Life Drawings / July 13 2022

I was back to using pastels this week for the life drawing session. That is still my favorite medium for figure drawing. My normal method of working, especially on the short poses, is to use the flat side of the pastel stick to lay in the overall shape or contour of the figure and position the gesture on the page. This is usually done in a lighter value. Then I add darker values for contour and line work to define the image. To bring the figure forward and add some interest, I try to put in a complimentary color for the background if time permits. These drawings were done on 18″ x 24″ white paper. The timings of the poses are in the captions below each drawing.

five minute pose
five minute pose
five minute pose
five minute pose
twenty-five minute pose
twenty minute pose

Life Drawings / June 29 2022

This week I decided to go back to using ballpoint pen and mechanical pencil for the life drawing session. It’s a good idea to switch between mediums both to keep drawing interesting and to practice different methods of approaching the subject. When I use pastels, I think in a rather painterly fashion, using color and broad strokes. With drawing styli (pen or pencil) I think more of line and texture (hatching). The timings of the poses are in the captions below each drawing.

five minute pose / ballpoint pen
five minute pose / ballpoint pen
five minute pose / ballpoint pen
five minute pose / ballpoint pen
twenty-five minute pose / ballpoint pen
twenty-five minute pose / ballpoint pen
ten minute pose / mechanical pencil

Circuit Bored

A couple of days each month I volunteer as a docent at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum Gallery in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. It has a wonderful collection of 19th century artworks. The building itself is beautiful and is on the National Register of Historic Places (U.S. National Park Service). During the summer months and in the Fall foliage season the place is hopping with tourists eager to see the building with its library and art gallery. At this time of year it can be rather lonely in the gallery. I was there today for my two hour stint and had only four visitors (pretty good for Winter, actually). I always bring something to read or even better, my iPad. Since I was trying to fill the time productively, I pulled out the iPad and started working on these three new abstracts.

The director of the Athenaeum, Bob Joly was in today and I showed him what I was working on. He said they reminded him of a circuit board. I hadn’t intended to imply that but it was a fun idea. I had plenty of time to work on them with so few visitors so I combined Bob’s “circuit” idea with my boredom and came up with the heading above.

My real intention with these pieces was to use vibrant complimentary colors in simple arrangements to create a lot of energy. The minimal textures were then interconnected with overlapping squiggly lines. They were created in Procreate app for the iPad using an Apple pencil. For the last image I used iColorama app to add a stippled surface texture.

Another experiment

“November Tamaracks”

I had such a good time with yesterday’s drawing/painting experiment that I wanted to try to apply the same technique (painting first and then drawing over with ink) in a more compositional drawing. Looking out of our front window, that composition was just waiting for me.

The view from our front window

The view is looking southeast towards the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the “stars” of the scene are the changing Tamarack trees (American Larch). These trees are deciduous conifers. They are like pines and firs in that they grow seed cones but they differ by loosing their needles in the fall. Before the needles come down they turn a brilliant yellow orange and provide some of the last warm color before the onset of winter.

Anyone who follows my work knows that I have a penchant for detail and an annoying habit of trying to get everything I see in front of me into the drawing I’m working on. I also tend to make a “project” of drawing or painting and often fail to even get started with it by making too much of it. With this, I was trying to get away from a fussy, over-detailed style. Yesterday’s drawing inspired me to “loosen up”, work quickly and just put in the essentials of the scene.

“November Tamaracks” watercolor with pen and ink in 8″ x 10″ Handbook Watercolor Journal

I started with the brush and directly painted all of the elements of the composition very quickly, trees, hills, foreground and sky. This was done in about 8-10 minutes. When the painting was dry, I used a #3 micron pen to draw over the color (another 5-10 minutes). I added a bit more color (some of the purples to contrast with the yellow of the trees) and some final touches of pen work and that was it. In aiming for simplicity, I was able to use the brush to paint the middle ground and distant mountains almost as calligraphy, as symbols rather than realistically. That was a very freeing experience for me. I hope to do more like this.

Block Print “Process”

Recently, I have been talking about “process” in creating art.  It occurred to me that I had documented many of the stages of cutting this particular block, Sap Buckets, Tampico Road (2010) and thought that it might demonstrate an interesting example of “process”. We are used to seeing finished works of art but rarely have a chance to view various stages leading to the final image.

For an explanation of the block printing process in general, please click here.

What I show below are, in chronological order, a few of the many steps needed to complete the final block to be printed. You can look at the individual stages and compare them or view the slideshow to see the gradual changes in sequence.

There is a kind of “translation” that occurs in the process of cutting a block for printing. It’s very direct to do a pencil drawing and transfer it to a block. But to make a final block print image I need to cut away all of the areas that will not be printed. All of the white (unprinted) areas must be cut away leaving the surface that will be inked and printed (black areas). If I want to print a line, for example, I have to cut everything around that line. Look at stage 2 and 3. You can see that the drawn branches of the trees on left and center are created by cutting all of the area around them at the same time negatively creating the sky. To realize a drawn image in a block print, it has to be “translated” or realized by the process of cutting and letting it emerge from the cut area around it.

I usually start with a complete drawing of an image but leave some areas not fully realized. Look at stage 4 and stage 5. The large area of roadway at the bottom was left blank in the original pencil drawing. I was’t sure how I wanted to represent the path at the bottom of the image. It made more sense to use the cutting tools (gouges in this case) to “draw” the textures rather than “translate” from a pencil drawing.

For me, one of the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of making block prints is being aware of and controlling these two (at times opposite) techniques of drawing; with the pencil and with the cutting tools.

I hope you find this of value in understanding a bit about the “process” involved in making block prints.

Pencil drawing transferred to block

Beginning cuts in upper left

Stage 2 – further cutting; the sky begins to emerge

Stage 3 – forming the trees

Stage 4 – defining the trees, buckets and middle ground

Stage 4 – adding details

Stage 5 – Finished block

sap-buckets-tampico-14 final-print
Sap Buckets, Tampico Road –  Printed image (reversed)




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That Old House

There is an old ramshackle house down our road that we pass by often. I’ve wanted to do a drawing of it for some time and finally did one. Because of various circumstances (uncertain weather, time constraints, etc.) I had to do it in stages. It occurred to me that if I photographed the drawing in each of the various stages, it might make an interesting addition to the blog. One of the aspects of art that I’m interested in is the idea of “process”. Most people who are not involved in the creative process look at an artwork, whether a quick sketch or a masterful painting and only see the finished product. They are not aware of the “process” of how it came to be. The idea is to show at least part of that process through several stages so that getting to the end result can be better understood. For this drawing I started with a light pencil drawing of the composition which I went over with ink. Then gradually added areas of watercolor eventually adding more detail both with brushwork and pen drawing. I hope you find this of interest. Let me know if you have comments or questions.

Old House-stage-1
Stage 1 – Ink drawing

Old House-stage-2
Stage 2 – adding color

Old House-stage-3
Stage 3 – refining color and adding detail

Old House-final
Final stage

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Pastel Life Drawings from August 15

This week I decided to go back to pastels for the Danville Life Drawing Group session. The materials that I use for these drawings usually consist of the following items. Dick Blick sells a very versatile paper (Blick White Sulphite Drawing Paper) in various sizes and weights that is quite reasonably priced when purchased in quantity. I use the 18″ x 24″ size. For the drawings, I normally start with Chunky Charcoals by Cretacolor. They are quite large, 5/8″ (16 mm) thick, and 3-3/8″ (86 mm) long, and I usually break the sticks in half to work with them. They are available in eleven subdued colors. What’s really nice about these sticks is that they can be used either on end to make line drawings or using the long side for broad tonal marks. I will often additionally use NuPastel sticks (available in many more colors than the Chunky Charcoals) to enhance the colors of the final drawing.

Short 5 minute poses;

Longer 25 minute poses;

Old and New

It’s been a while since I posted drawings of Vermont. In looking at my past drawings of various Vermont towns, I realized that one of my favorite barn drawings, from Johnson, had not been posted on the site yet. There’s also a newer drawing from Chester that was done very quickly (45 minutes) just a few weeks ago. It’s often the case that the backs of buildings are more interesting for drawing than the front facades so I went around to the rear of a few varied structures on Main Street in Chester and came up with this grouping. I thought the two drawings, old and new, would make an interesting pairing. Both are done with pen and ink and watercolor in 5″ x 8″ Pentalic Aqua Journals.

Life drawing from July 25th

I’m staying with pastels for a while to do my life drawings and these are from last Wednesday at our Danville, VT  life drawing group.

Short 5 minute poses

Longer poses (20 – 25 minutes)


Life Drawings from July 18

I’ll interrupt my posts of Provence drawings to take a look at my most recent life drawings in Danville, VT. We are very lucky, in such a small rural community to have a public multi use venue in which to hold our life drawing sessions (The Danville Community Center). Actually it’s the old bank building which was given to the local library (which is adjacent to it) after the bank built a new branch in town. The library raised funds to refurbish the interior and make it available to members of the community for various uses. In addition to the life drawing group, there have been yoga and tai chi classes, various concerts and lectures and a knitting group. It is also the rehearsal venue for the Danville Town Band. We are also VERY fortunate to have access to several terrific experienced models who live nearby. Here are last Wednesday’s drawings.

Short 5 minute poses


Longer 20 – 25 minute poses



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