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Old Thursday 16th September 2010, 16:14   #76
JTMB
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Hi Adam,

Thanks for looking and for the advice! I agree with you and will move to pencils more as I move up the learning curve. I'm still at the stage where I have to guard against trying to be too perfect as I go along, and so a non-erasble medium takes that temptation away. Busby mentioned doing this in his book and at first I thought, nah, not something I would do, but then decided to give it a whirl.

I've had two figure drawings classes, the first with only charcoal (on large newsprint) and the second with soft pastels when we were allowed to use color. It was an eye opener how much subtlety is possible just with charcoal.
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Old Saturday 18th September 2010, 06:59   #77
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Love the gulls .
I agree with Adam . Pencils allow you to draw freely. No rubbing out though, a lighter line and the shape you want will emerge. If that makes sense John.
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Old Saturday 18th September 2010, 10:14   #78
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You're making huge leaps now John. I'd add my voice to the pencil chorus, I think because it's possible to make a mark with a pencil yusing hardly any pressure and that helps towards free movement.

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Old Saturday 18th September 2010, 15:32   #79
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I am having a blast and really think this is going to be a major part of the rest of my life.
Can't beat that John! And I think it shows as well. That may be why you're progressing so quickly.

As far as the pencil or pen choice I understand both arguments but my personal experience is that the pen is best. It forces you to be bold and decisive and you actually can vary the line weight through pressure more than you might at first think. But the important thing I think is that you just can't think about erasing because you know you can't. So you don't fiddle around, which is such a danger when you start.

Sometimes it's just good to go back and forth between media too. Each time you do you learn a little about both your old and your new media.

Either way it's a pleasure to see these develop.
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Old Saturday 18th September 2010, 17:40   #80
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Pencil Sketches - Crow, Junco and Hummer

Thanks Arthur, Mike and Ken. So I took the advice and did a couple sketches in pencil. I'll continue to vary between pencil, pen and (sometimes) watercolor washes for the sketches I think but the pencil really did feel more comfortable due to my experience from figure drawing classes.

The first two here are sketches from life, using the subjects in our outdoor aviary. No, we don't actually have an aviary, but our garden and feeding stations attract enough birds that it sometimes feels that way. Three years ago we took out almost all of the lawn in our yard and put in a 'woodland garden' type of landscaping, relying heavily on bird-friendly native plants. We also put in a small recirculating stream and a couple other birdbaths that I keep in good shape during the year. The results have been amazing. Now that the landscaping has grown and matured a bit, there is so much more cover in the yard for the birds that more of them feel comfortable 'hanging around' despite the occasional accipiter or - much to my dismay - neighbors' cats that come around to try to nab a bird.

The American Crow was sketched from my kitchen nook table, which has a 180 degree view of the yard (yes, sketching from life indoors feels a bit like cheating; no I don't feel guilty about it - ). The Dark-eyed Junco will be a more frequent subject as winter comes on, as they are the most regular and plentiful of our winter resident birds, with the exception of Pine Siskins if it is a good year for that nomadic species. There is too much contrast on the crow - he flew before I finished and I decided to leave it as it. The junco's tail got cut off. The juncos often, as in this one's case, seem very fluffed up, like little cotton puffs pecking at seed, but sometimes they are more sleek. It was raining when this was drawn, which may have been why.

The final drawing is in Polychromos colored pencils in a Moleskine sketchbook (about 5x8 inches), from a photo I took of a territorial male Anna's Hummingbird that staked out a territory near where I worked a few years back. These guys are interesting in that they winter over in the Puget Sound area. They're actually a non-migratory species, and have slowly expanded their range northward, primarily - according to our ornithologists - because of increased availability of winter-blooming non-native plants that have been added by people in the area, and the fact that people now leave hummer feeders out year-round when they see these birds in the winter. They are tough little birds which tend to dominate the other primary species we have here - Rufous Hummingbirds. Our house is higher in elevation than the lowlands where they are established so we have not yet had one winter over near us - but one is currently visiting the yard every day, so this winter may be the first.

Sorry for the long-windedness...!

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Old Saturday 18th September 2010, 17:41   #81
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I feel the opposite, I like the pencils as a more painterly way, you can mass and get tone, the pen can fake that with cross hatch, but it's not as close to value as the pencil, the pencil can be more nuanced even in line going light to dark with pressure letting edges be lost and found again like painting and therefore again suggest dimension instead of just outline. Eventually a pen can do that but more in studio work and very tedious techniques. So for me, since I am primarily a painter, the pencil is my tool. The other advantage is if you want to paint the sketch the pencil lines can be removed or painted over without dominating the color.
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Old Monday 20th September 2010, 08:35   #82
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that's definitely the sketching bug you've caught, I'm afraid there is no known cure, the symptoms can be treated by sketching, and I see from this latest lot that you're suffering from no ill-effects, you're on that big upward curve now - hats off for the tanager!
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Old Monday 20th September 2010, 16:06   #83
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Hummingbird. Fantastic.
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Old Monday 20th September 2010, 20:28   #84
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hummer is zingy with life!
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Old Monday 20th September 2010, 21:06   #85
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that's definitely the sketching bug you've caught, I'm afraid there is no known cure, the symptoms can be treated by sketching, and I see from this latest lot that you're suffering from no ill-effects, you're on that big upward curve now - hats off for the tanager!
To experience the excruciating pain of this bug, take a trip to Eastern China, leave the sketchbook in the hotel room as its raining heavily, look for male Siberian Thrush and then witness the rain stopping and the thrush performing like your garden blackbird (sorry, American Robin) 20 yards in front like you're not there. It's very unpleasant.

Glad you've caught it.

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Old Wednesday 22nd September 2010, 00:47   #86
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Thanks Nick, Colleen, Tim and Russ!

I won't post all my learning pieces here and bore everyone (or cause you to wince too much...!) but I decided to go ahead with this one. This is a sketch, from a friend's reference photo, of a Pectoral Sandpiper. I picked this photo out of a series of the same species he did because I liked the posture here.

This is done in a Moleskine A5 watercolor sketchbook, using watercolor pencils then a wash - about 1 to 1.5 hours in this one. I tried to keep it looser than my normal approach, and I think I did that, but it got a bit sloppy in spots. Also, per a discussion in another thread, I think that for watercolor for me, A5 is a bit small for a species like this one. Although it was only intended as a sketch...I'll be starting some studio pieces once the winter weather settles in.

Advise/critique away...it's helpful.

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Old Wednesday 22nd September 2010, 05:34   #87
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My first bit of advice would be to post the drawing well by gum it showed up like magic as soon as I posted this
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Old Wednesday 22nd September 2010, 06:37   #88
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you've chosen a difficult angle and it's paid off, not sure if the painting is as 'sloppy' as you say, watercolour can be used with great freedom if the drawing is clear enough to 'pin down' the shape, I'd say this pec shows a lot of freedom.
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Old Wednesday 22nd September 2010, 17:54   #89
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Love this one John full of life
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Old Wednesday 22nd September 2010, 18:18   #90
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Thanks for the feedback Colleen, Nick and Arthur!
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Old Wednesday 22nd September 2010, 21:37   #91
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This is done in a Moleskine A5 watercolor sketchbook, using watercolor pencils then a wash - about 1 to 1.5 hours in this one.
Attachment 284927
This was always a fatal combination for me John. I didn't like the pencils, the brush or the paper and the results showed! You've been very successful in your attempts here. My only thought, and this really may be due to my unpleasant experiences with watercolor pencils, is that you might also want to try straight watercolor.

I found it really liberating. But it looks like you're pretty comfortable with colored pencils and watercolor pencil so you may be perfectly happy using them. As I said, you're already far more successful with them than I ever was.
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Old Wednesday 22nd September 2010, 22:31   #92
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Thanks for the look, Ken! Definitely watercolor pencils are never going to be a primary medium for me - I use them sparingly, and most often in a situation where it's inconvenient (or I'm too lazy - ) to set up for doing normal watercolor approach. I did this one on the recliner late at night with the TV on in the background, and decided to try watercolor pencils instead of the Polychromos oil-based colored pencils that have become my preferred colored pencils (the wax-based ones like Prismacolor give that annoying wax bloom and also have a tendency to break inside the wood casing and create aggravation).

As to the Moleskine papers, their watercolor paper is not my favorite either, though I do like how it works with gouache, and I like the design of the books themselves for travel and sketching journals. Plus, I have several of them unused and so I figure I'd better at least make an effort to make use of them....

So far, what I've found with watercolor pencils (and I just bought a set of, and am beginning experiments with, Derwent's 'Graphitint' water-soluble tinted graphite pencils - same seems to hold) is to not apply them too heavily, and to keep the washes light.
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Old Saturday 25th September 2010, 02:32   #93
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Yellow-rumped Warbler

This morning I found a large and active mixed flock of migrants with six warbler and two vireo species in it. Six warblers in one spot, even in migration, is for our part of the country a special day so I spent a half hour or more just watching. I had my sketching gear, but given they were hyperactive warblers, I concentrated on looking for rarities - and then it started raining anyway.

I decided to draw each of the warbler species I saw this morning fairly soon, and did this one first. This is a sketch in my A5 Moleskine sketchbook, using one of my photos for a reference and colored pencils as the medium. There's probably an hour in this one.

The species seen in the one mixed flock this morning included Yellow-rumped Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Townsend's Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet - and then a Fox Sparrow popped up out of the berry thickets to check out all the warbler activity. It was a good morning...!

Critique and advise away...

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Old Saturday 25th September 2010, 12:30   #94
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beautiful richness in the subtle colours.
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Old Saturday 25th September 2010, 13:24   #95
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Really beginning to come to life now, the little glance over the shoulder and the slightly forward posture help to add the spark that you don't get from field guides or the flat, side on angle. Crack on!

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Old Saturday 25th September 2010, 15:43   #96
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Have to agree with both Nick and Mike on this one. Subtle colors, an interesting pose, the sense of life. They all add up to one of your best so far I think.

And congratulations on the birds. It's always great when you have that sort of day. And now that you're sketching what you see those days become even more exciting!
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Old Saturday 25th September 2010, 20:04   #97
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Mike has it right, seeing the bird start to move is just great...
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Old Tuesday 28th September 2010, 22:10   #98
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lovely little bird ,wonderful

friendly greetings Gaby
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Old Wednesday 29th September 2010, 00:09   #99
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Thanks Nick, Mike, Ken, Colleen and Gaby!
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Old Wednesday 29th September 2010, 17:22   #100
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Peregrine Falcon - from the Patio...!

Even though the image is bad here - taken in shade and I couldn't get the color balance any better, probably because of how light the pencil is - I wanted to share this one because it was a real treat for me. We have a nice 'raptor snag tree' that I think I mentioned earlier that is about 100 or so yards from our back yard that is favored by hawks and the occasional falcon or eagle as a hunting, eating or resting perch. A couple times per year, we usually get a Peregrine (sometimes a pair) in the snag - they are probably the local pair that breeds on the cliffs at Snoqualmie Falls about a mile and a half as the crow flies from our house. (This pair has nested successfully there for the last six years and has become quite famous as the scrape is visible from the viewing area of the falls. Guess where I'll be camped out sketching next year if they're still there.)

Anyway, early this morning I got up and headed down to breakfast and looked at the snag as I always do. There was an adult Peregrine - actually the first we've seen there this year, lower than normal. So, breakfast can wait, grab the scope and sketching supplies and set up on the patio. I had ten to fifteen minutes - a lifetime compared to normal of course - and so did this sketch in HB pencil in the 14x11" sketchbook.

It was a good learning experience. First mistake - because I had the bird there for so long, I kept adding more details to the first sketch. Instead, I should have sketched more poses and worried about the detail later. The bill, my typical bugaboo, isn't too bad, but isn't right either (actually, the whole head is ok for where I'm at but doesn't have the subtleties correct). I know it will come with time, but it's really frustrating knowing that what you've drawn isn't really correct but still not being able to draw it accurately quite yet.

When the bird flew off, I brought the sketch in, and added 6B to the eye and hood to get it darker. But rather than continue to refine the sketch, I thought I would just leave it as it was since it was my first Peregrine sketch from life.

Any suggestions and comments will be greatly appreciated.

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