Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Retrospective

This is a pastel and charcoal drawing I did for a WetCanvas Weekly Drawing Thread challenge earlier in the year.

What did I accomplish in 2007?

I started using the Internet and my computer for art. I now use a scanner, a digital camera, and Photoshop Elements as art tools. From January through May, I participated regularly in the WetCanvas Weekly Drawing Challenges and in the WetCanvas Scavenger Hunts. The focus of the Weekly Drawing Challenge is to draw from a photograph, and the focus of the Scavenger Hunt is to draw from life. In September, I started a blog so I could participate in the Illustration Friday (IF) and Everyday Matters (EDM) group.

My overall 2007 goal was to be more creative and open to experimentation. I am happy with my progress. I started out 2007 copying photographs and objects from life, and I ended 2007 rarely copying. I credit Dodson's Keys to Drawing With Imagination with helping me to use my imagination. Before doing the exercises in his book, I never drew from imagination. Now I am very comfortable doing so.

IF has also helped me tap into my creativity. The IF weekly prompt is very open-ended and enables me to be creative on a weekly basis. Outstanding artists participate in IF, and viewing their work is very motivating and inspiring. IF also shows me what I don't know. For example, for one prompt, I wanted to draw a barbaric horde. I quickly realized I hadn't the foggiest idea of how to draw a horde. I am learning that illustration requires excellent drawing skills. Drawing from life and studying masters is useful for representational illustration. For example, Goya excelled at drawing and painting masses of people; his techniques may be applicable to barbaric hordes.

There are also many excellent artists in the EDM group. I am inspired every time I look at the EDM Superblog.

I wish I had painted and used color more in 2007. Working full time, occasional work travel, and two children make painting a challenge. I can sit with my kids in the living room and draw in the evenings, but can't sit with them and paint, due to the mess. I can draw in a hotel room, but not paint. Maybe I need to look into a small travel set of paints and try them out.

A few details for my records. I worked through the following books:
  1. Keys to Drawing With Imagination by Bert Dodson (Chapters 1-3).
  2. Design: Principles and Problems by Paul Zelanski and Mary Pat Fisher (Chapters 1-4).
  3. Art of Still Life Drawing by Sterling Publishing Co. (I skipped around).
  4. Pastel Workbook by Jackie Simmonds (All chapters).

I took an oil painting class offered by a Continuing Ed program.

I used pencil, pen and ink, charcoal, pastels, oils, watercolors, and collage in my art work.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Illustration Friday - Soar

May you use your unique talents to soar in 2008. Happy New Year!

Mechanical and red colored pencil on Strathmore 400 Series Drawing medium paper (9" x 12").

Here is an earlier version of the drawing with no blending. I like the visible pencil strokes, but could not get the background dark enough using only cross hatching.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Crystal Goblet

Yesterday I got out my Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph Pens, which I have had for a long time but have only used once or twice. I cleaned them, which wasn't too bad once I got the hang of it. I refilled one and tried the pen out on this crystal goblet.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Shoe Fairy

I drew the fairy and shoe from life. The fairy is a statue and is too big to fit in the shoe-I used my imagination to combine the 2 images. Mechanical, 3B, and 7B pencils on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad paper.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

From 2 to 3 Dimensions

Yesterday, I played with 2- and 3-dimensional designs. The problem is to take a 2-dimensional design and convert it to a 3-dimensional one, by adding gray. I started with the design shown below, which I created a few months ago. It is black construction paper pasted on white paper.
I scanned and printed the above design. I then used gray marker to give the design a 3rd dimension, as shown below.

Finally, I scanned the marked-up version of the design and used Photoshop Elements to improve the black and gray colors. The final result is the image at the top of the post. I found this exercise to be very enjoyable; I find it very freeing to work with abstract shapes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sneaker in Water Soluble Pencil

Yesterday, I tried out Prismacolor Water Soluble Graphite Pencils (HB, 4B, 8B) in a 5" x 8" Moleskine Watercolor Notebook. Although I have had both the pencils and the Moleskine for a while, I had never used either. One difficulty I had with the water soluble pencils was preserving white areas; it is very easy to go too dark.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

O Tannenbaum

Merry Christmas!

It is 4:30 a.m. in Dallas and my family is still asleep. Once everyone wakes up, we'll open the presents. My younger son, Christopher, will look for evidence of Santa Claus, such as cookie crumbs. Will he notice that Santa uses the same wrapping paper and tags that his parents use? If you want to believe, you don't notice. My older son, Andrew, will make us French Toast for breakfast. We'll make phone calls to family, take a long walk, and bake homemade bread for dinner. Our Christmas dinner will be tomato and broccoli quiche, a salad, homemade bread, and homemade chocolate pudding for desert.

A few more handmade cards; this time using a Christmas tree stamp.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Angels We Have Heard On High

My Christmas vacation started on Saturday, December 22. I felt relaxed enough on Sunday to make cards. I always end up sending my cards out on Christmas Eve. As long as my cards reach their destination between Christmas and New Year's day, I am happy. I made a variety of angel cards using one rubber stamp; here is a selection. My materials included card stock, acetate, diamond glaze, glitter, a variety of inks, and double-side tape.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

EDM #150 - Draw a Candle

Black and white charcoal on cheap red construction paper. Hope Santa's reindeer are fit and ready for the big trip tomorrow night!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Distorted Farm

This is my solution to Exercise 17 in Bert Dodson's Keys to Drawing with Imagination. To create this drawing, I used a distortion grid to distort a photograph of a farm in Vernon, New York. I used 2B pencil on Strathmore 400 Series Drawing medium paper (9" x 12").

Here is the original photograph.

I scanned the photo, printed it, and drew a reference grid on top of it. I labeled the horizontal axis and vertical axis.

I then created a distortion grid. The distortion grid can be anything you want, as long as the number of squares are the same as the reference grid. (I omitted the top few rows of the reference grid).

I put the the distortion grid under my drawing paper on a light table and copied the reference grid square-by-square, distorting each square as dictated by the distortion grid.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Illustration Friday - Backwards

Backwards can be beautiful. The first thing that popped into my mind for the prompt backwards was dyslexia, as both my children have learning differences. The next thing that popped into my mind was Leonardo da Vinci's handwriting. For this week's prompt, I played with da Vinci's image printed out on card stock as a collage element. I also tried using da Vinci's handwriting as a background, but I couldn't get that to work well. I think I was subconsciously going after a Andy Warhol-like look.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

EDM #149 - Draw a Broom

This is a hand broom used to clean up small messes. 2B pencil on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad paper.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Inspiration in Rumpled Towels

This is more of Exercise 18 in Keys to Drawing with Imagination by Bert Dodson. I posted my solution to the first part of the exercise yesterday. This part of the exercise is to draw a picture based on objects you see in a rumpled cloth, blanket, or towels. It is the same idea as finding objects in clouds. I used a rumpled bath towel. I found the rumpled towel to be a good tool for conceiving imaginary creatures. 2B pencil on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad paper.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Inspiration in the Clouds

This is Exercise 18 in Keys to Drawing with Imagination by Bert Dodson. The exercise is to draw a picture based on objects you see in clouds. Because clouds in the sky change shape so quickly, Dodson recommends using photos, rather than looking at the sky. My husband, Robert Mewing, took the photograph. 2B pencil on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad paper.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Illustration Friday - Little Things

This is a drawing of fairies hiding among some bottles. Where do the little people hide in your house? .05 Micron pen on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad paper.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Playing With Scale

This is Exercise 15 in Keys to Drawing with Imagination. The exercise is called Playing with Scale. The idea is to combine 2 photographs, distorting the scale of some elements yet keeping the scene realistic. I drew from a photograph of a albatross in the December 2007 issue of National Geographic and a photo of a 18th century Nantucket, Massachusetts house I found in the book In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. The first mate of the whaling ship Essex lived in this house. A whale sank the Essex, a tragic event that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. In the Heart of the Sea is an outstanding historical account of the Essex. I combined the two photos because of the sea connection. I also see a literary link between the 2 photos: Moby Dick by Hermann Melville meets The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Black .01 Micron pen on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad paper.

Friday, December 7, 2007


This is Exercise 16 in Keys to Drawing with Imagination. The exercise is called Forced Distortion. The idea is to first do a contour drawing of a photograph using a thick marker, peeking only to keep your place. Contour drawings are typically distorted. After the contour drawing is completed, switch to a ball point pen for shading. I drew from a photograph of a cowboy in the December 2007 issue of National Geographic. I used a black Sharpie marker and a black ball point pen from a Hyatt Hotel. The drawing is in my 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

EDM #148 - Draw Something Soothing

I purchased this mug several years ago while vacationing in Lake Placid, New York. This is my favorite mug; I feel content and soothed when I drink from it. I also drew the matching sugar bowl; you can see it here. 2B pencil on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad Paper.

EDM stands for Every Day Matters, which is a drawing group started by Danny Gregory. Danny Gregory has two books, Every Day Matters and Creative License. I recommend both books highly. Many EDM members participate in a weekly drawing challenge. This week is the 148th challenge: Draw or paint something soothing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Illustration Friday - Excess

I recently watched the documentary The Dark Ages by the History Channel (2007). I was struck by the excessive length of the Dark Ages and the excessive human suffering. The sack of Rome in 410 AD and the subsequent fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD mark the beginning of the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages lasted around 600 years and were marked by war and pandemic. The Plague killed between 1/3 and 2/3 of Europe's population.

A scene from the documentary inspired this illustration. 4B and 2H pencils on Strathmore 400 Series Drawing medium paper (9" x 12").

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Figure-Ground Reversals

These pencil sketches are solutions to a design problem in the book Design: Principles and Problems by Zelanski and Fisher. The problem is to create a figure-ground reversal using black and white. In a figure-ground reversal, the figure and background are ambiguous. Is the black the figure or background? How about the white? The simplest examples of this are a checkerboard and the yin and yang symbol. M. C. Escher was a master of this design technique. For example, Sky and Water I is a well-known Escher piece that uses this technique.

Karl Zipser has a post titled Why does art change with viewing? that gives additional examples of figure-ground reversals. He shows a famous illustration that can be seen in two ways: as a pair of faces looking at each other, or as a vase. He also shows a drawing that can be viewed as a rabbit or a duck.

I found this problem to be very difficult. I see potential is the first two sketches (fairies emerging from between bottles and the snake plant), so I will develop them further.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Book Review: Learning to Draw

Katherine Tyrrell (Making a Mark) recently reviewed Robert Kaupelis' book Experimental Drawing. You can find her book review here. Kaupelis has another book, Learning to Draw: A Creative Approach, which I love. Since this book doesn't seem to be well known, I thought I would do a book review.

As a self-taught artist, I am always looking for books that give the type of instruction that one would get in art school. This book seems to have been a text book and fits the bill. It has 10 chapters:
  1. Drawing Materials
  2. Contour Drawing
  3. Quick Contours
  4. Gesture Drawing
  5. Modeled Drawing
  6. Modeled Space
  7. Memory Drawing
  8. Automatic Drawing
  9. Drawing from Projected Images
  10. Search for Form

Kaupelis provides very clear explanations of each of the different drawing techniques. There are 134 black-and-white illustrations: 50 Master drawings plus numerous student drawings illustrate the techniques. There are 100 exercises, which I appreciate. The exercises are imaginative and use a variety of materials including pencil, graphite sticks, charcoal, ink (pen and brush), and paint.

This book stresses creativity, self-expression, and process. It does not address more mechanical fundamentals such as perspective or proportion. It is not a "how-to" book with recipes for achieving a certain type of drawing. The book favors process over results.

About two years ago, I did every single exercise in this book. Some of the exercises call for a model; I substituted statues. This is the type of book you never out grow. I want to repeat the exercises; I think I would get different value from them now, given that I now have a different level of expertise.

How does this book differ from Experimental Drawing? I would say Learning to Draw is an expanded version of Chapter 2 of Experimental Drawing. In the context of art education, Learning to Draw is a prerequisite for Experimental Drawing.

This book was first published in 1966. I have a second-hand copy printed in 1983. This book is now available from Dover Publications (ISBN 978-0486447865). It was published March 3, 2006. I have looked at the Dover version and it is exactly the same as my copy. It is a steal at $12.95.

I give this book 5 pencils: it addresses drawing fundamentals.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

December Goals

Do other people write down art goals at the beginning of every month? I am a compulsive list maker, so at the end of each month, I write down my goals for the coming month. It is a chance to make New Year's resolutions 12 times a year: I get 12 fresh starts. I use a cheap spiral notebook to record and track my goals. I don't always achieve all of my goals, but I think I achieve more than I would without goals. My December goals are shown below. Keys to Drawing from Imagination and Design: Principles and Problems are books I am slowly working through. EDM stands for Every Day Matters, which I have been meaning to join for a long time now. I have an expensive set of Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph pens, but I use Micron ones instead due to laziness. I want to get comfortable with the better pens so I will use them. I think the rest of the goals are self-explanatory.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Illustration Friday - The Zoo

This is a child's stuffed animal zoo. Sepia .05 Micron pen on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad Paper.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Best Western Lamp

I haven't had much time for artwork over the holidays. I did manage to sketch this lamp in our Nassau Bay (greater Houston area) motel room.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tree Creature

I drew this tree creature from imagination back in June. Micron pen on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad Paper. Happy Thanksgiving to those in the United States! My family is driving to Houston, Texas today to celebrate with my brother, sister-in-law, and parents. We'll be back Friday.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Illustration Friday - Superstition

People were tried for being werewolves on a regular basis in medieval Europe. One of the last convictions took place in Salzburg, Austria in 1720. Superstition run amok. How do I happen to possess this nugget of information? My son Christopher loves mythical monsters. Two great kids books on werewolves are Mythical Monsters by Chris McNab and Werewolves by Stephen Krensky. 2B pencil on Strathmore 400 Series Drawing medium paper (9" x 12").

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Work Shoes

My work shoes, drawn from life. Pencil on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad Paper.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chiaroscuro in Pencil

I have been traveling on business. This is a drawing of a corner of my hotel room in the beautiful historic Hotel Phillips in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. I used cross-hatching chiaroscuro techniques I learned in the book Art of Still Life Drawing by Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. (2006). 2B pencil on Strathmore 400 Series Drawing medium paper (9" x 12").

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More Contour Drawings

Here are more of my November daily contour drawings. I have tried a variety of techniques, including blind contour (don't look at the paper at all) and partial blind contour (peek now and then). The technique that I am enjoying most is from the book Charles Reid Master Class Painting by Design by Charles Reid (1991). Reid gives these contour drawing guidelines:
  • Concentrate.
  • Use angles and curves.
  • Keep your pen on the paper at all times.
  • Go slowly at angles; speed up at curves and straight lines.
  • Describe shadows within definite, contained shapes.
  • Stop often, keeping your pen anchored, to compare and relate a new form to one you've already drawn.
  • Leave your boundaries incomplete. Your pen should weave adjacent forms so separations can't always be found.
For some reason, I find that keeping my pen on the paper at all times relaxes me and makes it easier to draw freely. Reid points out that it is more important to make an interesting picture than to copy exactly what you see. For example, one can add interest by using a variety of angles and curves and leaving some parts of the drawing incomplete. I am using two new Micron pens in these drawings: brown .01 and sepia .05.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chiaroscuro Plant

I drew a plant from life using chiaroscuro techniques I learned in the book Art of Still Life Drawing by Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. (2006). I first used a charcoal pencil to draw the contour of the plant , and then I applied compressed charcoal to the space around the plant. I used my fingers and a stump to create the tones. Yarka pressed charcoal and Conte charcoal pencil on Strathmore 500 Series 25" x 19" cream-colored charcoal paper. This is the first time I have used our new digital camera to photograph artwork. I love it! Before this purchase, I could only post artwork that was small enough to be scanned.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Illustration Friday - Scale

The prompt this week is "scale". The word "scale" has many meanings, and I finally settled on illustrating the definition "a proportion between two sets of dimensions (as between those of a drawing and its original)." I drew a picture of a vase from life and then scanned the drawing. I printed scaled versions of the drawing, scaling up and down at 25% intervals. I then used a light box to transfer all 5 sizes of the drawing to the final illustration. I added a little shading for interest and deliberately left the scaling and scaffolding lines visible. B and 3B pencil on Strathmore 400 Series Drawing medium paper (9" x 12").

This turned into an experimental drawing exercise, which I really enjoyed. The perspective in the drawing doesn't make sense. For example, the ellipses should not all be the same shape, and the background vases should be less defined than the foreground vases. But this drawing is not intended to be realistic--I did what I found to be pleasing from a design perspective. Ignoring the rules of realistic drawing can be enjoyable and freeing.