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More Finches with Stabilo Tones

Some more Stabilo Tone finches.

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More Unfinshed Business with Backgrounds

Sketching on a pre-painted and pre-stamped background with Stabilo Tones.

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Calling all Minnesota Artists: Minneapolis Institute of Arts Foot in the Door Show

Above: journal sketch using Stabilo Tones on page spread of Gutenberg Paper (13 x 8 inches approx.). This isn't related to today's post, it's just a continuation of my on-going discussion of Stabilo Tones. This started as a quick gesture sketch of a bird too small to see clearly, made with the Pentel Pocket Brush […]

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Backgrounds and What Goes on Top

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Left: A mixed-media page spread (the journal is turned so the head and tail of the book are at the right and left, making the image 8 x 13 inches). Read below for more details about this spread. Click on the image to view an enlargement. When you do you'll also be able to see the lovely texture of the Gutenberg paper.

I’ve been showing you backgrounds I’ve made while I’ve been recovering from a nasty summer cold. Today I’ve posted a spread with background decoration that was actually used for journaling already. It represents the return of my ability to concentrate, a happy day.

Here’s a Breakdown of What I Did
1. I started this page spread with flat brush strokes of Turquoise FW Acrylic ink around all the edges. Then I took a soft sumi brush and trailed Indigo FW Acrylic ink through the still wet strokes. And while things were still wet I spritzed everything with clean water to spread color even more. I let it sit for a couple weeks because I had a cold and because I wasn’t on this page spread yet.

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My Last Sketches at the 2009 Minnesota State Fair

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Above: Quick sketch of a sheep using a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. 9 x 7 inches, Fabriano Artistico 300 lb. hot press watercolor paper. That’s my admission ticket which I stuck on at home. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

As I pack my 2009 Minnesota State Fair journal cards away, to await the construction of a portfolio, I have two more cards I’d like to share with you—more on "the taking a break to revive yourself theme," which I mentioned earlier when showing my break and after cards from my two other Fair visits. (First day break, second day break.)

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But Wait, There’s More…Some State Fair Oddities

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Above: Sketches of a Turken from my third trip to the 2009 Minnesota State Fair. This is a chicken (ken) bred to look like a Turkey (Tur), hence the very odd naked neck. The more you look at them the more appealing they become, in an odd way. They have a lovely body structure and a startling flame orange eye. Here are two quick sketches made as this one moved about in his crate (comb accurate on the left). 9 x 7 inches, Fabriano Artistico 300 lb. hot press watercolor paper; Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor pencils used dry. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

"You wanted cows; well here you are…"
An exhausted mother gesturing to the entirety of the cow barn as she entered with her 7-year-old son. (A note on the back of one of my cards as I was walking out of the cow barn.)

So the other day, I was catching up on my scanning and finally finished scanning the 12 cards I made on my final visit to the 2009 Minnesota State Fair. I woke up that morning with what I feared was the beginning of a cold. If I was right, there’d be no way I could make my Sunday trip. I decided to skip my workout, save my energy, and see what happened. I kept in mind that this was probably my last trip this year, so I was on a bit of a mission.

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While We Are on the Topic of Backgrounds…

Above: journal page spread where rubberstamped text forms the background. Click on the image to view an enlargement, and read below for more details. I'm still fighting a cold and suffering from Fair Withdrawal. I am aching to sketch something, anything, including two not-too-attractive pears (I like pears with a little more variety and oddness […]

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Beginning Colored Pencil Class in Minneapolis

Above: Old English Blue Rooster, colored pencil, approx. 13.5 x 9.5 inches. Click on the image to view and enlargement. This October and November I’ll be teaching a six-session Beginning Colored Pencil Class. This is the perfect opportunity for any artist eager to work with this art medium to establish sound working techniques regardless of […]

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When Things Don’t Go Your Way: Sketching Animals (at the Fair, or Anywhere)

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Above: Chicken sketches made during the Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out. I started with the sketch at the left but when that chicken became totally frantic over what was happening in the next crate I moved on down the line. On the right I did a quick sketch of a large rooster to get a feel for the shape and proportions. I then took some notes and left space for my admissions ticket—which I glued in place that night. Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils used dry on 9 x 7 inch piece of Fabriano Artistico 300 lb. HP watercolor paper. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

One of the exciting things about sketching animals, whether or not you’re at the Fair or a Zoo or at home or at a dog park, is that animals do the unexpected.

You can let this frustrate you and end your sketching session, or you can keep working and learn something. You all know which I favor.

I want to encourage you all to give in to the moment and really look at the animal before you, hear and smell its breath (unless it is of the large predator variety and then get the hell out of there) and settle into its rhythms.

Don’t try to sketch right away. Watch. Watch. Watch. Then when you do start to sketch you’ll have a sense of how the animal is moving. I've written about sketching at zoos where the animals often follow a pattern of movement. This allows you to start several sketches in rotation on your page, and work on each for a few seconds as the animal passes that position again. In enclosed spaces like barns or animal pens animals will also repeat positions and behaviors in a smaller area.

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Using Watersoluble Colored Pencils for Quick Backgrounds

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Above: my last morning sketch from the Sketch Out—made just before our first group meeting. Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils used dry and wet on a 9 x 7 inch card of Fabriano Artistico 300 lb. HP Watercolor paper. Notes written with a Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.3. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

One great advantage of watersoluble colored pencils over wax-based colored pencils is the way you can use the first to create watercolor washes throughout your drawing. You can dissolve the lines of your sketch and blend colors together as you would with watercolor paint. Or you can leave your lines only partially dissolved for additional texture to your sketch/painting. Or you can simply leave them dry, as originally applied, with the same sort of visual effect you would get using wax-based pencils.

If you have a large area to cover and no time you can also lay in a background of blended color much more quickly with these pencils than with wax-based ones.

In this post I have three examples all made on the Sketch Out trip to this year’s State Fair. For each sketch I simply drew the animal I was observing. Then I scribbled in a background of colored lines, typically using two or three analogous colors in a random order across the background (placing darker colors where I wanted more contrast, but no more thought than that to the placement).

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