Another Look at Warm Ups

October 9, 2014


Above: 7 x 5 inches approximately—Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper in a handmade journal. Faber-Castell Pitt Calligraphy Pen transitioning to a Staedtler Pigment Liner (used in the bottom two sketches on the left).

Before leaving the topic of warming up at the start of a sketching session (I know, I've written about this topic before and I'm sure to write about it again, but I mean before leaving the topic this week) I wanted to share another journal page where I used a warm up to capture observed details—where details were the goal, not a finished sketch.

Because sometimes you have so little time to sketch that your intent is just to get down as much as you can notice—it's like visual notetaking.

On this page, made as I stood in front of an aviary in a nursing home, I was struck by a bird's head and the angles of that head in relation to the beak. I wanted to get something down about that and did the top two sketches with the calligraphy pen. But then I wrote the date and time and decided as I wrote that I would sketch more, so I made a note about warming up and some physical issues I was experiencing. This was a pep talk to keep going, "you're warming up, keep sketching, more to come." I not only write such notes to myself in my journal I also talk to myself. Now you know.

I caught one finch looking at me with a cocked head and did the top sketch on the right then. And knew I had warmed up and wanted to do more with the birds and with watercolor, but not just color that image, see if I could do something more refined.

Remember on my list on Monday I wrote about knowing, or rather recognizing, through warm up, what pens would or wouldn't work for you on the day? Here I changed to the Staedtler Pigment Liner to use the finer point to do something a little more detailed, the large unpainted sketch at the bottom. This is a refinement, without paint, of the loose sketch immediately above. I didn't need to paint this sketch because my paint notes were made in the looser sketch above. Here I was able to add detail about the cheek patch and the under the wing patch that weren't in the previous sketch. My arrow and note "refined" will remind me 20 years from now that those to are the same bird.

Then I stopped and wrote the dialog at the bottom left.

I felt there was something more I wanted to do with one of the other finches and so I started yet another sketch at the bottom center of the page. I took my time to carefully observe and to draw with accurate proportions and angles. But I also created "segments" in the body that could be easily painted and not blended. This isn't a portrait of one of the finches of this type. Instead it is what I consider a schematic. It tells me what I need to know about color on this bird, and its body shape and proportion and eye set, and beak, even the leg color. It is more than a color study because it tells me all those things. It is less than a portrait of an individual bird because I've made no attempt to blend the areas in a realistic fashion, it is, simply a schematic.

But it is extremely useful to me as such, because it documents the observed details needed if I were to sketch an individual later.

When that sketch was drying I made additional notes about something that was happening in the hallway. Those notes appear at the top of the page on the right.

I consider all of this page a warm up. My point is that this particular warm up was less about getting the gesture of a bird or nuances of an individual, and more about getting a record of shapes, colors, and relationships. And a record also of me staying alert to what was happening around me.

So be sure to allow your warm ups to go in different directions and lead your visual journaling either to new insights or additional information. And remember, the pages don't have to be pretty! Messy is fine.

    • Tony
    • October 9, 2014

    Thanks for this Roz.
    Sharing your process, helps me think about mine.
    Yes, I hear you – messy is fine. One of my mantras since I took your klass in SBS.
    P.S. I would love to take your color theory class. Sadly, Montreal is too far away from you.
    Ever thought about an online class?

    • LoveRoz
    • October 9, 2014

    Hi Roz,

    Can I be very direct?
    I take this time to write because i love your art VERY much, your dedication, your, generosity, your passion in teaching others, etc

    Please take this as an advice from someone who consider herself not even half as good as you in the craft of making art (that’s why i’m undercover :0)

    I always open your blog and look at the picture only. BEAUTIFUL DRAWINGS ALWAYS!
    But i never have the time/patience to read the whole blog. I don’t know if is the format or the length. If i’m the single one noticing this please forgive me(it must be something with me) but if you are having less readers/followers for this reason i wish that will change. With the best intentions in the world for a person i like dearly.
    An patience-less admirer.

  1. Reply

    Thanks Tony, that’s what I hope, that we all think about process.

    I have done my color theory class through the mail a couple times (odd circumstance to explain) and it is very labor intensive and time intensive for me to look at what’s sent and get it back. I suppose some of that would speed up in online situation, but I’ve been hesitant to pursue that particular class for that reason.

    This may change, however in 2015. I’ll be taping some classes this winter and if those are received well then I might revisit the whole conundrum of how to do color theory on line. A big part of the class is seeing what the other students do and the discussions so I’m thinking how to translate that into online. Because what I find is the color theory class opens the students up to consider all sorts of possibilities not just rigid approaches or forumlas. We’ll see.

    Thanks for reading!

    Of course I could come to Montreal some day for a 4-day intensive if there was a hosting group!

  2. Reply

    Yes you may, I expect my readers to be direct, but I guess I don’t quite get what you’re saying, unless it’s that you don’t like my writing and only look at my pictures—I think that’s the bottom line in your comment.

    For me, I’m happy you look at the images and disappointed that you don’t read the blog because the two relate and you’re only getting a half view of something, but it’s your choice and thank you for visiting.

    You aren’t the first person who has told me I write too much. (At least I think that’s what you’re telling me when you mention you don’t have time/patience to read the posts.) Well actually I guess you are. A couple other readers have told me my posts are too long which is different from what I think you’re saying.

    On the other hand I have thousands of readers who contact me every week who feel that the writing is what brings them back each time to the blog.

    And since I consider myself a writer first, then a teacher, it’s important to me that I have the written portion of my post there to satisfy me and the thousands of readers who do enjoy my writing.

    If I leave off the writing there’s no point for me in having a blog, and for thousands of readers there would be no point in coming to “read” my blog.

    So this isn’t something I’ll be changing, because it best serves the majority of my readers now.

    And by not changing this arrangement of image and text I still get folks like you who only want to look at the pictures.

    So please continue to do so when you have the time and inclination.

  3. Reply

    Roz: I might want to add a note here: I just required my students to read your last post on practice and warming up. For people learning and people already well practiced, hearing a strong voice with a problem-solvers mindset is very helpful. So much of art instruction is consumed with technique tips, but this approach has some incredible limitations- because all the relevant info is in the head not in the mechanical technique.
    I think maybe the coffee table book is in order though, because so many of us really love your drawing.When are we gonna see ” North American Birds by the Stendahl Method ( a chocolate lover’s bird book?)

  4. Reply

    Ellen, you made my day “North American Birds by the Stendahl Method (A chocolate lover’s bird book), is a fabulous idea.

    I have been hatching a couple projects tonight, after Dick came home so we’ll see what the new year brings. This happens every year when I have to get ready for a show (next May) and I initially want to do EVERYTHING but get down to those paintings. I don’t really think I can call what I do procrastination, as I have always got deadlines and meet them, but I do my best to know my process so I know how much time I can woolgather. That’s so much nicer don’t you think? And so in talking with Dick I of course suggested how I wanted to be doing something other than what it was I was engaged to do for the next 3 months and that gave rise to new ideas and so it goes. Now I just have to everyone to go alone with my “cunning plan.”

    I appreciate your kind words!

    I hope your sketching projects are going well.


    • Tony Latham
    • October 10, 2014

    I’m crossing my fingers and eating some chocolate (dark).
    Thanks for thinking about it.
    You have a good weekend too!

  5. Reply

    Roz, I am going to contadict your previous reader’s comment and want you to know that since I am a new follower of your blog I have had the fun experience to go back from your first entry and I am working my way through to all of your posts (Feb. 2009 being my current position). I am enjoying very much looking at your pictures but the writing is what makes the whole experience complete. I have been taking notes and have applied some of your derectives. It is wonderful. Thank you for being willing to share in such details your experiences and expertise. My only regret is that I am too far to take one of your bookbinding classes. Maybe one of these days I will make the trip though.

  6. Reply

    Thanks Roxane. I’m glad you’re reading the posts. And having fun working your way through the past posts. I’m sorry you’re too distant, but perhaps some day you will get to visit Mpls. or I might finally get those other video classes produced! Fingers crossed.

  7. Reply

    Roz I love your drawings and paintings but it is your writing that keeps me coming back for more. Keep up the wonderfully inciteful and informative rumblings please!

  8. Reply

    Thanks Marissa, I don’t think any of us have to worry about me writing less (unless the shoulder injury hampers typing on a given day), but I appreciate the vote of confidence. What would be the fun for me!? Thanks for reading.

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