Saturday, June 24, 2017

I Still Get Surprised

I did my daily drawing practice this morning, which works much better for me. The several evenings, I haven't drawn until right before bedtime, which does not work as well.  I'm fresher in the morning. The challenge always is pushing back all of the things that need to be done in the morning. I end up doing those. On the weekend, there's more time, so after feeding the cats (one of those morning things that can't be pushed back) I drew.

I drew cats. My warm up was trying to copy a cat sketch in the Steinlan Cats book several times. After that I turned to my live models. One of the things that I like about Steinlan's sketches is that he can convey so much with the big picture. Enough of the details are there, but you aren't overwhelmed with them. Given that mindset and, also, from going back and looking at some videos last month's drawing class, I worked on some cat sketches where I really wanted to focus on values, not details. Also, I get a bit overwhelmed and, in truth, sloppy if I try to do an entire cat, so I deliberately focus on a partial cat.

I got lost in this one in the way that makes my brain feel refreshed when I'm done. I become totally involved with capturing the shapes and contours. When I looked down, it was a complete surprise how much this was Ella in that moment of time. So many sketches turn out to be close (or not so close) approximations. When a sketch like this happens, it feels like I've reached out and captured "truth". It sounds a bit silly to write this down, especially since it is only a partial sketch, but that is the feeling that I get when I look at this sketch. Plus, there are not details!!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

I Missed One

This was my first try in June 2016.


Here is Sadie.

I first tried to paint her in August 2016.  At this point, I had been painting for about 6 months. 

Since that time, I tried again, 

and again, 

and again, 

I cropped the picture differently and tried again.

I tried one more time last night. Painting the same picture helps me see how I'm doing. All of the drawing that I've been doing has helped me. There is still so much room for improvement, but I feel like my skills have taken a step forward. The things I like best are the eyes, the muzzle, and the color.  For some reason, I've tended to make my oranges and browns muddy and that's how this painting started, but I went back and changed it. My darkest values may be a little extreme, but that works better than now having enough range in the values. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Plumb Lines And Horizontal Lines

When I was drawing last night, plumb lines were very helpful. What I figured out was that when I am drawing and looking for relationships or reference points, I mostly look close by in the vicinity of where I am drawing. Using plumb lines helped me see that I needed to broaden my focus. For today's drawing practice, I continued to use both plumb lines and horizontal lines.

Today, I scheduled time to draw in public. While work is crazy busy, I was lucky enough to be near the Como Zoo at one point due to a client meeting and I used my lunch time to draw for about an hour. Up until now, my favorite animals to draw are the ones which are sleeping, but now I have another favorite. When I arrived today, it was feeding time for the giraffes. People can line up to feed a giraffe. What that means is that there is an animal who keeps returning to the same position over and over and over again. It's perfection!  I get to practice on something that is moving, but that is also predictable.

Rather than warming up, I just started drawing. I like this sketch the best. The dashed lines helped me compare my proportions and the relative position of things. I even wrote "pretty good", since I do think this was pretty good.

The curved line on the right is carry over from a different drawing. The same thing happened in the following sketch. There's some extra stuff form on the right hand side. This is a snow leopard. I didn't try to go for detail, but the dashed lines, again, were very helpful to figure out how close I was to his actual form. I reworked his paw, face, and back a bit to get it closer.

In the last week or so, my practice sessions have felt more useful and productive. This happened after a period where I was feeling stuck and frustrated. That seems to be a pattern. It feels like I am going backwards. If I keep pushing, many times I'll get a mini-breakthrough.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cats, Cats, And More Cats

This blog post is about cats, cats, and more cats. First of all, I checked out two Dover Art Library books from my local library. The first one that I have been swooning over is Steinlen Cats. Boy, could he draw cats. For my drawing practice, I warmed up by copying one of his drawings. I plan to copy more of them. I'm hoping to get some ideas about how to suggest features, especially eyes and noses, and marks to show fur, shape, and values.

Second, I used my toy puma that I purchased at the Como Zoo gift shop for part of tonight's drawing practice. I focused on the two legs and tummy on one side of the puma. This might not sound like much, but it was! When I dropped plumblines and horizontal lines, there were relationships that I hadn't even thought to check until the lines showed me things like where the bend in the tummy didn't line up with the part of the paw that should have been directly below. Instead of being discouraged, it was fascinating.

Lastly, I practiced several quick sketches of my real, live house cats. Here is one of them. I really liked the start of the other sketch, but the cat moved before I even finished the outer contour.

By the way, my whole life is not about cats.  I also got the Dover Art Library Book of Edward Hopper's drawings. I'm going to try and get 2 or so of these types of books every other week or so.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Output Is Not The Point

Yesterday, I sketched for closer to an hour. I've been thinking about and practicing refining an initial sketch to better reflect the actual object and making hatch marks that support both value and shape. It's been slow going. On Wednesday night, I used a viewfinder to draw out a beet and paint it. It seriously felt like I took several steps backwards. Rather than get frustrated or mad, I shook it off. In Roz's class, we spent a lot of time dealing with the internal critic.

Yesterday, I sketching that same beet several times from different angles and I also worked on several sketches of a partial red pepper. While the beet is a rather simple shape, a cut-up pepper has a ridiculous amount of complexity.

I'm not sure that anything shows in the two sample sketches below, but it felt different. I was able to slow down and focus in a way that's been missing. Measuring the relationships and angles with my eyes or, on my earlier versions, with dotted lines worked better. I also practiced and practiced and practiced hatch marks. It got to the point it started to make the tiniest bit of sense which way to try and make hatch marks in a way that would help show shape in addition to the value.

Again, I don't think it necessarily shows, but that's not really the point. I'm practicing.

This beet sketch does a pretty good job of showing the shape of the actual beet. It's not finished. I didn't even complete the shadow, because I learned what I could from it and was ready to move on.

For the partial pepper, it took me so many lines to get the true outer shape that it's a bit of a mess, but the hatch marks on the left side flowed off my pen more easily. They also worked much better, except for the ones long the edge. For those it would be better if they followed the long line of the edge rather than cutting across it. I'm not saying that to be critical. It's part of learning what will work better.

Also, I have no illusions that this will all flow more easily for now on. Progress does not follow a straight path.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sleeping Flamingos

Yesterday, I went to the Como Zoo to sketch in public. I really like going to the zoo to draw. Most of my time was spent with the ducks and flamingos, although I did visit other displays and worked on sketches of other creatures. So far, my favorite animal to sketch is whatever animal is being perfectly still, which means that I like animals who are sleeping. Although, I could develop a side business. If you want your kids to see animals awake and moving around, just have them follow me around when I am trying to sketch animals who appear to be sleeping soundly.

There were several flamingos who were semi-cooperative.

It's weird, but flamingos don't look like flamingos from this angle when they are sleeping. I tried to do a few sketches from more of a head-on view, since the curl and angle of the neck was fascinating. None of those flamingos would hold a pose long enough for me. The only flamingos who stayed fairly still were all in this position and I could only see them from the essentially the same angle. The drawings on the right are closer to the true relationship of the height versus width. 

What I'm finding is that I am noticing more, but can't hold the details in my head long enough to get them on paper and live subjects move so frequently! I am looking forward to the Bell Museum of Natural History opening back up next summer and being able to sketch animals in the dioramas.