Sunday, October 25, 2009

Out of the Woods

Today I was with a sick family member at the doctor (nothing too serious, thank goodness). We ended up together in a tiny nondescript examining room. Then the nurse closed the curtain and, lo and behold, the curtain was covered floor-to-ceiling by a photograph of flowers and woods! What could I do but pull out my Moleskine?

Certain phrases come to mind:

"Close the curtain so I can see the view!" is one.

"You aren't out of the woods yet," is another.

"The curtain was drawn," is a third, and probably the most appropriate.

I had about twenty minutes to sketch, and then I colored the scene this evening. With such a heavy emphasis on the pen, this drawing has a very different feel from the airy woods of my last post, don't you think? It's so interesting how much variety can be achieved using this medium. I never know what the next day will bring.

"Tomorrow to fresh woods, and pastures new," John Milton once said.

I expect his phrase is the best.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Into the Woods

Walking in the woods is one of my favorite things to do. Take two steps into the wild wood, and you are miles away from civilization.

Three steps and you are a world away.

You can close your eyes and take a breath and you can slowly exhale because there is time for that in the woods.

In the woods there is always time.

Listen, and you hear birdsong, or the whisper of trees, or the crackle of branches. Walk and your footfall is the invader. But stop and stand and listen and feel and you are a respectful guest and you understand.

That is how I feel about the woods.

I love to visit the Everglades, the wildest and most diverse area that Florida has to offer, but I have precious little time for that. And hardly time to visit woods at all. But civilization has a solution to that problem: sometimes you can just go to a park. So this last week I took my son Matthew to AD Barnes Park. It's on "Bird Road" (and I like that).

Much of the park is field or playground or picnic area. But on the far corner is the nature trail - most visitors don't know about it - and that is where the magic is. This is where the birds know - they know - to come, because the trees are native and welcoming.

When we arrived at the park, Matthew had fallen asleep in the back seat of the car. I didn't want to disturb him until he'd rested a little. So I parked the car just outside the nature area and combined an old passion with a new; I pulled out my Moleskine and sketched the spot with watercolors. In parts I let the colors flow a little, looser than I'm used to. I'm trying different things, a part of my learning. I feel I'm just beginning to sense some of the secrets of the medium. Just beginning. On the right I tried an impression of branches that are concealed and revealed in sections. I'm not too happy with the way they turned out but not too worried either. I'm just learning after all.

I also cropped this sketch to improve the composition. Rather than do this digitally, or manually cut off a portion of the page, I decided to fold the end of the Moleskine page over. So when I turn the page of the Moleskine, I see the part of the woods I removed, with its lush green and its rounded edges, folded over the blank page. I will keep it like that, and add some compatible drawing on the blank page. Any ideas?

Such fun, - a change so small, like folding the edge of a page in my Moleskine - and it yields such wonder and possibility. It's as though I've walked three steps into the woods. I am a world away.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sunset Place

This is a sketch of Sunset Place in South Miami, drawn and painted in my Moleskine. I painted from across the street as I ate my lunch, on various days when the light was right. We Miamians like to think that the scene looks like Europe with palm trees.

Sunset Place is nice, with shops, a bookstore, and a movie theatre. The high school and even middle school kids love to wander around Sunset Place after nightfall on weekend nights. For them it's the place to be.

I remember following my son at a respectful distance all around Sunset Place on the earliest of his middle school-age excursions. He was there on his first "date" with two other young "couples". At some point in the evening the three girls wandered into Claires, a shop that sells accessories for young teen girls. The boys followed them in but quickly left and stood just outside the store, at a loss as to what to do.

I love the bookstore and have been to the movie theatre many times, but that memory of Sunset Place will always be my favorite.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Coffee, Miami-Style

Cuban coffee, as you may guess, is a staple of Miami. My wife, for one, can't live without it. And one day she requested that I draw a cafetera, otherwise referred to online as the "Bialetti 3-cup Moka Express Original Stovetop Expresso Maker."

Now, we could all say "Bialetti 3-cup Moka Express Original Stovetop Expresso Maker", or we could call it by its acronym "B3MEOSEM", but I prefer cafetera, don't you?

To draw this cafetera was a wonderful suggestion, actually, because it has all sorts of interesting angles and shapes, a reflective surface, and a cute cartoon of a guy on the outside. Who could want more than that? Ours had broken long ago, though, so I had to look online.

I found loads of photos, but mostly from retailers at a boring straight-on side view. So I must have spent an hour looking for a photo reference at an interesting angle, and finally found a blogger who loved her new cafetera! Bless her. (Although I think she called it a "Bialetti 3-cup Moka Express Original Stovetop Expresso Maker", poor thing.) And she used it for expresso, of all things!

But she had only photographed the front half of it. So I had to search for another picture at a similar angle to get the handle-part of it. Then I grabbed other photos for detail references, so in the end I had four photos of cafeteras lined up in a row on my monitor to examine.

I decided against sketching in ink. The perspective was too funky. So I drew carefully first in pencil.

But the cafetera wasn't enough. The picture needed more. So I grabbed my wife's tacita, the tiny cup and saucer that she drinks her Cuban coffee in. I placed it where I could view it at the proper angle, and set the lighting in the proper spot. Now I had a combo virtual / real still life. A 21st century solution! And I drew that.

But there was still a gap in the composition so I grabbed my wife's miniature spoon with the long handle that she uses to stir the coffee, set it just so, and drew that.


So much for pencil. Then I inked it in, adding crosshatching here and there. And finally colored it trying to use much of what I have learned about watercolor and painting, in general: no black or gray (using complementary colors instead), optical mixes, masking fluid, sgraffito.

All-in-all, this simple drawing of cafetera, tacita, and spoon (oh, all right - cuchara) took about 5-1/2 hours to do. Very uncharacteristic for Mr. Grab-a-moment-here-and-there-to-draw-and-ink-whenever-you can-dan. But I was off from work on Monday and had the time.


And in Paradise, where all you dream comes true, this project would satisfy an Everyday Matters challenge, right? And it does! Number 139 - "Draw something with a handle." No mention of coffee in the entire list - who'd have thought that?!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

We Live. We Learn.

There are uncolored sketches in my moleskine. There, I've said it.

There are uncolored sketches in my moleskine. It kind of rolls of the tongue once you get the hang of it.

This is one of those sketches that I made months ago and that I just got around to coloring this morning. I parked my car across the street, just as I'd sketched it, and painted. Then I touched it up this evening.

It's funny when you go back to an old drawing. First, you see all of the defects very clearly. You'd like to believe, for example, that you'd draw it better today. And it's probably true.

One thing I do know that I wouldn't do again (and which I did in some spots in this drawing) is outline where some shadows go. Shadows do not have hard edges - that we all know. Also, I realized that none of the drawn shadows were in the right place anyway. I figured out that I had drawn this at midday, and was now coloring it in the morning.

So we live and we learn.

This is what I am hoping anyway.


"What's that guy doing parked across from my apartment building? He keeps looking this way!"

"Yup, saw the guy do the same thing a few months ago."

"Should we call the cops? I think maybe he's one of those Everyday Matter folks that think they can draw anything and everything! Maybe he's dangerous."

"Nah, he's harmless because he don't draw any important matters."

"Oh - thank goodness."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Good Evening Ladies and Germs..

This began as a well-structured exercise in a book called "Exploring Textures in Watercolor" by Joye Moone. All wet-on-wet painting, I was supposed to create an orderly design of shapes. Wetting the interior of each shape one at a time, I was to paint around the edges and let the water in the shape do its magic. Some shapes were to be with one color and others were to be with multiple colors so that the "wet" would blend multiple colors within a shape together. So far so good.

The thing is, I was supposed to wait for a shape to dry before painting its neighbors. But I kind of, well, lost patience. I mean, I understood the concept anyway, right?

So colors from one shape began running into others and then I had streams going, and then rivers, and then veritable tzunamis; I was sailing happily in the ZONE, as Raena would say, placing color here and there, wherever I pleased, creating abstract art until it looked good to me. This was my mess - mine! - not some academic drivel.

Disease (n) (definition) - a disordered or incorrectly functioning structure.

So you might call this little painting diseased, since it took order and turned it to chaos. In fact, it kind of looks like an illustration of colorful germs smugly floating about their microscopic world, doesn't it?

Well, it just so happens that this week's Illustration Friday topic is "Germs". Coincidence? I think not! So I happily failed the assignment and I am quite satisfied that I have an Illustration Friday entry for "Germs".

This next sketch is colored lighter than usual, and I used brown ink which is new for me. I think these changes give the sketch a different feel from past drawings.

Disease (n.) (another definition) - a condition wherein one or more of a body's parts does not display normal functioning.

I never entered the ZONE for this one and the arm and face of the woman (the copy, not the original) suffered a bit as a result, though I've patched her up as best I could. And I've posted her with my germs, which seems appropriate to me, even after treatment.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Illustration Friday: Pattern

This is my submission for Illustration Friday. The theme this week was "pattern". Technically speaking, I've just spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to place my thumbnail on their website. I finally succeeded, though I have no idea how! So now it's extraordinarily late! And tomorrow I'm going to be extraordinarily tired! So for once I'll just let the picture (which is worth a thousand words anyway) speak for itself.