Friday, December 14, 2007

Charcoal Portrait...and Travel

Lilly, 8x10, charcoal

I've been out of town this week, travelling for business. I thought I should bring along a few portrait commissions just in case I was inspired in my hotel room. The one above, of course, is a really bad picture, taken from my phone. It's a smaller one, 8x10 and was done fairly quickly. It is charcoal, so the photograph should just be black and white (no blue in real life!). Once I return home, I will prop it up and look at it again, and tweak it before giving it to the client.
I was hoping to return home yesterday, but I was among the many many people affected by the winter storm. I was trying to fly out of Providence Rhode Island. The snow is a gorgeous site for us not used to seeing it! Being from North Carolina, we see more ice than snow, and even the ice is rare...To see the snow coming down so quickly, I had mixed feelings. It was beautiful and exciting, but I was at the airport hoping to fly out. A flight that was supposed to leave at 1:30 was delayed many times and was eventually cancelled (after being boarded and waiting for the plane to de-ice twice). I was frustrated at first, but my company has a wonderful travel department that helped me with my flight and hotel. Can I say I love the Hilton? It's my favorite hotel (especially when having to stay overnight due to cancelled flights). The beds are soft, the duvet covers are silky, warm and light. My favorite part was that they had HGTV! This has become a rarity in the hotels I've stayed in. The employees at the hotel were very nice, and I'm it was a struggle with so many stranded people staying there.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Two Boys

9x10, Strathmore Charcoal Paper

I've been fascinated recently with pastels and how they glow with any subject. I purchased a small set of Nupastels months ago and never worked with them until tonight. On a whim, I decided to open them up. I took some Strathmore charcoal paper (md beige tint), a photo I tweaked in Paint Shop Pro and just started to sketch it out on the paper. There was no planning, so I'm sure the more I look at the piece, the more unstatisfied I will's a work in progress, and I'll probably fix the colors, the backgound, blend a little, etc. It's my first try with pastels, so I'm really just playing around with it.
It's another bad photo, but what can I say? I didn't start doing this until 8 tonight when our kids were watching "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving and Surprises...

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving! Today is a busy day for us, but I'm procrastinating...I have to bring pumpkin pie and "sausage balls" to my brothers house for our feast. However, our oven broke two days ago and I have to go to my mom's house to bake the sausage. I didn't know she had to leave early to go over to make her potatoes, so my husband, my kids and I are going to take over her oven this afternoon before we trek to Raleigh.

The best made plans aren't the best if we don't communicate our expectations...oh well.

I guess it's safe to say that the "plan" was that I was going to pick my mom up from her house in my little car while my husband goes to my brother's house with the kids. Then, we were going to "go to a movie" after Thanksgiving while my mom kept the kids. Except that the movie will Wilmington. Shhh....I'm surprising him with a weekend there without the kids. I hope he'll like it. He's been talking about things to work on for my studio. (He's excited about it, so I really, really hope he likes his surprise. I mean, I'm taking him away from what he wants to do this weekend...). Now I just have to figure out the cars...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Nephew, The Artist

I'm so excited, that I just had to post this. (I got permission from the artist and his mom). My nephew's art was chosen to be exhibited at a local bank. He's in 3rd grade and has been interested in art for a while (in a cool sort of way, of course). A few times I've talked to him about techniques and such, but I never know what's the appropriate teaching level for the different age groups. Right now, I just casually talk about perspective and how to hold the pencil out to get the angle and how certain paintings are created. I try to get his input on pieces of art as well. This past summer, I took him to the "Arts At The Meadow" (an art festival in Chapel Hill, NC). He enjoyed it and was even willing to discuss what paintings he liked. Although, he kept telling the artists "my aunt is an artist...she has a website"...(that was right before I created a hole and crawled in). Of course, he has this "all agog" way of holding himself, so I wasn't sure if he was enjoying himself, but maybe that's normal for boys his age.

Anyway, I am really glad that his artwork was chosen to be hung at the bank. Do you know what I really like about this piece? The sky and the mountains...I love it because it's not the typical colors of these things. Skies don't have to be blue, mountains green or brown or grey. The strokes create movement in the painting, almost as if you're in a car looking out the window at the scenery, looking at the mountains as the trees go whizzing by your eyes.
What do you think about it?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Charcoal Portrait from Life

Anne, charcoal, 18x24
I decided to switch to charcoal for yesterday's portrait class (1 1/2 hours). It had been a while since I've worked with pencil - I was just too impatient last week. I prefer using willow charcoal since it allows me to block in shapes, planes, etc instead of getting distracted with the detail. I've seen artists who lay down charcoal first and pick up the highlights with the eraser. I find this fascinating, but not for me. I sketch the blueprint (nothing too detailed), then block in the shadows. At this point, it's not a pretty sight! I typically use a tissue over my index finger to blend and soften the charcoal. I push the charcoal around to create the mid tone, usually going in the direction of the contours. This really helps to build the face and allow you to see beyond the eyes, lips, nose, etc and instead, see the hills and valleys. I then take my kneaded eraser and pull out the highlights. This process is repeated as many times as it takes. I feel like a sculptor chiseling with my charcoal.

As for the portrait above, using charcoal on drawing paper really created a wash look to it. Almost like pen and ink on hot press watercolor paper. I'm not sure if I like the look, so I might bring with me some charcoal paper for my next class.

Monday, November 5, 2007


I've added the final update to the couple...I'm not sure if any of the updates I made show up, but I thought I'd post it here anyway. I will be shipping it off tomorrow!

On another note, I am taking a portrait drawing class at the Carrboro Art Center. Tomorrow night is my second class. Last week's was a nice "reintroduction" to using live models. It's very different from using a photograph! Having a model really ensures that your eye is trained to pick up light, shadow, soft and hard edges...and negative shape. It's amazing how lazy the eye can get from photographs. (My eyes just glaze over after a while and the simplest mistakes occur and elude me sometimes).

Anyway, I don't want to scare anyone away...the first few sketches are always the worst...(This one is done with pencil (I think 4b)). It's pretty large - the pad of paper is 18x24 and I was successful in using the space. The teacher recommended that a portrait shouldn't be larger than life unless you have a really large or tall wall to put the portrait can measure your face with your hand (open palm - place the thumb on your chin and your middle finger at the top of the forehead...or wherever it reaches.
Since it's late, I was too tired to do anything special to this one, so sorry about the flash. Tomorrow, I might go back to charcoal!

Monday, October 29, 2007

November Flower: Work In Progress (WIP)

November Chrysanthemum, colored pencil

Not the greatest picture...since this was taken from my cell phone.

I changed jobs recently and had to fly out to my new official company yesterday and just flew back home tonight. I brought my colored pencils, a pad and a few works in progress to do on the plane. I really need to get a better pencil sharpener, because the travel sharpener I have really eats up the pencils. I'm learning a few things now that I'm creating more pieces. When you create artwork, you're using supplies and they run low quickly!
  • Creating Art = Good: well, creating art! Bad: Supplies run low
  • Not Creating Art = Good: Supplies are always there. Bad: Not producing art...(Jerry's Artarama, here I come!)

On another note, as I was waiting for my flight at RDU yesterday, I hear over the intercom "Mr. So and So, please come to security to pick up your package..." and I'm thinking, oh, I hope this so and so guy picks up what he left behind...I really don't want the airport to shut down! I guess he picked it up, because I got on my plane uneventfully. Coming back home today, guess who did the same thing at the Providence airport? Sometimes, I really need to go blonder to go with my mind. I was so happy that for once I didn't have to go through security and unpack a laptop, that I left behind the case that I brought to carry my drawing pad! I was happily (and lightly) walking down the aisle to my gate, talking on the phone with my mom, and was telling her how nice it was to not be weighed down with all this stuff...and I realized the reason! Tomorrow, I'll see about putting my name on the case.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Lavada and Ken, charcoal, 11"x14"

I feel like I've neglected this, but I guess's only been 5 days or so. I think I'm getting to the final stretch with the most recent portrait, though I'm still not calling it done. It has a different feel to it than the others, but I think it has more to do with the following:
  1. the source photo: the source photo was not as clear as the others, so there is less detail. Less detail in the photo=less detail in the portrait.
  2. vicinity to the camera: this comes back to the # of subjects for obvious reasons.
  3. # of subjects: the more people in the portrait, the less focus I can provide to each. Basically, this is the key to the whole portrait - the more subjects, the further they have to be from the camera, and the less detail it will provide.
So, really it comes down to you get what you give me. As a customer, it's up to you to tell me what you want. You are paying for a portrait and I want it to be the best that it can possibly be. That means when I ask you to give me criticism (ie, does it look like you/him/her? What about the nose that doesn't look right?). I'm perfectly fine with straying from the photo, since photographs are known to lie.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Some of you already know that I joined a local art co-op a few months ago. We've been quite busy trying to get the studio up and running as a co-op and last night we had a reception for friends and family. The turn out was great, and the gallery looked extremely nice. The website is being updated, but you can go to Art and Soul Studios to learn a little bit about us.

I also learned that I sold one of my pieces! What more encouragement can you ask for than to have your art sold! The piece is called "Three Sisters", painted with watercolor.
I have to work on replacing this piece and haven't decided on whether to do another watercolor or continue to work on some more charcoal or colored pencil. The painting that sold definitely inspired me to work on another one with the same theme. There is one that I've thought about doing with my son and nephews...We'll see!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

First Real Attempt at Colored Pencil...and Arlington

This is a pretty bad photograph, so I apologize for that...but I'm beginning to see how obsessive colored pencil can be. The only thing I did before this one was an ATC a month ago, but I guess I still didn't get "it". I've just been too hesitant to use just one color, thinking that it was cheating. The flower above was done using an example from the book Painting Light with Colored Pencil by Cecile Baird. The flower is a little different from the book since I didn't have the colors she listed, and I didn't worry about getting the petals like the example. However, the steps that were listed were clear enough that when I followed them with my version of colors, it turned out pretty good for my first serious attempt at CP. Since it's just a practice one, I didn't worry about the background, either. I may add it later.

As for the sketch below, this is just to prove to you guys (and me), that I'm continuing to work on different things - even if it's not finished! My brother recently travelled to Washington, DC with his wife and visited our dad in Arlington National Cemetery. This was a photo he took looking at the marker (Court 8) with the Pentagon in the background. (Well, can't you tell that already?)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Weekly Sketch

Lightbulb, charcoal, 9" x 11"

Yep, it's a lightbulb. As a part of my renewed commitment to my work, I am participating in a weekly sketch over on Wetcanvas. The great thing about this site is that it provides reference photos without any issues of copyright. The photo gallery over there is wonderful! I have spent many nights browsing the photographs, from people, animals to landscapes and machinery. However, the downside of drawing or painting from a reference photo is that you can be limited by the quality of the photo and its composition. The one thing I never thought about was that you are also limited by your printer. I printed a photo of the lightbulb and went on my merry way to begin the sketch. The shadow kept bothering me since it was cropped so harshly. Once I finished, I went back to the site to post my progress and lo and behold the original photo was different! My printer cropped the shadow more than the original. I know, it's a little irritation that can be easily remedied by adding more to the right of the sketch. Since I used vine charcoal, it's easily corrected.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Where I Am Now

So, there's a first time for everything, right? I've pondered for months whether or not to start a blog and like all bloggers, I decided to give it a try. Before, I thought I had nothing to talk about except for my kids, my husband, my family in general...and who wants to read about my life?

Well, since I am an artist, it never occured to me to talk about my art! After all, it's been quite some time since I did anything real with it. Once I graduated, (with art and history degrees), I went straight to clinical research. Oh, I get the question all the time. How does one with an art degree go into clinical research? Ummm...I always wanted to be a starving artist, until I figured out that meant not having any money! Plus, it helps to have a sister that knows someone with a temp position open...Anyway, that's beside the point. It's been a while. Now, I am back, trying to pull artself back together and get serious (as serious as I can get with a full-time job and two toddlers. Oh sorry - one toddler and one pre-schooler).