A Pencilly Afternoon

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.

More from the Willenbrink’s book as well as a face I drew the other day. 

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.

More Impressions of Slater’s Bridge

I have been rather lazy today, too lazy to set up to paint. So, an old exercise came to mind: make a messy color mix on paper and draw over it with ink. I had Slater’s Bridge already chosen as the subject matter for this exercise  (partly for Ms. Fragglerocking, partly because I think it’s such a lovely bit of stonework). As a result, I plopped on colors and then drew the bridge from different angles.

This was the first one. No idea how the cobalt violet would work, but used leftover watercolor paint from my dirty palette along with fresh colors. Then I drew. I admit, I came in and added some color after I added the drawing to get a bit more definition. It sort of felt like cheating!

So, with the thought of cheating in mind, I did this one. Yes, I deliberately put manganese blue at the top, and then just added the cadmium orange and greens. However, I didn’t add any colors after finishing the ink drawing.

Daily work – daily play – daily adventures in art!

Atilt

We had only a 2-week session of out pencil portrait class. We met in a park behind the local library for a couple of hours for the past two Wednesdays, and I will miss them so much! Perhaps next year? I hope so.

Our teacher, Steve, is a lovely man, encouraging with a sharp eye and pithy, simple suggestions. I know I have improved a great deal in the few sessions we have had.

So, for today’s portrait, I chose to use the photo below, found on Pixabay. I love the expression in this photo, as well as the challenges it posed – the tilt of the head, the odd angles, the contrast. My own drawing failed to catch this beautiful face, but it did work as far as placement of eyes, nose, mouth, ear. It was really a tough study!

The pencil portrait class has gotten me interested in drawing faces. I’ve done three so far. Maybe something to schedule every Wednesday morning to keep my hand in it, and hope Steve will honor us with another series next year.

Inktober 2019: #5 Build

Today’s post #5 for Inktober 2019 – Build – is a lot easier than yesterday’s was, for whatever reason.  In keeping with my promise to myself, this was drawn with homemade iron gall ink.  I created different shades with diluting the ink with water, letting it dry, and then adding more ink to layer it into darker shades.  It seems to work pretty well.  I also used two different pen nibs for the line work – in iron gall with a dip pen – along with an old paint brush I am willing to sacrifice as iron gall is a higlhy corrosive ink over time.

And, if you operate this critter, please excuse my inaccuracies!

Old Pine at Whalers’ Cove

Every now and again a place calls you, and you know that your life is changed by what you have seen and heard and smelled – a total sensory experience that nothing will ever equal.  Returning to it may destroy the memory or add to it.  Here, I think returning to the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve will only add to the experience.

We headed out to have a short 3-night vacation up in Monterey, California.  We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, probably for our 4th time, as well as Point Lobos for the very first time.  It is unparalleled.  Tall pines, rugged coast, water, rocks and cliffs, pines and cypress, and history all combine to create a world into which it would be so easy to stay immersed in, never to return.  The area of Monterey is stunning, with many beautiful and historical areas to be explored, such as Carmel, the city of Monterey itself, Pacific Grove.  An abundance of parks and preserves are available to all.

I brought my art supplies with me, but couldn’t sit still.  I had to keep exploring, along trails with rocks and roots and staircases, and easy paths lined with views of trees and meadows and plants not found in my neck of SoCal.  In particular, the pines and cypress caught my attention, but so did the rocks and water and cliffs.  I expect there will be a lot to draw from as I took a lot of pictures, most taken with care to composition and color.

Here is an old pine tree standing against the sky.  It’s dying as it’s old, wooden branches attest, and yet it still bears needles and reaches to the sky.  I fall in love with trees such as this – if they could just tell their tales!  I used my home made iron gall ink with a very fine pen nib on Bee watercolor paper.

Kingfisher (Drawn with Iron Gall Ink)

This morning I did a quick sketch of a kingfisher using iron gall ink using a dip pen.  As you can see, there is a bit better variability in lines than when drawing is done with a quill pen (see yesterday’s post).  Both have qualities I really like – expressiveness, boldness, delicacy.  As I am used to using fountain pens, a dip pen is no problem once I learned how to control the amount of ink on nib.  What must be remembered is how to load the nib, and as nibs are all different, a bit of testing on scratch paper helps.

At present, I am deciding if I want to colorize this drawing – which is why for now, it is not!  If I do, I want to use very dilute but vibrant colors.  It is my hope that the ink will shine through the paint without my having to re-ink parts of it.

Lichens on Tree Branches

I have finally gotten out to the local botanic garden after a month long hiatus.  I went a couple of days ago on a bright sunny day.  Today, in the foggy gloom, I went again.  Both times, camera in hand.  The sunny day I was accompanied by a friend while this morning one of my dogs came along.

In today’s gloom, the bright green lichens on this tree caught my eye.  I’ve photographed it a number of times, in different seasons, under different lighting conditions.  There are spots of green, white, and dark grey.  Textures range from smooth to rough.  In the textures of the garden – leaves, flowers, critters, stems, branches, – it is easy to overlook the subtle beauty of a couple of branches.

Miner’s Lettuce

Yesterday I went out for a bit of a hike, through one of my favorite trails, the Chumash Trail.  Last year we had massive fires, and what I saw was the remnants of that fire.  Burnt mountainsides, devoid of brush and the usual cover (like poison oak!).  Bare and burnt oak trees, rocks.  So many things were revealed by the fire as plants were burnt away.

Sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it?  Here in California, much of our landscape and plants are fire-dependent, meaning that fire is a normal part of the season.  With the drought and firefighting measures – like not letting entire neighborhoods burn down – brush becomes overgrown.  With a drought, you have kindling.

Now, with everything burnt away, new growth is beginning to emerge.  Flowers, weeds, leaves on the oak trees.  I was able to hike into an area that I normally avoid – too much poison oak and a lot of rattle snakes.  It is along a creek into a narrowing canyon.  And, sitting on a rock, listening to birds and the sound of water, I looked around.  That is when I found the first-ever Miner’s Lettuce I have seen in this area.  I took a picture, and this is what I painted.

A perfect spring morning!

In the Garden: Hummingbird Sage

Hummingbird sage – salvia spathacea – is a member of the salvia famnily, and is found throughout the woodland environment of California.  It’s smallish – about a foot tall – and has dark green leaves and the most complex little flowers with the strangest shapes.  Spring is always around the corner when they appear,  In a drought-ridden environment, such as ours, salvia plants add a lot to your garden.  This particular sage may or may not appeal to the gardener on a practical level – propagation is not only by seeds, but underground rhizomes, which could become a bit overwhelming.