August 14, 2018

My History With Watercolor and a Return to Being a Beginner

In 2003 I became interested in keeping a sketchbook, with the hope that I could also keep a travel sketchbook in the future.  I sketched in pen and played with "watercolor," not even realizing that I was using The French School 12 pan set labeled Opaque Watercolor Gouache.  For the next 2 years, when I could find time, I just had fun with a pencil, pen, and these student grade paints.  I read two books: Cathy Johnson Painting Watercolors from the First Step Series, and Anne Elsworth Watercolor Skills Workbook.  Both of them recommended buying artist grade watercolor paint as soon as you can because it is easy to get discouraged when you are using student grade paints with less pigment.  Anne Elsworth recommended limiting the expense by limiting your palette - buying two triads of primary colors, one warm and one cool. 

June 2005:  I bought artist grade watercolors in 2004, but didn't use them for 1 year.  These are my very first marks made with my 5 ml tubes of WinsorNewton professional paints. and samples of the secondary colors mixed with these primary colors.


Jan 2006 - I started drawing/painting every day and made a color chart with each triad.  This is the one made with the cool triad, which are at the 3 points of the triangle. 



In 2008 I replaced the Cadmium Yellow with New Gamboge and Cadmuim Red with Scarlet Lake.  I wanted to use more transparent pigments. 

I added 3 convenience colors in the next few years to avoid having to mix grays and browns:  Ivory Black, Neutral Tint, and VanDyke Brown. Someone on the Everyday Matters Yahoo Group then recommended another Triad - yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and paynes gray.   So now I have 3 triads on my palette, and love mixing the secondary and complementary colors. 


On Aug 7,  I went to a free beginners watercolor session in Bryant Park because the instructor, Marilyn Rose, and I were two students in Danny Gregory's 2008 multisession Sketchbook course here in NYC.  It is always fun to go back to basics, and I had a wonderful time painting these circles last week in the class using my own paper and palette.  I chuckled when I remembered my beginnings one day in 2003 when my wet paints were migrating into each other, and I thought maybe that wouldn't happen if I left a thin strip of white paper between them. 

This exercise is a good example of the various colors that can be mixed with my 3 triads of primary colors - and I loved it as a color mixing, wet-in-dry, and wet-in-wet exercise for me as well as the beginners.


I'm very happy that I decided to create sketchbooks of my life as I was retiring.  Learning how to use watercolors is part of the adventure and goal I set for myself.  Colors make me so happy! 


August 10, 2018

My Left Hand vs My Right Hand

On July 21st there was an Opinion Column in the New York Times called "My Left Hand vs. My Right Hand" and friends sent me links and copies of the article.  It was a fun read! 

Readers of this blog might remember that I had a Colles Fracture of my left wrist (dominant hand) on March 23rd.  Artist friends from several online art groups suggested that I should draw with my non-dominant hand while I was in a cast , and I DID!  It was wonderful planning each day's drawing and I filled my sketchbook wirh ink drawings during the 6 weeks.  My cast was removed on May 3rd and I had significant limitations in movement and moderate pain.  I began physical therapy the following week and was just discharged on from PT.

The author of the article, Liza Donnelly, is a cartoonist, and she worried about her arms - the broken one and the now neglected one.  She thought that drawings with her non-dominant hand were much looser, and looked more like her drawings from childhood.  She wondered if these drawings were tapping into her original creativity.  She has other wonderful questions and emotions, and compares the drawings done with each hand.  I agree with her that straight lines and especially printing was VERY difficult with my non-dominant hand.

After reading the article I wanted to compare the drawings done with my two hands.  Here are both drawings for comparison:  

April 19, 2018  Non-Dominant Hand Drawing done 4 weeks after being put in my cast.




August 1, 2018  After 12 weeks of physical therapy.



I'd be interested in people's comments or experiences.  

Most of the non-dominant hand drawings I did in my cast are in this folder on my blog:

August 7, 2018

Deliberate Practice: Copying the Masters

Met Breuer NYC is celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the death of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.  50 works from the Met's Scofield Thayer Collection are in the exhibit, OBSESSION, Nudes by Klimt, Schiele and Picasso.  I like all 3 of these artists, and figure drawing, very much and sketched one Klimt and one Schiele.  The Schiele was painted at home. 



This is the link to the exhibit, which will be on view until October 7th. 

August 3, 2018

Sketchbook Skool WHIMSICAL - Week 2

Mike Lowery, graphic designer and Children's Book Illustrator, was the artist teacher for week 2 of Whimsical.  He did several demos online, and after each one he suggested that we try the same techniques. 

Shapes  His lifetime goal is to draw for 30 minutes every day, and when he stares at the blank white page, with no ideas, he uses a fat marker to make shapes, and then draws around them.  These are mine.  I loved this 5-10 minute exercise!  I know that the Christmas Tree costume would never originate in my imagination except through an exercise like this.


Portraits:  Mike was drawing Richard Owen, the man who created the name "dinosaur," for a children's book on dinosaurs.  He used an actual photo and simplified the portrait to match the style of his illustrations.  I used a photo of Albert Einstein for my simplified drawing.  The blue color is due to marker leakage through to this next page in my sketchbook. 


Developing a Story Character:  Mike was developing an animal character for a special project and showed us how he created a duck named Carl The Duck.  It took many steps and drawings for him to develop a duck with personality.  This is my first iteration of a character - a squirrel - still to be worked on to develop a squirrel with personality.   If I don't ever arrive there, I wanted to post step 1.


Icons:  Mike showed us pages of icons he developed, and for our homework asked us to develop a page of icons - 10, 20, or even 150.  I chose to draw my favorite kitchen tools, even though I really need experience drawing icons for cars and taxis - to feel more confident about adding them to urban sketches of NYC. 


July 31, 2018

Sketchbook Skool WHIMSICAL Homework - 1

I enrolled in another multiteacher Sketchbook Skool class (Whimsical) and watched the new class each week for 5 weeks.  But I didn't have time to do the homework then and just now restarted the online class. Rebecca Green, a children's book author, asked us to either draw a character from a favorite book, or illustrate a scene from a book. I love Paris and follow a series of Paris mysteries by Cara Black.  I just finished one and decided to draw my vision of the main character - Aimee Leduc.  She owns a cyber security firm, but regularly becomes a private investigator. 

Aimee Leduc - Private Investigator


Cara Black's Book:  Murder in Saint-Germaine.  Cara Black sets her stories in individual arrondisements of Paris, and Aimee lives on Ile St. Louis and travels the city on her "faded" pink Vespa.



Drawing from observation is so much easier for me than drawing from my imagination.  I'm hoping that these illustrators help me improve my skills so I can eventually make a short book about my imaginary characters Axel and Alice for my grandchildren. 


July 27, 2018

Flowers and a New Handmade Sketchbook

I sketched flowers at Wagner Park last week, but didn't finish painting them until this week.  Every week the blooming flowers change, and I try to capture them in my sketchbook.



I love having a sketchbook with the paper I like, in a size that I prefer, and started making case-bound sketchbooks 10 years ago. I made a new daily sketchbook this week, using the same method I've used for several years.  It was made with 2 sheets of Fabriano Artistico 140 lb Soft Press paper.  The cover was made using bookcloth from dyed cotton fabric.  On the front of the book is a new Pen Pocket made just for this book. 


This is the full cover:


The inside of the book, showing the end papers and the back of the pen pocket. 


July 24, 2018

Line of Action Technique Used in Live Figure Drawing

I posted a technique that I'm exploring for figure drawing, and the method is outlined briefly in the last blog post. Those drawings were done from photos.  Figure drawing, using this quickly drawn frame, was done from live models last Wednesday at Battery Park City.

These are two 1 minute drawings from the 20 that we did for warm up.  These poses might have been harder for me to draw in 1 min without my line of action structure.  You can see the quick lines drawn first.



This was one of the four five minute sketches, and you can see a few of the lines of action in this pose.


These are two 10 minute poses using the same system.  The five and 10 minute poses were drawn with a General Sketch and Wash pencil, and then a waterbrush was used to spread the graphite for the gray tones.




July 20, 2018

Deliberate Practice: Drawing Figures in Action

Line of Action or Gesture Drawing:  I love figure drawing and although I go to sessions with live models, I wanted more experience drawing bodies in action.  I watched Suita Shirodkar's Craftsy class and liked her line of action concept, and now I have my way of establishing the lines of action quickly.  I'm still learning by using photos, because these types of actions in real time are so brief that I can't remember them well enough to study them.  I save ads, or magazine photos and take less than 5 minutes, after breakfast in the morning, for the quick drawings. 

These are the most recent ones, cut from 1/4th piece of used copy paper.  I collaged them on one page of my sketchbook.  You can see my very quick pencil lines of actions, if you look closely.  The next three illustrations show my steps.


Art After Breakfast: Reference Photo from New York City Ballet Season Program



Quick Pencil Line Drawing 


Pen lines added: Almost as Fast




Shirley Parker Levine
New York City

August 2018

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