Portrait of Richard for Julia Kay’s Portrait Party

Richard for JKPP, Gouache, 7.5x6 inches

Richard for JKPP, Gouache, 7.5×6 inches

I really tried to focus on two things with this portrait, getting the drawing right and keeping the gouache colors light (gouache dries darker). For once I managed to keep a tilted head tilted in my drawing–for some reason my brain always wants to make everything upright and symmetrical. It doesn’t surprise me since I learned that the image that comes in from our eyes is upside down and it’s our brains that convert it to right-side up. My brain definitely has a mind of its own…oh wait a minute–it is my mind!

Below is the original pencil drawing over which I painted the gouache. I wish I could show you the photo I worked from, but I think those are only meant to be visible to members of Julia Kay’s Portrait Party, which you can apply to join on Flickr and play too, if you want to.

Richard for JKPP, Graphite, 7.5x6 inches

Richard for JKPP, Graphite, 7.5×6 inches

Painting with Gouache: Color Charts, Zorn Palette, Brush Tests

Zorn Palette color chart in gouache, 10x8 inches in A4 Moleskine

Zorn Palette color chart in gouache, 10×8 inches in A4 Moleskine

In trying to learn more about gouache I made a few color charts. I’m using mostly M. Graham gouache which I like much better than the Winsor & Newton and Schmincke I used before. The Graham gouache is creamy and brilliant, rewets well and doesn’t smell (like the W&N). I found that using fresh-squeezed gouache is more fun to work with than rewetting dried paint, but frugality keeps me trying to reuse dried. The best solution is to set up a palette for each session, squeezing out tiny blobs, adding more as needed.

Above is an exploration of the Zorn palette in gouache, a limited palette using only Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, White, and Black. The black paint, when mixed with white, is meant to serve as blue since it is a cool color that can look blue next to warm colors. Next I want to try using it in an actual painting.

M. Graham Gouache paint chart, gouache in A4 Moleskine, 10x4 inches

M. Graham Gouache paint chart, gouache in A4 Moleskine, 10×4 inches

Above is a chart of my gouache colors straight from the tube and mixed with white and each other. Sadly when I removed the masking tape it pulled off some of the paper from the extra large Moleskine watercolor notebook that is my current journal. I don’t recall previous Moleskine WC notebooks having that problem but I’ve switched to low-tack tape now.

Before ordering any new brushes specifically for gouache I wanted to see how the brushes I already had might work so did the test below. I found a few that I liked and ordered a couple of others. I’ll do another post about my gouache palette and brushes I’ve settled on soon.

Old brushes-testing for gouache

Old brushes-testing for gouache

Drawing My Dreams Daily Again

Girl with wildly matted hair on pretty deck off pretty kitchen. Old lady dancing for people while workmen powerwashing on a roof spray water than turns to hail.

LEFT: Girl with wildly matted hair on pretty deck off pretty kitchen. RIGHT: Old lady dancing for people while workmen powerwashing on a roof spray water that turns to hail. Ink and White Pitt pen in compact Moleskine, 5.5 x 7 inches.

I used to start my mornings by drawing images from my dreams but got out of the habit some years back. I got inspired to start again after seeing Nina Johansson’s project of drawing from imagination daily in a Moleskine daily planner. Her strangely beautiful pages are skillfully drawn scenes from a vivid imagination. I loved her idea of using a dated journal so I bought up a pocket-sized yellow Moleskine planner and started drawing my dreams again every morning.

Russian soldiers marching and big feet. Chinese vase with butterflies and lady bugs.

Russian soldiers marching and big feet. Chinese vase with butterflies and lady bugs.

I was pretty rusty at first, but with each drawing I’m feeling more confident about mostly drawing without references or props, and without worrying about accuracy. I’m using a variety of pens including Pitt Artist Brush Pens and their new PITT Artist Pen – White pen that works really well. I’m throwing out all the other yucky white markers I tried before.

The big screen kiss and lots of goats. Visiting my secret hidden basement room again and bowl of M&Ms.

The big screen kiss and lots of goats. Visiting my secret hidden basement room again and bowl of M&Ms.

The paper in the journal is thin so there is a little show-through from previous pages but the Pitt pens are great at not bleeding.

Woke with a migraine: shipwreck and monkey. Eat on Time.

Woke with a migraine: shipwreck and monkey. Eat on Time.

Sometimes if there are no visuals from the previous night’s dreams or I wake with a migraine, I draw what I’m feeling or something else related to life, like the two above, the migraine image on left and the reminder to eat on time (to help prevent stupid migraines).

Guy from Ace Hardware tried to take my dog and phone. Tall ships, bundt cake and a painting in progress.

Guy from Ace Hardware tried to take my dog and phone. Tall ships, bundt cake and a painting in progress.

Odd, the food items that appear in my dreams, mostly stuff I don’t eat.

No dream, just a sketch of a shitty migraine.

No dream, just a sketch of a shitty migraine.

From time to time I’ll post my favorite dream sketches here, but if you’d like to see them as I draw them, visit Drawing My Dreams Daily on Tumbler or my Instagram page, which I’m using to keep daily posting simple (no computer, just iPhone shots of the sketch).

Sketchcrawl 46 – Bernal Heights, San Francisco

SF Bernal Heights Sketchcrawl (original) ink and watercolor in XL WC Moleskine

SF Bernal Heights Sketchcrawl, ink, watercolor, gouache, 7.5 x 11″

When it was time to leave for the Sketchcrawl in San Francisco I couldn’t find my sketch kit containing all my favorite sketching tools. I scoured the studio and the house. No sketch kit. I feared I’d left it at my figure drawing class the day before at the community college where it had probably already been adopted by a needy art student. Sad and frustrated, I cobbled together some pens, pencils, brushes and paints, threw them in a bag and drove across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.

Catching up with my friend Susan Cornelis who came down from Sebastopol for the day, and connecting with some other local sketch buddies helped me forget about my missing precious pens and paints for a little while. Since I was so late, after a quick walk around the neighborhood, I decided to sketch what I could see from a bench on the porch in front of the library where the final meet up would be. The lamp post in the sketch above was up on the porch too, which is a little confusing perspective-wise, being up about 8 steps from the sidewalk in this hilly neighborhood.

The good news is that I had a great time at the sketch crawl AND the next day when I was getting ready to go out to the studio I picked up the basket I use to carry things back and forth from house to studio and my sketch kit was in the basket! YAY! And I put a “Reward for return” note in the bag with my name and phone number on it in case it ever disappears again.

I think I like the sketch better broken into two separate ones (below). What do you think?

2014: The Year of the Dog (and other delightful detours)

Millie: 2014 The Year of the Dog Detour, graphite in jumbo Moleskine WC Notebook, 8x11.5 inches

Studies for Oil Painting: “Millie: 2014 The Year of the Dog,” graphite in jumbo Moleskine WC Notebook, 8×11.5 inches

This has been an amazing year in my corner of the world for many reasons, and only some of them are related to art-making. There have been numerous (happy) detours away from the studio, including my son’s wedding and the birth of my first grand-baby, Sadie. And then there’s Millie, my Formosa Mountain Dog who was rescued from life on the streets of Taiwan when she was four months old, flown here and fostered by a local rescue group until I adopted her a few weeks later.

Over the past year with me she’s overcome some fear and health issues to become a wonderful, funny companion. Most mornings we’re out hiking 3-4 miles on forested trails in the beautiful hills or along the SF bay where she can run off leash and play with other dogs. Afternoons she hangs out on the studio deck, keeps an eye on the neighborhood, dismantles things in the garden, chews sticks and sleeps in the studio while I draw or paint. Now that she’s almost a year and a half she requires less work on my part so I’m expecting 2015 to be a lot more productive!

I spend New Years eve and day reflecting on my art/life during the passing year, and considering/setting my goals/intentions for the year to come. I will share a summary of that here soon. My first painting of the year will be a portrait of Millie that the above sketches were a study for. I’m loving my new jumbo Moleskine Watercolor Journal and happy with this first page in it!

End of Journal Self Portrait

End of Journal Self Portrait, graphite, 8x5"

End of Journal Self Portrait with New Glasses, graphite, 8×5″ 11/2014

I’ve been doing more oil painting than sketching lately so it’s taken longer than usual to fill my journal and get to the last page that I always save for a self-portrait (above). It’s interesting how each sketch in the collection below shows a progression upwards in age and (occasionally) in skill and how only bits of them resemble me at all. Also interesting how many of them were done on days I was feeling grumpy and/or tired (probably wisely choosing to sketch myself instead of working on something that “mattered” when I felt that way).

Below is a little gallery of self-portrait end-of-journal sketches since 2009. You can click on any image to see it larger, if you must.

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