09 September 2019

The Inktober Challenge

Yet another challenge approaches, one that I've never had the nerve to do. It's called "Inktober," and it's basically making 31 drawings in 31 days, using ink. Your tool (dip pen, fountain pen, ballpoint, Microns, technical pens, etc.) is up to you, but it's all about drawing. And while I do draw in ink, it's been strictly contour up to this point, which is to say, the basic outline of the object and its details. Once I left art school, with its geometric shaded objects and charcoal portraits, behind, I used my drawing purely in service to another medium. Because I love watercolor so much, I have always sublimated drawing to a framework for my watercolor, so once the contour drawing is done, I jump into color, shade, and shadow using the paints, not the pen.

Because of this, I feel a little insecure taking on this challenge. Yes, I could just do contour drawings, but the thing I love about art is its details, and the people who participate in Inktober are all about the details. I don't think I'm quite ready to draw like my new Facebook friend Steven Reddy (i.e., brick by brick!), but I would like to master the basic skill of hatching!

I decided to be proactive about this instead of trying to wing it and feeling dissatisfied, so I signed up on Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) for a class called "Pen & Ink Essentials." Here are some of my visual/verbal notes from the class:

1. Basic contour drawing (I practiced on the book sitting on top of my scanner.):

2. Contour and parallel hatching:

3. Cross-hatching, and specialty hatching (basket weave, gestural, stippling):

4. Types of gestural hatching:

For deciduous trees:

For rough stone walls (I repeat, if you're not, like Steven, inclined to draw every stone, brick, tile, shingle, paver, etc.):

There was also a segment on ink washes, but A. I didn't have any ink (oh boy, a trip to Dick Blick), and B. because it's so much like using watercolor, I didn't feel the need to practice it!

This gave me lots of ideas. Now, to try them out in "real" drawings.

Inktober isn't quite as daunting now...except that the prompts leave me drawing a blank (pardon the pun), so I may have to come up with my own theme as well!

03 September 2019

Continuous line, contour line

Every once in a while, you need to go back and remind yourself of the basics. Since I've been teaching the occasional contour line drawing workshop at libraries this summer, I've returned to the continuous line drawing as the basis for everything. Can I make a better drawing, if I really concentrate, check all my proportions, maybe use an eraser occasionally? Sure. But who's to say it would be better than simply eyeballing the line of an object and following eye with pen in hand? As I tell the students so eager to find out that they can, in fact, draw, it's not a matter of perfection, it's a matter of personality.

So this morning I decided to do a continuous contour drawing of my desk lamp. The drawing has its flaws; the arm of the lamp is too small, the base too big, and I didn't focus carefully enough on the curves to the right of the lamp as I returned up that side from the base after delineating the left. But does it have personality? Definitely.

I then decided to paint it, because for me, color makes everything come alive. The colors of the base were complicated by the light from above as well as the light from the window, and ranged further in tone than one would expect from a basic gold-toned metal. The glow of the lightbulb was intense. I went back and forth over whether to include a background, and finally settled for an anchoring shadow, a few strokes to indicate the bookshelf on which it sits, and a few light reflections on the turquoise wall behind it.

My only other foray into art this past week was a drawing at a new favorite breakfast hang-out, Bobby's Coffee Shop in Woodland Hills. Kirsten and I are still continuing our sporadic exploration of breakfast places in the Valley, and this one was a favorite of Kirsti's and Aaron's but neither of us had ever been there. We liked it so much that we have returned, once together and now once for me by myself. As I have mentioned before, Kirsten doesn't like it when I draw during our meet-ups, so I decided to treat myself to a solo date at Bobby's to see if I could capture its ambiance.

There are several angles to capture, but I decided this time on the counter and cook-space behind it. Maybe next time I will go for the booths and 1950s signage on the other side of the room, or the tables down the center, populated pretty thoroughly no matter what time of the morning. (The lettering is an addition by me—not in the scene itself.)

28 August 2019

Urban sketching, watercolor flowers

Urban sketch of the North Hollywood Regional Library (alias the Amelia Earhart branch) of Los Angeles Public Library, last Saturday morning.

In the sketchbook, drawn with a Uniball pen and watercolored after.

And a floral watercolor based on a reference photo from Hilary Weeks's garden.

These got a little fuzzy and muddy, but I loved the colors and the way they blended. They might have popped a little more had I put in a darker background, but part of what i liked about the reference photo was the light in the background, so I kept some of it.

On Fluid watercolor paper, drawn with pencil and watercolored using Paul Jackson Signature paints and a synthetic Escoda brush. About 7x10.25.

17 August 2019

Draw With Me

Sketchbook Skool has a couple of weekly features that are kind of fun. One of them is called "Draw Tip Tuesdays," with Koosje Koone, which addresses some issue about which sketchers have expressed difficulties and offers solutions. The other, which I haven't tuned into as much, is called "Draw With Me," and is run by Koosje's co-founder, Danny Gregory, who simply picks a subject to draw and asks everyone else to draw along. It may be literally drawing the same thing he does, or it may be an instruction such as to draw what you can see out your window (his being much more glamorous and intricate than mine, since he lives in New York City!).

This past week, Danny decided to put SBS Dean of Students Morgan Green front and center: He excerpted five or six "screen grabs" from her weekly SBS Bulletin, and we all made three- to five-minute drawings of her based on those. Needless to say, with that amount of time they weren't the most flattering drawings ever made! Danny himself was working on his iPad, this being his new passion, and some students followed suit, while the rest of us stuck with pencil, pen, or whatnot.

Here are the four sketches I completed. We had a whole discussion, mid-sketch on #1, about teeth and how difficult they are to do, and Danny suggested that, rather than draw the individual teeth, it looked better just to draw a teeth-shaped block and maybe put in a little gumline detail, because when you draw all the teeth verbatim, they just look wrong. Despite having been successful in the past with some people's teeth, after doing one of these of Morgan I decided he was right, and confined myself to blocks from there on out!

I forgot to post these in the "Skoolyard" (the private site for SBS members) after I did them, and once I had, I thought to myself, Poor Morgan, you owe her a decent portrait. So I went to her latest Bulletin and kept hitting the pause button until I managed to snare a decent "in repose" face (with no teeth showing!), and drew and painted one.

Her hair is dyed kind of a rust brown on one side and a white with lavender highlights on the other. Because I put it all in with pen first, it was hard to convey the lightness of the one side, although I did add some white. I hope this portrait makes up for the others!

"Morgan DWM" and
"Morgan SBS Green"

In the sketchbook...
Uniball pen, Paul Jackson Watercolors

07 August 2019

Gascon sun(flowers)

About a week after painting the Purple Haze lavender farm in my sketchbook, I found a photograph on The Good Life France (a Facebook page I follow) of a sunflower farm in Gascony. The photo has been sitting open on my computer desktop ever since, while I worked up my nerve to give it a try. Compared to painting the lavender, it was exponentially harder, since sunflowers and their foliage are so distinct in shape. I was particularly nervous about trying to convey the long-distance appearance of the sunflowers near the house vs. the close-up sunflowers at the front of the photo.

I don't think I did too badly; I wished, afterward, that I had left some pure white in the sunflower field as well as in the various greens of trees and bushes around the house, but I caught the distance thing better than I thought I might. As usual, I wanted this to be washier and looser than it came out, but it definitely has more of that quality than much of my work, so I'm satisfied.

Thanks to Sue Aran for the reference photo.

Gascon Sun
7.75x10.5 inches

140-lb. Fluid watercolor paper
Paul Jackson signature watercolors, plus Holbein for that bright spring green color whose actual name I can't recall at the moment!
Escoda #10 brush

02 August 2019

My OTHER blog

Those of you who follow me here are probably doing so because you're interested in ART—drawing, painting, urban sketching, etc. But it occurs to me that some of you (as I am) may also be READERS, and if you are, I would like to invite you to follow my OTHER blog, where I am known as The Book Adept. You see, I was a librarian for about 11 years, and have been a reader for [my age minus three years], and there's almost nothing I love better than talking about books with other readers, recommending books I have discovered, or finding just the right book for someone who doesn't know what to read, or what to read NEXT.

If those categories include you, please check out my book blog! It's https://bookadept.com/blog.

I read and blog about an eclectic mix of fiction, including my favorites (fantasy, science fiction and mystery) as well as the occasional thriller, mainstream and literary fiction, and sometimes romance or "chick lit." And I throw in some young adult fiction, since I was a teen librarian for 11 years and still enjoy keeping up with that category. (Also, I teach Young Adult Literature at UCLA in the library masters program, so I need to be current!)


If you happen to be a librarian, and believe that your library staff could benefit from some instruction on readers' advisory or book-talking, please also check out the main website, which is https://bookadept.com, where I offer seminars and workshops on both those topics, and mention me to your administrators!

Artsy people, thanks for bearing with this blatant self-promotion! (I did make the above drawing/painting, so there's a little art here...)

31 July 2019

An Urban Sketcher in Amsterdam

No, it's not me, I didn't go to this year's Urban Sketchers' Symposium in Amsterdam. And judging from the reports of extreme heat that rivaled or surpassed that of SoCal last week, I'm kind of glad! But I have been enjoying all the sketches of windmills, quaint houses, strangely shaped public buildings, and canal boats with which Amsterdam is rife.

One of the first days of the symposium (or maybe during the pre-conference), I opened Facebook and this photo of this cute, rosy-cheeked Urban Sketcher popped up in my feed. "Look at you!" I said, "with your little pursed-up mouth!" and she replied, "I'M HOT." I saved the photo because I loved her face juxtaposed on the USk Amsterdam logo painted on a window, and today I decided to paint a portrait.

Problem is, I didn't write down her name! I've scrolled all the way back through July 25 in vain. Maybe someone will recognize and identify her?


9x8 inches, in the sketchbook...

Uniball pen, Paul Jackson signature watercolors, Escoda brush