Rooster and Sad Bird

This watercolor of a rooster was made without making an underlying drawing first. Using a photograph as my source, I sketched in the shapes with yellow watercolor and went from there, painting the shapes, building up values and punching up to brighter colors. My teacher and fellow students told me to stop painting at this point. So here it is. I would have gone on fiddling with the details and probably would have ruined the rooster, lost the freshness, and muddied the colors if I had done this at home alone.

Rooster, watercolor

Rooster, watercolor

Next, I painted a red bird, also from one of my teacher’s wildlife photographs. Red Bird quickly became Drippy Sad Bird, so I stopped painting. He has a nice droopy affect that is kind of comical, so I like him even though this is a bit of a technical #fail.

Red bird, watercolor

Sad Bird, watercolor

After class, I brought home the source photographs and continued working. The image below shows the process from top left to the final bird on the bottom right. I made a sketch first with yellow ochre watercolor pencil. Next, I might make another painting of this bird or, more likely, for my sanity, I will try painting another bird for a change. Clearly, capturing shapes and values with watercolor is very challenging, as advertised. The hardest part for me is just to sit down and make art and be willing to fail, over and over, with the occasional successful Rooster popping up under my paint brush in a happy accident.

Red bird, watercolor

Red Bird, watercolor

Elephant monotype

Elephant running

Elephant photograph and monotype

I inked the glass plate with black acrylic and then wiped off the ink to create the elephant shape.

Elephant print

Elephant, monotype ‘ghost’

The second print was faint enough to to take pastels layered on top after the print dried.

Elephant print

Working on the monotype with pastel pencils

Elephant, monotype, mixed media

More monotypes: Frog 1 and Frog 2

Last week I made several monotype prints of a frog. I inked a glass plate, placed a piece of white drawing paper on the plate, and drew a frog on the paper, pressing hard with the pencil to transfer the image from the plate. The first print had so much paint, the frog was lost in the paint (bottom image.) so I pulled another print from that plate (the ‘ghost’) which was a bit faint. I then worked on the second print today with pastel pencils to bring the frog out of his surroundings. That’s the top image below.
Print of a frog

Frog 2, monotype and pastel pencil

Print of a frog

Mastering Monotypes

Monotype of an elephant

Elephant, monotype, Conte crayon and acrylic

I am playing with monotypes these days in art class. What is a monotype, my loyal followers may ask? Basically it’s a method of printing which results in just one unique print per inked plate, as opposed to multiple prints being pulled off one plate. I paint directly on a glass plate or completely ink the plate with a brayer. Then I place paper on top of the plate and draw a picture on the paper. The pressure from drawing with a pencil pushes through to the inked plate. After using a printer’s baren to further push the ink onto the paper, the paper can be peeled off the plate to reveal the print. That’s it. The drawing is then gone from the plate, so no other copy/print/edition can be made. Except the ghost.

The Ghost: You can put another piece of paper on the inked plate, press down with the baren, and pull up a lighter version of the image which is called a ‘ghost.’ There are lots of variations to this technique, but I’ll stop here to show you a few of my first monotypes. Some are unadulterated originals, some are ghosts, some are altered with Conte crayon after they dried. The snail is a ghost print enhanced with Conte crayon. On the black sheet below, you can see that the first print was so dark, you can barely see the snail drawing. In this case, the second print was much more clear, but some details were lost. His antenna needed to be touched up because they had faded like pale eyebrows. I think a snail needs bold antenna.

Monotype of a snail

Snail, monotypes, original, and second print with Conte crayon

Now that you are completely clear about monotype printing, you know which print below is the original and which is the ghost, right?

Abstract monotypes

Abstract, monotypes

Monotype of branches

Branches, monotype

Monotypes result in lots of happy accidents. It’s a method of printing that seems to me to more spontaneous than etching, engraving, lithography and others. The textures created by the ink are beautiful and I tried to leave them alone. If you want to try printing, but you don’t have a press and lots of equipment, try monotypes.

Below, I am trying to turn an abstract into a fantasy bird. The chest design was created with inked bubble wrap on the printing plate. The white shapes were created with random card stock shapes placed on the plate. The resulting print was abstract, but I could see a Phoenix trying to take flight… he emerged from the acrylic ooze.

Monotype of a fantasy bird

Phoenix, monotype, Conte crayon and acrylic

The Value of Canada Geese

In recent days we’ve learned that the United States and Canada have lost three billion birds since 1970! I drew this picture of two Canada Geese last Spring before that sad news story broke. My art teacher photographs the birds and other wildlife in New Jersey. This drawing is based on one of her photographs. As in previous exercises, the challenge for me was to get the very dark values and to accurately catch the range of values from their bright white feathers to the midrange grays of the pond. I borrowed a 6B XXX pencil (or something way beyond my 5B) from my teacher which enabled me to catch those velvety, reflective black feathers on their necks. I hope my drawing is not a Momento Mori for our birds and their turtle friends here in New Jersey. Note: admittedly there seem to be too many Canada Geese on corporate campuses and public parks, but other species don’t adapt so well to our human sprawl and overuse of pesticides.

Drawing of geese

Canada Geese, pencil