Posts Tagged ‘Sketch Book’

Sketchbook: No Direction

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
Sketch Study of Woman in perspective

Sketch of Woman in perspective

Direction is a strange thing.

Sometimes it’s there, and sometimes it’s not.

Lately, it’s been… not.

Usually I have the opposite problem: all direction, no time or energy. I still have no time, but I’ve had the energy, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to apply it.

When I start work on a new woodblock print, I know what the image is going to be. I always know before I even start drafting the image what it is going to be. My preparatory sketches are a chance to work out the details, but the main idea is there when I begin.

The imagery isn’t floating around my brain right now though. I’ve got the energy to carve up some blocks, but the usual imagery isn’t floating around up in my head.

When I get like this, the answer is just to start drawing. The image at the right is a little sketch to try to work out a seed of an idea. There might be a tree that can grow out of that seed eventually, but not now. I drew it to see if there was something in that image that felt right to me, something I would want to make a finished piece with.

There wasn’t.

Below is a sheet from my sketch pad that is just a smattering of ideas on the same page. Nothing significant, just a few ideas to see if there is some imagery hidden in one of those ideas that I can extract for a print.

Sketchbook page

Depicting the regression to jets.

There was nothing there.

I’ve learned that when I regress to drawing jets, that the imagery I’m working with isn’t going anywhere.

Nothing wrong with jets, they just don’t sop up my creative juices in the way I am looking for.

Also, when I say “there’s nothing there”, what I mean is that the images in the sketches don’t hold any emotional resonance for me. They don’t make me feel anything, other than “that might be interesting”. To me, if “interesting” is the only emotion that an image evokes, that image is not good enough.

So, I go to an old stand by, I draw myself.

sketch of myself on a couch

Yours truly on a couch

This is a nice little pencil study, but there isn’t any juice in this. It may look ok, but there isn’t anything in this image that makes it interesting, or provides a vehicle for meaning.

This is gonna need more work. What do I do?

Actually, I do know what to do. This “woe is me, I am without direction” post is just a set up. I know exactly what to do, and I’ll let you know, just as soon as it’s done.

Kindred Art – Art That Speaks To Me Loudest

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Wednesday is a busy day for me – rush to work in the morning, work all day, spend the evening at a buddies house, pick up some groceries, and finally make it home around 9 pm.

pencil sketch of my hand

Pencil Sketch from my sketch book

After getting laundry in the washer, I finally had time to myself around 9:15. Time to draw. I put on some music, got out my pencils, and started drawing the nearest thing to me, my other hand.

Let me back up half a sentence, because this bit gets to what I’m writing about today. I didn’t just put on some music, I put on Mahler, Das Lied Von Der Erde.

Gustav Mahler is a favorite composer, when I listen to his music, I feel like it was written about me. I first heard Mahler in a bookstore, at one of those “CD preview” machines, listening with headphones. Within the first two minutes of the 9th symphony, I was enthralled. If you want to know what what it is to feel both the pain and beauty of life (at the same time), listen to Mahler’s 9th.

As I drew, I thought about kindred artists. Every now and then, I will find art that I feel was made for me, or about me. The art captures something better than I can explain myself. I seem to find these few and far between, but when I first encountered Mahler, his music was this kind of art.

(Strangely, it is rare that visual arts enthrall me like this. Every now and then something will really stand out to me, but I usually don’t understand why. I can’t figure out why I can stare at Mark Rothko’s “color field” paintings all day, but I can. I’ve been casually reading Rothko’s book, The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art, to figure this out.)

The poetry of E.E. Cummings strikes me in this way. His organization of words is the most similar to the way I feel about the world that I have read. This was another instance when I knew within minutes that I found something that resonated with me. I read Since Feeling Is First, and I knew that whatever that was true for him, that made him write those words, was also true for me.

I finished up my work in my sketch book for the night as Das Lied Von Der Erde finished, I put my clothes into the dryer, and ate the dinner that was heating in the oven.

My CD player switched to the next CD, Mahler’s 9th. I grabbed 100 Selected Poems, sat on my window sill by the fire escape, smoked a cigarette, and read.

* * * *

Is there an artist or artists whose work strikes you especially strongly? I’m curious. Leave a comment if you’d like, let’s talk about it.

* * * *

A note about recordings: I linked above to the Pierre Boulez recording of Das Lied Von Der Erde. It is a decent performance, and a modern recording. I bought it mainly because I like Pierre Boulez’s work on the rest of Mahler’s Symphonies. I highly recommend Das Lied von der Erde conducted by Bruno Walter, however. It is a much older recording, but the performance is outstanding. I have this recording on vinyl, I haven’t gotten the remastered CD yet, but reviews I have read seem to indicate the remaster is quite good. It sounds phenomenal on vinyl. If you want to hear the 9th, I like Mahler, Symphony 9, conducted by Pierre Boulez. I’ve also got Leonard Bernstein’s recording of the 9th, but it doesn’t seem to have the urgency that I like so much in Boulez’s recording.

Dispatch: The Living Deadline and The Sea Of Lonely

Friday, April 23rd, 2010
Lonely Desk

A lonely desk. Ink Drawing.

I had some time to doodle a bit in my sketch book when I got home from work last night.

Work’s been on my mind quite a bit lately. I am working under 3 deadlines for 3 different projects, I’m running at about 12 hour days. There isn’t room for much else in my mind other than work.

The Sea of Lonely

When I have deadlines like this, which isn’t often, my head goes to a certain space. Many things run on autopilot, and I just devote my brain energy to churning out the work. I know there is a lot to do, so it is a slow burn of mental energy.

Anyhow, these are last night’s doodles. When I have time, I draw for an hour or so after I get home from work. Work –> home –> draw –> sleep.

This sequence becomes an isolated process, and that was the inspiration for the drawing on the right. When I am in the office at 8pm, after everyone has left, I am in a sea of stuff, but none of it is relevant, except what is in front of me at the time. It’s a sea of loneliness, and I float through it as I work.

Focus is lonely.

Living Deadline

zombie worker drawing

Night of the Living Deadline, Ink Drawing

As I mentioned, I am working under a few deadlines. Most of my mental energy goes towards meeting these deadlines, except for the few bits I keep in reserve for drawing and typing out these posts.

After a bit of time, I feel like my mind has been sapped, my awareness is down, and I am just lumbering through life, working to meet this deadline.

I started this drawing, not intending any zombie reference, just attempting to capture the worn out look of someone burning on both ends to meet the deadline. It ended up looking fairly zombie-like, and the “living deadline” title presented itself. I was feeling a bit like a zombie when I drew this, it was late and I was tired. I was home from my 4th 12-hour day in a row. The lines are crooked, it’s kind of jacked up. It was drawn by a zombie.

A deadline zombie.

The zombie outbreak is real, and it has been going on for decades. It is the turning of white collar workers into mindless zombies, hell-bent on one task, finishing the project to meet the deadline.

We are all zombies now.


I like this idea, I might flesh this one out.

Ha! Flesh. As in zombie flesh. Get it?

Never mind.

Striving for Simplicity, and Skater Sketches

Friday, February 26th, 2010
Skater pencil sketches

Preliminary skater sketches

I’m one of those people that has a lot of stuff. My apartment always seems to be cluttered, I think that entropy is a little stronger than usual in my life.

Last night I reached a tilting point. I have been working late hours and not sleeping quite enough, and one of the results is that I have ignored a lot of the nuts and bolts of life. I spent last night tightening the nuts and picking up the bolts, taking care of laundry, dishes, and most of all de-cluttering my desk.

This morning I woke up to a clean desk with my computers, drawing supplies, carving tools, and the most basic of office tools. The simplicity and cleanliness breathed new life into my morning work.

A nice clean work space makes everything nicer.

New (No) Work

My emphasis on cleanliness kept me away from this series of skater prints I have been working on. I have one in progress though, so I thought I would show you how I make these things.

I start out with a few quick sketches, like you see on the right. These are little more than scribbles, to get the basic gist of the shapes, movement, and energy I am trying to get.

I think about the overall movement in the sketch first of all, then later I fill it in with the structural details of the body. It is very easy to draw figures that look stiff and sorta awkward, it takes a bit more work to make the figures look like they are moving. I don’t always completely succeed, but that is where my mind is.

Pencil Sketch

Pencil Sketch for the 3rd Skater Woodblock

Once I’m done with the quick sketches, I do a more fleshed out sketch, where I really work out how I want the print to look. Check it out on the left

I build up these sketches with darker and darker pencil lines. I start with a very hard pencil, usually a 4H, sometimes a 6H.

Quick note about pencils: Pencils are designated by how hard or soft the graphite is. Harder graphite makes a finer, lighter line, softer graphite makes a darker, “smooshier” line. The range is from 9H (the hardest), to 9B (the softest). HB is right in the middle, #2 pencils are typically HB.

Altogether, the scale is: 9B, 8B, …, 2B, B, F, HB, B, 2B, …, 8B, 9B.

So back to the sketch, I use a 4H to sketch the basic shapes. After I have gotten this fairly well determined, I use a 2H to continue to flesh out the drawing. I use the 2H until the drawing starts to take shape.

last I switch to a soft pencil, a 6B, to really nail the linework. These woodblock prints will be printed in black and white, with no grayscale. The soft pencil puts a very dark line on the paper, and it duplicates the effect that a carved block will have fairly well.

The other advantage of using a soft pencil is that they do not hold a sharp point for longer than a few lines. It is difficult to get a very fine line with the woodblocks that I am using, so using the softer pencil gives me a better idea of what I will realistically be able to carve.

Put it on Wood

Third skater block

Third skater block, carving in progress

When I’m happy with the sketch, I draw the image again in pencil on the block. I usually again start with the 4H, but have to be careful, because the pencil will scratch the block surface if I press too hard. I follow the same pattern as with the paper sketch, I switch to a 2H, then eventually a 6B. When the 6B drawing is done, I start carving.

As I carve, I continually remark the block with my 6B pencil, because the graphite smears away as I work. I also tip the pencil on the side, and rub it over the carved areas, to get an idea of how the block will look when I roll it with ink.

The carving takes a while, especially delicate areas like the hands and face. The block you see on the right is my progress after about 2 hours of carving.

The head and the left arm are carved, but that is it. This block probably has another 2 or 3 hours of carving to do.

And of course, what was I listening to when I worked on this?

  • CrucifixDehumanization
  • Operation IvyEnergy
  • Final ConflictAshes to Ashes
  • Bad Religion’80 – ‘85

It’s just punk rock.

Be An Artist: Get a Sketch Book Today

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

[Be An Artist is a new series of posts I am starting – each gives a quick, actionable tip to help you start making art today]

The artists most valuable tool is his sketch book.

It is also a good test of your commitment to art.

One of the two most important things I need to do every day is draw. (the other is to write, which I’m doing now)

I actually didn’t get any time for drawing yesterday. I spent the entire weekend in front of my computer writing the emails and recording some audio content I am going to send you when you sign up for my newsletter.

By the end of the day yesterday I was pretty fried, and didn’t get to it. I should have though.

Anyway, enough about me, onwards to you!

What do you need?

Getting started with a sketch book is pretty low overhead. It doesn’t require much. For about $20, you can be in and out of the art store with everything you need.

Required items:

  • A sketch book
  • Some pencils
  • A pencil sharpener

That’s it.

Take some time when you are buying your sketch book. You are going to be stuck with it for a while, so make sure it is something you like. Don’t get too nice of a sketch book though, I don’t want you to have something so nice that you are hesitant to “mess it up”.

I use regular old pencils that I you can get anywhere, and a cheap plastic pencil sharpener, the kind you can get at your local drug store.

Glenmorangie Bottle - Ink and Colored Pencil

Glenmorangie Bottle - Ink and Colored Pencil

For Over Achievers

For those of you that aren’t satisfied with mere graphite, here’s a few more things you can get to spice up the sketch book.

  • Eraser
  • Colored Pencils
  • Oil Pastels
  • Pens/Markers

This will give you the ability to mess around with some color, and do more in depth drawings in your sketch book.

What to draw?

Good question. It doesn’t matter though.

I even draw myself - Oil Pastel Sketch

I even draw myself - Oil Pastel Sketch

An artist’s sketchbook is for herself, not for others. It is a tool to improve and hone the skills an artist needs. to this end, it doesn’t matter what you draw, it only matters that you draw.

I like to draw whatever is around me.

If I am drinking a cup of coffee, I’ll draw that. If I am sitting on my bed, looking at my desk, I’ll draw that. If I just bought a bottle of Scotch, I’ll draw that.

The what isn’t as important as the how. The point of the sketch book is to improve the skills of seeing, processing what you see, and turning that into line.

Create a habit

The best way to make sure that you draw on a regular basis is to make it part of your daily routine.

I draw in the evenings, after I get home from work. I draw for an hour. I either make it the first thing I do when I get home from work, or the last thing I do before I go to bed.

I need this sort of structure and habit, but another structure might work better for you. It does take effort though to make it happen.

You will be pleased with the work you do, as long as you stick with it, and your progress will amaze yourself.

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The images in this post are from my Flickr account. Check it out by clicking here. There’s not much on it yet, but I am starting to fill it up.