Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter Squash



I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. And that a lot of these beautiful squashes above were enjoyed for part of the Big TDay meal. Winter squashes, along with root vegetables, cabbages, potatoes, and apples, are what New Englanders put in their cold root cellars to keep over the long winters. And it seems that lately there has been a resurgence of "putting food up" and relearning how to can and preserve foods, which I think is wonderful, I do a lot of batch freezing myself. Blue Hubbard squash, the big gray-blue on in the middle of the painting, is my favorite. It has a nicer, lighter flavor than a butternut. It's hard to grow them every year, some years they don't flower, some years there isn't enough rain and they don't attain the impressive sizes that they could eventually get to. Sometimes you can find small ones in the grocery store and sometimes you can find a huge chunk wrapped in plastic wrap, looking like a giant chopped it with an axe. Lucky for me, my mother grows squash in her garden and preserves it in canning jars, and I get to enjoy it over winter.

This is a 5 x 7 watercolor with colored pencil. I loved the different variety of squashes, sizes and colors available at the farm stand, so I took a bunch of reference pics. I'm happy how the green squashes developed out of just the watercolor paint, with just a little colored pencil for the shadows. Watercolor can be so difficult, but there are times when it feels like your hand just knows what to do by itself, no need of help from the mind. Then the rest of it is real work, trying to recapture that spontaneity enough to finish a good painting. Now that the picture is up, I can see that it looks like it's leaning to the right. Funny how our minds think there's nothing wrong with a painting until we put it away for a while, then come back to it and see something right away. I have a mirror in the studio that I use to check the composition. If you hold the image up to the mirror, you can usually see immediately that something is not right with the composition, or maybe if it's a portrait you'll see that one eye is a lot different than the other one, or that the cheekbone needs to move back in space a bit. Now I'm going to add "look at image on computer" to the checklist.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Welcome Fall! Red and Green Maple Leaves.


I love the colors of fall. It's so exhilarating to go for a walk in the cool crisp air with warm sunshine, shoes scuffing loudly, ever on the lookout for an amazing leaf. I picked a bunch of different leaves up during a walk a couple of weeks ago in Lynn Woods Reservation, this drawing above came from a branch that fell, four sister leaves still clung to the branch. The red and green contrasting colors were so eye catching, and that there were four related ones, so much the better. I wanted to include the rips and tears that each leaf had, a visual of it's life journey, so much more interesting than trying to always show perfection.

The drawing was done on 140 lb watercolor paper, 9 x 12. I'm seriously going to have to start cutting the paper down to fit my flatbed scanner, I apologize for the darkened area on the bottom where I had to squish the cover down to get the whole image in. I haven't gotten the hang of taking good digital photos of my work yet, so I prefer to use the scanner.

I started drawing with Derwent watercolor pencils, used a wet brush to give the leaves a nice watercolor wash. I like using the watercolor pencils, they allow me to build up areas of more pigment, or leave areas with just a hint of wash color. After the watercolors dried, I went on to use colored pencils to add more detail and build up layers of color. This is where I can play around with all kinds of different colors, adding small spots and lines of colors that add visual excitement without losing the image, there is a lot of Imperial purple, Orange Chrome, Chartreuse Green, and Scarlet Lake in here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Work in progress

I'm currently working on a couple of different things, nothing is close to being finished, but I thought I'd post some works in progress anyway.

I'm alternating back and forth between a graphite drawing and two watercolor and colored pencil pieces. The watercolor and colored pencil pieces are both in celebration of fall, the days are finally cooler, I'm able to breath (always a plus), and I absolutely love the fall colors and the warm days and cool nights. I started off with a color wash, then went in and put layers of detail with the colored pencils. These chinese lanterns are amazing. They are dried out, but the color is still vivid red/orange. I'm in love with being able to see the ribs and the veins that show in white outlines. They are so magical looking, like little fairy houses.

While I wait for the washes to dry, or am not sure what new color layer is needed next, I switch gears and work on the graphite drawing.

I'm not sure how much detail I'm going to show on the goose drawing, I like that the background remains abstract, and most of the feathers are just scribbles and gradations of value instead of trying to draw every one. I also am trying to keep nice balance of darks and lights. It's not "there" yet, and I may need to put it away for a couple of days so I can really see what's going on and take my time choosing what the next correct changes will be, instead of overworking it. I can't always work like this, switching between color and black and white, between painting and drawing. Sometimes I just need to focus on one thing, but other times, when I'm feeling the flow of creativity, I am able to shuffle back and forth between different subjects and mediums. It feels great when that can happen, but for me, it doesn't happen often, so I take advantage of it when it does.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Boomer. 9 x 12, colored pencil


Please meet Boomer. He's a sweet little Yorkie that a friend of mine commissioned a pet portrait of. Her son and his fiance live with her right now, but they'll be moving out soon, taking Boomer with them, and she wanted a drawing of him to remember him by. I used colored pencil on a light tan pastel paper. Boomer has a lot of blonde coloring on his face, so the tan pastel paper made a great midtone base that I could use to find the lights and darks more easily with. This was really fun, I'm going to play around with colored pencils some more.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Young Herring Gull profile. Graphite and Watercolor


What a hot and sultry stretch of weather we're having in the NorthEast. All the better to have a AC die on one of the hottest days of the summer, and no new ones in stock to be found. Yes, that happened last Thursday to us, we spent Saturday looking for a new one. We went to 3 Home Depots, a BJs, a Lowes, and a Walmart. None to be found. Luckily, a friend let us borrow one that he had in the attic - it looks to be over twenty years old with faux woodgrain paneling and twist dials instead of digital- but it works well and that's all that matters, happy to have it. It shows how much better some products used to be made, versus the planned obsolescence that is sold nowadays. And it actually fits in with the retro contemporary style of our home.

This started out as a simple graphite drawing and then I decided that I wanted to use watercolor to show how the young gull was not quite past losing his baby brown speckled feathers in exchange for the adult gray and white coloring. I looked up the molting cycle of the Herring Gull and it looks like this one is in his mid 2nd year where the brown spotted feathers eventually molt off and are replaced by the white and gray feathers. I'm not sure how to tell the male Herring Gull from the female, if anyone knows, please tell.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! It's my 1 Year Blog Anniversity!


It's official! This blog is now a year old! It's nice to have a place to be able to look back on past work and see progress and changes. I'm also glad to be able to see the blogs of so many artists and creatives out there in the world, and to be able to talk with so many different people. Here's to another year!

This is a finished seagull drawing that I just completed. This guy was making it clear that he wanted attention with his loud, repetitive cry, so I thought I'd let him show off. My apologies for the darkened scan. I need to get a larger scanner bed, or smaller paper. This was the first time I used a blending stump, and I really liked it, much better than using your finger, although that does work well for charcoal, not so well for graphite. Thanks to Sigrid Frensen, for her beautiful blog where she shows her gorgeous botanical artwork and gives great tips!

I believe he's a Herring gull, with his yellow eyes and red spot on the lower part of his beak (or is it bill? Probably beak since they are more into ripping up their food -or swallowing whole--than a nice little duck with their wide, non-sharp bills).

Seagulls are just so graphic, and so expressive, I love trying to capture their spirit. My backyard is filled with smaller birds, sparrows, blue jays, grackles and starlings (both of whom have been aggressively killing the sparrows lately, boo!), pigeons and mourning doves, crows, woodpeckers (both small and big, my neighbors putting out suet brought them to the yard), and one very large redtailed hawk (much to the dismay of two recently deceased pigeons, such powerful attacks that all was left was a ring of feathers, like a bomb blast crater). But it is very hard to capture the smaller birds in action, or perhaps it's because I need a better zoom camera, while the seagulls are so unafraid of humans and you can spend quite a bit of time studying them, or being studied by them, especially if you're holding some food. I've been doing some quick movement studies in pencil of the seagulls, but for some reason, I just love to spend longer on a drawing with them.

Hope everyone has a wonderful, long 4th of July weekend! Or a nice long weekend for those not celebrating. Enjoy!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The new studio!


A quick peak at my new studio! I created a bench out of two metro wire racks and a formica counter top from a discount building supply store. It's very sturdy and exactly the right height, as my still wonderful old work chair is made for benches and won't get any lower to go under a standard table. I love working from there on all my multi-various projects. The table is a family antique that has weathered all kinds of craft and household projects for at least 2 generations or more. The space is shared with 6 other artists, and it's a big open space, so there's lots of room to stretch out visually. One of the artists works on large canvases and needs the room to physically move around. My work is small and so I just need a small space, but I enjoy the big, bright room. Even though there are 6 of us, we all seem to be on different schedules, so when I go in from 6 to 9 during the week, I usually have the place to myself, which is nice.

The 9 x 12 painting that can be seen on the easle is the first painting I've attempted in a while, and my painting skills have seemed to have rusted up. I'll work on it a couple of more hours, but if it doesn't turn the corner soon, I'll end up painting over it with gesso. I have had success on another seagull pencil drawing, and I'll be posting that soon, just have to bring it home to scan it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Northern Mocking Bird


Here's a quick and loose watercolor and colored pencil sketch of one of the Northern Mockingbirds that live in the old fashioned rose bush in the parking lot at work. They do have such an assortment of bird calls, hence the name "mocking" because they copy other species songs, as well as some car alarm sounds (!), that at first I couldn't figure out what type of bird this was. And they certainly are very protective of their territory, I saw many a cardinal chased out of the rose bush this past winter, the Mockingbird guarding it's winter supply of the tiny red rose hips that the old fashioned rose produces.

And I have exciting news! This week I moved into my new artist studio! I've rented a shared artist studio space at the Lydia Pinkham building in Lynn, MA. (Mark your calendars for the December 2010 Open Studios!) I've got everything set up, and started working on a couple of new little sketches and washes to loosen up. I think it will be nice to be in a space with other artists to get some immediate feedback, and to breathe in the creative air. I'll take some pictures soon and post them once I get some new work going.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In Memory of my kitty Zen


April was a very sad month for me. My kitty Zen, my companion for over 13 years, passed away. He developed a lymphoma tumor in his abdomen, and only lasted for two weeks after the diagnosis. I have him buried in my family's pet cemetery in Maine. The day after his burial, I tried looking for some type of memorial stone for him, but I couldn't find anything I liked. Some statuary looked too comical, others looked too generic. I decided that I would make a mosaic headstone for him. I bought a slab of quartz for a base, and selected porcelain tiles, which are weatherproof, for the mosaic. I used thin set mortar for adhesion and grout, making this headstone one that will last for decades.

It's amazing how interconnected our lives become with our pets, and our human loved ones, for that matter. I still miss him all the time, and the routines that no longer happen. I'm glad I was able to make a memorial for him that will last for a long time, it felt like something that I had to do, and I was glad that I was able to do it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

In For A Landing, 9 x 12 Pencil



Time passes too quickly. Finally a new post! I've been working on this for(...ahem...)quite a while, off and on. This is another study from the seagull photos I took last fall. What an amazing thing bird feathers are! Some feathers are for insulation, attraction, and as this study shows, for controlling flight. Here's an amazing video on YouTube of an owl landing, shot with a Photron SA2 Camera. I'm pretty sure that is what the owls' victims see for their last sight, probably in slow motion as well.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Standing Ground, Pencil 9 x12 in



I guess I have a new thing for seagulls. I don't think that I thought about them much. Growing up in the Maine woods, crows, chickadees, and blue jays would probably be my first thought when asked to name a bird, but I guess living on the MA coast for over twenty years has expanded my bird world to include gulls and pigeons. The reference photos I took this fall are what I keep going back to. Something about how animated the seagulls are intrigues me, they seem to have a lot more expressions than a lot of the smaller birds do, maybe because they can be so much larger. When I was working on this drawing, I felt I was bringing out a feeling of intimidation from the 3 gulls in the background and the main subject gull was fluffing up, but still standing ground, in response to the others enchroaching in upon it. Not drawing the heads of the 3 in the background seems to lend itself to a slow feeling of impending danger. Those seagulls are mastering in drama, I tell you!

I'm still working on another gull pencil drawing, hope to work more on that this weekend. Hope everyone is keeping up with their New Years Resolutions. Mine are easy, Do more of what I love, Spend more time with the people I love, Enjoy each day. Simple resolutions, but easy to get off track with. Here's to staying on track!

Lisa B.