Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Learning, Learning and More Learning!

This is going to be a bit of a meandering post, but bear with me—it all connects together...

Back during the holidays, during my reflection on the year just past and the year to come, I realized that I had not taken any classes in a while and I was feeling stagnant. I had been for a while. 

I set myself a goal of learning something new each month. It could be reading a book on something new (to me), taking a class (in person or online) or experimenting on my own with something I've not tried before. 
Final Project from Joanne Sharpe's class
I took a class from creative lettering guru, Joanne Sharpe, on Friday night and this was my final project. It was a fun, boisterous evening spent in the company of likeminded artists and a nice switch from teacher to student. Stretching those brain cells in a new direction gave me a much-needed creativity boost. 


On Thursday, April 30th, the Imaginary Visit To A Japanese Garden begins! This is one of my favorite classes as we get into mixing greens and grays. The class is fun way to delve into color in a beautiful location. Come and join the fun! If you click the class title, you'll find more info. 

Last but certainly not least is my "adventure" into sketching people once again. Let me set the stage for you...my husband and I went to a gun show a few weekends back. I went and found myself a bench near the entrance which also happened to have an ATM near it. 

I pulled out my sketchbook and made a few false starts but quickly realized folks weren't lingering too long before entering the show. However, they did have to wait to use the ATM and that worked out well. As I said my first few attempts were on the horrid side so when I sketched this guy, I was pretty excited. I liked the smooth lines and the proportions were good. 

Unfortunately, his buddy retrieved his money before I finished my sketch. When I finally pulled back from the act of sketching to look at the end result, I started to laugh. In fact, I got so tickled I was afraid they were going to come and take me away...you have to remember, there I sat, a lone woman, on a bench outside of a gun show, laughing hysterically at...something in my hand. 

Each time I got myself calmed down, all I had to do was look back at the page and I'd start laughing again. It didn't help when some guy came by and did a double take at my open sketchbook. The look on his face was quite comical. 

In desperation, I pulled out another piece of paper and laid it over the drawing so that I could keep going, but by then, I'd lost my momentum and I decided it might be prudent of me just to put the book away.

In defense of the sketch, it was very chilly in the building and the guy was cold standing there in his shorts and tank. His hands were in his pockets and his arms pressed against his body in an effort to stay warm. I could hear him and his buddy bantering back and forth about the temperature while they waited.

Now, if I'd been paying slightly more attention, I probably would have opted to NOT draw this particular guy. There's that learning piece again...how often do we get so into what we're doing that we lose sight of where we're going? I had NO idea what this guy looked like until he started to walk away and I pulled out of "sketching mode."

When my husband came up and sat down, he looked at the closed sketchbook questioningly. I opened it without saying anything and let him take a look. His first comment was, "Did they leave the door open to the men's bathroom?!"

This will be a favorite memory for a long time, but I can't say that I recommend laughing hysterically at something no one else can see at the entrance to a gun show!

My point in all this is that we learn by doing. We can read books, watch others in classes or on videos, but until we put a mark down on the page, we don't usually "get it." Not really. 

And of course, if we do finally find the courage to make a mark, we have to worry about those darn mistakes...or do we? Mistakes are how we learn. Can you imagine trying to learn to walk if you could never fall down and then get back up to try again? I can't name anything that doesn't require trying and then trying again before we can begin to claim any kind of mastery.

The other cool thing about these activities is that they often come along with their very own happy memories that make the learning fun. 

What have you learning lately? Do you find yourself getting stale if you don't challenge yourself?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring Tulips Tutorial for Keeton's Class

Nothing says Spring to me quite the way tulips do and I have been loving all of the pretty flowers I see each time I step into the grocery store. They seem the perfect subject for a page in my sketchbook and I created a quick tutorial so you could join me!

The photo reference below is of some artificial tulips that I use to decorate with each spring:
Following general shapes, I drew individual flowers and leaves starting with the one closest to me and then adding the rest behind the last flower I drew until I had an odd number of blooms arranged on the page. If you follow the number order, you'll see where I started, what I drew first, second and so on:

I splashed paint using yellows, pinks, lavenders and coral for the blooms along with greens, yellows, blues, violets  and teal for the leaves. The stems have yellow and green:
Next, I used a piece of tracing paper to draw a simple outline around the outer-most edge of my tulips before carefully cut out around the shapes to create a mask:
Using a cardboard stencil, I then added the polka dots into the background. You'll note that the header, Happy Spring also shows up in this image—I forgot to take a photo!:
Using a cosmetic sponge, I dabbed paint from the palette to paint the dots. It is very important to use just enough water to get the paint to the sponge. The puddle of color should be mostly pigment. It will have a consistency of heavy cream. If you use too much water and the sponge gets too wet, the color will leak under the stencil and the edges will not be crisp and sharp:
You can either hold the tracing paper mask down or you can tape it down. Position the stencil and begin to dab color into the openings. It may take more than one application of paint to get to the level of color you want. Be careful not to let the sponge get over-saturated. If it becomes too wet, set it aside and grab another one.

Once everything is dry, go back and fix any edges that may not be to your liking and then add your header or text. Consider using a coordinating color like a darker green or pink rather than black.

Last go back and strengthen the outlines around the tulips to give them more energy:
Using broken lines as well as varying the line weight (thick vs. thin) gives the tulips a more dynamic feel than just the simple outline I started out with.

I hope you can join me at Keeton's down in Bradenton for the class on Saturday, April 25 and we'll paint tulips together!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Be Still! (Drawing People)

We went to my nephew's last home game of his high school career last Friday night and I decided to attempt sketching the players...
Black gel pen in No Name Watercolor Journal
3.5 x 5.5 inches
Here are my observations (and remember, these are from a non-sports person):
  • It is amazing how much the players shift around when you go to sketch them. The catcher shifts from side to side, foot to foot depending on the batter and where the ball may be going.
  • If you're sitting directly behind home plate, sketching the catcher is complicated by the fact that you have a ref standing directly behind him, hovering over him, and blocking the view. 
  • The players, the pitcher and catcher, are on high alert and the tension shows in their bodies. I don't think I quite captured it as it showed mostly in their shoulders. 
Batter for Our Team
Black gel pen in No Name Watercolor Journal
3.5 x 5.5 inches
After (almost) capturing the catcher, I decided to try my hand at a batter. The "guy" above is actually a sum of several players rather than just one guy. Because of the aforementioned ref/catcher combo being in the way, at times it was difficult to see the batter at all. More observations:
  • It is surprising how quickly time moves when a player comes up to bat and either makes it on base or strikes out. This is partly my fault for being slow at sketching the human form (more practice is needed!).
  • No two batters place their arms or feet in the same space. This means that their bodies are not in the same position either so you have to "wing it" and draw what you think is correct. This also applies to the same batter though it's not quite as noticeable.
  • Some guys where their shirts and pants tight. Some do not. This can easily mess you up if you're not paying attention to the details. 
  • Most batters bat right-handed, a few bat left-handed. If you want a decent chance at finishing your batter, choose a right-hander rather than a left-hander...they're up to bat a lot more frequently. 
Overall, it was a lot of fun to try to capture the action. I finally decided to put the sketchbook down and just enjoy the game as it's easy to miss a lot of the action. 

And it's good to know how many innings there are in a high school game as well. It's not nine like the big leagues but seven, unless there's a tie. I didn't get to finish my batter because we were ahead when the seventh inning rolled around! Oops.

A big shout-out for Mitch who will be attending the University of Florida in the fall! Good luck, dude!