In The Studio: The Goldilocks Problem In Drawing

“Lappet-faced Vulture” Cretacolor Monolith pencil on Stathmore 400 cold press bristol

I’m sure there are artists out there who can happily grab whatever paper and drawing media they have at hand and get to it. I’m not one of them, at least not for my finished drawings that I will sell. And I’ve gotten pickier over the years. Every combination of paper and drawing media is different in feel, performance and result. Hence the comparison to Goldilocks. After a fairly major break for a variety of reasons, I’ve spent the last week or so getting back in the studio groove by revisiting a variety of combinations to see what is now “just right”.

I’m also planning to add human subjects back into to my oeuvre. It’s been awhile, so I collected a whole bunch of head shot photos from Google, many of movie stars because the lighting tends to be very good for revealing structure, dumped them into an Evernote and have started working from them, one feature at a time, starting with noses.

canson paper
Facial features: Derwent Drawing Pencil Venetian Red, Wolff’s Carbon Pencil 6B, Cretacolor Monolith Pencil 6B and Cretacolor Monolith Pencil, 4B on Canson Mi-Tientes drawing paper, smooth side. One thing I like about the darker toned papers in that you can come in with the lightest lights using a Prismacolor white pencil, as I did with the noses and the eye. This is a pretty typical work sheet for me. Nothing fancy, nothing at stake, just focusing on how the media feels on the paper, but also working to get the anatomy correct

I also worked on bits of other toned paper, but didn’t like what I ended up with. I do like the brown-tone though. I moved on to either white or off-white papers, mostly the two mentioned below.

A famous nose- Cretacolor Monolith pencil on Strathmore 400 cold press bristol
Two famous noses- Derwent Graphic pencils on Strathmore 400 cold press bristol

Both media worked well on the Strathmore, which has a fairly hard finish, but stiil with a bit of tooth. Back to animals….

Baboon- Cretacolor Monolith pencil on Rives BFK paper (which has been a favorite for awhile)
fox, gazelle
Bat-eared fox, Derwent Venetian Red Drawing Pencil and baby impala, Cretacolor Monolith pencil on cream-colored Rives BFK paper

The Rives BFK is quite soft in comparison with the Strathmore. One nice thing about it is that one can erase it. A lot. Without a trace.

I wanted to explore getting a very crisp line and also laying down a tone on the Rives BFK. As I expected, it passed wtih flying colors. I used the same pencils as mentioned above: Wolff’s Carbon Pencil for the hawk’s head and bird leg, Cretacolor Monolith for the murre, Derwent Drawing Pencil in Venetian Red for the yellowthroat and A Derwent Graphic pencil for the quick sketch of a pine siskin

The last one I did before writing this post is the drawing of the vulture at the top. It is available for purchase. Message me on my contact page for price.

Drawings From The Sea Of Cortez Trip

I’ve been having fun over the last month or so doing graphite drawings from reference I shot during the artist’s trip to the Sea of Cortez this past March. You can find out more about the trip here.

One of the reasons for doing them is to explore possible subjects for finished paintings that will be submitted for the 2013 exhibition, “The Sea of Cortez: Where the Desert Meets the Sea”, to be held at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

All the drawings are done with a General Draughting Pencil on 14×17″ Strathmore vellum bristol.

So, without further ado:

Roseate spoonbill
Sally Lightfoot crab
Blue-footed booby
Magnificent frigatebird
Elegant or Royal tern (the birders on the trip never could decide for sure which species)

Marketing Our Art During the Financial Meltdown, Part 3; Two New Paintings and a Drawing

Who’s Your Buyer and how do you get your work in front of them? We’re pretty much all going to have to be lean and mean in promoting our art. It’s called “targeted marketing”. Which means knowing who your buyer is.

When I went through the process of creating my marketing plan with a counselor from our local Small Business Development Administration (SBDC) office, the first homework I was given was to pretend that my buyer was sitting in a chair across from me and then describe them. Beyond the general question of who buys original art, who do you think will be interested in YOUR art? In my case, we somewhat humorously pegged my target buyers as “rich celebrity environmentalists”.

More realistically, it’s someone with a certain income level and probable interests in nature, environmental issues, travel and the outdoors. If you request advertising rate cards from a national magazine, they usually include demographic information on who their readers are to demonstrate the kind of eyeballs you can expect to view your ad. You can create the same kind of thing yourself to help decide where it makes the most sense to put your efforts.

I was talking about marketing approaches with an established artist at a wildlife art festival a few years ago. My specific question was where to look for galleries. His advice was to try place my work in locations where there were people “needing” to furnish second and third (!) homes. I’ve got to say, living in a county where the average income is $38,000 a year, that thought truly hadn’t crossed my mind.

Use the Internet- The world’s going digital. The US Postmaster just asked Congress for permission to cut the number of mail delivery days in the future because they are losing so much money. One reason is email and other types of online communication. I know that there are a lot of technophobic artists out there, but you’ve somehow got to suck it up and check it out, if for no other reason that using the internet takes time, but next to no money. At this point everyone pretty much knows that you have to have a website, same as you need a phone.

But when you bring up blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. the reaction usually seems to be a cri de coeur that there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is. My objection was that I couldn’t imagine that anyone would care what I had for breakfast (homemade muesli with berries from our garden, usually), so why should I take the time to do a blog. But……..when I evaluated it in terms of my marketing plan and learned how easy they are to do and that, unlike the website, I can update it myself at will in a far more dynamic way, I decided to give it a try. I approached signing on to Facebook the same way. An unexpected fringe benefit is the pleasant, informal contact with artists all over the country and the world.

Twitter I’m not sold on yet, but I monitor it with the idea that it will probably be just the thing at some point.

I encourage you to set aside an evening and check out Google’s Blogspot and also WordPress, which is what I use. Blogspot is probably easier to get started with, WordPress is more sophisticated in how it does things. You can register on both Facebook and Twitter, then just lurk around and see what you think. None of this is permanent. You don’t have to tell anyone. You can register and then cancel if you want. Be aware though that Twitter currently makes it very difficult to sign up again if you close your account.

Let me know if you start a blog or get on Facebook. I’ll be interested to hear what you think.


Hereford Study  oil  8"x10"
Hereford Study oil 8"x10"

I originally started this as a demo for my painting class and thought it would be fun to finish it. I also have a commission that involves Herefords, so it’s doing double duty.

Afternoon Light, Pismo Beach oil 10"x8"
Afternoon Light, Pismo Beach oil 10"x8"

I did this one yesterday in a couple of hours. Sometimes it’s fun just to smoosh the paint around.

And, finally, a drawing of some grouse that I photographed in Mongolia. Not sure of the species yet.

Sand grouse, Wolff's carbon pencil on drawing paper
Sand grouse, Wolff's carbon pencil on drawing paper

I really like the work of Mark Eberhard, who has a background in graphic design and uses it to great effect in his paintings. When I saw the image I shot of what was a good-sized flock, I was struck by the pure design possibilities. To be continued…..