Sketching Facebook Photos-Stalking in a Good Way Part 2

Neil ptg

My Facebook friends have no idea I am going to paint one of the photographs they have posted. It makes me feel like a stalker…in a good way. When I emailed the above image to one of my friends, I waited to have him tell me if this watercolor looked like his son or if it looked like a distant cousin or the kid down the street. With portraiture, it has to be right or it is all wrong. I hoped to hear back from him within an hour or two. I figured the more time it took, the more likely he was trying to work out how to tell me it didn’t look like his son. In less than five minutes, he called. “That’s awesome!” This guy loves his little boy so much. Can you tell by the photo he posted, below? The light on his face is so strong and tender. I just couldn’t resist. Neil 2

Some people want to know details and a bit of my process. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if I don’t explain something you might want to know. I took several workshops with Jan Kunz, so much of what I do is similar to her process. She is a great teacher and her book is excellent. I’ll post the colors and brushes I used in another post.
I started with a Bic mechanical pencil using a .7 lead. Don’t press too hard and don’t even think about using the eraser on the cap, unless you like permanent gray smudges. I use a gray kneaded eraser.
Below is the drawing with the first and second wash. I let each wash dry before adding the next. For the record, a wash is the same as a glaze, which is how some artists refer to it. It just means a layer of paint. I intended this layer to be bright so his skin would glow underneath the glazing layers. I have a friend who paints in oil and she calls her first layer “underpants”.

Neil process 1

Pretty scary looking, isn’t it? This is progress, but still scary:

Neil process 3

Below I’m starting to glaze over the yellow to get skin tone and facial shapes. Children’s faces are more about what isn’t there. No defined nose, eyes or lips. Lots of softening of lines and little bits of shading.

Neil process 2

It would have been good of me to remember to take more pictures, but at this point, I become focused on painting and forget. I take photos at the end because I am more objective with a photograph of the painting than the painting itself. In the image below, can you see the back of his head and his ear is too light? His left eye is too squinty, the shirt is too yellow and so many other details, but this is when his character begin to emerge. Neil process 4The final stage is an elaborate game of hide and seek, glazing correct colors and values. I mold those delicate features with a little bit of cool blue or warm purple or the reflected yellow light bouncing off his shirt up onto the bottom of his chin, under his nose and the brow bone. One eye might be just right and the other one…not so much. Or the mouth might be just a little bit…odd.
There is quite a bit of mumbling in the studio during this stage. I don’t talk to myself, but I talk to paintings. Especially when they talk back. Or if they are giving me grief. This piece didn’t give me grief, but I did have to encourage him to have both eyes going the same direction. Some people think expression is held in the eyes, but it really is in the mouth. The mouth affects the eyes, not the other way around. If you smile really big, those facial muscles will push up your cheeks, making your eyes squint. His mouth is very, very soft with more transitions of color than lines. Neil detail

“Well, hello, Neil!”

On to the next one…

Sketching Facebook Photos-Stalking in a Good Way

I must have a stalker’s heart. My Facebook friends post photos which only tempt me to see more. More of that road trip. More of that family (oh, look! they have twins too!) More of that building project. More of those crazy pets. Some of those images reached out and grabbed me by the leg. Well, sort of. They spoke to me in one way or another. Usually it is the lighting in a photo that catches my eye. If it makes me catch my breath, it goes in the file. I’m not going to tell you what images are there, but judging by the contents, I’m eclectic.

This is the first one. My friend, Heather, feeds all sorts of birds. I’m jealous that she has Stellar Jays. She is only a hundred miles and a mountain range away, but those jays don’t live near us.

Stellar Jay Watercolor

Stellar Jay Watercolor

She feeds them from her hand and captured that expression with her camera. How could I not paint this handsome dude? I’m a sucker for electric blue eyebrows.

The next painting is on my painting table. I’m going to send a photo of the painted image to the “owner” and wait for a response. This one has to look just right or it is all wrong. Oh, to be a fly on the wall…

Stay tuned…

Painting Kids and Cars

Elijah

It is always an honor to paint a person. There is the responsibility to “get” the expression and put the eyes and ears in the right places, but there is a level of tender intimacy found when I look so long and carefully at just that nose, that ear, that personality. It isn’t the same as painting, say…cars!

Arizona Cars

These cars are all in Arizona. People drive golf carts around, too. I wasn’t sure what to put in the bottom middle spot. It would have been difficult to draw a small car across the gutter of the page. My friend, Elinor, suggested an Arizona license plate. Pretty cool idea, isn’t it? The page needed some text, so I added words from an old Country Western song. I sang it for my husband and he laughed.

Arizona Sketches

We flew from cold and dark Alaska to sunny Arizona earlier this month. I sketched in the sun every day. A friend I met on Facebook, Stacy Egan, invited me to join her sketching group in Tucson. What an enjoyable and friendly group! We met at the train station and roasted in the sun to sketch this cool, old train.

Tucson Train

I realized as I photographed these following images that there is a thread here. They are all passages: a door, a window, a gate. Last weekend my mother went through a passage from life to death. She had been at the doorway for so long, slipping away from us in bits as Alzheimer’s slowly took her from us. I believe with all my heart that she is with God now and that she was so very glad to go from here to be with Him. From this life to eternity.  During this Thanksgiving week, I am thankful for having had a wonderful mother.

Tucson Red Door web Tucson Blue Window Brick Doorway web

Esperanza Villa web

The Art of Peach Pie

Although I usually post about sketching and art related items, this one might be a stretch and I’m probably breaking some “Rules for the Blogger” because this one is really more about food than art.  Rules haven’t slowed me down yet and my desire to share something delicious with you overrides rules. The recipe follows…

Peach Crustade

Peach Crustade

Although the title of this post is “The Art of Peach Pie”, this is a recipe for a crustade, which is a fancy name for pie without the pie pan. Peaches are at the end of their season, but try it with apples or pears mixed with cranberries,  or use blueberries or blackberries. Once I cleaned out the fridge of wizened fruit with this recipe.

6 cups fresh peaches, pitted, and sliced (I left the skins on for added color)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, instant tapioca or tapioca flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

In large bowl, mix peaches, sugar and cinnamon. Allow to sit for about 20-30 minutes. While it sits, mix the crust. This recipe for crust comes from Natalie, who is a dear lady in South Africa. She used this recipe to make marvelous little meat pies.

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 cup cold butter, diced into small cubes

Pinch salt

Place the flour, butter and salt in a food processor, and pulse while adding just enough cold water to make it form a soft dough. You may also use a fork and knife. Reserve about 1/2 cup dough. Roll the rest onto a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper, using flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rough 14 inch circle. It went over the edges of the foil for me. I rolled mine out on the counter, then transferred it to the baking sheet.

Using a straining spoon, scoop peaches, without juice, onto the middle of the crust. Push them out to about 2 inches from the edge. Fold crust over peaches, allowing it to gather roughly. Add tapioca or flour and lemon juice to peach juice using a whisk and pour into saucepan. Heat gently over low heat and stir constantly until it just begins to thicken. Don’t even think about letting it boil! If it gets too thick you will have a glob. Add butter and stir. Pour over peaches in crust.

Roll remaining crust on lightly floured board to a little more than 1/8″. Using a round cookie cutter, cut circles. Some of these will be peaches and others leaves. For the peaches, use the cookie cutter to make a classic peach dent by lifting it and making a dent with the rim of the cutter off-center in the circle. Make leaves with more circles by cutting them twice with the cookie cutter. Think Venn Diagram and you can make leaves. Place on filling.

Brush crust with milk and sprinkle generously with turbinado or raw sugar.

Bake @ 375 for 50 minutes to an hour, until crust is golden and peaches are bubbly. I’m not going to tell you how many this serves because if you really like it, you might want a really big piece. Or you might have teenagers in the house…Best served warm.

Recipe adapted from this website:

http://www.sacbee.com/2013/06/11/5488744/recipeold-fashioned-peach-pie.html

Sketching a Lake Before Freeze-up

The lakes in interior Alaska have begun to freeze and the swans are getting ready to take the last flight out before their feet freeze in the ice. I stopped at Eureka Summit and sketched part of the Chugach Range. I could have used two more pieces of paper in this panorama to sketch what I was looking at through the windshield. Snow hasn’t fallen on lower elevations. The colors are from dry grasses and leaves.

Eureka Summit- Mile 130 Glennallen Highway, Alaska

Eureka Summit Mile 130 Glennallen Highway, Alaska

I’m going to post sketches available for sale on this blog and they can be purchased using PayPal. Message me if you are interested. The price will be in the title or it will be marked sold.

On Saturday I took four children to a birthday party fifty miles from our house. After I dropped them off, I escaped to a quiet lake nearby and sketched this view. A gentle breeze was blowing and birds were flitting about in the trees. It was marvelous.

Lake at Mile 143, 7" x 9" $50.00

Lake at Mile 143, 7″ x 9″watercolor/pen $50.00 (postage paid)