Marina, Sequoyah Park

Marina, Sequoyah Park

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Spring Sketching and Travels Far and Near

I have taken several short trips this Spring and have been taking my sketchbooks with me and capturing a few images here and there.

This one is from a house just across the street though with a lovely blooming tree in permanent pen and watercolor and is the first sketch in my Stillman and Birn Alpha 6" x 9" sketchbook.

The first week in April I visited Weatherford, Ok for a workshop at Southwestern Oklahoma State University with Susan Martin Maffei and Archie Brennan. Most of my efforts that week were tapestry related but I did have an afternoon off that I spent exploring in downtown Weatherford and having lunch at the Downtown Diner. They had big white paper mats on the tables so I took out the Sharpie in my purse and started drawing the interior of the diner.

I left the sketch on the table when I left and my waiter was surprised and happy with my extra tip!

Here is another quick sketch done in my motel room one evening. It was very comfortable but it was strange to be in the room at night without Mack or any of my fur kids.

Shortly after I returned home I had a sketch day planned with a friend at the Sand Springs Herb Festival.

I needed a way to support my sketchbook, paint box, pencils and brushes for sketching at the festival and got a great idea from Debo on Artists Journal workshop which I translated to this arrangement. Basically a foam core board, 12 inches square to which I attached some magnet strips and a couple of clip on medium containers for water.

Here it is with my handmade sketchbook, 7"x 10", my paint box and metal pencil tin attached to the magnet strips and all the tools I needed to sketch and paint. The board easily fit on my lap and everything went in a tote bag which was a great solution for times like this when bringing an easel would not work very well.

Here is my first sketch from the Herb festival. The morning started off rainy and grey and after buying a few plants for out gardens we settled down to listen to some Bluegrass. The music was great and I enjoyed capturing the band in pen and watercolor on Stillman and Birn Beta paper that I bought in sheets and tore down to size for my sketchbook.

The second one was done on the off white S&B Delta paper. This was a scene off to my right and I just started sketching figures as they were choosing plants. The end result is a composite of people I sketched at different times and the watercolor was added later.

The day cleared up and ended up being lots of fun. It was great to watch people emerging from the winter and all the festivity that involved.

A little watercolor sketch I did as a study from a book I was reading by Paul Laseau, Watercolor Sketching.

Toward the end of April I went for a yearly weekend trip with friends to Lawrence, Kansas. I started this sketch on Friday morning while waiting for a friend to pick me up. She came a little sooner than expected but I was able to get a little sketch of the Amarylis in the front yard bulb bed.

On Saturday I decided to challenge myself to make as many sketches as I could and to work as fast as I could and see what happened. Normally I just take my time with sketching and I like it that way but I have been reading lately how working quickly can be of benefit.

This one is from the front window of the Halcyon House where we stay every year. Pen and watercolor in my Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook mentioned earlier.

This one was sketched from the front porch of the Halcyon House. The lilac was blooming which made it quite nice to sketch and smell. I did both of these sketches before breakfast with the same materials and paper as above.

Next I drew a sketch of my friend Jeannine sitting across from me at breakfast with brown ink in a fountain pen and brown ochre colored pencil. the other figure was another guest at the Halcyon that I did not know.

Here it is with the watercolor added. One of my favorites from the day.

Here is another sketch of some friends taking a rest during our shopping trip at the Yarn Barn. This was done in the same sketchbook with pen and colored pencil.

Here is a sketch of lunch at Ingredients just across from the Yarn Barn. I really had to work fast on this one!

Finally, a sketch of a scene while walking back to the Halcyon from the downtown area.

This warm brick house against all the Spring greens was really appealing...

and here it is with the color added.

This week I have spent some time getting organized for a week long plein air painting class in Eureka Springs. It is no small thing to get supplies organized and packed for a class like this. Everything has to be organized to travel and carry, including an easel, folding seat and umbrella.

This week I have worked on organizing my palette,

practicing a few value studies with landscape subjects and

then a few more.

I have also been doing some brush testing by just working in the studio from imagination and putting some brushes through some sampling.

I normally use rounds for just about everything but I tested some riggers and sword or dagger stripers, also some nice squirrel wash brushes and a palette knife for lifting out of wet paint.

One of my goals for this class is to try for more of a painting technique and drawing more with my brushes than with pen. It remains to be seen how this will work out for me.

I am really excited about this class as it represents a real change in routine for me and time to focus on painting and sketching.

I have also been doing some reading to prepare for the class. The instructor has three books on the reading list and two of them I have already read and enjoyed, Cathy Johnson's Sierra Club Guide to Painting in Nature and Urban Watercolor Sketching by Felix Scheinberger. The third shown here, First Impressions by Edward Norton Ward I was not familiar with but I managed to find a discarded library copy and am glad I did. Not only are the sketches, all done on quarter sheet size paper very appealing but it contained some good information about the process too.

It did not surprise me that John Carlson's book, Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting  first published in 1929 was on the Bibliogaphy in  First Impressions.

My copy is a Dover edition from the revised book published in 1973. While this is not a book full of lavish color photos it is definitely one of the most helpful books  have ever read on approaching the Plein Air landscape no matter what medium you choose to work with.

The black and white photos perfectly illustrate many of the important points about handling values...

and numerous diagrams  to instruct on various aspects of painting the landscape. If you at all interested in this subject it is a book that can inspire and inform every time it is picked up. I am rereading it for the third time and every time I discover more information that I wasn't ready for the time before.

I feel sure I will be sharing more about the class as events unfold.

Here is one last quick sketch of Maisie from last night. With all the storms lately all three of our fur kids have been kind of agitated. Last night was the worst, several times all three of them climbed up on the bed and walked all over us when the thunder and lightening kicked up.
Here is Maisie during one of the more relaxed moments. She has a special talent for comfort and repose which makes her a much easier sketch subject than Laddie the busy boy Border Collie.
Colored pencil in the Alpha sketchbook.

Friday, March 27, 2015

New Supplies, New Sketches

Breaking news! Just as I was getting my photos together for this post a package arrived from Amazon. Okay, I admit it, I am always on the lookout for art supplies that I didn't know I needed and here is my newest find.

This is listed as a forever pen that never needs ink but it is a metal alloy tip that writes more like a pencil. When I looked this up on Amazon the reviews were not glowing. Many complained that the line was too light, too hard to see, more like a pencil than a pen and so on. I was not phased because I was seeing it as a possible tool for preliminary drawings, either for more detailed pen sketches or watercolor paintings. I often have a somewhat heavy hand and the more excited I am about a subject the more bold my lines become- this is not always an advantage when starting a drawing or watercolor painting.

I realize that I need to do a lot more experimenting with this tool before I know if it really suits my needs and is indeed "perfect" but here is my first test.

Yes, the line is very light although it is possible to darken it with some extra pressure. I hope you can see my little test in this photo. High score for  being light and looking like a pencil.

It is not heavy as some of the reviews indicate and though it comes in lots of models I chose this one for two reasons, the Cherry wood makes it warm to the touch and look at the shaped end, just like an aquarelle brush- I took that as a sign.

Some of the reviews mention that it is not smooth on the paper but I found it just fine, no problem with drag at all. Directly out of the box I found the line to be very fine and thin but it is also possible to sand it with extra fine grit sandpaper to sharpen it more. My initial test indicates that it will not be necessary. One thing that is notable about it is that it is not erasable so in that respect it is more like drawing with a pen that looks like a pencil. The next important test is to try it with watercolor and see what happens but I am excited about a fine light line in a tool that never needs sharpening or refills for preliminary sketches on location. I will let you know. Here is the link on Amazon if you want more information.

Now back to the sketches. I have been continuing to work on my figure drawing but the hint of Spring in the air has renewed my interest in getting outside and sketching some nature subjects lately.
I am organizing by sketchbook this time.

The first sketches are in my handmade sketchbooks. I have two of these, one is quarter sheet size 11"x 15" and the other is half that size 7.5"x 11". That way I can include any kind of paper I like and tear from full sheets with no waste for the journals.

As these are filling up it occurs to me that I should make another of each size, one to use as an "album" for finished work and another to use as a working sketchbook. I will put that idea on the list. The next group of sketches are in these books.

Here is a pen and watercolor sketch on Fabriano 140 lb soft press paper from the Tuesday session at Whiteside Portrait Painters.

Another sketch from the Tuesday group on Fabriano Hot press paper.

This one is from the Saturday group at Tulsa Art Center, on Arches 140 lb Cold press paper. I had painted the whole surface with a coat of Raw Sienna watercolor and then worked into it so the whites are done with Conte pencil.

One more from the Tuesday group on Stillman and Birn Beta which is 180lb, very nice paper. I bought a few sheets of Beta and Delta to put into my handmade sketchbooks.The basic difference is the color, Beta is a natural white and Delta is cream. Unfortunately on the day I planned to test this paper I forgot to bring my brushes so this was done primarily with watercolor pencils and water added after I went home. Not the best idea.

Most of the time when I am working with figures I'm thinking about trying to place them in environments or just adding them to landscapes and urban sketches but trying to get a likeness is an interesting challenge that I try with mixed results every now and then. I tried doing a second sketch of Martin in water-soluble pencil and watercolor for a better likeness.

The final sketch from the handmade sketchbooks is one of a Trumpet Vine from my backyard. The day was pretty and I was trying to finish a tapestry but couldn't resist a little outdoor sketching.

I have been thinking that this vine might make an interesting if complicated subject for a couple of seasons now and somehow the time to act was upon me.

The drawing is Brown Ochre watercolor pencil and pen with brown and grey De Atrementis document ink.

Here it is finished with the watercolor. It was somewhat of a challenge but I think I may be sketching this vine again. The next day I was out walking and found a lovely piece of twisted vine that I could bring into the studio for some more practice.

The next group of sketches is from my 8.5"x 5.5" Stillman and Birn Zeta sketchbook. This book is my second Zeta, now filled. I like Zeta, it is a heavy smooth paper and very pen friendly. The smooth hot press style paper makes watercolor look luminous and it shows up every brush stroke.

Here is a sketch of a scene from my painting studio window at sunrise one morning. I used both brown and grey inks,

and here it is finished with watercolor. It is satisfying to be inspired by simple scenes from every day life.

Moving on with the Zeta, here is a portrait attempt with watercolor pencil and ink. I was trying to test a  grey ink that I mixed from De Atrementis Document ink in Blue, Brown, Red and Yellow in the scarf pattern behind the model.

Two more little portrait sketches. Getting a likeness is elusive but fascinating.

Another little sketch. I was so excited when the Spring bulbs started to come out that I just had to get out and capture it in the sketchbook. This is also pen and watercolor.

Spring has been late coming to Oklahoma and even though it had arrived for a few days we are enjoying the fire again tonight as I write this as it has cooled off again. I loved how Cathy Johnson described it in a recent bit of poetry on Facebook, the crone of winter returns.

This is a scene I captured one recent evening while sketching instead of writing by the fire and is a common one at our house. Another sketch in pen and watercolor.

Moving onto the last group of sketches in my 5.5" square Handbook Journal from Global Arts. This paper has a little tooth, is a light cream color and seems too light weight to handle watercolor but it actually does very well with light washes.

This is my most journal like of all the sketchbooks I have going currently and I end up doing more writing in this one. These are the smallest most informal sketches and the ones I do when traveling.

Here is a little flower sketch with Derwent Inktense pencils. Watercolor pencils with a very intense color when water is applied. I see beautiful work that others do with these pencils but I am not yet comfortable with them. I also consider sketching flowers to be my weak link but I keep trying.

A little sketch of sweet Maisie with the colored leads in my Pentel Multi 8 pen.

This and the next two sketches are from a recent sketch crawl to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas for the special exhibit "From Van Gogh to Rothko"

Only pencil and colored pencil in the museum but I added some watercolor to this one after we left the exhibit.

This was done with the colored leads from the Pentel Multi 8 pen. I actually carry two of these in my bag which gives me 16 options including an HB lead, three colors of ballpoint and 12 lead colors in just two pens. Awesome for traveling light!

My final sketches from the museum. This is a very nice exhibit and a lovely museum. I am looking forward to going back and would love to do some sketching on the grounds. There is supposed to be an exhibit of Jamie Wyeth work later in the Summer that would be nice to see.

Another little sketch from this journal made while sitting on my front porch watching a Spring rain. Water soluble pencil, pen and watercolor.

I finished reading Freehand Sketching by Paul Laseau, a little book with some big ideas,

and sketched one of my Purrlie cats toys the other night very late after an anxious evening of weather watching while storms and tornados danced around us. It is a very colorful toy so I should enjoy another late night adding some color soon.

Whew, I remember thinking with all the work on the tapestries this month I wouldn't have much to share here but I am fairly exhausted by now.

If you have hung in to the very end and would like to see how my sketches translate to another medium move over to my tapestry blog where this sketch/cartoon has finally been finished as a hand woven tapestry.

Here is hoping for a Spring/Summer full of great sketching!