A drawing of a friend of mine, done on brown-toned paper, using soft graphite and white charcoal. She was sun-silhouetted from across a room and I rushed over to her to for a photograph, thinking it would make a good subject for a painting or drawing. A year later I gave it a shot, and after several false attempts on a white sheet, decided to initiate the new tinted drawing pad I’d just bought. Very happy with the result.
With all that’s been going down in our country lately, my sanity and peace of mind needed a total break. So I got off social media, and quit reading the news; at least for a while. Art, specifically drawing, has been my lifesaver. I was looking at a garage sale college art book and found these great black and white photos of classical sculpture heads. So I decided to try copying several of them, not in pencil, but ink. Besides being near smear-proof for this lefty, I love the challenge of trying to mimic the subtle shading using crosshatching. But more importantly, creating these detailed renderings almost totally absorbs me, and helps me forget all the insanity out there. I am very grateful for that.
As Winston Churchill said about creating art, specifically his:
Painting is complete as a distraction. I know of nothing, which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind. Whatever the worries of the hour or the threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow along, there is no room for them on the mental screen.
I painted this en plein air yesterday afternoon. An abandoned rice mill and warehouses have been converted to artists studios, just a five minute drive from my home. They are now called Winter Street Studios. There’s a great view of the silo across a huge field. Whenever I drive by, I think to myself “I’d like to paint that.” So late on a very windy, cloudy afternoon, I set up my gear on a sidewalk on this quiet street and painted for about two hours. It’s not as loosely rendered as I wanted it to be, but it was lots of fun. I’ll probably tackle it again.
…I painted in watercolor.
I try to bring my sketchpad and draw whenever I have to sit and wait. It’s very gratifying and time certainly goes by quicker. It’s also like having a dog or a baby. People want to talk to you. Now, if I could only discipline myself to do this more often; for the joy of it, not just because I’m bored.
We’ve visited Round Top, Texas regularly since 2008, and regularly stay at the wonderful Elisa’s Sunday Haus. There’s lots of things to paint there. Unfortunately, when contemplating an on-the-spot watercolor, I sometimes get overwhelmed. Time and weather are not on your side when trying to capture a moment in a landscape. More often than not, I admire a scene but talk myself out of trying to capture it. This time, I was determined to paint something. So I picked a single copper planter on her front porch in early morning. I love painting dramatic shadows, and was drawn to the long but increasingly shorter one being cast by the container. I also loved painting the wood grain and how the transparency of the shadow shows through. After viewing the photograph of this, I realized that the green copper patina leaned much more toward blue than was rendered. File away for next time.
This is the final studio watercolor, along with my working sketch of a commissioned work, one of my more challenging. Final size about 18 by 13 inches. There was a lot going on with this home. I took many reference photos from different angles and spent quite a bit of time consolidating and compressing the placement of the many prominent items in the yard as to get them all in the image in a pleasing way without overly compromising their actual placement in the landscaping. I’m a bit reluctant to say that this work took many months to complete. Fortunately, the homeowner was very accommodating and understanding. It just so happened that about the time I was commissioned, my graphic design business really took off. But I should also admit that I intermittently suffered from the “crisis of confidence” that I suppose every creative person goes through. In my experience, the only way out is to go through it.
I painted this en plein air last Sunday afternoon in Houston’s Memorial Park. It’s been very hot of late, but I really love late afternoons this time of year; the smells, the light, the sound of the cicadas. It was about 5 o’clock when I went out. As usual, I purposefully did not try to find an ideal spot; partially because my time window was short and partially for the challenge of just painting the first spot I come upon. In my haste to leave the house, I forgot a water receptacle, so just used my empty paper coffee cup.
This was my second attempt. I flipped the page and started again after a false start, and consoled myself by realizing that I probably needed to loosen up first. Painting a jumble of foliage and trees is very challenging. So is capturing the light, which was coming from the front and right. A great trick I learned from my watercolor hero John Pike is to start to paint the back-lit leaves with a first wash of yellow, then add progressively darker greens on top. It really does work.
The finished painting is about 11 by 8 inches and took about an hour-and-a-half.
I was asked if I would design the collateral material for this year’s Houston Heights Home Tour. It’s a gratis project of course. Since I’m trying to build my freelance graphic design and illustration business, there’s always the anticipation that such projects will raise my profile among prospective clients. That’s never a given, but I can alway hope. Besides, the theme seemed like a fun and interesting idea to design around, and possibly get some nice portfolio pieces to boot. The Heights, like all of Houston, is going through enormous transformation. Hence the main theme “Embracing Change.” The theme for the auction/gala however, is “Casablanca.” The original idea given to me was to use a still from the iconic final scene from the movie. Instead, I offered to create a custom, original image that tied in to the neighborhood theme. I must admit, I was motivated by the anticipated challenge and fun. The final image was created in Adobe Illustrator. I used a graphite sketch I worked up as a template. The only mentionable changes made from drawing to finished art are that I altered Rick’s slack-jawed mouth, and I reduced Ilsa’s figure a bit. Oh yes; and instead of a waiting plane in the fog-shrouded background, I added a home-lined neighborhood street with oak tree foliage.
This is a freelance digital illustration that I created for a corporate United Way fundraising campaign. The image is displayed as a paneled mural in the company’s main lobby. The finished size is 22 by 14 feet. I’ve been creating these for over ten years. See more here. Each year has a theme, and I either produce an image based on that theme, or on a concept that the client comes up with. I always create a concept sketch for approval. I use Photoshop and a Wacom drawing tablet, and import the sketch into Photoshop as a template. These can get pretty detailed, so I make multiple layers so that I can keep track of everything. Despite my effort to keep them simple, I must admit, I love noodling with all the minutiae.