Learning to Draw

After completing a self-therapeutic course called the The Artist's Way, in March, 2008, I have been involved with trying to learn how to draw and paint.
Here are samples from some of my experiences along the way. They are LIFO ordered, Last-In-First-Out.

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2012 Informal Art

ART200 took us to the end of 2011. I hope you found that blog to be interesting and enjoyable to read as much as I enjoyed doing the actual class and its course work.

After finishing the formal art class, I became listless about painting and so slipped into slovenly habits with regard to doing any painting on a regular basis. I tried going back to the Hammond Street group but it felt different with several new people plus Linda was still out doing her art development activity. I told myself I was `taking a break' but that did not help break my `Painter's Block'.

The following samples happened on a sporadic basis stimulated by a PR need at our local Meeting and by a three-day class at the Penobscot Valley Senior College in March. Generally I feel they are interesting enough to include here but they do show a lack of focus or real passion to draw. It felt like I was just going through the motions. I hope you find them interesting examples of a searching mood but basically they are just marking time until I get into the next university class in September: ART110, 2--D Design.

October 18, 2012 Brown Ale Still Life
6x9 Acrylic on 8.5x11 Photo Developing Paper

Have some color! So far the works from this Fall have all been Black and White. Here is a Still Life, done with acrylic paint, to show that we did use color. It features my favorite combo of orange and blue while Brown Ale is also my favorite beer; in fact, Newcastle Brown Ale is the 'Official' Beer of the College of Engineering at UMaine. That's per dictum of Dean Smith about 15 years ago but now it's not certain that the current administration favors this beer. I have been away too long to know that fact.

This painting is unique in that it is the first time I ever tried painting directly onto photo developing paper. It is very smooth, as would be expected, but the advantage is that it does not readily absorb water. Thus the paint takes longer to dry and it is possible to mix colors right on the drawing. In addition, it is easy to leave brush marks, as it dries, and so it is possible to get effects similar to oil paints. So far, I have yet to attempt oil paint but a strong deterrent is that I am sensitive to paint odors and so would not be able to use them with much comfort. It was a surprise to see how easy it is to get brush marks as this bottle stands out against its labels and markings.

Another thing that was different for this painting was that, as I did not finish it in class, I did not know how to finish it later. All I managed to finish was the bottle and the mug, which Lola supplied, but they were not 'grounded' in any way other than the blue shadows. Here at home I was leery about ruining what I had already done and that made me nervous about how to finish it. I solved the problem by making a copy, of what I had, and then using colored pencils to experiment with different surface orientation and background. Once I found a satisfying arrangement it was easy to complete the painting here in my work area.

Right now I think this painting is worthy of a frame and so I plan to do that to see how it looks when it is truly finished---dressed up so to speak.

October 11, 2012 Breaking Waves
7x9.5 Ink on 9x12 Bond

What we have here is some turbulent water pounding into the shore as the Pilgrims try to land in the New Country.

For this exercise, Lola passed out copies of dark pictures from a story about the Pilgrims coming to America to settle at Plymouth in the bay at Cape Cod. These were small pictures that looked like they may have been etchings but they were very dark to the point where the boat was barely visible in the original for this drawing. We were instructed to make larger ink drawings on the bond paper provided. I took my copy home and enlarged it and was rewarded with being able to just make out the boatload of people coming to shore through the dangerous pounding surf. [It looks like it was poor timing to come ashore at that moment but then maybe everyone was anxious to get off the boat; or, due to the shallowness of that bay, maybe they had to go to shore with the tide in order to get there at all.]

We learned that with the permanent India ink we could, nevertheless, use a wet brush over the lines already drawn so as to add tone, or shading, to the drawing. It was somewhat like making a wash in watercolor and letting the color absorb across the paper. It is interesting how light can be added to the drawing by not toning in critical spots where light is wanted; e.g., along the gunwalls of the boat, at the top of breaking water, and on the sides of the rock bluffs. Note the little eddy in front of the boat and how it is defined by the light at the top of its breaking waves.

Ink is more fun than I ever expected and I look forward to trying it again in the future.

October 8, 2012 Marty
5x5 Charcoal on 9x12 Newsprint

Here's another 'warm-up' drawing done at the beginning of a class. I include it here because I like it as an accurate rendition of this energetic young woman. It is a two-minute gesture drawing of Marty, a live-wire in the class. She had to be just over the minimum age to be in one of these senior classes and so she had more energy than the rest of us combined.

It amazes me, sometimes, how well these 'quick' drawings turn out. I especially like this one because I think it shows the interesting features of her face with the set of the cheek bones, the eyes, and the chin with the smile just lurking on her mouth.

In the final analysis, I don't know how it happened. I can liken it to one of those moments when I am playing the trumpet and a complicated transition just 'pops' out when I am playing a fast piece, like a Sousa march, or something. It is like an 'out-of-body' experience. You are not aware of actually thinking about the notes, or the fingering, it just happens and you are watching at a distance. I think that must be what happened here. You just draw it so fast that you don't think about it and out pops the essential nature of the image you are trying to create.

It would be nice to be able to do that more often---in both music and art. As it is, I do not know how to make it happen, or have knowledge of whenever it will happen again.

October 2, 2012 Self-Portrait Homework
6x9 Graphite on 9x12 Bond

Greetings!! From my web page. Old sour puss here is the result of a suggested homework exercise. The six-hour class was not enough time so Lola recommended taking a cut at a self-portrait at home. This was in spite of the fact that Senior College advertizes that its clsses do not have homework. Nevertheless, I did give it a try---with the result shown here.

I think I did one a few years ago when I first started trying to learn to draw. [See Early Art Experience 2008--2009] Betty Edwards recommended it as a beginning exercise. At that time I used a shaving mirror and the tilted image gave me a rather strong chin. Here, this time, I ended up with a deadpan expression as I studied the remote operation of the camera.

For this exercise, I got out my camera, reviewed how to execute a remote photo, and took an image to use for the drawing. I printed it on an 8.5x11 piece of paper and used it to draw a scaled version. For some reasaon I did not get a 'happy' photo, and the light was complicated, but I tried to replicate it in a faithful way.

Still, it's me as it has a fair caricature of my usual features. The chin is still strong but the eyes seem to be penetrating as they gaze at the viewer. It's not one of my best drawings but I do like it well enough to put it here to say hello and greet whatever friends happen to drop in to read about what is going on with my on-and-off art journey. Thank you for stopping by and best regards to you.

The anagram from what I am, ECE, plus what I want to do, PAINT, is PATIENCE, of which I am sorely lacking.

September 27, 2012. Warmups
8.5x8.5 Graphite on Newsprint

ART110, 2--D Design did not work out.... Sigh!... I signed up for the class but it turned out not to be what I thought it was going to be. It appeared to be aimed at commercial art. In addition, it stressed elementary vocabulary and how to write in teams. This was not the art basics I was looking for and, even though I could have completed the class, I decided to drop out after two weeks. It was disappointing as, apparently, the class is different for different teachers. I was not able to get into the recommended class so will try again next term. Maybe someone in the CED office can get me into the section I want.

Here it is, September already and I have not done any art, worth talking about, since last March. That's quite a drought. There was not anything worth keeping from the two weeks that I put into ART110. Fortunately, Senior College, and Lola, came to the rescue and I was able to get into that short four week class which began at the end of September.

This version of Lola's class was structured into a six-hour day: 10 am to 4 pm. The morning was spent on drawing while the afternoon was on painting, or using color. The sketches shown here are pencil 'warm-ups' on newsprint. They are simple segmented figures, we were told we could use lines, circles, or other shapes, but to make figures in various poses and to stress shadows to ground them. I selected the oval shaped segments and drew action figures actually engaged in warmups. I thought it to be clever metaphor for the purpose of the exercise. Experts are always interpreting art, after the fact, as having been created with various metaphors and so I thought I would oblige them for this set of warmup drawings.

One claim is that by doing something like this exercise, in a few minutes, it actually gets the creative juices working so that the right brain gets energized to make art. I believe it works as each of the six-hour classes proved to be creative. It felt good to be making art once again.

Another recommended warmup exercise was to draw a picture of either hand by the method of contour, ala Betty Edwards, and those proved to be interesting starters as well. It was interesting to learn that it is actually possible to draw with the left hand while not looking at the paper; i.e., contour drawing.

March 22, 2012. Light Portrait
7x9 Chalk on Black Construction Paper

For some time I have thought I wanted to practice mark-making in order to draw representational art.

Shades of Betty Edwards---speak of synchronicity---the very next project, in the senior college art class, was to just add `lines of light' to make the drawing shown here. That's all this drawing is: hair. That's what Lola called the exercise. Just draw hair. She gave us a sheet of black paper plus an ordinary piece of white chalk---the kind I used for my blackboard lectures. She also gave us each a B/W copy of some historical person to use as a model for our drawing.

That's all this drawing is: shades of light. There is no outline, no figure drawing, just line after line of white on black to create the appearance of a portrait of this 19th century notable.

There was no name attached to this figure so we will never know who it was that posed for the original. You can think of it as any Civil War important person or maybe even one of our distinguished presidents of that time.

Or a relative.

Making a picture in this fashion was a thrill and I am pleased with this first result at mark making.

March 15, 2012. Island Sunset
9x12 Acrylic on 140# Watercolor Paper

Here is a scene to possibly 'lighten' up the page.

It is from the second art class at senior college where I attempted to create an abstract drawing. It was from Jenny Rodwell's, Acrylic Workbook: A Complete Course in Ten Lessons. It is from Lesson 8 which deals with landscape technique.

When I started to paint I wanted to try and make it abstract and just concentrate on sunlight and water. However, as I went along I became obsessed that it did not look 'right' and so kept trying to 'fix' it.

As it turned out, my efforts were all pretty much to no avail as neither the engineer nor the artist managed to do the job to their satisfaction.

The main, apparent, abstraction is light reflection on water plus the hazy sun in an orange sky. The simple blobs and uneven boundaries are marks that create the impression of water motion and ripples. The dark marks on the shadowed shore create uneven terrain with the impression of ditches, or gullies, running from the top of the grade down to the shore. The trees should have been dark, to be in shadow, but that is one of the things I changed as I argued with the engineer.

When doing landscape it is recommended to do four colors to produce foreground, the vertical, distance, and light. This picture uses five colors and so satisfies that particular requirement to yield a satisfying landscape scene. Since the land is not contained within the picture, it is difficult to know you are looking at an island. However, if you have seen tropical islands, in a lagoon, then your brain tells you that you are, in effect, looking at an island. It's a familiar scene in the Pacific Islands of Micronesia and other places and so you see what you think you see rather than what is actually there. Only the title tells us that the picture is of an island.

I included this painting because I like the color combinations and its overall impression. When I look at it I am reminded of the sunsets we watched when we were in Kwajalein. From Emon Beach we could see the sun setting over the small islands on the other side of the lagoon.

March 8, 2012. Derived Art
9x12 Graphite on Vellum Drawing Paper

In March I took a short, three week, art class at the Penobscot Valley Senior College. Shown here is a third art exercise that we did on the first day. The idea was to draw with a variety of pencils while being creative to make up an image.

The teacher, Lola, took a copy of a B/W drawing, of some object, and cut it up into roughly 3x4-inch sections. We were each given one piece and told to tape it anywhere onto a 9x12-inch piece of vellum drawing paper and then `lose' it by drawing around it to incorporate it into a full drawing. It was to be done in such a way that the original piece would lose its identity.

She showed us an example she did where she had three little flowered urns as her `seed'. This was on an 18x24-inch size sheet of paper that she filled with an army of different sized flowered urns in such a way that it was not possible to recognize the `seed' for the drawing. The flowered urn motif turned into a sheet of wallpaper.

With the pieces she gave us, it was not possible to do the same thing on our four times smaller paper. So I put my piece in the very left hand corner and turned it into some kind of Rube Goldberg setup to look like a chemical plant, e.g., an oil refinery. It is very difficult to see the genesis of this drawing so I successfully `lost' the seed. In the critique it was decided that my drawing was very much of an engineer type as it bore no resemblance to what others did with similar starters.

Well, I don't have any earth shaking conclusions about doing this exercise as I don't think it is something I would do just for the sake of making a drawing. I think I would look for something that interests me to interpret and try to render onto a piece of paper.

March 1, 2012. Jimbangle Inspiration
11x15 Acrylic on Strathmore Drawing Paper

Well, I am still trying to get a painting I like from the Jimbangle music that was used in the Art200 class last semester. [Jimbangle is a Jazz piece by a Gil Evans on a High Profiles Recording.] As I was encouraged by the recent painting of the posters for Meeting, I decided to take another stab at making a music induced painting. I had a pencil sketch that I liked, in my notebook, and so I decided to make a color painting of it. The result is shown here.

The process of doing the painting, on this ordinary slick paper, was entirely different than it was for the watercolor paper. The paint did not dry as fast, as it was not readily absorbed, and so the colors turned out to have more brilliance and life---they were not `washed' out. The paints I have are easy to use, and mix, as I have a set of 12 basic colors, or shades. These were selected from more than 100 colors that were available in the store. In addition to my 12 colors, I also have tubes of Black and White to use for shading and tinting.

This painting appears to have a lot of depth with strong values around the three bottom instruments. The trumpet is not so strong as it hangs in mid-air although that was a deliberate idea from the music. The three lower instruments all `hang' together, playing back and forth and sharing while the trumpet comes floating in over the top. That's the metaphor for the relationship of the music: the Piano and String Bass intertwine while the 'Bluesy' Sax slithers around. The Chartreuse Trumpet plays from overhead. I debated about adding notes floating around but opted to keep the drawing cleaner by omitting them.

Sometime after this painting was completed, I participated in the Art Walk, in Downtown Bangor, and showed this painting along with a framed photo of the Kornet. No one stopped to talk to me about either of the drawings during the entire show. The fact that the drawings did not interest anyone enough to talk to me, the artist, dampened my spirits about participating in these type shows. The experience made me feel that I was being somewhat naive about being an artist and so, in the future, I will try to concentrate on learning to paint and draw and cut back on participating in shows. Art Walks are not all they are cracked up to be---especially for unknown artists.

January 19--21, 2012. Worship Based Upon Silence and Into the Stillness
17x22 Acrylic on 140 Lb. Watercolor Paper

In 2011, at the end of spring semester, our Meeting lost four regular attendees due to graduation, for three of them, and a change in job for the fourth. Meeting members are scarce, and when university classes resumed, in the fall, we did not pick up any new attenders or members. Quakers are rare, based upon census data, as it takes 5000 Americans to make just one Quaker. This translates to mean that in our metropolitan area, of roughly 50,000 souls, there are not many candidates to attend Meeting. The prevailing feeling was that, if there were any new Friends in the area, they most likely would not know of our presence or whereabouts. So I volunteered to help make some posters to use to spread the word of our existence. The art work is shown here with these two poster-size paintings. The paintings were photographed and then used to make posters with large font information about place and time of our Meeting. They were then posted at the Orono Town Center Bulletin Board and in various places of business plus the local library. We have had a few, maybe three, visitors in response to the posters but none of them have become regular attenders. Consequently we worry about the ultimate fate of Meeting as attendance continues to dwindle by attrition.

These paintings were made from online images used in England for publicity purposes. Basically they are no more than impressions of the thumbnail images that we were able to find. It felt good to paint them, in almost no time at all, as I enjoyed using the acrylic paint on the nice water absorbing paper. It felt appropriate to use this paper as it had come from a Friend in Meeting when they downsized to a smaller home. The paper came from a Friend and was used for Friend purposes.

One thing I enjoyed about doing the painting was the lettering on the Silence painting. That was fun as it reminded me of Engineering Drawing classes, in the early 1950's, and I found that it came naturally to make those neat letters. It was strange that I did not think to try this until I had finsihed the first drawing. That lettering was made to purposely fade into the leaves as Friends are not usually vary visible in the world as they do their service activities.

This site last updated on Nov 2, 2012