A yearly customer emailed me to ask for a painting she saw on my website, but she didn’t just want that painting. She wanted four of that painting.
Well, oops. My paintings don’t get reproduced by machines; my paintings get reproduced by a paintbrush in my hand.
But wait! There’s more! She wanted them in two weeks time.
Ahem. I paint in oils. They take awhile to dry (unless it is July or August). This could be a tricky assignment.
First, I found the original painting and got in touch with the gallery showing it to set it aside for me to retrieve. This meant that I had to paint “only” three. That helps.
Second, did I even have blank canvases the right size? Yeppers, I did.
I know, you are just dying to see what painting she wants.
Tomorrow, I’ll show you what happens next.
The pencil drawing commission might be finished. I often run things by my drawing students, telling them to be as “mean” to me as I am to them. It gives them an opportunity to practice the skills of looking very critically, and articulating clearly if they see any weak areas of a drawing.
Here it is the first time. It was originally drawn to be printed in The Cabins of Wilsonia.
And here it is in its second iteration:I am more confident that the roof angles are closer to reality this time, and I think it has tighter detail. I’m guessing that the shocking difference in darkness is due to the computer preparations required for printing in the book. It wasn’t that dark in person because my pencils aren’t that dark. It almost looks like ink to me! (Nope, not participating in Inktober.)
Drawing architecture in pencil is my favorite thing. Since this drawing is gone, I get to redraw it. Second chances, opportunities to improve, do-overs–all good things.
This is how it looks after about three short sessions with my pencils. Cabin closing, oil painting, teaching drawing lessons, taking inventory and planning for shows, editing, book design, blogging, these things all cut into time to do my favorite thing. But, pencil drawings don’t take up a lot of room, there is no palette to secure or brushes to clean. (More reasons why pencil drawing is my favorite thing.)
Would you believe these roofs all belong to the same structure? This cabin in Wilsonia contains some of the most interesting architectural oddities and details of any of the cabins. I hope to see it up close and personal next summer!
I was working on the Sawtooth oil painting. This is the first time I had painted in a few weeks, so I started over with fresh paint on my palette.
White, 2 yellows, 2 reds, 2 blues, and a mixture of the darkest blue with the darkest red. All that the Sawtooth oil painting required was a brown and about 3 greens. No need to waste all that paint once Sawtooth was finished. What to do?
I could have covered it and put it in the freezer. Eventually, I did that. But first, do you remember the hot peppers that I painted for a friend’s kitchen?
Now I get to paint a tomato for her. There is no deadline, but I started it now because the paint was just itching to be used.
The photo is to help me know how to place the darks and lights. Because it is a tomato and they aren’t supposed to be identical, I don’t care if the shape is exactly the same. Because I like brightly colored tomatoes, I am relying on my memory for the best colors. Because this is the first layer, it will get better as I go.
It’s good to get a thing started.
I get another chance at a do-over!
A customer asked to buy three of the original pencil drawings from The Cabins of Wilsonia. One of them is gone, so I offered to redraw it for him. He agreed.
The one he wants redrawn isn’t one I felt very proud of. Maybe I got sloppy in the midst of 272 drawings (can’t remember the actual number). Maybe I draw better now. Maybe it didn’t reproduce as well as I had hoped. Maybe I did a poor job prepping it for printing. Maybe my standards have been raised or tastes have changed.
Maybe it is all in my head.
Here it is:
I can’t wait to redo this! (Have I told you how much I love to draw, especially architectural scenes?)
First I ate my vegetables of fuzzy faces. I saved dessert for last.
What is she talking about? I can hear you thinking.
My customer brought me three commissions to draw in pencil. The first 2 were the fuzzy photos of faces with no discernible features. The 3rd was a beautiful building, designed by Julia Morgan, the architect most known for her buildings at Asilomar and for the Hearst Castle.
Drawing architecture in pencil is my favorite part of my art business.
Remember Henry and Dora in front of their tent last week? Here, have another look:
I showed my drawing students, because it is good to learn from one another. They were kind and complimentary, but honest, as we are with one another. “What is that thing in the tent?” is something I heard a few times.
I dunno. Some of their belongings covered in a tarp, perhaps.
My curiosity got the best of me, so I returned to the photos, both the original and the photoshopped version where I removed two of the women so the customer could see a version of what he had requested–just Henry and Dora, please.
Original photo:Photoshopped version:Well, oops. That thing is the lap and legs of one of the women that I photoshopped out of the photo. The converse to “If I can’t see it, I can’t draw it” is, “If I see it, I draw it”.
That’s why we have erasers. Here is the revised Henry and Dora drawing.
I am a hypocrite. I tell my drawing students to not attempt to draw faces smaller than eggs and to never draw from photos that are too fuzzy to see, because IF YOU CAN’T SEE IT, YOU CAN’T DRAW IT! (Yes, often said in all capital letters and sometimes even with a bit of bold thrown in for extra emphasis.)
The author/customer needs drawings because his only photos are not good. A drawing is better than a poor photograph. But, if I can’t see it and the faces are smaller than an egg, what’s an artist to do? I want to help the customer – that’s my job!
The answer is I work really hard. I focus, adjust, erase, add, erase, adjust, study, think, erase, et cetera. All work is done with a giant magnifying glass with a special light bulb, and strong magnifying glasses, along with very sharp points on my pencils.
Here are Henry and Dora at their tent above Springville, living there in hopes that Dora’s tuberculosis will be cured.
For the rest of the story, you will have to buy the book. But first, it has to be written, edited, rewritten, formatted and then printed.
It may be awhile. . .
If I can’t see it, I can’t draw it. But sometimes I try anyway, because I want to help the customer.
Besides, “If I can’t see it, I can’t draw it”, my other set-in-stone rule is, “No face smaller than an egg”. I learned this from a very accomplished colored pencil portrait artist, Ann Kulberg. She wasn’t speaking of a hummingbird egg, and I find that even a normal chicken egg size is a challenge.
Think about this: in the size of an egg, the width of one pencil point off in shading someone’s eye can make her look like her cousin. There is no forgiveness. None.
So, what did I do when a customer brought me this photograph and asked for a pencil drawing of it, minus 2 of the people?
Be merciful to me, a shameless hypocrite.
Stay tuned. . .
“If you can’t see it, you can’t draw it”, is one of the regular things I say to my drawing students.
Along came an author, writing on local history, seeking someone to illustrate some pictures in his book. He wanted drawings because several of his photos are awful, and he wisely thought it better to have a good drawing than a poor photo.
My students and I have gotten a good laugh about my accepting this job. Portraiture is my least favorite subject. There are such subtle differences between faces, and if you can’t see it, you can’t draw it.
However, there is no one left who knows what Edythe Tate Thompson looked like, and this is the only known photograph of her. So, I did my best to make her look pleasant and human, although she may have been super-human. She was responsible for bringing the tuberculosis hospital to Springville, and responsible for getting Julia Morgan to design the first building.
I don’t think I captured an exact likeness. She looks happier to me in the drawing, more approachable. Maybe her face is a touch too wide, maybe her mouth is; I think I’ve put her eyebrows farther apart If you knew Edythe and have a photo of her, let me know.