September 2006 Archives
A collection of my sketchbooks, entitled "selected days 2006: images from a year in progress" will be on view at the Show Here Gallery in downtown Pittsburgh, 945 Liberty Avenue. The opening will be tomorrow night, as part of a larger Cultural District Gallery Crawl from 5:30 to 9:00. If you are in the neighborhood, stop by. (And if you're not in the neighborhood, but would like a postcard, drop me an email: mail [at-sign] elizabethperry [dot] com and I'll send one along!)
Tomato slice on a wooden footstool. When I saw this footstool at a flea market in Massachusetts, I first assumed that it had six or eight sides, and it was not until I counted them that I realized that there were seven. The carpenter got it almost right - one side is slightly out of balance. The irregularity makes the piece even more appealing; your eye keeps moving, trying to make the angles come out even.
Why is the tomato on the footstool? I wanted to be able to look down on it, and I liked the dark background. (The slice is the last one, from the end, so the skin is against the wooden surface. No juice or seeds were spilled. Not that that would stop me when no one is awake to object.)
Ailanthus and maple in the backyard. The days are still warm, but the nights are crisper - good for thinking, good for sleeping. I watch spring begin in Australian blogs while summer leaves us in the northern hemisphere.
Crumpled cloth on the table. I've been working late on another web project and feel somewhat crumpled myself at this point in the evening. Relaxing to work my way along the different folds in the cloth, to see how the edges fit together. Not quite blind contour throughout, but I am looking at what I am drawing for longer and longer stretches of time.
Went to work a new way, and got to cross the back field behind school. The fog rose behind the trees and the grass was wetter than I expected. I could hear the bus traffic on the street behind me, but in front of me the view was all greens and grey stillness, and the smell was of damp earth.
(And I couldn't stop to paint, so I looked, and took a snapshot, and looked some more.)
Bottles all crowded toogether on a shelf in the upstairs bathroom. Late at night, but I suddenly decide that since I haven't used oil pastels in months, now is the moment t return to them. Then I want to add gouache, Then I smudge and blend colors together. More color. I realize that it is really very very late at night.
Oldest child heads away to boarding school tomorrow - the trunk is in the front hall. I was fifteen when I went away to school, and it was such a wonderful experience for me that I wanted to offer it to my children when the time came, if they were interested and it felt right. He's sixteen, and ready to go. Me? Not so sure I'm ready, but proud, and excited for him, and for the future.
Various people have asked me questions about my materials, and I've tried to answer questions as I go along, but answers are dispersed across various comment threads. It seemed as if it might be useful to pull the notes together in one place.
When I began to learn to draw, I got myself a small-sized black Moleskine sketchbook because it felt like a special thing to have and I knew it would give me pleasure to use it every day. I chose to use black ink in it, as I knew that if I had a chance to erase, I would fuss with the drawings too much. The pens I used were usually fine point technical pens: Staedtler or Micron. (More recently I've been using either a Pilot Hi-Tec C .025, or a fountain pen with Noodler's black ink in it.)
After nearly a month, I wanted to use color, and my sister introduced me to Caran d'Ache Neocolor II water-soluble crayons. I found that with a Niji brand waterbrush (which holds water in the plastic body of the brush handle) I could get watercolor effects while keeping my equipment very portable. This was a real breakthrough discovery for me. Once I had a way to carry water for painting in my pencil case, with no risk of leaks or spills, I felt free to paint anywhere, anytime.
As I continued to experiment, I found that the Moleskine sketchbook paper resisted or reacted oddly with most wet media, like regular watercolors or ink washes, but that when I washed water over watercolor crayon, the color blended well and stuck to the page.
Over the course of my first year of drawing, I filled nine notebooks. (I've pulled selected drawings from that year, and combined them with the corresponding blog entries, to make a 52-page book: Selected Days 2005: images from www.elizabethperry.com. You can order copies online for $19.95.)
For my second year, as the project continued, I began to look for sketchbooks which would work better with a wider variety of media. I wanted something pocket-sized, with heavy paper, and a sewn binding, so that I could draw across a two-page spread. Affordable alternatives were hard to find. In reading Gwen Diehn's book, The Decorated Journal, I came across her chapter, "The reluctant bookbinder," in which she had instructions for a "two-hour journal," stitched on cords. I tried it, and though my first attempt took more than three hours, I was pleased with the result.
As a holiday project, I decided to bind 12 books for 2006, one for each month. The covers are made of lightweight calfskin, and the paper is a printmaking paper, Lenox 100. The twelve finished books looked like this:
Once I began using paper on which I could paint, I got some wonderful gouache colors. If you are not familiar with it, gouache is an opaque relation of watercolor. The artist Roz Stendahl has a lot of good advice on her site, and it was from her that I got the idea of re-using a child's party-favor paintbox, by rinsing out the old colors and squeezing in small bits of gouache and letting it dry. I use my Niji waterbrush to rewet the colors, and depending on the amount of water used, can vary the effect from opaque to transparent. I have had good luck with M. Graham brand of gouache, but the chief thing I've been told is to get artist grade gouache if you are interested in learning about color, as the student grades don't mix well.
Here is a snapshot of my party favor set with eight colors. You can see how small it is next to the waterbrush - it is really about the size of a pair of postage stamps.
I had a mini-Altoids tin I'd been saving, and used the eraser end of a pencil to make little wells in the clay. The finished paintbox is heavier than the party favor set, but now I have room for twelve colors.
I also carry a Kuretake brush pen, which takes cartridges like a fountain pen, but has a brush instead of a pen nib. The ink is water-soluble, so I can make washes if I use the Niji waterbrush with it.
Occasionally, I will use water-soluble oil pastels. Portfolio is the brand, and because they are intended for school children, a set of 24 is very reasonably priced.
So that's a summary of the materials I am using the most these days.
For many more wonderful resources on drawing and materials, visit the Everyday Matters site maintained by Danny Gregory, and please consider joining the affiliated Yahoo discussion group.
Youngest child had all the drums out tonight, and she played them and sang in her own key.
Make new friends but keep the old
One is silver and the other's gold.
A circle's round, it has no end
That's how long I'll be your friend.
All my children are starting new schools this year, so as I read the news of the day I am thinking about friendships, relationships, and time passing. The drums don't keep time by themselves. I pause and draw and listen to the rain, and the clock ticking.