August 5, 2021

Bobcat Skull Drawing

 During lockdown last year, one of the charcoal drawings I did was this bobcat skull.

It's about 20x18 inches and a lot of fun to create. It was recently chosen for inclusion in the Pittsburgh Society of Artists 55th annual exhibit. Pretty nice since it was a juried exhibit and many people that submitted did not get in. The exhibit is in a gallery space in Pittsburgh's historic South Side and runs from July 9 to August 28. I started this by toning white the paper with charcoal, and then drawing over that, and finally lifting out the highlights with an eraser.

The actual drawing itself is much larger than the skull. Below is my studio set up when doing a drawing from life of a single small item.

I have a big old drawing table that inclines to a nice angle. The surface is all nicked up, so I put a clean drawing board on that to draw on. To my left, under the light, I built a shelf out of foam-core to sit small subjects on. I like this setup because it gets me close as I can be to the subject to see it well.

July 8, 2021

Gettysburg Montage Art

Every year July in Pennsylvania brings me thoughts of the battle of Gettysburg. I have visited the battlefield several times and I was geeked up enough to create these commemorative banners for the Gettysburg 150 a few years ago. I did one for each day of the battle and used them as banners on my Facebook page.


I created these by first, drawing and sketching in pencil all the individual elements as stand alone pieces. Then I scanned each drawing into my computer. Next I did a bunch of paint splotches with different types of paint on pieces of scrap canvas, and scanned those in. Once everything was digitized, the fun began.


Using Photoshop, I then designed and composed each of these to the proportionate size of a Facebook banner. At that time I had them on a white background with square cut edges. Then I thought it would be cool to put these on a textured, antique paper and create a weathered, distressed look to the edges.

The fast trick in Photoshop to layering imagery like pencil drawings over texture, is to put the pencil drawn layers in multiply mode. That way everything that is not pencil drops out - But even so, the pencil drawing still needs to be sharpened and cleaned up a LOT first or it will look dirty. These were super fun to create and they, along with the entire poster, are now available for purchase by clicking HERE.



October 26, 2020

Sargent Portraits in Charcoal

One art exhibit I was really looking forward to visiting this year was the exhibit of portraits in charcoal by John Singer Sargent at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Covid 19 ruined that for me, but I recently purchased the exhibition catalogue. While it is no substitute for seeing the originals, the book is still great to have. Thankfully the beautiful catalogue totally does justice to Sargent's work.

Sargent's highly finished charcoal drawings and quick sketches are just as sumptuous as his oil paintings, which I have seen in person many times. I can only imagine what it must be like to be the owner of one of these original drawings, having it handed down to you from earlier family generations.

Like many exhibition catalogues the print quality is exceptional. Book reproductions of oil paintings can sometimes lose the impact of the originals, as far as brush work details and textures go. You do not really have that problem with reproductions of charcoal drawings, so that makes missing the actual exhibit a bit less painful. 

I own a Dover publication of John Singer Sargent drawings, and just purchased a book of his drawings from another publisher as well, and neither are reproduced in full color - which you would think would not matter since the originals are done with charcoal - but it does matter.

The exhibition catalogue is printed in full color and the detail is superior. Also you get to see the varied shades of paper Sargent used and how that effects the tones and the overall look of each piece. Plus the catalogue shows details of select images, probably enlarged to the same size as his originals (he did most within an 18x24 inch area) so those blown up details are always interesting.Image

Finally, aside from the fantastic images, it was fun to read about each of Sargent's sitters and their families reactions to the finished work. Hard to believe, but some of them were not pleased with the results! It was also interesting to read that Sargent used pieces of bread to lift out areas of tone to create highlights. I really have to try that one.








April 27, 2020

Michelangelo: Mind of the Master

This Covid world we now live in has me thinking of happier times - one recent time was at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where I enjoyed the Michelangelo: Mind of the Master exhibit. What a fantastic weekend.
Seeing these Michelangelo drawings up close for the first time after studying some of them in books for so long was, to say the least, a thrill. After the initial walk through the exhibit I went back and spent time in front of my favorite pieces.
The museum did a great job of putting the original drawings in context by showing them among  large reproductions of the finished paintings these drawings were studies for.
It was also fun to watch people try to find the matching figure in the large reproductions.
The exhibit catalogue is an interesting read because it tells the provenance of these drawings and points out specific items of historic and artistic interest about them.
Could not help feel that Michelangelo cheated us all by destroying so many of his drawings after seeing these few.














March 10, 2020

Three Swiss Guards - Aged Effect

This new piece was inspired by a past visit to the Vatican, and by the drawings of Michelangelo. On an early Wednesday morning in St. Peter's Square while waiting with the rest of the crowd for the arrival of the pope, I was taking in the scenery with my 300mm lens.
The Swiss Guards, along with the sculptures adorning St. Peter's Basicalla (above) were among the images I captured for artistic reference. Below is the initial mixed-media painting I created in 2016 from my main shot of the Swiss Guard.
A while after completing this painting, I was inspired to revisit this subject in either graphite or charcoal after seeing an interesting "aged-paper" technique in one of my fine-art books.
I had the initial drawing worked up on a nice piece of watercolor paper, but then put it aside to work on other projects. The drawing sat in my studio for over a year. What fired me up to finally complete the piece was a trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art to see the fantastic exhibit, Michelangelo: Mind of the Master.
After seeing so many of Michelangelo's original drawings and how beautiful they were on the 500 year old stained, pockmarked, and torn paper, I could not wait to finish my new Swiss Guard piece!

After spraying the final drawing with workable fix, I poured some instant coffee over it, crushed it, and tore it. After it dried, I took a piece of an apple and smashed it onto the surface of the piece, rubbing it in different directions, unevenly over the surface. I did the same thing with a carrot too. Finally I put the piece on a section of aluminum foil, lit a candle, and carefully burned sections of the edges.
To finish, I drew on top of that, adding a few details to the piece and darkening the darks. I tried to frame it as close as I could to the look of the way the original Michelangelo drawings were presented in the Cleveland Museum of Art.