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.