About Jean Mackay / Drawn In

Art. Nature. Exploration.

Hour by Hour

After all the hustle and bustle and merriment of Christmas comes a bit of quiet– which always feels just right.

Tips and Techniques– Yesterday, I captured some of my final holiday preparations using a challenge I call “Hour by Hour.” The goal is to sketch something every hour of the day, but each sketch should take no more than three to five minutes. The time limit makes it doable, and although some of the sketches seem random in the moment, the end result really conveys a sense of the day. I sketched everything in pen and then added watercolor as time allowed. This is a fun challenge to try while traveling. I also recommend it if you struggle with what to sketch or with finding time to put pen to paper.

Tis the Season

It’s a busy time of year in my workshop. ‘Tis the season for making lists, and creating gifts and cards and tags. This leaves little time for personal artwork. Instead, I glued my To Do lists into my journal and, as you can see, this page reflects the rather messy state of my affairs. 

My favorite project each year is the Christmas letter I create for my former neighbor’s children. I have been sending them tales from the North Pole for several years; and though they are now at the age when believing in such magic is increasingly met with skepticism, I can’t let the Christmas spirit go. Here’s this year’s card—just a simple note, but one that I am happy to share with them, and with you at this festive time of year. Wishing you joy!

 

The Gift of Inspiration

I didn’t follow many blogs until I became a blogger myself, but over the last few years I’ve come to really appreciate the artwork and wisdom that arrives from bloggers to my inbox. Some of my favorites are artists who produce things that I couldn’t or wouldn’t do, but who, nonetheless, push me to think or see things in fresh ways. Because I found many of them through the network of fellow bloggers, I thought I’d share a few favorites with you.

A Certain Line– Michael Richard’s blog is a quirky mix of his artwork and informed musings about art. He frequently paints quince and other fruit in experimental and thought-provoking ways, which helps me to think about pushing the bounds of my own artwork.

The Sketchbook– Shari Blaukoph shares jaw-dropping watercolor sketches and paintings mostly of her home city of Montreal, but also of other places she travels. She takes watercolor sketching to the highest level in every way.

BlueBrightly– Lynn Wohlers appreciates the incredible world we live in and shares its beautiful details through her remarkable photographs and observations. It’s a treat to glimpse the world through Lynn’s lens.

Christopher Gallego– Realist painter and teacher Chris Gallego’s oil paintings are simple, direct, and stunning. I am equally inspired by his words of advice for artists (including topics such as “7 Tips to jolt you right out of your artistic rut” and “How to paint when it’s the last thing in the world you feel like doing”).

Annerose Georgeson mainly paints changes in the forest near her home in British Columbia, including logging, fires, farming and the pine beetles. I love the intensity of her acrylic paintings, her dedication to a single subject, and her daily drawings, which remind me of the value small sketches.

If you, too, feel inspired by blogs you follow, I encourage you to tell a friend or two– a bit of art always makes a nice gift.

Quick Chickadees

When I’m pressed for art time, I like to come up with a subject that I can work on in short takes over several days. Such has been the case lately, so I decided to revisit a sketchbook page that I did several years ago. In 2014, I painted a number of chickadees on a single journal page using pencil and watercolor.  I’ve always liked that page, so I decided repeat it— this time on toned paper using only a pen and a bit of white colored pencil for highlights. This exercise is a good one for trying to capture different poses and for getting the basics of the bird down without too much fuss.

2014 Chickadee Study

Tips and Techniques– Chickadees are common songsters, but they don’t sit still for long. Practice drawing them quickly from photos and you’ll be better prepared for sketching them from life. Give yourself a time limit; see what you can do in 3 to 5 minutes per bird. Add a few more minutes for shading or finer details if needed. I used toned paper, but you could use drawing paper or watercolor paper with a touch of color for shading and dimension.

Along the Roadside

Yesterday was the kind of day I’ve been waiting for since winter arrived unexpectedly in November. Temperatures climbed above freezing, which felt almost balmy, and I spent nearly the entire day outside. After the oak leaves were raked and the remaining daffodil bulbs planted, I headed into the fields and down the road with my sketchbook. Shriveled wild grapes, thorny tangles of multiflora rose hips, and climbing vines of bittersweet not yet eaten by birds offered a bit of brightness against bare branches and brown grasses. They seemed the perfects things to sketch to capture the day.

 

Tips and Techniques– If you want to sketch outside in cold weather, I suggest really paring down your supplies so that you have very little to carry or fuss with in the field. I bring only my sketchbook and a Micron pen. I don’t want to be pulling gloves on and off or organizing sketching supplies in the cold. I make mental notes of color or take a photo for reference, and paint once I’m home with a cup of tea in hand.

 

Workshop and a Sketch

I have a workshop coming up hosted by the Vermont Watercolor Society that I am now able to open to the public! There are only a few spots left, so please e-mail me if you are interested in signing up.

Watercolor Journaling
Vermont Watercolor Society, Westside Hub Class
Saturday, December 8, 2018
10am-4pm

Pawlet Public Library, 141 School St, Pawlet, VT 05761
Learn to keep your own artist journal to capture your creative journey and improve your skills as an artist. We’ll share subject ideas, test drive materials, and consider compositions for combining artwork and text to create engaging pages. You’ll also learn practical techniques for drawing and painting the subjects you encounter. This is a fun, stress-free workshop where there will be plenty of time to learn and practice.
Fee: $65 Materials list provided upon registration.
Space is limited. Please e-mail me to register: jeanmackay.art@gmail.com.
Note: We will take a break for lunch and it will be potluck, so please bring something to share. A refrigerator is available.

And now the sketch…
I was wondering whether I might use similar loose sketching techniques for small round birds that I used last week when sketching small round bulbs. Wrens are certainly much more precise than daffodil bulbs, but there’s promise here worth pursuing further.

 

Painting instead of planting

I could have titled this: How one thing leads to another and I end up with this painting. Or: How my failure to plant bulbs leads to a small success in learning to paint light. Either way, I had intended to plant 80 daffodils this fall, but only 60 went into the ground before an early freeze thwarted me. The thought of those 20 unplanted bulbs sitting in my basement has been nagging at me, so I bought an amaryllis in hopes that it would lessen the disappointment. Unfortunately, the amaryllis had already started to grow in the box—sending up a ghostly, stunted stalk. I rather liked the dried roots and the shape of the thing, so I painted it here, followed by the daffodil bulbs. And though there’s nothing spectacular about this page, I am pleased to have put my angst on paper, and I especially like the light-filled quality of the final bulb in the upper right.