Sunday, January 26, 2014

A drawing for a sunny day

Maybe it's the unseasonably warm and sunny weather we're having, but I decided to grab a coconut at the grocery store and draw it. (I like botanical subjects like nuts and things that won't wilt while I draw.)

I started to draw the exterior first, but wasn't inspired—time to crack it open! It's awfully hard to not see a face (a sloth face?) when looking at this end of a coconut:

The "mouth" of the face is the soft spot—it was a breeze to poke a hole there and drain out the coconut water. I got about 10 ounces out of this one! Then you just keep whacking it around its "equator" with the blunt edge of a butcher knife or cleaver, and it eventually cracks right open to reveal that beautiful snow-white interior.

This textured, toned paper may not have been a great idea, but once I was committed to it, I decided to keep feel of the drawing sort of rough and textural and maybe it'd work out. I'm relatively happy with the outcome, but might make another attempt on my usual white bristol.  In the meantime, I'm going to try and toast some of that coconut for a snack!

Reminder: If you're into figure drawing, feel free to visit my new blog chronicling my progress at my life-drawing meet-up. You can click here, and it'll always be over there on my right sidebar under Gallery Pages.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A sketch for a shaky day

I just sat down to start a detailed colored pencil drawing of some beautiful strawberries, and soon realized that this is one of those days when my Parkinson's decides to make itself known. I think that I must've had a little too much caffeine this morning, as I've been pretty tremor-free as of late.

Even though I'm right-handed—and my right side isn't yet affected by my PD—when my left side gets in a shaky mood, it's a real distraction. As I started to draw, that left hand got even shakier; once my left leg decided to join in the fun, I decided I'd better just get a quick sketch done and call it a day.

But to tell the truth, I'm rather happy with my little sketch—being forced to draw quickly can be a good thing now and again.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans

Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore charcoal paper, "Golden Brown"

One of my Christmas presents from my daughter was a fabulous selection of vegetable garden seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange. (If you're into gardening, you must check out their website; you can also order one of these catalogs that I just received—isn't that cover gorgeous?)

Among my seeds was this packet of Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans. That name had me intrigued right off the bat, and the photo on the front of the packet sealed the deal. So, I did a little bit of research: The markings on the beans are supposedly reminiscent of the painted shields of the Hidatsa tribe who raised corn, squash, beans, and sunflowers in the Missouri River Valley of North Dakota. I looked for an image that supported this theory, but didn't see anything strikingly similar, but I'll keep sleuthing. Shield Figure beans are described in the fascinating Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden (1987) which you can read more about here.

As for my drawing, it was lots of fun, but I'd forgotten that the charcoal paper needs a lighter touch than I gave it, I'm afraid. Here's how I set up my little "models" on my drawing table. I just stuck them on a piece of foam core with this Quake-Hold museum putty that I use all of the time when positioning the things that I'm drawing. (And yes, when you live in earthquake country, you do also use this stuff to secure valuables in case of The Big One.)

While working on this drawing, I had to get out one of my favorite picture books, the exquisite A Seed is Sleepy. Sylvia Long's amazing illustrations could keep my entertained for hours. They've also collaborated on A Butterfly is Patient, A Rock is Lively, and the stunningly beautiful, An Egg is Quiet. I simply adore these books.

Well, it's getting warmer here in the Bay Area, but we're experiencing quite a drought this winter (this is our rainy season); the plants in my yard don't know what season it is. Here's hoping that Mother Nature gets some rain on its way in time to set the scene for my seed planting!

Update: I've just realized that this week's topic on Illustration Friday is "beginning". What's more of a beginning than some seeds? (Okay, we could get into the which-came-first conundrum but we won't...)

Thursday, January 9, 2014


 •  from today's life drawing meet-up  •
graphite and charcoal on drawing paper

Monday, January 6, 2014

Native Californians

Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore Bristol vellum, 5" x 7"

On a day when much of the country is suffering sub-zero temperatures, I'm happy to be a Californian. I'm not a native Californian, however, like the beautiful Haas avocado. Fun fact: Did you know that every single Haas avocado in the world can be traced back to a single mother tree in La Habra Heights, California? (You can read about it here.)

Every time I cut an avocado open, I am amazed by the contrast between the creamy, smooth flesh inside and the dark, bumpy skin, which gives it its nickname, "alligator pear". And that beautiful pit that looks like polished wood: haven't we all taken one of those pits and balanced it on the rim of a jar with toothpicks to grow an avocado plant? If you haven't, you should! Here's how.

This was really fun to draw. I experimented with that bumpy skin as I went (I was too lazy to scan these WIP shots, they're just quick pics at my drawing table, so the lighting is very uneven.):

And then I cut it open and finished the drawing of the inside:

You may have noticed that I moved the two images a little closer in the final file at the top of the post—I never draw digitally, but I do love Photoshop for cropping and formatting like that!

On another topic, I'm working on setting up a separate blog for my drawings from the weekly Life Drawing meet-up I've been attending. (It will be linked to this one.) The drawings of nudes just seem a tad incongruous among my usual subjects, so we'll see how this works out. I'll let you know when it's up and running!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Hip-happy New Year!

Sometimes it pays off to be lazy. Because I didn't keep up with the chore of dead-heading my rose bushes, I now have an abundance of beautiful rose hips. It seems that many people today are obsessed with having gardens that are neatly manicured; leaves raked up as soon as they fall (or worse yet, blown away with a loud gas-powered blower). As for me, I like my garden a bit on the wild side. (Too many readings of The Secret Garden can lead to this particular form of botanical laziness.) I suppose that in bygone days, people had more important things to do than to trim the dead roses, or perhaps they simply knew what treasures rose hips could be! I'd heard of rosehip tea and jam, but found all sorts of interesting facts when I googled "rose hips". My favorite is that chickens seem to love them and, as they're laden with Vitamin C, they're a healthy snack for them—and guinea pigs, too! I'm going to try some out on my hen Charlotte this afternoon.

I am behind in my postings from my weekly figure drawing meet-up; most of the drawings are too big for my scanner, so it takes me a bit longer to take pics. I'll try and post some this weekend, and then I'll aim to post some each Friday after the meet-up on Thursday. I noticed that one figure drawing blog that I was viewing had a warning of explicit material. I didn't even think about that—would you think that it's necessary? Sheesh, in a world where we have to be bombarded with images of a twerking Miley Cyrus, I think we can deal with a charcoal nude drawing or two.

For the new year, I'm trying out a new banner on my blog; the old one has been up there since I started blogging. In case you've forgotten, it used to look like this:

I'm still working on some other ideas; I'm thinking I might try to create four different seasonal ones or something. I'd love to have your feedback. And, since one of my resolutions is to get back to making regular blog visits, I hope to see what you're up to soon!

Happy New Year!