Deep Woods, Deep Winter

Deep Woods, Deep Winter

DeepWinterHovel_InnerVision_PI_230x168mm“Deep Woods, Deep Winter” – Inner Vision
– Pen & Ink – 23×16.8 cm

Another season. The long wait begins.

Drawing Geek Notes: I wanted to try snow with pen and ink, without doing too much prep. It worked! I used the Hi-Tec 0.3 and 0.4 mm technical pens, finally running out of ink in the 0.3. I was prepared, though: I had another one handy. Again, I did the majority of the work with the 0.3, but the depth really started happening with the 0.4 mm pen. I went over certain spots and finalized some details with the 0.3 at the end. Pretty fun to do!


Old Forest

Old Forest

We spent our Thanksgiving holiday deep in the woods. Taiwanese forests differ from those in the Western Hemisphere, but they are just as evocative. We spent two days hiking the trails in Shanlinxi, reveling in the company of ancient cedars and colorful metasequoias. To me, the most amazing trees in these woods are the Taiwanese rhododendrons, which grow to such scale that one would think they were oaks.

It has been said that Nature is optimistic, and these woods are proof: whatever can grow, will; whatever fails, fails; but nothing stops the next growth. Nothing. I need to remember that, and emulate it.

I drew this duotone from memory as we rested in our room on Wednesday.


“Shanlinxi Memory” – Taiwan – Graphite and white charcoal on colored paper – 15×21 cm

The Making of “Old Unreliable”

The Making of “Old Unreliable”

During #Inktober 2017, I drew an imaginary motorcycle in pen and ink. When I draw from my imagination, the details develop as I go. Here’s a good example of how I work.

Since I can erase the pencil lines out from under the dry ink, the initial sketch goes directly on the final surface. I used to use 2B lead, but I’ve switched to the harder 2H lead since it leaves a fainter line from the start.


Initial idea sketch using 2H lead in an 0.5 mm mechanical pencil on Da-Han watercolor paper

I don’t always outline everything, but I did in this case because the structural elements were critical. I used to use the larger (0.5 mm) pens first, years ago, but I’ve realized that I prefer to keep the lines small as long as possible. I can always thicken a line later.


Basic outline using the 0.3 mm pen, to ensure all the shapes are defined

After that, it’s all about the middle values and the textures. On this motorcycle, I align my strokes with the direction of the form. I may or may not do that with a landscape; it all depends on the effect or “look” I want. One of the things I love about this kind of drawing is that the details simply suggest themselves as I go. Sometimes, it’s the random overlapping of adjacent shades that appears to show some new form or structure. All of the final details are based on that discovery process.


All basic gray values blocked in using the 0.3 mm pen; some texture begun

In some cases, as I did here, I’ll go over certain outlines with the larger 0.5 mm pen. That pen is also good for solid black areas. For the heavier textures, I’ll overlap the 0.3 mm lines and/or go at it with the 0.4 mm pen.

So there, it is: “Old Unreliable” – Pen and Ink – 11×7.5″/28×19 cm.  (Available for sale)


Final version

Inner Vision: “Emerging”

Inner Vision: “Emerging”


“Emerging” – Inner Vision – Acrylic on Canvas – 13×17.9″/33×45.5 cm

“Emerging” – Acrylic on Canvas – 13×17.9″/33×45.5 cm

The path to this sacred place is long and difficult.
Many times have I come to stand on this shore
waiting, hoping for a glimpse.
Each time, I have had to leave before the darkness falls.
Time and again, I have returned.
You knew I would.
Once more the arduous journey is taken.
Patience, persistence, openness, constancy, trust.
You emerge.
I see you.

The Making of a Self-Evolving Landscape

The Making of a Self-Evolving Landscape

I recently painted “Echoes of the Ancients,” using a technique that I have not tried on a landscape before. I call it the “self-evolving” process, since it’s essentially improvised directly on the final surface. In the case of a self-evolving portrait, I know only that the final image will be “a face.” I just scribble on the paper until the face shows up, and then I try to fill in the details as they appear.

In this most recent painting, I knew it was going to be “a rocky place with ruins.” That’s all I knew. Oh, yeah, and this time I was going to do it big and in full color.

I put a blank 24×18″ canvas on the easel and just started painting wet, broad brushstrokes of cobalt, ultramarine, dioxazine purple and raw umber in various proportions. On the right hand side, I also used some cyan. I used water to wipe out certain bits, and tissues to create texture or pull off some paint. Here’s what it looked like at the end of the first session:


I don’t know which inspired which, but as I was painting the upper right hand clouds, we got a serious thunderstorm!

By the way, the work-in-progress photos were taken with a handheld point-and-shoot camera and not color corrected, so they’re not A-1 accurate.

In any case, at this point, I wasn’t sure exactly how the land masses worked together. There seemed to be an opportunity for a cave, perhaps, and I made that zigzagging path to lead to it. It felt like a decent start.

In the next session, I developed some of the ideas that seemed to be suggesting themselves. It looked like this at the end of Session Two:


Those three guys in the middle-right were supposed to be made of stone, but there was no way to make that obvious. To me, they looked like giant dwarves coming around the corner: not what I had in mind. I did what I could to make sense of the lower left quadrant, but it didn’t seem to work. Ugh.

I had to take some serious risks now, so I did: I got out the white gesso and blanked out a bunch of stuff! I used some more of it to push the right side mountains further into the distance and to suggest a waterfall on the far right. When the gesso was dry, I used the same original underpainting colors to get rid of the old “cave,” and build up some more solid rocky areas.

Then I started  bringing out as much detail as I could, using my smallest brushes to paint over the dark areas with titanium white. I also punched up the light coming out of the lower entrance. I found some other places where I seemed to see faces, so I refined those, using ultramarine, purple and raw umber for shadows. I also liked the idea that some water might emerge from that canyon area on the left, so I added that. Here’s what the painting looked like at the end of Session Three:


I decided I didn’t like the details on the end of the railings. They didn’t match the level of erosion in the rest of the image (and they looked like little “Godzillas,” so they had to go). They went.

I wanted the faces in the lower right to seem to grow out of (or be hidden in) the rocks, so I added cracks, shadows and highlights, accordingly. Adding a bit more atmosphere to the mountains, and taking out some other extraneous details started to bring the full image together. By the end of Session Four, the painting had become this:


Session Five was all about refinements in the foreground and definition in the middle and back areas. It was pretty much the last major session for the painting. Once that was done, I just had to add a couple of figures checking out the place. In the end, this is what it turned out to be.


“Echoes of the Ancients” – Acrylic on canvas/linen – 24×18″/60.5.45cm