Last weekend I planned to be in White Plains, New York for Veronica Lawlor and Melanie Reim’s three day Life Drawing Symposium, but the COVID-19 pandemic had other ideas. After nearly a year of expectation I was bummed even though the cancellation was inevitable. But Melanie and Ronnie came up with a delightful back up plan… they presented a Mini Life Drawing Symposium on Zoom!
I’m no expert but this was the best Zoom meeting I’ve ever had. The lessons and their timing were well planned with no wasted time. The morning session’s focus was on thumbnails and composition while the afternoon session was all about hands and portraits with expression.
Lori Hammel was the model-actor we had for the afternoon session and she was very expressive as we had a minute or so to capture her emotions on paper.
Thank you Ronnie and Melanie… you’re both wonderful teachers and having this chance to experience your lessons has only strengthened my resolve to take the next in-person symposium. Fingers crossed for June 2021!
The Coronavirus pandemic has all the world’s inhabitants on edge, including me.
As we search for ways to cope some people turn to information gathering, some turn to science and others to their faith. Some, like me, turn to all of these and run it through the “art filter” in our brains.
This information goes into my addled brain, swirls around as I try to make sense of it, and then comes out through my hand onto my journal pages. Often it’s still an entry of jumbled thoughts, but I’m comforted by the act. It’s one small way I can adapt… an arrow in my quiver of coping mechanisms.
As I wrote on my March 16th journal spread, “The only thing constant is change.”
(My take on Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and two Sktchy portraits in a Hahnemühle Nostalgie Sketch Book – A5 portrait) (some text obscured for privacy.)
Not only is Panera a great place to meet friends for lunch but there are always plenty of interesting victims subjects to sketch. I had a great time catching up on everyone’s comings and goings as I practiced with my Sailor Profit fude nib pen.
I also tried out a new charcoal pencil that works like the old style peel-away China markers. You can see that image in the top left of the next image. I usually don’t like working with charcoal or even graphite in my sketchbook as it smears too much but I couldn’t wait to give it a go.
I’ll think I’ll save the charcoal for life drawing and keep on working with ink and watercolor in my sketchbook. Both the paper and my hands stay cleaner that way.
I love watersoluble pen and ink work because sometimes you feel like keeping a line and sometimes you don’t.
On Roz Stendahl’s blog and her Patreon site, Roz Interim, she demonstrated the Pentel Sign Pen – Artist Micro Brush. They’re dye based and water-soluble, perfect for shading with a touch of water, and on top of that they have a super fine brush tip! You can see that in the photo below.
I was able to find both sets of 6 at my local Michael’s and immediately set to testing.
Portraits don’t always have to be realistic, do they?
Jane never knew I was sketching her as I waited to be called for my appointment.
Why? Well, this sketchbook is small, only six inches square and I had it tucked behind my bag on my lap. I also used one of my clutch pencils with a soft and silent lead. No scratching sound to alert her.
A few days later I took the same set up to a basketball game and among other figures, sketched a fellow sitting diagonally ahead of me.
He never suspected.
I even played a bit with a child’s multicolor pencil but gave up on it almost immediately. I wanted that smooth buttery feel of soft graphite sliding across the paper.
I think this set up will be my daily carry as I leave my large A4 journal in my studio. I’m looking forward to traveling lightly for a while.
I thought I was done… scanned it and closed the book.
I was happy, at least I thought I was, yet I knew something was off. I studied it using what Roz Stendahl calls the “editing eye”. This isn’t some rash commentary from my internal critic but an honest review of technique and composition to determine what could be improved.
Although I lost the tilt of his head in comparison to the inspiration photo I could live with that. Instead I focused on how washed out my watercolors looked. Now that was something I could change.
Another layer of darker pigments for his hair and beard and a deeper orange glaze for his jacket and I was done.
A few days ago my friend Bobbie Herron published “That Dang Adolescent Period” on her blog, Aloft with Inspiration. In it she describes the idiosyncrasies and unpredictability of watercolor and the importance of perseverance. Please take a minute to read it… I’ll be here when you’ve finished.
Finally I was inspired to revisit a sketchbook-painting I started… and abandoned… over a week earlier. It had hit the adolescent phase where inexplicably everything looked wrong. Not only were my proportions off but my colors looked pale and insipid.
It needed more layers… but where to begin? I was paralyzed. Instead I closed the book knowing it was unfinished.
The sketchbook sat on my desk all week mocking my indecision.
Then I read Bobbie’s post.
It took me less than an hour to add more hair to the crown improving her proportions. A few more layers of bold juicy watercolors and I called it done.
When I started this portrait I had to keep reminding myself to take it slow and stop now and again for photos… success!
Again I used just a few pencil guidelines as reference for my first light watercolor washes.
After they dried I put in the background wet in wet.
It seems I’m always waiting for paint to dry but I love the look when it dries naturally. I have a heat gun I could use but then the background would dry before the paints had a chance to mingle and create the beautiful mottled surface.
Next it was time to add more skin tone glazes and figure out how to portray beard stubble… I dabbed the color on with my finger!
I really need to see if I can correct that left eye… the inner corner should be a tiny bit lower.
More layers to suggest his laugh lines and it’s time to stop before I start fiddling. I peeled off the artist’s masking tape… signed it… dated it… and done.
Pencil and Watercolor in an 8 in. square HandBook Watercolor Journal. Portrait of a muse from Sktchy.
Starting a portrait can be intimidating. I’m often left wondering how and where to begin. How do I want the finished project to look? Do I want to use pencil or ink for the basic drawing? Do I want the coloring to be subtle or bold? What to do first?
Here I quickly sketched her in pencil and then put in light washes for her skin tones and shadows before putting in the background wet in wet. I decided to aim for bold.
It’s fortunate I remembered to stop and take a photo. I so often get in the flow, keep painting and only when I’m finished think how a few early photos would help me as a reference for techniques I could use when starting another project.
I had masked off a frame using 1/2 inch artist’s tape which allowed the painting to have a nice crisp edge as it floats on the page. It’s definitely a technique I’ll be trying again.
You’ll see… I’ll share another on Monday. In the meantime, Happy Groundhog Day!
Pencil and Watercolor in an 8″ square HandBook Watercolor Journal. Portrait of a muse from Sktchy.