Holidays in Ink Week 5 Sketches

I’ve had a very full week with family, including four delightful grandchildren, so my sketching has mostly been squeezed into afternoon nap/rest times and late evenings after the children are abed. I’ve also enjoyed sketching with six-year-old Paul and four-year-old Elizabeth, both budding artists; a couple of the sketches from this week were done while they also drew. In addition, I challenged myself to do quick gesture sketches of the children; that truly is a challenge, since they rarely hold one position for more than a few seconds. The evening I did gesture sketching from, set for three minutes per subject, felt like a luxury of time after sketching the children!

My first couple of sketches for week 5 were travel sketches, done in motels in the evenings after a day of travel.

I had very little knowledge of Texas geography, so I drew a map of the state with major cities.

Christmas Eve and  Christmas Day were great times for sketching the children as I spent time with them.

My son’s home is surrounded by beautiful trees, all crying out to be sketched.

And then there were quiet evenings sketching from images on my computer, while Stephen read Jane Eyre to me before bed.

I was inspired by my friend Jamie Grossman’s addition of line work practice to her quick gesture sketches, so I did likewise. Thank you, Jamie, for sharing your inspiring ideas!

I think I have sketched every day of Holidays in Ink, except for Thanksgiving Day. I didn’t always feel like getting started, but I was always glad to spend time slowing down, observing, and sketching once I got started. I’m looking forward to more sketching during this final week of Holidays in Ink!

Holidays in Ink Week 3 Sketches

This week I found myself getting more confident and a bit more enthusiastic about stretching myself out of my comfort zone, at least a few times. A couple times I started a page planning to do something I was very comfortable with, and then I gained confidence or inspiration and branched out.

The first sketch of the week was a familiar subject, Chickadees– my favorite birds– done as a Chinese ink brush painting. I had never used an ink stick and stone before, and these had been my father’s, so that was a special but poignant addition to that day’s sketching. He would have loved to have seen what I sketched. He always wanted to carefully look through and comment on my sketchbooks.

(Click on images to see them larger.)

Next I decided to travel by sketchbook to one of my favorite places– Schoodic Peninsula at Acadia National Park, and I sketched from a sunrise photo I had taken there. I don’t do a lot of sketching on toned paper, but I always enjoy it when I do, and I enjoyed both the process and the subject.

The next day I had a bit of a sketchbook accident that prompted me to add the “Story Sketch– Sketch your day in thumbnail sketches on a page” to my original plan to do the “Pathway” prompt. That was a fun way of redeeming an accident!

The following day I was busy all day and didn’t have a chance to pick up my sketchbook until evening, when Stephen was reading to me, so I decided to sketch my left hand. I’ve been reading Raphael: Painter in Rome, and one thing that stood out was how many, many sketches Raphael did to build his skill as a painter and also as an observer. I really want to do more studies and sketches of people, so hands fit right in. I’ve rarely been happy with the few hands sketches I’ve done, but I liked how these turned out. Not much page design that day; I was happy just to do some sketching after a full day.

After I had sketched my hand, Stephen was still reading (the Return of the King was at a gripping point, so we read much later than usual), and I decided to try sketching him with a white gel pen on black paper. That was marginally successful but definitely fun to do!

Drip painting is really outside my comfort zone! I started to feel frustrated when working on it on Saturday, but then I reminded myself that I was just learning and playing with it and not trying to create a masterpiece. That helped, and I ended up enjoying the process so much I think I’ll try it again, even though I know it’ll never be my forte. The one of Stephen (you probably couldn’t tell it was of him) was a real mess, so I took a palette knife to it and moved the color around, and in the end I kind of like how it turned out. After messing around with that, I decided to do my favorite black locust tree, and I actually like the loose, spontaneous feel of that one. I think I’ll be trying more trees using this strange combination of tar gel and acrylic paint.

After doing the drip paintings I decided to relax a bit and sketch trees, so I pulled out one of my photos of Meadowbrook Farm’s orchard and did a sketch of the apple trees in winter. I purposefully kept most of the paper white on this one. Sometimes I like the cleanness of open space on a page, although in this case I wonder whether a border would be a nice addition.

I stayed home Sunday morning and streamed our church service from my rocking chair in the kitchen, sketching the trees out the window during parts of the service. I almost always find sketching trees very meditative and conducive to prayer.

Later that afternoon I decided to use the “Patterns in Nature” prompt to study the bark of different tree species, and that was  educational and also challenging as I tried to capture color and texture using various inks and methods of applying the ink. That page has a simple layout, but I like it. I’m still debating whether or not to add a border. If I were handy with Photoshop I would see how it would look with a border, but I am definitely not handy or happy with Photoshop, so for now I’m just trying to imagine what it would look like.

My final page of the week– “10 Minute Sketches of a Stump over 3 Years”– was another page for which my plan changed as I did it. I was planning to do three sketches of stumps– three different stumps, all with a light ink wash and a dip pen. But halfway through my first sketch I remembered that I had photographed the same stump on three different visits to Schoodic Peninsula at Acadia National Park, and I decided to sketch the gradual changes in the stump over the years and also to use a different approach with each sketch. I wasn’t altogether happy with one of the sketches, but I was happy with my page layout and also with the concept, so it was a good learning experience.

I spent acouple of evenings working on a sketch of the Bedford Oak, trying to keep track of where it’s twisting limbs crossed and crossed.

One big take away I’ve had so far during Holidays in Ink is the fun it can be to try new things, sometimes with success, sometimes not. I am becoming more comfortable with process and, while I am happier and happier with the layout of my pages, I am also starting to become more relaxed about the inevitable less than stellar results I sometimes get.

Have you been sketching in ink? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you’d like to see my sketches from earlier weeks of Holidays in Ink, click here to see my Holidays in Ink Week 2 Sketches and here for my Week 1 Sketches.

Holidays in Ink Week 2 Sketches

I’ve had another enjoyable and sometimes challenging week of Holidays in Ink sketching. I’m finding the challenge and self-imposed accountability of daily sketching in ink is helping me in more ways than I expected. When I have not felt inspired or motivated, instead of deciding not to sketch or to only sketch what is familiar and easy for me, I have pushed myself to get started or to push beyond my comfort zone, and have invariably found that inspiration has followed effort. That’s been encouraging on those days and a good lesson for the future. Of course I have experienced that lesson in the past in many different contexts, but this has been a good refresher on that lesson and a good reminder that art is often a paradigm for the rest of life.

I have also very much benefitted from seeing what friends have done with their ink sketching. It’s always inspiring to me to see how others work and motivates me to tackle subjects or approaches I hadn’t previously considered. Of course, along with that comes the temptation I’m guessing most of us deal with to compare our work and ourselves to others, but that, too, has given me opportunity to evaluate my attitudes and to clarify my reasons for pursuing my art. I draw, sketch, and paint because I love doing it, because it is an ability God has given me for my own enjoyment and to bless others, and because I cannot not do art. Even on the rare occasions I decide not do it for some reason, I find myself doodling or, at the very least, sketching what I’m seeing in my mind or evaluating the colors, shapes, and beauty surrounding me– God’s amazing artwork in his creation.

Last Tuesday I pulled out Stephen’s photos of the Sharp-shinned Hawk I had sketched from life on Sunday. First I worked slowly and carefully sketching it in color, trying to get details just right. That sketch turned out looking like an uncomfortably stuffed taxidermy specimen. That evening before I went to bed I grabbed my Tombow Gray/Black Dual Tip Brush Pen and did a quick (about three minute) sketch of the Sharpie. I like the more spontaneous feel of that sketch much more than the carefully overdone version. (For some reason it scanned as green, but it’s actually gray.)

One artist I really like is Rien Poortvliet, a Dutch artist who sketched and painted many dogs, wild animals, and people. I especially love his fox sketches, and I’ve been wanting to get a better sense of fox structure so I can more successfully sketch them from life when they pay us their brief visits, so I decided to use some of his paintings as references.

After sketching the foxes, I decided to do a study of Canid skulls to become familiar with some of the similarities and differences. I did those over two days, since they took lots of time and focus. That was definitely not a relaxing subject for sketching!

After the first day of skull sketching I decided to return to one of my favorite subjects– trees. First I sketched one of our black locusts from the window of my prayer bungalow using a new-to-me ink that my friend Jamie Grossman had given me- Cacao du Bresil. What a fascinating color, somewhere between brown and gray with hints of pink and purple! I loaded it into a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and sketched the tree from the its western side in morning light. Then in the afternoon I sketched the eastern view of the same tree from our deck (it was chilly but sunny) using Yama Guri ink in my Hero 578 bent nib fountain pen. I love doing comparison sketches like that, and I love this gnarly tree who is full of character from many years of living.

After refreshing myself by doing tree sketches I was ready for a challenge again and finished up my skull sketch, then moved on to doing some contour line drawings, something I have only done a few times. The idea is to draw the outline of the subject in one continuous line, without shading, looking mostly at the object. I enjoyed this much more than I expected. Acadia kept moving, so I did several rather quick sketches of her.

Then yesterday I decided to move on to Blind Contour Line Drawings. That was much more challenging, even though I “cheated” a fair amount, so it wasn’t totally “blind,” as in drawing without looking at the paper at all. With the flowers I made the mistake of using water soluble ink, so when I went over it with watercolor, the ink ran, but I kind of like the effect. Maybe it distracts from how far off the mark my lines are. 😉 After struggling with the flowers (I always struggle with florals, even when looking at both paper and flowers), I decided to do a blind contour sketch of my favorite tree. That went better, and I will continue doing this exercise with subjects I love.

I’m looking forward to another good week of Holidays in Ink! This week I’m hoping to pull out Yupo paper and some markers to play with some different forms of ink, and I might also do a drip painting. That will definitely stretch me out of my comfort zone but should be fun!

Holidays in Ink Week 1 Sketches

I have had a great time sketching in ink this week! I’ve been enjoying familiar subjects and methods, as well as experimenting with new-to-me subjects and approaches. I’ve especially appreciated the motivation and momentum I’ve gained from doing this project with others and having the detailed prompt lists. My friend Jamie Grossman, who came up with the Holidays in Ink challenge, is always inspiring with her abundance of creative ideas and her willingness to step outside the box and try things that are beyond her comfort zone, That has inspired me to also step outside my comfort zone and, as Jamie said in her recent post, Holidays in Ink Week 2, that can be uncomfortable, but it has also been exciting as I am learning new approaches and tackling subject matter I never thought I’d try drawing.

Below are some of my sketches from this first week. I am still trying to develop more of a rhythm in how I approach my sketching (as I am in much of my daily life), and I have all sorts of things I want to try in the coming weeks. Mostly, though, I am enjoying the calming effect of sketching along with the invigorating effect of stretching myself as I try new approaches.

The first day I had big plans and had been bursting with eagerness to get started with something challenging, but I felt like I hit a wall and couldn’t get enthusiastic about drawing anything. I finally decided to start with something I knew and loved sketching– a tree. It was a somewhat warm, sunny day, so I took a chair out into the yard and sat quietly and meditatively sketching for over an hour, until my fingers were getting stiff from the dropping temperature. I came inside chilled but feeling peaceful and with my spirits lifted, and I did some calligraphy of a verse that corresponded to my sketch.

On Wednesday and Friday I again drew trees (I skipped sketching on Thanksgiving Day).

On Saturday Stephen and Ramble and I went for a hike, so I did some quick sketches on location and then did a more careful sketch at home based on one of my sketches and a photo I took.

I had a great time sketching on Sunday! First, we had a Sharp-shinned Hawk visit in one of our shrubs for long enough for me to do a fairly detailed sketch from life. That was a treat! Then our pastor showed a picture of an angel painted by Raphael (he’s talking about angels in the Bible during Advent and showed some images of how people erroneously picture angels). I have been reading Raphael, Painter in Rome: A Novel, by Stephanie Storey, so I decided to try the “Copy a Master” prompt. That was way outside my comfort zone, but turned out to be fun and was a lot more successful than I expected. And then in the evening I did some portrait sketches while Stephen read The Two Towers by J.R. R. Tolkien to me (the book was at a very scary part, so sketching helped me not get too tense).

On Monday I read about Notan design or Notan sketches (one of the process prompts), which was completely new to me. It’s the idea of only sketching in two or three values, capturing light and shadow, in order to increase the impact. I decided to do it with just two values, and I really enjoyed doing that! The two sketches on one page are based on photos, and the one of Stephen is from life, again while he was reading to me (now we’re starting The Return of the King by Tolkien).

I am looking forward to week 2!


Preparing for Holidays in Ink

I am eager to join my friend Jamie Grossman in her Holidays in Ink Challenge, which will run from Tuesday, November 24, 2020 to Saturday, January 2, 2021. In fact I’m so eager that I was all set to start tomorrow, November 1st, until Jamie reminded me that it doesn’t start until two days before Thanksgiving! I have way too many pens of all sorts (if it’s actually possible to have too many pens), and I love experimenting and drawing with inks of various colors. I’m looking forward to sketching familiar subjects with my accustomed methods and also to stretching myself with new subjects, new techniques, and new supplies (what artist doesn’t love the idea of new supplies!).

One thing I very much appreciate about Jamie is her enthusiasm for learning and trying new things; she’s a great example and is also very generous with sharing her ideas and knowledge. She’s always encouraging her friends to grow as artists, without pressuring them to do what she does. In that vein, Jamie has come up with two prompt lists, one of subjects and one of process prompts. There’s no pressure to follow the prompts in any order or even to follow them at all; they are a resource to encourage experimenting and playing with new ideas while doing Holidays in Ink, not a prescription that must be followed.

See below for links to Jamie’s post about Holidays in Ink and for downloadable PDF’s of the prompt lists.

Here’s Jamie’s post with nitty gritty details and prompt lists: Holidays in Ink Challenge– Details and Prompt Lists

Below are downloadable PDF’s of the prompt lists: