It was the first nice day in months, or so it seemed, so I got out to do some drawing and painting. I started with an ink sketch of a nearby house, and then I sketched it in oils. This was my first session with my tiny new “Thumbbox,” a pochade box that holds only 6” x 8” panels. I hadn’t painted this small in a while, so it was an adjustment, but I still had fun. Here’s the ink study:
After a three-month hiatus, my regular life class finally resumed today. I draw every day, but I still felt rusty! I did this oil sketch in about 90 minutes, using a limited palette of Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red Light, Viridian, Mars Black, and Titanium White. Given the long layoff, I wasn’t expecting too much of myself, but I thought this turned out reasonably well.
For the past couple of days, all I’ve done is sign paintings. I’ve got a show coming up (Nov. 24-25 at the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo Park, Maryland), and I’ve got to sign and frame dozens of paintings between now and then. I’m often reluctant to sign because paintings are never really finished. (As Leonardo said, art is never finished; it’s merely abandoned.) It’s also a bit nerve-wracking to “write” with a paintbrush, especially when the paint is still wet, so I often wait to sign until the painting is dry to the touch.
Anyway, I thought I’d share a few examples of my various signature styles. First up, here’s a full painting, including signature, to provide context.
And here’s a close-up of the signature in the lower-left-hand corner. That location is unusual for me; usually I pick the lower-right. In this case, I felt I had more room on the left.
Here are a few others, without the full picture. The first is a signature from my copy of Sargent’s portrait of Lady Astor. Do you think my “SARGENT” is clear enough?
The next one was done in gouache and watercolor, which gave me the luxury of signing with a pen or pencil, allowing me to use cursive. If I had my druthers, I’d sign my paintings this way too.
Actually, my very first oil painting does bear a decent cursive signature. Maybe I shouldn’t give up on signing this way.
But block letters are easier, especially if I’m trying to sign something while painting plein air. Some purists say a painting isn’t “plein air” unless everything is done on the spot, including the signature. I’m not a purist, but if a plein air piece is done, I will sign it to make the purists happy! I’ll leave you with a few examples.
It's been too hot to draw anywhere outside other than the swimming pool! So I did this sketch of a sunbather at the pool.
We moved our daughter into Yale this past Friday -- almost exactly 40 years to the day after my parents moved me into Yale. Friday also happened to be my birthday, which was cool too. We stayed for much of the weekend, and we enjoyed the opening ceremony in Woolsey Hall.
I found a few spare minutes to draw on Yale's Old Campus. What a glorious abundance of subject-matter to choose from! I wish I'd had time to do more. I hope I will have more time in October, when I return for Family Weekend -- maybe this time with watercolors or even oils.
The weather finally cooled off a bit, so I stepped outside to paint ... my recycling bin. Why not? The drawing needs a little adjustment, but it's a fun little study.
Illustrator Jim Kay has been lending his prodigious skills to the Harry Potter series; he's illustrated three so far. The pictures are wonderful! I'm glad that Kay doesn't mimic the films. Instead he offers his own unique vision of the magical world. He likes to work from life: he uses real people as models for most of the portraits, and he built maquettes (3D models) for characters like Dobby. You can learn more at his website here. You can find the books here.
My renewed interest in the Harry Potter series coincides with the departure of my daughter for college -- her own version of Hogwarts. I like to think that I'm a better dad than Vernon Dursley, though. :)
Here's an example of the art from volume 1. Kay's Hermione is modeled after Kay's niece, but she also has bushy hair and other features described by J.K. Rowling. I love the graffiti on the door, the cool reflected light on Hermione's face, the way she grips her wand in the middle (not at the end), and above all the intelligence in her eyes.
Here's another painting from Rehoboth, this time of the beach itself. I did this around the same time I did the picture of Silver Lake in the previous post.
It's been too hot to paint outdoors this week, so I've been busy cataloging my work in anticipation of my show at Glen Echo Park this coming November. (More details on that to come!) While doing this, I've run across a lot of pictures I painted before I started this blog.
Here's one example. It's a painting of a gazebo not far from Rehoboth Beach, done in oil from the patio of my rented house over the course of two sweltering afternoons in 2016. In retrospect, it would have been stronger with the inclusion of a figure or two, but it still has charm.
I bought a jar of Noodler's Cactus Fruit Eel ink. Just typing "cactus fruit eel" is fun, so imagine how much fun it is to draw with this stuff! I put the ink into my new Duke 209 fountain pen. Here are some results.
While in New York, I made my usual pilgrimage to the Art Students League for a figure-drawing session. I brought a fountain pen, a waterbrush, and a Pentalic watercolor sketchbook. These pictures were from 1-minute, 2-minute, and 5-minute poses.
I did a little urban sketching while in New York last weekend: street scenes, subway riders.
"Something tells me it's all happening at the zoo." Simon & Garfunkel were right! On Saturday I visited the Central Park Zoo with my family, and the place was hopping! Here are some sketches.
I'll be traveling to New York this weekend, so that means no oil paints until next week. I've been warming up with my ink and watercolors instead.
Today I did some urban sketches at two markets in Washington, DC. The first is a neighborhood store called the Broad Branch Market, on Broad Branch Street, NW. A good friend recommended it, and I'm glad she did! I was struck by the friendliness of the place. The customers all seemed to know each other, and several ate snacks on picnic benches in front of the shop. Teenagers hung out with friends, and parents brought kids to the soda fountain and deli. This isn't my best drawing because I was struggling to adjust to a new fountain pen, but I still like it.
I then went to check out another recommendation, the Circle Yoga building, but I had trouble finding a spot with a good vantage point. Instead I sat in my car at the parking lot behind Magruder's liquor store and sketched that. I was struck by how quickly patrons arrived, purchased, and departed. There was little of the interaction I saw at the Broad Branch Market. I suppose you don't go to a liquor store to socialize. I freely admit I bungled the lettering on this one! I was going to paint over it with gouache but didn't get around to it.
I spent the afternoon adding details to trees, improving the drawing, and painting MY car instead of the car that abandoned me in my first session. I also added a figure walking on the street. I'm not sure this one is done yet, but it's getting close; I'm inclined to leave it loose like this. I'll set it aside for a week or so to think on it.
When I started this painting, there was a car parked on the left side of the road, but of course it drove away after an hour. I may park my car on the road tomorrow so that I have a model to paint.
I spent the afternoon in a smelly alley behind a gas station. (Quite a change of venue after painting the National Cathedral the other day!) I was initially drawn to the scene by the way the light slanted across the scene, but as I sat there, I appreciated other things: the many people who visited the dumpster; the large tangle of pipes, wires, and utility poles behind the building; the various shades of green on the dumpster itself; the mysterious lights inside the doorway at the end of the alley.
Yesterday afternoon I decided to paint a study of the west facade of the National Cathedral. As I was painting, a pair of newlyweds drove up and told me they'd just been married there! They were delighted to hear that my wife and I were married there too! I took their photograph and gave them my card.
As for the painting itself, I had time only for an impressionistic sketch, so I simplified things and painted loosely. The exercise gave me new appreciation for Monet's Rouen Cathedral series. It is hard enough to draw all that architecture; it's even harder when the shadows change every 5 minutes, as they do with all those nooks and crannies. I hope to return to this spot with a larger canvas and the time to do a more careful rendering. But I think this study is a good start.
I did a study of Little Falls Creek last year, and I've been meaning to turn it into a larger studio painting. For this first effort, I experimented with the odd painting implements pioneered by David Dunlop: squeegees, house-painting brushes, paper towels, gloves, fingers. The result is a bit messy, but I do like the lighting effects. I haven't decided what to do next with this picture.