Sunday, January 25, 2015

Learning from a master

I have been trying to copy drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, and I am awed by this study of the head of the Virgin Mary. She leans toward  her Child with loving tenderness, yet we see her from an angle where the height of her forehead and the length of her nose are foreshortened, and we see more than usual underneath her nose and the space between her right eye and eyebrow. We see her features in the same proportions as we would if her head were upright and she were standing on a pedestal just a little above us. It gives her an exalted and exultant look. The expression of tenderness, humility, exaltedness and exultation drawn in a single face seems almost miraculous to me, yet I never would have realized what was going on here if I hadn't tried to copy this piece, carefully trying to match the proportions. I have heard that Leonardo was the best draftsman in history. I think that must be true.

I copied this ancient head of a Greek athlete from an art book I have lying around. I couldn't be bothered to put in all the carefully articulated curls above the band on his forehead,  hence the shower-cap look. The streak across his nose was an accident.

I found the photo reference for this little dancing (or running?) Bolivian girl on Pinterest

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Studying faces

One thing leads to another. As I was sketching in pencil and three-dimensionally in clay, trying to develop a small but clear Madonna and Child image suitable for a ring or pendant, I felt I needed to better understand the structure of faces. Looking for quick help online I came upon some very good free how-to-draw videos  at Lucy and I have been going through them together, and I've been surprised at how much I've forgotten and how much more I never learned. The videos are very well-produced and professional, unlike other free drawing videos I looked at. The material is presented in an "entertaining" way I could do without, though. The real content is interesting enough for me.

I've also been collecting reference pictures to practice sketching. Here are some of my favorites.

This silverpoint drawing by Leonardo da Vinci is possibly the most beautiful drawing of a woman's head ever. (from

Another Leonardo head, this time in charcoal and chalk. (from The Metropolitan Museum of Art.)

I really love these sketches by John Singer Sargent.

They were studies for this painting. I read once that he worked on it for a few minutes every day. He would play croquet with the girls and their family in the late afternoon, but as soon as the early evening light was just right he would hurry to to the painting. (from The Tate Museum).

I'm having trouble with my camera. When I (or, more likely, my older son) solves the problem I'll share some of my own sketches. I'm trying to draw heads, faces and figures every evening not long before going to bed because I heard that makes you learn more quickly--something about the way the brain consolidates information while sleeping.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Delicate, detailed hearts

I drew these hearts with micron pen. I was thinking about making coloring pages or embroidery designs, but one thing led to another and I decided to pretend I was making lace or complicated embroidery with a pen.

The design above was inspired by Faberge's cyclamen tiara. I found the photo on a site about tiaras .

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


It's a crystalline day, a crystallizing day, perfectly bright and clear, still and very cold. This morning I saw puffy sparrows finding seeds in dried-up wild flowers, half buried in snow. They didn't look cold at all, bobbing heavily on the old stalks and stems, then flying away in a swift, little group. They looked happy. I hope they were.

Here's the view from my frozen-shut bathroom window.

My littlest two are playing outside, and though it's only three degrees Farenheit they don't think it's too cold because the air is so still, dry, and bright. Lucy is busy making.

This is her hoop-art in progress. She finished stitching and beading it this morning. She's going to tuck back the edges and finish the hoop with some light gray paint so it has a really clean look. The emerald green beads have a wonderful gleam I can't seem to capture. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Illustration Friday: Invention

Sometimes my brain is an idea machine, shooting out more and more ideas, faster and faster, shaking and creaking while, thrilled by the abundance, I try to gather, sort, plan, and store for later.  But after awhile I panic, like Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory. I'm up to my knees in shiny dreams, I don't know how I'm ever going to have the time for anything, and the idea machine spits out some stinky smoke and slumps into silence.

That happened a few days ago. I was overwhelmed by possibilities and knew I needed some help to sort things out. I talked with my husband and he reminded me that he wants me to make him a ring. Not the input I was looking for. I have not been inspired by the type of carving he's wanted on it.

Then I had one more idea."If you want I'll make you a Madonna and Child ring." His eyes opened wide with recognition and he said "Yes," in a loud, firm voice. So I am making him a silver signet ring for his birthday with a Madonna and Child. Which dovetails neatly with some other plans and ideas.  I'm delighted! I'll be posting sketches and a rough carving soon.

Lucy is in line for the next ring after that, something sweet and flowery I think.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A new angel and some goals for the year

I finished this little lady on my blogging break. I wanted to to try an angel in the style of my gardening angels but without the flowers. She is a warm, hospitable, competent person, expert in the home arts.  Her pocket is like Mary Poppins' carpet bag, bigger inside than out. So far she has removed apples, flour, a bowl and mixing spoon. She still needs to pull out a table, a cutting board, a peeler, a knife, spices and some butter. The butter will, of course, be a cool room temperature, just right for cutting into flour for a flaky, delicate pie crust. 

I tried to draw her quickly with my Prismacolors, but I wasn't quick at all. I want to develop a lighter, more open style with the pencils--like the classic light hand with pastry crust. I did refrain from "underpainting" with hard Verithin pencils, a ridiculously time-consuming technique which involves smoothly filling in areas with a sharp, hard, colored pencil. It's like laying down a smooth, light watercolor wash, but slow. I like the soft depth of the Verithin "wash," but one of my New Year goals is to develop professional speed. I just need to start underpainting with watercolor. 

Here are some other arty goals for this year:

-to reproduce at least two new pendant designs in silver or pewter
-to make some one of a kind pendants in wood or other materials, for fun and to get more jewelry in my shop that doesn't cost me a bunch of money up front.

-to  develop my illustration skills by placing characters in more complex settings to tell a story. I want to practice on some of Hans Christian Andersen's less known tales.

-to incorporate hand lettering into some drawings

-to sell pictures on Society Six.

-to learn more and better ways to share my work through social networks. I now have an anthemsweet  Facebook page you can access on the side of this blog, as well as a Pinterest page. 

-to get my coloring pages up, and soon. Maybe that will involve getting a little more computer savvy so I'm not always waiting for smarter people to help me....  

In a day or two I'm going to give myself a make-a-thing-a-day twelve-day challenge. I'll tell you more about it then.

Happy new year, all!