Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Late Afternoon Light

I think the lighting during late autumn is often the most dramatic.  In particular late afternoon just an hour or two before the sun hits the horizon, the light is low but bright, the trees are nearly bare yet the ground is not yet covered in snow.  I think this situation creates a stark contrast between light and shadow with ground foliage still showing to add interest.  I think taking a walk amongst nature alone at these times has a very special mood that's hard to describe in words, so I tried to describe it in a charcoal drawing.

"Late Afternoon Walk"

9.5" X 12", charcoal on paper


The  drawing is based on a photo I took in the South Jordan area of the Jordan River Parkway.  This was one of the few places on the parkway where there is a significant hill to climb or descend, it's fairly steep and not real short.  I think the perspective of looking uphill added to the effect.  I made some small composition changes, adding the distant bush at the upper right and the distant hill for balance.  I think I captured the mood pretty well, makes me want to go out for a late afternoon walk.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Moody Landscape

One of the things I enjoy about using charcoal is the sense of moodiness you can create with it.  Maybe it's just me though, but it seems with paint I tend towards bright, colorful and sunny whereas with charcoal I tend more towards dark and moody, the medium just lends itself to that.  Here's my latest example;

art drawing landscape charcoal rural nature open land

"Landscape Study I"

10" X 14" charcoal on paper

I did this charcoal drawing as a study for a painting, one that I've already started and guess what, it's turning out sunny and colorful, oh well, I gotta be me.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Rare Winter Drawing

Everybody who knows me knows that I am not a fan of winter.  Short days and inclement weather keep me indoors.  Not that I mind being indoors, just not this much, I need some outdoor time too and during the winter I get very little.  I'll admit, I have a very low tolerance for cold, freezing especially so it doesn't have to be dark or snowing or even windy to keep me indoors, just cold. It's probably for those reasons that winter makes a rare appearance in my art, this is one of those rare occurrences.

art drawing charcoal winter truck abandoned snow

"Snowbound GMC"

6" X 6", charcoal on paper

I discovered this little scene with the old snow covered GMC grain truck in the small, rural town of Eden, Utah a couple years ago.  The background was actually cluttered with modern vehicles in a parking lot, I changed it to a simple natural background.  The dimensions on this one are 6" X 6", a small a square, I might make a series of drawings in this format.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Enter the Forest

I've been a bit slack about the blog, a little slack in general really but at least I recently finished another charcoal drawing.

art drawing charcoal mountain forest evergreen tree nature

"Enter the Forest"

charcoal, 10" X 8"

This drawing is based on a photo taken during one of my many hikes up in the Wasatch Mountains.  This one in particular was taken up above Lake Mary at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon.  I love how the density of the evergreen tree forest creates a sense of mystery about what one might find when following the path therein.  I tried to enhance the mood by making the drawing even darker than the photo, being black and white also enhances that effect.

I have a large drawing on the easel as well that I pick at every now and then.  Here is a work in progress photo of it.
art drawing charcoal WIP forest nature tree

As you can see it's going to be a mysterious forest drawing also.  I believe it will end up being in the neighborhood of 22" X 16".  Here is a close up of an area that is now mostly finished.

art drawing charcoal WIP detail forest nature tree

So you can see I'm still going strong on my charcoal kick.  I love the simplicity and kinds of mood that can be created with this basic yet challenging medium.  My charcoal fascination my never end.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

To Cold Outside, How About Car Sketching?

It's important as representational artists that we make sure to spend some time working from life.  I'll admit I've been rather slack about that this year so I decided to remedy that a bit today.  While today was sunny it was also very, very cold, 23*F when I went out today.  I'll admit, I'm quite the wimp when it comes to the cold so my solution today was to sketch from inside the car.  Even with the engine off it was bearable, (no doubt thanks to the sun beaming through the windows) though the windows fogged up after a while.  Not breathing was not an option so I had to work quickly, besides it was late afternoon and the light was changing fast and would be gone altogether soon.

art sketch plein air car charcoal drawing pastel

A steering wheel makes a passable easel, though movement is somewhat limited inside a car and that does effect the sketch because it's pretty much impossible to make marks from your shoulder, at best marks were made from the elbow but even that wasn't easy.  Having to sketch from inside the car also limits the subjects available but this wasn't about making a polished piece of art, it was about practice from life, any subject would do as long as it had interesting and challenging shapes.  Obviously I'm more used to sketching classic cars.

art sketch plein air house charcoal tree pastel

Here's the finished sketch, if you can call any sketch finished.  I used charcoal then added some touches of color using pastel.   I'd rather not sketch from inside a car, but in a pinch it will do.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Variety of Charcoal Studies

I'm still very much focused on charcoal.  I find working with charcoal to be both fun and educational.  Charcoal sketches are a good way to test ideas for compositions before committing to paint, but they are works of art in their own right.  The last two weeks (yes, I missed last week) I've experimented with a variety of subjects.

art drawing charcoal forest tree root evergreen

"Roots II"

12" X 9"


This is the second in my series of roots studies.  Not only was it a study in roots and nature it was an experiment in charcoal technique.  I wanted to do a better job of getting rid of the little white specks of paper showing through so I did a lot more blending and used more powdered charcoal.

art drawing charcoal rural barn shed tree road field

"Barn Study I"

9" X 12"


Another series begins, hopefully.  Well, as much as I love old, wood barns and rural landscapes I'm pretty confident I'll do more.  While "Roots II" was pretty good I felt maybe it was a little overworked so my goal with "Barn Study I" was to dial that back and bit and still have the same effect.  I treated this one in a more sketchy way, working faster and not so deliberate about shapes and details, I think it worked pretty well.  I discovered my finger makes a great blender for large areas.  I've formed a new basic technique.  First I go over an area with the woodless charcoal pencil creating the general tones I'm after.  Then I use a Q-tip to apply powdered charcoal over the area blending it as I go then I do further blending with my finger.

art drawing charcoal truck Ford grass abandoned tree

"Truck Study I"

8" X 10"


And finally we have an abandoned old truck, a 1946 Ford to be more exact.  This was drawing practice as much as charcoal and composition practice.  This scene is partially from a photo reference taken in a small rural Utah town and partially from my imagination.  The truck in the photo didn't have a bed and the tree was farther back and didn't overlap the truck.  The rest is pretty much my invention.  Since this one required more exact drawing it took longer but I still tried to keep it fairly sketchy. 

Stay tuned, I'm sure there will be more to come.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Week for Sketching

I kept my art activities strictly to sketching and playing on the computer this week.  I don't know why, I just wasn't in the mood to pick up the paint brushes.  I think maybe I enjoy sketching quickly and loosely with charcoal rather than doing the tighter, more detailed drawings I've been doing lately.  I think charcoal is a good medium for studying compositions and subjects for painting.  It seems like many figurative artists use charcoal a lot for studies but landscape painters not so much.  Charcoal seems to have a kinship with oil painting that other sketching mediums don't have, I think that's because the marks made with charcoal are so malleable, they can be relatively easily be removed, adjusted and blended much like a brush stroke in oil painting.  Maybe these experiments in charcoal will lead to me giving oil painting a shot again.

art drawing charcoal tree evergreen roots nature

"Roots I"

8" X 10" Charcoal on paper


I really like tree roots, especially those that grow from the bases of pine trees when the soil has eroded around them and they no longer have much more than rocks to cling to.  I found this scene in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch National Forest in northern Utah.  This area is a short drive from where I live.  I need to visit the local canyons more often, I used to go up there nearly weekly, however the crowds have become kind of overwhelming.

The alternative to going up in the canyons is staying near home and visiting the Jordan River Parkway.  The Parkway is an oasis of nature running through the middle of the heavily populated Salt Lake Valley and even though it's very close by, (I used to walk to it) I don't visit it often enough.  Seems I've been getting more and more lazy every year.  Today I took a step to rectify that and went for a walk on the Parkway and I took my camera and sketchbook of course.

art sketch plein air graphite nature jordan river parkway

art sketch graphite nature plein air jordan river parkway

These were very quick and basic sketches, just ten minutes or so each with .9 mechanical pencil.  The idea was just to practice observation and get a feel for the sense of place.  It's easier than ever to take great photographs but cameras aren't experiencing machines, they don't feel.  I feel art should be about the human response to our subjects, not our response to an image captured by a machine.  That said of course I often work from photos, far more often than not.  Part the reason for that is the fact that I still work full time. From November and into March the lack of evening light limits me to only getting out on the weekends and even then the weather often does not cooperate, not to mention I have other interests and often they take up time on the weekends.  I believe a good compromise is to just take out a sketchbook and a pencil and make some direct observations of nature.  Not only is this good drawing practice but it fills your memories with sights, sounds, and smells that just don't come through in a photograph, even if you take that photograph yourself.

All that said about photographs I still take lots of them, (thank heaven for digital cameras!), here are a couple from today's walk.

nature autumn jordan river parkway outdoors walking

late autumn nature jordan river parkway outdoors

As you can see while autumn is winding down it's still spectacular.  It was a perfect day for a walk, sunny and 60 degrees.