Thursday, April 25, 2013

More trees

Jeff sent a drawing he did of trees.

He did not say whether these were drawn from memory or observation, but my guess is that they are from memory, even though there is a lot of good observation at work here. The graceful taper of the trunks and the soft, delicate outer branches have a nice feel of  "tree-ness"! There is something not quite right about the angles at which the branches grow from the trunks in some areas. But a nice drawing, nevertheless. It has a lovely, stark feeling of winter, don't you think?  As always, I recommend drawing from nature. You will learn a lot about trees and their structure if you draw from direct observation.

Manipulating your drawings in Photoshop
Here is something just for fun. One of my favorite artist blogs is Geninne's Art Blog.  She is an artist who lives in Mexico and does beautiful drawings and illustration work. In today's blog post she showed some of her drawings that she had manipulated in Photoshop. One, which inverted the black lines and white background was made to resemble a blueprint by making the drawing appear with white lines on a blue background. A simple manipulation, but so effective! I had to try it. Here is my evergreen tree from the previous post, turned into a blueprint.

Ah, Photoshop! How did artists manage for thousands of years without it? (Ha!)

Monday, April 1, 2013


Jeff's trees (see previous post) got me thinking about drawing trees. The trees in our mind's eye are like the trees at the Christmas tree farm—perfectly symmetrical and perfectly proportioned, with no odd branches poking out in the wrong places. You know they prune them at the Christmas tree farm so they will look like that, don't you? That's not the way real trees grow!

The weather has been really amazingly beautiful here for the past few days. I had no excuse not to sit out on the front steps and draw a tree. Here is our fledgling apricot tree. It has a few blossoms on it right now. We are crossing our fingers that it will produce some fruit this year. We have been told "you can't grow apricots in Portland."

Trees are great subjects for drawing. Every one is different, but there are some obvious things to observe that a lot of people miss. First of all, I am always surprised to see a drawing of a tree that shows no understanding that the the trunk of a tree is biggest at the ground and tapers as it goes up. Likewise, the individual branches are biggest where they emerge from the trunk or from larger branches and taper out to nothing at their tips. Also, the branches grow upward, reaching for the sky. Here is a nice evergreen in our yard. I always think of it as quite symmetrical, but it is not.

The biggest challenge here was to decide how to render the needles.

Most artists draw trees at one time or another.

Leonardo da Vinci drew this one, with all its knobs and broken branches. His simple suggestion of leaves gives me an idea of how I might deal with foliage in future drawings.

The stark, graphic lines of this drawing by Vincent vanGogh show trees that have been shaped by the weather. This one really demonstrates those tapering, reaching upward qualities in the branches. Neither of these artists were looking for symmetry or perfection in their trees.

Have you tried drawing a tree? Did you learn something about the structure of trees that surprised you? I'd love to see your tree drawings.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Is it something, or is it nothing?

Sometimes an image comes into my head, and it seems like a brilliant idea for a piece of art or design. Sometimes this happens in the middle of the night, or while I am brushing my teeth or driving my car. I keep thinking about it and I'm not sure—is it something? Or is it nothing? Mostly, I have to confess, it is nothing. But I usually don't know until I draw it. Here is one such idea from yesterday.

My sketchbooks are full of little things like this. Like I said, most of them never go beyond the sketchbook. They are nothing. Or maybe they could be something, but I need to think some more. Or maybe they are something! And I end up using the idea somehow. This is why my sketchbooks are not beautiful. They are not for public consumption. They have a lot of nothing in them. But I couldn't function without them or without drawing. I can't imagine painting this or, more likely, sewing this altogether without ever drawing this little sketch to get a sense of what it might look like or how it might work.

So what do you think? Is this something or is it nothing? I think it might be something.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kitchen tools

I have exhausted my desk for things to draw and moved on to the kitchen. The kitchen holds a wealth of things to draw. Here's my pizza cutter.

And my wire whisk

A difference between these two that I will point out is the "pose". As I examined the pizza cutter I was interested in it as a completely symmetrical object, so I decided to draw it in a very straightforward, but not naturalistic pose, accentuating the symmetry. Symmetry is, in itself a challenge. Drawing a nice round circle isn't really easy and getting the mirror-image lines of the two sides of the shapes to reflect each other is another challenge. It would have been easier in some ways, to have drawn it laying on its side. But in this iconic pose it takes on a kind of dignity that surpasses its humble being. It could be a scepter or a ritualistic object of some kind! Drawing it made me appreciate the beauty of its simple design, especially the elegant curve of the metal piece just below the round blade, where you put your thumb as you cut.

I laid the whisk on the table to draw it. It was tempting to take a shortcut in drawing the wire part and just fake those lines instead of actually following each wire from the handle around its own curve and back to the handle, but it would not have looked right. As it is, I love the way the wires turned out.

Shall I call these "Iconic Pizza Cutter" and "Reclining Whisk"?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Drawing therapy

I got this lovely drawing in my email, from Karen Miller. Karen says, "I have been drawing and painting while caring for my parents. My dad recently had both feet amputated so my shaded pencil drawing of his familiar old boots was a kind of art therapy."

This drawing reminded me of the van Gogh painting of his own, well-worn shoes.  There is such an intimacy and human connection in both of these—something about the undone laces and the folds in the leather. A real sadness in Karen's drawing, knowing the circumstances. Thank you for sharing it, Karen.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I keep reminding myself...

"see the shape, see the line, follow that line." I think it is a constant struggle, when drawing, to stay in the part of your brain that deals only with the shapes and lines you are seeing—not the part of your brain that says, "now I'm drawing the flap and now I'm drawing the box and the wrinkle in it..."

I am developing a theory that drawing objects that are not beautiful or cute or fascinating in themselves makes it easier to stay in your space/proportion/non-verbal right brain as you draw. You are not distracted by whether you are making the flower beautiful enough or the bunny cute enough. Interestingly, when you draw something like a little cardboard box that just came in the mail, it becomes beautiful in its own way. So much so that you really want to add the color that you know that cardboard box is.

Color added to scanned drawing, using Photoshop.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Working drawings

Most of the drawings I have shown on this blog have been done for practice or for the joy of drawing, but I do a lot of drawing or sketching for the purpose of exploring an image that I want to use in one of my fabric art pieces. Mostly these are drawings done from a photograph. It is always great if I have a photograph that gives me an image exactly as I want it, but often the angle is wrong, or there are parts that don't work for me. That is when I use the photo for reference and fill in with my own ideas of what I want to see.

I am in the process of making fabric work about Latin American architecture and I have lots of photos from Mexico and South America. I like this cafe shot taken in Oaxaca, Mexico, but I'd like to isolate the cafe and present it in a more straight-on, iconic view.

While the perspective of the photo is not what I want, the photo is still tremendously important for suggesting the kinds of forms and details I want in my drawing, so I keep it in front of me for reference as I work. For the building I blocked in the proportions and divisions of space lightly with a pencil first. Then I went in with my pen and built the details. With my pencil I started with the largest object—the building, then added the windows above and arches below, then basic spacing of moldings and columns. Finally, I blocked in the tables and umbrellas in front. All very vague and simple. When I began the pen drawing, I started at the front, with the chairs, tables and umrellas closest to front of the scene and filled in the details of the building behind them.

Now I have a drawing I can work from when I start my fabric work. I think the thing to remember when you use a photo for your inspiration is that you don't need to include all the details in the drawing. Drawing is an exercise in reinterpretation of reality, not slavish reproduction.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It's all about the line

I'm still drawing things on my desk. What are you drawing? Are you drawing?

I am always a little amused by the proclamation "I can't even draw a straight line" often made by someone discussing their lack of drawing ability. Why would a straight line be any indication of drawing skill? Hardly anyone can draw a perfectly straight line, without a ruler, nor do they need or want to. Straight lines are boring.

What I strive for are confident, strong, interesting lines. That is why I like drawing with a pen or fine tip marker. Pencil lines tend to be a little weak, in my opinion. I know, I know—pencil lines can be erased. Pen lines can't, but they can be wadded up and tossed away. Yes, you are allowed to do that.

Here are three kinds of drawn lines:

The first is the kind of pencil line that most beginning drawers make—a sketchy line, which is actually a series of little short lines. Drawing teachers will tell you to quickly move beyond that kind of line. Next is a continuous pencil line. Stronger and more definitive. The third is a line made by a fine tip marker. It is basically the same as the second pencil line, but being ink it just seems so much bolder and stronger.

I challenge you to draw with ink. It's not that scary and, as I said, there is no reason not to toss your drawing if it is just awful. For me the quality of the line is what I am most interested in. Is the proportion or the perspective off? Probably. I don't care that much about that. A beautiful line—that's what I want. Look at this Picasso drawing.

 Was he concerned that the hands are way too big or the leg too short? No, not so much. But look at that line. Beautiful!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Oh dear. I got this drawing blog off to a pretty good start and then lost momentum. It had a lot to do with getting busy with other things and NOT DRAWING. No drawing, nothing to blog about. The thing is I really notice when I stop drawing. It gets harder very quickly.

A new year came and I determined to get back to it. I made myself a little pouch to care a tiny sketchbook, pen, pencil, pencil sharpener and eraser. It is small enough for my backpack or to toss in the car or in a suitcase. I made it. I carried it. Did I draw? Not much.

But I will keep trying. I see other people blogging about working on doing more drawing and I applaud that. I will follow their example!

Sometimes I get hung up on what to draw. If I am going to spend the time and effort it should be a worthy subject. Right?  Well, that is an excuse for not drawing when you start thinking that way! I remembered that years back, when I discovered Danny Gregory's wonderful drawing blog, one of his drawings that I loved immediately was a bottle of Dawn dishwashing detergent, sitting next to the sink faucet in his kitchen. Doesn't get much more prosaic than that, but it had that charm of familiarity and seeing his drawing made me see all the small details that he had taken the time to notice and reproduce. So my new effort will be to just look around and choose something that is right in front of me, regardless of whether it will make a "beautiful" drawing. So I looked at my desk.

I started with my tape dispenser, recently refreshed with a brand new roll of tape. I hadn't drawn for quite awhile. My drawing is tentative and cautious, but a good start, I felt. Then I turned my attention to Ray's tape measure, sitting on my desk (where it doesn't belong).

It is one of those kinds of shapes that you can get easily confused by, having rounded and squared edges and complicated bits and parts, and though the perspective is off, already I feel this drawing is a little more confident than the tape dispenser!

So, I am back at it. I hope you'll join me. Leave your comments, send your drawings, but mostly draw, draw draw. Now I'm going to put the tape measure back where it belongs...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Shared drawings

After my last post I got two lovely emails and drawings from readers. Janet Burns wrote:  

"I follow Danny's blog (Danny Gregory) and belong to the Every Day Matters group on Facebook and Flickr.  It has motivated me tremendously.  I was an art major, I do mostly pottery, a little quilting (very little), but my drawing fell by the wayside.  I did the Every Day in May challenge, and it got my drawing motor reved up.  There are all levels of talent and proficiency that post, and it is the most encouraging and inspiring group.  It and you have given me the courage to use my pen more often, but I still love graphite. Here are a few pages from my sketchbook."

 Aren't these drawings lovely? The folds in the quilts are so effective and I really love the loose, joyful quality of those flowers.

Then I got this note from Emily Seider:
"...I am starting to draw.  I have been wanting for years to learn to draw, but have been stuck in the rut of my own self-doubt for a long time.  Every time I would start drawing, I would be so disappointed in the way things turned out, the way they didnt match what was originally in my mind, that I would quit.  I recently decided to get over it.  I decided I just need to make lots and lots and lots of bad drawings before I am skilled enough to start making good drawings.  I am working very hard currently be accepting of imperfection. So I just started drawing and Im trying to make the time to do at least one drawing a day.  When I found your blog, it seemed like just what I need right now, a semblance of direction. I realized it would be great to have "assignments", or a group of people to draw along with.  I hope you will accept me into your following.  I attached the drawing I made of my rock climbing shoes that I keep hanging on my wall for easy access (and a photo, because they are pretty funny looking shoes).  Next up: still life!"

Great to hear from a new voice!  You are off to a great start with those shoes. The laces are my favorite part of the drawing—such acute observation of the movement through the lacing. You really captured it!

As always—thank you for sharing your work and keep it coming.