Hello to my fellow sketchbook magicians! (If these classes are about practicing sketchbook magic, that definitely makes us magicians.)
Elyse here, on my second class with Ria. I just finished Sketchbook Magic I and started Sketchbook Magic II yesterday so I can participate in the Embrace Your Art Challenge. I've really been enjoying making art every day and I'm so glad I've taken the time for these classes.
I really liked the quote from the day 1 session: "Show up, show up, show up, and after a while, the muse shows up too." It made me think of one of my other favorite quotes, about commitment:
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too."
So here I am. Let Providence move too.
DAY 1. ROOTS
I love having houseplants, and one of my favorite things to do is put clippings or broken off parts (thanks, cats) in water and watch them root. Last year when I was struggling to find time to make art, I did a little pen and marker piece of one of my rooting vines:
This plant had lost a ton of leaves and was looking so sad but it kept rooting and growing. So with today's prompt, I wanted to do a follow up because this sad little vine has been busy:
It's a good reminder that putting in the time pays off for any kind of growth. I also think I'm going to stick with pens and markers for at least the first 5 days of this challenge, because not being able to erase forces me to just roll with whatever is on the paper instead of obsessing over each line and every color being perfect. I may do one or two more today but for now I'm really pleased with what I've got.
Looking forward to seeing everyone else's sketchbook magic this month!
I'm going to call this day 1.5 because I did a second sketch with the ROOTS theme. The prompt made me remember this fantastic set of roots I'd taken pictures of during a hike in Virginia:
I really wanted to capture the awesome twisted, organic shape of these roots, so I started on what ended up being a somewhat abstract pattern drawing:
These roots reminded me of Yggdrasil, the mythical tree that connects the nine worlds that are part of Norse mythology (and Marvel comics by extension). Being a big fan of both comics and sci-fi, I just love the idea of a between-place that connects everything together. So of course that led me off on a totally different tangent, and I got busy making my idea of Yggdrasil:
Pink was a little bit of an arbitrary selection; I just wanted something bright that would pop out from the page. After I got my sketch in photoshop I started playing around with hues and made a glowing yellow verison too:
So that's why I'm calling this day 1.5, because it was inspired by roots, but also because it's a place. Looking back now on the colored vs. uncolored version, it consistently amazes me how much color and value affect the feel of an image. I'm really pleased with how this came out. Here's a closeup because I'm proud of myself:
I'll be posting an actual Day 2 sketch later today.
DAY 2. PLACE
Okay, so PLACE was immediately a challenge from the second I saw the new day's prompt come through. One of the biggest things I have trouble letting go and feeling comfortable doing is backgrounds/places/spaces. As soon as more rigid perspective comes into it I clench up and reach for the ruler. Of course this means I avoid drawing spaces like it's my job, and so the cycle of not being comfortable continues.
Today's video for Sketch Magic II was about connecting with your joy. So while this actual subject is the opposite for me, I decided to push on ahead with one of my favorite places on earth: the pool. Last week I took up swimming again after more than 8 years away from the pool, and it's been so good in so many ways. I love the community pool I joined too; it's just worn enough to feel homey, and it's got these great giant windows that bring so much light into the room.
I tried to capture the feeling of weightlessness, floating on the edge of the deep end, and I'm pretty satisfied with what I've got. You can see where I kind of corrected the original lines when I went over with color, and I'm working on being okay with that.
DAY 3. MUSIC
I've been listening to Angel Haze's Battle Cry a lot in the last couple of weeks since it showed up on my running playlist and totally stopped me in my tracks with the lyrics. I was struggling with how best to capture it, since I never really know where to start when the subject is a little more abstract.
Fortunately I got my little watercolor box in the mail yesterday and started mixing colors.
Mixing paint got me excited about the feel of the colors and I decided to try to capture the song in colored stripes, layering in different colors as the song progressed. While maybe the concept was okay I felt blah about the actual results so I decided to start cutting things up and ended up with this:
I like the combination of the messy watercolors and the clean-cut edges, and I feel like I better captured the spirit of the song, which reminds me that I've got what it takes for the journey, wherever the journey ends up going.
DAY 4. LIGHT
Y'all, today was struggle city. I didn't want to draw, didn't want to do the prompt, didn't like the prompt, didn't like art, just having a general throwing-a-temper-tantrum-at-the-universe kind of day. But I showed up and made art anyway. Still don't love what I created but I'm owning it (except that part at the bottom that I cut off because no):
Surprise! It's tough to accurately draw hands with just ink. But for me, light on the human body is one of my absolute favorite things. It's amazing to just get lost rendering light and its counterpart shadows and watch an image fill out on the page. Even on a struggle city day.
DAY 5. SHADOW
Still working my way up to my sketch for today but I wanted to reflect on something:
I was really surprised at how much people liked the pool sketch and yesterday's hand sketch, which were my two least favorite sketches since I started doing daily sketches almost two weeks ago. This whole exercise of posting my work both here and on instagram has been a lesson in the fact that what I regard as "good work" vs. the reception of it are sometimes not at all aligned.
Making the Milky Way with markers ended up being an exercise in pointilism but I'm happy with the results. Happy Friday, y'all.
DAY 6. COMFORT
I thought immediately about my sleeping cats, but Ria's prompt got me thinking: "let’s give ourselves the gift of musing on what aspects of our experience brings us comfort and ease. What does comfort look like to you?"
For me, it's figure drawing. I had the privilege of taking a figure drawing class a few years back with a great professor and learned a lot, and so I feel really comfortable and happy doing gestures and figure drawings. So I pulled up quickposes.com and spent some time with their athletes challenge, which features some great dancers and martial artists.
I really enjoy the Quickposes.com figures because the pictures are usually high quality and with great lighting for studying muscles. Today, like other days, I picked a couple of the more interesting figures to render a little bit more. Hope everyone else had a happy and comfortable day!
DAY 7. COMPOSITION
I had no idea where to start with COMPOSITION, so I went to my magic bowl and pulled out "spoon", which was apparently just what I needed. Turns out drawing spoons accurately is super difficult so what I came out with is definitely not 100% correct but I like how the reflective effect turned out and most importantly, I'm really pleased with the composition:
DAY 8. MEMORY
So, yesterday I got really caught up with Ana Victoria Calderón's Modern Watercolor Techniques class (which I would highly recommend) and didn't actually get to my sketch. This morning I sat down to try to think of something to draw and had a tough time coming up with something to draw that represented a foundational memory. Of course I turned to the magic bowl and looked through some prompts, then remembered one of my favorite things to do as a kid: climb trees.
When my sister and I were little, we had a line of pine trees separating our backyard from our neighbor's backyard. At some point we started clearing out the dead wood underneath the trees, and after a while, had a path where you could climb up one tree and walk from tree to tree all the way to the edge of the yard.
At first I colored this with my prismacolors but it felt kind of sad and grey after playing with watercolors yesterday, so I decided to layer on some yellow and purple for more depth. Looking forward to using more watercolors in future sketches! I'll be updating again later when I finish TEXTURE.
DAY 9. TEXTURE
For TEXTURE I wanted to do something with watercolors to keep practicing with them, and because I like their many varied textures. I liked Ria's prompt, "A surface, yes, has texture but also a sound, a word, a scene in a movie, a relationship." So I started thinking about depression, which I deal with on and off. It's been showing up a little bit lately as I adjust to living in a new city.
I decided to revisit my gouache paintings from my first Sketch Book Magic class and work on my clouds. It was interesting to revisit after starting to work more with watercolors. I'm really pleased with the effect and the way it captures my concept:
DAY 10. TIME
Having recently moved and having a lot of time to reflect on this past year and what I want to do in my new city, I feel time (and its limits) pretty strongly. Am I using this break time wisely? Do I have enough time to do everything I want to do (of course not)? Have I done enough with my time up to this point in my life?
So originally I was going to do this prompt as some kind of box, a constraint, but then I took a shower and started thinking about all the events that led up to my coming into existence, and how my influence, whether large or small, will echo out after me.
This is the most abstract/conceptual thing I think I've ever made and I'm really proud of it. The inky black areas were done with plaka and the colors are watercolor.
DAY 11. PERSPECTIVE
I really struggled with how to approach this prompt, so much so that I put it off for a couple of days. I'm forgiving myself for that and moving on.
I took inspiration from my macro lens (really just my phone setting), because I like the way it can be used to call attention to detail where one might not otherwise notice it. It's been warm lately in this part of Texas, so suddenly all our trees have tiny buds on them in the loveliest of colors. I noticed them on one of my recent walks, decorating a tree that I'd previously just assumed was dead, since it's literally doubled over.
I snapped some photos and used them for my perspective picture:
I used line weights to simulate the focus/unfocus of the macro lens, and I'm really pleased with how the colors came out on the branches. I'm not all that enthused about the background, but I wanted to challenge myself to try it where I otherwise would have just left it.
Here's a version with the background removed:
(I definitely like this one better.)
DAY 12. SPACE
Today I pulled my inspiration from Ria: "I read somewhere that in painting, space is the appearance of depth even though the piece is flat." I was reminded immediately of one of my favorite effects in photographs of mountains, where they recede softly into the atmosphere. I had some reference photos from hikes, and used my new skills from Ana Victoria Calderón's watercolors class to practice transparencies and make some mountains:
It definitely took some practice to figure out the order of operations to achieve a good atmospheric effect. This was also a great way to practice transparencies, and another motif I'd like to explore further. I'll definitely be making more. It's amazing how similar they are to the clouds.
Still behind, but catching up.
DAY 13. OPEN
For this prompt I wanted to reflect on a couple of things; one, my openness to moving to a new place to invest in a relationship, and two, my opening myself to painting for the first time. My significant other got me some phenomenal flowers for my birthday/valentine's day, so I wanted to appreciate them fully by investigating them with paint.
There are few ways I can show my appreciation more for something than by drawing or painting it. As much as I like documenting favorite things and moments through photographs, there's something much more intimate and meaningful for me in the way you have to look at something in order to draw it, and something much more personal about the act of interpretation.
DAY 14. GIFT
I wanted to show my appreciation for Ria, her Sketchbook Magic classes, and everyone who has commented on and liked this project and my posts on Instagram. Please know that your encouragement is so appreciated
I may go back over this and ink it digitally, but for now I'm really pleased with how it's come out. Learning of the day: painting people in color is a lot harder than painting flowers.
DAY 15. BALANCE
I've been playing catch up on my prompts pretty much since the 14th when I found myself three days behind, and today I'll finally be back on track. I know I've been spending probably too mych time on my sketches, and as a result, I'm putting pressure on myself to make sure each sketch meets the standards of the others and that each sketch is "perfect". So balance is a timely reminder for me.
Today I decided to revisit one of Ana Victoria Calderón's precision exercises using leftover paints in my palette:
My spacing is not the most even, and sometimes the lines touched. Today was an exercise in being okay with that because the point is practice.
Here's the full version:
DAY 16. DEPTH
Today I explored what was deep in my brain: DOUGHNUTS. Specifically, doughnuts from my favorite doughnut maker in Atlanta, Sublime Doughnuts. Not only are their doughnuts the most delicious, they're all kinds of fun shapes. I decided to do some in-DEPTH studies of their doughnuts using Google Images to find references:
I got so excited about my little doughnut pictures that I decided to try to make a pattern repeat. I started Elizabeth Olwen's awesome class to get an idea of how to lay out the repeat, and mucked around in Photoshop putting something together, as I don't have Illustrator. Still a work in progress but I'll work on that separately. For the sake of today's sketch, here's what I ended up with:
I'm really happy, even though I'm still a day behind.
DAY 17. NURTURE
Nurture immediately got me thinking about rooting plants again, and so I wanted to return to Day 1's theme a little and celebrate my christmas cactus. I have two, one that I've had for probably close to 10 years, and another smaller one that I rooted after part of my larger one got knocked off. the smaller one has been doing really well lately, and I love watching the little pink ends sprout out and become new sections.
I also have patterns on the brain from Elizabeth Olwen's class, and so I did a little pattern-like tribute to the awesome shapes and colors of my plant:
Here's the full image:
Plants, and succulents in particular, are a good reminder that growing little by little is actually really effective. My original christmas cactus has been growing section by section over the years and now it's got this glorious lush set of "branches". That didn't happen overnight, and in some ways, I treasure it all the more for how long it's been growing.
DAY 18. PAST
For past, I returned to the thing I love most in the world, which is figure drawing. Drawing people was one of the motivations I had for taking up drawing again, after enjoying it as a kid. I was watching Pokemon in 5th grade, my first (and probably most other kids') exposure to anime. I loved the way the animators drew people, and started to copy their style.
As I started learning more about drawing people, I always wanted to take a lifedrawing class, and when I finally got the opportunity a few years ago, it was so satisfying to have the chance to improve my figures. I want to take forward with me that dedication to continual learning and improvement. This exercise of daily sketches has been a reminder that continual learning and improvement also takes continual putting things down on paper. I want to leave behind that fear of making something ugly or sloppy or wrong as I move forward with my practice.
Today's challenge coincided with a life drawing session with a hugely talented model, who graced our session with fantastic poses. We kicked off the session with 1 minute sketches, then 5, then 10, then 20. Here's what I have:
Two of the longer ones (20 minutes) that I was pleased with:
It's tough to get the full figure down on paper with enough time to start experimenting with paint/color, but I'll keep working at it.
DAY 19. THEME
Before I started with this prompt I thought for a little while about some defining aspects of my work. I tend to like the contrast between graphic elements and more painterly ones with lots of texture and value variation. I also like figures, and certain colors, all of which I tried to capture in today's sketch.
I'm still working on how to paint skin, so I thought today might be a nice opportunity to practice. The only thing I left out of this piece is linework, because I'm trying to challenge myself to work on coloring without having lines as a crutch.
DAY 20. PRECIOUS
With this prompt, I'm finally caught up. My two favorite pairs of ears:
I'm not in love with the colors, but it was a good reminder that boring source material needs a lot of work to make it un-boring (I worked with a reference photo). Definitely still learning with these watercolors, but my daily sketches have helped immensely.
DAY 21. DREAM
I got a little carried away with this one, but I really enjoy my dreams and wanted to take some time to capture a moment from one of my dreams last year that was very visually rich and visceral. I decided to experiment with a comics format. Comics are something that I'd really like to explore further so I'm working on overcoming my fear of the medium.
It's hard to tell from the photo, but I painted her skin with a little gold ink; I really like the effect.
DAY 22. FEAR
Few things leave me as unsettled as skulls. They've been a longstanding creep-out for me, the idea of just bones where a person used to be. I feel a lot of pressure to get things done with the time that I have, and maybe the bigger fear represented here is just the worry about not accomplishing anything, or being a disappointment (to myself, others).
I found this prompt surprisingly fruitful. Thanks to Ria for the reminder that mining your fears can be just as helpful and productive as any other inspiration. Definitely something I'd like to explor further.
DAY 23. STRUCTURE
Today I wanted to celebrate the excellent structure of a magnolia tree in my neighborhood (viewed from below while on a walk).
I think this may be my favorite piece so far this month, in terms of technique. I'm particularly happy with the transparencies and atmospheric perspective as the eye moves back from the foreground.
One big growth point for me with this piece is that it is entirely painted, with no underdrawing. I am feeling more confident in my ability to "draw" with my brush and I think it's really helping.
DAY 24. DETAIL
I thought a lot about this prompt, as I naturally gravitate toward details. I've been discovering lately that details can get me in trouble, as I focus too much on individual parts and lose track of the overall piece.
For this piece I experimented with focusing on some aspects of the piece (the flowers), with a more unfocused but still "realistic" background.
Honestly I don't love this, and that's okay. I didn't like it as it was coming out and kind of lost patience with finishing it. It let me do some experimenting though, and that was worthwhile.
DAY 25. SAFE
Today was back to my safe space, the life drawing studio, where I feel comfortable and open to experimenting in the best possible way.
Last night I had a conversation about my recent efforts with one of my relatives who is a watercolor artist. I probably wasn't fully ready to hear a critique but got one anyway. He reiterated (with love of course) that the work I've been doing tends to get too focused on details to the detriment of the whole. That was a little hard to hear, but after thinking about it this morning I know it's only going to make me better.
With his voice in my head, I decided to use paint only for the long sketches (20 mins), with a big brush so I could work from blocking to detail (but not too much detail). Here's what I made:
And my favorite:
Today was a reminder that it's important to push myself, and equally important to do so in a safe environment. Something I will definitely carry forward with me into these last 4 days of #febsketch.
DAY 26. MAGIC
This is where the magic happens:
I had an idea of what I wanted when I sat down, but instead of deliberating about how to do it or spending lots of time making sure the perspective was correct (it's not), I just got it down on the page and painted it. Feels like progress and I'm really happy with how it came out. Ballpoint pen and watercolors.
DAY 27. GROW
One of the exercises I've been avoiding is working on my compositions. I know that in order to progress as an artist, I would benefit from value studies, practicing with perspective, and working on little thumbnails. So today, in the spirit of growth, I did.
I had more fun with this than I was expecting. I learned that I NEED to use reference material in order for the exercise to actually be helpful, otherwise it's just me mucking around and guessing as usual. In all honesty I should probably work on these daily. I'd also like to experiment with movie stills as well. Netflix here I come.
DAY 28. BLISS
Bliss is such a great word. I wanted to recapture the bliss I felt at my lifedrawing session last week when I started painting, so I hopped over to quickposes.com and found a great reference photo. Here's what I produced:
I am extremely happy with how this came out. The left leg is still a little flat, but the back and right leg came out really nicely, and I feel like I'm starting to get a better feel for skin tone and shadows. The dark background was painted in after with plaka. Bliss indeed.
DAY 29. LEAP
It's hard to believe that this is the last day of #febsketch. To say that this has been an incredible experience for me would be an understatement. Making art every day was transformative for me. It allowed me to experiment with a new medium that I've fallen in love with, and has pushed me to start working on those areas that I have been putting off improving.
In that spirit, here is a second value/composition study, working from a reference photo I took while hiking in Virginia:
And that's the end. Looking forward to bringing my new habit to more Skillshare classes, and to improving my art. Thanks to everyone who liked, commented, and supported my work both on here and on instagram. I'm planning to continue the practice of posting new work regularly, both on my Instagram account and on my new art tumblr, which I started as a direct result of #febsketch.
So much love,