Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Grey horses painted in lively grays.

I love grey horses. I used to have one and I thought he was the most beautiful thing in the world. Of course, I was a teenager at the time. ;-) All the same, the fact that greys change color as they get older, frequently from black or charcoal gray to nearly or completely white, still seems a magical process to me.

Every horse person has a favorite color of grey (if they like grey horses at all...). Mine is dark charcoal with a white tail and mane, like Chaucer was when I first got him. Playing on this seemingly magical process, I have long desired to paint grey horses in a more lively fashion than they usually appear. This newest sketch from the Evergreen Classic photos gave me the chance to explore that concept.

A grey horse painted in lively grays
Although the colors aren't "true" in an illustrative sense, it's amazing how many of the colors I painted were actually in the horse.

On the other side of the journal page I had fun creating something of a guidebook entry about horse shows.

Horse Show Facts for the "Non-Horsey" Set.
I felt this was a good closing page for the Evergreen Classic series. In case you're curious to see the whole thing I have posted the entire two-page spread here on my Flickr.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A whole load of stuff added to my Flickr today

I've created a new online album of my illustration work on Flickr and have uploaded a whole bunch of new things to it today. You can see them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sara_light_waller/.

Here's a sneak peak:

Illustration of a Roman city

Silverpoint rendering of a Mueller Hippocampus (carousel animal)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pen & Ink Exercises – The Wrap-Up

So after many blog posts about the pen & ink marks that I tried out, was it worth it? The short answer is YES! Absolutely.

For those interested, here’s the longer answer.

Most of my formal training in pen & ink was done in graduate school while studying Scientific Illustration. I have always loved the medium of ink, whether for lettering or illustration. In my Illustration training we used stippling and crosshatch almost much exclusively. Out of habit, (and lack of further knowledge) I continued to focus on these two marks for many years. Over time I grew frustrated with their particular limitations as they weren’t right for all subjects. New marks were clearly needed and I’m glad to have added some new ones to my tool kit this year. Bless Claudia Nice and her lovely books, “Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor” and "Sketching Your Favorite Subjects in Pen & Ink” for their assistance.

Here’s the summation of the marks I used:

Crosshatching & Stippling – Old friends. I couldn’t get on without either. Stippling is perhaps the “king” of illustration techniques in my book. It can be used for a wide variety of subject matter and, if you’re patient with it, can render some amazingly realistic effects.

Stippling is "king" of ink marks used in Scientific Illustration.

Crosshatching is simply necessary. If you are going to use any mark besides stippling you will most likely find yourself darkening your values at some point with crosshatching.

Contour Lines – Very useful to define curved shapes. Without this mark it would be very difficult (but not impossible with stippling) to get something round-edged to look three-dimensional.

Wavy Lines – A very useful mark for rendering wood grains and rippling patterns. As I mentioned in my entry about wavy lines, I still find this mark a bit confusing. More work will be needed here.

Parallel Lines – Very useful for flat or shiny objects. Has some interesting implications for animals shown at a distance, might also give an old-timey feel to some subject matter.

Criss-Cross Lines – Clearly a big winner for me! I now can render animal fur/hair with ink! Halleluiah! What a relief!

Scribble – A really, fun, loose mark to render (the complete opposite from stippling which is very tightly controlled) and most useful for quick sketches (hello urban sketching!) and the simple rendering of foliage.  Easy and effective? What could be better? On balance, I think that Scribble Lines ended up being my new favorite, although Criss-Cross Lines came in a close second.

For anyone out there interested in learning pen & ink, I highly recommend doing these systematic exercises. It takes some time but is well worth the effort.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Last Mark - Wavy Lines

Today I finished the last of my pen and ink practice sheets. The mark of the day was “Wavy Lines.” I have used this technique for wood grain before and have quite liked it. Here’s an example from several years ago.

"Sunshine Gourd" pen & ink and watercolor
I decided to try using these marks for some other surface today and went searching around the house for a piece of agate to draw. While looking, I stumbled upon this little glass heart, left to me by my mother who passed away last Spring. I knew it would be the perfect subject.

Glass Heart using wavy line ink marks

I think it worked out alright, although this technique, when used for surfaces other than wood, seems to confuse me a little bit. Clearly, more practice is needed. ;-)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why letters?

Two pages from my lettering journal

Throughout the years I have taken time out to practice lettering. Not calligraphy per se, although I have done that too, but drawing letters. I’m a good copyist and it’s something I really enjoy doing. Like pen & ink, I find drawing letters quite relaxing. I seem to be in another cycle of letter drawing right now. Every day of so, for the past few weeks, I’ve spent a few hours copying letters. It’s a good warm-up for drawing and it’s also fun in its own right.

Initial Capital (copyright Sara Light-Waller 2010) 

Besides the intrinsic value of knowing how letters are formed, kerned, tracked, etc., drawing them reminds you to pay attention to your writing in a way that many of us forget after years of mindless practice. Good letter forms are actually quite beautiful, an art form in and of themselves. In this day of computerized fonts (and don’t get me wrong, I have THOUSANDS of fonts on my computer all neatly categorized into type categories for easy design access) it’s nice to revisit hand lettering. It adds a touch of class to your day.

Letters Decorated with Ferns

I can't wait to use these fern letters for something!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back to Pen & Ink Practice

Although I’m not sure I’m completely done with my horse show sketch series, I felt it was time to get back to pen & ink practice today. Scribble lines are another mark that is almost completely new to me. That sounds odd as they are perhaps the most intuitive marks of all! Funny. But in my case, these incredibly useful marks never got the play they clearly deserved.

Pen & Ink Practice ( with Claudia Nice's mark notes)
The scene that I chose to render today is from a photo of a lovely B&B in Victoria, BC called Mulberry Manor. Their back gardens were absolutely lovely, and the tutor style house was also wonderful – inside and out. :-)

Before this piece, I was a bit skeptical about the usefulness of the Derwent Inktense pencils. I hadn’t really found a niche for them in my art kit. I was quite pleased by their performance in this piece and have decided to add them to my traveling sketch bag. I think they’ll make a lovely addition for urban and natural sketching where a touch of bright (but maybe not too subtle) color is needed.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

EDM Challenge #287 - Draw Something Colorful

Okay, I just couldn’t resist! I love Appaloosas and this Appy pony at the horse show had the most lovely behind. So here is my challenge…in pen & ink and watercolor. ;-)

I loved this pony from the moment I saw him!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stone Pony

Today's Pony Sketch

Today I added another Evergreen Classic sketch to my growing pile. For this one I did a little experimenting. I chose a split complementary palette of Buff Titanium, (Primatek) Hematite, (Primatek) Sicklerite Genuine, and Manganese Blue Hue. All were Daniel Smith watercolors. They represented in order: Yellow, Yellow Orange, Red Orange, and the complement – Cyan. All were cool versions of the colors. They were also all granulating colors. I wondered if the granulating colors could be used to simulate the dappling on the original pony’s coat.

To my taste the results were mixed. I liked the layout of the page very much. I also felt the colors I used looked cohesive and harmonious. However, the granulation qualities of all four colors added together ended up being a bit too much. The piece needed some more rest for the eye, which could have been gotten by substituting a least one non-granulating color. I also felt that all the granulation led the pony’s color to look more like stone than dappling. Perhaps in the future I’ll try only one or two granulating colors, not all four! I also missed a warm color in the mix. There should have been some ochre in the pony’s coat color and the Sicklerite Genuine was just too cool.

Having said all that, I was actually pleased with today’s page. I look forward to making some changes to the next sketch to see if I can get a happier color mix like I did in the two ponies page I did yesterday.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who doesn't like ponies?

Jerry Seinfeld had the right of it..."Who doesn't like ponies?" It's always great fun watching the pony hunters at a horse show. Little kids and adorable ponies, what's not to like? Here's a sketch for the day of two pony hunters and their riders. I love the contrasts between the two.

Two Pony Hunters from the Evergreen Classic

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Trying out some new things

Yesterday, I went to the Evergreen Classic horse show in Carnation, WA to do some sketching. I had a grand time. Although I'd planned to go back today, a nagging foot injury made me think that resting it was the better part of valor. So I used a few photos I snapped the day before to some more sketches. You can see the rest on my Flickr stream here.

In the interest of improving my sketching and design skills, I did some hard thinking today about how other really good sketch artists present their work. Fortunately, I follow a great many sketchers through my RSS feeds. Armed with their inspirations, was able to really put some thought behind my designs today.  Below are the results.

Sketch 1 - "Don't let him get away!"

Sketch 2  - "Alternative Transportation"

I'm quite pleased with these two sketches. I'm also really excited to continue exploring the design side of sketching. Onwards and upwards with pen in hand!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Copper Bracelets, Crosshatch, and EDM #32

I seem to be putting on the steam to get through the variety of pen and ink marks that I've been practicing lately. Thus far I have done: contour, stippling, parallel, criss-cross, and crosshatch lines. That leaves two discrete marks in the Claudia Nice book from which I've been doing my review. The two remaining ones are wavy and scribble lines. I have virtually no experience with scribbly lines and as they are so useful in landscape and urban sketching I'm eager to try them. Wavy lines I've used for some time when drawing wood grains. They're also useful for things like agates and other patterned stones. Perhaps I'll do my wavy line sample from something like that.

But for today back to my favorite pen & ink mark, the crosshatch. It's useful in so many instances that I can't imagine not using it. But it isn't good for everything, and fur is really an example of something it doesn't do very well. (For that I remain delighted by the usefulness of criss-cross lines.) Today's experiment was to render a copper and turquoise bracelet that I've had for many years. The patina on the copper is so interesting, I did my best to capture it with colored pens and crosshatch marks. Ultimately, I decided to add a little colored pencil on the top as I just didn't have the range of gelly pens necessary to capture the color as closely as I want to.

Here's the sketch page from my journal then...and it's all about the crosshatch mark!

Crosshatch page from my sketch journal today

The bracelet also serves as Every Day Matters challenge # 32 - Draw Something Metallic.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jack and the Criss-Cross lines

Here's a pen & ink sketch of Debbie Nicely's "Jack," the Jack Russell terrier I met last Saturday. This piece was interesting as I did it as pen & ink & gelly roll (gel pen.) I liked the way the gelly roll pen handled the subject. Very smooth and interesting.

"Jack," the Jack Russell Terrier

This piece is also an example of "Criss-Cross" line work, which is very good for animal fur/hair. Ironically, considering all the pen & ink work I've done over the years, this was not one of the pen & ink marks I have commonly used. Considering how much fun it was to do AND how well it handled the dog's hair I'm amazed that I haven't used it before. (If I had it would have saved me a lot of textural frustration rendering animals, let me tell you!) Now that I know about it I will certainly want to do more with this type of line work.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fun Sketching Day at the Gift Horse

Quickie sketch day at the Gift Horse
I had so much fun today (well at this hour it was technically yesterday(!)) I spent the afternoon at the Gift Horse Saddlery doing quick sketches of people’s pets from photos they brought with them. It was a really successful event. Word had gone out in the Gift Horse e-newsletter the week before that I was going be there doing inexpensive sketches for people if they brought in photos. I got there on “horse person’s time,” (that is to say a few minutes late) and people where actually lined up waiting for me! I got a chance to see some old friends and clients and meet some wonderful new people and, one really cute Jack Russell terrier named, what else? “Jack.”

Here are some pictures from the day.

My table complete with art prints and my sketching stuff

Sketch of Marsha Murray's Beuford (I love the shape of this horse!)

Another quickie sketch

Debby Nicely's dog "Jack" - what a gentleman!

Such a fun day, I certainly hope that we can all do it again sometime soon. :-)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Addressing Composition

Ok, I’ll admit it, designing a composition for a painting is hard. That’s kind of funny to me because I have an excellent eye for composition through the camera lens. When composing for a painting it seems like an entirely different exercise. I take pieces apart and then put them back together in an entirely new shapes, formats, and colors. Do I do this in my head while composing a photograph? Do I think about armatures (the directional lines through your painting) and the use of color and light at instant speed? If so, how? How do I do it?

When I compose shapes for a painting my head feels like it is stuffed with wool. How did I  learn to do this upside down through a 4x5’s viewfinder so many years ago? But perhaps that is the answer right there. I did learn to compose through a camera lens looking at shapes and light upside down. Those images made no “sense” to my brain and so had to be looked at as compositional elements only. Back in the day I remember cursing silently as I tried to get images in focus through the top of my ancient TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) Ricohflex camera. The tiny, upside image in the shadowed viewfinder on the top of the camera was a pain in the butt to use. Composing images in an old 4x5 Press Camera was easier, but still not easy…and upside down too! Funny how today…23 years later, I not only remember those events but bless them for their teachings.

I guess I really need to start looking at the world upside down once again. *chuckle* Clearly, this is my answer to clearing out the mental wool.

A pause here while I apply my new insight to my compositional sketches…and voila! It works. In the interest of science here is a look at some of my compositional studies on masses and shapes for the new painting. Color studies and accurate thumbnails come next and then…the actual painting! Is it possible to be sweating and enjoying oneself at the same time? Apparently so…*lol*

Compositional sketches looking at mass shapes

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Two new sketches

Monday I took some time in Seattle and sketched in Volunteer Park. It was wonderfully relaxing! Although the Conservatory was closed it made a wonderful subject, especially in my long Moleskin sketchbook.

The Conservatory at Volunteer Park, Seattle

 Today's sketch is of my horse Percy. He was supposed to be getting his teeth done today but the vet had to reschedule until Friday due to car troubles. I decided to hang out with him over lunch. He's such a sweetie to hang with and so handsome too!

Percy at lunch today

On reflection I can see that my sketching is improving. I'm glad of this as it makes recording my world so much easier! I plan to turn some attention to a few fine art pieces over the next few days. I'm looking forward to that but hope that I don't miss my sketching too much. I suppose the beauty of a sketch journal is that it's supposed to be a relatively quick way of recording experiences.

I'm finding keeping a sketch journal quite addictive. Danny Gregory speaks about that. Well, I guess I'm hooked now. There are certainly worse things to be addicted to! ;-)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

An Art-ful Afternoon at the Gift Horse Saddlery

Come one, come all! This Saturday (8/7) I will be visiting artist at the Gift Horse Saddlery from 1-4 in the afternoon. I’ll be answering questions about how a portrait can be created of your pet. I'll be showcasing my current work by demonstrating my painting process while at the store. People are welcome to bring in a clear, sharp photo of their pet/horse and get an on-the-spot sketch for $10. If you're in the area I hope you'll stop by and say "hi." It’s going to be an art-filled afternoon at the Gift Horse on Saturday!