Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bed Sketch: #1


I love it when artists let it all hang out and show me their roughs, so I thought I'd present another of mine. I happen to like sketching in bed, usually after indulging in a good book. Sometimes, by the time I finish the next compelling chapter I'm just too sleepy, but other times I manage a page of sketching for better or worse. I often use computer paper for the roughest of sketches (you know, the obsolete kind with the punctured tear-away edges). I love the freedom of knowing that it costs me nothing (it was donated). It's not archival, but it doesn't need to be, as long as the pencil sticks. My right hand is in the picture--it was a terrible poser, as it kept moving every time I tried to draw! The left hand is always the more co-operative one. I'm wearing cut-off socks on my wrist--that's to keep my hands warm while I try to draw. Sometimes a cat obliges me, and sits on my hand, which is very warming, but it's difficult to get much done with a cat sitting on your arm. Now you may well wonder why it's so cold in the bedroom, so I'll pre-empt that question and tell you. My husband wears t-shirts in winter (no kidding) so he likes it that way. I like a challenge, and love the feeling of being buried beneath cats and blankets and cranking the thermostat down to 15C for the cold months is one way to accomplish this . Somehow it just feels right, even if I do wear socks on my hands. There--now you know.

Image: computer paper, pencil, mouse-play with digital colours. Click on image if you can't read the captions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Jewels of Autumn



My obsession, it is beginning to seem, is fungi. Fungi, mushrooms, whatever you wish to call them, the sprouting of their fruiting bodies feeds my endless fascination. Edible, poisonous, bitter, and bland, all of them ephemeral gems of the woodlands, the sight of them is a visual treasure regardless of practical uses.

I was walking in the eastern segment of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail of Killarney Provincial Park. There is hemlock wood in a dell nestled between a bald topped granite hill and deeply shaded cliff. It is buttressed by stately hemlock overarching the sky, and always greenly lit. It is difficult to believe in science, and easy to belief in fairies in this space. Seeing the forest floor glowing with large bulbous lilac coloured mushrooms seems like confirmation of every woodland myth ever spoken round the campfire. I knew as soon as I saw them, that I had to capture some of their magic. The camera was inadequate, but my trusty coloured pencils paved the way. While this is not exactly a field guide rendition, they are, for the record, Pungent Cort, Cortinarius Traganus, neither edible nor poisonous, and a little bit stinky. And yes, they really are lilac coloured.

Image: 13" x 6.5" on 11x14 Strathmore Bristol, coloured pencil. This scan cuts off the left & right edges, including my initials, hence the watermark. See my real life mundane name--maybe for the 1st time???

Friday, October 24, 2008

My Beloved Pencil Crayons




My pencil crayons are back, or I came back to the pencil crayon. They never went away, they waited faithfully, everyday, perched upright in their glass jars at my table, never fading, always perky while I took side-trips and forays into painting and inking. Well I'm back, and they welcomed me back without the slightest signs of resentment, their colours as creamy, glowing and vibrant as ever. Why did I ever stay away.
So, today, I'll present my very first work in progress WIP. Since I'm using a photo reference, I thought it only fair to present that. I took it on the very last day of my holiday. I'd seen them the day before, but stupid me didn't have my camera that day, so I had to go scrambling back and hope for the best. The lighting had changed, and the fungi dried a bit, but not to worry, I just needed a reference.
So this is my WIP. It's 11x14 Strathmore Bristol, nice hard shiny paper. I love this stuff--it's crispy and holds the line well. This time around, I actually bothered to sketch in lightly with pencil first. You need to be careful, as pencils inscribe the paper in a way that is impossible to cover with a coloured pencil. Secondly, I got my magenta (very vibrant hot magenta) and sketched some lines. This step is important, as those brilliant edges need to be laid down first. You can't just add them in later. After that, start scribbling in the darks. I don't do photo-realism, so I'm deliberately heavy handed at the beginning. I want sketch lines that last right through to the end. Of course, with all that white paper, it's a scary proposition. You just never know what will end up plopped down on the page.
And lastly, the space where it all happens. This is my studio. It is also my living room window. I work on the dining room table and make a big mess, but since we never entertain, that's okay. I can't stand the thought of holing myself up in the basement (where we have a decent sized spare bedroom) or even in the upstairs spare bedroom. I want the big wide view to the west, the birds at the feeder (and pesky squirrels) and I want to watch the world go by when I can't think of what to do next.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ACEO's--What I've been up to





Snow fell two days ago, and pockets still remain today. I can't say exactly why, but the very first snow fall always feels like a portent of magic. Imagine the woods being shushed to sleeping by snow softly falling.

I took a billion million pictures--actually, my camera is quite limited, so it was just a few. I didn't want to miss the opportunity. Sorry no artwork for the fantastic phenomenon of fresh snow falling on autumn leaves, but I've busy doing ACEO's. When I started them, I imagined brushing them off at a rate 1/2 hour per piece. Na Uh... Some of them take me hours, while some of them are fully realized in much less. The black unicorn presented here took me hours, however, I have to admit part of the time was spent on learning and fixing. The original watercolour wash was far too dull in colour and I stubbornly insisted on winning the war. This morning I finally admitted defeat and put on an all new layer of brighter zestier gouache. I'm happy, but what a colossal pain! I hope you don't mind my foray's into fantasy art.
For those of you who are nature nuts, I'll present some of my snow photos too.
The dog in the photo is Dynamo, of course, my 6 year old german shepherd. She loves the woods and playing frisbee. She was pretty po'd that I interrupted her games to take these shots! The setting is Hollidge Tract, York Regional Forest. I love the patterns on the path. Eyes down is not always a bad thing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

In A Far Country



To Read Text: click on image to enlarge

Don't say I didn't warn you that this blog may take a few sharp left turns.

This is a little like hanging my underwear out to dry.

Firstly, thank you to any blogger (and you know who you are) brave enough to present their rough sketches to the world. Here's a few of mine.
Secondly, it was a humdinger of a dream that I had, the kind you get (if you're lucky) every six months or so. Okay, if you're prone to nightmares, I guess that would be unlucky. I believe the technical term is vivid dream (actually listed as a side-effect for some pharmaceuticals--no, I'm not taking any, legal or otherwise). These are the sorts of dreams that scroll out like a movie on the big screen, but with full surround sound, 3-d perspectives, sensations and sound. Upon waking, the details are easily remembered. If I knew how to get more of these (sans pharma's!) I would certainly try--it's much more fun than lucid dreaming (wherein the dreamer controls the dream) as I don't know what happens next.

Images: 5"x7" sketch paper, graphite, and Tombow pen. This is the first time I really gave the Tombow a good workout. If you've never seen one, it's a dual-tipped marker, one side is a fine point, the other is a brush-shaped foam tip. I'm impressed--I did all those darks without it showing any sign of drying. And I did this sitting up in bed with the sketchpad held at an angle, propped up by a lap-cat. Sadly, the ink is not waterproof, so there's no chance of colouring up images later with watercolours. It was fun hand-writing the text (to read it, you'll have to click on the image to make it larger) spelling errors and all (see 'apocalypse'!)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Firebird


So one day I came upon a gathering of people within the heart of the forest. Each one of them had their eyes fixed worshipfully upwards. Judging by their absolute rapture, I wondered if they spied a winged unicorn perched in that tree, or a three-toed griffin at the very least.
Curious, I asked.
A woodpecker, they answered in an awestruck whisper appropriate for the cathedral. Pileated, I thought, it must be a pileated, that most magnificent of forest birds, red-crested, tuxedo-clad and and massive. Hairy, its smaller and more common cousin it turned out to be. Disappointment was only momentary as I realized how wonderful it is to have seen one so often I was no longer surprised.
***This is a true story***

Image: ACEO 2.5 x 3.5 watercolour, gouache, metallics, ink on 200lb paper

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Brain Tree


Sometimes, rarely, my brain feels like a colossal tree, ancient and gnarled with branches that reach out into the far distant edges of the universe and roots that probe the depths of time. These are good days.
Mostly, however, my brain feels like a closet, small and dark with not much going on inside. I hate those days, which are often too many, when the brain is occupied with dusty clutter of daily life--unpleasant people, tight budgets, not enough money, too many calories, car trouble,noisy neighbours, stock market fiasco!, bad smells--did I tell you my dog got skunked? And we spent all evening scrubbing her up and down with a ghastly mix of dish soap, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar? And made her sleep all night in her crate even though she made pathetic little moaning noises?
And she got skunked whilst visiting, so the backseat of our car is equally skunked, and with the windows rolled up its enough to make your eyes water (even after scrubbing the back seat with aforementioned chemical stew). And after riding in that car you smell bad enough to make the grocery clerks eyes crinkle up. Eeeew.
Right now, my brain is a very smelly closet. Hopefully inspirations will waft by soon.
The image is a painting about my brain on a good day. And was done on one of my better days.

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