Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Evolving Painting

This is another scene of downtown Los Angeles from a little pocket park just north of Sunset Boulevard. It started out last year as a quick demonstration for a class I was teaching. I sketched the scene in pen and then applied a wash of yellow, orange, red, purple and blue over the whole sheet. I pulled out the building shapes in contrasting colors and added in the tree shapes in the foreground. It was a competent but uninspired effort.

A few months later, I pulled it out of the pile and reworked it, adding some detail in pen and ink and sketching in the little studies in the lower right corner. It was better, but not yet what I had in mind, so it sat to the side once again.

Recently I decided to finish it off, one way or another. I tackled the sky with dark colors, deepened the building shadows, expanded the tree's presence and put in some more white paint accents. Some of these moves were scary, particularly in the sky, but I plowed ahead with boldness, as it is better to fail spectacularly then to crank out yet another average painting.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I'm Retiring My Moleskine Sketchbooks

After many great years of writing, drawing and painting in my Moleskine pocket sketchbook, I have decided to move on. I mentioned this a few posts ago and indicated that I was going back to my Aquabee 808, which is shown above, along with my Letts journal. The last straw was an email I got the other day from Moleskine wherein they shared about their latest passion series that includes the following subjects: babies, gardening, dogs, cats, travel, and "style".

I used to be their most ardent supporter and told all my friends how cool Moleskine was and that they could be cool too if they got one (and used it). Moleskine really had a handle on the mystery and romance of the lonely writer jotting notes from a sidewalk cafe. It has gotten completely out of hand now. I supported the city notebooks. I even liked the concept of the food, wine, book, music and movie passion notebooks, (although I still think a cigar journal is just crying for consideration). But now, everyone has a Moleskine. They are everywhere and no longer the esoteric and obscure secret for those on the edge.

I learned much from my Moleskine days: how not to treat my sketchbook so preciously; how to use it for photos, writing, and designing as well as sketching; and how to incorporate it into all aspects of my daily life not just the art ones. And for that, I am grateful to them. They created a market from nothing, and did it with style and ultimate coolness, and I wish them well.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sketch Wrap

I was going to give a present to Suzanne the other day and I was fresh out of wrapping paper. I solved that problem by taking a page of my sketchbook and enlarging it 200% on the color copier, and printing it out on tabloid sized paper. The image became an exciting abstract watercolor wash that worked beautifully for designer paper. Not having any ribbon either, I found some heavy duty cord in the tool cabinet and did a Christo tie job.

The Aquabee Sketchbook

After years of using the beloved Moleskine pocket sketchbook, I have finally gone back to my old friend the Aquabee Super Deluxe 808. Here's why I like it: the paper has a little tooth to it and it is perfect for pencil, pen and watercolor. It even accepts gesso on those occasions where I want to undo or redo a part of a sketch. It is also a little bigger (I use the 6" x 9" size). Finally, it lays flat so it is easier to paint on. Here are a few casual sketches I did of my backyard, while sitting on the deck, enjoying a cool Sunday afternoon and a nice cigar.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Los Angeles Interpreted

I have stopped working on my Los Angeles Sketchbook project for the time being as I can't find a publisher. It will happen some day. In the meantime, I have an opportunity to paint what I want, without having any commissions or official large projects that I am working on. Using some existing photos I had taken a while ago, I painted these two 14" x 20" Los Angeles scenes. The top view is from the observation floor of the City Hall building. The bottom view is from inside a train as it pulled into Union Station.

Every once in a while I try to do a painting without using pen and ink. The Union Station view started out that way, and after laboring for three hours on it (while watching the Super Bowl on a micro-sized digital television that fuzzed out if I so much as moved six inched either way), I gave up. Although I was ready to jettison this failure right then and there, I try never to throw anything away until I have had a chance to see it in the light of a new day. It looked like it had potential on Monday.

Usually I draw with pen first, but not being able to do it here for obvious reasons I took my pen to the almost-completed painting, treating it like a loose sketch. I also wasn't overly pleased with the composition so exaggerated the cars parked in the foreground as a distraction. There are still a few more details to finalize: some suggested architectural accents, and some more white paint touches, but overall I am pleased with this retro pen and ink redo.