watercolor portrait

On the trail and at home

Our new home is beautiful. No doubt about it. Which is not to say that it is without, shall we say, unexpected occurences which must be dealt with or accepted as is.

On the beauty end is the climate and the way the garden view enters our home (now that the recent heat dome is a point of history that is). Andrew has found the perfect perch to absorb the warming rays for a cat nap after lunch. 

And then there are the surprises. Interesting sounds. Like the crickets in the toilet downstairs, sounds that is. After watching a few Youtube videos Bob was able to discover the problem and after several tries, silence the crickets, at least for now.

Then there were a few days when we would suddenly out of nowhere hear the first few bars of Beethovan’s Fur Elise. No it wasn’t the doorbell, or the dryer telling us the clothes were dry. No one at the door. . . Finally Bob discovered that it was the old security system which was being activated by something at the street, and he shut it off.

Then there was the discovery that pretty much every wall in the house is painted a color called Spiced Vinegar and it was beginning to feel like a bit much.

But walking the trails around here seems to put things to right again. A couple days ago I was walking on the Chehalis Trail just three miles from home. It reminds me a bit of the Redota Trail in Sebastopol, though the forest is denser and taller. I stopped to look at a lake that was almost covered with some kind of water lily, and a tiny old woman saw me puzzling and stopped. I knew immediately I wanted to talk to her.

Chehalis Western Trail, Lacey

And so I met one of my first new friends here in Olympia, Bronka Sundstrom, a 96 year old woman who walks 5-6 hours each day. 

Bronka Sundstrom

We walked for a while together as she told me some of her story. She was a Polish Jew who was interned in a concentration camp during WWII at the age of 12, lost her 7 siblings and both parents while there, barely survived herself. She was so debilitated when finally rescued, that she had to learn how to walk all over again. But she went on to marry a Swedish man with whom she led a long life of skiing and mountaineering, and here in Washington acquired fame for breaking records for climbing Mt. Ranier as an old woman. 

Needless to say I had to sketch her portrait, and now I have a reason to see her again and give it to her. Maybe some more of that courage and determination will rub off on me. And maybe this walking-the-trail activity is not a bad to make new friends here, not to mention increasing longevity! 

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.

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.

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!

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 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.

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

FACETIME

In this shelter-in-place lifestyle one must snap up the opportunity to sketch when the occasion presents. So for some reason Andrew and I were sitting at the kitchen table, and I guess he was showing me something on his phone. Only then he called me on FACETIME. Now why we would do that, when we were literally maskless-ly sitting across from each other at the kitchen table. . .I couldn’t say. 

But I looked at my phone screen and caught this perfect moment, with the fan over his head turning him into a human helicopter, and then my laughing face in the corner, like a pesky little insect. Thank goodness for the screen save function! I mean, this is truly a reason to have a cell phone with you at all times. Wouldn’t you say?

The headphones are growing out of his ears much of the time, although also sometimes attached to the temples. Then, if he pulled his mask up over the eyes, he’d resemble one of the many insects with eyes on the sides of the head, the better to see 360 degrees.