Thursday, April 24, 2014

ZEN: The Natural State of Things

     It's Illustration Friday and This week's topic is Natural.  I'm not really the type of individual who likes to express their personal feelings on such a public place. So let's just say that I have had a bad week... well to be more accurate: bad month. 

     I have been in need to return to a Natural State of myself. I needed to find some Zen tonight, so I created some. Not really wanting to say much this week nor do I feel like sharing process...

     So just Enjoy. Find some Zen in your life this weekend and get Natural, whatever this would mean to you.  I have included below a series of images I found on Google to help get you started on your way, NATURALLY.

Until next time,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, keep making art. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Still Kinda Life: Still Life Drawing Initiative: PHASE TWO

                                     So... Very Serious Question:

            How FAR are you willing to drive for a pint of Ben and Jerry's?

I know, right?!?!

     I can hear everyone out there shouting out into the cyber world,"As far as ABSOLUTELY Necessary!"  Which is truly the only correct answer to this question... Ever.

     This was my kinda sorta mission tonight, besides finishing up a long term artistic challenge/project (which I did. Hence the Ice Cream. Good Reward for Good Work)... and also writing up a SketchBlog Post about it...  But who really cares about that when your stomach is SCREAMING,"Ice Cream! Ice Cream!"  But this is, of course, if stomachs could hypothetically speak the English language. In reality, it was really more of a "Gurgle GorbleGigly! Burble Jerble Gerdie Gurglegey!"  But my brain knew what it was saying and it said,"LIBERATE the Ben and The Jerry from the freezer!"

     But do you know what happened when I went to the freezer this evening?  The Ice Cream I had purchased was GONE! There was No Ben and No Jerry!
...."Girgley Gurble!"  Protested my stomach but I was in shock.  I just really couldn't understand how a freezer could misplace something so precious and it made my brain freeze in a way it had never done in my entire life, in the absence of ice cream.  Come to find out, my dear partner, B, who I love very much, had in fact eaten the pint of Ben and Jerry's I had left in the freezer for this very evening. I just couldn't even say anything.  In a single moment of Frozen Dairy Frustration, I had forgotten the English language.  I couldn't console B and tell him that it was really OK that he ate the rest of the ice cream, because in all fairness, I didn't CLAIM it (for anyone who is following the Walking Dead.)  I couldn't tell him that I really wasn't mad with him over something as trivial as ice cream (even though there is nothing truly trivial about some Ben an Jerry's)...

I just did the only thing I could do....

     I grabbed my keys, hoped in the car and began driving madly over town to find an open Gas Station that sold Ice Cream!  Honestly, it's what any reasonable human being would do, right?  So luckily for me the first gas station I drove to (the closest one to my house that is still open at 10:30 at night) had the Ben and Jerry's... A little freezer burned, but hey... I'm not complaining.

     So Yay! I got to enjoy what I promised myself as a reward for finishing a project that spanned the past 3-4 months.  That reward was 2 Guilty Pleasures of my Choosing.  One, as you know is Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream (an AMAZING indulgent especially if you are on a diet.)  and the Second of my guilty pleasures:
(Honestly I may regret admitting this publicly)

      I watched an episode of the most recent Season of Project Runway.  Yes, I secretly watch Project Runway when no one is looking. I can't help it. I'm drawn to the intriguing creativity of it.  I'm fascinated how these individuals can take 24 hours, a meager supply budget, a strange guideline of project parameters... and CREATE the most interesting things in Fabric and thread. 
 I NEVER watch fashion week, don't care for High Fashion Magazines... Just doesn't really hold my interest.  However this one small television program has me as it's captive audience every season... Every Season.  I can't stop! I just want to click the NEXT Episode Button (On Hulu) and keep watching to see what else these talented artists pull out of The Hat (fashion pun.)  I'm watching through Season 10.  I'm always impressed with these guys MAD Sewing Skills and Creative Ideas.
 I certainly don't posses that particular talent myself, so it really impresses me to watch what will possibly be the New Masters of that world at work in the beginnings of their creative careers.  Also on a side note, someone who has a fashionable mind (which I certainly do not posses. Won't try to pretend there) critiques the work. I, myself, NEVER see any of the flaws in the work, but those Judges certainly can and they always call the designer out on it... I do realize it could be the "Gayest" thing I do on this planet, but I really don't care. If they keep producing that program, I'm going to keep watching it... Not to mention it really puts me in a creative mood afterwards. 

     So Yay! Ice Cream! Project Runway Episode! and Just Finished the last of all the Scratch Board Still Life Drawings this very evening.  I'm kinda entertained the notion of sketching a little funny Cartoon of my still life drawings "strutting" their Stuff down a runway.  I'm sure I'm the only person in this world that would ever be amused by that image.

     SO.... Getting back to what this Blog Post is REALLY About: Still Life Drawings: Phase Two: All Scratch Board!

 [Graphic by Artist: Samie Marc. Original Source Unknown.]

    I found the process of working through this particular Phase of my Still Life Drawing Assignment simultaneously very challenging, very educational and very rewarding.  Which is really what this whole Back To Basics Drawing Initiative is about! 100% About!  I learned how to manipulate a particular drawing medium I had not previously used hardly before in my artistic career.  I only used Scratch board once in college then never looked at it again, until a couple of months ago when I decided that the first piece of my new illustration portfolio would be done in scratch board.  I wanted to use the Still Life exercises to help me re-familiarize myself with the medium and truly learn how to work with it successfully.  I believe I have done that.  I'm by no means the Master of the medium, but I feel confident and competent enough to work with it on a regular basis for my personal work and work I do for other clients.  It will never be my signature or got to medium, but I fell it certainly is a very lovely feather in my cap.

     My goals with these drawings I am sharing today were to focus on creating texture and value to render an object/subject in the most realistic way possible using scratch board.  I really wanted to create a variety of believable TEXTURES and created a realistic dimensional space primarily with the use of VALUE.  The process for creating each still life drawing was Identical.  Before I tore down the Massive Still Life that was taking over my studio between November of last year to January/February of this year, I enrolled the help of my sweet and talented partner, B.  I sketched out thumbnail Compositions of the Sections of the Still Life that I wanted to specifically draw. Each Composition focused on a different section of the Still Life which focused on a different texture of a featured object. B then photographed them. They were amazing photos because B is a very talented photographer.  We took these photos at a Very High resolution so that I could zoom in on the computer when I was drawing very intricate details of each still life.  We made the photographs Black and White and kicked up the contrast in them. This would make certain that the focus of each drawing would be creating contrast through creating good values in the drawing.  I used my researched techniques and began to work counter intuitively from the drawing process of Phase One.  I am now working from dark to lightest light, whereas Phase One you start with your lightest light and work to your deepest dark value.
In other words... the technique of Chiaroscuro.

  [Thanks Wikipedia]

     I'm basically going to go 1 by 1 with each drawing, starting from the first, and discuss the relevance of each one to this exercise.  Ill talk about what I felt was successful and what I didn't.  I'm going to include the photograph each was drawn from for a comparison.

Still Life DRAWING #1: Tea & Checkers with Grouch Marx.
     The things I love most about this drawing are the textures of the Wicker Fedora and the Woven Checker Board.  I really think I grasped the techniques I learned in my study of the medium. 
The result was very rich textures and some wonderful Contrast between the light and dark values of the image and also the contrast between the hard and soft surfaces of the objects in the drawing.  I felt this was certainly one of the more successful still life groupings and drawings of the bunch, in terms of meeting the goals of the project.

Still Life DRAWING #2:  An Unlucky Umbrella Makes Strange Friends.
     I was very pleased with this second still life in this series.  One of the most challenging thing about this was drawing an open umbrella on it's side and making the perspective work for it. The second challenge was to pack in a lot of detail.  As this composition displays most of the still life that was put together, it encompassed a large number of objects, textures, proportion and spacial relationships.  I think some of the more successful textures were the
 Checkerboard, the wicker fedora, the wooden letter block and the feathery trim on the crown.  I felt that the texture created for the carpet and the draped fabric in the backgrounds were less successful in their rendering.  Though the contrast of value in them read well, creating the appropriated textures for them, were unsuccessful.  On a opposite note, the value in creating the open black umbrella was quite successful, I feel.  I was quite pleased overall with the outcome of this drawing.

Still Life DRAWING #3: If Charlie Chaplin and Harry Potter were Roommates.
     I am VERY VERY VERY VERY Pleased with the outcome of  this drawing.  I want to say that out of the entire series, it might be the most successful in meeting the goals of the assignment as well as being my favorite... and not because it's the drawing where I got to draw my Harry Potter scarf. lol
I really feel that I NAILED the texture in the fabrics, both the scarf and the draped fabric behind the sculpture. I also feel that the carpet is a much better and more successful "carpet-like" texture this time round. 
I even love how the value just defines that chest and the shadows on the scarf that is draped over the chest.  I do see one part of the drawing that failed. It is that you can't tell the difference between the Straw that is coming out of the large vase in the background and the draped fabric... the two seem to meld together in similar value.  There is not really enough contrast to define the straw so it is lost in the background.  This is due to my eagerness t define the shape. I should have been more patient with creating the structure and character of the texture in the straw. Looking back I could have used a different etching technique to define the straw than the same one I used for the drapery.  All in all, aside from that missing background detail, the drawing is rather lovely and, in my humble opinion, quite a beautiful image... very striking. I love that statue (it's B's.)

Still Life DRAWING #4: Slow and Steady Wins the Race, but a Hare is NEVER Slow nor Steady.
     This still life drawing was also meant to show a more broad scope of the still life that I set up.  It included more objects and really showed alot of the drapery that was behind it.  It was also meant to focus of the texture of the very soft fur that is on the Stuffed Hare.  I admit that out of all the drawings done in this series, this on is definitely the Weakest and Most Poorly Executed. 
Though the ONLY successful outcome was just enough contrast to define the objects in the composition, it isn't enough to save the drawing from being a complete failure in the context of the assignment.  I certainly was having an off day and became very impatient and angry with the drawing.  I forgot the Keep Calm and Draw On mantra I recently adopted this past year... To Calm Myself from being overwhelmed, sit down... BREATHE!... Breath Again... and then breathe again, pick up my pencil or drawing tool and just... draw... draw for the pure simple joy of drawing.  Sometimes it's hard to remember this when you are in the thick of it, working on a particular project... you forget the joy, momentarily or perhaps for an evening.  My advice to you, is if you find yourself in this situation when you are not in a calm space to create... then do not. Take the night "off" and get some R&R. Do something completely different like read or watch a TV program or play a video game.  Then sleep on it and try again tomorrow. 

     You can clearly see that I was NOT taking my own advice in this drawing and it shows... the impatience, the annoyance and the absence of the joy SHOWS here.  I will say that it is unfortunate as this was the composition I expected the most promising results from. I was just disappointed in it's final outcome. :0(

Still Life DRAWING #5:  Dressed in Success!
     I really feel that this drawing was also VERY successful for this assignment.  I felt the techniques I chose to render the objects in the drawing just seemed to work well and the balance of textures just kind of brought it all together.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE how the shoes turned out... I thought that trying to render leather shoes in scratch board would be the challenge on this one. Also the wooden keepsake box was another challenge as I needed to show the wood grain texture.
 I combined a stippling and hatching technique to create the leather shoes then just used linear parallel marks to create the wood grain texture in the box.  The carpet also has a very nice texture to it and the balance of contrast in the values of the drawing just WORKED!  I am VERY VERY Pleased with it.  My only knit-pick about it is that the dinosaur's smooth texture didn't come out quite the way I would have liked... but that is really the only thing I was unhappy with.


Still Life DRAWING #6: RumTum's Cabana.
     The entire time I was drawing this still life, and I know I mentioned this previously in the last Still Life Post, RumTum (my cat) would just make herself comfortable and lay down under the umbrella and prop herself up on the pillow and sleep while I drew the still life.  So I wanted, if I could, to draw her in her little personal cabana.  The focus of this drawing would be to try and simulate the texture of fur.  I feel that it is not a bad attempt at the challenge, but it could definitely be better.
 I really love the smooth texture of the pillow and the contrast of value to create space. So it really didn't turn out too bad considering it hit all the point on the challenge with the exception of satisfying fur texture.  I do have some ideas at how I can improve my technique in the scratch board medium and I will get a chance to tackle the fur challenge again very soon as I am really coming to a close on the composition and character development work for the New Portfolio Illustration (which involves a VERY Furry Creature. Just in case, you may be wondering about the relevance.)

     In conclusion, I VERY MUCH enjoyed etching into scratch board for these 6 somewhat consecutive drawings.  As you know this project has spanned from last November and is FINALLY reached it's Conclusion. I am VERY Happy about this as I am now FREE to move forward with other things.  This is really why Ben & Jerry needed to share in the small milestone of this year and bask in the completion (for now) of Back to Basics Still Life Drawing Initiative.  I really feel that I have a good grasp on working with and balancing the contrasts of my values and textures.  The re-visit to working exclusively with those particular Elements of Design was very nice to experience.  I look forward to creating a couple of NEW Portfolio pieces in Black and White mediums. :0)  I will, of course, share those with you as they are completed. 

until next time...
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, keep making art.