I’ve been so busy with other projects that I can’t talk about in public yet that I’ve not had time – not even 5 spare minutes – to work on my Time Tavern sketchbook. So to come up with a blog post update today I flipped through my sketchbook/commonplace book.
Crowds of characters feature prominently in one of my can’t-talk-about-it-much-yet projects – and are also part of my Time Tavern sketchbook too. So as part of my work on these projects one afternoon, a month or so ago, I went through several of my art technique books to refresh my technical skills for drawing crowds. I wrote the various relevant pointers as well as my own thoughts in my sketchbook.
Here below is a picture of my sketchbook page.
In case you can’t read my handwriting I’ll type it here – and tweak the text I wrote by hand in my book, based on my recent experience in drawing crowds for my various projects:
Five Crowd Drawing Tips:
- Start at the front of the crowd. Do the figures with the most detail that are upfront/closer. The looser and less detailed characters will read as “in the distance”. Try to capture the type of characters within the overall scene as that gives the viewer the flavor of the event/place.
- Focus on the crowd shape as a whole. See the crowd as a single abstract shape – or as several shapes put together. Select where to put the details so as to guide the viewers eye around the crowd-shape(s).
- Keep it within a perspective. Is the viewer standing within the same level as the people in the front of the crowd? Or viewing the crowd from above or below? You won’t see the characters in the back of the crowd unless you are in an elevated position. Find a character of “average height” to use as a measuring gauge for placing the other characters. Use the average height as a natural horizon line and/or an assist in creating the crowd shape.
- Use characters arms, bags, objects held, angle of the head and other elements as a way of showing movement and guiding the viewers eye around the crowd shape.
- Crowds will have a main set of colors – like at a sporting event, though maybe not that extreme – it is possible, helpful even, to lay down areas of color within the crowd shape and add details over that. Color placement can help move the viewers eye. If one particular character is the focal point or stands out in the crowd then use the most color and detail on them and leave the others more or less implied. The main set of colors within the crowd shape can guide the colors used within the setting/scene around the crowd too.
My sketchbook page from Sunday’s concert… I used ink and watercolor.
In my last post I mentioned a new project I’m working on – “Bear Salad”. Well, in general my new project is a series of art-prints art-illustrations related to the kitchen.
The evolution-tree of this new project goes like this:
When I was in art school I learned from some of my older-wiser fellow art majors how vital being able to cook (and mix your own drinks) was to survival in business as an artist.
Since my college days my hobby has been cooking. Specifically easy-to-fix meals that are often one-pot or two-bowl wonders. As a busy professional artist I don’t have lots of time to do multi-dish crazy-complicated menus but I also want my food to be “artistic”. I want it to be colorful and look good on a plate – and taste yummy. Why leave my artistic creative self in the studio? Why not bring my eye-for-color, texture and pattern into my kitchen – and add the art of flavor?
I love and collect cookbooks – especially the visually beautiful ones. Additionally I take cooking classes for fun and relaxation. I have secretly harbored a desire to write, illustrate and design a cookbook. (You can see evidence of this in my ebook “Coffee, Table, Book” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/coffee-table-book)
Consequently food and drink has been a theme in my fine artwork for years. It’s been such a constant theme that I’ve gotten requests, as I did again recently, asking if I have “…art prints with dogs and food?”
It seems that people want my lighthearted colorful art for their kitchens but some people are afraid to put an expensive original artwork in a place where cooking-mess sometimes happens. So I’d begun a series of art prints for kitchens. You can see this here: https://society6.com/sueclancy/prints
As I’ve mentioned I take cooking classes… well most recently Chef Kim Mahan of www.class-cooking.com has kindly let me illustrate some of her recipes and kitchen tips! So you’ll be seeing more of these illustrations a little along as part of my new kitchen-art project. I’ve turned Chef Kim’s recipe for “pear salad” into a kitchen print called “Bear Salad”. Here’s a link for the giclee art print – https://society6.com/product/bear-salad_print#s6-7068429p4a1v45
Here is my finished illustration of “Bear Salad” – and yes, I’m still playing with words and pictures – My goal is to create a series of lighthearted visually fun kitchen art pieces that just happen to be practical too.
P. S. – My experience of life as a professional artist has proven that my art school peers were correct; knowing how to cook and mix drinks has been a vital business-of-art survival tip!
While my art exhibit is up the months of June and July at Burnt Bridge Cellars www.burntbridgecellars.com I’m starting some new art/illustration projects…. here’s my work table:
I’m working with ink and watercolor to illustrate a recipe – and to think about it…
More about this project later – my hand and arm is tired now.
I finished the artwork I was working on in my last blog post! https://sueclancy.com/2017/04/06/art-of-the-onion/ and then I applied the illustration to some things… a framed print, greeting cards and other items you can find here: https://society6.com/sueclancy
About a month ago now Sweetie and I took a cooking class (www.class-cooking.com) as a “date night out”. It was fun and as usual when I do something fun I made notes in my sketchbook. Here is one of the sketchbook pages I did during cooking class with Chef Kim Mahan.
Then I got very busy with fine art commissions and etc. freelance projects – and life.
But every time I’d cut an onion when cooking supper I’d think about our class and the valuable instructions I’d gotten about onions. Since for me drawing is thinking – I ached to draw onions and the chef’s “how to chop onions” instructions so as to think about and “visualize” them. So for several weeks now when I’ve had a spare 5 or 10 minutes I’d look at my sketchbook pages and brain-storm about what I wanted to create. After a brain-storm option had been settled upon I spent my spare 5 or 10 minutes drawing and writing in pencil on a larger sheet of Bristol paper the onion art/illustration I’d brain-stormed about. Some days I only erased pencil lines that didn’t work. Other days I re-drew pencil lines. After the pencil lines were settled in my spare few moments I’d do an ink line or two…
We’re talking quick-quick drawing work on the “onion art” then I’d go on with my day-job art projects. Every day though I did something in my spare 5 to 10 minutes to inch the onion art along.
Then today I had 20 whole minutes in a row to spare! Wahoo!! And the pencil work was done and I even had a few ink lines done – so I grabbed my ink pens, watercolors and color pencils…
Here’s what I’ve done today – as it is on my work table – I’ve a bit more work to do but it’s almost finished!
I wrote a short synopsis of what my book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” is about and I showed the synopsis, an early copy of the book – containing my dog portraits like what is currently at the Caplan Art Designs gallery – to friends in real-life. These friends can be counted on to have-my-back regarding my artistic efforts and I know they’ll ask good questions! Their questions often help me refine my artistic efforts. Valuable friends!
Here’s the synopsis I showed them:
“Featuring all kinds of dog breeds artist Sue Clancy whimsically combines man’s best friend and many of life’s pleasant experiences by drawing them using a dip pen, a brush and Sumi ink.”
One of the first questions was “What is a ‘dip pen’?”.
A dip pen has a metal – often steel – nib which is inserted in a holder. You can see three nibs to the left in the photo. Also on the left is a long brown nib holder with another nib inserted in the holder. The term ‘dip pen’ is slang for ‘metal-point drawing pen’ and I think the term ‘dip pen’ is more descriptive of what kind of pen it is.
That led to the next question which was “How often do you dip it?”
It depends on how large the nib is as to how much ink it holds at a time. The very small finest nibs (like what is pictured in my brown holder), that I use to draw doggy whiskers, eyebrows and such, would probably be dipped into my ink-well (the green bottle in the picture) 2 or 3 times when drawing fine detail work on a dog. I mean very fine details like the soft muzzle fuzz, eye-lashes and whiskers – and areas needing lots of short to medium strokes to convey fur. A larger pen nib like the one in the picture nearest the pen holder may not be dipped quite that often – and it can do a longer line at a time. I’d use a larger nib, for example, when drawing the detail of a coffee cup and saucer.
An oriental brush – the kind of brush pictured to the right of the pen nib holder – may be dipped into the ink once or twice to draw an entire dog with lines of varying thickness. It’s dipped again into a water and ink dilution when I need to make a tonal shade. The brush is used the most and does most of the work on each portrait – the dip pen is just for details too small to draw with my brushes.
The third question was “What is Sumi ink?”
This question is a bit harder for me to answer because the first reply that springs to my mind is “awesome wonderful good elixir-of-life stuff!!!!” and that answer doesn’t really tell anyone anything other than the fact that I really like the ink!
Sumi ink is more commonly known as a Chinese calligraphy ink. But both Chinese and Japanese artists use Sumi ink to do all kinds of things from text based documents to large works of visual art. Invented well over over 2000 years ago the ink is often made – and is even today made – from vegetable soot, carbon soot, lamp black, camphor and sometimes a glue-binding agent.
For my artwork I use both the liquid-in-a-bottle style of Sumi ink as well as the stick form. The stick form of the ink is pictured in the middle towards the bottom of the photo on top of the red box I keep the ink stick in. I’ve been using this same stick of ink weekly, if not daily, for perhaps 10 to 12 years – and only about half an inch of the stick has been used up.
The black square next to my ink stick is an ink-stone. I put a bit of water and “grind” the ink stick until I’ve a pool of black liquid ink. The surface of the stone has a grit or tooth to it so I say “grind” but it’s not like grating cheese nor even like rubbing a bar of soap on a stain – it’s more meditatively moving the stick in small circles in the water using a very light touch while I think about what I want to draw. Then when the pool is black enough I get to work using the newly formed ink!
The ceramic dishes in the photo are where I put water and varying amounts of ink so that I can have a gradation of tones within my drawings. The liquid kind of Sumi ink is in the green bottle in the photo. Both forms of this ink at their blackest – least diluted with water – feel and look like a small pool of honey.
While Sumi ink and the brushes I use may be of the kind associated with Zen Buddhism and Asian art in general – I’ve done my own thing with the Sumi ink medium; my dog portraits are my own invention. Due to my subject matter I’ve needed crisp details like whiskers so I use the dip pen in addition to the brush-and-ink techniques.
I do, in the philosophical sense, enjoy a kinship between some of the Zen Buddhist ideas related to this Sumi-ink art form (chiefly: relax! breathe! let-go!) and my own desire to artistically explore joy, beauty, whimsy, visual story-telling and concepts related to good-mental health.
As I’d talked and tried to answer the questions each of my friends took turns looking through the early copy of “Dogs by Sue Clancy”. When I stopped talking one of them said “It looks like a real book!”
“Oh! What a great comment!! Can I quote you on that?” I asked.
“Yes.” was the reply.
You can see some of my Sumi ink dog portraits on my dog portraits page on my blog: https://sueclancy.com/dog-portraits/
There will be more in upcoming blog posts about “Dogs by Sue Clancy”
I’ve been asked “how do you get your ideas for your dog drawings?” I begin by thinking of something pleasant. This “something pleasant” has often been noted previously in one of my sketchbooks. The pleasantness can be a drink I enjoyed, a bowl of soup, a game, a book… anything I remember as being particularly “pleasant”. You can see some of my sketchbook pages on my “sketchbooks” page on my website https://sueclancy.com/sketchbooks/
Once the “something pleasant” topic has been found I need a character to help me describe that topic.
Lately I’ve been finding dogs a good representative actors. Breed characteristics can add content to my story… for example when I was remembering the pleasantness of hearing a street musician play I chose a Basset Hound to be the musician character. I thought that fit because that breed can be a vocal sort but in a good-sounding way. At least ones I’ve met in person have been. You can see the dog drawing I’m talking about by looking for “Pickles” on my dog portraits webpage. https://sueclancy.com/dog-portraits/
Sometimes I see a dog on one of my walks and make sketches on location. Then back at the studio, I want to draw that dog breed better so I think of “something pleasant” that may fit with that dog and try drawing again but this time using my ink methods on good quality paper.
When I’m too busy to go out where the dogs are likely to be seen during a walk (i.e. it’s too snowy/rainy) I’ll flip through a photography book about dogs looking for a breed to characterize in a way that helps me describe non-verbally my “something pleasant”.
By now I’ve drawn enough dogs from real-life sources (can you say “dog park”?) that i can work decently from a photograph – using the photo primarily as a memory aid for specifics about a dog breed.
Here’s some recent dog-related photography books I’ve used as resource material.
Perhaps you’re wondering why I think of “something pleasant” when drawing dogs. After all there’s so much that is wrong with the world, so much to be upset about…war, poverty, injustice, fake news….
To answer quickly: focusing on pleasant things feeds the good wolves. A small drawing is not the best place to outline a social problem and propose any policy solution.
A small drawing is a place for solace, love and comfort.
You can see more about this “feed the good wolves” philosophy of mine in my book “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” on the artist book webpage https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/
I’ve kept sketchbooks for many years – and I have drawn dogs a lot. I sketch and draw in ink almost every day. Some time ago my wife Judy saw some of my dog drawings in my bound sketchbook and said “I really wish you’d do these on good paper.” The phrase ‘good paper’ in our house means handmade paper.
So I did.
After a while I had a lot of drawings-on-good-paper. Then Judy said “I wish you’d show these to Amy.” Amy is the gallery owner of Caplan Art Designs.
So I did.
And now Amy has been selling my dog drawings almost as fast as I can make them! I love being this busy! To make my drawings I use fountain pens and brush-and-ink. Occasionally I’ll use a very sharp pointed pen-nib and the ink – for very fine lines. I use that when a dog has lots of whiskers.
Then Judy said “I wish you’d post some of these regularly on your blog.”
So I am….starting now.