Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Autumn Sunrises and Honing Skills

I don't know about you  but I absolutely love getting up at the crack of dawn (well, technically just a bit before the crack of dawn) when there's a little nip in the air and heading down to the pond to catch the sunrise. If I'm really lucky there's a scattering of small cumulus clouds  just above the eastern horizon to catch the sun's first rays. (Admittedly, with our drought this year there haven't been very many mornings when the sky wasn't completely devoid of clouds. But, when they are present, the view is sublime.)

Sunrise Over Still Waters, 8x6, oils on Gessobord

 Autumn mornings are also a delightful time for long, slow walks with our Welsh collie. We both find the air invigorating and enjoy exploring for new sensory experiences (her for the olfactory type, while I seek visual). After the passage of a rather intense (and wet) cold front this weekend the foliage is taking on its fall colors and there's a good bit of foliage that's been blown to the ground. Hanna (the dog) found this Cottonwood leaf while sniffing about and I was intrigued by the gall on its stem. I drew the front and back surfaces and then dissected the gall with my pen knife (and found it filled with dozens of bright lemon yellow aphid eggs).

Cottonwood Study, 4x6, graphite and w/c on paper

I really like the tingling sensation in my nose as I inhale crisp, cool air and the way you can feel each breath right down deep in your lungs. I savor the smell of smoke from someone's early morning fire as it mingles with the chill in the air. And I take pleasure in the rustle of the breeze through the cottonwood trees (and how it sounds just like a mountain stream). I can't capture that experience in a painting or a drawing. So, I carry a pocket notebook to jot down the thoughts and experiences as they happen -- or write them directly onto the back of a sketch or panel.

Over the coming weeks I'll be working on honing my technical and perceptual skills. I'll be posting the new pieces and observational notes here. And -- just in case you're looking for one-of-a-kind holiday gift-giving ideas -- I'll also be posting the best works in the new online gallery shop on my website . 100% of all sales revenues will go to support my upcoming Zion "expedition". (So, you could purchase some one-of-a-kind artwork AND provide invaluable aid to an art adventure at the same time.) I hope you'll follow my posts here and take a look at the gallery shop too.

Thanks for dropping by. (You're always more than welcome.)


Monday, November 17, 2014


Anyone up for a little High Adventure?

Sunrise, South Zion NP 5-14a
sunrise in Zion National Park (to say that the light in Zion is "dynamic" would be an understatement)

The National Parks Service folks at Zion National Park have made their selection for the 2015 season and I've been invited to participate! (http://www.nps.gov/zion/parknews/2015airannounced.htm) In fact, not only am I going to spend a month drawing, painting, and video taping in this awesome natural wonderland... I'm going to be doing it during what is arguably the park's most colorful season -- autumn! (http://www.zioncanyon.com/blog/autumn-zion-national-park/)

Zion National Park - Grotto Building - First Visitor Center
during my stay I'll be living in the Museum-Grotto House (built circa 1927) -- 
just sets away from the Virgin River, hiking trails, and awesome canyon views

Early Fall, Zion National Park
my residency period will begin with the onset of fall color and run through the full (spectacular) range of color change

The current plan is to spend one week driving to Zion (with a couple of "painting breaks" en route -- at Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley) and four weeks in the park itself. Watch for the launch of my new Kickstarters! crowd funding venture soon. (I'm planning some really interesting "thank you" gifts for my supporters this year -- including artwork, DVDs, and much, much more.)

Zion Canyon view from Angel's Landing - Zion National Park, Utah
you can expect some really spectacular views from the canyon floor (and maybe a few from the rim)

I even plan to try painting by headlamp (mine, not the car's)

I'll be posting regular (well, as regular as internet availability permits) updates here on the blog -- during the lead-up prep, en route, while in the park, and during my return). And I hope you'll join me here when we launch this exciting voyage of discovery. In fact, if you find yourself in the southern Utah area during my residency, I hope you'll consider joining me for the FREE public workshop I'll be offering (date TBA); I can pretty much guarantee a good time (and door prizes) for all!

Once a Home, Grafton Ghost Town, 4-30-14s
my residency at Zion will even allow a sketching & painting excursion to the ghost town of Grafton 
(setting for the "bicycle scene" from the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)

Stay tune for updates and additional details soon.


Image credits: All images in this article are used with permission under Creative Commons licensing agreement (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/). Copyright belongs solely to the original artists. My thanks to (from top to bottom) Don Graham, Alan English, Carl Berger, Jono Hey, Eric Ward (no relation), and Don Graham again. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Intrepid Sketch Hunters: Strathmore Softbound Toned (or "Here There Be Monsters!")

I generally begin each new sketchbook/journal with an inspiring quotation.

The neat thing about sketching in nature (well, one of the many neat things) is that you always encounter surprises... if you're observant.

This week I'm continuing my exploration and evaluation of papers for journaling. And, whenever possible I'm doing it outdoors. (I know, it's a tough job. But, hey! somebody's got to do it.) The selected papers/sketchbooks will be joining me on a new series of field adventures in 2015.

Strathmore - Softbound

Strathmore is a name artists have been depending on for fine papers for 115 years. Earlier this year the company unveiled their new Softbound series. I have my eye on 3 journals in the series for use in in the 2015 project and am testing the 2 toned paper journals this week. (Watch for a separate field test and evaluation of the landscape-formatted Softbound Watercolor journal, and Strathmore's Series 500 Imperial watercolor paper in a future posting here.)

While artists still choose to create most of their drawings on white paper, it is also true that working on a mid-toned paper is the quickest way to produce a tonal/volumetric study of a subject. It's also true that, because works on toned paper aren't as common as those on white paper, toned paper has a visual impact, or "novelty", that white paper doesn't.

rendering volumes on toned paper is a breeze (if you simply 
remember to let the paper represent the middle tone)

Strathmore's Series 400 Toned Gray has a subtle vibrancy due to the inclusion of fine red and blue fibers scattered throughout its surface. The paper will work flawlessly with graphite or pen & ink. But, personally, I find a white and dark (either black or Indigo blue) color pencil particularly appealing for fast, bold renderings in the field or in the studio. Add to this the fact that the surface can easily stands up to repeated erasures without smudging or fraying and you have both a versatile and dependable tool.

toned paper is far more gentle on the eye when working with harsh reflected light 

toned paper can be invaluable for capturing unexpected or fleeting discoveries
(like this fossil I found at my feet while sketching on the fractured limestone above) 

tip - putting down a light wash first will increase the "tooth" of the paper's 
surface and make it even more receptive for color pencils

As with the gray, the surface and sizing of the Toned Tan paper is ideal for graphite, color pencil, and/or pen & ink. The 118gm weight of the papers also means both are quite tolerant of repeated light washes, experience minimal surface buckling, and show no sign of fiber lift.

a drawing on toned paper can offer a visual experience that white paper may lack


And remember, when sketch hunting it always pays to be alert -- even when not actually sketching (otherwise you're likely to overlook "monsters").

here there be monsters!