This week it snowed in upstate New York. I keep trying to remind my self that warmer weather is on its way. I was lucky where I live as it was just a dusting that quickly melted but Western NY got quite a lot.
I stayed in yesterday instead of prepping my garden beds because it was so dang cold! But, the world will go on and it will warm up eventually. I have been painting blooming branches to remind me of that last month. This week seemed like an appropriate time to post them. 🙂
Way back in late December, my 2020 January Sketch Box had a sample pad of Stonehenge black watercolor paper. This is a medium weight paper at 140 lbs with a typical water paper bumpy surface. But it is not bumpy enough to be called rough. The description does not say cold-pressed but that is how I would describe it. I have purchased black art papers in the past including a black Moleskin sketchbook and Carson XL drawing pad but both were rather low weight and meant for dry media not wet. I also have a heavier weight Strathmore Black Mixed Media pad at 140 lbs but the surface is rather smooth like drawing paper. I do like a sopping wet watercolor style and generally buy 300 lbs in watercolor papers this Stonehenge paper is not a good paper for that style. As you can see on the butterfly below the paper did start to buckle a bit with the heavy application of green gouache.
But I find 140 lbs fine for illustrations with ink and watercolor. I was very intrigued by the unique properties of this paper. I set out to create something using what had come in that box. I had a blast with the contents and this was my all-time favorite box.
I also have some gouache I purchased for an online illustration class that I have hardly touched in the last year or so. Gouache just pops on this paper. I have a new fascination with the media because of this paper. I also love metallic, interference, and mica based paints and ink which are really striking on this paper. If you own Finetech pearlescent paints give them a go on this paper you will love the results! This sent me on something of a black Stonehenge pad buying and painting spree.
I started with space illustrations because black naturally makes me think of space. Below are a few of things I painted last month.
Next, I think I will move on to the ocean and deep ocean creatures as this seems a fitting subject for black paper.
Last fall outside the windows of my art room, I place new bird feeders. I really enjoy hearing and watching the birds during the daytime. They often pleasantly distract me from my weekend yoga routine. Although I have painted and drawn birds in the past I became interested in becoming more realistic with my depictions. To that end, I purchased Law’s Guide to Drawing Birds.
I was attracted to this book because of the Audubon’s logo in the corner. I figured if any book on this topic was going to be good it would be the book published by the Audubon Society.
John Muir Laws is a well-known naturalist and artist. You can read his blog which contains musings on art, nature, and art tutorials here. I am not sure if he is related to the even more famous naturalist and father of national parks John Muir or just named after him.
The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds is the book for you if you are looking for assistance on how to both draw bird anatomy in detail and quick in the field renderings. The book also includes a brief introduction to the author’s favorite materials and supplies. It is a well-rounded guide but most of the emphasis is on giving readers a detailed understanding of bird anatomy so the can better render it in their art.
The book also contains several ‘step by step’ demonstrations which I enjoyed following along with. Below are a few examples.
I have begun to apply the principles I learned about feet, body type, and feathers to my own art. While I have a lot farther to go but I think the guidance from the book is helping.
Happy New Year! It has been a very long time since my last post. More than nine months actually. I had considered canceling my Word Press subscription as I was not utilizing it. But, I came to the realization that I did not have the extra bandwidth in my mind to write reflectively about my art practice, and that was a temporary state of being. So I choose to keep my subscription for one more year.
In the last year, I moved twice and started a new job. I was barely managing to do a few doodles every week, let alone dedicate the time to thoughtfully write about my efforts and progress. Now that I am settled in my new house, I am not spending time thinking about furniture purchases and mortgages. Likewise, I have completed my first year at my new job, and I am finally feeling comfortable there as well. My mind is far calmer than it was a few months ago.
Many of my art supplies were in a storage facility for five hours from my old apartment. My acrylics and pastels are out of storage finally, and I hope to get back to working with those soon. I feel I have the mental space to write about my favorite hobby again and hope to post several times this year. I also have a nice physical space for art now in my new home. It is a little four seasons room on the east side of the house. There is plenty of good light and a nice view of the trees and bird feeders. This is also my yoga and meditation space. Having space for the mind and body can bring a lot of ease back into one’s life. I plan to set up space in the basement for acrylics next month.
New Space for Yoga
My Work Space in the same room.
However, this statement to post more is not a New Year’s resolution. I don’t really believe in those. I have never had someone state to me that they manage to keep their resolutions. I know when I did them in the past, I always gave them up by March at best. I don’t think taking on a goal at the start of the year makes it any more achievable. This idea that I can blog more is a realization that just happened to occur to me around the New Year.
Moving on, I did quickly want to share a project I spent a good chunk of November and December on. That was designing an Alphabet chart for my nices. It is a simple design, but I had a hard time settling on what I was going to do.
At one point, I had drawn several different candidates for the letter A: Apple, Ant, Asteroid, Astronaut, and Alligator.
I waffled on a theme quite a bit. Should it be forests, space, nature, animals, insects, or the backyard? Eventually, I settled on the garden, but I will likely pick up Space, Forests, or Insects as a theme for a chart to gift to my nephew next year.
My process for this was to draw and paint each element separately. This is more a security thing for me as I have two small boys. One of which likes to look over my shoulder and often bumps me. There is a lot of risk in doing a single piece to have ink spilled all over just as I am wrapping up the letter Z.
Each element was scanned, and I then used the open-source image manipulator GIMP to tie them all together into one file. I also purchased a font license for this project. Even though I have been practicing my calligraphy, it still was not quite print-worthy. Finally, I uploaded the file to RedBubble and had to 9″x10″ copies printed.
I used a similar process to create my son’s solar system last holiday season.
I was actually surprised by how well they were liked by my sister. It is always a great feeling to put a smile on someone’s face with your work.