I should have gone to my Pencil Portraits class . . . but it was raining and cold and it’s outdoors. I’m a wuss, enjoying snow and ice from a distance. Thus, biting cold, frost, and snow fog. Wander along the road, beneath the trees, and remain in my snug house with a cup of cocoa and blues a-playing in the background. Not a rough life.
For some reason, winter is just in my head and in my paint brush these days. Probably I like it so much because I don’t have to deal with its less lovely elements, such as shoveling snow to commute on icy roads. Rather, I would be walking through the countryside for hours as I did when I was a kid back east, enjoying the cold air and the silence and the gentle falling of flakes.
As the Midwest and other parts of the world endure and enjoy subzero weather and snow and ice, it is summer somewhere in the southern hemisphere!
Where I am, it is neither; just a crisp and lovely day, with the winter light canted lower in the sky. I really enjoy painting landscapes, imagining myself in the middle of it all. I think I need to get into town, though – my hiking boots need replacing. 😉
Red rock formations are stunning. Utah is filled with them, with Bryce and Zion National Parks presenting stunning examples of not only the rocks, but arches and canyons.
Driving through Utah is a trip into a wonderful land, brimming with natural beauty besides the red rocks – the Great Salt Lake, mountains, ranch land, forests, and so much that it is hard to even begin to describe. Add to that, it holds a special place in American history as it is where the persecuted Mormons (Church of Latter Day Saints) found sanctuary.
Back in the 80s, I drove through St. George, Utah, when I returned to California to live. Just a few years back, we visited on a family road trip – it was far bigger than I remember, but just as beautiful.
Where I live there isn’t a very big likelihood of snow. At higher elevations, yes, but here in coastal California, 800 feet isn’t gonna get it.
So, I dream.
I’ve lived in some places with stunning countryside, such as rural Illinois, upstate New York, in the Rockies of Colorado. Snow was beautiful and thrilling. As a kid, it’s a wonderland, but I remember my mother would always kvetch about all the little mittens, the snowsuits, the boots, the scarves, the this and that to get a herd of kids dressed to play – and then ten minutes later, they are all back in the house.
In keeping with yesterday’s quickies, today I present you with another timed study. This time I used only one brush to do everything. It was a 3/4 inch flat brush, rather stiff, and not able to hold a lot of water. It’s always a challenge to do a timed study, but also more challenging when one brush is used for everything.
Oops! I did you a fine line brush for some things, like the trees in the middle left, the windows in the buildings, and some of the grasses in the foreground. However, the flat brush did produce everything else, even the tree trunks. Practice like this is a lot of fun.
I spent the most part of today slogging along in the Dog Free Zone. Emptying out old pots, refilling them, pruning, sweeping, sweeping, sweeping, planting bulbs, cutting back overgrown critters, toiling away in a sweltering 67F for 3 hours. Poor me, eh? But just imagine what I will see in a few months!! And I still have seeds to plant as well.
So, I was honestly too tired to focus on anything requiring logic. I needed to just paint. Flowers seem appropriate given all the gardening. And I also have a couple of dozen of dazzling orangy red tulips. Trust me, the real ones look far better than this painting!
And then there are those wonderful flowers – bulbs – which grow and bloom in winter, when all is drab and drear. Crocus anyone? Here, a bit of snow is all that is left.
Each of these paintings was done with a time limit of 30 minutes. You can make a lot of mistakes in 30 minutes and paint some truly awful stuff – that is why quick studies can be so educational. And you can paint some great stuff, and wonder, how the hell did you do that!?
As you may recall, my Pencil Portraits class will begin again, on 2/17/21. It’s a lovely class with a great instructor, social distancing, real people! None of this virtual stuff, which has its place, but doesn’t cut it for me. However, that is another story.
For my previous two Pencil Portrait classes, I spent the entire time – 2 hours a day in class for 5 weeks to do one portrait in each session. I learned a lot and got some good results. This time around, though, I am actually “prepping” for the class. I want to be able to render a likeness that is recognizable, but I want to try to do a portrait in each session. That means a portrait in two hours, for a total of 4 portraits (we are meeting for 4 weeks this time, with a possible 5th depending on what the class wants).
Thus, I have decided to refer to various how-to books in my library, as well as work with other resources, such as YouTube. With as many resources at hand, I just need to sit down and work on things. Today’s focus is on proportions and positions of the eye, nose, ears, and mouth in a frontal view and in profile, as well as some practice with shading – as I’ve noted, my ability to render shadows and contrast gets lost when I work with color.
Above are studies from the book Drawing Portraits for the Absolute Beginner by Mark and Mary Willenbrink.
Shading studies with a look at where light hits a sphere from different directions. Not too sure how realistic my results are, but in a way, just doing it and thinking about it is perhaps more important. Being conscious of shadows is the whole point. I learned a lot from a video by Xabio Arts, which is below:
Solving the problems of drawing means putting tools in your art supplies – mental ones for reference with a pencil (or pen, or brush!).
More shading, and a face. Per the Willenbrinks, the face is about 5 eyes wide – which I know – and 7 eye-widths high – which I never learned. Now that is a good trick. From there – a couple of faces and shadows.
A face on a singe sheet of paper, using guides from the Willenbrink’s book as well as from a video on YouTube from Xabio Arts on drawing the face straight-on.
Now, profiles. I really did not get the Willenbrink’s proportions very well. Something eluded me. The heads just don’t seem in proportion. Thus, some YouTube videos on drawing the head in profile. Not much hit me until . . .
. . . I came across a profile video done in 2015 by Liron Yanconsky on YouTube. These are his proportions, and they work a lot better for me and how I want to set up proportions. You can see his video below.
And the final drawing of the day is below.
Art is personal and we all have our own way of doing things. It’s so interesting that, although we are taught the same thing, how our minds and bodies put it out on paper can be so different.
I’ve also realized that I never have had a drawing course, or read a book, that says “Do it this way!” Technical mastery is not just in knowing how your medium works, but also how to render the real world around you. This mastery becomes a jumping-off point to your own adventrues.
After my attempts at a portrait of a person, the realization was that my shading skills are not really good. Also, my Pencil Portraits class recommences on 2/17, so I thought it might be a worthwhile endeavor to work with a pencil, and work on value with the pencil. This certainly will benefit any studies I do in the Pencil Portraits class, and perhaps get it into my thick skull to think a lot more about gradation and value than I do! (Magpie Brain loves bright colors.)
I am very fond of the books by Alphonso Dunn on ink drawing. His work is phenomenal, and I have learned a lot through his exercises. Given this, I decided to apply some of his studies to pencil work rather than ink. All of these exercises come from his Pen and Ink Drawing Workbook.
Above, is the first one I attempted. If you look closely, you can see the page numbers in the sketches (enlarge the images by clicking on them). These studies were outlines with a choice of light direction. You have to use your imagination!
Shapes and shadows – reflected light, cast shadows, highlights. Simple forms and then a rather pathetic toucan.
I particularly enjoyed employing the pen-into-pencil of these drawings in Mr. Dunn’s book. His are obviously rendered in black and white, with shades of grey determined by pen strokes. Here, I took his studies and applied pencil – graphite – to them. They include a cabbage (I know, it looks like a brain), mushroom, hammer, and bow tie. Each has a different set of textures. I started to visualize where the light source was, and that really helped me start thinking more about what I was doing.
For all of these, I used a 2B pencil and a sketchbook, along with referring to Penn and Ink Drawing Workbook examples.