0

Beards, Mustaches, and Mr. Smooth-Face McKinley

I recently had a relaxing weekend at home and was able to get a good amount of work done. The final projects for my M. Ed. are due in a couple weeks, so I spent most of my time on those, but when I needed a break I did some reading and worked on my presidential sketches. I finally finished Harry Ammon’s James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity, after picking through it for two months. Perhaps it’s time to turn back to fiction for a little while. I think I’ll dive into Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Somehow I’ve never read that classic.

For my sketches, I worked my way from Chester A. Arthur to Theodore Roosevelt. Looks like our presidents used to sport some awesome facial hair. I had too much fun rendering President Arthur’s mutton chops.presidentialportraits - 9

presidentialportraits - 10

 

I included Grover Cleveland twice because he came before and after Benjamin Harrison, even though only the first portrait is official. But the second was painted by Anders Zorn and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to study one of his paintings. My goal is to finish all the sketches and then paint over them in Photoshop. This’ll give me an opportunity to experiment with the digital medium, but also a chance to study the color and brush work of the original artists.

Perhaps when I’m done I’ll upload all the portraits in a single collage or poster.

Advertisements
0

Presidential Portrait Sketches

 

Way back at the start of the summer I vowed to read the best rated biography of each president. Why? Well, we kept getting stumped on presidential questions at bar trivia and I was tired of ignorance. I used bestpresidentialbios.com as my guide and started with James Thomas Flexner’s four-volume exploration of George Washington’s life. I read two of the four on a road trip to New Orleans and once I’d finished the series I decided to adjust my plan. I would read the best ONE-VOLUME biographies. Flexner’s work was amazingly comprehensive, but the sheer word count almost drove me to insanity. But I finished and moved on to John Adams: A Life by John Ferling, and then Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham, and then James Madison: A Biography by Ralph Ketcham. I’ve taken a break since Ketcham’s work to read a bunch of fiction, but when I resume I’ll be turning through the pages of James Monroe: The Quest For National Identity by Harry Ammon. Basically, I’ve been president obsessed this last year.

The other night I was listening to The Washington Post’s great podcast Presidential and decided to do sketches from the official presidential portraits. I used a brush pen in my moleskin sketchbook, spending about ten minutes on each portrait. Look for more to come! And if you like founding fathers and also happen to like musicals, check out Hamilton.

presidentialportraits - 1

presidentialportraits - 2

3

Studying Composition

Though it’s been many months since I last worked on my children’s book, my desire to finish it has not dissipated. On Monday I sat down and reviewed my old pages and made the decision to start over. Several changes were necessary. A minor point of the story needed to be brought forward, the whole story needed to be trimmed down, the art style needed to be changed, and most importantly I needed to focus more on composition. If I want this book to stand out, it must be more than simple characters on a page.

To begin this revision I went online and searched for compositionally strong paintings to study.

Bierstadt Study

Since I will be participating in a plein air competition this coming weekend, I thought to use the time to also study landscapes. I found Looking Down Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt and spent a quick thirty minutes doing a half-page sketch. When I finished, I began designing the new page layouts for my books, using for inspiration and reference: The Art of Walt Disney by Christopher Finch, The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Layout & Background.

CezanneStudy

The next day I loaded up Still Life with Apples and Fruit Bowl by Paul Cezanne and continued practicing. Again, I kept the study short and sweet.

With the plein air competition in Portsmouth almost here I’ve begun hand making business cards to hand out to the curious. I’m sure there will be lots of people coaxed out of their homes by the warm weather. It’s going to be an exciting weekend. I even went this morning and walked around for two hours to find possible painting locations. I may have to go again on Thursday. For those interested in the event, check out the New Hampshire Art Association website.

0

Parsons Beach and Ducks

On the 26th I finished my last summer class and now I’m able to fully enjoy the weather. The next day we headed up north to visit my girlfriend’s sister in Kennebunk, Maine. She lives a few minutes from Parsons Beach, so we hopped on over there and spent the early afternoon soaking up the sun. I actually soaked up too much sun. The sunburns have been annoying. Time to get the season really started and buy some sunscreen.
Sarah and Allison

We were there for about three hours and I probably got two hours of quality painting in. Spent a good thirty minutes at the start figuring out what to paint. Eventually I settled in and painted my girlfriend and her sister. It came out pretty decent for a sketch. Used a 5″ x 7″ panel.

On Sunday I squeezed in a couple sketches of mallard ducks for Sketch Daily’s summer prompt.
Mallard Male

Mallard Female and Babies

Down behind my apartment in Newmarket, New Hampshire is a boat launch that slides out into the Lamprey River. Any time of the year a flock of ducks can be seen waddling around the area. During the winter they lay across the pavement for warmth. During the summer they hangout in the adjacent park and beg for breadcrumbs. I park my car down there some days and they always shuffle on over to say hello and see if I have anything to share.

Guess they were my inspiration. Though I didn’t have any pictures of them, so I had to make do with what I found through a Google search.

2

Painting in College Woods

At last I am done with the semester. First year of grad school out of the way! To celebrate I headed out into UNH’s College Woods to do some plein air painting. Well, first I bought some 5″x7″ canvas boards, gessoed, and toned them and then I went out.

Woods 5:14:15

Last Thursday was my first real free day and so I got up at six and headed to the woods. Campus was dead, even though graduation was just two days away. It was cold, the sun was barely up, and I bundled up in two layers of sweatshirts. After walking around a bit I finally picked a spot. The lighting was nice and creating a network of interlocking shadows on the tree trunks and ground. I spent about three hours working before the mosquitos drove me away. I met quite a few runners and dogs that morning.

Woods 5:15:15The next day I got up again, though a little later. I made it into the forest by 7:30 and found my spot by 8:00. I parked at a different entrance than last time and found myself on the far side of a pond. I picked a shady spot next to the water and painted the rising trail path. It was a bit more difficult of a painting than the first one. And once again I got driven away by mosquitos. They were horrible. Of course, I’d picked a bad spot as well. But I went out and bought bug spray on Sunday and it was a different story when I went out to paint that afternoon. (I’ll have Sunday’s painting up in the next blog post.)

On Monday the girlfriend and I traveled down to Boston to check out the Leonardo da Vinci drawing exhibit. The da Vinci drawings were mesmerizing and they were juxtaposed with drawings from his contemporaries, like Michelangelo. It was fun to try to compare the artists and see what their differences were. Unfortunately it was a short exhibit. But fortunately there was another major exhibit in the museum, a Hokusai show, so we headed right over to that.

Hokusai was a Japanese artist now known primarily for his print of The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The exhibit was an exhaustive collection of his works, and though it was interesting to see The Great Wave and the other views of Mt. Fuji, my favorite prints were the ones he did of waterfalls and bridges. Here are my three favorite:

OneHundredBridgesinaSingleView

One Hundred Bridges in a Single View

TheHangingCloudBridgeatMountGyodonearAshikaga

The Hanging Cloud Bridge at Mount Gyodo near Ashikaga

TheFallingMistWaterfallatMountKurokamiinShimotsukeProvince

The Falling Mist Waterfall at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province

There’s a mystical quality about the prints that I absolutely love. While the latter two are from real locations, the first print was concocted after Hokusai had a dream of the place. I’ve been into comics a lot lately and it was interesting to see how graphic and similar Japanese prints are to traditional comics.

After the Hokusai show we wandered around the museum and I decided to do a sketch of Max Klinger’s marble bust of Beethoven.

Beethoven

I tend to gravitate towards sculptures when I’m looking to draw in a museum. It’s hard to replicate a painting through pencil, pen, and white pastel.

BookScanCenter_2 (1)

And when I’ve been given the chance, I’ve turned to doing some imaginary sketching. Here’s a recent doodle that started when I accidentally sketched out the outline of the bunny’s head. I was going for a sea lion, but my pencil had other ideas.

I’m gonna try to squeeze in another blog post before the end of the week. We’ll see what happens. I’m headed off on a road trip to New Orleans on Saturday. I’ll be bringing my easel along!

3

Working with Imagination

There were days in middle school where I would just doodle, letting the pen loop over the page and bring my subconscious imaginations to life. In my freshman math class at UNH I drew a comic of fantastical dinosaurs hatching from their eggs. There were times I’d get lost in my doodles. Still, doodling has never been something I do regularly. I tend to draw from life. Four years of art school trained me that way, I suppose. But I was sitting in one of my classes last week and got inspired by the nose on the guy in front of me and I started doodling. At first I just wanted to capture the nose, then it turned into something else. I was using my pocket sketchbook, so the limited space forced me to get inventive.

Head Scorpion

It was fun. It was something new. There were no restraints. Who cared if proportions were off? It was plain fun. So the next day I doodled some more.

Glop

I wanted to capture some sort of Moby Dick vs. Ahab feeling. Afterwards, I looked up what an actual whale looks like and laughed. Mine wasn’t even close. I guess I got the baleen teeth right at least. But I like my whale so much because my imagination skewed my memory of whales to the point that it became a new creature.

When I got home that day, I did some reading for homework. While I read I idly sketched circles. They somehow formed into a Mickey Mouse head and I knew I had to take a break to finish my idea.

Mouse Mascot

When my girlfriend and I went to NYC the other month I was fascinated by the costumed people in Times Square. Some of their costumes were spot on, but for the most part they were all slightly off. You could see the resemblance to the characters they were portraying and you could also see how they just missed their mark. When I drew the Mickey Mouse head above, my mind didn’t create an exact replica. It was just like a Times Square costume. Something was off. And I like that.

This is the first time in a long time that I’ve really let my mind control my drawings. However, I think that the years of formal practice have given me the skills to best express my imagination. It’s only now that I can begin to bring to life whatever I think of.

I’ve already got some more doodles for the next post.