Wednesday, November 30, 2011


This week is a crazy one. Apparently sketching fruit is soothing and lends a certain calm to my afternoon (this is my third simple fruit this week).  The shapes are simple and familiar, the colors bright, and the sketch, plus painting can be done in about fifteen minutes, which doesn't add any time pressures to my already busy week.  I found today the act of stopping and sketching (plus eating the orange) gave a nice lift to my afternoon and gave me a fresh start at my task.
Go sketch.  Trust me, it will feel good.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Everyday Object

Sometimes it is all about taking a twenty minute sketch break after grocery shopping. As I unpacked my produce I realized it had been far to long since I just sat down and enjoyed something because it was beautiful.  And I can not think of a better way to enjoy beauty than to look at it close enough to make a sketch. 
A simple sketch, done quick and my whole afternoon was better.  I love when that happens.

Sketch in sharpie marker (fine point), Grumbacher watercolor wash, handmade sketchbook (Rives light).  Twenty minutes well spent.  Sketch something - today!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Self-portrait with textured background

 I have been working out the kinks in a new project I am having my students work on using watercolor paint, transfers, portraiture and working over a prepainted/textured background.  In the process of doing a new project, I will typically create the work myself to gain knowledge of problems they will encounter as well as to have an example of what I am expecting them to do.

For this project, students started by gathering song lyrics, poetry, and images that they could transfer (using a chartpak marker)  onto the page for some texture and hidden imagery later when the portrait was complete. I did not think ahead to photograph my work at this early stage; you can see the transfers through the paint in the image below, they are the black markings, which are actually stanzas of song lyrics and the owl face.
 After the transfers, they were told to pre-paint their paper using watercolors, using the texture technique of their choice (plastic wrap, paper towel, sponge, splatter, salt) and a cruciform page layout, using two colors either complementary or analogous.  I used a dark blue and a burnt umber for a complementary color pairing, with the intention of painting my portrait using a monochromatic color scheme using the burnt umber.
In the image below you can see my painted portrait about mid-stage on the above background.  Again, I wish I had thought to take more photos as I was working rather than when I was done for the afternoon, so my process was more completely documented now.  I began my portrait by painting in shadows using the same blue as in the background and a tiny bit of payne's gray.  Then, I began using the burnt umber and some payne's gray to continue to build a likeness.  At this stage I also used the blue again to define the edges of my shoulders so I did not just have a floating face on the page.

I had intended to have a monochromatic version of my portrait that was unified with my background color and was super surprised as I worked, that by using the burnt umber, I was in fact creating a realistically colored portrait of myself.  
(As a note: this has been a weird hang up for my students.  I am telling them to choose a color from or close to one of their background colors and paint their portrait using a monochromatic scale to follow the values in their photo/face, and then they see mine and say "but yours is real and I can't mix skin color".  To remedy this problem, I began a new portrait (using green) and I have also shown them that the colors I used (deep blue and burnt umber) mix to make a brownish color on an additional sheet of paper.  This seems to have helped and this week in class their projects are coming along beautifully.)
After I completed the portrait by adding in the eye details and adjusting some color in the eye brows, I went back and added more transfers to the background.  I found some gears and cogs, along with a few owl drawings from my sketchbook that I copied on a photocopier so the marker transfer process would work.  At this point I felt like the portrait was finished but I left it at my desk so I could look at it a couple times a day and I felt as I looked at the completed image that I needed to go back into the background one more time with a bit more of the burnt umber and expand the umber color around my head and in the top of the page.  I am hoping to make these additional changes soon, but unfortunately they have yet to happen.  
If I change the background I will add a new image but for now, know it  looks as done as the image below, and that my students are enjoying the project and that it has spread (a bit like a fun and fascinating virus) to include some advanced independent study students in another class of mine who are seeing it done and exploring the process themselves "because it looks cool".

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Owls on my mind

So lately I keep drawing owls; they just keep coming up in my work. Maybe it is because we have a pair of owls in our yard and I frequently see and hear them or maybe it is because they are really beautiful and interesting birds. Who knows.
I have decided that I am going to use them to create an Artist book to enter into the "Foot in the Door 4" show at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
This owl is a charcoal drawing I did in my classroom while my students worked the other day and I think will become part of the book. As I work I will try to post bits and parts.

~ A tiny note . . .  
This post is from two years ago in November and has moved itself to here after I edited through some old draft posts.  Strange, but not worth deleting the post - just know it is old and has reposted itself fresh.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Adventures in Screen Printing

I have donated my time and art work to complete a month in the upcoming calendar fundraiser for MCBA.  For the last two weekends I have been printing little February pages using my Yudu screen printer, not without some trails and tribulations of course.  The system works really well, once you have the 220 mesh screen (it comes with 100 mesh, not made for detailed images), if you use Speedball ink (I also tried the Golden silkscreen medium and I avoided the Yudu ink as it has gotten some rotten reviews online and I was working on paper), and when you buy a new squeegee (the one it comes with is hard plastic with no rubber edge).  I also discovered today that I prefer to use the screen taped on my table rather than in the awkward, stiff hinged top of the system itself.  
I think I may finally have one hundred clean prints and can move on to the next project, both with the screen printer because now I have the hang of it, and in my studio as currently every flat surface is covered with drying pages and it will be a relief to stack everything up and drop the pages off to become a part of the 2012 MCBA calendar. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Monochromatic Owl

 8x10 inches, acrylic paint on gessoed canvas
In the painting class I am teaching we switched gears and began working in acrylic last week.  I always love when teaching a topic takes me into territory that I do not regularly travel through, as is true with acrylic painting.
I very rarely work in acrylics and I am enjoying the change of pace and sense of experimentation that changing mediums and instructing new painters has brought me this week.
This little green owl came about as we are beginning our first actual painting using a monochromatic color scheme.  This began as a demonstration for transferring an image and beginning to assign colored values to a painting from a black and white reference image and I just had to complete the entire thing this afternoon because it was just too much fun to paint.  I may just have to do another acrylic painting, something I rarely do, just to have more fun with painting in a "new" medium.