“Echoing Moran”

“Echoing Moran”

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“Echoing Moran” – Graphite – 5.8×7.7″/14.8×19.5 cm

I’ve got another chance coming up to do some plein air work, so I’ve been preparing my kit for travel. I used to keep a small (1/4 letter size, or A6) spiral-bound sketchbook with me in my pocket, but good ones are getting harder to find these days. This time, I’m going to try using my usual sketch clipboard for drawing on the fly. It’s twice as big as the sketchbook, but the paper will be far superior. I’m hoping I can still do the quick 2-to-5-minute sketches I did when I could just whip out the sketchbook. We’ll see!

Just to practice with this particular paper and pencil combination, I started what was going to be a rough sketch. Not surprisingly, I got caught up in the craggy details (who, me??). This was from a photo taken in China some years back. I’ve been studying Thomas Moran’s work again recently and I think I had those images somewhere in my subconscious while I drew this.

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Studying Trees

Studying Trees

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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″).

Stay Happy or Die

Stay Happy or Die

One of the fun things about writing a novel is exploring ideas. Fantasy settings like the one in The Valenblade allow all kinds of room for that. Here’s an interesting question:

What if every minute must be a party…or you all die?

Magic comes at a cost. The architects of a great spell put something at risk to make the magic work. That risk was mitigated by another spell, but that spell endangered something else. That risk had to be balanced by yet another spell that endangered something different. In time, everything became dependent on everything else, and the element that keeps all this in balance is happiness.

For the magic to continue working, everyone involved has to join the party. Happiness is mandatory. There can be no confusion, no questions, no sorrow or grief. Any departure from the revelry risks the collapse of the entire structure and the end of everything. So it has been for centuries.

Imagine what happens when someone shows up whom the spell does not ensnare. What if this person doesn’t join the party like everyone else? The whole house of cards could collapse. Now what?

To find out, read THE VALENBLADE by Mark Ivan Cole (me!), available worldwide as an e-book or in paperback on amazon.com.

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Thwackenheimer Luminescence Converter

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Just finished a small sketch this morning. Made me wonder what this thing does–besides float, of course.

Back in the late 2100s, Beryl Thwackenheimer devised a means by which to levitate a solid object by harnessing the energy shifts caused by variances in luminescence. Subtle changes in cloud formations, or even the appearance of a meteor in the night sky could actually cause the object to counteract gravity. The technique proved so effective that her first successful prototype got away from her before she had completed building it. These days, virtually every appliance and vehicle uses some version of the Thwackenheimer luminescence converter.

A flaw in Thwackenheimer’s system design causes the unit to repel any approaching object (like the ground, an ornithopter, or even a net). The extreme efficiency of this function has rendered impossible any attempts at recovery. It’s been a hundred and fifty years now, and fortunately, no one’s transporter has been damaged by the rogue prototype.

It’s still up there somewhere. No one can catch it and bring it down.

New Clipboard Sketching Setup

SketchbookNew1Sketchbooks keep everything together in a book form, but I found them to be generally too thick and heavy. For a firm surface, I wanted a stiff backing sheet and cover (more weight). When the pages shifted, the graphite rubbed off. To save weight and preserve the artwork, I tore out completed drawings as soon as I got home. Then I had to trim off the ragged bits before scanning. If I was going to be on the road awhile, I might start a new sketchbook because the one I’m not-quite-finished-with may not have enough pages for the trip.  I sometimes reused the covers of an empty sketchbook, but more often I just recycled them.

SketchbookNew2After using up dozens of sketchbooks, I decided to try something a bit more “green”: a covered clipboard. This one is A5 size (half a sheet of letter-size paper), so it’s easily portable. I fold the cover all the way around to the back, so it’s no bigger than a normal sketchbook, and it’s plenty stiff. To keep the pencil digging into the paper below, I clip a thin, firm sheet of plastic under the current work-in-progress.

I’ve been using this setup for about a year now. The clipboard turned out to be even easier to hold than the old sketchbook, in either landscape or portrait orientation. It’s light, comfortable and unobtrusive. My 2mm/6B drafting pencil and .5mm/2B mechanical pencil work for everything from rough textures and dark shading to fine details. I use a small kneaded eraser to clean up smudges and pull out highlights. Sometimes I’ll use white charcoal for duotones. I’m considering ditching my retractable eraser, since I rarely use it. Maybe I can find a smaller pencil case.

SketchbookNew3Finished drawings are now put away inside a folded sheet of copy paper clipped in behind the paper stash. When I get home, I take them out, ready to scan. The clip holds everything firmly, so there is less shifting during transport. Very little graphite or white charcoal rubs off. These days, I carry a mix of loose sheets in a variety of colors and textures–just enough to give me options, and only as much as I need for the day. If I’m heading out on a longer trip, I keep an extra assortment in the suitcase. Finished work is removed from the clipboard and stored with the extra stash, and new sheets are added to the clipboard to replace the used ones.

This setup allows for more flexibility and it’s turned out to be less expensive (since I can buy loose sheets), thinner, lighter, and easier to use than a sketchbook. What about longevity? Well, back in 1995, I bought a covered clipboard for my legal pad at work. The “hinge” has split a few inches, but I still use it for writing. That’s a pretty good track record, I think.