Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hamster Drawing Cont.

Here is the next installment in the continuing saga of Dani the hamster. This little guy ended up giving me more of a problem than what I bargained for. (Even worse than the night he escaped from his cage and decided to give us a 2:00 in the morning wake up call!) He is a black hamster, and although nothing is a solid color in this world of shadows; I forgot how to translate that to paper. As I stated in the profile, it has been a long time since I have done fine art! It is one thing to map the shadows, but it is another thing to make them spring off the page. That combined with the small size of the subject (way out of my comfort zone!) drove me to pace for hours. A great thanks to the creators of the kneaded and vinyl erasers. With their help I started to pull graphite giving those little light and medium light (ever so tiny!) hairs a chance to emerge. But the moment I started to breathe easier was when I went back in with the mechanical pencil and started to darken patches of hair and put in fine points to their ends. That's the moment when Dani's fur started to have depth. I knew then I was back in the game!

Of course this brings up a new point to ponder with regards to the black fur. Why do we choose the pets we have? Is it a subconscious choice that I have had pets that aren't colorful (in regards to fur only)? I don't know :) ! This made me do an assessment on the subject. At different times in the last 20 years I have had: 2 black cats, 1 gray cat, 4 gray birds (they had gray babies), 1 gray rabbit, 1 black dog ( she had 6 black puppies 2 cinnamon), and 2 white carrucos (which were oddly enough black and looked like tiny beavers. They had 2 tiny black babies. Please don't ask if I spelt their name right!). We have tended for a short time to wild squirrels and raccoons in shades of gray. Okay, one squirrel had a red belly! The only thing with color is my lovebird, who came to us with his brother who has since passed (which I am beginning to wonder was from boredom due to the color shortage in my house!). They were and are little rainbows of color. Even the last two vehicles I owned were black! Maybe, I am on to something here. I am now committed to sharpening my graphite skills and then moving on to some form of colored pencil. I must break the cycle!LOL

Okay, Okay, back to the subject at hand. I have not drawn the whiskers on Dani or the edge fur until I commit to a definite background. My photo reference has a very dark background that is muted. I like that idea for the bottom of the drawing to enhance the hands but may alter the top and make that more in a mid tone range. I want the hamster to spring off the page, too. Well, better get back to the drawing board for now...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hamster Portrait Cont.

As you can see, I have a little more time in the "Handsome Dani" portrait. I still need to fine tune the hands and add some more dark to the shadows. The mid tones might get some altering in the process, but my head is telling me to hold off with the hands until Danimal is in the drawing. Danimal is a black hamster, and I would like to see how his appearance on the paper meshes with the skin. The photo reference has some harsh contrasts that I think could translate well to paper. Time will tell!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hamster Drawing

Here is the next drawing up on the board. I hope you can see  the composition. I put it on pretty light. I am trying to keep erasing to a minimum! Although Bristol seems to be relatively easy to erase on, I am afraid that I might create rough spots. Better safe than sorry! Like the others, I did the initial drawing on tracing paper with a graph underneath it. Then, I transferred it to smooth Bristol. I am planning on using mainly a 2b pencil and plenty of stumps. My sand paper has been getting a workout to roughen them up. I haven't done to much erasing, but what has been done is with a kneaded eraser. The photo reference is pretty dark. If I leave the composition unchanged, I might be going into some softer pencils for my darks.

Enough talk about the materials! My composition is a picture I took of my son holding onto his pet hamster. I took several photos of his two hamsters that he owns. One is a long haired hamster called Danimal and the other is a teddy bear named Gord. I would have bet money that I would have done a drawing of Gord first, since I have a fondness for his variety. That added to the fact that Danimal is a long hair who constantly looks as if he has had a very bad hair day! But when the photos were reviewed "Handsome Dani", as he is now known, stole the show! So one of the favorites was my son holding him in his hands. There was Danimal's little hand lightly sitting on my son's hand, his head turned to the side down slightly, and one eye looking endearingly at the camera. Who could ask for more? All I had to do was crop slightly. Oddly enough, he had a few in his session that turned out brilliantly. Who knew he possessed that kind of love for the camera? Certainly not me... ;)

I have started on one of the hands. Human hands (and a close up at that), are not my favorite thing to do. It seems to be coming along. I hope the other one doesn't give me any surprises. I am keeping the values pretty light and doing a lot of blending. If needed, I will go back later and darken some areas. It will depend mainly on what I do to the background.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Son's Portrait

This is a picture of my son that I decided to dive into the land of portraits with. Actually it was more like guilted into with. I have only done 2 portraits in my life (Neither of which, my son made clear, were of him). Both were on paper that would have been better suited for pastel, and my style mixed with graphite left a lot to be desired. Like I have said before, I see images in shadows and have a tendency to map my skin tones. Unfortunately, not translating very well for portraits. During my search for literature on the subject, I came across Lee Hammond's book "Lifelike Portraits from Photographs." Our styles were very similar, but she worked on Bristol and blended a whole lot more. So after much contemplation, I started to make my first layout graphed onto tracing paper. I think that will be how I start all of my drawings; it works well just in case I need to erase. I used the reference photo in a 8 x 10 size and enlarged the finished portrait on the graph to 16 x 20.

The graphed version was then transferred to Bristol and a light graph was made on the drawing surface to keep the shadows in place. I used a 2b mechanical pencil for this piece, several sizes of paper stumps, kneaded eraser, and pink pearl in a stick form. The blending on the Bristol went well. I could go back and darken areas and use the kneaded eraser to lighten mistakes. Once I had the facial features in graphite, the piece became very exciting to me. The jawline ended up being the place of most challenge. The shadows can mislead the eyes. So I had to keep true to the photo. A kind of leap of faith thing! Then all that was left was the hair, which to me is a form of fur, and something I am comfortable with.

Oddly enough, I loved working from a colored photo. I find the values in the shadows a little easier to distinguish than black and white. Black and white makes me think flatter tones. So I didn't even attempt making a black and white reference pic. I unfortunately did not do a progressive coverage on this. So all that I can show is the finished piece. My son gave his approval on it, although he said that I could have left out the small chip in one of his teeth. (That realism gets you every time!) The joke will be on me after I get the bill from his next appointment with the dentist!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Finished Opossum

Well he is finished. I am pretty happy with him overall. It was a good piece to get back into the swing of things. So many lights and darks to work with. I think I will branch out into some softer pencils to hopefully make the darks easier to achieve. I am happy with the opossum himself and feel he springs off the page well. The background (which is something new to me) could have been a little more smooth. I think I would have done more muted shapes and took a little more time building values. I will have to do a little research in that area. Working with a stump can tend to have a mottled appearance. Less could have been more. Maybe just a little more of a blurry effect? I'm not sure. Now that I have said all that! I can say that I will mat and frame it for me. I do love it! I just need to keep it real and understand where improvements can be made. Backgrounds are foreign to me, and I know there is a lot to learn. The main point is I am willing to learn it!

My next piece was actually in the works before this one. It is a portrait of my son. I didn't do a picture documentation of it for fear I would jinx myself! I have only done 2 portraits in my life and never on Bristol. But after seeing Lee Hammond's Dvd on portraits from pictures, I thought I'd take a stab at it. My other 2 drawings were on a colored surface many years ago! I do feel that I am doing well on a first attempt. It is in the "touch up" stage right now. If it is nice out today, I will try to get some pics of the finished piece.

I took some photos of my son's pet hamster last week and believe that he will be the star of the next progressive work. I have been getting the reference pics off my camera and picking the best angle. I thought I'd make a better plastic graph to cover my pic and decided to cheat by letting my copier do the printing. It was a moment I'll never forget. I completely blanked out that I have a thermal copying machine. Yes, you heard it here first! I said, "THERMAL." Heat and plastic --- plastic and heat. Either way you say it, it is not a good situation! I must say, the smell will be hard to forget. But you will be happy in knowing, that once the situation physically "cooled down" (machine and myself included!) I did learn: how to dismantle a Brother 7020 (with the great help of my husband), find the best method to cut melted plastic from newly fused rollers (wire cutters did the work), and systematically reassemble the whole machine. I suppose I now could impress you by telling you the exact degrees my machine sets ink at, since there are warning labels all over the inside of the machine, but I don't want to overwhelm anyone with my newly found intelligence!! Believe it or not the machine actually WORKS. I feel sorry for it , since I bought it refurbished a year ago. I hope it didn't have this happen before! Heaven help me, but the drawing better go easier than that 2 hour excursion.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Opossum Body Work

Finally, I am beginning the body of this little guy! I must say these pics are my two favorite areas. One of my fascinations in life is little critter hands. It all began when I purchased my first hamster. I was amazed how those perfect little hands functioned so well at such a wee size. Have you ever really watched one eat? It is a wonder to think how small the little bones and muscles must be in their hands! It's miraculous really. Of course this point was not lost on the other animals that have wandered in and out of my life. (My husband works part time in the forestry field which has brought owls, squirrels, raccoons, and various insects in to touch our lives.) The eyes are the window to the soul in humans and in animals. Animal eyes have always interested me with their intensity and depth. I think they are much easier to translate to paper than the human eye. I love the variety of shapes.

The 2b pencil seems to be giving me a lot of depth. I have always seen everything in life as shadows. (Is this good or bad? I do not know, but it seems to translate for me.) I mapped out the fur with darks and lights. The darks took quite a few more layers, so I helped out a little with Grumbacher 2b solid graphite pencil to eliminate lines. I used a stump to blend the values. Then went in with my kneaded eraser and Sanford pink pearl eraser stick to lighten areas and draw in hair. This seemed to work well and created the rough fur that I wanted to see. The tail was a bit of a challenge to make it look cylindrical, but it seems to be coming around. Sometimes I find it harder to work softer shades. The skin of the hands and the feet were only blended slightly with a tortillion. I like a more mottled look. The shadows of any piece make themselves into a map. I find if I stick with only seeing the shadows the hands magically pop out and create a 3d effect.

The work on the eye was done in a separate sitting. I probably should have finished the rest of the body, but I was anxious to take a whirl on creating that beautiful bulge and amazing highlights that dark animal eyes always seem to capture. Since it has been so long, I also figured if I wasn't successful, now would be the time to find out! So much light hair in the surrounding area!! But it seemed to go well, sometimes I needed just the dirty tortillion to make the hair appear. I do like the effect of drawing with a blending stick. The eye had so many tiny details which made using a mechanical pencil a great asset as long as I kept it rotated to get the sharp edge. The tiniest highlights I tried my best to not hit with the graphite. The click white eraser stick seemed to work well to erase graphite in a precise matter, especially when working with such a heavy amount of graphite. It was also amazing for putting in those clear little whiskers! I then came back in with pencil and stump to create the shadow under them.
I probably should talk about the bark. Bark is one of those relaxing things to create! It (like fur) is just like working a jig saw puzzle. Just drop in the shadows and blend. I then can go back in and darken the areas as needed and take the erasers and make the highlights pop. Since this piece lacks intense light, there really isn't a need to pull much graphite. Sometimes I have to blend back over areas in the bark and the fur, this is in an attempt to make the values balance themselves. I love the fork in the bottom of the branch he is climbing. I would love to go crazy detailing the bark but do not want to detract from the little guy!

I hope to finish this piece in the next few days. The right side of the background is considerably lighter and should not take as long. I blanket the drawing with spare paper when working. It is so fun at the end of a session to pull them off and see the total piece. By the way, I should say that this work it taped off to the size of 14 1/2 x 16 inches. It is kind of an odd size on the board, but I think it suits the subject!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Opossum Background

Here I go! The background will be darker on the left than on the right due to the light source. I am trying to keep the foliage relatively muted; although, I think it comes across slightly Art Deco. That is probably due to the abstract shapes. This drawing will be kept simple using a 2b mechanical pencil. (I don't want to get to complicated on the first project. One has to break back in easy!) I have never used this kind of pencil or lead before but am very happy with the variation of light to dark. The blending is done with tortillions and lighter tones are pulled out with a kneaded eraser.

The Bristol board is interesting to work on and makes blending so much easier. (Although, it does put me in mind of posterboard!) In the long ago past, I felt more comfortable with colored papers and had to put my highlights in. But unfortunately, most of those papers did not take well to erasing the medium tones. I do like the feeling of putting my highlights back in with a kneaded eraser. I have a click eraser that will probably be more handy on sketching in the finer lines.

I purchased some archival drafting tape to boarder my drawing with. I am so smudge scared it is not funny; however, I'm thinking a mat will probably run right up to the work. Backgrounds were never incorporated much into past drawings, so this is a relatively new experience. But with the boarder being added and the type of tape being trusted not to damage my paper, I must say the blending of the edge is sure easier by doing this!

I was looking in my art catalog at powdered graphite and wonder if that would make for a smoother background. Of course, a little pencil built up on paper could be rubbed off with a tissue and swirled onto the background. I just don't think it would apply here due to the depth of the tones needed in the big spaces. (Sorry! Thinking out loud zone!) This will be my hard copy of reference notes for future illustrations. Back to the drafting table for now...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Welcome to My Journey

Welcome to my blog. I am thinking that I should begin with a brief explanation of my title choice. I am an artist who is also a J K Rowling (Harry Potter book author) fan. For those who may not have read the series, Harry (her hero) lives with his Aunt and Uncle in a small cupboard under the stairs. (No need to worry, he triumphs in the end!) My claimed space for my first studio is located in a room behind my kitchen and shares 1/2 of its space with a laundry/mudroom. (I'll take some pics in the future) My Dad joked that the space was some what packed to the point of being cramped. I replied that it was a cozy space. But when I have too many projects going on (I've been known to be quiet crafty in an art sense!), I would have to concede to my father's observation!! So with that being said and with a little ingenuity, my son has helped me to carve a little space of my own. I can understandably relate to Rowling's characters humble beginning with his space under the stairs. (Of course, he didn't accumulate so many books and art supplies!) But I keep in mind, first locations can only inspire one to move on to bigger and better things; however, this little piece of heaven will do just fine for now.  :)

This blogs timing is perfect for the New Year. Every year, I write in my journal the hopes and goals for the coming months. It definitely is a time to recenter the soul and focus the mind on new challenges. One of these resolutions was to dive into my own blog. I am very excited to say "mission complete". This accomplishment spurs me on to resolution #2 -- build a new portfolio of art work. By blogging my updates, I know it will create an environment for me to push myself to complete work in a timely matter. It is easy to become distracted when working out of one's home. I hope to be able to keep myself honest. Especially with the phone ringing and a cat who seems to think she is the center of my universe!

The first work that I am creating is of a baby opossum. They fascinate me when our old apple tree lures them into a late summer night visit. Usually, we can observe three or four long tailed visitors munching on spoilt apples that have fallen to the ground. They look like little old chubby gentlemen waddling around the yard. I found this photo last year of a baby opossum that took my breath away. He looked amazing. A perfect gift to make for myself!! I know my skills are very rusty, but I look forward to the first challenge and welcome any comments. This first picture of my work is the graph of my little critter. Years ago, I would have graphed directly on the paper, but after reading some pointers out of Ann Kullberg's book "Colored Pencil Portraits", I think I will hand draw his graphed likeness onto tracing paper with an enlarged (reusable) Bristol board graph. I hope (by transferring his likeness using a window as a light box) this will help to keep my Bristol as clean as possible with little erasing. I have only done one drawing on Bristol board in my life and am a little nervous about the bright white appearance. I honestly had forgotten the unbelievable electricity one feels when putting the lines down on the beginning of a new piece of art work!!