Thursday, March 26, 2015

Papayas & Pencils

Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge paper

It takes a lot of pencils to draw a papaya—
and these were just for the outside.

As you know, I love comparing the exterior of a fruit or vegetable to its interior, which is often wildly different. Looking at its humble yellow skin, you'd never know it is concealing a cache of beautiful, black caviar-like seeds.

 Apologies for the quality of these last WIP shots...I took them at my desk with my phone instead of scanning.

This next one is a great example of the "ugly phase" that a lot of my drawings seem to go through—where I'm just about to toss the whole darn thing in the trash. Then, somehow, things finally start to come together. Whew.

Monday, March 23, 2015

So many variables

Prismacolor colored pencil on Canson Mi-Teintes paper
8" x 10"

Even those of us who draw "unplugged" spend a good deal of time working with digital tools to get our images out into the world. But making sure that what you see is as close as possible to what I drew involves navigating the image through a labyrinth of variables. Scanners, printers, and monitors all have their own settings, while papers come with ICC profiles; it can be a bit daunting to say the least. I've spent enough time experimenting with my scanner, printer, and different papers to be able to get fairly accurate results on a regular basis. But if I had to walk into someone else's studio and use their equipment, I'd be back at square one. And I don't want to spend hours and hours with tutorials and manuals—I want to draw stuff.

This abalone shell drawing was a great example of how frustrating this process can sometimes be. The two WIP drawings below, and the final drawing above, were scanned on my scanner at the exact same settings. I guess the colored paper is a challenge for my Epson V600 scanner; the majority of my work is on a white background which plays well with others. As you can see, I sometimes slide a little CMYK swatch in on the side; it helps to give me a baseline of sorts.

I thought it'd be interesting to print the 3 drawings out and lay them next to the drawing itself—of course, more variables enter the picture here with the printer getting involved. Now, as you're looking at the resulting photo at the top of this post, you're at the mercy of, yes, even more variables: my camera, your monitor, the color of the daylight.  But, amazingly, I found that the final printed scan isn't too far off from the final drawing. Why? I haven't the faintest.

At this point, I could tweak the image digitally and fix some things that jump out at me now that it's on the screen, but if I make any changes, it's always back on the original drawing. With an eraser and a pencil. Real ones, with very few variables.

And then it'll be time to scan it again.

A note about the subject
I once had a neighbor that enjoyed abalone diving off the coast here in Northern California, and we enjoyed eating the fruits of his labor and saving these beautiful shells. Abalone is delicious, sort of a cross between scallops and lobster. The "mother-of-pearl" iridescence was the real challenge here; I have much to learn about rendering that texture. How apropos that the paper color is called "Pearl"!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Blueberries for the first day of Spring

Prismacolor colored pencils on Stonehenge paper
approx. 6" x 8"

Blueberries rarely come in the wonderful old-fashioned balsa baskets any more. Occasionally I'll see them at a farmer's market, but the one that "modeled" with my blueberries here is part of a stack of them I bought at an estate sale.

Even on a simple drawing like this one, if the perspective of the container is off, the whole thing is a mess, so I worked on this sketch for a while until it looks right to me.

Here's how things started out:

I always love the look of  a drawing when just a few parts are completed. I think that's why I decided, right about this time, to keep the front face of the basket as the white of the paper.

When I'm not sure where I'm headed, I'll scan what I have and
play around by hand or in Photoshop to explore my options.

And there you have it...blueberries on the first day of Spring!

(If you're interested, I've got more blueberry drawings here.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fungi Friday

Portobello Mushroom
approx. 8" x 10"
Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge Kraft 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The simple joy of dyeing eggs

6" x 6" on 8" x 8" paper
watercolor and water-soluble printer's ink on Arches 88 paper
click to enlarge

Chicks and rabbits, daffodils and tulips, jelly beans and marshmallow peeps—I adore Easter-y things. But my favorite Easter tradition of all is dyeing eggs. Over the years, our family has experimented with just about every known way to color and decorate eggs. Store-bought kits, natural dyes, tie-dyeing, markers...I even bought this kit ages ago but was never quite industrious enough to tackle those detailed Ukrainian designs.

I may feel brave and try it out this year, but really and truly, the method I love best is the classic: Drop that little Paas color tablet into a cup of water (not those fizzy tablets, I like the ones that require hot water and vinegar) or better yet, get out the food coloring and mix up some colors of your own. I always have either the malted milk "robin's eggs" or Cadbury caramel eggs close at hand. Dyeing eggs requires sustenance.

With this little linocut image, I was trying to convey the simple joy of taking that plain egg and choosing which color to use first. I was going to cut separate blocks for the dye cups, but decided to paint them in with watercolor before pulling the print. That way, I could play with different colors, etc. (I use water-soluble printer's ink, so I couldn't do the watercolor after the printing.) I'm still learning about printing and watercolors, so there was a lot of experimentation!

Here's the uncolored print:

and here's one printed on Stonehenge Kraft and hand-colored with colored pencils:

Finally, I scanned one and made smaller digital prints for some cards. 
I just love my printer (Epson Artisan 1430), it's hard to tell the digital prints from the hand-pulled ones!