Mare and Filly / charcoal

mare and fillymare and filly crackerbarrel

The weather is ungood for drawing in plein air outside, so I’ve been planning a still life. I’ve always loved horses and looked for nice models. Finally I found these at Cracker Barrel for $40.

It took me a few hours to get this far, which is fast for me!  I’ll work on it more tomorrow. I drew them life size because it’s easier than drawing small. For my still life I’ll scale them down by making a grid.

This is what they told us at York Academy of Art: It’s ok to make a grid to scale up or down a drawing if it’s your own drawing. Taking the time to try to match the proportions of the horse strengthened it in my mind. There is a file in my head for horses. If I took a photo and traced it for my drawing, that file would not grow. The act of drawing it freehand burns it into your mind with volume and proportion in a way that tracing a photo can’t do. The mind is basically lazy, and if it can save time and effort by relying on a photo it will, but then drawing skill doesn’t improve.

Drawing isn’t something you’re born with. If you are born with some dexterity, you can work with your hands on any number of different types of art. Like playing a musical instrument, drawing takes hours of practice.

So, remember, making a grid from your own sketch – OK

Making a grid from a photo – not OK


a study of breakers / charcoal and chalk

with a guy surf fishing

with a guy surf fishing

I want to learn to draw the ocean. Water is always a challenge because it moves and changes color with the sky, but I don’t want to trace a photo. I sit there on the beach and stare at the waves and try to draw them. I’m trying to memorize wave anatomy. That’s my excuse. Some guys stand around on the beach for hours surf fishing. They’re not just staring at waves, they’re fishing. Hanging around on the beach staring at waves every day for no reason isn’t always socially acceptable. Unless you’re on vacation, people might call you a beach bum. The calming view of nature makes it a zen thing. In our rush rush modern world the zen effect isn’t appreciated much. We’re expected to be productive every day. With some things the long term benefits aren’t immediately noticed by the world. But if I can practice drawing and painting waves without using a camera my art skill will be much improved.

So far I did about 6 studies of breakers and I did a color rough in oil of breakers too. The more I practice on this, the better I’ll be able to represent waves.

I slipcovered my chair.

some thoughts about learning from a master, creativity and originality

some thoughts about learning from a master, creativity and originality

I learned to make slipcovers from my dear departed mother in law, Jackie Hill. Jackie learned from her mother who learned from Jackie’s grandmother. When Sarah was a baby she came to stay with us for a week and gave me slipcover lessons. I’m the 4th generation and maybe the last to learn how to make a slipcover fit exactly. Jackie wanted me to have this practical skill but it’s not for a beginner seamstress. She knew I would work independently sewing and find plenty of demand for it. Imagine how much frustration she saved me from by teaching me the combined sewing experience of 3 generations. Why is it different in the art world?

At York Academy of Art our teachers wanted us to study the masters. It’s a discipline young artists don’t learn on their own. They think the secret to being the next great artist is to be creative and original. They don’t want to learn a skill from any previous generation. I read about how to be creative on art blogs all the time and it doesn’t concern me. I read about people asking if it’s all been done before and it’s impossible to be original. It sounds like misguided thinking to me. Maybe because the art universities don’t teach their students the basic skill of drawing they try to compensate by trying to be more crazy than the next guy so they will get noticed.

This is the 4th time I’ve covered this chair and every time it’s difficult but it comes out better than the one before because I find a different way to work out the construction problems. Creativity comes from combining practice and experience to solve problems.

My daughter Sarah Hill is on WordPress now. She’s a writer. She IS the sharpest tool in the shed and I’m not just saying that because I’m her Mom. She’s getting to the top of her game by reading and writing every day. Read about her free spirit and wanderlust. Sarah will make her dreams come true.

my study / Large Seated Lion by Antoine-Louis Barye

original in bronze. my study graphite and white chalk

original in bronze.
my study graphite and white chalk

The bronze is small but I get the feeling this is a very strong animal as I’m trying to copy all the muscle groups. A museum guard and I both wondered if Barye exaggerated  the anatomy. I think the sculptures are probably anatomically correct but they seem like stronger lions than what I see on TV.

It’s important when you do a drawing study to stand in front of your subject and make the drawing as close to what you see as you can. If you take a photo and trace it you don’t remember things like muscle groups as well. And the proportions of the subject get a little file in your brain that you can use in the future. But if I took photos of lions I would only have a drawer full of photos.

At York Academy of Art they told us drawing is the most important skill an artist must have. The better your drawing skill is the better your paintings will be. There’s always room for improvement so an artist is not wasting time if they do a lot of sketches they never use for a finished painting. Every study is a challenge and answers questions.

a great view for photographers and painters from this spot

view for painters from here

There’s a tiny ladder going around the pipe at that bridge pillar. I take my shoes off for better footing climbing down and sit on the base next to the pipe. Every day Photographers climb down to get shots of rafts  going through the rapids. It’s fun to watch!

Water Lilies / oil

Victoria Cruziana, native to South America

Victoria Cruziana, native to South America

When I was working on this painting a lady stopped to talk to me. We agreed that everyone likes water lilies and she said we relate them to the human condition. I asked “How so?” and she said “Staying afloat.”

A lady working in the conservatory was checking my progress and after I told her I was waiting for the giant water lilies she came out and gave me water lily updates. We were talking about the kids throwing pennies on the lily pads. I asked her if they might sink and she said no. They are structurally strong and can hold up to 60 lbs. weight if it’s evenly distributed. She said she hasn’t tested this theory. That’s one thing I like about drawing in plein air, people give me insight and info on my subject.

Pitcher Plants / a study

charcoal and white pastel

charcoal and white pastel

The Pitcher Plants are fun to draw ! I’ll do another painting of them this summer. I have a few pages of studies that I can arrange with a background into a design. There are many varieties of Pitcher Plants around the pond. Some are variegated and some have delicate veins showing reddish against green. They are in the sun but there’s places on the boardwalk that I can stand in the shade in the morning.  The heat and humidity and chance of storms every afternoon makes me get out earlier to draw in the summer.

Previous Older Entries