Sketching On My Mind
Yesterday was another lovely January day in Talent, so a sketching trip to the nearby local railroad depot was in order.
Look At Light Pattern
When considering a place to sit and draw, I look at how light is falling on my would be subject. It was about an hour before sun down so I needed to hustle and find a view facing west. The railroad depot was on my mind since its close by and has a west-facing side.
Unfortunately for drawing purposes, the west facing side is blocked by a fence. No matter, I decided to draw the crossing gate in front of the depot, with city buildings in the distant horizon.
Crossing Guard Shapes
Drawing the crossing guard was fun; I’d never paid attention to all that hardware! In order to make sense out of all this “stuff”, I focused on the interesting shapes.
Sketching With Pencil
You may notice that today I’m drawing only with pencil. I have a new book that I’m working through titled “The Urban Sketcher” by Marc Taro Holmes, Citizen Sketcher. I’m working through the first chapter. The first exercises are with graphite.
I think sketching with graphite (pencil) is a great way to learn something new. Its also a great way to get to know a new subject or revisit an old one. Its a simple, portable and readily available tool. I like this simple, powerful instrument, come to think of it! Pencil drawings are part of my daily workout.
Drawing Talent Series: Different Views
I have drawn our depot before from a different points of view back in 2014 as part of my “Drawing Talent” series of sketches. On the post I did in September of 2014, I included a bit of history about the railroad depot building. Just a teaser, there really was a person with a last name of “Talent”. And the depot was sent to us by rail!
The small ball point pen study is from the west side of the depot. The watercolor and ink sketch below is of the south side of the building.
So, I’ve drawn the place at least three times. Could be I need to visit this subject multiple times! I went by today and in the morning light, noticed lots of great places to draw and paint. In time, I think I might like to do some full size paintings of this subject.
More Talent Changes
Much like yesterday’s post about the “Funky Fashion” building, things have changed at the Talent depot and railroad crossing. For one thing, the tracks are active again! Two years ago, there were no trains running through Talent. In 2015, the trains started up again. So, when sketching near the tracks, I need to be alert. Fortunately, the train had just past by before I left for the drawing session.
Another change is that we are getting a new cafe on the south end of the depot building. I’ve been watching them prepare the facility. It will be called “Cantina Vida”; I look forward to its opening. On another day, I’ll do a sketch with the cantina.
I hope you enjoy my sketches and Talent’s railroad depot.
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Sketching Local Building
Yesterday I took advantage of some afternoon sun and went out to sketch a local building. Because it was afternoon, I wanted to draw something that was facing the west. What better place to work on than the place formerly known as “Funky Fashions”?
I’d like to give a little backstory to our subject building. I live in Talent, OR. Back in 2014, I thought I’d start a series of watercolor and ink studies I called “Drawing Talent”. One of the first places I drew was “Funky Fashions”.
Cheerful Consignment Shop
“Funky Fashions” was owned by my neighbor Lisa; it was special. It was a sweet consignment shop right down town. It was also on my morning running route. Most days I’d pass by and note the cheerful window displays. Lisa had plants and a bench out front.
First Drawing – Spring Cheer
The first time I sketched the building was in May of 2014. It was a brilliant, sunny spring day. While I was sketching, Lisa came out and sat on the bench, enjoying the afternoon light. Naturally, I went over and chatted with her after I was done.
Almost two years later, the shop sits closed. It is no longer “Funky Fashions”, except in spirit. Lisa has retired and moved on.
I’d say the shop area looks vacant, but it may not be. The windows are curtained up. About a week ago it looked like someone was doing something to the interior. Its not the cheerful place it was.
In the soft light of winter, the building almost looks dormant or asleep. It is waiting for a new occupant to breath life into it. Like many of the business buildings in Talent OR, tenants come and go. This is only one of several buildings that have changed since I started my drawing Talent series.
Traffic Has Changed
You might notice that the signage in front of the building has changed. This is due to the re-routing of traffic in our historic downtown. There used to be a stop sign in front of the “Funky Fashions” building; now there is different sign. The stop sign is a block north.
On a positive note, there is a newly planted tree in front of the building. Talent is a “tree city”. We like trees and they do a good job growing here.
It was fun re-visiting the “Funky Fashions” building. I am including both watercolor and ink drawings – almost an after and before! I hope you enjoy them!
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Thinking About Perfection and Seth Godin
Perfection…is it a good thing?
I was fixing my second (or was it third?) cup of espresso this morning. Into my head popped the thought that I bet Seth Godin’s blog posts aren’t perfect everyday. I wonder what his percentages are; how many times does he hit it out of the proverbial park?
Maybe because he posts most days, he gets pretty darn good results.
Hmmm… the espresso was nearly perfect. It was good enough.
Its About Me
So, how does this apply to me and what’s the point?
First I thought about this blog. I get wrapped around SEO (search engine optimization) requirements. I have Yoest SEO plug in and tells me things about SEO and how to improve my blog. It’s like a high school multiple choice test – I try to get a near perfect answer.
But do you care? And, why do I care?
Hmmm, maybe if I work on writing daily or most days. It doesn’t have to be long or perfect; just thoughtful. Maybe that would be a good idea.
Writing My Stories
I believe in our world, it’s a good idea for artists, including me, to be able to tell our stories. And, tell them in an interesting and personal way. It helps people have a way into seeing our work. That’s why I care. And, the best way to get good at writing is to write and do it often! Oh, perfection is not the point.
Problem with Perfection In Artwork
What does this have to do with painting? I think that when I try to achieve perfection, I risk losing the freshness and poetry of painting. I risk a powerful way of communicating directly.
Somewhere along the way, I heard a story that Japanese master ceramic artists will purposely ensure their pieces are not perfect. They allow the hand of the artist. Beauty and individuality is found in the imperfections.
Flawed Is Good
So, there we are. I’m not in the perfection business. Maybe not even in the near perfection or almost perfect business either. Perhaps art and beauty are in the flawed business. Works for me!
With that, I’ll leave you with a flawed, but hopefully poetic painting of Piggy. I painted him with watercolor and drew in ink. He’s one of my daily paintings.
*Mr. Seth Godin is a blogger, author and public speaker. He talks about marketing and entrepreneurship. Mostly, I like his writings because they apply to lots of different situations. I can relate.
Oh, there are some people who are and need to be in the perfection business. Rocket scientists come to mind. Not me though; I don’t need to be perfect! Phew! I sure try sometimes!
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Habit for 2016
Greetings! I would like share with you my ideas about a daily habit I’m adopting this 2016. My intention in this post is to outline the why, what and how I’m going to establish this daily habit.
I follow artist Myrna Wacknov’s blog titled her “Creativity Journey”. At the beginning of the year, she wrote that she intends on doing daily iPAD drawings. The purpose is to improve her ability to use digital media. I watched Ms. Wacknov do daily drawings before and was impressed by her results.
What I’m Doing
After reading Myrna’s post, I had the idea to form my own daily habit. I thought I might do daily watercolor and ink studies. That’s most days for a year, or longer. That’s the point of a habit, isn’t it? You make a good habit part of your daily (my) routine.
Why A Daily Habit?
The easy answer is that I’ve seen the positive results that happen when I stick to a daily habit. To explain, years ago I wanted to start a personal exercise program, one I could stick to and would be good for my health. I decided to develop the habit of running every day. With trial and error, I settled on a morning running habit. It helped that my life and work encouraged a morning running routine. What I discovered was that establishing a daily habit helped me move past procrastination and distraction. Plus, I improved my running ability.
Why Watercolor and Ink?
I have good reasons to select watercolor and ink studies as my habit. My big reasons follow.
- I like doing watercolor and ink studies when my husband and I travel and camp. I want to have a strong habit of doing these studies before we go anywhere. In that way, I’ll make sure I do them! The study from Kershaw-Ryan State Park is an example of a study done on a camping trip.
- I agreed to do a demonstration of watercolor and ink drawing for a local art society. I better be prepared!
- I like doing the studies!
- I want to resume my “Drawing Talent” project, that is getting in the habit of doing regular watercolor and ink studies of my home town- Talent OR. (See the railroad depot below).
Be simple and direct. I figure that’s the best way for me to adopt a good habit. My plan is to do, as a minimum, one study per day in one of the empty watercolor journals I have laying around my studio. That way, I fill the journals. And, I feel free to experiment. Oh, and yes, one needs to have a way to hold oneself accountable. So, here’s the plan.
- Pick a subject for the week. I’ve been using simple still life set ups.
- Start out working in gray. Move to color studies.
- Toward the end of the week, do a painting on good watercolor paper.
- Keep a spread sheet tracking daily drawings.
- Have fun.
January to Date
So far, my plan’s been working for January. I think I have missed a day. When I miss one, then I can always catch up. Or, start again the next day. Skies won’t fall if I miss a day.
I think this is an important point to remember when creating new habits. If a day is missed, I need to make sure I don’t feel like I’ve failed. I just resume the habit the next day or as soon as practical. I define success as most days.
This past weekend, I was feeling frustrated about my work production. I was feeling like I haven’t been doing anything. Not true! I have lots of drawings and paintings to support my work.
However, I didn’t have any tools that I could look at immediately to see how much work I’ve been doing. Solution? I set up a spreadsheet that I will use to track my daily effort. And, I can see how the dailies fit into my larger plan for 2016.
Next – Draw & Paint!
So, there’s the idea and plan. I’ve included a few of my watercolor and ink drawings to show that I’ve started working. If the habit becomes ingrained, I figure you might see a year end review blog post!
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Introducing Circular Conversations
Hi! I’d like to introduce one of my recent paintings titled “Circular Conversations”. It was one of the last pieces I completed in 2015.
21.5 x 14 Acrylic over Watercolor on d’Arches 140lb Cold Press Paper
Fun with Acrylic Paint
This is unusual in that it is a paintings of figures done in acrylic. I have done most of my figures in watercolor. I enjoyed experimenting with acrylic on paper. I might have to do more!
The subject was based on a drawing I did while waiting for an outdoor concert to begin. The two women were engaged in a conversation. I was at least 30 feet away and they didn’t notice me.
I thought I’d include the appropriate page from my sketch book.
Ink & Graphite
Pentalic 3×5 sketchbook
People waiting for the start of the Ben Harper & Innocent Criminals Concert, Les Schwab Amphitheter, Bend OR. 6 Sep 2015
I imagine they were having a pleasant conversation, the type one has among friends.
About the Title
The title “Circular Conversations” refers to a type of conversation where you find yourself back where you started from. Its funny how that goes sometimes.
I hope you enjoy the painting! Thanks!
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With this blog post, I’d like to share my experiences while “flirting with Cubism”. I am not a Cubist and I’ll tell you why. But, Cubism has influence my work and continues to do so.
This is part of my personal “mini retrospective”. I am reviewing what I’ve learned during my last 15 years of drawing and painting.
I grew up looking at books and magazines with Cubist artwork. I liked the work of the Cubist movement, including Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris and the sculptor, Henri Laurens.
Come to think of it, I would say I am still unable to give a concise definition of Cubism or tell you how to do it. It was a way of exploring and investigating problems in depicting three dimensional forms on a two dimensional surface. It was different from the way of drawing and painting that started during the Renaissance.
History by Bullet
I thought I’d orient this discussion by giving a few historical points about “Cubism”. Most of my understanding comes from a book on Cubism written by art historian Douglas Cooper.
- “Cubism” was an art form of the early 20th Century.
- Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso were the founders and earliest proponents.
- Cubism blossomed, evolved and then died within 20 years.
- Cubism and the other movements of the early 20th century gave birth to modern art. They pioneered the way for different ways of approaching problems in 2D and 3D art.
What I Learned
- Cubism was an investigation of forms and light. The question? How to depict the truth of a three dimensional object on a two dimensional picture plane.
- For example, artists since the Renaissance created the illusion of three dimensional form by using perspective and tonal effects. Renaissance artist drew and painted what they saw. Cubists, in theory, showed all the different sides of the three dimensional object on a flat surface. Their view point was drawing and painting what their knowledge told them about the object.
- Drawing what you see vice what you know can produce radically different approaches.
- And, it gets more complicated. Some people tried to classify the different types of Cubism. It was enough to give me a headache. However, I think the artists did whatever they needed to when they faced the canvas.
I Am Not A Cubist
According to Douglas Cooper, the true “Cubist” were Picasso, Braque and Gris. Many other artists experimented with Cubism. But, the big three defined the genre and were the main practitioners.
So, since I’m not one of the main three, and I was not alive during the Cubist era, I can not be a Cubist by definition. Sometimes I draw and paint in a Cubist manner. But, I’m not a Cubist.
Furthermore, as I understand it, much of the how, what and why of creating Cubist art was not written down by Picasso and Braque. We have the theory written by the critics and historians. But, I have yet to see step-by-step instructions written by Picasso, Braque or Gris. *If you know of any, please let me know!
I did take some stylistic devices or elements from the Cubist and have incorporated them into my designs. Here are three:
- “Kaleidoscope Approach”. Imagining the subject as if I were viewing it through a kaleidoscope, I fracture and re-arrange the plans of the object.
- Flattening the planes of the object. That is to say, showing some of the sides of an object as if flattened, where some or all of the planes are on the same surface.
- Imagine a solid cube. A Renaissance artist would show you the cube in perspective. You would not see all of the sides. You might see three sides of the cube – top, left side, right side, for example. However, a Cubist would show you all six sides – flattened as if they were all on the same plane.
- The light source can come from within the object, rather than outside the object. Or, lights and darks can be based on other factors that the artist desires; not a particular light source.
Back to the Beginning
How does this all relate to me?
- When I design Cubism style, I draw what I know or imagine; not what I see.
- Studying Cubism gave me hints on different ways to structure a painting.
- Cubism is difficult. Hmmm, I ought to go read some more!
- I’ll show you three of my favorite Cubist-style artwork! See if you can figure out my “Cubist-style” elements.
Oh, and back to the original idea of reviewing my work. Toy Pony, MsKitty and my “Just Sayin’…” series benefitted by my exploration of Cubism.
I find Cubism challenging because I can play with what I see and know. But, I also find it liberating. I am sure I will use the style again, and again…and perhaps at least one more time!
About Douglas Cooper, Art Historian
The Cubist Epoch, by Douglas Cooper. (I have the 1971 edition)
Three Cubist Kitties, Six Faces
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Greetings! I thought I’d share last week’s paintings. These would be the final watercolor and ink paintings of December and 2015!
My intention was to show you all eight watercolor and ink paintings then move on.
Well, the world of blogging has evolved. It’s no longer enough just to post pictures and move on. One can, but the work has more meaning if put in context. Oh, yes, and I torment myself about meaning.
So, about the ink and watercolor studies. Why?
One reason I’ve been asked to do a demo next August for the Southern Oregon Society of Artists; I want to do the best job painting that I can. So, I’ve embarked on a schedule of daily studies. I evaluate the studies looking at the following:
- Looking at the overall value pattern – lights and darks. For example, the paintings on this page are mainly middle tone. The darkest dark is about midway on the light to dark scale. I need to work on achieving good dark tones when needed.
- Use of ink. You might notice that sometimes I use the ink primarily as an outlining tool. On others, I use ink cross-hatching to support the tonal values. I’m experimenting to see what I like.
- Drawing skill. How accurate am I in drawing what I see?
Drawing Talent & Camping Trips
My second reason for doing these studies is that this is the kind of work I do for my “Drawing Talent” (Talent, OR) project and while on camping trips. Talent is where I live.
I like to be able to draw and paint my environment. I figure the skills I need to work on include the following:
- Focus: The ability to concentrate solely on the task at hand.
- Speed & Accuracy: Draw and paint what I see as quickly and skillfully as possible
- Tone & Color: Work on learning the vocabulary of tone and color.
Improve drawing and painting skills.
Initially, I was going to paint color studies using blue and orange. It seemed like a logical next step after painting in red and green for the week before Christmas. However, after the first study, I switched to yellow and violet. Maybe the yellow paint tube just spoke to me.
I am pleased with the exercise of creating these small studies. I think they’re worthwhile. On to doing more!
Yes, I’ll continue the watercolor and ink studies. I’m working on a theme for the first week in January!
Thank you for stopping by; I hope you enjoyed the work!
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I would like to share with you more of my color studies in green and red.
My intention is to get in the habit of daily watercolor and ink studies. I am inspired by the work habits of artist James Gurney. If you read his blog, you realize this person is constantly drawing or painting. I want this habit!
I’m also inspired by Leslie Saeta’s 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. I’m thinking about joining in. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time. Why? I keep telling myself I want to increase production. This is one way to produce – commit to a painting a day.
Oh, I have been doing these studies daily; I just thought I’d post them three at a time.
Ink & Watercolor
I am putting extra effort in working with ink and watercolor. In August of 2016, I am to give a demo to an artist group using ink and watercolor. I want to be comfortable with the media.
Oh, why red and green? Traditional Christmas colors. Also, they are opposite colors on the color wheel. I think its helpful limiting color schemes. And, I like to practice, practice, practice! Yes, I’m continuing what I started with my previous post with my two choir girls.
The “geta” are souvenirs from Japan that my oldest sister gave me several years ago. The piggy is a Christmas ornament that another sister gave me a few years ago. And the goose came in a container of farm animal toys. This it the closest to a Christmas goose for us this year!
Practices and Habits
What practices or habits are you working on?
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Watercolor & Ink
Robert Bateman Cover Series Notebook
I have been working with watercolor and ink lately. I find it enjoyable and I have a little project stirring in the back of my head: daily studies in watercolor and ink.
This week being Christmas week, I thought I’d do some red and green studies. This one if of a pair of Japanese wooden souvenirs. They were given to me by my sister many years ago. My sister was a foreign exchange student to Japan at the time. I have held on to them all these years.
I figure by the expressions on their face that they might be choir singers. Their neck ribbons are painted red and green. Maybe they’re supposed to be Christmas choir singers.
Inspired by a blog post by James Gurney, I reduced the study to essential two tones – light and dark. In the article, Mr. Gurney takes the study a step further, reducing everything to black or white. Its most effective and I think I’ll try the subject again!
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Abstraction – What?
Early on, I thought I’d explore abstraction. I had never purposefully studied abstraction and wanted to know what it was about. I didn’t even know the difference between abstract and non-objective abstract.
Defined, or Not.
I looked up definitions for abstraction. Abstraction is the result of a process…and it gets much more complicated than that. And, abstraction applies to many disciplines.
How I Describe It.
For artist me, I think of abstraction as a process of taking what you see and know about nature, then simplifying it for artistic expression and purpose. Abstraction, without the qualifier of “non-objective” may be a piece of art where you can recognize the subject (objective), but the artist has stylized, simplified or otherwise changed the subject to meet artistic intent. WHEW!
Non-objective abstraction is the type of art that doesn’t look like what we might call the real world; it is based on expression, feeling, tempo, texture or something similar. I like to think of these types of artworks as meditative; I have to be alone with the artwork.
With all abstract art, objective, non-objective, or otherwise, I like to feel the mood or expression as much as see the art. Which reminds me, Betty Edwards in her book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” gave me my first clue about abstraction. She describes an “analog drawing” exercise where you draw how you feel, such as when you feel joy, sad, angry, happy, etc. Its quite remarkable how you can read the feelings in the drawing!
I looked for “how to books” on creative watercolor or abstraction. Granted this was only 13 years ago, but finding books was difficult. There are more today. I did find books by Barbara Nechis, Edward Betts, Lawrence Goldsmith, Robert Burridge and Miles Batt Sr that are good and helpful. I seem to need lots of books to acquire knowledge!
In addition to doing research, I started experimenting with abstraction on my own. Let me assure you that abstraction is difficult. Or, let me re-phrase. To create an abstract or non-objective abstract watercolor painting that is well designed, has meaning and will stand the test of time is challenging to me! It is easy to throw paint at paper; much more difficult to instill meaning.
Come to think of it, there are challenges in all types of art! But, the point is, abstraction goes way beyond throwing paint at paper. And, if you do throw paint at paper, do it with meaning, with rhythm, with feeling! Joy would be good too!
I’d like to share three tips that helped me as I explored abstraction.
a. Design schemes. Robert Burridge has a good discussion on design schemes in his “Loosen Up Workbook and Studio Notes”. They help give a painting structure and I think about design schemes with every painting I create. Sometimes I start with a design scheme; sometimes I impose a design scheme upon a subject. Example of design schemes: grid, frame-in-frame, stripes, circles, radiating lines, and combinations!
b. Color schemes. I found that using every color found in nature creates an overwhelming painting. It is better to impose a color plan. I either select a particular color scheme because of mood I’m trying to create. Or, I select a color scheme to see what will happen. But, a designated color scheme or plan is helpful when creating a unified painting. My favorite color schemes are the three primaries (red, yellow, blue) or opposites (red & green, blue & orange, yellow & purple).
c. Negative spaces. The shapes of spaces between things are just as important as the shapes of the things, or subject.
Oh, and, just one more tip – do LOTS of drawings and paintings!
I gained insight into the world of abstract art through my painting explorations. Abstraction is a world of personal communication where each artist’s approach is their own. Some artists seem to push the limits of what is considered “art”. Other artists seem inspired by their own inner tempo.
I also learned that you and me, as viewers, bring our own point of view when looking at the art. As in all forms of visual art, we complete the painting. It just may be a bit more challenging with abstract art.
I moved on from non-objective work because I became intrigued with understanding Cubism. And, I had a commission that seemed better suited for a Cubist style approach.
I wouldn’t say that I learned all there is to learn about non-objective abstraction. Rather, I would say I just scratched the surface. I have respect for the skilled artist who devote time and energy to creating abstract art. It’s work!
Oh, and, I can always come back and explore some more!
On to discussing Cubism in the next installment of this series of posts. And, you figured it out: Cubism is a form of objective abstraction. So, we don’t leave abstraction all together. Instead, we go to where the modern art movement’s all began – with Cubism!
Oh, and I figure I will wait to publish until after December 25th. Cubism seems a bit intense for the holidays!
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