Out Of My Comfort Zone

It seems that the art world is full of people saying “get out of your comfort zone” as a way of saying something, though I’m not sure what.  And for a decade I’ve pretty much ignored that advice.

When I came to sketching I was holding a fountain pen.  These days I’m still holding a fountain pen for most of my art.  Talk about a rut, but it is my rut and I like it.  Heck, everyone says that using a pen is the ONLY way to learn to draw.   I’ve never quite followed the logic of that claim, within limits, it has worked for me.  It’s those limits I want to talk about today.

Sketching with pen places a lot of emphasis on line and contour.  That’s ok, because we’ve always got watercolors to provide color, right?  The problem with all this is that the pen sketch becomes an end product.  You might think about watercolor while making a pen drawing but it’s still all about edges and contours.

Pencil drivers are different.  They shade their drawings.  In doing so they have to think more in three dimensions more than do pen drivers.  They discuss things like “turning the form” and other stuff like that.  So do all painters, including watercolorists, who don’t lay down lines as THE thing that defines their drawing.  Shari Blaukopf’s workshops taught me just how big a switch in mindset takes place when you to a pen and wash sketch but with a pencil instead.

I’m not talking here about right or wrong but rather about me “getting out of my comfort zone” for a reason, and that reason is to walk on the wild side of light and shade, turning forms, and gaining a better sense of creating 3D images.  It’s going to be a long and somewhat clumsy road for me I’m kind of excited about the prospects.

I did this rather quick (10 min) sketch of a basswood tree (3×5) while on a walk.  It was fun to scrumble in masses rather than drawing my typical Brillo pad trees.  I like the result and plan to draw a bunch more trees, though Quebec trees are dropping their leaves en masse right now.

I decided to draw a portrait.  I don’t draw portraits which is something of a Catch-22.  I don’t know how, they are never very good and so I don’t draw portraits.  More getting outside my comfort zone I guess.  I also learned something about pencil.  Stillman & Birn Beta is too textured to draw with pencil.  See…already learning.  Oh, and I can’t shade to save my life.  Guess that’s why I’m out here… out of my comfort zone.

I Visited The Montreal Botanical Gardens

A couple weeks ago our daughter came to spend the weekend and rather than have her take the bus back to Montreal I drove her there, giving me an excuse to visit the Avenue des Arts, a wonderful art store.  I spent way too much money there but gosh, what’s a guy to do when a store has DeAtramentis Document inks, Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, and a bunch of other great stuff that isn’t available in Quebec City?

The next morning I headed off to the Montreal Botanical Gardens where I spent half a day sketching stuff, including this place that’s part of the Chinese pavilion there.  l had a great time but was quite tired when I headed back to Quebec City.

Plants, Plants, Plants

I sometimes enjoy trying to draw a plant by carefully drawing each leaf while capturing the relationships between them.  It’s a real challenge in relationships and proportions but it’s good training for my visual cortex.  This was my attempt to do just that with a basil plant.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3008

Mixed Media And Shari’s Wheelbarrow

Recently I decided to work in a different medium, in fact a couple of them.  Now that my arthritis is kinda-sorta under control we’re doing more gardening this year and it was time for me to restore and old, rusty wheelbarrow we have.  It got sidelined with a broken wheel and it was left outside our cave.

Here’s the result.  I painted with most of it with Rustoleum, but used Minwax oil-stain on the wooden parts.  Once I fashioned a new axle it was smooth sailing.  Much easier than watercolor.

Most urban sketchers know Shari Blaukopf, or at least her art and most of those people know about her wheelbarrow sketches.  Most of us really enjoy them and I was quite disappointed when she announced that her wheelbarrow had broken.  Funny how you can get attached to things you’ve never seen in person.

Anyways, now that I have a wheelbarrow it seemed only proper for me to lean it against a tree, Shari style, and draw it.  It was fun to sit in the back yard with a pen in my hand.   It’s blistering hot here right now but the breeze kept it tolerable as I drew.  Urban.. + Sketch…, yep, this is a real live urban sketch (grin).

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3009

 

Living With Adjusted Family Sizes Because Of COVID

For many one result of COVID isolation has been housing reorganization and behavioral adjustment.  Some households have seniors who have been moved home by the kids while others have adjusted their family situation by having kids move home with us seniors.  Pro and con, adjustment is the best descriptor of what we all must do in such situations.

When the virus hit Quebec and we shut down our activities, the first thing we did was a rapid drive to Montreal to pick up of our daughter. Given that Montreal is the hot spot in Canada for COVID right now, we’re feeling pretty smug about our decision.

The result has been a social adjustment to having a 22-year old living with us.  Truthfully, it’s mostly positive but it means spending more time talking, cooking, baking, and generally doing family stuff… and fewer alone activities like art.

My daughter wasn’t the only thing we brought back from Montreal though.  We crammed the car full of her plants and together with our plants they turned our house into a jungle.  Every flat surface is covered with plants and we rarely eat dinner at our dining table because it’s just too darn much trouble moving all the plants (grin).

I see this as a good thing because I have new sketching subjects.  One of her plants was a sad little Fiddle Leaf Fig.  It only had two leaves, hanging onto a single short stem.  But, we’ve been in isolation now for nearly forever and so it’s grown.  It now has four leaves and a fifth is beginning to sprout.  I decided I should draw it.  I probably did it too quickly but heck, it only has four leaves.  Here she is, in all her youthful glory.

Aside from isolation, how has your family life changed?  We don’t talk about that enough.  Has it affected your art in any way?