Session #143, Work #144



Some days I have so much energy for art that I can’t stop doing something. That was not today. I sat at the Ocean bar, picked a random sculpture of a lion and began to draw it. I knew that I was lacking energy, so my main goal here was to do at least 30 minutes of observation. I ended up drawing some flowers also.



On this day we ported in Sitka Alaska. Here is a picture of the Westerdam while we were on a tender that was taking us to the dock.



Today’s excursion was awesome! For the second time in my life we snorkeled in Alaska. For obvious reasons I do not have pictures of all the awesome sea life we experienced under the ocean.



Sitka was a nice town, lots of shops with native art, and of course beautiful scenery.





Another picture at night from our balcony.




Here is a huge mural they had next to one of the bars on the ship, like I said there was amazing art all over this ship.

Session #142, Work #143



These huge vases were scattered throughout the ship. I chose one at the mid ship area, what I am now calling the artists studio area of each deck.



At this point in the cruse the laziness from being pumped full of food constantly was setting in so I didn’t feel like really focusing on intense measurement of the subject. So I used a technique that I learned in Jamie Bollenbacks life drawing class, where you work up the  subject through a fog of strokes. Its kinda like daydreaming while drawing and making hundreds of proportional mistakes but only allowing the correct strokes to dominate. Its a great way to do a drawing in a very playful manner.



I thought that the cascade mountains in Washington were beautiful, but the mountains in Alaska take it to a whole other level.



I could stare at them for days, the pictures will never do them justice.



I was mesmerized by the wave forms created by the ship along with the reflections of the mountains, it was like waves in glass.





And then we arrived at Margerie Glacier. If you have never seen, and heard, a glacier from a mile out to see then I would say put it on your bucket list. Its is truly awe-inspiring.




On our way south again, and here is a view from a deck 3 port hole.

Session #141, Work #142


I was constantly surrounded by artwork while on the ship and this sculpture was setup like an artists studio. Good lighting and a comfy seat, if they only had an easy then I would have brought my paints.





This sketch was tremendous fun, it made me really want to get a full figure sculpture and draw from it constantly. It would be like a figure drawing class every day!



Now we have hit our first port, Juneau Alaska. Our excursion for this port was call “Bike and Brew”. We were bused a few miles out of Juneau where we were given helmets, water and bikes. Then we embarked on a 8 mile bike ride to Mendenhall Lake, which was fed by the Mendenhall glacier. You can see the glacier in this photo way in the back left.



It was a great day, maybe a bit too hot, but the bike ride was a lot of fun. And looking at this picture I can’t wait to get back into crossfit and shed a few pounds.



At the end of our bike ride we ended up on the other side of the lake at the Mendenhall  visitors center. Check out the icebergs in the lake!



A park guide was there showing us how clean and clear the ice is. Its so clear that it only reflects the blue spectrum of light, that is why glaciers look so blue.



After a fun day in Juneau we had to get back on the ship to continue our journey.



Here is a picture of the port at night, there were a total of 5 cruise ships at port on Monday. We figured that Juneau was inundated with about 10,000 tourists all at once on one day, no wonder tourism is one of their big money makers.




The moon over the sea… so beautiful.

Session #140, Work #141


Up early this morning and off to mid ship to sketch a bust next to the elevators.


Not only did they have a sculpture on each deck but they had great seats close for great observation.



The sketch went well. There were several light sources with some interesting cast shadows.



The hallways of the ship were very long, and it would take a few minute to get to your stateroom. Every time I would look down one of these hallways I was reminded of Steve King’s  “The Shinning” movie. Another Great thing about Holland america, they had reproductions of great art up and down every deck.



View from the top of the ship, on our way to Alaska.



A nice panoramic picture off the side of the ship, the sea was super calm on our trip north.



I think this picture was taken after 11pm. It was foggy and quiet with a light sound of the water passing against the ship, every evening on our balcony was very serene.




The had some great shows every night at the main stage, tonight was an opera.

Session #139, Work #140


For our entire week cruise to Alaska I wasn’t able to post the drawings that I was doing daily, so I’m going to catch up on posts over the next week. And of course I always edit the post date to match the day that I did the work.


Here is the Westerdam our home for a week!



After checking into our stateroom, we visited my in-laws stateroom to checkout their huge room and view. This was the view form their balcony. Massive amounts of luggage piled into these cages while forklifts, cranes and people rushed around to load the ship.



There were two cranes, one to load all the luggage, and one to load all the supplies that the ship would need for its week long trip. I didn’t get a picture of the palettes of supplies being loaded by the crane on the right but just imagine a supermarket worth of food at the end of the dock. The sheer volume of cargo being moved here was amazing.





I really liked all the lines here and the piles of luggage. From this far up it was like colored blocks in wire crates.




The detail in the lines and luggage took a long time for me to draw and get correct, plus all the things we were doing on the ship I had to work on this one several different times during the day.

Session #138, Work #139


The Drawing



For some reason I really liked all of the black eyes looking at me, even in the reflection. I was vaguely reminded of old 80’s movies where toys would come alive and terrorize people.

Very fun drawing, I really wanted to try and capture the different textures here, I didn’t do so well though, I was rushing a bit even though I spent over two hours on the drawing.


The Setup



I know I have said it before but I love my current quick sketch setup. I need to do a post on my materials one day.




The most important part is the beginning and getting all the measurements correct. I used an “F” graphite pencil here to put down some very light lines. Then I go over the drawing again and refine it with a “2B” graphite pencil that way once I put a wash on it I can still see the lines well.



After working on the drawing for a while with a few washes of lamp black Holbein watercolor.




Close to the end, after the water color I love working back into it and working on edges with more graphite. Bad picture here, at least the subject is in focus.


Session #137, Work #138


The Drawings


I was inspired by a discussion at A&C Art supply about depicting the movement of water in a painting, so I attempted my theory of drawing from a looping image in this post. And wow its difficult! Through the whole drawing I was attempting different strokes and effects to depict the best feeling movement in the water. I don’t think I even came close, this is such a complex subject I could spend years working to achieve it.



This is one of the many reasons why I love art so much. I could spend the rest of my life on this one idea. Art is so complex, so rich and infinite in possibilities.



And now for something cute. Kiddy was in one of his many chairs taking a nap. Although this picture was taken after he had moved, I was able to capture him in his usually wrap of suggly-furbally-ness.




I think I had more fun trying to get the drawing of the chair legs correct on this one. I didn’t make the the pillow dark enough though. At some point I will be more confidant with the watercolor, enough to be able to capture values quickly from the beginning.

Session #136, Work #137


I was having lots of trouble with the gesture drawings today, I think it was because I was going too fast. Which kinda sound wrong considering gesture drawings are meant to be fast, but in most situations with art I find that the real speed comes from precision and accuracy, and you can only go so fast with that.


The Drawings

1 minute poses



1 minute poses



1 minute pose



1 minute pose



2min +/- pose



2min +/- pose



2min +/- pose



2min +/- poses



2min +/- poses



2min +/- pose



2min +/- pose



2min +/- pose



10 minute pose



1 hour pose



Session #135, Work #136


The Drawings


Say hello to “the kid”, we call him kiddy. This is my pal he is with me every day and he is the best cat in the whole world. He had a very extended cleaning session in his favorite chair today and I was able to capture him keeping his coat extra soft, before he took a nap.



A photo of the sketch in better light. I’m really loving my sketching setup now. Its so simple and easy to get going.



There was a tractor outside of central market that I was going to sketch but I didn’t like the light on it so I decided to sketch this tree, and focus on generalizing the shapes of foliage convincingly



A photo of the sketch while I was on location.




The sketch in better light. I know that one of my weak points is the ability to generalize very complicated masses of fluff, like trees, bushes, grassy areas, a mess of piled up twigs… etc. These things are so hard to generalize correctly, the only other alternative is to draw or paint every single leaf, and I don’t have any patience for that.

Session #134, Work #135


The Drawing


I really didn’t think my living room was so messy until I looked at this picture. I’m going to have to clean it this week, I have too many art supplies everywhere. Anyway, the at least the lighting was interesting enough to inspire a drawing.



This is my first drawing with watercolor. Previously I was using some watered down India ink to do a sketch of my kitchen. It worked OK, but I found it difficult to adjust the value without putting on a bunch of washes down. So, I went to A&C Supply and picked up a watercolor sketchbook (because my current book couldn’t take the water well at all), one tube of Holbein Lamp Black watercolor, one white watercolor pencil and a acrylic paint marker for highlight details.




I really enjoy working with these materials. I use a hard graphite pencil to do the initial drawing, getting all of the angles and measurements down and everything in its correct place. Then I wash in a light gray over most of the image, being careful not to touch any of the lighter areas. I then continue to build up the values darker in areas, and usually hit the dark blacks right away with more paint. After the wash I let it dry for a minute or two then I go back into the picture with more graphite focusing on edges and values trying to get them as correct as possible.

This is a great way to work on my drawing, while at the same time introduce myself little by little to watercolor. The best part though is the setup, clean up, and portability. I can take these materials anywhere and start a drawing instantly.

Drawing water from photos?

Depicting water with an animated gif

During our conversation at A&C Supply about depicting the complexities of water in a painting I recalled this animated gif that I had seen online a week or more ago. I remembered when I saw it I stared at it for a while, and wondered if I could capture the undulations created, and wondered how I would draw or paint them.

Jamie’s very poignant comment was that in order to accurately depict water one would need to draw or paint it from life, as this is the only possible way to capture the truth in its movement. Drawing or painting water from a photo tends to make the water look as still and solid as concrete, and all together lifeless. I would have to agree, but, how does one depict something that is constantly moving?

I guess at some point someone asked the same question of the figure in motion. And it seems like the overwhelming response would be gesture drawing. And even with gesture you have at least a few minutes to capture shapes recognized by everyone; head, legs, arms, torso etc…

With water its all together different, and with clouds also, they always take on different shapes, yet… even though the shapes are constantly different, water always has waves and even though the shapes of waves are enumerable, every one is recognized as a wave. Just as shapes of heads are enumerable they are all still recognized as heads.

There has to be some quality of water that is repeated constantly and can be represented in paint or charcoal.

I’m reminded of Allan Watts.

The way the animals live, everybody envies them, because look, a cat, when it walks–did you ever see a cat making an aesthetic mistake. Did you ever see a badly formed cloud? Were the stars ever misarranged? When you watch the foam breaking on the seashore, did it ever make a bad pattern? Never. And yet we think in what we do, we make mistakes. And we’re worried about that. So there came this point in human evolution when we lost our innocence. When we lost this thing that the cats and the flowers have, and had to think about it, and had to purposely arrange and discipline and push our lives around in accordance with foresight and words and systems of symbols, accountancy, calculation and so on, and then we worry. Once you start thinking about things, you worry as to if you thought enough. Did you really take all the details into consideration? Was every fact properly reviewed? And by jove, the more you think about it, the more you realize you really couldn’t take everything into consideration, because all the variables in every decision are incalculable, so you get anxiety. And this, though, also, is the price you pay for knowing that you know. For being able to think about thinking, being able to feel about feeling. And so you’re in this funny position.Allan Watts

All of this chaotic pattern around us everyday, yet, its all perfect, it never makes a mistake.


Anyway, back to the discussion. I proposed, that maybe one of the best tools we could use for depicting water in motion is to draw it from a moving picture. The picture below is an animated gif that is on a small loop. Here we could observer the movements in the photo, the patterns, and capture the true essence of water in motion by making it repeat its chaotic pattern over and over again, so our slow minds can catch up with its complexity.



I believe that this photo comes from this site, as I have just now recognized the watermark, “headlikeandorange”.


Also I must post Frits Thaulow, he seems to be an artist that was positively enamored with water, and painted a ton of beautiful works depicting water amazingly.

Frits Thaulow
























Session #133, Work #134


The Gage open studio on Sunday is a long pose open studio, one pose for the whole class. I didn’t feel like working on the same drawing for three hours so I did a bunch of starts. I feel like the start of a drawing is the most important, if you get that correct, with proportions and accuracy, then the rest is embellishments. So, almost every 20 minute break I started a new drawing. I have to say that the 20 minutes for each drawing went by really quickly.

I need to work on portraits at some point also, I noticed that even though this is the same person in each drawing the face look different each time. Maybe in my next class I will just focus on the face.


The Drawings

20 minute drawing


20 minute drawing
40 minute drawing

40 minute drawing

10 minute drawing

Session #132, Work #133


I sketched at three different places today and had a great time doing each one. I was testing out how to work with an ink wash today, so that part of the sketching will be a bit rough.


The Drawings

60813a-setup 60813a

Here I was seeing how the paper would react to water… which wasn’t very well, It buckled a bunch. The in is watered down a so its not a very strong black at all. That way I can start out light and build it up for darker areas. I did discover that the combination of a light wash and graphite over, works really well. Although I did try and lighten up some areas with white chalk and that didn’t work at all. I need to get in the habit of not touching the lighter areas with the wash.


60813b-setup 60813b

I found a nice spot at the mall so I could do some sketching at the food court. I was thinking about focusing on sketching the people but I felt too much like a the weird guy staring at people in the corner so I just focused mainly on the architecture.

You can also see that I was using this page earlier to test out some ink washes. What is interesting is that the lines you see here that are created from overlapping of strokes with the brush don’t happen on actual watercolor paper. The brush strokes blend really well on watercolor paper but with this paper that is mainly for drawing I get these darker overlap lines. I will have to trade out my sketchbook soon.



This one was my favorite of the night. I stayed up very late just sketching my kitchen counter.



Here is my drawing after more than 30 minute of working on it. I had this really perfect drawing done with very light pencil then I basically obliterated it with an ink wash. I couldn’t even see most of the pencil, but I was very confident that I could bring it back and reproduce the drawing.



About 1 hour into the drawing.




After 1.5 hours I ended up with a drawing that I really liked. I enjoyed the process a bunch, I need to change out this paper for watercolor paper and train more in watercolor so I know how to use these washes better.

Session #131, Work #131


I don’t know why, maybe because I spent three different short sessions on this drawing, but I was getting very bored of it and I wanted to just get it finished so I rushed through this one a bit. The drawing accuracy is not as good due to my lack of focus, but I hope to figure out why this session bored me so much and change it.

I’m doing the Bargue drawing course to train my eyes to see minute differences when comparing objects and connect my brain and hand so I can accurately render. But, I do what it to be enjoyable, I don’t want this to be boring or anything close to something I hate. If I continued to do this even when I hated it I would probably associate drawing with something awful and never do it again. So, before I start the next plate I will have to figure out what it is about this process that bores me and make the change, until then, I will be sketching from life.


The Drawing



The Setup



Drawing Comparison



This comparison should have been closer if I didn’t rush. Most of the rush was on the toes and it really shows.

Session #130, Work #131


I only had enough time to do about 30 minute of drawing on the Bargue plate 5 before I had to do some more work stuff. So tonight ended up being a very short drawing session. To make up for the short Bargue drawing session I got out my sketch book and was doing some sketches while I was at my desk. The didn’t turn out well, but that really isn’t the point of me doing this every single day. The point is to keep my brain and eye working together, and drawing as much as possible, training my eye every day, making the translation of a three dimensional environment into a two dimensional piece of art a habit.


The Drawing


Still working on the foot.




I setup my Buddha statue on my printer and did a very, very linear drawing… Way too much line, then I drew my hand that was resting on the desk.

Session #129, Work #132


Tonight I actually felt like I was seeing the fruit of my labors. I completed several drawings and even though they were not 100% accurate they were all good drawing with enough accuracy that they didn’t look bad.

So why did tonight’s drawings go so well? I think its partly due to an increased confidence, drawing every day and enough lack of caring to be comfortable. More often I find that I am becoming more accurate at comparing difference with my eyes rather than with tools and measuring. I have done this several times with Bargue drawings. I will see something is off and look incorrect well before I can match the inconsistency with measuring.

I didn’t measure much at all with these drawings, I just drew with confidences and when my eye told me that something was off I tried to correct it.


The Drawings

Doodles of the model before start


Doodles of the model before start


2 minute drawings



2 minute pose


2 minute pose


2 minute poses


2 minute poses


2 minute poses


2 minute pose


doodles of model during break


30 minute pose


Doodles of model during break


1 Hour pose, drawing and studies


1 hour pose feet and legs study


1 hour pose, second drawing in charcoal, focus on mass and value




Session #128, Work #131


All the Bargue drawings that I have been doing up until now have been pretty small, and I found the size of this drawing much more difficult to compare for inaccuracies. To combat the size of the drawing I used the guide and tried to understand the best way of breaking down the form into simple parts.

This drawing is so big that it will have to take on at least two sessions.


The Drawing


30 minutes into the drawing, this is almost exactly the same as the guide, and the arch of the foot is proving to be problematic right away.



60 minutes into the drawing. Here I’m breaking down the form into more angles but still keeping the lines fairly straight.



90 minutes into the drawing I have started on the shadow shapes, and still have a lot of the drawing left to accomplish, it will have to wait for another day.

Session #127, Work #130


I had quite an achievement tonight. I did this drawing with no measurement at all. Every single choice I made was based on comparison made only with my eyes. And I think I did remarkably well.


The Drawing



The Setup



Drawing Comparison



The largest differences are the shadow in the center of the ear and the cast shadow on the right. I’m beginning to feel as though my powers of observation are increasing and as long as I focus on comparing shapes or sizes by flicking my eyes back and forth I can achieve great accuracy.

Of course this is just a two denominational comparison, the real test/challenge will be when I’m comparing three denominational objects.

Session #126, Work #129


It is very hard to describe how majestic and beautiful the Cascade mountains are, and the photos in no way can do them justice. But, here are a few photos of our trip back home.








This was photo of the end of the “Thunder Knob” trail. The trail wound through the mountain with views of both Ross lake and Diablo Lake dam which you can barely see in the distance here.



After our hike back we descended the mountain a bit and crossed the diablo lake dam. Where I sat on the gravel shore and sketched for about 30 minutes.


This is the scene I was trying to sketch. I loved how the light caught the snow on the mountain and it lit up like the sun. I wanted to capture its brightness so I pulled out my gray toned paper sketch book and blocked in the general shape of the landscape then focused directly on the bright white of the snow. Even the shadow cast by the mountain on the snow was spectacular.

I knew that I wouldn’t have time to get more than 30 minutes in on this sketch so I focused on a small portion where all the values from foreground to the far distance were present. My goal was to try and capture a good representation of the slight value changes caused by the atmosphere. I found it very difficult, to describe the stark contrast between the snow and the rock of the mountain yet keep the rock of the mountain light enough so it didn’t surpass the darkness of the shadows in the foreground. I could have spent hours out here, alas, here is my 30 minute sketch for the day.


Session #125, Work #128


We drove out to Twisp Washington late Friday night. The drive out was beautiful, as seen in this amazing photo taken on highway 20 next to liberty bell mountain.


I had already done a sketch Friday and we didn’t get to the amazing hotel until about 9:30pm, so I didn’t really have time for any drawing.

The next day we biked about 9 miles to Winthrop Washington where we shopped and had lunch. After several hours in Winthrop we biked another three miles to Pearrygin Lake where I was able to sit for 30 minutes and sketch the mountains over the lake.


I forgot to mention, before we left Twisp on our bikes we stopped by the local bakery and farmers market. I found this awesome pencil case hand made by a local artist at the farmers market. I couldn’t pass up a chance to support another artist, and I was looking for a nice pencil case, this one is amazing, so it was a winning situation for us both.


Here is a picture of my vantage point, across the lake from the mountains, sitting on a picnic table.


I cropped the scene a bit on my drawing. I wanted to try and capture the atmospheric perspective here, but I quickly realized that I should have used my grey toned sketch books so I could capture the whites with my white chalk pencil.



After our 26 mile bike ride, a refreshing showing and a cozy nap, I sketched our balcony before dinner. The sun was dropping low and the stripes from the balcony railing was sending stripes of sun beams over the balcony furniture. I was planning on adding values here but I got so caught up in the linear quality of all the furniture that I decided to focus on that, and see if I could vary my line in places to suggest value or local color change or even texture.

60113bOver all it was an amazing day, and I was ecstatic that I was able to get an hour of sketching in.

Session #124, Work #127


I have a busy weekend planned so I wanted to get this drawing done over my lunch break at work before the weekend starts. I don’t think I will be able to do any drawing after work today.

Interesting thing about this drawing. I wasn’t that focused on it, and a bit distracted, but even though I felt as though the accuracy was incorrect when I decided it was finished, it turned out to be pretty darn close. Not perfect, but that is ok. I’m glad even under distracting circumstances I could pull of an accurate drawing.


The Drawing



The Setup



Drawing Comparison


Session #123, Work #126


I tried to be as accurate as possible on this one, taking as long as possible to get everything just right, and it still took me just under an hour.

One thing that I have been neglecting on these Bargue drawings is following the guides closely. I was thinking about it yesterday and I realized that their importance lies in the training of how to simplify forms, rather than the minute accuracy leading to a finished drawing. I will have to re-double my efforts after my trip this weekend and focus not only on accuracy but also on simplification of forms.


The Drawing



The Setup



Drawing Comparison



Just a couple errors here. The height of the ear is off and the width is off a bit. Most of the internal lines are very accurate though. You can’t really tell with this photo but the differences here are 1/8 of an inch or smaller. At some point I hope I train my eye enough to notice these very small differences.

Session #122, Work #125


We started tonight with lots of pure gesture drawing, wow this was difficult for me. Generalizing the body in just a few arcs yet keeping proportions close, and an elegance in the motion, very difficult.

We then went into a few longer poses where I just did a bunch of starts, to try and figure out how to get proportions of the body correct in the first minutes of the drawing. I believe this is the absolute most important part of a drawing. If you don’t get these measurements correct here, the rest of the drawing will suffer completely. Needless to say, I didn’t “finish” a drawing these session, but I think I have a better idea of what I need to do to start a drawing best.


The Drawings

2 minute pose
2 minute pose
2 minute poses
2 minute poses
2 minute poses
2 minute poses
5 minute pose
5 minute pose
15 minute pose A
15 minute pose B
1 Hour pose A
1 Hour pose B
1 Hour pose C
1 Hour pose D
1 Hour pose E

Session #121, Work #124


I bit of a rush though this Bargue drawing, it only took me 30 minutes. I wanted to go through it pretty fast, but at the same time I wanted to focus on my lines and try to get then as decisive and confident as possible, even if I had to trade some accuracy for it.


The Drawing




The Setup




Drawing Comparison



I may have to buy some clear acetate, its hard to see the Bargue drawing under this tracing paper. But, you don’t need to be able to see perfectly though this to see all the errors. I was expecting this to be off because I worked so fast. I think the next Bargue drawing I do, I may spend three times as long to see if I can get the accuracy perfect and end up with confident lines.


Session #120, Work #123


Tonight I started this drawing pretty late, so I wanted to get it done quickly so I tried to do it without much measurements at all. It took me much less longer than any previous drawing, only 30 minutes. I think the comparison shows the rush.


The Drawing


One thing I notice from looking at this is a hesitance in the line, I would like to, at some point, be able to draw these with much more confidence.


The Setup




Drawing Comparison



Lots of errors here, but considering I barely measured. Its not that bad.


Session #120, Work #122


One figure drawing session a week is not enough. I could maybe do two a week but three would not be possible. So in comes the photos. I recently found this post from which has some wonderful information on what a good reference photo is as well as a big list of images. This is where I picked this image from.

So the big question is. Does drawing from photos hurt an artists progression?


I will have to continue to write about this question tomorrow, as it is too late tonight.


The Drawing




Drawing Comparison


Session #119, Work #121


I was feeling a bit lazy yesterday, so I only did a 1 hour Bargue drawing, and not much else. I sure its because I haven’t been hitting the gym regularly.

So I hit the gym today, and I hope I didn’t push myself too much or my muscles will be so sore that it will be hard to draw on Wednesday.

I was hoping that this drawing would take less than an hour but it proved to be quite difficult even though it was super small, I think I conquered it though.


The Drawing




The Setup




Drawing comparison


I first did a digital comparison. I have been studying how my camera distorts images and I’m to the point now where I will only use my phone for documenting purposes. Other than that it is completely worthless as far as comparing exact drawing lines. Look at the photo above, these two ears are less than three inches apart and the height / width distortion is there, you can tell by looking at the digitally drawn caparison and testing that against the two tracing comparisons below.



I tried tracing in sanguine but, the line proved to be too thick, so I traced it over in red ink pen below.




Much closer than the digital comparison would lead me to believe, although it is not without errors.

Why comparing a drawing with an iPhone is bad

I know that this drawing isn’t perfect, but I believe it to be much close than the following digital comparison illustrates.

I thought I was closer than this


I have noticed a trend with my drawing comparisons, that the drawing becomes more inaccurate the closer to the bottom of the image I go, or the further from the center of the photo.

So I left this setup overnight and today I drew markings for a grid made of 1 inch measurements around the subject, then took another picture of the drawing and subject. I then pulled the drawing into Photoshop and resized it so that the beginning top left inch measurement on the paper was exactly one inch in Photoshop. I then proceeded to rebuild that grid in Photoshop by putting a line every vertical and horizontal inch. What I ended up with is a drawing with an inch grid on it, and a digital representation of those same inches over it. In theory, once I get to the bottom right of the grid, both the digital grid and the drawn grid should match up. As you can see below that is far from the case.


Distortion test 1

Not only is the width smaller but so is the height, and not by a little but a very large amount. That seemed to be to much, of a distortion, so as I good scientist would do, I repeated my experiment to test with similar results. And this time I too extra care in insuring I re-size the photo correctly.



Distortion test 2


I also did a third test where I took a picture a bit farther away thinking that the lens of the camera would distort only the parts of the image closer to its edge. This was incorrect, the distortion was the same even when taken from a larger distance.

This is much closer to the truth. The distortion is not as much but it’s still there. It looks like an average of 1/4 inch inaccuracy per 12 inches of space vertically and maybe worse horizontally.

What does this prove? That my drawings are not as bad as I thought, but this is no excuse, I still have errors in my drawing. This whole exercise was for me to help realize how the camera distorts an image and to be aware of it.

Moving forward, I’m not sure how I can compare my drawings with a three dimensional subject accurately now.


Session #118, Work #120


I tried painting a leaf a while ago, it was a large dried leaf and the painting turned out really bad. As charcoal is easier to manipulate I figured I could improve with this one.

A few weeks ago I used India ink and water to tone some Arches watercolor paper a nice grey. Unfortunately it was a big sheet of paper and I wasn’t used to toning, so it turned out with a lot of variation in value. The value variation was a bit organic so I felt it to be fitting considering my subject. It was also nice to get some good use in on the white chalk and figure out its properties a bit better.


The Drawing




The Setup




Drawing comparison



I’m not really sure if the drawing here is really that far off or if my camera is distorting the image.


Session #117, Work #119


I have the feeling that my powers of observation when comparing two dimensional imagery is getting better. There were more than a few marks on this drawing that flowed effortlessly from my hand and were even accurate during comparison. That being said, as I compare the drawing in digital format, I see many differences that I would like to have caught during drawing.


The Drawing




The Setup




Drawing Comparison



I continue to wonder how close I should get these drawings to the original. I’m sure if I spent long enough that I could get the drawing perfect, but at what point is it too much?


Session #117, Work #118


I will get right to the point with this post because I feel if I take too long I will forget what I’m thinking about. I really need to have my notebook handy when I work so I can take notes on my thoughts.

  • Painting white into darker colors is easier than painting darker colors into white. In this instance the titanium white will totally dominate the raw umber in tinting strength.
  • A dark color scumbled onto the canvas thinly will reduce glare.
  • Work background to foreground.
  • Fussing with paint too much and value transitions makes any surface look fuzzy, overly modeled, and fake. I don’t have any other way that I think I can describe it.
  • Focus more on surface plains and their value transitions rather than trying to match a gradient perfectly.
  • Always condense the value scale, paint cannot achieve your lightest light or your darkest dark.
  • Don’t try and save an edge by painting along it, this will achieve a brush stroke similar to an outline around the form and ultimately bring that background forward and noticeable. Paint across the edge, or loose the edge if the values are real close. I the case that the edge of a foreground object is very hard against the background, paint the foreground object last and get the edge stroke right the first time, don’t fuss with it.
  • When painting monochromatic use a brush with no paint to pull up color off the canvas and lighten it by using the lighter surface beneath the paint.
  • If you have two values that meet and the edge that is made is slightly soft, paint the colors up to each other with a hard edge then carefully draw a dry brush along the edge to soften it slightly. This has to be done very carefully any jitters in the brush stroke will wobble the edge.
  • Look out for reflected light in shadows, they will look lighter than they actually are. An interesting phenomenon described by Richard Schmid in his book Alla Prima, if you stare long enough into a shadow your eyes will dilate slightly letting in more light allowing you to see many more values than you should paint in a shadow, always squint your eyes when comparing values.


The Painting





Here I started into the painting by adding the darkest dark of the background, and the value transitions upon the sheet. I proceeded to do the same with the base, then the cone, the cylinder and lastly the most foreground element, the sphere.


The Setup




Value Comparison


The reflected light on the cylinder is too dark, and needs to be just a small bit lighter. I also should have extended the shadow on the cone further up closer to its top point. The biggest value issue though is the base below everything is much too dark.


Session #116, Work #118


I have been reading “The Practice & Science of Drawing” for a while now, (free download here). If your an artist that is serious about drawing then I would highly recommend this book.

The gist of the book is this. Harold Speed went through two major schools, did his training and became a professional artist with great skill at mechanical accuracy, but it was not enough. So he studied the great master drawings and found that his years of training were lacking in some way. And only then did he “set to work to try and climb the long uphill road that separates mechanically accurate drawing from artistically accurate drawing”.

I can relate to Mr Speed, I have always felt that my training as an artist has always been lacking in some way. So, I’m reading this book to learn from the mistakes of a man who live over 100 years ago and to find the path that I should have taken years ago. Part of this new path is the painting that I started on tonight.


The Painting


I’m currently doing everything I can to work hard on drawing accuracy and training my eyes to notice the smallest differences. And this is mostly being done in the form of charcoal drawings from another old book “Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme Drawing Course“. This form of training is used in most of ateliers around the world and the work coming from students whom have trained like this is amazing. But, accordingly to Harold Speed this training is good but its lacks the combination of “mass drawing” in paint. Mr Speed indicates that in order to fully train in drawing one must utilize line drawing exercises as well as mass drawing exercises, separately as to fully understand each approach to drawing. The painting started tonight is the first of hopefully many mass drawing exercises.

Here I will go though the steps he has indicated for this exercise. I’m paraphrasing from the book, so if you want the full description I suggest you download the free epub book online.


Mass Drawing Steps

  • Select a simple object
  • Place it in strong artificial light (Make sure only light from 1 bulb is hitting your object, its easier)
  • Light should come from the left or the right, but not from the front.
  • On canvas draw in the outlines of the masses in charcoal.
  • Use straight lines and take care to get all the light and shadow shapes correct.
  • Use spray fixative on the drawing.
  • With raw umber and white oil paint mix up the exact half tone of the object.
  • Scumble the halftone over the entire canvas, you should barely see the drawing through this tone.
  • Mix up the lightest light on your object and map out the light areas on the object.
  • The scumbled half tone should stay where the halftones appear on your subject.
  • Take care in noticing how the light side edges meat the dark and if they are sharp or soft.
  • Mix up the darkest tone on the subject and map out the dark areas.
  • The thicker you paint the darker or lighter the tone your using will be, use this to indicate variation over you subject.

That is really simplistic, the book goes into much more detail.


The Setup



Beginning Drawing


Here I begin the drawing. Using a site-size method of drawing.



Drawing Comparison



I worked hard to get the drawing in charcoal pretty close, but I didn’t hesitate to obliterate it with paint. One thing I have heard over and over again is how artist kill the excitement in paintings by trying as hard as possible to save perfect drawings. Remember, painting IS drawing, your just using a brush loaded with paint. If you constantly think drawing while your painting your accuracy with your subject will increase.

Some things I noticed about this exercise. Its probably best not to start it on a previously toned canvas like I did. Also, it may be better to have a lighter background to start with rather than a dark sheet like I have. In the book Mr Speed says to take the utmost care in getting the beginning halftone color perfect. I didn’t do that and I had to do a lot of corrections even at these beginning stages.

I plan on continuing this painting tomorrow, hopefully I can complete it and do another Bargue drawing, I want to see how my brain reacts to switching from drawing in mass with a brush to line drawing in charcoal.


Session #115, Work #117


I was moving pretty fast on this one, maybe a bit too fast. I drew the whole ear very similar to the guide on the left, the I wiped it down to very faint lines. This prep drawing had a lot of mistakes so I re-drew all the lines again with more measuring, then once again wiped it all down to make the lines very light. I also added a bit of charcoal to the paper to tone it a bit so that any of my guide lines would be hidden easier. Lastly I used a generals charcoal pencil to draw the finishing lines.


The Drawing



The Setup



Drawing Comparison



At least two major errors, circled above, and a few smaller errors in accuracy. Like the far left line of the ear, and the top most line.

I found another great use of the sanguine lead that I was using today in life drawing, unfortunately I had worn down the only piece I had to a very small nub, so it was very hard to get a point on it or hold it. This is why my traced line is so bad.

Session #115, Work #116


While browsing A&C Supply today I was next to the graphite pencils choosing the best variation of leads for my sketchbook when I saw the “Cretacolor Leads” and one of them was red. Now most of the red chalks that I have tried have been bound with additives and turn out to be a bit waxy, but this one was dry as a bone, just like chalk. I was going to by a few but all they had was a couple sad broken pieces on the self, and the clerk was nice enough to give me a piece to try during my class.

I must say I really liked working with it, especially on newsprint. Where charcoal would scratch over the paper, the chalk would roll over it smoothly with a nice line. Thinking about it now it kinda makes since, charcoal is made from wood which naturally has fibers, very stiff fibers, ones that easily turn into splinters. Dragging these over paper especially in the wrong direction isn’t the smoothest. Chalk on the other hand is compressed dust, or dirt like substance, when dragging this over any surface the feeling is much smoother with the added bonus of the ability of drawing against the lead.

After working at home tonight I was still thinking about the “Cretacolor Lead” and I jumped online to see if I could purchase some, and to my surprise, they call it Sanguine!

Sanguine is the red chalk that most Old Masters used when drawing, you will see tons of master sketches in this red color, that is Sanguine. Originally it came in big irregular chunks and you would have to chisel off a good size piece and shape it with a knife. I looked for hours once online to see if I could buy it anywhere, but the only place I could find it was a store in Italy, and it was super expensive.

So if anyone is interested here is a link to the products.

Sanguine pencil, pencil lead, and stick.

The very cool pencil lead holders.


The Drawings

Sketching before the class, the model was a bit boxy.


1 minute poses


1 minute poses

Here you can see that I’m alternating between the sanguine and the charcoal. I’m not sure of it yet.


1 minute poses


1 minute poses


1 minute poses


5 minute poses


5 minute pose


5 minute pose


20 minute pose


1 hour plus pose


This happens all the time, I like the drawing when I’m at the class, and I leave feeling great, then I get home and look at it again and hate it. I wonder if its the lighting in the class… maybe its so dark in there that I can’t see bad drawing.

Session #114, Work #115


I have been toning the paper lately. Not prior to doing the drawing but after the initial stage of the drawing, before I put down my finishing lines I will rub charcoal over the paper darkening it a bit, softening the initial lines. It’s very similar to scraping a painting then working into it, the drawing is there and done, now the focus is on the surface.


The Drawing




The Setup



Drawing Comparison



I worked fast on this one, I keep wanting to put in lines with flourish and command. Yet I fear my lack of accuracy. A few mistakes here, the worst of them is the top and left of the eye, considering this was right next to the major intersecting vertical and horizontal line that I placed at the beginning, it should be more accurate. I think the speed as to which I was working caused this.

Session #114, Work #114


I feel as though an instructor would be most helpful in navigation here. What am I supposed to be learning with this plate beyond honing my skills of judgement and measurement?

I shall have to do some online research into this subject, until then I will just comment on my mistakes and successes.


The Drawing




The Setup




Drawing comparison



The tracing is working out well, its much faster than Photoshop, and I think the act of tracing over my drawing is a bit of training in itself. While tracing, if I imagine that I’m not actually tracing, but producing the drawing with superb confidence and accuracy, it give me a glimpse of skills that I’m working toward.

The eye socket drawing is just about perfect, the only discouraging area of this drawing is the placement of the mouth, upper lip, and nose.

Session #113, Work #113


I worry constantly now that I’m not working more hours on drawing. Today I did this Bargue drawing plus I did a couple sketches in my sketch book, but I still think I need more time. But, with work and other things, I really don’t see how I can spend more time working on art. If I really pushed myself I think I could average about 3 to 4 hours a night, but that would be pushing it.


The Drawing




The Setup





I think from now on I’m going to do tracings of my drawings instead of doing the comparison in Photoshop  This is much easier and faster, and I don’t have to worry about camera distortions.

So the big inaccuracies here are, the placement of the nose, it needed to be more to the left and same with the upper lip. The placement of the eye was a bit off, I was working hard to get the eyebrow shadow shape so exact that I totally didn’t focus on the more important eye itself.


Session #113, Work #112


I was going very fast on this drawing. I had just got home from my painting class and I wanted to get this drawing started at least. It was very interesting with the different setup. I was correct on my previous statement, it was very difficult in sizing up the vertical measurements for this setup.

I utilized the guide a bit here to get the drawing setup but I quickly realized that I couldn’t look at the guide for any measurements at all, I had to measure completely from the subject.


The Drawing



The Setup



Drawing Comparison



This is after about 40 minutes of drawing, and the photo is very blurry.



This is the normal method that I use to compare my drawings. I take a photo, then I outline my drawing in Photoshop, then I take that outline layer and duplicate it then move it over the original for comparison. As you can see in the above drawing it is completely and totally wrong, I don’t think there are more than two lines that are correct here. Now, I know I was going fast but I was sure that my accuracy wasn’t that bad so I did the following.


My drawing traced on tracing paper and placed over the original.


Holy cow! Look at the difference. My iPhone camera really distorted the previous image so bad that it was ridiculous. I feel much better now, my drawing really isn’t that bad, I was fairly accurate even with this new vertical setup. From now on I’m going to trace my drawing with tracing paper and overlay that  on the subject and take a photo.


Session #112, Work #111


I took a four hour Oil materials class at Art and Craftsman Supply in Seattle. The class was given by Jamie Bollenbach and was very informative.

The huge number of material options and possibilities is basically limitless for Oil painting and it really comes down to one thing, there is no absolute correct or incorrect way to paint in Oil. There are some good choices and some bad, but that really all depends on your goal. Here are some notes of a few things that I learned during the class

  • The price of paints mostly depend on amount of pigment in them or the rarity of the pigment.
  • A vehicle of Walnut or Poppy-seed oil is best for lighter colors, especially white.
  • To get a super intense color, you have to glaze or subdue the colors surrounding it, or both.
  • Walnut oil takes longer to dry.
  • Encostic painting is  basically painting where the vehicle use is wax.
  • A chalk and marble dust ground over rabbit skin glue is a much better surface to paint on, but it takes a long time to prepare.
  • When sizing with rabbit skin glue do not boil the glue.
  • When drawing on canvas with charcoal you can use a brush dipped in turpentine to move the charcoal around easy.
  • Bring a small lamp to class when you can to light your canvas/paper.
  • 1/3 Solvent, 1/3 Damar varnish, 1/3 Linseed oil: is my new favorite medium.


The painting was quick, I did a fast drawing without much rechecking at all. I then began a wash of the general color/value of each area with lots of medium. I then began adding in direct color with much less medium after the painting was covered. I continued to work in mostly paint right out of the tube with just a little medium until finished.


The Painting



The Setup

I didn’t take a photo of the still life, so no drawing comparison. But here is a look at the values. Interesting how the painting turns mostly all to grey.


Session #111, Work #110


Plate three of the Bargue course introduces a bit of shading, but that wasn’t really much of an issue here. For some reason I was pretty far off in the accuracy here, my theory is that it was the increased size do the drawing, that caused issues.


The Drawing





The Setup






The problem here is not that the drawing is inaccurate, its that the drawing is inaccurate and I didn’t notice these glaring inaccuracies. I did make an attempt to fix the vertical height of the upper lip, I noticed that it was a bit short, but I failed in making it long enough even after adjustment. I should have gotten the horizontal line for the base of the nose much closer than that.


Well, one thing I do know is that my biggest weakness currently is judging horizontal distances. What is interesting about this plate is that the guides were originally placed above the finished drawings, but I moved then to be to the left of the original. I wonder if Bargue did the vertical placement intentionally so the student would be forced to have an easier time judging the horizontal distances but not the vertical.

While thinking about that, maybe its not that I’m better at judging vertical distance more than horizontal distances. Its more likely the case that its easier to judge the vertical distances when you subject is situated on the same horizontal plane as the drawing. I bet if I situated my drawing below the original next that I would have an easier time of judging the horizontal distances but more trouble judging the vertical distances. There is only one way to find out…


Session #111, Work #109


This drawing seemed to be one of the easiest of plate two. I barely looked at the guide this time. I’m finding that the guide is a bit to general and I break the form down a bit closer to the original much sooner.


The Drawing



The Setup







This is how I’m starting all these drawings currently.

  • Top most horizontal line
  • Bottom most horizontal line
  • Place vertical line in relation to subject to garner as much info with it as possible
  • Place the rest of the vertical measurements
  • Place the horizontal measurements and begin generalization of the drawing




I hope to look back on my beginning drawings one day and see that I have improved massively, right now I “feel” like I’m improving but I really can’t tell.

Session #110, Work #108


Not much to say about this one, see my previous post for process and drawing comparison.


The Drawing



The Setup



Drawing Details

51713a-detail 51713a-detail2 51713a-detail3

Portable Taboret

The Perfect studio

Since January I have been painting and drawing in my apartment with a very humble setup. This made since at the time, the main goal was to set to task as quickly and as easily as possible. Nothing kills work like a long and arduous setup time. Time and again I have seen great artists always have materials quickly at hand in studio or on location. Either to capture a fleeting landscape scene in a moving car or aboard a plane, or a fleeting moment of inspiration with a well prepared and easily accessible studio.

Side note here, while searching for a good post about Chuck Close’s studio I happened upon this great post by Brain Picking’s where Close talks about the excuse for the perfect studio.

I was never one of those people who had to have a perfect situation to paint in. I can make art anywhere, anytime — it doesn’t matter. I mean, I know so many artists for whom having the perfect space is somehow essential. They spend years designing, building, outfitting the perfect space, and then when it is just about time to get to work they’ll sell that place and build another one. It seems more often than not a way to keep from having to work. But I could paint anywhere. I made big paintings in the tiniest bedrooms, garages, you name it. you know, once I have my back to the room, I could be anywhere.Chuck Close

I would do well to head the words of this master artist and strive to be ready anytime and anywhere to capture inspiration with minimal setup and lack of “perfect” conditions. I do recall one very inspiring day where I ended up painting in my own kitchen, the conditions were far from perfect but still the painting turned out great, although as I recall, I found the process to be more enjoyable.

As I write this post I made a note in my daily ledger to begin my next project of having a sketchbook with me at all times and ready to sketch in any situation. I think I will swap my ledger for a sketchbook of the same size and make it a constant companion equipped with drawing tools.

So, to get back to my original thought. I needed a better home studio, one that could be compact, always ready, portable, and held all the supplies I needed with good lighting conditions. I dared to dream and I think I have come up with my perfect compact home studio.

The Idea

I have made a lot of notes on the idea of this transformer like studio with the possibilities of almost any situation. But to be brief I can sum up the idea as a movable taboret with adjustable glare free lighting a detachable easel, a larger working space with a glass palette and plenty of storage.

If you have shopped online for taborets you will know how crazy expensive they are. And everyone that I have seen would not match my particular needs. So I had only one choice left… I must build it myself.

Stage one: The Dresser

I started my search for the perfect taboret base at IKEA. After figuring out the approximate height that I would need the base to be, including the later addition of wheels, I chose a dresser called HOPEN. Not only was the design nice and simple but the addition of frosted glass fronts on the drawers was very stylish, and the price was great. I must say that the IKEA website is far superior to most furniture websites, too many other websites lack specific information as in exact measurements. Thanks to IKEA I knew this piece would work perfectly for my needs before I made the hour long drive to the store.

Fueled by inspiration I didn’t waste time in traveling to IKEA to pick up the base of my taboret. While on the way I even took the time to stop at a parking lot and do a  landscape painting.

The assembly of the HOPEN chest of drawers

Like all of the IKEA furniture that I have assembled this one was simple and easy with as minimal hardware as possible. That being said, this was the most complex assembly of IKEA furniture that I have done yet, most of our previous purchases were simpler items.

The next day I took a trip to my local Loews for all the supplies I would need to turn this normal chest of drawers into the perfect taboret.

  • Two panels of wood cut to size, one for the base, and one for the back.
  •  Four wheels at 4 inches in height.
  • Hardware to attach the base and back to the chest.
  • Hardware to attach the wheels.
  • 1″x2″x8′ wood boards for lighting rig.
  • A saw to cut the wood. ( a humble replacement for the wood working shop I once had )

The next few photos are of the additions added to the chest of drawers, you will notice that I tend to over engineer things a bit and opted to attach everything with bolts rather than wood screws. I figured there was going to be a lot of stress on these joints as it is of considerable weight and I will be moving it frequently.


I had the half inch plywood cut to size at Loews, much easier than using a hand saw. In this photo I am attaching the wheels to the base piece after previously measuring their location.


A picture of some of the supplies that I gathered.


Detail of one wheel bolted to the board.


After attaching the wheels to the base plywood I set the chest of drawers (without the drawers) on top of the base so I could prepare for attaching the chest to its base with bolts and “L” brackets.


I was accurate as possible in my measurements, I learned years ago to measure multiple times before committing to any cut or drill.


The wheels I chose are 3 inch casters that are about 4 inches in height. The thick carpet in this apartment makes rolling the chest very difficult even with these large wheels. The front casters have locks on them, but currently the carpet and weight of the chest keeps it in one place easily. All four casters swivel so that it can maneuver into almost any orientation. Unfortunately, I have found that due to the weight of a full chest and the thickness of the carpet that it is hard to get the chest to start moving because the wheels have to swivel into position first, then roll. This initial swivel makes it very difficult for to start moving but I corrected it by adding some handles low on the sides of the chest ( see later images ). I believe that if this was put on a more flat surface that it would move very easily.


More images of hardware and how the base is being attached to the dresser. I had to be careful not to have the bolts stick out too far inside the chest as it would impair the sliding of the drawers.


Detail of one of the six “L” brackets attached inside.


Outside detail view of the bolt attached to the “L” backet inside the dresser.

Back of the chest with plywood attached.

I used a total of 12 “L” brackets with two bolts each. Six for the base and 6 for the back. As you can see here there base sticks out from the back about two inches. This was a previous oversight on my part but it proved to be very helpful in the end.

I attached a new plywood back to the chest because the original backing was a very thin pieces of masonite nailed to the chest. That would not have held up to what I plan to attach to the back of the chest, nor would it have done well under the stress of rolling the chest around the apartment.

The Lighting Rig

The main idea of the lighting rig is to allow me to pull my lighting along with my portable taboret. My first idea was to get a bendable standing light that would hold a single Compact Florescent Light bulb but I couldn’t find a lamp that would fit my needs correctly, and I was also worried about a single compact bulb only lighting some of my canvas or paper. I wanted to end up with a consistent light over my substrate and palette with reduced or no glare.

My solution was to build a lighting rig that would suspend a light above the taboret. It would need to allow for the light to move forward and back as well as up and down to take advantage of higher ceilings in later places that I’m sure to move to.


This is the rig after completion. I used the more expensive 1″x 2″ wood a Loews because it was straighter with little to no knots. For supporting the Joints I used “L” brackets and screws plus four triangle pieces cut out of the original backing for the chest of drawers, its a fairly thin Masonite. I made sure to use glue with every connection here and let it dry for at least an hour.


These are the horizontal pieces that will eventually be above my head and attached to the light. I just used an “L” bracket on each side, but I only attached it with screws to the horizontal pieces so that the horizontals would slide easily forwards and back.


Here is a better shot of how the “L” brackets were attached to the horizontals but not the rig itself.


I didn’t want to attach the rig directly to the taboret because it will eventually need to slide up to extend as high as possible depending on ceiling space. Unfortunately the ceilings in this apartment are a little less than eight feet. You can see here that the base of the taboret sticks out about an inch, this is essential as this is where the verticals from the lighting rig will rest as well as the easel that is going to be added later.


Here is the full lighting rig attached to the taboret, complete with light. I must say a few things about lighting.

Lighting for Artists

I did a lot of research on what is the best lights to get for a studio. There is so much information out there and most of it never matched my needs perfectly, but it all comes down to the correct bulbs. Here is what I have found to be the best and least expensive.

If you work very small and don’t care too much about uneven light over your canvas and palette than go with a Compact Florescent Bulb. If you work larger and even light over canvas and palette is essential than you will need to do like I have done and go with Florescent Tubes. Originally I wanted to go smaller than 4 foot tubes but price goes up the smaller they get and there are not may options at smaller sizes either. Now the most essential thing is you MUST get bulbs that produce a color of light between 5000 and 6000 kelvin (this is the same color as north light). The bulbs I purchases are Phillips, 5000 Kelvin, 4 foot, T8, Florescent tubes. And they are housed inside a very inexpensive plug in shop light. You can go with 6500 Kelvin bulbs but I found that color to be much too blue.

The best thing about the florescent tubes is that they will cast a larger more even light over your work space and if you get the correct color (5000 kelvin at least) it will be just like working from north light. Actually the window behind my taboret in this post faces north and when I compare the light coming from the window to the light from my 5000 kelvin florescent tubes, it is almost exactly the same. The light from the window is much brighter of course, and is very slightly more blue.


Close up of the shop light attached to the horizontal brace and the “L” bracket allowing it to be easily slid forwards and backwards.


The only problem with this shop light is that the cord is very short…

Picture of paintings taken while illuminated by my new setup. Here there is a lot less glare on my canvas and the colors are exactly the same as if viewed from north light. Keep in mind these were taken with my iPhone 5 without a tripod.

tab19 tab20 tab21

 The Easel

I purchased an Italian made metal tripod easel that was recommended by Marc Dalessio for plain air painting for tall persons that want to do site-size in plain air. I had several necessities for choosing this easel for the taboret. First I wanted it to be easily detachable so I could use the easel for any other situation. Secondly it needed to be adjustable in height as well as in tilt. The Italian metal easel achieved all of this. The greatest thing about this is that the easel cost me only about $50 plus shipping from Madison Art Shop.

Side note, I looked at other easels locally that were of similar construction, and I would suggest NOT to go with them, they are sub par in many ways. You want to get the one by Richeson, trust me.
Attaching the easel is pretty simple. All I have is a horizontal piece of plywood screwed across the back of the taboret with about 1 inch of space between it and the back of the taboret. I have a Velcro strap attached to the top center of the taboret, that wraps around the center leg of the easel, and a metal loop below (its hard to see in the next picture) that the center leg will also pass through.
After working with this setup for several weeks now I can safely say that its very sturdy and easily adjustable. You can even see from this post that I was able to start a drawing that was almost 5 feet wide and 3 feet tall.

The humble light box

I needed a very cheap and tall light box that was easily adjustable. The solution was “Wire cube shelving system” at target. It was very cheap and would take on lots of configurations for storage and light boxes. What is really great about this is that you can easily attach a light to it from almost any angle and shine light through the wires, much better than a box with holes. Plus I use the rest of the shelves to hold extra still life items, books, supplies, and anything.


This image shows my still life all lit up with a very cheap sheet from target also. I later replaced that light bulb with a CFL at 5000 Kelvin.


The Total

I figured I would give a total of all the supplied to make my setup happen.

  • IKEA Chest: $100
  • Wood for base and back of Chest: $36
  • Hardware: $5 + $5 + $6 + $5 + $16 + $23
  • Wire cubes, Target: $25
  • Sheet, Target: $10
  • Chest handles: $8
  • Light rig wood: $4 + $12
  • CFL bulb: $6
  • Florescent Tubes, Home Depot: $10
  • Shop Light, Home Depot: $20
  • Wheels: $25
  • Saw: $11
  • Easel: $60

Total = $387

That is not an exact total I would guess that the grand total is right at 400. But still this is much cheaper than and all in one store bought item like this one.


Session #109, Work #108


This will be used for a game called “Pin the radio transmitter on the rhino”, so the drawing only needed to be a simple illustration. I decided to do much more. I’m in the mode now where I want to train my eye every day to become more accurate in judging spacial relationships. And this proved to be a very fun and informing drawing, that really showed how great site-size method drawing really is.

Of course I would love to be drawing from a real life model but, unfortunately the cats would not like a rhino in the apartment.

This is the first stage of the drawing, I anticipate one more session to finish it.


The Drawing


Very large drawing here, its about 4 and a half feet wide and 3 feet tall.


The Setup


In order for me to site-size this correctly I had to get the picture the same size as the drawing, which meant I had to setup the drawing about 10 feet away from the paper, and I stood about 3 feet from the picture. I marked a place on the carpet with tape so I knew what position I had to return to each time I needed to compare. I also marked two notches on the photo which corresponded with two drawn lines on the far left of the drawing, you can’t really see them here they are too light and small.

So the basic idea is that I would line up my body and head in the correct position using the marks on the floor, the picture and the drawing. Then I would make a judgement such as the placement of a horizontal line intersecting the top of the horn, or the top of the whole rhino. Then I would move forward quickly without taking my eyes off point in the drawing where I think the point should be, make the mark on the paper, then return to my observation point to compare correctness. It turned out to be a lot of walking back and forth, but the drawing began to bloom out of the paper slowly, and I was very surprised at the accuracy.











Drawing comparison



Considering that I was about 13 feet away from the drawing and any measurements that I was doing would vary wildly with the slightest movement of my hands or arms while measuring, I think the accuracy turned out really well. The only bad part is that I truncated the rhino a bit, and worse than that is the paper ends and the rhino extends beyond it. I will have to add some paper to the drawing and fix its hind quarters.



Session #109, Work #107


Just one more drawing after this one and I will move on to plate three of the Bargue drawing course. The next plate gets into some shading with full faces. Hopefully I can keep up the accuracy that I achieved on this drawing through to all of the next plates.


The Drawing



The Setup






I’m very happy when the drawing is this close. I think marking a vertical line first then measuring out from there is the best way for me to get the best accuracy.

Session #108, Work #106


Not sure what was going on with me during drawing class but I couldn’t get anything to work right. I didn’t feel like I was rushing at all. I was measuring as much as I could. Yet, the drawings are severely lacking in accuracy.

I purchased some simple shapes from the store today and I’m going to paint them white so I can do some mass drawing and painting studies.


The Drawings

1 minute poses.



1 minute poses.



1 minute poses.



1 minute poses.



1 minute pose



30 minute pose



1 hour pose




Session #108, Work #105


I did much better on this drawing than the last one. I changed my process up a bit. First I drew horizontal lines indicating the top of the subject and the bottom. Then I put an arbitrary vertical line, that represented an imaginary line on the subject passing through the further right point on the chin, through the part in the lips and through where the nose meets the upper lip. With this line I was able to get several vertical and horizontal points located easily.


From here I was able to measure out from the vertical line to find the placement for the furthers right point of the tip of the nose, the furthest left on the nostril and the corner of the mouth. I find it much easier to measure out from a central line this way then creating a rectangle around the entire subject and measuring into it.


The Drawing



The Setup



Drawing Comparison

51513-drawingI did much better with the accuracy of this drawing and I think my process here had a lot to do with it.

Session #107, Work #104


The Drawing



The Setup





Here is how I began the drawing, I didn’t use the vertical and horizontal line shown by the guide. I did an angled line that touched the top of the lip and the furthest right point on the chin.



After setting in some vertical measurements I added in the vertical line similar in placement to the guides vertical line. This was very helpful in placing the extension of the nose.


51413-drawingThere are many errors here, and I’m not sure exactly how to correct them. There comes a point in a drawing where my powers of observation and judgement obviously need honing.  I’m trying to get away from measuring as much as possible because its not always possible when dealing with a more un-sanitized drawing environment. In a real environment I have to rely mostly on my own powers of observation, I have to be able to spot the most smallest difference without any aid beyond just looking and comparing the subject to the drawing.


Session #106, Work #103


For plate number four I decided to follow the guide on the left much more closely. I was interested in the central intersecting line that Bargue used. It seemed to be a very obvious way of finding the location of most of the feature while at the same time keeping their angles coherent. Unfortunately it proved to be very difficult as you will see in the comparison below.


The Drawing




The Setup



Drawing comparison


Here I started with the central line then I found points on that line that would correspond with the angles that intersected it through the top of the lip, the center of the mouth, the crease of the lips and where the lips meet the chin. I found it very difficult to get these exact points, they seemed to be based on arbitrary locations within the face and existed somewhere within an angle.

Instruction would have been helpful here, I really don’t know how to deal with these angular measurements.




Here you can see a bunch of errors, the largest being the placement of the nose and nostrils.  As I look at it now I’m amazed that I misjudged the furthers nostril so much. So far the bridge of the nose has been off in the last few drawings, I really need to target that as a week point and eradicate the behavior with more measurements.



Session #105, Work #102


I’m definitely getting to know charcoal well. I’ve never had to sharpen the sticks so much to get such exact lines. During this drawing I was a bit distracted so my focus wasn’t up to what it should have been and the comparison shows that. I will need to do better tonight.


The Drawing



The Setup



Drawing Comparison



Well, I’m getting my vertical distances down perfect, its the horizontal distances that I’m having trouble judging and measuring. I need to find a way to better measure a horizontal distance. I kept looking at the nose thinking it was too big, but then I would measure and it was correct. The issue was that the nose was not placed correctly it should have gone to the right just a small bit. Same wit the  crease in the mouth and the line to the right of the nostril.


Session #105, Work #101


For some reason these plates are going much faster than the first plate, I’m not sure if I’m getting better or the simplicity of the line is just easier.


The Drawing




The Setup



Drawing Comparison


I started this one a bit different. I began by closely measuring the more internal parts of the face, the top lip first,  then I move outward from there. I was hoping that this would fix my previous error of getting the bridge of the nose in the incorrect place, but it didn’t.



This is the start of the drawing. I can see now that the generalization of feature is essential for quickly getting  accurate drawing down. And enough of that accurate drawing for a good comparison with the original before moving on to refinements.


Session #104, Work #100


I thought that this plate would be much harder but I really enjoyed doing this plate much more than the first. This was much closer to drawing from an actual face rather than just a drawing. I tried as hard as I could to make the lines as exact as possible.


The Drawing




The Setup



Drawing Comparison


This is how I began the drawing, unfortunately the line of the bridge of the nose was off and that difference continued through  to the end drawing. I used the Bargue guide on the left only as a possible indicator to how to begin the drawing but I found my own path.




I’m very pleased with the accuracy here, even though the bridge of the nose and the ends of the mouth are off a bit.

Session #104, Work #099


I’m using Stonehinge paper this time. And I think it is going to be my choice of paper for a while. Its like the Arches hot pressed watercolor paper but it is cheaper and comes in colors.


The Drawing



The Setup



Drawing Comparison



Lots of mistakes on this one. I went fairly quick and didn’t measure most of the points, and it show a lot.

Session #103, Work #098


Plate 1, eye number eleven. I went quickly on this one, trying to get as much done with only eye judgement and not much measurement. Forcing myself to do this can only help me in the future I’m sure.

I did figure out one major thing for this drawing. I dislike the Strathmore 300 series charcoal paper for fine detail, the Arches watercolor paper is far superior for fine detail, although the Arches really clings on to the charcoal and makes it a bit harder to move around. If I added a light grey wash to the paper it would be perfect.


The Drawing



The Setup



Drawing Comparison



These comparisons are really essential for telling me if I’m getting better or not. I feel like I’m getting better, my judgments are closer and these drawings are not taking as long, but I still have a long way to go.

For the top right lines that are so far off, I really didn’t measure those at all, they were added by just looking closely and trying to make the best judgement. Most of the rest was done the same. I can tell I went quick on this one cause I have much more lines incorrect than before.




Session #103, Work #097


I came in a bit under an hour here. I was able to speed up a bit by making judgments on the fly here and going for the correct line without much preparation.


The Drawing





The Setup







Most of the internal lines here I did without much point preparation and I’m happy that they are very close. Again, the lines further from the center are the worst, I need to find a more accurate way of judging these lines.

Session #103, Work #096


Bargue plate 1, eye number nine. I’m trying to do as much as I can without measuring and really trying to train my eye to see differences and make judgement based on that alone. I will make a judgement fix in my head what I need to change, but then I will double check that judgement with measurement, most of the time my initial judgement is correct. It seems as though I need to gain more confidence of my own judgments though.

Also, just seeing a difference is only half of the issue, I have to be able to judge correctly what needs to be changed. If a height is wrong between two lines, then which line do I change? This was this issue is several places on this drawing.


The Drawing


The Setup



Drawing Comparison



Although it looks a bit clunky, I drew the eyeball curves just once with only minimal points plotted earlier. The small line above the eyelid I redrew three times and still didn’t get it correct. With all the incorrect areas here, there are still a few places where I have excelled and I’m happy about that. I still have 3 more of these eyes to do before I go on to the second plate. And I believe that I have about 50+ more plates after that for the first section of the course… WOW!

Session #102, Work #095


Not much to say, still working on the first plate of the Bargue drawing course. I really need to try and do more than one hour a night on this if I’m ever going to finish it.


The Drawing





The Setup





Drawing Comparison



Its seems to always be the case that the furthest from the center is more prone to mistakes.


Session #101, Work #094


I started drawing the two minute poses to night in a site-size method which quickly became stunted and ugly. I was focusing on seeing the proportions correctly and getting the drawing correct but the duration of time necessary to get the model on the page needed quick work. Unfortunately I didn’t see their opposition, but luckily Jamie made a comment that really changed how I was drawing from horrible to wonderful.

I must also mention that I was lucky to be standing next to an artist that was so kind to offer up a huge chunky piece of charcoal. Without his kindness and Jamie’s insight tonight’s would not have been as fantastic.

Basically Jamie broke me out of the rigidity of my method and allowed me to start much more expressively with broad strokes defining the figure as simple as possible quickly at first, then later working into those planes in more detail. This is why I love charcoal so much, the ability to push and pull it around like paint is a thing of beauty.

I want you to grab a large chunk of charcoal and define the entire figure in only a few very broad thick strokesJamie Bollenbach

I think you will easily be able to tell at which point in my drawings tonight that the change happened.



The Drawings

Two Minute poses



Two Minute poses



Five Minute poses



Five Minute poses



Five Minute poses



Five Minute poses



1 hour pose




Session #100, Work #093

Still working hard on training my eye through the Bargue course. Even though this session was only an hour long I worked really hard on getting the drawing as perfect as possible.

So this is the 100th consecutive session that I have done and I wanted to do something special but I have been so busy that I have been finding it difficult to even do more than an hour a night. So, I just continued with the course, although at this rate I  will finish the Bargue course in about a year… I do plan on working hard on my drawing for at least nine months before going back to mostly painting, I think this really strict schedule can only help me in the future. From session 1 this year the my biggest failure has always been drawing and I need to really focus on it hard.

Currently I’m also reading “The Practice and Science of Drawing” by Harold Speed, and it is giving a great account of the exact path an artist should take to become an excellent draftsman.

As I did a search for this book to link it I found that it is also a free e-book, of course I find this out after I purchase it.

The Drawing




What is interesting here is that even the weight of the line is throwing off my ability to judge if a distance/width is correct. There are a couple places here that look incorrect but when compared are not.

Session #099, Work #092


One hour is not a very long amount of time to spend on these drawings. I still need to strive for perfection here, it will only help me more in the future.

Its interesting that this is the first plate of the course. A whole bunch of eyes. It makes since because the whole purpose of this is learning to see.

The Drawing



The Setup



I knew that the top brow line above the eye was too far down, but I left it there anyway. Luckily I fixed the bridge of the nose placement, that was much farther off previously. The most important part of these drawing is learning to judge distances. And even though this drawing is not perfect I feel like I’m getting better at being able to see differences in shapes much more accurately.