Enjoy life now... it has an expiration date.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jack..... completed?

Well, possibly. I've been nose-to-the-grindstone for the last few days because I have a deadline (self-imposed) on Jack: tomorrow.

At the moment I'm letting the portrait sit, and I'll check it periodically to see if anything jumps out and says, "Fix me!". If you see anything you think needs attention..... feel free to make suggestions!

I'm posting the wips and the final version. Sorry they are shown all at once... completing the portrait took some long hours at the art table which didn't leave much time for blogging.

What I learned from this portrait:

(I like to do this... take a little time after a project is completed to think over what I did that I want to repeat, and what I did that I don't want to repeat).

1. On the gouache... it worked pretty well, and overall I was pleased with the nice white it gave me on the colored support. What I didn't like was the fact that when I used colored pencil over the gouache the tiny brushstrokes became visible. I did not put a thick layer on, but apparently I need to thin it even more. Next time I'll try two thin coats.

2. Once again, I underpainted parts of the portrait with watercolor. I find this a very useful timesaver (and sanity saver). Colored pencils are notoriously s-l-o-w, and this gives me the ability to get a base layer of color down in just a few minutes. Since it's watercolor, it takes the cp beautifully.

3. Listened to music while I worked. I usually listen to nature sounds while working (ocean waves, etc) but I had read somewhere that some artists work better with actual music. Apparently it's just distracting enough to keep you from endlessly toiling over the details... and it worked for me!

4. This last item was perhaps the most helpful of all.... I kept in mind the wonderful advice of Carl Purcell ("Drawing with Your Artist's Brain", and "Painting with Your Artist's Brain"... two excellent books). That is, to see the subject with your artist's brain (shapes, values, color) and not your intellectual brain (nose, eyes, fur). This simplified matters tremendously. I highly recommend both of these books.

Newspaper Column for November 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth... the weather?

I’m beginning to wonder if Ringling Bros, Barnum and Bailey are running the schools attended by aspiring meteorologists. I’m sure you too have noticed a trend toward dramatic and entertaining weather forecasts.

On numerous channels, watching the weather person give the forecast reminds me of watching a performer in a three ring circus. The ringmaster (aka meteorologist) conducts the show with theatrical gestures that would earn a guest spot on any soap opera... arms wildly waving (think "Wax on, wax off" from the movie The Karate Kid), exaggerated body motions and facial expressions (mute the sound sometime and just sit and watch), and conspicuous emphasis on certain words and syllables. Next time you watch the weather, notice the forecaster’s enunciation. Recently I heard one guy get his money’s worth out of the word "minor." "It’s a ‘myyyyyyyyy-nor’ chance of rain." he said, his voice rising in pitch as he mercilessly stretched the first syllable. I could have gotten in at least three words in the time it took him to say the "mi" from minor.

But the thing that gets my attention the most is the hand motions. My husband has a quick, quirky sense of humor and his comic timing is impeccable. He would have fit right in with Moe, Larry and Curly. One night as we were seated on the sofa being entertained by the antics of a particularly animated weather person, my husband suddenly jumped up, and stationing himself to one side of the TV, began mimicking the meteorologist's dramatic gestures. "There’s a cold front coming in from the North, folks," boomed the weatherman with a grand sweeping flourish, indicating to us clueless masses where North is, then another arching swirl of his hand indicated where we are on the map. My husband, with comical facial expressions, was following along, making wild arcs and pointing to The North and then to North Carolina. "He looks," said my husband, "like someone using a hand crank to start a tractor." I giggled… the image fit perfectly.

But there’s more! Not only do the forecasters use hand motions enthusiastic enough to gladden the heart of any first grade teacher, at times they also have animated graphics following those motions. Yes! A weatherperson waves their hand across the northern part of the U.S. (the Northern Part of the U.S. is again indicated to us), predicts snow, and with a sweeping curve a picturesque flurry of snowflakes magically issues forth from their hand. They can do rain and wind too.

But there's still more! Besides the torturously stretched syllables and expressive body language, we also have a new breed of terminology used by weather people. Here, for your perusing pleasure, are a few gen-u-iiiiiiine expressions gleaned from various unsuspecting meteorologists:

- "About the middle of the week we’ll have a rain event."

Ah, I love this one. It used to be simply "rain"; now it’s An Event. Wonder if they’re selling tickets?

- "I can’t guarantee you sunny weather this weekend."
Ah, well, actually we didn’t expect you to. I assume there are still some things in this world that are not under human control.

"We’re going to ramp up the forecast for the next few days."
Ramp up? Sounds more like directions onto or off I-40 than the weather.

"Folks, there was a small gustnado over Kansas yesterday."
A gustnado? I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like the sound of it. Turns out a gustnado is a tornado plus a gusty wind. Oh.

There is a wealth of sayings, quotes and folklore about the weather that go back for centuries, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that forecasting has become as entertaining as it is informative. I picked out a few weather sayings you might enjoy reading….

- Evening red and morning grayhelp the traveler on his way.
Evening gray and morning red
bring down rain upon his head.

- Clear moon, frost soon.

- Red skies at night, sailor's delight.
Red skies at morning, sailors take warning.

- Smoke curling downward, poor weather.

- When a cow endeavors to scratch his ear,
It means a rain shower is very near.
When he thumps his ribs with an angry tail,
Look out for thunder, lightning and hail.

- When the stars begin to huddle, the earth will soon become a puddle.

- When your joints all start to ache, rainy weather is at stake.

- If February brings no rain, 'tis neither good for grass nor grain.

- A wet January, a wet spring.

- A year of snow, a year of plenty.

- If Candlemas Day (February 2nd) be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight:
But if Candlemas Day be clouds and rain,
Winter is gone - it will not come again.

- A wet May makes a big load of hay.
A cold May is kindly and fills the barn finely.

- A dry May and a leaking June,
make the farmer whistle a merry tune.

- A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay.
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly.

- If there's ice in November that will bear a duck,
there'll be nothing after but sludge and muck.

- If a cat washes her face o’er her ear,
‘tis a sign the weather will be fine and clear.

- Fish bite least with wind in the east.

- When the wind is out of the east,
‘Tis neither good for man nor beast.

- If your corns all ache and itch,
The weather fair will make a switch.

- Trout jump high when a rain is nigh.

- Onion skins very thin
Mild winter coming in;
Onion skins thick and tough
Coming winter cold and rough.

- The first snow comes six weeks after the last thunderstorm in September.

- If February brings drifts of snow
There will be good summer crops to hoe.

- When sheep gather in a huddle,
tomorrow we will have a puddle.

- If woolly worms are dark, the coming winter wilt be severe.

- When ladybugs swarm,
Expect a day that’s warm.

This brings us to the end of our perusal of the weather forecaster’s art. I could just write, “The End,” but in keeping with our topic I’ll take my cue from the forecasters and finish with a more entertaining “Th- th- th- th- that’s all folks!”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Update on Jack

Well, Jack is turning out (up to now) to be a very enjoyable subject. I'm trying a new working method, and so far so good. What I usually do is outline the subject and rough in the features, then sort of paint and draw as I go. Problem is, when I need to make a correction I'm not just erasing a pencil line, I'm erasing colored pencil... sometimes several layers. I never thought I'd want to do a highly detailed drawing first (guess I'm too eager to get to the color)... but I did this time. And guess what? It seems to be working better! (I know that's a "duh" because I've read countless times to make a really good drawing first... but oh well.... I'm catching on slowly but surely :-)

I'm also working on colored Stonehenge, which is a first for me. My previous colored pencil work has been on a white support. I haven't decided yet how I feel about it. Jack has patches of white fur and I had a difficult time getting the white to be really white. After trying two brands of white cp, a white Stabilo pencil and white oil pastel (on scrap paper), I painted in the white patches with white gouache....which is what you see in the first WIP. The next two WIP's are color work done in colored pencil. Lighting is not too good on these pics... taken indoors on different days... and today it's raining as we're beginning to feel the effects of Hurricane Ida..... we're expecting 4-5 inches of rain over the next three days - get the galoshes out!

If anyone has any tips about an easier way to get a true white when working on a colored support.... I'm all ears!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Color Charts and Jack

This perky fellow is Jack, the "granddog" of a client who commissioned Jack's portrait as a gift for her son's birthday. After several emails back and forth with the client to settle on a pose and size, I headed for Photoshop to experiment with the saturation, levels, contrast and brightness and sharpening filter. When I'd gotten Jack pretty much where I wanted him I printed out four prints:

1. The actual pose
2. A black and white version for a handy value chart
3 & 4: A couple of other shots of Jack that, posewise were not usable, but colorwise were excellent references. The preferred pose is a little washed out from the camera's flash, so to get Jack's true colors I asked the client to select additional references that are accurate colorwise. I'll be working from three photos while doing the portrait to get the information I need.

I've also been busy making color charts for my cp's. Somehow or other I've ended up with 160 different colors in various brands, which is wonderful, but makes selecting a color a little tougher. Every time I went for a different color I'd scribble a little swatch on scrap paper to see if it was the color I wanted. The light bulb finally went off (better late than never) that I should make a color chart for cp's as I'd done for watercolors. Apparently some of us are slow learners ;-)

The color chart has been quite informative. I found colors I had not used because... well, the color's name or outside color on the barrel of the pencil didn't seem to fit the job. Several colors weren't at all what I was expecting. It feels like I have new pencils!

So, we're now a little better organized and Jack is ready and waiting to have his portrait painted.

I'm off to get some lunch and then I have a date with Jack. See you soon with a WIP!
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