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

Keeping a Sketchbook: value studies

This 9 by 12 sketchbook doesn’t travel with me, but stays on my drafting table. The top three sketches were made with a range of pencils from 5B to 5H. What I really needed to punch up the dark values is a super-duper dark, almost charcoal, pencil. So that’s on the art supply shopping list. No matter how many layers I put on, I just could not build up really velvety blacks with my old pencil collection. I don’t like to mix my charcoal pencils with the graphite pencils. They seem to resist each other. The shiny graphite makes a weird base for charcoal. The charcoal just floats on top.
To draw the ducks, my teacher loaned me her darkest pencil. You can see the very dark necks on the ducks are darker than anything in the previous sketches. The finished duckies will star in a future post.
Sketch of fruit

Apple and orange, pencil

Flower sketch

Black-eyed Susan, pencil

Flower sketch

Daffodils, pencil

Sketch of ducks

Ducks, pencil

Art Boot Camp – Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

I’m so right-brained, or is it left-brained, that I can never remember which is the creative type and which is the other type. As a recovering (aka: retired) librarian, I’m pretty tidy and organized. As an aspiring artist, well I just don’t know. We are all complicated. The first assignment in my Art Boot Camp endeavor was to copy a Leonardo portrait, quadrant by quadrant,upside down. My art teacher adapted this exercise from the classic art book, ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ by Betty Edwards. Without going into the gory details of how to retrain your brain to see what’s really there and not what you think is there, plus the ever-challenging issue of translating that 3-d world in front of us onto a flat piece of paper without resorting to cartoons and stick figures, here is my drawing – on the right. Notice amount of caffeine required to do this. My ‘Portrait of a Girl’ has a fuller face, but, hey, you try drawing upside down.

Pencil drawing portrait

Copy of Leonardo’s Head of a Girl

Art Boot Camp – the portrait

I joined a new art class last spring and my teacher explained that all new students go through ‘art boot camp.’ So back to basics for me for the last six months and back to blogging about the process which helps me focus on what I’ve learned and where I’m going.

This pencil portrait is based on a black and white photograph that I selected from a folder of photographs that my teacher supplied as source materials for the portrait assignment. I don’t know who this woman is. I even did a reverse Google image search and could not find her. So apologies on that, if you were wondering.

The task set for me was to catch a likeness. That means, in my case, I can draw people and the drawings look human and not appallingly amateurish, but it’s really difficult to make the drawing look like that particular person. The trick, advised my teacher, is to use relative measurements. You know, that thing where artists measure by holding up a pencil and measuring how many partial pencil lengths it is from hairline to eyebrow and from eyebrow to pupil and from pupil to nostril and so on. Then you make little dots on the paper as guidelines. Well I feel I got to know this lady’s remarkably arched eyebrows and deep smile lines and exactly how her earlobe lined up with the bottom of her nose and so on. Now if I watch a debate on tv, I might be thinking about someone’s short upper lip or long nose and not realize whatever policy they espouse. That’s probably less stressful – catching a likeness, not catching a policy.

Pencil portrait of a woman

Portrait of a woman, pencil on paper

It’s September- back to art class

After a summer of swimming, gardening, and traveling, but not much sketching, today I started art classes for the semester. Our teacher rightly figured that her students might need a little warm up after our relatively art-free summer. Thankfully not asking for a picture of what I did on my summer vacation, she had set up still life stations, each with a silver or pewter pitcher set on a white cloth. The choice of medium was charcoal or oil. Below: my one hour charcoal sketch of a silver vase. What I was hoping I remembered from before summer break was how to really catch the dark and light values and the reflections in the metal. I think those turned out well enough – exaggerated for dramatic effect. The drawing itself is fairly accurate although I would have futzed around endlessly, but ran out of time. I’m calling this piece finished and I’m ready to move on to…further art adventures…

Silver vase drawing

Silver Vase, charcoal on paper