Friday, February 29, 2008

Time and Patience

For the longest time I thought that a drawing that couldn't be finished in one sitting wasn't worth doing. I also thought that the better you were, the less time it would take. And if you were really talented, you shouldn't have to put much effort into your work. I read an article recently that said that kids who think they do well because of their effort, not because they are talented or smart, ultimately do better in school, college, and work. Kids who believe they are smart often hit a wall when courses get hard, and their grades drop because they don't put the effort into their work. On the other hand, kids who believe they do well because of their effort will often put even more effort in when courses get hard, and their grades are maintained.

Then I realized that I am one of the former kind of student. I quit my PhD partly because classes got too hard (there were other reasons involved). I thought I just didn't know how to study math because I never had before. Now I know that I just didn't think I should have had to. The same was true for my art. I just didn't think that I should have to put a lot of effort into a drawing for it to come out well. How untrue. And with this realization coupled with the willingness to spend a long time on one drawing - weeks, at least - I am doing things I never thought possible. I made a huge jump in the quality of my art with only the desire to spend the time required to make it better.

Just food for thought.

Happy Leap Day!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Prints Available

Snow leopard prints are now available!

I have started my next project, a koala. Vote in the poll to the right to have a say in what comes next.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Snow Leopard is Complete!

snow leopard charcoal and graphite pencil drawing
The snow leopard is complete, after only 12 hours over the course of two weeks. I took a photo of it and converted it to grayscale, so the lighting is a little off (click image for a larger view). I'm going to have it professionally scanned next week, since my scanner won't accomodate something this size. Once that is done, I'll post a link to purchase prints. The original won't be for sale (yet) as I want to enter it into an exhibit this summer. Comments are welcome!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

WIP - Background Underway

snow leopard drawing in progress
I am closing in on the 10-hour mark here. In the past couple days, I have started the rock and the black background. So far, the background has only two layers of 6B charcoal in a cross-hatch manner, blended with a tissue. I want to get it darker, so I will add more layers. I had planned on finishing the rock first, but I decided I needed to see the background to get a feel for the tones I am working with. The rock is done with graphite to give a harder, grayer feel. I added little pits at the bottom with the 6B graphite and started adding highlights with the kneaded eraser. I like how it's coming along, but it still has a lot more work to go.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

WIP - Snow Leopard Body Finished

snow leopard drawing in progress
The snow leopard is complete after only 7 hours. I thought it would take much longer to get to this point. I am going to sleep on it and look at it with fresh eyes in the morning. I find that taking time away from a drawing will give you a new perspective when you next view it, and you can catch mistakes that you otherwise would not have.

The next step will be the rock the leopard is lying on. I have not done rock before. My drawings usually consist of animals "floating" on a white background, or at best with a light shadow underneath. This project, however, is not one of my typical drawings. I want him to come to life.

I should probably add that the images I am posting of my progress are photographs, not scans. They appear much darker than the original really is.

Friday, February 15, 2008

WIP - Charcoal Snow Leopard

snow leopard drawing in progress
I am now about four and half hours into my drawing. After finishing the head and paws, I started on the left side and am working my way to the right. Since I am right-handed, I don't want to smudge what I have done. I'm using the same techique I described in the previous post, as far as the dark and light areas go. In addition, I used the kneaded eraser to lift out areas of highlights and to pull light fur into the dark spots. I went back over with a 3B graphite pencil to add a little coarseness to the fur. I'm happy with how it's turning out. Hopefully I'll have more time to work on it this weekend.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Charcoal Work-in-Progress

I love seeing works-in-progress, even my own, so I'm posting one here. I want to try my hand at photorealism in charcoal, neither of which I have attempted before (I shouldn't say that, I've doodled with charcoal). The image I am basing this on is a photograph I took at the Albuquerque Zoo a few months ago. It is no good as a photo because the snow leopards were behind a wire fence that got in the image, but it is still great as a reference photo.

At this point, I am about two hours into the drawing. The initial sketch took me about 45 minutes, and a lot of the rest of the time was my experimenting with different pencils and different smudgers on scrap paper. Of what I have done so far, the darkest parts are 6B charcoal pencils and the medium areas are 2B. I blended the 6B with a tortillion first and then a blending stump, and I blended the 2B with only the stump. The irises were done with 4H graphite.

On the bridge of the nose, I used the 2B charcoal with round strokes, elsewhere I followed the pattern of the fur. I also indented the paper where the white whiskers will go.

I am really excited about this piece. I know it will take a very long time, but will totally be worth it. Stay tuned to see my progress over the next few weeks.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

In the beginning...

I finally broke down and started a blog. It is intended to complement my website, while adding commentary on each of my new drawings. I'll start off with a description of me and what I do.

I am an artist, at the moment. I have a master's degree in math, and I worked for a few years in the field at a national lab, but I'm taking some time off to start a family. My beautiful 1-year-old daughter takes most of my time, but I like to draw whenever I get the chance (like when she naps). I do plan on having at least one more child within a few years, and once they are both off to at least kindergarden, I hope to start a PhD program and get back into a technical field.

Until then, I'm trying to make my way as an artist. Slowly, I've been building up my portfolio and learning new media and techniques. I started with ink in late 2006, barely more than a year ago, and I am thrilled with the success I am having with it. I use only technical pens. Recently I started experimenting with colored pencils. Referring to only one book, I've had amazing success with that medium as well. I also like to do a little pyrography now and then, which is challenging and fun.

I have always been attracted to nature. In middle school, I was what you'd call a "tree-hugger." I wanted to save the rain forests and all the endangered animals and this and that. I've grown out of that extremism, realizing that it's not possible to save all the species. The best we can do is try to keep things from getting worse. At any rate, I still have an affinity for nature, and most of my artwork reveals that. My photographs are always of landscapes or animals, and my drawings are almost always of animals. I do like to branch out occasionally to try other subjects, but I focus on animals.

With a small child, I don't have a lot of time to devote to my artwork. I can finish a drawing quickly if I have to, but it usually takes me about two weeks. I intend to start concentrating on colored pencil and charcoal/graphite to get to a photorealistic stage. I know it will take a lot of patience and practice, and the thought of one drawing taking several months to complete is daunting, but I know I have the skill to do it if I just sit down and try. I guess if you read this blog you will get to see my progress.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, and please take a look at my website to see what I've already done.