Validation

I made a dollar yesterday, just by being myself.

I’ve been wanting to get out and explore, to paint onsite outdoors, to move my body that loves to rack up miles on foot with a pack on my back. I came up with this idea of the “10K Steps Project.” The concept is simple:

  • Get outside and go somewhere, anywhere, nowhere–just go.
  • Do something creative at some point while you’re out there.
  • Take at least 10,000 steps before you walk back in your door.

That’s it.

I’ve been at this for less than a week, and the wanderings have been memorable already! Yesterday, my wife and I found ourselves at the foot of DanFengShan (Red Phoenix Mountain) about 7,000 steps into the 10,000. The light on the hill was just beautiful, and this overhanging outcrop inspired me, so while she headed home, I plopped down right there beside the road and got out my DIY plein air gear (see the picture, above).

While I tried to capture the shifting light in pastels, a few people passed by and commented. A group of middle aged ladies came down the road and stopped to see. We bantered a little in my broken Chinese. They liked what I had painted at that stage.

One of them stooped down to the pavement, picked up this battered, encrusted Taiwanese dollar coin that was lying there and placed it on my palette cover.

I burst out laughing with delight! I made a dollar! I just got paid to do something I love!

When I was done, I picked up the coin and tucked it into one of the cracks between the pieces of Styrofoam on my palette. It fits perfectly, just a bit higher than the foam so I can see it every time I open the lid.

The universe says “yes” in so many different ways. It’s a matter of perspective. Sometimes it takes a passerby to point it out.

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“Yearning” – finishing touches video

Every painting eventually gets to a point that I call the “signed and staring at it” phase. More often than not, I’ll tweak something before I call it “done.”

I thought this one (“Yearning,” soft pastel on La Carte, 24x36cm) was finished, but I worked on it for another hour or so the next day. It turned out to be a good choice. This video condenses about 23 minutes’ worth of that painting time down to less than five. Turn on the sound to listen to my instrumental piece “Dawn” while you watch all the scribbling and scratching.

Check it out!

Studying Trees

Studying Trees

20180131_TreeStudies_Idaho

I’ve been working on a big painting, an “Inner Vision” which is being improvised right on the canvas. In my imagination, this composition includes high altitude trees. Some are already suggested in spiky brushstrokes on distant mountains, but some of them will be seen from up close. Just for practice, I sketched a few, based on a photo I took in a hike up to Sawtooth Lake in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains about a decade ago. Man, has it been that long? Anyway, all of these examples were in the same frame, on the same hillside. Fun practice with a cheap #2 pencil (about 8×10″).

Early Stage: “Somebody’s Home”

Early Stage: “Somebody’s Home”

During #Inktober 2017, I stretched out quite a bit, trying new things. I found that many of the skills I’ve been using for my pencil sketches translated surprisingly well to pen and ink. When I first started using drafting pens back in the 1980’s, I was mimicking the amazing engravings of Albrecht Dürer (as best I could!) and trying to get every scratch to line up perfectly. What I discovered this last month was that I’m more expressive when I stay loose. The first gray stage of this forest interior, “Somebody’s Home,” is a good example of what I mean.

WIP_SomebodysHome

Early gray value block-in for “Somebody’s Home.”

In the past, I would have planned all of this out ahead of time, and painstakingly drawn every leaf. While it’s all well and good to do that, I’ve discovered that my style is actually less meticulous now, and I’m having lots of fun letting things direct themselves more.

Note that the tree trunks are mostly denoted by directional curved lines. I find that if work from the bottom of the page to the top, I can use the heel of my hand as resistance, which helps me to make relatively evenly spaced marks, but I don’t try to make them exactly the same curve or distance apart. I don’t even try to make them fit precisely within the faint pencil marks that delineate the trunks. Everything else is about “flow,” how the textures will lead the eye.

The bracken on the forest floor is done in patches. Later on, I use some of the gaps or overlapping marks as inspiration for where sticks and pits might go.

Here’s the final result. (More discussion below the picture.)

20171027_Inktober_SomebodysHome

“Somebody’s Home” – Pen and Ink – 10.5×7.5″/20.5×18 cm

You can probably pick out some of the new things I’ve added, and some bits I actually “removed.” With ink, everything is additive: there is no undoing a mark, no chance to erase. If it’s going to be removed, it’s got to be morphed into something else or obliterated in shadow!

I have it easy, though. Back in the 1500’s, Dürer was making grooves in metal with a “burin” or “graver.” Every stroke counted. I’ve always been intrigued by this bit of “The Knight, Death and the Devil,” below, in which the master seems to have corrected a mistake. Look at the light “swoosh” shape that mimics the base of the hoof, and the two bright lines that might have been the initial position of the horse’s shank.

DurerMistake

Yeah, I think we can let that bit pass for a twig or blade of grass. Amazing.

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.

WIP_OldUnreliable1

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.

WIP_OldUnreliable2

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.

WIP_OldUnreliable3

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)

WIP_OldUnreliable4_Final

Final version