Friday, January 23, 2015


Hamster, Moleskine sketchpad 3.5" x 5.5"
I like this little hamster's jaunty air. He seems like he's about to say something witty.  He's part of the collection of animals I'm slowly sending to my granddaughter. I find these furry or fuzzy critters are fun to draw.

Favorite part: the hair overlapping his ears. I think it really worked to give him softness.

I like his little turned-in paw, too Those paws are hard to draw. They're really odd little hand-like things with tiny claws. I recall what it was like to have them scratching at my hand when I was a kid.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Snowy Two-track

Snowy Two-track, gouache on Arches 300 lb. c/p,  2.5" x 3.5"
I liked the two curves in this one, the road and overhead branch. My theory is that when one has a strong visual pathway like this you must give the viewer a treat at the end of it, so I made sure the road points to the big tree, and the overhead branch and light in the distance culminate there. I think it works.

I also used Doug Dawson's approach to the color of snow, mixing more turquoise into the lighter foreground snow and keeping the distant trees in the upright plane more cobalt in color. It makes sense to me, since yellow appears nearer and purple recedes. I scumbled in a bit of whiter snow with a dry brush right in the front to create the snowy look there.

Favorite part: the look of dense twiggy trees on the left side that came about using a funny brush that's squished and crazy looking. It makes good random lines when turned different directions. The darker value served well and the multi-directional strokes read as snowy little branches.

I'm really enjoying the exploration of snow here in Western New York. I get to apply a lot of the theories I developed over the years when I painted with pastels. Here's a link to my chapter on snow, in my book, Landscape painting in Pastels. It's specific to pastels but contains a lot of thoughts on how to paint snow regardless of the medium you use.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

January Riverbend

January Riverbend, gouache on Arches 300 lb. c/p,  2.5" x 3.5" 
Sunset and snow are a marvel, and not easy to paint--but quite a lot of fun. I set up my paints and paper at my dining room table, with a lamp casting its hundred watts on my butcher's tray palette and view the photo on my computer. I open the photo in GIMP so I can tweak it, changing the contrast or levels so that I can view various aspects more clearly when needed.

I'm exploring icy edges where the shallow water freezes first. The ice is a pale gray, reflecting the sky.

Favorite part: The little patch of light through the trees on the right-hand side. It was incidental, but when something serendipitous pleases me I'll make sure to keep it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Aged Apple

Aged Apple, 1-11-2015, Moleskine sketchpad 3.5" x 5.5"
In early September, not long after we moved to the Buffalo area, we found a lovely place to walk, Amherst State Park. Many people visit Glen Park Falls near there, located right off Main Street in Williamsville. The park is just slightly north of there and accessible by trails.

We found the parking area on the far north side of the park just beside a lovely old convent (now senior housing) and strolled down into an old, old orchard, where a few apple trees were still growing. Left to themselves, the trees were definitely senior citizens, much loved by the locals--the squirrels!

Favorite part: The trunk is really what it's all about, and I like that, but I guess the foreground shadow pleases me most.

Amherst Park is a nice place to walk. You'll find a lovely stream, a beautiful bridge, fields, rocks and trees, even a swimming hole with big trees, where we found some boys performing amazing feats--or so they thought.

And summer will come again!


Sage, 1-10-2015, Moleskine sketchpad 3.5" x 5.5"
The challenge prompt was to draw a medicinal plant. I wasn't too inspired by it until I discovered that sage is made into tea, and is used for soothing poultices and to sweeten breath.

I love the big, open plains in the northern areas of New Mexico where the sage scents the breezes with a heady perfume. Walk across such a field and the aroma will cling to your clothing for a good, long time. I usually grab a good sized chunk to place in front of the air vent--it's the best possible car freshener!

Favorite part: the angled dark shadows and bright little highlight on the distant mesa on the left.

How refreshing to visit this place in my memory. I think sage and pinon will always be the scent of heaven to me.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Lake Effect

We had a band of lake effect snow come through during the night, leaving about 8" of snow on the ground when we awoke. This afternoon, with the sunlight streaming on the reflective snow, bouncing even more light into my living room, it was a good day to paint.

But then any day that I open my paint box and apply gouache to paper is a good day.

Lake Effect, 2.5" x 3.25" gouache on Arches 300
This one I titled Lake Effect because I composed it while watching a video of the lake effect snow that's common around here. You might recall that just before Thanksgiving, Buffalo had a storm drop 7 feet--you read that right, 7 FEET--of snow. That was an extreme example of lake effect. Far more typical is about 5" or 6" of snowfall per hour.

Lake effect is caused by arctic air crossing over warmer lake water, sucking up the moisture and dumping snow. We really do get these weird bands of dense snow, like a big finger reaching off Lake Erie. We'll see blue sky above the snow band's lacy edge, gleaming in the sunlight ahead, as snow begins to fall.

If you're interested you can read more details about lake effect snow from NOAA, Warm Water and Cold Air, The Science Behind Lake-Effect Snow There it says:
Within the band, snowfall rates may exceed 5 inches an hour and be accompanied by lightning and thunder, a phenomenon known as thundersnow. A band of snow can hover over one location for several hours, dropping several feet of snow; however, 10 to 15 miles on either side of that narrow band skies may be sunny with no snow at all.
The only thing odder than driving from the sunny landscape into a visible snowstorm is to arrive there and encounter lightning and thunder! As I heard someone say, it's as if the weather is throwing everything in its arsenal at you at the same time.

Favorite part: The gleaming white snow band at the top, suggesting the bright sunlight on this side of it.

I also like the way the spatter worked to suggest snow. If you ever do this in gouache, make a slurry of water and white paint (I used Zinc, which is more transparent) that's a little runnier than toothpaste. Let the spatter set slightly, but before it's dry mist it with a light spritz of water from a spray bottle to soften and blur it slightly. Then step away from the paper until it's dry!


I decided to add this photo when I saw how HUGE this little painting looked on Facebook. I re-sized the image above so it's closer to the real thing until you click on it. Here it is in scale for you.

The color of the image at the top is far more accurate, but this gives you a sense of its actual size. Normally I paint ACEO/ATC size, 2.5" x 3.5" but I had some odd pieces with the deckled edge on them and grabbed one for this experimental painting.


50-50, 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine drawing pad 
The challenge prompt was coins or banknotes, but I just wasn't inspired by the subject. Money troubles me too much to want to depict it, and circles and rectangles are so basic that, aside from angular variations or stacks, they seemed fairly mundane visually. I eventually visited Morguefile, where I sometimes find photos that are free to use, and tucked away there I saw this shot. It appealed instantly.

I don't believe in luck. As a Christian, I know that the Lord has His hand on every coin toss, but that doesn't mean I don't toss one every now and then, especially when I sense that there are two perfectly acceptable paths I could take and I simply need to choose one. I like the repeatable odds: 50-50.

The drawing is in my brand new Moleskine drawing pad, this one the same size as the one I've been using but without the detachable pages. The image inside the border remains 2.5" x 4.25" in size.

Favorite part: the glistening edge of the coin and the shadow cast on the hand, which is all one shape defined by values.

*This photograph shows a slight reworking of the image I posted on FB this morning, since I then noticed some things that still needed work. I reworked the shadow on the top of the thumb, the shaping and shading on the palm and a bobble on the deep shadow beneath the coin on the outside of the knuckle. Picky? Yes, totally. I have the time to be picky, which is nice, but it isn't my nature to work this way. Looseness shall return!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chinese Teapot

Chinese Teapot, Moleskine sketchpad 3.5" x 5.5"
As I mentioned here previously, there's a challenge going on in the Artist's Journal Workshop on Facebook. The prompt for Day 8 is a fancy teapot. Well, this one is anything but fancy, but it's the kind of teapot that pleases me most--a beautifully rounded ceramic pot with a lovely sheen.

For several years, I've painted Miniatures in Opaque Watercolor,which are 2.5" x 3.5", so this size seems quite roomy to me. I love using color and will return to it from time to time, I'm sure, but pencil is a straightforward, tidy medium that I quite enjoy exploring for now.

Favorite part: The curved spout with its hollow opening. I composed carefully to feature this part. I think the simple composition, excluding the handle, expresses this teapot to my liking.

Monday, January 5, 2015


Niagara River Bridge, 1-5-2015, Moleskine sketchpad 3.5" x 5.5"
The prompt for the Artist's Journal Workshop Day 5 challenge on Facebook was a bridge. I recalled this photo I had stashed away from a visit to Niagara Falls a few years ago,

It seemed like a fun idea to draw such an impressively large river in such a small format. That river is frighteningly swift and energetic! You would not want to fall off that bridge because it's very close to the Falls. I almost felt like the logs were holding on for dear life.

Favorite part: the little cataract in the middle left. I think it serves to catch that fast movement.


Owlet, 1.5.2015, Moleskine 3.5" x 5.5"
There's a challenge going on over in the Artist's Journal Workshop group on Facebook. I just joined the group so I came in a bit late. The prompt for Day 4 was an animal. Since I drew all those animals for my granddaughter recently, I thought I'd just keep right on drawing them and send a few at a time to her.

Favorite part of this one: the blurry fluff on his breast. It really worked to soften the pencil there before adding the lines indicating the feathers. I tried not to make him look too intense or scary and would appreciate knowing if I succeeded!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Lucy's Portrait (in progress)

Lucy, 4" x 5" on mystery card
I found some cards in my paper stash and used one for this drawing. I was pretty well into it by the time I decided I really don't like the aggressively striped texture. (And, by the way, it isn't crooked--that's my lack of photography skill. Sorry!)

I shot a couple of quick pictures of Lucy before she left, seating her in the light from the nearby window. There were interior lights on, too, so I have a cast shadow and a secondary source of light.

Her long black hair is so beautiful. I haven't done it justice. I only used one pencil, a Bic #2 0.7mm, which is anything but fancy. It only goes so dark. It might have been better to use the Faber-Castell pencils that have a wider range of darks, but adding it now won't work.

I have another shot of her smiling that I might also try to draw, but it always seems odd to portray an open mouth. When we stick a camera in someone's face, they smile--it's a conditioned response--but if I were to draw her face as she sat before me she couldn't possibly hold that expression for long. Hence, portraits done in the time before cameras traditionally depicted a more relaxed face.

I can draw a big open-mouth smile, but I've never liked it as much as a more traditional portrait. But, to be frank, maybe it's just indoctrination/tradition that makes me want to fool you into thinking I did the drawing from life! Silly.

Favorite part: the shadow sculpting her cheek.