Sunday, December 30, 2007

Finally, an update (it still ain't done)...

It has been soooooo long since I've gotten downstairs to work on my painting. I have no excuse but that I have been busy and I think I've been a little afraid to touch it. I have no teacher now, to fall back on, to ask advice of and to get feedback from. I am on my own - at least for now.

I have done most of the last of the work on the boat - I have finished the superstructure and I'm not sure how to do anything constructive to the hull, so I think I'll leave it alone - for now. I have added some rocks (and reflections of those rocks) to the shallow end of the harbor and a small black sand beach at the bow of the boat. See below ...

What I am left with now is the need to finish the reflections in the harbor water - the quay is next, and possibly, last. After that, I need to paint proper foliage along the borders of and down the middle of the dirt/muddy road. Beyond that, there is the need to correct a few minor errors/omissions and the piece will be done. I feel I'm getting close now and for the most part, I am happy with the piece. What I have done here, and learned here, will inform my next piece, which is also based on the same photo that inspired this one - an element left out of this piece because I felt it made the piece too complicated. And, for anyone who cares to, comments are welcome.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Don't panic - it ain't done yet ...

Okay, the most recent changes are documented in the picture below ... Please read the accompanying text before you decide you hate it.

Okay - a)the boat has changed. b)The road has changed. c)The clouds have changed.
That said, the boat isn't done (not by a long shot), the road isn't done - it still needs proper foliage on the borders and now, in the middle, as well - and the clouds MAY be done, I'm not sure whether I really like them now or not.

The harbor water needs more work - there needs to be a beach established at the bow end of the boat (black, coarse sand) to establish the fact that the water in the harbor is actually quite shallow. There is nothing, at this point, to demonstrate the shallowness of the water. Plus, there are rocks which poke through the surface of the water, which also help to show how shallow the water is, that have not been painted in yet. And, of course, the reflection of the quay has not been painted either.

So yes, at the moment it looks kinda ugly. But, I hope, it will get better.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

progress and fixes to be made

Last night, as I was packing up my supplies to go home, my painting took a dive off the support I use to take it from place to place and created a scar on the face of the painting. I was able to mostly repair it last night after I got home, which is why I didn't post a picture last night. Current condition is noted below ...

I am going to work on this guy tonight, so if all stars align properly and the keepers of karma give me a break, I will post another shot of the painting tonight. There has been some progress made here, and there are some repairs that still need to be made, but I think I will be able to make more progress tonight. I think I may be able to work on the reflection of the quay in the harbor. I also need to work on the boat - the supestructure needs better definition and the hull needs to be shaped better, especially along the waterline.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Last class tonight ...

Tonight is the last of the current series of classes at North Central College with Marilyn. I still haven't made any additional progress on my painting, in preparation for tonight's class. I think I'm afraid to touch it without supervision - which is stupid, given that the goals of the piece are clearly laid out now and I really don't have to worry about the piece going off in a direction I haven't planned for. Now I won't be able to finish this piece until the week between Christmas and New Years Day. I think what I may have to do is start the underpainting for the next painting - perhaps that will force me to finish this one.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

next to last class ...

Class tonight was, as always, great! Very informative. And I feel I've made some real progress on my painting. The boat is taking shape and the water in the harbor has begun to acquire the reflections that will lend the realism that the painting requires. The water in the bay has also taken new coloring and texturing that make it look more 'real' than it did before. See below.

I have a substantial amount of work to do, still. The hills and clouds and sky above and beyond the hills all require work, there are finishing touches to apply to the road and the water in the harbor needs the reflection of the quay. But I'm a lot closer now - I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. I would really like to be able to finish this painting at the next class. In order to do that, however, I am going to have to force myself to find time to paint between now and next Wednesday. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

I am also beginning to see this for what it is - a very amateurish depiction of the scene. But then again, that's just what I am - an amateur - and this is my first painting. A year from now, were I to paint this scene again, it would certainly look much different than it will when it's done. But, that said, I am satisifed with this one (so far) - knowing that I have done the best that I know how to do.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Further updates as they become possible.

Plans for tonight ...

I've been in Arizona for most of the last week. My father-in-law passed away and the needs of family dominated. I am home, now, while my wife remains in AZ waiting for the funeral on

Tonight is the next-to-last class under Marilyn. I need to fix the boat so that it is rendered properly. Once that is done I can move on to the finishing details of the piece - I hope that by class next week I will be ready to put the final touches in place and, therefore, be ready to start the next painting. I know what the next painting will be - as a matter of fact, I know what the painting after THAT one will be, as well. I have a backlog already. But I'm not going to hurry anything. To paraphrase Orson Welles, I will paint no painting before its time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

some progress and some problems

Class tonight was great, as always. I made some real progress on the painting - and I gave myself some problems to deal with, as well. If you look at the picture, below...

you will notice that the boat doesn't quite seem to fit the picture right now. It is actually not the right color, and of course there is a world of detail to be added when the color gets to be right. The question lies in whether the color of the boat needs to be fixed or whether (which may actually be the right answer) the hills in the background need to shift colors. On the other hand, the boat's current color is temporary - just a thin wash, at the moment - and it will look little like it does right now when it is done.

There is a LOT of work to do on this piece. The quay was one element of the overall piece I dreaded working on. I didn't feel I had a good handle on how to portray the stonework that makes up the quay. Fortunately, Marilyn, my teacher, was able to give me the idea you see expressed in the painting as of now - there is a grass top to the quay I will add after the current paint dries - and it worked out rather well, I think.

Much to do, still, but it's coming along.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Working on the road

I've done a bit of work on the road. What I'm going for here is a muddy track filled with water - I've adjusted the borders of the road to account for perspective, I've begun to repaint the grass on the harbor side of the road and begun to fill in some grass on the lee side. When the paint dries I'll go back to the grass borders and apply some detail. See the changes below ....

I'm probably going to work some more 'mud' into the waterside border of the road, under the grass. After that comes the hard stuff.

I have gone off in a completely unexpected and unplanned direction with the study. That's the second time I've done something like that and I think I understand that it has to do with planning. The reason I can come back to the big piece and pick up where I left off (more or less), or at least make reasonable changes that make sense given the original goals of the picture, is because the original goals of the picture were stated in the underpainting. I gave myself enough of an outline so that I have defined borders within which to work. So, I don't know much about how artists are supposed to work, or how some artists do work, but I'm beginning to realize that I have to work within boundaries established when I do the underpainting. The more guidance I can give myself (given that the style of painting I seem to be gravitating toward dictates that a painting will almost always take multiple sessions to complete) the better my chances of achieving my goals. So, if I've learned anything, it's that I have to learn how to prepare - how to properly underpaint.

Friday, November 23, 2007

first pic of study

I have partly done the first study - oil over acrylic - the blue is acrylic everything else is oil.

The idea here was to figure out a better way to render the road than I had done when blocking in color in the big painting. I think I've done that - at least it looks good from a distance. My next task will be to render the stonework in the quay, which I will do in this study. I may, actually, wind up with a smaller edition of the big painting, although I'm not sure I'm going to include the boat - at least, not the big one. What I might do is put the small sailboat that I'm leaving out of the first painting in the study because my intention is to paint that boat in my second painting, anyway.
I've got to give this one some time to dry - the other two boards aren't ready yet - so I guess I'm stuck until tomorrow. Unless, of course, I go out and buy a couple or three tubes of acrylic paint so I can keep on going. I need a tube of red and one of yellow so I can make colors - I have blue and white so I just need those and I can make any color I need.

Well, I guess I'm off to Hobby Lobby. Ta!

And the winner is ...

Liquin. I love this stuff and what it does to paint. In toning the three boards, I found the best painting experience working with Liquin. You mix your paint, you add some of the Liquin gel, and then mix some more. It doesn't change your color and it makes the paint a) go farther and b) go on like soft butter. The paint gets to be so smooth it's incredible. So, in the future, I will use Liquin to establish the underpaint unless I'm in a hurry - in which case I'll use acrylic. Actually, I like acrylic - it flows on much like the Liquin/oil paint mix. I used an extender for the acrylic that looks and works similarly to Liquin, which is probably why it flowed as well as it did while painting. I think I may try an acrylic painting at some point, but not now. Anyway, the next step is the study. Oh, and by the way - I figured out why my road looks so bad - the fact that it's blue notwithstanding. There is no perspective established in the current rendition of the road - there is no feeling of near going to far. In the picture, it's obvious, but somehow I missed that when I started to block in the color in the painting. So the study ought to look better, if for no other reason than I will establish that missing perspective right from the start.

Here's hoping.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No class Wednesday

Another skipped Wednesday. Again, not something I voted for, but it happened, nonetheless. In honor of the class I should be having, I am going to do a little experimentation as I start a couple of studies.

I am going to tone three canvas boards with a light blue underpaint; one with acrylic paint, one with oil paint with drying linseed oil as medium and one with oil paint with Liquin as medium. The idea is to see which of these will dry fast. At the same time, I want to experiment with using acrylic paint as an underpaint with oils over the top. I want to do the same study on the Liquin to see how it might feel different than the acrylic.

The studies I'm going to do are related to the road and how I'm going to eventually portray it in the painting. The third board is going to go to a study that will support my next painting, which is actually of an element in the photograph that I'm leaving out of the current painting. If all turns out well, I should be working on the next piece before Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, I really hope somebody looks at my wishlist on Ahem. I really need a good easel.

Tomorrow is Turkey Day. Hope all is well with everyone.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Interesting Aside ...

The satellite view from Google maps shows our boat as still being there, but the image is from 2003. The photograph the painting is based on was taken in November, 2000, but there was no reasonable expectation that she would still be there today. However, Google Earth seems to indicate that, in fact, not only is she still there, but she now has company. There are at least two more wrecks there, along the quay -one on the same side as our boat and a larger, metal wreck on the other side of the quay. Sadly, our girl is slowly collapsing. Her superstructure (which will probably not be clearly defined in the painting) has fallen in on itself. It seems we caught her, thankfully, at her most photogenic.

She is located in Ballynakill Harbour in Barbaderg Bay, Ireland.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blocking in color

Tonight's class was productive, finally, as far as the 'big picture' is concerned. I have started blocking in the major areas of color, as you can see below.

It is very primitive, at this point. There is a lot of work to do on the road (which doesn't really look like a road, yet)and all of the other areas need a lot of detail work. The clouds have yet to come in and the sky needs some work on the color. And the mountain has yet to have any work done - the quay is unpainted and the top of the quay (pale green grass) needs to be added as well. And of course, the star of the show, the BOAT (Ishmael) has yet to take firm shape.

But it's a start.

This is so cool !!

I have discovered this feature of blogspot that allows me to update my blog via email. This is so cool!! Tonight is class - we are working on our 'big' paintings tonight, so there may well be an update picture posted here for all to see - whatever it looks like.

We'll see.

Meanwhile - I have so screwed up the still life - I've completely lost the 'feel' of what I was doing, plus I couldn't re-create the proper colors so as to be consistent with what I started with. I feel a
total do-over coming on. I going to have to go to the store and get some red and blue grapes, a pear, an apple and a golden delicious apple, find a stool and a reddish cloth to place over the stool and then a bowl in which to place all of the fruit.

I WILL get this right.

PLUS - when you post by email, you probably have to 'view' your blog to make sure it doesn't need an edit or two to make it pretty. This one did.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Maybe later .....

I did some work on the still life this evening ... long pause ... I think it may be a while before I post updates of that particular picture. It's changed a little. Actually, it's changed a LOT. I have no idea where this thing is going - but I'll post something later, when I'm a little surer of our ultimate destination.

Class this week will see a resumption of work on the original artwork undertaken when we started class. Now I'm scared. No, seriously, I think it's fortunate that I got no further than I did on that painting. If I had to duplicate colors mixed up in a previous session, in order to continue painting on that 'work in progress', I'd be in trouble. One of the many things I have to learn about - mixing colors. Now I know why artists are said to have a 'palette' of colors they work from - because that's the set of colors they can duplicate 'on demand'. Now YOU know why my still life is different than it started out to be. And now you know why there aren't going to be any still life updates right away. Maybe later ...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Oh Joy !! Classes Resume!

Last night we resumed our painting class. We did not, however, resume our paintings we started in our first class. Instead we started a still life in order for Marilyn to get us all on the same page. The results are below. It ain't good - as a matter of fact, right now it's rather bad. That said, it is (I hope) going to get better and it will start getting better tomorrow night after I get home from work.

There are white spaces in the body of the image, the fruit in the bowl doesn't look like fruit, the cloth on the table isn't complete and the bowl isn't complete. And there isn't any background, either. But I'm gonna get it there. Try, anyway. When I'm done with this I'm going to do another, hopefully better, piece based on the same image. But I need to do this one first in order to figure out what I need to do differently.

Meantime, below is a photo of a quick sketch I drew one evening while waiting for class to start. It was my first attempt at doing something to explore form and texture.

It is simply the end of a piece of molding, like baseboard or ceiling trim. But it surprised me as it came to life on the page. It was just an idea and I tried it and it seemed to work. That simple little success is what really opened my eyes to what I might be able to do - and how much fun it is to just be able to create an image of something you can see in your mind. Now I'm painting - something I never in my wildest dreams, ever thought I would be able to do. It is, to me, amazing. Or it will be, when it gets better than it is right now.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

stick to plain old pencil or oils

I've decided I don't like colored pencil - or, at least, I don't like what I do in colored pencil. Perhaps it's because I've had no training in the medium, and therefore have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. Yeah, that's the reason - that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Anyway, the colored pencil piece found its way to the trash bin last night, nevermore to be resurrected. The thing I have in mind works better in plain old ordinary pencil anyway.

Tonight is Halloween. In honor of the class I'm not taking tonight, I am going to work on the painting. I am going to try to finish the underpainting so it's nice and dry for class next week. And then during the coming week I'm going to start a (black) pencil sketch of the piece I tried in colored pencil. I'll post it here as it goes along.

Monday, October 29, 2007

sketch sample

What you see below is the result of my search for a method of depicting a stone wall realistically. Center right are several abortive attempts at getting something I like. Center left is the one I feel works best for me - it is, as you can see, the largest of the areas depicted - once I got it I sort of ran with it for a while.

I have to apologize for the quality of the reproduction here. This is a photograph taken under incandescent light. Lighting it with flash didn't work out very well either - the flash washed out the image and reduced the contrast. Next time I'll try scanning.

Anyway, the wall isn't exactly what the quay is going to look like, but now I have a method for rendering stone that makes sense to me and I can go back to my color pencil sketch and pick up where I left off.

While waiting for the next class ...

The quay that the boat lies alongside is made of stone; weathered, flat stones that are wider than tall and rather pale in color. They look like old, weathered limestone to me, but I don't know rocks very well, I suppose they could be almost anything. Anyway, as a little project to hold me over to the next class, I thought I would try a little sketch in colored pencil that includes an element that's in the original photograph but that I'm leaving out of the painting. Just astern of the fishing boat there's a small, white sailboat tied to a line that runs to the quay. So I thought to 'zoom in' on the sailboat and draw the quay, the sea beyond and the hill and sky beyond that.

I have one thing to say. Grrrrrr.

That quay is the hardest, most tedious thing to draw that I could have ever tried to do. I have finally found a way to draw it that looks good (and accurate), but it has taken a while and a lot of concentration and effort. I actually did searches on the Internet looking for help and found what I needed on a site sponsored by Blick (my favorite art company). I also saw a step-by-step painting tutorial in 'Leisure Painter' magazine (from the U.K.) which included a seawall, and that included the same kind of resolution suggested on the Blick site, so that's what I've gone with and it's working out quite nicely. I will put up some samples tonight.

Working in colored pencil is so different than doing oil, or charcoal or anything else I've tried. I find myself outlining, again, and that's not what I should be doing. Old habits are hard to break. When I get closer to what I'm trying for with the colored pencil I'll put it in here, but not until I'm happier with what I'm doing than I am right now.

9 days until the next class - not counting today.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stoked - Part II

Okay - this is my first attempt at uploading a picture to the blog. It looks like it worked okay.

What you see above is my very first painting and it is in the very earliest stages of preparation. Because I don't think I really understood what 'underpainting' really is until after the class (and I had time to reflect on what I saw and learned), what you see is a very preliminary outline of what I'm working toward. What I have to do next is wash over the whole surface with a thin, neutral color - hopefully thin enough so that the darker areas I have mapped out already will show through. Then I can re-darken and then add highlights to map the lighter areas. When the underpaint is done, it should look like a relatively complete, but monocolor , painting.

The end result will be far more colorful. I hope.

My next class is the first Wednesday in November (it was NOT my decision to skip next Wednesday, but everbody else seemed to think it was important to be home for Halloween ;>) ). By that time I should be finished with the underpaint. If so, I will update this diary with another picture of the picture. So far, the working name of my piece is "Call me Ishmael". It will probably change by the time it's done - my son says the name sounds 'a little borrowed'. I think he means pretentious. Perhaps it is - but it helps me set the mood.


I am so STOKED! Last night was our first Oil Painting class and was it COOL. And let me tell you, boys and girls, it is way easier to create a grey scale in oils than it is in pencil.

We learned about brushes and canvas and gesso and Impasto and Alla Prima and all kinds of stuff last night. And then we started on our paintings. Actually, what we did was to begin an underpainting - which is where one blocks in the relative light and dark values of the piece. I have mine sort of blocked in and between now and the next class I am going to wash in a light grey tone over the whole canvas to make sure there is no bare canvas anywhere.

The subject of the painting is the beached fishing boat I took a picture of on the Ireland trip in 2000. There are actually, to my eye, several good paintings in that one photograph. I think I may wind up painting this scene (or elements of it) more than once - there is just so much there. Later, when I get better, I want to paint the picture I took of Alex standing on the cliff at Clifden, also in Ireland, and also from the same trip. Ireland is an amazing place. We were there in November, and at that time of year it's like the whole country is one great big art studio - the whole place is side lit because the sun never gets very high in the sky when you're that far North.

Anyway, back to class. I think I need better brushes than what I bought - I have a couple of sable brushes and they're great, but I have some synthetic brushes and they're too stiff - I don't like them as much as I like my hair brushes. And the Reeves paints - when I squeezed out my first dollops of paint onto my pallet to begin mixing up my 'neutral' for the underpainting, there was almost as much linseed oil as there was paint. Not good.

Tonight I am going to take a picture of my painting and post it here. I am going to try to document the progress of my painting as it becomes whatever it is going to be when it is done. So I will take a shot tonight and then another right before we go back for our second class - because I intend to have the entire underpaint done before our next class - which is in two weeks - we are taking Halloween off - so it is going to look different in two weeks than it does now.

Monday, October 22, 2007

All supplies in hand ...

Wednesday is the first painting class and Marilyn responded to the email I sent her asking what materials I should bring to class. The answer - bring one canvas and everything else.. Since all three of the canvases I own are 16x20, I think I need to fabricate something that will allow me to safely carry a wet 16x20 canvas in my car. Annie will probably have an idea along those lines - I must be sure to ask her about that.

Except for (possibly) some watercolors I did as a very small child -- Oh!! and some paint-by-numbers I did as a kid - I have never really PAINTED a picture in my life. I am coming at this from no experience or understanding or anything that will install any confidence in my ability to produce anything at all that might be worth looking at.

Again, we are prompted to use a photograph we have taken for the class. I think, this time, I am going to use the photo of the beached fishing boat I shot in Ireland during our Thanksgiving trip in November of 2000. I have a print which I rendered like a watercolor on canvas textured paper; it is a fairly severe crop of the original. I think it may make a good subject for a painting. So ... I have all my supplies, I have my subject, now all I need is the courage and the skill.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Painting anyone?

Yesterday I signed up for Marilyn's 6 week painting course. It starts this coming Wednesday. Somehow I don't feel as confident going into this as I did approaching the Sketching and Drawing class.

In an email she sent me, Marilyn said she thought I would benefit from the painting class, and it got me to thinking. In painting, your image is constructed of color and light - form, structure and texture are rendered in terms of the play of light on the object being rendered. There are no contour lines or cross hatching or erasures for highlights. Interestingly, I think I can see where I should have been taking this approach in my drawing and sketching - painting with pencil - rendering light and dark instead of 'drawing lines'.

I was struck by a thought a minute or two ago. Painting is like the little sketching exercise I have found that I really like a lot. It's drawing a square using diagonal lines. You don't actually draw the square - you don't outline the square with 90 degree angled lines. You draw lines (diagonally in this case) across what would be the surface of the square that end where the sides of the square are, thereby creating the IMPRESSION of the square, not the square itself.

Perhaps I have benefited already.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sometimes it takes time to sink in ...

Last night was the last class - at least, for now. I am sure that I will follow this class up with others. I really enjoyed it and I really want to stay with the 'Sketching and Drawing' thing. I know that what I have learned will help me as a photographer, but more so, it has reminded me of a time when I used to enjoy the process of creating 'art'. Of course, what I did so long ago was mostly charcoal and pastels, but the idea was there and I let it get away from me. Well, now I'm back and I intend to stay with it. I can see so many things in my head that I would like to be able to put to paper - learning the skills I am going to need to do these drawings is going to take time and effort but the end result - hopefully - will be worth all of it.

The class was devoted to texture and shading and then, toward the end, we started on a portrait. I have a picture of Papacito (my 89 year old father-in-law) which I like and that is the subject of the portrait I started working on. The drawing doesn't look like him, at all. That said, what I didn't understand or get to until after the class was that I should have tried to render the portrait using the texturing and shading techniques we had discussed earlier in the class. Instead, I went off in a feeble attempt at a contour-line based drawing that has no hope of ever looking like what I want it to look like. I think the term that comes to mind here is 'restatement'. I need to go back to that drawing and see the shading and texturing and express THAT and forget about drawing the contours of his face. But I should have caught that during class - not on the drive home. Sometimes, I guess, it just takes time to sink in.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Last Class ...

Tonight is our last class with Marilyn Dale at North Central College. We are to cover portraiture. This seems to me to be another one of those subjects which we could spend many classes on - instead of just one. But at least we're going to touch it, and that's what matters, I suppose.

Last night I sat down and developed a set of exercises that I will do daily. Things to teach me hand/eye coordination. They're not extensive - they just fill one page in my medium size sketch book/journal. But they should be a start. There are circles, stars, dots and lines and spirals and squares made of diagonal lines. Nothing challenging -just skill building. The squares from diagonals is an interesting little exercise - it calls you to do some unexpected reckoning as you construct the image - and mistakes stand out like a sore thumb. Very cool.

Tomorrow, (Thursday) I am going to start a little project I have in mind to test my skills. I am going to try my hand at creating an image using the Projecta Scope. I have an image of the Christen Eagle I shot a week and a half ago. It is from the first flyby - a knife-edge pass down the runway. It is a slightly head-on photo and the plane is sunlight from the side. The pic was taken early morning, so the top of the wing (which is vertical in a knife edge maneuver) is exposed to the camera and sunlit. Randy Michael, the man who owns the plane, and I are going to meet sometime during the weekend to look over the photos I took and I hope to be able to surprise him with the drawing. We'll see.

I like to draw. I like these classes I've taken and the people I've met through the classes. I am really sorry to see it all come to an end. It would be nice if we were to find a way to stay in touch - but I'm not sure my classmates would be interested. Some might - but not all, I think. Oh well.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Projecta Scope

Update: 7/17/08 - I get so many hits on this post from searches done on 'Projecta Scope' that they ought to pay me money. But they don't. On the other hand, I haven't asked, either. Anyway, click here to go to my latest post which will be where you'll find my latest painting. Maybe made with the 'Scope' - or maybe not. But take a look.

I have purchased a 'Projecta Scope' - a device for projecting images onto a surface for the purpose of drawing and/or copying them. In a way it kinda feels like cheating, but I think it will help me develop my technique in contouring and shading. And, in the meantime, I should have some fun with being able to produce a quality of image I might not get to, otherwise, for a time.

Part of the original motivation for this drawing class was the notion of being able to inform my work as a photographer. I have always felt that my photography suffered for a lack of understanding of composition. Learning to draw, I felt, would help me better understand the 'art' side of things - and I would, naturally, take better pictures. I'm beginning to see, however, that better pictures come from practice - just like better drawings come from doing the little exercises over and over again. Now I understand why artists do 'studies' - painters will do drawings of elements of a planned piece until they get all of the parts and pieces 'right' - but in the meantime, they have learned how to portray the images of the things that make up the parts and pieces of the work. It's a study AND a practice.

The other thing about pictures is the digital camera. I have learned more about photography and the process involved in the last year than I did in all of the many years I have been taking pictures - with film. I am not one of those people who is organized enough to record all of the settings and such that a picture was taken at. I don't keep a log. So there was always this disconnect between what I did to take the picture and the end result. After all, it used to take several days to get pictures back from the processor, and in the meantime, everything you did to create the shot, successful or not, got lost in the intervening time period. One hour photo processing helps, to a degree, but the disconnect is still there - at least for me. But digital has solved all of that. The feedback and the learning is IMMEDIATE. And now that I understand more, I am seeing things differently and I am ready to start taking photographs to use as a source/model for my pencil work.

This is getting to be so much fun there MUST be a law against it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Next to last ...

Last night was our next to last class with Marilyn. Four people showed up. How very disappointing. I can't believe they're not getting anything out of this class - I don't understand why they weren't there. But, on the other hand, that made it better for those of us who were there. We had more and better interaction with Marilyn than we might have had otherwise.

Last night we worked on 'layout' and on 'form and texture'. I think that we could spend another couple of classes on what we did last night and still not cover all that we really need. But what we did do was really neat - making little thumbnails to decide how to render the subject - and then using shading and crosshatching to establish the difference between light and dark. I like the thumbnail idea - it's kind of like taking snapshots at various focal lengths with a camera. We used our fingers as viewfinders to establish the view and then took that to the thumbnail. And, just as in photography, get closer!! Closer is better.

I have been asked what I'm going to do next. Take more classes? Go into painting? Well, if I can find another class about DRAWING I might well take it, but it is more likely I will begin to work my way through the 138 lessons I have downloaded from Brenda Hoddinott's site is a wealth of information about this skill and there's enough material on the site to last at least a year - doing two or more lessons a week. It could take longer if the pace is slower, and it may well be. The 'beginner' lessons are easy enough, but in looking ahead I see that there is some really complex stuff in the 'intermediate' and 'advanced' level lessons and two a week may be too ambitious.

This coming week we are to look into 'portraits'. I am going to use my photograph of Papacito (my father-in-law) as my subjuect. I am really looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Gaining Perspective ...

Last night we spent our time in class learning about 1 and 2 point perspective. It was simple - it was amazing. Suddenly the notion of drawing a complex scene was relegated to 'staying between the lines'. I mean, it just simplified everything to realize that working to a vanishing point ( or points ) gives your drawing boundaries within which you must work. Suddenly, everything has a place where it fits and it looks 'real' when you're done.

As part of the 'in class' work, we were asked to draw a lighthouse, with a keeper's house and outhouse. We were to choose our own vantage point, but we were required to use 2 points of perspective. We could place the elements of the scene wherever we wished. I was floored by how easy it was to place everything where it belonged and to draw what was for me, previously, a scene far too complex to even begin to contemplate as a subject for my own work.

Way cool.

I think my perspective on all of this may be changing a little ... in a positive direction.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

What will I do ???

The weekend wasn't very productive - on the Art front, at least. And, of course, I never got as far as figuring out the process for putting samples of work online. Be that as it may, I have come to the slow realization that I suffer for guidance. I don't know what to do next - I don't know which way to turn to work on or develop skills - there is so much to do and so many methods and and ideas and things I would LIKE to do that I seem paralyzed by the choices, and nothing gets done. When I am working under guidance the choices are already made for me, all I have to do is follow along. When I am left to my own devices I get 'lost in the details'. What will I do??

Friday, September 28, 2007

TGIF ...

Today is Friday, and after I pick up Zachary from school tonight, I am essentially uncommitted for the entire weekend. Oh, there are a few things I would like to get done around the house, but nothing that MUST be done and nothing that will absorb loads of time. All of which means that I will have some time to myself to devote to the purposes of Art. I think I'm going to close myself up in a room and get into the book - Keys to Drawing by Dodson. I have looked through it and there is some great stuff in there - stuff I haven't seen in any of the other books I've purchased, recently, concerning Drawing and Sketching. And I really do want to learn. And practice. I absolutely MUST practice.

KTD (Keys to Drawing) goes into this thing about an artist's 'handwriting'. In doing so, there is an exploration of 'freehand' and 'control hand' in a discussion of how one works. I think I feel most comfortable working 'freehand' - my 'control hand' needs a lot of work. The control hand is expressed when you work in fine detail, and you get down close to the end of the pencil with your grip - small lines and fine, precise, detail. Freehand is busy and big and uses 'restatement' a LOT - restatement being a redraw of a line or element without erasure of the original line or element. So drawings full of restatements have a tendency to be imprecise and busy - kinda scribbly - where control hand drawings are precise and detailed. Freehand is how many artists begin a work which eventually becomes something else - a painting or watercolor, for example, or a control hand drawing (after a lot of work). Bu 'freehands' don't necessarily have to be anything other than what they were born as - it just depends on what you're doing and when you think you're done.

Anyway - I hope to practice this weekend. And I think I will try putting samples into this blog for the first time. After all, the idea here is to create a record I can look back on sometime in the future, after I get good and I need to be reminded where I came from. IF I get good. And IF I need to be reminded. In the future...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Time and Distance

Last night's class was a little disappointing, for me. I wasn't able to produce the kind of work I saw my classmates getting to and I felt a bit amateurish. It wasn't until the class was over and I was putting my materials away that I really saw my work and I was surprised at what I had done.

The class was all about light and mapping tonal values. We worked on brown paper for the first time - I have a roll of 'Postal Wrapping Paper' I bought at Meijer's. We used Conte crayon white, black and sanguine to represent the high, low and midtones, respectively, in a black and white photograph Marilyn gave us to work from. I wasn't pleased, at all, with what I had done. The next exercise was to do the same from life - an egg, a candle and a cup were set out, under a strong light, and we were to once again to reproduce what we saw in tone - not necessarily an accurate pictorial representation of the items but a mapping of tonal values. I think I got the egg pretty good before class ended but the rest of it kinda sucked. Anyway, class came to an end and, in putting my roll of brown wrapping paper away, I saw my 'photograph' work from a distance, for the first time, and I remarked that I had done better than I had thought, now that I could see the work from a distance. Marilyn commented that I needed to remember that I was also seeing it an hour later - that there was a distance in time as well as space.

I did okay. It was better than I had thought. I guess sometimes you need to look back at things, in time and distance, in order to properly appreciate them. So I guess the lesson is to NOT be too critical of what you're in the middle of doing. Wait. Look back. Give it some time and distance.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Conte Tonight !!

Tonight we get to play with our crayons!! I had never used Conte crayon before, so I had no idea what they were. They're made from clay and pigment and baked in a kiln so they're hard (and breakable). Not only that - they're square - not round like you would normally think a crayon to be. They come in a limited range of colors - black, white, sanguine (like sepia) and bisque (varying shades of brown). I suppose there are probably more colors out there, somewhere, but I haven't seen them, yet. Anyway, tonight we are going to work in texture and shading and we're going to use the Conte crayons in the exercise. And the brown paper which was listed in our course supplies. Why we wouldn't use white paper is a little lost on me, but I'm sure Marilyn will make her reasoning clear. She always does.

I have found the neatest web site. It is There are many, many lessons in drawing and sketching there for one to work through - at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. The cost to join the site is low (20 bucks for 3 months) and during the time you are a member you can see and download any and/or all of the lesson on the site. And they are GOOD!!. I have downloaded all of the lessons and I have them on my 4gig TravelDrive my kids bought me for Christmas. When I am done with this course I am going to go through the Brenda Hoddinott (she created the site) lessons, one at a time, to enhance and sharpen my skills. At least, that's the plan.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Another Book

Annie, my very patient and tolerant wife (whom I love so very much), upon seeing the receipt from Barnes & Noble, said "Are you ever going to stop collecting Art books?" as the evidence of yet another purchase passed through her fingers. It seems that this is something I do. If I'm interested in something, I buy the books. So I hove tons of books about computers and related stuff, Motorcycles, golf, photography (the winner if there's a contest), Tarot and other mystical stuff, Astronomy, Science (Physics) and Music. And Art. And of course, that doesn't even include my collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction books and other literature I'm fond of reading - which will vary from time to time. I love to read.

And now I love to draw. That new Art book I just purchased has an outline drawing of a nude in the first few pages - I copied it and I think I did well. I made mistakes in drawing it and in correcting those mistakes I think I learned - about how I make mistakes and about correcting those mistakes and about how everybody makes mistakes.

In the past I have done some simple draftsman type work - plans and such which require precise placing of lines and proportions are carefully measured and everything is very 'cut and dried'. I couldn't do that for a living, even though it's 'drawing'. I like the freedom that sketching and drawing give me - not every line needs be precisely placed - as long as the resulting impression is accurate. As long as the proper feeling is expressed. As long as the idea comes across. Those are very liberating notions. Perhaps it is the ability to adopt those notions and incorporate them into one's psychie that gives one the courage to put pencil, charcoal and chalk to a blank piece of paper - forever changing it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Yes, I carry a purse ...

I have carried a 'man bag' for several years now. The idea was to get my wallet out of my back pocket, where it was causing me pain related to the amount of time I spend driving - therefore, sitting on it. The alternative was to load up my other back pocket with an equally bulky mass to offset the lump I was sitting on with my left butt cheek. Since I viewed the idea of stuffing my back pocket with kleenex with the same disdain as I held for those unfortunate young women who seem to think it's necessary to stuff that crap in their all too small bras, the alternative was the 'man bag'. And it's worked out quite well, thank you. Till now. The bag I've carried is a little larger, in height and width, than a good sized paperback, and about 3x deeper. Fine for what I've carried in the past (although it's amazing what accumulates in a bag, over time, and how heavy they can get) but now I need to carry a 'sketch journal' with me and some pencils of varying degrees of hardness and my man bag is too small. Oh, I COULD carry some little dinky sketch book, but that is not and never has been, me. MY book is 10x8, spiral bound with an elastic closure. 50 pages of 75#, acid free paper with TOOTH. Now THAT's a sketch book. Anyway, last night on my way home from work I passed a garage sale near the house so I did a U'y and pulled over, took a look and there, on the table, was a perfectly sized, black leather bag with straps that just said "Buy me for this two bucks, big boy." So, I did. Now I can carry my sketch book with me wherever I go. All I need do, now, is find something to draw - every day. One thing. Minimum. Maybe I should draw my Man Bag. For posterity. Or posterior-ty. ;>)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Class was great, again ....

Last night's class was better populated than the first one was. I think that everyone who was signed up for the class was actually there.

I brought my tabletop easel to class, so I could work upright. It helped me work better, I think, but it seemed to isolate me from the rest of the class. When you're working 'flat' you can look up and see what other people in the class are doing and you can interact to a greater degree with the other people in class. When the work is upright, you kind of hide behind the paper and there is less ability to see and relate to the people around you. Which, I suppose, is a good thing as far as it goes - I mean you're able to concentrate on what you're doing and there are fewer distractions (and I've already discussed distractions). Part of me wants to worry about what my classmates think about hiding behind the paper ( on the other hand, does it make any difference to them? ) and the other part of me says to forget about it and focus on learning, which is what I'm there for.

The class was unexpectedly grueling. All we did was, in the process of learning how to MEASURE, draw a stack of boxes. First. Then we drew a second set of boxes which weren't so cleanly stacked - a jumble, if you will. Maintaining the concentration necessary to complete the work was exhausting. Of course, it could have had something to do with the fact that I worked all day, but last week's class wasn't anywhere near as draining as this one was. But it felt GOOD. And I think I learned a lot. Which is what I'm after, after all. Isn't it?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Second Class tonight

Tonight will be the second class with Marilyn Dale. I feel somewhat disappointed in myself that I haven't done more work on my own and independently. Last night, however, I did do a little work on the 'Two Fat Ladies' in my sketch journal. I did the head of one of the women, upside down, to see how it might differ from what I did in class last week. I find I still have this weakness in placing things (lines) relative to other lines in a drawing. Also there seems to be a comfort thing I have to learn to deal with - I don't like to shift around and change positions once I start working on something, but if I can't see my source material clearly I have to put down whatever I'm drawing with and pickup the book (in this case) and then go back to drawing. But it's like I've lost my place; I have to figure out where I was and get back there and it would be so much simpler if I could just glance over at whatever my source is, see what I need to see and continue in the work.

Actually, it's kind of like when I write a program for the computer. There's this focus one develops as one is in the work - you begin to see the whole in your mind as you work on the individual pieces or elements of the program and it is (for me, anyway) very difficult to reconstruct that focus if there is an interruption in the process. You get called into a meeting or some other distraction gets in the way and it's just GONE. Getting it back is possible, but tough. I find the same thing happens when I draw. I have always held that a good programmer is an artist; for writing software requires an understanding of how others are going to see and react to what is being written - the better the understanding, and the more developed the programming skillset, the more 'artful' and usable the end result. Apparently, the same is true of Art.

As before, I am looking forward to tonight's class. Marilyn is great - she communicates so clearly. I think I'm beginning to understand her part in this - she is a guide, she is there to help me explore what I already have and to show me how to develop and flex my artistic 'muscle'. She can't 'give' me anything I don't already have - but she can 'show' me how to use it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lazy, lazy, lazy ....

Okay, so I took the weekend off. It's easy to make excuses, but it really was a very busy weekend. Yesterday, my three sons and I played golf together for the first time. Saturday was Parent's Day at IMSA (Illinois Math and Science Academy) and that took all day and when we finally did get home, I was TIRED. So, I didn't do anything to further the process of learning about Drawing and Sketching. And now, of course, I feel guilty.

Mea Culpa.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The next day

Lat night I found myself fighting the same old I-don't-know-what-to-draw problem. Finally, I remembered the 'depth' problem I had with some of the work in the first class, so I practiced drawing boxes and a ball and a cup with a handle (and then added a shadow, later) but nothing 'from life' - which is where I really should start working.

I think tonight I'll try doing the 'fat ladies' upside down again. I tried it in class and I didn't get too far, plus my proportions were off because I wasn't locating lines properly - I wasn't relating things to each other properly. I found that I don't like working flat - I would rather have the work upright, or as near as I can get to upright, and it's important for me to be able to move freely - I should sit upright and be able to move my arms freely and not get lazy and rest my arms on the furniture. I probably should work on an easel - either the free standing or the tabletop.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Last night was the first class

Last night I attended my first art class - called "You Can Draw Anything". Annie gave this class to me as a birthday gift - for which I am very grateful. Our instructor is a very good artist, named Marilyn Dale, who has a site where you can see and judge her art for yourself - She is a GREAT communicator and the class seemed to go very well.

Years ago ( I am in my 60's now - so there are actually things that I did "years ago") I dabbled in art to a minor degree. My wife had been into art when she was in school and had done some really nice work (copies of Van Gogh) that I found inspiration in and so I found a voice in charcoal and pastel chalk that worked for me. But kids and work and everything else just kinda pushed the 'art' to the side and it never went anywhere. Now, however, I find the interest re-kindled and I hope to explore it, find my voice, again, and develop what talent there may be in me to put to paper what I see, think and feel about the world around me.

I am also new to blogging. I am not sure what tone to take here - I don't know, for example, that anyone other than me is ever going to read this stuff - so I don't know whether to be informative or instructive or observational. I think, however, that as I begin to think in terms of art that I may just kind of 'talk to myself', like you do when you draw, and create a record of my progress toward my goal to do 'art'.

Last night, as an exercise, Marilyn had us put our keys on the table and sketch them. Besides being difficult to do, it made me begin to understand that 'subjects' are everywhere - all around us. Just LOOK. Before I didn't know 'what to draw' - kinda. I had fanciful images in my mind of being outdoors with an easel and a stool in a 'setting'. Now I'm seeing that those things, those trappings, aren't necessary. Paper, pencil and imagination are what is necessary. I will draw one thing, SOME thing, every day. Poorly, at first, I'm sure, but I will get better. I just need to do it every day.

At some point I will learn how to post copies of the things I draw in here, so I can see the progress I'm making. Hopefully. I'm assuming there will be progress. We'll see.