Monday, March 23, 2015

So many variables

Prismacolor colored pencil on Canson Mi-Teintes paper
8" x 10"

Even those of us who draw "unplugged" spend a good deal of time working with digital tools to get our images out into the world. But making sure that what you see is as close as possible to what I drew involves navigating the image through a labyrinth of variables. Scanners, printers, and monitors all have their own settings, while papers come with ICC profiles; it can be a bit daunting to say the least. I've spent enough time experimenting with my scanner, printer, and different papers to be able to get fairly accurate results on a regular basis. But if I had to walk into someone else's studio and use their equipment, I'd be back at square one. And I don't want to spend hours and hours with tutorials and manuals—I want to draw stuff.

This abalone shell drawing was a great example of how frustrating this process can sometimes be. The two WIP drawings below, and the final drawing above, were scanned on my scanner at the exact same settings. I guess the colored paper is a challenge for my Epson V600 scanner; the majority of my work is on a white background which plays well with others. As you can see, I sometimes slide a little CMYK swatch in on the side; it helps to give me a baseline of sorts.

I thought it'd be interesting to print the 3 drawings out and lay them next to the drawing itself—of course, more variables enter the picture here with the printer getting involved. Now, as you're looking at the resulting photo at the top of this post, you're at the mercy of, yes, even more variables: my camera, your monitor, the color of the daylight.  But, amazingly, I found that the final printed scan isn't too far off from the final drawing. Why? I haven't the faintest.

At this point, I could tweak the image digitally and fix some things that jump out at me now that it's on the screen, but if I make any changes, it's always back on the original drawing. With an eraser and a pencil. Real ones, with very few variables.

And then it'll be time to scan it again.

A note about the subject
I once had a neighbor that enjoyed abalone diving off the coast here in Northern California, and we enjoyed eating the fruits of his labor and saving these beautiful shells. Abalone is delicious, sort of a cross between scallops and lobster. The "mother-of-pearl" iridescence was the real challenge here; I have much to learn about rendering that texture. How apropos that the paper color is called "Pearl"!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Blueberries for the first day of Spring

Prismacolor colored pencils on Stonehenge paper
approx. 6" x 8"

Blueberries rarely come in the wonderful old-fashioned balsa baskets any more. Occasionally I'll see them at a farmer's market, but the one that "modeled" with my blueberries here is part of a stack of them I bought at an estate sale.

Even on a simple drawing like this one, if the perspective of the container is off, the whole thing is a mess, so I worked on this sketch for a while until it looks right to me.

Here's how things started out:

I always love the look of  a drawing when just a few parts are completed. I think that's why I decided, right about this time, to keep the front face of the basket as the white of the paper.

When I'm not sure where I'm headed, I'll scan what I have and
play around by hand or in Photoshop to explore my options.

And there you have it...blueberries on the first day of Spring!

(If you're interested, I've got more blueberry drawings here.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fungi Friday

Portobello Mushroom
approx. 8" x 10"
Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge Kraft 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The simple joy of dyeing eggs

6" x 6" on 8" x 8" paper
watercolor and water-soluble printer's ink on Arches 88 paper
click to enlarge

Chicks and rabbits, daffodils and tulips, jelly beans and marshmallow peeps—I adore Easter-y things. But my favorite Easter tradition of all is dyeing eggs. Over the years, our family has experimented with just about every known way to color and decorate eggs. Store-bought kits, natural dyes, tie-dyeing, markers...I even bought this kit ages ago but was never quite industrious enough to tackle those detailed Ukrainian designs.

I may feel brave and try it out this year, but really and truly, the method I love best is the classic: Drop that little Paas color tablet into a cup of water (not those fizzy tablets, I like the ones that require hot water and vinegar) or better yet, get out the food coloring and mix up some colors of your own. I always have either the malted milk "robin's eggs" or Cadbury caramel eggs close at hand. Dyeing eggs requires sustenance.

With this little linocut image, I was trying to convey the simple joy of taking that plain egg and choosing which color to use first. I was going to cut separate blocks for the dye cups, but decided to paint them in with watercolor before pulling the print. That way, I could play with different colors, etc. (I use water-soluble printer's ink, so I couldn't do the watercolor after the printing.) I'm still learning about printing and watercolors, so there was a lot of experimentation!

Here's the uncolored print:

and here's one printed on Stonehenge Kraft and hand-colored with colored pencils:

Finally, I scanned one and made smaller digital prints for some cards. 
I just love my printer (Epson Artisan 1430), it's hard to tell the digital prints from the hand-pulled ones!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Do you dabble?

 The dictionary lists one definition of dabble as "to take part in an activity in a casual or superficial way". If you work mainly in one medium, how often do you dabble in others? Do you enjoy the change, or does it bother you to be less proficient in such "casual or superficial" endeavors? 

I am not a painter—let's get that straight right off the bat—but I wanted to take some art supplies along on my trip to Hawaii last week.When you're trying to capture those Hawaiian colors, a few colored pencils and/or graphite just aren't enough. But I ventured out of my comfort zone (I haven't used watercolor much since high school a hundred years ago) and bought a tiny little set of Winsor & Newton watercolors to take along. (It was just their Cotman line, not the much pricier Professional one, and with my ever-present Aaron Brother's 50% off coupon, it was a deal!)

Here's what I took (you'll notice that I replaced the (mostly useless) half-pan of Chinese White with some nice Payne's Grey):

It all fit nicely into this little 8 x 10 pouch:

I won't subject you to the first little seascape that I did. Yikes. It was such a cliché little thing. Okay, maybe landscapes weren't a great place to start. I usually draw little things, so why not paint little things? So here's what I ended up with, along with the page above.

I had fun, but I found myself trying to "draw" with paint, which only works for some things. Also, I'm used to colored pencil work which involves layers of colors, but too many layers of watercolor look scrubby and muddy. Agh!  And I couldn't decide whether to use ink for the outline drawing, (first 2) or just go with watercolor (last 2). 
Lots to learn. I kept thinking of that old saying, "Jack of all trades, master of none".

So, tell me—do you enjoy dabbling?  Or would you prefer to be a master of one?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Box of Chocolates

(click to enlarge)

Well, I still can't get enough of linocut printing. This latest piece that I did for Valentine's Day is another reduction print, meaning that first you carve away the areas that you want to stay the paper color. After that first color is printed (the "milk chocolate" color in this piece) you carve away the areas that you want to remain the color that you just printed, and so on. Some artists even do reduction prints of twenty or more colors! One of my favorites is Sherrie York. Her website and blog show the steps in her process so beautifully. Amazing. Ok, back to my little print...

After printing the milk chocolate and dark chocolate, I "cheated" and made a separate little block for the red heart. I was going to put a border around the image, but after playing around with it, I decided that I like it as is.

I ended up with about ten prints that turned out with varying degrees of success including the one at the top of the post, from which I've made slightly larger digital prints for my Etsy shop. I love how they turned out: I can hardly tell the difference between the original block print and the reproductions!

So, along with this Christmas one, there are now two "A Box of..."

What should be next?

Monday, January 19, 2015

And the answer is...

(click to enlarge)

..butternut squash!

Thanks for all of your guesses; most were on the right track! And thank you for your patience—it's been a busy week, and I didn't get this done as soon as I'd planned.

I'm happy with how the outside turned out, but I'm not wild about the inside (which you'd think would be more interesting). Sometimes I just lose interest in a piece that drags out too long; maybe that's the case here. But I do love to eat the inside—it's one of my favorite foods!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What am I drawing?

These are the pencils I've pulled to start on my next drawing.

Guesses, anyone?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sleigh bells ring...are you listening?

Well, my block printing obsession seems to be here to stay. After spending hours on a detailed pencil drawing, it's so satisfying to pull print after print off of a carved block. This little print is based upon this drawing of a sleigh bell from a few years ago. It was my first time doing a 2-color print that isn't a reduction print, so it was a bit tricky getting things to register.

 I was thinking that I'd do a separate block to print the red ribbon attached to the bell, but I ended up liking the image of the bell by itself. And I really liked stringing them onto festive string...

...and using them as tags on Christmas packages. Hmmm...maybe I'll make more and use them as garland next year!

I also wanted to do an original little composition of traditional red glass ornaments in a box. The possibilities are endless as far as printing options: varying the colors, etc.

It always takes lots of planning to figure out what prints where...!

I really had trouble registering this one; I ended up re-carving one of the blocks...ugh. I believe that I got one that turned out perfectly. But I love it and I think it will inspire a series of things in boxes...we'll have to see! In the meantime, happy, happy holidays from my house to yours.