A critique from long ago

Sometime around 1965 I took an undergraduate course entitled “Introduction to Modern Art” (I know that surprises those who are familiar with my subsequent career in computer science).   The paper I had to write as part of the studies was on Spanish artist Joan Miro.  I got the clever idea to produce a really catchy title page by including a representation of one of the amoeba like shapes Miro included in some of his works.  In making that representation I did not make a solid outline, but instead scrunched up the shape something like a kidney bean getting ready to spit out a watermelon seed.  My instructor graded my paper as perfect, but nicked me a half a grade over the tiny, nearly microscopic, gap in the shape’s outline.

I have spent 52 years thinking I had been “wronged” – that the error was so minor as to not detract from the intent, cleverness, or content.  As I experiment with various watercolor techniques to render my first true painting – the Spanish mission noted in my previous post – I decided to try color wash over an ink outline drawing.  When I finished the drawing I could not help but notice the places where I got “sloppy” with the pen and did not complete the lines correctly.  I decided I need to re draw the item, and that my old art instructor was right after all — in a drawing little details mean a lot.

An amazing turn

Well, for those of you who have followed these posts, I got off into graphite (pencil) sketching to try to learn composition and shading for my photography work, then moved into colored pencils to add a bit of ‘pizazz’ to the drawings.  Then for whatever reason possessed me I did two things: (1) I now have the ability to focus stack which I want to do with landscapes, and (2) I have ventured off into painting.  Well painting is a bit of an overstatement.  What I did was practice with digital art in various fashions, then try to move to acrylics with about an even split of good and bad technique results.  So now, of course, I am on my way to trying watercolors.  These are the images I have produced digitally (using photoshop brushes and pens), and the Spanish Mission one will be attempted in watercolors.  So stay tuned …

Mountains and Trees

Although I have take a few photographs since my last posting, none have been really interesting in terms of “good art or craft.”  However, I continue honing the few skills I have sketching.  My two latest are “St. Peter’s Dome” and an original sketch of a bare tree which was then manipulated in PSE to produce a long winter shadow.  I was asked to turn that last on into a note card, and the pdf file which will print notecards from the Tree in Winter image is located here.

Tree in Winter is not yet on my pixels page.

Tree in Snow small

My other effort which is on pixels in its full size at this location is “St. Peter’s Dome,” a graphite pencil sketch on 60 # paper.  It was an interesting exercise in tonal range, a subject which still gives me ‘issues.’  The image was rendered from a photograph of Colorado’s St. Peter’s Dome mountainous area.

St. Peters Dome Small


This is my sketch of Ingrid Bergman as she appeared in Casablanca — a movie I have always found to be as much about style as about acting and writing.  The gallery is posted at this link — here.  I think this will be my last of the classic movie stars — unless something or someone particularly inspires me.  I have branched out into landscapes drawn from imagination and enjoy doing those, but more importantly, I feel I am now ready to go back to black and white photography and see what I can produce.  Meanwhile friends “we’ll always have Paris.”  (grin)


Lucille Ball

I continue my journey into sketching with this rendition of Lucille Ball taken from a profile photo of her early in her career.  The text on my gallery image, here, explains more about the closer than usual connection I have with Lucy and is a cleaned up version of the small image shown below.  But this post is about my sketching, not  Lucille Ball.  I may have reached the top of my meager game in terms of these profile and full face drawings – and what a learning curve it has been.  As noted before, it has really provided much instruction to my eye in terms of “shades of gray” which I intend to put to good us in my photography efforts.  I need to branch back to landscapes as there is a real challenge I have in that area concerning “suggesting” what should be seen rather than trying to depict each tiny detail.  Will keep everyone posted.

Lucy Sketch_small


I continue trying to progress in the ability to render sketches.  Not really where I want to be yet, but making advances from time to time.  The side benefit of trying to learn how to see and render various shades of gray with pencils, various blending tools, and shear luck at times is that I now can see a color scene in terms of its tonality whereas before I merely saw different colors.  I’m close to making  a side trip back into some B&W photography and see if any new skill has transferred over, but in the meantime, here is my latest.

I think Greta Garbo was one of the most photogenic movie stars in Hollywood.  She was one of the golden era stars where, regardless of what they did ‘off camera’ so to speak, social custom and strong studio PR departments produced the essence of glamour.  I intend to return to Garbo in different ages and poses as I find them because I think her face works so well in sketches.   The gallery version is here.


Sketching evaluation

For those of you who followed this concept, I began around the first of February — maybe a week or so earlier — to try to teach myself how to create pencil sketches.  Access to a learning center where I lived abruptly closed this year, so that left me to figure this out by myself with the use of those youtube teaching videos I could find.

I have just about completed my first sketchbook and I can look back to see how I progressed – a kind of self evaluation in some sense.  I began sketching things I could see, and noticed I was able to produce a recognizable hand — in proportion and with appropriate shading — right out of the barn.

I progressed to some landscape scenes and discovered that I was very heavy-handed with a pencil.  I had to go back and learn pencil use skills, something I figured I had conquered in first grade.  Pencil skills included the ability to reproduce four shades of gray which along with the white of the paper would give me five B&W tones.  That turned out to be quite a challenge which took a couple of weeks to conquer.

I progressed to portraits and found I had a real problem with proportions of the human body – I call this my “cubist” period.  It was necessary to study each component of the face (overall shape, hair, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears) individually.  It took quite a while to reach adequacy.

At that point my sketches began to look like human beings, just not the people I was drawing.  More practice and study led me to the concept of a very light sketch underlaying the sketch itself.  I knew painters often sketched a rough out of their work before applying paint, but it never occurred to me that a pencil drawing required the same thing — or at least in my case looked better if I did.

I discovered that all of this work about ways to affix a range of tones to the drawing really improved my photographers eye for lighting a black and white photograph.  And I also found that I can interpret a scene in color as gray shades, something quite new for me.

I’m returning to landscape drawings, but for those interested here is a link to those sketches I thought were good enough to post on my photography webpage.