Monday, March 31, 2014

The Humble Onion

 Spring has finally made an appearance in the mid-west, well, at least in our little part of the mid-west.  With spring comes the delightful task of deciding on our vege garden.  Now I'm not a great gardener, in fact my attempts at growing veges have proved disastrous.  But still, every year I am determined to product a yield that will fill a freezer and feed 5 families for a year.  

I'm still waiting for that to happen.

It's still a little early to be planting as the ground is still frozen below the surface.  The experts say (whoever they are) that it could be some weeks before the ground thaws enough to till.   So I'm using the time to consider my options for planting.  And of course sketching them.

Onions are always a good one to have but I think I might try for the purple ones.  I love them raw in salads and the purples seem to have a much sweeter flavor.

This sketch was done in watercolor, water soluble pastel, and ink.

What do you put in your vege garden?

Thanks for checking in. xx

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Sketches - Kitchen Table

Friday sketches is a weekly blog challenge where you can share what you've been doing in your sketchbook. It offers a simple weekly theme that you may or may not choose to use.

Friday Sketches enables you to practice your sketching while capturing the beauty and simplicity of the world around you.  There are no rules except that your work must be in a sketchbook or art journal.  You can use any mediums, any techniques, and sketch any subjects you like.

To join in, simply click the link at the end of this post to share your Friday Sketches. Be sure to put a link back to here in your post.

You can grab your "Friday Sketches" blog button here.   

"Kitchen Table"

Welcome to "Friday Sketches".  This week I had the children home on spring break. My usual Friday sketching expedition didn't go as planned.  It's difficult to sit in a cafe and sketch with an Autistic 4yo.  My 8yo however is a joy to take sketching, but when the children are home my options are limited.

So the best we could do this week was to sit at the kitchen table and sketch whatever we could see.  Of course, that meant whatever was on the table.

In the center of our table this week was a big bowl and fruit, napkins and a salt & pepper grinder. But getting a solid perspective of this scene was like running a gauntlet.

My 4yo likes to take the fruit out of the bowl and line them up along the edge of the table as he proudly announces the name of each fruit and it's color.  He especially loves the 'Orange Orange'.  He thought it was quite hysterical and let the concept morph into a double announcement of everything he could see...'apple apple', 'chair chair', 'mommy mommy'...and so forth. Needless to say we were all joining in.

So my Friday Sketch this week was done in my Stillman &Birn "Beta" Series Sketchbook with watercolor and ink.  It is a good exercise in using colors from the warm side of my palette, which is also this months theme for The Sketchbook Challenge...Warm/Cool.

What's on your kitchen table this week?

Please join Friday Sketches by linking your specific blog post URL (not your general blog address) using the linky tool below, and remember to put a link-back to Friday Sketches in your post or Flickr comment.

You don't need to follow the weekly theme, you can share whatever is in your sketchbook today.  And be sure to click through the links to see what others have been sketching, and remember to leave them a comment.

It's also Paint Party Friday, so remember to get into your Artist's Play Room and be Creative Every Day in your Art Journal Every Day.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Bowl Of Violets

As I start to settle into my new home in Iowa I am beginning to feel more motivated and energized. 

Change and transition are hard for anyone but once familiarity returns, so does our sense of belonging.

My art supplies and studio equipment are still some weeks away, so I am working from a very small stash of art tools.  But it doesn't matter how little I have on hand, what matters is that I don't stop creating.

I've been finishing up the last few pages of my S&B "Beta" Series sketchbook with some wonderful loose and free watercolor flower sketches that have me yearning for spring.  

I just picked up a new "Zeta" and an "Epsilon" series sketchbook and have been working away at the quiet end of my kitchen table, flexing my art muscles, and honing my observation . 

This little bowl of violets was sketched from a photo reference.  There isn't much to sketch in my garden right now as the snow is only just melting away, but I hope in the coming weeks to see some buds poking their heads through the earth which I know will find their way into my books.

When time is short, simple, fast, and imperfect sketches are the way to go.  

There is no excuse for not creating, it can be done anywhere, at any time, with any materials, and keep in mind that it's never the outcome that matters, but rather the process of creating.

Enjoy your Thursday and don't forget to join me tomorrow for a new "Friday Sketches" theme.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Attempting Botanical Illustration

Every artist moves through an evolution if they stick at it long enough.  Often desire for a subject or medium drives this evolution, sometimes its a technique.  

For some time now I've been working on my more technical illustration skills and have been using my love of flowers and nature as the subjects for my own artistic evolution.

I have been trying my hand at the 'botanical' style of art which requires enormous patience and considered brush strokes.  It's highly technical and evolves from realm of scientific recording.

However, today botanical illustration is a revered and admired art form because of it's requirement for absolute true to life detail, and meticulous rendering. With the evolution of art materials and papers, botanical illustration is more beautiful and more popular now than ever before.

It is said that the botanical illustration is like music; it requires a solid understanding of the processes, components, techniques, physical dexterity, knowledge of the subject matter, history, and many many hours of practice before and artist can achieve a high level of realistic/scientific representation. 

Flowers, fruit and nature have been my first and deepest love when it comes to subject matter, and applying myself to the consumption and learning of the skills required to paint in this way has been my secret, pained, and elusive pursuit.

I have been reading books, studying the art of botanical artists, consuming videos, and practicing like crazy, but the most difficult part for me has been finding the time to patiently render a image.

It is a very technical process that is meticulous and unhurried, and without the self-discipline to slow down and focus on the detail, effective results will remain elusive. It seems I have a lot of work to do in this area.

I've discovered that capturing the color variations, the texture, and the rich dimension of fruit and flowers takes very keen observation skills along with a deep knowledge of color mixing and brush strokes, most of which I am lacking.  

I am applying much of my spare time to learning a little of this art form, and I am LOVING IT!! I have discovered some wonderful books on the subject, along with some excellent web sites, and online resources.

But if I am to take this art form seriously, then in the end I doubt there is any substitute for undertaking formal studies in Botanical Illustration. 

This sketchbook study of "Oranges On The Branch" seemed simple enough when I began it. I painted it from a photo reference, and even so, I found it very challenging to create consistent color tones on all of the leaves, and realistic texture effects on the skin of the oranges. It's much harder than it looks and attempting it has given me a whole new level of respect for botanical illustrators and artists.

Let me take you through my process.

I began with an under-painting of blue tones on the leaves, then slowly built up the coloration and texture with many soft layers of paint.

Sometimes it's knowing where NOT to paint, and what to leave out that helps create the curves and sheen on the subjects, and at others it is about building up undertones in the right places.

(I have a long way to go)

After the leaves were complete I gave the oranges an under painting of yellow and began to build up the skin colors with a combinations of reds, pinks, and yellows.  I didn't actually use very much pure orange on the fruit, rather I allowed the colors to mix optically on the page to help enhance the texture and give the illusion of bright orange tones.

I painted one orange at a time so I could capture a uniqueness to each one.  I'm not sure if that worked because by the time I got to the second orange I had forgotten exactly how I mixed my colors for the first one and how I built up the layers.

Botanical artists maintain detailed and meticulous sketchbooks that contain not only studies of their subjects, but many color studies and swatches to ensure they achieve exactly the right results on their finished pieces.

The fine texture detail and contour shadows came last, allowing for some very slow and considered brush-strokes in order to achieve a roundness to the fruit. I found this part particularly difficult and realized there are lots of tricks and techniques that are required here.

The entire page was done in watercolor alone, which I found really enjoyable.  Often I like to mix in some watercolor pencil or water soluble crayon and graphite or ink, but I like the effect of the soft edges and subtle coloration that pure watercolor provides.

In the end I was happy with the result, but I know I have a long way to go before it could be considered 'botanical'.  You can expect to see more of this style from me as I indulge my need to sharpen my skills and learn this craft.

Of course, this composition was done in the only sketchbook worthy of this kind of work...the Stillman & Birn "Zeta" Series Sketchbook using the only watercolors up to the task, the Sennelier L'Aquarelle Artists Watercolors.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Transfer Tricks

This week marks the final lesson in the current session of "Mastering Twinks Part 2".   It's been an incredible journey with a large group of truly amazing artists.  

This class filled up completely before it even started, and has proven to be one of the most rewarding and joyful experiences I've had as an online art teacher.

Part 2 in the "Mastering Twinks" series is all about Twinkling Expression, with the ultimate goal of helping people find their own beautiful and creative style.  

In this final week students have been stretched and challenged with a series of projects that helps them put their own unique expression into their art.

There has been so many new techniques that the students have been introduced to over the past 5 weeks, and one of them has been a series of 'transfer' techniques.  Learning how to transfer images of their own art onto other pages or projects. They then take these transferred images and use their painting skills to create really beautiful art, unusual, and unique art or art-journal pages.

This page uses one of those transfer techniques. An image of my painted flowers was transferred into a S&B "Beta" Series sketchbook, then it was embellished and extended using Twinkling h2O's and Ink to create a beautiful, simple, stylized sketchbook page.

The new session of Mastering Twinks Part 2 "On Demand" has just opened for registration.  It is a five lesson online class that is jam packed with luminescent watercolor technique, drawing lessons, exercises, inspiration, and step-by-step projects. Plus, you get forever access to all the videos, PDF downloads, materials, and forums.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Monday, March 24, 2014

More Sliced Fruit

I had a lovely weekend playing with my theme for Friday Sketches, "Sliced Fruit".

Fruit is a wonderful way to practice your sketching skills. The shapes are simple and forgiving and there is a lot you can do with it.

I especially love to play with color combinations and color tones with fruit, and sliced fruit gives me a lots of opportunity to get creative.

I'd love to see your Sketches, I enjoy exploring how others play in their sketchbooks.  

If you like to participate in Friday Sketches, all you have to do is link up your blog post at the end of the Friday Sketches page using the Linky Tool (click here), and remember to put a link-back in your blog post that connects you back here, otherwise people who follow you won't know what you are doing.

You can link up at any time during the week.

This page of sliced watermelon and lime was done using Neocolor II Water Soluble Wax Pastel and ink in a Miquelrius Premium Flexible Journal

This journal is not really designed for intense watercolor washes as the paper is very light weight and silky, but is surprisingly strong, and a good alternative for sketching when you don't have a higher quality sketchbook available.

I've been preparing for my next online class in the "Water Soluble Series" which is "Pastel & Crayon".  

Each class in this series focuses on a different water soluble medium with tips, tricks and techniques, along with exercises and projects that will help you make the most of your water soluble art tools.  The first in the series is "Watercolor Pencil" which is slated for re-release over the coming summer.  

Next up is "Pastel & Crayon" scheduled to open in the Fall, followed by "Watercolor Paint" over winter, and "Ink & Marker", and "Dry Pigment" due in 2015.

"Watercolor Pencil" will be open for registration next month, and "Pastel & Crayon"will open for registration in August. 

Stay tuned for details and thanks for checking in. xx

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Sketches - Sliced Fruit

Friday sketches is a weekly blog event where you can share what you've been doing in your sketchbook. It offers a simple weekly theme that you may or may not choose to use.

Friday Sketches enables you to practice your sketching while capturing the beauty and simplicity of the world around you.  There are no rules except that your work must be in a sketchbook or artists journal.  You can use any mediums, any techniques, and sketch any subjects you like.

To join in, simply click the link at the end of this post to share your sketchbook pages. You can link up anytime during the coming week, and be sure to check out what others have been doing by clicking through the links.

You can grab your "Friday Sketches" blog button here.   

Have fun xx


"Sliced Fruit"

This week I've been in a food state of mind and have been filling my sketchbook with all sorts of fruit and vegetables.

Fruit presents the artist with some wonderful simple forms and shapes.  Fruit is a forgiving, interesting, and inviting subject because there is so much you can do with a simple fruit still life.

Sliced fruit adds a dynamic interest to a composition.  Trying to capture the juicy variances in the flesh, and the changes in the color tones can be lots of fun.

I especially love the possibilities for color that sliced fruit presents.  There are no rules when it comes to sketching and painting fruit.

For this composition I used a lemon yellow and a cool green to create the color tones in this lime. Yellow is normally considered a warm color, but when blended with a cooler harmonious color like green, it can actually present as cool.

I've been enjoying exploring the concept of warm/cool colors thanks to The Sketchbook Challenge this month.  And instead of watercolor, I decided to use Water Soluble Pastel.  The colors are very rich and creamy and the substance of the pastel make for some beautiful texture and splatter.

If you're looking for a simple subject to sketch this week, why don't you try some sliced fruit?

Please join me for Friday Sketches by linking your blog post URL using the linky tool below.  You can do this at any time during the coming week. Be sure to click through and check out what everyone else has been up to.

It's also a Paint Party Friday, so remember to get into your Artist's Play Room and be Creative Every Day in your Art Journal Every Day.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Don't forget to put a link back here in your blog post.