Back to colored pencils realism - my resolution didn't hold. Especially when the winter tree came out well, I went back to the idea that this fancy hardbound sketchbook ought to become the showoff book filled with accurate, detailed realism and lots of polished colored pencils realism. I was extremely proud of this next one, even more than the Carboniferous Beach Scene.
Iris and Leaves
- colored pencils, 2005.
Awed by the accurate details in the flower, which is seen from above? I was, all through the process of drawing and painting it. I still am. Trouble is, I did not also show the cluster of iris leaves around it as they looked looking down at the plant, so this iris has a stem with a 90 degree bend in it tilting the oversized foreshortened flower toward the viewer from plants that are pointing up toward the sky. It's defying gravity. It looks both real and unreal at the same time, and that really makes me laugh.
But for an iris seen from above, the flower itself did come out beautiful and accurate. What I'd do now is work out the background during the blocking-in and keep it consistent with the foreground, as well as keeping the light consistent. It's not. The lighting in this is coming both from the flash bulb facing it and the sun above the leaves on those leaves. Eep!
It may be the very best example of getting the details right and the drawing dead wrong that I've got in my sketchbooks. Today's irises are looser but at least if I put the plant in with them, they're growing on that plant instead of getting cut and pasted over it!
Gala Apple Upside Down on White Plastic Surface
This one came out well for what it is. Inspired by the artwork on the tins for Blick Artist Colored Pencils, I did a fruit on a smooth white plastic lid. The story behind this is interesting - this is why I now love still life.
I had relocated to another state and had a delay before I could get food stamps that turned out to be six months. I had one month's food stamps in hand before I left. I turned that into as much cheap nonperishable food as I could bring with and managed to make it last three or four months... but the last couple of months before I got food stamps, I had even eaten all the ramen and scraped every peanut butter or preserves jar. I had no refrigerator so hadn't bothered with anything that wasn't boxed or canned.
In the middle of that literal starvation, a neighbor gave me an apple. I didn't really like apples much, either to draw or to eat. Bad teeth make an apple's hard texture difficult to handle, I need to cut it up. I was that hungry, not having had anything for weeks, but also in the stage where hunger wanders off for days at a time because I didn't expect to eat soon.
I fell in love with how it looked and could not eat it. I hung onto it for three weeks studying it before I dared to draw it. I wanted to get it perfect, to remember the way it looked in the afternoon sun. It was the most beautiful apple I'd seen in my life. I posed it upside down so that it would be more interesting, not the cliche apple right side up.
It took three weeks even to start this drawing and days to finish it. When I ate it, that apple was incredible. It was the tastiest apple I'd eaten in my life. I've liked apples again ever since. I cut them up with my pocket knife the way I did that day and don't bother to try to bite them with my bad teeth.
Now, I draw things like this all the time. I could do an apple or any other fruit so easily, even in this style but also in others, and make it come alive. But I always remember this when I do - it changed how I felt about food still lifes. It connected me with times and places where artists did not have supermarkets and an orange in the composition traveled in a wagon, not a truck, arrived weeks later and only in season wherever the artist lived. When even prosperous skilled artists and artisans sometimes went that hungry depending on how the harvest went.
The trite painting of a bowl of fruit and a bottle of wine that comes up in cartoons to represent artwork, thought of as so bland, it's got some deep history to it. It's got something visceral about it that makes it beautiful. A lot of those masters dwelled on bread too, would get its difficult textures and light value fluffy centers perfect in paintings that awed me as a kid. Being able to own and hang something like that in those days meant that you probably wouldn't have to do without the good things in it.
Now I look at it and also see how I laid it out badly on the page with extra white space, but not quite enough to do another good drawing on it. That's fine, I can sacrifice a little paper for a memory that rich. But it's also something to learn from.
It bugged me. So the last thing in the book (currently) is this.
- graphite, 2005.
The sketch is measured off to 5" x 7" because I wanted a standard size in case I did this in a way that I'd scan and mat prints. Unfortunately, looking at the sketch, it has some serious problems with anatomy and proportion. They're serious enough to me that I'm not going to bother correcting them and reworking it, just leave it as the example of how I drew five years ago that it is. It's not a bad layout.
So that's what I have so far in this old sketchbook. I don't remember what brand it is. I think it was called Basic, but I'm not sure. Blick doesn't carry Basic ones and none of the brands they list have the elastic band and pencil loop that this one does. It might have been from Jerry's Artarama or ASW though or it might have been discontinued. There's a Canson Basic one at Jerry's but it hasn't got the elastic band or pencil loop.
Ahh, found it. It's the Reflexions one, though that now has cream paper and this older one has bright white paper. The cover and band and pencil loop features are still there. I guess the fashion changed and the old models with white paper have been superseded by cream paper, not that it matters much. I do know I can replace it with something similar when it's used up.
So... should I keep this out and start filling pages rapidly with my new quick-sketch techniques or continue to save it for slow detailed finished works? Suggestions appreciated. I thought y'all might be amused to see what I did five years ago... and see how much I've learned here at WC.
I know it shocked me. Honestly, I believed everything in this book was perfect until I scanned it again today. I haven't looked at it again since we moved to Arkansas and not for a while before then... because I didn't feel like trying to do something big, slow and perfect in colored pencils!
The replacement book is normally $6.99 on Jerry's Artarama and currently $5.99 there on sale. It's a perennial item. The Moleskine Folio that I've been putting mistakes in and scribbling two minute cat sketches in cost me about $24 and I've been using it more.
I am laughing about this, so laugh with me here... and don't string yourself up like that on your sketchbooks!