Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How the Great Squirrel Taught Dynamo Patience

How the Great Squirrel Taught Dynamo Patience: words and pictures by Ingrid in collaboration with Dynamo the Dog.

Finally finished my first piece of digital art. It occupied far too much of my time, compared to output (banging my head against the computer for two weeks vs a single page of graphic art). That said, I actually feel I know my way around Arcsoft Photostudio pretty well. I no longer pine for ownership of Adobe Illustrator (okay, I still do, but not so badly now) as the software I have seems to be doing what I need it to do. While I'll go back to this sort of thing (this page was supposed to be part of a five page story "How Dynamo Came to Worship the Great Squirrel") I really badly need a break so I'll get back to some linocuts next.

PS. Just got an amazing Fantasy Reference book today 'Fantasy Figure Artists Reference File'. You can read the review at The Future is a Trilogy (blog mostly written by Cyd, but I manage to chime in once in a while). If you do fantasy art of any kind, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Vernal Interlude

Everyone loves spring, almost. I hate spring. I don't mean the whole of spring, I just mean now--Mud Season. It's a time of year when all that was vile and frozen thaws and wafts its rotten scent through the atmosphere. The crisp ultramarine and white of the frozen landscape is gone but all that is lovely still lies sleeping below. Trails are slick with grey speckled treacherous ice and black sucking muck. Grasses, sodden and flattened, are brown and all but obscured by sooty mold. Here now, I find a treasure in my garden, planted long ago, they thrive my neglect, jewelled heads thrusting forth through the muck and detritus of a year gone by, while the snow melt in the forest leaves intriguing geometries.

Images: sorry, just plain old photography this time. I'm still fighting with my crash course on do-it-yourself learn to photoshop with a look-a-like program. Had fun creating a Mom's Day card from a doodle and digitally altered photo (see sidebar, the multi-coloured background began as a photo of rotten snow). And finding fantastic patterns appearing on the trails (3rd photo). The crocus are called 'snow' or 'species' and are tiny and very hardy, in case you're thinking of adding them to your garden, that's what you ask for. The bees are intensely happy to have found such a bounty in a grey landscape.

PS. Four mice down, umpteen to go. Using the old-fashioned snap traps, which are mean, but at least quick.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

WIP--Arghhhhhh...digital art

Here's my first foray into digital art. If you've been following my personal twitter you may have seen some cryptic whining about it. Well, I'm still at it.
Originally planned as a four or five page graphic story, I'll be happy with a single good looking page. I can't believe it's taking this long but I'm learning photoshop from scratch, only it's not photoshop. It's something called ArcSoft PhotoStudio which is just dissimilar enough to render books on the subject useless. So, as I rummage about with the buttons and features, I keep learning new things, which render the previous work useless, so it's like starting over and over and over again. If I could think of it as a learning experience it might not feel like such a gigantic waste of time; then again, as frustration sets in, I dither and procrastinate endlessly.
Like writing this blog post, for instance.
So here's where I'm at. Actually, I've already completed the layout once, but I wanted to change a few things, which means starting over. Didn't I already say that?

On a delightful note, one of my etsy customers posted a photo of her wall with one of my aceo's on it. It includes some beauties by other artists too and she's done a wonderful job of framing and display. I must admit I'm really thrilled.

Image: digital art, ink sketches on office paper (pentel pocket brush!) scanned, and a photo of Hollidge Tract, York Regional forest, much altered.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sketch Day at the Zoo

I suppose you were expecting animals, and I did those too. Some zebras at a distance, an otter, and wolves, but the humans were the most compelling creatures of the day. It was March Break when families migrate to big public spaces and mill about in vast flocks. How could I not be fascinated?. I wandered about with my pencil in pocket and sketchbook dangling about my neck from a shoestring. When I sketched, I'm sure the assumption was that I was there to see the animals, which left my real subjects unaware of my gaze. I've always been too self-conscious to sketch people in public (I've tried) so this was refreshing. That said, this was no life drawing session where models kindly hold poses from 1 minute to 20 minutes in length. I was lucky, very lucky, to get more than an eye-blink of time. That said, it was great practice at gesture drawing and it left me with far more than my usual appreciation of the human animal. Occasionally, a human would walk by and realize what I was actually up to, and at this we would share a conspiratorial wink, in on the joke. In this case, it was the humans on display.

Images: Zoo sketch, Little Canadian Sketchbook, 5" x 7" (spiral binding holds shoestring!), graphite. At home, I inked it with my pentel pocket brush (still pointy!) and sketched in some colour with pencil crayon. Below, pencil crayon drawing on Canson Mi-Teintes 9" x 12" paper. This was done at home, based on a two-minute sketch done at a life drawing session. Unfortunately, I never got to the hands, so my @home drawing of hands was pure guesswork and involved plenty of eraser. It was a very nice pose, though, (thank you, Francis) and I'm glad I worked it up to a finished piece.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Skating Party--All Done Now

The lone skater in the watercolour version is my husband. I didn't know this when I began it, but the fact emerged. He is not the most co-ordinated man on the planet; he is prone to stumbles, and a little awkward in gate. He falls a lot when skiing, but when the skates are on, he becomes a figure of speed and grace. Ice is his element, where he becomes competent and beautiful and his soul and his body turn and turn in perfect harmony. Hoping I caught that in the image; he likes it, so maybe he noticed.

PS. he doesn't read my blog (it's blocked at his workplace))

It is with great relief that I have the final images ready. I'm done. No more skating pics. I was a little obsessive about the whole thing, and also trying out the same theme in two media. Now that is instructive. Redo's are also instructive. In the past, I'll fight it out with one image, and, regardless of regrets, go on to the next. Not to say I have no regrets, but I am now definitely ready to move on.

The 1st image is watercolour on 140lb paper, 9"x12" finished image.

The 2nd image is coloured pencil on 9"x12" 'burnt-orange' Canson Mi-Teintes paper.

I find the coloured pencil more expressive, as I get to 'play with the lines', and while I find the slowness of coloured pencil can be tedious (especially when I'm concerned with technical bits) I love when I get to the linework, that's fun.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Beginnings--Skating Party WIP

Actually, the very beginning of 'skating party' is the little doodle diary sketch I did on Family Day weekend, or, to be even more precise, it was that moment out on the ice when I realized I was experiencing something utterly astounding. I'm not sure how other artists work, if composition and technique or originality and experimentation come foremost in their minds, but for me, it is the moment itself, the actual experience out there in the real world, or behind my eyes in my mind, that spurs me on and guides the hand. The other elements are incredibly important, and absolutely necessary to facilitate communication with you out there, but they will be always be secondary to what is going on inside of me. That is why Violet Hour contains a dog, incongruous and strange as it may seem, and that is why I've obsessively struggled with skating images during the past few weeks. I just feel compelled to tell my stories however crude or banal they may seem to others.
So today, you get to peak at beginnings.

This is my studio (actually, livingroom window) table with my coloured pencil version geared up and ready to go. It's in the early stages, and I'm surrounded by nice juicy photos of the real thing. I also have a little 2.5 x 3.5 version to look at. It's a real struggle to pull this all together, as no single picture says what I want to say. I wish I had more images of skaters in action, but instead I'm making things up as I go along.

This is my watercolour version after five washes. Two washes in cadmium yellow, as I was too timid to put the colour in strong enough on the first pass. Two washes in cadmium red (twice for the same reason, see how important technique is, eh?). Then let dry, and paint in the figure in red. Then let dry, and wash in the reflection. After that, paint in a resist on the figures hairline to preserve some highlights, have coffee, & work on something else entirely while that dries. Yawn. This is why I hate watercolour. Sometimes I get impatient and attack with blow dryer. What I like about watercolour, is, if you can tear yourself away between washes and find something better to do, it's a relatively fast process, and I'm hoping in time I can be more spontaneous once I have some technique under control.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Just Mousing Around

I'd love to say this is just a silly cartoon, but it's actually true. This is another one of my infamous bed sketches, wherein I curl up under the duvet, prop my head up on a big pillow, pull out a sketchpad and draw. Usually, I get some feline company too, and they make fine artist models if you don't mind the rear view. (can anyone tell me why cats do that?). This night, they were busy elsewhere, but soon brought the fruits of their labour into the bedroom.
A captured mouse always brings me to a conflicting mixture of emotions. One of the most interesting aspecs of pet ownership, is the chance see things from a different point of view. I try, often, to 'see the world through their eyes'. So when they catch a mouse, I feel a vicarious surge of pleasure in the hunt. For them, the catch is sheer joy, as they pounce, snatch, & release the mouse, not to be cruel, but because it's fun. All those actions fulfill powerful instinctive needs, an activity that for indoor cats is a rarity. Being cats, they do not have the capacity to contemplate the pain they inflict. But I am human. The mouse is alive, terrified, trapped and suffering. Vicariously, I feel all of that too. Another, more practical part of me, is relieved. Mice in the house are more than a nuisance; given a tendency to chew wiring, they are a serious safety hazard. When the cats 'do their job', I am glad--one less mouse to worry about, maybe they will go away.
So here I am, curled up in bed, witness to thrills and terror both and trying to decide what to do about it. You'll probably be relieved to know that 'capture & release' was my decision, and the mouse seemed unharmed. But here again, one sees another side of cats, their instincts and point of view. When I got up to capture the mouse, the cats gladly moved aside to let me 'have a go'. It was a great game to them, and one to be shared by the clan. A generous nature is revealed in this action, and some capacity of empathy. So then I could add a shred of guilt to the mix, as I tricked them into letting me take the mouse away (I overturned a bowl on top of the mouse, and then slid cardboard under the bowl to pick it up, if you need to know). The cats never did figure out what I did and continued looking for the escaped mouse for some time; it didn't dawn on them, this time, to lay the blame at my feet.
Needless to say, that was too much mental and physical activity for bedtime, so sketching it all in was a must. And although I won't hold the cats to account for the suffering they inflict on their prey, it did get me thinking about all the small-minded petty cruelties I've seen people inflict on each other 'in the name of fun'; hence the caption.

And below, a more peaceful view of Lennier. Both items rendered on The Great Canadian 5x7 Sketchbook, first in graphite and then inked in with the pentel pocket brush, which still has a perfect point 3 months and much use later. My report on its performance remains excellent, as I've used it enough to empty a cartridge (and they are the big fat fountain pen sized cartridges) and I carry it around everywhere and its never made a mess of ink, works at shallow angle too (ie. bed sketching).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Skating Party -- Skating on Lakes

When I was a child, I recall skating in endless circles in an arena to the muzakked tune of Obladee Obladaa piped in through a tinny PA system. We had to traverse (without adult accompaniment--gasp!!!) a wheat-field tilled for the winter, mud caking onto our boots until we stumped along like astronauts, skates banging across our shoulders. The arena was in an industrial area of factories and debris strewn parking lots, desolate on a Saturday morning. The arena fit well into the milieu with steel drum garbage cans to greet you at the door, and vast echoing interior of steel struts and poor lighting. I must have enjoyed it well enough as I recall returning again and again. But that song, even now drilling it's way into my mind, still evokes a peculiar sense of entrapment that goes along with skating endless counter-clockwise circles.
After the first opportunity to skate on a lake, my tolerance of the arena experience ended. On a lake, you see the sky, feel the wind, and, best of all, travel. You can go somewhere, to the island, to the far shore. Sometimes ice conditions are bad, and you are confined to skate tiny tight circles but the vastness of the universe surrounds you. Only bird song, the hush of pines, and soft razor sigh as your skates cuts the ice greets your ear. Other times, the good ice spreads like a maze of shiny black ovals and your skate is only bounded by windblown snow. Last Family Day Weekend on the wide South Magnetawan River, I experienced the best ice ever, and I don't think I'll ever forget the accumulated moments.
On February 14th, my husband and I arrived at Harris Lake, where our friends Gus & Rike awaited us, ready to bring us across the ice and through forests for our visit in their woodland home. "Bring skates, you might get a chance to use them", we were told only hours prior, but as we traversed iced thick with criss-crossed scars of snowmobile trails and snowy crusts we didn't allow our hopes to rise. We were served a savoury homemade soup and a bounty of bread and cheese, and engaged in lively conversation, catching up on all the events from the months between our last visit. And so it was that it was nearing sundown before we finally sat down on the shore of Magnetawan to lace up our skates and give it a try. The ice in front of their cottage was puckered like orange rind, but the glide was satisfactory if you kept a keen eye out for humps and bumps. This is good, we thought. But I grew bored, and soon picked my way across a choppy sea of snowmobile trails. What we found, beyond the network of trails, was nirvana. Lake ice smooth and creamy white, with delicate marble swirls of darker ice. The late afternoon sun spanned the horizon, magnified into an explosion of white through a thin layer of cirrostratus cloud. The suns brilliant light poured molten gold across butter smooth ice, a frictionless surface that lent us wings to fly into the sun. Boundaries fell away, as we explored across the vast surface in every direction, following our own whims, spreading out and coming together like wild birds in flight. And I finally understood why some people dream of heaven, a concept I always thought boring, but I here I was thinking that I would not be unhappy to caught forever gliding across a frozen sky with two of the people I most love.

Image: this is my first rendition of Skating Party in watercolour. I'm busy with more, desperate to somehow capture that fleeting moment forever. Below, three aceo's I did, still working out the concept.

These ACEO's are available at my Etsy shop.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Life Drawing at Latcham Gallery--It's a Man

I hate to sound so excited, but quite frankly, it's a rare occurrence to have a male model. Way back when in art college, I'd say 95% of the models where female. In fact, I remember, and probably only saw, the same three men in my numerous life drawing classes. One of them we all spontaneously nicknamed Jesus. It was hard not too, as he was rail thin and bearded and looked very much those most emaciated renditions of Jesus on the cross in classical art. We all dreaded his presence, given that his angularity made him difficult to draw and less than aesthetically pleasing. There were two more, one of them bland and blond and as exciting as white bread, and the other darker (hair, not skin colour) with a decently muscular body and but a less than attractive face. Given that kind of harsh scrutiny, I may have answered my own question as to why males so rarely model. Yikes! I'm judgemental! I wonder if the men in art classes make the same assessments on the women? Are women so accustomed to being looked at and objectified that posing as 'artist model' is a definite 'step up'? Or is it something more basic; that men have more reason to be embarrassed when put into this situation (don't you dare ask me to explain why). Whatever it is, male models are rare, and it's no wonder that I find them much harder to draw. Other artists in the session said the same thing. Practice is essential, so my kudos to all the men brave enough to bare all to the arts community, however exposed that leaves you. You deserve more thanks than I've given in the past.
That said, this model was gosh-darned charming and good-looking, so the session was a rare treat.

Image: 9"x12" Mi-Teintes paper (oatmeal) & coloured pencil (Prismacolor). This is the first nude I've cropped, for one simple reason--genitals. That's it, even the word barely passes the library test for me (and thankgoodness I don't have google-ads, who knows what would crop up), so call me a prude, but I thought it would be better to give you, the viewer, a choice. To see the entire drawing, click here where I've posted it on the wetcanvas forum (you'll have to scroll down; I couldn't upload the picture and needed to find someone to do it for me). I really like Wetcanvas policy on nudes. You just add a little bare-butt icon to your post, and people can chose not to look, and nothing need be censored or mislabelled adult content. Sorry, I absolutely do not consider art nudes to be adult content. It's not like we have age restrictions for art galleries either. Enjoy--or not.

Every Poop Tells a Story

More Doodle Diary

Panel #3 goes back to Family Day weekend. In Ontario, we get a statutory holiday in February, just when we need good friends and good cheer the most. Our Family Day's are most often spent visiting with my very good friends Gus & Rike (hey, they put up with us for 3 days straight & still invite us back (maybe it's the lasagna)). They live on the South Magnetawan River, about an hour north of Parry Sound. Their home is a series of small cabins on a cottage lot, one of which is an unheated gazebo and another which is the gravity operated washroom facilities (think about it, you'll get it). There is no road access to their property, and they have no indoor (or outdoor) plumbing and have learned to thrive on very little in the way of material goods and gain much philosophy and knowledge. Rike's woodcraft, gleaned from books and honed by experience, never ceases to astound me, although I've become so accustomed to it that when, while walking across a frozen swamp, I had no hesitation in calling her over to inspect a clump of poop I spotted. While I could only definitely ascertain that it was not dog poop, I was fairly certain in advance that she would have far more intelligible things to say about my find.
She, for her part, obligingly backtracked over to my new found pile. Sure enough, as I'd already guessed, with sufficient knowledge, every poop does tell a story. This poop was dry and blond (that much I could observe) but she declared it to be grouse (that's a small common woodland game-bird). But the monologue went on. The two streaks of black ice that I thought were mere coincidence, indicated to her the point at which the grouse had landed and burrowed down under the snow (dark pencilled area-upper left corner, the doodle is a birds-eye view), it then travelled beneath the snow for about a 2' before settling in, where it rested for quite awhile, possibly all night (lower right vaguely poop shaped scribble). Later, possibly morning, it backtracked beneath the snow (right hand dark blob that goes parallel to the left hand dark blob, both of these represent smoothed patches of ice) and made a quick exit as it emerged from the snow and flew off. The skinnier right hand track indicates a speedier departure from the more leisurely entry. This, Rike notes, is common grouse behaviour.
Whew. Now that's whole lot of story from one small pile of poo. Since at the time, later regretted, I didn't consider poo sufficiently photogenic, here's a link full of really nice photo's of the same thing, some of them quite eye-pleasing too.
Wildwood Track - Ruffed Grouse

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

How Dynamo Got Herself Into the Picture

This the Violet Hour:
Probably the last (for this season) of my series expressing the changing colours of the forest at sundown. I find that I can't work on things out of season; I just couldn't do 'summer' right now while the icicles still hang from the eaves. If I have more to say about winter nights, it will have to wait till next winter as I no longer walk in the evening dark.
This is a familiar scene as I round the last corner of my evening walk through the Hollidge Tract. The time is somewhere around 6:45 pm, late January. One night, under overcast skies, all the woods turned violet in the shadows, yet full of hidden colours. I tried my best to memorize and was not entirely successful. After many aborted thumbnail sketches, I packed a small sketchpad on my next walk (it was still too dark for photography) and as I rounded the corner and pulled out my pad, and stopped to draw. It was almost dark and I could barely see the squiggles that I laid out on the page. Dynamo, should have had better things to do, but I guess the squirrels had all gone to bed, so there she was taking up the lower right hand quadrant with her big hulking amorphous shadow. So of course I had to sketch her in.
Unfortunately, by daylight, my sketch was a hair next to useless, and although I tried my best to develop it into something, it never transformed. By the time I was ready to give up, the sun was hanging longer in the sky; a photo was vaguely feasable, so the camera was packed on my next walk. I had just enough light for reference photo of silhouettes and sure enough, 'guess who' loomed large in the lower right hand quadrant with her big hulking amorphous shadow. Since she insisted twice around to be in this piece I couldn't decide against it. Regardless of any ascetic considerations, here she is, a big hulking amorphous shadow in the lower right hand quadrant of the picture. This is the first time I've let a dog decide on the artwork.

PS. Dynamo seems to be better, and she'll be allowed to run again soon.

Image: Strathmore 300 series bristol, acrylic gel medium, watercolour, oil pastel. In this case, I stretched paper, painted thickly with gel medium coloured mauve/grey with watercolour & let dry. I used oil pastel for the image. I had to use the torchon a lot to fill in the details; I think I overdid the texture. I would love to try something similiar but use a crimson background with the oils on top. Maybe next year.

More Doodle Diary


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