Why Isn’t This Alabama’s State Flower?

Fall is in full swing in Alabama, and that means the cotton is ready or has already been harvested. It is very strange to me to see cotton fields in well built-up areas, but it is cool to see all the perfect white in a field of brown twigs. Cotton isn’t what one would call pretty, but it does have a certain appeal.

A few weeks back, MrE and I were driving home from visiting his mom when I remarked that I wanted to draw cotton one day. We immediately pulled into the supermarket parking lot, went to the cotton field and stole a twig of Alabama’s finest cotton balls. The reason, of course, cotton is not the state flower is it is a cash crop, has a messy history involved in slavery, and it is not very pretty.

This plant is just plain bizarre.

This plant is just plain bizarre.

I decided to make a sketch of this twig in my Moleskine.

Poor cotton. You are so ugly

Poor cotton. You are so ugly

I also took a little image to illustrate the size this tiny sketchbook actually is:

I do have pretty big hands, it has to be said.

I do have big hands, it has to be said.

Flashback to Fine Art

I have plenty of doodles in the works, but I thought I would go back to an actual, real-life painting I did several years ago of a beloved doggy. My friend, who owns Gannon Grooming, lost her best puppy buddy, and I wanted to give her something to remember him by. Before I started doodling in my free time, my natural media was acrylic paints, which I used for this precious Cocker Spaniel. I took several photos to illustrate the process my painting go through.

1. Initial sketch (Not pictured. Use your imagination if you so desire)

2.Laying the Color Foundation

When I begin a painting, I like to lay down the first wash of colors for as much of the painting as possible, then go in later with darker or lighter colors, in some cases adding a dozen or more washes before the painting is complete. As you can see in this snapshot, the colors are muted and lots of canvas is showing through.

 

Early stages in my painting style

Early stages in my painting style

3. Adding Rough Darks

Here it is easier to see the brush strokes, especially in the fur under the chinny chin chin. I believe I was concentrating mainly on the nose and tongue, which is why they look more finished and life-like.

With my style, I like to lay darks, then use slight washes of near transparent creams or whites to scale back for the right hue.

With my style, I like to lay darks, then use slight washes of near transparent creams or whites to scale back for the right hue.

4. The Creepy Phase

There is always a point in a portrait that looks a little weirder than it should. This is that phase. I also have added some richness to the shadows if you can get past the empty eyes.

AHH!

AHH!

5. Details

The longest part of a painting for me is working on the details, which makes sense. Sometimes, the details are overwhelming. My mom can certainly attest to this since she still has a half-finished painting that I never got around to completing in her basement. It is complete enough to get the general idea of what it is, but the details were so subtle that I just couldn’t work on it any more. (Sorry mom! I’ll repaint it soon!). To me, the most important details are the eyes and expression. I could have left the painting like this I think, but that’s not my style.

Phew, no more soulless eyes. I love working on the eyes, since it makes the work come alive.

Phew, no more soulless eyes. I love working on the eyes, since it makes the work come alive.

6. Knowing When to Stop

It is important for me to accept that no work of art is going to be perfect. It can approach perfection, but not knowing when to stop will only lead me down a trail of misery and tears. There will always be something that I can look back and see that I Should have done differently, but as an old Vulcan Proverb says, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”

Happy Guy! Baxter makes a handsome pup.

Happy Guy! Baxter makes a handsome pup.

Every dog story ends in tears, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the unconditional love of the best friend you will ever have! Adopt from a local shelter or go give your canine companion a big hug and some peanut butter. If you would like to see more posts like this, let me know in the comments!

Playing Catch-Up…Ketchup?

I have finally caught up with my unfinished doodles! However, this victory is temporary, and so it is somewhat hollow since I have at least four drawings that are in some pre-stage of completion. The good news is when I hand someone my sketchbook so they can behold my awesomeness in person, I don’t have to make excuses anymore like, “Oh…Don’t mind that page. It may LOOK like it is incomplete and badly drawn, but it is actually…yeah. You got me. It’s not finished.”

The last of the bad drawings (see here for a peak at stage one), is finally complete! It’s not my best composition, a problem I ran into with another previous drawings, but I love the colors. I might even come back to it if I can think of a way to fix it. Maybe.

This is the color of summer...punching you in the teeth!

This is the color of summer…punching you in the teeth!

Tools of the Trade

I think I would like to add another aspect to this blog. I want to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way, and would love to hear from other artists about the kinds of tools they have come to rely on.

MrE is a drafter by trade and is the master of making perfectly precise drawings. Maybe I will get him to submit some handwriting for your perusal in  so you see how precise his line-work is. Since I use so many sweeping curves and curlicues in my work, he is always suggesting I try using a french curve. This is a devices made entirely of curves so any line you draw can be consistent. Mike has a little over one million french curves and other templates, so for this next drawing I used varying circle templates as well as this German curve:

Using new tools is kind of like shopping for new school supplies, if you know what that's like.

Using new tools is kind of like shopping for new school supplies, if you know what that’s like.

The drawing is in the preliminary stages, so don’t worry if it looks totally incomplete; it is! My inspiration for this was another blogger, and when I’m finished with the doodle I will link the original concept since it’s super awesome.

In just the short time I’ve experimented with these tools (like an hour) I’ve discovered that I don’t really know what I’m doing, and I’m somewhat impatient when it comes to using them. But I think, if I stick it out, I’ll get better.

Markers!

For all of my doodles I have been using ink. There have only been one or two drawings in my sketchbook that I have pre-drawn using pencil; all the rest are freehand compositions. Within the past several months I’ve expanded my collection of drawing utensils, and I’ve even asked MrE for a set of super expensive Prismacolor brush marker set (but only with a 50 percent off coupon, cause let’s face it, they’re just markers) for Christmas.  My current collection is the following:

Sharpies reign supreme!

Sharpies reign supreme!

I’d love to hear what my fellow artists use in their drawings or what they wish they had.

You can never see too much of my cute fur babies? Right? Well here is a picture  from the early days of getting our very own Percy.

There is just enough room for both kitty cats to fit snugly.

There is just enough room for both kitty cats to fit snugly.

Kansas May be Boring, But Its State Flower Is Awesome!

I should have guessed right away that the state flower of Kansas would be the wild sunflower. I mean, sunflowers are the only really awesome thing about driving through what is an otherwise unremarkable state (at least from the highway). Sunflowers are such happy flowers and it was easy drawing this particular doodle. After I drew the outline, I realized I needed a color that I did not have, so MrE took a trip out to find markers. It just happened to be labor day when we went shopping which means that Michael’s had 50 percent off one item, huzzah! This made me feel less guilty about buying really, really expensive markers:

Golden orange: not orange like a pumpkin, orange like a sunset:

Regularly $9. For. One. Marker

Regularly $9. For. One. Marker.

We also got a set of grey Prismacolors which I am very excited to experiment with. I have one grey sharpie that I love, so I think I’ll be able to do some really cool doodles with a whole bunch of different tones of grey.

Do not buy without a coupon or risk surrendering limbs.

Do not buy without a coupon or risk surrendering limbs.

The splurge on the orange was worth it though. It put down ink beautifully and was the perfect bright sunflower yellow I needed:

Sunflower, you rock! Kansas....we forgive you for being kind of boring.

Sunflower, you rock! Kansas….we forgive you for being kind of boring.

I still have a few birthday cards to draw and a very special get well card for my friend, Kyla. Wish me luck!

Here’s another dose of Cute:

Sleepy kitty face says, Moar Rubs!

Sleepy kitty face says, Moar Rubs!

Itty bitty pink toe beans. Too Cute!

Itty bitty pink toe beans. Too Cute!