Plant on a Desk
It has been a while since I posted, and it felt good today to sit and experiment with crayon, gouache and colored pencils. This was my third pass at this small aloe vera plant and I am starting to catch its rhythm.
This week the assignment in our illustration class was to show a character in an underwater environment, using black ink and traditional pens. I had trouble thinking of a character and began several sketches only to abandon them when I did not like the outcomes. I found conveying water to be especially challenging.
This week I was coincidently reading about Frida Kahlo and got to wondering what her environment would have looked like if she had lived underwater. I am guessing it might have been something like this and that her self-portraits might have included fish, eels, and jellyfish. I am still not happy with the way I showed the water but this is as good as it gets this week.
After seeing the work of the other students, I came home and added back some of the whites behind Frida on my sketch, using Procreate on my iPad.
Do They Like My Work?
I am taking a ten-week illustration course at a local university. Our first assignment was to select text from an unillustrated book and then to illustrate it using five types of pencil marks- hatching, crosshatching, scribbling, tick marks, and pressure marks.
I chose text from “Miss Potter,” by Richard Maltby, a fictionalized account of Beatrix Potter’s life. The scene has Beatrix sitting at a publishing house while two dour businessmen look over her work.
“Hmmm,” said Harold Warne
“Hmmm,” said his brother Fruing.
“Hmmph,” snorted Harold.
“Garrumph,” echoed Fruing, twitching his nose.
Arches and Shadows at Balboa Park
I painted this morning at Balboa Park with the San Diego Watercolor Society Plein Air group. I forgot my sun shirt so I stood in the shade and painted the sunlight coming through the archways. I like the composition and plan to return and do some variants of this view.
This is a gouache sketch on black paper.
I sketched along the Monkey Walk this morning at the San Diego Zoo. I noticed how much we enjoy our cousins and showing them to our children and wanted to capture this familial feeling in a sketch.
This is a gouache, ink, and charcoal sketch on brown paper. Later at home, I added the light lines to indicate the enclosure.
A Conversation with Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg, the author of the Pentagon Papers, spoke at San Diego State University this evening and I was in the audience. He talked for two hours about the danger of government keeping information from its citizens, and of the courage required of people who can help make sure that truth is available to us all. I sketched as Daniel Ellsberg, who is 87 years old and seated on the right, answered questions from Professor Mark Wheeler on the left. This sketch and the others below are made with marker on brown paper. Four of the sketches show a few of the 900 audience members.
What could be more delightful than the beach on the last day of September? I wanted to capture all the swimmers, birds, surf, splashes, waves, and fun of summer. This is a gouache and charcoal sketch on brown paper.
Here are three very sweet giraffes from the San Diego Zoo. This started off as a gouache and charcoal sketch on brown paper, and then I imported the sketch into Procreate on my iPad and added the gray wall and the blue sky.
On the Rocks at Yosemite
My cousin, who is an amazing artist, has been working with gouache on brown paper. She sent me a photo of a recent painting and it was so gorgeous that it caused me to paint the day away on brown paper. I used photos and sketches from my recent trip to Yosemite as reference material and really had to think hard about color and composition. Painting on brown mid-tones is really different than painting on black or white.
As I worked, I had to shift from building the sketch around darks, as I do with the black paper. Thinking about the mid-tones seems to be key to working on brown paper and I think I was most successful in the sketch above, which was also my final sketch of the day. My goal for the next few gouache sketches on brown paper will be to leave larger amounts of the paper unpainted and to use more white.
Here are three other gouache sketches on brown paper from today:
By the Pond’s Edge
We stopped by Loomis California to visit relatives and had the added bonus of a gorgeous pond. This is a 9 X 9-inch gouache sketch on black paper.
Waiting for Morning at Yosemite
This morning I got up early from my campsite and caught the early morning light as the sun began to rise over the mountains at Yosemite National Park.
This is a 9 X 9-inch gouache sketch.
The Romantic Came Next
Yesterday, the woman who posed for our figure class brought costumes. For the second portion of the morning, she dressed as a dreamy romantic and leaned against the studio wall. I made more use of the acrylic markers in this one and added a background that I hope suggests a landscape suitable for romantic dreamers.
Frida Dress-up Day
Our model today came with costumes and started the day dressed as Frida Kahlo. I used acrylic markers and gouache and had fun trying to capture the Frida spirit.
Flowers above the Ocean
I sketched from the top of the cliffs at Torrey Pines Park this morning. Today I focused on a group of dried flowers and had the sea be the background.
This is a gouache, pastel pencil, and acrylic marker sketch on black paper.
I really enjoy painting the models from our figure drawing group, especially the quick five-minute sketches like the one above. However, I am at a loss for what to do with the rest of the paper, that is, how to add a background. Sometimes I leave it blank, other times I draw the shadows on the wall.
What I would love to know, is how to compose a background that frames the figure and adds to its emotional message. Today I decided to do something about this and began going through my old sketchbooks to find sketches of people without backgrounds that I could use for practice. I have hundreds of these quick background-less quick sketches and think if I take a ‘sketch a day for 30-days’ approach, that I will soon be making better backgrounds. Anyway, that is my plan.
Balboa Park Courtyard
I painted this morning at Balboa Park, and this is a place I have to go back to soon. I stood under a shade structure, and the shadows it made were lovely. The cement pathways had patterns, and the greens against the adobe colors were striking. I want to go back soon and make some sketches in black and white, so I better understand the structure of the courtyard and how it all fits together.
This is a gouache sketch on a quarter sheet of paper covered with black grounds.
Flowers on a Table
There is something beautiful about flowers on a table, and I wanted to capture this in this quick gouache sketch.
Along the Path at Torrey Pines
I was back at Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve this morning. It has been a long time since we have had rain in San Diego and the arid landscape is a lovely combination of yellows and browns.
I had some rice paper on hand and wondered how it would work with gouache. I prepared it with watercolor grounds, but even so, it buckled in a few spots.
Artist in the Park
I noticed an artist bent over her work and quickly sketched her. I liked her intensity as she focused on her work.
This is a 9 X 9-inch (22 X 22-centimeter) gouache sketch on black paper with some pastel pencil marks.
Two Doves on the Rocks
I stopped for a few minutes at a park near my house and sketched two doves on the rocks in my small sketchbook.
From the North Side of Torrey Pines
This was a challenging painting. It started off as a quarter sheet of paper covered with golden watercolor grounds. I have been wondering about the gold background for seascapes and today seemed like a good day to explore this, since I would be painting with friends. I began by blocking in some of the major big shapes of the view of Torrey Pines looking south from the north parking lot. Soon I had a gray scene that was not very interesting. At about an hour into this painting, I got out a pen and drew lines, trying to save the sketch by defining the edges of the mountain, foliage, and sea.
I left Torrey Pines thinking I would abandon this sketch but after putting it aside and then looking again, I wondered if the problem might be a lack of contrast. Because I used gouache transparently over the gold watercolor ground, the sketch was mostly middle values. I lightened the central area, brought in some blue to the trees in the upper left, added the boulders at the lower left, painted over some of the pen lines, and decided I liked the sketch after all.
At this point, I prefer the gold grounds for figures, but don’t want to give up too quickly on the golden seascapes.
This is gouache, gel pen, and watercolor pencil sketch on a quarter sheet of watercolor paper that was prepared with gold watercolor grounds.
Looking Afar II
Yesterday I did a series of 20-minute sketches of a wonderful model. She had a pensive air that was communicated through her long limbs and facial expressions. Although I had to work fast, choosing colors and brushes was intuitive because her body language was so clear.
This gouache sketch was on a large 20 x 15-inch panel that was prepared with watercolor grounds. Today I went back and cleaned up parts of this sketch by lifting off some of the color that seemed too intense to me today.
I painted with other painters Thursday morning. Our model seemed pensive and trying to capture this in a sketch became my goal for the morning. I got a good start in this twenty-minute sketch and left the studio with several sketches that I could develop further.
This is a 12 x 12-inch gouache sketch with white and black pastel lines.
Tree by the Bay
Today I sketched down by Mission Point near San Diego’s Mission Beach. There was an abundance of possible subjects and I opted for a cheerful tree by the bay.
This is a gouache sketch on a 12 X 12-inch sheet of black paper.
The Colorado River is magnificent as it flows through Utah. It is stunning and I worked to capture its beauty in this sketch.
Most people know that the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon and is an indispensable source of water for plants, wildlife, and humans throughout the Southwest. Fewer know how vital the health of the Colorado River Ecosystem is to our region, and fewer still how very fragile it has become in the last century.
Even with existing protections, most of the Colorado water is used up and very salty by the time it makes its way from Colorado, through Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California, and then finally crosses its last political boundary into Mexico. Recently the federal government removed over two million acres of the land that protects the Colorado River from the Bears Ears National and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni people have protested, along with environmentalist, conservationists, and recreational businesses, but other voices are needed too. I hope you will read up on this issue and lend your support for maintaining protections for this incredible river.
This sketch is on a sheet of 17 X 12-inch black paper and done entirely with gouache. I used photos as the reference from a recent trip to Utah
Early Morning on a Ranch
Last week we spent a night on a friend’s ranch in Utah. In the morning, I heard footsteps and looked out the window to see our host going out to start his day. It was really early. The sun was on the cliffs but the ranch yard was still dark. Although I went back to sleep, the idea that our host was up and working stayed with me. His dependability matters and it made me think of the many people who work long hours, doing the right thing.
I did not get a photo but did my best to recreate the way I think the sun fell on the rancher, dog, ranch yard, and cliffs.
This gouache and watercolor pencil sketch is 17 X 12 inches and on black paper.
Morning Shines on the Mesa
The sandstone rocks of Southwest Utah are stunning. I did not have time to paint there so I compensated by taking as many photos as I could. Today I began to look at them, especially the ones with strong lighting. There was one where the rising sun lit up the east-facing cliffs while the west-facing cliffs were still in shadow. I tried to capture some of this feeling in this sketch.