Monday, December 29, 2014

Three Resolutions
 Prelim sketch-in-progress: Listening for Elves; 1895


 2014 was a different year for me art-wise. Rather than try goal-setting, which just makes me cranky, I just tried being a bit more organized, something I've stubbornly resisted in the past. It worked pretty well, because it bought me time. As a result, I learned more.
 Detail of a head-study sheet.

The addition of some structure carved out time to take workshops, get out and meet artists, and dig into social media for active study instead of aimless scrolling. And while my sketchbooks have always been used hard, I was able to expand that use, and man did I learn.
Preliminary sketch-in-progress for Lunatic.

I'm not much for resolutions either, but am caving in to three:  
Gonna keep a lid on my stubborn, keep to that bit of structure, and hope to keep learning in 2015.

Thanks for reading this, and for checking in now and then.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Old Witch, Part Two
Hello again!
In the previous post I showed the prelims for the border (above is a detail of the stonework at the top)...

 ...but I hadn't shown my source for the border design. So here it is, snagged from a Dover clip art book. It's a lot of fun to let something like this generate fresh imagery!

When the design was all planned and sketched onto multiple layers of bum wad, I placed them onto my light table ( ) for tracing onto a sheet of 140 lb watercolor paper. Cold press is my choice most often. I chose a human femur for her cane, just for the subtle malevolence...
...and went over the pencil lines with pen, brush, and india ink.
I limited my palette to five colors--raw umber, burnt sienna, cadmium red, cerulean, and
ultramarine-- basically the primaries (a yellow, two reds, and two blues). Here's a preliminary wash of raw umber and cerulean over the pen work.
Building up the layers, bit by bit.
The obligatory and over-used hand-and-brush shot...
...and a detail of the peeping scribe at the bottom of the border. I love hand lettering! Finding a font, nudging, changing, and embellishing it, and then adding the paint results in a particularly pleasurable feeling.
Here's the staged shot of the final art with materials and reference props.
The poster--one of a series--will be available in 2015.

Thanks for following up on this--hope you enjoyed the process!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Old Witch, Part One
The Old Witch (detail).
This is the second image for a recent project. I'm in the middle of the third, and The Creature  was the first. I love drawing Frankenstein--same with witches--so heading to the studio has been a true pleasure lately.

Witches and apples in fairy and folk tales seem inextricably paired. And what's a magical person without a familiar? In this lady's case, it's a slightly tilting, crabby owl!
Disorganized (I am getting better), my prelims usually end up scattered in random sketchbooks and drawers. I know there were more, but these are some preliminary witch-head studies. The thumbnails for the composition elude me at the moment. 

The idea of The Old Witch has been with me for years, probably beginning with an old Aurora model I built as a kid, and...
...the amazing Graham Ingels' Old Witch
Growing up, a tremendous amount of images got seared into my brain thanks to the barber shop's comic book collection. This is only one of those pictures that scared the pants off me, thus never forgotten. 
Dug up some more prelims--early versions of the venerable sorceress, and an idea for the text banner.

Once the witch's pose was settled on, a hand-selfie with apple was necessary.
But I'm getting ahead of the post.
I also worked on the border. Here it took on a Celtic spin...
...but changed my mind in favor of a cauldron. That doesn't last either. The bird skull finally takes shape here though.

Well that's it for Part One--more next post--and

Thanks, as always, for checking out my blog!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Victorian Ghost Sketch
Ghost in the Bath sketch

My studio work-life is occupied with preparing art for a show coming early December. Thus, practice-sketch time has to be grabbed on the fly. I have my travel sketchbook and drawing box with me most times, or a book at least--just in case I get stuck waiting somewhere. This time I had both. The book is a collection of Victorian ghost stories by the great M.R. James. The story, Lost Hearts concerns a boy who's treated to a vision of a spectre, seen through a glazed bathroom door in the middle of the night.

The scene, in which the corpse-like ghost is laying in the tub (and surely must have influenced Stephen King for The Shining) raised the hairs on the back of my neck! This quick sketch, with the spirit out of the tub, was drawn with pencil and Rapidograph. Later in the studio I washed it with white ink.
Ghost in the Bath sketch (detail)

For me, ghosts aren't relegated to Halloween. In fact, they are a year-round preoccupation that reaches peak intensity during the winter holidays. Continuous experimentation with transparency techniques using ink is also a preoccupation. If you are a regular visitor here (thanks, by the way!) you've seen a bunch of posts concerning ghosts. If you haven't though, here's one of them:

And if you love ghost stories, don't skip the chance to read M.R. James.

Thanks for the visit!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

More #inktober: Shadows and Hatters
Inktober's been good to me--been working with pen and ink and throwing in some cast shadows, too.
Inktober has put on some pressure too, so I sketched this fellow while I was waiting to get an oil-change for my car--a time-waster that kept me from other pressing projects.
And then there are the (so far) unfinished ones. But the incentive has provided this drawing and others that I will use down the road.
 I've always been enamored with pen and ink, a love born from looking at nineteenth century illustration engravings as a kid. I still study them, as well as the elegant pen-lines of those great Irishmen, Joseph Clement Coll and Harry Clarke. Just because I study them, doesn't mean I come close to their refinement, but my temperament leans toward rough and quick crosshatching--can't really help that.
I'm leaving you with a mummy-scribe and a wish for a Happy Halloween--Thanks for the visit!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Inktober Continues!
Inktober continues, and I've been able to keep up with an ink drawing or at least an ink sketch every day. I'd initially thought that most of the works would be scary or Halloween themed, but Inktober's taken on a life of its own for me. And that's fine--I prefer to be surprised. This peasant-bird, day thirteen, could be seen as sort of witch-y.
And this raven, from day fourteen is at least mad, if not scary.
The door detail above is number fifteen, inked and ready to be available in early December. The surface is a piece of old sheet music, glued to wood.

I drew this bird while waiting to get a haircut on October sixteenth. Used my brushpen and some Prismacolor pencils that I carry in the car.
Number seventeen really did come out of nowhere. That morning the atmosphere seemed charged and moody, and I was having trouble concentrating. Before I headed to the studio, I happened to look out the bedroom window at the neighbor's yard, bisected by a Catalpa Tree-branch. Compelled to draw it, I hope I captured some of the strange ambiance I felt.

And so it goes--Inktober continues.

Thank you for the visit!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Inktober Landscapes
I very much like landscapes. Someday hope to visit Europe--not just in this lifetime, but also in the next--when I'm hoping time means nothing, and that accessing 18th and 19th century views will be easier (and much more interesting) than strumming a harp on a cloud.
 I also like buildings, preferably very old ones. These three sketches were done for Jake Parker's Inktober Initiative They are all tiny--approximately 2.5" x 2.5", and were lots of fun to draw. I used ballpoint pen and micron pen, with watercolor and white ink added.
I like to mess about with black outlines, experimental perspective, and especially, proportion. A fellow recently complimented my works by saying that they "have a timeless quality, as if they came out of the pages of a fairy tale or legend." If that is true, it makes me one happy person.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Inktober: One Through Five
October 1

Finally decided to commit to Inktober this year. Because I've been using a lot of ink lately, it dovetails nicely with an upcoming show I'm working to fill. The goblin above--and his antagonist-- may end up in a larger, finished work.
October 2

Dragged a beautiful old chair-back carving out from under a pile of neckties in a shite-store one day. (It really has both sides, but I was too lazy to sketch symmetry that day.) I'm using it for an above-door carving in a small painting.
October 3

This little guy--a mug with a mug with a mug with a mug--will be finished in watercolor. Was working on that before I took a break to blog.
October 4

Random--sorry. But that morning I was sick of figures. And all I had with me was a ballpoint pen.  Added the watercolor wash and white prismacolor later.
October 5

A clockwork, steam-punky sketch. He came out of nowhere, while I was drinking my morning cup of coffee. When a character just develops on the paper without any thought from me, well that is one of the best feelings!

Jake Parker came up with Inktober back in '09. He comes up with many creative things. 
He must be a character. 

Got a few more days to go before November. Maybe some Halloweenie stuff will be next.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Perfection, Personality, and Paralysis
I've always liked things rough around the edges, with an authentic, far-from-perfect, handmade quality about them. But as a young artist, I got caught up listening to art school classmates debate and chatter, and sadly, virtuosity became my goal. 
That pursuit of precision suited my personality not at all. The result: Immobility (or often, crappy work that had nothing to do with my passions or my temperament). 
In attempting to emulate illustrators and artists who were my heroes, my self-talk became hyper-critical, and that most often stopped me dead in my tracks.

Fresh out of art school, my wife and I were renting a tiny bungalow house. 
It had four rooms plus a slice of a room to the north. That's where I made my studio. You can see a bit of it at the left side of the photo. Only slightly wider than my drawing table, it was bright, quaint, and inviting. Or so it should have been.

I spent more time slumped on the couch than in that great little studio, paralyzed by my own expectation and desire for perfection.

I've battled the same demon, on and off, for years. With age, though, that perfection-inspired torpidity has disappeared. Rather than focusing on any goal, I just keep in mind that I'm joggling along on a nicely bumpy and pretty fascinating journey.

Nonetheless, the snide voice in my head that says, "Well that's far from perfect" is not completely neutralized. I've just become more practiced at ignoring it or actively shutting it up.

Sketching is always a no-pressure pleasure, and I obviously still check out and admire great artists and illustrators my friends recommend. Some are pretty darn perfect, some have that scruffly-quality, and I can enjoy looking at both. But where my own work is concerned, I've got to keep to the journey. Marcia Brown, in addition to her gifts of children's illustration, offered this reality-check quote:
"Sheer virtuosity is often more useful in a juggler".

That's a much better voice for me to heed.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Frankenstein Returns!
The Creature (detail). Mixed media.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has fascinated me since I was lucky enough to be forced to read it in high school. 

As a kid, I loved the 1930s movie. The fear Karloff's face inspired remains a vivid memory.

I didn't know of Thomas Edison's movie--the first film version--until adulthood. You can see the
whole thing here:

Mary Shelley's description of the creature has been ignored, attempted, and also revised by movie-makers and artists, but it is definitely evocative: His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid 
contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the 
dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

I've ignored it for my versions as well. Following is the progression of the newest painting, done as a poster design soon to be released. Hope you enjoy it!

Lots of sketches preceded the final face. Here are a few.

After a search for a border I found this copyright free design in a Dover book.
I modified it greatly as you will see.

Here's the initial pencil prelim (on watercolor paper) of the lower part of the border...

...and here's the big guy, with his initial pair of boots, later changed to somewhat goofy slipper-shoes.

Inked with both pen and brush, it's ready for watercolor.

After an initial wash of raw umber, my colors were added in layers. Striving for a monochromatic look, my palette was mostly limited to ultramarine, burnt sienna, and raw umber. 

The bits of green came from raw sienna mixed with ultramarine, but I brightened his eyes at the end by adding lemon yellow and cerulean to the initial green mixture. (Shot with a camera phone, these look more saturated than the actual piece.)

For another rendition of the creature, you might enjoy

As always, questions and comments are welcome.  Thanks for the visit!

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