Lost a sketchbook, bought a coloring book

ColoringBookSketch1As I wrote yesterday, I lost my sketchbook while hiking and sketching in Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area in Nevada. I think I put it down either in the bathroom or the visitors center.

Yes, I did ask at the lost and found. In fact, I filed a lost report with the administrative offices. Keep your eyes open; I really would like to have that sketchbook again.

I admit, I was quite upset about losing this little book that was half-filled with good and bad sketches. A sketchbook is intensely personal, although I don’t write a lot of personal stuff in it. Still, it’s a record of my life—sketches I’d made at my granddaughter’s first birthday party; a painting of my mother; people I meet and places I go—as well as a place where I can work out ideas for projects.

Besides,  I was not there in the stinkin’ hot desert sweating like an old mule to hike (as was my friend, who is oh-just-slightly crazy), but to sketch. I was there to draw the beautiful rocks and mountains in that canyon, dammit.

I looked at the visitor center for some kind of sketch book, or even just a notebook with lined paper, but all they had were tee shirts, desert kitsch, and expensive books about flowers you might see in Nevada were it not 104 degrees in the shade and in the middle of a drought. But I found this little book:

yhst-137970348157658_2374_637844980It’s a nice coloring book, with good information about cactus. There were some blank spaces. It didn’t have clay coated paper, so it would work (sort of) with watercolor. And it was inexpensive.

While my friend courted heat exhaustion on the park trails, I collapsed in the shade of a gigantic rock and disgorged my painting kit. Painting in a coloring book was not the same satisfying experience as painting in my Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook, but it was interesting to attempt to incorporate the artwork in the book into my paintings. I recorded some of the landscape. And it satisfied that awful craving to paint.

Finally my friend crawled off the desert, having decided that it was too hot for even her lizard-lady blood, and we drove around in the air conditioned truck as the sun sank and the hills glowed in the heat.

ColoringBookSketch2

Lost sketchbook in Las Vegas

Last week I was hiking and sketching in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (an amazingly beautiful area) near Las Vegas, and lost my half-filled sketchbook. I’m placing my trust in the power of the internet and hoping that by announcing it enough times in enough places, I can bring it home to me.

The images below were scans from the sketchbook; it also had drawings of my grandaughter’s first birthday party, a painting of my mom, and ideas for future work, all images I didn’t record. I sure would like to have it returned. If you’ve got it, please contact me!

Life drawing at the Sonora Farmers Market

Market Baker Pencil sketch in Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Sketchbook
Market Baker
Pencil sketch in Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Sketchbook

I love the Sonora Farmers Market. It’s what you expect from a farmers market: great produce, homemade goodies, local musicians, and the occasional friend who greets you as you’re sorting through summer peaches.

There’s also a small seating area where you can eat any delicious purchases you’ve made, and sip a smoothie in the shade (criminey, it’s blazing hot in these foothill towns!). As I snarfed down a gluten-free scone (from Schnoog’s Cafe) and the fiddler delicately devoured a chocolate croissant (from I know not where), I took the opportunity to sketch one of the vendors. The inset is an idea for a painting that I noodled out while I was waiting for my turn at the loo (Yes, Virginia, you can and should sketch anywhere).

I credit my years learning  life drawing for my ability to sketch a moving target. Life drawing hones the artistic memory, so I was able to work even though my subject was moving about as she helped customers.  Fortunately, she often resumed the same pose so I was able to check my marks.

Then, at home, I added color. I wish I’d made better color notes while I was sketching in pencil, but it was getting ever hotter, even in the shade, so we retreated to the coolness of our air conditioned automobile.

Market Baker Watercolor and color pencil in Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Sketchbook
Market Baker
Watercolor and color pencil in Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Sketchbook

Class alert

I will be teaching a figure drawing class this Thursday, June 18 at 9:30 – 12:30, at Town Hall Arts/Galerie Copper in Copperopolis in the Central Sierra. We’ll be learning more about proportions, and embarking on a long pose that will last the whole class. My goal is to help all the students complete a blocked in drawing, and start building form with value. All you need is paper and charcoal, and some tracing paper,  and you can buy those items at Town Hall Arts.

Drawing on the farmers market

FarmersMarketThe fiddler fiddled at the Sonora Farmers Market last Saturday. He likes me to be present for moral support and to bring him pastries. I go and spend dollars while he plays for dimes. (Folks, please support your farmers market musicians; throw quarters in the fiddle case, at least!)

After my dollars are spent, it’s lovely to sit on a curb and while my butt falls asleep, sketch the crowd. A little chair would be more comfortable, but there’s a neat thing that happens at curb level. I’m closer to the kids, and instead of looking down on the tops of their heads, I can sketch at their eye level.

I’m not sure why, but farmers markets seem to bring out the goofy in kids, and they are often beautifully dressed as pirates or fairy princesses, or pirate fairy princesses. Leprechauns. Furry animals. It’s like there’s this alternate world that’s swirling around adult kneecaps, and curb sketching gives me a window into it.

FarmersMarket2

Public sketching with gold rush costumes

The Prenologist's Wife, Calliope Dodge Watercolor over graphite in Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook
The Prenologist’s Wife, Calliope Dodge
Watercolor over graphite in Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook

Yesterday the fiddler played at Columbia State Park for an event known as The Diggins. Why not? He has a costume reminiscent of that era (despite the back pocket), and he plays tunes that would have made gold miners stamp and strut.

I went along for the sketching.

Professor Flatbroke B. Dodge, Phrenologist Watercolor over graphite in Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook
Professor Flatbroke B. Dodge, Phrenologist
Watercolor over graphite in Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook

Making portraits on the fly, in real time…yeah, that’s kind of scary. But it’s enormously fun too, especially at costume events.

I’ve only recently gotten brave enough to ask someone to sit for a portrait (only if it’s not busy and they seem friendly. And bored.). And I absolutely love it!

When I ask,  I assure my subjects that while I may not catch a good likeness, I will make them look like a human (which is a big improvement over the days when my off-the-cuff portraits looked like pigs in bags).

I also let them talk. I encourage it, although it is harder to capture their likeness when they’re moving. But I hear such interesting stories, and I feel like it helps me draw better likenesses after all.

Carol Bassoni, Lace Maker Watercolor over graphite in Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook
Carol Bassoni, Lace Maker
Watercolor over graphite in Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook

This question runs around in my mind: If portraits are about unmasking the subject, what then, to make of a subject who’s assumed an identity  that may well be the real person under the everyday mask they put on for their pedestrian life?

Links for this post

Go to the Diggins. Costumed docents, banjo players, and bean soups that give you a flavor of what the California gold rush must have been like. This weekend (May 29-31)
http://www.columbiacalifornia.com/diggins.html

Or visit Columbia State Park when ever you can. http://www.visitcolumbiacalifornia.com

Carol Bassoni makes lace at www.misslaceydesigns.com/

You can find Professor Flatbroke B. Dodge at www.oslhp.net/m-charframe.htm

How to draw figures by drawing a stick man

StickmanWalkingYou drew them when you were a child: stick people that lept, danced, fought, or just stood around in the landscape of your childhood art. And if you learn how to draw them again, they’ll help you enormously when you are sketching in public places.

 

Things to look for when drawing a stick man

  • Angle for position Pay attention to the angle of the head, shoulders, and the hips. I often draw those lines first, lightly, to help me capture the pose. I also make quick lines for the angles of the feet so that I know how they are positioned and if I have time, I add the knees and elbows using little circles. Getting these landmarks down on paper will help you remember the position of your subject, even after they’ve moved. Everything after that becomes a connect-the-dots game.
  • Measure! Stick your pencil out and verify that your brain is really seeing what’s there. I can’t stress that enough. You don’t have to get too detailed; if you’re rapidly sketching kids on a soccer field, or people in a park, you don’t have time for a lot of measurements. I look for the vertical halfway point and mark that quickly so I can go on to the torso. When I draw the torso, I eyeball the center line so that I can get the right perspective.
  • Torso comes first My life drawing teacher, Rob Anderson, used to say, “if you can draw the torso correctly, you can hang the rest of the body from it.” I always try to get the torso and hips first; they are the structure. All the rest is decoration. If you add lobes to represent the rib cage, it can help you see the center line.
  • Draw cubicley Think of the upper body as a box with two lobes (the ribs). The tummy is a soft ball; how much of that do you see? The pelvis/hips can be a tube, although some people use a box for the hips. I like using a butterfly shaped tube because I can see how the ball of the tummy fits into the pelvis area.
  • Transparent thinking Try to imaging the shoulder blades on the back, which will give you the correct position of the arms. Draw your stickman as though he were a ghost so you can see your construction lines.

 

 

Stickman2

Once you have the stickman posed correctly, you can start adding flesh to him. In the figure below, I drew him in black ink, then built his form up using blue lines. When I’m sketching in the field, I draw the construction lines lightly, and often don’t erase them when I’m finished because they can make the figure more solid and dimensional. They are also great for later reference when I’m trying to construct a new drawing, because all this public sketching, besides being fun, is fodder for future work. Stickmanslouching

Drawing exercise Get thee to a public place and draw the people in it. Concentrate on drawing only stickmen. Afterwards at home, draw other stickmen (from your imagination) interacting with the first drawings. Challenge yourself by drawing them in overlapping positions, some farther away, some closer to the picture plane. Then let me know how it goes. I’d love to see your drawing.

Sketching musical hands while they’re playing guitar

Sketch of Beppe Gambetta
Sketch of Beppe Gambetta while he played lightning fast flat-pick guitar licks.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing flat-pick guitar player Beppe Gambetta in concert. It was a small venue, and I was fortunate to sit right up front, thanks to friends who arrived early. I was so stunned by Mr. Gambetta’s playing that I couldn’t even think of drawing for the first half of the concert. But of course I had a sketch book (It was the 11″ x 14″ Cachet,  far too large for unobtrusive concert drawing. Reminder to self: bring something smaller to concerts.). I swallowed my sketching-in-public shame during the second half of the concert and drew (still amazed and enchanted) while Gambetta played.

You can’t draw musicians without drawing their hands, yet hands are so difficult to draw. And the hands of a musician are always moving (Gambetta’s left hand sometimes blurs against the neck of the guitar). But I’ve found that even a mass of lines can lead me to a better understanding of the subject. And when I draw something I have a better understanding of the whole thing, music included.

Sketch of hand
First sketch of guitar player’s left hand

The first time I drew Gambetta’s hand, I tried to record the position of the fingers and knuckles, and the angle of his hand as it wrapped around the neck of the guitar. I imagined the fingers as little boxes, with tops, bottoms, and sides, to help me figure out the planes of each digit.

But it’s not easy; since his hands are always moving, I had to devise a way to make a gesture drawing that was accurate. First, I listened a bit to understand the structure of the tune. Then I chose a chord that he made often. Since I could anticipate when he’d return to that chord, I was ready to draw when he got there, and I quickly sketched as he played with his hand in that position.

 

Sketch of hand
Second sketch of guitar player’s left hand

In my second attempt, I wanted to smooth out the lines and make the drawing less about boxes and more about fingers. I was also trying to figure out the position of his hand and how the fingers attached to it.

Sketch of hand
Final sketch of guitar player’s left hand

Later, I studied my sketches and made the drawing above. It’s neater, and shows each finger and the hand position as it wraps around the guitar. It doesn’t show the passion that Gambetta puts into his chord hand; the initial scribble at the top of the post does a better job at that. But this is work that needs to be done; it will eventually make my initial sketches better.

The more an artist learns about a subject, the more force they can bring to even little things like a quick sketch. It’s all about observing, paying close attention, and then attempting to show what you’re feeling with pen and paper, brush and paint. What better way to live a life?

And here are some YouTube videos of Beppe Gambetta.

30-in-30: Going east at dusk, watercolor in hand

Jan22_LandscapeJournalJan21_LandscapesThese are what my car-journal pages look like. The smaller rectangles are 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches, and the vertical rectangles are whatever size my little heart desires.

We don’t travel much, so I don’t always remember what colors are in my little travel palette. It helps to make a little swatch palette before I begin (that’s why there are twelve color swatches all in a row on the page at top).

Interstate 680 through Pleasanton at dusk
Interstate 680 through Pleasanton at dusk

Drawing babies

Sketch of baby
Graphite, red and white chalk, Strathmore 400 Series Toned Sketch Journal, Warm Tan paper

Sunday our power went out for the whole day, so that meant no computers, no internet, none of the electronic time-wasters we’re all so used to. Even my phone lost its charge, so I was cut off from the 4g network I usually live on.

How did we pass the time?! Well, we went with some friends to a local park and had a little picnic. While we were there, I tried to sketch their new-born daughter. Babies are hard to draw, especially newborns. They lack the bone structure that an artist can use as landmarks when drawing. Their faces are all out-of-whack, proportion-wise. And even asleep, babies don’t really want to hold a long pose.

There are a lot of babies in my life right now (being of grandmotherly age—meh—I find that my younger friends are filling up their lives—and mine—with babies). So I hope to study this baby-sketching more closely.

sketch of baby
Graphite, Strathomre 400 Series Toned Sketch Journal, Warm Tan

This is an idea of a baby, not drawn from life but from what I remember and what I suppose a baby should look like. Small face, big head. I never thought I’d want to spend a lot of time with the youngest set!

Recommendation: I’m really liking the Strathmore 400 Series Toned Sketch Journal. The paper has a nice feel, the brown color doesn’t reflect sunlight and blind me when sketching outdoors, and I love the luxurious feeling of the faux-leather binding.