"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind". - Henry James

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Calls to You for Attention?

Roz Stendahl did a wonderful post What Calls To You For Attention? a while back and it stayed with me for weeks.  I went back to reread it recently and noticed that Roz had responded to my comment. 

I had said that I didn’t have much success with suggested lists of things to draw or journal prompts.  I would usually start out all enthusiastic, and then sort of fizzle out.  Same thing with “Challenges” (someone suggests a theme and you interpret it in your own way).  I love the idea of them, but then don’t seem to be able to sustain my interest for more than a week or so.  So I said I was going to listen for what calls to me. 

Roz responded:

“Deb, I hope the listening yields insights. I find that my best listening is done when I am seated next to a dog I love! Can hear her breath, smell the grass or leaves in the air, you get the idea.”

Yes, I do get the idea!  And isn’t that just lovely?  Fortunately I do have a dog I love and who loves to nestle next to me while I listen.

So I started listening.  And listening.  And listening a little more.  And ever so slowly things began to call to me for attention:  my dog (!), the birds at the feeder, the “Halloween” crow I bought at Michaels Crafts (made of real feathers over a form and surprisingly lifelike), a paper honeycomb Thanksgiving turkey, all sorts of things for me to draw.  I noticed the sky in the evening shortly before sunset, the patterns of the leaves underfoot as we tramp through our friend’s woods, and the blue eyes of our dog friend, Birch.

Thanks Roz!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Books from Scratch!

Last week was class one of a really wonderful bookbinding class I'm taking at the Sharon Arts Center in Sharon, New Hampshire called "Books from Scratch!"

We made amazing, and surprisingly beautiful, paste paper for our covers.  Our teacher, Celeste, mixed up a big batch of Elmer's Paper Mache Art Paste and colored it with globs of acrylic paint and set us to work swirling and layering and smooshing and stamping on sheets of drawing paper.  While our papers dried, we folded stacks of signatures of drawing paper for our books.  

This week we used our amazingly gorgeous paste papers to cover binder's board for the covers.  Using waxed linen thread, we learned how to stitch the signatures, end papers, and covers together.  At first I felt all thumbs and sort of hopeless.  I went off track a few times.  But, miracle of miracles, by the end of class I got it!

Celeste sent us home with more thread and instructions to keep going until all the signatures are sewn in.

Done.  (I only had to backtrack once and pull out some stitches when I realized I had missed a loop or gone through the wrong hole or something).

I was never a big fan of Coptic Stitch books.  But I have to say, these are quite lovely.  And the big appeal for me is they lay flat when open!!!  This is crucial for a sketchbook.  I'd like to make one with hot pressed watercolor paper for the signatures.  It's wonderfully smooth to draw on and you have the option of adding color if you should want.  Yay!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pages in Stages

Following Diana Trout's "Nudges", I worked on a page in my journal that I wasn't all that happy with.  It was a page of prompts from Carla Sonheim's Art of Silliness2 Workshop.  The instructions were to draw five blobs or shapes from your imagination, about the size of a large coin, and turn them into something.

The car, hippo, and bird came out okay.  There were a couple of head drawings that bothered me every time I looked at them.  So I decided to use this page for Diana's collage "Nudge".  Collage isn't my thing, but it was sort of fun to randomly and without much thought (before the inner critic got wind) pull out images  and place them on the pages.  Looking at it now, I see I used predominantly orange.  I added the pink and green later.  I sort of like it.

The next step is to paint loosely over the collage with gesso or white paint and draw or write into the wet paint.  I think I'll sit with it for a while before I try that.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Learning PanPastels

Carla Sonheim, of Drawing Lab For Mixed Media fame, does the most wonderful drawings using PanPastels. (Well, all her drawings are really wonderful, but I was thinking particularly of her drawings using PanPastels).  She graciously shared her method of using them on her blog, Carla Sonheim, Snowball Journals and I felt inspired.  I have a starter set of ten; black, white, yellow, red, blue, green, purple, and some earth tones - ochre, umber, and burnt sienna, I think.

For this drawing I used blue, yellow, and red.

It was sort of fun using my fingers to blend and smudge.  And then I pulled out some highlights with an eraser and added some detail with pencil.  Finally, I sprayed it with matte fixative before scanning.

I think I like PanPastels. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sidewalk (Road) Crack Drawings

We don't have many sidewalks in our little town.  So I went out and looked at the road and there are LOTS of cracks.  It is so much fun drawing them.  And after I drew them for a while, I started seeing faces and animals.  Can't wait to do more!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rethinking a Handbound Journal

I made this collage sketchbook cover a while ago.  I made a single signature for it using Stonehenge paper.  Turns out I don't really like to draw on Stonehenge.  I find my favorite pen, Lamy Safari Extra Fine nib, drags horribly.  I generally use Lexington Gray Noodler's Ink for drawing and Black Noodler's Ink for writing.  Well, both of my Safari pens drag and sputter on Stonehenge and drawing and writing is decidedly unpleasant.  I tried a few other favorite pens, a Pilot V Razor Point Extra Fine and a Pigma Micron 01, and they were better, but still not great.  The following page was done with the Pilot V Razor Point which is not waterproof and makes lovely shading when touched with water.  Kind of fun.

Then I tried watercolors with my little travel set.  Surprisingly the watercolor worked really well.  I believe Stonehenge is primarily a printmaking paper, so I didn't really expect it to work all that well with watercolor.

But I put too many pages in the signature and I decided take it apart and rebind it using Fabriano 90 lb. hot pressed paper.  90 lb. paper is light enough for several pages to be bound together and the smooth surface works so well with the fountain pens.  I am a little disappointed though because it is so reasonably priced.  I had high hopes.  But I do have some ideas of how I can use it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Michael J. Dugan 1958-2010

For some reason September feels like the beginning of the year for me.  It probably goes back to childhood and school starting in September and all the new TV shows starting in September too.  Silly, I know.  But as the Wonder Bread commercials used to tell us, "These are our formative years."

So with the ever-so-slight feel of autumn in the air and September almost here, I've been reflecting on the past year and it was a tough one for sure.  Jack's brother, Michael, came east from Montana last summer to live with us while undergoing treatment for a recurrence of melanoma.  Unfortunately, what had worked previously did not this time around.  He underwent some really wretched treatments in an attempt to address some of his symptoms and at least try to keep the cancer at bay.  Nothing really worked and Michael died in July.

It was a long year for him and for the rest of the family too.  Next weekend Jack and his other brothers, Peter and Jim, are taking Michael's ashes back to Montana to scatter among some of Michael's favorite places.  

One year ends and another begins.  I feel like this is a new year and yet another chance to do some of the things I really want to do, like more art!  So here's to doing more art everyday!  Yay!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lab 10: At the Coffee Shop - Second Attempt

I took myself off to Starbuck's yesterday to draw unsuspecting patrons.  I'm more please with these drawings than with the ones I tried on Saturday.  I followed the directions in Drawing Lab:  Lab 10 At the Coffee Shop - start with a blind contour (look at the subject and not at your paper).  Then go back and add some details - fabric folds and buttons and features and such.

The hazard, of course, is that you can start a drawing and your subject disappears!  This wasn't such a bad start, but it's all I got.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Drawing Lab 10 At the Coffee Shop

I completely forgot the instructions Carla Sonheim gave for Drawing Lab 10 At the Coffee Shop!  I was sort of nervous drawing in public.  I don't know why because no one ever notices, let alone looks at or comments on my work.

Next time I go out to a coffee shop to draw, I'm going to try to follow the instructions from Drawing Lab.  I think if I start with blind contour to get the basic shapes down and then go back and add details and features and such, I might be happier with the results.

I bought some PanPastels that I'm dying to try out too.  Maybe I can combine a trip to draw at the coffee shop with a tryout of the new materials.

Drawing Lab 9 Wrong-handed Portrait

I've only had a chance to do one of the these "Wrong-handed Portraits", but it was great fun!  Since I am right handed, I used my left hand for this drawing.  This is my husband "watching" television.  I'm going to try a few more as soon as I have willing models.  I liked using my non-dominant hand to draw.  It did feel awkward, but I like the more naive line.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Drawing Lab 8 Imaginary Animals

Well, it has happened.  I did a Drawing Lab that I didn't like.  But it is a good thing I think.  I found out a lot about myself and what and how I like to draw, what is enjoyable to me.  That's good.  It helps me to find what I want to spend my energy on.

I have found that I like to draw from life, animals, people, places, etc. that are in front of me.  I have always known that I don't much enjoy drawing from photographs, except the Monkey Business Lab - that was fun and I was pleased with the results.  My work from photographs usually looks sort of static and dead to me.  I think it is my lack of engagement with the subject that shows through.  Same thing for working from stuffed and mounted specimens.  They're dead and they look it in my drawings.

I also don't like working solely from my imagination (as these results illustrate...cringe).  I like to have a subject in front of me.  I think these are important things to know about one's self.

And that's not to say I don't enjoy what others do from photographs and their imaginations!  Some people do wonderful things.  I just don't seem to be able to work that way.  Good to know.

The next section in Drawing Lab looks more to my taste.  Drawing people!  Yay!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Drawing Lab 5: Part II Drawing at the New England Aquarium

On Sunday my husband and my daughter and son and I visited the New England Aquarium in Boston.  It was a gorgeous day and we got an early start.  I had the foresight (for once in my life) to order our tickets online the day before and we avoided the long line that had formed by the time we got there.  It was a little past opening time, but not much.  We live about and hour and a half away and I was glad we got there fairly early in the day (which you really want to do at the Aquarium, especially on a Sunday).  

I had my sketchbook, Michael had his video camera, Jack had his still photography camera (for lack of a better term), and Kerry had her natural curiosity and deep love of animals.  Right away Michael and I became entranced by the penguins.  It was feeding time and they are such endearing creatures anyway, we spent a goodly amount of time watching and drawing and filming.

The exhibits around the outer edges were fairly crowed even early on, but we managed to visit our favorites - the jellyfish, the anemones, Stellwagen Bank, the electric eel, and the trout and salmon.
The big tank in the center is always good value.  Sharks, turtles, rays, giant angel fish, moray eels, huge groupers, and the occasional scuba diver.  What's not to love?
Oh and outside there are Fur Seals!  They look a lot like California Sea Lions to me.  Very dog-like.  There are the adorable Harbor Seals out front too.  

I can only take about an hour or two of being jostled by crowds, so we headed out to lunch at about noontime.  Lots of choices on the waterfront, but we ended up at Legal Sea Foods (with a twinge of guilt after having spent all that time with fish and all...).  But it's right there by the Aquarium and we were quite hungry by then.  Excellent lunch of crab, lobster, haddock, chowder.  All good.

Our waiter told us that there was an Italian Festival going on in the North End and we were tempted.  It's a short walk from the Aquarium across Christopher Columbus Park, but we opted to walk in the other direction along the waterfront past all the pricey hotels and condos and multi-million dollar yachts toward the Children's Museum and visit the recycling shop we all had fond memories of from their childhood visits.  

I must say I was a little disappointed.  Our memories are of a spacious room filled with bins and barrels of the neatest stuff - big foam cubes, plastic tubes, foam shapes, glossy paper, foil paper, plastic shapes, things like that.  I wonder if the decrease in manufacturing in the United States and the increase in recycling would explain the very much downsized recycling shop.  The young woman working there was very cordial though and we did manage to fill a small bag with goodies.  

The rest of the Children's Museum looks amazing.  Both my kids said they would have loved some of the newer stuff that's there now.  There's the neatest climbing apparatus, all tunnels and ropes and platforms, as you enter on the main floor.  We got a glimpse of the Bubble Room (!) too.  We didn't see the Japanese House that was always a favorite on our visits.  I imagine it is still there.  

I think my next drawing foray will be to the Stone Zoo in Stoneham.  I love drawing flamingos, well, all birds really.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Drawing Lab 7 Monkey Business

For this Lab I used reference photos from this Flickr gallery here

Each drawing was done on white card stock.  For the first monkey I used a PaperMate felt pen, Cretacolor Aquamonolith crayons in perm. red dark, orange, cad. citron, and ultramarine.  I touched a few places with a moistened brush to blend the colors.

For the baboon I used a Pilot V Razor Point extra fine pen, Caran d'Ache Neocolor II watersoluble crayon in Emerald Green, and soft pastel in pink and lavender.  The Pilot V pen is watersoluble and makes interesting shadows when it mixes with the watersoluble crayons and pastels.  

Next Lab is Imaginary Creatures.  

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Drawing Lab 3 My Pet Project

I spent a wonderful hour drawing my friends' chicks the other day.  I couldn't do much more than gesture drawings because they move constantly, unless they're sleeping.

At first I thought it was important to place the eye.  And then I realized it was more important the get the legs and feet right.  I hope to go back soon because chicks grow and change amazingly quickly.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Drawing Lab 6 Index Card Multiples

For Lab 6 - Index Card Multiples I used an old photo of my dog for reference.  The assignment is to do several (I think she suggested 20 - I did 21) drawings of the same image on index cards using a chisel-point marker.  The idea is to work quickly and not to think too, too much.  You can't get much detail or to be too fussy with such a large marker on the small index cards.

It was fun and I love looking at them all together!  I'm not sure what I am going to do with them.  I may carve a stamp from one of them or put one or two into Photoshop and add color or patterns.  It might help me learn some functions in Photoshop.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Drawing Lab 4 Part I @ VINS (Vermont Institute of Natural Science)

I'm working my way through Carla Sonheim's fabulous book, Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists.  Labs 4 and 5 are "A Day at the Zoo".

Yesterday I took myself on an "Artist's Date" to VINS (Vermont Institute of Natural Science) www.vinsweb.org for a drawing outing.  They rehabilitate injured birds and care for birds who can not be released due to injury or who have become unafraid of humans.  

I had a wonderful time drawing the birds.  Owls, hawks, vultures.  I love them all!  It was a delight to be able to get close enough to observe and draw them.  

Unfortunately I didn't get to the buildings where they are rehabilitating injured birds, raising orphaned baby birds, and housing the song birds (next time).  I also drove through some absolutely lovely countryside in Vermont and had a fabulous sandwich called an "Ethan Allen" at Heritage Deli and Bakery in Chester.  If you find yourself in the Woodstock, Vermont area, do take a trip to VINS.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Thanks Ricë!

I was feeling sort of bad about my blog and feeling like a blog slacker for not posting more often, and then I read Ricë Freeman-Zachery’s wonderful blog, Notes from the Voodoo Cafe.  Read this post from Ricë for a  dead-on take on this disturbing trend toward fame seeking and self-aggrandizement that seems to be growing in our culture.  

It got me to thinking about why I actually wanted to have a blog.  I started my blog so I could post some drawings and paintings for my friends and family and anyone else who might be interested and to write a little about what I was thinking about while drawing and painting the things I posted.  I thought it might be fun to have a place to share this sort of stuff, mostly for the few people who may have some level of interest and to encourage myself to draw and paint more.  

See, I don’t post anything unless I have something to show and something to say about it, however minimal.  I’m really glad I read Ricë’s post today because it helped me clarify why I have this blog and what it means to me.  And I know I don’t want it to be just one more thing to beat myself up about for not doing better, that’s for sure!  

So I’m going to relax and post when I actually have something to show and to say.  Yay!

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Love New York

The view out of one of our hotel room windows in New York.

We had such fun!  We saw a hilarious play with Christopher Walken (he's unique), went to MoMA to see Tim Burton's exhibit (made me laugh almost as much as the play), ate sandwiches at Katz's Delicatessen (especially loved the pickles), walked through Central Park (Strawberry Fields made me sad), rode the subway (and actually got on the right train with a little help from a really nice New Yorker), and had a couple of harrowing cab rides ("Mayor Bloomberg asks you to buckle up" - Yikes).

I love New York!