We went to the LA County Museum of Art yesterday, saw some exhibits (not Hockney, we didn’t have enough time for that) but the one on art glass was wonderful. At one point we took a break in the courtyard. Here are some of the people that were sitting close enough to see, but far enough away that I wasn’t caught drawing them. My objective was to see just how few marks I could make to suggest the person and their attitude.
Following this we went to the beach for dinner, then came back home and caught a 10 o clock showing of Disney’s “Cars.” In In spite of the fact that it’s marketed to a family audience (which all too often means witless and watered down) this was one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in quite a while. There are so many sight gags that only people of a certain age would “get” that it was clearly intended as entertainment for all ages. Without giving away the plot, there’s a part of the story that involves a section of Route 66 … a road that I drove with my parents as a child. We will get this on DVD, no doubt, just to be able to see all the jokes we missed. A great movie with a Randy Newman score and CG as only Pixar can do it.
Yesterday we went to San Diego Wild Animal Park, and these are some quick sketches I did of some gibbons. Because they were in motion most of the time, there was not much opportunity for detail. A suggestion of posture and behavior was about all I got.
I’ll write more later when I scan some other sketches, but overall the place was a disappointment. A realistic habitat is fantastic for the animals and important for conservation, but when many of the animals are so far away that you can’t see them, it leaves a little bit to be desired. These gibbons were among the few that were close enough to a viewing area to be seen. If you wanted to get see the giraffes closer than the distance of a few football fields from a moving tram, you had to purchase a special pricey photo safari on top of your park admission. If you’d like to see a cheetah run (or see the cheetah at all, in fact) sorry, that’s another special event.
I know that the costs of admission go toward caring for the animals, but I felt that the park overpromised and under delivered. The commercial that showed how close you could get to see the lions only applied if the lions deigned to go up next to the plexiglass window. There were only two lions on display, perched on a hillside quite a distance away. I’ll try some drawing from photo references we took.
I’ll have more to say about the good parts later.
As well as doing portraits, I’ve been doing a series of sketches of Mandu’s features – her tail, her paws, her eyes. More will be posted later. I’m exploring using different media to see which represents the texture the best. The graphite pencil seemed best for the smooth fuzzy tail as well as her scruffy flank. A few additional strokes attempt to describe a corduroy cushion on an old pressed wood oak chair. Northern noonday light was coming in the window to the right.
Yes, I am seriously addicted to sketching. These are the sketchbooks I’ve used since March 03, when I returned to art after a 20 year hiatus and essentially started over from sketch, I mean, scratch.
The stack on the left is completed books. The stack on the right is books that are partially full – a little bit or a lot. Every one of these is precious to me for one reason or another. Like any place where practice is done, they are full of false starts, errors, bad perspective, wobbly lines, strange anatomy, half-baked ideas and more. But that’s what my creative journey is all about. The way I figure, the more mistakes I make the better chance I have of doing something right. So I try to make a lot of mistakes every day. The more the better, really.
I’ll be posting new Mandu drawings later today if you want to check back. She’s drinking her half and half with enthusiasm again, and that’s a good sign. Yesterday I did a whole series of “cat part” drawings – ears, eyes, tail, etc. But I need time to scan them and it’s midnight now.
Thank you everyone for your supportive comments during this emotionally stressful time. Some people might say “get over it, it’s just a cat,” but animal lovers know it’s not that simple at all and that relationships come in all shapes, sizes and species. Feeling your kindness helps ease the impending loss, whether it comes in days, weeks or longer. My husband reads your comments, too, and I know that it means a lot to him as well.
My friend Katherine Tyrell is teaching a wet canvas class in drawing and sketching in public, so it thought it would be fun to participate in some of her assignments and challenges. It sort of takes all the surprise out of it when I come up with my own challenges and it’s nice to let someone else throw a curve for a change. And I know her lessons wil be quite good. One of the first assignments was to do a series of 5, 10 and 15 minute sketches, and to try to do them as quickly as possible to loosen up. I don’t know any model who is looser than Ripley, and she obliged me with a few sittings, er, lyings. I’ll have to pay off in Milk Bones later.
On our LA Zoo sketchcrawl on Saturday, I took along a bagful of different art supplies because I wanted to experiment drawing the animals using different tools that seemed appropriate for their textures and coloration. I’m going to be scanning them and posting them throughout the week, so please check back if you’re interested in seeing more. The smooth graphic lines of the zebra seemed to lend themself to ink, and our model posed quietly in the shade for quite a long time. Thank you, zebra – you were the most cooperative subject of the day! I scanned and painted it later in Photoshop – my drawing paper doesn’t lend itself to wash.
Next subject: A mother kangaroo who had recently given birth to a little girl “joey.” Following some of the advice given in David Rankin’s Fast Sketching Techniques I used a dark, soft pencil and brought a stomp to smudge the lines. I think this captures some of the feeling of the soft fur of the mother roo who was taking a much needed rest. That big lump under her tail is where her daughter is napping! After scanning the sketch I added a little Photoshop color from a reference photo so you can see the before and after. Rankin is certainly right, drawing with a smudgeable pencil does allow you to get a faster impression with volume – good for drawing animals that won’t hold still.
If you’re in the So. California area (from Santa Barbara to San Diego to San Bernardino) and you’d like the experience of drawing with a group of friendly art-loving people, drop me a note and I’ll put you on our list so you can find out about upcoming get-togethers.
A recent entry in my ‘purely botanical’ sketchbook. This yellow flag iris is quite commonly planted around bogs or ponds. This one grows at Descanso gardens near a pond with a weeping willow. This iris, native to Asia and Europe, became known as the French fleur-de-lis, and the word “flag” may refer to a non-English word meaning rush or reed.
In some US states, pseudarcorus is considered a noxious weed because it grows by both underground tubers and reeds and can be invasive. We have a small patch of them in our yard and they have been very well contained in dry years. In very wet seasons they do spread a little bit.
Watercolor in a coptic bound Paperblanks journal with creamy paper
Click to enlarge
I got busy this week and missed the chance to do something for Illustration Friday. So here’s something done earlier this year that wasn’t used for any previous project …
If you’re a regular reader, you know that I very seldom do any graphite drawing. I don’t have any negative feelings about it. In fact, I love the beautiful halftones that some of my artist friends like Detlef and Felicity so skillfully achieve. For some reason, perhaps negative experiences drawing with a pencil when I was a child, I just don’t gravitate to it. So today, as part of my ongoing animal series I decided to do something radical and to draw this spotted Nubian goat in graphite instead of ink or paint. The paper was not particuarly smooth or fine, much to my regret. I used 2B, 6B and 8B pencils, a kneaded eraser and a tortillon here and there.
(Edited to add: The paper size was 8 1/2 x 11 – for some idea of scale. K.)
In reality the goat is colored burnt sienna, deep burnt umber, black and white. Maybe I’ll try her in watercolor next. After I finish cleaning my refrigerator, that is.
What a wonderful day … we started off in the LA Flower Mart at 7 am for a tour with a Descanso Gardens floral arrangement expert (more on that later) … then brunch at Operetta, a French cafe at the Flower Mart … then over to Barnsdall Park to see a show of fine art by Otis art college graduates (a show which ends tomorrow) … then a brief stop at an art supply store which my dear husband called to my attention, ending up at a charming coffee house called The Alcove on Hillhurst, near the Greek Theater, where we sipped cappucinos and I drew this courtyard tree. I drew a few people also but those will have to wait for another scanning session. Because I hadn’t intended to paint today, I took a simple sketchbook with eh paper for note taking and pencil drawing, so the color here had to be added digitally after the drawing was scanned. A 4B pencil was used for the sketching part.
I wish I knew the name of this tree, I’ll have to look it up in the Sunset garden book. Rough striated bark, grayish brown trunk and limbs, very “ordinary” looking leaves, oval, pointed, smooth edges. You see them all over So. Cal. It appears to be a deciduous tree as the leaves look new, bright green and on the small side. This is going to bug me until I figure it out, y’know?
Edited to add
The raw scan out of the sketchbook
I’ve created a grad from green to brown, pulled back the opacity to 50%, and set the grad to multiply
I made a composite of the previous layers and put it on a fresh layer. Then I added new layers and painted some foliage where it made sense. There are three layers of leaves, in varying opacity and color, to suggest volume and depth. I also painted a little color on the trunk.
The tree was a 15-20 min. sketch, the time it took for my husband to stand in line to get coffees while I claimed a table in the crowded courtyard. Photoshopping took about another 10 minutes.
I made the conscious decision not to fit all the tree on the page but to concentrate on the parts that interested me the most, the sinuous trunk and limbs and the textured bark.
I hope you found these additional “work in progress stages” parts interesting
Seen at a farmer’s market … a man and his lizard. I liked the look of the these two buds, hanging out together, getting some fresh air and a snack. Some days it actually is easy being green.