More homemade iron gall ink and opaque watercolors. This could become a bad habit.
Yesterday was a meeting of the Pencil Portraits in the Park group, but drawing people held little appeal for me. So, I decided to try something I had briefly seen somewhere and thought interesting: during their travels in the 19th century, many people sketched in pencil (graphite) and then colored the drawings with watercolor. These days most people sketch with waterproof ink and then color things in, but I rather liked this idea. A sycamore tree in our park, dressed out in autumn finery made a nice portrait, methinks.
9×12, hot press 140# Arches. Graphite and watercolor.
Since February or March of this year I have been taking a series of online classes, complete with live Zoom meetings, with Ian Roberts. He has been the best online teacher because he is so diverse in his interests and he brings them into the world of creativity. I admire his artwork, too, and think his book on composition is an excellent resource. For me, art is more than a pretty picture – it is an expression of a person, a skill, a view point. All of this, in a painting, is more akin to me than any other form of art, such as photography or music. While I enjoy them, I just am not as I entranced by them as I am by color, paint, and the process of painting.
That said, the first of the three courses was about drawing and values, not as an art in and of itself, but as a means to move forward into preparing for a painting. Next came brushwork, using black and white to render shades of grey and to learn about value. By adding yellow ochre, the next step was discerning warm and cool variants of color – or monochrome. Finally, we have come to the third and final class in this series – colorwork.
What is color? As the title says, color varies with hue, value and intensity. This week our job is to mix greys from complementary colors. Easy enough – or is it? Part of it will depend on medium used, and then, it also depends on warmth and coolness of colors. Our preliminary palette begins with a warm and cool color of each of the primaries, along with white if necessary. Cool colors are Cerulean Blue, Alizarin Crimson, and Cadmium Yellow Lemon. Warm colors are Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red Light, and Cadmium Yellow Deep. I have stuck with these three colors and a bit of titanium white gouache where I couldn’t keep the highlights, or lost them in my painting, or forgot about them altogether!
Pretty dull painting! It makes me think of the Upside Down. The point of this study was to take the clashing and garish still life Ian Roberts provided and tone it down – dull down the colors. I am using watercolors here, and I used complementary colors to tone things down but still leave the original color recognizable. The foreground cloth was bright lavender-violet; back behind squash a dark blue, wall on the left a sea green. Bowl is pinkish rose, apples green, and squash an orange with ridges casting shadows. Some shadows were hard edges, others blurred together. It was a hard exercise because I had to test my colors over and over again on a piece of scrap watercolor. This was on Arches 140# CP.
Our next study was a very low key (low key in color intensity) landscape. Evidence of a hazy day dulled all the colors so that while they were warm and cool, they all were similar in tonality. The above scan of my painting in black and white showed me I did accomplish by and large, especially in the field that makes up the lower 2/3 of the painting. The colors were very soft without a lot of bright or intense colors; rather, they all sort of blended into each other when I squinted my eyes. Only a few areas of dark contrast stood out – on the right of the field in the curve, and the bottoms of the trees at the edge of the field.
As you can see, there are no colors of high intensity. They are soft and subtle, even when dark. Hue means variations of color – and there are several, and as this is watercolor the colors are transparent and can be laid over one another or blended, depending on the wetness of the paper. The values are all in the middle of the spectrum. I used Kilimanjaro 300# Bright White paper, and this is a 10×10 inch square. My palette here are only the 6 colors I mentioned above, without any white at all.
In many ways, the still life is more “my style” insofar as the colors are laid in rather heavily. The landscape involves a more delicate and patient approach to the colors. Both were very challenging in their own way, but each taught me a lot. I liked the limited palette as I was forced to stay within its parameters, but could still achieve a lot of lovely colors, as well as darks and lights.
More to come . . .
I am beginning to lose track of the days since I began this project since some days I do nothing, and other days I do a few.
Above is Day 14. Continuing to simplify shapes and masses into values, the above should represent a mountain in the distance. From there, mid-ground is a dark ridge before the mountain, and another to the right of the mountain, behind the mountain itself. The white blobs in the foreground area with sticks is supposed to represent structures. To me, they look like felled timber. Ideally, I think the mountain itself should be lighter to represent atmospheric perspective.
This is an attempt at a nocturne – a night time value study to see if I could catch the light of the full moon. The bush-like thing in the middle needs some lightening at the top. Overall, I like this as a start to something even though it is so vague – but that is how night is!
This is a view upward to the hill at the center of the local botanical garden. The white swath in the right foreground is the sand trail which winds around downward (behind the viewer) into the riparian woodland below.
I am not quite sure if I like the values as I have them set up here – nor am I really sure about the focal point of the drawing. It seems the dark tree at the top is too dark, but it could be a leading line down the hill to the tree with the cast shadow. The trail leads the eye. In a painting, this could work out with warm and cool tones in addition to values. Maybe I’ll give it a shot!
With Day 13 I tried to make my masses more simple and graphic. I am continuing this, and will for the rest of the 30 day challenge.
Some studies lend themselves to it more readily than others. Despite that, I tried to simplify in all three. Doing this makes Roberts’ admonition to “draw shapes, not things” easier to do. Distilling the more important – most important – into value masses seems to be happening (at long last!).
Again, it will be interesting to see where it works with painting.
Little did I ever think a photo I took as a still life study in a photo class years ago would end up being the subject matter for today! I took this photo eleven years ago.
One of the beauties of drawing is you can create anything you want. This is a ground hog, but one I invented. I invented him when I realized his ear is all cockamamy. So, new subspecies: the Lopso-Eared Ground Hog.
Ground Hog Day has always been a favorite of mine. First, I like ground hogs. They are cute. Second, the entire idea of a day devoted to such a cute animal is rather delightful. According to the website history.com:
On February 2, 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist, is celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, it gets scared and runs back into its burrow, predicting six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring.
Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal—the hedgehog—as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State.
Groundhogs, also called woodchucks and whose scientific name is Marmota monax, typically weigh 12 to 15 pounds and live six to eight years. They eat vegetables and fruits, whistle when they’re frightened or looking for a mate (they’re sometimes called whistle pigs) and can climb trees and swim.
They go into hibernation in the late fall; during this time, their body temperatures drop significantly, their heartbeats slow from 80 to five beats per minute and they can lose 30 percent of their body fat. In February, male groundhogs emerge from their burrows to look for a mate (not to predict the weather) before going underground again. They come out of hibernation for good in March.
In 1887, a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog. The line of groundhogs that have since been known as Phil might be America’s most famous groundhogs, but other towns across North America now have their own weather-predicting rodents, from Birmingham Bill to Staten Island Chuck to Shubenacadie Sam in Canada.
In 1993, the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray popularized the usage of “groundhog day” to mean something that is repeated over and over. Today, tens of thousands of people converge on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney each February 2 to witness Phil’s prediction. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club hosts a three-day celebration featuring entertainment and activities.
Let’s hear it for monata monax!
#2 – Suit
Guess what kind of suit I have drawn . . .
Hummingbirds are amazing little critters! if you have never had the treat of their buzzing past you, I can only say that you are missing out. We have them in our area and enjoy their presence amongst our flowers. Here, an Anna’s Hummingbird in colored pencil.
Below you can see the various stages of my drawing. I have more work on the branch of the final image above, and prefer the third image below. I tried some Gamsol on the one above and wonder if it was a mistake.
I think I will look at this drawing again in a few days, touch it up, and maybe repost. I have a lot to learn about colored pencils and am enjoying it far more than I thought I would. One thing I have learned is to be patient and to take my time.
Sometimes I have too much fun making up titles for my posts!
This is a colored pencil exercise I did, just because. I used the more highly textured side of a piece of Mi Teintes pastel paper, choosing a rather grey paper with threads of darker grey running through it. I drew the cherry blossoms on with a graphite pencil and then laid down a rather heavy layer of whites, greens and brown for the blossoms, leaves, and branch. From there, more colors, burnishing and blending. Finally, I scribbled in a turquoise background, followed by layers of blues and lighter colors as well.
Initially, I decided to use a tortillon to blend the background colors, attempting to emulate the bokeh one sees in photographs. Bokeh is a wonderful bit of photography at times, achieved either via the lens itself, or distance between the object in focus and the next object behind the primary one. To blur colored pencil requires a lot of pencil color and a bit of elbow grease. Not quite what you would get when blending pastels.
Never having done it, but interested in the effect, I took a small amount of odorless mineral spirits, a soft brush, and began to blend the colors in the background. Where there were heavier layers, the colors blurred and blended more readily. I waited for the mineral spirits to evaporate and then added more color. More blending, this time painting around the cherry blossoms and branch with the loosened pigment. More drying. Finally, a bit of blending – very little, with a very light touch – of the leaves and blossoms. To complete the drawing, sharp colored pencils were used to enhance the branches and yellow pollen in the center of the blossoms.
I decided to try bokeh in colored pencil as I think that is what my teacher said we will be doing in our class Thursday morning, as well as drawing on black paper. This was a fun exercise and like everything, doing equates learning and understanding. Let’s see what Thursday class will bring . . .
The last day of my Pencil Portrait class was last Wednesday morning, and it was a rather sad time for me. I have learned so much. The next session will be in the classroom, on a morning which is not good for me. Interestingly, by happenstance, by good luck, I came home and found out that a colored pencil drawing class begins this coming Thursday! Thursdays are always open in my schedule . . . . Email can be great – if you read it!
I am not sure what to expect from a colored pencil class, much less in a socially distanced and masked classroom. Hopefully it will work out well, and the teacher will be logical and good. It is not often that you see such an offering as more traditional media classes are apt to be offered.
In my library I have a few books on colored pencils, so I dug them out. One that is really a rather interesting one is called “Creative Colored Pencil Workshop” by Carlynne Hershberger and Kelli Money Huff. It combines pencils with other media. The magnolia blossom is a quick take on one of their very first studies. I like to warm up so I will be doing a bit of colored pencil drawing over the next few weeks, but plan to really continue to work on painting in gouache and / or watercolor as well.