Negative Space Drawing + Book Review: The Magic of Drawing

Finally getting around to posting the last exercise I did for The Magic of Drawing! This summer has been a mix of personal growth/soul searching, sporadic sketching, and sewing a belly dance costume. I am both looking forward to the fall and already missing the green of summer, even while I’m surrounded by it.

Anyway, onto the drawing :)

Drawing: Negative Shape Study of a Tree
Negative Shape Study of a Tree
Tools: Copic fine liner (Black), 2b pencil on Strathmore Drawing Paper 70lb 14″x17″
Date: 07/09/2016

A negative shape study of a tree: drawing the spaces between and around the forms, to better understand proportion and visual relationships.  Sadly, the branch in the lower right corner seemed sick, with no leaves. The other branches, I just omitted the leaves from the drawing, since it would have been difficult to capture the spaces had I included them.

This was done at a nice conservancy park near my apartment.  I sketched at a picnic table under a big oak tree.  Unbeknownst to me when I put my big sketchbook down, there was some sort of small piece of jam (or something?) near the table’s edge, right near the front edge of my sketchbook. Two big carpenter ants kept crawling around my sketchbook, until I pushed it up enough so they could eat the mystery jam stuff.  One crawled back on my sketchbook after I watched them eat for a while, and she cleaned herself off, leaving tiny jammy prints on the corner of the paper (hence my little notation to myself in the right corner).  I also recorded some misc notes about letting the Copic fine liner dry before erasing (which I failed to do, but thankfully the photo doesn’t show the smudges haha), a note about  a pair of bumble bees that had been buzzing near me for most of the drawing, and a chipmunk that had crawled right by me and stared at me for a long time. Nature drawing adventures, ahoy! :D

Book Review: The Magic of Drawing by Cliff Write

Onto the book review! Short and sweet, which is how I experienced The Magic of Drawing.

It’s a very quick and easy read (I finished reading it in March, but doing the exercises took longer).  The exercises are encouraging and upbeat. I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of mindfulness and calm energy combined with the act of drawing. An emphasis on the act of making art rather than what’s produced in the end was woven throughout the book.  The exercises we super relaxing and the whole book had such a kind, gentle tone. I feel like it boosted my artistic self esteem by a lot ^_^. The process of creation is so beautiful and truly magical.  I think the book would be a beneficial read for anyone with an inclination to draw, regardless of current skill level.  Cliff Write’s drawings are also very beautiful to look at and pair well with the calm, zen writing.

Up Next…

I’ve started working through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I also finished reading The Alchemy of Paint in July. Great book that was about so much more than history and making pigments! Kind of blew my mind, haha.  A book review for that will be coming soon, but first I have a watercolor landscape I need to scan as well as a bunch of sketches.  And I want to finish that heart tree painting I started in June T_T

Have a good night, my dear internet.

Work In Progress: Heart Tree

I started a new watercolor at around 9:45pm tonight and it’s a little after 11:30pm now, so I think it’s time to admit it’ll have to be finished tomorrow. I’m starting to fall asleep while painting!

Work in progress watercolor painting Heart Tree
Work in progress watercolor painting: “Heart Tree” with background photo of herb watercolor studies
Tools: Top sketchbook – watercolor, HB pencil on Heavy 130lb sketch paper. Bottom sketchbook: watercolor on travelogue series artist journal
Date: 06/18/2016

It’s an intuitive painting, meant to bring calming peace to the viewer.  In the background is a quick study I made earlier today of some of the plants on our apartment balcony.

The sky color choices were influenced be The Alchemy of Paint, which I’m about 1/3 of the way through reading.  It’s a fascinating book – more about middle ages’ alchemical history than paint, but still the magic and philosophy behind the pigments interests me.  I mixed ultramarine and vermilion for most of the sky, which are two of the first pigments the book discusses.  I’ll be able to give a more in-depth review once I finish the book. For now, I’m in the middle re-watching Memoirs of a Geisha (always nice to have a movie as background when painting), and I’m about to collapse from exhaustion. I had a fun day of having my mom and step-dad up to visit; it was a full day of walking downtown, going to a fancy garden, going hiking, eating out, and more hiking. I’m so ready for bed!

Fae Spirit Copic Drawing

Tonight I’ve got a quick drawing I completed on Monday to share. I was sick today, so I don’t have many words to share besides that I feel like a zombie. T_T At least my stomach feels more or less OK at this point.

Drawing: Fae Spirit
“Fae Spirit”
Tools: 0.7 mechanical pencil, Copic fine liners, Copic Markers
Date: 06/13/2016

This piece was from imagination, with only slight reference for the butterfly wings and hooves. I think drawing without reference is a good test of how much an artist’s visual language/mental library has been built up (through life studies/reference studies). I still feel frustrated by my “style” and the mistakes I’m finding – my fantasy art feels very flat and static to me.  But I can also see where I’ve been making improvements. I’ll also say that this piece was relatively easy to do and probably took 2 hours total, with interruptions. So even if it feels like my same style from the past several years, I’ve gained some speed and comfort. I will take that as progress ^_^.

Wednesday Musing No. 10: Line Practice and Top 10 Anime Shows

I recently found the art tutorial site Draw A Box (via the corresponding subreddit  and I really like the lessons so far. I feel like they go well with the Ctrl+Paint tutorials I started working through. The first part of lesson one on “Draw a Box” deals with quality of line, drawing from the shoulder, and becoming familiar with using a good drawing speed (enough to control the line without too much muscle tension causing it to be jarred/wobbly). I’m still working through the rest of the exercises, but I liked working on the page below. There is something very meditative about this kind of practice work that allows me to be very mindful and present with the drawing process.

Photo of sketchbook page: Practicing superimposed lines
Practicing superimposed lines (lesson via
Tools: Faber Castell Pitt Pen S and F on Strathmore Sketch 60lb
Date: 06/14/2016

In the beginning of last week, I worked on another exercise in The Magic of Drawing. This time it was practicing line work using a paint brush and ink. I tried both acrylic ink and India ink and while I really like using both, I was impressed with how dark the acrylic ink turned out.

These are such important building blocks: fine tuning touch, varying pressure, controlling brush/pencil stroke, understanding the pivot of the wrist/shoulder/arm, and being about to turn the page while working to get the best angle for drawing. I’m a little astounded that it’s taken me this long to start learning and understanding these fundamental skills.

The art school I went to assumed that all incoming freshmen already had strong fundamental skills from high school, which I think is very unfortunate.  Various private/public high schools’ vary in the depth and quality of their art instruction. While I do think I was lucky enough to take four years of art classes at my (public) high school, our class did not get into the fundamental skills in a way I found helpful. Often creativity/drawing from imagination was valued over perception skills and drawing from life.  I was accepted into my college’s art program probably based on natural inclination toward art from a very early age (mostly via lots of encouragement from my mom but also because I believe visual art is my soul’s “dharma” so to speak), passion, enthusiasum, and stumbling into the majority of my artistic skills via a combination of guess-work, luck, and magical inspiration. A good start, but lacking in real training.

So when I was told I was holding my pencil the “wrong” way in a condescending tone, and shown the “right way” to hold it, I didn’t understand that what the professor was failing to explain was “holding the pencil in an underhand way encourages drawing from the shoulder, which gives a greater range of motion and fluidity to your line.” Instead I felt kind of dumb for not already knowing the “right” way to draw (without knowing the “why” of it being right) – which to me felt awkward and clumsy, so I chose to continue holding my pencil in the way I was familiar with for writing. No one explained that the underhanded pencil hold works best if you move from the shoulder or maybe pivot from the elbow – of course it feels clumsy trying to continue to pivot from the wrist with that pencil hold!  No one took the time to explain the reasoning behind the “correct” form. Which infuriated me even at the time – I was paying to go to school to learn, so why were the professors making it seem shameful I wasn’t already skilled? Maybe they didn’t even know the reasoning behind why various pencil holds are helpful (and they are all helpful in particular concepts, there is no “right way” that applies in all situations! Just different line qualities).

There is a note in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (in the back of the book, the extra note for art students), on how many traditional art courses emphasize creative style over fundamental perception skills, and I definitely feel the program I attended put most of it’s focus on creativity/concepts/style over fundamental skills. Marth Rothko and Egon Schiele in particular were favorites of one instructor, and many times students would churn out work mimicking those two artists, without any foundational skills to support the choices they were making.

I’m glad my self instruction has been filling in so many gaps that I missed in school. To be fair, most of my education was in graphic design and web design – I only attended optional “fine art” drawing/painting classes because I was looking for foundational skills. Ironically, being a design student, I was often scorned by the “serious”, “real” artists, who had a habit of seeing graphic design majors as shallow sell-outs (and perhaps certain faculty reinforced these beliefs) *rolls eyes* Oh, the drama of youth!

Of course, I’m not too regretful about it – I’m very happy with the majority of my high school and college memories and feel grateful for the many blessings in my life.

Drawing: Twig study 1
Twig study 1
Tools: Liquitex Acrylic ink applied with #4 round brush on Strathmore cold press watercolor paper
Date: 06/06/2016
Drawing: Twig study 2
Twig study 2
Tools: Daler-Rowney black India ink applied with #4 round brush on Strathmore cold press watercolor paper
Date: 06/06/2016

This exercise took me a while between reading it in the book and actually executing it, for the simple reason that it required collecting a small twig with at least two branching pieces. Exercises that require me to break my daily routine and find something specific to study seem to be the easiest to put off and the hardest to finish, because I have the excuse of not being ready to start the drawing at my convenience. That’s the reason the last two exercises for The Magic of Drawing aren’t finished – one requires studying a tree with relatively bare branches and the other requires studying another person’s face via touch while drawing (i.e. getting Ricky to dedicate 30+ minutes to posing for me).

The tree study requires any of the following: a tree in winter (not gonna happen any time soon), a sick/dead tree (which I have yet to find nearby, a good thing, really…) or a significantly large enough tree (so that I can sit under it and observe branch patterns largely unobstructed by leaves).  The last two require me to seek out trees unlike those around the apartment, which means going to a park or somewhere else, which means going out when it’s not pouring rain in the daylight – all pieces that make it hard to align with my schedule. I usually have the time to make art late at night in my apartment after the sun has set (or really close to dusk).  Lunch would be the ideal time – there are some really big oak trees near my work that I think would do, but that means getting out of the building for lunch and doing the drawing relatively quickly. I suppose I’ll have to see how it goes ^_^.

I finished Sakura Wars TV last week. If I had to grade it, I’d say it was a “C”. It was nostalgic, often enjoyable and cute, but when it was bad it was awkwardly bad and painfully cheesy. The last episode was filled with so many over-the-top deus ex machina moments that I was actually cringing. It did at that point cross the line into funny cheesy, especially when one character came to save the battle at the last minute by riding in on a motorcycle, jumping off, having the motorcycle dramatically blow up (for no reason?), and then he dived into a katana fight with the main villain. (The whole show takes place in an alternate 1920s Japan and I think this last episode was the first time a motorcycle was introduced and seemed really out of place!).

I think the next series I’m going to watch will be Black Cat – I picked up the series way back in 2008, when I went to Anime Expo, but I only got 1/3 of the way through watching it at the time.

Since my blog has become more art + life ramblings on most of my posts, Wednesday Musings seems a little superfluous, but I like to reserve the opportunity to muse once a week without posting art all the time, if need be. Plus it’s fun to make lists – music playlists, top ten lists, etc.

So for this Wednesday, my top 10 favorite anime series to date:

  1. Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro (and really most Studio Ghibli tiles would make the list…so I’m grouping them together, ha!)
  2. Mushishi
  3. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
  4. Slayers, Slayers NEXT, Slayers TRY
  5. Inuyasha
  6. Princess Jellyfish
  7. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
  8. Wolf Children
  9. Spice and Wolf
  10. Love Hina

That’s all for tonight, time to go feed my kitties! =^_^=

Small Value Studies and Quick Sketches

More The Magic of Drawing studies for tonight. I finished reading the book in March, but I still have two exercises left. I’m hoping I can do one of them on my lunch break tomorrow. It is still so challenging to fit art into my day T_T.

The first study below is practicing observing light and shadow and drawing it on a small scale.  I really enjoyed the process. Usually the encouragement seems to be to draw big/fill up the page, so drawing in a one inch square was interesting.

Drawing: Small value studies: apple and banana
Small value studies: apple and banana
Tools: Various graphite pencils on Strathmore 50lb sketch paper
Date: 05/08/2016

The next exercise was studying an onion. The set up to this was to practice drawing the onion while having your pencil taped to a long bit of bamboo cane (I used a belly dancing cane, since that’s what I had). That drawing was pretty rough, but I took the feeling of looseness and observations of light/shadow into the next (normal pencil length) study.  I do think it helped me be more free in my line work ^_^.

I struggle to relax when drawing, but I struggle to relax in general in life, and have constant tension and headaches, still >_>. I actually went to a physical therapist today to address my constant headaches/neck and shoulder tension. Relaxing and stretching my muscles will be good for my art and my life in general *nods*. Everything is connected, etc. ^_~

Drawing: Onion study
Onion study
Tools: B pencil on Strathmore 50lb sketch paper
Date: 05/08/2016

At the end of last week I was getting back into trying to make general sketches on the fly – hands, my cat, my boyfriend’s eye. But it’s so hard to stop and take five minutes to sketch! I get too busy. It can be hard to sit down and write in my blog, too. I’ve been finding inspirational YouTube videos to get me motivated, and it seems to be helping. I’d like to do a roundup of my recommended YouTube art videos, but I think I need to build up a favorites list, first.

Drawing: Hand studies
Hand studies
Tools: 0.7 and 0.5 mechanical pencils on Strathmore Sketch 60lb
Date: 06/09/2016 and 06/10/2016
Drawing: Various studies: cat, hand, eye
Various studies: cat, hand, eye
Tools: 0.5 mechanical pencil on Strathmore Sketch 60lb
Date: 06/10/2016

A summer thunderstorms is rumbling past outside tonight. I get so jumpy about thunderstorms – I think they are beautiful and amazing, but I also feel a kind of tension in the air.

It’s already so late; hopefully I can squeeze in a bit of reading and art before bed time. G’night!

Slow Summer Sunday

I’ve been a homebody today – either cleaning or reading with my two cats curled up around me. The internet is down due to some morning thunderstorms, so I’m posting with my phone. At least I uploaded some new artwork yesterday, which makes it easier to stick to the blogging schedule I’ve set for myself. WordPress on an iPhone isn’t all that easy.

The first two pieces below are value studies from The  Magic of Drawing – studying light on a pear and then studying light on a rock at various times closer to sunset. For the rock studies, Ricky and I went to a park that stays open after dusk. It was a lovely experience: beautiful woods and prairie, spring flowers, cranes, geese, robins, and wonderful earth energy. We walked around the trails after I finished drawing, experiencing the woods growing darker, until we reached the lake in the park. Then the stars came out and the moon rose and it was like I never really understood the power of sunset until I experienced it with such full attention. It’s true that art gives us another way of looking at the world which expands our awareness in ways we didn’t know were available.

Drawing: Pear study
Pear study
Tools: 2B pencil on Bee Paper Company 93lb sketchbook
Date: 04/16/2016
Drawing: Studying a stone at sunset
Studying a stone at sunset
Tools: 2B pencil on Bee Paper Company 93lb sketchbook
Date: 04/16/2016

Yesterday I did more value studies, using a wooden block set I purchased from Amazon to study from life. It was a nice, simple exercise.

Drawing: Wooden shape studies
Wooden shape studies
Tools: Various graphite pencils on Strathmore Sketch 50lb
Date: 06/11/2016
Drawing: Wooden shape studies with cross-hatching
Wooden shape studies with cross-hatching
Tools: Various fine liner pens on Strathmore Sketch 50lb
Date: 06/11/2016

Now to decide what to make for dinner tonight, go grocery shopping, and get ready for the week. Weekends in summer go by too fast!

Lunch at the Lake

Yesterday was so hot – the AC was down at work and it was sweltering!  I took my lunch break by the lake and it was beautiful. Lots of ducks and sparrows coming close to me to see if I was willing to share food (I wasn’t, but only because white bread is bad for them).  I had a veggie brat (yay living in Wisconsin ;) and chips.  I really, really like the Zebra brush pen I’ve been using. These were very quick sketches.

Drawing: Studies of ducks at the lake 1
Studies of ducks at the lake 1
Tools: Zebra double sided brush pen on Fabriano A5
Date: 06/10/2016
Drawing: Studies of ducks at the lake 2
Studies of ducks at the lake 2
Tools: Zebra double sided brush pen on Fabriano A5
Date: 06/10/2016
Drawing: Studies of ducks at the lake 3
Studies of ducks at the lake 3
Tools: Copic F01 drawing pen on Fabriano A5
Date: 06/10/2016

I love the weird little sparrow sketch in the lower right and it’s surprised face, haha. In my defense, the sparrows moved a lot faster than the ducks. The ducks were hanging out only a few feet from me, swimming around in the most mellow, relaxed way. There were about 5 males and two females, four really young ducks, and one yellow duckling.

A couple sketches below are from early May – I sketched in the morning while Ricky and I were visiting our families for Mother’s Day weekend. I used a tutorial from Jeff Searle to improve my ear drawing abilities. I really enjoyed making the studies below and am feeling more confident in my lines.


Drawing: Studying the ear
Studying the ear
Tools: Col-erase, hb pencils on Strathmore sketch 60lb
Date: 05/08/2016
Drawing: Handy study and ear studies
Handy study and ear studies
Tools: Zebra double sided brush pen on Strathmore sketch 60lb
Date: 05/07/2016

Last night I spent some time practicing cross-hatching with various pens. I haven’t entirely gotten the hang of the hatch marks following the form, but I do feel like I’ve improved the range of values I can create.

Drawing: Cross-hatching Practice
Cross-hatching Practice
Tools: Micron 02 pen, Pencle double brush pen, and Pilot G-Tech C4 pen on Fabriano A5
Date: 06/10/2016

It’s already after 4pm, :( where does the weekend go?

Sketches from a Trip North

I have a couple sketches from early April I wanted to share. Ricky and I went north to Lake Superior and hiked around Big Bay State Park. It was pretty cold (we joked we’d driven to winter), but it was still nice to be outside and in the sun. The bed and breakfast we stayed in was still in “winter guest” mode, and so we got to burn a log in our room’s old fireplace. It was very pretty and relaxing to watch. I enjoyed trying to capture the shapes of the flames as they flickered.  The B&B’s breakfast was soooo crazy good – seriously the one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had! It was a lovely trip to take with Ricky ^_^.

Drawing: Lake Superior at Big Bay State Park, Wisconsin
Lake Superior at Big Bay State Park, Wisconsin
Tools: Faber Castell Pitt Pens, HB pencil, gray Copic markers on Bee Paper Company sketchbook 93lb
Date: 04/11/2016
Drawing: Fireplace log study
Fireplace log study
Tools: B pencil on Bee Paper Company sketchbook 93lb
Date: 04/11/2016

And then a quick outdoor sketch from the end of May.  There are a lot of lilac bushes around my apartment and I wanted to test out a new brush pen I bought.

Drawing: Studies outside my apartment
Studies outside my apartment
Tools: Zebra double sided brush pen on Strathmore sketch 60lb
Date: 05/28/2016

I really like the brush pen and the quality of lines it produced. Sketching in nature is also calming to me, and I have been trying to remember to make time here and there for capturing studies in my small sketchbook.

Tonight I’m hoping to finish Sakura Wars TV and relax.  The weekend is almost nigh :D

Wednesday Musings No. 9: ’90s Music and Blending Color Pencils

It’s so hard to balance art and dance practice when dealing with personal stress. Maintaining a creative practice through stress is something I’ve continually struggled with since starting this blog. I’ve come to learn that if I can turn toward art and dance as activities that gives me healing energy and comfort, it does bring refreshing, healing energy into my life.  Now if I could just balance all the many other things I want to make time for (*cough* yoga *cough* drumming *cough* meditation), then it would be just wonderful.

Summer energy feels so wonderful and healing as well; I keep looking around at the leaves and grasses and thinking “how could all this have grown and blossomed so quickly?” and feeling the lively energy all around.

I wanted to share some color pencil studies I finished tonight.  I followed along with this YouTube video (“Colored Pencil Techniques – 3 Approaches”) and it helped me not only understand blending for colored pencils, but also creating light and shadow with color. I tried out the exercise with other colors and found it interesting if not always successful (definitely felt I struggled with the “under-painting” one when using warm colors).

Drawing: Color pencil blending practice 1
Color pencil blending practice 1: spheres made with hatching, local color, under-painting
Tools: Prismacolor pencils, Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper
Date: 06/05/2016 and 06/08/2016
Drawing: Color pencil blending practice 2
Color pencil blending practice 2: spheres made with hatching, local color, under-painting
Tools: Prismacolor pencils, Strathmore Artagain paper
Date: 06/05/2016 and 06/08/2016
Drawing: Color pencil blending practice 3
Color pencil blending practice 3: spheres made with hatching, local color, under-painting
Tools: Prismacolor pencils, Strathmore Sketch 50lb
Date: 06/05/2016 and 06/08/2016

I’m not up for much general life musings, but I did make a little “90s Childhood” playlist on my iTunes tonight, so why not share a few?

  1. “Sunny Came Home” by Shawn Colvin
  2. “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree
  3. “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows
  4. “I Do” by Lisa Loeb
  5. “I’ll Stand By You” by Pretenders
  6. “Dream Lover” by Mariah Carey
  7. “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia
  8. “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman
  9. “Sleep to Dream” by Fiona Apple
  10. “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal

Now to relax, read, and sleep. :3