Monday, December 22, 2014

Figure drawings, 2013 to 2014

We draw live models, sometimes, in class. These are some of my gesture drawings from 2013:

Not particularly impressive! Very tentative. Reminder: gesture drawings are quick drawings anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes, a good way to warmup before more detailed drawings.

Now here are some gesture drawings from 2014:

This was really fun: our model was a dancer, and I enjoyed trying to capture the
movement of the dance poses. The time limit of only a few minutes actually made this way more fun - and easier, in a strange way - than if I'd had all the time in the world to draw them.

A little bit better, right? I think so.
What changed? Confidence, and practice throughout the year (those two things being somewhat correlated). In the first set of drawings, I had no idea how I wanted to go about drawing a human being. And I learned a great deal, in the following year, about what makes a good drawing. So when I approached figure drawing this year, I had a much better idea of what I wanted my drawings to be, and how to make them happen.

From casual practice and study, I figured out what I liked about drawing people, and what I wanted to focus on (emotions, lines, personality, form). I also figured out what I didn't know, the areas in which I could use more practice and study to better achieve what I wanted (certain aspects of people in profile, wider variety of movement, details of clothing, hand gestures, this list goes on forever). With some increase in drawing technique, I learned how I could make my drawings a bit more interesting (hello line variances, stronger contrasts, etc.), which lead to me feeling more engaged with my drawings and a bit more confident in my abilities. All of this led to me feeling pretty determined and eager when I approached figure drawing again.

Artistic progression: some sort of weird alchemy of time, action, knowledge, and motivation. Or so it seems, sometimes. I don't know. Feedback, observation and instruction from others has been essential, but so have those hours drawing alone at 12:30am and not worrying about any of those things.

Those stick figure drawings may not look very impressive, but I know they were an important stepping stone. I remember looking at my stick figures, and then looking at the gesture drawings of my much more experienced classmate. Hers were vibrant and detailed, full of body, full of life. I remember thinking "Wow, these can be beautiful. I have so much to learn here. I could re-imagine my entire approach to this."

Let's check out a portrait, from the same time period as those stick figures:

All black and white drawings in this post were done with charcoal, on sketch paper.

I think it's clear from this drawing that I felt much more comfortable drawing faces than drawing full figures. While many of my classmates were dismayed at having to do a portrait, I was excited! I love faces. I think they're always interesting to draw. Though my lack of experience still shows, I was very engaged with the subject, and I hope that shows, too.

Here's a portrait from later in the year:

We had a bowl of fruit and a model available, and I focused a little more on the bowl of fruit; I think because I felt a little stuck drawing the model! The fruit seemed easier. The model was knitting, which is impossible to tell from the drawing, but explains why her eyes appear closed and her hand looks a little strange. I do like the pineapple a lot!

Another drawing, this time in pastels, with the same model:

Again, I decided to make fruit the focus! I guess I liked her boots? Felt like drawing feet? I don't remember why I wanted to go this route. It does tend to be easier to focus in on one thing. And it is true that when it comes to drawing figures, I tend to neglect the feet! I think this was about the time I started to notice that, and try to correct it. So the boot makes sense: I was interested in learning how to draw shoes at the time.

Back to 2014:

More gesture drawing.

Introduction of a second model, and trying to capture a height difference.

I don't like this one all that much, but it got high praise in class! Another dance pose, with one model holding up the other, but I was at a tricky angle and picked the composition I felt was my best option: zooming in on the face and hand. It was still tricky.

Some pastel drawings:

I chose absurdly bright colors, because that's what I enjoy. I felt like I was just starting to get used to the charcoal, so I found the switch to pastels a little disorienting! But the colors are always kinda fun to work with.

I still have a lot to learn when it comes to drawing, but it's an enjoyable journey.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

cats and birds all across the sky

Some of you may remember that commission I was working on! It's finally finished! And safe and happy in its new home. It's up on the website right here, where it shall be preserved for all eternity.

I've also been struck by a fit of the crazies, and decided to go back and do some small edits on a painting that's been "finished" for over a year. For all that time, I let it be, even though there was significant work that could be done to it, because I didn't feel motivated enough and no one else seemed to care that it was - technically, in my view at least - unfinished.
I must simply cross my fingers and hope that everyone agrees with me, and thinks the new one is better.

I just simply couldn't stand that the birds didn't have ANY FEET, and my goodness gracious just, just -- look at that old branch.

This was all I saw when I looked at that painting and I didn't like what I saw. Everything in me screamed that it wasn't right. I didn't care that my family was all "hey, it's cool". It gnawed on me like a persistent beaver. One day I just cracked, I thought "I can't live with this anymore, I can't live my life knowing I just left it like this" and I did something I never normally do, which is go back to a piece a year later and change it.

Isn't this better? So much more solid? And it makes some semblance of sense, too? Some still say it makes no difference, but I can live with this. So I'm happy.

They were always supposed to have feet. I just never put the feet on there. Now I have, and all is right with the world. Here are some extra pictures to celebrate:

Aaaand, here's a bonus picture! It's the next painting I'll be working on:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Painting in progress: commission

I'm putting these pictures under a cut, as the lovely individual who wants this painting may or may not want to see in-progress shots. Sometimes its preferable to avert ones eyes from the gawky, awkward teenage phases of a painting. I, of course, don't have the option of such luxury, so I like to take photographs that showcase my trials against rebellious and unruly paint on canvas!

In other news, I drew this in five seconds on a whiteboard and I'm weirdly fond of it, so much so that I haven't wanted to erase it even though it's taking up valuable space. Every time I look at it, I'm reminded of how much I like drawing eagles.

Anyway, onward to oil painting!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Baytown Nature Center photos, July 5th 2014 - whistling ducks, mosqutioes, & more

A perfect summer afternoon: cloudy, relatively cool, a nice slight breeze. And as far as I could tell, I had the entire no-fishing section of the park to myself!

Something I'm interested in creating is a super-simple, short but effective guide to identifying the herons of this area, for the use of folks who don't typically leave the house armed with a heavy pair of binoculars and multiple field guides. With only a little bit of luck it's not hard at all to see nine species of herons on any given trip to this nature center, and if you know which key points to look for -- overall size, leg and beak color, body color -- they're not hard to distinguish. All these herons can be seen in my own backyard, too, and so I'm aiming to make something my non-birding family can use to easily identify species they see in the yard.

So I walk into the nature center with that goal in mind: getting used to looking at herons from that perspective, thinking about their shapes and identifying markers, and hopefully snapping some pictures I can use for reference.

I luck out by stumbling across a pair of usually-elusive Green Herons. Often these guys are thick in the foliage, and I don't get to observe them for more than a few minutes. They're one of the smallest heron species we see around here. One awesome thing about this pair was that I could actually tell them apart; even in this admittedly-not-very-great photo you can see that the skin between eye and beak (the lore) is much thicker in the lower individual.

They look very different with their necks stretched out!
Zoomed in.
While I was watching the herons, I noticed Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were gathering at a nearby tree and sticking around. When one of the herons flew to the ground beyond my sight, and the other spent the remaining 10+ minutes of my attention simply preening and observing the scenery, I moved closer to the ducks so I could see what was going on there.

Whistling ducks! ...and one White Ibis! The ibis was hanging out there before the ducks arrived.

Landscape shot, to set the scene. I just sat across the road. At first the ducks were tense, watching me, but it didn't take long for them to relax, to start preening and whistling softly amongst themselves.

A young Yellow-crowned Night Heron, startled by my presence, flew up from the marsh to perch between the lone ibis and one of the ducks.

Another night heron, in a tree across the marsh from the ducks.

Now while I was watching these ducks, I noticed an unusually large and colorful mosquito, perched on my sleeve:

I have no idea what kind of mosquito this is. Pretty neat, though!

Also saw this cool bug. Again, no idea what it is! Bugs, they're overwhelming! It kept moving around to the underside of leaves whenever I tried to get a closer look at it, but it did hold still long enough to get this picture.

Now the ducks are relaxed. Every once in a while a new duck or two flies in, giving its loud whistly call, and the other ducks return that loud whistly call, and if the new duck perches too close to one of the original ducks a slight squabble might ensue, with the original duck giving what looks like a somewhat gentle nip, maybe two if the other duck isn't quick enough to get the message, and there will be some wing flapping and quick shuffling away. Sometimes one duck will move over to a different part of the tree. Sometimes they'll all just sort of whistle and murmur, the soothing, gentle hum of a duck crowd. But mostly they just sat there and preened. One time the ibis displaced a duck by simply moving towards it.

The ducks are all incredibly pretty and soft-looking through binoculars. And unlike those two herons, they all look exactly the same to me. Eventually I tired of watching the duck hangout tree and moved along. The ducks watched me go by, without flying away. By then the ibis was long gone, having flown far out of sight.

I stopped to photograph these wild flowers in front of a pond, and to my delight, some BABY WHISTLING DUCKS swam into view!

They were accompanied by two adults (the other adult trailed a ways behind), and there are, at least, thirteen ducklings there. The two adults hurried these youngsters to the edge of the pond, the other adult catching up to swim at the rear of the group, where they sat next to a bunch of reeds, and simply stayed there, watching me and certainly waiting for me to leave. I didn't want to bother these duck parents too much, so I went ahead and left. This pond is, by the way, just around the bend from the Duck Hangout Tree. And I have seen baby whistling ducks before, at this nature center, last year at a different pond. It was great to see more of them this year! A day with baby ducks is always a good day.

I thought these flowers were cool; they're about the size of my thumb, and I'd never noticed them before. I know even less about flowers than I do about bugs, so once again I have no clue what they are.

More wetlands are being created in the park, so there are these large empty pools of water by the bay. I stopped to watch and take pictures of the Great Blue Heron and Great Egrets that were wading around in this pool, but then I noticed, on the far shore, three Black Skimmers, just resting on the dirt:

I love Black Skimmers, but I don't see them all that often, so whenever I do, it's a treat! They're both beautiful and funky-looking, with long, sleek wings, and bright orange uneven beaks. I think this is the first time I've ever seen them just resting, and not flying and skimming the waters of the bay. They were quite far away so I couldn't see them very well, but it's just nice to know that they're in the area.

That Great Egret I mentioned. I tried to get a lot of quick photos like this, to get a sense of what herons really look like in the field, and how I can translate this into a guide for easy identification. You know it's a Great Egret, not just because it's the largest of any of the solid-white herons you're likely to see, but because it is the only solid-white heron with black legs and a yellow beak. White body, black legs, yellow beak = Great Egret.

I got glimpses of many cardinals in the more forested areas of the park, and a photo of this male singing.

Lastly, my favorite photo of the day from a purely artistic standpoint, another White Ibis:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Birds of Lightning!

*wipes dust off blog* *coughs slightly* I've got another painting to show you! Friends, family...strangers?


It's a bird made of lightning or with the power of lightning or something like that, you know, the sort of thing writers come up with when they start wading into the realms of giant talking sturgeons and angsty neon pink squirrels. You might even recognize it from a sketch a few posts back. A sketch that I actually did finish, woo hoo!

You can CLICK HERE to read more about the Lightning Bird, see a different picture, watch me question my life choices as per all the usuals.

Also, here on the blog, you can now sign up to get an e-mail alert whenever I make a new post, I know at last one person wanted such a thing so there you go, look in the sidebar. You can also subscribe to RSS feeds and browse posts via topic, if you are so inclined. I'll leave you with a very beautiful picture of my very beautiful cat:

so gorgeous

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

new paintings, and a sketch!

This is a two-hour sketch of my own hand, holding a lovely pair of craft scissors. It was incredibly fun, and a great exercise! Just the right level of complicated. For me, drawing hands is always fun. They're so expressive! It's just like drawing faces (which I also enjoy). And like faces, they're so easy to break down into simple components, so easy to understand how they work when you've spent some time practicing. I need to stop being lazy and put some effort into sketching more often.

In other news! Those under construction paintings I posted a few weeks back are finished now, and on my website. They didn't change much, but they've got better photographs and long rambly descriptions. Cardinals are here, black and white moon bird is over here.

In other news, I've got not one but two unfinished paintings I need to start working on again. One is humongous, one is small, and they're both birds. Is anyone surprised?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Notebooks, and their inevitabe doodles

When I was very little, my stories were shared out loud. I came up with them on the spot, writing them  out loud, sharing them with those who were willing to listen. It was entertainment for me, and, in some sense, a way of bonding with the people around me. Stories were always running through my head. Following them, running after them, gathering up the fragments and trying to weave them into something tangible was always a natural impulse for me.

Continue after the jump for more words and a boatload of doodles!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

the Lemon Quail!

Update: this piece has been sold, and is now unavailable for purchase!
Fly away, lemon bird, to your new home, and be free!

Is it a lemon?

Is it a quail?

Behold - it is a lemon quail!

A ceramic clay sculpture, by me. A work of genius, elegance, and beauty.
Not really. But this is pretty much the height of what I'm capable of when it comes to sculpture. I'm no natural talent when it comes to 3D works, that's for sure. And painting them is hard, because the colors look different before they go back to the fire, so I'm never entirely sure what it's going to look like and always have to cross my fingers a bit. The yellow looks really great, but I do wish I'd made some different choices with the accent colors. I think I would've liked a bolder green.

It's a lemon quail because when I was shaping the clay, trying to get it to look something like a bird, I thought it looked like a lemon. Turning it into a lemon bird seemed natural, so I went for a lemon quail. Why a quail? Because quails are great, and I'd been thinking about quails. Why a lemon? Because lemons are my favorite fruit. Lemons are unstoppable.

unidentified flying lemon
they're everywhere
they're invading

(p.s. if you don't remember what quails look like, you can click here to behold an image of one of the most glorious creatures on the planet. Here's one of a whole bunch of 'em. You're welcome.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Works in progress: cardinals and falcons

Hello, oil paintings I've been chipping away at for the past two months! How are you doing?

Clearly, the lighting did not agree with my camera, so there is a great deal of glare, but you get the idea. Northern Cardinals, a bird you've probably seen many times! I certainly have. So when I paint them, I find I usually have to put some kind of spin on them! Like black and white, or strange patterns. This painting is reckless frustration finally breaking through its chains. I can't say much more, because right now I'm just staring at it and thinking about what I want to change when I work on it again!

Speaking of black and white paintings! I've had this idea since I finished my previous black and white piece. A vision of a bird in flight against the night sky, with a cartoon-ish crescent moon. I finally got around to painting it. Black and white's fun, so I was excited to return to it. The bird's a falcon, though viewers have called it a dove, which is perfectly alright. Again, I'm still just thinking about what I want to change!

These paintings are both nearly done. I've been alternating between them, switching whenever I get tired or want a change of pace. Between the two of them I've put in a good 16+ hours of work, spread out over those two months. Sizes are 24x30 and 18x36.