Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And moving right along...

Sooooo, this project was completely different from the first one. We used different charcoal: Nitram Fine Art Charcoal vs. vine and pencil charcoal. And the paper (Roma Paper, made by Fabriano) had a beautiful laid surface and therefore lots of texture, which was both frustrating and really fun to work on.
Additive Charcoal Drawing
11 x 14 inch on Roma laid paper
Our professor had shown us (among other artists) the drawings of Georges Seurat, three of which I have uploaded here:
Charcoal drawing
Georges Seurat (1859 - 1891)
It really spoke to me how he left out most detail and concentrated on values and shapes. Sometimes you can't even tell what he was drawing until you step back and look at it from a distance. Then it makes perfect sense! (I can't believe he was only 31 when he died - what a mark he left on the world!)
Charcoal drawing
Georges Seurat (1859 - 1891)
So, that's what I tried to do with my drawing of the lamp above. Instead of focusing on details like in my previous drawing, I focused on values and shapes and allowed the charcoal and the paper to add their texture. As frustrated as I was with it in the beginning, I really liked it at the end.
Charcoal drawing
Georges Seurat (1859 - 1891)
And already we are on to the next project - a super detailed graphite drawing. My subject? An old rusty beautiful Underwood typewriter! I have the feeling that I'll be spending many, many hours in the classroom... 

I hope you are all doing well! Wishing you a beautiful and creative day!! 

Saturday, July 23, 2011


First of all, thank you, thank you, thank you for your great comments on my last drawing for class. I appreciate you all so much!! My current drawing is proving more difficult and just a tad frustrating. I'm going in again in a little while to draw on it some more. It has to be done on Tuesday, so you'll see the result soon. I sure hope it improves between now and then...
These two photos are of the homework we have to do, which are value studies in watercolor of still life paintings done by the old masters. It's actually quite relaxing to do, although I've only done very few of them. By the end of class we'll need to have 25 total! I might want to get busy...
We print out or copy the image in black and white and then trace it onto the paper. Then we figure out where our whitest whites are and leave those white while we work on everything else with many layers of thin watercolor washes.

Part of this exercises is to get us used to watercolor as a medium - our last two projects are going to be done in watercolor, which will be so different from charcoal and pencil!

Can I just say that I am loving this class! At first I was a little worried about having to go in every night to draw (I am so not a night owl!), but that has turned out to be so much fun! I love listening to the younger students talk - they are in such a great place in their lives with everything still in front of them.

And then I realize that I am in a better place in my life still - I can just totally relax and enjoy this experience. And that's exactly what I'm doing...

Wishing you an excellent weekend! I'm off to get my hands dirty with charcoal once again...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Drawing Finished!

Subtractive Charcoal Drawing
on 22 x 30 inch Arches Cover Paper
I can't believe my drawing is finished!! And it looks beautiful, even if I say so myself. My very first charcoal drawing. All in all I spent probably about 35 hours on this - all of it quite enjoyable. You should have seen all the other students' drawings in the class - all of them fantastic!!

Today, I did the sketch for my next drawing. This time we'll be doing an additive charcoal drawing, which takes a bit more planning and is less forgiving. With the previous drawing, if you needed to correct something, you could just add more charcoal or erase and all was well. Not so with this next one. I'll let you know how it progresses - we only have one week for this one. Which means I'm going in to work on it a lot this week!

I know that updating my blog and visiting yours has taken a back seat this summer, and I am so happy you still visit and leave me comments. I hope you are having a great summer as well!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Feeling Inspired...

I find that this summer I am steeped in art and I am loving it! Yesterday, Daniel and I went to the library and I came home with a stack of art books and then added a few from our own fairly big collection that I am going to look at. 
At the moment I find that I am inspired by almost everything. Most of all I am learning to savor this time and enjoy the moments. It makes me realize how hectic our lives can be. There's a different quality to a slower life. And this summer that's what I am enjoying. Drawing class is certainly helping me with this. Soon I'll have more to show you of my drawings...
I also started reading The Help, mostly because I wanted to read the book before the movie comes out this summer. Have you ever read a book that is way better that you had thought? This book is like that for me. I read until 1:30 in the morning last night. It is so interesting, especially living in the deep south. Have any of you read it?
Now I am off to school to work on my still life for a few hours. I hope you are all having a most relaxed and fun weekend!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

After the Storm

Apparently I slept through an incredibly loud storm last night. Daniel said the house shook with the thunder and Winslow had to hide in the furthest corner of our clothes closet. Daniel was up for about three hours ... and I heard nothing!! Must have been in deep, deep sleep. We even had a power outage for a few hours, but now everything is back to normal.
I can't tell you how much our garden needed this rain!!
So, this morning I took the camera and snapped a few photos.
Kumquat flowers - they smell so good!
Not only are the plants happy, but these storms have broken our record of 56 days with temperatures above 90℉ (32℃). Add to that unbelievable humidity and our heat index has been well over 100 degrees every day. Truly miserable!!
Kumquats already growing. Do you see the bug in the photo?
Today, it will still be humid, but only get up into the low eighties. What a relief!!
As you can see our pomegranates are getting ripe and Daniel has been picking and shelling them for us. They are so sweet, very different from the ones you buy in the store. And don't they look like little jewels?
And... drum roll please ... these are our very first blueberries from the bushes we put in last year. Not enough for a pie, but enough to enjoy over cereal in the morning!
Wishing you a wonderful Friday!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Drawing Project - Work in Progress

I thought I'd show you a little detail of the drawing I am working on for class, which is the reason I've been so absent from blogland lately! I've been in the classroom every day drawing on this and I'm still not finished. 
At first, I was daunted by the fact that in order to get a really good drawing, I'd have to go into the classroom almost every evening, but it's turning out to be great fun. It feels like I'm in art camp. Our professor is there to help, we have great conversations and good music playing. And I am learning sooooo much!!

We also had good friends visit us over the weekend and got to do a little sightseeing and lots of good eating! It was hot and humid, but everyone still had a great time.  And Winslow loved having the house full with new friends, including a sweet eight-year-old girl Winslow was totally smitten with... and she with him!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Before and After

When we moved to Savannah about five years ago, Daniel immediately planted a little fig tree - about knee-high as you can see in the photo above.

In the photo below you can see what five years in a warm and humid climate can do for a tree. And if you look really closely, you can see the blackbird enjoying a fresh fig.
Luckily, there is enough to go around - here the first bowl full Daniel picked and there is much more. The tree is so big now that we have to use a ladder to get to all the figs!
Tonight we are having grilled scallops and fig kebabs, a recipe Daniel found on this great website: They Draw and Cook, a site filled with recipes illustrated by artists from around the world. Very fun to just browse through! You'll be inspired to cook and make art - what could be better?

Do you have some favorite recipes using figs?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Armchair Traveling

This summer I have made sure I take time to read as my stack of "books to read" has reached dangerous proportions... And while I was reading, I realized how much I enjoy books that have a good story line, that are somewhat suspenseful and that take me to a different time or a different place of both. All of these books have done that.

1. The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson (this book being the last of them), you can't put down if you like them (Daniel is sitting next to me as I write this engrossed in the second one). They are incredibly well written and suspenseful, all set in Sweden, a country I have always wanted to visit. I am sorry the author passed away so young and before finishing the fourth book in the series.
2. The Pale Horseman is book two of The Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell, set in England in the 9th century at a time when the Danes were invading. It is such a great story told from both sides, based entirely on the history of the time, but with lots of battle and bloodshed, so if you are sensitive to that, these books are not for you. I'm looking forward to reading the next one in the series!
3. I have to say that The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet was one of the most beautifully written book I have read in a long time. I am a very fast reader, both in English and in German, but this book I savored. I read and reread passages because the language was simply exquisite. Add to that an engaging story line set in a Dutch trading post in Japan around the year 1800, and I know I will read this book again sometime!
4. One of my good friends here lent me Tuareg - the German version. It was a very engaging story and a pretty fast read. It told about the "Tuareg, the true sons of the desert. They can survive in the harshest of conditions like nobody else. The noble inmouchar Gacel Sayah, is the master of a large extension of the desert. One day, two fugitives arrive from the north and Gacel, following his ancient and sacred hospitality laws, gives them shelter. However, Gacel doesn't realise that his act of kindness will lead him towards a deadly adventure." (quote from Amazon.com) It was one of those books I wish I could read in the author's native language and not a translated version - a worthwhile trip into the Saharan Desert.
5. From the Sahara back up to northern Europe where the weather is often much colder. I've read several books by Ian Rankin in the Detective Rebus series, all mysteries set in modern Scotland, another country I'd like to visit sometime. His mysteries are always a little complicated, several plots going on at the same time and often coming together at the end. Rebus is a complex character and often (not to say always) gets himself into trouble. To me these are thoroughly enjoyable! This one took me all the way out onto oil rigs in the wild North Sea!
6. And here's the book I am reading now, a German translation of Arnaldur Indriðason's Sons of Dust. Every time I visit my family in Germany, I pick up a stack of books to add to our library here so that we always have something to read in German. I've read one other by the author, but this is his first in the Detective Erlandur series, all of them set in Island, - you guessed it - another country I'd like to visit some day...
With both of us reading so many books set in northern Europe, we are in planning mode for the next summers and some traveling to those places we haven't yet visited. I can't believe that I grew up in northern Germany and have never been to Scandinavia, except one wonderful vacation on Bornholm, a Danish island, when I was five. Usually on vacations growing up my family went south to where the beaches were warm and sunshine was a little more guaranteed...

So much for my armchair travels so far this summer.  Let me know if you've read any books lately you have really enjoyed. Even though our stack of unread books is really tall, we keep an ongoing list of books that were recommended to us, just in case we spy one in a second hand bookstore or at the library book sales...

Happy reading!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Simple Joy of Observation

All the still lifes in this post are by Pieter Claesz (1596/97 - 1660)
I had a sort of epiphany yesterday as I was in the class room, getting messy with charcoal and working for two hours on my drawing, just sketching in the objects and blocking lights and darks. The two hours felt like five minutes and while I was working, the whole world sort of fell away.
There was no room in my mind for anything else - only looking and observing and translating that to my paper. The objects I was drawing (an old bar stool, paint cans, rope and an old car tire) ceased to be those objects and simply became shapes to draw. I never once considered how I liked them or how exciting they were, they just were and I was drawing them and getting lost in that process.
And for the first time I understood the allure of still life paintings. I had never quite gotten that, always standing in front of those paintings in museum and wondering why the artist would do something so boring. Why paint a wine glass? Or a tea pot? Or an apple?
I'm starting to understand that it's not about those objects (although many still lifes have special meanings to the painter), but more about the composition, the lighting and the overall harmony of the piece. And then it's about painting or drawing it.

All the still lifes here are by the Dutch painter Pieter Claesz. We are going to do watercolor value studies with pieces from the old masters to learn how they worked. I'll show you some of these once I do them.

For now, I don't have anything to show you yet from class, except me covered with charcoal, but unfortunately I was by myself and nobody there to take a picture...