Ever a story... waiting to be told

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On Tap

EspressoSelf just hit the taps in local bars and restaurants. I haven't been out to get a picture of the handle on site, though.
At least I now know what a tap handle is.... and I'm quickly learning about how craft beers are made, and how they are distributed. The whole process of marketing a product like this is exciting to me. 
11 x 14 Illustration for a 4" tap handle!
For my own small part, the art director describes the beer to me, and sometimes give me a general vision of the illustration. For EspressoSelf, he didn't have any particular vision in mind, except that the beer was made with Deeper Roots brand coffee, and maybe we could bring out the rooty concept. He also sent the specs on the shape of the label, and the placement of the MadTree ID. But that was it. I was free to draw whatever I envisioned, and you know how I love drawing twisty, rooty stuff! 

The next tap handle was a quick turnaround, so I learned what it was like to work to a deadline. The A.D. told me pretty much exactly what to draw, so I just had to put my own style into the concept. As soon as I sent the illustration, it got approved, and the beer went out to the local bars and restaurants right away! 

I didn't even know it was out, until I checked beermenu.com, and saw it listed there!

It's fun to see your work in public places like that. Nobody really notices it, or thinks that it's somebody's artwork, though. Except for me!
The other day, we were shopping at The Party Source, and I was wandering up and down the wine and beer aisles, looking carefully at all the artwork on the labels. An employee came over and started explaining to me where all the different types of wine were, and reassuring me that if I didn't find the one I was looking for, they surely had it somewhere. I let him go on and on with his explanation and thanked him... But I didn't have the heart to tell them that it wasn't really a beer and wine store to me... it was more like an art gallery!

Thursday, September 24, 2015


11 x 14 Graphite Study
Katherine Thomas
The drum is called a Djembe. It comes from Mali, and the word means, 'Gather together in peace'.

This is from one of the many things I saw at the Renaissance Festival earlier this month. 
I love the flowing folds of fabric and the fine detail of the jewelry and drum... the contrast in texture between the man and the tree... the large areas of light and dark... I want to render all of that, but in a way that is perfectly balanced to create an overall serenity and simplicity. 
I changed the image a bit, making the tree and the man both on the same ground, and I added several more folds to his kilt. I wanted the drum to be more authentic, so I changed the hardware into ropes. I researched jewelry from Mali, and changed his bracelets to reflect the same culture as the origin of the drum. I wasn't sure about the hair, so I made loose dreadlocks... I don't know if that style is reflective of the culture in Mali, but it was fun to draw! 
The next step will be to enlarge the graphite drawing, transfer it to Fabriano paper, and do the whole piece in colored pencil. As I prepare to do that... I'm still deciding whether or not to attempt the plaid pattern... 
Should I? 
Could be disastrous....
Aw, heck! I've nothing to risk but time and paper, right?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

New Work!

Side Street
13 x 19 Colored Pencil
*The two questions I get asked most frequently are:
1) Did you draw that?
2) Where do you find your ideas?

The answer to the first one is easy.
The answer to the second one is easy too.
I don't find my ideas... they find me.

I don't have the courage or desire to offer a workshop, but if I ever did want to teach a workshop, I would teach something about using the imagination.
As an introduction, I would say that the secret to developing your imagination is to just listen to your own thoughts. Give them free reign, and let the images and ideas in your mind do what they will, in their own time.
*Letting new ideas IN.
Our first activity would be to go somewhere and practice seeing.
Everywhere you go, and everything you do, always be aware of those things that seem to stir the artist within you. It might be a shaft of morning sunlight across the kitchen table, or the expression in the store clerk's eyes, or the twisted branch of a tree, alongside the road. Instead of instantly snapping a photo and moving on... take a moment to register exactly WHY that vision drew your attention.  Make a mental note about it.
For example: last year, when I visited San Francisco, I rode on a double-decker tour bus. From that height, I could easily see all the ornate detail in the trim in those famous victorian homes, as well as the buildings throughout the city. I mentally described the things that I really liked, and imagined myself drawing them, right there where they stood. In a way, I forced myself to be a human camera, by capturing the image into my memory. Later, on the plane back home, I drew my own little buildings, just doodling around. The buildings that I drew had some of the details from what I'd seen that day, but they also showed details from all kinds of other buildings in other places. You could say that I 'made them up', but you could also say that I was drawing from memory - freely letting my mind put together whatever images it desired, out of all the stored images in my memory.
I believe that we have all kinds of things stored in our brains that we aren't consciously aware of. When we're able to let the doors inside our mind open, all those memories, thoughts, images and feelings will come together in all sorts of different ways.
(By the way, I DO take lots of pictures with the real camera, too, but those are only useful if you know why you felt compelled to capture those images.)
*Letting ideas OUT.
Another workshop activity would involve some small-scale drawing exercises.
Start by mapping out the big lines and forms of the composition. Any sort of basic composition will work. For example: This piece started out with a big "S" in the middle (Hogarth's S?) and a couple of straight lines at the thirds. 
Then you start to draw the things that come to mind, following the design you set down. 
(In this piece, the "S" turned into a bird-like thing, so I went with it! The buildings developed along the straight lines.) 
*I'm sure there would have to be a few other meaningful activities in this imaginary workshop of mine,  but to conclude the day, I would simply say that one's imagination is really just a culmination of all the images, thoughts, and feelings in one's memories.

Using your imagination requires a willingness to let those memories process in their own way, and in their own time, and then to pay heed to whatever develops and express it on paper. And it gets easier and easier, the more you do it!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

DIY Frame Rack for the Gallery

The Problem: Not that I'm accumulating works faster than I'm selling them... (ahem)... but, I have too many framed prints to fit them all on my gallery wall. 
The Inspiration:  Taking the idea from a homemade PVC rack in our pool shed, where we store the swim rafts... I set my husband to the task of designing something similar for my picture frames.
The Plan: 
The Product:
The Finish:
For the finishing touch, it was my turn. I cut long strips of quilted fabric, 6 1/2" wide, and folded them in half, then ran them through the sewing machine to make sleeves. (Turning them right side out was the hardest part of the whole project, FYI) Around the base, I had to sew the strip together by hand, right on to the pipe, working around the joints. 
The Results:
I've used it once at the gallery so far, and it worked well! A few people flipped through the framed pieces, like they would a print rack. But many people carefully lifted out the piece they wanted to see and held it up to view more closely. It was very convenient!

I hope you're having a nice Back-To-School season... keeping just busy enough to still have time to enjoy the crisp September weather! 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bird Brain

WIP  13 x 19 Colored Pencil
As you can see, I'm still struggling with the same old problems... not enough large areas of value contrast... but I think I can darken the buildings and the street a bit more, after I finish the bird.
She is still in the early stages, there will be more layers of color added to her jacket for depth, and I haven't detailed the ribbon at all, just roughed it in there. 
I tried a little trick on the bird's feathers... and I'm not sure if I like it, but I'm going to keep experimenting with this: I used a razor blade to scratch across each feather several times, to create some appearance of the little fibers and veins. 

This is the rough draft for the bird's attire. That's my own jean jacket she's wearing. I set up a few models to get my references for the folds of the fabric and the drape of the pearls. 

My biggest concern now, is what to do with the sky when all is said and done. I see vertical streaks in it, which I don't like, but going back over it with more color might destroy the gradient, which I really like... Such a dilemma, huh?
... I'll figure it out...


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Let's Face It

Blog friends, I owe you all a big apology for not visiting blogs lately... I always enjoy your posts and seeing what's happening with each of you. It seems I've been spending most of my computer time on Facebook these days, instead, so I'm hoping you'll all come join me there! I have my personal page there, and also an art page.
As for the new colored pencil piece, the background buildings are finished, except for some shading and tweaking that will come later, after I see how the bird turns out.
I'm taking a step back now... to decide what I want to do with the birds clothing and plumage, etc.
The little moleskine draft was only 6 x 8... and now that I've enlarged the piece to 13 x 19, I'm going to need to embellish and add more fine details.
I took some very... what's the word?... WEIRD reference photos to help me see some different ideas that I might want to draw. Then I traced my bird onto another paper to do some experimenting before I come back to do the final version.
In other news, my piece "Out Of Season" was accepted to the 2015 edition of the book, Strokes of Genius 8. This year's edition is called Expressive Textures. This was one of my dreams for a long time, to have a piece in this book series... but I'm a little bit  intimidated by the other works that will be in the book, and just hope my drawing doesn't seem out of it's league there! 

Also "Detention" will be part of the Viewpoint 47 Juried Exhibition through the Cincinnati Art Club. It's at the Eisele Gallery, downtown, Oct. 3-31. Another exciting thing... and again, the nagging worry that they must have made a mistake, and my piece is not going to fit in after all... But I suppose everybody feels that way! 
I hope you're summer is winding down on a pleasant note, and you're looking forward to fall, as I am. Come find me on Facebook, and I hope to catch up with all of you! 

Sunday, August 16, 2015


11x14 Graphite "Adventurers"
I'm sending this drawing to my college roommate for her birthday. It's from two different reference photos that were on her Facebook page. (You might recognize the little boy from my colored pencil drawing "Tall Tails").  
Doing this as a gift, pure and simple, helped me to remember why I love to draw in the first place, and helped me get past a little stumbling block I've been experiencing this summer. The last two 'masterpieces' that I attempted, in graphite, did not turn out the way I had envisioned, and I ended up tossing both of them. Two in a row! I feel like I learned a lot from those mistakes I made, but it shook my confidence an awful lot, and I started to think I'd lost my touch with my artwork. 
To make matters worse, I was asked to do another beer label (third one!) and the subject matter didn't inspire me at all. I drew my interpretation of what they asked for, and tried my best to put my own style into it, but I just wasn't happy with the results. There was a tight time frame for this one, so I sent it off to the art director with a lot of apologies and offers to draw something else instead... but he told me to just wait and see what the client thought. A few days later I got this message, "They loved it! Tag it, bag it, and bill it." Which I promptly did. (whew)
"Strollin'" 6 x 8 graphite in moleskine journal
Back to the question of what to draw next... I started to look through my little moleskine journal, and decided to turn one of those little flights of fancy into a full-fledged colored pencil piece. The little drawings in that journal are reflections of myself, drawn with no particular purpose, just letting it flow. I chose one that I had drawn on the airplane last year. 
I'm focusing on creating a sense of atmosphere, and tonality in the background, so that the bird in the foreground will really pop out. Note the shadows on the bricks and cobblestones... I'm going to intensify those even more as the piece progresses. 
I'm also toying with the idea of adding more adornments to her costume. We'll see! 

PS- In other news... the story I'm working on, about Roland the magic stone... is coming along pretty well. I have a routine now: I write the story longhand in my notebook, and then type it and print it. The next day I read and edit the printed pages, and write the next part in the notebook. It's working well!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Story Continues...

12 x 10 Illustration for Franni and the Little Red Fox

Remember when I illustrated the children's story for author Artie Knapp? He has been busy submitting the story to several different publications! The story, with my illustrations, is now in the August issue of California Kids magazine (on page 19). It also appeared in the Wilmington, Ohio newspaper, and several children's websites throughout the world. And he is still submitting to more places! It's so exciting for me, to have my artwork reaching people from all over  the world! 
11 x 14 Illustration for Franni and the Little Red Fox
Places to see the story. My favorite is the first link below, because they made my drawings into jigsaw puzzles! I've been playing them myself!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Glaringly Apparent

11x14 WIP Graphite and Charcoal
My first purely charcoal background:
1. I masked off the subject with frisket film.
2. I applied several layers of soft charcoal pencil and blended with the soft side of a paper towel, folded into a point, like a paper airplane.
3. I sprayed two light coats of workable fixative. Then removed the frisket film.

It looked beautiful!

But... then I began to draw the tree with graphite pencils, and the frustration began. This time it wasn't my dark background that had a shine problem, it was the subject!
I've used all the tricks I know of to keep from getting too much sheen to the graphite... I used a very light touch. I stroked the pencil directionally, instead of scrubbing side to side with it, to avoid burnishing. I used lighter pencils, mostly H's and B or 2B.
But it still appears to reflect the light MUCH more strongly than it would if I had drawn on a plain white background.
Why IS that?
Why does a surface get more reflective when it's surrounded by a surface that is very absorptive? Does it really reflect MORE light back at you, or do our own eyes and brain just think it does?
I'm going to finish the drawing, and then spray matte fixative, in hopes of reducing the shine. We'll consider this another valuable learning experience!
In other news, I had a wonderful night at the gallery this weekend. I displayed the original illustration that I drew for MadTree Brewery's new beer, Joon.  I put the advertisement sign and a bottle of the beer on a little stool in front of the drawing. I also held a Giveaway raffle for a free bottle of Joon beer ($12 value).  The raffle was very popular, and I got several new email addresses for my mailing list!
"Juniper" 12 x 16 Graphite Illustration for MadTree Brewery
I also enjoyed many great conversations with visitors, about the Joon project and also about several other drawings on my wall. It's always interesting to me how people react to my work. It seems that the Joon illustration pulled them in, and carried their interest over to some of the other pieces, that they might not have otherwise noticed. I will remember that!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Let's Talk Shop

Practice Study - Carbon Pencil
I'm writing this post from a hotel room in Boulder, Colorado, as I wait for the third day of the JD Hilberry workshop to begin. 
I don't take many workshops anymore, unless there is something that I really want to learn more about, and this is the place to come when you want to learn about effective graphite techniques!
We've been working with charcoal, carbon and graphite pencils, and learning how they interact with each other. I've picked up so many good strategies for layering and blending that produce incredible effects. 
There was no required supply list for this workshop... instead each student is given a kit with all the necessary tools, and the kit is yours to keep!
I'm not going to try to summarize everything that was discussed, because I wouldn't do it justice...  but the overall impact is that I've developed a much greater awareness of how the pigment and tools interact with the tooth of the paper, and how the different components in the charcoal, carbon, and graphite pencils will respond to each other. There is a best time and place for each pencil to be used most effectively. 
Practice Study - Graphite with a touch of Charcoal
Today will be the last day, and we will start on a full portrait together, which probably won't get finished in class time. But working on it back home will be a good way to bring those workshop techniques into my own studio and make them part of my repertoire. I'll fly back home tonight, with all my new tools and a signed print by JD Hilberry for inspiration!

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

On The Shelf

My own character, whom I've named Roland*

What's on the shelf? My beer! Kind of exciting to see your drawing, in multiples, on the shelf at the local supermarket!
I've only bought 12 bottles so far, and proud of my restraint in not buying more. No, I didn't drink them all... I gave them to everybody at the family reunion last weekend. I kept one bottle in my studio as a memento.

The only drawing I can show you today are the two unfinished character studies that I've been doing in my field book.  I'm trying to make up my own little character to go with my magic stone story. This little guy has morphed from a stone, so he must look smooth and rounded. I'm going to draw him in different poses and different outfits, to try and get to know him. I wish I had the money to get a clay model made of him,  it would make it a lot easier to draw him consistently. 

Roland 2*
*The boy who finds the magic stone is trying to think of a name for the little character. He goes through all kinds of possibilities, but none of them sound right. Then he tells the little character that sometimes people and pets are named for something they look like, or something they do... and he asks the little stone what he can do? 
"Well......", the stone frowned and thought hard for a long time,  "I can roll...... and........and......"
He stopped and thought some more, but then he looked up sadly, "That's all... I can just roll... and...."
So the boy names him Roll-and....... Roland!

Anyway... I hope you've had a good week, and are enjoying your summer!