Sunday, December 30, 2012

Owen's New Haircut

Owen surprised me when he agreed to sit for me on Christmas. 
And to sit [almost] still for me.

Dark Red Lyra Rembrandt with white Stabilo CarbOthello on toned tan

I can see where I should go back and lay on some darker values in the shadow side of his face. At the time, I was too fixated with giving him a hand and not a claw! So...revision might soon as the furnace gets fixed. The wood stove makes normal daily stuff possible, but house temps in the 50's have me reaching for the hot packs instead of the drawing pencils. I would not make a good plein air winter painter.

Friday, December 28, 2012


I never would have considered 
Katie Holmes and Jennifer Morrison look-a-likes, 
but...can you tell which one of them 
I set out to sketch?

Dark Red and White Stabilo CarbOthello pencils on Tan Toned Sketch

Answer: Katie Holmes, from a photo (not this one) in December's Vogue

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Merry, if late, Christmas to you!

Merry Christmas...season! 

I've taken a few days to absorb and enjoy the season, sketching and writing (a bit,) and will have posted pictures to come, but today I'm having too much fun leafing through a fantabulous Christmas present from Cassidy: James Gurney's Color and Light!

This book is not only packed with colorful illustrations and tons of valuable information, but it's signed by Mr. Gurney, and he even drew a little dinosaur with his message. So nice!

And since I'm so late with the Merry Christmas, I am going to right now go ahead and say...
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sketchbook Inspiration

Lately, I've been posting pages from my tan-toned, mostly-portrait sketchbook. For a change of pace, here's a  two-page spread from my smaller sketchbook. It has artsy quotes on each page that I usually forget to read and sometimes draw over.

In case the characters are non-recognizable, I'll give you a clue: I was watching the movie Cowboys and Aliens while sketching. And that "pod thing" is not an alien pod from the movie--the aliens weren't that type of aliens. It's a wild cucumber that Handsome found out in the woods. Very interesting biological specimen. 

Revisiting my own sketches is somewhat interesting and probably educational. For some truly inspirational sketchbook work, though...Moleskine Project...check this out!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Revisiting the Magic Feather

My "finished" self-portrait sketch is not going to see the light of day. Nor the inside of the woodstove, but it is staying hidden. When the worlds of limited ability and limited pulchritude and cranky-dark conte pencil collide, it ain't a pretty picture!

So here's the substitute portrait sketch of the day--an actor who was photographed by a professional to accompany a Vogue article, done with my friend and magic feather, the Lyra-Rembrandt pencil. 

I haven't been able to get the white Lyra pencil to work on this tan toned sketch paper, (paper too smooth?) but I like the way the white Carb-Othello goes down. Perhaps a bit too much, sometimes, when I heavy-hand it.

Note: It's so much easier to be pleased with a sketch of a person you don't know.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Reenactment: Who Knew...

I always learn something when I read the Muddy Colors illustration blog: sometimes a tip that I can put to immediate use, sometimes a hint or a technique that I'll sock away for later, always some sort of inspiration. Today's post dealt with using photo references. Apparently, successful illustrators poke about online to find photo references (along with posing and snapping friends and paid models) for making their illustrations more realistic, and thus, more successful.

There was mention of online images of Roman Reenactors which made me sit up and say, "Roman Reenactors"? There are Roman Reenactors? Yes, there are.

But why not? I'm aware of the Society for Creative Anachronism. (That's a club with a great name, in my opinion.) Are there people who reenact...most anything?

The answer seems to be YES. There are those who reenact the Iron Age, and those who reenact the Medieval Era and the Renaissance. There are those who reenact Tudor England and  Regency England and those who reenact both the Civil War and the Revolutionary War and even World War 1 and World War II.

But it doesn't stop there! You name it, there's a group to reenact it:

The Vietnam War (Or was that not technically a "war," but a "conflict"?)

and, yes, The Gulf War. I'm sure there are groups reenacting the current wars, but it depresses me to think about looking that up. 

Here's one last link that maybe someone else could use for reference.... So many photo references, so little time to draw.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Something about this guy's head had been bothering me (well, actually, more than one thing, but...)

I'm not planning to keep going back to this portrait in my sketchbook to fix it, fix it, fix it, but I had to make him a degree less pea-headed before I turned the page on him.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Wish I'd Stop Staring at Me

Here's a quick sketch, done in conte pencil, which is going to be reworked

 --after I sharpen the pencil, so I can get some crisp lines. These look like I was holding the pencil between my toes! I'm also going to re-watch Stan Prokopenko's How To Draw Hair mini-vid a couple of times, before I go to town on the hair.

Stay tuned for results.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tilt the Screen, Cock your Head.

In an attempt to distract myself from my headache today, I pulled up a still, online, to sketch. And I learned a simple lesson.

You have to look at the screen from slightly different angles, because if you don't, you might be looking at it the wrong way, and most everything that isn't really black will appear black and then you'll draw it all black, and it will look weird.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Notes on Danielson's Framework...

Yesterday was a Superintendent's Conference Day. No students, or rather, the staff became the students. We started off with a wonderful breakfast. Our cafeteria manager is the best--nothing like my childhood school meal memories ever passeth over his counter. (Anyone else recall stewed tomatoes with small hunks of soggy bread in them? or The Hot Meat Sandwich: 2 pieces of white bread enclosing a slab of Spam and a gray gravy over top? Please!)

Then three hours of "Danielson," presented by these two BOCES* instructors:

You can see that I did, indeed take careful notes.The portrayals might not be absolutely, completely representational, (Hey! They were moving around!) but they are my impression of the presenters.

And upon opening to this page today, my first thought: It sure is easy to spot a teacher. They just look like teachers!
Oh. And then lunch was even better than breakfast. 

*Board of Cooperative Educational Services

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Inspirational Illustration

Illustrations are everywhere, for certain: amusing us, enticing us to purchase, or to read, or to be safe or to have fun.
Hudson Valley Seed Library, in Accord, New York,
employs unique and creative illustration to urge us to
grow heirloom plants. 
 Beautifully blending art and science.
(Watch right to the end!)

And then feast your eyes on their catalog:
HVSL Seed Packets  
I'm normally a cheapskate, buying vegetable seeds from the "country living" store down the road, or from the hardware store, or from Johnny's. But at only $3.75 a pop, heirloom seeds (more flavorful vegetables) AND outrageously beautiful artwork?!?  
I am designing my heirloom garden right now. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Monday Night Sketch Club

I finally made it back to sketch club, the Monday evening life drawing session at the Art Center in Saratoga Springs. I don't know why I waited so long. Well, perhaps I do. It's hard to motivate myself to leave the warm house in the dark, on a work night...but then I rationalized that if there was one place that would be warm and cozy, it would be a room where there's a nude model. 

Dark, it was, but there was warmth.

Her face is a little cartoony, but her hands and knees look real!

I'm a little queasy about posting a nude study. Are there some internet police who will be knocking at my door to accuse me of spreading pornography? However, the Sketch Club major domo posts members' works most weeks--lots of skin--and I haven't yet seen his name in the police blotter.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Further Splitter Progress Plus

I present to you "The Woodsplitter," nearing completion--or nearing removal to a deep, deep closet.

An alternative title might be "The Magic Fence." Those vertical hunks of wood are not supported by any kind of horizontal bracing. Better fix that! And I'd better mess up Handsome's shirt a bit, because he attracts dirt like a supermagnet, and I don't see him this clean except at family weddings or when stepping out of the shower. 

Here's another view of the painting...

...which shows another current project of mine. Stage props! The mess on the right will become the uberplump turkey that Scrooge brings to the Cratchett family after his night of revelations.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Portrait Sketch

I keep attempting to improve my portrait-drawing skills, and in particular, getting accurate facial proportions.

This quick sketch was kind of a cheat--from a photo in a magazine instead of from life.

 Lyra-Rembrandt pencil on tan toned paper

Can you guess what she was modeling?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Progress on Two Fronts! Portraiture & Rituxan

Beautiful day. Instead of a jog at the gym, we went for a long walk through the village and down to the river. It was very breezy, very dry--not a cloud in the sky. On the return trip, we stopped to chat with some neighbors who were doing yard work (unexpected yard work, because who ever thought that in mid-November it would be 68 degrees?!?)

...and it suddenly hit me...

I was able to talk! To breathe comfortably! On an average day, after a few minutes of walking, my mouth is so dry that I cannot speak because my lips are stuck to my teeth and my tongue to the roof of my mouth. Ugh. On a dry and windy day like today, speaking is so out of the question that I look for ways to avoid people, and conversation.

In the past, I have not been very good about keeping track of Sjogren's Syndrome symptoms pre- and post-Rituxan treatments. Maybe because they are usually anything but profound. But this, today, was enormous. (And I'm sure completely uninspiring and confusing to those without Sjogren's Syndrome.) But believe me, it's big. Thumb's Up for Rituxan infusions!

On the art front, I've been spending some time on the Woodsplitter portrait every afternoon, and also fitting in some sketching. Please look past the shine from the wet paint, and the doofy background that I made up because I didn't like where he was actually standing. (One lesson in this: use a photo reference for an alternative background instead of making one up.).

detail from work currently in progress

The shots from the version that I set aside and was certain that the computer deep-sixed the other day turned up in a file.

My woodsplitter's other body parts...those, you don't want to see.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Return to Rituxan

Monday was the second half of my semi-annual Rituximab infusion. Went it at 8:00, was hooked up within a few minutes, and the infusion was over with soon after noon--quicker than the first session, two weeks ago. I felt fine during the treatment, and I continue to feel fine--even a little better than usual, and I don't know if it's the drugs or if it's all in my head. Anyway, my joints, lungs and head have been well enough this week for lots of activity and fun, including taking in an awesome performance of Wicked! 

Being out of the infusion chair by 1:00 also offered me a nice block of afternoon to get some errands done. I bought several "new to me" colors of the water-mixable oil paint. 

I bow down to people who master this medium. And I keep trying to learn. Here's the only part of my unfinished "The Woodsplitter" that I dare show:

[I am not making this up. The photos I just downloaded are nowhere. Apparently, my computer agrees with me that they are better off hidden! Imagine a close-up view of a left ear and one of a right elbow.]

One thing I have learned, as I paint this fellow over and over: take the time to make some thumbnails, a sketch or two, and a decent drawing before shmearing paint.

Tune in again for progress reports, and shots, computer-willing.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Portrait Struggles and More

I am hesitant to post my progress on the portrait of The Woodsplitter. I'm on my second version after the watercolor sketch, and in this version (not shown) he is decidedly apoplectic. (Sorry, apoplexy sufferers. I'm not hating on you. Only on my skills at painting a likeness.)

Yesterday, to take a break from painting, I wandered down to the Greenwich Library, where painter Leslie Peck is having a show of her recent work. Feast your eyes on her light-filled depictions of the people, animals, products and machinery of our upstate agrarian community. She's amazing.

I'll just partake of a little feast, though, so I can get back to fixing the mess on my drawing board.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Color Sketch before the Storm

Just a quick post--an update of painting progress--before Sandy knocks out our electricity, internet, trees, etc.

This is a watercolor sketch of Handsome taking a break from splitting firewood. (And a good thing he did split some wood, because if predictions become reality, we will be very glad of our wood stove. On second thought, I'm always very glad for our wood stove.) His head is oddly small and his neck, oddly long. Maybe I was in Fashion Figure mode? But look at those white highlights! I have never used masking fluid before. I quite like it.

Nope--I didn't ask him to pose with his hands behind his back so I wouldn't have to paint them. That's just how he was standing when I surprised him with my camera.

I have roughed-in a modified version of this on canvas, and I'll be posting progress shots of the oil painting of "The Woodsplitter." Power permitting. So far, Hurricane Sandy is a bunch of wind gusts and a light sprinkling of rain, but it's only 5:00 pm as I write this, and the brunt of the storm is supposed to hit later tonight, through the night, and into tomorrow morning. We shall see.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rituxan Cocktail Time

No pictures, today.

I didn't have much of a drawing or painting day yesterday, because the better part of the day was spent in the infusion room. It was a scheduled event--every six months, for two days, two weeks apart, I succumb to the needle.

In fact, when I started writing this blog, some hundred-plus posts ago, it was less to document my trials and travails at learning to draw and paint, and more about initiating discourse about Sjogren's Syndrome and Rituxan, or Rituximab, because I'd read so many comments online that sounded so off-the-wall. Most were from people who had decided that the treatment was, to put it mildly, inadvisable. Some were from people who had taken the infusions, and then experienced agonizing setbacks like massive bodily infections that required hospitalization. That's the way of a lot of online discussion: tales of the extremes. Drama.

My experiences are rather mundane, and not scary, and I thought someone should tell that side of the story, instead of simple spreading fear and panic. Fear and panic are absolutely NOT what one needs, when already living with a chronic, degenerative, autoimmune disease.

Here's my typical infusion experience:

I arrive at the doctor's office and sit in a recliner, and am given two tylenol and water.

The kindly nurse starts an IV line/catheter in the crook of my elbow. It doesn't hurt much, but I usually do come near to fainting, and recline the recliner to get some blood back in my head. This near-faint passes in minutes, and saline flows. My blood pressure and temperature are checked, as they will be frequently throughout the day.

A dose of Benadryl is added to my line, and I get lightheaded.

A dose of steroid is added to the line, and I feel nothing. (But I surely do not sleep that night. WIDE awake.)

The Rituxan/saline bag is substituted for the plain saline.  

I have all the time in the world to do the Sunday New York Times Crossword, which I've saved from the day before, and to read. I have thought about using this time to sketch, but haven't so far. There's something about having an IV catheter in the crook of my left arm--well--I leave that arm completely immobile, or else I feel the catheter and start thinking about it a little too much and get faint. But it doesn't hurt. Not really. Just gives me the ick feeling.

Mid afternoon, the IV fluid bag is empty, I am detatched, and I drive away.  

Hopefully, these treatments are slowing down the progression of my disease, and although it's subtle, I do feel like it's helped some of my symptoms. Before Rituxan, I was getting to the point where I could hardly speak, the "Bamboo Nodes" on my vocal chords were so severe. There was talk at school about my having to use some kind of adaptive measures, writing every instruction out, using a speech enhancement device, leaving teaching...Now I have a somewhat gravelly voice, but not much more so than some raspy-voiced singers. Tests show that my lungs are functioning better--but the interstitial lung disease is still present, and always will be. Mainly, though, we are hoping that the treatments stave off the lymphoma that is apparently somewhat common in Sjogren's cases that present like mine.

So until two weeks from yesterday: back to drawing instead of infusing!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Handsome is handsome, No?

A sketch from life has so much more life than a sketch from a photo. At least, for me.

Sepia conte pencil and white pastel on tan toned paper. 

I wonder why? How do you interject that spark of life into a photo reference sketch?

And...Happy Birthday to Owen, who made October 21st one of the happiest days of my life.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Overworked and Underpaid

No, this post has nothing to do with being underpaid. But it does have to do with overworking a sketch, and knowing when to stop.

Latest incarnation of the Owen Sketch:

I should have maybe stopped fussing a while ago. This was drawn and shaded in charcoal, and my initial idea was that I wouldn't smudge and blend it at all, but rely on crosshatching and pressure for values. Then I found a couple of those rolled paper tortillons, and succumbed to the urge to blend. Yikes! Do they come in different "softnesses"? These were hard and pointy, and rubbed the charcoal deep into the paper. (Up until this point, that paper--the Strathmore Toned Sketch  pad, in tan--has been wonderfully receptive to abuse.)

To rectify the scraped-in streakiness, I started finger blending. That worked better, but the streaks are still evident in the forehead.

And there's one other wacky wonky overworking problem (well, surely, more than one, but....) The left side of Owen's face (on the right) went down quite easily. The right side (on the left) did not, and it was erased and reworked time and time again. Reworked so fervently that I lost track of the big picture, and as you can see, that shirt collar ended up severely misaligned. Dang!

Back to the drawing board!

But not with this one.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Postponement for Pain: Artist Arthritis

I didn't have much of a chance to tidy up my sketch of Owen today, because soon after I got home from school, I had an appointment with the doctor...who gave me a shot of cortisone (I believe it was cortisone, anyway, it was some steriodal thing that was not manufactured by that company that's gaining a reputation for spreading a fungal virus. I checked.) in the base of my thumb/top of the wrist area. OW! I thought it hurt before, but right now, I'm re-learning the definition of hurt. Sketching is out of the question at the moment.

But Owen's been reworked a little bit, with more to come. Definitely, more spirit to this version than the version in my last post. That's encouraging!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sketching and Struggling

After a brief visit to the unfriendly Land of Gouache, I'm back to struggling with portrait sketching, this time with a charcoal pencil on tan toned paper. If anyone out there can tell me how to sharpen a charcoal pencil so that the tip doesn't snap off right before it's sharp enough, please do! In this beginning stage of my latest portrait of Owen, my pencil went from 6 inches long to 3 inches long from all of the attempts to get an operative point. 

AND THEN there were my habitual proportion issues. It's pretty funny how consistently I goof up on the same issues, even though I go into it aware of those issues, and attempting to compensate. Two of my Big Errors:

1. UNDER estimating the mass of the head of hair and siting the portrait too high on the page to leave room for the hair/head mass. Owen's ball of hair will be bigger upon refinement. And unfortunately for this portrait, more off the page.

2. Starting out with too much jaw! Again! There's been a lot of erasing and moving up of his jaw in this sketch. And this charcoal pencil hasn't lifted very well. 

On the plus side, I can actually recognize Owen from this early-stage sketch, so hope exists. I'm going to go back to the drawing board to work this out some more, and then happily, happily going back to oil pencils for my next sketch. I just wanted to try the black-on-tan, though, and I don't yet have a black oil pencil.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Oh, Woe is Me.

This weekend, the Agricultural Stewardship Program held its annual Landscapes for Lands' Sakes art exhibition. There were scads of paintings on the walls of a very, very clean barn, and some pottery, and a couple of pieces of handmade furniture, all for sale, with 50% of the take going to the artist and the rest of the proceeds going to help keep agricultural land in agriculture.  It was a wonderful show that I look forward to seeing every year. 

Many of the artists who participate in the show dazzle me, but the two who really make my eyes pop out, who drive me to continue trying, trying, trying to learn how to paint, are Leslie Peck and Robert Moylan.

I can only dream about having such skill!

Moylan's work prompted me to dig out the gouache set that I'd kicked to the curb a while ago. How can he make such beautiful paintings with a medium that seems to dry on the brush before it gets to the paper?

Here's my itty bitty gouache painting of my home. Argh.

Sheesh. I have never been able to make a landscape that looked anything like reality. In any medium. But I have to say, the worst I've ever done has been in gouache. In fact, I can't believe I'm even posting this. 

Oh. Woe is me. Gouache is difficult. Trees are difficult. Skies are difficult. I'm going to shove this in the wood stove and think about sticking to sculpture.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The End of the Affair?

My love affair with the Lyra-Rembrandt polycolor premium oil-based colored pencils is not extending to the other pencils that I bought to try, the Stabilo- Carbothello pastel pencils. I'm finding them a bit more difficult to enjoy.

Sharpening pastel pencils is an exercise in frustration. To get the pastel in the right spot, the tip needs to be a point, but each time I had sharpened a pencil to the almost-point point, the "lead" would then snap completely off in the sharpener. Was I supposed to be sharpening with a utility knife?

And then there's the smudging. Where shading with the Lyras was a simple matter of laying down soft layers for color, any touch of the pastel pencil to the paper made a dense mark, and so I was doing some intentional smudging to lighten and shade areas--and dragging my hand over other areas and unintentionally smudging them. (I know. I should have had a protective paper under my hand. Next time.)

All told, Owen did come out acceptably OK, and I'm not completely turned off to the Carb Othellos. I just like the Lyras better.
 After the first session
 After the next session, which mainly involved repeated erasing and redrawing of his right eye (on the left.) Which is still canted the wrong way, giving him a slightly Twistyface look.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tweeks to the Cheeks

Yesterday's sketch of Cassidy was staring at me, and her Manjaw was bothering me, so I decided to fix her up a bit.

That's a little more realistic! I left the beestung upper lip, for a couple of reasons:

1. Big lips are all the rage, no?

2. While shaving away some chin and jaw was easy, to alter her upper lip would have necessitated a total erase and re-draw of the bottom half of her face, because the nose-to-lip length was correct, as is. I'll just chalk this one up to experience, and draw her better, next time.

Watch out, The Rest of The Family, I'm coming for you!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

But PARTS of it Look Like Her!

It's pretty weird, how when drawing a portrait, staring your subject, staring at your work, back and forth and for so long and with such intensity, that you don't notice how screwy it actually looks! I made Cassidy sit for me this afternoon.

And when she finally saw her portrait, she had all kinds of reasons why it didn't look like her that I couldn't see...until I scanned it and saw it on the screen. I guess it's the same principle as looking at your work in a mirror, or looking at your work upside-down--that bit of removal that adds objectivity.

Now I can see the ManJaw (not THAT again!), and the upper lip that looks like it's been lifting weights. It's that pumped.

But it does look more like Cassidy than not like Cassidy. And it's from life, not from Vogue! I'll try to persuade her to sit again for me, soon.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Right Tools

Handsome swears by obtaining and using the Right Tools for The Job. To this end, we own a whole bunch of Right Tools: from single-purpose screwdrivers through the Shopsmith, the bale wrapper and the tractors and wagons necessary for using that.

But I purchased a couple of more interesting Right Tools this week. It was on the sage advice of a couple of very skilled illustrators, Kim, of the Twirling Dragon, and Brian, of B2Illustration, that I try some oil-based pencils. I ordered up an Indian red and a white, and also a dark red and a white in the Carb Othello pastel (not oil) pencil line. And then since I needed something toned to color on, I ordered the Strathmore Recycled Toned Sketch pad, in tan. 

The Blick box was on the porch with the Saturday morning mail, and I was eager to play!

Here's the result of my first session with the Lyra-Rembrandt premium oil-based colored pencils.
She's based on one of those photos from Vogue that I like so well. Since I'm encouraged with the results, I'm moving on to photos of Real People I Know, and to Real People From Life, if I can talk anyone into it!

Thank you, thank you, Brian and Kim! And Lyra-Rembrandt.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Water and Charcoal and Hair

I did a little more work on yesterday's handsome fella from the Vogue pictorial. 
still wrong-side-of-paper-y, waffle-facey, but finished

This guy certainly has a wild, curly crop of hair, and I certainly had a bit of fun depicting it. It may not look absolutely realistic, but isn't that what artistic interpretation is all about?

You may notice that the blackest spot on the drawing is in his right eye (on the left.) It was a mistake. I kind of like it. A cold, adult beverage was on my windowsill (how did THAT get there!?!) while I was drawing, and apparently, the black charcoal pencil absorbed a bit of condensation. When I went to darken up the outline to his iris, the line came out as a dense, black blob, which I blotted up and then stared at. Hmm. Charcoal and water might be friends.

And I might have to go see Anna Karenina. Should I read it first, or not?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Viscious Cycle Defeated?

Just for Practice. Not for Keeps.

In my determined attempt to learn to draw better, I'm also learning to overcome my paralyzing fear of failure.

Fear of failure used to keep me from starting very many drawings or paintings. This type of program does not lead to artistic excellence. How can one become a better artist, a better illustrator (because "drawer" just looks too wrong!) when you're terrified of putting pencil to paper for fear of failure?

Now I've gotten to a nice place where I can (often) muffle my inner critic and make a drawing, knowing that it won't be and needn't be Portfolio Worthy. And then I can move on and do another.

Here's a drawing that was just for fun, because I made it knowing full well that it would not have enough of a value range to look right, based on a lesson learned a few days ago:

But I made it anyway, because Handsome was sitting next to me and my Kraft pad and a couple of pencils were in front of me. (I have ordered, and am awaiting delivery of a couple of oil-based pencils and a lighter beige pad. Yeeha!)

Here's a drawing that I started this afternoon, knowing full well that I was drawing on the "wrong" side of the paper, and the texture pattern was going to be too pronounced...based on a lesson I learned a couple of days ago.

from a Vogue Mag photo: Cute actor from Anna Karenina movie

But I made it anyway, because I'd already used the "right" side of the paper, and I didn't see the sense of wasting the "wrong" side. I kind of like him, waffle-face and all, and I'm going to work on him some more. Because sometimes, a person can just draw for practice. 

Or even, for fun.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Headache, a Remedy, a Quiz and a Contest

Today, I came home from work with a headache. Not full-blown enough that I needed to go straight to bed, not full-blown enough that I wanted to use up one of my Imitrex injections, but a headache, nonetheless. One that settled in the back of my skull and interrupted my thoughts and made me not want to go to the gym and pound away on the treadmill. 

So I opted to watch a movie. And to keep my hands busy, I did some very un-detailed gesture-style sketching. Sketching often relaxes me, but to make sure that this episode was super relaxing, I used a "graphitkreide," a thick, solid "crayon" of 2B graphite, with a big, old rounded tip, on kraft paper. There was NO WAY I was going to get detail, which freed me up from trying to get all but the most general forms and gestures on the paper. = no room for stress, and hopefully, a headache cured and a relaxing afternoon.

It worked! After twenty minutes or so, my headache had disappeared! Hooray for ART!

Here's where the quiz comes in. One page of my sketches:

Don't be harsh! I was looking at the screen, not at the page!

The Quiz

Was I watching a movie set in...
A. The Future
B. The Regency Era
C. The Victorian Era
D. The American Antebellum Era

Click to become a Follower, slip me your answer in a comment, and be eligible to win this wonderful little book:

With pages like this:

And this:

It's a sweet, small book with many lovely color reproductions and black and white sketch reproductions. It could be yours! I'll pick a random winner from the correct answer pile and mail it to you! 

Thanks for reading; thanks for following Kismet.


Friday, September 21, 2012

A Quick Lesson Leaned

There are two sides to a piece of paper.

One is good for drawing on with a charcoal or a pastel pencil.

One is way too textured. 

Detail (above) of my sketch of Handsome, showing the craters and pits in the wrong side of the paper--wrong for this use, anyway.

I'm still thinking that I can find those oil-based pencils locally--so to skip the mail order wait--but I feel that I will very soon succumb to my urge to just place an online order.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Not too sure about the hair: OR the cross-eyed, metallic man!

I love good advise from people who know what they're talking about. So when a couple of illustrators who really know what they're talking about commented on my Not To Sure About The Hair post, suggesting that I try Lyra/Rembrandt oil-based pencils, I was on a mission to do just that!

My village is too small to have an art supply store, but after the dentist chair yesterday, I skipped into the art supply store in Saratoga Springs, thinking to treat myself to a few of those pencils. Kind of like when Mom used to treat me to a clam roll at Howard Johnson's after the dentist, a couple of million years ago.

The pencil section was hip-deep in watercolor pencils, with nary an oil-based stick in sight. Nuts!

Back home, I double-checked my colored pencil stash. Water-soluble...water-soluble...water soluble...and AHA! a set of Lyra "Super Ferby" totally fat, metallic colors colored pencils! They didn't claim to be "oil-based," but "long-wearing" and "non-soluble" kind of sounded like "oil-based" to me. Yahoo!

There were a few drawbacks. 
1. The colors ran the spectrum all the way from pastel this to pastel that;
2. The values ranged from light to light;
3. The leads are about a centimeter wide, meant for little kids, I suppose. They are really CHUNKY pencils, and hard to see exactly where the point is hitting on the paper, when in use. 

I chose a light red for the darks and a silver for the whites (which pretty completely matched the color of the gray paper I chose to draw on.)

And yes, he's not only made of metallic colors and identical values, he's also been drawn cross-eyed. Sorry, Fella!

I think I'll be placing an order with Blick. In the mean time, watch for my next study, metallics on white paper. The "Ferby" leads were smooth and soft and left a luscious line.

Side Note on the Side Bar Boxes: With the happy distraction of the wedding out of the way, I did manage to upload my novel, Kismet, to Barnes & Noble for you to purchase for your Nook. Of course, I have the book on  my desktop computer, but I may download it to read on my Nook, just for the fun of it. Humor, history, romance, mystery and  adventure, all for only 99 cents!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Upside to Sjogren's Syndrome -- 100th Post

This is what happens when farmers have free license 
to prepare the wedding conveyance.

This is what happens when two fantastic young people 
grow and raise all of the food for their wedding.

I spent the last weekend surrounded by friends and family, and smiling so much and so continually that my cheeks hurt. And crying, too, but that was all on the inside, because when you have Sjogren's Syndrome, you don't have tears, and you can't wreck your mascara. At least you can't wreck your mascara by crying it off.

My stepson and his sweetheart, the pulchritudinous couple, above, planned and executed a glorious wedding weekend. They supplied the caterer with most of the food that was served, including vegetables, pork and chicken, honey and maple syrup from the family farm. The florist added Liz's gardening products to his beautiful decorations. The owners of the reception site, a Catskill Mountain farm that had been in our family, long years past, made a special display of family history for everyone to enjoy. The list of professionals and avocationals who contributed to making this wedding special goes on and on.

And I made the dessert spread, and the wedding cake!

Theme: Maple Syrup and Honey, both products of the farm

They'd requested a small wedding cake--just enough for ceremony--with a buffet array of a variety of other treats. I put my usual artistic pursuits on hold and did some kitchen creation, pumping out cupcakes, cookies, mini cheesecakes and pumpkin squares, and more. I saved all of the portioning and garnishing, not to mention, the assembly of the wedding cake, for the morning of the wedding. I was rather strung out by the time I had to leave for the ceremony.

But it all worked out for the best.

Yes, it all worked out for the best, 
and Handsome and I danced 'til we dropped.

Congratulations to the newly united Mr and Mrs Frisbee.

Maple Nut Bars
(my favorite of the wedding desserts)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8" x 8" pan and line with enough foil that the foil sticks up over the sides of the pan.

Make the crust:
Whisk together 1-1/2 cups flour and 1/3 cup brown sugar (unless you have maple sugar around that you're willing to pulverize and use up;) then cut in 1/2 cup softened butter. Blend until mixture resembles coarse meal, then press into the greased and foil-lined 8 inch square pan.  Bake 15 minutes.

To make the topping, combine 3/4 cup of maple syrup (use Grade B, a darker, more flavorful syrup, if you can get it,) 1/2 cup brown sugar (or, again, maple sugar,) a beaten egg, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Beat well, then stir in a cup of chopped pecans or walnuts. Pour batter over half-baked crust. 

Return the pan to the oven and bake until set, about 35 minutes. Lift out of the pan, while warm, by the foil. Cool, and cut into small squares. Enjoy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Is that a Monkey in your pants, or...

It's not every day that I laugh out loud while listening to NPR on the way home from school at noon. (Noon, you ask? Yes. Our school has done some slashing in the arts department, and elsewhere.)

BBC News comes on right after Joe Donahue finishes up his Roundtable. After a couple of world news stories, they reported that some men had been arrested in India, at an airport, after airline personnel noticed bulges in their pants. Really. The men were searched, and found to have monkeys in their pants. As in MONKEYS, albeit small ones, IN THEIR UNDERWEAR

Apparently, this is not a new phenomenon. Apparently, they were not the first to attempt profitable rare animal smuggling.

I will file this away in my brain for when things get really tight. 
In my pants. Just kidding!

My 100th post is next, and it's not going to be about monkeys in underpants.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

In Between the Other Stuff

Here's some recent fun, which wasn't fun at all.

We were in need of a coffee pot. Although I cringe at the environmental waste produced by throwing away all of those little K-cups, I have to admit, the best tasting home-brewed coffees I've had of late come from those Keurig coffee makers. And you can use regular ground coffee in them, with some kind of adapter, right? I could  purchase yet another $15 drip Mr. Coffee that I'll have to replace in a year or two...or I could rationalize spending a prohibitive amount of money that I kind of don't have on a Keurig thing that will last and last...OR...I could find a used Keurig on Craigslist!

What a great idea! 

Except that you get what you pay for.

We almost thought Handsome had it working at one point, after disassembling it and tweaking this and that, and I was considering it my Steampunk coffee maker--with all of the exposed tubing and electrical elements--but now if it's my Steampunk anything, it's my Steampunk doorstop.

Yes, you get what you pay for. And it might be a good idea to ask for a demonstration of an item, before you hand over the cash and drive away. Or to just stay home and draw!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Not too sure about the hair....

Given my apparent propensity for drawing manjaws on many of my portrait subjects (whether they deserve them or not) I thought it was time to sketch a manjaw on a real, live man. But then Handsome left for his home-away-from-home job, taking his sturdy jaw and dimpled chin, so I once again turned to the vintage photo archive.

There was no name on the back of this handsome fella's photo.

Label your photos!

It's not very noticeable, but I did use my fingertips to smudge the chalks on this portrait. I don't think it's either an improvement over the not-smudged technique used on the Chalk Baby, or that the smoother look is a detraction. It's just slightly different. I'll continue to experiment with both.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Chalk Baby: To Smudge, or Not To Smudge

Looking for a fun-to-draw subject, I flipped through my file of very old photos. These aren't of my ancestors, although my mother does have a huge box of antique family photos...but these, which I picked up somewhere along the line, were at hand. Seems I've been sketching mostly ladies lately, so I thought a sweet little baby-type might be a nice challenge. 

I found a photo, and did a preliminary pencil sketch. 

Then I found a scrap of pastel paper and experimented with white and red chalk pencils.

Now it's break time, where I step back, revisit the sketch with fresh eyes, and decide whether or not to smudge the chalks and go for a "rounded, blended" look, or stick with the "unblended, paper-texture-shows-through" look. 

I don't think that looking at him/her* upside down is going to help me make this decision.

*Note on the Him/Her: When we Twenty-first Century People look at a photo of a baby in a dress, our natural inclination is to think, "Baby Girl!" But tots from the beginning of the last century--and surely, long before 1900--wore dresses. Girl or boy. When looking at photographic portraits from a hundred years ago, or, for that matter, painted portraits from hundreds of years ago, we have to look beyond the dress to figure out the gender. Sometimes, the surroundings or the props help differentiate the baby girls from the baby boys. In the case of my reference photo (which was not labeled on the back--Write names on your photos, people! That is, if you even print out photos, anymore.) the presence of the two books and the absence of flowers or dolls or hair decoration leads me to surmise that it might be a boy. But that's pure speculation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Another Lesson in Facial Proportions

As a kind of a warm-up to a more detailed drawing, I set out to make a very quick, simple, rough sketch of a woman from a photograph that accompanied her profile in the September issue of Vogue. A nationally-known person, if I'd done a good job, she should be instantly recognizable. 
I stood back and compared my sketch to the photographic portrait, and immediately noticed that my sketch was a bit off in the Proportion Department: my sketch had an over-large chin and an over-wide jaw.

As we age, do our jaws and chins get bigger?

...because the sketch, above, was of Chelsea Clinton, but it looks for all the world (to me) like a well-rested, Good Hair Day version of her mother!

Side note: 
I'd always heard that our earlobes and noses continue to grow, but can I also look forward to a Manjaw?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Magic of "Photoshop:Old School" and a List of Lessons Learned

I've been trying to draw regularly this summer. If not every day, I have managed to work my way through quite a few sketchbook pages, a couple of watercolors, and that yellow teapot still life. But my main focus has been on simple, graphite portraiture, with enough of a range of values to add a little life. I've pestered friends and relatives to pose, and when I'm alone, I've resorted to reproducing photographic portraits, mainly, from Vogue and other magazines.

Here's yesterday's, which made me cringe a bit. But why? I scratched my head. I went outdoors. I weeded the flower bed. 
I returned.

I walked up to my desk, and in doing so, I saw this girl upside down, and with fresh eyes.

OH SNAP! Her chin and jaw are massive! (Not that everything else was absolutely swell, but that manjaw did stand out.) 

So I did some "Photoshopping." Maybe it should be called "Sketchshopping." 

Or maybe it should be called "Erasing."

Then I went back to work, finally calling it quits when my pencil couldn't lay on any more graphite. 

Lessons Learned, or at least, reinforced:

1. Draw every day; don't give in to the fear of failure that stops the party before it even gets started;
2. Take breaks and return to look at work with fresh eyes;
3. Periodically look at work upside down;
4. Erase! If you can draw something once, you can do it again;
5. Get some soft leads, to boost the range of possible values.