Renewal

Setup

I recently completed a new drawing entitled “Renewal.” It was completed in charcoal, pastel and white chalk. I wanted this piece to touch on the conflict of transition. The young woman is caught between two seasons. She is bundled in a winter coat and clouds loom behind her. But she is also adorned with a full blooming rose symbolizing a promise of hope and a new beginning.

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We don’t see the conflict of her decision but rather the peace she has reached afterwards. She looks ahead, in a moment of resolution and renewal. Next up I will use this drawing as a transfer for a painting!

In the meantime, I thought I would share some of my tools including some thoughts on how I rendered this work.

Setup 2 Numbers

  1. My drawing mediums of choice include: General’s Charcoal Pencils and Nitram Academie Fusains Charcoal. For my richest darks I used a black pastel pencil. I heightened the drawing with a combination of white charcoal, chalk and pastel. For my paper I used the smooth side of Mi-Teintes.
  2. When I first pull my shiny new charcoal pencils out of the packaging, they’re cone shaped. When drawing, this usually means they will stay sharp for the first millisecond they touch the paper. And then I may as well be drawing delicate lines with all the grace and nimbleness of a tree stump. The trick is to whittle away at the pencil using an X-Acto knife. Be careful not to gouge big chunks out of the wood in haste though, as this will usually break the soft charcoal underneath. When a good half to one inch of wood is cleared away use a fine grit sandpaper to sand your pencil to a needle-sharp point. Push the pencil up and down against the sandpaper while slowly rolling the pencil between your thumb and index finger. If I am sanding Nitram charcoal I sand back and forth. The sticks are blockish, so I will sand one side while slowly drawing the pencil towards my body until the charcoal reaches the edge of the sandpaper. Then I roll the charcoal to the next side and repeat. I continue until I’ve reached a nice long fine point. And be prepared this is messy business!  To keep the work area tidy, tape the sandpaper to a 2″x4″ and lay it on top of an open trashcan.Pencils
  3. Personally I am very fussy about the details and the paper quality up close. The mahl stick is imperative to keep my dirty hands from resting and smearing the work while also keeping my hand steady while I draw. I made this one myself out of bamboo-it’s fantastically lightweight and I often forget I’m holding it, even when I’m not using it.
  4. I use a small handheld mirror to check proportions. This can be done in a number of ways. Most commonly I will turn around so my back is facing the drawing and hold up the mirror to view the drawing backwards. If I am facing the drawing I will hold the mirror to my forehead and look up to view the drawing upside down. I am constantly checking the proportions in my work and this helps keep my perspective fresh. I will also use a thick thread with a fishing weight tied to the bottom or a knitting needle to compare proportions to my reference.
  5. The longer I work, the more pencils and brushes I accrue between my fingers, I just forget to put them down. My kneaded eraser however never leaves my hand. I like to roll the eraser to a point and use it like a brush. I also use it to “dab” at any inconsistencies in the pores of the paper to create a smooth even tone, especially in skin and hair. I also have a few brushes, both soft and bristle, of varying shapes to soften edges and create textures. Sometimes I will even use charcoal powder to “paint” the initial drawing with the brush.
  6. Coffee and/ or tea (or both. At the same time. Yes, I do that) is always a must. Especially if you have a four month old who gets the munchies every two hours in the night.

On a separate note, I received word that I am a recipient of this year’s Stacey Scholarship fund from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum! The award is given annually to young artists dedicated to educating themselves in the classical tradition and who plan to make art their profession. I am both humbled and grateful and am so excited to see what new work this year will bring!

 

Our Newest Family Member

I know this is a blogger taboo to say, but I assure you I have a perfectly reasonable explanation for my year long absence and I can some it up in three words: Inness Berkeley Sours.

Everybody loves a baby!

Inness4MonthsIIBWBlog

Last year around this time I found out I was pregnant. I did not handle pregnancy well. I have never experienced such exhaustion and it was all I could do to muster up the energy to shower before crawling back to bed for the day.

Bicycle IIBlog

Needless to say I didn’t get much art done. It was hard and I took it as a personal failure. Looking back I’m reminding myself that this is a phase of life and to not be so hard on myself (easier said than done!). But now I am slowly getting back into the swing of things with a beautiful giggly four month little girl in tow (and those arduous nine months are far in the past).

Meg Inness Drawing

Inness, being the daughter of two artists, was befittingly named after an artist (surprise, surprise) an American landscape painter named George Inness.

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George Inness was a tonalist painter in the 19th century who used a restricted color scheme to evoke mood and luminosity. He was very spiritual and believed there was a connection between nature and God. He said, “The true use of art is, first, to cultivate the artist’s own spiritual nature.” It is rumored that, just before he died, he was marveling at a sunset when he cried out to God how beautiful it was before collapsing and passing away.

2 George Inness (1825-1894) The Trout Brook 1891

Before Inness was born, a dear family asked if we were naming her after W.B. Yeats’ poem. I had never read it before and fell in love with Yeats’ lyrical descriptions of his childhood escape to an Irish cabin.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made: Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee; And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

VanesaPaintingsBlog

As a gift, one of the daughters in the family painted a beautiful set of three paintings featuring the words to Yeats’ poem. She endearingly changed the spelling to “Innessfree.”

It’s been fun surrounding our little girl with original art. There’s something special about knowing a unique set of hands carefully and lovingly crafted the work, giving it life and telling a story.

Here’s a set of gold foil prints Bryan and I purchased for the nursery made by a local Utah artist.

Gold Prints Blog

And what better reason to have a kiddo than to have a perpetual model? And for FREE!

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Of course she only holds still like, never. And falls asleep on the job. But then only sleeps for fifteen to twenty minutes tops. And never stops eating. And bosses me around. All the time.

I guess you get what you pay for.

Inness4MonthsBlog

A Rugged and Manly Drawing

Here’s a charcoal portrait fresh off the easel of my ruggedly handsome husband.

Rather begrudgingly, Bryan has been my model many times. But ask the man to sit still and suddenly he’s got ants in his pants. And sitting still is like a life or death situation. As in he holds his breath and turns slightly purple because supposedly breathing is responsible for all of his wiggliness.

So for the most part this work was done from reference, although I’d like to think, as Bryan darts from place to place, I’ve caught enough glimpses of him for the past eight-ish or nine-ish years to consider this as work (partially) done from life.

The title is “The Cold Earth Slept Below,” based on a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. I tend to draw and paint very soft, feminine things. Male models* can be drawn a little more rugged. Bill Whitaker likes to joke that, when it comes to painting men, as soon as you get the beard in everyone will exclaim that “it looks just like him!” I wanted this piece to feel a little dark and wild and yet Bryan glows with a look of resolve and focus, like a solid pillar amidst the bluster and cold. Not because he’s in deep thought or he’s reached an important conclusion or anything.

He’s just really very stubborn.

*It’s very difficult to say “male model” with a straight face without thinking of this: