Thursday, September 30, 2010

Aloha from Hawaii!

This is the beginning of our third full day in beautiful Hawaii. We’ve had some problems finding Wi-Fi so I haven’t been able to post until now. Right now, we’re staying in Kona on the Big Island. In a few days, we’ll be going to Kauai. It’s quite dry on this side of the island, unlike Hilo, which we visited on the second day of our trip. Hilo is rainforest which, amazingly, was bright and sunny the day we visited. Thus far, our stay in Kona has been rain-spattered.

I have been doing quite well with my routine of fast sketching thus far. In fact, I’m going to post a bunch of sketches today! I’m finding fast sketching both relaxing and rewarding, especially knowing that I have photos to back up my sketches for potential paintings later on. Amazingly, each of the sketches I’m posting took no longer than 10 minutes, with many taking only a minute or two. (Cheers to David Rankin for his fast sketching techniques!) I’m planning on painting on the trip too, but haven’t yet haven’t found the right moment to do that. Perhaps today, when we head over to see some Volcanoes.

Here’s a small travelogue of sketches (with a few photos) from the past few days.

Cheers to all!


Matt and I in Hilo

Sara and tour guide Joe in an (unrehearsed) action shot! 

Sketches of swimmers and beach people

Birds at breakfast

Hawaiian alter

Immature Strawberry Bananas

Matt and the banana leaf (no joke!)

Young banana "trees" grow out of the husks of older trees

Rainbow Falls which has a lava tube behind it

Pile of Sea Turtles napping on the rocks

Tiki figure at our hotel

Friday, September 24, 2010

More Trip Preparations

In less than three days we're getting on a plane for Hawaii!! It's very exciting and I’m considering carefully what I want to bring with me for the sketching and painting extravaganza I’m planning while away. I’ve already decided on my moleskin sketchbook and a particular watercolor palette. But there’s more to consider, what about sketching tools…?

I have been aware for quite some time that I have the very problem that David Rankin describes in his book “Fast Sketching Techniques.” My drawing style is just too slow when sketching. In fact, he says, I’m drawing when I should be sketching! There is a difference and he describes it quite aptly in his book. In a nutshell, you take time with a drawing, hours, days, etc. Drawings are carefully rendered and the amount of detail is substantial. I can do this, quite well. I can also work quite ably from photographs. He talks about this too. When you pick up your camera BEFORE your pencil to make visual notes, you are preparing to draw on site and not sketch.

So what then is sketching? It’s a visual shorthand that, when done well, gives you time (ironically because it’s done quickly) to explore many aspects of a scene in a very short period of time. I have been frustrated by trying to draw on site (instead of sketching) for some time now.

In Hawaii, I want to sketch A LOT and that means fast. So the other day, while searching high and low for his book “Fast Sketching Techniques,” I pulled an article of his off the web called, “David Rankin’s 5-minute Sketching Recipes for Faces of All Kinds.”

Here are some fast practice sketches based from photographs. These are much more simple drawings than I would normally do. They're also much faster. They were all done in under 10 minutes with most done in 5-8 minutes. I started with soft graphite pencil and a stomp as was his suggestion.

Then I moved to simple pen line.

I like what was happening with these sketches. I'm looking forward to developing these techniques further. I will be posting lots of stuff from my trip here. My plan is to blog the trip so please stay tuned. I'll try not to disappoint!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back to Baxter

Baxter's portrait returns today with further detailing.

"Baxter" part 3
More to come soon!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

EDM Challenges 291 & 126

EDM Challenge #291 - Draw a Book Cover

I've been having fun with markers recently. It’s always nice to pull out a tool I haven’t used in a while and see if I still have the chops to use it. What made it even more fun is that Copic markers are really great to use in manga drawings and the most recent challenge #219 Draw/Paint a Book Cover, allowed me to draw manga images once again.

I have to admit I miss it. We stopped our webcomic after my mother-in-law's death last year and we haven’t been back to it since. I don’t think we will return to it, for various reasons. I had so much fun drawing the Red River cover it makes me think I’m nearly ready to go back and draw in this style again. Perhaps it's about time to start one of the other manga story projects I've had in mind for a while. I actually wrote a little about one of them some time ago in the arts section of massage website You can read about it here.

EDM Challenge #126 - Draw a Sponge
Having put so much energy into the book cover I’m almost embarrassed by the sponges in Challenge #126. They just seem so ordinary! But I like them all the same. Most especially the little blue one in the upper left.  It was something of an extra challenge doing this page in magic marker. Ironically, if I had done it in watercolor it would have been much easier. But the markers gave me the impetus to add some extra-bright colors to the sea sponges, which, in my husband’s words, made them the most lively sponges he’d ever seen.
We’ll just take that as a compliment, shall we? ;-)

Friday, September 17, 2010

EDM Challenges #24 and 125

I was inspired tonight to pull out my Copic markers and do a few EDM (Every Day Matters) challenges. I like how bright and colorful markers can be. They can also be used to create some rather neat effects. I had fun with these challenges and think I'll draw a few more even as the Baxter portrait proceeds.

EDM Challenge #125 - Draw a bird
EDM Challenge #24 - Draw a Fruit

Since I'm doing these challenges completely out of order, I'm interested to see what I pick to do next. ;-)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Baxter continued…

Baxter part 2

It feels good to be using colored pencil again. As I work on this piece it occurs to me that I lay down colored pencil marks differently from many other colored pencil artists. Instead of treating the marks as stroked lines, I tend to add color like a painter would, in a layered/glazing fashion. It was only after returning to colored pencils again after my recent “watercolor break” that I realized this. Of course, I do stroke lines onto my pieces as well, especially when using non-waxy pencils. But mostly I treat the medium in a painterly fashion. I’m not sure when I learned to do this. Perhaps it was in school when I was smoothing all my colored pencil pieces with solvent. Since the marks were going to be smoothed out anyway, why add color by stroking it?

I also give some credit to my Dad who is a talented oil and acrylic painter. He was a student of Reuben Tam’s and his style reflects both Tam’s and another favorite painter of his, Richard Diebenkorn. These artists’ styles are much too abstract for my tastes, but I can appreciate them nonetheless. I’ve been looking at their work (and my Dad’s) for so long it isn’t hard to imagine that some of their color blocking techniques have seeped into my consciousness. Could be worse… ;-)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Several months ago a dear friend and I made a cross-country trek to fetch my recently deceased mother’s car and other personal effects. We had an amazing journey in that old car, dripping as it was with rust and with barely working headlights.

While on the trip we met Baxter. He was recovering from some sort veterinary procedure and was in the office with his person, a night clerk at a hotel in Vermont. He was the cutest little fellow and I’m finally getting around to doing his portrait. I think that Jack Russell terriers have a lot of character and this little guy’s ears were so big I thought he’d take flight at any moment.

Baxter and his dad. Look at those ears!
And here’s the first stage of his portrait:

Baxter, stage 1. Prismacolor pencils on Canson warm gray paper.
More to come soon!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Things have been slow or rather diverted

My mind has been in a total whirl lately getting ready for our first real vacation in many years. Hawaii! Because of  all the needed preparations (the trip is in just two weeks!) my sketch book hasn't gotten its usual attention over the past week. Today I really felt the need to draw something. Anything! I chose calligraphy as my topic as it's just so relaxing for me. Below is my newest journal page. This is a modified Monoline font decorated with gel pens and watercolor pencils on a thin grid paper.

Letter practice today

I'm really liking this font. It seems to have many possibilities for variations and it's not too intimidating. It's not supposed to have any spaces between lines of text, which is interesting. It's also common with this font to run the words from line to line without any hyphenation. To me this makes for a much more "artsy" read.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Looking for Colors that Dance Well Together

Ah, choosing a new palette! This can be fun or exasperating, sometimes both at the same time! As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I are taking an Anniversary trip to Hawaii in about 2 weeks. I have never been there before and am very excited not only to see the natural beauty and wonders of the islands, but also paint them.

In preparing for the trip I began considering my current watercolor palettes. How would the palettes I use in the Pacific Northwest work for Hawaii? Although I really like my newest palette (which I call “Little Palette #3”) I thought the tones might be too cool for the vivid colors I imagine Hawaii will have. What to do? I looked at my other palettes and didn’t think they’d work either.

To me, the interactions between the paints are really important. Not just the color mixtures themselves but how the various paints interact when mixed on paper. How do the mixed neutrals look? Which color of two complements tends to overwhelm the other? Do the colors blend, shoot, or back run when really wet?

After trying several new palette ideas with no good results, I got an idea. What about bringing the Daniel Smith watercolor stick palette that I’d been trying out for my sketching bag? Hmm. Could work…

My watercolor stick palette

Last night I gave the colors a good mixture workout. And voila! Some beautiful things started happening. Here's an example of a complementary mixture (colors directly across from each other on the color wheel) from my tests. I love how many colors you can see in the mixtures and how they interact in interesting ways. As I like to use limited palettes in my paintings, I tried out several split complementary color swatches to see how the colors would look side by side. The palette seemed to work well on this front too.

Testing Complementary Color Mixtures

OK then! It all seemed to be working harmoniously and I'm happy. This, then, is the palette I will be taking on my trip:

Watercolor Stick Palette

Now I just have to make sure I can paint flowers and water adequately before I leave!! *lol*

P.S. I have since filled the empty pan with white gauche...just in case!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ink washes

Matt and I are preparing to take our 20th Anniversary trip this Fall to Hawaii and I wanted to get some quick ink sketching techniques in the bag before we go. Now, I know what you’re thinking…beautiful Hawaii...that’s full watercolor territory…no? Well, of course it is, and I’m getting a watercolor palette ready for that too. But finding a way to do quick ink washes also seemed like a good idea, especially as I’m planning on making a handmade sketchbook of brown paper sometime soon. Before the trip ideally…but I'm not sure I'll make that deadline. ;-)

The sketches below were all done with an Itoya Doubleheader Calligraphy pen (thick and thin lines and it washes in water too!) and watercolor. I like the technique. It’s “quick and dirty.” Very good for gestural sketches. And I like the color of the paper. I've had this little sketchbook hanging around for years without much of a purpose. Because the paper is fairly thick, it can hold a wash pretty well. Even with it's small size (4" x 6.5") it's a great test size for these little sketches.