Process

Drawing on the polyester film was like running my hands across a length of satin fabric. This was the first time I've used it. For the most part I was able to build up fairly rich values, and erase back to a pretty clean surface. However I did manage to create a permanent mark. I think I used too hard of a pencil and pressed too firmly.

value study of digital black and white color over pencil drawing
Digital "paint" over a scan of an early version of the pencil drawing.

As usual, I did value studies before developing the drawing. Here's the one I liked best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pencil drawing on matte polyester film
Pencil drawing on matte polyester film. I drew the lines on one side and built up the values on the opposite side. Doing this gives me the feeling of more freedom to experiment with the values and mark making without losing my line drawing.

Meet "Jack in the Green". I tried to keep the spirit of the study, the mood, as I worked on the pencil drawing. Here's a shot of the completed drawing. As the project progresses, my plan is to experiment with loosening up and explain less visually.

For my most recent project I've been drawing on Dura-Lar. It was suggested by another artist who has had excellent results with the stuff.

sneak peekI'm using the .005 matte film. Like with the vellum I used for previous projects, I drew my lines on one side and am building up values on the other. I like doing this because I can preserve my lines while adding values, and then obliterate the lines if and when I choose. It gives me more freedom to experiment with values.

various pencils, eraser, blending stump, paper towel, lead pointerThis particular piece has a foggy setting so I've been doing a lot of smearing and blending.

First I sprinkled the graphite dust from the Staedtler lead pointer (#1) onto the surface. (I figure the dust is there from sharpening my leads so why not use it for something fun).
Then I smeared it around with a paper towel (#2). This brand of towel has some texture so the smearing gave me interesting stripes and streaks. Totally a "happy accident". I also have been using the blending stump (#4) to move the graphite around.

#3 in the image is a B 2mm lead in a lead holder. I used that and an HB 2mm lead to do the line work.

#5 is an HB graphite stick. I hadn't been using it because on the paper I draw on this graphite stick leaves a light mark and I feel like I have to fight with it to build up values. For some reason I decided to give it a shot on the film and was pleasantly surprised by the lovely mid-value tone it left. I've sanded this one down to a chisel tip which is now rounded out from use.

#6 is a Creatacolor Nero etrasoft pencil. I'm using it for the deep accents of dark.

#7 is a General's Layout Extra Black No. 555. I'm using it for enhancing some of the darker values.

I've also tried the Derwent Drawing Ivory Black pencil. It leaves a lovely rich black on the Dura-Lar but the mark looks matte. The other tools leave shiny marks. I'll decide if I like that or not later. It not, I'll need to figure out how to make it look matte.

#8 is my well used nubbin of a kneaded eraser. I've also been using vinyl erasers. The other quality I'm liking about the Dura-Lar is that I can erase repeatedly and I haven't damaged the surface or creased the sheet.

Because of it's durability, I suspect if I create a real dud of a picture, I'm betting I could wipe it down and use it as a starting point for a new picture. That would be an interesting experiment.

I'm not saying this polyester film is the best thing ever. There are a lot of characteristics I'm liking such as that lovely surface that feels like I'm drawing on satin, and there are some things I'm not sure about because I don't have enough information (the environmental aspects of polyester vs. paper). You can make up your own mind. Here's a link to the Dura-Lar product page http://www.grafixarts.com/products/dura-lar-film/. I purchased my pad from Wet Paint over in St. Paul.

Happy creating

cover of "A Technique for Producing Ideas", by James Webb Young, published by The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2003In continuing to follow my curiosity about creativity, I read "A Technique for Producing Ideas" by James Webb Young, published by The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2003.

It's a very thin book but he gets to the point rather quickly: how to create ideas. His thoughts on the process of creating seems to stem mostly from his experience in advertising but I think it translates well to the general idea making process.

A lot of it has to do with finding new relationships of old bits of information.

He proposes 5 steps.

  • information gathering, both specific and general, and sorting the information.
  • think through the problem and the information you gathered
  • let it all "incubate" in the back of your mind while you go do something else
  • appearance of the idea
  • work with the idea so it becomes practical to the problem at hand

He goes into greater detail in the book about the various steps as well as some interesting thoughts about how to get ideas in general.

Personally, I think I need to do a bit more gathering of general raw material by just following my curiosity on whatever I want. I also think I need to do a bit more of step 3. I tend to chew on a problem and work at it till something happens. Maybe setting it aside and letting the information and my thoughts settle would be beneficial.

This book is a pretty quick read (about 47 pages). If I remember correctly, I found my copy used because I wasn't so sure it was worth the full cover price of $10. I'm still not so sure about that so I'll let you decide. However, I do think it was worth taking the time to read it.

I couldn't find reference for the low angle view of the coral and other underwater objects. Flexible thinking was required. I asked myself, what else do I have access to that would have an approximate shape and structure of the things I wanted to draw? Oyster mushrooms!

hand holding up cluster of oyster mushrooms under a bright light
Oyster Mushrooms

I lit them in a similar fashion to what I was imagining the light in the picture to be. This gave me enough information to better understand the low angle, and overlapping shelves. Then I had to imagine how the light and objects would work together underwater. It came together the more I worked with the image and pushed the pencil around (butt in chair time).

mermaid water elemental drawing by Christine mitzuk graphite pencil drawing plus a little Creatacolor NERO Extrasoft for some of the very dark accents and a little white Conté for the accent highlights on Canson Vidalon Vellum

Letting my mind, and eyes, wander while looking at random textures or patterns is something I really enjoy doing. Growing up, my bedroom had both textured walls and ceiling so I had all sorts of creatures and scenes to look at.

James Gurney did a great post on this in 2008 titled Pareidolia and Apophenia: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2008/06/pareidolia-and-apophenia.html

According to Dictionary.com:
"pareidolia
/ˌpæraɪˈdəʊlɪə/
noun
1. the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, as in considering the moon to have human features"

I enjoy finding things in old concrete, wood panels, anything with some sort of texture, or strange shaped vegetables long lost in the potato drawer.

I've tried making random scribbles and then making something from them but for some reason I find that particularly challenging and it seems to work better for me if someone else makes the scribble. Just closing my eyes while scribbling helps a some but not much if I'm holding the pencil in a regular writing or drawing grip.

I've been experimenting with ways to lessen my control of the scribble and mentally detach from it more. Holding the pencil loosely by the end, then closing my eyes and scribbling with a fully extended arm helps some. So does using my non-dominant hand with closing my eyes. Lately I've been experimenting with another way. I drop or drag thin threads on a piece of plexiglass spritzed with water. The water catches the string at random points so helps create a less controlled scribble.

Here's the latest one. What do you see?

thin thread or string dragged over a wet piece of plexiglass

pencil doodle drawn from random string

I've been working on a dragon picture and it was suggested I create a maquette to help me figure out the anatomy. Sculpt a dragon? Sounds like a lovely idea to me!

I reused a super basic sculpting block I created from a previous project. It's just a piece of 2x4 with holes drilled into it that are slightly snug for the diameter of the main wire. The main wire is some repurposed, coated electrical wire. I wish I had taken a picture of the initial wire for the body. It's basically a long loop to which I added the aluminum foil. I used the foil to create the main masses so I didn't have to use a lot of extra polymer clay. To create the various limbs or the armature I used about 3 thin sculpture wires for each limb and wrapped them around each other to make a thicker, stronger "skeleton" and to give the clay something to grab on to (sorry I don't remember the gauge, I've had the stuff for ages). I secured the 3-wire bundles to the body and then bulked up the neck and head with foil.
I reused a super basic sculpting block I created from a previous project. It's just a piece of 2x4 with holes drilled into it that are slightly snug for the diameter of the main wire. The main wire is some repurposed, coated electrical wire. I wish I had taken a picture of the initial wire for the body. It's basically a long loop to which I added the aluminum foil. I used the foil to create the main masses so I didn't have to use a lot of extra polymer clay. To create the various limbs or the armature I used about 3 thin sculpture wires for each limb and wrapped them around each other to make a thicker, stronger "skeleton" and to give the clay something to grab on to (sorry I don't remember the gauge, I've had the stuff for ages). I secured the 3-wire bundles to the body and then bulked up the neck and head with foil.

mitzuk-dragonsculpt-armature3 mitzuk-dragonsculpt2

I decided to try wax paper for the wings because of it's translucent quality (using supplies I had on hand). I like how the light hits the wings. I'm not so sure about how the paper bunches up between the wing bones. For future experiments: someone suggested using nylon stockings for the wings, someone else suggested using parchment paper painted with watercolor and then rubbed with baby oil once dry.
I decided to try wax paper for the wings because of it's translucent quality (using supplies I had on hand). I like how the light hits the wings. I'm not so sure about how the paper bunches up between the wing bones. For future experiments: someone suggested using nylon stockings for the wings, someone else suggested using parchment paper painted with watercolor and then rubbed with baby oil once dry.
mitzuk-dragonsculpt4
I extended a wing, placed a piece of wax paper on top, cut to the shape I wanted, and then taped the wax paper to the wire as well as secured the paper to the beefier part of the wing with polymer clay.

mitzuk-dragonsculpt5 mitzuk-dragonsculpt6 mitzuk-dragonsculpt7 mitzuk-dragonsculpt8I thought I'd share some of the progress shots in an effort to assess what I did, and to share the process in case anyone else is curious about how to do this.

This time around I used what I had on hand. As I do more of these I'll need to learn how to make the armature in a different way because the one I made had some limitations. I think the whole process was worth the effort because it helped me think more about the volumes, and the relationships of the various parts. It also helped me discover areas where I'd like more information and things I'd like to improve. Learning opportunities!

I found this YouTube video to be a little helpful for how to use aluminum foil, and wrapping the wire to create the armature. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQlX79qxBO4

My takeaways, and things that will come with practice:

Learn how to make a more versatile, flexible, and more structurally accurate armature.

Learn to manipulate the clay so the volumes and surface texture are more refined.

I like how pliable the Super Sculpey is and that I can easily scrape it off and reuse it. What I find tricky is trying to create solid looking forms that retain their shape. I might have to switch materials, possibly Chavant NSP Sulphur-Free Plasteline (the instructor had us use it for our Écorché class back in school and I like how easy it was to create crisp shapes, it just took extra work to get the stuff to soften up).

Thinking in mass with my hands really helps me think through a drawing.

WAter Elemental DrawingI needed this picture to tell a story and fit with the other three elementals but what story and how would it fit with the others?

This piece had a lot of iterations to explore ideas. At one point I had the water elemental as more of a Naiad at a waterfall or stream. The story fluctuated from languid, to serene, to joyous. They didn't quite seem to partner with the three existing images which seemed more energetic. Was I hearing the tinkling laughter of a stream, or the crash of waves? Was I feeling a gentle spray of water blown off a little waterfall in the middle of a quiet forest, or the pressure of ocean depths. Eventually I landed on the current story. And would it be vertical or horizontal? I decided horizontal since I only had one of those (Air) and two vertical pieces (Fire and Earth).4 Elementals

I'm excited to have the original drawing with me at IlluXCon this Friday and Saturday, as well as limited edition prints of all four elementals. The drawing is done with graphite pencil, a tiny bit of Creatacolor NERO Extrasoft for some of the very dark accents, and I think I used white Conté for the accent highlights. It's on Canson Vidalon Vellum. I drew the lines on one side, scanned the lines in for the digital painting, and then added values to the other side of the vellum.

See you soon, Pennsylvania!

 

Lines for study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov
Lines for study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov

Doing a study of a masterwork can be a great way to learn. I have been in awe of the handling of color and value of many of the paintings on display at The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, MN so was thrilled to receive permission to do a study there. To get the most of the experience I applied some advice a teacher/mentor gave me to this museum study: go with a question you want answered. My question or goal: To better understand how to handle value and color. How did a lot of the Russian Realist painters paint with value and color so masterfully?

For the time available to me, I could choose only one painting for study (to clarify, my time was not limited by the museum but by other factors). I requested permission to study the painting “Milkmaids, Novella” 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov 1918-1993. So my question became, “how did he handle the values and colors in this painting?”

Grayscale study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov
Grayscale study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov

Another mentor suggested that I draw or trace the masterwork I'll be studying BEFORE I go to the museum. If I were to draw on site I would have spent several extra days on just getting the drawing correct. By preparing the drawing before I went to the museum, I could use my limited time to really focus on exploring that main goal of better understanding value and color.

I did two studies, one just focusing on the relationships of the values so I painted it in grayscale. Then I did a second in color. One of the challenges was that the original piece must be nearly 8'x4', and my studies were merely a fraction of that. I wasn't going to be able to get all the blending and nuanced color and value changes. Instead, for the grayscale version I focused on the relationships of the values, and the large value shapes. For the color version I focused on the color relationships (their hue, temperature, value, and chroma). A lot of the color in the original was created by overlapping strokes, or strokes with multiple colors in them so my version was more a study of the larger impression or appearance.

Color study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov
Color study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov

Note: This was an excellent learning experience! I would like to give special thanks to The Museum of Russian Art and the head curator, Masha Zavialova, Ph.D., for allowing me to do this study.

I'm not quite sure where it came from. The idea arrived, and delighted me with its silliness.

I pretty much followed my usual process on this one: drawing, reference, value studies, color studies, paint.

Line Drawing and Value Studies This time I drew on tracing paper and did minimal values with the pencil. Then I scanned it in and broadened the range of values with darker darks and a few lighter lights. I was initially thinking this would be a blue sky with puffy white clouds.mitzuk-flying-turtles-values

Reference Some of the reference I used for this project included shots of turtles from our local zoo (and our doctor's office of all places). I also purchased a few toy critters to hold up outside so I could see what the value relationships might look between the light shapes, dark shapes, and background.flying-reference

 

Color studies I did a few in gouache on 300 lb watercolor paper and a few digitally. Once I got the color idea down in front of me, I decided I didn't really like the blue sky and puffy white clouds. Those colors and lighting situation didn't have much drama or story to compliment the more dramatic view of the turtles soaring overhead. I decided to experiment with sunrise or sunset colors and lighting. Perhaps they're on their way for a mission, or returning from one?flying-turtles-color-studies

Paint Oil on oil primed linen stretched over a board with bracers on the back.

oil painting on primed linen of turtles flying with propellars coming out of the top of their shells and wearing aviator caps by christine mitzuk
Flying Turtles

Sneak Peek of Work in ProgressThe piece is almost done. It just needs that something more to finish it up but I'm losing steam. Here are a few things that have helped me reinvigorate myself to finish a project.

Try and go back mentally and emotionally to that initial seed idea, or nugget that I got excited about in the first place. This doesn't mean redraw or repaint anything. It just means I'm trying to regain that initial excitement.

Try to image myself as the character, maybe act out what they're doing or ask myself what they might be feeling.

Try to imagine and experience the scene with my senses (touch, taste or smell, sight, sound) either as the character or an onlooker

touch
Is the environment hot, cold, temperate, wet, dry, damp, etc?
What do I feel on my skin, the hot sun, a gentle breeze, the spray from a waterfall?
Do I feel anything in my hands?

taste or smell
Is there a scent or something to taste in the environment? Is it pleasant or something else?

sight
Is it dark, light, dusk. Can I see? What do I see?

sound
What, if anything, can I hear? Is it loud or quiet, near or far, jarring or pleasant, or something else?