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.