Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last of 2014

Fir, Moleskine sketchpad 3.5: x 5.5"
I admire the evergreens I see everywhere in western New York, especially with the snow decorating their branches. This one seemed almost like a sculpture standing atop a pedestal, posed to paint.

I actually used two different photos for this one, grabbing the line of background trees from a shot that was exceptionally boring. I keep such photos for just such a use. Let me show you.

Not exactly inspiring, is it? But I bet I'll use some of the various parts of it in several different drawings. I always start with what will stand behind the subject. After all, you have to draw what's behind first! I don't detail it much, but I get shapes and values in place to some degree. 

And this is the snowy fir tree in the original photo. I shot it for the big tree with the snow between the two trunks. Again, not what I'd call a compelling photo, but there's actually a lot there to work with. I bet I'll use the icy driveway in sunlight/shadows in a piece at some point in time, not to mention the other, taller pine, and perhaps the tall tree, as well. 

Presumably this will be the last drawing for this year, unless I get inspired to do another one today. You never know. We're under a snow warning and I'm snuggled down in my chair, tea at hand, a fuzzy blanket over my lap, enjoying the companionable peace and quiet. 

I'm looking forward to what 2015 might bring, as I mull over in my mind the many blessings and challenges I've had in 2014. Sometimes the difficulties bear the greatest blessings, but it takes time and distance to perceive that. In 2014, my husband and I moved to three different locations, shedding layers of possessions each time, finally transplanting from Albuquerque, NM to Amherst, NY with a ten-foot trailer full of our things. We left behind our family and friends, our church family, the ministry we were doing at The Albuquerque Rescue Mission, our jobs, our car (long story), and many, if not most of our possessions and furnishings. May I just say it wasn't easy. But hard things to do aren't necessarily bad things. They're just difficult.

We loved living in New Mexico, calling it home for 35 years, but now the Lord has moved us on to something new. We're taking care of my mother-in-law, who needs a bit more help as her health has worsened. She has relocated to a new apartment we all share. The Lord Jesus has given us grace and peace here, as we settle in to see what comes next.

We've found ourselves reaching out with the gospel to a lot of our new neighbors, all Chinese nationals living here as they attend grad school at the University of Buffalo. The new year may be very interesting.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying little drawings and contemplating some paintings I may do in the coming year. I wish you a creative, inspiring, and refreshing New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Icy Tree

Icy Tree, Moleskine 3.5" x 5.5" 
Another quick little landscape drawn from a screenshot of something I saw during the epic Snowvember storm. This icy little tree looked like a dancer twirling around, arms upraised, casting a lacy shadow.

I'm happy to report that I'm beginning to become somewhat acclimated to the colder-than-I'm-used-to weather. At least I was willing to go out today when it was 28F without too many layers. Of course, the Buffalonians say it's warmer than usual at the end of December. My husband and I will take the blame for that. Both of us have been praying there would be no snow! Ex-pat New Mexicans will do that, you know.

But I will say that from the warmth of our little apartment with the lovely scent of Cranberry Vanilla Tea wafting near, I'm perfectly happy drawing the contrasts in the snowy landscape. It's beautiful!

And if you're interested in more details about depicting snow, check out the chapter devoted to snow in my online book,  Landscape Painting in Pastels. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Only 2 Feet

Only 2 Feet, Moleskine 3.5" x 5.5"
"Only two feet of snow," said the caption on this resource photo of a house somewhere in Buffalo. If two feet of snow fell in New Mexico the whole state would close down until it melted! Here it's only a little. Well, I guess because 7-8 FEET fell  three weeks earlier it lent a different perspective to things. That and Buffalonians are inordinately proud of the depth of the snowfall here. (Ahem. They are situated very near Canada. That's all I'll say.)

On a side note, I enjoy the little iron fences and gates that are so common in this area. They're rather delicate looking alongside the clapboard siding on the old houses The snow added a nice punctuation, creating visual contrast.


Kitten, Moleskine 3.5" x 5.5"
My granddaughter loves cats. I really had a good time drawing the bright little face and tidy white apron on this kitten, as well as the tufts of  mussy fur on her head.

This had to be a tabby. I had a cat that lived to a ripe old age, who was beautiful warm gray tabby. Unfortunately she was also the meanest cat on the planet to everyone except me.

She slept in a box near the fire, where she fooled visitors to my studio into thinking they could pet her glossy fur. She would arch her back, accepting their outstretched hand, and even let them stroke her twice. I always warned them to stop after two, but occasionally that outstretched hand would confidently reach out a third time and receive a well-placed claw hooked quickly into the flesh, a reminder that she was done. Sigh.

I'm sure this little kitten would neve become such a beast.


Puppy, Moleskine 3.5" x 5.5"
I've always loved Labradors, so it had to be a Lab puppy! It seemed to suit the sense of scale to have this pup trot into the picture plane--not that I tried to draw all of the animals to scale. It made me long to have a puppy for a minute, but I got over it fairly quickly.

I like the shadows on his forehead. The darker contrasts on the face makes it pop forward nicely.


Mouse, Moleskine 3.5" x 5.5"
Continuing with the animals for my granddaughter, this little guy made a big hit when I posted him in EveryDay Matters on FB. People seemed to like his attitude. A saucy little mouse, he looks as if he's about to do something...

And yes, I did clean up the smudges before laminating the drawing to a card.


Lamb, Moleskine 3.5" x 5.5"
This one makes me laugh! He's a loud lamb.

Although I opened up the borders of all the rest of the animals, in this case he simply seemed to need the security of that edge. He seems a bit agitated or anxious otherwise, I think.

Lamb's ears are funny things. I enjoyed  sculpting them. I used different resource photos for the body and head, and several for the ears.


Duckling, Moleskine 3.5" x 5.5"
I had to do some searching online to find photos of little duck feet. Most of them were either hidden by the grass or under water. I drew them last so that I could match the proportions correctly. They were detailed enough that they became too dark, so this is one case where I used the flattened kneaded eraser to lift some of the pencil off, leaving all the lines and details but lightening the lines sufficiently.

I wanted to portray fluffy critters for the most part, and I have to say that this downy little guy appealed to me a lot. I loved doing the soft feathers along his back and chest.


Bunny, Moleskine 3.5" x 5.5"
I decided to do a few drawings for my 3-year-old granddaughter for Christmas. If I were near her I'd make drawings for her all the time, so I approached these as simply little sketches made for my girl to enjoy.

I looked at all kinds of photographs online as resources for varying parts, such as the eye, the paws in shadow and the nose/mouth. Rabbits have odd mouths! They're actually really neat.

I decided to open up the border so the little guy had a place to escape. It imparted a sense of hiding in a corner that appealed to me. Oh, and I cleaned up the smudges before laminating it on top of a card, so she can handle it.

When she thanked me, her mom reported that she was making all the sounds the animals make. I need to ask what sound the bunny makes.


12-5-2014 Moleskine 3.5" x 5.5"
The image size of these drawings done in my Moleskine is actually 2.5" x 4.25" inside the border.

I posted this deer on FB, but later I realized how much it looked like a llama and edited it. This version looks a bit more like a white-tail deer. Keep in mind the whole deer is less than 1/2" wide. (Is that an excuse? I prefer to think of it as a reason, if you don't mind.)

Did I mention that my kneaded eraser is a valuable and much-used tool? Nothing else works like it. If you haven't discovered the joys of using one, I highly recommend it. I shape it to a small point, flatten that point out, and use it to correct my drawing mistakes and erase the smudges along the edges. I even sometimes use the whole eraser, flattned out on one side, to lift off some of the pencil, lightening the value of an area. When the eraser gets too black I simply knead it over and over until it's clean again.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Lucy's Snow

11-26-2014, 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine sketchpad
Lucy is visiting from China. English speakers find her given name unpronounceable, so she's chosen the American name Lucy. Since the University of Buffalo is within walking distance of our apartment there are many graduate students living here. Lucy's daughter Cindy (her Americanized name) is working on an MBA. We've enjoyed getting acquainted with Lucy and Cindy, and the others who share their apartment.

I can't quite recall why she shared this photo with me, but I cropped it considerably to focus on the grove of trees behind our apartment building. That grove isn't going to last long. Construction has begun on more apartment buildings. At the center of the complex is a small lake around which the buildings circle, called Deer Lake. It seems a shame to remove all the trees. The deer will miss those trees, but there are plenty more nearby. I'm the one who's really going to miss them. I like seeing the deer grazing nearby. How sad that the natural is giving way to the manmade. I guess it's the way of the world--but that's sad, too. We'll have to rename it "No Deer Lake" soon.

I enjoy the layers of value I can see here. At home in New Mexico, it's so dry the view is crisp and hard-edged all the way to the horizon. Atmosphere adds...well, atmosphere to the piece. The values recede quickly, the edges soften, detail is lost, in fact, things in the far distance simply disappear. I like seeing and drawing that.

I recall years ago in Albuquerque a traveling artist held a plein air workshop at the foot of the scenic 10,000 foot Sandia Mountains. Hailing from the northeastern parts of the US, he taught what he knew about painting receding planes: softened edges, less detail, lighter values. One of the students, a friend of mine, grew frustrated. Pointing to the top of the mountain as he stood at her easel, she asked, "Can't you see the trees on the top? I can." Apparently he looked up, gazing there for a few long moments, and conceded that he could see them.

It was an object lesson on painting under different atmospheric conditions, not to mention a cautionary tale for those artists who travel to teach workshops in various parts of the world: Paint what you see, not what you know! 

Friday, December 26, 2014


11-21-2014, 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine sketchpad
Yes, there was plenty of snow. Abundant snow. Plentiful. Excessive. Lots and lots.

Streets were so deep in snow, with so many cars abandoned where they stopped, that they had to dig them out one at a time by hand and tow them away, before going on to the next one. Again, a screenshot from WIVB in Buffalo.

Somehow a vertical format seemed to express that depth best.

Favorite part: that one little branch photo-bombing the picture. Somehow it enhances the sense of deep snow. Such bits have always been a compositional no-no for me as a rule. I lectured my students not to include little overhead intruders, which occurred in photographing the scene--a dead giveaway that you used a photo as your resource, I said. True. But out here in the treed parts of the world overhanging branches are expected and common. And in this case the branch adds height, resulting in depth. I like that. (Old dog learning new tricks, I guess!)

By the way, please expect to see more snowy landscapes here. You won't be disappointed.

Wildly Interesting Tea

11-20-2014, 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine sketchpad
It was very cold during the storm, which lasted 5 days, and I drank a lot of tea.

How fascinating is that?

Well, your lack of interest probably doesn't equal mine at the time. Witness the fact that I decided to try to capture the dreaded ellipses, my nemeses, to varying degrees of success. It certainly absorbed my attention for a time, which was the point, of course.

I'm certainly glad I had my eraser at hand. There's room for improvement, let's say.

Ah, the distractions we resort to when housebound.

Snowy Drive

11-19-2014, 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine sketchpad
I used another Snowvember storm mystery shot gleaned from someplace in passing. The storm was actually named Winter Storm Knife, but that will only be used on insurance claim forms, I suspect.

It just kept falling and falling. Ten miles away. Not here.

Thank God!

Snowvember Storm

11-19-2014, 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine sketchpad

A storm of epic proportions dropped no less than 7 FEET of snow on the towns in the southern reaches of Buffalo, NY, starting on November 18, not more than 10 miles from our doorstep. Happily, we received only 8-10".

Lake effect snow is very capricious, it turns out. Frankly, this New Mexican transplant was extremely glad not to have to deal with that much snow! However, some of the photographs that resulted were quite engaging.

I honestly don't recall where this one came from. I perused a lot of the weather sites where people were posting snapshots of all kinds as the snow accumulated, and grabbed a few of those. From there I cropped and flopped them, jinking the contrast to arrive at images that pleased me. I rarely paint the exact photo I'm viewing, usually changing the composition to please me as I go along. (But if this is a drawing of your place, let me know!)

Just to give you a taste, take a look at this screenshot from local channel 4, WIVB, in Buffalo.

Yeah, a lot of snow fell! Even the birdfeeders were loaded down, but at least one little bird found a feast.

I counted my blessings, snug and warm in our apartment, looking at the lacy edge of the hovering cloud a few miles off, where the snow was adding feet every day.

A Start

11-17-2014, 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine sketchpad

I have this little 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine sketchpad that's been around for a long while. I pulled it out of the box in the bottom of the buffet not long ago, itching to do some artwork but not inspired to get out the paints. My pencil bag was right there, so I grabbed it, too.

But what to draw? In the past, it was easy to paint or draw, but since I moved from New Mexico to New York I've been feeling cramped artistically. I used to say that I had to draw or paint every day, and that if you took away my paints and pencils I'd draw in the dirt with my finger, but that's proven not to be so. I'm not troubled, not blocked; I was just not inclined to do any artwork.

Until now. 

I realize I have a growing body of drawings started and it might be fun to keep a record of the artwork I do in this new environment. That's why I called this blog Depicting Things. I could draw. I could paint. I could do any of a number of things. Open-endedness pleases me right now. 

Above is the first pencil drawing in my little sketchpad, so I list it here first. It's from a photo I took of the view out my south-facing windows into the woods beside the apartments across the street. I distilled it a lot, cropping out all kinds of things. I enjoyed the interface of wall, trees and telephone pole. My husband told me I'd be drawing intimate views here in Western New York, and he's right. As westerners transplanted to this flat, treed land, we remark on the "view" when we cross the overpass!

But there's beauty to be seen. 

I've always enjoyed the landscape. I painted in pastels for over 25 years, mostly depicting the landscape in New Mexico, a grand, light, open place full of color. 

Right now, in the fall and winter months, New York is almost devoid of color, so I'm enjoying pencil. The bare trees give me a chance to see the interlacing complexities as big areas of value first. I'm so used to working small, having worked with gouache in miniature, that the tiny Moleskine is perfect for me. 

I've also been drawing from photographs of kids' faces, mostly making gifts for friends for Christmas lately. Those will go here, too. I need to practice likeness! I've known intellectually for years that likeness is a matter of millimeters, but never had the patience to draw that precisely. I guess I'm maturing--and I have plenty of time to draw that way now. 

I'll probably post a few of the drawings right away, and soon fall to posting from time to time, depending on how things go.

Let me know if you're visiting or following along. It's always nice to share. Art is, after all, meant to be communication! To that end, I've posted many of these on EveryDay Matters on Facebook