­ A Life Drawing

Female portrait – for practice – charcoal on newsprint

One of my goals this year was to take a life drawing class – working from a live model. I’ve drawn from models on some other occasions but i was never close enough to get a good look at the head, and the models were nude which encouraged drawing the whole form, not just the head. They were also uninstructed events with short to medium length poses, not conducive to a slow study.

So this was the result from class 2, as far as we took it. We worked for about an hour or so because some of the time was spent in demo and lecture and some breaks. With more time I would have made this a more refined and corrected image, but when the model is done, time’s up. For scale, the top of the head to base of the neck is about 10.5 inches.

By far the hardest part for me was the seeing. My eyesight was poor as a child and hasn’t gotten better as I’ve grown up. And although I’ve tried many different kinds of glasses with a variety of magnifications, there’s always some compromise. I was about 8-10 feet from the model, I’d guess. If she had been sitting at arm’s length or 4-5 feet I think I could have done considerably better. The model was strongly lit from the top and to the right (camera right, not her right) which gave good shadows to work with and model form.

Eventually I think we’ll be drawing her unclothed and I may or may not post them, it depends upon whether or not that’s ok with her. She is a patient and friendly person and holds a pose remarkably well. She was very pleased to have a looking down position because it allowed her to read a book last night!

My objective with this, of course, is to work into oil portraiture. But as I’ve been reminded by the teacher, all practice drawing shape and value helps improve any kind of painting – including landscapes and still life. It’s additive and no practice is every wasted.



Goldie 9 x 12 oil on panel

Today’s painting is a portrait of an anonymous golden retriever I’ll call Goldie, although she looks like a Molly, too. The portrait is actually head and shoulders but I thought I’d take a picture of a closeup of the face since that’s the part I worked on the most. The background is really a bit greener than it appears here, which I think is a nice balance to the warm tones of the fur. Pretty soon I’ll attempt a painting of Ripley (our American bulldog) in oil.

(The whole painting)

­ Thank you again, EBSQ

For the second time this summer, one of my paintings has been chosen as EBSQ art of the day.

EBSQ is an organization of self-representing artists who sell their work on eBay, and I’m delighted that the curator chose this as an example to represent the weekly theme of Portraits of Men.

In the studio, I’m hard at work on several large paintings and should have something to post soon.

Octavia at the Getty

Today was a not so terrific day. I’m still getting over the tonsillitis/flu or whatever is camping in my throat and making me miserable – and I’m probably going to have to go see the doc about it tomorrow. It’s been almost a week and I’m just plain tired of it and going around whispering. Add to that a problem sending email and I’ve been crankier than usual. Thankfully Steve the Eudora genius solved it quickly – apparently a corrupt email was stuck in the queue and wouldn’t let the others go out. Kudos to Steve at Qualcomm for solving it. Qualcomm, if you’ve got a Google alert on blogs and you’re reading this, give Steve in Mac tech support a raise, he’s good!

Anyway, I didn’t get around to painting anything new today, so I decided to scan a sketch of Octavia, sister of the triumvirate consul Octavian, as captured in marble. This sculpture is upstairs in one of the galleries at the Getty Villa, which I visited a week or so ago. If you’re watching Rome on HBO, you know that poor Octavia hasn’t been lucky in love. Apparently her bust wasn’t too lucky either, because somewhere along the line she lost her noble Roman nose. I’ve heard that Rome is only going to last two more episodes, which is a real shame, because it’s an excellent series and I was really looking forward to seeing Nero, Caligula and all their pals.

“As the Parade Passed By” – new painting

“As the Parade Passed By” – 12′ x 15″ watercolor on paper.
VIVA Gallery – NWS all member show

Last week, I got some very good news that I’d like to share with you. If you’ve been following this blog for the last year or so you can imagine how much this “first time” means to me.

I found out that this new painting, “As the Parade Passed By” has been juried into the Natl. Watercolor Society’s all member show, which will be hung in about a month at the VIVA gallery in Sherman Oaks, California (in the San Fernando Valley.) I am delighted to be included in this show of other NWS members and look forward to becoming more involved through activities and future competitions as well.

The painting was developed from an original photograph I took at a parade not too long ago. The man had a faraway look that I wanted to work with and enhance in watercolor. It was painted about two weeks ago. The watermark, of course, is not on the original.

When I got my MJ at UCLA, one of my favorite J-school classes was photojournalism. To be able to fade invisibly into a crowd and capture a face, a look, a moment, still fills me with excitement. Translating that into another medium has made the experience all the more enjoyable and precious.


P.S. Here’s a good article on the use of street photography as an art form

Here’s your 15 minutes …

Happy birthday yesterday. Were you still alive, you would have been 78. And you probably would have a blog and be demonstrating your latest works on YouTube. I’m sorry you didn’t live to see the internet; you would have loved it. No, you would have helped shape it, or at least shake it up a little.

Alas, when you spoke the line that would probably be your most memorable [ “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”] you didn’t take population growth into consideration. The current fame index says we’ll only be famous for about 8 minutes. And although fame would be nice, I’ll gladly yield my time to anyone who comes up with a good, cheap, alternative energy source or a cure for stupidity.
Love him or hate him, he was a complex and fascinating guy – filmmaker, publisher, artist, actor and music producer, to name but a few of his identities. Find out more about Andy in his Wikipedia entry.”

And now, gentle reader, my question to you is … If you were to be famous for fifteen minutes (or only eight minutes) what would you like to be famous for?

A Young Lady

As I continue to work with watercolor in my year-long commitment to paint, I occasionally challenge myself to try a portrait, which is considerably more nerve-wracking than drawing plants or even some animals. A branch or twig can be in the wrong place and no one would notice. Put the nose in the wrong place and you might as well start over. Some day soon I’ll try a watercolor portrait from life, after I’ve practiced a bit with photos. This young lady’s photo was offered up for experimentation on wet canvas, and I enjoyed the time I spent with her.
I didn’t take the time to paint the background this time, as my objective was really to experiment with flesh tones and to try to get somewhat of a likeness.


I got a late start but decided I would take part in Wet Canvas’ All Media Event. It’s a pretty interesting activity. Reference photos are posted over the weekend and you have a half an hour to select one and two hours to finish your piece (unless you don’t, and then you can post it as a work in progress.) This took me more than an hour, but less than an hour and a half, somewhere in there. I was working quickly – it’s little more than a sketch, really, but it was fun to do. You can execute your piece of work in any medium you want. I need practice in painting people so I picked this one and changed the background and attitude of the head to suit myself.

Hat trick

I’ve been talking to some of my art friends about going to a life drawing session and they made some very good recommendations about using materials I’m familiar with. Usually I draw with either ink or watercolor, unless I’m doing something digital. But neither of those seems well suited to a life drawing class. I think that graphite or charcoal would be best, until I can get around to using paint, but that may take some practice. So I’m going to do some exploring with different media before I attend that first session. I rather like the look and feel of toned paper – it seems a bit easier to create dimension than building it all up with the graphite. I’d really love to do drawings with brush pen, and I guess there’s no reason I couldn’t bring a few different things to try.

Earlier today I saw a neat pencil drawing on toned paper, and I had some “bogus rough sketch” paper on hand to experiment with. I drew this using a 4B water soluble Derwent pencil (then I added some water to slosh it around a bit) and finished up with Prismacolor white pencil and some 4B Derwent graphite pencil. I think I’ll try some figures, too, just to see how it goes. I recall seeing some fantastic figure drawing on toned paper in Drawing magazine … around here somewhere … hmmm …

Oh and UCLA beat Alabama, onward to the Sweet Sixteen. Go Bruins.

portrait for practice

A quickie watercolor sketch portrait in the old “blue coptic” journal , done from photo ref, which I made a few years ago. The paper is awful – coarse, too absorbent, and you can’t push paint around when you apply it; it sinks in immediately. But I’m too stubborn to just put it away with a dozen or so pages left unused. So I’m going to use it up in the next few days so I can be DONE with it, already. The one “good” thing about this paper, if you can call it that, is that it forces you to be as deliberate with your brushstrokes as drawing with a pen. There’s no “lifting” the watercolor – it’s as merciless as indelible ink.

Why the bad paper? Because I had it on hand – some old drawing paper torn out from a tablet – and I didn’t expect the book to turn out well and didn’t want to waste “the good stuff.” And then I was stuck with it. Oh, and it kind of beads up, too, before it sinks in.

Hmmm … what about acrylic gesso on the page first … I’m going to experiment.

Now, Kate is much more optimistic and practical than I – she used good paper for her first journal, which she posted today on her blog. You should see it, it’s really nice.