Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas on Mars

This post is Christmas oriented, but related to my collages. I am a sucker for the lights at Christmas. When I was a kid we used to drive around in the "nice" neighborhoods and look at the decorated houses. My mom loved doing that, and I think it was a way to get us kids to sit down and not bounce off the walls for a bit. My dad was a career army officer, so we moved a lot. With four kids, we never lived in a nice neighborhood. Luckily Mom had a strong preference for a tree that touched the ceiling, and we had a nice collection of ornaments, many were hand made by us kids and my grandparents. That made Christmas special wherever we were.

I am sometimes amazed at how well my parents did at managing four kids. They started young and had four in seven years. They seemed to mostly enjoy it, although there were plenty of ups and downs. So of course Christmas is a time for me to remember my childhood, and family connections since then. It's a time that is both happy and very sad. I miss the people who aren't here.

How does this relate to art-making? I love starry backgrounds in my collages. Put in some stars or a bunch of lights against a dark background and a collage looks just right to me. Aside from a nostalgic sadness, they also often give me a feeling of awe at the beautify and immensity of the universe.

The things that leap out at me in these memories are, of course, the lights, also a love of handmade things, and family connections. In general I think it's important to figure out what moves you. What things do you remember from your childhood that still evoke strong feelings? How do those things show up in the art you make? Can you use that more? Is it serving you well?

Have a wonderful Holiday, how ever you celebrate. And if you are sad, please remember that many other people are also sad this time of year. They often hide it because they feel weird, but it is there. Recognizing our common humanness can bring us together and help people to feel compassion for each other, even those we don't agree with.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Using dreams as content

I wrote this post years ago - before doing a workshop on using dreams to inspire imagery. For some reason it doesn't seem to have been posted, or I can't find it. I have been thinking a lot about dreams lately, in part because it's harder for me to remember them now. It's a sad fact, as I have gotten older I more often wake up with some kind of ache. Nothing serious, but enough to make me roll over before I am completely awake. Moving before remembering dreams makes them harder to remember. So I am revisiting all my tips for remembering dreams.

Remembering dreams:
*Keep a dream journal and pen by the bed. Keep the journal open to a blank page. I prefer a ball point pen and those cheap Mead 9.5 x 6 notebooks. They are not too big when the used pages are folded back. I sometimes keep mine on the bed next to my pillow.
*When you go to bed, as you fall asleep, say to yourself "I want to remember my dreams" and "I want to write down my dreams." It helps to repeat this several times.
*It also helps to read thru your old dream journals.
*When you wake up, don't move. Or go back to the position you were dreaming in. See if you can remember a dream. If nothing comes right away, make your mind blank, an image may arise. If that doesn't help, make a mental picture of people in your life, one at a time. Visualize a person and say their name. Think of it as a question to your dream self.
*It may be hard at first to remember dreams. Try to think in terms of valuing whatever comes up. All images that come into your mind could be regarded as a gift from your subconscious. You want to send a message to your subconscious that you are listening and value whatever comes up. Jot down even the smallest fragments of dreams.

Writing the dream down:
*Go over the whole dream in your mind before starting to write it down.
*Also write down those odd words and phrases that pop into your head as you wake.
*Don't turn on lights and move as little as possible to write down the dream.
*To write in the dark: write large, and leave a fairly big space between the lines of text. You can use your hand to sense where you are on the page and keep your place. Try to complete each letter before going on to the next. Dot your i's and cross your t's before going on.
*Later when you are awake you can go back and read the dream. In the spaces between the lines clarify words that may be nearly illegible.
*Write it all down, whether it seems important or not. Your dream self may tell you it's not interesting, but an hour later your waking self may be amazed.
*Try to not judge the content of the dream.
*Sometimes writing the dream will remind you of more dreams.
*It's very hard to put dream imagery into words at times. Those elusive moments when things shift from one state to another, when a car becomes a bicycle, are hard to describe. Do your best. You will probably improve with practice.
*Make a quick sketch or two. This is not fine art - just get the gesture, size relationships, whatever strikes you as interesting/odd.
Above: Dinosaur Wave, 2010. This copper and brass book more or less illustrates a dream.

How to use your dreams:
*You might want to keep your dream notebooks private, that makes it easier to write whatever happens in your dreams. Sometimes dreams are too weird for public consumption. I take a "middle way." Occasional dreams go into books word for word. Mostly I use parts of dreams. But my real goal is to be more in touch with my dreaming mind.
*When working on a significant project, around birthdays or other anniversaries that are meaningful, be sure to note dreams.
*It may help to keep lists of images that seem important or repeat, or to list what you have been or have done in dreams. These are clues that lead you to the more "important" dreams.
*You may find it's useful to have your most interesting dreams typed into the computer. It's time consuming but useful to be able to search for words.

Should you use a dream dictionary?
I would say "No." Images have meanings, but they are very personal. As you write your dream, you may think you know what the dream means. That's okay, it may be an important insight. But don't lock in any one definition. Dreams can have many meanings, all at once. For example: According to online dream dictionaries going up stairs can mean being ready for success or change. Going down is supposed to be always bad. I can't agree. I have dreamed multiple times of going down stairs, into the earth. I read that as a dream about going deeper into myself - exploring a level that is not easily accessible. Which is a very good thing. And I have dreamed of going up stairs to an all white room where I see important things. I wake from those dreams feeling very good.

The meaning of the image can change and grow over time. Many artists have the experience of thinking they know what a particular piece of their art means, but a year later, or 10 years later, they come back and find a whole new meaning. I don't think they were wrong in the first place, they just didn't see all the meanings. Images and dreams have a life of their own.

If it seems important to find the meaning of your dream, free association is better. What does this dream person or object mean to you? What images or thoughts arise? Be gentle with your dreams. Have a conversation with them, as you would with a friend. Listen to what they say. You don't have to interpret them at all, they can just exist.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Before the post - I want to add this note about my last post about Procreate and buying brushes online.
Added to previous post 12-10-18: I recently had my credit card hacked somewhere on line. I hesitate to recommend small online businesses anymore. (In my previous post I suggested a place to buy more brushes for Procreate. I'm not implicating them in anyway, I have no idea where my credit card was hacked.) I imagine large businesses like Dick Black are safe, but smaller sites may have trouble keeping up with security measures. I have started only shopping where I can use a large, recognized method of payment. Many places will accept PayPal or an equivalent. Our bank caught the fake charge immediately, so we were not affected. Except for having to go to every web site where I have recurring charges and change my credit card. Not my idea of a fun afternoon.

Now, how about some entertainment? Here are some drawing videos:
Thomas Fluharty draws Chuck Close - very nice loose style. Fun to watch

Also check out Alphonso Dunn. He has a ton of drawing videos on YouTube. He is clear and very detailed in his explanations.
In this video he talks about drawing what you see versus drawing what you know.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Follow Up - More on Drawing in Procreate

Since my previous blog post I had a conversation with a friend on Facebook about Procreate. I should have mentioned that every new major release is accompanied by a free handbook, available in iTunes and as a pdf here. You can view the entire handbook before purchasing the app. It may look intimidating, but you can open the app, select a pencil or pen brush, and begin to draw. As you find the need for certain things like layers or masks, you can learn more.

The sketch above was done by scribbling with various brushes until I saw something - the dog face. Then I collage on some teeth and the landscape which was a pinhole photo I took years ago.

The Procreate website is here.

The basic Procreate app has many brushes, possibly more than you would need. Users also offer free brushes, I think they are on the Procreate website, in the discussion area. Some work better than others, as you would expect.

However, you can also buy brushes from a number of places. I have purchased brushes from TipTop and like them very much. They have many brushes, including nice pencil brushes, ballpoint pens and watercolor brushes (I think these are the hardest ones to re-create in a digital format). Other brush brands I have tried have too much smoothing, which makes the random shake of my hand smooth out. That might be your preference. Procreate brushes are all adjustable so you can edit any of them or create your own. Be sure to make a copy first so the original isn't changed. Mostly I don't edit mine because there are so many available. I have been testing the TipTop brush pack I bought and move them to a Favorites folder as I find the ones I like best. I also bought a texture pack from True Grit. I haven't played with that much, but they are fun. I often scribble all over with various textures and then begin to see faces in the random grit, so I do enjoy all the grit, splatters, bird poo, etc. (-: An example would be the Sad Dog image above. PLEASE see the note below about using credit cards online. Use caution.

There are also many tutorials online. Do a search and you will be overwhelmed. I have purchased a few courses from Nikolai Lockertsen. He was one of the first online with courses. He has a loose-ish style which I like and is pretty clear about what he is doing. You may need to pause the video and look up a technique in the handbook occasionally. There may also be some free things on his website. (People change their content or sites and I'm not always familiar with the newer versions.)

It's also worth mentioning that there is an iPhone version of Procreate - I think it's called Pocket. I have it but don't really use it.

Edit: 12-10-18 I recently had my credit card hacked somewhere on line. I hesitate to recommend small online businesses anymore. I imagine large businesses like Dick Black are safe, but smaller sites may have trouble keeping up with security measures. I have started only shopping where I can use a large, recognized method of payment. Many places will accept PayPal or an equivalent. Our bank caught the fake charge immediately, so we were no affected. Except for having to go to every web site where I have recurring charges and change my credit card. Not my idea of a fun afternoon.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Behind the Scenes - Drawing with Procreate on an iPad

I resisted the idea of an iPad years ago, thinking it was just a big phone. My son and husband bought me a second generation iPad for Christmas one year, based on my son's thought that I would enjoy it. It was such a big hit I bought another, with lots more storage, the following year. Ever since I have been drawing on it, mostly with an app called Procreate. At first my drawings were very basic. The screen is slick and it's a very different experience from drawing on paper. However there are layers, undos and erasers that work well. In the last year I have been practicing hatching, both on paper and on the iPad. I am finding the iPad more and more useful.

It's very handy to bring a partially finished drawing into Procreate and to test out ideas. Here I took a photo of the finished drawing and added the blue in the sky and a shadow in Procreate. I can also try out different backgrounds.

I can insert a photo onto the page to draw from - that's the photo of the hand front-on. I have it on a separate layer and have erased most of the image to just focus on the hand. Having the photo the same size and orientation as the drawing makes it easier for me. I can also pull Procreate up from the menu bar below and have it open side-by-side with an image in my Pictures app - that's the image on the left of the hand holding a key.

For some reason I feel freer on the iPad - I can try things out there, like this very scribbly sketch. I realize scribbling may be a more natural style for me - I love to scribble.

The pencil tools in the app have improved a lot - I plan to experiment with printing a drawing down in "pencil." It's very hard to scan a real pencil drawing and then print it to look like pencil. Maybe a digital version will work better. And yes, I do have an Apple Pencil now, and think it's wonderful. It is also possible to buy very reasonable packs of brushes from independent sellers. The last one I bought had pencils, ball point pens, oil and watercolor brushes and a bunch more.

And I can merge all kinds of photos into one canvas. I know you can do this with PhotoShop, but using the Apple Pencil seems much more intuitive to me. The above image blends together five or six photos.

Several photos merged together provide drawing inspiration.

The downside - the cost of course. And I seem to fill up memory pretty quickly. My old iPad is so full I have to delete things to make room for the newer stuff. And beware - be sure to back up a lot. If the app seems to "stutter" or not work well in some way, they suggest you delete it and download again. I lost some things I hadn't backed up yet doing that. There was no warning that I would loose all my data. That may have changed. Procreate is updated frequently. And aside from the one time I haven't had an issue with the app, just my mistakes and occasionally the Apple Pencil tip gets loose and won't work.

I have no affiliation with Procreate or Apple. Just a fan.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Summing up Inktober

My earlier post says most of it. I would add the selfie ring light was handy, it was a little quicker to get the photos into my computer. I suppose if I blogged from my phone I could be even faster. The blog is a good record for me. Next year I may remember to read it and see how things went. The biggest problem was my internal resistance to any outside pressure. While I draw almost every day I just don’t like to have a schedule or expectations. Toward the end of October I took an online class for drawing on the iPad which was a distraction. Since the second lesson on hatching I have been drawing some in Procreate, a drawing app.

I do feel burned out right now. And it wasn't horrible, just a little bit of pressure. Still, it's supposed to be fun, right? Next year I may do a drawing a week, working on it a little every day. Some people make drawings that span the month on one page. The second drawing by Jake Parker on this page may be an example. I can't find a lot of information.

Since I always like to have at least one image to illustrate blog posts, I'll leave with this digital drawing, done in Procreate with a tweaked 6B pencil tool. The proportions are not right, but I liked the effect.

The End of Inktober!

I have lost track of how many I did, some days there were two or three drawings in my hand, others not so many. But I feel pretty confident it's at least 30. Every time I say I want more interesting content in my drawings, it doesn't happen. Inktober is the wrong environment for that - the emphasis is on speed and production. And I can't produce and also explore content. It sounds easy, but it's not for me.

A quick selfie. After I finished I realized the ceiling fan looks like a giant bow. Not my style.

From a photo taken in the Zymoglyphic museum.

And so I’m done. I may add to the evaluation in a few days. I can say I did it, but the question is, would I do it again?

Monday, October 29, 2018


I'm nearing the end - a few more days.

My friend Karen on Sktchy. Black Pitt pen, Caput Mortem brush pen.

One of those days when I was unfocused and just doodling. Pitt pen.

Scribbling while watching a movie. Pitt pen. Can you tell I'm loosing steam? I hate to quit this close to the end.

From a photo on Sktchy. Pitt pen, white Posca.

Another from Sktchy, quick and easy.

This was an interesting photo - a collage of several images.

Another interesting photo. This particular security pattern is very hard to draw on. It has a strong diagonal that seems to accentuate the ink lines and make them hard to control.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Inktober early evaluation

I decided to take stock now, before the end of the month. I'm deciding what to prioritize and what I'd like to do in the remaining time. My notes went into my little sketch book. Yesterday I didn't draw, I wrote up my notes and then read for awhile. I wanted to take the pressure off, which also makes me want to draw. Today I did a drawing, trying to follow my "new" plan. I will also do a wrap up at the end of the month, but it will probably be short.

First the drawing:
Done as usual in my envelope sketch book. It's from a digital collage I made - my grandmother's silhouette and a skeleton. She was German, a lucky coincidence, since the envelope is from Germany. Done with a Pitt pen.

The first page of my notes - I won't bother you with all three, but here are the notes:
Pros: I have come this far, at least some kind of sketch every day. (Here I list the images I do like. My pages are numbered so easy to refer to.) I like most of the text pages - do more. I especially like drawings in my previous post of the figure and the face. The figure is painterly, and the face gets a little dreamy. The size is good - not intimidating. Cheap paper is good, although not really cheap in this case. (the notebook was made by BadBooks on Etsy, but I could make more myself)

Cons: Don't like all the drawings - some done too fast. Next year I need to consider doing fewer drawings and putting more time into each one. Tired of the small size and cheap paper - can't use my favorite ink pens, they bleed thru. (yes, I am contradicting myself) I'm tired of the pressure - have been gardening a lot, a bit short on time. (The weather has been perfect and I have done a lot in the front bed.)

Do More: Text pages. Daily comments, life in general. More like the (previous post - face) drawing - fine lines, minimal outline. Also more like (previous post - figure) drawing. More painterly. And more like Big Mouth (last image on linked page) - splats, small drawn texture in background, drawn from collage. Also more like double exposures (this post).

I think a wrap up at the end is useful, but checking in mid-month is also a good idea. If you have favorites, especially from this month, I'd love to know what they are. I hope you are getting some time in to draw. Try to not get discouraged if you are short on time. I have several friends who can't draw regularly. Just keep plugging away when you can.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A figure, a frog and a face

I realized haven't been posting in the same order on sktchy as I have here. I guess that doesn't matter - they are drawings in pen and ink.

October 18. This guy's face is long, but not quite that long. I had to scribble on the background with a white posca pen to cover the dark grey on the envelope. In the end I rather like this one. It's a little weird. I took his head into Procreate (drawing/painting app for iOS) and attached it to another body. I liked the size mis-match so left it that way. I also like the background doodles.

October 19. An awesome toad or frog from Sktchy. Pitt pen. My biggest complaint about Sktchy is that most people post the most boring selfies - looking straight forward, frontal lighting, grinning. But now and then there is some awesome interesting photo.

October 20. Another Sktchy drawing.

A doodled page, something I haven't really counted as a drawing. This was a dream, I woke feeling very frustrated about this. Done with a sepia Pitt pen. I like doing these pages of text now and then. I do figure it's still keeping the pen moving, and I am drawing shapes, as opposed to writing. I am still loving the torn envelopes, they have a nice irregularity. Getting tired of the smaller size. Getting tired of worrying about having a finished drawing every day. I had thought I would evaluate at the end of the month, but thing I'll take stock tonight, and again at the end.

This one was done with a black Pitt pen. I just thought I'd include these as part of the record. I do like doing this in my journals now and then. I don't record much about most days, am always trying to remember to add more.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

So far, so good

I am sort of keeping up with Inktober this year. I did miss one day, but did two sketches the following day.

October 15. Experimenting a little with combining photos. I would like to be doing more content oriented drawings but realize it will take more time. I have been doing a lot of gardening, the weather is mild and rain will start soon. For a couple weeks Jim and I watched two episodes of The Good Place every evening. By the time evening comes around, I don't always have a lot of energy. So for now a quick drawing is good.

October 16. Done from a photo on Sktchy. This guy took a photo at the bank teller's drive up window. I like the composition very much.

October 17. This is from a photo of a friend on Sktchy. She's at a Yayoi Kusama exhibit, Infinity Mirror. I like this photo very much, another composition that appeals to me. I just realized I am a day behind, one drawing short. Better get to work.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Catching up - more Inktober

I have been drawing every day, just not keeping up with posting here. I'm trying to make drawing the top priority, instead of getting lost looking at other people's drawings.

October 7. This one was from a photo on Sktchy which was a mirrored image. Interesting challenge because I find exact symmetry hard. Most of the images are from photos on Sktchy. Not that there aren't a lot of interesting photos on the internet, but it is a nice place to go where you know people want you to draw from their photos.

October 8. I like the evil look in his eye, and the label seems to add a lot.

October 9. If you are looking at the dates you can see I am working ahead some days, falling behind on others.

October 10. Another where the stamps seem to add a lot to the image. This was a photo of a man with a plastic bird head. Other people interpreted him in a more realistic way, which is very effective. However this was a really quick solution. I am really enjoying this envelope sketch book and plan to make more.

October 11. I thought this profile would be an easy one, instead I spent a lot of time with the pencil sketch, trying to get all the relationships sort of accurate. Then I drew the basic shapes with a sepia Pitt pen in my left hand (I am left-handed) and a sanguine Pitt pen in my right. I finished the details with the sepia pen. I would like to get more sanguine in there.

October 12. I had brushed some hi-flow acrylic across this page, and used the mouth atomizer to add the spots. Then I drew on it. Maybe the grey acrylic is too strong. Or the image needs more contrast. Oddly enough this one inspired someone on Sktchy to make an envelope journal, so I was very pleased.

October 13. Looking thru my sktchy inspiration photos I noticed this guy's mouth was very much like the chicken's so I tried blending the two images. Not too successful in the beak area, but I like this one better than the next.

There are two for October 13 - they were done one after the other. I'm not showing you all my fails, but this one has something I like, something I don't like. This seems too polished to me, or maybe too cartoony? Something is wrong. I did the last two in the same evening, pretty quickly once I had the basic idea.

October 14. A friend sent me a link to Christophe Brunnquell on Instagram. I drew this inspired by his collage, especially the mouth.

I'm almost halfway thru the month. Pretty impressed with myself. I have regained my enthusiasm, am enjoying the quick sketches. After two weeks of doodling around I want to look more at content. Just reproducing an image isn't that interesting long term for me. Of course content is much harder to do. It's time to start on it! If you have any remarks about the drawings, or life in general, I'd love to hear them. I am always trying to improve in some areas - hatching, content, composition, finding inspiration. I am always open to thoughts.

I hope you are getting some drawings in this month, or writing or whatever creative thing you want in your life. For me it's always hard to find time, motivation and to break away from the pull of every day life. And, for me at least - I am so hooked by the news. One terrible thing after another. I am trying to not look at the news so often. It's probably better for my mental health.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Inktober - slow days

Feeling pretty down these days, and not inspired. It's fall here, the crisp weather and the turning leaves are usually invigorating. It's just been a sad fall. Sad summer for that matter. I have also somewhat lost my momentum. I remember this from last year, I started enthusiastic, but then lost interest. I don't like any kind of rules, so an "assignment" does not sit well with me. However I plan to keep plugging away. I was trying to explore personal imagery last year, and thought this year would be easier if I just did quick ink drawings, focusing on technique. And the ring light I mentioned in a previous post does help - I don't have to walk all over the house looking for good light, or take the time to scan each drawing.

October 5. I did this drawing twice - this is the second version. I was not happy with the first but wanted to have something for the day. There have been others that I considered fails that I haven't posted.

October 6. From a photo on Sktchy. I am enjoying this journal made of old envelopes, each page presents a different challenge.

Edit - I put the wrong month on these - November. Just changed that to be accurate.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Inktober 2018 October 3 and 4

The first three drawings are here. I did two for the first day, just because I could.

Above is the drawing for day 3. Ball point pen in my journal made from envelopes. Not done from a Sktchy photo, that's my niece.

And the drawing for day 4. Pilot pen with the ink they ship with the pen. It does bleed thru the envelopes a little. This is from a photo on Sktchy. I am not happy with this one, but am calling it good. I am in the mood for some distraction tonight, Jim and I are going to watch a few episodes of The Good Place. I have seen the first two seasons, but am watching them again with Jim since he hasn't seen them.

I hope you are finding time to draw a little. I would say even a quick rough sketch is good. It's surprising how ability to judge improves with practice. Not that I'm an expert on the subject, but I do see improvement in my drawings over the last few years. There are still plenty of duds, but some I am happy with too.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Inktober 2018 begins

I'm not sure if I will be able to draw every day, certainly won't be posting every day. But I am going to try to post every few days. The ring light I mentioned in a previous post is helpful, but I still like to take the photos into Lightroom, partly to give them tags so I can find things later.

These first three drawings were done from Sktchy, an iOS app. This one is a wax figure, kind of static looking in the photos, but pretty convincing. Done with a ballpoint pen in my journal made from old envelopes. It's fun to be challenged by whatever page comes up - some are security patterns which can be difficult to deal with. The small page size is a real plus.

This was done with a sepia Pitt pen, size S. Also a white Posca pen. This is a dear friend, I wanted to welcome her to Sktchy.

This last image was also done with a sepia Pitt pen. I loved this old lady's smile. The image to the left seems to be a photo of her when she was young. It was kind of blurry and faint, a little hard to see. I like the juxtaposition and wanted to include it.