Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sweet Pea Summer Morning

Pure contour
It's been a long time since I sat down with the drawing pad, but the other morning a vase of sweet blossom beckoned, and I had gotten up early enough that there was no rush to the morning. Sweet peas are very complicated flowers! But that's good for getting lost in the meditation.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Berries From My Garden

Pure contour drawing

Close-up of final drawing

I'm not showing the entire "finished" drawing, as the bowl was incredibly lop-sided. The strawberries, though, I thought, turned out all right.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

'Nondescript' Becomes Beautiful Upon Closer Inspection

Big, fat purple clovers and bright yellow coreopsis are blooming among the varied tall grasses, with St. Johnswort getting ready to pop, but it was the inconspicuous flowers of the ubiquitous bladder campion that I chose for my morning meditation.

First the pure contour with ink, free and easy --

Then, with very sharp, very soft pencil --

Monday, June 9, 2014

Looking at, Seeing, Drawing Iris

First, the "pure" (blind; free) contour

Iris #1

Iris #2

Two together

Whole sheet

Friday, May 30, 2014

Dandelions at the Base of Basswood Tree

This morning's subject

It was a lovely morning to sit outdoors
with pencils and sketchbook.

Pure contour drawing (pen)

"Finished" drawing (pencil)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Homework for Last Class of Spring

This assignment began the same way as earlier ones, with a prepared ground of charcoal (left) and a grid on plexiglass laid over the subject to be copied (below). I chose Walt Whitman for my subject. (Do not be confused by reflections of outdoor greenery on the plexiglass: that isn't part of the story.) 

First areas erased

Emerging face
With this last assignment for class, we were graduating to a full tonal range, shading from dark to light rather than dealing only with large pieces of single tones.

Above is my almost-complete copy (on right) next to the subject, and below is the stage reached when I decided to call it "good enough" and reach for the fixative. He isn't a perfect copy, but I'm pretty happy with him.

My biggest accomplishment with this and the previous assignment was eyeballing proportions instead of having to measure. Since proportion has long been a major weakness in my drawing, I feel good about this progress. My biggest problem was confusing my tools and reaching for a Q-Tip when what I really needed was a stump, thus removing charcoal when I had intended to blend -- necessitating several steps back to deal with my mistake. But it was a good class, and working with charcoal was a challenge and taught me a lot. That Elizabeth Abeel is a terrific teacher!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Outdoor Urban Scene: Trees in Downtown Traverse City

One thing I love about pure contour drawing (or "blind," as I think of it), looking only at the subject and not at paper and pen (or pencil), is the freedom of it. There is the freedom of simply looking intently at the subject -- in this case, two small trees between street and sidewalk -- added to the freedom of not worrying at all about results. Because the pen is not lifted from the paper, of course the drawing will not "look [all that much] like" the subject. And yet there is a feeling of its spirit.

I did this pure contour drawing with one of my Staedler pigment liners (0.7), little German pens I love, in the small sketchbook I carry in my purse for opportunities like this.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


A fantastic copyist I am not. (My motivation and patience are both limited, although I see the value of the exercises.) My favorite part is making the first strokes of charcoal on the blank paper. My second-favorite part is seeing the face begin to emerge.

Photographing the various stages helps me see what was going on. I had the jawline wrong right from the beginning. 

But at a certain point I just say "Good enough" and call it quits. For this exercise, like the Lincoln, we used only two values, dark and light. The next step will be adding a midtone.

I loved being able to work on the sunny front porch for the first time this season!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

First Phase Went Well, Anyway

The sculpture above was my model this morning. The pure contour drawing (below) went well, I think. Sometimes the energy of the pure contour, even when it doesn't completely "come together," is more satisfying than the finished modified contour drawing. In this  case, the modified phase was so out of proportion that I deemed it a total failure. But failure can be good, too. "We must draw a lesson from this," as the Chinese say. See what went wrong and what needs work -- but I'm going to keep that to myself.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Afternoon Sanity Break: Coat on Rack

While waiting for phone repair, I needed to calm down. Best thing I could think of was to get out the drawing pens and the small sketchbook I carry in my purse. Pages were too small to accommodate the entire long coat (unless I made it very, very small), so I didn't even try. After all, this meditation was about calming down, not blissing out.

Blind contour

Modified contour

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Convoluted Daffodils

The daffodils that bloom every year under the mammoth old silver maple between our backyard and the henhouse are not the simple shapes I usually buy to plant myself, but their fussy, frilly edges do present an interesting drawing challenge. As usual, I began with a blind contour drawing. After drawing the entire vase that way, I did a couple more blind contour drawings of individual blooms, just because the pen felt so good on the paper, and it was intriguing to look only at the flower as I drew and only afterward at the drawing.

Last but not least, I concentrated on a single bloom for a modified contour drawing, i.e., one made by looking at both subject and paper while working. I was pleased with my modest result, and it was a good way to begin the day. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Charcoal and Eraser in the Evening

The activity pictured in this post didn't start out as meditation, but with time it took on that quality.

"Prepared ground"

First few grid squares completed

Background: When the guys at the lumber yard in Northport asked why I needed an 8" x 10" piece of clear plexiglass, I had no clue. It was on the list of supplies Elizabeth Abeel asked us to round up for her class, "See as the Artist Sees," Part II. In Part I (which I took last fall) our only tools were pencil, eraser, and paper. This time around the process is much more complicated (and much messier!), as we're using charcoal and all kinds of associated odds and ends -- wax paper, wet wipes, stumps and tortillons, etc. -- including the plexiglass.

My last couple of mornings have been very busy, anyway, not leaving much time for leisurely drawing, but last night I found time to work on this week's class assignment, finishing an exercise begun in class on Wednesday. Using the grid system, our job is to reproduce a black-and-white image with charcoal and eraser.

Plexiglass with grid over part of original

Beginning to reproduce section above

Face appearing...

Almost there....

I have my work cut out for me, that's obvious. Still, I wouldn't call this attempt a total failure. And best of all, the longer I worked, the more the work began to feel like a drawing-as-meditation and the happier I was to be right there, not thinking about anything else.

I call it done -- and will see what instructor says!