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The Energy in a Sugar Jar

Summer is here. It doesn’t feel real. A couple weeks ago I graduated with my M.Ed. and now my internship will be done in a week. It’s hard to believe I’ll be teaching in a few months and being paid to do it. Really the reason it feels weird is because I’ve been so busy with work. I was able to get a little reading done in my free time, but my art progress slowed. Occasionally I got to paint. And because I wasn’t able to devote large blocks of time to making art, it to took me several months to finish one painting.

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Sugar Jar

9″ x 12″

I started this painting right after I finished my Blue Winter Self-Portrait. I was inspired by the color variety I was able to explore in the shadows. Hopefully the pinecones are still readable as pinecones. Here are the progress photos:

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And the final photo once again:

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I’ve been finding and following a bunch of artists lately. Many of them have mentioned the difficulty of taking the energy present at the beginning of the painting and maintaining it until the end. I loved the looseness and playfulness of the self-portrait and wanted to replicate it. I did bring an energy into this still-life but I’m not sure I carried it through. I think I got caught up too much in the exactness of the sugar jar. Edges are my new focus. I have a feeling the movement and energy of a painting can die there.

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Week Old Cupcake

We had a friend over for food about a week ago and she left a cupcake for me, but I wound up not eating it. I forgot about it, honestly. Before bed that night I told myself to take it in the morning to work and then four days later I realized it was still on the counter and the icing was hard and the cake was starting to sag to one side. While I’d lost a chance to eat it, I’d gained an opportunity to paint.

Gouache Cupcake

Tilted Cupcake, 8″ x 5,” Gouache

I started sketching the dessert at the kitchen table this morning. The sun eventually moved and I was forced out onto our porch to chase my light. I set up at an old painting table surrounded by freshly potted plants. Still the sun was moving fast and I had to constantly push the cupcake back into the moving light. After a couple hours I wound up with the above sketch.

I’ve been having trouble retaining the lights in my gouache paintings. With that in mind, I purposefully started working in the midtones and shadows without touching the lit side of the cupcake. I follow Benjamin Bjorklund on Facebook and he’s posted a lot of interesting watercolor paintings lately, so I tried to keep his technique in mind as I worked. Not to say I was as successful as him, but I turned out a pretty decent sketch I think. Still not entirely comfortable with gouache. Nothing seems to beat the opacity oils can give me in the lights. Which reminds me that I need to return to that oil painting I let sit a couple months ago…

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Forty and Lightbulb Sketches

Yesterday I dropped a couple paintings off at the New Hampshire Art Association for next weekend’s The Art of the Landscape show. While I was there I picked up a prospectus for next month’s 16th Annual Joan L. Dunfey Open Juried Exhibition. I’ll probably submit my most recently finished painting and the one I just started today.

Here are a few sketches from the development process:

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I wanted to see how the lightbulbs and the forty ounce would work together. After a trial and error period of arrangement I finally decided on a setup that clicked.

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With graphite and charcoal I sketched out the still life. I think this process will greatly help my painting. I learned a few things about the way lightbulbs are shaped. Now time to paint.

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Portrait of a Disgusted Daughter

Only two weeks left until the school year and my internship. I’m trying to make the best of my time until then. That means paint, paint, paint.

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I found time for one more Reddit portrait, choosing user Hotnonsense’s photo of her grumpy daughter. Spent about forty-five minutes on the sketch before moving to gouache. This one’s 2.5″ x 4″.

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The face came together piece by piece and I never felt too lost. I think I created a good likeness. Unfortunately my success floundered as I moved into the hair. I got caught up in the individual strands. The solution? Simplify. I took off my glasses, pushed back in my seat, and there they were. The shapes. That’s all I needed. Shapes of color solved my problems. I feel as though it’s almost beneficial to be a painter that needs glasses. I don’t have to purposefully blur my eyes to simplify the subject. My eyes already naturally do that. In the past I’ve caught myself unconsciously with my glasses halfway down my nose so I can quickly glance back and forth between seeing the subject in-focus and out-of-focus. I look like an old man when I do that. But it makes things so much easier.

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Portrait of a Dog

When I’m browsing the submissions on RedditGetsDrawn I try to look for photos with interesting lighting first and then photos of pets second. It seems that people are less critical of the likeness when you paint their pet. In contrast, a strong resemblance is wanted when you’re drawing a person. Take the Tom Brady courtroom sketch incident that occurred just yesterday, for example. The artist has been publicly shamed because their depiction wasn’t perfect. It made me a little grumpy knowing how hard it is to draw and capture a scene quickly and then seeing the hate the artist is receiving. Anyway, today I worked on a gouache painting of user jdmb3641’s dog.

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It took roughly two hours to complete this 2″ x 3.5″ puppy. It was even smaller than my last gouache painting. I’m starting to realize how hard it is to push the darks on gouache. I may need to invest in a black so I can mix it with other colors to get some solid darks.

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First Gouache Portrait

For my birthday I received a Dick Blick gift card from my parents. I immediately put it to use and filled out an order. Five or so days later I had a box of gouache paints and a new 8 1/4″ x 5″ watercolor sketchbook in my mailbox. Gouache is a type of watercolor paint that can be used opaquely. Last night I sat down and started my first gouache sketch.

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It’s been a bit since I visited RedditGetsDrawn, but I decided it would be a good place to practice with my new paints. After some deliberation I decided on user vicecaptainvince’s photo.

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I started with a sketch because I’ve noticed on YouTube that James Gurney and Jeff Watts begin that way with gouache.

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My girlfriend made delicious seafood shells while I sketched for an hour. Thanks Sarah!

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With the sketch complete I went head first into painting, occasionally referencing Jeff Watts’ videos. It took a while for me to adapt to the way the gouache bled into the paper. Too little water and it was like working with gel, too much water and the paints acted like thinly glazed traditional watercolors.

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Since I spent so much time experimenting last night, the painting went slow and I was forced to finish the piece this morning. The process was fun and I hope to crank out a couple more portraits today, since the rain is keeping me indoors.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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A Week of Drawing Cars

This past week I’ve been participating in daily prompts on reddit’s SketchDaily.

1952 FordIt was car week and I started Monday with the 1950s Pickup Truck prompt. After a little Google search I picked a 1952 Ford F-1.

Exotic CarThe next day was Exotic/Super Sports Cars. I had no idea what car I picked until someone told me that it’s a modified car in the Bosozoku style.

Rat RodWednesday was Rat Rod day. Spent a little extra time on this sucker.

1949 OldsmobileNext day was all about the American Muscle Cars. Found out that the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 was debatably the first.

Vintage Concept CarCar week concluded with Concept Cars. I went with a classic style concept car.

Left Hand SketchesYesterday was Non-dominant Hand Figure Studies. I spent about an hour sketching with my left hand and a mechanical pencil and then inked the sketches in. My right hand didn’t like sitting by the wayside. I kept unconsciously trying to switch hands. It’s a battle to resist years of training and habit.

Though I’ve never been a fan of drawing cars, these prompts have been great practice. They’re pushing my comfort boundaries. We’ll see how next week goes.

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A Couple More Doodles

Wow. Been so busy this summer already. I’m in the process of taking two summer classes so I only have to concentrate on my internship next year. In my free time I’ve been working on a painting. It’s coming along wonderfully. Probably my best yet. But because I’ve had my hands full with various things, I haven’t produced any art to blog about. I wanted to change that, so I kept my sketchbook with me and did a couple silly drawings.

Troll CaveNot sure where I was going with this. It started with his face and just evolved. I guess this could be a troll.

Banana FlasherWhile the other drawing was spontaneous, this drawing was purposeful from the beginning. I wanted to draw a banana flashing itself from behind its peel.  I was giggling the whole time I was drawing.

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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.

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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.