Monday, January 30, 2012

Colored Pencil

This first week is about increasing familiarity with graphite, colored pencil and ink. A basic chart of my Prismacolors, the beginnings of a primary color wheel and a greens chart have kept me busy.

I'll admit it. I don't get very excited over colored pencils. Still, I had fun mixing colors. The greens chart is about columns over rows, four layers. The layering reminds of egg tempera and this chart may come in handy when I get back to that medium.

I can see how the choice of support makes a huge difference. This Stonehenge paper has a tooth that doesn't fill easily, leaving lots of white space. I'm reading that watercolor or vellum papers work well for colored pencil.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

More pencil work

Starting with last night's chart, I've added values with a couple of Wolff carbon pencils. Next I recorded values using a Munsell neutral value scale. Lastly I built a half-step Munsell chart. More graphite work to come but next up is a bit of colored pencil.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pencil charts

My first exercise of the first week of six uses graphite. Here's a chart of my Faber-Castell pencils in various grades and tones. Although it doesn't carry well in this scan, the hardest pencils seem to lean towards warmer tones. I really spent hours with this simple chart, taking time to experience the feel of each hardness on this Stonehenge paper.

Friday, January 27, 2012

What's up

Wow, it's been a while since the last post. The new Hammond keyboard has been holding my interest--so many buttons and controls to learn, as well as getting mesmerized with the sonic possibilities. The keyboard action is a delight, just the right amount of springiness. The keys are set up to support glissandos so easily.

Snow from the two previous storms has all washed away. Heavy rains and warm temps are back with no snow in sight. Is this really winter?

Today begins my Cornell botanical illustration class. I will dig into first exercises this evening and begin posting results soon. It's a smallish class of five students and beginning slowly with only two of us checking in so far.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


The seed order arrived last week. Later I'll be starting these for container planting on the deck and expect as well a small herb bed for the perenials. The thyme and lavender are special winter-hardy species. Years ago I had a thyme patch that would take nearly half the growing season to completely recover from the previous winter so I'm hoping for a hardier herb.

The lavender is specifically for the bees--in fact all these herbs are bee friendly. My yard is already rather hospitable for bee, bird and mammal but there's always room for more, isn't there? :-)

Rosemary, Lavender, Sage, Basil, Thyme, Tomato

For the record, yesterday was Second Snow. Will we be making up for Winter's tropical beginnings?

Friday, January 20, 2012

First snow

There's really been three previous storms of less than an inch total but I'm going with this three-incher as first snow. After all, it is the first shovel exercise of the season. By this afternoon it was all over--trees shedding their snow, skies bright and clear.

South side of yard.

My favorite grass.

Nuncketest still with open water.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Working bud detail

Just a couple of hours on the bud. As I tried building detail, I noticed that I'd lost the overall form. I'm learning to move in and back away while brushing.

Another session today of fruitless searching for oil processing supplies. The Internet to the rescue! Canning jars arrive Friday. And the local hardware store is ready to help--they will take an order for pool filter sand.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Although quiet on the blog, there are developments coming together.

Finally, after weeks of pondering and decisions, I'll soon have a new keyboard. On and off for years I've worked with general purpose machines--those with piano, organ, brass, strings, synth, voice, and more. My new instrument is a Hammond XK-3c, a close electronic clone of the Hammond B-3. I couldn't be more excited! Long time readers may remember that I dropped out of band when time became cramped. Well, I'm back with a new kick ass band. Two of the members are from a band we had back in the 70's! Moving to this new keyboard is an experiment in focusing intently on a particular instrument. I expect the new keys by the end of the week.

I'm collecting materials for hand processing linseed oil, as I read and reread instructions provided by Tad Spurgeon in his book and on his website. Tad has been most helpful, quickly answering my questions in depth. At this point, I know what I need. I'm used to "we're out of canning jars" as I wonder where to buy swimming pool filter sand. Snow shovels come easier than these summertime supplies.

Work on the rhody continues, albeit spotty. Lately I do spend time simply looking, learning what might be next steps. I know I want to kick back the saturation on the leaves and stay on the warm side. With light glazes, I am heading in that direction but there's nothing significant so show. Funny how that works out. Sometimes I can work for an hour and the painting shows huge changes. Other times, after hours of detail on lots of little things, there is not much apparent change but I feel good about cleaning up those loose ends.

And that's that! More soon! :-)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rhody work continues

Although this image probably looks quite similar to the previous post's, there are hours here of cleanup and light glazes for the leaves.

This evening I've focused on the bud, trying to develop form and detail. I've been taught to apply unifying washes of very light titanium white and white glazes were applied a few times. But also, a light verona green earth helps to pull form together. I'm finding that dry brush stippling is helping me reach  the texture.

Friday, January 13, 2012

More work on the rhody

I'm enjoying my sable filberts with egg tempera. From a point or line to a wide swath, this brush seems to work well for me. I'm itching to get to the detail, though I know I must take my time and work from the large to the small with color and form.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

American Chestnut

From Wikipedia:
"Once an important hardwood timber tree, the American Chestnut is highly susceptible to chestnut blight, caused by an Asian bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica, formerly Endothia parasitica) accidentally introduced into North America on imported Asiatic chestnut trees. The disease was first noticed on American Chestnut trees in what was then the New York Zoological Park, now known as the Bronx Zoo, in 1904 by chief forester Hermann Merkel. While Chinese Chestnuts evolved with the blight and developed a strong resistance, the airborne bark fungus spread 50 miles (80 km) a year and in a few decades girdled and killed up to three billion American Chestnut trees. It is thought that panic logging during the early years of the blight may have unwittingly destroyed trees which had resistance to this disease and thus aggravated the calamity."

I've visited this tree previously with a leaf drawing and a summer view. In years gone by the road would be peppered with spiny pods from this tree.

Here's a closer look at the stump sprouts.

Some of these sprouts are sadly already dying off.

More from Wikipedia:
"The fungus makes its entry at wounds and grows in and beneath the bark which eventually kills the cambium all the way round the twig, branch or trunk. The first symptom is a small orange-brown area on the bark of a twig or branch. A sunken canker then forms as the mycelial fan spreads under the bark. As the hyphae spread they produce several toxic compounds, the most notable of which is oxalic acid. This acid lowers the pH of the infected tissue from around the normal 5.5 to approximately 2.8, which is toxic to plant cells. The canker eventually girdles the tree, killing everything above it. Distinctive yellow tendrils (cirrhi) of conidia can be seen extruding from the stroma in wet weather."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Filling In

Here is a progression of work from late last night and again this evening.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Starting a new piece

It's so hard to get started. I mean really hard. And so I feel great tonight, finally deciding to take a chance on a rhododendron closeup in egg tempera for the Flower Show.

Here's a peek at my initial masking. The panel on the left is my second gesso refurb and it came out just as nice as the first. There's something quite liberating knowing that I can always renew a gesso board when things, as they sometimes do on my easel, go very wrong. This evening I'll be sponging in initial layers of the background. I'm trying to hold the camera close by so that there will be lots of work in progress shots.

I like this design--such interesting negative shapes. And, sharp and soft edges are already appearing.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Around the Lake

Today was windy, sunny and warm--Boston a few degrees shy of the 1930 record of 63ยบ F.

More Gesso

Here is the refrigerated leftover from my previous gesso session, fresh out of the fridge.

After adding a bit of distilled water and warming the mix over warm water in a double boiler arrangement, the gesso was a lighter consistency than last time. As the temperature dropped off, the gesso began to set up--at some point becoming too thick to brush. I was just playing, searching out the limits of this medium.

For finishing I didn't bother with the scraper, instead going straight to the 400 grit paper. I found the paper loading quickly as the gesso, although dry to touch, was still a bit wet. Increased drying with a hairdryer helped as did switching to a sanding block. A couple of slaps and it's clear of sanding debris.

I will let this board dry overnight before final sanding with 400 and then 600 grit paper.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Easy Gesso

Last night I cleaned up an old gesso panel, sanding off all traces of a previous painting. I was left with a panel full of pin holes that had not previously surfaced--a perfect panel for testing. Using Natural Pigments (NP) Easy Gesso Extra Fine, I began to get the feeling for panel making.

This NP product comes with rabbit skin glue mixed with calcite and titanium white, ready for a 1:1 mix with warm water. Let this stand for at least two hours to gel up, warm slightly and paint it on. I placed a bowl of gesso mix above a pan of warm water and then spaced out, leaving it probably too warm for too long.

My mix was horribly peppered with chunks of mix that I learned to avoid by not dipping the brush too far into the bowl. Clearly I need to work on proper mixing, or at least pay more attention when heating the mix. Also, perhaps I was being so careful to avoid air bubbles in the mix that I didn't get a good smooth mix. Whatever, it was a good start on learning about handmade gesso panels.

Sanding between layers wasn't working well, probably because I couldn't find a sanding block. So instead, I used a scraper. It's a great little tool for creating a smooth surface but once I found my sanding block, 400 grit did a much better job. It cut faster and didn't leave behind shading that I attribute to the metal. For the final sanding, I switched to 600 grit.

Here's the smoothest panel I've ever felt or seen. And, not a pinhole in sight.

Monday, January 2, 2012


After months of poking about with various task management tools, I've settled on OmniFocus from The Omni Group. I'm having a good time collecting web resources into each project. Simply highlight any text, right-click, and send it off to OmniFocus Inbox or right through into the select project. It's already handy having all my data nested.

Projects become richer by adding task lists. I've often done well with lists, and I'm hoping they will work for me here. This app is loosely tied to the "Getting Things Done" (GTD) model. I tried the true GTD model in my IT job but just couldn't put any heart into it. My goal is simply to create to do lists and a virtual file cabinet.

I have this application installed on both of my Macs and tied to a free Omni Group secure online service for sharing my data. Sort of like Google Docs. The app syncs every hour and can be forced at will. There are even versions of OmniFocus for the iPad and iPhone.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year Plans

Last year at this time I laid out a few goals and luckily hit them all. So in the spirit of New Years, here are this year's intentions:

A portrait of Timothy. He has the most lovely green eyes--green earths in egg tempera seem just right here.

A piece for NESBA's exhibit at the Boston Flower Show.

Koo has lots of egg tempera workshops scheduled for this year. My tentative plans are for two weeks in September at her New Hampshire studio.

Linseed oil processing along with oil medium and egg-oil emulsion explorations.

Continuation of old master copy work. I'd like to add in some early Italian Renaissance masters.

Meld art work with around the lake studies. 

Charles Bargue drawing course.

Tonal studies as detailed in

Cornell online botanical illustration course.

Musical adventures.

A method of keeping track of these goals as well as home projects slated for this year.

Well, that about does it. Some of these items might sound a bit cryptic but will soon unfold.

Thank you, dear, dear reader, for your support and friendship via comments, emails, phone calls and in person discussions. You inspire me.