Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Loop to Loop

We've entered the busiest time of year in my university office.  Most days I just want to come home, collapse and eat nachos or hot fudge or both.  I'm stealing 10 minutes to leave these loopy photos here for you.

reclining husband on the phone

My husband is a talker.  If you know him, you're laughing at this understatement.  My yakking spouse made a decent first subject for the next exercise in the Art Escapes book - loop gesture sketches.  Movement and shape are captured using one quick continuously looping line.

still on the phone - switched to the other ear

This gesture method was a fast blast and the inner perfectionist slept through the whole thing.  I think the lines captured his pose & energy, but then, I was there and know what these actually represent.

Definitely adding this to my sketching warm up repertoire.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Winner Winner Albrecht Dürer

"Hey, they released the fine art books yesterday!"  Aaaaaaaaeeeeeee!!!!
Thus the art groove was suddenly and delightfully delayed.

after day one
Our university library is in process of sorting and thinning collections.  After each subject is reviewed, we are notified of books free to anyone interested.  (Libraries reducing is a sore subject, but we'll set that discussion aside and focus today on this artist's good fortune.)  I just happened to be gone the Monday they released the best subject matter in the whole universe.  Hearing that momentous statement the next morning, I immediately hustled to the library.  Where are the free art books?  Right over th....  The voice disappeared as my eyes found the indicated space.  Oh my... oh... WHOA!!  TWO FULL ROWS of books... art and architecture... FuhREE!  Free! Free! Free!  (Insert happy dance.)  Within minutes - Rembrandt, Cezanne, both Wyeths, and Velazquez were in my arms (books, not old dead dudes).  And, this was the second day.  I cannot imagine what I missed out on the first day!  30 minutes and a small pile later, it was time to get back to work.  The librarian offered to hold "my" books until I could return.  An hour after work could not get me through the rows before closing.  So, my stash went behind the desk for the night.

made me laugh, but did not go home with me
I had scanned all shelves by closing the next day.  One squeaky metal cart loaded with Monet, Whistler, Picasso, and more, rolled towards the door.  A large green book with pale gold letters whispered from a disheveled shelf "and me?"  I tipped my head to read the upside down spine "Die Zeichnungen Albrecht Durers"  What?!  Durer drawings!  How did I miss this?  Drawings of old masters fascinate me even more than their paintings.  Albrecht Dürer is at or near the top of this fascination pile.  I audibly gasped and gleefully added this treasure to my stack - 56 in all.  

That's right.  I suddenly and miraculously now owned 56 books on artists and theory and technique.  Yikes!

I mentioned the bonanza to a friend who appreciates Asian art.  Of course she'd love some free books!  The following week found me happily back at the stacks.  Fortunately or unfortunately, the books were less organized.  I HAD to sort through all the shelves again.  Learning from the almost-missed-a-Durer incident, I carefully read each spine and investigated ambiguous titles - two more blissful days in the library.  I found several books for her, but also a dozen more for me, including one with Da Vinci's notes on painting.  Nice.

I soon realized the 1938 Durer book is the third of three.  Curiosity led me to a very limited number of books I and II on Amazon, the most reasonable of which were copies of both volumes for just $25 each.  Woot woot!  Of course I ordered them.  So, my free books weren't free, but at less than a buck apiece... a steal indeed!

I still can't believe my luck.  Most artists know you can't have too many art supplies or too many art books.  Well, if you ever come across a good cheap book on Ingres, Hopper, Sargent, Van Gogh, Seurat, or Vermeer...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

of Cats & Men

The day after 4th of July (that being the 5th... heh, heh), we left town to pick up our daughter from the airport.  We live half way between two major airports - several hours in either direction.  We drive a lot.  I squeaked in some quick sketches while driving home the next day - lots of small town skylines, cars and the ever-present construction zones.

A small part of a long drive.

After an afternoon break with the whiny cat, it was time to check on things at the farm.  It turns out farmers are good & challenging subjects for rapid figure drawing.  They move as much as restless pets... and talk with their hands... a LOT.

As promised, next time - a wonderful run in with piles upon piles of books.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Feet up. Pencil down.

Yowza, what a couple months it's been!  Gratefully, no serious illness or drama, just lots of office reorganizing, great mountains of farm work and endless house maintenance as we prepare to sell my father-in-law's house.  Art was the forgotten, sullen face at the bottom of the totem pole.  Barely home, I was simply not in sketching mood.  With some rare and annoying exceptions, creative folks live on a roller coaster of "Look what I've been doing.  I'm kicking some sketching/painting/sculpting butt!" then "I don't wanna' draw.  Don't know what to do.  Don't know why I even try.  I suck."  Whiners.

Anyhoo, after the May cycle drawing, I did basically zero art.  Sketchbook Skool Stretching was set aside as life became uber busy - for 2 months.  Then those pesky SBS people came up with Playing - a frolicking class of just plain goofing around with art supplies.  Oh, alright already!  Once again, SBS grabbed me by the ear and pulled me back to the sketchbook.

On July 4, two days prior to class starting, it was time to wake up ye ole art bones.  I've been working through inching through ignoring four of my many art improvement books for awhile: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Drawing Lab, Art Escapes, and One Watercolor a Day.  Can't pick just one.  I excel at indecision.  I grabbed the four, wrote each book's next exercise/project on my white board for all to see, and proceeded to actually do something!  First, Art Escapes - 1 minute sketches in pre-drawn frames took little time and captured itty bits of the studio.  Then, Drawing Lab - several rather awful gesture sketches of our 16 year old dog as she aimlessly wandered through the house. But, hey, I actually did something.

That evening, it was time for our annual sit-in-the-back-of-the-pickup-waiting-for-fireworks picnic and I sketched as the light faded away.  No instructions required - just me doing my artist thing.

Today's post was intended as a catch up for the past few weeks of arting, but it'll grow quite long.  I excel at wordiness.  You can't imagine how long these posts are before I viciously edit them.

Come back soon for the continued initial persistence, the miraculous and wonderful opportunity (okay, not actually miraculous) that kept me from SBS, and how Playing is playing out.  (Heh heh.  Clever, she is.)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cycle Crossing

Week 3 assignment of Sketchbook Skool Stretching:  Draw something with wheels (vehicles, chairs, whatever) slow and careful and shade with cross hatching.  Hey - I finally have an excuse to sketch our motorcycle!

I started Sunday and photo #1 is how much I finished in about 30 minutes, 10 of which was probably just staring at the page hating the anxiety of actually starting.

Photo 2 is Monday.  That was about the time I started wishing I'd picked pretty much any other wheeled object in the garage.  I knew there were a lot of parts, but c'mon!
There are no progress pics from Tuesday and Wednesday.  I was too obsessed with being annoyed by all the details.  Do you know HOW MANY little brackets and screws and tubes and totally useless tiny pieces there are on a motorcycle?  Do you?  I'll tell you.  WAY TOO MANY!  I mean, who designs these things?!?
With the line work finished Wednesday, Thursday's goal was to crosshatch everything and upload before supper.  I figured I could knock that out in under an hour.  Um, yeah, I should know my slow self better.  

An hour later as suppertime loomed and a storm raged outside, my mood alternated between irritation at my snail pace and complete engrossment in the process. I tried not to rush.  I rushed.  I stopped rushing.  Another hour passed and I finished - sorta'.  As usual, there are a ton of places I want to darken up, but it's all practice right?

I told my husband there are simply too many little bitty cycle parts.  He laughed.  I then pointed out the parts of the drawing that are wonky.  He told me it looked good and the "wonky" places actually looked like I did it on purpose - like a caricature.  I'll take that.

Bonus realization:  I don't crosshatch like anyone else and that is a-okay.  More than okay - fabulous!  Starting at the back of the cycle focusing on cross hatching like the instructor, I quickly slipped into my style as I moved to the right.  My cross hatch is just right for my pen, my paper, my art.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What I did on my Summer(ish) Vacation

I returned yesterday from a mother/daughter adventure.  Mom missed the September trip, so the two of us flew to California and spent several days with my sister & brother-in-law.  Traveling with an "older" short lady with one bum knee slows you down - in a good way.  I drew quickly when out and about.  However, plenty of recovery time at my sister's house let me slow down and fill more sketchbook pages.

California plants, California cats, California seagulls and a Colorado mother were added.  Plants are less interesting, but better models.  They don't reposition endlessly or flit away in the wind.

Four busy cats would not sit still for the artist - until Dr. Macaroni finally dozed off in just the right spot at just the right time.  The quirky karate dude above him is a small bookend... that never moves and was a delight to sketch in indigo blue pencil.

I'm currently enrolled in Sketchbook Skool "Stretching" and one assignment is blind contours.  This page happened as Mom chatted with my sister, oblivious to my attempts.  Of course she looks nothing like this.  Blind contours are just plain hilarious.

The tiny gesture sketch below is in my tiny Pentalic journal (no bigger than a deck of cards).  I had finished drawing a nearby statue and then caught up with these two.  I stopped for a minute to swiftly sketch the tall sunshine-loving daughter and her short doting mother.  I looked at this afterwards and wanted so badly to fix & refine, but resisted.  These few inaccurate lines capture the moment just fine I think.

I managed to add at least a few pages every day, including departure day.  Airports are jam packed with people looking down - phones, laptops, books, knitting, sleeping.  Most are obliviously willing subjects.  The man below sat directly opposite of me.  He looked up as a fellow traveler brushed by him and seemed grumpy to us.  Then he was engrossed in his book.  He had a deliciously bushy face and I had to pull out my pen & paper.  He never looked up as I sketched.  As I finished, Mom quietly asked "Are you going to show him?"  "Um, no, he seems grumpy."  I whispered back to her.  Minutes later the woman next to me addressed the hairy, grumpy man as her husband.  I don't know if she noticed or appreciated my artistic rendering or if he was actually grumpy.  Regardless, I appreciate his perfect posing.  It nudged the pen into my hand one more time.  I added a few more down-turned faces before our flight was called.  Then it was homeward bound for me, Mom & my sketchbook mementos.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Go Figure!

I'm baa-aack!  I'm crawling out of the slacker rut thanks in part to two kind of big deals.  First, my home studio room is really coming together - more on that later.  Second, tonight I attended ... drum roll please... an open figure drawing session!  What?!  Did that just happen?  Yes indeedy!  Thanks to a fellow got-my-art-degree-ages-ago artist friend who knows more creative people than I do.  We both went for the first time tonight and I was simultaneously nervous & excited.

How'd it go?  Quite well I think.  No masterpieces, but I'm going simply for practice.  Yes, I returned to sketching a couple of years ago, but figure drawing is a whole new ballgame.  With a 30 year span between college class and tonight's efforts, the charcoal stick is rather rusty and my drawing joints were creaking.  No matter.  Despite the frustration at my mediocre efforts, it was massively satisfying to work back into the graphite groove.  The next session is in two weeks.  I'm going back.  I kinda' can't believe this is a thing I get to do now.  Somebody pinch me.

1 minute warm up gesture drawings.  Charcoal on newsprint.

And a longer pose - about 30 minutes.  My perfectionist told me not to share, but I ignored her.  This is all about artistic growth.  There's plenty of room for that.

PS or disclaimer or notice or something - In the interest of the model's privacy and my own modest tendencies, figure drawing efforts shared here will be limited to more generic, unidentifiable sketches.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


I'm in a rut.  I apologize in advance for this relatively blah post, but the artist is not always happy or motivated.  Journeys tend to have stretches of boring highway, so...

Perhaps it's the Inktober challenge.  Perhaps it's just my normal irritating stop & go habit.  Perhaps I need a muse.  Perhaps I'm recovering from family Thanksgiving hubbub.  Perhaps the monkey is babbling in my ear.  Perhaps I'm just lazy.  Whatever haps it was, I barely drew in November.  There were a few random sketches and a weekend of illustrated journaling while visiting relatives.  Yawn.  I am a couch slug at this moment.  I have books to read, errands to run, sketching to do!  Sigh.  I'm not even motivated to share my travel journal.

How to break out of this do-nothing rut?  Crud.  I should just start doodling.  Instead my pen will probably wind up making some short term goals.  Maybe I'll be inspired?  Maybe I'll simply draw?  Hold that thought.  I gotta' go buy dog food.  Ah, the exciting tales of an artist-in-training.

Friday, November 7, 2014

An Introvert Slacker Artist Reviews Sketchbook Skool

Semester 3 of Sketchbook Skool is winding down.  I think it's high time for an honest evaluation, don't you?  Say yes.

I like it.  You will too.  It's neat.  Sign up.  The end.

Not enough?  Okay, because we all appreciate detail when considering life-changing commitments, (seriously, this can be life-changing) here's my long and riveting review.

colored pencil exercise - Beginnings
Sketchbook Skool is the brainchild of Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene.  Courses that encourage all folks to start an illustrated journal.  "Art for all."  Haven't drawn a line since childhood?  It's for you.  Graduated art school, then ignored art for decades?  Sign up.  Have your own studio/class/gallery?  You're invited too.  Sketchbook Skool is about keeping an illustrated journal.  It is every day "art."  It is not about creating "Art" to hang in a gallery.

Every one should be checking this out.  EH-VER-EE-WON.

Let me share right away the one issue that pops up as classes start every semester.  Hundreds sign up for each course - from total beginners to established professionals.  It can be daunting.  Professionals post lovely frame-ready pages and talk about commissions and galleries.  Or this appears: "I'm just beginning and I almost didn't post this because it's awful."  But, their "awful" is amazing and lovely and your brain goes all Jim Carey "Oh, COME ON!"  How can I now post my little cat sketch?  I struggled with this at times though I'm not a beginner.  Well, listen up 'cause here's the thing:  IT'S NOT ABOUT HOW WELL YOU CAN DRAW OR PAINT!  (Yes, I yell that at myself regularly.)  IT IS NOT A COMPETITION!  It's not even really about HOW to draw (though lessons are loaded with ideas and instruction).  The whole entire complete idea of SBS is TO draw.  This big illustrated idea is simply TO DRAW YOUR LIFE ... daily.  Little things, big things, people things, furry things, food things ... life things... daily.  (or almost daily)

museum sketching - Beginnings
Tommy Kane detailed style - Beginnings

collection in ballpoint pen - Seeing
So, what do you actually get for your 99 bucks?  Six artists flip through their sketchbooks, list their tools, and discuss styles and methods.  We look over their shoulder as each one shares a multitude of tips on fighting the inner critic and getting busy recording life.  Homework is assigned.  You are free to do or not do the homework.  You are free to post or not post your results.  Some instructors provide feedback.  Some do not.  SBS was not set up to critique student work.  This is made known in the FAQ section of the website, but always seems a bone of contention for some at the beginning of each course.  SBS is intended to let you hang out watching each instructor in the act - to learn from them by watching.  (Watching them is quite fabulous.)  Feedback on posted sketches is mainly from fellow students and, since many are professional artists, is actually a good thing.  Again, this is NOT about showing how well you can draw, but that you actually DID draw.

selfie week with Koosje - Seeing
There are three sessions, Beginnings, Seeing, and Storytelling, with a fourth in the works.  Head over to the SBS website to read about each one.  There is no specified order.  However, I liked the progression from getting started to how we see to telling the stories.  It seems a natural path.  If you truly are a beginner, I recommend Beginnings or Seeing first.  My opinion.  Others may disagree.

I was dealing with my pop-in-law's sudden awful illness through most of Beginnings. A few months later, I participated much more in Seeing.  I'm currently in Storytelling and happen to be in a funk - just don't feel like jumping in the water.   Humph.  I've watched the videos and done some homework.  Some Storytelling assignments involve drawing people in motion... in public.  At the moment, even though I'm excited to see what I can do, it grates on my introvert ways.  I'll get there.  This brings us to a great SBS bonus - LIFE-TIME ACCESS - to videos, comments, and Q&A.  The recent museum sketching came about entirely due to an April lesson in Beginnings.  I was able to review Roz Stendahl's videos ahead of the museum trip.  Knowing homework can be revisited eliminates unneeded stress.  In fact, I first discovered we have lifetime access shortly after my pop-in-law passed away and I'd missed a good portion of Beginnings.  I nearly cried.

watercolor sketching in the great outdoors - Seeing

So, why sign up?  Because it truly can be life-changing.  Honest - cross my heart.  Some classmates have gone from never drawing to daily meaningful sketching.  Notice I didn't say beautiful - not what this is about.  Sloppy and sketchy or neat and detailed, doesn't matter as long as you just DO it.  SBS definitely pushed me to sketch more loosely and more often.  Keeping a written journal is good for you.  Adding or substituting illustration is better.  Some people draw small and write a lot.  Others draw big and write almost nothing.  There is no right or wrong - whatever works for you, and that can change daily.  The more I sketch, the more I notice the stuff of life, even when not sketching.  Past drawings, great or awful, help me remember the moment better - sounds, sights, smells, emotion.  Keeping an illustrated journal is good for heart, mind, body & soul.  This is true especially as we age.  I'm not making that up.  Go read this.

illustrated recipe - Storytelling
Keeping this honest, there is one issue I wish could be addressed.  When I first heard of SBS, I thought - "How cool is this?!"  Perfect class for non-artsy people and a way slackers can get back to it.  I didn't imagine professionals would sign up.  I now understand why they need motivation like anybody else.  However, observing the people interacting in the class, it seems there are fewer "I never could draw" people.  That's the group I would like to see engaged more by the "art for all" theme.  Perhaps letting actual beginners choose an "I can't draw - beginners only" version or Facebook group?  Or, we can just keep hammering away that initial skill is not necessary.  That said, I continue to urge non-drawers to try Sketchbook Skool.  It is a highly encouraging group.  We are constantly reminded this is about developing a habit, not making "Art."  Sign up and, if you like, I'll be your sponsor or mentor or something.  I'll be your cheerleader!

The last feature that actually figures quite large in my appreciation of this class is the Facebook group for class members only.  The camaraderie and support within this group is uplifting.  I've learned plenty of new things from my classmates here, in addition to the SBS lessons.  It is a very active crew - during and between classes.  My SBS peeps totally get the need for yet another sketchbook.  Priceless.

fast reportage-style parade sketching - Storytelling

PS:  I viewed the  Storytelling week six videos after writing the words above.  Wowza!  They are jam-packed with travel journaling ideas from Danny Gregory - ideas that could be used for a cross-country vacation, cross town trip, or stroll to the kitchen.  My favorite week of this semester was Melanie Reim's reportage, but Danny just stuffed my brain with so much inspiration, I think he wins the Storytelling teacher trophy.

Monday, October 27, 2014

You can do it. Yes you can. Draw that story. You're the (wo)MAN!

Just so I don't throw the entire universe out of whack, I decided (wink, wink) to skip several days of inktober - sidetracked by various stuff I won't bore you with.  Nothing new to see here.  Let's move on.  Like the KC Royals, I'm not out of it yet.  A few inking days left.

Today kids, I want to share a little motivation... another PSA from the artist.

1)  Related to the last don't-let-mean-people-get-you-down post - go watch Adebanji Alade talk about what to do with those less than supportive comments and then watch "Life as an Artist."  To say he is inspiring is an understatement.  His main message: If you want to be an artist, then draw, draw, DRAW...  Every.  Single.  Day.

2)  James Gurney's is a masterful painter with an average guy delivery.  He's the kind neighbor who talks to everyone, but this neighbor is brilliant and oh so generous with his knowledge.  Yesterday he blogged about a sketching/painting trip in Texas.  http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2014/10/saturday-on-east-side-of-austin.html  He and his wife start out in search of interesting people to sketch.  They wind up on an ordinary street and he paints what seems to be an ordinary house.  He eloquently relays the story this simple house tells him as he is painting.  

THAT, my friends, is what illustrated journaling is all about.  Relaying the stories of things, places, people in the artist's own "words."  Tell the story.  Add words if needed.  Do it again tomorrow.

Friday, October 24, 2014


We interrupt your regularly scheduled inktober post for this rambling public service announcement...

Life isn't fair.  Some people are mean.  Take away their power.  Let go & live your life!

There seems a persistent theme in life, and especially in art circles.  "I was told I'm awful, so I can't ________."  It pops up as "the monkey" in our SBS discussions.  Who do you blame?  How do you overcome it?  The discussion ebbs & flows.  I had some brilliant thoughts about this.  As brilliance goes, it was a flash & I forgot the rest.  Dang.  Here's what I remember.

1) I have the power.

I was fortunate to have supportive parents and an art teacher who cheered me on.  College professors were relatively kind.  I was blessed.  However, I was also a shy awkward geek with a few close friends.  We were sometimes antagonized and mostly ignored by the "cool" kids.  We didn't let them rule our lives.  I still liked school.  I still participated.  Sure, I often felt sorry for myself, but that's called being a teenager.  Eventually I realized the only one who could make me feel better about me... was ME.  You know - you have to love yourself before others can - stuff like that.  Does that mean it's all sunshine & daisies now?  Of course not.  That annoying inner critic is always lurking.  A good support system helps, but I'm the only one who truly has the power to soften that voice.

2) Teachers/parents/humans are NOT all horrible because one of them was crappy to you.

A recent Sketchbook Skool assignment revolved around drawing your first day of school from imagination.  Many drew a less-than-great memory of mean teachers and /or critical parents.  My kindergarten & 1st grade teachers were kind.  My 2nd and 3rd grade teachers were completely awful.  One slapped a friend right out of her chair.  4th through 12th were mostly good, some great, none awful, well, except the monotone government teacher.  I've compared notes with friends and - public or private - some teachers suck & some teachers were miraculous, with a whole variety in between.  Pat yourself on the back for surviving the inept.  Report the awful.  Thrive with the good.  Isn't that really how it is with grownup life?  We share this world with some horrid evil people and some incredibly saintly folks.  I believe the rest of us fall in between and weigh the scale more heavily towards good.  You just have to look closely and SEE the human being in the sour faced stranger at the post office.  And, of course, behind the wrinkles in the mirror.

You have the power.  Life is beautiful, if you let it be.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Lap Model

Full blown "me" mode.  Slacking & procrastinating.  Playing catch up.  Sketches 17-20:

First up, a brush pen.  The uptight and grumpy inner critic growled.  "What up slacker?  Brush pen?!  You've barely used the thing - can't try something new.  It will take forEVER to be any good.  QUIT!"   It's obvious the artist was on edge here.  Too tight, too rushed, too eh.  I did warn that some of these could be kind of awful, so, yeah.  Since I am a novice with the brush pen, we shall call it a warm up page.

Continuing on with the brush pen, but with looser strokes and more focused on the task this time, even though I was simultaneously watching a Bronco game.  Fortunately they were doing quite well and not a close game, otherwise there would be no cat to sketch.

More Milo, now with my favorite Zebra F301.  I obviously put off sketching until feline paralysis kicked in.  (Also known as cat-on-lap syndrome.)  It's a nice treat to get more than the usual butt, back, & ears pose.

As I finished typing this, Milo returned to "his" lap.  I am trapped.  I'd take a photo to show you, but there are too many "Look at my goofy cat on my lap" pics on my phone.  See drawings above and right.  Since I can't get up, I guess it's nap time... or I could draw... the cat... again.

He's snoring now.  Supper may be late,
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