Archive for the ‘expressive drawing’ Category

ask for help

Another Daily Art practice piece with a vintage photo as a focal point. The reason I went to a photo again is because I am (again) rearranging and sorting materials and tools in my studio. In my Daily practice I’ve gotten to the point where I simply reach in and pull out something to use.

When I was sorting through shelves of old journals and books I could alter, I ran across some Canson Manga kits. I don’t know if they are still available. They are a beginner set for artists trying the comic book style. There are paper stencils to prepare layouts and one stencil is a “thought bubble” or narrative block. I liked them back in the day to create easy quick grids. They were buried in the journal shelves and I was glad to run across them. This week’s art seems to be a “Hey friend, so glad to see you!” week.

The photo is an odd size and in the portrait orientation. I put it up in the left hand corner and liked the way it went 3/4’s onto the page. But the bottom right was just filler and there wasn’t a lot of room to do any text, which isn’t necessary but the picture warranted something. So I cut the bottom right off and decided to grid it out. Gridding it seemed to help the story. Frame 1, guy on ledge watching Frame 2, guy trying to climb to ledge. Frame 3, rest the eye, Frame 4, narration. I had a piece of brittle aged brown drawing paper laying on top of the work island so I used the Canson stencil to cut out the window frame. The frame breaks up a bunch of non-narrative space and helps the viewer grasp the story. At least I hope so.

In recovery we learn to ask for help, and also learn to be willing to receive it, the way it comes. The guy that’s climbing isn’t asking for help and the guy on the ledge isn’t offering any. Maybe in the next second something happened, but right now I’m looking at what IS preserved and it seemed a good time to remind myself to Ask for Help. I don’t need help right now, but one day when I’m looking back on my Daily practice papers I might and this will remind me.

The wash is walnut ink, the rubber stamp text is StazOn Saddle Brown. The handwriting is Sepia Pitt Pen. As I did yesterday, I doodled a bit outside the photo to extend lines. I added some flowers because they got cut off by the frame.

In the second frame running down the center you might be able to see a stitch line. A few years ago I got froggy and took a bunch of old photos out and stitched them together on the sewing machine. I used them to make fabric/paper hanging collages and some were left over when I got bored doing that. Old photos can be very fragile. They were often glued to scrapbooks and then get taken out and the force of removing them weakens the paper. As I was gelling this photo to the foundation paper, the bottom tore off. No big deal, just wanted to mention that they can get very delicate.

Talk to you tomorrow, I reckon.

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good dog

I’ve been eyeballing this vintage picture for a few weeks because it’s been on top of a stack of pictures that keeps falling over. Or the cats are knocking them over which is more likely. It was going into my Daily Art practice sooner or later so I made it sooner.

One thing you should know about me, and will most likely admire, is that I am a SUCKER for old photos. Any old photos. Half developed, half out of focus, any kind of half-assed, really. Good ones hardly interest me any more then mediocre or damn bad ones do. It’s perverse, but secretly you know you feel the same as me. I mean, have you ever seen one of those old black and white pictures where there is literally NOTHING but a horizon? Like, you know it’s happened to you, too. There was some kind of awesome cloud or an amazing bird formation and absolutely nothing shows on the shot. Back in the day, some old duffer sees 86 birds way up there, spelling the word Geritol or something (it is 1950, after all). He’s all excited and can barely get the manual focus right and snaps that award winner, thinking, “that’ll show ole’ Howard back home.” Then the roll gets developed and the disappointment settles in. Where are the Geritol birds? And his wife Milly screams, “Wilford, what were you THINKING??” And Wil wonders as well. Photography can be a cruel, cruel game.

There is hardly a homeless photo in Pinellas County. Well, there might be now but not in my heyday. Boxes, people. I have adopted countless ancestors, it’s a wonder that I don’t have a bunch of haints up in here. But I don’t, because the departed are happy to be wanted.

Actually, if I might wax philosophical here, and I might, because if a tree falls in the forest does it make a noise? It’s like that here on the blog almost always except for a few stalwart readers, long-time friends and relatives that trip over and think, what fresh hell today? Anyway, looking at unknown ancestors and doing your own ancestry history can bring up many emotional and intellectual issues. My sister sprang for Ancestry.com a couple years ago and we got into researching our family history like nobody’s business.  It was just interesting. I have a relative on my paternal grandmother’s side by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte. I am not kidding. What kind of parents name their kid Napoleon Bonaparte? Well, the kind that I am related to. It explains a lot.

As a photographer myself and as a curious person, I wonder what provoked them to shoot the picture. Or to shoot it the way they did. Like sometimes, when the husband puts the wife in front of the pink flowering dogwood. Which does he want to shoot? Is he a proud arborist or devoted husband? Can he be both? I suppose, but that isn’t as interesting. Everyone ASSUMES he is shooting the wife. After she dies, the grandbaby, dandling on PaPa’s knee, thumbing through the scrapbook. Kiddie, “Ooohh, pwitty!” Thought bubble over PaPa’s head, “Yes, it was a fine pink dogwood…” I mean, really.

Anyway, I can think and talk about this for a long time and I almost have today. I started with the picture. I set it on the paper foundation in the spot it is now. I almost never center anything on a page. I use the Rule of Thirds which I have discussed on this blog elsewhere. The dog is small in the photo, it was shot wonky and tilted. It is odd which is likely why I’ve been attached to it. All those different planes intersecting at obtuse angles. Hmm. One of my favorite art practices is to draw a continuation of something on a page. Like in this case, extending the photo out with drawing. Sometimes I do it with a pattern (like a floral), and extend it beyond the border. I like the “realism” plus the “handmarked imagined”. It’s a fun way to take something you didn’t do, and make it your own art. It’s more than just putting the picture on the page.

I used Neocolor watercolor crayons to draw out my added content. The bottom was empty, so I added a strip of old text. Then I took a piece of drywall tape and rubbed PanPastels over the surface. The tape is pretty deep so it tore up the foam applicator but it had been used and those things don’t last forever. I liked the scale of the squares so I continued the stenciling further than I planned at first.

It needed text and I wasn’t sure what to add. I considered a short quote about dogs but it didn’t interest me. There wasn’t a lot of room, either. I tried thinking about dog names from the 30’s but hell, I ain’t that old. Spike. Lad. Spot. Fido. If this dog was any of those, it was Lad but I can’t even. Lad. A Dog. Now you do know how old I am.

I decided not to name the dog. Nobody calls their dog by their name, anyway.  You know you don’t. Sometimes they are just Dog, or Puppy. Around here, the animals get called “Mr.” or “Missy” or “Oh No You Didn’t” or a word with “-ster” after it. Our dog is named Junebug, but we call her Bugster, June-ster, Junie Bloom, Junie, etc. My late cat, Raven, we called Ravy, Wavy Gravy, Ravy Gravy, Scamp, Crazy Cat, Termite and Shit Foot, but I’m not talking about that.

I put myself in the shooter’s place. If I was trying to leave the porch, or if I walked up to shoot the dog, I’d say “Stay!”. Then, if the dog stayed, which I assume this one did from the general lack of interest on his face, I’d say “Good Dog.”

If I’d had more time than an hour, I might have explored the situation from the dog’s side. I like how he’s looking off to the side, all casual. Mr. Hollywood. Get my good side. He might be saying to himself, “look at this dufus.” Maybe there was a squirrel over there that needed watching. If this was my dog, he’d have a cool name, but we’d just call him Bat Ears most of the time.

 

 

dendritic duo

No, not new Superheros to keep track of, rather, two separate dentritic monoprints taken from the same blots.

I talked about the dentritic monoprint process I started playing with last week after seeing a video on Youtube by Shannon Green. On Thursday I pulled two prints, one from each glass plate, so they are both first prints. On the second plate I used a paintbrush end and did a swirly line through the main paint blot. Other than that, the prints were very similar, as similar as two monoprints can be. There are always differences of some kind caused by the pressure put on the paper, a slight shift in the paper or the type of paper used.

I also want to mention before I forget that what reads lavender-ish on the monitor is actually hot neon pink. The orange is bright neon orange. The prints are actually more interesting IRL than they appear here. Sorry about that.

The bird image was completed on Thursday. An urge to do a somewhat representative drawing predominated my mind that day.  Remember I said I was very afraid and had to hug Bunny-kins at the thought of working on this? The blots on these pages weren’t connected in anyway to each other. One huge blot, one smaller purple blot, one odd shaped grey blot and two teeny grey ones. It unnerved me.

I saw a parrot in the big blot and once I got the eyeball in it was easier to place a beak and outline the body. The way the neck was stretched out reminded me of a bird looking out of a hole in a tree so I drew some loose vertical lines in a fine pen. The grey egg-shaped blot needed to be contained. The idea of a baby bird hatching seemed a good story but I didn’t trust myself to be able to draw a baby bird. Plus there was that teeny grey blot above to deal with. I decided the egg was a body, turned the teeny blot to a face, drew a skinny creature neck between the two blots and had the beginning of a friendly guy with no limits on how kooky it could get. I gave him five deely-bobbers and suddenly he needed energy lines as well. I had that other teeny grey blot under the bird and decided he could have multi-fingered flower hands and drew him long squiggly arms. I think he’s trying to give the bird a hug but I don’t want to impose that on him. Perhaps he is measuring the bird’s head for a hat. Which couldn’t be easy because of all those fingers, but look how Edward Scissorhands adapted.

That purple blot at the bottom was worrisome. I turned it into an eye and it developed rapidly into the Stink Eye. I figure, in this odd world there is no rule that an eye has to be in a normal place, so I made a creature with three wimpy legs holding a substantial body with a Cyclops eye. EEEWWW.

I tried to balance the colors I added (yellow, orange). Now, I will admit that I have a major Neon Jones. Nobody was happier than I was when Neon came back. However, I do not like black with neon; it gives me a headache. I prefer to pair neon with grey and white. I love grey as a neutral. Grey and navy are my blacks. Sometimes I need the darkness of black but it isn’t my huckleberry.

Friday I wanted abstract expressionism. The bird drawing wore me out and the swirl on the second print was making me nervous. It dominated that blot and it didn’t form anything that I could work with. I didn’t want to add any colors, either. I started by drawing loose outlines around the shapes of the smaller blots. Of course they were all hanging in space individually, so I drew some bubbles and lines to connect them and that worked. Then I went back in and drew lines around the color in all the blots (except the faded grey at the left side). All the black outlines started to unify the drawing.

Now I want to talk about pointillism. Pointillism is drawing with dots. If I am in the mood to do it, I cannot get enough. I find it relaxing when I’m in the mood. If I’m not, it works my one nerve. In the past I actually did canvases in pointillism. Sometimes the medications I was taking gave me different energy and tolerances for certain methods. Right now doing a work of that size in dots seems like a fresh hell. But I haven’t used pointillism in so long, it was tons of fun last week.

The bird image was simple. The white part got extra fine black pen dots. The colored parts got white Sharpie® Paint Pen dots. The dots were small and lots of space between them. But the abstract was a different story. I knew after years of practice that creating different-sized dots adds movement, as does space between dots and solid dots vs. outlined dots. So I mixed them all up in this piece. I wanted to move the eye INTO the page, so I started with big dots on the left side,corner and top, then went to medium dots, then down to fine dots as I went toward the center. I used dots to outline the big blot, rather than lines. That set it apart from the other blots. Around the big dots at the left, I filled in with small dots. I left the colored and white pieces unmarked.

I like my use of white space in this image. For my eye, it’s just the right amount of resting room. The blots in this image have various possibilities. Is the large blot a bird? A tropical fish? I have no idea. I have no narrative for this piece. It’s beauty for me is the balance of color, size, detail, movement, line vs. dot.

So, now you have more ways to make and work into your dentritic monoprints. Expression vs. abstraction. Pointillism. Neons with grey. Go for it.

bunnykins

Ok people, listen up. This stuff can happen to you–fair warning!

I showed a dendritic monoprint yesterday and this is another, only I didn’t work off a direct print to my Rives BFK® printmaking paper. I worked direct print to a piece of scrapbook paper that I was hoping to see the end of. The marks presented a bunny to me. I would have liked something that wasn’t a bunny, believe me. But it was unmistakably a bunny; worse, it was a toy stuffed bunny.

Actually, and in fact, I did have a stuffed bunny when I was little. It was nifty as it held my pjs when I wasn’t wearing them. So I am no stranger to a stuffed bunny but at 60 years old I have other things on my mind. Or one would think. Evidently not.

Here’s what happened. I prepared a background on the paper by scraping and dabbing several colors (pink, rust, blue), mooshing them around. They had to dry so I cut out the bunny, using the dendrite patterns as my basic outline and snipping to further accentuate the shape. I had to free cut an ear, original bunny only had one laying down on it’s back. It seemed some of the dentritic marks could be stitch lines. I drew in his laying down ear, the outline of his foot, his tail and eye with an indigo Prismacolor® pencil.

My idea was to revisit the technique whereby one paints a background, creates lettering (say, block letters) or other shapes, then paints in a darker or lighter color around everything not outlined. This creates a terrific detailed look inside the lines. In other work, I’ve done a lot more detailing on the bottom layer before adding the over paint layer, but I only have one hour to get stuff dry. My initial thought was to do a light color over top, but I didn’t think the bunny would stand out enough. So I went with the watered down darker indigo. It makes it moodier, more like a foggy memory than the piece would have been all bright and cheerful. That was definitely a way to go too, but I went with the moodier, dreamier quality. It’s the way I rolled yesterday.

But I was mindful of getting too dark. This isn’t named Donnie Darko after all. We do not want to scare the pants off ourselves. Keep telling yourself, “It’s just Bunny-kins.” I had settled on that pet name, so I couldn’t go all Big Bad with it. Just moody and dreamy is good. So I added some hearts, and a white picket fence and some clouds. Now we are reminded of the happy Bunny-kins times of our carefree  youth. The way it should be.

The black outlines are Sharpie® black paint pen. I live and die by the Sharpie®. You know this, I should not have to repeat it, but I do, for your edification. Everything here is for you and don’t forget it.

Today’s work is still in progress. It is another dendritic print, a direct print, which is so frightening to me I need to hug Bunny-kins to get through it.

mushroomfairy

I spent most of yesterday morning playing with dendritic monoprinting on pieces of blank or previously painted Rives BFK® printmaking paper. Remember I am doing a Daily Art project and I have an hour to get it all done (or as done as it’s going to get). Even though the paper here was pre-painted, I was still pushed by the clock to get it finished.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I particularly enjoy expressive art practice. I don’t draw well enough to plan and execute a design. Somehow when I start with a rough random pattern I do much better. If you can imagine the image before I outlined and worked into it you might see that there were three pieces of dentritic printing on the page. (The dendritic patterns are the indigo fern-ish marks). The first is the large focal point that I turned into a mushroom. It really did look mushroom-like from the get go. The second painted shape was the small circle at bottom left, and at top middle there was an oblong shape. Then there was the predominant rainbow striping to deal with. Before I worked into it, it was a hodge-podge-lodge of dramatic patterns. I actually despaired of it, thinking it was a hard challenge under any circumstances. But I persevered and started on the mushroom and it went pretty well. The I thought the smaller circle could be a less mature sprout; some mushrooms have that puff ball look when they are babies. I duplicated the colors except to make the yellow bolder with a tad of orange.

Now, I have two finished mushrooms on a striped rainbow with an obnoxious small oblong shape. It had all these little dentrites on the edges and the inside was empty. I decided to try a face shape around it and that meant I had to try and match a drawn eye to the painted one (or produce a Cyclops. EEEWW). This always fills me with horror; matching eyes is always problematic.  I am great with ONE eye (well, great might be an overstatement).  One looks good, and the other one that should match gets lumpy or squinty or looks like the subject is giving the Stink Eye. I braved through it with a colored pencil and actually got a pretty good match, if I do say so myself. And I just did. The nose and mouth weren’t much of anything to do, and I figured we’d carry that dentritic pattern up to the hair; looks like a root crown to me. Unless this is a self-portrait of me getting down on my belly to see a mushroom (and that does happen pretty frequently; there are photos involved to prove it) I figured she to be a fairy and gave her dragonfly wings or a reasonable facsimile of them. With all the detail and red up top, the bottom needed some red for balance so I did little tulips and added green and ochre around the base of the mushrooms to ground them. I then ran out of time.

I don’t know if I would have done more given the time. I very much like this piece. It was a challenge and I did some drawing which is always a good thing. I resist drawing most of the time but this was the perfect situation to do some expressive work. I do think the mushroom and face compete because of the details and size. Generally we conceive of fairies SITTING on a mushroom, not looming over them like Godzilla. But who are we to know what a nature spirit looks like? She looks benevolent enough, if a little pensive, as if she has a big “To Do” list today. Definitely not giving the dreaded Stink Eye.

You probably want to know how I came to do dendritic painting, or what it is. I don’t know what got me there, but I watched Shannon Green on YouTube University demonstrating it. She got it from somebody else which is how we all learn. Basically, it involves two pieces of strong glass, acrylic paint, pressure and lift, then two prints. You can sometimes get two prints off each plate, but the second prints are not great. Good for scrap paper, though.

I have way too much scrapbook paper for someone who doesn’t scrapbook. I probably have way too much scrapbook paper for someone who DOES scrapbook. And to be honest, I don’t know why I do because I have no interest in it. I think most of it was just there, like Mount Everest. I decided the dentritic monoprinting was going to feel very good on all that scrapbook paper. And it does. I made good use of it in today’s Daily project, but that is for later to show.

If you have a bunch of paper you want to make more attractive, get yourself the supplies I listed above and watch Shannon’s video. It’s easy, inexpensive and fun. No two patterns are the same. If you don’t like glass, or have kids involved, try it on sheet protectors or transparencies, or maybe use cut acrylic sheet. It is the stucked-ness and air bubbles and release of pressure (suction) that makes the dendrites.  I plan on trying transparencies because I hate glass and sharp stuff like grim death.

meerimagic

I worked for the first time in this book, Fireside Children’s Songs illustrated by John Alcorn. I bought this book in a thrift; it had no dust jacket and a loose/torn spine. The illustrations were of the sort I grew up with. This book was printed in 1965 (I was ten that year). John Alcorn was an illustrator who was widely published in ads, posters, and books throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. He had several dominant “styles”: psychedelic, folk artsy and some realistic drawings. The illustrations in this particular book I would classify as a mix of folk art/circus/turn of the century style. There are only four colors used: harvest gold, hot pink, medium orange and black (all on white paper except a couple on black background).

Because I bought the book for the illustrations and subject matter (I love old children’s songs) I couldn’t bring myself to destroy his work. So I had to figure out how to work around it in each spread. Most pages in the book contain some sort of illustration; often a two-page spread has a relationship between the images. The song here was “There was a Crooked Man.” I decided not to use any of the existing text on these pages.

I gesso’d the pages both to strengthen them and cover up the text. The pages of this book are not slick so gessoing was not a problem and it dried quickly. Because I love border and edge work I started by drawing this bold geometric “flag” design. I ran color along the top smaller border but didn’t want to do that all the way around, so I filled the rest of it in with a permanent pen. I scraped a small amount of neon pink, black, yellow and orange paint onto the pages with a credit card. I used the neon for two reasons: I had it and it was the closest to the colors Alcorn used, and I wanted to update his colors to more current tastes.  I prefer brights and neons, so I went with it; I think they work with his colors. The black also helps unify them.

Two creatures appeared to me in the paint scrapes. On the right is a five-legged doggish sort of guy. On the left under Alcorn’s crooked cat is a fox-like animal. I enjoyed making the five-legged creatures feet–one of them looks like a toilet plunger. Good suction in a wind storm. The other feet look like giraffe and horse hooves and a duck’s foot.

After I penciled the outlines for the creatures I knew I needed a central focal point. Since the pages so far had a bunch of animals and a house, I figured the resident of the house was a good start. I am very fond of this stencil from Dina Wakeley. It has three faces, all about the same size, similar but with slightly different expressions. She had the sweetness and folksy look to complement Alcorn’s designs and my decision to create a story. I made her the heroine of my tale. Her body is an inkblot stencil pattern, which gives her a kind of creature-y look as well. Perhaps a shapeshifter?

The spread needed some filler and incidental color pops. I used a rubber stamp set of playing card suits. I stamped the diamond suite on her forehead in the “third eye” area and that cinched her magic qualities.

I don’t know where the name Meeri came from. No doubt there are people named that but I wanted something unusual with a sing-song quality. I stamped the text, “Meeri is legendary for her magic and the company she keeps.” I finished it off with three page reinforcements that I painted black. My very last addition was one of the little creatures I traced from the Dollar Tree Monster stencil set and I placed him in an empty area that needed him.

I love this piece and think my additions hold their own against John Alcorn’s wonderful work, at least in the story-telling department.

story

Ok, this piece sure as Sam Hill doesn’t know what to be when it grows up.

It started Innocently Enough, as these things often do. I painted the paper with watercolor, dried it. Squiggled over the top with Sharpie™ fine line black pen. Then I stenciled (of course) with the alphabet set I’ve been bragging about for several months. The one that came from the  Dollar Tree. This set, as you can see, is not a “ransom note” style, but the letters fall into a few distinct styles. The simpler block style as you see in the “Stor” and the simpler, larger more cursive style as in the “Y”. Because I did not view the letters beforehand, the Y dips dangerously close to the bottom of the paper. After I penciled the letters in, I used my Stabilio® All Water Soluble pencils and wet it with my fingertips.

I cannot even describe to you what a hot mess this was. All those squiggles behind the letters were confusing; my eyeballs were jittering in their sockets. I thought about ways I know to make layers recede and pop forward. There were so many lines as compared to the amount of letters I decided that the lines needed to be subordinate. I embark upon a Doodling Journey. The important part of the process was not to doodle OVER the letters, but under and around them. This makes the letters appear to be the topmost layer. Developing some continuity in the pattern helped as well (following the thickness and “trail” of a pair of lines).

Early on I saw the “creature” represented by the spikes, a lizard/aardvark cross that I colored green and outlined a bit. It has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the piece except, perhaps, confuse it and lend a tad of narrative. Is it the story of the creature? Or did the creature haplessly wander into The Story and couldn’t escape? Probably, there was a lot of that going around.

In some ways the image is successful but ultimately unsatisfactory. While the squiggles did help unify the image, they are still too much of a distraction. So is the green creature. But I wanted to use my Stabilo® All pencils and that alphabet stencil package, and I felt like doodling so it was satisfactory in that respect and that is the purpose of making art, right?