Ever a story... waiting to be told

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*
Two things are "on the shelf" this week....
1. 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.

2. The other thing that's on the shelf, is my woman-in-the-forest drawing. I had finished  the graphite study, and was just getting started on the colored pencil version, when I received a new project for another beer label! It's another really great concept, and perfectly suited to the kind of things I love to draw. No, I can't tell you the details yet, or show you... not until it's officially announced by the brewery. 

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!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Beer Here!

Finally! The secret is out! And I can share the story of Joon!
The creative director who handles the designs for Mad Tree Brewery contacted me about drawing one of my tree women for a new beer they were creating. The beer is specially flavored with juniper berries, and will be bottled in mini wine bottles. They wanted the label to have a sophisticated, delicate feel, portraying a sweeping juniper tree, but on closer inspection, one realizes that it is a woman, facing into the wind, embracing the summer night.  He and the people at Mad Tree had been looking at the work of local illustrators, and they felt that my style would fit well with what they envisioned for this label. 
I loved the description of what they had in mind, and knew exactly what I was going to draw.
The creative director designed the final label, with text describing the beer, and also a very nice quote by e.b. White. It was all perfectly suited to the drawing, and perfectly suited to the beer itself.
*I went to the MadTree taproom today, for the release, and it was really exciting! I saw the label with my drawing on the tap handle behind the bar, and I saw people buying and carrying around the Joon bottles with my drawing on them. I heard lots of good comments about the beer, and people seemed eager to buy more. I thought it tasted pretty good, myself! I got to shake hands with a couple of the owners, and share their big day with them.
 Back home with my carton of beer bottles, I'm grateful to have been a part of creating something like this! 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Darkness and Light

WIP - I want to extend more rooty things on the right....
This is intended to be just the preliminary graphite study for a colored pencil piece, but there is a possibility that it could stand alone as a graphite piece. Having established the composition and the large areas of value contrast, I'm really honing in on the finer details. 
I'm trying to create a strong sense of depth, between foreground, middle ground, and background. This would be a lot easier if I were working in color, but sometimes I think we use color as a crutch. For example, we can change colors to make the background recede, or to delineate between two objects of the same value that are side by side. When you work with graphite, you have to use contrasting values and textures to achieve those things, which is challenging, to say the least! 
I have a lot to learn about graphite techniques... but my own experimentation has helped me come up with some good effects. 
To help the roots look rounded, I first drew and shaded all the textures. Then I used the kneaded eraser in the places that I wanted to come forward. I shaped it into a large, somewhat flat, blob, and pressed it onto the paper, so it would lift the pigment uniformly in that area. The texture I created would still be there, but it would be lighter. 
When I really wanted to create a bright spot of highlight, I used the electric eraser to dab the spot, then lightly blended it in with a 4H pencil.  
I also used the electric eraser and eraser shield to clean up edges: erasing them clean, and then filling them in lightly. 
For more subtly differences in value, or for thin lines, I use the Tuff Stick, cut at an angle. 
I'm hoping to learn a few more tricks, though... so I registered for a 3-day graphite workshop this summer. I'm really excited, and I'll be sure to post all about it!
Hope your summer is going well, and that your 4th of July is spent with family and people you care most about. :)

Friday, June 19, 2015

That's What Neighbors Are For

This is about 15 inches of the large graphite study I'm working on for a possible colored pencil drawing. It illustrates the beginning of the the story I'm writing, about the magic stones.  I figure that, even if the story never gets finished,  I can use the drawing for my portfolio.
Besides the challenge of making up a story,  there is also the fun of making up new characters. And for this woman, who must be very mystical and fairytale-esque, I needed some help! 
First I visited a very cool place called Costume Castle, and had a great time browsing through all the outfits and props. Oh my! You could create a million different characters with the stuff they had! I rented a cloak and long gown, then bribed my neighbor girl to come over and be the model for me. She was a good sport, and agreed to help. (She tried to refuse the Target gift card I gave her, but I insisted) 
Posing a model, though, is not as easy as I thought! Thank goodness for digital cameras! The first several shots looked very awkward... but after a while, we both relaxed a little bit. I told her the story, and who she was portraying, and she started to get into the character more and more as we worked. I also took shots of her posing for future scenes in the story.  (Good thinking, eh? Saved myself another trip to the costume shop and another Target gift card).
So now, I'm building the magical forest around the woman, working my way out from the center. I don't really know how big the finished piece is going to be. It depends on what kind of trees and foliage evolve! I'm using reference photos that I took in Muir Woods last year, but not using any one particular tree, just interesting branches and roots from several photos. 
I hope you're all having a good weekend, amid all the severe weather, and frightening events going on across the country this week... sending my best wishes to everyone.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

What A Character

Franni And The Little Red Fox -Illus.3
“Once you are real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.” 
Margery Williams (Velveteen Rabbit)

The best part about illustrating a story is that you get to create something or someone that never before existed. You're not just looking at a subject and rendering your own version of it, you're bolding going where no man has gone before... 
Wait.... let's not get carried away!
I've learned so much about how facial expressions change to convey different emotions, and how the tilt of an eyebrow, or the shadow near a mouth, can completely alter the character's mood. 
I've also learned a little about how to subtly make animal faces look more human. I did some reading about the way concept art is developed, and learned that most animal characters have human eyes, because we relate to the characters better if they resemble ourselves just a bit. 
Franni And The Little Red Fox - Illus.1
Speaking of resembling ourselves.... my bathroom mirror was my best reference for these three drawings! I can't even count how many times I stood there making faces at myself, and watching how the forms of the face changed with each expression. Luckily, my characters didn't turn out looking like scowly old ladies! 
Franni And The Little Red Fox - Illus. 2
The story is written by Artie Knapp, and will appear soon in various children's publications. I'll let you know when and where as soon as I find out!

As I'm waiting for both my illustration projects to be released (sigh)... I'm starting to work on developing a brand new character of my own. It's evolving gradually into a 'real' person, with a distinct personality and with consistent body and facial features, as I sketch him in various poses. 
HOWEVER... not to be type-cast in the art world... I am also working on a very realistic drawing of, you guessed it, some tree roots. 
Hopefully, I'll have something new to post in a week or so! 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Long Story Short

Colored Pencil Illustration
This is the main character of the story that I'm illustrating for a local author (I have to find out whether this is a hush-hush project, or if I'm allowed to say his name and tell about the story). 
This is my second draft of a little red fox for this project. The first one didn't pass inspection, as it didn't embody what the client had envisioned. 
That's to be expected though. If I were an author, I think I'd have a hard time letting somebody else illustrate MY vision. So I try to be sensitive to that. I expect to go through a few revisions with every project. I'm learning, though, that the more questions I ask, the better chance I have of hitting the mark on the first try. 
I've quickly discovered that commercial illustration is basically the same process as what I've done these past few years with the house portrait commissions. The biggest change, though, is that the client doesn't send photos of the subject that they want me to draw. Instead, I'm given a written or verbal description of what they have in mind.  
Graphite Draft for Illustration
I always do a complete graphite drawing, before I do the drawing again in colored pencil. 
These hippos are the comic relief in the story. At the moment they are tumbling around, worrying about a terrible creature that swoops down from above to snatch some unsuspecting animal, and carries them off to who-knows-where and does who-knows-what to them. 
The little fox is clinging to the giraffe's neck, looking up in fear.

The story will appear in a children's magazine and maybe some educational publications, so the author didn't want any background above or below the animals. I like the effect, on the plain white paper... but it's a bit stressful, trying not to get any smudges on that pristine white... I've been laying a piece of thin plexiglass over it as I work, and only exposing the few inches that I'm working on at the moment. 

I've had an update on the other illustration project that I did, for the product label: They sent me an image of what the final label will look like (I LOVE it), and it should be on store and bar shelves by the end of the month, at which time I can finally write a post about it!