So proud of these two young people–doing what they love to do. In drawing them, I’m doing what I love to do. Cool, eh?
When I work from a photograph (this one taken up the road off Smith Hollow Lane), I can take my time considering how best to translate into lines what’s going on in the image. The great thing about a Bic pen is that you can vary the values not only by the density of cross-hatched lines, but also in the pressure of the pen to paper. Some areas get a more defined treatment (ie. the horse) and some areas seem like glorified doodling (the woods behind the field of horses). But even in the doodled area, there is an attention to values and mark-making to suggest branches and foliage. When I draw “from life” (no photo, just direct observation), I don’t have a lot of time to think about these things…the action of drawing goes on autopilot and decisions are made on the fly so-to-speak, or quite subconsciously.
Here, in this quick sketch of my son (drawn while he facebooks:), I only had time to work with the strong shadows. There’s so much about “from life” drawing that I love, particularly the fact that one can’t get bogged down in recording ALL the details and values one sees. I’m constantly having to squint to shut out all the distracting detail. Doodling is at its peak in larger areas, such as the hair, and even in places where refining and redrawing are needed. Working quickly makes the marks more expressive, more doodled-looking.
*Here’s a peek into the swirling vortex of thoughts generated by my inner critic: Sometimes, I find myself comparing my art to that of others’…comparing my pages to theirs, my sketchbook journals to their’s. I wish I didn’t. A recent thread of thoughts from “the critic” sounds like this: Gosh, they have such wonderful words all around the page…cool lettering that weaves in and out of the painted image…words that describe the image, document the day, or dash off feelings and thoughts. How personal, unique, lovely. Why don’t I do that? I used to! etc. etc. etc. And for whatever reason, I allow these thoughts to make me feel like my art is somehow inferior. Do you have these critical thoughts too?
Well, I wrote these very thoughts into the wooded area of the horse drawing (can you see them?). Wrote them all down and then obliterated those words into the grand doodling of the forest behind the horses. Such fun it was to see the critic’s words subsumed by all those wonderful lines, even though lines had created each word. So what? if presently I’m enamored by clean crisp pages? So what? if I don’t want words on the same page as a drawing? So what? if I’d like to think that my drawings stand on their own? or speak for themselves? There will probably come a day when I feel the need to write on the pages of my drawings. I will, most likely, find myself wanting to do that…to record the date, the day’s events, the thoughts & feelings that accompany the sketch. Just not now.
And that’s OK!
I’m still enjoying “knitter” paintings! I’ve got a large canvas ready to go for the next one which will include two people knitting. My inspiration for this one was my oldest daughter, or any teen girl knitting. The colors are a bit jazzier than the last two, appropriate to the subject. I completed this painting before Christmas and am just now getting around to sharing it with you. I’m still putting Bic to paper and I’ll share some of these drawings soon….I just thought you might like a “color break”. You know, like a “coffee break” in the middle of your day!
I’ve told you a bunch lately that I love, love, love drawing these little Bic drawings. But what I haven’t told you is that there’s a point, in just about EVERY single one of them, that I think, “Oh no! this is going horribly wrong! Will this be salvageable?” To keep myself from declaring, “I should quit now before it really gets bad!” demands a good deal of mental fortitude. I just don’t dwell on it for long and I set my mind to try and correct, adjust, realign whatever is going wrong.
Take the above drawing as an example. I knew at the outset this was an ambitious endeavor to create this type of pen drawing of so many things. Usually it’s best to just pick ONE thing, or ONE juncture between things to draw, so as not to overwhelm the senses. But I thought, why not go for it? I began simply enough with the mug, the coaster it sits on and the table top. But right as I began to see the overall shape the mug was taking, I knew it wouldn’t hold coffee upright if it were indeed an actual mug! I had begun the drawing in the early hours of the morning, but had to put it down as each child was waking to get ready for school and to do my part in helping them be ready. (I have three kids, one in each school level: one in middle school who goes off to the bus stop at 6:20 am; one in elementary school who gets taken to school at 7:45 am; and one in high school who is also taken to school, but at 8:25 am). Whew!
Now, this is no excuse for having botched the shape of the mug. Rather, the breaks in between the drawing sessions were actually what allowed me to see, early on in the process, that my mug was indeed cattywampus! Thanks to the chaos of a household, I was hindered from actually carrying on to completion a really badly shaped mug. And who knows what else would have ended up all sygodlin as well! I don’t know that I was able to rescue it fully, but I do think the adjustments I made allowed the coffee mug to at least be believable. Now that all is said and done, I rather like the result, including the areas left undrawn and incomplete.
Alright. Take this drawing as another example of this hiccup I hit every time I draw. Sitting at a friend’s house, I was drawn to (tee! hee!) some silver tree looking thingys on her mantel. I began drawing the left tree, the smallest one after having eyeballed how all three would sit on the page. I got the first contoured edges and a bit of the cross-hatching in before I realized that my littlest tree was leaning to the right. You can see the “mistake” lines to the right of the littlest tree. So I straighten it up and take care not to have leaning trees on all the others by drawing a straight line up the center of each one. I DO like the presence of redrawn lines, of mistakes corrected, of evidence that a human hand created this. Love, love, love that! (Now if I could only exist with the mistakes I make in LIFE as happily as I do in ART, I’d be much better off!)
And this last example…the overall shape of this mug was quite a challenge! It’s one of those thermal insulated, yet all ceramic, mugs from Starbucks in which my friend served me coffee at her house (home of the silver trees). I “thought” I’d adjusted and corrected the shape of the mug, then went merrily into the cool reflections going on inside the mug, only to find that, once again, I have a LEANING object! Oh well. I like enough about the drawing (including the expansive white area!!) that I show it here with a good measure of satisfaction, leaning mug and all!
This processing of my process of pen drawings needs to end now, though there’s more I could gaggle on about. I share it for these reasons: 1.) to encourage you NOT to give up on drawings that seem to be going awry…you can probably rescue them! 2.) to allow your “mistakes” to show and even to delight in them 3.) to NEVER allow doubt or less-than-perfectness keep you from seeing something through to the end! After all, what would have been so bad about a mug that couldn’t hold coffee? or a leaning silver tree? Salvador Dali’s paintings were FULL of mugs that could never have held coffee, clocks that couldn’t stay on a wall, trees that twisted and leaned every-which-way:)
I’m not! Enjoying so much the play of line as value, movement, and texture. I like asking myself, “What kind of line will express this direction or movement in the sky? How can lines and the build-up of them, show depth and time of day? Will certain lines give the feel of clouds? grasses? hay?
Is it even possible to create a sense of color using only black & white and shades between? I think so. Sometimes, I wonder if the color we “make up” in our minds eye might be lovelier than the color I, the artist, might imbue the image with? As artists we’re often exhorted: Leave something for the viewer to insert in the picture. Or: Don’t describe everything for the viewer…allow them to take part in completing the image. I’ve long thought that black and white images, whether they be charcoal, graphite, or pen and ink are just as (if not more so!) entrancing and engaging to me, the observer, than many color images. Of course, it’s all in the deftness of the artist’s hand no matter what the medium. But when I open a book on a particular artist, complete with big, glossy, colorful images of his/her paintings…it’s often the drawings and sketches that attract me the most.
As my teens say…Go figure!
The last page of a sketchbook journal is always a bit wistful feeling to me. I’m sad to see the journal’s end, but excited to begin the next. In this case, I had already begun the new one, the Book of Sanity, which I’ve been sharing with you of late. But the last page of my favorite square format Aquabee sketchbook had been waiting there on the drawing table…waiting patiently to be completed. I pulled out papers, brads, and sketched a bit for this one. I was trying to get the feel of winter: those hazy winter days where the lines of the trees are blissfully muted, and then the bright white days where the snow sparkles in the sunlight and red cardinals pop in the colorless landscape.
Typically, I decorate the front cover of each sketchbook at the onset of beginning to draw and paint inside of it. This one was begun in haste back in June of 2010, and therefore didn’t get decorated until a few days ago. We’ve been having a good bit of snow here in Kernersville, NC…thus the theme of the cover. I’ve also been teaching my students about Wilson Bentley (the Snowflake Man) and having them design their own snowflakes with pen and watercolor. The upper right snowflake is one of thousands of snowflakes he photographed. It is mind-boggling to think of each and every one of them being different from each other. As the first flakes fell during our last snow storm, my daughters and I went outside, bent down, and could actually see individual, perfectly formed snowflakes. We wished we had a magnifying glass!! So lovely!
I ‘spose it doesn’t matter that the contents of this sketchbook aren’t really from wintertime…it just ended there. Now I’m wondering how to “decorate” the Book of Sanity?? Heh, heh…we’ll see…
In a very real sense, when we draw or paint any subject, we are translating it from one “language” into another. We either translate directly from the landscape, figure, or still life into the worlds of paint, or charcoal, or pen and ink… Or we begin with a 2-d photograph and translate what we see there into a different 2-d form. I used photos of my favorite places right where I live: Mr. Whicker’s farm and Smith Hollow Lane. It’s fun to ask yourself: How can I translate this image into pen? What lines would express what I see here? Would twirly lines describe this particular tree? Would straight lines, without crosshatching describe the movement of the land? What is the value pattern here, and how can I alter it to make it stronger?
Vincent Van Gogh was a master at translating the landscape into his own language of dots, dashes, swirls, hatches, etc. If you’ve never seen his drawings, YOU MUST! Here and here are examples to give you a glimpse of the language he employed to translate what he saw all around him. If you look back at your sketchbook, you’ll probably see the language you use to translate your world onto paper. It’s SO much fun…being a translator!
I’m especially taken with this drawing. It’s not often that I look at my own work and think: oh, who did that? I like coming back to my sketchbook to look at all the lines, both crosshatched and twirly. I really love that combination in the line work. I also love the areas that are left UNdrawn: the left side of her neck, her right arm, and the left side of the gift bag. As you can tell, I’m really enjoying my trusty ball-point pen. These days it’s the cheapy Bic in medium point that gets a work out here in the book of Sanity (a sketchbook I began just before Christmas to maintain some sense of sanity throughout the holidays and which I’m feeling the need for even more now that the holidays are over:/
I made these drawings from photos of our oldest daughter’s 16th birthday back in October. Gosh, it seems so long ago now. But only yesterday that she was a wee tiny baby smiling and laughing in my arms. In this drawing, I cropped off a good bit of the photograph which included the card she was holding and reading. Once again, I like what is left UNdrawn and all the twirly lines mixed in with the crosshatching.
Why is it that lines can fascinate someone so much? I often wonder why I drift back into this way of drawing. Recently I pulled out all my sketchbooks and began to see a pattern: when winter comes on, there are many more cross-hatch drawings. I wonder if my delight in all the lines I see outside (barren trees) and the beautiful value patterns devoid of their usual riotous color, affects my drawings. I must be drawn (hee hee:) to them in my sketchbook as well.
I have wanted (pined, yearned, fantasized, longed), for several years now, to have new living room furniture. Well, just a couch would’ve been super! But a huge, miraculous blessing of a gift came to us this Christmas earmarked for new living room furniture and other home beautification “needs”. I have been giddy with the comfort, colors, and overall exquisiteness of our new living room. This drawing is, I’m sure, just the first of many renderings of this new furniture. I’m sure there will be watercolors to display the lovely red couch and loveseat, the stripedy big chair, as well as the funky circle cocktail ottoman. Oh me, I just love sitting in this room drawing, drawing, drawing.
The rest of the fam loves it too!
The week prior to Christmas I began a new sketchbook and titled it on the inside cover: A Book of Sanity. My intent was to try to squeeze out bits of time for drawing here and there, to help maintain some sense of sanity in the midst of the hub-bub of the holidays. The first week went great…lots of drawings, just drawings in ball-point pen. The week after Christmas seemed more challenging to try to find those bits of time, and when I had them, my weariness drained whatever energy I might have had, such that drawing gave way to napping. Not terribly creative, but there it is.
I did manage however to draw what I gave my husband for Christmas. He has always loved star-gazing and planet watching…so this was the Christmas for a telescope. He’s had a ton of fun calling us all outside to see the moon and Jupiter with its stripe and 5 visible surrounding moons. Amazing!
This sketch is of our son, William, reclining on the couch with his beany on INDOORS! I never know whether his beany is a fashion statement or trying to tell me the house is just too cold, (since we try to keep our heating bills low:).
And for this one, I squirreled myself away upstairs to draw Genevieve, my dress form, as she appears right by our window. I’m fascinated with lines these days, as you can tell. Wonderful, squiggly, cross-hatched, layered lines built up to express form, shadow & light, and playfulness. There isn’t time for color. And for some reason, lines-only is quite satisfying. I don’t know why everything is so blue. Someday, I’ll own a different camera…it gives me fits! Oh well. Hope you can enjoy the drawings even so.
If this first week back from “the holidays” is any indicator…I’m gonna need to keep drawing in my book of sanity…A LOT!