Monthly Archives: September 2015

When working on a picture it's easy for things to look "right" after a time, even when there's a drawing error. Here's a list of several ways I use to check my work, looking for drawing errors, or weak design.

Shrink it

I shrink my work to check if the design reads well, if there's unity with the values, if the silhouette is clear, if the details I want to show are visible.  Here are the ways I do this:

  • Reducing LensReducing Lens - pretty handy. It looks like a magnifying lens but the lens in slightly concave. Unfortunately I don't know if they're made anymore.
  • Binoculars in reverse - look through the opposite end of a pair of binoculars.
  • Camera phone - these days I think the camera phone is probably more available to most people that the previous 2 options. Take a picture of the work and review it on the phone even smaller.
  • Step away or decrease the magnification - when working on a computer it's easy to get caught in the chair, zooming in on a project. Scoot the chair back or stand up. Or reduce the magnification so the image is about as big as your thumb.

Reverse it

I'm so used to looking at a drawing or painting in one orientation that reversing or flipping the way I look at it oftentimes reveals some distortions or drawing errors.

  • Hold it up in front of a mirror.
  • Hold a mirror up at your brow, position the mirror so you see the art by looking up into the mirror.
  • Put the drawing upside-down on the floor, easel, or table.

New Environment

Take the picture outside, into a different room, or just turn out the lights. Viewing it in a different lighting situation oftentimes reveals strengths and weaknesses in the value structure or size relationships in a piece.


Squinting helps group values to see if they hold together as a whole design. Values or shapes that are out of place can also become a little more noticeable.

Standard Measurements

It's great to have photo reference and photos lie. By knowing some guidelines for standard measurements of human anatomy, the lies can be countered. Andrew Loomis' book "Figure Drawing for All It's Worth" is a great resource for this. If you can get if from your local bookstore, all the better.

Second Pair of Eyes

Sometimes I just can't see the errors anymore. It just looks "right". Having someone else look at the picture helps a lot. This could be a peer review group, or a trusted friend or family member. It seems like most people can at the very least say that something seems off even if they can't specifically name it.

If anyone has other ways they use to check their work I'd love to hear about them!

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I recently started taking yoga classes again.  One mindset that is encouraged is to be in the present moment and listen to what your body feels like or what it can or can't do just now.

Extended version of Sea Daydream done for an Infected by Art challenge.
Extended version of Sea Daydream done for an Infected by Art challenge.

Lately I'm finding this translates over to juggling art, business, and life in general. A new opportunity appeared that I felt I couldn't pass up which means other things that I wanted to do this month need to be shifted. Instead of whipping myself mentally to go faster or do more, this time around I'm trying to be more present with what I'm doing in the moment and then choosing what I feel is most important with the spaces of time around the main project. I say trying, not doing, because it's definitely something that will take practice.

Beating myself up over not getting x or y completed doesn't do me any good. Even a little time spent on the other projects I wanted to have done this month is still moving them forward.

Happy first day of Fall

A few weeks ago I showed my drawing for this painting. This week how about some color studies?


gouache color studies for the painting
gouache color studies for the painting

I wanted something fast drying, yet still able to be manipulated once down on the paper, and something mostly opaque. Gouache. Watercolor was my first love so I enjoy gouache. Previously I used watercolor for color studies but was falling in love with the transparent luminosity which got lost when I transitioned to the oil painting. Plus I wanted to be using something that my non tech savvy students could use.

Here's a little peek at the painting in progress. I'm going with the green option. Stretching and growing, I haven't played with this palette before.

portion of an oil painting of a woman blowing powder on a skull with ravens in the background in a graveyard by christine mitzuk

Spread some smiles with "This Little Piggy"

This is an older creation. For one week I've reduced the price of my limited edition prints ($40 instead of $50) and note card pack ($12 instead of $15).
Pricing good through September 18, 2015

Limited Edition series of 50. Giclée printed on fine art paper. 24" x 18" paper, image measures 16.125" x 11" Signed and numbered by the artist.

Temporary Price Reduction: $50 $40

"This Little Piggy" Limited Edition series of 50.
Giclée printed on textured fine art paper.
24" x 18" paper, image measures 16.125" x 11"
Signed and numbered

Shop now>>

pig note card with envelope
5-pack of "This Little Piggy" cards + envelopes.

Temporary Price Reduction: $15 $12

5-pack of note cards with envelopes.
Cards measure approximately 5" x 3.75"
Envelopes measure approximately 5.75" x 4.375"

Shop now>>

Sales tax(where applicable) and shipping are added at time of purchase.

Drawing on Vellum

For the past several projects, I've been using Canson Vidalon Translucent Vellum for my drawings. I like the surface. I also like being able to have my line drawing on one side and develop the values on the other (that way I don't lose my drawing if I have to erase values). What's a bit of a bummer is that the last two drawings have rippled.

I'm not certain exactly what's causing it. I'm guessing it's a combination of factors.

  • I really worked the values, made the darks very dark. The previous drawings didn't have as developed values and didn't ripple.
  • I did have 2 sheets of paper for my hand to rest on. Maybe I need to get my hand up completely off the paper.
  • On one drawing I taped around the drawing on both sides (I do the line work on one side and the values on the other so I don't lose my drawing). On the other drawing I only taped one side of the vellum.
  • Both drawings were taped for 3 or more weeks.
  • It has also been pretty humid around here.

My Attempt to Fix the Ripples

First I sandwiched the drawing between regular paper on top of board, placed a clean dishtowel (flour sack cotton dish towel) over that and ironed it a bit on the lowest setting. I also used the iron dry not wet.

The drawing is on top of 5-10 pieces of letter size paper. I taped the upper and lower edge of the drawing, which is 9"x12", to the board.
The drawing is on top of 5-10 pieces of letter size paper. I taped the upper and lower edge of the drawing, which is 9"x12", to the board.

Next, while it was still a little warm, I "stretched" the drawing by making a small stack of 8.5"x11" paper (5-10 sheets), then taped the drawing to a board over the stack along the top and lower edges of the vellum.





I placed some regular tabloid size paper over the stack.
I placed some regular tabloid size paper over the stack.
Weighed down drawing.
I placed another board over the first and then weighted it all down with some heavy books.

I put some tabloid size paper down then placed the taped drawing and board face down on the paper.





Then I weighted down the whole stack with heavy books. The drawing is a little less rippled. Maybe it needs a longer time under the books.


Complete Avoidance of the Problem

I either have to work faster, not tape my edges and clean up after, or switch products if I'm going to continue to do full value drawings on vellum. The latest drawing I only taped on one side. It has still rippled a little but not as much as the previous project. We'll see what happens. Art on!

Update! Suggested Solutions and Process Changes

I really like using the Canson Vidalon Vellum so was thrilled to hear back from Ed the Fine Art Education Director & Technical Consultant of Canson. The following is his input (posted with his permission):

"It is definitely the humidity.  I'm in the Chicago area and the humidity has been high.  As a result paper has a tendency to curl more.  It will eventually uncurl by itself if left in a dry area.  But who wants to wait?  For wet media, you can use a hair dryer, but for drawings I suggest an iron. place the drawing between two sheets of baking parchment (silicone coated paper).  Set your iron on the lowest setting and iron.  Then take the drawing with the parchment and place it on a cool surface (a kitchen counter top or piece of glass works)  and cover with a piece of glass or a baking sheet.  This will pull the heat from the paper and flatten the paper.  If it is exposed to more humidity it will wrinkle again.  When you are not drawing it is good to cover the drawing with the pad or put the drawing back into the pad.  This will minimize the exposure to the air especially this time of the year.

If you use a hair dryer, you will need to do the same, placing it on a cool surface and covering with another cool object."

I also wrote him that I pulled the tape off my current drawing in an attempt to reduce the rippling (which has helped a bit) and he responded,

"Yes, removing the tape will also help relieve the curling as you described.  When working you could also tape the four corners to your drawing board.  This will also keep it flat.

The paper flattening process is what photographers did once they printed their images.  This is a wet process and they needed to flatten then once the image was dry."

Now I have some new methods to try and a few changes to make in my process that will hopefully do the trick in this darn humidity. Thanks Ed!