Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hoping You Have Much to be Thankful For

sketch of a decorative turkey
created with Pitt brush pen, Inktense pencils and water brush
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

As those of us living in the US celebrate Thanksgiving, my wish for my blog readers is that you each have much to be thankful for.

I am very thankful for all of you that read my blog, both here and on Facebook. I am grateful for every comment, every "like" and every "share". I value your support, both the loyal supporters who have been cheering me on for years and the ones who are seeing my art for the first time today.

I have been blessed with much good fortune in my life - a loving family, great friendships, wonderful experiences, good health - getting to do what I love is the icing on the cake. Thank you for being part of that icing.

No matter where you live, I hope today finds you surrounded by love and blessings and feeling like you have much to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Portrait Practice

I'm starting off today's post with a confession. My confession is that I would much rather be curled up in a soft chair under a warm blanket than sitting here in this uncomfortable desk chair at 8:49 on a Thursday night.

But I made a commitment to myself that I would post on my blog every Thursday. Given that one of the words I would choose to describe myself is dependable, not posting seems like a bad choice.

As a rule I find it easier to keep my external commitments, the ones I make to other people, than I do to keep the ones I make to myself. I’m wondering if that is typical for most people. Do you find it easier keeping your word when you make a promise to someone else, or when you make one to yourself?

For the case of this current challenge, I am telling myself my commitment is to my readers. That helps keep my butt in this hard chair instead of wimping out.

I can feel your sympathy. Really I can.

But enough about me and my struggles…

During my studio time today I finished a new painting. As much as I would love to share it here, I am going to have to wait and keep it under wraps for another month or so.

Instead I am sharing my latest round of portrait practice. I did these sketches over the weekend. I used magazine photos for my references.
practice sketch 10
graphite on paper
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan
practice sketch 11
graphite on paper
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan
Now a summary of what I learned from this round…
  • I think I am going to need to stick to a sketching style that combines line with value. When I try to draw without values I can’t get over the feeling that something is missing.
  • The smaller sketches were easier because there were fewer details in the features. This made it simpler for me to concentrate on the shapes of the shadows without getting hung up in all the different parts of the eye, for example.
  • Practice builds confidence. Even with as few as four sketches, I could feel a difference between the first and the last. By the last sketch my speed had improved marginally and I was more pleased with the quality of the result.
  • I am enjoying this portrait practice much more than I expected. I hope you are enjoying it too, as I plan to keep sharing my progress.
Okay, now I'm off to find that comfy seat and warm blanket. See you next week!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Learning to Sketch Portraits - Part II

Today I listened to the Artists Helping Artists interview with Carol and David Marine. In one portion of the interview Carol was speaking about branching out into painting silly faces and how important it is for her to keep experimenting and trying new things in order to keep fresh and enthused about her art.

It was inspiring to hear her thoughts. They felt like support being sent in my direction to encourage this section of my latest journey. If you haven't listened to the interview yet, I highly recommend it!

So in Part I of this post I spoke about my desire to sketch more of my life moments and, how in the past, I have been stopped by my discomfort in sketching people.

My solution for this discomfort was to jump from the frying pan into the fire. A simultaneously exciting and frightening jump!

After trying my hand at sketching from other artists' sketches - both more linear sketches and value based sketches - I decided the next logical step was to try a sketch from a photo. You could say I was being thorough, or you could say I was avoiding the scary prospect of sketching from life. I think both statements are true!

My intention was to create a linear sketch because I am wanting a quicker sketching style. I also tried not to be concerned with likeness - as the saying goes that was easier said than done.

I chose to work from a rather small image thinking that a smaller image would have less detail. Detail often entices me to get fiddly, which I was trying to avoid. In hindsight I think working from a larger reference would have been easier.

Below is my sketch from a photo of my hubby. Handsome guy isn't he?

practice sketch 6
graphite on newsprint
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Reviewing the sketch above I can see I was more hesitant in this sketch than the sketches I posted in Part I. I'm not sure if I was intimidated by the challenge of capturing his likeness, if I was hampered by the size of my reference or if I was reacting to having to edit the detail I saw in the reference. (In the sketches I copied, obviously the artist who did the initial sketch had already been through the editing process and the subjects of the sketches were strangers to me.)

I can also see the style sliding toward more precise line work instead of using expressive lines. I am very interested as I continue this experiment to see where my natural style falls on the continuum from detailed and precise to loose and expressive. I secretly hope I can move along the spectrum towards the expressive, loose end. Time will tell if that is actually possible.

All of the sketches posted in Part I and the sketch above were completed in one afternoon. Feeling encouraged by my results I decided to finally take the brave step to sketch from life.

Several days later I was visiting my kids at school. I always carry a pocket Moleskine and pencil in my purse. Making use of these tools I made several quick sketches of my girls during the times when they were reading or working quietly at their desk. I limited my sketching to the times they were doing desk work because I didn't want to draw the teacher's attention and get sent to the Principal's office. That wouldn't have set a very good example!

The main challenge I experienced during this "sketching from life" session was that my models were not at all still! Honestly they moved every two seconds and rarely returned to the same position. They even knew I was sketching them (I had asked their permission first) and they still weren't still. Below are the results of sketching these moving targets.

practice sketch 7
graphite in Moleskine cahier pocket sketchbook
© 2011 Stacy L. Rowan

practice sketch 8
graphite in Moleskine cahier pocket sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

practice sketch 9
graphite in Moleskine cahier pocket sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Practice sketch 9 is my favorite because the lack of facial features made for stress-free sketching! I was pleased that in all three sketches I stuck with line and did not resort to value. I was also happy that I remembered to leave some breaks in the line work. I did not have as many "suggested" areas as in the copied sketches but, because of the constant movement, I wasn't able to get to finicky.

The middle sketch was the most challenging because of the angle and because of the size of the sketch with respect to the page. Apparently I wasn't quite up for the challenge because the sketch makes my daughter look much older than she actually is!

For those of you who know my kids, sketches 7 and 9 are of the same child and sketch 8 is the other one. I'll leave it up to you to determine who is who.

In summary, I learned a lot from these two sketching session. In some ways sketching from life was easier than sketching from a photo. The built in time constraint made it almost impossible to get hung up on details and forced me to make quick decisions and live with the lines I put down.

I need a lot more practice to build fluency of line and expressiveness. I think that will come as I get more comfortable. Practice will hopefully also make it easier to capture a likeness.

I am excited for my next practice session. I already have a few magazine photos set aside and several personal photos in mind. I am also trying to identify times or activities which require my family members to sit still so I can make use of those times as live sketching sessions. Wish me luck as I think I live in a house of Energizer bunnies!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Autumn Flowers and a Quick Reminder

First the reminder... This Sunday, November 6th, I will be exhibiting my work at Moravian College as part of the Tap Ties' Day of Dance & Friendship. My art will be on display from 2pm through 6:30pm. You can find more information here or on the Tap Ties site. Hope to see you there!

This flower sketch was completed a few weeks ago. It was one of those beautiful, sunny, warm fall days when winter seems too far away to worry about. (Little did we know that snow was just around the corner!)

Most Tuesdays find me attending my painting group. Anywhere from three to ten ladies gather and set up shop in one woman's basement. We all work on our own projects. Sometimes we solicit artistic advice from each other, sometimes we discuss what is going on in everyone's life and sometimes we paint in a companionable silence. It is a wonderful group to belong to.

On this particular Tuesday, we were finally seeing some sun after days and days of rain and I was feeling sun starved. So after delivering most of my materials to the basement, I took my watercolor sketchbook, my Inktense pencils and a graphite pencil back outside.

Once outside I plopped down on the warm driveway and sketched this small clump of flowers. They were part of a much larger group that was gathered at the base of a lamp post.

I am not sure exactly what kind of flowers they are. They look like daisies but might be some kind of mum. I will have to ask the ladies next Tuesday.