Monday, May 28, 2018


I've decided to try my hand at meeting Marc T Holmes' 30x30 Direct Watercolor challenge.

To help me get started I set out watercolor palette with DS Smith paints, Kolinsky sable and synthetic squirrel brushes, a 6 x 8 in. sketchbook (Stillman & Birn Beta series) etc. So no excuse not to sketch. I started practicing to get a feel for the paints on this paper which I have not used before. Other artists sponsoring the challenge are listed in Marc's Citizensketcher blog and have been offering tips to help others meet this sketching challenge.

I'll be posting selected paintings here. Photo of my set below.

30 x 30 setup

Friday, March 13, 2015

More People in Motion 2015

I am continuing to focus on applying the techniques taught in the first 3 lessons of Marc Taro Holmes's online Craftsy course. My drawn line is becoming more fluid and I am becoming more comfortable sketching in a smaller format. Marc's process for capturing a moving figure is very helpful. Now more practice! 

At an uninstructed drawing session, we had the challenges of trying to capture a juggler turned musician/singer. Here are my efforts...

Contact juggling ball moving along the arm's surface
Pen on newsprint

Juggler with 3 balls
Graphite, ink pen, ink wash on newsprint

Juggler turned musician/singer
Graphite, ink pen, ink wash on newsprint

Juggler setting up dominoes: ink pen over graphite in
Fabriano’s EcoQua sketchbook (5.75 x 8 in.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sketching People in Motion Assignments 1, 2, 3

During this past week I’ve been gearing up to start the People in Motion assignments. I bought some new sketching tools—notably the Pentel Calligraphy brush and hauled out my dip pens and inks. I even splurged for several ‘scribblers’—Fabriano’s EcoQua sketchbooks (5.75 x 8 in.), which have a very nice paper, with a smooth surface and a weight of 60lb/85gsm. They have colorful and sturdy covers. Luckily these were 40% off at the local art store.

Next I tackled the assignments which are part of the course:
1. Traced figures in magazines, first in pencil, then drew over them in ink.  Learned to watch for folds in clothing to hint at the figure within.
2. Sketched figures ‘in action’ from a video. Focused on trying to pick up the action in multiple steps an an actor moved through a scene. Looked for anchor points.
3. Went to the food court at a local corner mall and sketched people sitting outside and one person walking. My focus was on capturing the poses, and looking for anchor points. Tables and chairs complicated this, but I attempted to add parts of them. 

What I learned:
1. Tracing figures took the pressure off trying to capture a pose and allowed me to focus on how clothes draped on the body and how folds emerged from the compression points of the fabric. 
2. Sketching from a video was good practice for sketching the reality of moving figures. Knowing that the actor would reappear and not ‘take off’ reduced the anxiety of capturing a pose. I could focus on quick sketching and revise as needed.
3. Sketching outdoors at the food court was easier than attempts that I have made in the past and the figures looked less cartoon-like. Fortunately it was a balmy 68 degrees out side.

Thanks Marc for these suggestions—they were very helpful! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sketching People in Motion--a beginning

Recently I enrolled in the online course, Sketching People in Motion with Marc Taro Holmes, on the Craftsy web site. I was looking for some ways to improve my drawing of people on location. My previous experience had been drawing a posed model. Usually the same pose was held for the entire drawing session. After completing Liz Steel's course, I thought that I was ready for the challenge of drawing people in action.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to sketch a partially clothed model who moved in slow motion as part of an uninstructed drawing session at a local art center. The room was darkened, the spotlight used a red filter. I had watched the first 3 videos of Marc's course and learned some excellent techniques to try out. Needless to say, it was a very challenging afternoon.

My main focus was just trying to capture a pose that lasted only about 5 seconds--it forced me to keep my drawn line loose and fluid. I really did not have time to think about applying any new knowledge, so what emerged was an almost instinctual line. The last pose was held for about 5 minutes, so I was able to capture more detail and use some color. I tried to preserve some whites.

Materials: A bamboo pen with a large nib, Noodler's brown ink that I am trying to use up, Sumi-e black ink and a wash of both inks on newsprint paper were used in the early sketches. Lyra watercolor crayons on Cartieri-Magnani Velata paper were used in the final sketch. The Velata paper is meant for dry media, so I was pushing its limits, and mine!

I'm including only a few of the sketches that I made. My photography skills are minimal, but I did do some editing in iPhoto. Click on image to enlarge it.

Image #1 Ink on newsprint paper

Image #2 Ink on newsprint paper

Image #3 Ink on newsprint paper

Image #4 Lyra Watercolor crayons

Image #5 (detail) Lyra Watercolor crayons

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Weeks 10, & 11 Assignments: Creating a Focus, Working from a Focus

SketchingNow-Foundations Course
Week 11 Assignment: Working from a Focus-Cafe Sketching
This final assignment took me to the local Le Boulanger Cafe and Bakery. This is an actual working bakery where thousands of loaves of bread are made for the bakeries and restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area.  I've been wanting to sketch this for a long time. I did have breakfast here, but did not sketch it--a  good reason to return and complete the page spread. The image is of one of the bakery assistants standing on a ladder and adjusting the dough in a feeder that automatically cuts down and shapes the dough and sends out the loaves to rise before baking.

This was a challenging drawing because the worker was only up on the ladder for a few seconds. So I had to wait for him to toss in another 20 pounds of dough and then use the oil in the bucket to adjust and coat the dough to help it glide smoothly through the feeder. It took multiple episodes for me to capture the pose.

Week 11 Assignment: Image #1 Working from a Focus 
Bakery worker @ Le Boulanger, Sunnyvale California, USA
Media: Watercolor and pen in Strathmore series 500 sketchbook

Week 10 Assignment: Creating a Focus
Image #1: Facade of the Triton Museum of Art

Week 10 Assignment: Image #1 
Triton Museum of Art
Media: Ink drawing and Sennelier watercolors
on Strathmore 500 Series sketchbook paper

Week 10 Assignment: Image #2 
Morgan Horse by S.S. Schnittmann, 1966
Ink drawing with Inktense colored pencil wash

The Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara, California, is a favorite local art museum. I participate in the museum’s uninstructed figure drawing sessions on an almost weekly basis, so it almost feels like home to me. The building's sprawling modernistic shape is full of angles. Numerous redwood trees on the grounds soften its shapes. It has several iconic features, and outdoor sculptures. Unfortunately, I did not have time to capture them all. Since my time was limited, I opted not to draw any thumbnail sketches. Instead I made two quick sketches in which I tried to apply some of the principles of creating a focus.

Image #1:  I was sketching from across the street on a sunny winter day. The sun is a bit low in the sky washing out the pale ochre of the building, but the light-dark contrast and the sculpture help create the focus on the entryway. I also used the rule of thirds to organize the composition.

Image #2: Morgan Horse Sculpture
Since my time was running out I decided to just do an ink drawing. I added a grey wash at home to emphasize the sculpture. The actual sculpture is finished in a rich, copper green patina. The central placement of the object on the page, and the building's angles help create the focus on the sculpture. I plan to return and do justice to this masterful sculpture.

This lesson really gave me some tools to improve my composition--thanks, Liz!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Week 9 Assignment: Framing the view

Image #1: Using the Viewfinder
Using a viewfinder is not new to me, but using one divided in thirds is. I was satisfied with the first assignment which was to draw to draw some desk items. Using a reference point really helped to maintain the same viewpoint.

Week 9 Assignment: Using the viewfinder

Image #2: Framing the View--Edges and Shapes
I traveled to a local shopping center for this part of the assignment. The colorful buildings seemed ready-made for learning to use the viewfinder on location. However, it was more difficult than I expected--there is a lot of complexity in the view. Getting the angles of the receding buildings correct was crucial as Liz had mentioned. You can see the correction of the blue roof in Image #3.

I used the horizontal and vertical formats, focusing on edges first and then shapes. I intend to try again because drawing buildings is not my forte (or my main interest.) I included some figures in Image #3 to provide scale to the buildings. I used ink and colored pencils on Aquabee Super Deluxe sketch paper in all the sketches.

Week 9 Assignment: Image #2
Composing the view--edges

Week 9 Assignment: Image #3
Composing the view--shapes

Friday, January 9, 2015

Week 8 Assignment: Balancing Color and Line

Image #1: Swatches
Before attempting to sketch the item of clothing that I had chosen for this assignment,  I decided to make watercolor color swatches as suggested by Liz. Using my #12 Isabey sable brush, CJAS Lizard’s lick brush, Safari pen with black ink and Inktense pencils, I tried the various combinations. Although I have used these combinations before, I was surprised by the subtle differences in their effects. 

Week 8 Assignment: Image #1
Swatches demonstrating different combinations of watercolor paints,
ink and Inktense colored pencils

Image # 2: Color and line--texture
Time for completion: 45 minutes 
For this segment of the assignment I chose the fingerless gloves that are part of my cold-weather art kit. They are handmade and a bit formless, so I added a rock with well-defined edges for contrast. I started with a gesture drawing in Inktense watercolor pencil, then made  measurements to adjust the length and width of the gloves. The measurements that I took are relatively correct. However, the perspective of the gloves makes them appear of different sizes.

Then I drew the outlines of the objects in ink using the Safari pen. I chose to imply the knitted texture of the gloves by working wet into damp watercolor paint. I tried to work more loosely than I had in previous assignments. Changing to the Isabey sable brushes has helped. To describe the indentations in the rock, I used ink-hatching to darken the shadows and define the crisp edges. I think that it worked well for this object, a memento of a walk on an Oregon beach.

SUMMARY: This sketch demonstrates how the color and texture of the gloves dominates over line. The ink line is only faintly visible. In the drawing of the rock color is secondary to line. Strong line-work enhances the interesting texture created by small stones that were imbedded in the now hardened sandstone. 

Week 8 Assignment: Image #2
 Watercolor, Inktense colored pencils and pen
in Strathmore Series 500 sketchbook.

Image #3 Color and line--details
Time for completion: 70 minutes
Colorful silk scarves are one of my pleasures. So I chose a small selection to sketch with close attention to details. I started with a gestural drawing of the major shapes in graphite, then drew the details with black ink pen. Because of the small areas of color, I used a Kuretake water brush to apply the Sennelier watercolors. The tighter approach seemed to fit the subject, just as the looser approach seemed more appropriate for the knitted gloves in the previous sketch. There is a pleasing balance between line and color in this sketch.

Note: I’m enjoying the surface of the Strathmore sketchbook paper, it absorbs the paint well, but has enough sizing to allow lift-off. I also felt more confident drawing in ink than previously.

Week 8 Assignment: Image #3
Kuretake water brush, Sennelier watercolors,
Safari pen with black ink
in Strathmore Series 500 sketchbook

Image #4: Color and line--outdoors (pending)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Week 7 Assignment: Putting it together

December 25, 2014
Regardless of one’s religious affiliations today marks a special day for families and friends, a day to remember how important these relationships are in our lives. It is a day filled with rituals, and we usually celebrate it with gift giving and the sharing of a festive meal. And the crowning glory of the meals is dessert, of course! So I selected the cannolo to draw today. It is a traditional Italian dessert reserved for special occasions. Its crisp shell is filled with a ricotta cheese, sugar and candied fruit mixture. I enjoyed it with a cup of Ghirardelli hot chocolate topped with mallow bits and dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Image #1: I started by measuring the main objects, so as to have a correct proportion of the cannolo, saucer  and cup, marking the height and width of each. Then I used Derwent brown-ochre and blue-grey watercolor pencils to draw a gestural set-up of major shapes.  I followed this with a Lamy Safari pen drawing in black ink of the main objects. Finally I added watercolor paint. When this was dry, I made some ink lines heavier to help define the edges. 

This was my first attempt at using this paper and a 2-page spread. I found that the paper handled the ink and the watercolor paint well. The only part that needs improvement is my application of watercolor paint to larger areas of the paper. A larger paint brush would likely help. I thought of adding a design element to the fabric, which is present in the actual placemat, but decided it might be too much of a distraction from the main object. The salt and pepper shakers turned out well.

FYI: My scanner made the dark vertical line showing the page's crease--not sure how to minimize that other than using photo-editing software.  I use a Canon MP970 scanner. I find that it takes a quality photo, which I then edit slightly for saturation and sharpness in iPhoto. The result is fairly close to the original. The size of the platen is a limiting factor in scanning a 2-page spread, as seen below. 

Week 7 Assignment: Image #1 Connolo
Watercolor pencil gestural set-up and ink drawing.
Daniel Smith watercolor in a Strathmore 500 series watercolor sketchbook--
a vellum-surfaced, 100% cotton paper.