Speed Drawing with a Model

Red spike heels and a black beret and strong light and three minutes. 6B pencil on Rives BFK paper, 11" x 15"

Red heels and black beret and strong light and three minutes. 6B pencil on Rives BFK paper, 11″ x 15″

I recently hired a model for a gesture-drawing session. It was the first time I’d ever done such a thing, and it made me feel like a grown-up artist: in control, entitled to set the lighting, the poses, even the music.

6B pencil on Rives BFK, 11" x 15"

6B pencil on Rives BFK, 11″ x 15″

Artists are notoriously childlike. Anyone who draws the figure should hire a model at least once, just to know, briefly, how maturity must feel. So, I hired a wonderful model, and invited a few friends who also love to draw gestures. We crammed into my Main Street studio one warm afternoon a couple of weeks ago.

6B pencil on Rives BFK 11" x 15"

6B pencil on Rives BFK 11″ x 15″

I’ve drawn this model before; she projects impish charisma and can strike- and hold- dynamic poses, one after the other. I asked her to bring a few accessories for fun. For the first hour, she wore red high-heeled pumps and a black beret.

Almost casual, stretched out with one foot kicked back. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11" x 15"

Stretched out with one foot kicked back. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11″ x 15″

A wool rug and orange chair served as the model stand. A dark green bedspread draped the wall for a backdrop. A single lamp cast light from an angle, making shadows. Each pose lasted three or five minutes, long enough to catch essential movement. It became a dance: model, chair, paper, pencils, light.

Just three minutes; only enough time to get the gist. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11" x 15"

Just three minutes; only enough time to get the gist. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11″ x 15″

Sometimes, when you work fast, you tap into something unconscious- something almost biological. You draw like blazes and crackle with adrenalin. After nine or ten speed drawings, you might even hit that coveted state of “flow”. When you do, keep up the pace. And try to get out of your own way.

I was going so fast I didn't notice that I was drawing on the back side of the paper, and the watermark was in the image. There's a backward "S" between her eyes. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11" x 15"

I managed to draw this one on the back side of the paper. Note the watermark between her eyes. I wish I could say it was deliberate. 6B pencil on Rives BFK 11″ x 15″

Happy Friday.

Posted in Art, Art Studio, Artists, figure drawing, life drawing, models | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Field Day Friday

Relaxed rodeo bull chews cud in fresh spring Oklahoma pasture. I drove down random country roads today, looking for nice things to paint. This sweet scene presented itself and I pulled off the road to sketch it. It's also a great way to meet ranchers. Who were friendly and welcoming when they learned I was only there to sketch. Watercolor over pencil, 10" x 8" Strathmore 400 Series Field Drawing sketchbook.

Relaxed rodeo bull chews cud in a fresh Oklahoma pasture. Watercolor over pencil, 9″ x 12″” Strathmore 400 Series Field Drawing spiral bound book.

I drove down country roads and looked for nice things to paint today. It’s been a bright pink and green kind of spring day, with redbuds in explosive bloom and floaty scrims of chartreuse across the gray windbreaks. The grass looked juicy. A herd of hump-shouldered cattle cropped away on foot, or rested on their chests and elbows, processing cud.

A sweetly bovid scene, and I parked two tires on the road’s thin shoulder to sketch it, thus learning what a great way this is to meet ranchers. They rolled up out of nowhere, one after the other, driving extended-cab trucks and inquiring who I might be. But they were kind and welcoming once they saw I was a small female artist, strictly there to sketch. Not even my paper was rustling.

That’s a joke.

Here's something along similar lines- a muskox with her baby flanked against the wind. It's from a life sketch made at the Copenhagen Zoo this fall, and I'm happy to say it's been selected for the show, Art of the Animal Kingdom XX at the Bennington Center for the Arts. Oil on Arches primed paper, 15" x 11". Titled, "Ice Age".

Here’s something along similar lines-“Ice Age”; a muskox mother protects her baby from that cold Scandinavian wind in the lee of a warm flank. It started out as a sketch at the Copenhagen Zoo this fall and ended up in oil on paper. I’m proud to announce that it’s been selected for “Art of the Animal Kingdom XX” at Vermont’s Bennington Center For The Arts. Oil on Arches primed paper, 15″ x 11″.

What is it about hoofed beasts and spring? I’ll chew that one over and get back to you.

Happy Friday.

Posted in Adventure!, Animals, Art, Cattle, Copenhagen, Cowboys, Drawing, Oklahoma, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Front Porch Notes

I’m literally too lazy to get off the porch and onto the computer and am therefore doing this from my phone. It’s a fine spring evening here. No need to move except to reach for the wine glass now and then.

The other night was my birthday, plus we hosted a visiting professor. It was a dark and stormy night, with tornadoes to the north of us, and at the height of the storm an intrepid flock of students arrived, shaking off hailstones. They had to wade through a small lake at the back door to get to us. We handed out towels and drinks, in a that order, and a good time was had by all. A tornado party. Very Oklahoma.

That’s it from the porch. A few more unfinished paintings to display here. I’m going back to my wine and sunset.

Happy Friday.

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Painting from Plein Air Drawings, Part 2

The collection, so far. Left to right, chestnut sided warbler at Doyle's cellar; American redstart at Wing Spooner's malt mill, ovenbird at Spooner's mill, myrtle warbler at Nelson's cider mill, and Louisiana waterthrush at the cider mill. Acrylic and graphite on wood panels, 48" x 20" (except for the first one, at 12" x 30")

The collection, so far. Left to right, chestnut sided warbler at Doyle’s cellar; American redstart at Wing Spooner’s malt mill, ovenbird at Spooner’s mill, myrtle warbler at Nelson’s cider mill, and Louisiana waterthrush at the same cider mill. Acrylic and graphite on wood panels, 48″ x 20″ (except for the first one, at 12″ x 30″). Yes, that’s a sort of diptych over there, second and third panels on the left.

The routine: door closed, music cranked up, paint brush moves to the beat. Time flies agreeably as a painting takes shape. Yesterday’s soundtrack: Warren Zevon, Talking Heads and the ever-energetic Rolling Stones.

This one's almost done- the waterthrush is a little under-cooked, still. This is Nelson's cider mill (early 19th century ruin in central Massachusetts).

This one’s almost done- the waterthrush is still a little under-cooked. At Nelson’s cider mill (early 19th century ruin in central Massachusetts).

These are places of rich history. The beautiful ruin of an apple-cider mill on Nelson’s Brook, for example. In 1815 it operated not far downstream from Sanderson’s tannery, now a beautiful ruin, too. The water swept effluent away from the tanyard, then turned an apple-grinding apparatus less than three hundred yards away. Maybe not that much water went into making cider, but the recipe isn’t currently available. One can only guess at cross-contamination. I once visited living-history Sturbridge Village where a Red Devon ox named Henry turned a whole-birch-tree sweep in circles, grinding apples. Flecks of pulp spat out from between the wooden gears into a wasp-buzzed box. I listened to a docent in a stovepipe hat describe how early American cider-makers added secret ingredients for a harder kick. Dead mice are rumored. It’s not a stretch to imagine a cider-maker topping off the barrel with a bucket of brook water .

The cider mill at Sturbridge Village, a living history farm in central Massachusetts. Watercolor over pencil.

The cider mill at Sturbridge Village, a living history farm in central Massachusetts. Watercolor over pencil.

Somewhere before 1850 both the tannery and the cider mill on Nelson’s Brook went bust and the dams got dismantled. Now wood frogs and red efts inhabit the riffles and ruins, and warblers come and go undisturbed. The big wheels are gone. There’s lots of moss gathered on these rocks, and very, very few rolling stones.

Happy Friday.

American redstart at Wing Spooner's Malt Mill, 18th century ruin, Harvard Forest. Acrylic and graphite on wood panel, 20" x 48"

American redstart at Wing Spooner’s Malt Mill, a nice 18th/19th century ruin in Harvard Forest, Massachusetts. Acrylic and graphite on wood panel, 20″ x 48″

 

Posted in archeology, architecture, Art Studio, bird art, Culture, Diversions, Environment, field sketching, Harvard Forest, history, landscapes, Music, natural history, Nature, New England, painting, Petersham, plein air, Pop culture references | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Studio Paintings from Plein Air Drawings

18th century mill dam in Harvard Forest, Massachusetts. A cider mill, as a matter of fact.

18th century cider mill dam in Harvard Forest, Massachusetts.

One sees the prairie in layers: sky, grass, soil. And then there’s the forest, constructed from tall, thin strips: tree stems, stacked stones, waterfalls, a slice of sky at the top. One set of laminations lays out flat, the other stands on end.

The drawing, made while standing on the mossy bank just downstream. Graphite and pastel on 22" x 15" Rives BFK tan paper.

The drawing, made while standing on the mossy bank just downstream. Graphite and pastel on 22″ x 15″ Rives BFK tan paper.

It’s a nice theme and a way to re-imagine a few of the plein air drawings from Harvard Forest : as tall thin sections sliced out of the originals (in Photoshop) and enlarged in paint. Into each goes a tiny wood warbler from sketchbooks of the same period and place. American redstart, ovenbird, northern waterthrush, chestnut sided warblers.

Preparing wood panels, 48" x 20", Baltic birch with buff titanium gesso, 4 coats, sanded between. My studio now covered with a fine dusting of gesso powder. Did I mention I have a new studio?

Preparing panels of Baltic birch with buff titanium gesso, 4 coats, sanded between. A fine dust of powdered gesso has settled throughout my new studio. New studio. Has this been previously mentioned?

Three up. To be continued.

Three up, ready for a sealer of matte medium.

Early 19th century malt mill with American Redstart. This is the first round of color wash over the pencil, mostly burnt umber mixed with ultramarine acrylic and a little glazing liquid. Big wide brush. Fun and fast.

Early 19th century malt mill with American redstart. The first round of color is wash over pencil, burnt umber with ultramarine acrylic and a little glazing liquid mixed in. Big wide short-handled brush. Fun and fast. 20″ x 48″ Baltic birch cradled wood panel.

And in the process, an interesting thing happens. Each painting recalls, for better or worse, thoughts, moods, and whatever was playing in my ears when I drew them in in the first place (podcasts, audio books, the annoyingly redundant song of an American redstart). Moving the pencil over the exact pathways of the original lines unleashes some vivid flashbacks. Do you also experience art-triggered sense memories? Is there a neurologist in the house?

Happy Friday.

Posted in Art, Art materials, Art Studio, bird art, birds, Drawing, field sketching, Harvard Forest, Nature, New England, painting, plein air | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Hell Breaks Loose in Copenhagen

 Valkyrie, 1908 bronze sculpture by Stephen Sinding. Churchill Park, Copenhagen.

Valkyrie, 1908 bronze sculpture by Stephen Sinding. Churchill Park, Copenhagen.

Thinking of dear friends in Denmark, wishing for more peaceful times. My heart is with them and the victims of yesterday’s shootings. It’s all much too close to home.

Even from here, in Oklahoma.

Said Charlie Hebdo columnist Patrick Pelloux, “We are all Danish tonight”.

Posted in Copenhagen, Sculpture | Tagged | 3 Comments

Sketch of the Day: Young Love, Carved Stone

Idyll, marble sculpture by Stephan Sinding,

Idyll by Stephan Sinding, marble. Sketched at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, the wonderful art museum in Copenhagen. So close to Tivoli Gardens you could hear the screams from the “The Golden Tower” through the marble walls. Pencil on Lana 1590 8 1/2″ x 11″ sketchbook.

Posted in Art, Artists, Copenhagen, Culture, Denmark, Drawing, figure drawing, Museum Sketching, Sculpture | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment