I’m out of commission today. Please use this opportunity to watch my interview with Jane LaFazio in its entirety. Or better yet, get ahead of me by drawing tomorrow’s challenge, a piece of fruit.
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.
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.
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)?
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.
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.
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.
For the last months, every day or so, I have taken another run at it. Here are a few discarded examples:
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.
It’s been a long-ass week. Undistinguished except for the miserable heat, mugginess, and torrential rain. I’m not much of a drinker but when I saw this challenge, I knew exactly what I’d make: a cool, crispy gin and tonic.
And I’d make it with sumi ink and a dash of watercolor (and a soupcon of salt).
Sumi is the everlasting gobstopper of art supplies. You get a beautiful carved black block embossed with gold and silver designs. You splash your cool stone chalice and rub it with the block a couple of times and, hey presto, ink. But it’s ink that’s so forgiving and compliant. It hits your brush looking all dark and full of intent, but then when you slap it on the page, it backs off, dissolving to a smoky wave.
You can modulate it in so many ways that perfectly suit my way of painting. I can dilute it to a whisper and then build up layers up on layers that transition smoothly into each other like a delicate moire. As it dries, sumi becomes a dusky, matte layer of grey that doesn’t feel like paint or ink or pencil or anything, like it was just meant to be there, like some sort of organic residue left by my gesture. And that ebony brick of oriental exotica last forever, through fecund years of rubbing against the stone palette and daubing on the page. Ah, suuuuumi.
Can you tell by my writing that I’ve consumed my model?
My house is devoid of musical instruments right now so I will wait to draw EDM#17 until I come across one somewhere — stay posted. Instead I skipped ahead to Challenge #18.
Liz Steel is an architect who lives in Sydney but loves to draw, paint and travel. I have long admired her art which she tells me she just started a few years ago, influenced by Everyday Matters and The Creative License. Now she is a voracious and talented drawer of things, mainly buildings and teacups. Accompanied by her bear, Borromini, she has drawn all over the world and she is just on her way back Down Under after attending the Urban Sketchers symposium in the Dominican Republic.
Liz draws with a Lamy fountain pen and a palette full of Daniel Smith and Winsor watercolors pans. She works quickly and lightly, stopping to wipe her brush on a sweatband emblazoned with a kangaroo.
She sees clearly and draws the minimum necessary to convey the scene, unencumbered by a need to crosshatch and all sorts of tone into her drawing. The results are as upbeat and fresh as she is.
I was feeling in a regressed sort of mood, I guess, in part because I havent drawn this view in many years, and I pulled out my sack of ten-year old brush markers (later augmented with some Doc Martin’s). The results look like a drawing I might have done in the late 20th century when I first started to draw.
I really enjoyed my visit with Liz — her experience at the Symposium and her worldwide visits with many of the artists I admire but know only through the web inspired me to want to get out and meet more drawing people in person. It’s so great to sit around and talk about pens and folding chairs and share lessons and observations.
I’m also delighted that Liz and her work are going to be in my book, An Illustrated Journey, which I understand will be available in February or thereabouts.