Art theory Book review Drawing Faces People Sketchbook Pages

Learning to Draw Heads: Practice and Study with Skulls and Loomis Method

Smiley Skull and Smiley Guy study, HB pencil, 4x6"
Smiley Skull and Smiley Guy study, HB pencil, 4x6"

In preparation for my Alla Prima Portrait Painting workshop with Rose Frantzen next month, I wanted to work on my drawing skills so I can keep up in class. Although I draw all the time, I discovered I really had no understanding of head and facial construction.

Skulls and Faces, HB pencil, 11x9"
Skulls and Faces in the Same Positions, HB pencil, 11x9"

I usually draw what I see, compare shapes, angles and plumb lines to try to get some accuracy, but I don’t worry about it too much. That wasn’t cutting it when it came to drawing heads.

So I turned to the great book by Andrew Loomis, recently back in print, Drawing the Head and Hands. His books are also available as PDFs here on the web. There is an excellent explanation with clear examples of the Loomis approach here on Stan Propopenko’s blog so I won’t go into it here. All of my drawings in this post started with the Loomis ball divided in thirds with the jaw then added on.

Skulls and Muscles from Loomis book, 11x9"
Skulls and Muscles from Loomis book, 11x9"

I worked through the Loomis book and when I came to his skull and muscle drawings in the book I tried copying them (above). I also tried some other books’ methods of constructing heads (using an egg shape, a block, double ovals, etc.) but none worked as well as the Loomis approach.

I wanted to do more than copying sketches so I started drawing skulls and people I found on a Google image search, drawing the people in about the same position as the skulls (the two pics at top of post and the one below).

Book review Flower Art Painting Published work Watercolor

“How to Paint Watercolor Flowers” (I’m in the book)

How to paint watercolor flowers: Create Your Own Masterpiece in 6 Easy Steps
My work in the book: How to Paint Watercolor Flowers

A year ago the English publisher Quarto commissioned me to do a series of paintings for a book (working title) “Must Paint Watercolor Flowers” and at last it arrived in the mail! Now named How to Paint Watercolor Flowers: Create Your Own Masterpiece in 6 Easy Steps, it features my paintings and those of 15 other artists, along with step-by-step instructions showing how we made our paintings.

The book has 160 pages and at 11″x 9.5″ is much bigger than their “Watercolor Artist’s Bible” in which I also had several paintings. It is laid out with a beautiful 8×10 photo of the flower subject on the left side and photo-illustrated step-by-step instructions for creating the finished watercolor beside it. Hard-cover spiral binding allows the book to lay open flat for artists who wish to try the techniques while painting from the photos.

I loved seeing the beautiful work of the other artists and the many ways they approached the wide variety of subjects and techniques. The flower photos are superb, with permission granted to use them for your own paintings. The book also has excellent sections on watercolor technique, color, value, and photographing your own flowers for painting.

I haven’t read all the step-by-steps, but I’m guessing that like me, few of the artists actually created their work in just the six steps that we were limited to when writing up and photographing our work. Instead the editor highlights the key techniques that were especially important to each particular painting.

If you’d like to see my work in the book with more steps than were published (on pages 41, 65, 131), you can see them on my blog (Sunny Serenade Part I, Part II, Part III; Pink Orchid, Becoming Begonias).

Disclaimer: I have no financial investment in the book; I was paid per painting for the publisher’s right to print my work, but receive no royalties or other benefit from sales of the book itself from the publisher or via Amazon links.

Art supplies Berkeley Book review Building Drawing Ink and watercolor wash People Places Shop windows Sketchbook Pages

Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore: Mockingjay District 12 Window Display

District 12 at Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore, Ink & watercolor
District 12 at Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore, Ink & watercolor

Since I’d read, and surprisingly enjoyed, The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins’ first book in her dystopian futuristic trilogy, I understood why this display was in the Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore window: it was advertising the third book in the series, Mockingjay.

The Hunger Games trilogy is about a boy and a girl struggling to survive an annual contest where teenagers from 12 impoverished districts are forced to fight for their lives in the ultimate televised reality show, with the winner bringing honor to her district. When a reliable friend recommended this young adult novel, I was highly skeptical on so many levels. But I found it to be a good read (or listen really–I borrowed the book on CD from the library).

Goorin Hats, Berkeley
Goorin Hats, Berkeley

Before sketching Mrs. Dalloways, this little brown craft-paper sketchbook from the UC Davis college bookstore (a gift from my friend Pete Scully) was perfect for warm-up sketches with a brush pen. College Avenue is full of interesting, upscale little shops like this hat shop.

This previous sketch of Mrs. Dalloway’s is one of my favorites. It’s a wonderful bookstore with a special focus on books about gardens.

Animals Art supplies Book review Bookbinding Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Painting Sketchbook Pages

A Frog and a Journal Named Froggie

Frog, ink and watercolor
Frog, ink and watercolor

I was listening to Ruth Reichl‘s book “Not Becoming My Mother and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way” while I sketched on a rainy Sunday, feeling a bit mopey. That book was the perfect antidote to mopeyness.

After her mother’s death, Reichl finds her mother’s journals and discovers the story of  how her quirky mother tried to make sure her daughter wouldn’t suffer the unfulfilled life she’d had, restricted by the roles available to women of her generation.

The book is full of humor, love and amazing stories. I’m grateful that my public library has great audio books available to download for free. It ends with this great quote:

…and the most important thing I learned is that you are the only one who can make yourself happy. It is never too late to find out how to do it.” ~Ruth Reichl

I drew the frog above (from a photo on my monitor) to practice before I drew the frog on the cover of my journal (below) which I’ve named Froggie:

Froggie Journal, india ink on book cloth
Froggie Journal, India & gold gel ink

The Legion Multimedia Aquarelle paper the book is bound with is holding up even better than I expected. It’s nice and smooth for writing and drawing with ink from various pens, and accepts watercolor beautifully and even allows for lifting off and repainting and other kinds of abuse.

I love spending time with my journal which is like a dear friend, a place to come for solace when I need to write and sort things out, a library for recording visual and emotional discoveries, ideas, thoughts, and experiments.