Rock Sketches In Acrylic [painting]

It was time to be a visual artist again, so I spent a couple days getting my artist’s eye back in shape by working on some sketches. I decided to look at rocks and study their shapes and colors. I’ve chosen 3 better ones to share.

They’re all acrylic paintings on paper and cardboard—something I started doing years ago when I painted field studies of wildlife. Paper and cardboard are cheap and easy to find around the house, and they’re lighter to lug around outdoors than canvas and canvas boards.

Rocks study, large rocks, 8×10

I love earth colors. But they can be a bit dull, gray and dark, so I punched the colors up a bit. One facet of art is the exaggeration an artist puts into their artwork. I had fun with color and tried to be as painterly as possible too.

When I’m a bit rusty with my craft, I tend to draw with my brushes instead of painting with them. Squinting blurs the image and keeps me from seeing edges. Then I load my brushes and lay down paint and color, mixing values on the paper. That way the objects look like they haven’t been cut and pasted on.

Rocks study, creek rocks, 8×10

I exaggerated the colors in the above illustration with reds, blues and a spot of green, which was a lot of fun to do. No masterpiece here. But, oh well. I needed a break from writing and this was the perfect escape.

Rocks study, more creek rocks, 8×10

I have always enjoyed going to the local creeks and wading with bare feet over the large flat rocks and turning them over to see what aquatic life lay underneath. Good times.

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New Heroine Sketch [character development]

Vree

Yesterday I wrote about creating characters, putting them on the story stage, and watching them act. In that post, I included a sketch of my current main character, Vree Erickson. I draw with all sorts of pencils, including charcoal and chalk pencils. I like using watercolor paper to draw on because it allows me to scratch into it using knives and razor blades. This technique is great for rendering hair.

You can read about Vree in my Night of the Hellhounds e-novel (available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble).

NotH

Sketching Critters

I enjoy watching small animals skittering and dashing about with their daily activities. I have my favorites, like chipmunks and squirrels, that I try to capture with pencil and paper. But lately I have been studying birds more than usual. Although I’m not a bird painter, per se, I have done a few paintings with birds in them based on life sketches from my wildlife sketchbooks. And I did a finch painting based entirely from reference sketches.

Sketches in the Sun
Sketches in the Sun, Oil Painting, circa 2002

With so many species of animals, each with its own particular charm and beauty, the wildlife artist never lacks a subject. No matter where you live, there are always animals to sketch—in cities, gardens, parks, forests and farmland. Sketching them in their natural habitat gives you an opportunity to study their fascinating behavior. Whether sitting in a park, at a roadside, at the edge of a river or lake, sketching critters is a wonderful way to spend a day. And your sketches give a rich source of reference for your paintings.

When you have found a subject and settled down, spend a few minutes looking hard at the animal, in the same way as you would carefully consider a still life before starting to paint it. Ask yourself questions such as, “How long is the neck and how much of it disappears when the animal stands up?” This will help you understand the form better. Then, when the animal adopts an interesting pose, begin sketching. You’ll find this is when your patience is tested. The subject moves all the time, so you have to wait until it returns to either the original pose or something close. It might even scurry off or fly away and leave you with an unfinished sketch.

If the animal changes pose quickly and a lot, don’t continue with the sketch—it won’t be precise, and therefore useless for reference. To use your time well, have several sketches of different poses going at once, and dart around the page as the subject shifts position. This is challenging, but you should end up with a page of interesting studies. Don’t worry if the animal you’re sketching doesn’t return to the same pose—just a few lines can be full of information. And get down those shadows too. Their shapes help describe form and make your sketches more convincing.

Spend some time looking at the pattern of fur and feather masses, too—this is essential reference when you come to paint. Try to catch the “personality” of the animal by noticing any characteristic features that make it unique as a species.

Critters
You might find it useful to use cubes, oblongs and cylinders to describe the general body shapes. You can also use these to show the relative shapes and sizes of different species. If you are sketching many ducks on a lake, for example, do a whole page of these simple shapes. This is invaluable information when it comes to painting various ducks together. Try to show the size of an individual duck—or any animal, for that matter—by sketching its surroundings.

It goes without saying, of course, that you should take a note of the date, place, and time of day in your sketches—these will help you recall the scene later when working in your studio. Also, note the colors of the animal if you’ve not sketched it in color.

My favorite sketching tool is a box of watercolor pencils, but you should use whatever feels comfortable to you.

So make a day of drawing critters … and happy sketching.

Sad Panther Drawing

While going through some old art files, I came across this pen and ink drawing of a black panther drawn February 14, 1982. I was learning the craft of illustration, clearly seen in the clumsiness you see in my execution. Still, it is a nice drawing, which is why I kept it. Also because it made my seven-month-old son laugh. After all these years, when I see this drawing, I still hear his giggles.

Panther

Drawings

I like to draw. Figure drawing, cartooning, doodling … you name it. Graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, pastels, various kinds of erasers, markers, styluses. Line drawing, shading, hatching, cross-hatching, broken hatching, stippling, entopic graphomania (you make a dot at the location of each imperfection in the drawing paper, then connect the dots using straight or curved lines) — the list could go on if I had more time.

Drawings 01

I have no favorite medium, drawing instrument, or even subject matter. I like to draw … period. As artist Grayson Perry said, “Until we can insert a USB into our ear and download our thoughts, drawing remains the best way of getting visual information on to the page.” But I don’t draw haphazardly unless I’m doodling ideas. And even then I’m aware of what I’m doing, which is usually observing size and viewpoint. The drawings can look childish, but I never toss out any childlike drawing. Most children instinctively draw objects from the viewpoint that gives the most information. So they draw a house from the front, but a truck from the side — because it’s from there that you can see the truck’s cab, trailer and wheels. I still draw that way today; whichever drawing has a viewpoint that gives the viewer the most information is going to be the easiest to understand. That’s what I look for in my artwork (and my writing).

Drawings 02

Everyone has their own ways of expression, and finding ways to say it can be a battle. The power of any kind of art is keeping it simple and understandable. Anyone who can do that can make the uninteresting things in life look complex, advanced, and largely exciting. That’s the true power of art.

Unfinished Projects [painting]

Unfinished Hawk
Unfinished Hawk

I have many unfinished projects. Whether artwork or writing projects, I’m surrounded by incompleteness. But I will finish some of my projects. Others I won’t because of time and procrastination.

I am not a morning person—I lack energy during the early part of the day. I’ve tried to be one of those people who are awake before dawn and barrel into the day with enough energy to power a continent. But I have a second-shift job that keeps me active past other people’s usual bedtime. Therefore, my brain and body don’t begin functioning until around 5pm. So, getting around to working on a project is a consequence of overcoming sleepiness, slowness, and often a ringing telephone. I may be half-asleep, but the “normal” world is active and busy reminding me that I have bills to pay and appointments to keep. I turn on my computer—my social connection and alarm clock—to remind me when it’s time to do A), B), C), or D): All of the above. Email notices chime away. Oh, look: WordPress is telling me that I have new likes and followers and that they’ve created a new theme that would look great showcasing my blog. And amidst the bells and whistles, I hurry to do this, that, and the other until writing the next chapter of my book or drawing/painting the detail of a wildlife picture has to wait.

But still I persevere, writing and making art, even though I’m a zombie until evening. I perk up then … and head off to my 9-to-5 second-shift job, unless I have a day off, which happens twice a week (though the days are not usually consecutive). My creative juices flow and I attack whatever current project I have on my agenda. And then my wife comes home from work and wants to socialize. My projects linger, unfinished for weeks, months, even years.

Oh well. Tomorrow is another day. With more of the same. But every new day gives me a dash of hope.

Always Busy Writing and Painting

Anyone following my blog would assume that I’m rarely busy writing or making art, simply because of the lengthy gaps between my posts. But that’s far from the truth. I’m busy every day working on my stories and art, from creating new chapters and editing old material, to sketching in my sketchbooks or actually composing and finishing a drawing or painting. All this takes time, leaving barely a few minutes to blog about it.

Blogging is often the last thing I do when I visit the Internet. Reading my email is top priority, followed by answering it, and then checking on family and friends at Facebook. I usually spend an hour a day at Facebook (sometimes two hours or more), and I often add my latest achievements there, leaving me little time to post anything here at WordPress other than a blurb before I turn in for the night.

That is a good description of my posts: BLURBS. They may never be anything poetic, but they’ll certainly keep you, my fans, abreast of my latest news.

Deer Sketch, circa 1988 Acrylic paint, white gesso, and graphite
Deer Sketch, circa 1988, Acrylic paint, white gesso, and graphite

Above is a deer sketch from 1988 or so. Old news, but it was a treat for me to find this photo among my old art photographs and share with you.

Meanwhile, I promise to blurb more often here at WordPress. I just have to learn to schedule my time better.