07 July 2013

Sketching from life--a tribute

I want to get better at sketching from life, instead of from "still" life or from a photo, so I'm taking my sketchbook along and trying to remember to get it out and use it! I'm not so great at the spontaneous sketch yet--the likenesses are less than satisfactory--but hopeful that practice will make perfect.

My cousin Kirsten and I spent an evening together a few weeks ago, up on the hill behind her house on a little deck from which you can see the entire San Fernando Valley laid out before your eyes. We ate our dinner and chatted, accompanied by her dog, Bucky, who had been ill for a long time, and I made some sketches--one of Kirsten finishing up her sudoku puzzle (which is why it looks like her eyes are closed, because the puzzle is in her lap), and one of Bucky's head, looking down on him from above as he lay at my feet.

It turned out that this was my last chance to see Bucky before he passed. I plan to make a painting for Kirsten from a photograph, but I thought I would put up these two sketches in the meantime and say, Goodbye, Buckster, you were a loving, good and faithful companion to your people, and they (and we) all miss you. You live on in our hearts.

Chicken to paint the chicken

Now we get down to it: I'm working on more illustrations for the library cookbook, and about half a dozen of them include chicken as an ingredient. Being a vegetarian, this is naturally a conflict for me, to have to make the chicken look appealing; plus, you have to decide what to illustrate.

Painting a casserole dish with pieces of chicken submerged in some unnamed sauce doesn't make for a very effective illustration. Nor is a painting of a "naked" raw piece of chicken waiting to be cooked too appealing, even to the non-vegetarians, right? I mean, if you're making vegetable soup, you can cheerfully paint all the veg and everybody says, Oh, don't they look tasty! but raw chicken...no.

So, I opted to paint the live bird. It gives me pangs, though, because in order to make the recipes, this live and lively bird has to be dead and plucked. But...I took on the job, and the job says illustrate the recipes at hand, so...here's the chicken.

The other part of being chicken to paint the chicken is, of course, that I have never painted a bird before, so I didn't know how far to go re: overall shape vs. feathers and detail. I tried to incorporate and move around all the colors, I tried for some definition, I tried for some lost edges, and I went in with a sepia-tone pen to pick up on some details I just couldn't get with the size brush I was using. I don't know if I stopped too soon or not soon enough.

So, overall I'd have to say that my ambivalence about this painting is total! I'm going back to painting onions now...