Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sketching the Past

I tried my hand at more people sketches today. I am not sure why I feel drawn to do this or where I am going with it, but it feels right so I am following my intuition.

This time I used two old family photos as references. The references are about three inches tall and two inches wide. The dimensions that I posted under each sketch show that I am working quite a bit larger than my reference material.

practice sketch 12
approx 7" x 5"
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

I stopped during the second sketch for a work in progress scan. Here you can see that I sketched in the outlines of the head and body before adding the facial features.

practice sketch 13 WIP
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

I still need more practice in order to get a quick and accurate likeness. I am working up to sketching from life. These sketches today required a little longer than I think I can expect in social situations.

practice sketch 13
approx. 7" x 5"
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

But, the most important thing for now is that I thoroughly enjoyed myself while working on these. I am following my muse to see where she is leading me. So far it has been a fun journey.

I will definitely be finding additional old photos to use as references for this project.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

If You Do What You've Always Done...

quick sketch of woodpecker
graphite on paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan get what you've always got.

Or conversely, if you want a different outcome, try a different approach.

Today mother nature did a wonderful job of reminding me of this saying.

I was relaxing for a few minutes after breakfast by watching the birds feed at my backyard feeder. I typically see a pair of cardinals, many juncos, a few house finches, and the occasional tufted titmouse or chickadee.

At the time that I was watching there were probably a dozen juncos spread around feeding at the feeder, eating the seed that had fallen to the ground or hanging out in the surrounding bushes.

I enjoy watching the juncos and the way they jump and flit about, but I was also wondering how I could attract a wider variety of birds. I was thinking about asking some of the ladies from my Tuesday art group what they would recommend.

Then not thirty seconds later, after grabbing my warmed up coffee from the microwave, I looked outside. And what did I see? A woodpecker!

He was hanging on the suet cage pecking at the suet cake. I had just put it out the day before. Normally I don't buy suet cakes because the one other time I did, the only animal I ended up feeding was a squirrel. The birds didn't seem to like it or else never got a turn.

Earlier in the week when I was grocery shopping I saw suet cakes on sale for a dollar. I figured that for a buck it was worth a try even if I only made the squirrel happy.

But instead, by trying something new I experienced a new outcome -- a visit by a beautiful woodpecker.

I know this is a lesson that I can apply both to creating art and to other areas of life. My standard techniques and practices feel familiar and comfortable. I know what to expect from them. It is all too easy to shy away from trying something new in the name of comfort. Or because of fear of an unknown outcome. But, as today showed me, sometimes the unknown outcome turns out far better than I expect.

My new friend the woodpecker didn't stick around for a long visit. As soon as I realized what kind of bird he was and got over my shock of having a woodpecker at my feeder, I grabbed my sketchbook. I drew exactly one line and then he flew away. I completed the rest of the sketch from memory as best I could. Then I went and grabbed my kids' bird book and using that and my first sketch I drew a second sketch which you see above.

I am questioning now whether the bird actually had the tuft of feathers at the back of his head, or if I didn't see clearly and it was instead a red triangle of feathers surrounded by darker ones. I will have to keep my eye out for him to visit again to see if I can get a better look.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

5 Things 5 Years of Blogging Taught Me

These carnations like me have stuck around for a while
graphite in Moleskine
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

The other day I was looking through the archives for this blog and I realized, much to my surprise, that I have just completed my fifth year of blogging. My first post was created on January 9, 2007.

Looking back over the past five years, I came up with 5 things that blogging has taught me.
  1. I am more comfortable in the studio painting or drawing than sitting at the computer writing a blog post.
  2. Despite my good intentions to write my blog posts in advance and have several of them queued up to post, it is more typical that my post is written between 8pm on Wednesday and 11pm on Thursday.
  3. The closer it gets to 11pm on Thursday without the blog post being completed, the more stressed out I become.
  4. The quality of my blog post ideas are indirectly proportional to my stress level. That is, the more stressed I am, the more my initial ideas stink and the more ideas I need to come up with until I find one that flies. With each rejected idea the time until my self imposed deadline seems to speed up exponentially.
  5. Given numbers 1 through 4, it is flippin' amazing that I managed to post anything at all these last five years!!!
All kidding aside, I am very happy to have reached this milestone. And I thank you for being loyal readers, even of the most procrastinated posts!

Here's to five more years of fun!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Playing with New Toys

One of the great things about this time of year is that I often have new toys to play with courtesy of the Christmas holiday. The other day I opened up my new Schminke watercolor set.

The set was actually a gift to myself - what we call in my house a "from me to me". I have been wanting to try the Schminke watercolor pans for some time and saw a great deal in December that suggested it was the right time to give them a whirl.

The set came with a list of included colors. The list has space for painting a swatch of each color. The paper the list is printed on is not a normal watercolor paper, so I had a difficult time getting the colors to bleed. But it was more than adequate for capturing a mid-value of the different hues.

The completed color chart is also useful because it lists the paints in the order the manufacturer placed them in the box. Since the pans are new to me, I cannot easily tell which blue is which just from how they appear in the pans. But with the chart, all I need to do is keep them in the order they came in. At least until I have all the paints memorized.

While I was playing with color, I decided to finally break out the color chart that I bought last year from Daniel Smith.

The chart I purchased contained samples of 238 of their "most popular" tube colors. Each sample is in the form of a "paint-able dot" of paint. And the paper used for the chart is actual watercolor paper.

To test the samples, I individually wet each dot and bled the color out trying to get a range of values. I also painted a single line of saturated color next to the dot.

In addition to the fun of trying the colors, I was pleased that each paint had it's common properties printed below the dot. This information included name, transparency, staining, granulation and light fastness. The only addition that I would suggest is the inclusion of the pigment number.

I currently have about 5 or 6 Daniel Smith tubes in my collection. Now that I have this visual tool I think that number will be going up.

What new art supplies have recently made their way into your studio? Are any of the additions something you would recommend to others? Please feel free to share your finds by leaving a comment.