Category Archives: charcoal

I have a plan. / Port Authority Norfolk

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A couple days ago I bought some supplies at Jerry’s Artarama. They had a sign about putting your art in the store window, so I asked about it. They want to hide the back of the display racks facing out the windows, so they are making canvases in the sizes to fit the windows. You buy an odd size canvas from them, but they will put the painting in the window and not ask any commission if someone wants to buy it. I decided to give it a try. An artist has to take advantage of free space. I’m glad Jerry’s Artarama is doing it.

So I got this 19 x 38 canvas, and thought it might be fun to use it for a panoramic scene. The place that came to mind was the view from the Hermitage Museum in Norfolk. It’s the Port Authority all the way across the Elizabeth River.

Imagine the canvas covered by sky and river with a thin strip of land breaking it up far away. The strip of land has rigs they use to load and unload ships. They’re moving giant  ships in and out every day and they have huge stacks of cargo containers too. I’ll have to paint the rigs small because they’re far away, but they’re quite large constructions.  I might use my secret masking fluid on oil paint technique for this.

That’a my charcoal sketch taped to the canvas. Since I sketched it in plein air and it wasn’t too difficult to get my drawing close to natural visual perspective, I’m pretty sure I can make it work when I paint it.

We’ve had a few cloudy rainy days which is boring for your plein air artist because there’s no shadows. I have 2 other paintings planned, but it’s good for me to go out and sketch even if it is cloudy and chilly. They are predicting more of the same dreary weather for a couple days. As soon as the sun comes out I’m going to work on my painting at Pleasure House Point. I don’t care how cold it is or if it’s windy. I’m going out to paint.

When I was at the Hermitage doing this sketch it was kind of gray blue over there in the sky and water. It makes me feel like tinting this canvas with a peachy color because that’s the complimentary color of the cold steel gray I saw out there today. Won’t that be funny to paint this scene on a peach tinted canvas? Wouldn’t it be great if I could get the bright winter sunset colors in the sky and water? Maybe I could let some of the peach tint show through. I don’t know, it’s just an idea at this point.

It might take me a few weeks to finish this, because I’m going to wait for a real pretty winter sky after I get my land and rigs roughed in on the peach color.

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7 reasons why I like sculptures for figure drawing practice

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  1. They don’t move. There’s no need to worry about running out of your 20 minute time allowance before the model needs a break. The artist can take a break any time they want to and the model will be in the exact same pose. You can even go back any time any day and the model will be the same.
  2. I can finish a drawing. Don’t get me wrong on this, open studio figure drawing practice is necessary, the more the better, but I never could finish a drawing. I had lots of sketchbooks full of sketches that I threw away when I moved. When I looked back at my figure drawings from years ago I could see an improvement that came from the open studio. I work slowly though, and I do enjoy finishing a drawing, which I could never do in the 3 hour or so time of the open studio.
  3. Lighting isn’t a problem. Check it out and decide what time of day you like the light and go then. There is no getting stuck on the dark side of the model. You can’t beat natural light.
  4. The pose is good. Like to see a graceful model in an interesting pose? Statues are more likely for that than some nude sitting or standing around.
  5. They’re ideal figures. Easy on the eyes, in perfect classical proportion.
  6. It’s not crowded. Sometimes at open studio figure drawing, my view is blocked by another artist . When I go out to draw a statue, I get to pick the best side to draw from. No other artists are there drawing.
  7. Last but not least, THEY’RE FREE! Who needs to pay a model to do figure drawing?
  8. This sculpture is “Breaking Ground”  by Kathleen Farrell. It’s the WPA monument at Norfolk Botanical Garden. During the depression the government had this project where they hired 220 African Americans to dig gardens by hand. 200 were women and 20 were men. It looks like back breaking work, doesn’t it? And that’s not all, they had to watch out for snakes, and the weather made it even more difficult. This model probably saw something moving on the ground, because she’s not looking at her shovel, she’s looking to the side. Yikes!

Pleasure House Point / charcoal

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It’s so beautiful over there, I could get 4 paintings from this one spot.

There’s a canal on both sides of this sandy path and the path makes a turn, so there’s water in front of you too. It’s all divided up by tall red grass and various types of vegetation.

I’m priming an 18 x 24 canvas for this painting so I can show more of the water on both sides. I don’t want to crowd this beauty into a small canvas.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation owns this wildlife preserve. They have some nice trails going through it. It’s free and not too crowded, with enough space for me to stand up my easel.

Cypress Swamp with Spanish Moss / charcoal

 

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When I was working on my painting at the botanical garden, I met a lady who does plein air painting and she forwarded an invite to me from The Artists Gallery in Virginia Beach. It was a call to plein air painters to meet in First Landing State. Park today. I was so happy because for at least 30 years I wished I had the time to paint there. Now I do and also had the pleasure of meeting some other plein air painters.

I’ve always loved this swamp and came here when I was on vacation at the beach in years past. The water looks black because it’s forming peat on the bottom. I imagined the first settlers that came to VA from England, when they got off their boat at the mouth of the Chesapeake and went a little in off the beach, they ran into THIS! They probably decided to get back on the boat and go upstream. The moss is hanging like spooky draperies all around. It looks soft and breezy. A settler might think it would make good mattress stuffing, but it’s full of bugs. Funny, I haven’t got a single mosquito bite since I’ve been here, and I’ve been hanging around by the water a lot.

Someone told me once, this is the farthest north they call subtropical because Spanish moss is native here. It is a couple degrees warmer here than in Richmond, only 100 miles away.

Wow! was it ever beautiful over there this morning. I could never get tired of painting in there. I have a painting started at the botanical garden which might take me a couple weeks to finish, then I’m going back to First Landing to paint the swamp. I’m looking forward to seeing it again after the frost. I know it will look different after the leaves come down, but I also think winter might be the ideal time to paint it

Mirror Lake with Water Lilies charcoal

IMG_1925This is my 2nd try. It was so nice to get out and sketch this morning after months of not sketching because I moved. My art supplies are some of the last things I’m unpacking.

I went over to Norfolk Botanical Garden thinking I wanted to draw the beautiful bronze figure, but I had a look at the lake first and it was so bright and beautiful in the sun. I said to myself, that statue will be the same all year, let me sketch this before  frost  wipes out the water lilies.

Now I have to unpack a box of canvases because tomorrow I’m going back to start a painting.

Daylilies / charcoal

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This is my 2nd try sketching daylilies. I think it came out better than the drawing from last week, so next time I’m going to take my pastels and do them in color. They say the heat and humidity will ease up in a couple days. That will make it easier for me to concentrate longer.

These flowers are a bright peachy pink! So bright! So pretty!

They change every day and even in a couple hours are moving to follow the sun, so I won’t be able to use this sketch. Some of the flowers I drew today will be wilted and some new buds will be opening.

I got a mosquito bite. I’m their favorite flavor, O+

canna and coleus / charcoal

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The canna is yellow (the tall stalk like plants) and the coleus is dark blackish red (the shorter plants in the fore ground).

I had a look at the lotuses standing in the sun and decided to find some flowers where I could sit in the shade to draw. It’s not as hot as yesterday, but sweat was still dripping off my hair after walking slowly around the garden. After cooling off on a shaded bench for a while I was ok to draw. And there was a little breeze that was nice. I haven’t been out to draw for a while and I enjoyed it very much.

A lady I know liked this sketch and asked me if I was going to do something with it. I told her I’ll just put it on my blog. Sometimes I do a lot of charcoal sketches before I get something that I want to paint.

The thing I enjoy about drawing and painting in plein air is not in knocking out a painting in a few hours, it’s hanging around in a beautiful place for as many days as I feel like being there. In fact, the painting is secondary in my mind. I’m so thankful I’m not on some kind of art treadmill where I’m under pressure to do fast unfinished paintings for some arbitrary time limit rule some person made up. That would destroy the zen like experience of it. And one of my main reasons for not fitting into the art scene. I don’t care if fast unfinished paintings are in style. I don’t care if all the other plein air painters out there take hundreds of photos then trace their best one onto a canvas and go back and hurry fill it in like it was a coloring book. I don’t have to do that.

I’m not interested in taking a class to see if I can paint fast. I’m not interested in taking a drug to make me keep painting all day either, because a drug is the only way I could ever get that kind of energy. So, there you have it friends, apathy to the art world in a nutshell. hahahahahahhaha

Pitcher Plants / charcoal study and drawing story

pitcher plants charcoalThe Pitcher Plants are my favorites in the garden! I’ll never get tired of drawing them.

I’m planning to do a painting with 3 plants and call it “The Trio”. I got inspired by a Rembrandt by that name.

This particular Rembrandt was on loan to the VMFA last year with 2 others. They are small paintings. He did his Trio painting of singers. It was so great to see it!  So I got a sketch started of Rembrandt’s Trio in graphite standing in front of it in the museum.. In fact, I had it to myself. I STOLE Rembrandts composition! hahahahahah I don’t see what’s wrong with stealing something great from the masters if you can do it. But then, the 2nd time I went back to steal a little better from Rembrandt, a guard did actually tell me to stop drawing. Drawing wasn’t allowed.  I probably can’t show you my sketch of Rembrandt’s Trio. I know photography isn’t allowed in all the exhibits, but drawing?  oh well, I got the inspiration. I studied the Rembrandt for hours too.

I’m pretty sure Rembrandt did charcoal studies before he did a painting. This is my 2nd try on a sketch for my Trio painting. The 1st sketch didn’t work.