Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hummingbird Gesture Drawings

These two minute drawings were done with a 5B pencil from photos I have of my hummers. 

While searching online today for gesture drawing information, I came across  Kimon Nicolaides' book, "The Natural Way to Draw" . The introductory caption there reads; "The key to gesture drawing is speed. Work fast and trust your instincts. Practice holding the  charcoal loosely between your thumb and index finger."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stepping Up To The Plate

A gesture drawing can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 or 3 minutes. I decided to set a challenge for myself and do these in one minute instead of two. I was surprisingly satisfied with my one minute gestures, drawn from the photos I posted here yesterday. I only wish I had drawn them a little darker so you could see them better. I used a soft 4B pencil held like a wand at various angles to the paper to draw. There is a beautiful, intuitive quality to a good gesture drawing. It has to happen so fast and it becomes so spontaneous that your left brain has no time to get in the way. 

I know I wouldn't have done so well a month ago! It's amazing how much practice everyday changes things, even if it's just for a few minutes! It is such an important skill to keep exercising. Drawing, like music or dance, is something that requires constant effort. "Draw, as much and as often as you can. When drawing lies fallow, the skill diminishes." ~ Gene Black

Susan and Vicki are really stepping up to the plate here this summer. Both girls sent in more sketches since yesterday's post and both are getting closer to the idea of "gesture"! Way to go! Lets keep the ball rolling here, gang.  Ten minutes a day will get you started. I encourage you do do these exercises again. Also do the 1/4 turn exercise with your own objects. There is nothing quite like drawing from life.

I'm going to post more about gesture drawing here all week. When doing it, we want to exaggerate movement, sloping quality, angles and length. When doing gestures in figure drawing class in art school, we would always draw a circle for the head and then draw a line down the page to the supporting foot. Here are some of my two minute gesture drawings from college to illustrate my point. We all (myself included) need to pay more attention to the internal forms and be less concerned with and confined to the outer contour.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rough Sketches

"Rough sketches, which are born in an instant in the heat of inspiration, express the idea of their author in a few strokes, while too much effort and diligence sometimes sops the vitality and powers of those who never know when to leave off." ~ Giorgio Vasari

More On Gesture Drawing

I got two elephant challenge drawings in already!  I am thrilled that a few of you are now jumping right in with these challenges. Thank you Susan and Vicki! Good job!! I hope you'll both try these again, once you read this post. And also, I would love to see you take it a step further and do a more finished drawing of a pose or two.

There seems to be a little bit of confusion between gesture and contour drawing here. Perhaps that is my fault for a misleading post yesterday where I did a blind contour drawing and posted a gesture challenge. Everything has a gesture, whether alive or inanimate. A contour is seeing the surface where a gesture is feeling the movement or action of a thing. See what Wikipedia has to say about gesture versus contour drawing here.

Today I did these four gesture drawings and I am posting another 1/4 view series of this deer figurine. Please feel free to do this also! These gesture drawings took about a minute and a half each. See how I tried to get the feeling down without being overly concerned with the outside edges. I hope some of you will try these exercises several times. It takes a little while to get used to drawing this way. Once you do however, it is a wonderful tool for warming up and getting the big shapes down quickly. Remember to hold your pencil like a wand as it frees up your whole arm and consequently, your interpretation of it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Drawing Exercises for Improving Your Skills

There are several easy exercises that are very beneficial to developing the skill of drawing. Today I did a blind contour drawing from life. I used one of my potted flowers as a model.

Drawing elephants is fun and easy too! Because of their unique shapes, seeing them seems easier to do. I've used my figurine elephant collection on numerous occasions in my workshops as models. One of my favorite exercises is to do 2 minute gesture drawings with them. We turn the object 1/4 turn after each two minutes is up. In just eight minutes, you should have four different views. It's a great exercise to get you loosened up and really makes you see shapes instead of things! I've taken four different shots of our red elephant here and I hope you will try this exercise for our next sketching challenge. Even if you have no intention of turning it in, just do it OK? Eight minutes is all you need. And all you industrious people, please feel free to finish and add some details to your favorite pose. You will have to use your imagination and some artistic license as this elephant is not very detailed.

See more information about doing these exercises on your own here. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Portrait Of A Princess

This morning I decided to do a watercolor of Princess from yesterday's sketch. Somehow the drawing got a little squashed vertically, so I elongated it a little in Photoshop. I traced the sketch onto my watercolor paper with my light box, using a 2H pencil and a light touch so as not to score the paper.

Years ago, I used to do lots of pet portraits. I learned early on to do the eyes first, because they are the gateway to the soul of the animal and if the eyes are not right, the rest of the painting won't be either. I was satisfied with the way they turned out, so I went on to finish it. You can see the painting on my web log here.

"The ideal of calm exists in a sitting cat."  ~ Jules Reynard

"Dogs come when they're called; cats take a message and get back to you later."  ~ Mary Bly

"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."  ~ Terry Pratchett

I will post our next sketching challenge tomorrow.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Art Is Healing

I just got an email and some drawings from a friend I haven't heard from recently. I was unaware that she has been through some really tough times over the past year. Last summer, Judy was forced to leave a job she loved as a wildlife rehabilitator due to a severe lung condition caused by the animals. In addition, her husband and best friend suddenly passed away in November and she had to to move out of her home of 36 years and into an apartment.
Judy writes; "I am sharing this with you, because reading your daily emails and finding time for myself to sketch is really a lifesaver.  It takes my mind away from the rest of the world."

I am saddened to hear of Judy's losses. I know that she is a strong, positive person and in time will be doing very well again, however. I feel blessed that I can provide her (and possibly a few others) with a creative outlet where she can find time for herself while taking her thoughts away from her troubles. Art is very healing that way. It can put you into a magical world for a period of time, where nothing else matters or exists.

"I sometimes think there is nothing so delightful as drawing." ~ Vincent Van Gogh 

Judy sent me two cat drawings and one of a fledgling hummingbird that she cared for and released, (which I will post later). Here is the one she did of Princess. She said the face was difficult for her, but I think she got a darn good resemblance.

And this sweet kitty is a sketch of Buttons, her own cat that she rescued.

Thank you for sharing your lovely drawings and your heart with us, Judy. I'm sending healing thoughts and love your way. You are an inspiration!

Our Cat Challenge is about to end, so I did this sketch today and tried not to get carried away with the shading or details. I intend to finish it tomorrow with a watercolor wash.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Bird's Eye View

"You can't own a cat. The best you can do is be partners." ~ Sir Harry Swanson

"The cat has too much spirit to have no heart." ~ Ernest Manual

"I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through." ~ Jules Verne

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tommy The Terror

Today's sketch is a side view portrait of one of our house cats, Tommy. We got him at an art show we were doing back in 2005. A lady was bringing him around to all the vendors, trying to find a home for him. He and his litter mates were taken away from a feral mother when they were only a few days old. When we fell in love with him, he was only six weeks old and just a bundle of joy. Unfortunately, being taken from mom and hand reared by humans at such an early age has had repercussions. Who knows what went on in those first few impressionable weeks of Tom's life?! He is a very strange cat today. We just can't trust him.  He'll cuddle up to you one minute and turn around and bite you the next.

Here's what Tommy Looked like when we got him.

And he's still a very handsome fellow today, just a little whacked-out.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Neighbor's Cat

I did today's quick sketch form a cat image on Wikimedia while waiting for company to arrive. The pencil sketch took me ten minutes. I wish I had stopped there. Or had taken a picture of it before I did the wash. Oh well, it is what it is. It's a SKETCH. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece. This photo of a colorpoint cat on Wikimedia Commons says, it's possibly Siamese and was originally titled. "The Neighbor's Cat". Later, friends Nan and Jan, were busy with their cameras (trying to capture the hummingbirds), so I snuck inside and put the wash on. Took no more than ten minutes. So total time for this sketch was twenty minutes. I'm sure some of you could spare that amount of time out of your busy schedule to draw. Actually, it's the blogging about drawing that eats up time. Drawing is starting to become much easier and more second nature again, almost like eating or sleeping. I really am glad I decided to continue this Summer Sketching Series for yet another year.

"We all have at least 100,000 bad drawings inside of us. The sooner we get them out and onto paper, the sooner we'll get to the good ones buried deep within." ~ Author Unknown

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Using Shapes to Aid in Drawing Testimonial

"Learning to draw is really a matter of learning how to see - to see correctly - and that means a good deal more than merely looking with the eye." ~ Kimon Nicolaides ~ The Natural Way To Draw

This 20 minute drawing is my first attempt at using my new shapes method that I posted Monday to draw Princess (our current sketching challenge). In the photo, her face is not straight on, so I had to improvise some. I think it is a useful aid and starting point though. Anyone else give it a try it yet? I'd appreciate your feedback on it.

Susan Bronsak writes; "You asked if your exercise helps?  It did for me!!  I found that to be very easy to follow and made it less intimidating to create the face (without all the fur that is).  Fur direction and not over doing it is a challenge area for me.  I appreciate you sharing these helpful exercises!!  I find them to be encouraging for people to at least give it a try.  Thank you for the time you devote to helping others.

Now…….If I could just learn to “see” the shapes in an object it would help, I’m sure.  I at times can’t get past all the detail….even squinting. Here’s my attempt……..think I’m off a little with my curve for the eyes but hopefully convincing enough." 

AND . . . I'll tell you folks, this woman is inspirational - Since I received this yesterday, Susan has also came up with her own shapes demo for drawing a deer portrait.  Way to go Susan!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Draw A Cat Portrait

I did this shape and feature diagram sketch this morning. It's similar to the one I did for the horse head. Please let me know if this is of any value to any of you, if you have questions or if you need it broken down more, step by step.

Susan Bronsak sent in her first cat sketch already! Wow, I just love her enthusiasm! She wrote; "I had trouble with this one……particularly the face.  Normally I avoid frontal views and prefer the backsides because I don’t have to worry about features.  But then that’s what challenges are all about….right?  Stepping outside one’s comfort zone?  Here’s what I did using your photo.  I look forward to seeing what you do and how you approach it."

I think you did a super job, Susan. Princess does appear to be tipping forward a little in the reference photo and your sketch but other than that, it's a great first attempt. I think I will straighten her out a bit when I do my drawing. I would suggest doing a sketch of just her face, using my notes here as a guide.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Our hummingbird sketching challenge is over today. I am happy that a couple of you participated. Thanks Susan and Diane! This next week's drawing challenge will be to sketch my cat, Princess and/or to sketch from any cat image found here on Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Resting Hummingbird

License this image here.

I've been doing some little watercolors from my hummingbird sketches. When I do the pencil sketch, I  normally use a soft (3B or 4B) pencil and a light touch on Strathmore 300 Series Drawing paper in a spiral bound pad. Tip: Remember to squint! It is an extremely valuable aid in drawing and painting.  It allows you to see shapes and values more easily without getting too caught up in the details.

I trace my drawing onto 140 lb. Arches watercolor paper using my light box. If you don't have one, just tape your sketch to a window and trace with a light line. When transferring the image to the cotton paper, I normally use a broken line and a hard (2H or 3H) pencil with a light touch. Don't press too hard or you'll score the paper.

I also repainted that hummingbird in flight for the third time and posted it on my web log today. There are still a few things that I'm not satisfied with, but I feel this last one is good enough so that I can move on now.  

"With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable."  ~ Thomas Foxwell Buxton

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Pencil Is An Artist's Secret Friend

"A pencil is quiet, clean, odorless, inexpensive, and lightweight. I can slip it in my pocket and take it with me everywhere - my secret friend." ~ Sherry Camby

I did these sketches while waiting for my friend to have a colonoscopy. I went to the local burger joint and got a cup of coffee and sat there and drew from my lap top to pass the time. Notice, I haven't forgotten about those wings, ladies. Before I knew it, it was time to head back and pick up my friend who was very relieved it was over.

"If you get into the habit of drawing, you'll never be bored." ~ Sandy Sandy

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Problems Are Not Stop Signs

"Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines."  ~ Robert Schuller

After reviewing two drawings sent in for this week's sketching challenge, and posting this quote - "A good example has twice the value of good advice." on my inspirationeveryday blog, I decided to guide by example on this one.  I drew with pencil alone like the two submissions I've posted. How can I help them and you to make your drawings better? How can I make my own drawings better? How can I portray the subject better? What is my center of interest? Where do I want people's eyes to go?

One of the main things I noticed is that the values need to be right. There needs to be a distinct separation between them - light, medium and dark and I must use them to express my sight, insight and inspiration. I used my kneaded eraser to lift some details from the wings to make them look more translucent. I also pressed it onto the paper to soften the background values so they didn't conflict with my main attraction. I hope this information and example will be of some help. "Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer."  ~ AndrĂ© A. Jackson

"Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over."  ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hummingbird Wings

"Within my Garden, rides a bird,
Upon a single Wheel
Whose spokes a dizzy Music make

As 'twere a travelling Mill." ~ 
Emily Dickinson

Hummingbirds flap their wings 50 to 200 times per second! They move them in a figure 8 motion while flying. This makes drawing or painting them in action challenging. A camera with a flash can freeze the motion, but it is not how we see them with the naked eye. 

Sometimes in art and in watercolor especially, we have to make up symbols for things. These symbols can then become more real than life. I think this is especially true of hummingbird wings in motion. I seem to get the best looking results when I remember "LESS IS MORE" when depicting them. I am working on a demo on how to convey more of the feeling of the wings, so stay tuned as I work out the details.

License a finished version of this image here.

I started a third hummingbird watercolor and this time did the wing first on wet paper (front and back) with a very dry brush and minimal strokes. By George, I think I'm satisfied with it this time. I'll keep my fingers crossed that the completion of the body goes as well.

Our second challenge drawing was just sent in by Diane Wallace. Thanks Diane! Well done. She also says; "I'll have to remember the "less is more" on the wings. I felt like they were way too heavy in my sketch." 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sketching A Hummingbird Challenge

 Today Susan Bronsak,from West Virgina, sent in the first submission for or current drawing challenge. She writes, "I’m wondering if you might consider doing a wing demo maybe in graphite and in watercolor?  I personally struggle with those wings making them convincing in my own eyes.
This is her sketch using an HB Derwent water soluble graphite sketching pencil. She used the side of the pencil through most of this and then the point just to emphasize details as I’ve shared in my demos.  

She also adds, "I truly find this a wonderful technique so as not to get too detailed too soon.  (Easier to erase if need be, because it doesn’t scar the paper :) This was fun and thank you for the reference photo." Once again, thanks so much for your wonderful drawing and input Susan!!

I too often struggle with the hummingbird's wings in flight. In the reference photo I posted yesterday, I used a flash to freeze the wings in motion, however in real life, they are just a blur and almost invisible. With the wings, in drawing and painting, I've found that less is more. See how I have merely indicated the wings here in today's sketch. I redid the painting of the hummer in flight from yesterday and you can see it posted today on my web log. I'm still not 100% satisfied, but I am getting closer. As per Susan's request, I will see what I can do about putting together some kind of demo on this subject in the next day or two.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hummingbirds Rule!

I got a few emails, a couple of comments and one horse head sketch about my last post. Not much real constructive criticism or any revelations, just a few opinions and a couple of excuses. I do feel that a handful of people, (includng myself) are really getting something out of this blog and the sketching challenges, so I will continue on. One of my biggest fears is that I am boring, so if I am, PLEASE let me know. I still feel like I'm doing something wrong or could be doing something better here.

Here's my sketch for today. I also did a little watercolor and posted it on my web log.  Ok, so I got carried away on the painting with the splatter technique. It was just so much fun! I do plan on doing it over. Repetition is the key to mastery you know. Hummm, where have I heard that before? 

We will be having another sketching challenge and this week it's, you guessed it . . . a hummingbird in flight!!

*Here are a couple of photos to copy or use as reference. Read about the challenge terms in the column to the right. > The challenge will be over on Sunday night, so give it a try and we'll see how many of you send in your results or at least report to me that you attempted doing it.

Here is another sketching challenge drawing sent in by Diane Wallace. She writes; "Sketch for participating in fellow artist Sandy Sandy's weekly sketch challenge. I couldn't NOT do a horse!"  Thanks Diane! Great sketch. Nice and loose. I like how you've used the side of your pencil for the shading.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Horse Challenge ~ What Am I Doing Wrong?

Ok friends, I got one, just one person, to send in their horse head challenge this week. What am I doing wrong? Why isn't anyone else participating? Go ahead. Be truthful. Tough love. I can take it. I could really use some feedback here folks. I can't believe that none of you has a half an hour to draw sometime during the week. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece and can even be a doodle on a sales receipt. A word of warning though, it probably will take you out of your comfort zone a little the first couple of times. Just remember, it takes practice to get into "the zone" with drawing. It's hard for me sometimes too. I just keep talking to myself; "It's just a shape, look at the shape, it's not a thing." Even if you don't send it in or post it, just do it! Do it for yourself and please (as a favor), do it for me. If you tell me you did one, I'll believe you.

Susan Bronsak is a fabulous artist with a very lively and informative blog and website. She has been following along pretty religiously with me for the past twelve days. Check out her blog and this post to see the reference for her sketch. She tells me that my drawing everyday has rekindled her inspiration and desire to draw. Thank you Susan. You make this so much more fun for me! Your drawings are super and your enthusiasm is contagious!

Here is my sketch for last week's challenge. Notice I'm using the side of my pencil (holding it like a wand or a brush) more and more these days. I used my shape system here, but for the head and neck structure of an upper level Dressage horse, I curved all the lines more. You just have to play with it. Don't take it so seriously, look at SHAPES and loosen up. (All pep-talk . . . for myself as well, of course.)

Here's my finished drawing with watercolor wash applied.

If anyone is interested in another challenge, let me see a show of hands.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Some Drawing Exercises

I can't believe I've been drawing everyday for eleven straight days now! I still feel pretty rusty so I decided to do some drawing exercises today. I like drawing objects and doing two minute gestures. After each two minutes is up, I turn the object 1/4 turn. I have a little hummingbird nicknack I like to draw and since I am now in Hummerland, I decided to draw it today. This is not a masterpiece by any means, just good ole practice! I also did a blind contour where I caress the object (follow the contour) with my eyes as I draw without looking down at the paper. If I get lost I can look, reposition my pencil, and then continue as before, drawing without looking. Hint: When drawing from life, always keep the same eye level while looking at the object as you draw. I use a pedestal (large coffee container) to bring the object up to eye level so I'm not looking down on it and sometimes use an easel for my pad.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Love Those Wild Things!!

It has been crazy here today with hummer action galore! The big feeder was empty by 11 am and Jerry just filled it again! I'm sure the others are all in need of filling tonight. I tried to get some snaps, but they are just way too fast. There's courting, mating, territory guarding, fledging and rowdy fun happening all around the yard. They can't wait for the Butterfly Bushes to bloom! I've seen dozens testing out the unopened buds today. Here's a shot of the back of my house. There are at least five little cuties in this picture. 

Of course, I just had to sketch one for my drawing everyday post. I tried to get an unusual position for this one, but I'm not too sure how successful it is. Hummingbirds wings actually move in a figure eight pattern and I've tried to portray that here. As everyone knows, they certainly don't look like any other bird in flight!