22 November 2015

What I'm reading

I've been so busy that I haven't done much drawing or painting lately, so this morning after breakfast I decided to paint a quickie of the book I'm reading--I like to do that for books I'm planning to review for my teen blog, so I have artwork to go with my post.

This is the third book in the YA "Boy Nobody" series by Allen Zadoff.  Except that it's not called that anymore, now it's the "Unknown Assassin" series. Confused? We who buy books for the library were confused as well!

Zadoff initially released the first book as Boy Nobody, which we bought; but then he realized it would be a series, not a stand-alone. Since the sequel was to be I Am the Mission, his publisher talked him into a re-release of the first book, calling it I Am the Weapon, calling the third book I Am the Traitor, and changing all the covers, so that's what he did. So we have both Boy Nobody and I Am the Weapon on the shelf, and it's the same book.

My suspicion is that the publisher wanted to distance it from another YA book, called Nobody, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, which is also about a boy assassin!

I did this one in pencil, instead of the usual pen, before painting, so it has a softer look. The colors blended so nicely on the original that I wanted to try that in my watercolor. I tried to erase all the pencil afterwards, but some erased and some didn't. I ended up going back in with sepia pen in a few places, just to pull out some detail on the lettering. Otherwise, all watercolor.

20 November 2015

The Swoon Society

As I mentioned before, my cousin Kirsten and her best friend Kirsti (we call them K2) recently started a blog called The S.W.O.O.N. (Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice) Society. It's entertaining and informative, and worthy of your notice! (See what I did there?) They comment on a mix of products, recipes for foods and beverages, interesting places, awesome people…whatever strikes their fancy and makes them swoon. They conveniently link you to all of those things, inviting you to participate. It's a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.

Being the self-promoter that I am, I mentioned to Kirsten that it would be fun to illustrate one of her posts sometime, so she "commissioned" me (i.e., she said Okay, sure, if you want to!) to illustrate a piece about America Heritage Chocolate. Here is the post, and here is my illustration for it:

It's drawn with a micron pen in a sepia color (to give it more of an old-timey feel), and then finished with watercolor. I was pretty pleased with it, but what I'm really hoping for is a little tangible recognition, like a can of this stuff in my Christmas stocking! Thanks, swoony girls, for featuring my art!

08 November 2015

A new sketchbook

I started a new sketchbook, finally, and made a couple of entries:

This is Janie, a character from The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy, which we are reading for this month's 6+7 Book Club at the library. Actually, Janie is a girl, but in this book apothecaries are kind of like magicians, and Janie and her friends drink a potion that turns them into birds so they can escape from evil Russian defectors and German operatives. So this is Janie as a robin red-breast.

My other entry is also library-inspired: We did a fun thing yesterday! November is Picture Book Month; we've been wanting to do some kind of readathon; teens at our library branches are always asking us for service hours for school; so we brought all those things together and had a "Teens Read to Tots" three-hour readathon in the Children's Room at the Buena Vista branch of Burbank Public Library.

Seventeen of our teens checked in with the children's librarians to get picture books appropriate for toddlers--some new, some old favorites--then took them home to practice reading them aloud. Friday afternoon we had a practice session at which we librarians gave the teens tips about how best to read to little kids, and then Saturday we had constant reading of picture books by teens from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for anyone who showed up.

We didn't draw a huge crowd, it was mostly regulars who were happy to find something extra going on, but we always had at least one kid willing to listen, and sometimes as many as 10 or 12. We discovered some new, fun picture books, the kids were happy, the teens got their service hours (and enjoyed themselves)…it turned out to be a great program! I think we'll do it again!

Here's a drawing I made of three little girls who provided a constant audience through about eight books. If you would like to see the photos of the teens reading to the kids, take a look on Facebook at the Burbank Public Library Teen Page, where I have put up an album of pictures.

20 October 2015

Fall! (?)

Last night, for the first time since April? I turned off the swamp cooler, and then I put on a sweatshirt! Could it be that Fall has finally arrived in Southern California? The weather report says yes…until the weekend, when it will be back up in the 90s. Sigh.

Anyway, here are a couple of Autumn-oriented sketches. The asters always bloom in October (I call them my yearly birthday gift), and as McSweeney's says (much more profanely than I will here), "It's decorative gourd season." Let's celebrate it. But not with pumpkin latte, thanks. (Ick.)

17 October 2015

Last page of a sketchbook

Although I own probably eight or nine sketchbooks, I have never before been persistent about filling one from the first page to the last. Don't ask me why I would go back to the art store to buy another one before the previous one was full; I'm sure I had a good reason at the time, although I can't recall any of them now.

For one thing, before this year I wasn't really committed to the idea of sketching. In my mind, I always needed to be working on something that was a finished piece of artwork--finished meaning that it was frame-able. Don't ask me why I thought that, either--maybe it's because when I was taking art classes, our weekly goal was to bring two large (usually 18x20) finished pieces to the weekly critique, so I never got into a sketching frame of mind. Although our teacher did encourage us to make thumbnails to work out the details of our large paintings beforehand (another habit I have never acquired that I need to revisit), the idea of sketching just for the sake of it was never encouraged. Not to say it was discouraged; it just wasn't the point.

But of late I have been following some amazing urban sketchers on Facebook, and also some amazing "finished" painters who rely heavily on their preliminary studies (most of which I would be happy to call a finished painting), so the idea has finally penetrated my thick head that a sketchbook full of stuff can be equally as satisfying to pursue as a framed painting.

In May, I took the plunge and decided to do the "Every Day in May" challenge. Although I started with a will, I didn't fulfill the daily requirement for 30 days; but instead of deciding to be a failure, I instead joined "Every Day in June" and after that "July," and keep going, haphazardly or not. And after July was over, I continued to put in a sketch every now and then, until this past Monday morning, when I realized I had come to the last page in the sketchbook for the first time. So here is my last sketch--not my favorite, but significant for its position!

In looking back through this sketchbook, I can see some style developments, and some interesting selection of topics that I wouldn't have considered if not for the prompts given by the "Every Day" projects, and the challenge also of finding a fun way of interpreting them. Since I'm looking at this particular body of work, I will share again some of my favorites:




And finally, although that wasn't quite the theme,
here is my selfie, giving a giant "Whew!" for finishing!

Now I get to go to the art store and buy a new sketchbook!

10 October 2015

No Plein Air :-(

Today is the last day of the Los Angeles Plein Air Festival, and the only day on which I was available to participate. I signed up for it and fully intended to attend, but…it's 105 degrees out there! No hat, no umbrella, no bottle of water, no icepack in my bra will counter standing out on baking asphalt for three hours trying to capture a scene in, hello, watercolor? which will dry on the brush before it gets to the page!

Also, my right knee has arbitrarily decided that it doesn't want to be part of my mobility system today. So I stayed home in swamp-coopered bliss, an Arnold Palmer in my fist. There will be no exciting vistas of downtown Los Angeles on view today. Maybe in December when it finally, finally cools off?!

I did, however, paint a picture of this coming week's book club books. Now I need to (re)read them.

Both are, by the way, delightful in their own way. I lost my head for Noggin (heh heh), and The Last Dragonslayer has two sequels, just to prolong the fun!

06 October 2015

Continuing the celebration

On Sunday, my actual birthday, I decided to push myself to do something unfamiliar and a little scary: I went to downtown Los Angeles to go out with a plein air group that meets to paint on city streets the first Sunday of every month.

I have tried going out to paint with other groups that I discovered on Meetup, with variable success. I find that there is too much time talking about painting without actually painting; or someone knows "the perfect spot" to set up but can't quite recall where it is, so we wander for more than half of our allotted time and only get 20 minutes for an unsatisfactory sketch before the venue closes; so I have avoided these groups for a while. But I really want to get myself out of the rut of setting up "tableaux" for myself on my patio table, and instead go paint "in the wild." So when I went to the website of the Los Angeles Plein Air Festival and discovered that a group was going out the Sunday previous, I thought I'd get my feet wet by trying that out before committing to the full-on festival experience.

I think it may have been just a concatenation of circumstances that are unlikely to reoccur, so I will try it one more time before giving up, but as a first urban plein air experience, this one was…disappointing.

The group (as is the Festival) is sponsored by the Main Street art store Raw Materials, and the people there were nice, but uninvolved. I showed up at 1:30 (the stated time), and was the first one on the list to do so. The woman at the cash register checked me off, handed me a little "goodie bag" (nice!) and turned away; I said, "This is my first time, what do I do?" She told me the guy who was leading the group was "around somewhere--that's his stuff, over there," so I went and parked my stuff next to his stuff and waited. After about 15 minutes, two other women showed up, looking as lost as I felt, and confided that it was their first time too. In another 10 minutes, the leader, John, came back from Starbucks and said vaguely, "I guess we should get started." So we went out to the front of the store, and he started unpacking his kit and setting up his easel.

At this point, another woman arrived, and she turned out to be a friend of the regular leader, Alex, who had asked his friend John to fill in for him. The light dawned--this wasn't the person who usually leads the group. Anyway, he showed us his kit to give us an idea of what he brings along when he goes out painting. Then he says, Okay, so you have your kit, now you have to find something to paint! The fourth woman says to him, I have no experience drawing or painting, could I still do this? He responds, Sure! and proceeds to do a demo for her (in oil!) by painting a nearby locked bicycle on a small canvas. After about 10 minutes of this, I got bored (and I couldn't see the canvas because she was hovering at his side), so I drew a picture of the bike myself.

When he finally finished his demo, he says to all of us, Let's saddle up and head out now! and the woman to whom he had been addressing all his remarks says, "Oh, I have an appointment in half an hour, so I'm not coming along today." ! ! !

We walked three blocks over and two blocks down to Broadway. No one but John had an easel, so Broadway was a good place to set up, since there is a series of giant planters on which we could rest ourselves, our palettes, and our canvases or paper. At this point, John starts his own canvas. I ask him a few questions about how to capture perspective, with the ascending and descending lines, and how to simplify the incredibly complex scene into a doable painting; his reply was, Oh just jump in and paint, you'll get the hang of it. Thanks.

I won't be posting the painting here that I did, because it's a big fat mess; but I did get an idea of what things I may need to learn by practicing them at home before I go back out into the big wide world. They involve a ruler and a viewfinder for sure, and a closer study of some of my idols of urban sketching and/or plein air painting (Nina JohanssonIain Stewart, Thomas SchallerKeiko Tanabe, et al.).

On a happier note, that evening I had a lovely dinner out at the Cheesecake Factory with my cousins Carol Sue and Kirsten, and on Monday, my friend Kirsti cooked dinner for me (and her husband Aaron, and Kirsten), which was scrumptious and finished with a fabulous chocolate pie. The selection of dessert was considerate of her, since my mom, who passed away in 2010, used to make me one every year for my birthday, and I haven't had one since. So this painting is for Kirsti:

The mug in the background is printed with the logo of hers and Kirsten's new blog, The Swoon Society (SWOON = Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice), and the pie definitely lived up to my swoon-worthy criteria. (Check out the blog for all the other worthy Stuff!)

Happy Birthday to me!