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!!