Once more, the house is in total disarray – the trees in the back yard have been removed or severely trimmed back. 5 trees out, 11 pruned. The guy who did it all is an artist – you can actually see the branches on the trees, and the neighbors. So what does it have to do with a post called “Lines & Shades”? All this disruption messes everything up! With such disruption – and being unable to leave the house – it was a strange sort of prison. I read murder mysteries for the most part until yesterday. It was quiet and no one was home except me and the dogs.
Back to basics. Pen and ink, contour drawing. The first one was kind of stiff, but as things moved on, it got easier and more fun. I wanted to make “lost and found edges” as well, to make things suggested, not spelled out.
I also decided to scan in a value study I did from a photo I took years ago of the Santa Monica River in the mountains nearby, on a hot, dry day. This is to remind me to follow a more traditional route in painting as my own sense of contrast – light – dark – is not the best. As you can see, I did it some weeks ago, but I hope to make it into a watercolor in the not too distant future. The hard part is finding the right color for the sandy river bottom, but I have an idea . . .
I went out looking for spring wildflowers this weekend and took a number of photographs. Everywhere were blooms – wildflowers and domestic ones, all in the local botanical garden. Hummingbird sage is one of my favorites. I didn’t catch the fuschia-pink of the flower, nor the softness, but the shape worked out fairly well.
No, I haven’t forgotten my “Somewhere in Wyoming” picture, but as we are installing new floors in the back half of the house, my studio and supplies are packed up. All I have left are a few paints and brushes, and a couple of smallish sketch books. So, small things, done without the need for too much planning. And, truthfully, with the whole house in chaos, it’s probably for the best.
That said, this morning I was listening to the birds singing. The springtime songs are everywhere. When I was a child, I lived in rural Illinois, surrounded by huge oaks and wide open fields. In the fields were the meadowlarks, brilliantly colored and beautiful singers. The notes of the meadowlark are memorable and unmistakable. I found some photos, and hodge-podged one together. I am not really good at drawing animals, so birds are always a bit of a challenge.
The watercolor, without lines.
And with some inking done, for contrast and a bit of structure. I’m not sure if either really works well, or if there should be more color above the meadowlark instead of plain white paper. What do you think?
Last summer we went on a long road trip. Of course, the camera came out. Living in modern suburbia, I see little of “older” architecture in the form of dwellings, so ornate houses from the late 1800s-early 1900s have their draw. This is a part of a Victorian house high up a hill, hidden by trees and bushes, and accessed by a long, long stairway.
First drawing was in pencil, then inked over, and the pencil lines erased. I tried to keep the perspective – I am getting better at it – but there are still some errors.
And the final product, inked in detail, painted, inked again.
I am enjoying the meditative quality of drawing in detail and somehow not worrying if it is “right” or “wrong” – just doing it is enough. I also try to remember what I have learned from experience or a class, such as reflected light in windows.
I have always liked pen and ink combined with watercolor. The contrast between the two can be art in itself, or the two can work together, each enhancing the other. I came across this book by Claudia Nice, Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor, quite some time ago. It’s detailed and it has some exercises with suggestions as to what to do and notes as to what she did to create the effects. Some are just ink and colors, others involve traditional “helpers” such as alcohol or salt to achieve results.
Yesterday afternoon I was in an antsy mood, but didn’t want to paint in my usual splashy style, but wanted some “containment” if that makes sense. I wanted something requiring a degree of precision. Ink is always the answer there. Realism, too, is not where I wander naturally, so Nice’s work and exercises always have a magic to them.
The first I chose was her “Old Broadleaf Maple” – detailed, subtle. And a tree. I love trees! This is my rendering of her example.
The second one I chose was a fly agaric mushroom. I have seen only one like it in my entire life – and even then I am not sure it was the same mushroom. I was hiking up in the Rockies in Colorado, up high, and came across some huge, red mushrooms, the kind you see in fairy tales. Wanting more colors than the tree, the red hues of the mushroom were perfect.
The beauty of Nice’s work is that while it appears easy, if you are doing the study, you focus on the small things as well as the overarching picture. By nature, I am not detailed oriented, and for me, it is a different way of seeing and doing something. I am always pleased with the results when I take my time. The biggest challenge is to take these studies to my own world, outside the pages of the book, and look for the details on a plant or whatever, decide what to keep, what to discard, and so on. It is hard work worth every minute!
Some random sketches from the weekend in pen and ink. Cats just make me laugh. People, not so much. Well, yeah, they do, but cats are infinitely more amusing.
This morning I was feeling restless and unfocused while I was drinking my morning coffee. I wanted to do something, but have felt all scrambled this week, partly because routines have changed in the later part of the day and are rather disruptive of the normal routines. So, something mindless. Then I saw my ca. 1810 pewter inkwell with its ceramic insert. The decision was to draw it using the dip pen sitting nearby. Well, grogginess and a general inability to draw circles are the result – ovals are even harder – and perspective? Well, the results speak for themselves!
There is always a fear of overworking things . . . and sometimes things don’t work out quite how you hope. In general, I like the drawing, but not all areas painted. The bee turned out far better than I ever expected, and I am pleased I could catch the colors through its wings.
I am not done with this painting yet. I think I want to do something with the bee . . . but I’ll wait a bit to see what I think. I find scanning my work really brings a fresh eye to it – easier to critique when on the monitor than when it’s on the table.
I am trying to do something everyday when it comes to drawing or painting. Some days only allow for morning time, and that is when I did this drawing of a bee in a borage plant. Today, I used a dip pen, my ca. 1810 pewter ink well, and iron gall ink. I have never drawn a bee before, and using a dip pen and focusing on the shapes, rather than what I think I see (thank you, Sharon, for that great advice!), produced fairly decent results. I’m rather afraid to draw anything that requires a bit of realism as I really doubt my abilities to do this. Practice is needed here!
Borage is a lovely plant, covered in fur, with beautiful blue flowers. If I recall, it is an invasive plant, and one best kept contained in a pot. I had some in my dog free zone (DFZ) this summer amongst the lilies.
As an aside, I’m getting used to using a dip pen, which is really a rather nice skill to have as I don’t have the big blobs I used to get; I know when to refill the well and dilute the ink with water. Something we don’t think about in this day and age of non-dip pens.