EDM# 35: Draw a bicycle or a part of one

I painted this yesterday but tried to take my time in developing it rather than rush to scan and upload it. I made it with gouache and drew (most of) it freehand with a brush.  I am replacing my habits developed over years of watercoloring with the approach I used when I was a teenager and first started painting in acrylic. I find gouache quite challenging because I can’t layer color which so often helps me hid my mistakes. With this opaque medium, I have to lay down the color and be satisfied with it before adding the next and it can be quite annoying. I’ll try to explain more about this by showing you a couple of steps I took.

First I painted my vestibule, using flat colors and with little indication of lighting. This was fairly straightforward once I had  a grip on the perspective and I just mixed up a color and then created  a lighter version to make the lighter part of the wall or floor. Probably the hardest color to mix was the parquet floor in lower left just because I had to figure out how to make a darker brown using only yellow and an ochre and blue.

When it was good and dry, I lightly sketched in the bicycle. Then I painted it in with black and white gouache. As you can see, the red wall started to leach into the white of the tires, so I let it dry and added another coat of white which helped a bit but not completely. I wanted to add a bit of the shadow that the bike threw on the wall but  didn’t want to paint around the bike to add a darker red so instead I tried to lighten the rest of the wall with a bit of watered-down white.

I don’t know if this painting is done completely. I should go in and erase the white pencil lines, darken the tires and hit the white one more time to get rid of the pink — and maybe I shall. I also fought the impulse to scrawl a caption on the floor with my dip pen (both Jack and Tommy Kane urged me to just leave the damned things as it is) and I remain of two minds about it.

Before I began painting, I spent a fair amount of time looking at the work of Taliah Lempert, an artist I have always admired, who does nothing but drawn and paint and make prints of bikes. Her work is really lovely and instructive.

EDM #27: Draw a book

Sorry, for the self-congratulation but I’ve never drawn this before. It was nice to be sitting in my air-conditioned studio with all my gear around me. I drew it with both Lamy safari nibs, then painted it with Dr. Martin’s and did the background in gouache and the writing with a dip pen and white ink.

I love seeing people’s versions of my work. Below is a lovely rendition by Matthew Midgeley.If you’ve ever drawn one of my books, I would so love to see it.

By Matthew Midgeley

Love this one by Jinho Jung:

EDM #24: Draw a piece of fruit


This is my second painting of the day. My first is now in the dustbin — a failed experiment in painting with raspberry juice which I’ve discovered does not get darker as you layer it but just stays sticky and anemic.
Instead I tried using gouache more like oil or acrylic paint, mixing it thick and creamy and building up opaque layers from dark to light. I love the intensity of the color but the process is still a series of challenges — which is after all the point of this series of challenges. A lesson a day.

EDM #23: Draw your foot

I started with a simple shape in gouache, a bit of Light Ochre and some Zinc White. When it was dried, after 15 minutes or so, I whipped out the old bamboo. I dipped it in India ink and drew a heavy outline, then lightly added some fur bits. FInally I mixed in a little diluted white to add the tendons and highlights and some water-down primary blue to show the blue blood coursing through my veins.

My favorite bit: the overprinted feeling of the ochre next to the undulating black line of the bambo pen.

EDM #22: Draw a piece of clothing

A few hours ago I bought a set of Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache for a fairly hefty price. I had a cheap set of pan “opaque watercolors” but they don’t have the vim and pizzaz of my new set and I only used them for the occasional highlight on a watercolor painting. Here’s my very first gouache painting and it taught me a great deal.

First off, it’s beautifully opaque, particularly on a piece of fairly black construction paper. The paint goes on creamily and covers like an 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheet. My painting looked like someone had turned the lights on.

But it’s not watercolor and it sure doesn’t work like it. I am so used to adding on layers and layers of paint to build the color I want but with this stuff you have to be very careful or you end up with mud. :Look at the bottom right had side of the dress and you can where I tried to slather on a layer of grey on top of the pattern I’d already painted and it turned to potage. Fortunately, I could add another layer on top and fix the error.

It also seems like there are degrees of dryness. I did a little test here: First I put down rectangles of three different colors and waited ten hours (don’t worry — I didn’t just sit there starting at it, I went to work and had my eyes checked for the DMV and some other stuff) and then put down colors on top of the colors and that worked out fairly well. It’s sort of surprising that it seems easier to work better light on top of dark but that’s not an absolute — I even put a second coat of permanent yellow on and it still didn’t work great against the light ochre.

I also tried drawing with my Lamy and that was okay and super contrasty but a little balky and occasionally the pen slid or got hung up on the dried layer. Then I tried writing with a dip pen and some green doc martins and that’s when things got really ugly.

In the end, I quite like the painting I did of Patti’s little Barbie dress (at the time her mom made matching dresses for P and B) and I definitely plan to keep working with gouache because the color is so intense and bright and I like the challenge of working in a whole new way.

Got any other tips on working with gouache? Bring it.

EDM 21: Draw something old, antique or vintage

This started with the challenge, trying to examine how getting old was registering on my face. Simultaneously, I decided to use some Chinagraph marker pencils on some colored paper — don’t know why. The combination of a concerted attempt at realism rendered with garish, creamy grease pencils was a blast.

I don’t know how much the drawing actually looks like me — it actually looks more like my great-uncle who isn’t actually even related to me my birth. Oh, and my father, of course, who, despite the fact that I’ve only seen him four or five times over the past half century, insists on appearing in the mirror whenever I shave.

Anyway, it was interesting to see how the folds and pockets of my jaws are coming along, and my nascent jowls are really very flattering.  I had my hair cut today so I appear really rather bald but Picasso was bald and Pollack was bald and I’m glad to see that Sinead O’Connor is still bald too.. By the way, why are “bleak”, “dour” and grim” synonyms for “bald, Mr. Roget (who had a comb-over, BTW)?

Addendum:

A couple of people have commented on the elongated rendering of my noggin and I have reviewed the situation and sussed out the cause. I have fallen afoul of a blunder which plagues many of the world’s great artists: Flat On the Table Syndrome ( FOTTS).

The distance from my eye to the top and bottom of my reflection is the same when my mirror is vertical. But if my book lies flat on the table, the distance from the top of the page is quite different from that to the bottom.

If I overlook that difference, I will distort the image because in its supine position it will seem wider than it really is.

 

Fortunately there are at least two cures for FOTTS that do not require telethons, 5Ks,  or government funding. One is to factor in the distortion and try to overcome it through sheer brain power. This can lead to even more distortion if one does not calculate properly. Secondly, one can just stand one’s book up — through the whole process or even just intermittently — and make sure one is not inducting hydroencephalopathic skull compression in the drawing.

 

EDM #20: Draw something “Dad” – in honor of Fathers Day

Well, obviously it’s not Father’s Day today but I happen to be working on a project that is Dad-related so I’ll focus on that.

A month or so ago, my friend Risa asked me to illustrate an essay she had written for a book on fatherhood that some people in New York are putting together. Risa’s essay is about a photo of her and her dad taken when she was a teenager, a time of stress and ambivalence. She asked me to draw from an old photo she cherished and, because I like Risa, I said I’d do it.

The reference picture.

She sent me a not terribly good color copy of the picture and the struggle began. I just could not figure out how to turn this picture into something good. It was contrasty, the features were in shadow, there’s not real detail when you look at it up close, the composition was indifferent and a corner of the picture had been scissored away. Whine, whine, moan, moan.

Strangest of all, Risa at 14 looked exactly like my mother at 16 — distractingly so.

My mum in 1955.

For the last months, every day or so, I have taken another run at it. Here are a few discarded examples:

Risa as mildly nauseated skeptic.

Risa as hag with liver condition.

Risa and dad done hastily in sumi.

Risa’s dad as Sicilian olive farmer.

Risa as drawn by Daniel Clowes.

Risa’s dad as drawn by Al Hirschfeld.

Risa as David Brenner.

I actually kind of like this. Sketchy, on tracing paper. One eye way too high.

And finally this morning, under the pressure of the EDM challenge, I finally made a drawing I like. The key was their hair, making it as ridiculous and bushy as possible so they are united despite their ambivalence in some sort of genetic connection that they cannot avoid. I drew it with a Faber-Castell PITT artist pen (XS) and a crow quill in India ink on bond paper. Does Risa look too much like a small Sharon Osbourne?

Anyway, I hope that Risa likes it. I’ll let you know if it gets in the book.

Finally, something I am liking.