Kind of hoping for a little jazz.

14 October, 2019.

Authentic New Orleans cuisine? Not bad – but I’d feel a whole lot more confident if they knew what FilĂ© is. (How on earth are they making gumbo?) The musician was quiet, not at all like Bourbon Street, but not terrible either.

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Experiment

13 October, 2019.

I had Saturday all to myself, a long day of experimentation and playing around with various sketching ideas I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while now.

Pens come most naturally to me. Not long ago I saw an artwork made by one of my favorite painters, Richard Diebenkorn. He’d used a ballpoint pen and painted in oil over the scribbled lines of a landscape. It reminded me that I’d been thinking of doing something similar with gouache. Rather than making preliminary sketches, why not just draw it and then paint over it? Maybe that would maintain some of the energy of the original sketch?

I had this idea that of painting the shadows in violets, starting with an underpainting somewhat naturalistic color and value. I confess that I hesitated to paint over these greens. (They felt like a good starting point with the shapes and debated just tightening up the sketch to make it into a “normal” painting. But hey, this was supposed to be an experiment, so time to mix up the violets!) Gouache, by the way, is opaque enough to cover the black lines of my pen.

And here’s where I wound up: loosely painted, yet I truly wish I could get much looser still. Nearly all greens replaced with blues and violets and grays. I’ll give it a few days to percolate, and then consider where to take this experiment next.

Skipping out.

12 October, 2019.

Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. I’m supposed to be at a paint out this morning, but I decided to skip out and do my own thing. Just me, my pens, and a small watercolor kit.

Oh crap. My iPhone just buzzed to remind me that the paint out starts in fifteen minutes, and I’m … ummmmm… about sixty minutes away…

… perhaps I’ll just continue doing my own thing today.

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Uni-Ball Vision pen and watercolor on Arches 140# CP.

It feels like Autumn.

11 October, 2019.

For the first time this year it feels like, smells like, tastes like Autumn. The air is crisp – in fact the wind was brisk to the point of being cold today. School wasn’t in session so I had the day off, but I spent the entire morning in front of a computer, indoors, putting to rest all the things I didn’t get completed earlier this week. (Did I actually type “all?” Correction: I finished up some of the things that needed finishing.)

Most of what I was working on was serious stuff, so come afternoon it was time to take a break from that sort of thing. I got out my kit of Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watersoluble wax pastels. They’re fun and scribbly and definitely the furthest thing from “serious.”

Down near the Missouri River, the banks are walled off by a thick grove of trees. They’re still green, but the fields are turning orange and the blue sky contrasts nicely.

These particular pastels feel like children’s crayons. I don’t feel at all like I need to overwork the sketch. I just scribble and move on.

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Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watersoluble pastels on Bristol paper.

9 October, 2019.

It rained on my plein air gouache painting Saturday morning, leaving all sorts of spots. So I decided to experiment by drawing over the painted surface. To my surprise, the thin lines I was expecting wound up thicker than I’d anticipated. I didn’t care for that.

I’m more pleased with the random nature of the spots than I might have imagined. It created interesting textures. But here’s the thing – I felt kind of “meh” about the piece, even though other people at the event seemed to like it quite a bit. And it made it to the top three at the paint out, so what the hell do I know?

The big one?

8 October 2019.

An interesting thing happened a couple days ago. I made this ink sketch of cyclists who’d made it to the top of a steep climb and were checking out the view from above. I’ve been wanting to work on a large painting for a while now, but haven’t had anything I felt strongly enough about. But I like this composition. It’s gotten stuck in my head.

My gym is unusual: in addition to barbells, the walls are covered with paintings – the collection is superb, actually. One painting catches my eye every time I work out. There are fields of burnt orange and olive greens and putty, just sort of smudged around the canvas. It left enough of an impression on me that I decided to sort of scrape color over this sketch. (Digitally scrape color – I didn’t want to destroy the original drawing.) And I kind of dig the direction this is headed. This could be the big one.

Stay tuned.

Garlic butter and ink.

7 October, 2019.

Three weeks of nonstop email and voicemail messages. Moving from one building to the next, one meeting to another. Freaky long days that start around 4.30 am and end with me dropping like a rock into bed, too early to even watch the ten o’clock news. (Which, given the divisive rhetoric, is actually kind of a blessing.) Three weeks of everything seeming to pile up all at once, one on top of the other.

Which is why it felt so good to be enjoying a glass of Guinness, a platter of oysters on the half shell, a bowl of mussels swimming in garlic butter sauce, and delicately avoiding getting any of that mess on the pages of my sketchbook.

I love being in a place and letting my pen tell the story of my presence. Nothing dramatic: I exist, those around me exist. Now join me and raise a pint to celebrate that reality.

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Uni-ball Vision pen and Pitt “Big Brush” in Canson 180 sketchbook.

My challenge is… I guess… challenges.

6 October, 2019.

Time of death: Saturday morning, October 5. I gave it a shot, this Inktober thing, but at the end of the day the prompts felt too artificial, too contrived, and left too much distance between what they were asking me to draw and what I’m actually interested in drawing.

So, time to move on and do my own thing again.

Gouache top coat

29 September, 2019.

I was recently prowling through the internet in search of an answer to one topic, when I inadvertently stumbled across something interesting on a gouache artist’s page: Dorland’s Wax Medium. The artist uses this medium as a top coat once a gouache painting is thoroughly dry to protect and seal it. After mulling it over a bit, I decided to visit Amazon to see if this was an expensive product. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sold on the idea of wiping a moist medium over the top of a re-wettable painted surface. So I would have been relieved to discover it was unrealistically priced at $250 an ounce. Instead, I found it for about ten dollars in the size shown here.

After it had arrived, I let the box sit around for a while. Frankly, I was scared to rub it onto a painting or sketch – even one I didn’t like. So I eventually settled on the page you see here. I’d purchased a couple tubes of new colors a few weeks ago and wanted to see how they looked on gray paper. This test sheet had just been lying around on my drawing table since then and would eventually have been tossed into the waste bin. In other words, a perfect sacrificial lamb for the wax medium.

As you can see in this second image, I’ve wiped the product onto a portion of the painted area. It appears to have had little effect on the orange, but it has appreciably darkened the blue. Not sure how I feel about that, personally. You also lose that quality I love about gouache, which is the totally matte look. The wax leaves a painting with a sort of shine to it. (Although I’m told that it lessens to a more “velvet” finish after about 24 hours.)

On the one hand, it’s interesting to find a product that will protect gouache. On the other – hmmm… is it still “gouache” if it’s glossy? I need to cogitate on this dilemma for a while.