the real Lotus flower / charcoal

real lotus

This morning I went back to the white Lotus I was trying to draw for 2 days and started again. That’s it in the center here. It closed up a little since yesterday, except one petal is drooping. It’s cloudy today,but it was sunny yesterday.

I watched Marco Polo on Netflix and saw a lot of Lotuses and Lotus imagery. It didn’t look like the one I was drawing. Then today, a lady from India stopped to talk to me. She told me where the Lotuses from her country are. They’re not on the path, so I overlooked them. They’re pink on the edges, very delicate pink lines going into  white with the lower petals a little greenish. She told me the petals are perfect architecture. I agreed and thanked her for the info. This is the Lotus people know and love.

She told me they don’t last long, but there are a lot of buds. The giant leaves look the same. The 2 flowers on the outside here are the pink Lotuses. The one on the left is all the way open and the one on the right is closer to traditional Lotuses that you see in art.

I still need more practice drawing Lotuses before I paint one. One nice thing about drawing in plein air is that people tell me things about the subject.

Lotus Flower / charcoal

lotus charcoal

This summer I want to do a painting of the Lotus flowers at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. This is my first sketch.

The Lotuses are surrounded by tiny Lily Pads and huge Lotus leaves on a background of blue violet water. I got the sketch in less than an hour, so it will be easy subject matter. This will be fun, but I’ll have to stand in the sun like when I painted the Pitcher Plants.

open studio figure drawing workshop @ J Sargeant Reynolds

I got this far with it in 20 minutes.

I got this far with it in 20 minutes.

When I picked up their flyer, one thing made me like them before I met them. The flyer says, ” Participants are free to work on whatever they like during the sessions, allowing total artistic freedom.”  I said YES! I LIKE THAT SPIRIT!!

I always took charcoal and paper to figure drawing in the past, but sometimes you read where oil paint is forbidden because of the toxic fumes, which makes me laugh, because I like the smell of oil paint and Maroger Medium.  Anyway, charcoal is easier to work with, but if there’s restrictions, I’m not interested in going.

Now that I’m looking at this drawing, I can see places that don’t look right, but it’s just practice. Sometimes you get a sketch you can use later. Sometimes you can’t get the good view of the model or the good lighting. Sometimes the model can’t stand still. This time the model was good and seemed graceful. It wasn’t too hot in there, and not too crowded, so I could move around. I’ll try to keep with this group, but it only meets once a month.

Now, the next step, if you want to get serious about drawing, is to check if you have the anatomy and proportions correct. You need to open up the old human anatomy for the artist book and look at the pictures. Lay a piece of tracing paper over your figure drawing and draw in the bones and muscles on the tracing paper, according to how they look in the anatomy book. Then, label your tracing paper with the names of the bones and muscles, so you can remember them. That was our homework at YAA.  I don’t want to do it, but that’s how we learned. It was difficult and Tom Wise kept us at it every week for 3 years. And yet, no matter how much you practice, there’s always room for improvement. This is my best sketch out of 7 or 8 I did today.

Draft Horse after Haseltine / graphite and chalk

It's not exactly right in proportion, but not too far off. See the photo below.

It’s not exactly right in proportion, but not too far off. See the photo below.

This is my 3rd try drawing the sculpture. I went to the VMFA on 3 different rainy days and worked on it about 2 hours each time.

Sometimes when I stand there in front of a sculpture for a few hours, I get the feeling I know what the subject is thinking.

Sometimes when I stand there in front of a sculpture for a few hours, I get the feeling I know what the subject is thinking.

His eyes are so realistic, it seemed like he was looking at me. The eyes are made of lapis lazuli, ivory and onyx. The horse is made of bronze and gold plated.

It seems like he’s flaring his nostrils. This is what I imagined he would be thinking. He knows he’s the strongest. He’s a hard worker too, and proud of what he can do that weaker horses can’t. He knows he won the prize at the fair because so many people are making a fuss over him. Someone spent hours doing his hair. Then they showed him his reflection and he’s saying, “RIBBONS?!!! You put RIBBONS in my hair?!!!” (snort)

Secretly he likes the ribbons though. hahahahahahah

I know this because I spent the time looking. If you take a photo then trace it, you don’t get that kind of intuition about the subject.

At the museum, the rule is graphite only.

At the museum, the rule is graphite only.

The plaque at the VMFA says he’s a Suffolk Punch Stallion.

I could ask for a permission slip to bring in charcoal, but I probably won’t. The whole permission slip thing just bugs me as an artist. I’m saying this because if I could use charcoal it would be easier to draw. With pencil it takes longer to block in an area and you end up making outlines more often which is less accurate for getting the proportions correct.

It’s difficult to measure the proportions of a horse, and every breed is different. When I got home and looked at this sketch, I knew it wasn’t right. I transferred it to another paper and did some correcting, but it still wasn’t right. I’m showing this bad sketch so you can see that it doesn’t have to be right the 1st try. You can keep trying until you get something better.

If I continue to draw horse sculptures, when the time comes that I can draw live horses, it will be a little easier because of this practice.

yeah, that's me. I'm much more attractive in real life. hahahahahaha

yeah, that’s me. I’m much more attractive in real life. hahahahahaha

This is the way to learn to draw.

Rest your sketchbook against your body. Hold out your pencil at an arms length resting your arm on the sketchbook. Close one eye. Hold the pencil up so you can use it to measure the head of the subject by putting your finger on the pencil at the length of the head. Then use the head as a measure to get the proportions. Compare the length of the head to the length of the body and make marks on the paper in those proportions. Measure in all directions. Measure the length of the legs compared to the head. You can use the pencil in this way to see more easily the angles of the legs or any other angle you want to draw. Measure, draw, measure, draw. Don’t be shy.

Why don’t the art teachers teach their students to draw like this? Is it because it’s no fun? Are they self conscious about others seeing them make a face by closing an eye and squinting? Is it because it’s a slow process and they can trace a photo so much faster?

I see classes coming through sometimes, when I’m drawing, and the students seem interested in how to do what I’m doing, but the teacher doesn’t explain it to them. It seems like the teacher rushed the last group through before I had a chance to give  them the art lesson they wanted to hear. Maybe the teachers don’t know how to draw, so they can’t teach it. I’d like to teach. I’m just not keen on making it into a JOB! So it goes on the drawing

It’s easier to stand up to draw. Sometimes, at places like the museum, where taking an easel is a problem, you need to be able to hold the sketchbook in one hand and draw with the other hand. That way, you can look from the subject to your sketch so much easier because you don’t have to keep looking up down, up down. You hold the paper up and compare what you drew to the subject.

Also, if you can draw without an easel, standing up, you can exit the scene faster when it gets crowded, or not block other people from the spot.

Here endeth the lesson. hahahahahahah



the Dark Horse Unfettered / oil

color theory experiment #2

color theory experiment #2

If you’d like to see the process of layering oildarkhorse glazes paint in glazes, see the photos below, stripping off the layers all the way back to my underpainting.

This step shows the horse’s head moved higher on his neck than my model. And he’s now underpainted in reddish brown.

I’m calling the foreground grass finished at this point. I had a devil of a time with it.  It was difficult to mix the right color, and one day I put a glaze over the grass of a more yellowish tan and later, wasn’t sure if it looked ok.  So I left it overnight to decide the next morning. When I got up the next day, that color looked sooooo bad on there, I almost went back to bed. hahahahahhaha So I used turp on a paper towel and wiped the offending tan color off before it was too dry, and tried shades of green again, which looked better. That’s one thing I like about painting this way. You have time to make corrections, and you can totally redo a large area.darkhorse, glazes

This photo shows the sky and background vegetation finished.

The foreground grass is still too choppy, but ok in the showing of depth, because I grayed it up a little behind the horse, and didn’t gray the green in the foreground.

I don’t know how much you can see on your computer, but that paint is on there thick.

This is my 2nd layer of glazes on the sky. I painted it on with brushes, then went back in with my palette knife to blend the edges between the colors a little. The palette knife made a texture like icing a cake. I left the texture in it.

Then for the background vegetation, I mixed up a neutral medium gray. a tan with gray, and reddish gray, and painted on blobs of each color. Then came back in with my palette knife and scratched lines through the colors to make a grassy or tree like texture. Some of the violet ground shows through.

I went to green on the foreground  from the reddish brown at this stage. Totally flopping the spectrum on the grass. Hoping that makes the green nice and bright.

darkhorse, glazes

This photo shows one layer of glazes in pink and blue on the sky, and one layer of glazes in reddish brown on the foreground. You can see a stripe of gray behind  the horse.

When I did the glazes on the sky, I painted into the horse’s head with my sky colors. I almost obliterated the whole head. Also I cut into the horse’s body with sky colors. Not a problem. I wiped off some of the paint so I could estimate where his head should be. It took the green off all the way back to the violet tint.

So, at this point, I have a green horse, that I want to finish as reddish. And a reddish brown ground that I want to finish green. Both the horse and the ground are painted in the complimentary colors of the finished colors I wanted.

The violet tint on the canvas shows through a lot at this point. Even when I’m finished, and the paint is thick layers, I still think the violet is influencing the way the colors show up.darkhorse, glazes

This photo shows my horse underpainted in green. After I finished the underpainting, I decided to move the horse’s head up to a more natural position, which means, this is going to get painted over. You can see the violet tint on my canvas. I couldn’t wait to kill the violet, so I went over the sky area with a neutral gray. Some violet is showing through. And it makes the neutral gray look greenish.

I think this color experiment came out better than my 1st try with the horses I called Wild and Free. I’m going to try the violet tinted canvas for one more painting.

Wild and Free / oil

on the open range

on the open range

This is my first color theory experiment.  The post from last week shows my canvas with the violet tint and violet underpainting of the horses. If the color theory works, and I make my horses palominos, they should visually pop off the canvas, because violet and yellow are complimentary colors. I tried mixing yellow ochre tints and shades to get the right color. Then I wiped it off and tried a glaze of cadmium yellow tints and shades. That didn’t look right either. So I went back to the yellow ochre with brown and gray tints and shades. Mixing colors seemed more complicated than usual on the violet.

That’s one good thing about painting” in the couch”. You paint the medium on the dry canvas and paint the color on top of the medium. The medium “couches” the paint. If I mix a color and think it’s ok, then look at it after working on it, and say, oh no, I can just wipe off the bad color without destroying my dry layer underneath, which wasn’t too far off.

About the violet paint under it all, strange painting experience. It takes for ever to dry. The violet lifts when you put the next glazes on top of it. I like the color showing through in the sky and background.

Another thing about this painting that made it seem weird to me was that I primed the canvas first by putting layers of Gesso and sanding in between. I didn’t prime a canvas since leaving YAA. The canvases you buy have one layer of Gesso and there is tooth from the canvas causing drag on the paintbrush. When you prime the canvas, it’s so smooth. I’m used to the drag from the weave of the canvas. When I painted this, the paint peaked like a soft serve ice cream cone. The Alvi’s Maroger Medium holds that peak. I wanted to flatten it with a dry brush, but it still came out with more texture in the paint.

Results from my experiment:

Mixing yellow was difficult for the violet ground.

Priming the canvas makes the paint come off the brush in a different way.

It takes forever to dry, and seems like the glazes went on thick and heavily textured.

There’s more for me to process with this experiment. I need to try it again with different colors on violet.

Cracker and Barrel / charcoal and chalk

Got it on the 2nd try.

Got it on the 2nd try.

Drawing horses is a challenge for me. I have to use the 1st piece of paper to get them blocked in the right proportions. Then I transfer that to another paper and try to make corrections on the weak places. For me drawing is constantly correcting. I draw a line. I look at it and it’s not in the right place. So I have to draw another line and erase the 1st line. In the 1st stage, I block in areas and look at my areas and think, that’s not right. so I trim down by erasing, Then move it up or down on the paper and fill in and then erase more.

That’s one reason vine charcoal is the best medium to draw with. It kind of floats on top of the paper, if you can imagine it like that. You can push vine charcoal around so easily with a kneeded eraser.  Then on my 2nd try, when I’ve corrected it  to the point where nothing about it bothers me anymore, I go back in and add darker shadows with my charcoal pencil, which is slightly harder charcoal than the vine charcoal. And last, add highlights with white chalk.

If I work on my drawing for a few hours, that’s enough. I lose my concentration and don’t need to finish the drawing in one day. I look at it later and decide what needs to be worked on next to make it better. It’s not unusual for me to take days on my drawing, because the stronger the drawing is, the stronger the painting will be.craker and barrel underpainting

This is my underpainting. Only a beginning.

I tinted the canvas violet. Normally, I tint my canvases dark gray, but since I’m not looking at nature in plein air, because the weather is too cold or too dreary lately, I decided to use violet as an experiment. I’d like to make my horses Palominos, but my model horses are plastic with a bronze patina, so I’m not sure about mixing colors for this. This is a good opportunity to fool around with color theory.  No need to try to match natural colors, because I’m not outside in natural light. So if the violet shows through, lets see how it affects the painting. And if the violet under my other colors does make a difference, it might make my horses pop off more when I go over them a couple times with shades of gold. since yellow and violet are opposites on the color wheel.

I have one layer of glazes on the sky showing here. I’ll go over it again.

This is the 1st canvas I’ve taken the time to prime with Gesso and sand before painting. I saw another artist priming his canvas, and it reminded me, I should be doing that. This classical “style”, if you want to call it Realism, or whatever, (I’m not really up on all the art isms) goes with a slick finished look. When it’s finished you should varnish it if you want to be true to “style”. It seems to me, there’s way too much emphasis placed on “style” by those in the Ivory Tower, but whatthehell, If I’m going to paint in an unpopular” style”, I might as well go the whole 9 yards and prime my canvases.

And WOW! is this slick! hahahahah Our dear departed teacher at York academy of Art, Ted Fitzkee would love it! I  need very little  turp. The paint slides like my car on ice. You should try it! It’s fun! When I get into the glazing with my Alvi’s Maroger Medium, I’ll be like freaking Rembrandt! Stay tuned.

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