Monthly Archives: March 2014

I wanted practice drawing people. What better way than to combine learning with fan art of Doctor Who?

drawing in pencil and gouache or doctor who wearing a fez and bow tie
Doctor Who with bow tie AND fez. Done with pencil and gouache.

In the past when I've kept a sketch book the pencil would rub off on the adjacent page. This has always frustrated me. Capturing a likeness can be frustrating, why compound frustration with materials issues? I wanted this to be FUN.

I used my little watercolor Moleskine notebook because I liked the thickness of the paper and I could do washes if I wanted. Next I needed something to reduce or stop the smear. My first thought was tracing paper because it's cheap, but it has some tooth so I thought it might pick up some of the graphite. Plus it isn't acid free or pH neutral or "archival". Glassine was my answer. It's smooth and pH netural so it won't contribute much to the deterioration of my notebook paper (the Moleskine paper is acid free, according to their Website).

To keep the little sheets of glassine from slipping out of the notebook I decided to glue them in. I have some pH nuetral glue (used in book binding) lying around so I used that to glue the edge of the glassine into the gutter of my book. I did this between every drawing. Pretty easy.

Moleskine with glassine between pages
I glued the edge of a piece of glassine (cut slightly smaller than the Moleskine) in the gutter of the pages.

Yeah it's kind of an involved solution compared to just spraying the drawings with something, but it solves several things for me.

1. Reduction of pages rubbing together.
The book style binding is tighter than a ring bound book so there's less shifting and rubbing of pages.

2. Keep adjacent drawings from rubbing off on each other. The glassine picks up a little of the graphite but nowhere near the amount of regular paper. What graphite does get picked up doesn't seem to smear the drawing.

3.  It's not a stinky solution. Yes I could have used spray fix, or hair spray (not "archival"), but I hate the smell of both.

4. It makes for a less frustrated Christine who can enjoy drawing more!

doctor who character sketch in watercolor moleskine
This is where I left off. I'm waiting for the new season with bated breath!

P.S. Doctor Who is © BBC

gesture drawingNothing beats drawing from life, but let's say you live out in the middle of nowhere and are sick of drawing yourself and your surroundings. Or maybe you need something during the week, between that weekend drawing co-op you like to attend. Perhaps you've tried the good 'ol internet search and come up with dinky or just plain weird images. Or you've tried drawing from magazines but the people in there have been airbrushed right out of reality and the lighting is flat so you struggle to understand form.

Try this, it's free.

The lighting is pretty good, though some images are flat looking. You can choose from male or female models, clothed or not. You can focus on just hands or feet. You can study heads and expressions. Or you can study animals.

One word of warning: watch out for distortion. Some photos look like they have been corrected, some have not.

 Happy drawing!

Last week I posted about how I transfer a drawing to canvas. This week, paint!

I'm using oils and decided to use a limited palette. Initially I was going to use Ivory Black for the cools but the flesh was looking dead so I added French Ultramarine Blue. Basically I'm using versions of the primaries Red, Yellow, Blue (which can be mixed in many ways) plus White and Black. FYI - Yellow Ochre and Ivory Black mix to make a lovely dull green.

- Titanium White
- Yellow Ochre
- Cadmium Red Light
- Ivory Black
- French Ultramarine Blue

oil painting portrait study lay in by christine mitzuk
Oil painting lay-in.

Here's the lay in. At this stage I use a good amount of odorless mineral spirits. The paint is thinned down to about melted ice cream consistency, maybe milk consistency in some areas.

I try to block in the big shapes, thinking about value first and then color. Going for unity first (the variety will come later). I try to keep in mind where the light source is, and how it hits the planes of the face. If I think about the vertical corridors of value groupings, I'm better able to keep the planes and shapes in their families of value.

But that variety of color is oh so tempting. I keep having to remind myself, "No no. I must stick to value and local color."


Portrait head study by Christine Mitzuk done in oil paint
Day 2 of painting the portrait in oils. More paint, less solvent.

Here's the next day. Still kind of at lay in stage. I use less solvent (odorless mineral spirits) and more paint. Still thinking about shape, value, color. Still trying to go for unity and building up a body of paint. I try to keep in mind the answers to "where is my lightest light, my darkest dark?" and "where are my most intense red, blue, yellow and how intense are they, really?"

It's like I'm taking notes, marking where I see certain values or colors. Still pretty rough looking.

As I move through the process with this study, there are some things I'm going to change. The ear is too big and isn't sitting back visually with the rest of that side of the head. So either the ear value needs to go darker, or the cheek value needs to lighten up. Plus I still have some value wrangling to do elsewhere (the corridors of value aren't unified). There are 8 weeks left to the class so I'm not short on time.

I think next class I'll just dive in and try to paint more from gut reaction. We'll see how that goes.

This is a follow up from last week's post about my portrait study using Russian Sauce.

Portrait study by Christine Mitzuk using Russian Sauce on American Master's grey paper.
Portrait study using Russian Sauce on American Master's grey paper.

I went back in to the drawing with a fat tortillion and smoothed out the background. I'm liking it much better.

Next I transferred the drawing to a prepared canvas panel.

Materials Used
I used a sheet of acetate (3 mil I think), a Sharpie Fine Point (a color other than black or blue), a ball point pen, and a sheet of graphite or carbon transfer paper.

How to Transfer a Drawing to Canvas

1 Place the acetate over the drawing, making sure that at least one edge is lined up with the edge of the composition. In this case I placed it directly on the drawing.

The nice thing I'm finding about Russian Sauce is that it isn't as delicate as vine charcoal. I'm still careful with the drawing but incidental bumps or brushing against it don't wipe away areas like what can happen to a vine charcoal drawing. Mind you, that also means the Russian Sauce isn't as easy to erase as vine charcoal. When I've done a vine charcoal drawing, and want to keep the drawing clean, I'll spray fix the drawing before transfer. Another way to not scuff the drawing is to place 4 quarters at the corners of the drawing, rest a piece of plexiglass on them, and then put the acetate on the plexi. The larger or thinner the plexi, the more it bows and the touches the drawing. Plus during dry months, there seems to be more static that makes charcoal dust stick to the plexi.

2 Using the Sharpie, trace the big and necessary structural shapes. I use red or green so I can see what I've transferred in the next step. Also be sure to mark the crop or edges of your picture. You'll need them to align the drawing with your canvas or panel.

3 Align the acetate to your canvas or panel and tape one edge of the acetate to the edge of the canvas or panel . I used a linen canvas panel that I prepared. Slide the graphite or carbon transfer paper under the acetate so it's sandwiched between the acetate and the painting surface. Using the ball point pen, follow your Sharpie lines. I like to use red or green because the ball point pen is dark in comparison so I can see what I've transferred and if I've missed any lines.

Tools to transfer a drawing to canvas . The transferred drawing is on the left and the acetate with transfer lines in on the right.
Prepared canvas with transferred drawing, and transfer tools.

Why bother with all this instead of drawing directly on the canvas or on thin charcoal paper and transferring with that? It gives me the opportunity to have a nice drawing in addition to the painting. Also, in this case I did the drawing on thick paper so just transferring by using the drawing would be near impossible.

Next week, PAINT!