Saturday, December 31, 2016

Still more progress

I am pretty much ready to transfer this design to nice paper. I don't plan to outline each leaf as I did in this design step, but will outline just the masses of leaves. They will also recede into cool starlit shadows, while the angel and animals will be warmly lit by the lamp flame. Woodland blossoms may also show up dimly behind the animals, but I'll figure that out in the tracing stage.

I realized while working on this drawing that it is influenced by Holman Hunt's Light of the World

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Work in progress

I've been working on the composition of my next angel picture, which I plan to make twice--once as a coloring page and once as a finished watercolor and colored-pencil piece. There has been lots of erasing and relocating in the peaceable kingdom at the feet of the angel. I hope I'm done with that, but I may see more to do tomorrow. When I'll really see how to do it better will be when it's all done. But that's OK. Learning is good whenever it happens!

Sorry about the weird shiny pencil glare.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Nativity by Margaret Tarrant

It wasn't so bright and clean in the stable. Mary wasn't sitting up fresh and alert in a speckless white robe just after giving birth, though I think this prettiness can show a reality of goodness and spiritual cleanness invisible to our physical eye. But what I love about this picture is how the air is thick with angels. Our world is thronged with spiritual realities good and ill, and I love the image of eager, bright spirits bearing witness to the great mystery, the greatest of all happenings.

A merry Christmas and happy holidays to all! I'll be back next week sometime.

This image by Margaret Tarrant (1888-1959) is from here.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Sketching day five, another Bouguereau

The photo quality of this sketch is pretty bad. The midtones completely washed out, and the printer paper got a pretty bad crease through one of her eyes. Sigh.

But its all about the practice, not the product, I tell myself dolefully.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Illustration Friday: Spiral

Spirals of steam rise from a bowl of soup and a mug of tea ready to warm a hungry patient. And if I were sick in bed, I wouldn't mind a visit from a sweet kitten, either.

I haven't drawn one of these little angels for awhile. The pocket on her robe is like Mary Poppins' carpet bag--it can carry all sorts of useful objects out of all proportion to its size. It probably held all the ingredients for this light meal, as well as the dishes and tools for making it.

I mean this drawing as a coloring page. Feel free to download it and use it for that, if you like. I've meant for awhile to make a collection of free coloring pages accessible in the side bar of the blog. Maybe I'll get to that next week.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sketching, day four: Bouguereau

Today's sketch is from William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905.). His work troubles me in a way I can't quite define. I think a part of it is that I don't understand the expression on many of the faces--they repel me somehow, and I don't know what the artist meant and I don't know what the subject meant. But there is no doubt that his art is exquisitely accomplished and I can learn a lot from it.

I found the image in Pinterest, but it dead-ended there. I don't where it is originally from.

I am going to keep posting sketches of figures for thirty days (though not thirty days in a row.) Then I should probably do some sketches of figures in a composition--which is not as interesting to me but probably more needful.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"And all the flowers looked up at Him, And all the stars looked down." (G.K. Chesterton)

I'm really happy I did this drawing over.  In some ways I like it much better. When this image first came into my head, I imagined the foamy softness of blossoming branches contrasting with the crystalline sparkliness of stars, which I didn't express the first time around.  I also wanted to make Mary older than she looked in my first attempt, and I think she does look a bit older here, though younger than I wanted. Somehow, the longer I developed the color, the younger she seemed to become. It happened the first time, too. It would probably be smart to figure out why.

I do feel that the overall composition of the first attempt was mostly stronger, though. The trees, grass, flowers and the great star on the top flowingly framed the central image in a way that I miss in this rendition. But I will not be doing it again. I am mostly content and happy to move on.

The next step is to put the drawing into a heavy book, because though I stretched the paper before laying down the watercolor washes, it still warped a bit, so it won't do a proper scan.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Sketching Vermeer (day three)

Today's sketch is from Vermeer's Young Woman With a Pearl Necklace.

I wan't be sketching tomorrow--or if I do, I won't post. I am working hard on my new Madonna and Child, and will probably share it Monday.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Sketching day two: a Botticelli angel

This morning I sketched the angel Gabriel from Botticelli's Annunciation. There was a lot of drapery which I kind of glossed over. Someday I should slow down and give drapery real attention. My big mistake, though, was not thinking through placement at the beginning, so I ran out of room for Gabriel's wings!

Here's the original.

And here's the full painting. Both images are from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sketching, day two

And here's my sketch for today. Copying from Raphael's drawing, trying to manage the proportions and angles and lengths of the different body parts felt like piecing together a puzzle. Planning to post it made me nervous and self conscious at first, but as I settled in there wasn't room in me for anything but trying to put it all together, which was both peaceful and stimulating.

My next Madonna and child is drawn out on nice paper, ready for color. I think my Mary looks a few years older, maybe fifteen?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Yesterday my friend gave me some fresh milk from her goats. As I drank, I felt blissfully nourished, suddenly infused with a sense of well-being. I wondered if there is something in the milk of healthy contented mothers that passes their sense of well-being to whomever drinks their milk. The idea seems more than plausible to me. In honor of real milk and my friend's sweet goats I did a little sketch of a goat mama and baby, not from live models but based on various pictures from around the internet. I tried to learn from all the pictures to make my own design and not rip off any particular photo.

I also did a little sketch from an Ingres drawing. I made both drawings with a burnt umber Verithin Prismacolor pencil, a hard colored pencil that makes a line weight I like and is easy to shade with. This is a good pencil for me to sketch with, because it doesn't erase well and, after a certain point, I can't be persnickety,

And here is Ingre's drawing, from The Museum Syndicate.

Last winter and spring, before my summer art hiatus, I made sketches like this every day, but I rarely shared them, because I felt that expecting to share would distract me from self-education. And, I am embarrassed to say, I didn't want to post my drawings by the master drawings because my drawings are not as good. But I'm over that. Maybe I'll even post everyday for awhile. Maybe some of you, my readers, will also sketch the master drawings I share, and we can grow together.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Madonna and Child attempt

Instead of Illustration Friday, I decided to do a Madonna and Child last week. My Mary unfortunately turned out more like a sweet big sister than a young mother.  I want to make something more or less print-worthy, so I'm going to draw another one next week with a similar design and concept but a more grownup looking Mary. I usually like to make Mary look Jewish, but I thought that she needed light hair to stand out against the dark sky. Since her hair is mostly surrounded by a halo, and the sky is not as dark as I originally intended, I don't know if that was necessary. Maybe I'll give her dark hair next time.  Or maybe I'll make the sky darker. We shall see.

 The drawing was inspired by the last stanza of "A Christmas Carol" by G.K. Chesterton, and had I been happy with the Mary, I would have put some lines from it in the blank ribbons. Here's the whole poem:

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap, 
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
 But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee,
His hair was like a Crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Illustration Friday: Spider

Loula is a bluebird with refined, somewhat extravagant tastes, and she loves the custom
spider-spun lace curtains Mme. Arachne has almost finished for her.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Splendor in the grass

It's been raining a lot. The grass is vividly green, soft and cool to the touch, growing fast. Our freely roaming hens are laying lots of eggs with the deep yellow-orange yolks that come when they eat spring grass and weeds. The milk we buy from a local farmer is sweeter when the cows are on spring grass, and the rich cream on top is a delicate yellow. The first fresh greens we eat in the spring are mediated to us by animals eating the grass.

My littles are enjoying our new batch of Buff Orpington chickens, "kid chickens," they call them, because they are older than chicks but they are half the size of a full grown chicken. Buff Orpingtons are an old-fashioned dual-purpose breed. That is, they can be kept for both eggs and meat. They are lighter than modern meat chickens and lay less than modern egg-laying breeds, but they are hardier, calmer, and more self-sufficient. And they're pretty. I love their soft golden color.

Me with my snuggly littles. 

And finally, a fascinating, even amazing, video by Zimbabwean ecologist Allan Savory about how animals and grass together in the right combination can restore regions that are turning into desert. His discoveries have far reaching implications and this twenty-minute video is worth the watch.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Pictures by Jean Adrien Mercier

I recently discovered the delightful French illustrator Jean Adrien Mercier. Besides his dates (1899-1995) I haven't learned much about him. Any info online is probably in French, which I can't read, more's the pity.

I especially like these illustrations of fanciful transportation. I love the fresh, candy colors, and the cheery froth of bows, streamers, flowers, feathers, cherubs, stripes, and hearts.

And a bouquet of flowers--just so pretty.

I found all these images on Pinterest. I didn't pursue them back to their origins, because I wasn't familiar with the sites, and I had a paroxysm of anxiety about visiting unknown places online.

I'm bummed about not having anything of my own to share for awhile. I've been carving some, but there's nothing interesting to show, yet. Mostly I've been gardening, trying to get organized and trying to get a decent amount of sleep. Last spring and summer, I did no art at all. That's not my plan this time, but there will probably be less than I did in the winter.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Jessie Wilcox Smith illustrations for a beautiful fairy tale

I must have been seven or eight when I came upon a chapter of George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin in an anthology. Princess Irene's discovery of the mysterious, holy, magical great-great-grandmother spinning her silver thread at the top of the house touched me with a feeling of goodness, beauty and longing that I had never yet encountered in a story. I didn't know how to find the whole book. I never thought to ask a librarian or anyone about it, and maybe it was better just to cherish the lovely fragment for a time. It fits the story. Princess Irene can't always find her grandmother, just for the looking, either.

Many years later, I bought my own facsimile edition with illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith. I don't have that book anymore, but there's always the Internet to look at.

 My younger two children and I have been listening to the The Princess and the Goblin on, a site with free, public domain audiobooks read by volunteers. (The quality of reading on the site is varied, but Andy Minter, the reader on the above link, is quite good.)

Also through the magic of the Internet I have unearthed some words by G.K.Chesterton about this wonderful tale. I hope you will humor me as I share a long, insightful quote. (It's from his introduction to George MacDonald and His Wife, by Greville MacDonald.)

"Of all the stories I have remains the most realistic, in the exact sense of the phrase, the most like life. When I say it is like life, what I mean is this. It describes a little princess living in a castle in the mountains which is perpetually undermined, so to speak, by subterranean demons,who sometimes come up through the cellars. She climbs up the castle stairway to the nursery or other rooms, but now and again the stairs do not lead to the usual landings but to a new room she has never seen before and generally cannot find again. Here a good great-grandmother who is a sort of fairy godmother is perpetually spinning and speaking words of encouragement and understanding. When I read it as a child, I felt that the whole thing was happening inside a real human house not essentially unlike the house I was living in, which also had staircases and rooms and cellars. This is where the fairy tale differed from many other fairy tales. Above all, this is where the philosophy differed from many other philosophies. I have always felt a certain insufficiency about the ideal of progress....It hardly suggests how near both the best and worst things are to us from the first, even perhaps especially at the first. And though like every other sane person I value and revere the ordinary fairy tale of the miller's third son who sets out to seek his fortune, the very suggestion of setting off travelling to a far off fairy land prevents it from achieving this particular purpose of making all the ordinary staircases and doors and windows into magical things."

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Illustration Friday: Wisdom

This is a design I've been working on for my sister's online shop. I need at least to redo the lettering because I misspelled the shop name and the paper is a bit warped, which really shows in the lettering on the left side. I'm also thinking I need to make the letters shorter and spread more widely so they don't overpower the image. They probably won't be colored the same, either. When it is displayed in the shop, the whole image will be a good bit bigger than what you see here, I expect. 

I decided to share it today as is because I wanted to get it out for the Illustration Friday prompt, "Wisdom." It is wise, I think, to connect more directly and simply with the earth God has given us. My sister will be sharing her natural health wisdom as she sells plants, books, homemade herbal products and other things she makes.   

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

The Revival

Unfold! unfold! Take in His light,
Who makes thy cares more short than night.
The joys which with His day-star rise
He deals to all but drowsy eyes;
And, what the men of this world miss,
Some drops and dews of future bliss. 

Hark! how His winds have chang'd their note!
And with warm whispers call thee out;
The frosts are past, the storms are gone,
And backward life at last comes on.
The lofty groves in express joys 
Reply unto the turtle's voice;
And here in dust and dirt, O here
The lilies of His love appear! 

by Henry Vaughan, 1621-1695

Springtime, by Charles Conder, 1868-1909

Friday, March 4, 2016

What I did this week

I'm so glad to be done with this dang cat. Trying to carve out non-wonky little eyes in a three quarter's view of the face made me crazy. There were moments when I actually felt I was near to passing out from the stress of  effort and frustration. This morning I will give it to my client who will have it cast in pewter for his beaded book mark business, Book Thongs. I'll probably put a few in my shop as well.

I did this little sketch during my morning drawing exercises when I look at great art online and rough out compositions or figures. I was so taken by this little girl's face that I developed it more than usual and didn't bother with the composition or rest of the figure. I'm sad to see that one eye is too big and set too far over. I think I see it clearly now because the values are flattened in the photo. The deeper, more varied shadows in my actual drawing make it look better and made me comfortable with wrong proportions. I think I'll try it again in the next few days and see what I can learn.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A wax rough, a pencil sketch

I spent much of my art time this week working on an unexpected freelance project--a wax model for a kitty charm. It looks blurry because it is still very much in the rough stage, which is the fun, optimistic stage. Most of the refining stage will be fun too, except for the face. That will be hard because though it is so small, I want that tiny face to have a sweet expression. I have a hard time making the tools say what I want at that scale.

 In the background is a sketch of my thirteen year old son, captured while we watched a video together. The likeness is pretty good, though not amazing. I'm not pushy enough to make my child models really sit still! I'm trying to do a lot of sketching like this, at odd moments. This is more developed than most of what I've been doing.

The video we were watching was called Are you talented enough by illustrator and teacher Jake Parker. I found it mildly interesting. My son told me he thought it was very interesting. I never would have known by the look on his face.

Friday, February 19, 2016


We become so accustomed to looking at art online or in books, that I think we forget the immediate strong presence of an original piece of  handmade fine art. When I won this linoleum print in a giveaway by Linda Hensley I was reminded.

My photography skill (or camera) is frustratingly limited in expressing the vibrant colors of the ink, colored pencil and paper. In real life the yellow is more glowing and the leaves and border are a vibrant green. There is a hint of violet in the colored pencil accents and the matting.

This is not a piece made to be touched, but I do love the somewhat chalky feel of the matte printing ink. I love the way the layer of ink looks substantial on the paper, a quality never to be attained in a digital print. It just doesn't show in the photos, either, sadly.  I think this photo, checkered with light and shadow releases more of the print's color than those taken in diffuse light.

 I love the flower's glowing heart, accentuated with pencils.

I've never made a linoleum print before, but I do carve things. The thought of sharp handheld tools carving out the lines of this picture is deeply satisfying to me. I especially love the heavier lines curling over the large petals. 

Thank you, Linda, for being generous with your beautiful work.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Odds and ends, lots of links

I'm disappointed that I didn't get my Illustration Friday drawing done this week. I spent a lot of time on it, but it was just too big for me to finish in time. I thought maybe I'd show pictures of the work in progress, but I'm so tired right now, I just can't pull it off.  Maybe next week. I also want to take pictures of a print I won in a giveaway last spring or summer (I think) from the beautiful writer and artist Linda Hensley. It's a sunflower, which might cheer us all up this gray winter. (I'm telling you my goals to make them feel more real to me, which is helpful in my current foggy mood.)

Tonight I spent some time watching part of a video series on composition produced by The Society of Visual Storytelling.  My compositions, such as they are, have been completely intuitive. It felt really good to have some solid tips. I was also introduced to an illustrator new and very pleasing to me, Poly Bernatene. Here a few of his illustration, but I really recommend you click on the link to his site link to enjoy more, larger images.

I think this first picture was actually built like a little stage set and photographed. I love it. It reminds me of some drawings by my brother, Jamie Luhn. (Check him out!)