Some bits n bobs from the moleskine


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.

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.

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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.

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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!

Day eleven: three crows perched in a tree

drawing of crows in a tree

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After I posted this (elsewhere), a friend quoted the Wallace Stevens poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” to wit—

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

So now I rather look at these guys as blackbirds. Enjoy the poem.

Day five: Cat took long naps away from the chaos of unpacking

drawing of a cat sleeping on a boxDay five: After three days of cleaning painting unpacking arranging, amid an atmosphere of dust, sundry piles of boxes— she’d quite forgotten her discovery. 

Cat, on the other hand, had discovered a perfect spot for afternoon naps.

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Day Two: she moved house in the early days of autumn

Ink drawing of a woman carrying a boxIn early fall that she finished moving into the house. It’d seen better days, but its bones were strong, and she was determined to bring it back to life. As she was cleaning, she came across a leathery old box in an upstairs room; retrieved it from the shadows of a closet.

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If you’re interested, here are the archives from Inktober 2017.

Fun with monograms: the Chi-Rho

monograms based on the chi-rhoA little hubris in the night: dabbling in a redesign of the CHi-Rho to make my own “I Rule” monogram. 

So there I was, watching another Waldemar Januszczak Art/History documentary; this one exploring the emerging art around early Christianity. Before there was a single image of Christ, there were symbols. The fish, of course, we know from ancient Rome, when it was illegal to be part of Jesus’ disruptive little one-god cult. Then, after Constantine came the Chi-Rho, a monogram formed from the first two letters of the Greek word for Christos.

It was often supplemented with the Greek letterforms, alpha and omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, to signify the beginning and the end of all things. The combination of these four letterforms created the word ARCO which, in the Roman language, translated to “I Rule.” This is powerful logo making; and powerful propaganda on Constantine’s part, who adopted the new religion, and transformed the Roman Empire forever.
early christian hand signs seen in art
Drawing hands is fun.

Anyway, check out the series. As with all WJ’s films, it’s terrifically illuminating (pun intended)— a fascinating exploration of the branding and marketing of an entire religion, using all that had come before, and remaking it to serve new times, new purposes.

A long overdue revisitation

Scene of a country lane done with etching techniqueAlong A Path, 2011 (intaglio and aquatint)

I’ve just signed up —at long last— for another printmaking class! Difficult to believe it’s been seven years since my scholarship to learn copperplate etching (intaglio) at Manhattan Graphics Center, which was my first and only foray into this fantastic ancient method of picture-making.

The class begins in November, with my same instructor as last time. I’ve still got a huge slab of copper which I didn’t get to last time, and I hope it’s still in good nick. Gotta check out my supplies to see what else I’ll need to resume the practice.

This time, I’m keen to get more exploratory in my work. In 2011 I focused on pieces that were intricately detailed and traditional (as you can see from these two prints). My approach involved a lot of hand work, using a magnifying glass to see as I worked. It was incredibly time-consuming, even before the acid-etching stage— which is where a lot of magic can happen, much like going into the darkroom with one’s negatives.

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