Thursday, May 12, 2016

Musing on Drawing Portraits

I've been doing some drawings lately, focusing on eyes (pun intended) right now. It's a good exercise, examining the details of the eye, but it's in service to a greater goal. I'm enjoying life sized, detailed eyes, but extremely realistic drawing isn't really my goal.

A friend linked me to some pencil drawings that show every hair and pore, which honestly didn't appeal to me, as much as the skill was astounding, but it got me thinking about what kind of drawing I'd like to produce. What is my goal? I asked myself how I would like to draw. Could I find some samples of the sort of thing I'd like to do?

That set me on the trail looking for pencil portraits that I admire. Emulation is the sincerest form of flattery, you know. (Notice I didn't say imitation.) If a Google search on the topic is any indicator, those hair and pore portraits are most admired and in vogue, but I have something different in mind. It's a visual thought, and not one I can express very well at the moment, so I'm looking for things that bear a certain aspect that inspires me. Below I've placed a few examples that provoke my thoughts.

(By the way, you can do a right-click Google image search on any of these to find the source, if you happen to be using Chrome, as I am. They're all easily found.)

Raffaello Sanzio 1483-1520 | Renaissance Drawings


Sabin Howard
I worked some more on this graphite self portrait.
Britta Noresten
Britta Noresten

Ongoing portrait drawing by Slamdanc3r

Let's start with Raphael. Whether these two examples are pencil, graphite, or silverpoint really matters little to me. I admire the soft shading and varied tones. The line work is in service to the values. There is such a delicacy to the touch, even in the boldest areas.

The one by Harlamoff is all about tones, too. I want to be able to make a soft transition across the cheek like this one, and I like the way he's caught texture in her hair.

Sabin Howard is a sculptor, which shows in this drawing. There's a sense of space in the short distance from the ear to his nose that I admire. As in the Raphael drawings, I like seeing the evidence of the medium used. It's not all perfectly rendered.

Both of the Britta Noresten portraits utilize value to make form, too. There's mark making in each, letting me know an artist's hand touched these.

And the last one, by an artist who only identified himself as Slmdanc3r, pleases me for all these same reasons. I notice he's added white into the mix. The background is what pleases me here, especially where he lets the arm merge into it.

All of the backgrounds interest me, for they're often the place where the hand of the artist shows most. From the face outward, there's a looser and looser touch. I like that. Yet the ground is not incidental or unconsidered.

After looking at these and analyzing things, I see that value, texture, mark making, and touch matter to me.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Artwork in April

Sometimes life just gets so full of mundane needs that it drives out creative time. Mine isn't entirely devoid of art, just thinly applied and sparsely done.


First, here's a small painting I did one Saturday. It was fun to revisit this familiar scene of the mountains in my old hometown, Albuquerque. I can see that it's becoming a softer memory now, but that's how it has to be. We've been away for 20 months.

It was painted in my little 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine, using gouache, of course.


More typical of Amherst, NY, where I now live, is this gouache painting, done in my 5" x 7" sketchbook. During the first couple of months we lived here we walked at Amherst State Park. It was lush, late summer, with so much greenery and mysterious (to me) flowers layered on top of one another. I took a lot of photos, but this is the first one I've even tried to paint. I should do some more.

Sometimes you just have to splash around and see how it looks.


I could use a bit more real practice with my gouache, but most of the time drawing wins since I don't have to monopolize our dining room table to do it. At Easter I made some illustrations of Psalm 23, using sheep an online acquaintance shows in his videos. (Enjoy the Shepherd - Ray Carman, on Facebook.)


And recently I posted a video in my Facebook group called How to Draw Eyes - Structure by Proko. I decided to practice drawing eyes myself, since they are fun to do. In the 5" x 7" sketchbook using a 0.7 Bic mechanical pencil and my kneaded eraser.

I know eyes come in pairs, but it's easier to do one than both. All that matchy-matchy stuff is such a problem. (grin)

Oh, and if you want to be encouraged, check out our Facebook group, ENCOURAGING ART, and see if you want to join in. There are only a few of us there and we post art and ideas and share and encourage one another, without critiquing, unless someone wants it.


I'll try to post a few things here from time to time, but there isn't a lot of art going on right now. God is good, and I know what I'm called to do is more important than painting. That satisfies me, but every once in a while it is really relaxing to just move paint or pencil around, you know?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fresh Paint App Information

I've had some questions about this paint app I'm using, so I thought I'd try to explain a bit more about it. It's a free Windows App. Viewing it in the App Store a serious artist might ignore it since it looks like it's entirely for kids, but don't be fooled. It's actually pretty interesting to use.

I'm working on a touchscreen laptop in Windows 10, using my finger to paint on the monitor. Sometimes I use my mouse if I want a long straight line, or to get into tiny corners with a very small brush, when my own fingertip gets in the way.  But most of the time my finger is my brush.

A few details about the app:


You're given a choice of a custom canvas in various sizes, with the option of rotating it from landscape to portrait. 
Custom canvas selection palette

You're also able to choose to work on canvas or paper, using six different textural options in each one. 
Canvas/paper textural choices

I've played around with the brushes and found the look of the strokes is very different on different textured surfaces. Sometimes I want the heavily textured canvas look, sometimes the softer-edged paper, and sometimes a tighter edge achieved on slick paper. You can change textures in mid-painting, which gives you even more options. 
Different paper textures:
1.  rough textured canvas
2. middle-textured paper
3. smooth textured paper

You have different kinds of media (watercolor- oil- drawing media), along with different kinds of brushes/pens/pencils. I use oil most of all. 

Oil brushes palette, largest brush, largest width selected

Oil brushes, using the largest width for each brush:
fan brush
large round
small round

Watercolor brushes palette, smallest brush, largest width selected

Watercolor brush selection, using the largest width  for each one:
wide bright
large round
small round
(I haven't shown the drawing options, but you'll find different pencils, pen, oil pastels and soft pastels.)

All this is just to show you how many different options you have. It's quite a bit of fun to play around with all the brushes to see what they do, but if you're like me, it's the painting that's really the most fun of all. I'm not interested in funny brushes or effects brushes, or any other computer program style options, so for me the number of choices and sizes here is  optimal. It allows me to find and use what I need.

Okay, just to show you how much crazy fun you can have, here's an abstract that began as a demonstration of strokes and took off on its own! 

It's all just for fun and relaxation! 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Different Palette

Sometimes I just want to play with different colors. In Fresh Paint I can mix my own colors and save them, even saving incidental colors that occur when I blend on the canvas. That leads to some pretty subtle blends that inspire me.

This one is derived entirely from imagination and memory, as it very loosely resembles a view across the valley, looking at Sandia from the West Mesa in Albuquerque, my hometown.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

More Playful Fun

I'm feeling a little new energy now that the spring winds are blowing. The first one is a mental walk through my old stomping grounds, the West Mesa in Albuquerque. I lived near these extinct volcanoes.

And I wanted to try to paint the Northeastern areas a bit more. Here's one inspired by a snapshot taken last spring at Niagara Falls. 

Again, both are digital, done in Fresh Paint, a Windows app.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Fresh Paintings

A fresh look at things. I needed COLOR again!

I have to confess that these are all digital paintings. I used an app called Fresh Paint to make them. They feel so lively and new, reinvigorating me. 

Tell me honestly, did you look at them thinking they were digital or did you assume they were actually paint on canvas? 

I'd really appreciate knowing!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


I always feel like I should start something new in January. I'm resisting that feeling and continuing this blog, rather than launch another new one. I have way too many blogs already!

Here are a few things I'm working on right now.

A new journal has inspired this drawing. See, this idea of new things is quite compelling. I bought it from a missionary to China who visited our church. A paraplegic Chinese man makes them to support himself. I have no idea what kind of paper it is, but it's quite thin, has a fine tooth, and erases beautifully. It's 5.25 x 7.25". I figured I could practice in it, since I haven't been doing much drawing recently. I'm using an old #2 pencil and my kneaded eraser. A recent photo of my granddaughter provided the subject matter. Not a ringer for her, but getting there.

This is an odd point of view, but a painting that's dear to my heart. My son's dog died last year and this was the last picture taken of him. Such a character, he would often be found snuggled up to my son. Inverted on his lap...of course. I'm working on some PastelMat, which is extremely absorptive paper. I think I may just use this one as practice and do another one on watercolor paper. Of course, all you're seeing here is the ugly stage, the first hour of slopping gouache onto the paper. But I like the start, so we'll see where it goes. It's about 9.5" x 8.5" now, but I intend to crop it down.

Another one in the Chinese journal, just playing with a view of my old home town, Albuquerque. There's a web camera on the west side of the city that I watch. Occasionally I grab screen shots from it. Here I just had some fun with values. I like the angles. You can see how thin this paper is in the strong side light in this photo. I only consider these practice pieces!

I have an idea for a project I might make for my granddaughter this Easter that would involve drawing some sheep, so I thought I'd practice them. This is a very quick sketch done in a small Moleskine pad, about 3"x 5" in size. It's hard to get the skeletal structure of these creatures beneath the wool. I'm going to keep sketching and see what comes before I decide on this gift idea. I always try to give my grand some little handmade things.