On Tuesday this week I travelled to Rockport, MA to deliver my picture for the upcoming show. I was lucky enough to find a parking spot downtown but I had trouble with the new-fangled parking kiosk and only paid for one hour. After I dropped off the picture I had only 45 minutes left. I decided to sketch the famous building in Rockport Harbor that is a popular subject for artists. I believe it is called Motif #1. I was able to knock this off, buy some candy, and get back to the car just as the ticket expired.
It is hard to believe that 8 months have gone by since I last posted anything here. In that time I have been very busy finishing the last piece for my show at the Copley Society of Art as well as earning money to pay the bills, plus we added a new granddaughter to our family. I have continued to attend the Amherst life drawing sessions almost every week, but other than that I have rarely had the opportunity to take out the sketchpad, and when I did the results were not very impressive.
But, last week I got a chance to leave the other stuff behind and finally get out the pad for some quality sketching time when we vacationed at Sagamore Beach. It was our first Cape Cod vacation in 10 years. The weather was great and I had the chance to hang out with our family, including granddaughters Lucy and Margaux. I did one oil painting, which still needs a lot of work, and a bit of sketching. Here are some of my favorites (clockwise from top left; Lucy; our cottage; the beach looking south; and, the beach looking north):
For obvious reasons I don’t do a lot of drawing outdoors in winter or at night, and I had every reason to stay indoors on Thanksgiving evening. It was about 7 degrees out and there was a half foot of snow covering everything. But there was a full moon too, and I was entranced by the tree shadows and the patches of moonlight that undulated across the snow beneath the woods behind my house.
By now I have a good idea of what scenes would make a good scratchboard drawing. Every now and then I’ll catch a glimpse of an image that I know is just right, and this was one of those times. It would have been nice if I could have quickly run out there and taken a photograph, but I don’t have the equipment or the skill for that. The scene was too good to pass up, so, I put on as many layers as I could, got out my warmest hat and gloves and took my folding chair out to the edge of the woods, and drew as quickly as I could.
November is the time to start panicking about creating the annual Christmas card. I’ve been stuck on the idea of a mouse-based picture this year, in honor of the many small furry friends who visited our house this past year. Here are some of the sketches I’ve made as I’ve been playing with the idea, arranged roughly in chronological order.
I was in a good mood, I had caught up on all my work, and it was a gorgeous summer day, so I gathered my stuff and went out to paint. I ended up in Sunderland, in a farmer’s field just below Mount Sugarloaf, a prominent outcropping on the banks of the Connecticut River. I painted away the afternoon. It was fun, but I was frustrated by the results. I took a few photos and then decided to do a pen sketch as back-up for further work in the studio. I had just about finished when a farmer came by and told me I wasn’t supposed to be out there and asked me to leave. I didn’t tell him I was just about to leave anyway.
Over the past few months our house has been beset with mice. It started when my wife noticed mouse poop in our kitchen drawers. We went out and bought some humane traps and, right away, we caught one. I took him about a mile up the road and let him out. The next day we caught another, and then another the day after that, then it settled down to about 2 or 3 a week. They were also getting into our cars in the driveway, causing a flood in the passenger section of my wife’s car when they clogged up the air conditioner drain. They also figured out how to defeat our traps, causing us to upgrade the design.
I began to suspect that the little guys were somehow finding their way back after I dropped them off. I tried to find some way to mark them so I could tell. I tried putting acrylic paint spots on their tail, but they cleaned it off before it dried. We haven’t caught one for six days now, so maybe we’ve won the battle at last.
Anyway, I decided to sketch a portrait of one of our last visitors.
We returned to Millen Pond in mid-August for a week’s stay. My plan was to draw with a different implement every day. On Sunday it was felt markers.
On Tuesday it was a 4B pencil.
On Thursday it was a watercolor brush.
On Friday it was pastels (this was my favorite of the week).
On Saturday I ended the week with a black pen
The last year has been very trying, made more so by the lack of time to do much drawing. I was very happy, therefore, to make it to the end of June and the start of my vacation. This year we tried someplace new, West Caroga Lake in New York’s Adirondack State Park. The weather was great – maybe even a little too hot - and in between the swimming, the board games, and playing with granddaughter Lucy, I got to do some drawing and painting.
I like to play with a variety of mediums when I get the chance, and over the course of the week I tried pencil, technical pens, colored pencil, dipping pen, watercolors and oil paints. My first drawing was a pencil drawing of the cottage next door, a typical Adirondack camp.
There were many old hemlocks along the shore and I liked the view of their thick branches arching over the sparkling waters of the lake. The branches and foliage have a unique shape that is surprisingly complex and difficult to capture. Silhouetted against the lake, I had the opportunity to study them closely, first with a colored pencil, then with a technical pen. They also appeared in a watercolor I did of a nearby dock.
Right below our balcony was a cluster of lily pads with white water lilies that opened in the morning and then closed up in the afternoon sun. They were the subject of my first oil painting that I worked on from Monday to Wednesday. I’m very pleased with how the water looks in the painting. On Friday I did a watercolor of the same subject.
On Thursday the kids took a road trip, leaving me alone for a quiet afternoon. I decided to try another oil painting and used some tiger lilies along the shore as a subject. The painting was done in just three hours and I was thrilled with how it came out. I had been taking some oil painting lessons over the past couple of years and I think I’m starting to see some improvement.
I have not been drawing enough lately. I would if I could, but I have just had too many other things that had to be done. Today I was looking at the late afternoon sunlight hitting the potted lily by the front window and thinking what a nice subject it would be to draw, and said dammit and grabbed my sketchbook and stole an hour of time to draw. It felt good.
I was at the Red Apple Farm on Saturday and had the chance to do some quick sketches of the apple trees. I love their shape. If I ever try to do a spooky picture of trees I’ll model them on the apples.
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.