Blue Hat

Drawing, Pencil, Photoshop, Portraits, sketch | November 28, 2005 | By

I’ve been reading a book this week called Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor (Rankin) which has been affecting my thinking about other kinds of painting. Perhaps you’ve seen a watercolor painting in which the colors seemed to glow from within, or one that had an ethereal feeling to it. How do they do that? The author says that effect can be achieved by using thin layers of transparent color over white paper and using glazes in the right order and of the right value. The author is particularly fond of glazing with Winsor Blue, Winsor red and aureolin yellow (or new gamboge.) Although watercolor painting and digital painting use completely different processes to achieve different hues (one subtractive, with pigment and one additive, with light) I thought it would be interesting to try ‘glazing’ in Photoshop by building up the color on multiple layers. This was just a quick experimental sketch on a piece of scrap paper, scanned and then painted, to see how it would work.

Three “fold” Path

This week’s challenge for the EDM group was to draw something with folds. I selected the challenge based upon my experience the weekend before – attempting to draw a crumpled comforter in a hotel room. I didn’t get very far with that live drawing as I vastly underestimated the complexity of it and we needed to leave to be somewhere. So I took some reference photos to work on later.

Drawing folds has proven, for me, to be one of the most difficult projects so far. Here are some of the reasons why:

The folded fabric doesn’t look like anything. It’s an abstract design which is mostly about light, shadow, mass, tone, value. Drawing a fold forces you to throw away the crutch of “symbol” drawing and really look at the subject. If I draw a landscape I can draw a the line of distant mountains to ‘suggest’ mountains without having to draw them slowly and carefully as they really are. I can’t do that with folds.

You can get lost in folds. It happened to me over and over. In the time that it took me to look at the subject and look down at the paper, I’d lose my place as though I was walking in a maze. When you draw a face you have landmarks that keep you oriented. The nose goes here. The eyebrows go here. Look out, there’s the ear. These familiar objects let you know where you are as you look-draw-look draw. When you do folds it’s like getting lost in an Escher drawing; up is down and in is out. You think you’re on a hill and find you’re really in a valley. Disorienting.

-Folds are unforgiving. There’s no way for me to just splash some watercolor around and say, hey, there’s a peach. If a fold works, it does. And when it doesn’t, there’s no place to hide.

For all the crabby reasons above, this has actually been one of my favorite challenges. It has forced me to slow waaaay down, to see in finer and finer increments and to think more about where my pen/pencil/brush is going.

I also realize that, in typical Karen fashion, I jumped right into the deep end rather than hanging one simple little dishtowel on a hook and getting the feel of doing some simple “pipe” folds. That’s another thing I learned from this experience – to go back to square one and see if I can draw one fold well before attempting anything so complex.

All that aside, here are three explorations of the comforter, in the order in which I did them: 1) Rapidoliner, 2) #8 round watercolor brush, and 3) pencil (2B and 3B). They were all done on the same type of paper. The top two were of one view, the bottom one was of another.

Road Trip. Stop #1

Friday morning we headed out of town to drive up the coast to do some interviews for a show we’re working on. We got about a half a mile from our front door before we stopped for coffee and a cinnamon bun to share. “Road food.” Breakfast of champions. Or at least, Breakfast of road warriors. I need to get out of the car every hour or so and stretch my bad knee so it doesn’t stiffen up on me. 20 ounces of coffee is a pretty safe way to guarantee periodic stops. Well-caffeinated and sugarfied, we hit the road in earnest. I’d tell you the name of the coffee and bun place but they’re not kicking in for product placement. I’ll just call it Ishmael’s.

Friday’s weather was spectacular – in the low 70s F, with blue sky and occasionally puffy clouds. Trees were turning color all the way up the coast, but of course we had an appointment time and couldn’t stop for drawing. Taking pictures and picking up leaves was the best I could do. I think the leaves will hold their color for a day or two longer …

Drawing at the Simpsons’ Scoring Session

Yesterday we had the opportunity to be guests at the orchestral scoring session for the annual Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween show with composer Alf Clausen, orchestrator Dell Hake and a roomful of tremendously gifted performers. We stayed for the entire morning session and loved every eerie, spine-tingling, rip-roaring moment. We were in the booth half of the time, which is a good distance from the orchestra, but we could still see through the glass.

I had looked forward to drawing the musicians but somehow portraying them ‘realistically’ just didn’t seem appropriate, given the subject matter. So I did it this way, instead. They were drawn in pencil first in my Moleskine … then inked onto tracing paper which was scanned and colorized in Photoshop. Getting likenesses was just about impossible considering that their faces were about as big as a thumbnail held at arms’ length, so I did what I could and ‘winged it’ for the rest. After one of the breaks we were allowed to go inside the recording stage with the musicians provided we didn’t make a sound (no dropping of pencils on the floor.) Since we have always been fans of the long-running series this was a real thrill for us. There’s something magical about being close to a large professional orchestra playing outstanding music to another very, very funny show. Set your TIVOS – don’t miss this one hour special.

I have some more drawings which I’ll post tomorrow or the next day – from the brass and woodwind sections.

Fall hiatus

Pencil, Portraits, sketch | October 4, 2005 | By

These past weeks we have been in the throes of work-related moving. Today there was no time for drawing, so I pulled something out of my journal from a month or two ago so that this space wouldn’t go wanting.
I probably could/should have taken a few minutes to draw some of the things we are moving, but in the heat of the moment, with the gaping maw of the U-Haul calling and surrounded by cleaning people, and piled high boxes, it was not high on my list of things to do. It probably should have been, in retrospect, because if today wasn’t a “carpe sketchum” moment, I don’t know what would be.

Tomorrow will be better, and perhaps even a little more relaxed. Maybe I’ll tell you the story of how I made lox in my refrigerator with some good salmon, kosher salt and vodka, and how I got the recipe from my ophthalmologist, who knows his lox.
Until tomorrow, then.


Pencil, Portraits, sketch, Watercolor | September 22, 2005 | By

First, some acrylic paint on paper, then a rough sketch with a graphite stick. Later, some whiting from a caran d’ache crayon.

Big Mike is home safely from his European trip. He was supposed to have landed at LAX at the same time that yesterday’s Jet Blue Airbus was making its emergency landing and took over all the runways. However, he was unable to make his connection in Newark due to plane delays so he came in five or six hours later. You should see his journal – it is stuffed to overflowing with text and ephemera, and he has even more stories to write. I am so glad he decided to take it along with him and was so devoted to keeping it up. More about the trip later.

Illustration Friday – Roots

This is something that I had already drawn last year in the forest near our house, so I couldn’t resist using it.
It was painted in a book I made using 140 lb. watercolor paper, using Caran d’Ache neocolor II watercolor crayons and a Niji waterbrush – very portable for working while sitting on a rock by a stream! I added the text later when I scanned it.

You can find the rest of that week’s paintings here

All the archived journal pages

LA Summer Festival Time

Moleskine, Pencil, Photoshop | July 10, 2005 | By

Click for closeup of head

One of the great things about Los Angeles (and other big cities) is the wealth of summer festivals held every weekend. This weekend was the annual Lotus Festival at Echo Park, home of the largest lotus bed in the United States. I photographed and drew for several hours this weekend, enjoying the great variety of faces, like this Hispanic youth, drawn in pencil in my Moleskine, but finished in Photoshop because the thin paper just won’t take wet media. More about the festival and more art in the days to come …

PS. Bean is doing fine. She is now 6 inches tall and living outdoors so she doesn’t get too “rangy” reaching for the light bulb. Very soon she’ll be ready for transplanting.