Yay! It’s May 1 and that means it’s time for Every Day in May. Each year the Every Day Matters (Facebook) (Flickr) groups posts a list of cues and members commit to doing one drawing a day, all month long. The cue for day one is “Window.” My calico cat Fiona snoozing in her fuzzy bed, on a blanket, in a box from Costco, beneath the window in my home office, on a sunny (too hot) day was fun to draw.
Do you think there are enough prepositions in that last sentence? One of the few things I remember from all the stuff we had to memorize in school was a list of prepositions in alphabetical order. I can still cite them…. “about, above, after, against, along, among, around, at, before, beneath, beside, between…..” But why on earth did we need to memorize that list!!!!???
I am happy to say that the excellent new book Urban Sketching: The Complete Guide to Techniques by Thomas Thorspecken, includes this “Urban Animals” page (above) featuring my sketches of cats. When the publisher contacted me to request the use of the images, I was delighted. I was even happier when they sent my complimentary copies of the book and I saw all the really useful information and wonderful sketches it contains.
Field Guide to San Francisco
Then I got an email from an art director from the San Francisco office of the national advertising agency, Ogilvy. They were moving and she was designing a “Field Guide” to the new SF neighborhood for their employees. When searching for sketches of the area she found mine, and as she looked through my blog she found sketches to illustrate most of the pages in the guide.
(This would be a good time to point out to fellow art bloggers how important it is to tag or attach categories to your images and your posts. WordPress makes it easy; the feature is a little hidden in Blogger but it really helps to find posts or images with specific content.)
Historic Ships (and partial map from facing page). This one was actually drawn from a model in a case at a seafood restaurant!
Coit Tower and part of map on facing page. This sketch was made during last summer’s West Coast Sketchcrawl
Dogs are allowed, not lizards and bunnies; here are the rules. A collection of sketches from different days and sketchbooks
In the end, they licensed 18 of my sketches for use in the printed field guide. Above are a few of the pages, brilliantly composed by the art director.
What I’m working on now
I am honored to be working on a commissioned large watercolor painting for a couple who live in Europe now, but were married in a lovely building in a Bay Area park. The wife wants to give her husband the painting for their anniversary. I visited the venue and took photos and we agreed on a composition. The painting is underway and so far is going well, but because it is large and has many details, it is keeping me very busy (and happy) in the studio.
(I’m leaving out any identifying details about the locations to make sure there’s no way her husband will find out. I know that seems unlikely, but when working on a previous commissioned painting of a house for a surprise anniversary present for the husband, their daughter found the work-in-progress painting I’d posted of her parents’ house when she Googled “Oakland Federal Building,” landed on my sketch of the building, scrolled down and the next post was her home. She was so surprised to see it she called her parents!)
I’m running out of days in May and pages in my sketchbook so here are two pages with 3 days each. First, “Something that makes you laugh” is watching my silly cat Fiona trying to catch a piece of cotton twine I swing around for her on my bed. It was interesting drawing her standing from the perspective of looking down at her (from a blurry photo of her in motion).
Next is “Draw a Tote Bag.” I was surprised how fun it was to sketch. For “Draw a Screw” I drew this big, rusty screw I found in the garden. It was hard to focus on each turn of the thread so I generalized. It might have been a good concentration exercise to draw each one.
For “Draw the last thing you bought” I sketched the New Wave Palette I bought at Blick’s with a 40% off coupon. I’d never used a hand-held palette before and I’m liking it. Next is “A Summer Joy.” I tried to draw the water drops on the window of the studio on a rare and surprising rainy day in May. I should have made the rain drops transparent instead of using a white china marker to create a resist. For “Draw a Map.” I made a map of how to get to the bathroom from the studio.
Only one more day in May but 5 more days of prompts left to sketch. That just means I get to keep going into June. Yay!
I had fun with May 6: “Draw a Scented Product.” I sketched two scented “products” — one man-made and one cat-made. The man-made is a lovely (and expensive) room perfume (Vanilla, Bourbon and Mandarin) that I fell in love with at my dentist’s office and unlike most scented products doesn’t give me a headache. It nicely counteracts the scented product my cats produce on a regular basis.
“Draw a pine tree” was the cue for May 5. Easy…found one in my neighborhood bigger than a house and sketched it and painted it sitting in my car on a cold, foggy, windy day.
I’m experimenting with an inexpensive ($13.00) Winsor Newton Cotman watercolor palette. I like the format, size and light weight very much and the way the paint easily re-wets. Although the colors aren’t as intense as their artist’s grade paints they’re all permanent/lightfast. But that might be fine for sketching since it might help me keep the sketches simpler and save fancy washes for real watercolor paper.
What better way to improve drawing skills than to practice every day! I committed to the Every Day in May (Facebook, Flickr) challenge and have been really enjoying the practice, discipline and creativity the daily cues inspire. The first cue was: “Draw something bubbly.”
I had a sink full of dirty dishes awaiting me…a perfect excuse for bubbles. I got a little carried away and didn’t realize I’d drawn the cutting board on the counter floating in space instead. Oops. Under the pasted on list of sketching cues is a failed drawing of my cat that I wanted to hide and do over (below).
Next up was “Draw a Favorite Sound.” I cheated a bit since my cats weren’t actually purring when I sketched this. Fiona was annoyed at having her nap disturbed and Busby wouldn’t even turn around, too busy looking out the window. I sketched this one in pencil first because after the failed drawing I pasted over above, I needed a bit of success to boost my confidence.
I did some warm-up sketches of the cats in ink first, trying to learn more about their basic shapes. It’s amazing how little I really see and know a subject until I draw it. I see my cats constantly but drawing them is almost like seeing them for the first time.
I was asked to make a watercolor portrait of a beloved cat much missed by her family. This post will be their first chance to see what I’ve come up with so far. I’m not sure I’ve captured her appearance or spirit yet as her family knows her.
(UPDATE 6/12/2012) Yay! They loved the painting and are getting it framed.
They sent two beautiful photos of Lucy in different poses to work from. I had to guess a little since the photos only showed one paw and the bottom half of her ears and I wasn’t sure how accurate the colors were. Below are the studies I made before the painting above.
Fiona loves curling up in this funky old wool blanket. It was my grandmothers so despite it being in tatters I can’t part with it and use it as a throw on cold evenings. There is a corner missing that my sister’s rat munched off years ago, and another corner missing that I cut off and sent to an Australian artist friend, Allison Horridge, who was collecting fabrics for an art project.
I will be offline this week to focus on the Alla Prima Portraiture workshop with Rose Frantzen that I was so incredibly lucky to get into from her waiting list. She only teaches a couple of times a year; registration for her June class will be by lottery.
Meanwhile, I have the best pet sitter: Rachel McGraw of McGraw’s Paws. She is so professional, honest, kind, organized and caring. I wish all business owners could take a lesson from her. It’s weird having to show house-sitters and pet-sitters my other (neurotic) cat Busby’s hiding places: my closet behind the shoes, the bottom shelf of my dresser, kitchen cabinets (including the one above the fridge), under the couch and bed, or behind a painting drying rack.
Fiona likes everyone, and even Busby (above) who is scared of everyone likes Rachel.