Monday, January 31, 2011

Swatching, scanning and shooting

Well, so far this week, the Illustration Friday topic of "surrender" has me about ready to do just that.  So, I've decided to show you the swatches that I made for my new set of Prismacolors.

I had looked for a pre-made blank chart online, but the one offered on the Prismacolor website has the color name printed right on the little pencil shape that you're supposed to color in.  Well, that just irritated me, so I laser-printed out a simple grid on some Strathmore Bristol, and made my own chart.  The hard part was deciding which color would go where.

Before making the final chart, I made some quickie swatches, cut them all out and played with the arrangement before taping them in place. I probably spent more time on that than most normal people would, but as I've mentioned before, I find that kind of thing to be highly entertaining.  In fact, I loved it when Paula Pertile referred to her recent swatch-making marathon as a swatching bender.  Such a perfect description, as there really is something rather decadent about allowing oneself the luxury of playing like this.  As I colored each little gradient rectangle, I tried to make the blends seamless.  (You can definitely tell that I started with the greys, since I got better as I went!)

My reason for making these charts, other than to have the color reference, is to use them as a sort of baseline so that I can improve my scanning and digital photography skills.  I love being able to make digital captures of my very non-digital art, but the endless number of options and variables involved in scanning/shooting, viewing and printing an image makes my head spin.  I've been scanning most things, but my son gave me a very cool copy stand to use when photographing my work, and I'm just starting to play with it.  I'd love to hear from other colored pencil you prefer to scan or shoot?  What equipment/settings do you use?   I'm going to be scanning and shooting these charts like crazy, and comparing the results...should be fun!!

This just in...the pencil geekfest continues!  The folks over at saw my drawings on Pencil Revolution last week, and were kind enough to feature me today as this week's Monday Pencil Artist.  So nice!  Both of these sites seem eager to feature pencil artists, so feel free to contact them if you're interested.  The blog editor at even asked if I would be interested in doing a product review of their colored pencils.  I told him that I'd be very happy to - artists always like trying new toys!  So, if that comes to pass, I'll let you know what I think of them. I see more swatches in my future?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pencil Revolution!

"Alphabet" by Dalton Ghetti
You can't stop looking at it, can you? A couple of weeks ago, while googling the artist that created this marvel (more about him in a minute), I happened upon a website that is tailor-made for pencil geeks like me: Pencil Revolution.  I left a comment, and soon received an email from its editor.  He mentioned that they used to regularly feature pencil artists, but hadn't done so in a while, and asked if I would allow them to post some of my drawings! Well, I was very humbled by the request because there are so many wonderful pencil artists out there (more about them in a minute). But then, it occurred to me that this is one of the wonderfully serendipitous things about blogging: you bump into some really intriguing people as you mosey around the blogosphere.  Take Illustration Friday, for example -  I know that exchanging comments does not make me bosom buddies with another artist, but there's a kinship that starts to grow when you appreciate one another's creative efforts.

It seems that I discover another wonderful colored pencil artist every day, but there are a few whose new posts I eagerly anticipate.  One is Paula Pertile.  Her posts feel a bit like you're chatting with a friend over coffee, and she draws like a dream - I could stare at her drawings of candy (the ribbon candy, the caramels, the chocolates...) for hours.  Another is Leslie Hawes. She "travels" around the world via Google Street View and creates the loveliest drawings of  these locations.  Is that a wonderful use of technology or what?

Now, back to the fabulous Dalton Ghetti.  I've been enthralled by his work ever since I read about him in TIME for Kids one day last spring when I was substitute teaching.  He carves miniature wonders in the graphite at the tip of a pencil. Unbelievable. This is a link to his work and bio that was provided in the Pencil Revolution post. In such a hi-tech world, Dalton Ghetti's unabashedly lo-tech art just makes me happy.

So, thank you, Pencil Revolution, for "inviting me in" when I stopped by. Anyone who says that the internet is impersonal certainly hasn't been strolling through the same neighborhoods that I have visited since I started blogging a short while ago.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Illustration Friday: Dusty

I have a busy week ahead, so I'm posting my Illustration Friday drawing early.  The topic, "dusty" really didn't appeal to me at first.  But then I started thinking about "dusty" things to eat (of course) and...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Illustration Friday: Chicken!

I've been wanting to participate in Illustration Friday for a while now.  For those of you who unfamiliar with it, Illustration Friday is a website that chooses a topic every Friday, then throughout the following week, artists and illustrators of all skills levels can post a link to their interpretation of the topic.  Even though I've been checking it out for weeks, I hadn't participated.  Sometimes the topic didn't appeal to me, but to be honest, there was a little stage-fright involved.  What finally got me to take the plunge?  This week's topic is chicken.

Since my chickens are my latest obsession, (I've even added a page to my blog for those of you interested in seeing them.) I figured it's now or never!  So, thanks to my three's my first contribution to Illustration Friday.

(Big thanks to Jannie Ho at Chickengirl Design for the topic. Check out her blog here; she's incredibly talented. And she likes chickens.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Spring in January

The weather was positively spring-like in the Bay Area today.  (Apologies to those of you enjoying frostier days.)  And while I know that today was probably just a brief respite from our soggy winter, everyone I talked to seemed to be spouting some version of  "This is why we live in California."  (Of course, it's usually followed up with  "And this is why we pay obscene amounts of money to live here", but I digress...)

I was looking for a drawing that might illustrate the joy of living in California, when I ran across this artichoke sketch that I did one day last summer.  As my thoughts turned to food, I was reminded of the cookbook that my sister recently gave me, Heart of the Artichoke, and Other Kitchen Journeys by David Tanis, the chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, a restaurant that's about as quintessentially Californian as it gets.  (Actually, he's the chef at Chez Panisse for six months of the year, and lives in Paris the other half of the year....quel dommage.)  I love the cover photograph; it illustrates the elegance of art forms found in nature, which is one of my obsessions lately.  (Check out photographer Maren Caruso's website here - it's incredible.)

Heart of the Artichoke is a fabulous cookbook, but David Tanis' writing makes it much more: "Mesmerized by television shows hyping the thirty-minute meal and the blood sport of competitive cooking, we have somehow forgotten the pleasure of giving ourselves over to the true kitchen experience.  This doesn’t mean spending hours and hours in the kitchen.  It’s not more difficult cooking, but a different way of engaging with food.  What matters is the joy..."

The first 35 pages or so are devoted to fourteen of his kitchen rituals, and I'd recommend the book for that section alone.  Who among us doesn't have some food ritual akin to Tanis' particular way of making and eating oatmeal?  And I'm always a sucker for a cookbook organized by seasons.  So, in honor of today's weather, I'm boldly ignoring (for now) the "Dead-of-Winter Dinner from the Supermarket" and heading right for "Spices for a Summer Night"!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Beekman 1802 Soap revisited

As promised, I've done a little drawing of one of my Beekman 1802 goat milk soaps. It's more of an affectionate portrait than a super-realistic rendering. It's amazing to me that the soaps are molded with such a perfect version of the Beekman logo on top - achieving that level of detail couldn't have been an easy task. If you're a fan of the show as I am, you can probably imagine Brent and/or Josh insisting on it being nothing less than perfect: "Could we get a little more definition around the goat silhouette, please?" The former-graphic-designer in me can't help but comment on the logo itself. It's everything a great logo should be and truly conveys the spirit of their endeavor.

Here's how the whole box looks - gorgeous, isn't it? You can see my original drawing of the wrapped soaps here.

Well, I can't wait until Season Two begins in March. Until then I'll enjoy long baths with my Beekman soaps, and watching the Beekman goat-cam.
(No, not simultaneously.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Brown paper packages tied up with string...

One of my favorite things is starting a new year. As much as I adore Christmas, doesn't it feel good to put away all of the holiday hoopla, to open that crisp new calendar, and to have the new year sitting there just waiting to be unwrapped?

I've been wanting to draw this little package ever since I received it. Actually, I received twelve of them, nestled in a beautiful wooden box. They were a gift from my sister who knows how much I love the show "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" on the Planet Green Channel. If you're not familiar with the show or the boys,  Josh and Brent, you must check out their website. On their unbelievably gorgeous farm in upstate New York, these transplanted city boys are all about seasonal, self-sustaining living. They grow gorgeous heirloom vegetables, but my favorite things are their goats. Last season's show included scenes of Brent wrapping up their handmade goat milk soaps late into the night. Now I have my very own soaps, and they're truly luxurious.  They sell a lot of other great products at Beekman 1802, and a recent visit to their website shows the soaps wrapped a little differently; so perhaps I have one of the last hand-wrapped boxes. (Update: Hooray -  they're still hand-wrapped this way - see the comment below from Brent and Josh.)

I know that this was a strange subject to choose as the first thing to draw with my new colored pencils - I probably should have chosen something a little more, well, colorful. As I finished, it, I feared that I might have overworked the brown paper a bit (I was a little overwhelmed with so many colors to choose from!), so I took a second stab with more of a monochromatic drawing. (As I have been doing mostly botanical subjects lately, this subject was a departure for me, and I now know that I need lots of practice at drawing crinkled paper.)

I hope to have time in the next couple of days to draw it untied and opened up...the soaps are simply little bars of heaven. Until then, here's to the adventure of unwrapping a brand-new year!