Category Archives: Drawings

Testing Materials (5) – Black Drawing Paper

I have a Strathmore black drawing paper pad that I bought for colored pencil drawings. Unfortunately after a few attempts, I came to the conclusion that colored pencil is too testing for my patience and on black paper, that’s even more so. A drawing like the following, to reach the desired effect (smoother skin, brighter color etc.), would need probably another 20 to 50 layers of coloring (or skills I don’t have to begin with):

Lily, colored pencil, 9 x 12 in, 2020

So what to do with the rest of the paper? Gouache came to mind because the colors come thick and don’t need much water (or at least you can use it that way).

Jazmine, gouache on paper, 9 x 12 in, 2020

I very much like the effect, but as you can see there are wrinkles on paper caused by accidental water drops.

Here’s another one:

Monique, gouache on paper, 9 x 12 in, 2020

After I did these paintings, I found out that Stonehenge actually has a line of black watercolor paper. Order placed already, and stay tuned!

Looking Out of My Window

Sometimes when I run out of ideas, I stare at the trees outside my window. Occasionally, I draw or sketch them:

Since I am a bit running out of topic recently, I turned my window scene into a couple of paintings:

Window Scene 1, watercolor on paper, August, 2020
Window Scene 2, watercolor on paper, August 2020

There are usually squirrels dancing on the branches and crows meeting on those roofs, and once in a while, I am waken up by wood peckers attacking the trunks. Some day, I will manage to catch them in my “window paintings.” 🙂

100 Day Art Challenge (4) – Day 76 – Day 100

For the first 75 days, see 

Click on the thumbnails to see a bigger image:

100 Day Art Challenge (3) – Day 51 – Day 75

For the first 50 days, see 100 Day Art Challenge (1) – Day 1 to Day 25, and 100 Day Art Challenge (2) – Day 26 to Day 50.

Click on the thumbnails to see a bigger image:

100 Day Art Challenge (2) – Day 26 – Day 50

For the first 25 days, see 100 Day Art Challenge (1) – Day 1 to Day 25

Click on the thumbnails to see bigger images:

Experimenting with Materials (2) – Elegant Writer

Elegant Writer is a special type of water-soluble marker that bleeds in various colors. They have chiseled nibs and are probably made for calligraphy. I couldn’t remember when I bought my set, but somehow for many years, rarely used them. It’s time to give these markers a chance before they completely dry out.

Black Elegant Writer on paper:

Dorian, marker on paper, 10 x 14 in, July 2020

Add water to the above drawing:

Dorian, marker on paper, July 2020

Blue and black:

Serge, marker on paper, 7 x 8 in, July 2020

Testing other colors:

Colorful features, July 2020

A few notes:

  • I used regular Canson drawing paper, and I believe to what extend it’s soluble depends on paper. So test it.
  • The black one is the most interesting. It bleeds in blueish, greenish and reddish gray and really adds to the drawing.
  • The blue one gives out some pinkish hue in addition to blue, but the green, red and the brown ones are pretty much just their own colors.
  • The red, blue and green colors are more staining than black.
  • I have no training in calligraphy, but I can see a trained hand could produce more interesting lines with a chiseled nib.

Loosen up

Feeling very tongue-tied recently, and I am constantly looking for things to loosen up. I’ve been practicing figure drawing for a while and mainly paying attention to proportion, anatomy and value. I understand there are a lot more to practice in each area, but I thought maybe I could take a break, try a different approach, loose, casual, and free?

For years I have in my possession a great book by Bill Buchman called Expressive Figure Drawing. It is full of eye-opening and inspiring artworks, and each time I went through it, I had the feeling that I want to fly (not literally or course, with my pen and brushes and colors). So once again I went through the book, dug out some colorful ink and dipping pens (free dancing colorful lines is another dream of mine), and ready, set, go –

Bridgette, 9 x 12 in, June 2020
Jeff, 9 x 12 in, June 2020

LOL at myself, what a tangled and tightened mess! The second I picked up the pen, my attention was all on accuracy and likeness. I managed to approach value with a different method, but there’s no real freedom in it. I think it’s probably because even though I have learned the basics of figure drawing, I haven’t practiced enough to internalize them yet. I guess I can only set myself free when I am able to deliver the correct proportion, anatomy and values without thinking about them. More practice, in other words.

On the other hand, these drawings do reflect my current mental status – neurotic but still managed. 😂

100 Day Art Challenge (1) – Day 1 to Day 25

I’ve been doing the 100 Day Art Challenge at New Masters Academy for a while. I chose to focus on the figures and portraits for this challenge. Here are the first 25 days of the paintings and drawings I’ve done.

Take a look (click on the thumbnail to see a bigger image) :

Dancers

Found a beautiful book, The Art of Movement by Ken Brewer and Deborah Ory. It’s a collection of dance photography. It’s a great book to study figures and motions. I did some sketches and drawings from it:

Dancers, watercolor on paper, May 2020
Couple Dancers, watercolor on paper, May 2020
Infinity, charcoal on paper, 18 x 24 in, May 2020

The last one is a strange pose. It has an enclosed and squarish quality and a lot of symmetry. The lighting is mainly top-down, making it more grounded and static. It’s not a composition that I would normally choose to work on. On the other hand, there’s a nice contrast between the infinity loop formed by the arm, and zig-zag pattern formed by heads, torso and the legs in the middle. There’s tension and connection between the two dancers at the same time and that’s what I was aiming for when starting the piece. However, as I worked on, and as always, I was distracted by the details, and lost my focus. I think the zigzagging is there, but the details of the hands cut in the flow of the loop. I also think the value contrast is not enough and shapeless. I think this is mainly because I am still copying what I see instead of using it as a reference to create. I hope when I have a better grasp of human figure, I could look beyond the photo and draw my interpretation.

Copying Masters (11) – Yoshitoshi

Japanese woodblock printing (ukiyo-e) has a profound influence in western art since 19th century. “Japonism” has a visible presence in the art of many big names, such as Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin etc.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839 -1892; also named as Taiso Yoshitoshi 大蘇芳年) was generally regarded as the last great master of the this art tradition. He was a very bold, imaginative and prolific artist. Some of the images he created are regarded as gruesome and disturbing. His most famous series are One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (1885–1892), and New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts (1889–1892).

In “Kiyomori sees hundreds of skulls at Fukuhara,” from the series New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts, Yoshitoshi portrayed the famous Japanese general (or soldier-dictator) Taira Kiyomori (平清盛, 1118 – 1181), who created the the first samurai-dominated government. The main attraction for me is the decisive and effective line work, and the presence of the character:

The original:

My copy:

After Yoshitoshi, watercolor and ink on paper, 11 x 15 in, 2020

A few notes:

  • This is not an exact copy, partially because the paper I used was a failed texture experiment. I have to work with un-intended marks here and there.
  • Copying line work is a tricky business: you want to be careful because the ink is permanent; but if you are too careful you’ll lose the force and the gesture of the line.
  • Sometimes having random textures or marks on paper is not necessarily a bad thing. You are forced to be creative since you have to work around or work against it.
  • My general has funny little hands.

Here’s my attempt of the ukiyo-e style:

Where to, watercolor and ink on paper, 11 x 15 in, 2019

This earlier post is in that line too:

Full moon, watercolor on paper, 11 x 14, 2019

By the way, the art of ukiyo-e fell out of fashion in Japan in the late 19th century but saw a come back since the 70s in Asia. Some young artists incorporated the line works and the fanciful contents into Chinese fine brush painting or watercolor painting.