A Patchwork Fall

A Patchwork Fall
"A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art." ~Paul Cezanne~

September 22, 2017

Five tips for a pencil portrait

Originally published 12/26/15

Since I have dedicated my attention to watercolor painting in the past several years, it has been a long while since I created a pencil portrait. Drawing skills, of course, are important to any painter - as you still have to transfer your design to the paper before painting. But, I haven't focused on pencil drawings as the final product for a long time. So, recently, when I was commissioned to do a pencil portrait for a Christmas gift, I thought I might break down the steps and tools that I prefer to use in the process and write a little blog post about it.

Tip #1: Use a grid. This is good for any drawing you are trying to recreate from a snapshot, but especially for portrait work. Make a copy of the picture you are using and draw a grid on the top. Then make a proportional grid (in light pencil marks) on the paper you are using in order to lay out the picture proportionally. This will be especially helpful for nose, eyes, mouth.

Tip #2:  Draw upside down.  When you work on faces upside down, it helps translate the components into shapes rather than "a face." This helps the idea of drawing people become less intimidating. Check the drawing right side up against your reference photo through the process to make sure things are still looking correct.

Tip #3:  Use hard and soft pencils. The harder pencil will allow lighter lines and is good for line drawing and blocking in shadows. The softer pencil will help with medium and dark shadows. (Harder pencils have lower numbers. The higher the number, the softer the pencil). I like 2B for hard and 6B for soft.

Tip #4: Use blending stumps. These are great for softening and blending edges and shadows. They also help keep your fingers clean so you don't leave unexpected fingerprints on your paper as you work!

Tip #5: Take a picture of the "finished" portrait with your smartphone or tablet. Then give yourself a little time away (even 10-15 minutes will do).  Come back to look at the photo of your portrait and compare it to your reference photo. This will help you see little details that might need to be fixed. Sometimes things will even jump out at you before you compare it to your reference pic. It's a good tool for making sure you get those finishing touches in and are happy with the final piece. Also...you must realize the final is never going to be perfect. It is not meant to be a photograph. But, hopefully, you will capture the intended spirit.

Here is the final portrait.

reference pic

Now that this commission is done, I'll be getting back to my watercolors and posting some new paintings soon!

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

September 15, 2017

FRIDAY FEATURE: Featured Artist ~ Ian Ramsay

Repblished. Original blog post published on 5/22/15

Ian Ramsay ~ "I love to paint scruffy farms."

I'm so excited for this featured artist post! My husband and I are collectors of Ian Ramsay's work and, to date, own at least eight of his paintings. He has an incredible talent for luminosity and seeing beauty in the every day things that most people might take for granted. Kudos to my husband for making the first purchase! But, I too love Ian's work and enjoy looking at the paintings hanging in our home daily as well. 

"Capestrano, Abruzzo, Italy"  ©Ian Ramsay.
This painting 
is presently at the High Country Summer 

Exhibition at Trailside Gallery in Jackson Hole, WY

I was privileged to take a workshop with Ian about a year and a half ago. He was so open with teaching his technique for building layers of watercolor in order to achieve the beautiful paintings he creates - being careful to save the lights. I can't say that I fully achieved that goal in the painting I created during the workshop. I definitely had some challenges! But, there were some parts of my painting that I really loved in the end. Ian is a patient instructor, offering helpful suggestions for problem solving and never criticizing. He speaks with a delightfully soft English accent and soft voice, making two days of intense learning and instruction a pleasure to the ears as well! 

"Street Market, Naples, Italy"  ©Ian Ramsay. 
This painting is currently at the Summer Show at
Settlers West Gallery 
in Tucson, Arizona.

When I contacted Ian via email to let him know I wanted to feature him on my blog, he was very accommodating, but requested that we speak in person rather than conducting the interview over email. Again, a delightful person to speak with, and very graciously taking an hour out of his day to answer my questions and discuss art with me. So, as I'm sure you are all anxious to know his thoughts, here are Ian's answers to my blog feature questions.

Q: What are your favorite materials and tools...the ones you just can't live without?

A: You cannot do a good watercolor unless you are using a really good quality paper. I use all kinds of rubbish to sketch, but good quality paper to paint. [I prefer] either Arches cold press 140 lb or Fabriano cold press 140 lb. I just love them. I just love the way Fabriano holds the color and accepts the paint in such a soft manner. 

I use a big variety of brushes. I’m not one of these painters who just limits it to a handful of brushes. I like big wash brushes and lots of synthetic brushes with sharp points. I like to use the sharp brushes to kind of “draw” with when painting – if I can use a brush for detail instead of a pencil, I will.

Good, chiseled brushes and good quality paper. Those are the two things I can't live without.

"Mitkof Island, Alaska" ©Ian Ramsay.
This painting is presently at the Summer Show
at Settlers West Gallery in Tucson, Arizona.

Q: Who are your artistic influences?

A: I am influenced by almost everything I see. I have juried a lot of art shows, and just looking at the work of the other artists in the show influences how I think. 

Rowland Hilder is the first painter that influenced me. I saw his work when I was working as an architect in London back in the 1970’s. He is the person who made me want to paint. 

Next is Charles Dixon. He is a 19th century English nautical watercolor artist. 

David Roberts is another 19th century Scottish artist whose work influences me every day. From him, I think I learned a great deal about placing dark values in the right spot in a painting and how important they are to lead you around a painting. 

I admire Philip Jamison. It’s the simplicity of his work that I really enjoy.

Donald Teague. It’s the wide variety of subject matter. 

And, finally, Alvaro Castagnet. Flamboyance! I wish I had it! He just says what he thinks and feels. He doesn’t care what others think. I’m kind of a quiet person and I don’t want to offend anyone. 

"Paris Shadows" ©Ian Ramsay

Q: What is your favorite subject matter and why?

A: In the beginning, I was totally a nautical artist: fishing boats and harbors. That’s what is in my blood because I grew up around it in England. 

In Utah, I love to paint “scruffy farms.” I love the run-down look of the farms here. I don’t like “pretty” things. I don’t paint flowers or still life or children. I like things that are kind of rough and dirty. 

In the last few years I’ve been doing quite a few street scenes. I was in a gallery in Japan for about five years and I became fascinated with the city landscapes while I was there. I visited about 16 different cities in Japan and I just loved all the telephone poles and wires.

Q: What advice would you give to emerging artists?

A: Especially for those who are just getting started and thinking about it - I think you have to keep true to your own desires and your own artistic interests. I just find that sometimes art schools can break your basic interest in art. Whatever drew you to art, you need to hang on to that and not get sidelined by what someone else may tell you. Also, never bend to what’s the most popular trend because that takes you away from what you love to work on yourself. You have to stay true to yourself. 

It’s my opinion that it’s important to stay connected to good quality galleries. They give your work legitimacy. A lot of people try to market their work on their own, which is fine and they can be successful. But in order to really be able to give yourself the legitimacy [of a professional artist], you need to be connected to good quality galleries.

In order to make your work look as good as it can possibly look, it's very important to have it professionally framed.I did my own framing for years and years and never made the leap professionally until I had my work professionally framed.

"Farm and Pond, Spanish Fork, Utah" ©Ian Ramsay
This painting is available at the Brushworks
Gallery in Salt Lake City, UT.

Q: What would you most like to be remembered for in life?

A: [I would like to be remembered] for having been understanding and non-judgmental. It’s very important to me to be helpful and encouraging when I teach. It doesn’t help anyone to break them down during a workshop or a class. There’s always something that’s “right” about what someone is doing. 

Hopefully my work will be remembered. Those artists whose work is remembered after their life are few and far between, but one can always hope.

"Rural Nottinghamshire, England" ©Ian Ramsay 

Ian Ramsay was born in England in 1948, but lives in the United States. He and his wife currently reside in Utah. Ian is an internationally known, award-winning artist with collectors all over the world. He earned an architectural degree from the University of Utah. As a painter, he is self taught. 

"My training is totally as an architect. I picked up watercolor on my own. I got the design and materials training as an architect." ~ Ian Ramsay

Visit Ian's blog at Ian Ramsay Watercolors

His work is represented by several galleries:
Brushworks Gallery in Salt Lake City, UT
New Masters Gallery in Carmel, CA
Settler’s West Gallery in Tuscon, AZ
Trailside Gallery in Jackson Hole, WY
Trailside Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ
Image Source in England (printing rights for greeting cards and calendars)

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog!

I hope you enjoyed this Featured Artist post. Please leave a comment with your thoughts and feedback. I would love to hear from you!

September 1, 2017

Busy, Busy Summer!

Besides working on new paintings for next March's Art & Soup event and trying to coordinate the many spinning cogs and wheels of the Utah Watercolor Society as we started our 2017-2018 UWS year, I was also able to take a couple of days in early August to attend a plein air workshop in Logan, UT with the incredibly talented Brienne Brown. Now, as you know if you've followed my blog for a while, I am not much of a plein air painter. But, it was lovely to get outside for a couple of days and to spend time with Brienne and the other participating artists. What a beautiful state we have here!

Here is my plein air setup and the little sketch I did for my painting on the second day (the painting didn't turn out so well!)

Here is the wonderfully talented Brienne...

In mid-August, I also attempted to take my family camping in a cabin at Moon Lake Resort in the Ashley National Forest. As it turns out, my husband and sons are not so into the "great outdoors" when it comes to giving up our usual creature comforts. I think the boys enjoyed having Grandma (my mom) with us, and they had fun roasting hot dogs over a fire and making smores by "toasting" (burning) marshmallows over the fire. They enjoyed camp-made hot chocolate and snacks. I know they had fun playing at the beach and in the lake water. But, my oldest has also developed some kind of phobia of bugs and wakes up in the night worried about spiders - and every little noise freaks him out! We had a visit from a bear in our campsite one night - evidenced by the log bench at the fire pit being scratched up and an entire top layer of the log torn up to get at the bugs, with big claw marks and wood shavings (I forgot to take a picture)! We saw hummingbirds, squirrels, and chipmunks every day...and even saw deer almost every day right outside our kitchen window as they came through the campsite eating the bushes.

We had rain storms every day and spent most of our time in our little sloping-floor cabin playing board games (no TV, no Wifi). We declared a ban on electronics for the weekend (except tunes from an iPod). It was good family time as we played marbles, Mexican Train, Yahtzee, "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" board game (because mommy loves all things Peanuts), 2200 (a rummy card game), and Exploding Kittens (another fun card game...my 7-year-old loved this one!). It's great that our boys are now at ages where they can learn to play games with us that are beyond Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. :) I grew up camping in an RV and fishing lakes off the bank or trolling in a boat, and I tented while in college and into my mid twenties, but I have always been more of a "city girl" myself. Turns out my boys and husband are about the same. I think they would have mutinied if I had suggested sleeping in a tent on the ground in sleeping bags! Even so, the family time "off grid" was nice. We need to make those kinds of experiences more often! We are headed to Moab for Labor Day weekend. We'll be "camping" in the city this time (though still a cabin) and heading up to Arches National Park (our favorite!). :)

I hope you and your loved ones have had a great summer and are looking forward to fall! Our kids are already back in school, and I'm glad we had those few days of family time, unplugged, before we had to get back into the Fall routine.

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog!