Opening Night at Gray Matter

Posted by on May 8, 2017 in drawing, Events, Lessons | No Comments

The show “Gray Matter”, consisting of pencil drawings by 3 of my advanced drawing students and me, opened on Friday evening.

This is the Brandon-Mitchell Gallery from the front, 117 S. Locust Street, Visalia, California. That is the county seat of Tulare County, in Central California where I live and work as an artist. (In case you are new to the blog. . .) 

Here is what you see when stepping through the front door.

And this is what I saw when I came through the back door before the people started arriving.

Maggie and I spent 3 hours hanging the 40 or so pencil drawings, grouping them in ways that made sense visually, lining up the tops ever so carefully, evaluating the spaces until we laughed aloud at our fastidious approach. It was so important to us to make this show just shine with the brilliance of our pencil work.

Kelvin began his art life with cartooning a chicken named Henrietta. He has cards, quilt squares and original drawings featuring her and the rooster Harold.  He even had cookies one time. . . This is all in addition to his very fine pencil drawings.

This is me with Kelvin and friends (newlyweds!) Melissa and Jeff. This was at the end of the evening, which was so busy and exciting that I didn’t take any photos. . .

. . . except for a magical moment when the light on the Post Office near by was just stunning. I ran outside as if it was truly important, abandoning my post, guests, and art. The Post Office is a work of art.

I didn’t get a photo of artist Maggie, but did catch Wendy (center) and her family in this blurry snap. I saw her husband across the gallery and thought he looked familiar, like someone I should know. Well, indeed – I have assisted Wendy in drawing him several times!

A good time was had by all, and the art looks wonderful. If you weren’t able to make it, there will be a second reception on Friday, June 2, 5-8 p.m. If you live anywhere near Visalia and like pencil drawings, I suggest you plan to attend. The work is really remarkable!

Gray Matter, A Pencil Show

Posted by on May 5, 2017 in drawing, Events, Lessons | No Comments

This show is all graphite pencil, 3 of my (very) advanced drawing students and me. It is part of Visalia’s monthly Art Walk, an event in downtown Visalia on the first Friday of each month. See you there?

Pencil Show Coming Soon

Posted by on Apr 25, 2017 in drawing, Events, Lessons, the business of art | 7 Comments

A pencil show? Yes, an art show of only pencil drawings by 3 of my advanced drawing students and me!

Some facts:

Title: Gray Matter

Dates: Friday, May 5 and Friday, June 2

Location: Brandon-Mitchell Gallery, 117 So. Locust in Downtown Visalia (between Main and Acequia, west side of the street)

Time: 5-8 p.m.

Participants: Kelvin Farris, Maggie Meling, Wendy Miller, Jana Botkin

We are part of the monthly “Art Walk” in Downtown Visalia. There are many business and art studios that join in this regular event. This is something I’ve never gone to, so I don’t know what to expect. However, you can expect some wonderful pencil drawings, including these.

Abby the Calf, pencil drawing by Kelvin Farris

Farmersville Corner, pencil drawing by Wendy Miller

Pensive Pose, pencil drawing by Maggie Meling

No Face Smaller Than an Egg

Posted by on Apr 18, 2017 in drawing, Lessons | No Comments

That’s what I tell my students, and perhaps I need to specify that I am NOT speaking of a hummingbird egg.

But, sometimes my students test their skills while also testing mine. I warn, nag, deny, forbid, warn some more and finally capitulate, but with more warnings.

When someone insists on doing a drawing that I know from experience will be too hard, I just help them as much as possible, and moan the entire time. (Good thing I am not a parent.)

Susan is a classic case. She is determined, committed, focused, and perseverant. Look what she did!  Yes, she erased the face multiple times, and there was one day where I almost shouted at every class, “LEAVE YOUR ERASERS BY THE FRONT DOOR TODAY!!” As she would leave class sometimes, I would tell her, “DON’T TOUCH THE FACE!”

Why she puts up with me, I’m not sure. She is a remarkable person doing a fantastic job of learning to draw. Congratulations, Susan, on a job well done!

P.S. To everyone else taking drawing lessons, NO FACE SMALLER THAN A GOOSE EGG! (At least I didn’t say an emu egg, although I felt like it.)

Susan at 27, pencil drawing by Susan Oldfield

Pencil Drawing Commission (Dr. Pencil to the Rescue)

Posted by on Apr 17, 2017 in commissions, drawing | 4 Comments

This began with an email, then became endless emailed photos and discussions and phone calls. Oh, and can you have this by the 22nd? Wait, we need cards made, so can you do it in time to give the print shop enough time?

No problem. Art Emergencies are one of my specialties.

The subject matter is a city park that is not yet completed. That makes things a little tricky. The chain link fence surrounding it further complicates things.

No problem. They call me “Dr. Pencil”. (Who is this “They”? Never you mind. . .)

Here are the beginning photos. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

Better see what this looks like in black and white – sometimes that clarifies things.Now I am ready to offer the customer some choices.

She chose B, my favorite. I love it when that happens. Makes me feel trusted. I got it laid out and began shading.

And then I had a long day at the drawing board. Not too long, just uninterrupted focused hours to listen to podcasts and figure this thing out.

The next step is the photoshop clean-up and prep work while I wait for the customer to make decisions about the cards.

Goodness, I hope the customer is pleased, because there isn’t enough time to redo anything!



It Is Finished.

Posted by on Apr 12, 2017 in commissions, drawing | 2 Comments

(Seems like an appropriate title with Easter coming, no disrespect intended.)

This was a long pencil drawing commission – lots of emails, photos, sketches, decisions, waiting, and oh my, lots and lots of leaves to draw.

Here is a look, start to finish (minus all the photos, emails, changes, decisions, et cetera)

You can see that the customers chose neither A nor B.  C was a result of a photo I took at the orchard, because they wanted something that distinguished theirs from every other walnut grove.


Now it is at the framer, and then, finally, it will be presented to the intended recipient, who will be happily surprised. (I’m fairly certain he does not read my blog.)

Flowers in Pencil

Posted by on Apr 6, 2017 in drawing | 2 Comments

I may have mentioned a time or two that I love to draw in pencil. 

It came to my attention that the group behind the First Saturday Three Rivers events appreciates pencil drawings of their subject matter, because they are useful for an ad in an old-fashioned newspaper that doesn’t print in color.

I had provided photos of many flowers and 2 pencil drawings for this year’s theme of wildflowers. Hearing that the drawings were useful, I did 2 more for their use.

The first is Columbine, a flower which comes in several colors – yellow and red in the Sierra, blue in the Rockies.

The second is Farewell To Spring, which is a purplish pink. It always makes me a bit sad when it appears because it means that spring and green are over to be replaced by heat and brown. Without the color, it sort of looks like poppies.

I rarely participate by opening my studio on the first Saturday of the month for a variety of reasons. However, I do support them with my checkbook, photos, and drawings every year.

Turbulent Times

Posted by on Apr 5, 2017 in drawing, Three Rivers | 9 Comments

Sometimes I tell you about the good parts of living in Three Rivers (running into people at the Post Office or on a walk, having a mailbox at the bottom of my driveway to drop off things). Sometimes I tell you the bad parts, which are mostly attributable to Tulare County in general rather than Three Rivers.

The down side to living in a self-contained small town and community is that when bad things happen, no one is untouched. Last week Three Rivers lost 2 men to suicide. Each had his own reasons which are not public knowledge, and each one left a trail of broken-hearted and baffled people behind. The ripples of sadness extend outward into every part of town.

This pencil drawing is called “Turbulent Times”, and it feels appropriate right now.

Turbulent Times, a pencil drawing

Pencil Drawing Commission

Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 in commissions, drawing | 4 Comments

Do you remember reading that I was doing a pencil drawing of a walnut grove, a commission, and was waiting for more information? I received what I needed, finished it, and now I am waiting to hear if the commissioning parties are happy.

So, I’ll show you another pencil drawing commission that I finished. The customer is very happy.

This was difficult. The size is 8×10, and that is really too small for all this detail. I did most of it underneath a large magnifying light, and resolved to stop offering the 8×10 size. It was a relief that the customer didn’t want the family sitting in the front yard – I would have just had to say a definite and resolute NO! The horses looked a little weird in the photo – as if they had horns or something. When I asked the customer why they looked so weird, she said, “Who knows? It is Oklahoma! Just make them look normal.”

Too funny – are horses weird in Oklahoma? Maybe in the late 1800s or early 1900s they wore ear points. 

I also wondered about the alternating colors of paint on the porch pillars. Red and white is my guess, but perhaps dark green and white.

Interesting pencil commission job – have I mentioned lately that I love to draw in pencil?

And here’s a little aside about living in Three Rivers: the customer/friend has been telling me for awhile that she’d like me to draw her old family homestead farmhouse. I saw her at the Post Office and reminded her. She was ready to begin, so she dropped it off in a special mailbox I have near the bottom of my driveway. We did the entire job without actually seeing one another in person – all email and drop-offs, no more chance encounters at the Post Office or on a walk. We live about 1-1/4 miles apart and often walk past one another’s homes.

In addition to loving to draw in pencil, I love living in Three Rivers.

Finishing Drawings For Other People

Posted by on Apr 3, 2017 in drawing, Lessons | No Comments

Every week I teach people how to draw and have been doing this since 1994. Sometimes people stay for years, sometimes they discover it isn’t for them after a few lessons, and sometimes a year or two satisfies their itch to learn to draw. Sometimes people grow up, graduate, move away, retire, travel, or something else.

Two girls quit drawing lessons and left unfinished work. I don’t remember when this happened, and somehow I ended up with the drawings and the photos from which they were working.

This may surprise you, Gentle Reader, but I am not a perfectionist. I am a finisher. It takes focus and discipline for me to try and perfect something, and it isn’t natural behavior for me. (Remember the drawing of the bridge over the Tule River a few months ago, the one that I used for February in the 2017 calendar? Yikes. I needed a perfectionist to stop me from printing that before I embarrassed myself.)

Girl One began a drawing of a border collie, her very first (and last) with me, working from a calendar. I don’t work from copyrighted photos, but often my students do. I am friends with Girl One’s dad, so I thought I’d surprise him with this:

She did the hard work of setting it up and shaded the eyes before deciding that drawing lessons weren’t for her. I had fun finishing it, and then I signed both of our names.

Girl Two was with me from 6th grade until she graduated from high school. She left this unfinished self-portrait. I am friends with her parents, so I thought I’d finish it and give it to them.

She did the hard work of setting it all up and shading the eyes and mouth. This made it easy to just add more shading, and wow, what a pretty girl! Again, I signed both of our names.

I don’t know the proper protocol for any of this, so I make it up as I go along. There is tremendous satisfaction in finishing things and giving them to the people who will appreciate them.