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Old 08-28-2010, 05:16 PM
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Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

Here's the one I should have filled and used carelessly without worrying about whether everything in it was perfect. A friend of mine gave it to me in 2004 for my birthday. I was thrilled, it felt so luxurious to have one that was hardbound with an elastic band closure. It was too good to use for anything but the best finished, polished, perfect showoff drawings.

Five years later... nothing in it is perfect or anywhere near as good as I'd do with it now. Some are pretty good. Most were done with a lot of time and attention.

I only used nine pages in this sketchbook and I have layout lines marked on the next six for various sizes smaller than the full page. I got tired of not using margins and decided to mark up margins before drawing. Then never went back to it or did anything with the dragonfly sketch.

I've since learned my lesson and put gesture sketches in Moleskines that cost four times as much as this one. I would've learned faster if I'd just kept using it and used it up, filled it and moved on to fill more of them till I had a nice shelf of full sketchbooks. That's what the hardbound ones are good for - they shelve nicely and can be stored with hardback books in a good looking bookcase when they're full without looking ratty.

So here's my blast from the past. Compare it with my current ones and laugh, because some of them have basic errors in layout or structure that were nonetheless finished, polished and detailed perfectly for days. Would've been great if I'd also known how to sketch then!

Pages are in order, oldest first.


Elf from Imagination - graphite, 2004.
I redid this chap about four times, darkening his darks and adding textures, adding background that he didn't have at first. He doesn't look as real as he would if I'd used a reference, but he's definitely a fantasy drawing. Could be worse. Could do much better now if I did him again from scratch.


Water Lily Scene - colored pencil, 2005.
I thought this was the height of colored pencils realism at the time I did it. I thought I'd blended and layered my colors so subtly. Little did I know that a pastels class in 2009 would completely change how I look at color and make this look so crude... there is a lot I'd change here. Though not the layout, the layout actually worked on this one. I might try using toothier paper too if I were going for a layered and burnished look.


Orange Flowers - colored pencil, 2005.
This one's all right, nice and saturated, I got a more burnished texture on the flowers themselves and didn't bother with a background. For what it is, I still like it a lot.

I'll put these in three posts, since there are a lot of them.
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Old 08-28-2010, 05:24 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

Hey, 6 years ago you were better than I am now! I like the style of your strokes on the first one. And you were definately very good with CP back then as well.

David
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Old 08-28-2010, 05:26 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

The next three are fun.


Carboniferous Shore - colored pencil, 2005.
This one is still pretty cool paleoart. I like it, unfortunately I wound up working right out to the edge of the paper in all directions. That made it a little hard to handle. Several animals are copied from other artists' illustrations and then markings changed, textures and colors added, so I wouldn't actually use this for anything like submitting to a paleo blog place. But for practice it's pretty darn good. Took a long long time to finish!

Compare it to my recent colored pencil nature studies. I think I've improved since then, but not so much that this stinks yet.


Little Brown Bird from Life - watercolor, 2005.
The little leaf buds on the branches are from imagination and wishful thinking. The little brown bird actually perched by my window a good long time, long enough to more or less get its markings right. I have no idea what it is, not being a birder, but it was a little brown bird up in the high branches next to my 4th floor window. An early experiment in loose Asian-influenced watercolor painting.

Just seeing this reminds me that I'm not anywhere near as housebound here as I was living there. Here on a good day I can get down into the rest of the house easily, get myself a snack or go out in the yard without going down five flights of stairs - the house was on a hill on top of it.

This is also where I broke the idea that everything in it had to be colored pencils realism. I felt bad about how empty the whole sketchbook was and decided I wanted to use it more as a sketchbook.


Winter Tree and Shadow - graphite, 2005.
Viewed from above on a winter day with snow all over the ground. I lived in Minnesota and couldn't say what month it was, but I'd been wishing for spring and put the leaf buds in the previous one hoping for them. This is more what it actually looked like, bare trees and shadows of branches over the snow. It's actually fairly accurate.

It also took me a couple of hours to do it as opposed to the life sketching I'm doing now. I look at it and can see a big difference from how I can sketch today - I could get that much texture and even a fair amount of that detail in much less time because I'd be doing the detail after blocking it in.

So that's three more pages of it - one more post and we'll be at the leading edge, the current empty pages with their layouts planned.
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Old 08-28-2010, 05:58 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

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.


Dragonfly Sketch - 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!
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Last edited by robertsloan2 : 08-28-2010 at 06:01 PM.
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Old 08-28-2010, 06:05 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

Quote:
Originally Posted by Davkin
Hey, 6 years ago you were better than I am now! I like the style of your strokes on the first one. And you were definately very good with CP back then as well.

David

Thank you! You're seeing why I thought I was already good at drawing when I joined WC - but I've learned so much since then and learned so much just the past year that I can see a major difference. Read some of the text with the later ones!
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Old 08-28-2010, 08:25 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

Robert, these are beautiful!!! I also like the one with the reptiles at the beach... You forgot to put their swimming trunks on though. No just kidding. Ha, ha!
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Old 08-28-2010, 08:38 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

I'd say you defintely should go ahead and finish this book up with your new sketching style. You'll have evidence in the same book of your progress. Hmmm.....that's an interesting idea. A sketchbook used just to demonstrate your progress. Do only one sketch every couple months so that it takes years to finish it.

What you said about the graphite tree is interesting. I've noticed as well that as I've practiced over time I can sketch more accurately, with more detail and in less time.

I think the little watercolor bird sketch is quite good though!

David
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Old 08-28-2010, 10:22 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

Awesome blast-from-the-past. Love the dino
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Old 08-28-2010, 10:43 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

While I can see what you are saying about mistakes in your drawings, they are still very good. I definitely think you should use the book in some way. After all, art supplies aren't just for sitting around. I like David's idea. Take this one out once in a while and add a sketch or two, kind of a snapshot of where you are as an artist as you progress. It may take a few years to actually fill it up, but that's ok, it's sat this long. You might even stick to the realistic colored pencil drawings as the bench mark, since that is the theme you started with.
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Old 08-28-2010, 11:36 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

Thank you! Actually, I'll be switching to Pitt pens, pen drawing, pencil, light colored pencils sketching and other thin-paper techniques. Maybe a few Asian style watercolors or sketch and wash but not much.

When I did this book I didn't understand surfaces as well as I do now. I didn't realize how much better Stonehenge is for layered colored pencils realism, or multi-media paper for wet applications. So I'll shift over to the mediums that work best on this paper and use it at the pace it goes. With what's in there now there's enough variety I don't think it'll be too jarring.

But from now on anything that big gets worked out small first and blocked in! No more starting from details and fill the page with layered CP glazes... when I do one of those I'll do notans first, plan it and block it in. I had no idea those preliminaries would be that helpful!
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Last edited by robertsloan2 : 08-28-2010 at 11:39 PM.
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Old 08-29-2010, 09:17 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

I loosened up with a Pitt Big Brush pen sketch of the Chinese Dragon in the WDE - that breaks the "all polished finished colored pencils paintings" completely. Sorry about the slightly irregular lines, I sketched directly with the pens and tonight my hand's starting to shake a bit, so I did the best I could to compensate for it. Photo reference by Agnesdale.

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Old 08-29-2010, 11:50 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

Nice stuff as usual, Robert! Interesting to see your older sketches - definitely can see progression in your ability, even though these are great as well. I particularly like the flowers here.
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Old 08-30-2010, 03:12 AM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

Cool dragon.
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Old 08-30-2010, 12:56 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

Thank you! I've got this out in reach now, so I'm going to relax and just sketch in it the way I did in the ProArt one till it's full. The paper's very similar and the size is just right for scanning. I'll just be sure to leave a gutter or use the penciled in layouts that I did the last time I fooled with it.
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Old 08-30-2010, 06:09 PM
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Re: Too Good To Use... Hardbound 2004-05

Hard to believe that you have EVER thought that a sketchbook was too good to use, but I'm glad that you showed us the sketches. That iris is spectacular!
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