Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Portrait Compleated

So, after resolving the background, making more changes here and there, and just living with the thing for a while, waiting for something I had overlooked to show itself, I finally decided it was as finished as it was going to get.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Just a little cartoon of mine for today.
Rules are rules after all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Sketchup is addictive!  I've spent a lot of time creating a three dimensional model of the house I grew up in.  You don't know how many details you have forgotten till you try to do this.
I went on to do Sherlock Holmes flat.  I started with the PBS version and then modified it with a few features from the Connan Doyle stories left out of the TV set.  However, Doyle seems to have not had a consistent notion of the layout.  So I have had to make compromises.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Portrait progress

Those Sketchup designs of our remodel plans are being acted on, so my energies are being directed there rather than to art.
However, the next stage of progress on the portrait is available to show.   

Getting close to the finish.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


I like to keep all sorts of items I find interesting around me in the studio. It gets to be a bit cluttered but that's OK.
I read that Freud had a collection of figurines and here's a picture of Ray Bradbury in his office.  He's even got a wonderful model of the Nautilus (behind the red dinosaur) he got while working for Disney.  Anyway, these things are great to sketch and often show up in my artwork.

Friday, February 26, 2010


So, how useful is it really to have a good knowledge of anatomy when drawing people?
It should be, but I can't really say why exactly. Anyway, I keep working to improve my understanding of what lies below the blanket of skin.  Drawing something improves your visual memory of it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Drawing with a ball point in my sketchbook.  Suppose there were birds that discovered they could use the warmth of geysers to hatch their eggs.  Of course, it didn't work well and often hard boiled them instead.  Naturally they became extinct.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

OK, time to get back to the portrait.
I decided the body seemed to be leaning in too much, so I adjusted it.  Practice with figure drawing helps. I'm not just copying a photo here.
Also, blonds are no fun to paint.  The hair color is complex.
Lots of little adjustments needed in skin tone, eyes, nose, mouth, jaw line, etc. 
Still thinking about cloths and background.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Figure drawing group again.  Work, work, work!  Each of these took 23 to 30 minutes.  I think I'm improving. I'm able to spend a little time putting a face on.  Last year most of my drawings were headless.
Hands and feet are almost as much trouble as the entire figure.  They never look quite right.  It's not unusual to put six fingers or toes on without realizing it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lately I've been spending a lot of time with Sketchup, the free Google program for creating 3D objects.  But it's time to show the next step in the progress of painting the portrait.  So here it is.  Basic colors are starting to appear and the shapes are being restated with lines.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


A while back, a friend asked me to do some illustrations for a science fantasy story she was writing.  One of the characters was a humanoid flier from an alternate reality world.  I didn't want to do another common bi-wing man, and looked for something besides birds and bats as a model.  I chose the dragon fly and the winged seeds of Acer macrophyllum, or bigleaf maple.  I exaggerated the back muscles to power the wings and left the arms and legs long and spindly because they weren't used as much as with walking creatures.
I prefer my concepts have some mechanical credibility and not just be magically fantastic.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Met with my life drawing group yesterday. I think life drawing for an artist is like going to the gym for an athlete.  Got to keep those drawing skills toned up and keep trying to improve.  The human form is the most demanding thing to draw.  If there's the slightest thing wrong, people notice.
I've been through a lot of drawing books and they often have somewhat different approaches to figure drawing.  You just have to find one that works for you.  Here's what I do:

I start with a gesture drawing like these four to organize the figure on the paper and capture the flow and energy of the pose.

Then I work over them to create simple forms and try to get the proportions and alignment right.  I look for the tilt of the hips and shoulders, the alignment of knees and elbows, etc.

I put in basic shadow shapes at this point to unify the figure in space and give the forms volume. Using the side of a crayon or pastel works well for this.

Finally, it's just a matter of refining the details and double checking everything.  I step away a lot, blur my eyes, and view the drawing in a mirror.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Time to look at the progress that was made on the portrait sketch I posted earlier.  Normally, I paint on a maple door skin cut to size with a box knife and covered with 3 coats of gesso each side.
But this time I want the canvas texture so I'm using canvas board.  I find that a coat of acrylic medium cuts the absorbency of the canvas and makes the paint go on the way I like.
The first pass is monochromatic, burnt senna and burnt umber, put on thin with a little medium mixed in the water to be sure pigment particles are well encased and adhere to the canvas after drying.

Besides getting the face established on the support, I'm looking at where the light and dark passages will work best.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I love political cartoons, and every once in a while I do one myself. Cheney is just too easy.
Before I can start the portrait based on the preliminary sketch shown in the Feb 6 post, I have to get my materials together.  Mostly that means I have to clean up from the last painting. Maybe that's why working on the computer is so inviting. No mess.  Of course the problem there is I have to share it.
I have worked in oils, pastels, colored pencils, etc. but have settled on acrylics till they invent something better.  They are very versatile, archival, and odorless.  Here's the setup I have just to the right of my work table.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I keep thinking that if I was a good caricature artist, I would  be better at portraiture, because those guys have to know what features most identify a person.  Leonardo Da Vinci drew caricatures. I understand that in the 1700's people used to rent folders of political cartoons and caricatures the way we do DVD's and invite their friends over for a laugh.  There are lots of great caricature artists today and even Dick Van Dyke and George Clooney do it.  If I had to name a favorite, it would be Sebastian Kruger.  Check out this web site for more about caricature.
Meanwhile here's my take on David Duchovny who played Special Agent Fox Mulder in the X Files TV series.

For more of my caricatures go to my web page at:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

So while I'm waiting for my thoughts on the portrait to come together, I distract myself with other things like creating artwork on the Mac computer in Photoshop and Painter.
Homer Hominid here is an ancestor watching and judging his descendants.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

This preliminary drawing for a portrait painting was developed from several photos of the subject at different ages. Unfortunately, they were all facing the wrong way so I struggled a bit working out the view from this direction and pose.  I'll be posting the progress of the painting as it developed.