Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 in Review

7" x 5" colored pencil on Pastelbord
Stacy L. Rowan

So it's that time of year for looking back and reviewing progress and accomplishments.

I started out the year posting some objectives. I did well with the first objective of having more fun with my art. The VSD was a large part of that. I worked some on clarifying my intentions, but I don't think it was evident on this blog or in discussions I had about my art. I also did more sketching, although I'd stop short of saying I made sketching a regular practice, and I didn't sketch at all on my vacation abroad. In fact I learned that sketching while traveling with a crowd is near impossible, especially when the crowd is relying on you to be their primary translator! Live and learn.

I also had goals which were based off the objectives, but don't think I shared them here. Since you didn't see the original list of goals, I'll limit my review to the highlights.

Overall, my biggest accomplishments for the year all fall under the catagories of visability and frequency. I showed my art eight times locally in addition to entering two juried shows and one competition. I also started a blog for selling my art and announced it to my mailing list by email. I joined the VSD in May and participated every month since. As I mentioned, I did more sketching this year both in graphite and watercolor. I also started my KMBW (Keeping My Brushes Wet) series of simple still lifes which keeps me painting more frequently and allows me to complete works more regularly. Overall I was very pleased with my productivity and progress this year.

For anyone who hasn't taken the time to look back and focus on their accomplishments, I highly recommend the exercise. Most of the year I am so focused on my next project or objective I move on without a thought to what I have finished. When I sat down with a pencil and notebook and thought back over the last 12 months, I was surprised by how much I had actually got done. It's a great feeling to have when setting goals for next year.

Speaking of which, I'll be back in the next few days to post my 2009 goals. Until then, enjoy your New Year's Eve celebrations and have a happy start to 2009!
About the image: I finally finished this colored pencil daffodil a few months ago. Some work in progress shots can be seen here , here and here, but I think this is the first time I posted the completed image. I was really pleased with how this came together on the Pastelbord. So much so that I am currently searching my references with a plan for creating a series of cp flower macros. After spraying and framing, I will put this drawing up on my sales blog. Look for it as we get nearer to Spring.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

2.5" x 3" watercolor on paper
Stacy Rowan

Merry Christmas!
I hope your holiday is filled with love, peace and joy!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Marketing my Artwork

I think most artists are constantly looking for new ways to market their art and get their name "out there". I'm no exception. And if I'm honest with myself (and you), I'm not very good at the marketing piece. Improving my marketing plan will again be on my list of goals next year.

So with marketing on my mind as the perfect excuse, I treated myself to a little end-of-year present. I ordered custom postage stamps with my artwork from Zazzle! I love the idea of having my art on the outside of my art related mailings. It's an easy and relatively inexpensive way to expose the receipient to an additional image.

I ordered three sheets of stamps. One of the great things about Zazzle is that their discounts apply even if each sheet is made from a different image. I choose relatively simple images feeling that they would have a better impact. I also added my web address to each stamp, so if the postman sees my art and likes it, he'll know where to find it. Okay, so may be I'm dreamin' there, but it didn't cost extra, so why not?

Zazzle stamps come in three sizes - small, medium and large. All three sizes are offered with both a horizontal and vertical orientation. However, the image aspect ratio changes based on the stamp size, so look at the product details before choosing. I ordered the medium size stamp, because I felt the large size might overwhelm a thank you note envelope.

I found the custom stamp interface very easy to use. It didn't take long at all to complete my three design. And since you are not committed to ordering what you design, you can play to your heart's content.

But I have to say the best part was receiving the stamps in the mail. They arrived a few days after I placed the order and look so much better than I ever imagined. The picture below absolutely does not do them justice! I think the color quality and crispness of the image is excellent and I like the glossy finish.

(I smeared the bar codes in my photo editing software. They don't really look like that.)

So if you are looking for some low cost, no pressure marketing, why not give Zazzle postage stamps a try?

(In case you are wondering, I am not getting paid for this endorsement. I just want to share news of a product I am happy with. Also I did look at another custom postage supplier before ordering from Zazzle, but found Zazzle's prices and delivery to be better.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Snowy Farm - Dec VSD

Lehigh Valley Farm
7" x 5" watercolor on Aquabord
Stacy L. Rowan

This month I decided to try something different and paint my Virtual Sketch Date entry on Ampersand Aquabord. I've been wanting to work with this watercolor support for some time, because I am interested in framing watercolors without glass.

I wasn't sure if pencil marks would erase off the board, so I did my preliminary sketch with watercolor pencil. I liked how this worked out and might try it for my next painting on regular watercolor paper.

However, with my first brushstroke of paint, I questioned whether experimenting when I had a deadline was a good idea. The Aquabord doesn't absorb water exactly like paper does, so with a fully loaded round I was leaving puddles on the board. Not the effect I was going for.

I switched to flat brushes which hold less water and found they worked better. Most of the rest of the painting was done using my flats. I did go back to the rounds when I painted the trees. I wanted the paint there to be juicy so my little dabs with the brush would run together and produce interesting shapes.

One of the things I really loved about the Aquabord is how simple it is to make changes. The paint lifts off very easy when you re-wet it. I was able to lift out the windows on the second story of the gray barn and get all the way back to white. (I went back in later with some light gray mix to tone down the white.)

One downside to this is that sometimes I got lifting when I didn't want it. I had to use the flat brush at a shallow angle to avoid lifting paint with it's edge. The same was true for the points of the round brushes. But I thought it was easier to correct the areas where I accidentally lifted paint than it would have been to correct on paper.

My only minor disappointment with the Aquabord I encountered when I painted the back tree line. If I was painting on paper, I would add the trees while the sky was still damp and let the paint flow naturally into that area. This gives a nice diffused and somewhat varied edge. It's one of those cases of letting the paint work for you. With the Aquabord I couldn't get this technique to work, so I had to go in and soften the edge with a damp brush. Like I said, a minor disappointment, and I can't say it wasn't just a result of my inexperience with the surface.

I haven't prepared the painting for framing yet, so I can't comment on that part of the process. I will try to remember to report back and let you know how simple or difficult it is.

Visit the Virtual Sketch Date blog this Sunday and use the posted links to visit all the entries.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Someday is Now

watercolor sketch approx. 8" x 5"

I can't speak for other artists, but I know I constantly carry around paintings in my head. I see things every day that make me think, "Oh, someday I have to paint that!" Normally these "things" aren't unique, for instance aliens landing in my yard. No, the "things" which catch my attention are typically everyday objects which the play of light has turned beautiful. I have so many of these paintings in my head, I should never run out of material.

On the flip side, I have so many paintings in my head that I worry about missing out on one. If I see a beautiful moment and don't have my sketching materials or camera with me, all I have is the memory of it. I wonder how many gigs of memory my brain has and when it will start to overwrite images.

Yesterday morning I woke up and looked out my bedroom window. There I saw one of the "someday" paintings. As the morning light falls on my neighbor's house, it gives their gray siding a fabulous yellow glow. The tree in their side yard lights up to a gorgeous orange as it stretches it limbs to greet the morning sun. Together they can create rich purple shadows using the side of the house as their canvas.

So many days I have seen this and thought "Someday..." I decided someday was now and started my day with a quick watercolor sketch (no drawing!). The sun moves fast in the morning, so I actually put in the finishing touches first thing today during the encore performance.

The sketch may not be perfect, but I captured the essence (in this case color) and got my day off to a satisfying start. And now I have one image that I'm not worried about over-writing.

The time is also now for the December Virtual Sketch Date. The reference is posted here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

approx. 3" x 4"
turkey decoration
2B graphite in Canson Field Sketchbook

Happy Turkey Day to all who are celebrating!

Like many Americans, I will be spending the day with family, feasting on turkey and being thankful for all the blessings in my life. Of course, I count all of the support and friendship I receive here among those blessings.

Since the kids are off of school for the holiday, I am going to take a little holiday myself. For the next week or so things will be quiet here while I spend time with them and my hubby. I will also start getting organized for the next holiday, which will be here in a few short weeks! Perhaps a little organization now will save me from going nuts later.

(Get it? I said "going nuts"...a cashew is a nut...Oh never mind.)
approx. 1 1/4" x 7/8"
2B in Canson Field Sketchbook

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Autumn Tree - Nov VSD

I really loved this reference when it was posted. (Thanks Jeanette!) But it turned out that I couldn't get into the flow with it.

First I started it in graphite. I loved the strong shadows in the reference and how they worked against the brightly lit trunk. But once I had my line drawing done, I decided I didn't have the patience to build up the values in graphite.

graphite line drawing
6" x 9"

So I moved onto charcoal. Charcoal spoils me with its quick and easy darks. After drawing out the image again, I started my shading. But I felt I was fighting to get a smooth tone for the sky and good form for the trunk.

crop of charcoal WIP
crop approx. 7.5" x 9"

Being the fickle girl that I am, I set aside the charcoal with a whispered promise to come back later when I wasn't under a time crunch. And then I turned to my old stand-by... watercolor. I decided to try a limited palette of aureolin, quinacridone red and french ultramarine blue. Rather than draw the image a THIRD time, I transferred my graphite line drawing from my sketchbook to my watercolor paper.
watercolor on paper
crop approx 5" x 8"

I painted the sky first and it went down with no problem. I foolishly thought I was home-free. Next I moved onto the tree. I loved the neutral I mixed from my three primaries and how it separated some as it dried, but I ran into the same struggle over form that I had with the charcoal.

At this point I finally took some time to figure out why I was struggling. It was that strong light that was creating the fabulous leaf shadows. Since it comes from almost directly in front of the tree, the form of the trunk looked flattened. Now that I had identified my problem, I had ideas about how to resolve it, but -BUZZ - time was up. Oh well, win some and lose some.

And all was not lost, because I did learn some valuable lessons.

First, don't try to tackle any painting or drawing when distracted by other things. I never slowed down to focus on this reference and form a plan. I just kind of jumped in. Had I given the charcoal my full attention I wouldn't have jumped to watercolor so quickly.

Second, although I like dramatic lighting, this type of lighting brings with it it's own set of issues which must be skillfully dealt with. The knowledge I gained here will help me the next time I work with the combination of strong shadows against bright light.

And third, as much as I love dramatic lighting, I can't sacrifice the feeling of good 3D form for it. Turns out good form is pretty much at the top of my list of priorities. Who knew.

I really love how these challenges push me. They push me to try new subjects, to complete paintings under time constraints and to work around obstacles and learn new things. I can't wait for next month!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Artistic Style

approx. 7" x 5"
005 black Micron on Canson paper
a very slow WIP

I have recently seen a number of blog posts written on the topic of artistic style. I think it is interesting how often artists, including me, have questions about style. Do I have a style? Is it a good one? What defines my style? Should I change it? Is it even possible to consciously change it?

To my knowledge, most people never question their style of handwriting. They realize their handwriting is as unique as they are. Their letters may be big and loopy or small and straight, scrunched all together or spread out wide.

How many people question their style of speech? Should my words be formed slowly and thoughtfully, or should I let them race from my mouth in one long excited breath?

We don't question how we talk or write, but we do question our art. Is that because we think there is a "right way" and a "wrong way" to make art? I'm guessing we've all heard messages about right and wrong with concern to art so that may be part of it. But I also think it's because our art is much more important to us than our handwriting.

Like many artists, I am trying to get a handle on the specifics of my artistic style. I decided to enlist my family to help with this.

First I laid out all of my recent works in one room. Then I gave my hubby and kids each a piece of paper and pencil. I asked them to write down any thoughts they had regarding my style including similarities they see in my works, patterns, common subjects, recurring colors, repeated themes - basically anything they saw. I assured them there were no wrong answers. Then I grabbed a piece of paper for myself and did the exercise with them, trying to look at my own work with fresh eyes.

When everyone was done, I compiled the result. This is what I learned...
- I paint and draw in a realistic and detailed style.
- I use a full range of values in my work.
- I use saturated colors in my work, especially around the focal point.
- Most of my compositions have simple backgrounds or are close crops.
- I like to paint nature (flowers, leaves, vegetables & fruits) and everyday objects.

Thinking about these results, I realized that my subject and composition choices are my way of trying to get the viewer to stop and appreciate the "little things" in life and the beauty in the everyday. I want them to "stop and smell the roses" and feel happier for it. This is why I chose Stop and Draw the Roses for the title of this blog. It reflects not only my desire to slow down the pace of my life by creating art, but also my desire to help people who view my art slow down and appreciate their lives.

Asking my family for a style review was very interesting and helpful. Even my young children had something useful to add. If you are not comfortable enlisting your family, the exercise could be done with other artists. Repeating the style review with several different groups and comparing their answers would be interesting too.

If you are having trouble "seeing" your own style, give this exercise a try. I'd love to hear if you feel it was as valuable as I do.

Friday, November 14, 2008

November Sketch Date

approx. 4" x 7"
4B graphite in Canson Filed Sketchbook

The reference is now posted over on the Virtual Sketch Date blog. If you are interested in joining the challenge, be sure to read the guidelines posted here. Completed entries are due on Saturday November 22nd. Happy sketching everyone!

My sketch above is of a little battery operated lantern that I take with me while the children are in their various activities. It is not always worth running home during the activity, so the lantern allows me to read in the car on dull, dreary days.

As you can see from my construction lines, I had a heck of a time with the perspective on that curved top. It didn't help that it was getting darker by the second. And of course the lantern wasn't on when I started the drawing, so I didn't want to turn it on and change the lighting in the middle. Although in the end I ran out of light and time to complete the shading. Anyway, I thought I'd share this sketch, despite my problems, so that people new to sketching would see that not all sketches are beautiful.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sketch Blogs

Locally grown Fuji apple- YUM!
2" x 2.5" graphite sketch

I enjoying sketching and have tried to add more of it to my life. But I still dream of the year when I can sketch every day and capture the details that make life so rich. That way I could save them and take them out later when I need to smile, or laugh, or be inspired, or just remember.

Unfortunately, right now daily sketching is still a dream. I sketch sporadically and often it is a sketch of a random object I happen to have handy, not a juicy memento of the day.

Even though I don't sketch daily, I love to look at other people's sketches. I know someday the inspiration I get from this will build to a tipping point and I will no longer be able to resist starting my own journal.

Two of my new favorite sketch blogs are...
Urban Sketchers, which is a "community of artists around the world who draw the people and places of the cities where they live and travel to." There is incredible talent on this blog and when I read it I feel like I am traveling the world for free!

Karen Blados's sketch blog where she posts a sketch a day which chronicles her life and her children's childhood. Oh how I wish I had this idea when my kids were younger! Do you think she will come to my house and do this for my kids? It doesn't have to be every day. Maybe just three times a week...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Watercolor Onions

approx. 3 1/2" x 5" watercolor on paper

Another painting for my KMBW series. This time I painted onions.

I went grocery shopping today and had to buy a white onion for one of our meals. When I was putting it away I realized I had three different kinds of onions in the house. While this may not seem like a momentous occasion, I can assure you it rarely happens here. My mom used to by onions by the bag and potatoes five pounds at a shot. How in the world did she use them all before they went bad?

Anyway, I decided to take advantage of this unusual situation and used the onions for a still life set up. Luckily I didn't need that onion for tonight's meal!

My intention for this painting was to paint quick and loose with a lot of wet-in-wet. Um...yeah...as you can can see, I lost that intention somewhere along the line. And to be honest, I wasn't even that far along when I forgot about it.

I know so many artist who paint wonderful loose, washy watercolors, but man, that's just not me. People say I will loosen up at some point. I can't imagine it. And honestly I like my style. But I also like challenging myself so I keep learning.

Tonight I might have missed out on that challenge, but I was having too much fun to care.

I'm still thinking up a name for this one. I considered "Tearful Menagerie", but I think they look more cheerful than tearful. I'm taking suggestions if you have any.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

More Autumn Watercolor Sketches

autumn trees watercolor sketch

I made it out late this afternoon to do some quick watercolor sketches of a couple of trees in my neighborhood. I had to be quick because darkness was swiftly taking over the sky. And because I was afraid a neighbor would call the police about the "strange person sitting in her van in front of the house". Do you think the police would understand my need to capture the fall splendor before all the leaves were gone and winter was upon us? Luckily I didn't need to find out. No police officers came knocking at my van window during my sketching session.

I mentioned in my last post the slight panic that I feel as autumn turns to winter. I'm wondering if other artists feel the same way.

Fall would definitely be my favorite season if it wasn't followed by winter. The bright fall colors inspire me and call out to be painted. But the days pass quickly, and I don't always get to answer their call. So the days slip by and each morning more leaves are on the ground and fewer still cling to their branches. Then the blue sky gets replaced by gray days and I know that winter is just around the corner. I know that one day I will wake up and all the color will be gone. And it will be six long months until it returns in the Spring.

Winter does not inspire me to paint. Winter in this area is gray and cold. Winter inspires me to crawl under my blankets and hibernate. I get very little art done when I am hibernating under my cozy blankets.

But this year I am hatching a plan in an effort to stem the panic. I've been snapping all sorts of photographs over the last six months that I hope to use for inspiration when the world goes gray. I am also planning on joining the local art club for their winter figure painting sessions. How I hope the models wear brightly colored clothes!! And I know I can always head to the grocery store or florist to purchase some painting subjects.

Of course if it gets really bad, I can always try to convince hubby to take me somewhere warm and colorful in February. That sounds like the best plan of all!

How do you stay motivated during the winter months? Please feel free to share your tips in the comments.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lost and Found

Fall watercolor fun

When I was a young(er) adult I never lost stuff. I wasn't organized, but I could always find exactly what I was looking for when I needed it. Always. I got annoyed when other people lost things because I didn't understand how that happened.

Somewhere over the last 5 or 10 years I have lost the ability to find what I need when I need it. I don't know if it is an age thing or a parent thing or what, but I lose things.

Tonight is the perfect example. I had written down notes for a job I am doing. I remembered writing them. I could practically see them in my mind's eye. But I had no flippin' clue where they were! Can I tell you how annoyed I was at myself - the girl who never used to lose anything.

And it's not like I haven't realized that I lost this ability and taken measures to improve my odds. Instead of making notes on tiny scraps of paper, I have started writing things down in spiral bound notebooks. That way there are no little scraps of paper to get accidentally thrown away or lost between the couch cushions.

Of course, if one notebook is good, five must be better, right? Because then I can have a different notebook for each different topic - art, art clubs, freelance work, general life stuff... - you get the picture. It was a great idea until I started grabbing whichever notebook was handy. Now each notebook contains a little bit of everything.

But it's okay. I have a new plan. I am now ripping things out of notebooks and putting them into binders so like can be stored with like. Hmmm...does this defeat the purpose of having notebooks in the first place? Naaaah....ya think?

Anyway, after searching all the obvious places and all the places I would never think to look, I did find my lost notes...in a notebook. But at least they were in the proper notebook if that makes it any better.

And the bonus is I also found my original notes on the painting I posted last time. I knew I had a different title, but of course when I was posting I couldn't remember it and I couldn't find my notes. So my original title for "Warmth for the Lonely Traveler" was "Winter Solitude". Which do you like better? Feel free to leave your votes in the comments.

The image I posted today was of some fun I had in my watercolor sketchbook. It was just some playing with fall colors I did before going on my wild hunt for lost notes. I was going to write a post about the changing of the seasons and the slight panic I feel as fall turns to winter, but...well...I got a bit off track. There is always next time. If I can find my notes...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Art Sales

Warmth for the Lonely Traveler
12" x 16" watercolor on paper
Stacy L. Rowan

I am pleased to announce that today I am launching a new blog, At the Moment, which will be dedicated to the sale of my artwork. This new blog is my online gallery of the artwork I currently have available. I chose to start off the posts with one of my favorite pieces, "Guardians", my painting of the Bethlehem Waterworks. I will be adding work regularly until all of my available work is posted. After that I will add new work as I complete it.

I chose today for my launch because it is International Artist Day, which according to their website is "a worldwide tribute to artists which will honor and bring recognition to the contributions they have made to civilization." Announcing the completion of a goal I've had for at least a year seemed like a good way to celebrate.

On this International Artist Day I'd also like to recognize Rose Welty. Rose and I became friends through the Virtual Sketch Date. She has worked along side me for the past few weeks, offering encouragement and advice, while she prepared to launch her own sales blog. Thank you Rose!!

I am excited with this new venture and would love if you would take a look. Let me know what you think.

Information on the painting:
Last New Year's Eve I was lucky enough to have a guided tour of the Sun Inn in Bethlehem, PA. I took over 100 photographs of the Inn which just celebrated it's 250th birthday.

The reference for this painting is from the guest suite on the first floor of the Inn. The Sun Inn was well known for its comfortable lodging and had many famous guests. Travel was difficult back in the 1700s, there were no mini-vans with built-in DVD players and heated seats. So as I painted this I imagined the welcoming warmth of the Inn after a long day on the road. But I also realized that most of the travelers were probably gentlemen who were traveling alone and were probably missing the company of their family. The cold light coming through the window and the single bare branch outside represent this loneliness.

This painting is currently on display in the Bethlehem Palette Club 2008 Fall Juried Exhibition. The exhibition is being held at the Siegel Gallery in Iacocca Hall on the Lehigh University campus now through December 14th.

Watercolor Pears - Oct VSD

Colorful Crowd
6" x 4" watercolor on paper
Stacy L. Rowan

Here is my entry for this month's Virtual Sketch Date.

Viweing the reference, I was excited by all the colors I saw in the shadows on the white tray and in the cloth under the tray. I knew right away that watercolor was my choice for the month.

Unfortunately I chose to work on a strange paper. The paper forced me to change the brushes I normally use and to come up with a new plan for getting those beautiful colors down. So the final painting doesn't look exactly how I expected, but overall I am pleased with this colorful crowd of pears.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Background Material

With my new KMBW series of simple still lifes, I've found myself thinking that I want to have options beyond a white background. So I decided to take a field trip to the fabric store.

Let me start by saying that I do not sew and never have. So this was pretty much virgin territory for me. Have you been to a fabric store lately? I was amazed!! So many different fabrics! Shiny ones and soft ones and fuzzy ones. Prints and solids. And the colors - holy cow! They even had the cotton fabrics arranged by color so as I walked down the aisle I saw reds then oranges then yellows... Loved that!

These are the fabrics I purchased. The red one I have in mind for a specific project outside of the KMBW series. The solids satisfied my need for simple colored backgrounds for the series. The blue-ish, purple one with the vines I thought would be fun to paint draped and folded. And the dark purple one...ah, well, I just couldn't pass it up. It was shiny and pretty and called out to me. Can you say impulse buy?

One great thing about the cotton fabrics is that there was a whole array of 18 inch by 24 inch precut squares for a reasonable price. It was so nice to pick up little squares instead of lugging big bolts of fabric around the store. And I think they are the perfect size for my still life set ups.

So if you paint still lifes and haven't been to a fabric store recently, I highly recommend the trip. I can't wait to create set-ups using my new fabrics. And since I've told myself I can't go back until I use most of what I just bought, I had better get busy painting!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Painting Jelly

watercolor jelly jar Homemade Jelly
3" x 5" watercolor on paper
Stacy L. Rowan

Here is the second painting in my new KMBW series. This time I chose to paint a jar of homemade jelly. And before anyone asks - no, I didn't make it. It was actually a gift from one of my mother-in-law's friends. Can I tell you how much I love people who share their homemade jelly? It really is a completely different product than what you buy in the store.

As soon as I brought the jelly home, I took it right upstairs to my art table. I knew how it would glow from the late afternoon sun that comes in the windows next to my table. I couldn't wait to paint that glow. And I'm happy to say that I made it to the end of the painting without my family finding that jar and taking it for their breakfast toast!

One thing I've already learned from this new series is that I have to be careful that "quick and loose" doesn't become sloppy. I want to be quick and loose in a controlled manner, which seems contradictory even to me. Like most other things, I assume that balance will come with practice. I'll let you know.

On a different note...the October Virtual Sketch Date reference is being posted tomorrow over on the Virtual Sketch Date blog. If you want to participate, please read the guidelines first. There has been a small change in how the sketch date is being handled.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Interior Sketch

approx. 5.5" x 9"
2B in Canson Field sketchbook

Here is a quick sketch I did last night. I don't normally sketch interiors, but I wanted to sit on the couch by hubby as he watched the Penn State game, and this is what caught my eye. I did it in graphite since I don't trust myself with watercolors on the couch!

After my sketch, I started a new stippling project. This is only my third one ever, but I find stippling to be a very relaxing activity. Sort of like I imagine knitting to be. And since the image takes so long to build up, I can do it while listening to the TV or having a conversation with someone. Perfect for when I want to do art and curl up on the couch.

approx. 7" x 5"
005 black Micron on Canson paper

It doesn't look like much now, but after quite a bit of time and millions upon millions of dots it should look better. Does that sound like crazy person talk or what?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Simple Still Life

orange watercolor pumpkin Little Jack
5" x 3" watercolor on paper
Stacy L. Rowan

This little pumpkin was an exercise in "keeping my brushes wet" (kmbw). Using Rose's Daily Inks as inspiration, I decided to choose a simple still life subject and paint it quickly working from a loose contour drawing. I set a target time of 15 minutes for the whole process. Although truthfully, I didn't set a timer or anything so I might have gone over by a few. I do know that I painted quicker than normal and that was my intention.

I really enjoyed the exercise and plan to repeat it - with new subjects of course - several times a week if possible. My goal is to paint more regularly and to focus on capturing the essence of the subject with few details.

As you've probably noticed, I typically paint in a controlled, detailed style. I enjoy painting this way, but also want to be confident painting over a broader range of the loose-controlled spectrum. Skill and confidence with a loose, quick style would be excellent for creating plein aire sketches. Sketches that could be used at a later date to develop studio paintings.

As for the goal of painting more regularly...well, of course I would love to paint every day because I love painting. But life often gets in the way, and I can go several days or more without painting at all. Setting a 15 minute limit makes the goal of painting more regularly seem manageable. And painting small, finished works in that time will allow me to update this blog more frequently. Plus I have something else in the works that will benefit from the output of these exercises. I'm still working out the details, but promise to share more later in the month.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sketching People

graphite sketches of people at soccer game Sketches of people at a soccer game
graphite in a small Moleskine

This is my second page of soccer spectator sketches. (See here for the first page.) The sketching got easier as I went and I was happier with this page than the first.

Some things I learned...

- I did much better when the people I was sketching were pretty far away. The distance helped me simplify their forms. When the people were closer I had a hard time ignoring the details. Also when they were further away I didn't have to worry about being "caught".

- Although distance helped me simplify the forms, it made capturing faces a challenge. I struggled between what I thought a face looked like and what I was actually seeing. Most of the people who were at the right distance had their back to me, so I didn't get enough practice with faces in this sketching session. I will look for opportunities in the future.

- I preferred my sketches that were made with more short, straight strokes instead of a couple of long contour lines. I was better at capturing the form with short strokes and I felt the resulting sketches had more personality.

- Speaking of personality, it was better for me to put the eraser away and rely on restating lines that needed correcting. Better for the personality of the sketch and of the artist!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Graphite Peony Drawing - September VSD

Peony in vase
3" x 3.5" graphite in Moleskine
Stacy L. Rowan

Here is my submission for the September Virtual Sketch Date.

I knew I didn't have much time this week to work on my drawing so I decided to use my Moleskine sketchbook. That was a good decision. Since I was using the sketchbook, I decided to use graphite. That was not so good a decision.

Since the tones in the petals were subtle, I felt I had to lay in the dark background first to give me something to judge the lighter tones against. By the time I had layered on the darks in the background and the vase, my time and patience were running out. So I rushed the petals. As a result, this is not my favorite VSD entry - not bad, just not my favorite.

Of course, I wasn't loving last month's entry at this time either, and my cabbage definitely grew on me. I like it a lot better now. Maybe the lesson here is that I should refrain from passing judgement on my work until some time has passed.

Please visit the Virtual Sketch Date blog tomorrow and use the links to look at the other entries.

Note: I drew the whole entry and cropped the image after for posting here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

September Sketch Date Reference

The reference photo for the September Virtual Sketch date has been posted here. All entries are due Saturday, September 27th. If you want to participate this month, go to the Virtual Sketch Date blog and post a comment on the September reference post. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Preparing for an Art Fair - Part II

graphite sketches of people watching soccer game Sketches of people at a soccer game
graphite in small Moleskine

So now that I am done with my art fair, I have time to share the rest of my tips with you. If you missed part I of Preparing for an Art Fair, which dealt with managing the "stuff" needed for your booth space, you can find it here.

Part II deals with managing inventory and starts with making lists. I love making lists. Making lists makes me feel productive. So it's only logical that I chose to simplify my show prep by making lists...in this case, inventory lists.

I have an Excel spreadsheet for my note card and print inventory. In it I keep track of how many note card packs and prints are in inventory, maximum inventory levels and minimum inventory levels. The spreadsheet is set up to automatically calculate how many note cards and prints I need to make when I fall below the minimum inventory level for each specific image. It even has a column for production priority so I know what to make first. I swear, I could be a poster girl for Excel.

Now I know spreadsheets don't seem very creative and many people might be turned off by this tool, but I have to tell you it saves me loads of time. Before having the spreadsheet, I had to decide before every show how many note cards and prints I wanted to make. And of course, since it wasn't written down, I could never remember what I did for the last show. Plus it was too easy to get emotional about the whole decision. You know, thinking that this was going to be the show where hoards of people showed up all wanting the same print. Since I don't want to disappoint anyone or lose a sale it only made sense to make a few, or ten, or twenty extra prints of that image. Right?!??

With a spreadsheet the numbers are cut and dry, so I don't have to worry about being under-, or over- prepared.

I also have a handwritten list detailing the amount of each cash denomination that I take to a fair for making change. It makes a trip to the bank for rolled coins super easy. And it gives me a way to double check my receipts at the end of the day since I know exactly how much money I started with.

All the lists save me time by eliminating the repetition of figuring out how much of everything I need for every show. But, perhaps equally as important, they also give me confidence because I know I am well prepared.

In an ideal world I also mat and frame my paintings as soon as they are done so I don't need to have a framing marathon the week before a fair. The same is true for printing and packing note cards. I replace them as soon as I fall below my minimum inventory levels so I'm not making 30 or 40 packs all at once. Unfortunately I don't live in an ideal world, so sometimes this is more of a goal then a reality.

At the end of a fair, part of my wrap up when I get home is restocking bags (for putting purchases in) and business cards and returning the cash bag to its beginning values. That way I know everything is ready to go for next time.

Using this system I've had much better luck avoiding the pre-show stress-ball stage. I've also been able to take advantage of opportunities that showed up without much lead time. Best of all, I don't have to give up painting for a month leading up to a fair date, and my family has stopped avoiding me during that time as well.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Art Fair Today - Nazareth, PA

green coffee mug with Oreos in watercolor and graphite
Coffee Break
approx. 4" x 3" watercolor and graphite
Stacy L. Rowan

Just a post for people in my area to announce that I will be showing my art this afternoon and evening at Nazareth Evening on Main Steet in Nazareth , PA. The event starts at 3pm and runs until 8pm. The art show is taking place in the square at Main and Center Streets. Also local businesses along Main Street will be open for the evening and there will be entertainment in the street and square.

If you are in the area, I'd love for you to stop by and say hi!

I created the above image for the postcard I sent to my mailing list announcing this event. If anyone is interested in how I make and print my own postcards, leave a comment and I'll be happy to share. Notecards with this image are also available.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thank You!

I would like to extend a big thank you to fellow artist and blogger Michael Brinkley! Michael's blog focuses on pencil drawing and in it he gives detailed information for creating pencil portraits. In fact, Michael recently changed the name of his blog to Pencil Portrait Lessons to reflect this focus. He has made other changes in addition to the name change, including deciding to feature a different artist every Wednesday.

This week I am honored to be Michael's featured artist. Please go here if you would like to read my responses to Michael's interview questions.

Thanks again Michael!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Preparing for an Art Fair - Part I

green pear with cranberries watercolor Familiar Blush
3.5" x 2.5" watercolor on paper
Stacy L. Rowan

I am currently preparing for an art fair that is taking place this Saturday evening in Nazareth, PA. While I'm in the middle of the process, I thought I'd share some tips that make show prep a little easier for me.

My first few art fairs included a mad scramble of preparation which took up all of my art time for the few weeks leading up to the fair. As much as I like doing fairs, I hated being away from my paints for so long and my family hated the stressed out, frantic person I turned into.

The solution - move as much of the prep work out of the weeks leading up to the fair.

This first post will deal with managing the "stuff" required for an art fair. By stuff I mean the canopy, lights, table, extension cords, print rack...everything that is not art.

After my first couple of art fairs, I realized that I needed the same stuff for every fair, and with a few fairs under my belt I had a pretty good idea of what it was. So months before I had any shows scheduled, I sat down and made a list of all the stuff I wanted to take with me. Now I will admit that I over pack for every occasion, so my list is quite long. I included everything I thought I might possibly ever need. And I mean everything. Big things like my canopy and chair and display racks and little things like zip ties, scissors and tissues.

Once the list was done I put it in a safe place. For me that place is in my bin of office supplies (receipt books, stapler, pens, calculator, business cards) that I take to every fair. It would also be a good idea to have a back-up copy somewhere, say on my computer.

Next I chose a spot in our basement to store all the stuff that I don't need to unpack between shows. This saves time when I am gathering everything together for my husband to load into the van. It also makes it easy for me to point my art fair stuff out to my family. So when I say "Don't touch Mommy's art fair stuff!" they know exactly what "stuff" I am referring to. Lastly, having everything together in one area makes it harder, though not impossible, to lose or forget something.

In my next post I will give some tips for managing inventory.

About the painting: I love the little blush of red that sometimes appears on green pears. I had the idea that cranberries would "pair" nicely with one of these blushing pears because of the common color and similar shapes. So I tried the combination on my kitchen table and a painting was born.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Watercolor Cabbage - August VSD

6" x 4" watercolor on paper
Stacy L. Rowan

Here is my submission for the August Virtual Sketch Date. I loved the purple and green combination found in this cabbage. Since I reacted first to the colors in the reference, I decided to use watercolors for my entry.

If you've been following my blog, you know that I have been out of the art habit recently. The virtual sketch date challenge was the perfect opportunity for me to get back to it. That being said, we all know that rusty feeling you get when you've been away from your paints. So I decided this month that my main goal was to finish my entry and submit it on time. As a reminder I wrote this on my printed reference page...

Success is in the doing, not the end result.

And I have to say, when I hit that "ugly phase", reading the above statement really helped!

Overall I am pleased with this little painting. I am happy with the colors I achieved and, by means of this post, was successful in my main goal of getting this done. However, I do feel I lost some of my initial freshness. I used masking fluid for the leaf veins. I have a love/hate relationship with masking fluid. I love that it lets me paint without being concerned about saving the light areas that are masked off. But I hate what happens when I remove the masking. The areas of masking are almost always bigger than I want them to be, and I hate dealing with softening the hard edges of paint that built up around the masked areas. I'm not sure if the painting actually looks less fresh, but the time I spent blending in the masked areas sure made it feel less fresh to me!

Please visit the Virtual Sketch Date blog tomorrow and use the links to look at the other entries.

Friday, August 22, 2008

August Sketch Date Reference

The reference photo for the August Virtual Sketch date has been posted here. All entries are due Saturday August 30th. If you would like to take part this month, go to the VSD blog and post a comment on the August reference post. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Child #1's cast came off today!! We are all very excited. She will be on crutches and still not able bear weight with that leg for at least three weeks, but we are taking advantage of this improvement and are on the move to enjoy what is left of the summer.

See you in September!!!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - July

11" x 14" charcoal on Stonehenge paper
Stacy L. Rowan

Here is my entry for the July Virtual Sketch Date. It is a charcoal drawing of sunquats. The reference was supplied by Leslie Hawes and can be found here. A list of entries will be posted on the Virtual Sketch Date blog tomorrow.

A Sunquat is a citrus fruit and is a cross between a kumquat and a lemon.

As soon as I saw the gray scaled version of this reference I knew I wanted to attempt it in charcoal. I admit that I may have been a little ambitious when I whipped out the 11" x 14" paper, especially given our current circumstances, but that didn't stop me from trying. Overall I am pleased with how much I got done and how the drawing turned out. Although, if you look closely you will notice it is not signed yet. I am reserving the right to tweak it later.

This is the first charcoal I have attempted on Stonehenge paper. I am pleased with how the paper performed. My only complaint is that I had a hard time getting my brightest highlights back. For that reason I still prefer working on Rives BFK paper.

In case anyone is interested, I thought I'd share a little bit about my process.

Normally if I am working on a charcoal from life, I'll start the process by doing some small, quick value sketches. In this case, I was working from a gray-scaled reference so I skipped that step. However, I did take the reference into Photoshop and posterize it. Posterizing reduces the number of different values and simplifies the reference.

Using my two references, I decided where I wanted to change values and where my three lightest and three darkest values would be. I made this decisions based on composition and focal point instead of following the reference exactly as it was presented.

After the computer work was done, it was time to start drawing.

When I start a charcoal, the first thing I do is apply an even mid-tone of charcoal to the whole sheet of paper. As a watercolor artist who is used to saving my whites like they are gold, the first time I had to tone a paper I was petrified. I've gotten over that fear, but still find this step the most boring part of the whole drawing. I use a compressed charcoal stick to apply the charcoal and a combination of cotton balls and paper towels to even out the tone. I am not particularly gentle during this toning process and yet, both Stonehenge and Rives BFK hold up well.

Once the paper is toned, the real fun begins. I lightly sketch out the composition with my charcoal stick and then add and subtract charcoal as needed to get the values I desire. For my darker values I use a range of charcoal pencils from 2B to 6B. For lighter values I use long handled cotton swabs, tissues and my trusty kneaded eraser to remove charcoal.

One of the things I love about charcoal is how easy it is to make changes. I can darken and lighten repeatedly without damaging my paper. Using the flat side of my kneaded eraser I can remove large areas of charcoal. If I want to erase lines or small areas I can use the edge or shape the eraser into a point. Tissues and clean cotton balls are great for smoothing out an area of tone while lightening it. A cotton ball or swab that has already been used is good for smoothing out tone without much lightening. They can also be used to darken a light value. For my brightest brights, I use a pink pearl eraser. It pulls more charcoal off the page than any other tool.

Charcoal allows me to work freely and quickly while still achieving realistic results. And in the warmer months, when I am surrounded by so much natural color, I find a real attraction to its black and white tones.

When I was preparing this image for posting, I played around with cropping it. I'd love to hear if you like the full sized image or cropped image better.

Sunquats - cropped
Stacy L. Rowan

And please remember to visit the other Virtual Sketch Date participants...
Leslie Hawes, Laura's Watercolors, Miki Willa, Sharon, Doug Hoppes, Melissa Muirhead, Kay Susan, Michael, Jeanne Grant, Kylie, Paulette, Maryann Cleary, Maggie Steifvater, Jeanette Jobson who served as admin this month, and the woman who started it all Rose Welty. (More entries may be posted before the end of the day. The final list of participants will be posted tomorrow on the Virtual Sketch Date blog.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

July Sketch Date Reference

The July Virtual Sketch Date reference has been posted. Go here to see it and leave a comment (there)on the reference post if you want to participate. Entries are due Saturday July 26th.

It is a wonderful reference and makes me want to break out the charcoals.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sometimes Plans Change

Back at the end of May I told you my plans for the summer. Now I'm here to say that sometimes plans change.

Change of Plans
2B graphite pencil in Canson Field sketchbook
approx 45 min sketch

A week and a half ago, Child #1 broke her leg. The break is high up on her leg close to her hip joint. The doctors placed two screws in her leg to hold the bone together while it heals. They also placed her in a rather large cast called a spica cast. As you can imagine this makes some daily tasks a little harder for her than normal.

Life with this cast also ruled out some of the activities we had planned. Luckily we are a pretty creative family and are finding new ways to have fun. Both children (and parents) are being good sports about these unexpected changes and we all are in good spirits.

Providing extra entertainment and care for the children has made it tough to find time for art and blogging. So if you are expecting to hear from me either through posts here or by email, please be patient. I promise I will do my best to respond to everyone as quickly as possible.

Enjoy your July!!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - June

approx. 5" x 8"
2B graphite pencil in Canson Field sketchbook

Here is my entry for June's virtual sketch date. The reference this month was supplied by Jennifer of Fuzzy Dragons. Thanks Jennifer!

If you check out the reference you will see that I played with the arrangement a little. I liked the shadow and shape of the flower in the lower right better than the large flower in the center. I also loved the bud above it. In fact, if I had more time, I would have used my watercolors or colored pencils to do a color study of that bud. However, since my time this week was limited, I skipped the color study and kept the values in the flower fairly light.

Rose will be creating a post with links to all the sketch date participants once everyone has posted. Make sure you check it out. I think there will be even more entries than last month.

Once again, the commitment to this sketch date had me drawing during a week that I typically wouldn't have managed to squeeze any art time in. I really enjoyed the time I spent on this drawing. It was relaxing compared to the rush of the rest of the week. And now I get to enjoy the anticipation of waiting to see all the other drawings. Hooray!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Drawing Day 2008

In honor of Drawing Day, the kids and I sat down and did some drawings together. I had visions of heading out and drawing from nature, but the over 90 degree temperature with a heat index near 100 quickly put an end to that plan. So instead, our inspiration came from items in our kitchen. Here is each of their drawings followed by my sketch of the same item.

Child #2 did the bananas and the napkin basket in Crayola marker on regular copy paper.

My bananas are also done in Crayola marker on copy paper. (It was so much fun working with those bold colors!)

My napkin basket was done in my watercolor Moleskine using an Eberhard Faber Ebony pencil.

(Please see the next post down -- Drawing Day 2008 (continued) -- for the drawing from Child #1 and the rest of my images. Thank you!)

Drawing Day 2008 (continued)

Apparently I can only upload 4 images in a single post. Never knew about that limitation before. But without further ado...here is Child #1's drawing.

Child #1 drew a basket containing pots of (artificial) herbs. She used Crayola markers in her Strathmore Field sketchbook.

My drawing of the herbs was completed in my watercolor Moleskine using a .05 black Micron pen, Cotman watercolor pans and my waterbrush.

I was surprised by the challenging subjects the kids chose to draw and impressed by how confidently they approached their drawings. I think they did very well! And they are excited by the notion that "people they don't even know" are going to be looking at their art on the computer. What an interesting world they are growing up in.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Summer is Here

Ready for Summer
approx 5" x 5"
4B graphite pencil in Canson Field sketchbook

...or close enough anyway. My children start their summer vacation this coming Wednesday. I can hardly believe it.

After working my buns off last weekend beautifying the landscaping, I spent much of this week pondering goals for this summer. Ronell's post on taking a break and Rose's review of her June goals provided food for thought for my inner dialog.

The outcome of my pondering is the decision to shift my focus for the summer months. I spent much of the school year feeling like I was running at full throttle. Activities and events piled one on top of another.

Summer to me is more about fun in the sun and taking life at a slightly slower pace. So my family and I have vacations scheduled and trips to the pool planned. We will also be throwing in some hikes and family bike rides, as well as day trips to fun places and afternoons shooting hoops just for good measure. Who knows, we might even take time to stop and smell some roses. What I do know is that dear hubby and I are going to take advantage of the fact that the kids still enjoy hanging out with us. After all, the best excuse for behaving like a kid is entertaining your own.

What does all of this mean to you , dear reader? It means that, between my plate full of fun and my freelance and commissioned work, I may not be found in the blog-o-sphere as much as normal. I'm not planning a full out break from blogging (and will definitely still be sketching, drawing and painting), but you should expect longer stretches between posts.

If all goes according to plan, come Fall I will be ready to return to a full throttle pace again. Here's to an enjoyable summer for everyone!!

About the sketch: My beach towel and bottle of suntan lotion are laid out and ready to go. The suntan lotion is in a strangely shaped bottle. I don't think I captured it quite right, but in honor of summer's laid back attitude, I'll let it go as it is. Sketch done with a 4B pencil in my Canson sketch book.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Morning Call Art Show - Lehigh Valley Landscapes

The local paper, The Morning Call, has sponsored it's second annual art show. This year the entries were juried. Over 80 artworks were submitted and approximately 50 were accepted. You can see the show, The Morning Call's Masterpiece Series: Lehigh Valley Landscapes, by visiting the Baum School of Art on 501 West Linden Street in Allentown, PA. My painting "Tranquil Spring Day" of the Burnside Plantation is in the show. Show hours are from 9am to 5pm Friday and 9am to Noon on Saturday. The winners of the contest will be announced at Mayfair on the Master Class Stage Saturday May 24th at 3pm.

On another topic...the other day I was looking through my reference photo collection. I was toying with the idea of doing a larger painting of "Storm Clouds" and was looking for some references that would provide information on how the light strikes clouds during a sunset. Imagine my surprise when I came across this reference.

I took this picture probably seven years ago right after I bought my film SLR. I was in Ocean City, MD and as you can see, we were witness to the most spectacular sunset. It must have left quite a visual impression on me if I was able to reproduce it so closely from my imagination.

So now I am going to leave you with this spectacular sunset and a wish that your weekend is equally as spectacular. I will not be blogging over this long Memorial Day weekend. Instead I will be weeding and mulching with the rest of the family, enjoying the sunny, warm weather we are finally supposed to get, and maybe even taking some time for a little fun. And if I don't return right away after the weekend, you will know that we chose fun over weeding too often and I am busy finishing up the work.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - Tripod

This week I participated in a Virtual Sketch Date with several fellow bloggers. A virtual sketch date is when a group of artists all draw from the same reference, in this case a photograph of Jeanette's cat Tripod.

Tripod has quite a band of admirers thanks to frequent appearances on Jeanette's blog. So the pressure was on to create a flattering reproduction or risk the scorn of his fans. Below is my version of Tripod. So am I safe or do I need to fear flying hairballs?

approx. 5" x 6"
2B graphite in Canson Field Sketchbook

The other participants on this sketch date are Jeanette Jobson and Rose Welty (who started this group challenge), Katherine Tyrrell, Belinda Lindhart, Jennifer Rose Phillips, Gayle Mason, Jeanne Grant, Paulette and Teresa (Teresa's image is posted on Rose's blog). Please go see everyone's drawings, because the best thing about having a bunch of artists work from a single image is seeing how they all handled the image in their own style.

This was a fun exercise and challenged me to draw a subject I wouldn't have chosen on my own. It also had me drawing during a week when I might otherwise have been "too busy". Having a deadline and commitment to someone else is always a great motivator. It has been awhile since I've done a full blown drawing in graphite. I had forgotten how slow that first layer of graphite can go down and the associate "Holy Cow! At this rate I'll never get done!" panic. However, I was lucky to start this in my spiral bound sketchbook because the paper texture really helped with the fur.

I'm up for a June sketch date if anyone else is.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Painting to Let Off Steam

Storm Clouds
11" x 8"
watercolor pencils on paper*
Stacy L. Rowan

I painted the above sketch the other day. It was created solely from my imagination without any thought to technical accuracy. And it was exactly what I needed at the time.

I had a couple of frustrating days this week dealing with situations which are out my control to change at this time. I was feeling more than a little ticked off by it all. I also had to go to a meeting on a different topic later in the day. And I knew the meeting would be more productive if I behaved in a calm, diplomatic manner.

Have you ever tried to be diplomatic when you feel really ticked off??? Not easy, let me tell you.

So that was my problem. I was ticked off and I had to get it out of my system in short order. I considered punching my pillow or finding something to destroy, but that's not really my style. Venting to my husband wasn't working either and I was running out of time.

That's when I decided I needed a little art therapy. Creating art makes me relax. I lose myself in painting or drawing and escape from the everyday annoyances and worries. Hours slide by as if they are minutes, and when I finally return to the real world, I can look at my troubles with fresh eyes and a better attitude.

Most of the art projects I had in the works on this day were near the finishing stage - not a good stage to work on when I'm feeling agitated. Instead I decided to create something new. I was surprised how quickly the idea for an image came to me. I'll allow you to analyze the imagery on your own, but I feel it fit the situation pretty well.

Since I was ticked off, I wanted to be able to scribble and be a little reckless. That's why I chose to use watercolor pencils instead of my regular tube watercolors. No need to take my aggression out on my helpless brushes.

I found a piece of 90lb watercolor paper and taped it to a piece of stiff cardboard then started literally scribbling in the colors I wanted. I couldn't even tell you which colors I used. I wet down the colors several times with a large brush, and smoothed out the lower portions. I used the same brush with less water for the dark, upper portion to give it a rougher look.

At the end of the process, I was pretty pleased with the painting, even though there are some technical inaccuracies. I never paint from my imagination. I'm a literal girl. I paint what I see. The emotions arise from the imagery and what it means to me. This is the first time I had the feelings first and then an image popped into my head. It was an interesting experience.

Plus, when I was done, I felt like I had let off some steam. My emotions were under control and I was able to participate in my meeting with a cool head. Not bad for less than an hours worth of work.

*I had a hard time adjusting the scan of this painting. In reality, the transition from the blues to the red/oranges is smoother and there is not so much pink.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More Desperate Sketches

bag of pretzels
sketch with 4B graphite pencil

Here are a couple more sketches that I did when I was "desperate" for reference material. I loved sketching the pretzel bag. I focused on capturing the essence of the fold and crinkles instead of replicating them exactly. I definitely felt the flow on this one.

Micron pen
sketch with 4B graphite pencil

The pen was finished up while I had the company of one of my kids. I think that is why it is a little stiffer than the other sketch. I was torn between finishing my sketch and talking to my child. I tried to do both and as a result probably didn't do either one well.

I seem to be in a phase right now where I am trying to do a little bit of everything and not getting much of anything done. My productivity has been pathetic compared to all I accomplished in March and April. I often seem to have an unproductive phase right after I meet a bunch of deadlines. Even though I know this is my pattern, I still find it annoying.

And it has been going on long enough. This week I am going to get back on track. I have a deadline on Sunday that I will meet. I am also going to set aside one afternoon or evening to find references for my next project and start some thumbnail sketches. I am making this commitment in front of you, my readers, with the hope that you will keep me honest. If I don't show up in the next week talking about new stuff, leave a comment directing me back here. In return, I will perform the same service for you should you ever need it. Do we have a deal?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Desperate to Sketch

bottle of liquid hand sanitizer
sketch with 4B graphite pencil

If you are an artists who sketches, or who wants to sketch, you have probably been in the situation where you had the time and inclination to sketch, but nothing particularly exciting to use as a reference. What should you do in this situation? I suggest you sketch anyway. Sketch a rock or a tree or your hand...after all you always have that with you.

And there are things to be learned from uninspiring references. First is the challenge to make the sketch interesting despite the subject matter. This can be accomplished with an interesting sketching style, or by using the subject matter as a jumping off point for your imagination. Who ever said sketching has to be grounded in reality?

my shoe
sketch with 4B graphite pencil

And whether you are sketching something you love, or something which bores you to tears, the act of sketching will still sharpen your skills. It helps you learn to see, and to recreate a 3D object in a 2D space. It also allows you the wonderful freedom to make mistakes. Sketching is not about creating a masterpiece. It is more like playing.

Speaking of being desperate, what if you are faced with the most inspirational subject matter ever and no art supplies? What then? I say find a way to draw anyway. Draw on a napkin or the back of an envelope or on the lined paper you brought to your meeting.

No pen or pencil...use a stick in the dirt or a stone on the sidewalk or dip your knife in ketchup and draw on your plate. Worst case, use your finger to draw in the air. Be creative, after all artists are creative by nature.

Drawing often fixes the subject matter more clearly in our minds than just looking does. When you get back to the studio, recreate what you drew. You might be surprised how much you remember.

If you want to improve your drawing skills, draw every day whether you are inspired or not. In fact, I believe showing up when you are uninspired often teaches you more than working on the days when you are really jazzed. If nothing else, you prove to yourself that you are committed to the act of creating art. And there is a lot to be said for that!

The sketches above were done while I waited in the car during my children's activities. "Stuck" for sketching material, I used a bottle of anti-bacterial hand wash from my purse and my comfortable brown loafer. I placed my references on the dashboard and balanced my sketchbook on my knee. The sketches were done with a 4B graphite pencil. I really enjoyed the quality of line and loose feel I achieved with this pencil.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Another Watercolor Sketch

Outside M&S Grill in Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD
ink and watercolor sketch
approx. 5" x 4.5"

Okay, can I just say that I am starting to love sketching! In fact it could become addictive!

Last weekend I took a trip to the Baltimore area with some family members. On Saturday we had some free time at the Inner Harbor. Instead of spending my time shopping, I chose to sit outside, enjoy the beautiful weather and sketch using my new watercolor sketch kit. You can see the results of my efforts above.

I was sitting on a covered balcony looking across to a restaurant and some lovely Spring landscaping. I took out my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook and did a quick line sketch with my trusty Micron pen. Next I added the color. I found it easier to get good darks this time. I don't know if it is because I was using pan colors or just because I am learning how to work with this sketchbook paper. Speaking of darks, I notice now there is an area near the tree that I never went back and darkened. I also notice some perspective issues that I am not going to point out. But trust me, I see them!

Overall though, given my time limit (approx. 45 min.) and my desire to catch the essence of this scene, I am pleased with the result. And I thoroughly enjoyed sitting outside and sketching. I didn't miss the shopping at all.