Sunday, September 28, 2014

A page from my sketchbook

If you're wondering why anyone would spend several hours drawing a boring, old onion, the answer's pretty simple. For me, at least. I wanted to know if I could.

You see, much as I admire photorealism, I've never really wanted to give up the artistic licence that more arty pictures allow. Yet, I always wonder if I could do it if I wanted to. I'm not sure if I've quite achieved it with this - I discovered that a magnifying glass and smoother paper would have helped. Still, I learnt a lot and it probably turned out better than I expected.

Here are the stages for this sketch:
The outline in graphite pencil.
Outlining details with raw umber.
The first layers of colour.
Building up form.
Almost ready to improve the contrast.

Does it look real, do you think?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Journals and Sketchbooks

The past couple of years have been a lean time for me as far as art is concerned. It seemed that my pictures were getting worse rather than progressing so I took a few breaks and concentrated mainly on hobbies, journals and a little experimenting in my sketch book. I guess I was still hoping to find my mojo, again.

The top picture is a rough sketch that I was experimenting with, this morning. It's a long time since I did much with graphite pencils but I have some ideas in my head that I'm itching to experiment with. (Hopefully, these will be the subjects of my next posts.)

Here below are some pages from different journals that could possibly inspire some more journaling ideas. Most of them aren't particularly artistic and some are just practical.

This pen, ink and coloured pencil sketch was drawn quite rapidly as my husband and I sat on our veranda, chatting on a warm, spring afternoon. I love pen and ink as it is so quick and expressive. (The corn was delicious, BTW!)

This is a recipe journal that I hope to add much more of our favourite recipes to. The pictures are drawn with coloured pencils. I'm hoping that it will become like one of those treasured, grandma's recipe books that are passed down through the generations - but, I may need to experiment with the drawings first.

This one is my hobbies journal. In this book, so far, I have written out knitting and crochet patterns, as well as photos of finished projects. I haven't done much sewing, lately, but, when I do, that will go in this journal, too.

The hobbies journal also has some useful tables and information such as this conversion chart which converts US crochet terms to the UK versions.

This journal is a pretty, red colour on the outside but inside it's just plain and useful. I use it for lists, ideas and reminders. I also use my iPad for reminders but I'm still attached to the old-fashioned paper way of doing things!

Here's an old diary page from a couple of years ago. This diary sort of petered out as my struggles with art grew. I've recently bought a beautiful, tinted journal to make a pictorial, family diary but, typical of me, I've been too afraid to ruin it with my first entry!

This is another old journal that I hope to pick up, again. The children and I enjoy nature study together but it takes some discipline to keep up a nature journal. When I got my first DSLR, a couple of years ago, we started taking photos instead but I still think that a handmade journal is much more personal.

This is a watercolour pencil experiment from one of my sketchbooks. Last Christmas, one of my daughters bought me a gorgeous, wooden watercolour pencil set and I've been experimenting to see how I can make them work with my normal pencils. I had some nice effects by using them as a base for portrait work - it speeded up the process hugely - but I think I would use them more for illustration than fine portraiture.
This red journal is my daily diary. The entries in here are short enough that I have been able to persevere with it through every day of this year. Quite an achievement for the queen of putting things off till tomorrow!

And, finally, my little pile of journals. One journal that is missing is a travel journal - simply because I haven't done any traveling, lately! Something else to put in my dream basket...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Portrait of Bethany

This a portrait of my daughter, Bethany.

I've really enjoyed doing this picture. The Polychromos are beautiful to use. Unlike the Prismacolors, I can add multiple layers without the picture suddenly becoming clogged with wax. At times, the pencils almost felt like paint.

I am still experimenting but I feel much more comfortable with my art again, now.

Here are some of the stages for this portrait.
The initial outline in dark flesh.
The first of the skin layers.

Does it look a bit eighteenth-century with the white hair?
The general flow of the hair in a mid-tone.
With the hair taking shape, I could see problems with the features and the colour of the flesh. More contrasting and subduing layers needed.
At this stage, I realised I'd been taking some of the photos at a strange angle - oops!
Somehow, the picture ended on a slant - another oops!

Next, I have the urge to do some soft graphite and two-tone portraits. I'll share how it goes.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Portrait of Joel in stages

This is a portrait of one of my sons. It was a bit of an experiment as I have been transitioning from using Prismacolor pencils to Faber-Castell Polychromos. The Prismacolors weren't suited to my style and it took me three years of discouragement to finally realise that my technique wasn't the problem. I just needed more suitable materials. It's a relief as the problems I was having were destroying my love of art and my confidence.

I'm really loving the Polychromos. I will write about what I learnt later in the post.

Here are some of the stages of Joel's portrait.

I started with some light shading, rather than laying down the palest colours. This is my original technique which I abandoned to copy more accomplished artists when I first used the Prismacolors. It is a better method for me.

Gradually building up some light detail.

Still not a lot of likeness. The shadows will give more character.

Starting to look like him. Now adding features and building up skin tones.

Starting with the basic form of the hair in a light to mid-tone.

Getting to the really fun stage where the foundation is set and the rest is improvement.

More layers to hopefully add realism and life.

Colour adjustments and finishing off.

Some of the pictures look a bit blue but the paper is actually cream. Joel was squinting at the midday sun so there was a lot of yellow about.

These photos were taken with my iPad. On my to-do list is to find the right light to take accurate and clear photos with my DSLR. Coloured pencil pictures change a lot in intensity with different types of light but, on my screen, the final photo looks quite like the real life version.

I learnt such a lot from doing this picture. There's things I would have done differently - like use a smoother paper (a dumb mistake - I used the wrong side by accident!) and I wouldn't have used the few layers of Prismacolors in the middle stages. Both problems had me experimenting to smooth out the layers in the final stages.

I have full sets of Prismacolors and Derwent Coloursofts (which I quite like) but I am still building up my collection of Polychromos so I was short on colours and supplemented with Prismacolors. The Derwent Coloursofts were useful in adding some pastel-like softness in the later stages. They are quite powdery, whereas Prismacolors are creamy, very blendable and, unfortunately for me, prone to a crayon-like clogging.

I'm now looking forward to putting what I've learnt into practice with the next picture.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

From my drawing board this week

This is a coloured pencil drawing of my daughter which I finished, a few days ago.

I usually prefer a blue, beige or grey background so this yellow was a bit of an experiment. To me, it seems to overwhelm the subject with its boldness and the delicate shadows were lost in its midst. For someone who likes finely rendered drawings, it felt a bit too noisy for my style.

Fuzzy photo of drawing of fuzzy photo of man with fuzzy beard.

This portrait was finished, today.

It was drawn from an old, nineteenth century photograph. The quality of the photo was typical of the era - high contrast and very little detail in between - so I improvised. Luckily, the features were clear enough to allow for a good enough likeness.

As I drew this picture, I became fascinated by the wild beard and clean-shaven chin. I guess, as far as looks go, this was quite conservative 150 years ago but, to a modern, enlightened connoisseur of fashion, it must seem quite crazy and eccentric.

Apparently, nineteenth-century males eagerly awaited their first signs of facial hair. It appears that a fuzzy demeanour was irrefutable proof of one's manhood. Or, perhaps, a means of covering the scars inflicted by those lethal cut-throat razors in one's youth...

Whatever the reason, I think the beard gives this man an abundance of character. He is unsmiling but not humourless, capable but not proud, authoritative yet not arrogant. Despite his imposing facial decorations, I don't think this man seems imposing, at all. The kindly, intelligent eyes just seem a more obvious focal point when framed by a mass of grey and curly locks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stages of the Little Boy Portrait from the Start

I've taken a step backwards with this portrait - back to methods that I used to use before I began to blog about technique - and, it seems to be working better for me.

Instead of applying light layers of pale wash first, going from light to dark tones, I have applied red, blue and brown shades first. Then, I have alternated between darks and lights, gradually building up the layers and increasing the pressure to create depth.

Here's the stages of progress from the beginning.

At this stage, a simple coloured outline is all that's been applied. Everything has been rendered lightly so that drafting errors can be corrected if necessary.

The shading is very blue here and, again, lightly applied.

Next, some red tones. The colour is bright scarlet but the pressure is slight.

Some light peach and orange hues have been laid down here and the eyes have been started with shades of blue.

The eyes seem to dominate, at this stage, but they are still too pale. More shading will bring more depth.

Brown shading now gives a more 3D effect and the eyes appear a little less exaggerated.

In between shading, I keep adding layers of light peach, peach, pink and yellow to bring out the highlights and add a glow to the skin.

The eyes have been intensified with black, blues and some white highlights. The eyelids have been shaded with many different colours including reds, browns, pinks, orange and peach. For one layer, I introduced a spruce green in the darkest areas.

Now, the hair is begun. The first step is to draw the shape of the strands - never individual hairs - using a mid-tone, which in this case is a light ochre.

Some brown ochre has now been applied to deepen the shadowed areas.

Some yellows and reds bring depth to the hair and create a more natural look - real hair is made up of many different colours.

The darks have been intensified with darker browns and some black, while the lighter areas have been improved with yellow, orange, red, light brown, grey and white.

I'll return to finish the hair and face, later, but, the next step from here will be the body and the background. The head seems unbalanced because it was snuggled into a cushion so I won't be able to improve it much more until I see it in the context of the surroundings.

Some of the pictures appear a little blue but the ground is actually a light grey. I took the last photos on my iPad and it seems to have recreated quite well the picture as I see it in real life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Back into Portraits

It's been a while since I posted. In fact, it's been over a year since I finished anything other than a journal page:-/

But, the urge to paint and draw has been niggling, all this while, and so, this week, I sat down to start a new project - another portrait of my youngest son.

The picture is in its early stages, right now.

I've started with light shading, rather than a pale wash, this time - reds, blues and browns. Then, I've laid down very light skin tones over the top. There's lots more layers to go, yet, especially as the grey ground seems to swallow up the pigment. At the moment, I'm applying yellows and pinks to bring out the glow of the skin and, at the same time, I'll keep adding more reds, blues, greys and brown to add definition.

While I was at a standstill with my art, I dabbled in a bit of photography and discovered a new passion!

The bottom photo shows my reference photo after a bit of photo-editing. I've found that I really, really love being creative with portrait photography - both as an aid to artwork and as an art in itself. So, now I have a new hobby that I can blog about:-)

But, right now, I'm on an art type of roll, so it's back to the drawing board...