Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sketch 'n' Lunch!


Yesterday was errand day and I had about a half dozen places I needed to visit. I wanted to make it home in time for lunch, but it was not to be. Running around in the rain (finally!) seems to slow things down a bit.

Anyway, I stopped off at Panera as it happens to be right next to the book store. I moseyed through there first and picked up a couple of magazines with the intention of reading through lunch since I didn't have my usual partner in crime with me.

As I sat looking at my lunch, I thought, "well, gee, that kinda looks like a picture....."**

So, what is one to do with a pretty-as-a-picture salad? Why, draw it in their sketchbook, of course!

I drew out the main shapes of chicken, tomato, pecans, blue cheese crumbles and some of the purply lettuce. Once I had enough down on the page, I started eating. By the time I finished my lunch, I just about had the sketch completed.

After looking at it at home, I realized I needed to go back and throw in some darker greens and darken the bowl too.

This was one of my more successful "sketching food" adventures, I'm pleased to say.

It was kinda fun. It was even more fun when I saw the one guy leaning over the banister to watch what I was doing. He never said anything though. Bet you didn't know that sketching in public is another form of performance art!?!

Pen and Watercolor
in a crummy sketchbook

And this is where I finished.

This is a "sketchbook" that came with a leather portfolio I purchased several years ago...for the portfolio. The paper in this sketchbook is not worth a plug nickel! Ink, watercolor, even ballpoint pen all show through to the other side. If it didn't say sketchbook on the front cover, I'd wonder....

However, paper is paper and 'tis good for playing around!

**Side note: With the rain, comes lots of really bad headaches for me from the drop in barometric pressure and allergy flair-ups.....which leads to a rather slow reaction time otherwise known as "doh!!"

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Woohoo! Another Interview!

The lovely and talented Cathy (Kate) Johnson has just posted an interview that she and I did during the creation of the book, Artist's Journal Workshop over on the blog by the same name! So, if you're just dying to know more about me (ha!), hot foot it on over there....

...while you're there I seriously recommend checking out the book that started this awesome journey—Kate has knock this one out of the ballpark with the bases loaded! It's chocked full of inspiration, phenomenal art, and she has a knack for making it accessible no matter where you might be on the road of discovery!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Drawing For The Sake of Practice

Chris and Booger
No Name Fountain Pen with
Unknown Black Ink
In Junk Journal 
A comment from Monday's post by Cris from Cris, Artist In Oregon fame started me thinking about why we draw, why we draw in a journal...and why it can be so difficult. She wrote the following in response to my question at the end of the post, do you draw regularly:
No, I dont draw regularly Laure. I was in the garden this weekend trying to draw something and what a mess. I NEED to do this regularly. But I find excuses not to. Groan. Number one excuse is WHAT to draw and TWO how to put it on the paper. Should I do it in an order etc. I am so looking forward to my new Northlight Artist journal workshop book coming that deals with these things
Pondering what Cris had written, I realized that many artists (and on occasion, myself) get hung up on what to draw, should it be in order, should it be pencil, pen and ink, watercolor, colored pencil, some combination of mixed media, and then we wonder if it should be a vertical format, maybe square, or horizontal maybe! Oh, wait! We remember we just got that new journal with the handmade paper and we can use our Cray Pas crayons in it! No, wait, the new walnut ink, or maybe we ought to just stick with something simple like pencil......

Sound familiar?!

And so, we draw nothing. Held captive by the overwhelm of choices and possibilities. My response to Cris was simple:
Cris, this is going to sound odd, but it really doesn't matter what you draw if you're drawing for practice. It's more important that you simply draw!
Like most things, it helps to have a clear idea of why we're undertaking a task in the first place.

Are we drawing to improve a certain skill set? How to draw with a certain media type? Or how to draw roses? Or watercolor or pen and ink? Or just plain, old practice?

For me, drawing is the foundation element of all art. To be good at drawing only increases my ability to put something on the page I'm going to really like. I want to be able to draw anything, anywhere, any time. Am I there yet? Heavens, no! But the fun is in the trying and you can bet I'll keep trying!

The sketch above is poor with regard to the perspective, shading and so on. That's okay. It records a moment in our lives of our 20 year-old cat curled up on Chris' pillow. She does this every night. I sketched this in under 5 minutes because Chris was waiting for me to get in the bed and turn the lights out!

I couldn't have done this if I wasn't willing to fail. I couldn't have done this if I hadn't been practicing quick sketching in a hurry. Since Booger's health has begun to fail, I can't wait until I'm good enough. I have to do it now or the chance will be gone forever.

Failing is as much a part of learning as success and what I've learned is that it's okay to fail. In fact, fail gloriously! It means we're learning something! How else can we learn if we don't fail?! Success is not nearly the teacher that failure is.

Cris wrote back, saying:
Thank you, Laure...What you said in your comment to me seemed to free me. I have been drawing something every day. They aren't the greatest drawings and it's in an old torn sketch book, but I am drawing. It feels good to just do something that means nothing but practice.
Sometimes, it really is just that simple. It's practice. It's making a mark on the page. It doesn't matter how,  the paper, the book, the order....it's about the practice.

So I ask, what's holding you back from practicing your drawing skills?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Running Away....To The Kitchen

Watercolor & Ink
Junk Paper Journal
Between Father's Day festivities and a "to-accomplish" list longer than my arm, I didn't get to run away and paint on location this weekend.

Instead, I ran away to our breakfast nook (part of the kitchen) to sit and sketch. These flowers reside on the corkboard/shelf that Chris made for me several years ago.

In a recent conversation with a friend who has been away from art for several years, I realized how important it is to keep my hand "in the game!" After just a few days of not sketching or painting, I can feel the rust start to accumulate.

Trying to get back in the game after several years has to be brutal! You know where you once were and what you were capable of......but those skills seem to have disappeared.

They haven't. They're just caked in rust, and to get those skills cleaned off means having to be willing to paint badly for a while. The saying, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly" seems to apply in this situation.

The only way to get those skills back and to knock the rust off is simply to do it. We have to go through it to get to the other side.

Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice simply makes us better. It is a necessary ingredient to keep our eye and hand coordination strong, our visual vocabulary rich.

And it's kinda like riding a bike again after a 20 year hiatus.....it's gonna hurt until those muscles get strong again!

Do you practice sketching and drawing on a regular basis?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Experimenting On Location

I have a problem.

Okay, I have more than one problem, but this post is going to be about just one of them....

I can't see.

I've worn contacts and glasses for years. Up until a few years ago, that was fine.

Now, I can't see with them and I can't see without them.

If I have on my contacts, I need readers to see close up.

If I have on my glasses, I have to look under them, rather than through them, to see close up.

And if I hold an object too close to my naked eye, it becomes fuzzy. Argh!

Recently, in passing this restaurant in the early morning hours, I noticed the light playing on the umbrellas, especially the yellow one. I decided to try and capture the effect in my sketchbook(s).

In these 3 images, I also decided to play around with "my eyes"....sketching with just my contacts, then just my glasses and without either. Can you guess which is which?!

The Oaks Restaurant
Watercolor and Carbon Black Ink
Strathmore Aquarius II Watercolor Paper
Second Attempt
Watercolor and Carbon Black Ink
Strathmore Aquarius II Watercolor Paper
Third Attempt
Watercolor and Lexington Gray Ink
Cachet Watercolor Journal

Just to keep the challenge level high, I've also swapped out my usual paper for two different ones, Strathmore Aquarius II and Cachet. BTW, you can enlarge any of the three images by clicking on them. There will be one more attempt and that's with contacts and readers, much to my wounded pride....

Has anyone else been experiencing the joys of changing eyesight?!! How are you handling it?!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Noodler's Flex Nib Fountain Pen

Heart of Darkness Ink
on Strathmore Aquarius II Watercolor paper
using a Noodler's Flex Nib Fountain Pen
New toys tools! The latest batch of Noodler's Flex Nib Fountain Pens released this past Monday, and you may be wondering what the big deal is......

....it's the nib. Actually, it's the nib that makes any pen what it is, but there are other elements to be considered such as the materials used to make the pen, aesthetic appeal, weight, balance and so on.

In this case, the nib is very flexible, making it easier to get a wide variety of line widths from one pen. It makes for lovely writing with thick and thin strokes as well. The nib allows for more expressive writing or drawing.

Since the advent of the ballpoint pen, we're used to being able to press down with a lot of pressure as we write. Flex nibs quickly fell out of favor because it takes controlling the pressure on the pen to create the line variety and too much pressure could damage/ruin the nib.

In our hurry-up world, a slow-down like this was not welcomed. Manufacturers took note of the consumers' preferences and quit making these nibs.

Finding an older, flexible nib depends on a good amount of money and an even larger amount of luck. It is considered dicey at best. However, since whatever is old is new again, the flex nibs are seeing renewed interest.

My main interest in the pen is for it's drawing capabilities. I was pleasantly surprised by the pen's versatility to create very thick (2mm) to very thin (hairline) lines.

The quick sketch above is the first test with the pen straight out of the box. If you look at the eyelashes, individual pieces of hair and the eyebrow, you can easily see the variety of lines, all created with the one pen.

Of course, not being able to leave well enough alone, I went in with a waterbrush to add some shading.

The pen is lightweight, the cap fits securely on the end when the pen is in use and the nib glides across the paper. All this for the princely sum of $14, depending on where you purchase. If I were to lose it, I'd out the dollars, but that's better than $200 or more than one might pay for an antique flexi nib.

Kate Johnson has also done a review of the pen over at the Artist's Journal Workshop Blog. Speaking of the Artist's Journal Workshop book, it is now available as a download for your Kindle! Check out the details here! The paperback will be shipping June 27th! Can't wait to see it!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Random Musings

This week has flown by, or more accurately blown by, in the blink of an eye. I've spent a good deal of it mired down in the world of technology.

On the one hand, I LOVE technology as it expands my view to encompass the world. I have cyber buddies around the world. I am exposed to new ideas, cultures, art works, and thoughts every time I fire up the internet.

Then there is the other side of technology...the infrastructure  that makes all these ideas, cultures, artworks, thoughts available to us.

Anyone who has built a web site, customized a blog, tinkered with code knows what a fine balance there is between order and chaos.

Maintaining this balance is what some would refer to as delicate, mind-numbing and infuriating....but worth it.

So I'm pleased to announce that there are now six months of classes now up on the schedule over at ImaginaryTrips.com and you can read about it on the i•Trav•e•logue!

In addition to the updates at Imaginary Trips, there is now a new web site, ImaginaryTripsMadeReal.com, the new sister company that takes all the fabulous skills we learn in the online classes and provides an opportunity to put them to use in an exotic new locale!

First up, New Orleans! NOLA Live will be held in November—come and join the fun! Click here to learn more about the trip.

Next up, I owe Michael over at Michael's Scroll blog an update on the Pen and Ink Fountain Ink saga that  started with this post. I don't care for this ink...turns out Michael has had great results with it. I promised to try again....and got the same miserable results that I got the first and second time I tried this stuff. My results below:

Pen and Ink Fountain Pen Ink Test
80 lb. Strathmore Aquarius II WC Paper
Watercolor

Moving right along, (if you're still with me) I promised to share a secret with you on watercolor paints. I'm still promising. I will be back at some point next week with a video on some really cool watercolors!

Last but not least, I think many of us are feeling "splattered." Our attention and focus is splattered over so many different events, projects, ideas, and tasks we feel like we're going around in circles. Kate, over at the Quicksilver Workaholic, has a good post on this.

I've spent the morning finding the top of my desk (it's brown), organizing papers into nice, neat stacks and in general, taking a reading on where I am before I plunge headlong into the summer months.

I believe this "taking-a-reading" business may require some serious contemplation time in a hammock, out at the end of a deck next to a large body of water.....you can join me if you'd like, but I've got dibs on the hammock first.

Happy weekend, ya'll!

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Honey, Come Look At This....."

Whenever I hear my husband say those words I know I'll usually be looking at something cool and unexpected in the next few seconds. Friday morning was no exception. Chris was getting ready to leave and noticed something unusual hanging out by the door:

 A stunning Luna Moth! I was so excited!! One of the artists in the Imaginary Visit to the Garden class had painted one and several of lamented we had only seen these in photos. I'm sure you can imagine my surprise to find one perched by our door. I hustled back inside to grab my camera and sketchbook:
Luna Moth on
Strathmore Aquarius
Watercolor Paper
In my hurry to get the moth painted, I managed to drop my palette. Fortunately, I was standing on concrete when it happened so the paints did not get muddy/gritty/dirty. Turns out I didn't need to worry as the Luna bug hung around until the next day, when this one showed up:

Two Luna Moths in one weekend when we've never seen them before? What was going on? Was it simply a case of courtship? Don't know. When we woke this morning, the first Luna had taken flight, but the second Luna is still hanging out in the exact same spot.

Bugs and moths are generally not good "posers" as they're busy going about the business of life. Two things made it possible for me to capture this gorgeous creature in my sketchbook (besides the fact that it hung out for a couple of days)...first, I keep a kit ready to go all the time with sketchbook, pencil, waterbrush, and watercolor palette. I didn't have to search for my "stuff" so that I could get started. I also took a photo first so that if he had fluttered off, as I fully expected him to, I would still have material to work from. The second reason is the watercolor paint I used and I'll be sharing more on that in the next post.

Some Luna Moth facts for you:
• Luna Moths only live seven days.
• They do not have mouths so they do not eat.
• Depending on the climate they live in, they may produce up to three generations in that 7 day span. In warmer climates, more generations are created.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wanna Come To NOLA Live! With Me?!!

St Elizabeth's Asylum
Guardian Angel
8.5 x 3.5 inches
watercolor
(please click to enlarge)
From the very beginning of ImaginaryTrips.com, I have been dreaming of a way to follow through on the skills and learnings from the imaginary trip classes at a live location! Some of you even asked for such a trip, where we could all come together to sketch and paint in these wonderful locales we visit virtually.....

I am so very pleased and excited to announce that Imaginary Trips Made Real, LLC is a reality and will be hosting:

NOLA Live!
An Artist's Painting Holiday
November 6 -11, 2011


All of the info is in the itinerary here. Just click to download a copy.

I hope that you'll join me in the wild adventure!

Please let me know of any questions I can answer.
_________________________________________

The angel in this post is one of two angels that stands outside of St. Elizabeth's Asylum in New Orleans. It has been a girls' school as well as an orphanage. It has a ballroom and a chapel with the original stained glass windows.

It was also the home of Ann Rice, author of the famed Interview With The Vampire and The Vampire Lestat novels. The home had an unusual designation of being one of the largest private homes in the United States at just under 50,000 square feet.

Ms. Rice sold the property after her husband passed away and it has recently been converted to luxury condos.

I took quite a few artistic liberties with this image. The glass window behind the angel is not as large nor low as I have it shown and there is a huge column that seems to have disappeared from the image as well.

I lost track of the time it took to create this image as I started it several months ago. I was sidetracked with other projects and would occasionally come across it, paint a little and then set it aside again.

When I was in NOLA, I visited the location twice. There was a strong sense of peace emanating from the building. Did the angels have anything to do with it? I'm not really sure. I just know there was a serenity to the place that I wanted to capture in my image.

I do hope you'll come and join me on the return trip—it's going to be a blast!!