This post is unique in that it contains zero sketches. However, it does contain material that may become sketches! So by dint of being useful and possibly aesthetically pleasing, these images have been included in today's post. All have had some filter or photo editing applied to them, such as the program I was using and my skill allows. I am not a professional photographer. I just like taking photos, and when you sometimes need those photos for reference, it's helpful to be able to get the subject as close to what you need as possible. That and it's enjoyable to have photos around that look like they are intentional.
This is a hibiscus flower getting ready to open.
A bumble bee was found busy during a recent walk.
In the early spring, there was a lone Japanese maple making a start in a new world.
In case anyone was wondering... I'm still drawing foxes. I have a few favorite animals that I like to return to again and again because, in my opinion, they are pretty and make nice shapes. Both wild and domestic cats are one of these favorite animals and so are snakes which are more often depicted in my work as dragons. Bats have been known to appear along with owls, deer and the occasional fish. You've probably seen a few of my renditions of these animals throughout the life of this blog, although I don't always post these studies as they sometimes come out looking pretty ugly. But I do enjoy drawing foxes, especially in my own stylized way.
I have started to play with iconic imagery in my drawings. Ever wonder about the fancy illustrations on your money? It turns out that there's a good deal of symbolism packed into those legal pieces of tender issued by the government. Here's an interesting dissection of the US $1.00 paper note by an art professor: ArtLex Art Dictionary, Symbol (One Dollar Bill). Of course Wikipedia has some explanation, too, but I liked ArtLex's more in depth dissection of why certain images were chosen and posed in certain ways.
This study of imagery is directly related to my (dabbling) interest in heraldry and the design involved. I have and probably will check out more books from the library on heraldry. My experience with these books has shown me that heraldry is extremely faceted, and bewildering if consumed too quickly. While I know that these images are beautiful, intricately designed and useful, I also struggle with some of the aesthetic appeal of certain types of images, things that I might want to gravitate towards that may not be appropriate for what I want to convey. For example, who wants pigs on their shield? I'd much rather put a griffon or a lion on a shield, but if you are a family who has farmed excellent pigs for decades you might want them on your shield.
The nice thing about being an artist that is not relying on my next meal in exchange for a heraldic crest is that I can break the rules. Problems arise when you don't know what rules you've broken and why. So I am in the midst of a slow process of learning those rules.
Here's a sketch inspired by classical iconography with no fancy meanings attached (yet) plus my own artistic flourishes.
So apparently, Overlay and Multiply Layers are my new friends (at least for this piece). I had fun and learned a few things. I think it could use some more detail and color/value tweaking, but I'm happy with the result of this current exercise.
I know I already mentioned a few improvements I could make to my last drawing. One of the suggestions I had for myself was to create a background. Since I am not usually very good with scenery, I thought this would be a useful exercise. So I gave it a shot. I'm relatively pleased with the results.
I built up the image in the background, much the same way I did the figure, by slowly building up layers of "paint." At first I tried to use the same brush that had worked so well on the figure, but because it was a custom brush, Photoshop kept getting bogged down with rendering it. Instead I switched to a round preset brush. I set it to almost 0% hardness so the brush strokes would look soft. The blurry edges helped me get a feel for the values without getting caught up in details I would probably eventually paint over anyway. It also aided with atmospheric perspective.
I am going to hazard a colored version, although I've been quite satisfied with the grisaille at this point.
Here is a recurring character from my "thought" library. This time I was inspired to work with a softer black and white than previously seen in my other pieces. I used a square brush in Photoshop, set roughly to 100%, 50% and 20% opacity as needed. I switched between black and white liberally, opting for an additive method.
I am considering adding a background so there will be a little more context to the image. I don't think it is necessary, but I could use to work on adding interesting backgrounds to my figural work. In addition, since the image is already a grisaille, using color layers set to multiply over the current image would be an easy upgrade (and good practice). Maybe these upgrades will be the subject of a future post.
I have some sketches that have been laying around that I thought might be fun to share. A little on the older side, these come from the pocket sketchbook that is permanently stowed in my purse. Whenever I'm waiting somewhere and need to pass the time, or need to keep my hands busy during a long presentation, this is where I go - into my purse for that little Moleskin sketchbook and a ballpoint pen.
Continuing the dragon theme from my previous post, here's a doodle I did of a dragon-like creature. It doesn't have any wings, so I wouldn't call it a dragon, but it definitely alludes to a dragon's shape. It looks like it might bargain with you. I wouldn't recommend it.
This sketch was done with a mechanical pencil on a Moleskin notebook. The fine lines of the pencil show up very nicely on this smooth paper.
As much as I enjoy playing with new mediums - especially digital - my first love is drawing with an old fashioned mechanical pencil and paper. I'm also fond of ballpoint pen (your regular black Papermate pen will do). In many ways, these tools are the best instruments for me because of how mundane they seem; they are altogether unassuming and benign. If it turns out what you drew is not worthy of anything except the circular file, then no big deal. Start over - pencil lead is cheap, and so are ballpoint pens! You don't need a grand plan to work with them, yet you can make something lovely if what you are doing truly interests you.
That's a little how I feel about this drawing. Here are some close ups.