Archive for January, 2011

From Sketch to the Studio

January 19, 2011

In keeping with my daily sketch challenge I ventured out (the sun was shining) and found a grove of trees that danced amongst the sunlight and shadows. So I settled in and spent about 30 minutes capturing the play of light and shadow. I haven’t posted a “work in progress” (wip) painting in awhile so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to show how I approach a painting.

This is the 30 minute on location sketch.


Back in my studio I did a drawing on 12 x 16″ mounted Wallis sanded paper. I usually don’t do such a detailed sketch but I just got caught up in the moment and went with the flow. Since I had so much graphite on the surface I sprayed it with Perlafix fixative. I also hoped with the use of the fixative that some of the drawing would survive the next step, the watercolor underpainting.

Watercolor underpainting.

And after about fours hours into the painting with soft pastels this is where I left off. Obviously still lots to resolve but I like the direction this is going.


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Sensitivity in Seeing

January 11, 2011

contour drawingsThis week as part of a challenge to draw as much as possible, I have picked up some of  my favorite drawing books and revisited techniques that I seemed to have shelved over time. In Bert Dodson’s Keys to Drawing he starts out with what I remember as being a challenging exercise, but also one of the most fun. Contour drawing was something that I once thought I had sporadic success. One day everything I would attempt to draw without looking at the paper and only the subject would end up being a jumble of lines. And then on another day the end result would astonish me. I am not sure if on those latter occasions I was just in the zone or if my right brain decided to kick into gear.

But then I realized the end result was not the goal. The point of contour drawing is to draw what you see not what you know. We all have preconceived ideas or mental images of what something should look like. Contour drawing forces us to really see what we are looking at. The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter what the end result looks like, its the process and the development of visual awareness along with hand and eye coordination that are the names of this game.

Following the contours of the subject and at the same speed I draw the line seems to frustrate me. I do remember a very helpful hint that artist, and author Robert Dvorak shared with me. He suggested that one should visualize their pencil/pen tracing over the edge of the subject. Most of time that seems to work. He suggested stopping at some interval to take a look at the paper. This gives you a chance to regroup if necessary. But he also adamantly said that when you look at the paper the pencil must stop. Never draw while looking at the paper, because if you do at that point you are drawing what you think it looks like and not what it does look like. One of Roberts books, Experiential Drawing is a fun creative reference for transcending the “rules” of drawing into a creative enperience.

Contour drawing requires observation and sensitivity to form. We develop the skills to see the whole and details at the same time. Have some fun, start your day with a contour drawing. I even tried some using my non-dominate lefthand.

Does anyone have a favorite drawing book they would like to share with us?

Old Habits Never Die

January 3, 2011

…perhaps they just get buried under the pressures of everyday life. There was a time not very long ago that I drew or sketched just about every day. I can prove it with the cartons of filled sketchbooks I moved this year fron California to Oregon. And then there is the carton of spanking new sketchbooks that I have collected over time, knowing full well they would certainly be put to good use.

Corvallis Arts Center

The Ballerina

So what happened? The last time I purposely sketched was months ago. And while I have always resisted the whole idea of new year resolutions, this time ’round I have this itchy feeling to sketch the year away. So on January 1st I hit the streets of Corvallis to sketch my new hometown. I headed to the center of town to sketch the Court House, but decided that the charming Arts Center building in Central Park was a fitting subject to start a new sketchbook. On January 2nd The Ballerina in the park caught my eye.

It just so happens that artist, Karen Margulis whom I met this fall while plein air painting in Hope Valley, CA started a daily sketching blog. So I thought I would join in her challenge to draw every day. This year expect to see quite a few “sketch” posts here. Why not join us?