Some bits n bobs from the moleskine

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Netflix and draw: Blue Planet odyssey

pencil drawings of undersea creatures

When I watch something like Blue Planet II, practically every frame of the incredible footage begs to be drawn or painted, so I spent several hours last night sketching some of the beasties— and consequently missing many of the others. Next time I can draw some of the ones I missed this time around.

pencil drawings of more aquatic creatures, including walruses

Last week I did the same thing while watching (re-watching) Civilizations. Some sketched interpretations of ancient art came from that session.

Sketches inspired by the ancient art in Civilizations.

Little cabins in the mountains

black and white watercolor sketch of some simple mountain cabins and pine trees

I painted this little sketch from Friday night this afternoon, and finally made use of the goose-neck phone holder to record a time-lapse of it.

I’ve long been a collector of forks

photo of almost 200 forks, most of my collection

Above is a photograph of most of my fork collection, arrayed by size and type. I remembered, as I reexamined them for the first time in years, that I downsized and edited the collection once before; there used to be many more sets of little cocktail novelty forks and fondue forks, &c.

A reasoned edit was the goal yesterday as well, and I wanted to have a photo of as many as possible— see them all in one place and count them. (185 shown I think)

photo of the forks I've decided to keep, bundles for storage. (not including the strawberry forks, which are in a little box, as they are so delicate)

Here is a photo of the keepers, bundled to go back in the box, with the exception only of the strawberry forks, given me by a friend’s mother (they’re back in their box, as they’re so delicate).

another photo of the forks tied in bundles, from last weekend

Here is a similar photo from last week, when I initially laid them out to assess. This image shows them on a lumpy old sheet, and includes almost all of them, before I removed many of the busted ones and contemporary stainless steel ones.

The calm monochrome that follows the feast days

an abandoned sidewalk xmas tree— set out to the street before xmas fully dressed (b&w photo)

These days following the winter feasts bring a quiet with them, not necessarily unwelcome. Often grey and a little lonely, or too-quiet for some, yet there is a gentleness to them that eases the emotional tumult forced by the calendar shift into a new year.

the giant pine in the yard upstate, blocking snowfall on the yard liek an umbrella (b&w photo)

When I was younger, I longed for the new year to turn at Springtide, or during the full heat of Summer. As I’ve got older, the shift has felt more accustomed and proper happening in the dead of winter— it allows a moment, at least, for reflection which those other times wouldn’t afford.

Several pine trees upstate in snowfall (b&w photo)

(I’ll own, this is clearly the result of living one’s entire life in the northern hemisphere, in the west. Nurture and nature have their sway.)

Upstate at the Farm over the winter holiday is something I’d not trade. Cold, and snowy, I can see the sun and shade of summer in every angle— but those white cloaked fields are equal in my mind to their mild counterparts. Some of my best memories are of being alone in a quiet icicled clearing in the woods; or frigid rides along field paths as snow-blanketed as the horse’s backs, and my eyelashes— in awe of the change a bit of weather can make.

Sure, we get more irritable in the cabin-fever months. But also we get closer, cozier, if allowed. Weather does change things. It’s one of the things my cold-climate friends and I always joked about— nothing akin to Russian novels ever comes out of easy climates!

the house at the Farm, blanketed in easy snow (b&w photo)

We complain, yet we can’t rightly imagine life without seasons. Or we try, and give it up for folly. Relegate easy to vacation times, to the fleeting (and also irritating but in different ways) Summer. It all balances out in ways we’ve grown accustomed to; in ways that make sense to us.

telephone pole and wires in snow (b&w photo)

Anyway, I rather enjoy and look forward to the quiet spell after the hectic holiday time —before it turns into the doldrums— at which point I’ll want winter to go. There’s a period during which it’s welcome and agreeable; and productive, honestly.

Eventually, of course, the grey just becomes too much, and all we want is the return of green trees and sunshine. That’ll be hitting us around mid-February, I suspect, when the whole city has lost its luster; after the fairy-lights’ve been long taken down, and all the world just feels like it’s given up.

But, just as we reach our wit’s end, some modest glorious crocus will raise her chilly new petals from the snow, and give a beacon of spring, a bit of hope to see us through.

Crossing into a new year armed with a pen

Ink sketch of people at the bar

New Year’s Eve: the borderlands of the year; symbol of hope, renewal, revelry. To some, the biggest party of the year. To others, just a day like all the others. I reckon my take on it falls somewhere in between. It’s nice to mark it, to be in the company of others, but not the sort of event I buy new clothes for, (Although, to be honest, I rarely buy new clothes for anything in particular.)

Left: sketch of a woman on tv interviewing revelers at Times Square. Right: two men dancing at the bar

So it was I found myself at my local around 10pm. I braved the dismal rain for two whole blocks to meet up with TL after her shift at the restaurant. She went home before the changing of the guard, but I stayed.

I’d spent the day working on updating my art website, and along the way I realized I’ve not done any drawings in two years with my trusted old ball-point with the ink that smears so wonderfully—so I armed myself thusly before heading out, hoping to fill the last few pages of my sketchbook at the close of the year.

Ink sketch of people at the far end of the bar

The simplicity of working with a single pen is good for bar drawings. You must work fast, as people may walk away or re-orient at any moment, The setting is dim, so details are hard to pin down anyway. These are aspects of bar drawing that I really enjoy. No time for thinking— just keep grabbing what information you can.

The type of decision-making apparent in these sketches differs from my more thoughtfully-approached drawings. I learn so much from doing them, despite that they never look finished or beautiful.

And now, it’s time to begin a new Moleskine, the first of 2019. Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!

The Witch-boy: line etch proof

Here is a scan of an initial proof of my line-etching of the witch-boy. This is the result of scratching my drawing into a waxy coating over the copper plate, called a hard ground. After coating the plate, you can transfer your (reversed) image onto the surface to guide you as you make your lines into the coating with a scribe tool..

Once you’ve finished, the plate is ready to go into the ferric-chloride acid bath. The places where you’ve scribed into the hard ground coating will be eaten away by the acid, thereby “etching” the lines into the copper plate.

Continue reading “The Witch-boy: line etch proof”

A witch-boy wanders woods at the full moon

detail of a drawing of the witch-boyMeet the witch-boy. He surfaced toward the end of my Inktober series for this year. I did a couple more sketches of him after the first, intrigued.

A few weeks ago I began studying intaglio again, and decided I’d like to do an etching of this guy, but that initial sketch needed some work, it was very rough. Below are four different studies I worked on my iPad of the witch-boy in various different wooded settings.

Witch-boy digital study No.1Above is the first study. I like the composition of the snow and path, but after some thought I decided that these slender trees are not quite what I had in mind; they lack mystery. So I moved one to another.

Witch-boy digital study No.2Here are some beefier trees which I can easily imagine being toned with a combination of line etch and aquatint (a way of introducing continuous tone shades to a print) I like this one! But I kept going.

Continue reading “A witch-boy wanders woods at the full moon”

Second week in the printmaking studio

drawing worked into hard ground on a copper plate

Here is a picture I took with my phone after working the drawing in the hard ground, then immersing the plate for three ‘bites’ in the acid. This plate will serve as my re-entry to the world and techniques of etching, since it’s been over 7 years since I took my first class, so I didn’t spend a ton of time on it

The way this process works:
1. Coat copper with ‘hard ground’ which is basically a sort of wax
2. Draw into the hard ground, exposing the copper
3. Immerse the plate (carefully, wearing gloves) into a bath of ferric-chloride solution. The longer it is in, the deeper and the acid ‘etches’ your lines into the copper, so they hold more ink.

It’s very similar to the photographic process in that way. So if you want some lines to stay very thin, you do a ‘first bite,’ then mask off some areas. Immerse for a second bite, etc.

This means that even though I used the same scribing tool on the whole plate, the result is three different line weights in the image, which will be more apparent when I do my test print.

Below is a sort of preview that I did just by inversing and using photoshop to fake it, but as this can’t show the depth of the lines, it’s not a true preview of a print.
Same image reversed and inverted in photoshop as a rough preview

Soon there will be snow in the air and the grey will set in

cleaned-up ink version of house drawing

Here is the cleaned-up inked version of the house. Next is time to trace it and then transfer the revered version of this to the plate, below:

pencil tracing of the house drawing
Here is the tracing paper after transferring the image. As you can see, I replaced the original trees. I used a white charcoal pencil on the tracing paper to show up on the dark surface of the ‘wax’ ground into witch I’ll scratch the drawing. (I’m hoping the pre-made transfer paper I ordered will leave crisper lines, as this is fuzzy.)
the copper plate, with image transferred
After finishing the transfer to copper, I realized that I left all of my etching tools at the studio! So, I guess I’ll be working on that portion at class. I’ll try to take some decent photos of the line work in progress. You’ll see how impossibly fine the lines can be compared to pen or pencil. Stay tuned!