I plant sunflowers in my garden every year, but for the past few years we have lost most of them to marauding raccoons, squirrel and deer. This year I put a fence around the garden that kept the wildlife at bay, resulting in some very nice sunflowers. I plant them mostly to draw them. I figured it worked pretty good for Van Gogh, so why not? I did these over the past three days using inktense pencils and sepia pens.
Another Millen Pond vacation is in the books. The weather was nice and we had a great time. My two granddaughters, aged 3 and 1 ½ came up with us, so I spent a lot of time playing with them and not so much time drawing, but I did end up with some nice sketches. They tried to help with the drawing. You can see some of their contributions on one of the sketches below.
As usual, I tried using a different drawing tool every day. My best results were using Inktense pencils, graphite pencils, and pen and ink. I drew the usual subjects – trees, clouds, people. I tried and tried for my son’s dog, but he just never stood still long enough. I got a beer ball game, an approaching thunderstorm, and a bald eagle perching atop an old pine.
I was going through my artwork and noticed that a lot of them come from the same places, and three of the places more than others.
One place is the Tully Brook area in Royalston, from Royalston Falls down to Rte 68. I love to walk it from south to north, and I always find beautiful scenery there. Here are some samples.
My next most frequent subject is Sagamore Beach on Cape Cod. We used to vacation there every summer, but we’ve stayed there only once in the last 7 or 8 years. It is my wife’s favorite place, so we do try to at least visit it once every year.
My Greatest muse, however, is Millen Pond. My father found this place in the 1980’s, and, with a few breaks, we’ve managed to get up there for at least a week most summers since then. I do at least one painting there every time, and countless other drawings and sketches. It’s a place that soothes my soul.
We’ve been going out biking every weekend and trying to find a new trail each time. Every time we do the Winchendon bike trail I see this scene and I’ve been meaning to get back to draw it, so I talked my plein air buddy Doreen into going. I had been doing some pencil exercises lately, so I decided to do a pencil sketch.
It was very hot, but we lasted 3 hours and Doreen got a painting mostly done. This ended up looking kind of flat or washed out, so I will have to work on the values a little more before I call it done.
I recently discovered the works of Paul Gustave Dore, a 19th century artist renowned as a book illustrator who used etchings and woodcuts to create dramatic black and white images. I was struck by how he used darks and lights. He seemed to always create a dramatic focal point by placing the darkest dark right next to the whitest white. His work was what got me thinking of creating a large dramatic black and white scene.
I have a couple of three foot by two foot scratchboards hanging around and was thinking of getting started on one. Inspired by Dore, who illustrated Dante and the bible among other things, I was thinking of a rather complicated scene, something dramatic with rocks and trees and people and buildings. Something that maybe tells a story. In such an endeavor drawing is of course important, but it is of no value if the composition and values are not right, and at some level, the values are the composition. So rather than playing with the positioning of trees, rocks, people and buildings, I decided to start by playing with the values.
I did these relatively quickly while watching TV Saturday night. I think one of them, or something quite like one of them, will be my starting point, but I also gained a couple of other ideas from the effort. One, is that this page is interesting by itself and the exercise could make a good scratchboard. The second is that rather than spend a lot of time agonizing over what the scene will be, it might be interesting to just quickly rough in the values on the board and then step back and see what the image suggests to me, and then carve out a more detailed scene from what I see in it.
When I’ve got to cool my heels someplace I get real fidgety if I can’t be drawing. Last Thursday we were working out in the woods in Montague, MA. We were about two miles from the car when we finished, but real close to a road. My son offered to let me walk down to the road and he would walk back for the car and then come around and pick me up. I am getting old, you know, and I do have a hard time keeping up with him, so I swallowed my pride and headed for the road.
I waited for him where a powerline crossed the road and rested against the gate at the powerline’s access road, enjoying a bit of sun. There was a little pool next to the road and it was warm enough for the frogs to start croaking. I knew it was going to be a while, and I started getting that fidgety feeling. There was a bush with many curved stems rising out of the pool and I started mentally drawing it. I had plenty of pens, but no paper. Then an idea hit me. I had a sharpie and the top of the gate was nice and clean.
I went to work on the bush in the pool, then I moved on to a tall hemlock standing beside the road. When that was done he still hadn’t arrived, so I then tackled the scene looking down the powerline.
It was a kind of neat feeling, leaving a bit of my art behind, like a poor man’s Banksy. I wonder if anyone was impressed.
It’s an early spring and time to get outside and start the post winter clean-up. I had a large amount of debris in the back yard from the big pine that fell last September so I put it in a pile and had a nice fire. I couldn’t leave the fire unattended, so I brought out a chair and did this portrait of the one pine remaining on the edge of the yard (there once were three).
I was looking at the large pine behind my house that had broken in a wind storm last fall. It was still standing, but there was no green left, so it was basically dead. I thought of how at the end of each year there are stories of the people we had lost that year and I felt that this tree should have been on that list. I decided that I must memorialize it. It was about 35 degrees and overcast, and there was still an inch of snow on the ground. I put on thick boots and thin gloves and started to draw. I guess I really got into it. I didn’t feel cold at all, but the pens weren’t cooperating. One went dry and the other wasn’t much better. I just kept drawing, though, darkening this and filling in that. I thought I should stop several times, but then I would find another part of the picture to work on. When I finally decided to stop I figured it had been about a half hour, but I had actually been there for well over an hour. When I put the pen away and took a step my leg reacted like it was frozen in place and I almost lost my balance but recovered and stumbled for a few steps with my joints buzzing. I realized that I had, except for my head and hand, been standing perfectly still for a long time.
Sunday afternoon was much like the day before, so I returned to the tree, this time with better pens. This time I drew it from a different angle. It seemed slightly warmer than the day before, but I only lasted 50 minutes this time and my hands were damn cold by then.
I stillI have a lot of art supplies that don’t get used enough. Lately I am always working on a scratchboard leaving no time for anything else, but the other day I did find the time to take out some pastels. I had no idea in mind. I just started playing, drawing random shapes, switching up colors, enjoying a little bit of freedom. I like how it ended up but I couldn’t decide which way was up. Then I had the idea to put the four options together, so I wouldn’t have to choose, and I ended up with this abstract masterpiece. I still don't know which way is up, though.
The last Sunday in September was a lovely, sunny day. While doing my time manning the GALA Gallery in Winchendon I sketched some of the other artists as they sat outside enjoying the sun.
Some of the best work I've done isn't hanging on a wall; it's sitting in a box in my closet that's full of my old sketch books. I fill up one or two books each year. Some of the sketches end up as a basis of a more formal work, but most don't. They’re more important to me as a pictorial diary and also as on-going training; learning to really see and to understand shape, light and color.
This blog is to share my sketches as well as my sketching experiences.