Recently I have had two pairs of sparrows take residence in my attic, These non paying guests are making quite a fuss in settling into the nests they have built between the ceiling and roof. I can hear them flapping and chirping while I work and every so often I can see their cheeky presence just outside my skylight windows. They make fine drawing models. I thought I might post a speedy pastel process for quickly getting them down on paper.
The first task is to draw the little guy, they are fast movers but sometimes tend to sit and doze on a branch when the sun comes out. So taking advantage of this I quickly work up a charcoal sketch of the bird just focusing on the values and proportions. When I have it down I spray it with a little artists varnish as I dont really want the charcoal to mix with the upper layers of pastel I will be using later. This short wait for the fixitive to dry is useful too, as it gives me time to start another sketch.
My next step is to lay in the basic colors, I am using a mix of pastels here and I am just getting an average of the color. As my model has since woken and flown, I am making my color notes each time he passes and lands outside my studio window.
Once I have made a simple color fill I must then become concerned with detail, for this I am more inclined to use pastel pencils as they are easier control and they work well on top of the colors already laid in. I can take my time at this point as between my models and some photo reference, I'm pretty sure I can get the important details down.
Finally then I have my finished drawing, I have used some very soft pastels on the top layer.
This has been a pretty fast sketch overall, just for fun.
A little while back the islander art group gave me the opportunity to share in their group publication "Black Night" with a short illustrated story. I have to admit this is a first for me, while used to writing stories as a personal activity I have never actually tried publishing one. Until now. The islander art group have quite a bit of experience in this field, all being artists and illustrators of a very high caliber themselves. I found them really helpful and supportive throughout this process, an exercise about which I knew absolutely nothing. Their patience being such that I have begun to believe that it may be next to impossible to annoy any of them at all... no matter how hard I try :)
My own contribution is just an illustrated short story of about a little group of people trying to make a living in the far reaches of the solar system. I guess I have always been a sucker for sci-fi and see no reason not to entertain this weakness. The magazine will launched at a special event in Cork, at the haunt of the Cork Sketch Group, the Franciscan Well Brewery. The event will take place on Saturday May 17th at 4.00 pm and there will be copies there available for purchase. If you are around and are interested then hopefully I will see you there.
Some more life drawing today at the Fourth Floor Studios.. Sometimes it just does not work, today it just seemed to be stuck, no likeness, proportions out of whack, just about everything wrong. I guess my muse had the weekend off or found something more interesting somewhere else. Whatever it was I was on my own :) So after a few hours frustration and in desperation, I switched to red conte on tinted sheets, rather than my trusty old pencils on bare white cartridge. All of a sudden things started flowing again. I suppose then, it's true, one small change is often all it takes.
Yesterday I was lucky enought to attend a portrait workshop at the Kennedy Art shop in Dublin. It was given by artist / illustrator PJ Lynch who has been illustraing children's books since 1984. He is an excellent tutor also as I discovered on the day. PJ helped simplify many of the problems I was encountering with my approach giving me tips on color and form where I had erred. Often he would step in front of my easel and while explaining, politely make the correct adjustments with his own brush. Avery expedient method of correction I must say.
To get to the workshop I took the early train from Cork with my friend Eva Widermann another illustrator with phenomenon talent, both of us carrying easels, paints and scribble books in hand. Traveling with my art gear is one of my favorite things. The ability to set up fast and carry wet canvas back to the studio for later work is always a great advantage. One of the things I like so much on train journeys is of course scribbling and yesterday was no different. Either out of the imagination or from the landscape going by, it's always fun to get ideas down in this way, the vibrations of the train adding significantly to the fast scribbles. When drawing the landscape from the train, what you see is only visible for a moment so you have to stay focused and scribble as fast as possible. It's an activity that eats up the time of any rail trip.
Of course you can just draw out of the imagination also. Sometimes I get lucky and pull a usefull design out of all these extra fast drawings that even ends up as a landscape painting. Anyway the day went quite well, as well as being an excellent tutor PJ is a complete gentleman and it was easy to be comfortable and learn in his presence. Here's the work I brought away on the day.
oil on canvas board 30 x 25
I will leave it for the moment until it tacks up a bit, in a while I will follow PJ's advice and run a glaze over the shadow areas of the work. I would highly recommend this demo if any of you reading this get the opportunity it is well worth the effort.
The other evening while the web cam was on I leaned in toward the computer screen.
At the same time I had the fluorescent light I use at the desk for sketching switched on.
The lamps I use are old salvaged medical spotlights similar to the lights you would find in a dental surgery. Very bright.The dark light contrast I saw in the cam display was far too tempting not to draw so I completed this little work with dry pastels based on it. While I'm not too sure about the likeness as a self portrait, not being quite as lean faced as the work appears, I still felt happy enough to post it.