The idea started with our figure drawing organizer and dear leader. Susan thought we should do a group art show. That our lovely model, KC, should pose for us. And that the theme would be "after Degas"- ie, ballerinas.

This presented me with a problem- I love problems. Problems are like puzzles that need solving. They are motivational. So I was happy I had this problem.

My problem was that 1. I do not like to paint impressionistically. 2. I have just begun to wrap my brain around painting figures... sans clothing. Unless our ballerinas were going to be naked... {unlikely} ... I was going to have to practice with some tule.

Part 1. of The Problem was solved by ignoring it. I don't paint in Degas' style, so tough cookies for Degas. I'm doing things my way.

Part 2. was solved when our beloved model lent me one of her tutu layers for me to take home and study. YES! Score!

Here are some sketches and studies I made while coming up with my compositions. Note: each sketch was completely in 30 minutes or less in front of our model. Some of them I liked as simple drawings and nothing more, so I let them be. Others I decided to play around with, and those are the ones that made it into paintings.

[gallery link="file" order="DESC"]

more later...

'After Degas' group art show


Well I did it! I participated in my first group show.

Part of me can't believe it really happened, I've been figure drawing and oil painting for less than a year, after all. It feels like I walked in to my first drawing session five minutes ago.

And another part of me is all WHEE! Do Again!

If you happen to be in Fredericksburg and want to see my paintings, you can view them at the downtown library in the atrium. I've been out of town, so I apologize for not writing about it here sooner but if you hurry, they'll be up for another two weeks before the show closes.

And if you can't make it, here's a sneaky peak of what I created! (including the painting above, which I sorta accidentally deleted the full photos of. So, you know, full shot coming later. Woops.)





Rule #3

Shadows are the fun part. Don't run away from them.

Shadows make shapes, edges, depth and drama. I could write several books just on shadows, they are that important.

If  you're a photographer, you avoid shady areas because the camera works best when it's given lots lof light.

You are not a camera. You are a sketcher, a smoosher of paint and a scribbler of pencils. Your eyes are way more sophisticated than a photographer's tools, and you can see in the shady bits just fine.

Look for the shadows first when you look for something to draw.


Elsewhere on the internets:


James Gurney's book Color and Light is the best I have ever read in regards to shadows... and light. Since, really, you can't have one without the other. Buy eet! You will love eet! (BTW, if you buy it through that link, Amazon gives me some pennies without adding on any cost to you. But I recommend you buy it even if you don't use that link. Or find it at your library. Or tell your prof to buy it and then borrow it from him and forget to return it. It's that good.)

Gurney's website is also chock-full of information. It's one of my always-read-first blogs and it's definitely worth digging through the archives.

Rule #2.

Drawing hair is really gross. Drawing hair I hate the most.

-Willy Wonka. (sort of.)

In case I haven't mentioned it this week, I'm not much of a fan of drawing hair.

You can over simplify things, in which case your subject will look like Ken.

Not everyone wants to look like Ken, people.

Or you can spend hours working on the fiddly little  details, reminding viewers that they need to pick up a bottle of drano and a new plunger so they can unclog their daughter's bathroom sink when they get home from work.

Drawing hair  means practicing your balance. Specifically, it requires will power to stay in there and get just enough detail to be believable, and not so much that it's a distraction.

Moose in the Wild

Moose Update! Outside is nice. There are leaveses... and sunny spots and fences to run on.

Until we heard the coopers hawk fly by. Then it's not so nice.

(That was a fast adventure. Now it's time to run around on the wheel. Much less chance of being hawk-snatched there.)

Rule #1

Never paint tired. Or drunk.


It may seem like fun at the time, but you'll end up making sloppy mistakes and wasting a lot of paint.


If you absolutely must do the art thing in either of these states then work on something not-important. A life sketch or thumbnail ideas for compositions, but never, ever, ever times infinity- work on an important project while tired.


Save it for when your brain is functioning at 100%.


Come to think of it... Lorenzo Lamas' head would work too.

So I was reading Stapleton Kearn's story about how he came to be a student of Ives Gammell on Linda Crank's Diversions blog, when he mentioned making drawings using the sight-size technique. (WOW, that is a lot of linkage right there.) (also, speaking of extra linkage- here's a link to a well reviewed book about the technique on Amazon. I haven't gotten my hands on a copy yet, so I can't tell you if it's good) And- (getting back to what I was originally writing about. Sorry for the bunny trail.) ...AND- I realized that another one of my "novel" ideas had already been thought of. Because I am the queen of "discovering" things that other people have known about since Michelangelo asked a giant man to pose for David. My idea was this: plop your thing your object your subject down next to your canvas so that it makes your drawing the same size as your subject and you can focus better on both objects at the same time. DUH, Julie. It's called sight-size drawing, and, like, everyone does it. (here's a nifty video of someone using sight-size to make landscapes)

I mean, I knew about cast drawing and all. And about Bargue's drawings. But the technique commonly used in cast drawings was new to me. Or, I guess, that it had a name was new to me. I'm sure I picked up on it from someone, somewhere.

So anyway. I decided I needed a cast. I already do a lot of still life and figure drawing and whatnot, so I'm doing things way out of order according to most ateliers. But I figured that cast drawing couldn't hurt me, so why not try it out and see how I could benefit? So I pulled up a few shopping sites looking for casts. Including eBay.


And, y'all? Did you know you could buy a cast of dead Napoleon's head? Because you can. For 50 bucks you could have Napoleon's death mask sitting on your mantle. If, you know, you're into that sort of thing. Which I'm not, really, cause it's kinda saggy and icky and stuff. I'm not sure I understand the purpose of ... you know, that.



But you know what I DO know the purpose of? A casting of Mel Gibson's head! His LIVE head. Not that I'm a huge Mel Gibson fan. But dang if that wouldn't be an awesome conversation piece. And I could totally do a cast drawing of that and not be icked out. For the most part. Anyway, who wants to buy me Mel Gibson's head?? Anyone? Anyone?




OR! Ooo... guys, you know whose head I want even MORE sitting above my mantle? That guy from Princess Bride! The one who said "Gah!" and flapped his arms a lot! He's my favorite!


Does anyone out there know Wallace Shawn and do you think you could convince him to make a cast of his head? And then send it to me? So I could draw it? Because I would totally rock the HELL outta that drawing. That would be the most fabulous cast drawing anyone has ever made. Eye of David? Pish.


Ahmma gonna do the HEAD OF SHAWN.

You can't top that business.

Painting on an iPad... *almost* as good as a canvas...

One of my favorite still life artists, Jos van Riswick, heard tell that painting on the iPad was the latest/ greatest and decided to give it a go. He's been kind enough to post the results online. Brilliant! Though he does claim to prefer canvas, you can't argue that the results aren't... well... interesting!


...and a billion Apple fans around the world develop synchronized iTwitches, with no notion as to why...



So last night was the one year birthday of the little figure drawing club I go to on Monday nights, and to celebrate we made some of these new-fangled artist trading card thingies and we traded them. I don't actually know if artist trading card thingies ARE new-fangled. They might be old-fangled, and I'm just recently fangling them when everyone else on the planet has fangled artist trading cards for ages.

I am commonly behind on the fangle trends.

So anyway, these are the cards I made!

And here are a few close-ups.

Have you ever noticed that a change of medium can totally change your perspective on things? For instance, I discovered that sketching on a 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" card is a great way to fill up a completely composed space in a half hour or so.

Now that my cards are made, I find myself missing the creation of them. Maybe I need to pull out the sketchbook and return to this smaller size. Or maybe I need to make another dozen or so cards.

At any rate, it was a mightily satisfying experience. No wonder some artist like to work small.


{secret hover-text messages edited by Moose. All secret hover-text is secret. Shh. Loose lips sink ships. Maurice El Torres likes Cathi Finnigan, pass it on.}

Moose wins at peek-a-boo.

{Moose hasn't been feeling well. The vet thinks he's probably lonely, so he's been getting extra out-of-the-cage time lately.}

Moose haiku

Moose the mouse likes feet they're good for hiding from dogs like Wiggle-butt over there.

Drat, too many syllables.

Ok, let's try this again:

A Moose by my toe is ticklier than a dog licking my face. Yuck.

There. Now that's art.

Dürer's name sounds like something I say to my dog when she walks into walls.

Then again, I could be pronouncing it incorrectly. I recently learned that Van Gogh isn't pronounced "Van-Go", it's pronounced "Vun-Hucgh"... emphasis on the phlegmy bits. Anyway. Dürer was still a mighty fine artist. One of my favorites, actually. And sometimes I like to make a copy of my favorites so that I can get an idea of what it's like to draw like them.

[note: the meaning of the word "copy" is pretty loose here. It's more like "inspired by" or "attempt to resemble" or "sorta looks like it if you squint and turn your head a little"]

Another advantage of copying a favorite is that you now have your own duplicate of [or in this case, something somewhat similar to] your favorite drawing.

Note: Dürer's fine and fiddly strokes. They're exactly perpendicular to each other, evenly spaced and perfectly balanced.

Note: My impatient scribbling. It kinda has the same effect. If I pretend.

I like to pretend.

Here they are full size.

As you can see, I became restless after seven strokes of the white charcoal on his beard and went on to play with something shiny. Yay! It's done!

So what did I learn? I learned that to make something good into something outstanding, you have to be patient. You have to be willing to do the fiddly work. And also, Dürer must have had incredible fine motor skills, his lines are perfect.

I also had a lightbulb moment in regards to cross hatching and texture, particularly in the skin of his hand, the wrinkles on his forehead, and the threads of his cap. Had I not sat down and forced myself to look at each of his strokes, I would not have noticed these things.

So, despite what that paranoid little voice in your head tells you, you should definitely be copying the masters. That doesn't mean you're forging their images and trying to pass them off as your own. That's just silly. What it does mean is that you are learning from people who have gone before you and perfected their craft. There is so much to gain from that.

UPDATE: I just watched this video and found out that Dürer's name is pronounced Doo-Rur... which doesn't sound much like what I say to my dog. My apologies to Albrecht.

Jeremy Lipking, rad painter, movie star.

Well, he's more of a documentary star. Not that being a documentary star isn't equally fabulous. I mean, those penguins that Morgan Freeman befriended were technically in a documentary, and they were stars. They even won an Academy Award. And! One of Lipking's paintings did go on to feature prominently in a movie with Christopher Walken, who I'm pretty sure knows Morgan Freeman, which definitely makes Jeremy Lipking a star. But seriously, Lipking rocks. And not just because he resembles Morgan Freeman's penguins. (figuratively speaking, of course) The man is incredibly talented and could finger paint with pond scum and make it look like a beautiful woman.

Lipking is also fantastic because he understands the value of sharing his work with the rest of the planet. These days, lots of artists tread the internets too timidly. Many amazing painters don't have websites, or if they do, the images are small and squinty to look at. You want to dig in and check out those juicy brush strokes, but you can't. Whether they fear someone copying their work or don't understand the benefits of being seen, the result is the same. Only those who have the chance to view their work in person know how talented they are.

Not so with Lipking. Not only does he have a site and a blog and he's on the Twitters, but his images are large and detailed and striking to look at.

See? Close up:

Lipking has taken this a step further. Together with his jauntily bearded friend and fellow art-genius Tony Pro, he's filmed himself creating a portrait of his lovely wife Danielle.

Guess who got her hands on a copy of said DVD?

Oh yes. Yes I did.

Guess who is watching it for the third time while she types this post?

Not me. It's too distracting. I keep pausing to make note of his palette colors and the way he blends his shapes.

I feel vaguely like I did watching Bob Ross back in the 80's. Only without the afro. And Danielle is way prettier than a tree. And Lipking is not holding a baby squirrel in his pocket. As far as I know, anyway.

Actually, come to think of it, watching Jeremy Lipking paint is nothing like watching Bob Ross paint. For one thing, the commentary between him and Tony Pro is much more interesting... and informative. They talk about things like choosing galleries and inspirational artists and the importance of warm and cool color schemes. If, like me, you live in an atelier free zone and jump at the chance to paint with or watch other, more talented, artists paint at every opportunity, you will love this DVD. There is much to absorb here.

And if you're a collector you will really enjoy watching him create his work. There's something a little bit magical that happens when a portrait is made, and Lipking is smart enough to know the value in sharing that.

I'll just close this post with some (nice and large) images to ponder.

Jeremy Lipking. His name is five syllables. That's an easy haiku.

... Dangit.

Sketches, Eve Young, and the Library of Congress

I'm nocturnal. My family, being made of normal people, are all... uh... day-turnal. They like sunlight. My body wakes up at the same time their bodies do, but my brain isn't fully functioning until around lunchtime. My best time of day is when the sun goes down. Suddenly I'm a monument of productivity. Suddenly I want to paint and sketch. Suddenly there are no people around for me to paint and sketch because they are in bed. I can draw in bed, but my husband says it's weird and I need to knock it off because he can't sleep with that light pointed at him.


So I do a lot of drawings when the sun is up and I'm only partially conscious, and also a lot of drawings from photos when it's dark and there are less people. I really prefer to draw living, breathing people. You'd think it would be easier to draw a photo, it doesn't move. And in some ways, that's true. But my better drawings are all done from life. I can't explain it.

So I won't.

You can't make me.

Anyway. What I sat down to tell you has nothing to do with my sleeping habits, I was going to tell you that the Library of Congress has a mighty fine Flickr stream. It is a treasure trove of reference photos to sketch when you're wanting to sketch and yet no one is awake and they unscrewed and hid all the lightbulbs in their bedrooms, also it's hard to aim a flashlight and draw at the same time.

When that happens, you can head over to the LOC Flickr stream and pick a photo of a person, a boat, a horse or whatever it is you want to draw and draw it. The Library of Congress does not complain. It does not throw pillows at you. It is the perfect model.

Eve Young, taken January of 1947 by William Gottlieb who wrote "Chanced upon Eve Young & Jack Pleis breaking bagels at midcity restaurant day after they lost their canvas because of Benny Goodman tentfolding." on the back of the photo. I don't know what canvas they lost, or why Benny Goodman's tentfolding cost them the lost canvas, but she seems happy about it, so I'm ok with that.

About that bicyclist...

(original, uncropped painting can be found here.) Four years ago I was hanging out on the VA Beach boardwalk with some friends from my church. We were people watching and one man caught my eye. Actually, he snatched my eyeball out of my skull with his shiny electric blue biker gear. And his mohawk helmet.

He must have seen me watching, or maybe he noticed my camera, because he waved me over and asked me to take his picture.

"You want me to take your photo?" a little surprised.

"Yea, man. You don't think I'm interesting enough? I'm a 6 foot tall black man in a mohawk helmet. You should take my picture, show your friends. Then you'll always have me around."

Fair enough.

I took some shots, then we chatted for a while. He told me his life story, less than half of which sounded believable. But that's how stories are. I was enjoying the conversation, then he asked me what I was doing that night and if I knew where any parties were happening. I briefly considered inviting him to our "ladies group, movie night" but figured he didn't look like a "Strictly Ballroom" kind of guy.

I brought it up anyway.

He politely declined.

I told him I'd let him know if I heard of anything better going on.

After I got home I browsed through the photos from our trip. When I came across Blue Biker Guy's pics they were mostly out of focus. And he was talking. I got a kick out seeing them, but quickly forgot about them.

Four years later it was late at night, everyone was asleep and I wanted to draw. I began looking through old photos to find something. You know how images trigger memories you thought you'd buried? I really did laugh out loud when he popped up on the screen. How many people verbally demand to be remembered? It was like he was daring me to draw him.

Challenge accepted, Random Biker Dude.

I sketched his portrait that night using all of the photos, trying to get his features right with the awkward poses and blurred lines of his face. The results weren't fabulous, but it was fun. In the weeks that followed, I found myself drawing other men with his helmet on. The sketches evolved, the mohawk disappeared, he grew a beard.

Then I decided to make a painting. The Virginia Beach Bicyclist may look nothing like the man I met four years ago, yet there's no mistaking him when I look at the painting.

Thanks for the memories, Mohawk Man.

These are a few of my favorite things...

This is my Dad. He's my favorite.

Last week it was his birthday. That's why he's blowing out a candle in a cocktail glass full of ice cream.

When Mom asked Dad what he wanted to do for his birthday, he said to her "Do you remember those paintings? With that man? The ones we saw 15 years ago?

She said "yes, I think so."

And he said, "I want to go see those again."

And she agreed.

It turns out that 15 years ago, Dad saw Thomas Cole's  "The Voyage of Life" paintings and he thought a great way to spend his birthday would be to gaze on them once again and try to figure out where in the series he now falls.

I was thrilled. Because Thomas Cole's paintings now reside in the National Gallery. And the National Gallery is my favorite.

FACT: About a year ago, Madison and I visited the National Gallery and stumbled on Cole's paintings.

"Wow!" I said, "These are really neat landscapes!"

"Mom... these are allegorical paintings. See? They represent the four stages of a man's life: childhood, youth, adulthood and old age," she replied.

"Huh. Look at that. I guess you're right. But the flowers are pretty too."

That's me! Art Teacher Extraordinaire.

So last week the whole fambly met up in DC. We ran from room to room while I pointed out all of my favorite paintings, until we stumbled on the four Dad wanted to see most.

Then we paused.

We took pictures.

We pondered the symbolism.

Then we left and had ice cream.

{To see zoomable and high quality photos of Cole's Voyage series, check out this site dedicated to Thomas Cole. To view the images, just click on the thumbnails at the top of the page and then zoom in to see every brush stroke.}