Sunday, December 29, 2013

Evening Watercolors

Our baby tends to need a feeding in the middle of the night--3 am or thereabouts. I've done a few experiments with sketching her in watercolor during these times. At first I was going about it in a more realistic way...
(That adorable moment when she's done eating but her mouth is still gaping open for a while...)
 ...but it has been much more fun to let the low light and the sleepy brain take the sketches in more abstract directions.
I may not do a lot more of these at this juncture, since it squiggs me out a bit to have the paint supplies out in the same time and space as feeding time. Rule #1--don't eat paint. We learned that quite clearly from Van Gogh already.

 But this has been a lovely excuse to bust out the beautiful travel sketchbook that my aunt Lois made for me. (Parenthood is a type of voyage, isn't it?) If you're reading this, Lois, I think the choice of watercolor palette is dead-on awesome and the whole unit works like a charm!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Baby Hands

Through a combination of innate reflexes and personal style, a baby's hands and arms can be very bold and expressive.

I haven't yet been able to capture the fleeting "jazz hands" reflex when our little peanut is startled, but I do have plenty of chances to draw how she drinks milk with her pinky up, as if sipping tea with royalty.

There is so much personality in those tightly-closed fists, too.

If it weren't for the chilly winter weather, I'd likely be sketching her tiny baby toes as well--but for now, warm socks are the priority. (A project for spring?)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Baby Face (Part Two)

As a new parent, there's a lot of data to gather about the tiny critter that's burst onto the scene. For the first weeks, I was keeping careful track of when she last ate, how many diapers she blasted through during the course of a day, etc in order to make sure all is good and healthy.

Thus, my pocket notebooks have become a strange medley of charts diagramming milk in/milk out, with elaborate baby doodles in the margins.

Not to mention the fact that, when struggling to stay alert for lengthy late-night feedings, sketching on any handy scrap of paper can keep my brain from shutting down entirely. (Sleep deprivation is a great way to loosen up the linework of one's sketches, as it turns out).

Whether it's studying her face as she nurses...


...or just trying to stay awake in the doctor's waiting room, I've been very grateful to have pen and paper on hand.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Baby Face (Part One)

I gave birth to a baby girl on Halloween morning, and was sketching her right from day one. (I actually packed my watercolor kit and a good squirrel mop brush in my hospital bag--laughable to see me pondering what brush is best for the occasion!--but have nonetheless only done pen sketches of her so far.)

Sketching helps me wrap my head around this momentous event. Who is this tiny human? What does she look like, how does she move?

A baby's face is such an odd thing--familiar in structure, yet with such different proportions than an adult face.

Simultaneously adorable and surreal, bizarre.

It it that it's rounder, taller, wider...? Still can't pin down the exact dynamics that makes a baby's face distinct.

But good job, evolution, on making baby faces absolutely fascinating.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Belly

A co-worker at the water cooler yesterday suddenly blurted out, "Wait--are you expecting?" And yes indeed, this little baby girl's due date is just one month away now. Every time I get out of bed or stand up from a chair, I have to re-learn how my body is moving nowadays; and every time I pass by a mirror, I try to wrap my head around how differently-shaped I am as well.

About a month ago, I started doing quick sketches of myself. You can see that in the first sketch, I am completely flabbergasted and confused by what I look like. As the series continues, I think I've been getting a better grip on these big rounded shapes...

It's an amusing exercise, and since the camera is packed somewhere in the go-to-hospital bags, these sketches might end up being the most convenient way to document these last few weeks!

Mushroom Festival Poster!

Oh my goodness, October is whooshing by so fast. I should probably post how the Mushroom Festival poster turned out, since they are now peppered all over the Eugene and Springfield areas in anticipation of the grand event!

My previous post talked about how I was experimenting with the composition. Having nailed that down, I went into make-it-so-mode. I started off with a fast loose sketch to serve as guidelines...

 Then started settling in on the colors that would go into each area (again, fast and loose).

At this point, I realized that my birds were out of whack! I was so fascinated with the strange morphology and brilliant coloration of the turkey heads that they had become too big for their bodies. It's nice to be able to catch these things before a lot of final detail goes into place. So I went back to my reference photos and started getting serious about those turkey details.

Ah yes. Big birds with tiny pin-heads. Now we are talking.

Now that the pesky heads were figured out, started tackling the turkey-tail mushrooms themselves. The fungi are the stars of the show, after all!

And here we have the final shiny rendering.

Which was then popped into the final event poster! (You can see a nice big version of it on the Mount Pisgah Arboretum website.) Fun!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Turkey Dioramas

As I worked on the Mushroom Festival poster this year, I found myself wresting with the relative scale of things. Turkeytail mushrooms are about 7 cm wide, while a wild turkey is at least a meter long. How best to show them both in one image, knowing that the smaller mushrooms need to be the center of attention?

I took a sheet of foam core and cut out a tree branch and a turkey approximately to scale, and then covered the tree branch with paper mushrooms. Then it was diorama time in the front yard!


Even with crude, out-of-focus photos, this exercise helped me a lot with my experiments in composition. From there, I did a few very rough color mock-ups of possible poster layouts in Photoshop.

Sending these rough ideas to the festival committee, the response was overwhelmingly positive for the three-turkey parade in the distant background of the tree branch. Hurrah! Next post, I'll go into the details of how I took that crude scribble and turned it into the final poster art.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Like Oaks for Turkeys

Mount Pisgah Arboretum is gearing up for their famous Mushroom Festival at the end of October, and they've invited me to do the festival poster and tee-shirts again this year. The theme: turkey-tail mushrooms with a flock of turkeys wandering through the habitat.

Now, turkey-tail mushrooms like to grow on stumps and dead branches of oak trees. Since I no longer live near the gorgeous oak savannah habitats at Mount Pisgah, I headed up to the Hoyt Arboretum one gray and drizzly morning to wander through their fine collection of oak trees, in seek of inspiring oak compositions. Here's what I drew.

 More Mushroom Festival poster adventures to come!

4-T Trail Hike

Way back at the beginning of August, my friend Gretchin threw a birthday party which involved inviting all of her friends to go for a hike! The 4-T Trail uses a combination of public transportation and hiking paths to make a loop from downtown Portland up through the west hills and then back via the south waterfront. * A principios de agosto, mi amiga Gretchin organizó una excursión por el sendero 4-T. Pasamos por el centro de la ciudad hasta la cima de las colinas del oeste, usando una combinación de transporte público y senderos rústicos en el bosque. 

Most of my time was spent walking and chatting with the wonderful people at the party, but I did get in a few sketches at the main rest stops. * Pasé la mayoría de mi tiempo caminando y charlando con la gente en la fiesta, pero también dibujé en algunos lugares donde nos paramos para descansar. 

When we returned home after the hike, I thought I was headed straight for a nap. But--surprise!--there was a block party going on that had a live band in the street. We ended up hanging out with more nice people and enjoying the music to finish off the day. * Al regresar a la casa, yo intentaba descansar. Pero--¡que sorpresa!--había una fiesta en nuestro vecindario, incluso una banda tocando en vivo en la calle. Pasemos un rato charlando y escuchando la música antes de terminar el día.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Scribbles from the Past

We're doing some house-cleaning and rearranging of late, and as I go through notes from old illustration projects I'm finding some amusing memories in the mix. Scanning a handful to share here!

This was an illustration project for a paleontology exhibition at the San Bernardino County Museum. The early sketch here is just exploring the general look of brown with white highlights on parchment-toned paper. For some reason I'm totally charmed by this early doodle.

From the good old days when I was drawing a lot of fossilized rodent teeth under the microscope! I focused on projects like these for about two years as an undergraduate, and occasionally revisit that subject matter when researchers start knocking at the door. Something about the simplicity of this pencil sketch, with the grid marks helping me keep in all in scale and the light touch on the shading, makes me happy.

Another undergraduate doodle, again with the rodent teeth (this time it's the chewing surface of a tooth from a vole). Once the graphite draft gets all worked out, I'd do the final illustrations in ink on plastic film with a steel-nib pen dipped into a jar of ink, totally old-school. Each of the little wriggly lines on this scrap is me testing the pen after a fresh dip into the ink to make sure it's not going to leave a big ink blot . (I suspect that's why the partially finished drawing here was turned into a test-scrap--blob attack!)

None of these scraps of paper are terribly important, really; but it's sure fun to look back at them and remember the experience of building up to the final illustrations, scribble by scribble. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Alton Baker Park

Last weekend I stopped by to visit the annual picnic of the Philippine American Association in Eugene, Oregon. The picnic was in lovely Alton Baker Park, with a stunning view of the river. Since I was running early, I paused to sketch the river flowing behind the fountain at EWEB Plaza.

I was initially quite focused on getting the angles of all those jets of water without drawing anything out in pencil first. But when I reached the end of the sketch, I realized I had forgotten to add the segment of the watery cascade where each of the parabolas meets in the middle and falls back down to earth. Whoops! It should probably have looked something like this instead:
Ah well. I hiked across the pedestrian bridge and plugged myself into the picnic, and had a lovely time sketching the pig roasting on the spit! Tricky timing challenge to throw down more paint every time the pig rotated to this angle, but it was a fun challenge.
I had some lovely conversations about art and art education with folks at the picnic while I sketched. One fellow, who had been a professor of art before retirement, introduced me to a very insightful quote from James Johnson Sweeney:
"Creativity, in both science and art, is the ability to find new relationships between things that hadn't previously existed. It's the relationships, not the things, that are interesting." 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lazy Vacation

The trick with going on vacation is that it's darned hard to sketch while socializing with family and friends! Despite a whole week in California, I only got a chance to pick up the sketchbook twice. * ¡Lo difícil de ir de vacaciones es que es muy difícil dibujar cuando estoy enfocada en socilizar con familia y amigos! Pasé una semana entera en California, y solo tuve la oportunidad de dibujar dos veces. 

The first chance was when we stopped at my parent's house. Their kitties are not offended when I skip the conversation in favor of the paints! * La primera vez fue cuando nos paramos en la casa de mis padres. ¡Los gatos no son ofendidos si agarro las acuarelas en vez de conversar!

Later, I took a few quiet moments to sketch while I watched my husband and his mom play a strategy game. * Después, encontré algunos momentos pacificos para dibujar mientras observaba un juego de estrategia entre mi esposo y su mamá.

But I don't mean to complain--I had a lovely time seeing folks, and it was very relaxing all around. Plus, my little 3-year-old niece got a chance to do some serious painting with my watercolors while we waited for dinner! It's a delight to see how much she seemed to learn with each stroke of the brush. Inspiring. * Pero no debo quejarme--era un gran placer visitar con todos, y me relajé mucho. Ademas, ¡mi nieta de 3 años tuvo la oportunidad de hacer un serie de pinturas con mis acuarelas mientras esperamos la cena en un restaurante! Me encanta ver cuánto ella aprendió con cada paso del pincel--qué inspiración.