggerating, get a load of this, totally unprocessed/unfiltered picture I took in my neighborhood yesterday.

It reminds one of those male birds of certain species, seen in nature videos, that will go to absurd lengths to woo the female of their kinds. What is going on with these maples? It’s enough to make a sketcher throw in the towel after trying to capture that in paint. Believe me I’ve tried. 

But before I end, just one more show stopper, with a tree’s version of jewelry (bling!)

Look at the plain green tree hiding within.!

I’ve been rereading the Pulitzer Prize winning, The Overstory by Richard Powers , “a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world”, and it’s hard to ever feel the same about trees when you’ve read it. 

You’ll also see my reference to Forest Bathing. It’s an actual healing modality that can help boost immunity and and mood and reduce stress and involves immersing oneself in the natural environment. It’s always made sense to me. Wouldn’t you agree?

 

 

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.

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.

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.

Chadwick Boseman

Have you watched the Netflix movie, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, yet? I decided to try to capture another magnetic performance, this one by Chadwick Boseman who played Levee. Chadwick died from cancer this September. Hard to imagine he could give a performance like that while secretly suffering from a debilitating form of cancer! The cast called this final role Legendary and Terrifying! An Oscar nomination seems likely.

watercolor on beige toned paper with highlights of pastel pencil

A Drawing Duo

We were having some work done on our house, so Andrew and I spent the afternoon in art making in my studio.  

We are both accustomed to sketching each other and being sketched. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a mostly stationary model across a table from me, especially after relying  mostly on pictures for so long.

watercolor and white gouache on gray toned paper

The pose as I constructed it is a bit of commentary on the preoccupation of our culture these days with staying connected on our phones while doing other activities. In fact, he was switching back and forth from the sketchbook to texting with friends and changing the music.

by Andrew Cornelis, black ink on white paper with fine liner pen and brush pen

This was the drawing he was working on while I drew him. Another illustration springing from his prodigious imagination. Note that there is no Procreate or Photoshop used in this, just black ink on white paper. His drawings capture so much about the human experience that it’s easy to recognise parts of yourself in them. You can see more of Andrew’s drawings on Tumblr!

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

I haven’t actually seen the movie yet. It’s coming to Netflix December 18. But the character of Ma Rainey, played magnificently by Viola Davis (as always!), is enough for me to want to. I ran across a short video scene of her performance in the New York Times and had to put my brush to it/her! 

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

Drawn with a pencil and painted  ( no pen). I used a touch of pastel pencil here and there to give some white highlights.

 

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!

More Faces

Still sketching a face every day on the #30faces30days challenge on the Sktchy app, but I’m way behind posting them.  That’s because it’s always a choice between doing the sketch or posting. So here’s a bit of catch up.

day12

pen and watercolor and pastel pencil on gray toned Stillman and Birn paper

day14

Loved the drama of the pose and found the black ink part to be scary, but loved the result. There’s just no way to be timid with black!

day15

This Muse is someone I’d like to meet! The complementary color scheme was suggested in the photo and I just amped it a bit.

day17

Dig the attitude! Lots of confusing perspective here, and the hands!

day18

And snow! Something we never see close up where I live in California, just a dusting on the hills. I really gave the white pastel pencil a work out with this one. Can’t imagine how I would have managed with just watercolor.

day20

Now THIS is the kind of face I love to sketch! She’s probably a very nice person, but it looks like she’s scolding someone here. Maybe it’s one of those idiots who aren’t following the Shelter in Place protocol and putting us all in danger!

Today’s the last day of the challenge. I’ll get the rest of the sketches posted soon. It’s getting so that when I close my eyes I see faces. . .really interesting ones flashing on the inner screen! But I’ll have to give it a rest and switch gears for a while. . .maybe. . .if I can.

Faces 6-11

Pretty faces are OK, but faces with attitude. . .those are the best to try to draw. And the #30faces30days Sktchy challenge has lots of those. Here’s some more of my efforts. Rather than following the prompts and lessons offered, I’ve been trying to stay a bit consistent in my efforts, working on Stillman and Birn Nova series gray toned paper, drawing first with pencil, then inking in, adding light watercolor applications in warm and cool colors, and ending with pastel pencil and white gel pen.

Day 6 Bella

Oh yeah, and trying to stop before I get bored.

Day 6: Bella Lambert   I find hair particularly difficult to stay interested in, especially when there’s a focal interest, like these great pouty lips!

30facesday5

Day 5: Delphine Lily  The lesson on Day 5 was about hair, so I forced myself to paint it, and I think you can tell.

Day 8 Marcus

Day 8: Marcus J. Bright  Another great attitude pose! And all the features in the “wrong” place, which really helped, because you couldn’t assume anything but just had to trust in what you actually saw. Like top of ear down below the lip, and what a lip!

30facesday10

Day 10: Stuart Goss I didn’t rush this one and went back in after the painting with some more line definition.

30facesday11

Day 11: Shannon Dada   I was really rushed with this one and came in really fast with the paint. I’m learning that it is hard to get the eyes focused right. Seemingly infinitesimal changes make a big difference. These were particularly challenging. My favorite part is coming in with the bright white at the end.

OK, back to sewing masks now.