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Thursday, February 27, 2014

It isn't quite like dancing in the dark

At a club tonight, I did what I could with the dim light falling on my book from the stage area. Funny, when you're only seeing with about 40 percent clarity, you just have no idea what's happening on the page beyond values of light and dark.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Music class

Tonight I observed a jazz ensemble class, took photos and did sketches in preparation for a magazine illustration. These make for some messy sketchbook pages, I'll tell you, because there's lots of movement and my hand likes to move faster than my brain. I might add that most musical instruments are complicated to draw, and are not my friend in a sketching-on-location kind of way. But I wasn't as uptight about this as I once would've been, for a couple of reasons.

First, I understand that in these situations the goal is not to have perfect sketchbook pages. Here the drawing is about noticing and recording. So even if my hand doesn't translate what I'm seeing (because it's impatient!), my brain is noticing how things really look. For instance, what does an elbow look like in a certain position? It may look sort of roundish, with just a little shadow where the bone itself protrudes.

Second, it's fun to get lost in sketching while people are playing music. And especially when people are playing music, then stopping, then a teacher is reminding them to listen to the tune on Youtube over and over and really get to know it.

It's fun to hear the teacher talk about the art of the music-making, and to help individuals work out difficulties. And it's especially fun to hear, over the course of an hour or so, the tune begin to come together and sound like a song and not just like pieces-parts. The listening brain and the drawing brain get along just fine in observational-drawing situations. (Not true with imaginative drawing. In those cases, I can't even have the radio on.)

So that was my evening. And this is my #dailydrawing, which I have now done consecutively for however many days we've had in 2014. That, too, makes things easier, by the way. The drawings themselves might not be getting hugely better, but when you draw every day, you feel less uptight about any one drawing. That's when the magic has the opportunity to sneak in.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Character sketch

Lonz and his mom like ice cream. Also, Lonz wears his cowboy get-up every Tuesday. He has lots of costumes.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Digital headache

I have two digital sketching apps on my iPad: Sketchbook Pro and Paper.

I played with them for one frustrating hour tonight, just trying to figure out how the tools worked. This wasn't the first time, but it's been a while.


This was as good as it got.

Think I need to do some reading.

(By the way, this was the Sketchbook Pro ...uh ... effort. And no, if I hadn't given myself the #dailydrawing challenge, for which I want a record on this blog, I would not be posting this.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


I have had a dog crush on Sammie since I first saw her giant ears beckoning from my friend Gina's Facebook page. She is SO expressive (Sammie, that is). And she seems to truly likes to have her picture taken. Gina created a modeling-book album (tongue in cheek, of course) for Sammie. I also learned that she likes fringe. Mostly to chew on, but in this case I thought giving her a little Diva Shepherd Ottoman would be appropriate.

By the way, I only slightly exaggerated the bunnylike quality of her ears.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"What is she DOING?"

She is fulfilling her daily drawing commitment (barely) while working on Dana's sun tattoo.

And she is tired.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

At play under the sun

After I drew a bunch of sunbursts tonight for a little project -- code name 90days -- I got distracted by the idea of putting a sunbathing dog underneath. Sue me. I haven't seen bare ground in two months.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Writers Group

It was kind of a go-go-go day without much time to draw, so I sketched a couple members of my writers group while we talked about The Problem of Plot.

The trouble with plot is that for lots of us, it's hard to do. And for those of us who write fiction, it's necessary to have some handle on it. Some of us get into writing because we love reading and want to create the experience of story and we love words and playing with them. And so we think we'll write a short story or a novel, or even an essay. And eventually, stuff has to happen.

I am here to tell you, it's possible to write a whole lot of words without much happening. I've done it.

So anyway, we have to learn to tackle the plot beast, which is what we talked about tonight. And tackling the plot beast is a lot like tackling the making-an-illustration beast. When it comes right down to it, we have to take a cattle prod to the ol' imagination. It's fun, but it's work. And it can be sometimes work that isn't that much fun, in the moment, though when it's all done it should look like it was easy and we just pulled this great story out of our ear. But yeah, the great story (or image) might be the 19th thing we tried. And we might be so exhausted by then that we don't even recognize whether it's any good.

Sometimes I think I got away from writing fiction and into art because I thought art might be an easier mode of expression. It isn't. It's just as hard to do good art as it is to write a good story -- and vice versa. In the end, no matter which kind of story you're trying to tell, it probably involves making a bit of a mess, then cleaning it up. It is impossible to avert the mess-making stage.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Let's talk about pencils

I used to proudly proclaim myself someone who sketched directly in pen.

It was a little like boasting about doing the New York Times crossword puzzle with ink. Kind of a hotdog maneuver. But lots of sketchers do it, and for good reason. Ink demands boldness. For some people who draw, working directly in ink means they're more careful about the lines they put down because they're not taking them back up again. I like it for a different reason: it makes me go unwaveringly in the direction of my dreams, like H.D.T. said. That's an important way of working sometimes.

But ink doesn't get me everywhere I want to go anymore. It doesn't get me to loose gesture. Pencil does that.

Today I found this dog with light pencil lines -- just light little lines finding their way, getting it wrong, then getting it more or less right. Ink helps me be strong. Pencil helps me be free. This especially matters when I'm trying to position a character and I don't have reference to work from. Or trying to describe the relationship of multiple objects in a single space. I like the ability to just move things around with a new line, knowing that once I get things more or less the way I want them, I can restate it all in ink.

Boldness is a key quality. But if we want to get better in terms of believability or accuracy, and control of the medium, we have to have a tool that invites correction.

But never mind that. How do you like my dog? :D

Friday, February 14, 2014

And just in case

And just in case you didn't get enough love yesterday from me, I send you today's Happy Valentine's Day message. From Alonzo and his friend. And me.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My favorite internet iguana

Scratch that.
This is my favorite iguana, hands down.
Buckwheat is owned by Melissa and her husband. She inherited him with the marriage. From time to time she posts fab pictures of him on the interwebs.

I just loved looking at him. Reptiles are really fascinating subjects.
I hope he doesn't mind that I made him a bit whimsical. I saw him in a Santa hat, so I figured it would be OK if I gave him a nice green balloon.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Comfort in tubes of paint

I was drawing with pencil and pen tonight while working on the Alonzo story. My eyes fell upon a couple of tubes of watercolor. This calmed me. The presence of art supplies lends the reassurance that no matter what else happens, boredom does not have to happen.

By the way, the tubes are Alizarin crimson and Payne's gray. I'm not sure who Payne was, or whether he wants his gray back, but he cannot have it. It's the perfect gray.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Be it ever so humble ...

We can't dazzle ourselves all the time.
Alas, this was all I could bring this evening: sluggish toes drawn sluggishly (though not badly, if I do say so).
Perhaps I will dazzle one of us tomorrow.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

What the daily practice means

What the daily practice means is every day.

What it means is even if it's 20 minutes, we find the 20 minutes because everyone has 20 minutes.

It means that sometimes 20 minutes will expand into two or three blissful hours. Finding the 20 minutes makes this possible.

It means that 20 minutes might get curtailed and become only 8 minutes, but that's OK, because 8 minutes for something we know is important to us is better than zero minutes. And having found 8 minutes today, there's much less chance that we will let tomorrow go by without finding any time at all.

Finding no time in the day becomes a habit of deception.

The daily practice also means we start doing our thing in our heads even when we aren't doing them physically. This is a secret known by accomplished people -- people who apply discipline to their work. Doing our thing in our heads means when we get our 20 minutes or our two hours or just a mere 8 minutes, there's a possibility that they will be more fruitful minutes.

Does it sound like I am lecturing to you? I'm not. I lecture only myself. I'm the one who needs it.

Friday, February 07, 2014


One week, two dogs.

On Sunday, there was Tuna, of heart-melting fame.

And now there is Finn. Unlike Tuna, I haven't had the pleasure of an up-close-in-person greeting (did I mention that I got to kiss Tuna on the head?), but I have now spent many long minutes (hours, even) studying Finn's essence a la in photos. Here's the feeling I got: immense good cheer. Also, this is a beautiful, beautiful creature. (And beauty is hard to draw, because if you exaggerate too much you lose the beauty. Which is like losing the essence.)

Anyway, there you go. I did line work last night, which I didn't want to share, because it was incomplete. That explains yesterday's meager #dailydrawing post. Tonight I did the digital painting. Hope you like it, and I hope Finn's mom likes it, too.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Tonight I drew and I drew and I drew ...

but I didn't finish my drawing.
And I don't want to post tonight's drawing till it's done.
So I'm posting this instead, which I did a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

A pig in hand ...

Roscoe was lying on me while I was allowing myself my hour of couch-slab this evening.
This image popped into my head.
I will say no more.

I used the linework as warm-up to the evening's Real Work. Then I threw some color on so it would be more entertaining for you.
I might come back to the idea and use it again as another warm-up sketch but try to make it more fun/more cute. This version is meh.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Details, details

Herewith, a detail from a spread I'm working on. It's my sketch-of-the-day from a day I spent mostly under the covers sucking on Cold-Eeze.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Consider my heart melted

I got a text from Molly late Saturday night: Tuna Melts My Heart was going to be at the Beachwood Petco the next day. Wouldn't THAT make a nice #dailydrawing, Molly thought. Not to mention a memorable experience unto itself.

I've met a number of celebrities, and ... well, I'm kind of over it. They're usually disappointing. But Tuna is different because he's a dog. Dogs don't really know how to be disappointing. And because Tuna is a California dog, in town for only a brief visit, the opportunity was too much to resist.

By the time I got to the store, the line to meet the little man was long and getting longer. I felt a little uneasy and stalkerish, but I got in line between a beagle mix and her people and in front of a dachshund named Jagger and his people. I watched while Petco shoppers selected dog clothes. A few unsuspecting customers gave the line bewildered glances.

Just before my moment arrived, the young teen in front of me, upon meeting Tuna, burst into quiet tears. That was pretty much the sweetest thing I've seen in a couple weeks.

And then I got a few minutes to say hello to Tuna and his person, Courtney. Together, they create some of the best posts on the interwebs. Tuna was remarkably calm and cheerful -- especially when Courtney gave him little walk breaks around the store and he got to meet other dogs. What a little champ.

Of course, then I forced Courtney to to look at a picture of Roscoe. Who himself melts my heart on a daily basis.