Thursday, October 27, 2011

Learning to Sketch Portraits - Part I

For many years I have drooled over the sketchbook journals I see in other artists' blogs. I dream of someday documenting my life in such a journal, complete with fabulous drawings and witty and insightful writings. I will record all of the little magical details that make my life what it is. When my children are grown we will spend quality time reading the journals, reminiscing and sharing our memories with their children. Can you hear the swell of the violins playing in the background?

Then I wake up and know that it was just a dream, much like the dreams I have of living in the exquisitely decorated and perfectly clean designer homes they show on HGTV. Does anyone really live like that? If so, can you send them to my place and ask them to neaten it up a bit?

But even as I put the dream of perfection aside, I know I would still like to do more sketching of my life and family moments than I do. One thing that holds me back is that I am not comfortable sketching people and typically family moments have, well... family in them. And family means people.

The way I see it, the only way to ever become comfortable sketching people is to start practicing.

Sketching from a real, moving person seemed like a daunting place to start. So instead I went to the source of all knowledge -- the Internet!

There are quite a few artists whose sketches of people I admire. Going back to one of the practices of old, I decided to find a couple of their sketches and copy them.  Many art students learn their craft by copying master works in museums.

One of the good things about starting with this method of learning is that the artist who created the original sketch already did the hard work of translating the 3D figure into a 2D drawing. I was particularly interested in studying what kind of lines and shapes are used to quickly portray the facial features.

To get started I picked two artists whose sketches of faces I much admire.

First - Laura Frankstone
Laura publishes her incredible sketches on her blog Laurelines. Her sketches are wonderfully expressive and I love her use of line. Her sketches look like they are passionately constructed without any sign of fear or hesitancy. I knew there was a lot I could learn from her work.

Here are my three practice sketches in the order I completed them.

practice sketch 1
approx. 5" x 4" graphite on newsprint

practice sketch 2
approx. 7" x 6" graphite on newsprint

practice sketch 3
approx. 7" x 5" graphite on newsprint

I tried to get a sense of her mark making, where she drew the edges and where she let the mind's eye fill them in. I tried not to noodle around with my marks and instead tried to make them meaningful and get them down the first time.

If you look close you can see from the shadow of incomplete erasure where I wasn't very successful with that. Laura definitely makes it look easier than it is!

The second portrait sketching master that I chose to learn from is James Gurney.

James Gurney's blog Gurney Journey contains a wealth of information and I firmly believe that every artist should make time to check it out. Interspersed with all of the technical information you will find posts containing wonderful sketches of the people that James crosses paths with.

I chose to work from James's sketches because they are more about value and less about line. I wanted to try and translate those sketches into line work using marks similar to the ones I was experimenting with above. It seemed like a good intermediate challenge.

Here are the two practice sketches from this round.

practice sketch 4
approx. 4" x 5" graphite on newsprint

practice sketch 5
approx. 10" x 7" graphite on newsprint

It was definitely challenging to remember to think about and work with lines instead of value. Value is my comfort zone. Also on the first sketch I found myself getting fidgety and erasing and restating lines. I tried to break away from that in the second sketch by standing up and working larger, both of which I enjoyed. 

Coming up in Part II -- The challenges mount: Working from a photograph and from life!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Upcoming Local Exhibit and Work in Process Update

drawing #8 WIP - tap dance series
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

I have some good news to share! There is going to be another opportunity this year to view my artwork in my local community of Bethlehem, PA.

I know quite a few people lamented the fact that they were not able to attend my Open Studio in September. If you were one of those people, please read on. (Even if you weren't, please read on anyway. There are other details that might interest you.)

On Sunday November 6th I am thrilled to be exhibiting my artwork at the Tap Ties' Day of Dance and Friendship!

The wonderful Tap Ties ladies are hosting a fun filled afternoon of tap master classes followed by an informal performance and reception. The classes are open to intermediate and advanced tap dancers ages 12 and over. The reception and performance is open both to dancers and non-dancers. See their website for more information.

The Tap Ties directors have graciously invited me to exhibit my artwork during the event. My art will be on display outside of the dance room during all the classes and the reception. I will be showing a variety of pieces including (but not limited to) drawings and related products from my tap dance series. It is the perfect time to start holiday shopping for the tap dance lover or art lover in your life!
Click here for directions and a map.

The details...
Tap Ties Day of Dance and Friendship
Sunday, November 6, 2011
2pm - 6:30pm
Moravian College Dance Studio
Johnston Hall, Elizabeth Avenue
Bethlehem, PA

About the art...
The image above is a work in progress shot for what will become the next drawing in my tap dance series. I absolutely love my reference photo - another one snapped at a Tap Ties choreography session. I chose to use graphite for this image because of the subtle tones in the background and floor. Since I am using graphite, this drawing is moving a bit slower than my last two charcoal pieces did, but I think it is going to be worth it in the end.

And for the sake of complete disclosure, I will say that shortly after snapping this photo, I saw some things that I wanted to change so I spent a little quality time with an eraser. That certainly didn't speed up my progress any, but I'm happy with the changes which is all that really matters.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Fine Art of Savoring Life

"Autumn by the Creek" sketch
Inktense pencils in Moleskin watercolor sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

When I was younger I didn't think much about savoring life. I had lots of free time to spend however I wanted. If a day ended up feeling kind of "blah" or unmemorable, it was no big deal. There was always tomorrow.

Now that I'm older I think a lot more about whether I savored any part of my day. Part of that may be contributed to getting older, and hopefully wiser, but I think a bigger factor is the busy schedule that comes from living with a husband who is never still and two fun-loving pre-teens.

Many of our days are jam-packed with activities, commitments, obligations. The free times are fewer and farther apart, making it all more important to me to savor both the free times and the fuller parts of my life.

Here is a list of some of the ways I savor my days...
- talk with my husband about travel, going after our dreams, successes we are striving for, how our kids crack us up, anything and everything;
- take "Family Fun" outings to amusements parks, the beach, mini-golf, the woods, creeks and streams, the ice cream store, historic homes, any place interesting, beautiful or fun;
- relax on the screened porch;
- spend time with family and friends;
- eat really good food;
- spend time in nature;
- hug the ones I love;
- laugh, dance, act silly;
- create art.

What are some of the ways you savor life?

About the sketch: I created this quick sketch on Monday. School was closed in observance of Columbus Day, and my hubby took a vacation day from work so we could all have a three day weekend. We went for a short hike and ended up on the bank of a creek. While the kids splashed around in the very cold water and skipped stones with hubby, I perched on a fallen tree and made an attempt to capture the sunlight, the color of the changing leaves and the way they reflected in the stream. A good time was had by all and I savored both the moment and now the memory of it.

The grey area at the top of the sketch is a shadow created during the scanning. Adjusting the colors of the scan was a challenge. The white of the paper was reflecting too much light causing me to lose the yellows in the sketch. This one looks better in real life than on the screen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Newest Cupcake Painting

watercolor on paper
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Fresh off my painting board is my newest painting of cupcakes.

These little lovelies were baked by my neighbor, who has forever ruined me for store bought frosting. Her frosting is so good that I even enjoy the vanilla. This from a chocolate lovin' girl!

I am considering the image below as an alternate crop. What do you think?

alternate crop
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan