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.