Wednesday, April 16, 2014

House portrait, and animal cookies

I'm back to my old drawing self, after a couple of detours.

First up is a newly completed house portrait, of a residence in San Francisco.
I did this one with Polychromo colored pencils on Fabriano Artistico hot press paper. WOW WOW WOW I LOVE THIS PAPER!!!!!!! 

There are so many papers to choose from to work on, and I've heard about this one before, but for whatever reason never ordered any to try. I have a draw full of other papers - lots and lots of pads of Stonehenge (which I still love), other watercolor papers, hot press and cold press, watercolor blocks, different sizes, colors, you name it, as well as a ton of illustration board. 

Well this one wins. Its 'crisper' than Stonehenge, and takes a million layers with no complaining. Its just gorgeous stuff, and I couldn't be happier with it.

Before I did the house above, I did a couple of little circus animal cookies, just for fun. These were Polychromos and Pablos on Stonehenge.

The first one is a camel, and I'm pretty sure the second one is a lion. These cookies fascinate me - they are just the weirdest little things. The cookies themselves are nice, and then they cover them is this sickeningly sweet frosting and the little doohickies (there's a name for those that's escaping me at the moment). These come in white and pink frosting, and they taste the same, but the pink ones make a better picture. 

I actually laid out every cookie in the bag, and organized them by 'animal'. I considered doing a huge drawing of every cookie in the bag, including all the broken bits and stray round thingies. I thought documenting them like that would be a cool 'art piece'. And it would. Then I decided I didn't want to make that my life's work, and just drew these two instead. 

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Leek Faux Mosaic

After that last post where I pretty much had a nervous breakdown over trying to do that digital colored pencil piece, I had to shift gears completely and not only go back to real colored pencils, but had to also not do a children's book piece. So I did food, but again, something completely different.

"Leek" - faux mosaic  8" x 10"
Polychromo colored pencils on Strathmore 500 illustration board

I also went back to illustration board, which is what I learned on in art school. We used it for everything. Although back then it was Crescent 300. I still love illustration board the best for everything - watercolor, gouache, ink, pencils - but you can't see through it on a light box. Which is why I use paper a lot now.

The grout is the same color all the way through, but looks so much darker against the white. 

Here's how it started ~

I had intended to do more 'in progress' scans, but you know how it goes sometimes. Basically, I sketched out the leek, broke it up into little pieces and drew in some grout, then colored in the tiles. Then I came back over the grout again with a grey, then over the whole piece with white to pull it together.

It was pretty fussy, but I was determined to finish it. I was inspired by classic Roman mosaics where they used these little small squares for the whole piece. I'd like to do some more of these, and experiment with different sizes and shapes of 'tiles'.

In between grouting faux tiles, I've been playing nurse to my kitty Saachi, who had the rest of his rotten teeth pulled, and also got shaved bald to get rid of all his badly matted fur. Poor kitty - I've never had a cat with fur like his, its just impossible to comb out. This was pretty dramatic, but it will grow in better, and I am armed with a good assortment of different sized combs to keep him cleaned up this time. Hopefully.

Before ~

After ~

Sigh. He's doing well, and gumming his food now. We have baby food, all kinds of wet food, and are doing dry food with just a bit of water on it to soften it. And lots of TLC of course.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Doggone Digital Pencil

OK, so last time I was showing you my drawing of the ice skating dogs. 
This time I'll show you my neurotic attempts to render the darn little guys. 

Maybe I should explain a bit first. 
You all know I do colored pencil art. 
What you may not know is that for a while I've been on fence about doing it for children's book work. Just because it takes soooo loooong, and most children's book work budgets aren't big enough to make spending this long on a piece of art in this style worth doing. (I don't mind working hard on something and having it take a long time ... but there's "normal" long time, and then there's "I need to have my head examined because this is insane" long time. Colored pencil work falls into the second category.)

But old habits die hard, so I started rendering this in colored pencils anyway, just because I felt like it.
And this is as far as I got before I thought "yeah, this is taking too long ..." 

And then, "I know! I'll do it digital! That'll be quicker!" 
And it could be, if I could work out a way to do it ... less detailed? Less perfect? Because the way I've been working, doing the colored pencil texture digitally, takes just as long as the old-fashioned way. The fact that its digital makes it easier to make corrections and changes, yes, which is a huge plus. But it still takes too long. Seriously.

Here's the guy with no color on his coat yet. I like being able to get in there and really render it to death. I just can't help myself. I get in there with a 4pt brush and fiddle around, and get lost in some microscopic detail.

Here, the face it a little more done, and I starting playing with the coat. There are I don't know how many layers of colors on that coat. It doesn't even look like colored pencil anymore, does it?

And more.
This is where I stopped, and did a reality check. I started outlining, which is fine, but is that what I really want to do? (rhetorical question) I'm just saying. I've had to stop working on this for a while, and will come back to it with fresh eyes, when I've had some time to mull over what I want to do exactly.

I still think this is a viable technique. I just think that for what I was originally intending to do with it - faster children's book work - its not working. For me. Like this. I may figure out a way to do it faster, and if so, I'll share. 

Sorry to be a Debbie Downer. I just thought it might help someone else who's struggling to figure something out, to show that things don't always go smoothly. Misery loves company, after all.  

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Dogs Skating Update

Hey. Thought I'd better check in with something, even if its not finished art. Had a lot going on this week, but in between all of that I've been working on the dogs skating. You can see the first rough ideas and how its progressed, and where we left off last time, here ~
(or, just scroll down to the last post)

Before, they were in a kind of long-ish horizontal layout. But I thought "hey! I might want to make prints of this, so let's make it 8 x 10 instead." So that's what I did. I reorganized all the little doggies in a more 8 x 10-ish clump. 

I also made the wiener dog leaning forward a bit more. I did this with Photoshop, and you can see how I haven't erased out the second head on him yet. I love working in layers in PS, and how you can make a new layer, try something, hide it if you're not sure, delete it, or whatever.

And here's a more cleaned up version of the drawing above. Its ready to be transferred to the final paper. Or should be. Except something kept nagging at me. I found all kind of things to do except that. Like laundry, other cleaning, cat chores, a nap, shopping, knitting ... something in me wasn't happy with this yet. 

First, I took out the guy 'walking' the dogs, because you know what? I didn't like the leashes, and I also figured that if the dogs were smart enough to be able to put on clothes and skates and you know, ice skate, they didn't need to be on leashes.
I rearranged the dogs a bit too, to make them interact with each other more. 

And then it hit me. It needed KITTIES! 

So I sketched in some little furry guys in the snow behind the dogs. One is about to throw a snowball, and his buddy is hiding behind a big stockpile of ready-to-go snowballs. Another one is making a snowman. One is skating out onto the ice, and another is skiing.

Here it is, tightened up a bit. The dogs are totally oblivious, of course. They're just out for a nice little skate. The cats, on the other hand  ...

This makes a much better illustration, with more storytelling. It has a lot more going on, with the cats, and is more fun.
This has been transferred to the final paper and is being colored as we speak. I've taken out the skiing guy - somehow he wasn't working for me. But who knows, he could always end up back in. 

I'm also working on my new website, S...L...O...W...L...Y, but surely. It'll get there. I've ordered some new nice paper and colored envelopes (oooh, fancy) to make some cards for my etsy shop. I know, I've said before that I hate making cards, and I do. BUT. I would really like to have some other options in the shop besides prints, and I thought some card sets would be nice. 

So that's what I'll be up to over the next week, no doubt with a lot of help from this guy (when he's not doing this) ~

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dogs Skating - Work in Progress

I had this idea for a dog walker walking dogs, but having them all skating instead of walking. Cute, right? Yeah I thought so too.

I started with a really rough drawing of my idea, with different dogs in different skating postures, in a 'clump', with the human walker behind. (Actually, there were some rougher ideas before this one, but this one is the first one in the process I'm willing to share.)

I knew I wanted to do a bulldog, and the wiener dog out front. I also wasn't sure how many dogs I wanted - there could be more, but I also wanted to be able to show enough of each one to make it worthwhile drawing them. Too many dogs would hide too much of some of them, so I kind of weeded them out a bit from my very first ideas. 

I work 'old school', on tracing paper, and make a lot of overlays. Here's the next one, (again, with some 'in-between' ones left out), with some of the dogs tightened up a little bit.

I had a poodle in there, and the bulldog was doing that kind of gliding thing. The little guy in the back got cut off in this scan, but really, he's still there. 

I started playing with some outfits (oh yes ... they have to have outfits!), and had scads of little individual dogs re-traced and cut out and re-traced again, all over the drawing table.
Here are some bits hanging off my drawing table lamp.

And here I plopped all the ones that I liked down on a piece of paper and scanned them. You can see that I have two sets of "Mom and pup", because I'm not sure which one I like better. I also took out the poodle.

Here's where Photoshop comes in (yay, Photoshop! What did we do before Photoshop?)
I placed each of the dogs from the scan above into a new blank image, and started playing with placement, and also scale. I love using the Edit > Transform > Scale (and also Rotate) tool to fiddle with things. I ended up cutting and pasting (Lasso Tool > Cut (or Copy) > Paste) one of the Mom dog's head onto another dog altogether. 

I also used my Wacom tablet and stylus to draw the 'guy' in the background, the leashes, and the horizon and top crop lines. All the dogs, as well as the guy, were on separate layers. I erased around each image so they were all kind of 'free floating', and could overlap each other. 

I decided the crop the top half of the guy off, because its not really about him, its about the dogs. We don't need to see who he is I don't think. I want it to be all about the dogs.

Here's where I am with the drawing. Its not "there" yet, but almost. 

I love telling a little story with each of them. The wiener dog (with short legs) is racing out front. The Mom is helping her pup. The bulldog is just this really solid mass floating along. The bull terrier and other little hound are looking back to see how the little guy (you have to say "little guy" with a kind of quavery voice) is doing. And the little guy is just that - the little guy, bringing up the rear.

I have lots of work to do figuring out their clothes, but that will be fun. When I get a final drawing, I will transfer it to my paper and start the finish. This will be done with colored pencils, and I think I'll try out my new Gamsol (odorless mineral spirits) and of course my new handy dandy electric pencil sharpener!


In other news - 
its SPRING here already. I know, totally crazy, considering how much of the country is ice and snow bound. 

We've had juuuust enough rain to get everything going, but are still in a drought. We will all have to be creative about how to keep everything watered come Summer. 

I would love to fill in some gaps in my beds with new plants, but don't want to have anything extra to water, so I guess I'll just let them be a little bare for another year. 

Hey, I just had this idea. Someone could start a business painting 'fake' flowers and bushes on some kind of outdoor-friendly material, that people could put in their yards. You know, like those painted fireplace screens, but on stakes, that you could just stick in your flower beds. Yes? No? Maybe. If you do it, please send me pics. :~)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Looking Sharp

I finished the paint tubes! These were fun. They look like they're standing around, maybe gossiping about the other colors. :~) I don't know. The things your mind does when you're sitting, sitting, sitting, and drawing. Maybe they don't like the greens, or blues. 

I actually had this idea last year and was going to make it into a Christmas card. I have some reference shot of green tubes too. I still like the idea. Maybe this year ...

This is 7" x 7", done mostly with Polychromos, and some other brands for the reds.

These were an experiment on Arches Hot Press, which I've never used before. I like it about 99% as much as I like Stonehenge, so that's pretty good. I seemed to get little 'flecks' or spots of color, especially after a couple of layers, which I didn't like. Not sure what that's all about - something about the paper surface, obviously, but I couldn't tell you what. There's not as much tooth on the paper as with Stonehenge, but for something like this, which didn't take too many layers, it was fine. I will use it again!

But THIS is what I really wanted to share. I bought myself a new pencil sharpener. 

The Bostitch Super Pro 6 electric. Its a little (OK, maybe a lot) pricey, but if you do a search you can find the best deal. (I'm always amazed at the difference in price for these kinds of things.) I got mine on ebay for significantly less than some retailers. They go from $70 or so to over $100 (with most selling for $80-something), so it pays to shop around!

I've been using an Xacto School Pro for 5 or 6 years. When it was new, I thought it was great. Gradually, over time, it got duller, and duller, and was eating more pencils (mostly Prismacolors), until it just became a wood chipper. Even my harder pencils like Polychromos were breaking in it. 

I had stopped using Prismacolors altogether for the past couple of years, because at first I just thought they had gone downhill. I had heard about them changing their manufacturing, moving things to Mexico, and had several people say they were experiencing problems. So I thought it was just the pencils. Then when my other pencils started to break too, I realized it was time for a new sharpener.

So let me illustrate.
On the left here we have the new Bostitch, and on the right, the old Xacto.

And here are two Prismacolors, both of which were sharpened in the sharpener they're modeling in front of. 

HEL-LO!!! Do you see what I'm talking about?
Let's do it again with two more pencils, shall we?

I could do this all day long. The old sharpener takes them to a really dull point, then CRACK! off snaps the lead. The new one just zips it into a needle-like point, lickety-split. Its a beautiful thing.

The only thing you have to be careful with is that it doesn't have an 'auto-stop'. Which means it will just keep going, if you let it.

So now after I've re-sharpened all - I don't even know how many - hundreds! - of Prismacolors, I have an art 'to-do' list as long as my arm. It will be a joy to 'color' again!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

A loaded Sunday

As I'm writing this, we have just learned that the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his apartment of a drug overdose (with the needle still stuck in his arm); Woody Allen's daughter is revealing that he molested her when she was a child; everyone but me is watching (or getting ready to watch) the Super Bowl; and we here in California are watching the skies for rain, any rain, anything at all, to relieve this drought, and are all not washing or flushing or watering or doing anything with water that isn't absolutely necessary.


I could write a lot about all of those things, but don't really feel like it, and besides, I have stuff to do.
So I will just share some art instead.

This is a fun little piece I just did for a client. It will be a logo for a quilt shop. 

I used all kinds of colored pencils for this - I started with Coloursofts for the wood grain, then used Polychromos and Pablos for the rest of it. I had to strike a balance between 'realistic' and 'graphic', since it will be shrunk down small for a logo, as well as used larger on tags, and some signage. 

It was super fun to do! No reference, really (well, I have quilt books for ideas). 
I made it all up out of my head. 

And here is an update on the paint tubes. I'm really enjoying this one too. The colors are soooo subtle - just warm and cool greys, really, in the tubes and their labels. I started with a warm and cool grey value drawing, then added some Ivory and Cream to the labels, and Sky Blue to the tubes (all Polychromos). 

I'm going to leave off all the type (there's a lot!) and just have these be blank. Its not that I'm afraid of doing type (I can do it, and actually love letters) but I think these make more of a statement this way. I think they look like they're either taking a bow or doing a curtain call, or maybe just chatting. They seem almost animated, don't they?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Going forward

A couple of weeks ago my bff kitty Shmoopie left us to go to the Other Side. She was just shy of 19 years old. We shared a lot of ups, and a lot of downs in those years. She and her brother Bosco were just wee little kitties running around the property next door to my old place in San Francisco all those years ago. I had a loose board in my fence, and lured them into my yard with food and yummy treats. I can still see, in my mind's eye, Shmoopie coming up my back stairs into the house the first time. Its amazing how fast that many years can whiz by.

She was galloping around, making her funny throaty roaring noise right up until the day before she got sick. She had one bad day, and a trip to the vet confirmed kidney failure. Usually she bounced back (sometimes a little slowly) from things, but this time I'm sure she just decided it was time to go.
Of course I miss her more than I can say, but also? its OK. She had the best life, and I know she's happy. 

It rained the day she died (it hasn't rained here for eons), and the next day we had fog. I'm sure she went back to SF and brought it here for me, because she knows how much I love it. 

This was the last picture I took of her this last Christmas. I love how the bright lights surround her. I like to think she's somewhere with bright lights now, too.

And life goes on. I've been a little off my game, but am slowly getting back in the swing of things. I have some 'real work', which is nice, and which I of course can't show (yet). 

I've started this little experiment to try out some new paper - Arches Hot Press watercolor paper. I've been in such a rut with Stonehenge, and have heard good things about this. I also want to do more watercolors again, so thought this might be a good paper for that as well. I have tons of Arches Cold Press, which is lovely for watercolors, but way too texture-y for my taste for colored pencils. 
This is 140lb, which is thin enough to see through on a light box. That's essential!

What is this? haha yeah, its a little cryptic, isn't it. Well, it will reveal itself in the next update, hopefully. Maybe you can guess (if you're an artist, you probably can). 

I'm using Polychromo colored pencils for this. I can tell the paper doesn't have as much tooth, and won't be able to take as many layers as Stonehenge would, but I'm liking it so far.

Oh! I almost forgot. A new little fur friend has joined the household. He found our cat door and started coming in to eat the week before Shmoopie left. He's from across the street - the house with people who, let's just say, in my opinion (and yours too, if you could see and hear what I do), should not have pets. He obviously decided this was a waaaaaaaay nicer home, and just moved himself in. 
I have since found out he's 9 months old, neutered, and has had his shots. They don't care that he's mine now, so we're good. I've kind of named him Pepper, but am also leaving it open for something else to sound 'more right'. He's a sweetie. 

And this has happened more than once now - just before one kitty is about to leave, a new one shows up. Things to ponder ...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Blueberry Muffins

I finally finished these. I did the wrappers first, then waited a good long while to come back and do the muffins. Everyone thought they were going to be cupcakes!

Everyone always draws the perfect muffin (or cupcake, or whatever). I have to be different sometimes. So I thought it would be fun to do them in a different way.

These were small muffins, and came in a sort of tub, with a lot of them all kind of squished together. So many of them were very un-perfect, so that gave me the idea to make that my point of view.

 I purposely did the ones that were a little off, or staged them in an unusual way.

I think these would be a fun grouping, framed, on a wall.
They're each about 5.5" square, and were done with Polychromo colored pencils on Stonehenge paper.

Last time I said I was going to do something Downton Abbey-inspired. And I will! I just had to get these off the board first.

We are officially having a drought now, boo. That means water rationing, starting as soon as next week maybe. We'll be in for it this summer, for sure.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Mochi Balls

Here's the finished Mochi Ball drawing that I barely had a hint of drawn in the last post.

I bought a little package of these at my favorite Japanese store (Oto's Marketplace) while shopping for my kitties' bonito fish flakes, on a whim. I love all the Japanese snack foods, but because I don't read Japanese, am usually mystified as to what some of them are. Some are pretty easy to identify, like most type of rice crackers, but I've had a few surprises when I've bought something that I thought was going to be sweet, then it turned out to be fishy or seaweedy! Or the other way 'round.

Anyway, these caught my eye and I thought they'd be a fun drawing. I wanted to do something different with the arrangement, and played with all sorts of geometric shapes before I ended up with this. I love how artfully arranged those little veggies and pickled things are in Bento boxes, or just about any Japanese meal I've been served, actually. It just naturally seemed right to do something 'organized' with these. The "rack 'em up" layout doesn't really have anything at all to do with anything Japanese, but it made me smile so I went with it.

I also came to a realization, or decision, that this is what I like to do - line things up in a pattern. Unless I'm doing a 'one thing alone' composition. So now I'm going to consciously do this with all my food drawings, at least for a while.

This is 8" x 10", drawn with Polychromo colored pencils on Stonehenge paper. I'll have prints in the etsy shop in the next day or two.

Downton Abbey starts up again tomorrow night! I will be all tucked in with my tea and scone or biscuit or mince tart or something suitably British, with a kitty or two snuggled in, drinking it all in - its been a long wait! I've been reading my "Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey" book, so feel very 'in the know' about how they film it. I just read (not in the book) that Paul Giamatti will be making an appearance, in the Christmas (last) episode. I love him, and look forward to seeing how he mixes in with the Downton crowd. I so enjoyed the HBO mini series "John Adams" from a few years back, in which he played the lead role (and won an Emmy). The Times seems to think he was miscast, but what do they know? I thought he was brilliant.

On that note - I'm going to pack up my pencils, clean my board and get organized for the next project. I think it may be something Downton-themed ...

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Hello 2014

Another new year! I confess I'm always glad when the calendar flips over to a clean slate, and "the holidays" are in the rear view mirror. Don't get me wrong - I love all the over-eating and baking and decorating and presents and good cheer and all, but I'm also relieved when everything goes back to normal! 

So, a little something old to share first. Remember when I was doing these muffin cups? There are four of them, all a little 'off' (meaning, not the traditional "standing straight up with a perfect muffin inside" take on this subject).

I did the muffin cups, then put them aside and moved on to something else (that happens a lot), and am now getting back to finishing up the blueberry muffins themselves. Good thing I took good reference, because the 'live models' are long gone! And they were delicious.

I haven't signed this yet because I'll wait until I have all four done, then do some tweaking to make sure they're all on the same level of finish. 

And now an all new piece. These are Mochi Balls, which are a Japanese/Hawaiian peanut candy treat. They come in the funnest colors, and are a traditional Japanese new year's thing. Well, sort of. Actually, Mochi cakes are the traditional Japanese new year's treat, and are a very different thing than these little peanut candies. But they're not as much fun to draw. Mochi cakes are basically a soft, rice cake kind of thing (forgive me, my dear Japanese friends for not explaining this well). These Mochi Balls are peanuts, coated in some combination of sugar + seaweed, sesame, coconut oil, and soy sauce. Some of them (which I haven't started to color yet) remind me of dinosaur eggs! You'll see, as I get into this more.

2014 is going to be busy, I can feel it. There are already 'real' projects on the board, as well as big plans for some self-generated projects I've had on a back burner for way too long. I can't wait to get started on them all!

We are officially having a drought here this year. They say 2013 was the driest year in recorded history! We've seen no rain for weeks, which is nice for the kitties, who love to lay in a sunny window or out on the back porch. My next door neighbor and I are planning a "new fence" project to be done in the next few weeks, which normally would have to wait until Spring. Of course we'll be paying for this at some point with water rationing, and whatever other ecological bad things have occurred because of the dry winter. But for now I'm selfishly enjoying the cool, dry sunny days.

I hope this new year is a good one for all of you!