28 May 2016

Painting trees

I was sitting on my patio enjoying my breakfast this morning, and became inspired to paint my lemon tree. Now, I don't have the best track record with foliage--I never can figure out how to depict it. It comes out looking flat, or piebald, or completely funky, but never looks anything like the original. I haven't advanced much beyond a child's concept of trees...

either this:                                                 or this:


As I looked carefully at the tree, trying to figure out a process, I saw that some leaves were touched with light and therefore clearly discernible, while others were in shadow, and therefore bunched together. So I drew the ones that really stood out, floating in air, and then went around them with a vaguely accurate outline of the rest. Then I mixed light, middle, and dark colors of greens. I used the middle and dark almost like a negative painting around the light leaves, leaving them until last to paint.

I wish I had done an even lighter, brighter green for the lightest, and a little darker green for the midtone, just to get more sparkle, but I was pretty happy with this technique.

LEMON TREE -- Micron pen and watercolor.

More practice will undoubtedly improve this process!

27 May 2016

Urban sketching exercise

I'm taking an online Craftsy class from James Richards called "Sketching the Energy of Places." I haven't had/made time yet to go out and sketch on site, but yesterday morning I had an hour before work, so I decided to redo a picture I had painstakingly painted before as a pen-and-watercolor sketch.

I had fun doing it, but it wasn't too successful in terms of what I was going for. I wanted the three houses in the center and the interesting building up on the hill to be the focal point of the scene, and for the rest of the houses and rooftops to fade into background, but instead they just look unfinished. I posted it for some helpful advice from Jim--we'll see what he says.

This weekend, I'm going to try a real on-site urban sketch with people and "entourage," as Jim calls extras like lampposts, trees, bollards, and so on.

Here is the painting I made before, from this photograph:

22 May 2016

What I'm reading

I felt inspired to draw and paint today, after watching a Craftsy class on urban sketching taught by Jim Richards, but not sufficiently inspired to think of a place to sketch, get dressed, pack up my gear, drive there, etc. So instead I took a break from a few chores to read, and then took a break from reading to draw the book I just finished and the book I just started. They are both from ongoing series I have read since the beginning, and I am pleased with both of them, which always helps when it comes time to draw!

I did both of these freehand and quickly in ink, so they have some glitches, but the point was more documentary than artistic, so I'm not worried about it. Micron pen in black (#1) and blue (#2), and watercolor.

Maybe some urban sketching next weekend, since it's three days and I'm going to Ventura for one of them!

21 May 2016

Baking for breakfast

I woke up this morning and found that I had no bread in the house. I was going to pour a bowl of cereal, but I really wasn't in the mood for something sweet--I wanted savory. But I also wasn't in the mood to get dressed and drive to the store or to go out to breakfast. So, I rummaged the cupboards and the refrigerator and made myself some drop biscuits!

Flour, baking powder, salt, butter, and milk--that's all you need. Of course, my baking powder was ancient, my "butter" was Earth Balance "buttery spread," and the only "milk" I had was almond...but I decided to forge ahead and see what happened. Just to make them truly savory, I went out to the garden and picked some marjoram, chopped it up, and added it to the dough with a little grated smoked gouda cheese.

Cutting the butter into the flour with two knives (I couldn't find my pastry cutter, that's how long it's been) was a nostalgic moment--it made me remember my mom making biscuits and gravy for my dad on Saturday mornings. Hers, of course, were properly kneaded, rolled out, cut with a biscuit cutter,  and glazed with butter, which I contemplated until I finished stirring in the almond milk (much more watery than regular milk) and decided that kneading was beyond this dough.

The drop biscuit recipe said it made 12, but I made them large so I got eight out of the recipe. I preheated to 450 degrees, mixed everything up, dropped them onto the cookie sheet, and popped them into the oven. Then I made coffee while waiting 15 breathless minutes for their emergence (would they be edible?)...et voilà!

I decided to celebrate my small baking victory by drawing and painting the biscuits, but I was in a hurry to eat them, so I decided to try a Liz Steel and do a 10-minute quickie draw-and-paint before the evidence disappeared. Not quite up to Liz's standard, but fun to do...and then I was rewarded with biscuits!

By the way, they were pretty good! A little doughy in the middle, which I attribute to the almond milk, but savory, crunchy around the edges, satisfying! I had three.

08 May 2016

Lazy weekend

I'm finished with all the Teen Summer Reading illustrations, and my first thought was an ambitious one: Go out all day on Sunday and paint en plein air, picking one of the locations I'm forever driving by, but stop, park, draw, and paint the way I am always longing to. In fact, there was actually an urban sketchers group I was planning to join in this endeavor this morning.

But...I'm tired this weekend. In addition to making the paintings, there has been the tension of coming up with the ideas and putting them together in my head, which always happens over a period of days of near-obsessing over all the details. I don't sleep well for thinking about it!

Plus, I've been working hard all week getting the other elements together for summer reading--deciding on and starting to buy the prizes, finding volunteers to stuff the "swag bags" for sign-up giveaways, soliciting the other library staff for donations of miscellaneous junk for our "makerspace" crafts, emailing the principals at the middle and high schools to beg for five minutes to promote teen summer reading at their assemblies, bugging the publicity department to print my posters...the details go on and on. And that's on top of all my "regular" librarian duties.

So, instead of leaping out of bed, gathering my kit, and jumping in the car, I made a strong cup of coffee and "the sandwich" for breakfast, which I enjoyed on the patio, after having sketched it in pencil (adding in a couple of ingredient elements for fun). And, after consuming it, I painted it.

"The sandwich" is what my cousin Kirsten calls it--with the accent on THE. Both of us are vegetarian, and one of the things many vegetarians seem to miss most is bacon. The "facon" (fake bacon) out there isn't the best substitute, but when you put it into a sandwich with all the other ingredients of a BLT, or, in this case, a BAC (bacon, avocado, and cheese), it does well enough. Add a little mayo and enclose between two slices of a good, slightly toasted sourdough, and you have yourself the perfect weekend breakfast.

So...this one's for Kirsten. I decided to draw in pencil today instead of pen, for a more natural look, and I included my book and glasses because those are always required elements with breakfast home alone. (Also, I have to finish this book for book club by Wednesday!) Kirsten, don't you wish you were biting into the real thing right now?

In case anyone is wondering, the full saying on my coffee mug is "Do Something Creative Every Day." Done!

03 May 2016

Halftime Horror!

I have to say that completing this drawing was a horror! I took photos, spent a day searching out all the elements, prepping them, scaling them, moving them around in relation to one another, and deciding what to do. Then I sketched it out once in pencil, and got approval from Anarda. Finally, I spent two evenings redoing the pen drawing three times before I got it anywhere close to where I wanted it!

The first time I drew it, I used a .5 LePen throughout, but that was too heavy for me to get detail in the features of the kids on the cards, and they came out coarse-featured and not resembling them much. Since I specifically photographed members of our Teen Advisory Board as models, I wanted some resemblance! So I drew it again, this time using the .5 for the big outlines and a .1 for the insides. It worked fine, and that drawing was probably better in some respects than this final one, but I got the angle of the cards all wrong and ran out of room at the bottom. (It has to fit on a certain size paper in order to be scannable on my flatbed!) So I drew it a third time, this time copying and pre-drawing the outline of the cards from the first attempt to get them in the correct position, and then going back to do the innards; and I finally got something I could use.

And then, I still had to spend a few hours on watercolor--and not mess it up!

This is the final (I hope) illustration for our Teen Summer Reading Program. Our big finale, which we also want to feature on the cover of our brochure, is a lock-in murder mystery. Although it will take place in our biggest library branch after hours, the supposed setting is the "big game" at high school. I have featured two girls from the rival high schools in town--Burbank High, and John Burroughs High--wearing their basketball team jerseys. There will be a mock game (for five minutes) at the event, and then there will be a miniature halftime show, hopefully featuring some cheer squad kids and/or band kids that our Teen Advisory Board members recruit to perform, plus dinner (probably in the form of pizza and hot dogs, per stadium refreshments). During the halftime, there will be an announcement over the loudspeaker that FOUL PLAY has taken place, the building is on lock-down, and no one may leave until the mystery is solved.

Then the game proceeds, sort of like the game of Clue: There are suspects and officials who can be questioned; there are weapons to be found; there are locations to explore; and there are clues leading to all of them. The teens will spread out over the library (supervised by half a dozen adults) to follow the clues and solve the mystery, and once it's solved, we'll have prizes and dessert!

Our TAB is creating the script and the clues and forming committees for food, decorations, set-up and clean-up, etc. (under our supervision), and hopefully recruiting more kids to help, because this is a gargantuan undertaking that we may be sorry we undertook!

So, the illustration had to have the feel of a basketball game, with the title over the scoreboard giving a clue about what's to come; and it also had to feature some suspects via the Clue-like game cards. I hope the two together will communicate the idea of the event to the teens (accompanied, of course, by some descriptive language on the flyer, poster, and brochure). And I hope my models are okay with their likenesses...it was hard!

It's such a relief to get all the illustrations done; the next step is to get the final flyer and brochure built and sent to the printer. Then I can concentrate on actually doing the program!

24 April 2016

Makerspace: Are You Game?

That's the name of our craft this summer, which will be tables full of stuff from which people can make other stuff. Some of it will be specific and guided, and some of it will be freeform and surprising. We have learned that not everybody likes the box, and not everybody likes to work outside of it, so we're providing a little of both.

I have messed with both this illustration and the ingredients for it all day (first spending more than an hour at the 99 Cents store picking up random stuff that might be craftable), and I can't say I'm completely happy with it. I drew it from a sort of overhead, foreshortened view, with the result that the toilet paper roll, glue bottle, and tape look absurdly small to my eye compared with the socket cover and sharpies Although it's correct, it doesn't LOOK correct to me. Also, the pipe cleaners are funky looking, and I'm not crazy about the final layout OR the stuff that I ended up including in the drawing.

But once again, as with the books, I am running out of time. So unless Anarda looks at it and says "Yech!" we will probably go with it. And the idea of the illustration is to intrigue the teens--"What could we possibly make with all those things that don't go together?" so from that standpoint...okay.

Micron pen and watercolors.