12 May 2012

Day Three, Part One: Words

Today we jumped right into two big projects. The first one caught me unawares; Brenda asked us to draw three objects from among our tools or from personal items in our purses or pockets, using whichever pen or pencil we liked, and I assumed this was just warm-up. So I did two in Tombow and one in black permanent pen, on my thin-paper sketchpad, and labeled each of them "three minutes," as I have been doing throughout the workshop. When we were done with all of these, however, she then asked us to bring the three items together into a single sketch journal page composition, using words and formatting.

I considered redrawing them onto good paper (without the "three minute" labels), but I kind of liked what I had drawn.  So I sat and thought for awhile, and figured out a way to incorporate each incidence of "three minutes" into my text (can you see them all?), and further follow the symbolism of each item as regards this weekend's learning curve. I was pretty pleased with my result! Since it was cheap sketch paper, I only watercolored a few accents, lightly, with a fairly dry brush, but the play of the sepia-toned Tombow marker and the black sketch marker and black ballpoint gave it some color personality.

This lesson was part of Brenda's "sketch journaling" unit, in which you make use of both images and language to preserve the moment. It can be as mundane as "we had cereal for dinner again, because I forgot to go to the market" (with a drawing of the corn chex box), or as exciting as documenting a trek through Europe with pictures and memories. The object is to successfully integrate the visual and verbal elements. This was my first try.

Day Three Part Two (Sketch Collage) will have to wait until tomorrow, because I have to finish my sketch collage first! I'll tell all about it then, when there is a visual reference.

This blog will be seeing more action until at least August 1, because I have accepted Brenda's "75-Day Sketch Challenge." I have to draw something every day for the next 75, using PEN. (Her contention is that pencil allows you to waffle--and erase--while pen makes you commit, which in turn makes you LOOK more carefully.) She swears that anyone who does this improves their drawing and their painting beyond belief, and I decided I'm game. At the end, I get my own "Artistic License" (a license to practice art). If you would like to join me (or read more about it), go here:

11 May 2012

DAY TWO: Tints and Vignettes

Day two started with more contour line drawings to warm up. I won't share the first ones, since they are just more of the same, but here are the second ones. We did one using the Tombow (water-soluble) pen, one using a waterproof pen, and one using pencil, to see how different they look when you add watercolor. The Tombow melts into the paint but still gives some form wherever you avoid crossing it with water; the permanent pen gives a hard outline; and the pencil pretty much disappears, except for the areas it defines for you as you paint. Interesting exercise, very different results.

Tombow water-soluble pen, in a sepia tone.

Black permanent pen.


After that exercise, Brenda passed out pieces of Canson Mi Teintes pastel paper, so we could see what it was like to paint in watercolor on a tinted background. We all enjoyed the look but disliked the lack of control on the pastel paper, which has a linen-like texture that made it hard to move the paint. We had much longer to do this exercise--15 minutes to draw and 30 minutes to paint--but it wasn't one of my better efforts. I think I prefer to put in a background wash, if a tint is what I'm after. (Or, maybe I just need to get better at controlling my paint and brush!)

Our after-lunch project was creating vignette paintings. "Vignette" is defined by the dictionary as "an unbordered picture that shades off gradually into the surrounding paper," or "any small, endearing scene, view, picture, etc.; a small, illustrative sketch." This is a great format to use when filling your sketchbook, either with ideas for finished paintings, or just for its own sake. Brenda has some guidelines for making them; she prefers they follow a cruciform format. The definition of "cruciform" is "shaped like a cross," but she was quick to point out that it says "like A cross," not "like THE Cross," which is an important distinction. Her meaning is that there is a strong vertical and a strong horizontal, and that the picture: A. has nothing in the four corners; and B. touches the edges of its framing box in at least one place, and preferably more, to carry the eye beyond the frame, thus rendering the sketch more dynamic. Here is my example, for which we had 45 minutes:

Four corners blank, all defining different shapes; strong horizontals (fence crossbars and foliage), strong verticals (fence post and hollyhock), touching all around. Had a few continuity problems with foreground and background, and the greens could have had more variation, but the hollyhocks were fun, and I remembered to put some reflected color under the "eaves" on the fencepost.

I also learned a lot of information today about watercolor paints (opaque vs. transparent), painting en plein air (and what to pack in your bag to bring with you), and doing value sketches, but I'm too tired to go into any more detail tonight! Those will be for another post...

Tomorrow: Day Three!

P.S. Montrose is the cutest town EVER.

Last Lesson of Day One

Shadows are complex. There are hard shadows and soft shadows, which Brenda characterized as cast shadows vs. form shadows. The edge of the shadow close to an object is harder-edged than the edge of the shadow farther away. Then there is the color of the shadow--it should be a darker shade of whatever surface on which it is cast, but so many variables come into play--the color of the object casting the shadow reflects onto the surface; light bounces to create unexpected pockets and edges of light; the intensity of the light dictates the intensity of the dark. We looked at all of these things today in a fantastic demonstration, and then we tried things out for ourselves. We proceeded as previously--made a contour drawing, then painted it--but then we took our objects outdoors into the intensity of the afternoon sun (the overhead fluorescents indoors not giving us much) to experiment.

Brenda's tip: When you are painting several objects, keep changing their position in relation to the light until the shadows combine; you don't want three discreet shadows in a row with white between, you want the shadows to draw the objects together and connect them. Here is my photo of discovery, and below that, my painting with the shadows added in. I think I needed to go for more darkness and intensity, but it was fun finding the combo shadow that pulled everything together.

10 May 2012

DAY ONE: Synchronicity

If you look back one post, you will see that I've been doing some contour drawing this week. I haven't done any since way back in 2003, when I took a life drawing class--nearly 10 years ago; how funny is it, therefore, that the first (and mostly only) thing Brenda Swenson had us do today in her watercolor sketching class was...CONTOUR DRAWING.

It was a little different than I have done before: First of all, we had to do it in water-soluble PEN, not pencil (we used Tombow markers in sepia color). Second, while it's not strictly blind contour (where you aren't allowed to look away from your subject to the paper), it IS continual line contour. (On some of these, you'd think it WAS blind contour, judging from the proportions!) So we had to look at the object or objects, pick a starting point, and keep going, never lifting our pen from the paper, until we absolutely drew ourselves into a dead end and couldn't go any farther, and then we stopped. It was also TIMED contour drawing--three minutes for one item, six minutes for two, and nine minutes for three! Not much time... Here are a few examples of what I did today:

Three-minute lemon

Three-minute tongs. You can see how I got myself
somewhere and couldn't get back...

Six-minute bottle and lemon (sorry, the painting
on the next page bled through).
Some of the other things she had us do with the contour were: Use contour to also describe some of the shadows or highlights; and leave open lines and sections to give the viewer's eyes something to do. Inviting participation in the artwork makes it more lively and gives a less static effect.

After we did half a dozen of these, it was time to add watercolor. This one was a three-minute drawing, followed by six minutes for painting:

Then we graduated to multiple objects. By the way, all these were "found" objects (i.e., scrounged from around the house) that we brought with us--we each brought three or four, put them in a big pile in front of the room, and chose new objects for each exercise from the stash.

 Our next lesson was "framing." All of these are meant for sketchbooks, not for walls--they are exercises. So since they're probably not ever going to be framed, why not introduce a graphic element to both contain the image and give it more interest? We experimented with boxes in portrait, landscape, square, and panorama shapes, and then drew in our choice with the Tombow. She encouraged us to use it not as a static box, but as part of the painting, allowing features of the painting to protrude through and, again, breaking some lines to give it more liveliness.

I was pretty pleased with this one, although the fact that it's a contour drawing means that proportions and elements in certain places are kind of wonky.

More tomorrow...

09 May 2012

Some "vacation" days

I'm off work tomorrow through Saturday to take a three-day watercolor workshop with artist Brenda Swenson. I really admire her work, and have wanted to study with her for some time now, but fate kept intervening--this is the third time I have reserved for one of her workshops, but the first time I will actually make it to one! Here is her online gallery, if you are interested in seeing her work:
She paints in a variety of ways, all of which I would love to take something from. I'm hoping that by Saturday at 5:00, I will have lots of new drawings and paintings to share! We work from 9-4 each day. I will post on Sunday.

I bought myself a new tabletop easel--I usually work pretty basic, just a pad of paper, some pencils, my palette and brushes, and a can of water on a flat surface--but I decided to treat myself and try this out (and it was on sale, always a good excuse). Also, it has a drawer into which I can pack my brushes, extra tubes of color, etc., so I won't have to carry my big art toolbox with me, I can just bring this plus my art bag with paper and "artifacts" in it. (We are supposed to bring a variety of reference materials--both photos and props--to use for warm-up exercises.) The biggest issue with doing art somewhere other than home is figuring out how to transport it all without being overburdened.

Well, enough with the talking--I have to go collect my supplies, pack my bag, and be ready to walk out the door at 8 a.m. sharp tomorrow!

07 May 2012

More Contour Kitties

Miniver decided to sit still a good long time in one place tonight, except for moving her head to look around, so I got some quick contour sketches. Then she took a nap, so I added her favorite spot--my tiger oak Mission rocker. I started doing the fabric, but she got down and I got bored, so...the essence rather than the literal.