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

Frame a Still Life

The drawing exercise here was to set up a still life, prop a window mat in front of it, set my desktop easel and point of view so that it would not move throughout the time I was drawing and to capture it in exactly in the same proportions in the rectangle on the paper as the mat/viewer has. I’m afraid I can’t describe that better without a photograph of the studio setup. which I forgot to take. Just think: capture the reality in front of you exactly on the paper in front of you, including the size. Sketch in pencil, then fill in with gouache. Aside from trying to accurately draw the flocked bunny toy and his glass bowl of candy, the challenges were the furry/fuzzy bunny texture, the glass reflections, and the eye reflections, and of course, the bane of my drawing existence, the elliptical shape of the bowl. When I came back to class for my next session with this drawing, other students had eaten the Skittles and my teacher had to run around finding more to fill up the bowl. They might be M&M’s mixed with Skittles…but my devotion to realism gave up after two classes and I started to eat my own still life too.

Painting of bunny toy and bowl of Skittles

Flocked Bunny and Bowl of Skittles, gouache

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