Category Archives: drawing

Halted

My sketchbook school assignment was to document my days. I didn't get far.

My sketchbook school assignment was to document my days. I didn’t get far.

While my husband was in Singapore we got something like five inches of rain in less than 24 hours. I worked to drain the pond in the driveway and keep the water away from the basement. When the French drains were overwhelmed, I set up a siphon with the garden hose to drain the water away from the foundation in that spot under the stairs where it collects. (I feel there should be some sort of merit badge for that.) We had some seepage but nothing more. The next day at school, my 12yo dropped a table on his foot. X-rays at urgent care showed a fracture; off to the orthopedist we all went, where my stomach turned as he pointed out the multiple fracture lines in my kid’s big toe. My husband came home for the weekend, and we were all so happy to see him, and then I came down with the flu, and then he left again, and that’s when everything really ground to a halt here.

Some trips are like that.

I’d meant to get quite a bit done while he was gone this past week. Sewing in the evenings, working on my Sketchbook Skool assignments and blogging about them, working on the next issue of Art Together. I am behind on everything. My world compressed to the couch, with brief forays off of it for the basic minimum, mainly, making sure my kids were fed. Here is what I know: I am glad my kids are older. It makes things much easier. They are all self-sufficient enough to get by when dad is traveling and mom has the flu. The first night, they got their own dinner–bagels mostly, I think, with the oldest making food for the youngest–while I napped on the couch. The next morning, the oldest got his younger sister breakfast before catching the bus. I did manage to slither off the couch and wait for the bus with him, sitting on a chair with a view out the garage door. (I like to see him get on the bus every morning.) The younger two played together with LEGO. The boys took turns reading bedtime stories to their sister. Gradually the bits of wakefulness between naps increased. We got through.

My house is a bit of a wreck (although dishes and laundry were dealt with). My to-do list, well, I can’t look directly at it. It’s more of a side-eye thing. I get winded walking up and down stairs; I’m not quite ready to tackle a to-do list full on. I might need a nap just to recover from writing this blog post. It’s always a bit of a miracle, though, emerging from that stripped-down survivalist mode, blinking into the light of day, newly grateful for lungs and energy and self-sufficient kids.

A Peek into my Sketchbook

I practice drawing in my sketchbook several times a week, although I’d like to make it more of a daily habit. (To that end, I’m signed up to take Sketchbook Skool beginning April 4, which is quickly approaching. Exciting!) Getting a glimpse into someone’s sketchbook is kind of a thrill. I borrowed Drawn In: A Peek into the Inspiring Sketchbooks of 44 Fine Artists, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, and Cartoonists from the library not too long ago and took my time with every page. People use their sketchbooks in so many ways. I still haven’t managed to keep everything in one place; I have ideas in my journaling notebook and in my project notebook as well, but I don’t seem to integrate words and images. I’d like to; it just doesn’t happen naturally.

At any rate, here are some recent pages from my sketchbook. I’ve been buying flowers at the supermarket every week, and I’m still buying them, because it’s not spring here yet. I try to draw them every week too. Here are a couple:

sketchbook lilies at amyhoodarts.com

sketchbook mum at amyhoodarts.com

I try to bring my sketchbook along when I leave the house, just in case. This one isn’t that big. While waiting for my daughter in gym class recently, I tried to do some gesture drawings.

sketchbook gesture drawings at amyhoodarts.com

This past weekend, I took two of the kids on a nature walk. The associated nature center has dioramas of different habitats. It’s so much easier to draw animals when they’re not moving!

sketchbook snowy egret at amyhoodarts.com

I’m not very good at drawing “from imagination,” for some reason. But I’d like to be better at it. I made a few sketches trying to capture some of what the worst of PTSD felt like to me.

PTSD sketch at amyhoodarts.com

sketchbook moth in jar at amyhoodarts.com

Sometimes ideas from my sketchbook evolve into more finished pieces (such as both the linocuts in this post), and I will often work out a specific design problem within its pages, too. I don’t really art journal, although I have some images that use paint.

If you have a sketchbook, how do you use it?

A wee bit of overwhelm

Lilies from the supermarket.

Lilies from the supermarket.

As we wind down January and head into February, I’m feeling a little…overwhelmed. I agreed to run some printmaking workshops over February school vacation. I want the third issue of Art Together complete by the end of February. I have a guest post due by the end of February, and a column due as well. My husband will be away for another full week. February is only 28 days long. It’s not looking nearly long enough right now. But these are good “problems” to have—many Good Things will be accomplished in February. Yes.

So, a column is exciting! But also a bit pressure-y in a way writing my own blog is not. A magazine that comes out four times a year doesn’t lend to an immediate conversation with the reader, so I’m left trying to anticipate what those readers might want most. I polled my family members: If you were a homeschooler or parent who maybe wasn’t sure about “doing art” with your kids, what would you most want to know? These are the answers I received:

Husband: I don’t know. What do you want to know about [his industry]??

9yo: Give them things to do—art activities.

12yo: Make sure they know it’s easy.

5yo: Tell them what Art is.

I’m not touching “what Art is” with a ten-foot pole, I’ll tell you that much! (But the 5yo definitely thinks big and all-encompassing.) I like my oldest’s response. Inspiring confidence is definitely a goal of mine.

With all this writing ahead of me, I am keenly missing my running time. I didn’t necessarily compose writing while I was running—letting my mind wander in that way resulted in slower running, I noticed—but focusing my mind on breathing and pacing left it open to work on ideas without me beaming a spotlight on the process. Running is active mindfulness for me, clearing the brain. Oh, how I miss it. I get out for one-mile walks when I can, but that’s only 15 minutes and doesn’t have quite the same mind-clearing effect. I have another follow-up with the orthopedist next week and I’m hoping he says I can at least head back to the track (a soft, level surface) for short runs.

Sewing projects in progress.

Sewing projects in progress.

So how did I spend my weekend? Was I working on those deadlines? Um, not so much. I spent it at karate with the kids. Taking my daughter shopping to spend a gift card. She loved the mama-daughter shopping time (the boys went to get haircuts with dad), and I love that she loved it, even though department store shopping isn’t my thing. Doing the weekly grocery shopping, which, until spring arrives, now includes flowers as a line item. Sewing some pouches, none of which are complete yet. Planning another linocut. Spinning the wheels in my head a bit. How about you?

Lily sketch.

Lily sketch.

Making + Listening::3/2014

Sunday at the grocery store, the kids and I bought flowers. Cheerful flowers are one of the small joys of life, no? We finally settled on delphiniums (blue) and tulips (pink). I decided to use the flowers as a drawing practice subject. I found it was easier, at first, to draw the delphiniums. I suspect this is because I have an idea of what tulips look like, but I’m not familiar with delphiniums. My brain couldn’t try to take over with preconceived ideas, in other words. With the delphiniums, all I could do was look at what was there and draw it.

my sketch-delphiniums at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches

Sigh, it’s so hard to photograph pencil sketches. At any rate, of course I asked the kids if they wanted to draw the flowers too. And they did. My 9yo received a nice set of colored pencils for Christmas, and he uses them every chance he gets (I would too!). So his sketch of the tulips in their vase is in color.

N's drawing of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

G, like me, sketched in pencil.

G's drawing 2 at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches by 5yo

G's drawing at amyhoodarts.com

I gave the tulips another go and quite liked the ones on the right, which I went over in Pitt pen.

my sketch-tulips at amyhoodarts.com

tulip sketches

Rather a long time ago, I decided I wanted to figure out linocuts, but it sort of settled to the bottom of the list. However, we’ve been looking at lots of examples of woodcuts and block prints lately, and I’ve been trying to get a handle on what decisions the artists made, and why. I thought I could try to translate the tulip sketch into a linocut. I worked on the carving a bit at a time over several days, and I’m pleased with the result. This is a test print I just pulled today.

linocut of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

Actually, I’m going to rephrase that. I am not just “pleased” with the results. I’m really, really happy. I look at this and I am proud of it. Pfft on the understatement. I am all WOW! I carved this!!

Creating is just so fabulous.

I’m linking up with Dawn again this week for Making + Listening. As for the listening part, I found some Pete Yorn on my computer and enjoyed listening to that. Otherwise, it was a lot more of the 80s station to get through the work trip, which ended up lasting nearly two weeks thanks to cancellations and delays. He finally got home yesterday, two days late, and we were all so happy to see him.

Making + Listening::1/2014

Check out that shorthand up there! This is the first Making + Listening post of 2014, and we’ll see if I can remember I did that next week. Lots of making went on here over the holiday break, including two pairs of flannel jammie pants and two new skirts for the girl. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, one half of our dining room table was given over to sewing and the other to cookie decoration…not a bad way to spend the day before Christmas. But all that is practically ancient history by now. I have pictures of the more recently created stuff for you instead.

thank you RAK mail art at amyhoodarts.com

Karen at Mail Me Some Art suggested that January be Random Act of Kindness mail art month, and that sounded like a great idea to me. I have some previously made background-only postcards on hand, so I added the elephant and the text and a note to the librarians at our local library and sent it along. If you want to join in, Karen has all the details here.

Right before Christmas, we received a box of nature goodies from Dawn. Sadly, our nature swap partner disappeared after receiving our box, so Dawn and her kids stepped in to make sure my kiddos got a box in return. It included this great sea urchin test, something we’ve never found on our beaches (although they do live in our waters).

sea urchin test at amyhoodarts.com

It’s sitting in the center of our dining room table, which is where all our best nature finds eventually end up, so it was in sight and on hand when I was looking for something to draw. Look at that texture! I had to give it a try.

sea urchin sketch at amyhoodarts.com

Remember the socks I began for my oldest a month ago, and then put aside for some Christmas knitting? They were lingering, and I was feeling guilty, and maybe a little unmotivated. Well, I finished the first one and began the next one right away, as you do. I knit on it steadily while watching playoff football, and this was the progress after one day’s knitting: half a sock.

sock in progress at amyhoodarts.com

The next day, I finished it while watching the BCS Championship Game. It’s extremely convenient that two of my hobbies–watching sports and knitting–are so complementary.

finished socks at amyhoodarts.com

These aren’t everyday socks. He wants warm handknit socks to wear to bed. I told him Tuesday morning that they were done, but I needed to take a picture before he could have them. (He didn’t bat an eyelash. He knows this by now.) They were on his bed when he got home from school. He bounded upstairs to tell me, “Those socks are AMAZING!” I will always knit for him, obviously.

Also this week, I tried out a new zippered pocket size. I have a bunch of 4″ zippers and I wanted to try a vertically oriented pencil pouch. This is the result.

vertical pencil pouch at amyhoodarts.com

It’s a little longer than most pencils and pens, but it’s the perfect size for double-pointed knitting needles still in their original packaging.

DPN pouch at amyhoodarts.com

I often need more than one set of DPNs, for instance, when I’m knitting mittens. I like to keep them in their pouches so I don’t lose any, but then I have them rattling around in my bag. The pouch I use to hold my knitting tools–a purchased one, long ago, in my Early Years of knitting–isn’t long enough to hold DPNs in their pouches. I think this might be a little deep for pens and pencils. I need to actually use it for a while to decide. I think it’s just right for DPNs, however.

I think I’m mostly caught up now, except for letting you know that I’m pleased to be amongst the contributors for the upcoming issue of Kindred: Nest, available for pre-order here. That list looks so impressive, and I can’t wait to hold the magazine in hand.

As for the listening part of this post, I could use suggestions of new music. I seem to be listening to the same five or so albums, interspersed with much older stuff. What’s your favorite, sort-of-recent album or band?

(Linking up with Dawn again this week!)

In Support of LINE

Issue Two button

The Winter 2013 issue of Art Together is all about LINE, so I thought I’d round up some older posts that feature line in one way or another and can extend or add to the activities presented in the zine.

 

tape resistTape Resist uses painter’s tape and paint to create an abstract design. After painting, the tape is peeled off, revealing white lines underneath. This is fun for all ages, and we go back to resist methods again and again here.

 

 

DSCN1629Sunflower Study is one of the first posts on this blog. We used permanent markers as our drawing tool, which eliminates the possibility of erasing. That forces us to deal with the lines we’ve made and keep going, rather than get bogged down in perfection.

 

 

DSCN1890

In Shadow Drawings, we traced the shadows of interesting objects onto our paper to create an abstract design.

 

 

 

DSCN2056Yarn Art was the inspiration for the magazine’s line adventure of using string as line. My then-toddler glued yarn onto sturdy paper to create a design.

 

 

DSC01433You don’t need to limit your line exploration to typical media or surfaces, either. In Drawing in Snow, my kids did just that, to amuse themselves while waiting for the bus. Anything that will take a mark can become a drawing surface, even if just temporary. Sand, dirt, snow, the condensation on a window…we’ve all doodled in these places, and it’s fun. Speaking of doodling, I’m including Doodle Rocks in this roundup. We used both paint and permanent markers to decorate rocks, exploring with both color and line.

Finally, a few posts from the {Art Together} series that apply: Scribbling, Doodling, and Exploring Charcoal + Conte Crayon, which is about exploring different drawing media which, of course, can make very different sorts of lines.

Happy line exploration!

Drawing Eggplant

Last week at the supermarket I was agog at the colors of the eggplant. It was a tough choice between bringing home fairy eggplant or Japanese, but the kids were unanimous on Japanese, so that’s what I bought. I posed them for a portrait:

Aren’t the colors gorgeous? I wanted to draw them and paint them, and I will let the kids have a chance, too, but Monday afternoon, I stole some quiet creative time to myself with the eggplant out on the deck. After I photographed them, I sketched them with pencil.

Then I tried an Inktense pencil and water brush, followed by watercolor pencils. I was both playing with materials (I am slowly getting better with watercolor pencils) and getting to know the eggplant. The more you draw something, you know…the better you see it. Here’s one of the watercolor pencil drawings.

In this final photograph, the Inktense sketch is on the top left, and another watercolor pencil sketch–possibly my favorite–is on the bottom right.

I’m sure we’ll eat these eventually–or I will, anyway, since my kids aren’t too fond of eggplant. But either way, they had to come home with us. When one finds inspiration in the supermarket, of all places, one must act.

What vegetable would you like to draw, photograph, or paint?

ICAD 2013

I am rather quietly joining in with Tammy’s Index-Card-A-Day Challenge, for as long as I keep it up, I suppose. I don’t have a theme. I’m not trying to do daily collages or prints or drawings; I’m just trying to look at an index card–3″x5″ for now because that’s what I had downstairs–and put something on it, using whatever mark-making tool I feel like at the time. On Day One, I decided to try to get more comfortable with my watercolor pencils by drawing one of the irises currently blooming in my yard.

The next day–evening, really–I grabbed a jar of Sharpies and doodled.

Although “challenge” is right in the name here, I’m not looking to challenge myself, not really. I’m looking to provide myself with 20 minutes or so (maybe more, maybe less) to just play in this small space. I’m not thinking about it too much. It is, I suppose, a little bit of art therapy. I won’t post them all here, but I’ll try to add them all to my ICAD Flickr set.

Are you joining in with ICAD? Or maybe something else? Are you looking to challenge yourself, or comfort? And hmm, can both be accomplished at the same time? Things I am pondering…

{Art Together} Drawing From Photographs

{This post is part of the art together series. You can see all the posts in the series here.}

One of the reasons I began regular art time alongside my children was so that I’d get a chance to make art, too. Art-making isn’t just for the kids. It’s for us (that means me and you), too, and that’s why I wholly support presenting something you’re interested in as a jumping-off point. That’s the basis for this week’s post; I wanted to do this, so I asked my kids if they wanted to try, too.

Recently, somebody retweeted a link to National Geographic’s Tumblr, Found, which is a “curated collection of photography from the National Geographic archives” (read more here). I fell into this site, drawn both by the historical interest of the photographs as well as their composition. I found my way to an art minor via photography, and the framing of a good photograph is still something that I appreciate very much. Add in that these are actually film photographs…well, I could spend quite a bit of time on this site, and suspect I will.

While browsing, though, I thought this picture of people strolling through a park in Finland could inspire a painting…the contrast between the brightly colored umbrellas and balloons and the grey day with birches drew me in. I wanted to sketch it and try to figure out how I might paint it later on. (I also want to sketch this picture of the Palace of Majaraja’s pond; isn’t it fantastic?) I explained the website to my kids and asked if they’d like to try to draw from a photograph too. They were willing, so we scrolled through the site together. My 8yo chose this challenging photo of Luray Caverns in Virginia, and my 4yo chose this image from Madrid. I printed the photos on our home printer, and we set up the drawing boards, paper, and sketching pencils and got to work.

The drawing boards, by the way, are pieces of hardboard from Home Depot. We originally got them for wet-on-wet watercolor painting, but we often use them to draw on the living room floor. It’s a nice, portable, smooth drawing surface.

My son got a bit lost with his sketch and asked that I not photograph it, but he spent quite a lot of time trying to re-create the forms of the cavern. My daughter drew various elements from her photograph, looking first at the remnant of the old wall, then at the grass, then at the bus.

I tried to decide what to include and what to leave out, and then added some color to try it out. If I paint this (and I really want to try, never mind the list of projects I have backed up in my head), I want to try to abstract the people even more. I want those bright umbrellas and balloons to pop right out of that wintry day.

It’s something to aspire to, because I don’t think my skill level is where it needs to be to do justice to the image in my head. I know some of you who have been checking in to this series are struggling to overcome early art discouragement, or a lack of confidence, or a feeling that you can’t do [insert whatever you think you can’t do here]. So I want to make sure you know: there is so much I feel I could improve on, too;  everybody feels that way. But there is real delight in the process of showing up to try.

Further Resources

These are not resources per se, but rather a couple more examples of parents taking the lead to pursue their own creative interests with kids alongside.

Francesca decided she wanted to do some watercolors of botanical subjects, so she did…which enticed her daughter to try, too: watercoloring with my girl.

In Tuesdays With Maggie, Cameron describes how she and her daughter both created artworks—and she demonstrates their process step-by-step as well.

Share Your Experiences

Flickr’s re-do is making my head hurt, so I’m not linking to them this week! But I’d love if you’d share, in the comments, your own experiences of how following your own interest alongside your children worked for you. Creating a family art habit meant I was able to get some art time in, even when the needs or schedule of the family made it very difficult for me to get that time alone. At times, this has been a life-saver for me. Of course, I try to make sure our art together time is something we’ll all enjoy…but it’s okay to think of our own interests at least as much as we think of the kids’.

Coming Up

Next week’s post will be a round-up of outdoor art activities and ideas that we’ve done in the past, since we’re heading into summer here. It will also be my last weekly post in this series for a while, although I’m sure I’ll be sharing during the summer here and there. Over the summer I’ll be concentrating on writing something a bit more in-depth, the goal being to have that ready by fall. I’ve placed an email announcement sign-up on the sidebar (or you can jump to it directly here). It’s not a regular newsletter at this point, but intended for occasional announcements, to let you know when the things I’m working on are ready to be shared.

{Art Together} Doodling

{This post is part of the art together series. You can see all the posts in the series here.}

“A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.” –Paul Klee

Recently I treated myself to the Learning to See series of drawing primers. The first exercise I tried was the fourth one in the second book (yes, I pick and choose!), called, simply, “Doodle.” I challenged myself to fill an entire sketchbook page with pencil doodles, and this is what resulted.

My daughter saw what I was doing. Later on, she got her own paper and filled it with pencil doodles.

We decided to spend the next morning sitting on the floor with paper and a selection of colored pencils and markers, doodling. This is as simple as it gets: fill the page with doodles. You can make it more complicated, if you like. I chose a bigger piece of paper and challenged myself to fill it, and tried to pay attention to balancing the shapes, sizes, line, and white vs black.

I decided to keep it black and white, but I could have chosen to go into it with watercolors. I’m also interested in isolating parts of it that seem interesting to me. There are rhythms and patterns that might find their way into a future design. Doodling can bring forth all sorts of ideas to return to later.

My eight-year-old focused on colors for some of his doodles, preselecting markers to use.

In this next doodle, he focused on pattern, thinking of the zebras we saw at the zoo last weekend and the sign which informed him that zebras are camouflaged by their stripes; it’s hard to identify an individual zebra when they’re all together in a group.

He also completed a pencil doodle, which is in the Flickr group.

My four-year-old was a bit overjoyed with the choices of mark-making materials. She wanted to try them all!

The entire drawing session was a relaxing way to spend an hour–which is part of the goal of doing art together, to simply enjoy the time spent.

Further Resources

Books on doodling abound! I have Creative Doodling and Beyond, but truthfully it didn’t click for me on my first try with it. The exercises felt too focused on producing a complete finished work; I became completely inhibited. The Learning to See exercise, however, was wide open. Just get a pen and doodle. I didn’t feel any pressure, so it was easier. If the wide-open “doodle something on a blank page” approach leaves you wondering what to do, try a book that provides specific exercises. Maybe that will speak to you better. I’ve no doubt I’ll go back to the Creative Doodling book at some point.

If you want some visual inspiration, Flickr has many doodling groups. Oodles of Doodles is one that promises to be safe for all ages, so your kids can look, too.

Take it Further

Try doodling in black Sharpie and then choosing areas to wash over with watercolors or fill in with colored markers.

Choose a color palette (as my 8yo did) and limit yourself to it. That adds another design element to balance: not just shape, line, pattern, and size, but color, too.

Cut a 2-inch (or 3-inch, or 1-inch; experiment) square out of a piece of cardboard and use it as a frame to isolate different parts of your doodle. Are there any sections you’d like to try “blowing up” into a larger piece? Would any sections translate well to another medium, such as paint or stamp-carving?

Share Your Work

I’d love to see your work in the Flickr group; or if you have a link to posts describing art-making together, please share in the comments!