beach painting

Memory

Summer is a time when my wife and I—me, especially—make changes to our living quarters. This year has been new furniture for the living room and a new fridge and table for the kitchen/dining room. It’s also when we go through our storage and throw away/give away/sell items we no longer use. This always leads to us discovering old treasures we forgot about.

This week, I found an old exercise painting from 1986 that I painted one summer afternoon in my mom’s backyard. Exercise paintings were done from memory, which always began with a word—usually a noun—followed by a verb. On this day, while sipping homemade lemonade with family on the back porch, someone chose “beach,” followed by “lonely.” From there, I spent an hour painting images that popped into my head, all related to “lonely beach.”

I used acrylic paints (my medium of choice in those days), kept wet by a special palette made especially for acrylic paints. The sunny day dried the paints quickly on my “canvas” (an 11-inch x 14-inch cardboard panel) while I added in beach elements from memory. One of the children in attendance—niece, nephew, one of my own?—suggested I add a plastic pail. I did, which really added to the loneliness of the scene by the bucket’s hint of abandonment.

beach painting
Beach painting, 11″x14″, acrylic

Painting from memory is a great exercise to keep the mind sharp. This is true of drawing, too. I have sketchbooks of “memory drawings” that, if I find them while cleaning and clearing out our storage, I’ll share with you here.

I recommend this exercise to any artists reading this. It’s a refreshing break from painting/drawing what you see, to what you know and remember.

That’s all for now. Anyone who’s interested in my writing can catch up at my other WordPress site: vreeerickson.wordpress.com.

Until next time, peace and love!

Drawing Vree

It’s always fun to have a day to myself when I can get out my drawing pencils and sketch. I usually use HB graphite pencils, charcoal pencils, and white chalk pencils on 98 lb. mix media paper bound in sketchbooks. Currently, I’m using a Canson 11×14-inch acid free book, which holds up well when I switch to drawing with pen and ink or use water-based paints.

Today’s drawing is a graphite one I did a few years ago—2018, actually—when I considered adding drawings to my book projects. It’s a drawing of my Vree Erickson character, based on a photo of a teen actor whose name I’ve forgotten. I sometimes pull images of people in the public domain off the web for my morgue files, so she’s probably in her 30s by now. If anyone recognizes her, please comment below.

Vree, sketch 1
Drawing just the basic shapes and proportions

I began with a light sketch and blocked in a basic shape of the girl. After I was satisfied with the proportions, I scanned the drawing for a record of my step-by-step process. Unfortunately, to show you the drawing (in the image above), which was very light, I had to play with the contrast balance to show most of the lines, which pixelated the image. But it’s a good representation, otherwise.

Next, I began shading, which I kept light. I always work from light to dark when I draw.

Vree, sketch 2
I begin adding darks around the face

As I continue, I squint at my reference photo a lot during the shading process as it reduces detail and weakens the value contrasts to a few instead of many. I learned this technique many years ago. I’m an old-school illustrator from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, and some of my learning aids (besides classroom teachers) were books written for the beginner illustrator. One of my favorite beginner books is The Illustrator’s Bible by Rob Howard and published by Watson Guptill. It’s a bit outdated (copyrighted 1992) when compared to today’s books on illustration, and not lengthy enough to be a bible IMO, but it taught me a lot about tools and techniques when I thought I knew everything about illustration. Anyone interested can find it at eBay and Amazon.

Another outdated gem is Watson Guptill’s ArtEffects by Jean Drysdale Green, copyrighted 1993. This one is more for the experienced illustrator: less about techniques and strictly about being experimental. Most experienced artists I know (especially the younger generation for some odd reason) HATE experimenting. They stay in a safety zone of proven techniques, which is a shame. Imagine where art would be if Whistler never experimented with technique. His paintings would never have influenced Monet, who would never have influenced the Impressionist movement.

My all-time favorite (old-timer’s) beginner drawing book is The Sierra Club Guide To Sketching In Nature by Cathy Johnson, a first edition copyrighted 1990 (though there are revised editions on the Web). My edition deals with many techniques and mediums to sketch nature, which can be used to sketch other subjects, such as portraits. After all, rendering hair is basically the same as rendering fur.

Vree, sketch 3
I continue adding darker tones

I continue shading (shown above), adding darks and blending and softening edges (as shown below) in her hair, skin, and the fabric of her jacket.

Vree, sketch 4
I begin blending and softening edges while I continue darkening

Since this is a portrait drawing, I concentrated on putting the most detail in her face (shown below). I stopped when I was satisfied with the overall lights, darks, and midtones in her face, neck, and hair. I kept the drawing loose and sketchy the further away from her face. I used the white of the paper shown in her jacket’s drawstrings and the bottom of her hair as directional devices to lead the viewer’s eyes from the bottom of the drawing to the face, which is the point of interest.

Vree, finished, sketch 5
The finished drawing

The tools I used were basic drawing instruments: paper, HB and 2B pencils, a box cutter knife to sharpen the pencils, fine sandpaper to shape the graphite’s point, and kneaded and plastic erasers. I sometimes use blending tools such as stumps, tortillions, cotton swabs, face tissue, and the sides of my fingers, but not this time.

Now I have a (another) drawing (I have too many) of my Vree Erickson character from my Ridgewood stories, based on an actor I don’t remember the name of. I won’t use it to illustrate my books, but it’ll have a place in my sketchbooks, all of which remind me to take a break from writing every few weeks and to keep drawing. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t use it, you will lose it.

Keep doing what you love best.

That’s all for now.

My Latest Accomplishment

It was a pleasure to put the finish on “Night of the Hell Hounds” short story in my Green Crystal series of Fantasy e-books over the weekend. It was more pleasurable to publish it with its new content and cover art at Amazon and not have any problems.

Night of the Hell Hounds e-book cover

I still get excited when I see my books for sale at bookstores. It isn’t pride I feel, but accomplishment after countless hours of arduous work. It isn’t easy work being an author. It’s even harder being a self-published one. If writing and creating cover art weren’t fun (and they are a joy to this old guy), I wouldn’t bother with the trials of publishing.

Slowly, though, my newly edited 8-book Green Crystal series is making a comeback to Amazon’s sales pages. These books replace the old ones published from 2013 to 2015 and feature new cover art. Unfortunately, they have their old Amazon ASINs, so anyone who bought the old e-books will have difficulty replacing them with the new ones. I know Amazon says you can contact them and request the new ones, and they claim it’s fairly easy to do. It isn’t. And for that, I apologize that I have no control over it. I suppose if you hound them enough they’ll give in and let you read the new copy.

A possible solution to the above problem may be for me to release them as paperback books. That way, you’re sent the new copy. It’s an enticing idea. I’m right now envisioning the entire series published as a paperback. If so, it will take a few years or more to do. I have plenty of projects on my To Do list already.

“Night of the Hell Hounds” is listed as Young Adult, 4,500 words, and 99-cents at Amazon U.S. It’s also available at other Amazon markets. The following link will take you to the U.S. market. Click Here.

If you buy and read my books, please leave some reviews. There was a time when I sold my books at my website in the 1990s that I garnered a lot of reviews and feedback from my readers and fans. Nowadays, not so much, which is a shame. I learned a lot from them, and we had lots of fun sharing ideas and lists of our favorite authors and books.

Anyway, thanks for joining me today. Peace and love to you and may good reads and wonderful art fill your days.

Character Art

It was a joy (and probably therapeutic) to create some new character art for my Vree Erickson books. Below are the characters in the Green Crystal stories and the Luminary Magic ones.

The art is mostly graphite drawings that I ran through some computer programs to enhance the images. I did this because the gray-scale scans from my scanner often ended up dark and “muddy” looking. Brightening them via the scanner destroyed a lot of high-value detail, so I experimented with some art/photo enhancement programs until my copies passed muster and weren’t storage hogs.

First up is Vree.

Vree Erickson character drawings
Vree Erickson is the main protagonist of the Luminary Magic series of books

Next is her friend Nick from the Green Crystal series of books.

Nick Corwin character drawings
Nick Corwin is a main protagonist in the Green Crystal series of books

If you follow this blog, Lenny needs no introduction.

Lenny Avery character drawings
Lenny’s appearance has changed a lot since his creation 50 years ago

His twin sister Gaylene is Vree’s best friend. I think Devil’s Advocate is the best 2-word description of her.

Gaylene Avery character drawings
Gaylene is smart and musically inclined and deserves to be more than a minor character

Gwynessa is a Fae who becomes trapped in a green crystal pendant in the Green Crystal series of books.

Gwynessa Liriel character drawings
Gwynessa is the offspring of an Enwen Aili and a Rivvik Hiora, two kinds of Fae creatures that dwell in the woods and forests of Ridgewood

Last but not least is Vree’s cousin Whitney. She plays a major role in the Luminary Magic series of books.

Whitney Clark character drawings
Whitney is a Luminary witch and lives on Russell Ridge, next door to Lenny and Gaylene Avery

Thanks for joining me.