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Life Drawing – Practice, Practice Practice

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into my friend Mike Rosenbaum, a caricature artist here in Denver. He and I had gone to school together, but haven’t hung out in a long time. We immediately made plans to catch up. He told me about this life drawing session at the Lakewood Cultural Arts Center, so we headed over there on Thursday.

Life Drawing in a Nutshell

If are an artist and you have never been to a life drawing session, I highly recommend that you go regularly. I hadn’t gone in over a year, but it came back pretty quickly. Different sessions have different formats, but the basics are:

  1. Short gesture drawings, usually 1-five minutes per pose
  2. Longer poses, about 10 minutes or so
  3. Slightly longer poses 20-30 minutes each. Here the model is usually seated or reclined, though some will stand.
  4. Long poses of 40 minutes to 2 hours. For the longest of these, the model will take a break at the halfway point to rest, then resume the pose to the best of his/her ability.

The session I went to last week had about five 1-minute poses, five 5-minute poses, one 10-minute poses and four poses that were between 20 and 30 minutes long. One minute per pose is a harrowing pace if you’re not used to it. It is, however, essential. If you can figure out the pose at one minute, with 20 or 30, you will have so much more time to work in the details. This makes it all worthwhile, to me.

The Results

Below are the drawings I did last week. One is missing because I gave it to the model. Sometimes they will take art in lieu of tips, though tips are encouraged as well.

Thanks for stopping in! Don’t forget that this Saturday is the Meet The Artist reception for Women Behaving Badly at the Blair Caldwell Library. I will be there from 2:30 -4:30 pm to answer any questions you have about the art and the series.

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A Custom Portrait for Someone You Love

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Fixing Some Glitches

 

Hey everyone,

I’ve been a bit infrequent with my posts of late, but for good reason! First, I have moved. My wife and I have finally given up our nomadic lifestyle and have actually signed a lease. Since her job takes up the lion’s share of her time, it was my duty to step up and get this place organized. I feel so domestic: cooking, cleaning, decorating… it’s been good times. But, it has also taken me out of the studio a bit, so I haven’t been drawing or posting much. 

Time to get back in the saddle! I have been trouble shooting some glitches in my website that you may or may not have noticed. The mobile menu had WAY too many items in it for a while there, so now that’s all fixed. I have also finally got my Instagram feed working properly. Most of my random sketches, drawings and works in progress go on Instagram first, and I realized that I was leaving you blog readers out of the loop. Having the feed connected to my page will allow you to see what I’m doing in between big projects.

New Products!

Over the last few weeks, I have been uploading some of my older ink drawings to the web store. These original works in pen and ink are available for sale in the store. They represent the middle/low price range of my artwork. If you are into the nerdy side of pop culture like Firefly, Doctor Who and Supernatural, you are going to dig these. Each one is done old school style in pen and ink, meaning I actually dipped a nib into India Ink to make marks on paper. It takes a steady hand and enough patience not to splash ink around. I love the challenge of the medium and I hope that love and care shows in each line. Check out the shop or follow this link to take one home.

Buy Original Ink Drawings


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Postcard Prints. Decisions, Decisions…

Good afternoon everyone! I’m planning on getting some postcards printed out to sell in the Helikon shop and I’m not sure which designs to choose. Since it’s still Inktober, I’m going to bring back some of my older ink pieces. The next few blog posts will be a choice between two pieces at a time. Whichever images get the most votes are the ones I’ll print out on the first run. These cards will also be available here on the website for $5 each.

If one of these images doesn’t make the cut, but you really, really want one, please let me know and I’ll do a special order just for you.

This first one goes out to you Supernatural Fans. Which Castiel should I print?

Upcoming Events

  1. Women Behaving Badly at the Blair Caldwell Library


    October 26 @ 8:00 am5:00 pm

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Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Who is she?

Rigoberta Menchu Tum is a K’iche’ political activist, an indigenous Guatemalan woman who promotes indigenous rights and fights for the rights of women in her country. After losing most of her family to the Guatemalan civil war, which lasted form 1960 to 1996, Menchu worked tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of that war to justice.

What did she do?

In 1982, she dictated the book “My Name is Rigoberta Menchu and this is how my Conscience was Born”, winning international acclaim and calling attention to the ongoing conflict in Guatemala, as well as the ill treatment of its mostly Mayan people. Menchu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for “her work in social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.” She created the Rigoberta Mentu Tum Foundation, which helped indigenous Guatemalans in exile return home.

Why does that matter?

Rigoberta Menchu Tum gave a voice to the indigenous people of her country and paved the way for justice to be served. There is still a long way to go before the country is completely healed, but many people are dedicated to the task.

You may be thinking to yourself, “those look like shell casings….” Yes, those are shell casings that I glued to the piece to enhance the violence of the time. 30 years is a LONG time for a civil war.

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Katherine Johnson

I’ve been so busy getting ready for this show, I’ve forgotten to post my last few paintings. Time to rectify that little oversight.

This painting is of Katherine Johnson.

Who is she?

Katherine Johnson was a computer for NASA, back when it was a job description, not a machine. She and a number of other Black women answered the call when NASA was looking for women to work in their fledgling space program.

What did she do?

One of the West Area Computers, Katherine Johnson did the calculations that astronauts relied on for some of America’s earliest space travel. She was so good at her job, even after the electronic computer had been invented, astronaut John Glenn requested that Johnson personally check the machine’s calculations before he took off for his mission on Friendship 7.

Why does that matter?

Katherine Johnson and other pioneers in her field are living proof that women have a place in science and technology. Without her efforts, American astronauts would not have left this planet when they did, and humanity would not know as much about Earth’s place in the universe.

I pushed myself a bit further on this one. I even managed to hunt down a toy space shuttle to indicate Johnson’s importance to the Space Program. I’m enjoying the 3D elements and will definitely be playing with that more in future paintings.

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WBB Painting of Dolores Huerta

Who is she?

Dolores Huerta is a civil rights activist who advocates for equality for women and Latin workers and immigrants.
What did she do?
Huerta helped to start the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization which fought for economic improvements for Latinos. She was the only Latin woman in a field of White man and was strongly criticized for that. But there was no deterring Huerta. She went on to press local governments to improve the barrios in California and co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Cesar Chavez to help migrant workers bargain with an agricultural enterprise, the Schenley Wine Company, to earn better wages and have better working conditions.
After being severely beaten my the San Francisco Police Department during a peaceful protest in 1988, Dolores Huerta started a movement to change the SFPD crowd control policies. After a lengthy convalescence, she turned toward women’s rights, encouraging Latinas to run for office and advocating for more women in general to see political power. This campaign resulted in a significant increase in the number of women representatives in local, state and federal government.
Why does that matter?
Dolores Huerta has helped to empower migrant farmers and women to fight for their own rights and to make their voices heard. She brought public awareness to the plight of the farmers and helped to ensure that our food does not come at a high human cost. Because of Huerta, we are now up to 22% female representation in our nation’s capital and a stage average of 31%. That’s still far from 50%, so there is still work to do.
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The Chocolate Museum

Marin and I are obsessed with the Choco Museo, or the Chocolate Museum. We discovered it on our first day in Miraflores and have not been able to resist going back again and again.

Both of us are kind of chocolate snobs. We won’t eat milk chocolate, dark chocolate that’s less than 67% or any chocolate containing soy lecithin, the additive that makes chocolate feel waxy in your mouth. We know our chocolate!

When you first walk in, you are handed a cup of chocolate tea. You know how when you drink hot chocolate, there’s this grittiness in your mouth when you’re done? Well, chocolate tea has all the deliciousness of hot chocolate minus the grit. You make it by steeping the hush of the cocoa bean in hot water and adding sugar or honey. We were in love at first taste!

After the tea, we were shown different varieties of beans from different regions in Peru, given samples of white, milk and dark chocolate chips, as well as liqueur, jams, butters and bars.

There are several Choco Museos around the country and each offers chocolate making workshops. We are excited to attend the one in Cusco where we will learn how to make chocolate from bean to bar.

In honor of this magical place, I have created this painting. I am definitely going to have to duplicate it when I get home.

The sketch phase, done with my nifty stick pen and blue watercolor.
The sketch phase, done with my nifty stick pen and blue watercolor.
Inking. I pulled out my Microns for this job. I wanted that illustrative feel.
Inking. I pulled out my Microns for this job. I wanted that illustrative feel.

 

 

The final colors. I want you to taste the chocolate! Go on! Taste it!
The final colors. I want you to taste the chocolate! Go on! Taste it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How I Do What I Do – Part 2

 

Ms Alicia Keys. I love her music and the energy and spirit she brings to it. For this piece, I decided to show that spirit by using a watercolor technique I learned ages ago.

The first step, as always, is to do the under drawing. Once I had that in, this time, I chose to do the background first, as I knew that I was going to be working pretty abstractly and didn’t want to put in all this detail work, only to mess it up. I wet the paper, then laid down a wash of Prussian blue and Cobalt blue, allowing the color to fade as I got higher up on the painting. I actually had the paper upside-down for this.

 

Now comes the technique. I dropped salt into the wet wash, in this case, both table salt and big chunks of sea salt. What this does is repel the pigment, causing these little blooms to appear. No way I would have been able to do this with a brush. To add to the effect, I then sprayed water onto the salted wash and moved the paper around a bit. This is how I got that kind of flowing effect. (For now I’m unable to take photos while actually working, but that may change soon.) Below are pics of the wet and dry result.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After that, I started working on her face, blocking in the colors in thin washes, then slowly building them up, layer by layer.

I find that it’s better to do all the skin tones at once, since I don’t really pre-mix my colors, but make them on the fly. I have found that if I do skin, then outfit or hair, then skin again, I lose homogeneity and my piece starts looking a bit Frankenstein-ish. Because the darker colors are so powerful and more likely to run, I put them in last. These give contrast and really make the facial features pop.

 

 

 

 

I keep going, adding the details of her jacket and voila! The finished portrait.

 

As with all my pieces, this one is available in the shop, both as an original and a giclee print. Please stop in again for future works. Thank you for visiting!

 

 

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How I Do What I Do – Part 1

So, there are going to be a number of these because if you are familiar with my Facebook page and my Instagram profile, you have seen that I post my step by step, work in progress pictures. Sometimes I’ll tell you what’s in my head while I’m working, but often enough, I only post the photo. Here, I’ll give you a little insight into what I’m thinking while I work.

Let’s start with my Ray Charles piece. With this one, I actually started with a black and white image. I wanted to challenge myself to build up color while focusing on value. By value,I mean light and dark.

You can see in the first image, that I don’t have any color information to work with, but that’s alright. I used the other reference images, here, to get what I wanted. I only needed a baseline of his complexion to get me where I was going.

From there, I started to work up the tones. Because I was only looking at the black and white image for much of my painting time (I was in the park and didn’t want to carry too many things) I started by thinking like a screen printer and built up the contrast in the lightest color first, my yellow ocher. You can see in the image below that it’s pretty rough. That’s because I was using a large, flat brush to get my color onto my paper. I was intentionally fast and loose and was only thinking in terms of light and shadow. I did not allow myself to blend at all at this stage.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles Yellow

Next, I added my Cadmium Red Hue and started refining the shape the color was taking on. I wanted to be sure that I blended where I wanted a mid tone, but left some of the yellow and white as highlights. You can see that I am much more careful with my color placement and the painting is starting to feel more like Ray. I’m still working with a pretty large brush, but toward the end, have switched to a smaller one. I LOVE Chinese calligraphy brushes for watercolor painting. I love the way they hold water and pigment and transfer it smoothly to the page, and I especially love how sharp a point I can get with them, allowing me to go quickly from thick to thin lines in a single stroke. I can usually get by with one or two brushes at this stage in the painting.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles Red

After the red layer, where I have built up the majority of the complexion, I add the blue layer. This I use much more sparingly, only really hitting the deeper shadow areas. One thing I should mention is that I don’t only apply blue at this stage. I actually start mixing it with my red and yellow to create varying shades of brown. I also mix in two types of blue, Prussian Blue, which has a more greenish tone, and Cobalt Blue, which leans a little bit toward purple. These two, plus the red and yellow, help me achieve the level of darkness I want in the deeper shadow areas. I try to avoid using black directly, as it flattens my paintings. On the rare occasions I do use it, I have mixed it with Prussian Blue and Cadmium Red.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles with Blue

This next step is where I start building up the skin texture. Mr Charles was an old man by the time the original photo was taken, so I didn’t want to give him baby smooth skin. I went in with the smaller of my calligraphy brushes and started putting in marks that both built up the richness in his complexion, bringing back in deeper reds and yellows, and gave the impression of wrinkles, bumps and uneven skin tone without having to actually paint in those things. I also started defining his hair and figuring out what colors I wanted in his shirt, since I didn’t have a color reference for it.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles, textured

Finally, I tightened up the details, added some white scribbles in his hair with a gel pen, darkened all the darks and threw in some colored splotches and swirls in the background to contrast against his skin. I really wanted to emphasize that highlight on his forehead, so I couldn’t leave the paper white. Taking similar browns from his skin tone and leaving a space for the light to live really makes the piece pop, in my mind, and makes him feel like he’s there in 3D, not just a bunch of strategically placed colored marks.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles, almost done

And here is the final. I had it professionally photographed so that it is ready for reproduction. I am VERY proud of how this piece turned out and it definitely served as a turning point for how I approach a portrait. I hope you have enjoyed the story of my Ray Charles painting. I will be posting more of these in the future. Thank you for taking the time to read this. And if you are interested in a print of this or any of my other pieces, please feel free to contact me. I will soon have them available to order on this site.

Watercolor portrait of Ray Charles created by me, Adrienne Norris
Ray Charles

 

 

 

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No More Apparel (for now)

So, I am taking a break from the apparel side of my business. I reached a point where I realized I wasn’t painting anymore because I was so incredibly busy trying to make jewelry to sell. I also think I need to beef up my printing and design skills before I get really serious about creating and promoting a clothing line. But fear not! Once I have a handle on the painting aspect of my business and can free up my time to learn more, I will be back. In the meantime, I will be posting my work on Threadless.com and perhaps a few other sites that specialize in printing on clothing. This way, I can still get my work out there in this format, but I won’t have to worry about the production side of things which was, quite frankly, stressing me out.

That being said, I have SOOOOO much fabric left over from my summer of cuffs and I have to find ways to use it. I have decided to start incorporating it into my paintings! Check out Ms Badu. This will soon be available as a fine art print.

Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu