Sunday, 2 September 2012

Grand Island Lighthouse

WetCanvas is one of several art communities that I am a member of. Currently I am active in the pen and ink forum where we have a pen & ink project every month. Val, our host, painstakingly selects some wonderful reference photographs on a variety of subjects and all of us use these to come up with our own versions which could be entirely in pen & ink, or ink washes, or even ink and other media. 

For August 2012 Harry Seiler's very nice photograph of the Grand Island Lighthouse (also known as the Grand Island East Channel Light) in Michigan, USA was one of the reference pictures. (There were ten reference photographs in all and you can see all of them here.) I did two different versions of it. My first one was a 10 minute ball point pen thumbnail while the one that I have posted here took me around two and a half hours.

 In the thumbnail I had concentrated only on the massing of the lighthouse but in this one I focussed on the lighthouse and tried to get a slightly out of focus effect for both the background and the foreground. After I had completed it I felt that I should have used thinner lines for the background but by then I was stuck with the result of my heavy handed approach. That unfortunately is the way it is with pen & ink.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

My Second Blog

I am very glad to say that from the day I decided to do it (towards the end of May 2012)  I have been quite regular with my "30 minute" sketches. In fact so far, on the days when I have not had the time to sketch during my lunch break, I have come home and managed to do one to keep going at almost a sketch a day. And I have been posting these sketches in my second blog to track my progress.
 I am hoping to achieve two things through this exercise: 1. To improve my quick sketching skills. My aim is to be able to sketch fast without sacrificing details (or at least the illusion of details) and to do that with a refined technique, and 2. To develop my watercolour painting skills.

Last Saturday I kept to my resolve to paint every weekend and did one small watercolour sketch - a landscape in monocolour. This one took me about 30 minutes but, when it comes to painting, I have decided not to impose time restrictions on myself since I will only be doing it at home and probably only on weekends.

 I had actually planned to do another one on Sunday but wasn't able to do that. Hopefully I will manage a cople of watercolours this weekend. Let me see...

I propose to share some (but not all) of these quick sketches on this blog too on a weekly basis. If you would like to see the rest of these quick sketches, or if you would like to know anything about the sketches that you see here, you could check out my second blog, Racing Against The Clock.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

From Pen & Ink Projects and Challenges to Lunchtime Sketches

I was overwhelmed by the comments that I received for my last post and I thank all of you, the ones who appreciated my sketches and the ones who have encouraged me to take to painting and even offered suggestions on how I could get started. I have taken the suggestions to heart and soon I hope to start posting here in colour too. But, before I get to that I would like to finish what I started, which is a short account of how I have progressed to where I am today.

As I mentioned in my last post it was around 2007 or 2008 that I decided to concentrate on pen & ink. I was already a member at one online art community (WetCanvas) and I joined one more (I Draw & Paint) around this time. At both of these I started participating regularly in the monthly pen & ink projects/challenges. The drawings that you see here are some of those that I did between 2008 and early 2012 at these two communities. 

 Although I am fairly good at self motivation, I cannot overstate how much being a part of these two communities has motivated me to draw and has helped me develop my skills.

During this time I also tried my hand at watercolour a few times. These two were done late in 2010 and unfortunately, due to my lack of confidence in wielding a brush and the effort involved in setting up to paint, I have not put in the necessary time and effort since then to take my painting skills any further. Hopefully that will change now because I have drawn up an action plan to which I am publicly committing myself.

During the three months and more since my last post I spent hardly any time painting, drawing or even sketching. Finally, about two weeks ago, I decided to at least do one lunchtime sketch at work each day and post it in a new blog (to track my progress). I am happy to say that I have been fairly regular so far at this. Starting today I also plan to play with colour over the weekends and see where that takes me.

My thanks, once again, for your good wishes and encouragement.

Monday, 20 February 2012

From Graphite & Charcoal to Pen & Ink

I enjoy drawing and painting.

No, I think I should modify and also explain that statement. I draw quite often, though not as often or as much as I would really like to. And, I enjoy drawing. I usually sit down to it after dinner. There have been many occasions when I have been totally bushed at the time of starting. But once I start drawing  I lose all track of time and sometimes find that I have been at it much longer than I planned to. Invariably I feel very refreshed after such a session.

On the other hand, I would very much like to paint, but I paint infrequently. This is partly because I am still very much a beginner at it. Of course, I realise that I will always stay a beginner unless I paint. But the problem is that painting requires more of a setting up than drawing does. If it is watercolour, one needs paints, brushes, a palette or plate or dishes, a water container and so on. And at the end of the day's painting session these have to be cleaned and put away.

As a result, at least so far, whenever I have mentally tossed a coin to decide whether to paint or draw, the coin has invariably landed in favour of drawing.

When I took up drawing as a serious hobby about ten years ago I started with graphite and charcoal. My wife Nithi enrolled me in a two week portrait drawing course as a gift. The medium was charcoal & graphite. I attended the classes every evening after work, and stayed up late into the night to complete the assigments. At the end of the two weeks I was hooked and I have stayed hooked.
At the portrait drawing course - 1
At the portrait drawing course - 2

Three Pears - vine charcoal

But as I started drawing regularly I found even the degree of setting up that a graphite or charcoal drawing requires to be an inhibiting factor for me. I struggled to get the darks that I wanted with graphite. And, protecting the paper and the finished drawing were also issues. As a result I have switched to pen and ink.

These are a few of my early pen & ink drawings from around 2003 to 2007. They were mainly quick sketches using just one or two pens. During this period graphite was still my main medium, followed by charcoal. I think that it was around 2007 or 2008 that I decided to make pen & ink my main medium.

The sketch that you see of Mont St. Michael is a study copy of a drawing by Peter Caldwell. I found his book on pen & ink drawing very inspiring.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Mysore, A City Of Tree Lovers

Living conditions have deteriorated badly in most cities in India. Air and noise pollution levels have risen tremendously, as has the volume of traffic. Simultaneously these cities have also become extremely pedestrian unfriendly. In this respect some of the cities that come to mind are Chennai, where I live, and Bangalore, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Coimbatore, and Hyderabad, all cities that I am very familiar with. And, I understand from my friends who are as familiar with other cities in India as I am with these, that it is the same sad story with most cities in India.

Mysore is however one city that seems to have retained its charm. I have been visiting it, though not frequently, over the last fifty plus years. Of course it too has grown and changed during this time, but unlike other cities it has not yet become an unbearably noisy and  crowded concrete jungle. Though traffic has increased, many parts of the city are still very walkable, and the pollution level is definitely very much lower than that of other cities. And, although many old buildings have been replaced by bland new ones, this city still retains many fine old garden houses that give Mysore its special character. My wife Nithi and I therefore were very happy  to spend a lot of time wandering around on foot. 
The people of Mysore seem to hold parks and plant life in special regard. There were several parks close to the hotel where we were staying. One of these parks had a very interesting gateway. On the last day of our stay I decided to go and photograph it so that I could sketch it later. I then noticed several groups of people gathered together within the park, performing rituals near various plants and trees. I continued walking past this particular park and everywhere that I went, in all the parks in  that area, there were people of all ages coming in to pay their respects to the trees and plants. I had not seen this happen before in any of the other cities. Maybe this is something unique to the people of Mysore and that perhaps explains why Mysore alone, among all Indian cities, is bucking the trend and preserving some of its charm.