Friday, December 30, 2011

More new crayons

Last year at this time, I wrote a post about the childhood thrill that a new box of crayons would bring. (I'd just received my set of 132 Prismacolor pencils for Christmas!) Well, Prismacolor recently added 18 new colors, so guess what I got from my husband this year? Since I also got an annoying cold for Christmas—I'll take a lump of coal next year, Santa—today was the first day that I felt like playing. I just had to start by making swatches—the ones I made last year have been invaluable—but since these won't fit into my original pages, there may be another swatchapalooza happening really soon.

It's hard to believe that 132 colors didn't already cover all the bases, but a few of these are really nice additions, even if they don't have great names. The "Sap Green Light" is beautiful—when you do a lot of botanical drawings, lots of really good, natural greens are important. And the "Dioxazine Purple Hue" nicely fills a gap in the deep violet range. There are three "neon" colors, which are new for me. I didn't think I'd care for them, but as I did the swatches, I was kind of intrigued:  the color really jumps off  the paper, and they'll be fun to experiment with; I'm curious to see how they layer and get along with the other colors.

So, tomorrow, at long last, the drawing resumes. It's been a busy month, but I've just packed away the last of my Christmas decorations. Happily, my New Year's weekend consists solely of fresh Dungeness crab...and fresh new pencils.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Mistletoe Moment

'Tis the season:
I'm scurrying around this week preparing for a holiday party, so I'm pausing for a little swig of eggnog
(no alcohol or I won't be scurrying much longer) and to re-post this little drawing from last December.
(You can read the original post here.)

I love fresh mistletoe, but it dries out so quickly, and even worse, it can drop its poisonous berries on the floor. So, this year, I found this adorable kit at Paper Source, one of my favorite shops. I'm not usually a fan of artificial flowers and plants, I must admit. Perhaps it's because paper starts out its life as a plant, but paper flowers retain a certain natural charm for me. Isn't it cute? It won't dry out or poison anyone, and I can use it again next year!

Next week looks to be a bit calmer—
I'm hoping to steal a day to draw and catch up on blog visits before Christmas. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

One year!

My little blog is one year old today! 

I was quite anxious when I hit "Publish Post" for the first time last December 1, but if I'd only known how much fun blogging is, I wouldn't have worried. Thank you, thank you to those of you that visit; because of your comments, I've gotten to know some wonderful  people. If you visit and have never left a comment, please do—I'd love to hear from you. I'd also like to thank my friend Vicki Thorne, who was so encouraging and helpful when I started, as well as a friend of hers at a lovely blog called The Blue Remembered Hills, who was one of the first to put me on his blog list—I still get visitors from his site almost daily.

When I published my first post, I commented about the serendipity of it being December 1, as I'm a bit obsessed with advent calendars. While I'm most fond of the traditional paper ones with little doors that open, I love the little set of Victorian-inspired numbers that I bought a couple of years ago—that's today's pictured above.

So, happy first day of December, happy birthday to my little blog, and most of all, thank you for visiting and being part of my blogging life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Illustration Friday: Round

It's about time I posted something new, isn't it? Gosh, the past couple of weeks somehow flew by with work and assorted holiday comings and goings—it's rejuvenating to have a day to draw, and to catch up on my blog visits. It's been almost a year since I started my blog, and when I don't have time to tend to it, I miss all of you!

My entry for the topic "round" on Illustration Friday is an homage, of sorts, to The Polar Express, a holiday favorite of mine. In fact, I love it so much that, on my forays into antique shops and websites, I'm often on the lookout for antique sleigh bells like the ones in the book. There are some gorgeous ones, but they're usually  brass, not the silvery (nickel?) ones in the story. A couple of years ago, after my father-in-law passed away, we were sorting through some things in his home and I came across this single, old sleigh bell. Right away, it reminded me of the one that Santa gives the boy at the end of the book. So, with apologies to Chris Van Allsburg, here's my sleigh bell—for all of us who truly believe.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Illustration Friday: Stripes...and Selznick!

Every  now and then I need to take a break from my drawings of botanicals and everyday objects, and after doing that turban squash, it was time! For this week's Illustration Friday topic, stripes, I decided to do another in my series of little trompe l'oeil drawings, using mostly white pencil on black paper. It's a complete departure for me, and a fun mental exercise, figuring out what's white and what's black. Here are the three together, you can see the original posts here and here):

But while were chatting about black and white drawings, I'm dying to tell you about my amazing evening a couple of weeks ago: Brian Selznick was in town talking about and signing his incredible new book, Wonderstruck, which is two stories intertwined, one told in words, one told in pictures. I've written about him before, especially my love for his book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. If you ever get a chance to hear Brian speak, you have to go—he's an amazing speaker and storyteller; everyone in the school auditorium was enthralled. While he spoke, we were treated to a fabulous screening of images from the book, his writing and drawing process, and the trailer for Martin Scorcese's new film, "Hugo". Brian answered tons of questions, and shared some fascinating things: 

There are hundreds of pencil drawings in these two books. He works really small (about 4 x 5 ) with a mechanical pencil on watercolor paper, and then the drawings are enlarged for the books. (He has an exquisite way of cross-hatching...I try not to drool on the pages.)

He decided to tell one story in pictures after watching a documentary about deaf people. (He has learned to sign really well; there was a deaf student in the audience and he chatted with her afterward.)

As a child, he was obsessed with the wolf diorama at NYC's Museum of Natural History. The wolves and the museum are important parts of Wonderstruck

He said that Martin Scorcese was unbelievably faithful to his book, and that the movie uses 3D technology in a new, sophisticated, artful way. When he visited the movie set, he saw that Scorcese, as well as most of the cast and crew kept his book with them  throughout the filming.

As he toured the set, built to look like a Parisian train station, Brian noticed how perfect a certain wall grate looked. He asked the production designer, the talented Dante Ferretti, where they found the grate, saying, "It looks just like the one I drew!" Ferretti answered, "It is the one you drew!" He was amazed that they had literally brought the smallest details of his drawings to life.
It was such fun meeting him as he signed my books.
(He had on the coolest silver leather shoes.)
I could go on and on, but I'll let you experience the genius of Brian Selznick firsthand. Check out his website here and the movie trailer here. It opens November 23...I can't wait!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Turban Squash

Turban Squash
Prismacolor colored pencils on Strathmore Bristol, vellum finish

"I wonder how they do that?!" exclaimed an older woman in the grocery line as she pointed to my turban squash.

Isn't nature amazing? Of all of the winter squash and pumpkins that I adore, this one has got to be the most exotic. There were lots of them at the farmer's market this weekend, and when you view them right-side-up, they do look like little heads sporting turbans.

This squash was the perfect little model: no wilting like a flower does, no drying out like blueberries and tomatoes do. It just sat there in all of its I-can-last-all-winter smugness. I guess that's why I like drawing botanicals like nuts, pine cones and winter squash—there's no hurry. So, I took my time (and used almost every pencil that I own in the green and orange families) and even made work-in-progress scans. As is often the case, I wasn't really happy with this final scan...the reds look a little splotchy and bright. So I took a quick shot with my iPhone4:
Not bad, huh? I stopped short when it came to adding a shadow, as I kind of like how it looks without it. What do you think? Does it look unfinished without one?

Here are the WIP views (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Illustration Friday: Scattered

I panicked when I saw Charlotte's feathers scattered around the yard. Had the raccoon, that had savagely attacked my neighbor's cat, attacked one of my "girls"?  Fortunately, Charlotte soon scurried out from under the tangerine tree where she likes to dust bathe, and it all started to make sense—it's molting time.  

A molting chicken is not a pretty sight. My hens were too young to molt when fall arrived last year, so this is their maiden voyage. While May seems to be replacing her feathers a few at a time, poor bedraggled Charlotte has been looking like something the cat dragged in. But I noticed yesterday that her pin feathers are coming in, so she's looking more normal. Actually, she looks a bit like a hedgehog—something I've always wanted! (If you'd like to see the girls in all of their pre-molt splendor, click here to go their page.)

Feathers are amazing structures; I could use some practice drawing them. Also, the sheen of graphite complicates the scanning process, so I had to play around with the scanner settings. (I've really got to take a day and get the hang of using a camera and my copy stand...especially for graphite drawings.)

The scan above is in color, and the one below is in greyscale...which do you prefer?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Illustration Friday: Contraption

Prismacolor colored pencil and graphite on Strathmore charcoal paper

I haven't posted on Illustration Friday for a few weeks; and this week's word, "contraption", had me stumped. I just kept visualizing the "Mousetrap" game from my childhood. Then, seeing all of the beautiful fall apples reminded me of this one which peels, cores and slices. It always entertained my kids, and I still feel like I'm playing whenever I use it!

Work-in-Progress: I always enjoy seeing WIP shots on other people's websites, but I rarely think to stop mid-drawing to record those images. I'm having fun working slowly on this drawing of a turban squash, and I'm actually remembering to scan it along the way. Check back soon to see the finished product!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy First Day of Autumn!

I love the fall. Though I've spent my adult life in northern California (where it was 90° today and autumn won't really arrive until closer to Thanksgiving), my Indiana childhood programmed me to feel the spell of fall today. All day, I've been wishfully humming Clint Black's "A Change in the Air."...a musical love letter to autumn.

Falling leaves, wearing sweaters, apple cider, and pumpkins. Last fall, I drew these was originally supposed to be a group of four, but a big orange pumpkin that I had in the back just didn't look right, in the end. In this quick scan I did today, the colors aren't as accurate as those in the original photo I used in my blog banner, but I wanted to get this up before the day was over. It's funny what a difference a year makes. At the time, I was really satisfied with how the drawing turned out. Now, even though I still really like the bumpy green guy, I'm critical of other parts—but it's definitely still saying "Fall is here!" and that's what's important today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Illustration Friday: Mesmerizing

I'm beginning to think that I have the Kenner toy company to thank for my fascination with radial symmetry. In 1966, they introduced the Spirograph, one of the most mesmerizing toys of all time. I drew with mine until its skinny pens dried out and I had to make do with whatever else we had in the house. And when they introduced the Super Spirograph a year later, well, I was one obsessed little, little girl.

I'm sure the seeds of my interest had already been sown: Like most kids, I loved making paper snowflakes, and I still love the expressions on kids' faces when they open up that pie-shaped paper they've been cutting. But if I had to guess, my very first glimpse of the amazing radial symmetry found in nature was probably this one—still one of the most elegant examples, to be sure—the star in the center of an apple.

So, thank you, Kenner Products, for the fact that I once wrote a college term paper on these, have this on my coffee table, and these in my portfolio:

If you're interested, here's a link to a fabulous page by someone who clearly loved his Spirograph as much as I loved mine. Did you have a favorite creative toy growing up? Let the nostalgia begin!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Illustration Friday: Boundaries

Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes • Prismacolor Pencils on Strathmore Bristol Vellum

"Now, my dears," said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, "you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor."

The animals around my garden have not been heeding their mothers' admonitions about respecting boundaries.  What started as a tentative nibble on a spaghetti squash, has escalated to bold beheading of sunflowers, and brazen feasting on tomatoes.  Are my nighttime visitors squirrels, raccoons...or maybe even rats?  I'm not sure, but when I see their handiwork in the morning, I can't help but picture them more as Beatrix Potter characters than as garden pests.  Fortunately, there are plenty of vegetables for all of us.
•   •   •
While on the topic of boundaries, I was thinking about how Illustration Friday really transcends all geographic boundaries.  I want to mention two artists and fellow bloggers, well-known to many of you, from distant points on the globe (well, distant from where I live). They're both very generous with their comments, very prolific (I'm convinced that neither one sleeps) and if you haven't visited their blogs, now's the time:

From Hokkaido, Japan: Check out DosankoDebbie's Etegami Notebook. Her artwork is so beautiful and unique. She has multiple blogs (!) and amazing talents, and I learn something from each and every post.

From Newscastle, NSW, Australia, Andrew Finnie. He creates fascinating, beautiful (and sometimes surreal) digital illustrations, and his accompanying text is just as entertaining. And recently, he has blogged about an exhibition of his paintings, which are completely different than his digital work, and are simply sublime. Oh, and he's a surfer and an optometrist in his other life.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Thank you, Kate Pitner!

Well, I'm experiencing an embarrassment of riches in the blogging world this week. The wonderful Kate Pitner has kindly asked me to participate in her "Favorite Things" feature. (You can see it here.) I love this concept: Kate profiles artists and, more to the point, the things that they have in their workspaces that inspire them, or just make them happy. It's a fun idea for a post, because we've all got those special things, and I adore seeing what other artists' workspaces look like.

Interestingly, that's how Kate and I "met" a while back. I'd been thinking about getting a little drafting board/parallel bar to plop onto my desk when needed. I happened to see just the thing in a photo of Kate's desk and sent her a quick email. She sent back the nicest email and we've been blog buddies since.

As blogs go, I have a pretty small following—but in the spirit of all the blog goodness that's come my way, I'm going to make it a point to mention my fellow artists a bit more. As Amy Ng (Pikaland) expressed in a post just last Friday:

"So if you like someone’s work, perhaps give them a shout out on your blog? Never for a moment think that what you do won’t count, because nothing can be further from the truth. All it takes is just one little step."

I hope you enjoy "My Favorite Things" over on Kate's blog. While you're there, check out some of her "Favorite Things" archive, and enjoy her wonderful artwork along the way! Thank you, Kate!

(Please note: If you read Kate's post and my interview on Pikaland  last week, you'll notice some similarities. That fault lies entirely with me: It's hard enough for me to write about myself, let alone come up with original material twice in one week, so I admit to a little self-plagiarism.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pikaland Interview!

I've followed the fabulous Pikaland art and illustration blog for some time. I always find something or someone that's inspiring, visually fresh, thought-provoking, or just plain smile-inducing. And while I don't promise to be any of those things, I was honored to have a little chat with the amazing Proprietress of Pikaland, Amy Ng. (See where leaving a comment on a blog can lead?) You can read it here, and if you're new to her site, stroll around and explore it a bit; there's so much to see and do there!

If you're visiting me for the first time from Pikaland, welcome! Feel free to click on one of my gallery page links over on the right, under the "ART" blocks.  Make yourself at home—browse around, leave a comment, and check out some very talented people on my blog list. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Eye Candy

The Sausalito Art Festival is not your run-of-the-mill street fair.  For starters, there's an admission fee—but it's worth every cent.  You stroll around on grass (not asphalt!) and sip champagne while enjoying the sea breeze and the view of the marina. Oh, and that musician in the background that sounds like a lot like Kenny Loggins? It is Kenny Loggins.  But most importantly, the caliber of the artists is exceptional.  I can visit blogs and websites all day long, but there's nothing like meeting the artists and seeing the work in person, is there?  Here are a few that impressed me with their talent, their humor, or their sheer uniqueness:

Marina Teraud - Etchings. I especially love the nature series and this one in her "ex Libris" bookplate art. Favorite piece: hard to choose, but "Nature Book" is gorgeous.

Cali Hobgood - Hand-colored black-and-white photographs. They're lovely, simple and quiet. (The gallery on her website has no thumbnails, but it's a joy to click through her beautiful work.) Favorite piece (you know me): "Booklist"

Chris Roberts-Antieau - Her website is just as whimsical as her amazing "fabric paintings".

Leif Holland and Brian McGuffey - Two Seattle artists that share a studio, but their art is completely different. Holland does these amazing botanical arrangements in deep shadow boxes (they're gorgeous in person), and McGuffey creates large paintings that combine humans and animals and evoke a sort of childhood nostalgia.

Alberto Toscano -  The sheer ingenuity of these pieces is remarkable. He uses polymer clay to somehow achieve these watercolor-like backgrounds with these tiny, detailed figures on them. The images on his blog don't do his work justice. Somebody needs to design this man a fabulous website!

Diane Komater - Wire sculptures and portraits. Amazingly beautiful seen in person.

Liz Collins - She uses maps and sheet music in her assemblages...take a closer look...

Ron Anderson - I love the paintings of his that incorporate articles of clothing.

Oh, I could go on and on: the food paintings by Cara Brown,  gorgeous pastel pieces that looks like oil paintings by Jody DePew McLeane, the visual humor of Richard Hall's photo-realistic still life paintings.

Check out the artists' websites and their calendars - maybe they'll be exhibiting at an art fair near you! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Carnival Squash, Three Ways

Prismacolor colored pencils on Strathmore Bristol Vellum

This week's topic on Illustration Friday is "Disguise", which brought to mind this drawing of a Carnival squash that I did last fall.  While I was drawing the colorful, mottled skin, I kept thinking that it looked like a camouflage pattern. I'm sure that Mother Nature had some purpose in mind when creating this botanical disguise.

This was the first of what was going to be a series: 3 views (top, side, bottom) of the same fruit or vegetable.  As I've mentioned before, I'm fascinated by the patterns and shapes found in nature. Maybe it's my background in drawing architectural plans and views, but I enjoy comparing the "plan view", and the "side elevation", etc.  I love that the cross-section of the stem of this squash (like many fruits and vegetables) is a 5-pointed star shape, and the number of sections in pumpkins or squash is almost always a multiple of five. 

Now that I've revisited this piece, I'm all jazzed to get going on the series again.  And even more so since fall is almost here: pumpkins, gourds and winter squashes—with their rich colors and their lumpy, bumpy shapes—are some of my favorite things to draw!

Note to Blogger users: Are you having issues with your blog not updating on your followers' blogrolls?  This has happened before, and then it randomly starts working again later. Is this happening to any of you? Do you know of a fix?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ten Minutes of Imperfection

My kids are right: I talk too much...even in a sketchbook. For more about my embarking on The Sketchbook Project, click here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Illustration Friday: Obsession

Prismacolor pencils on Strathmore Bristol Vellum

My obsession? That's easy: books. I love books and everything connected with them: book blogs, bookstores, used book sales, libraries...especially libraries. Aren't they still the best deal going?  When I was growing up, my mom didn't drive, but we lived a few blocks from the Emerson Branch of the Indianapolis Public Library, my favorite place in the world. The librarians had these mesmerizing pencils that had a little rubber date stamp attached to the tip so that they could initial and date the checkout card with one efficient stroke; I thought they had the best job on earth. 

I loved the quiet, the card catalogs, and that intoxicating smell...sort of musty, but sort of magical. And apparently, the addiction is genetic: When my daughter was small, as I was tucking her in one night, she opened her book and cooed, "I  love how books smell." Call me a sentimental fool, but it was one of my favorite parenting moments of all time.

As a kid, on a summer day, I'd take my library books home to the coolness of our screened-in porch where I would begin a little ritual that I still perform: I'd read the first paragraph of each book I'd checked out and one with the best paragraph would be the one I'd read first. To this day, if I pick up a book that doesn't have a great first paragraph, I rarely read any further.

The books I've drawn are my copies of favorites from that era of the visits to the Emerson library. T
op to bottom:

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

A classic, of course: the size, the story, and those illustrations. Loved 'em then, love 'em now.

Charlotte's Web
by E. B. White, illustrations by Garth Williams

Easily my favorite book of all time, and some of my favorite illustrations as well. I'm thrilled that kids still read it in school; it has stood the test of time unbelievably well. I received this copy for Christmas when I was nine. I also got a little tape recorder, and I would sit and read Charlotte's Web into it and play it back to myself...such a book geek. Audio books, circa 1966.

Magic to Burn
by Jean Fritz

I loved this book and read it over and over after doing a book report on it in fourth grade. American kids find an elf while on vacation in England, and bring him home with them. Sadly, it's out of print now, but I found this copy on eBay several years ago.

On Cherry Street
- the reader we used in first grade. We didn't have Dick, Jane and Spot, we had Tom, Betty and Flip. Another eBay purchase.

by Johanna Johnston

One of the books that we owned, and we must have read it a million times. This was our copy; I found an identical one online for my sisters birthday a few ago.

What were the books that were most important to you as a child?

NOTE: If  you're a book lover, I urge you to get your hands on a copy of Anna Quindlen's indescribably wonderful little book, How Reading Changed My will change yours.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Featured Artist: Grace

My niece, Grace, has always been very creative and artistic. Lately she has been drawing with colored pencils, so I thought that it would be fun to share her wonderful artwork here... in honor of her 10th birthday today!
She is also a devoted reader of my blog,
so if you leave her a comment below,
she'll definitely see it!

Happy Birthday, Grace!

She likes to draw people,
(that's a self-portrait on the left)

and  fruit, 
(like her Aunt Sarah does)

and some amazing animals! 

(She made the frog at clay camp this summer, and drew her cat, Daisy,
just the other night. Isn't that one great? I love the expression on Daisy's face. 
I think Grace has a future as an illustrator of children's books, don't you?)

Happy Birthday, Grace!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Illustration Friday: Perennial

Blueberries...a perennial plant, and a perennial summer favorite. After doing that detailed drawing of the Royal Burgundy beans over the weekend, I decided to just do a quick sketch of these guys. (And yes, this is another in my unplanned summer preoccupation with drawings in blues and violets.  Maybe when the warm weather subsides, it will too.)

When I was scanning my sketch, and making my thumbnail for IF, it reminded me how much I love being able to crop artwork digitally. I never draw digitally, and when I scan, I try to keep the colors as close to my original as possible, good or bad. But cropping...that's one digital tool that I could play with for hours. When I start a drawing, it's nice to know that if I don't get the placement on the page just right, that cropping gives me a second chance. Even on a sketch this simple and small, cropping it differently can really change the look. What do you you prefer one of these alternatives to the straightforward view above? Are you cropping-tool-crazy, too?



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer colors

"Royal Burgundy" beans from my garden
Prismacolor on Strathmore Bristol - Vellum

(My summer obsession with cool colors continues...)

These beauties come from equally lovely plants—deep green leaves with purple stems. And they're tender, stringless and tasty. Interestingly, their color changes to green when you cook them, which just sort of adds to their rather exotic appeal, don't you think?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Illustration Friday: Gesture

Giving flowers is a gesture of caring—whether it's romantic love, remembrance, or just an attempt to bring a little sunshine into someone's day.  Flowers from a florist can be dandy, but some of my favorites have been the handfuls of blossoms plucked from the backyard and proudly presented to me by one of my kids.

This time, I did the plucking—these delphiniums (or larkspur, a name I like better) are from a pot on my front porch. They're the July birth flower, and are symbolic of an open heart, according to the Victorians. As any fan of the Brontës or Jane Austen knows, the Victorians felt that it was improper to express strong emotions verbally, which led to the popularity of a whole coded language of flowers, also known as floriographyWhile a bellflower meant "I'm thinking of you", a yellow carnation meant "You disappoint me".
So polite, so proper.

Maybe it's the warm weather, but my last three posts have all been drawings in very cool colors—have you noticed? That's unusual for me: usually those blue and violet pencils are languishing in their jars while the warm colors (and the ever-present greens) are front and center. I also played around with a something I've seen in traditional botanical illustration - combining color with black-and-white drawing. The "plant hunters" of the Victorian era would sometimes color only part of their field drawing...just enough to accurately record the colors and get back in time for tea. So polite, so proper...sigh.

If you're into botanical illustration even the slightest little bit, you must check out this blog from the exhibit at the NY Botanical Garden before it wraps up at the end of this month. There are some really spectacular pieces!

Note to visitors from Illustration Friday: Thanks for stopping by in spite of my messed-up blurry thumbnail on the link viewer...that's what happens when I try to post late at night...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Illustration Friday: Midsummer Night

When I think of "midsummer night", I may have fleeting thoughts of Shakespeare, magic and fairies, but they are quickly replaced by the image of the "night lights" we used to keep beside our beds on those warm summer evenings. Midsummer meant staying up late to catch our jarful of lightning bugs (we Hoosiers never called them fireflies), and making our mother promise she'd set them free to fly home after we were asleep.

There was always a book or two on the nightstand with them; it was likely to have been Charlotte's Web, which  holds its own against Shakepeare just fine, in my mind. Keep your fairies and magical forests—I'll take lightning bugs and the Zuckerman barnyard any old midsummer's day.

Note: Obviously, this isn't my usual detailed drawing, and it's less than three inches in size. It started as a little thumbnail sketch for a bigger piece, but I kind of got attached to it. Somehow, a tiny, quiet drawing seemed to best capture the image in my memory.

For more about fireflies, or "lightning bugs", visit this site.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Illustration Friday: Launch

An alien spacecraft preparing to launch?

Nope, it's a passion flower, easily the most exotic plant in my yard, and certainly one of my favorites. And "launch" it does, believe me—I'm constantly hacking back the vines and ripping out new shoots that spring up all over my garden. I have two slightly different varieties in my yard, and both grow like weeds. Better than weeds. It's indestructible. You can't kill it. Hmmm, maybe it is an alien life form after all...

As one might expect from a bloom this intriguing, the passion flower, or passiflora, has quite a bit of lore and legend attached to it. Its name comes from the Passion of Christ, as Spanish missionaries saw all kinds of symbolism in it, which you can read about here . In cultures where Catholicism isn't as widespread, it is sometimes called the clock flower (although there are 10 not 12 petals) or the Maypop—its hollow fruit pops open when you squeeze it.

While fascinating to look at, it's a bit of a challenge to draw. The flower doesn't last long, and closes when the light fades. I intend to try this one again, and hope to show the beautiful vines and leaves, the different stages of the bloom, and the fruit. In the meantime, check out some of these amazing photos...rather bizarre, but so beautiful!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Illustration Friday: Shadows

Prismacolor on black paper

My entry for Illustration Friday this week is a companion piece to one that I did last February for "Reverse". These two drawings are my humble attempt at a bit of trompe-l'oeil, which often relies on the use of shadows to "fool the eye".

Drawing a paper bag, or a crumpled piece of paper, is the kind of exercise one always does in Drawing 101, but I find it fascinating—and it's great for practicing shadows and shades. And taking it a step further, drawing with white pencil on black paper forces you to think "backwards". We're so programmed to drawing on light paper and letting it showing through where the object is the lightest. (Unfortunately, the bit of black pencil that I used to deepen the paper's shadow didn't scan well against the black paper...I must fiddle around with the settings a bit more.)

School's out for the summer (does everyone my age hear Alice Cooper when we utter that phrase?), and there's something so exhilarating about the start of the season. When I was a kid, the beginning of summer meant two things: the opening of the outdoor swimming pools, and the Summer Reading Club at my neighborhood library—once a book geek, always a book geek. This year, summer means more time to draw (I'm determined to participate in every week of IF, and I'm excited to start my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project, too) but I still plan on lots of reading. I keep my latest reading list on that little widget in my sidebar, if you're interested. And if you have a good book recommendation, add it to your comment.  

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Waiting for summer

Protea "Pink Ice"
11" x 14" Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore Bristol

Our California summer is slow in arriving this year, but while I was finishing this drawing, I could pretend that I was enjoying a warm, dry African climate. This is the "other" protea that I mentioned in my last post. I continue to be fascinated by the botanical world: drawing the outer part of this flower was almost identical to drawing an artichoke or a pinecone.

Speaking of Africa, I have to tell you about my new favorite children's book, Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell. (See it over there on my sidebar?) If you're a fan of children's books, you'll know the feeling of paging through a picture book that is so wonderful that it chokes you up a bit. This book is a look at the childhood of Jane Goodall, and speaks eloquently to children about making their dreams come true. Jane Goodall has long been a hero of mine—many moons ago, I started out as a biology major in college, with visions of romping through the wild, notebook in hand, à la Jane. After a few tedious late nights in the lab, mating fruit flies, I switched to Art & Design, my other passion. (Interestingly, my son is now a field biologist, romping through the woods, notebook in hand, à la Jane.) Patrick McDonnell, best-known for his comic strip, "MUTTS", has created a masterpiece. Looking a bit like a field journal, this book treats you to his charming, sensitive illustrations enhanced by gorgeous vintage engravings behind the text, as well as some of Jane's own childhood sketches...and then there's that goosebump-inducing photo on the last page. Do yourself a favor, and get a copy of this one. Or better yet, sit down and read it with a child that you love...and get goosebumps together.

Note: I'm trying to tweak the type that I'm using for these posts. I was using a smaller type for the past couple of weeks, but it suddenly looked too small to me today. I'd appreciate any feedback as to which is more legible to you, or, being the indecisive type, I may be toggling back and forth between the two forever...UPDATE: Thanks for the feedback; I'm switching back to this larger type...for now!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Illustration Friday: Safari

 PROTEA Leucadendron, "Safari Sunset"

If you follow my blog, you know that when I see the topic on Illustration Friday each week, my first thoughts are often botanical ones.  When the word "safari" popped up for this week, I was stumped.  (Well, I did immediately think about Penelope Neal and her amazing images of African wildlife. If you're not familiar with all of her work, you owe yourself a visit to her website.)  Then, I considered animal crackers (lions, rhinos) but after a couple of  failed attempts, I ate the darn things and decided to leave cracker drawings to the wonderful Paula Pertile, and explore plants a bit more. After exhaustive research (thirty seconds on Google), I found this African plant in the protea family called...wait for it: "Safari Sunset"!

While I was out getting my caffeine fix today, I stopped in at my neighborhood flower shop. (I've been wanting to draw some protea for a while, but I usually see those big ones that have sort of fuzzy pink outer petals.)  Believe it or not, this shop had the "Safari Sunset" protea, as well as the fuzzy "Pink Ice" variety.  Such a bargain—for four dollars I brought home both, and since the shop owner said that they last quite a while, I may be drawing the other one soon...after I finish my box of animal crackers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Illustration Friday: Beginner

I've done a lot of drawing, but when it comes to drawing my chickens,
I'm a beginner

Since we got them a year ago, I've spent many hours observing "the girls", but the few sketches I've done look scattered and hodgepodge-y.  I'm not fond of drawing from photos, and chickens are constantly moving.  Sure, it's easy enough to quickly get the basic shape down on paper (basically a big fluffy triangle) but it'll inevitably end up headless or footless.  So, today, I decided to just go for it. I tossed an ear of fresh corn out onto the grass, and even though the three of them were constantly jockeying for position, I settled on just drawing May.

May deserves the honor of being Chicken Model #1.  Last week, around "May Day" appropriately enough, she decided to commemorate her first birthday by taking a celebratory toddle into our pool.  Fortunately. the other two hens squawked up a storm and I ran out to find her soggy and freezing, but afloat.  (Unlike their waterfowl cousins, chickens aren't particularly buoyant.)  She was incredibly stressed (as was I) but she's a hardy gal and, by evening, looked no worse for the wear...and quite clean.

So, hopefully, this is the first sketch in a long line of chicken drawings.  It'll be a good while before I master them, but we all have to be willing to be beginners now and then. 

If you have nothing more pressing to do, and want to read more about my chickens, I have a separate little page on them here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers' Day

What perfect timing—the little chickadees that settled into the nesting box under my porch eaves are now proud parents!  (Well, I don't know how proud they are, but I'm proud...)

I can't see the babies yet, but I can definitely hear them, and occasionally, the box starts rocking back and forth from all of the activity inside.  I know that not everyone's a bird nerd like I am, but I found some amazing photographs at showing what things probably look like in the nesting box.  Check them out here.  There's a steady flow of traffic in and out as the male brings food, and when he isn't making deliveries, he's guarding the nest nearby; he sounds the alarm every time we use the front door. (Here's my original post about this sketch of the chickadees moving into the box. )

Wishing a lovely day to all of the moms out there; I hope that you are being fed and pampered as well as my little houseguests!

More "mother bird" news:  My son (that I mentioned in the original post) has posted his first photos of the spotted owls he's studying this summer. Amazing!