Monday, June 04, 2018

A Touch of Sanguine

Meet my little wood drawer of sanguine pencils which I have been collecting for many years.  After sitting in their little confined dark space they have seen the light and I don't think they are going back in for quite some time.
Sanguine, and earthy red colors in general, have taken center stage in my drawings, a welcome change since I mostly stick to graphite pencils.  Recently I worked on a drawing using a red/orange ochre watercolor from a set I hand ground, finished off with some graphite to define shapes and add depth.  
Untitled, 2018, graphite and watercolor on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

The finished product is this piece which I admit was a very freeing experience.  I let the watercolor run and do its thing and then pulled shapes out of it until I arrived at this composition.  The use of watercolor with other drawing media is not a new concept, for hundreds of years artists have been using this technique, but I have never tried it myself.  It's a new thing for me and I think there will be more of this approach to drawing in the near future.
Back to the sanguine pencil.  Again this is not a new material, artists have been using red chalks and sanguine pencils for centuries.  My first taste of art as religion was when I came across a Michelangelo drawing for one of the figures in the Sistine Chapel, and as you may have guessed, it was done in a red chalk.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a preference for graphite pencils because I have better control of the material and I love the subtleties of tone I can achieve and how vibrantly sketchy it can be when you want it to be.  But thanks to the recent Michelangelo drawing exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum I decided to give this drawing tool another go.  
Untitled, 2018, oil pencil on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

I must admit, I think I'm mastering this thing, perhaps not like Michelangelo, but better than my past experiences.  Besides, I don't think anyone could get to the level of the Divine Michelangelo, he was one of a kind.   
Speaking of Buonarroti, and his contemporaries, the drawings they were doing then were created using a natural red chalk, which over time it came to be known as the color sanguine because of its resemblance to dried blood.  These natural chalks had a warm orange intensity which I love, but it has been very hard to find something in modern drawing materials that would resemble it.  I think the modern counterparts look more like dried blood than the original chalks. 
Some of my pictures here make these drawings seem like they have that orange vibrancy, but the fact is that most sanguine chalks and oil sticks these days are either darker or cooler in tone.  Last year I was using Faber Castell sanguine oil pencils but I disliked its pink color.  
Then I found Cretacolor's sanguine oil pencil and it was closer to the orange earth tone I like.  All manufactures use different red earths to make their sanguine pencils, trying to find one that comes close to the natural red chalks of the Renaissance can be very tricky.  Although I'm enjoying this Cretacolor sanguine I'm still on the look out for a warmer tone.  If anyone out there knows of a brand or two that has the color quality I'm looking for please leave a comment and share the wealth.   

Untitled, 2018, oil pencil on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

In the meantime, I leave you with recent drawings and their process photos…all this talk about red chalks and sanguine is giving me an idea for a follow up post…stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Moleskine Sketchbook #5

In the early years of this blog not only did I used to post more often, but I would also post a lot about my painting process.  One of the fun things I used to do once in a while was to post about my sketchbook, a tool which has become extremely important to my work in the last three to four years.  So today I'm doing something fun and posting about my current Moleskine sketchbook and how it keeps me company where ever I go in case inspiration hits.   
My sketchbook goes with me everywhere, doesn't matter how far it will always be with me.  Sketching in the train while commuting to and from work can be fun, I found that the motion of the subway as it rolls in the tunnels can help me make some interesting and energetic marks.  It's also sort of cool to have it out for people to see, you never know who is watching. 
If I'm not feeling like painting and find myself stuck on the couch watching TV, this guy comes out to keep me and my cup of tea some company.  This also tends to alleviate some of the guilt I might be having for not getting any work done in the studio.   
Since I began working on monotypes my sketchbook has become an extremely important tool.  About 90% of all my landscape sketches now are done from imagination, working out mostly compositional ideas for future monotypes.  I only get to print about once a month and my time at the press is limited so there is no time to waste, I have to be prepared with a number of sketches to work from. 
If I'm  not working from imagination I'm working from reference photos of places I have been to, like this drawing which is from a snap shot I took in Ireland a few years back. about inspiration! 
Not all of the sketches will end up as monotypes, some are ideas for paintings such as this drawing on the bottom.  In case you are wondering, this one is from imagination. 
Nothing like enjoying the day with a glass of wine, sunshine, and a sketchbook on hand. 
My faithful Moleskine definitely comes with me to the museum.  I'm so lucky to live in a city full of world class collections, the Met. and Frick being two of my favorites, and there's nothing like sketching from all the beautiful works of art on display in the galleries. 
The other tool that's always at hand is my pen.  Almost all my sketches are done with a black pen, these days I'm using Uni.Ball Vision Elite.  I'm not sure when or how I came across this pen, all I know it was love at first sight, or should I say mark.  The reason for using pen was out of necessity.  After purchasing my first Moleskine sketchbook in 2006 I quickly realized that the paper was too smooth for pencil.  As a matter of fact the paper almost rejected the graphite and would transfer over to the facing page, which was not good when all the drawings lost their details and became big smudges.  Since then Moleskine has changed the paper to something lighter, not as yellow, and with a little more tooth which makes it suitable for pencil work.  But over the years I have bought so many Moleskine sketchbooks that I'm set to working this way for a long time. 
Oh, and the Cappuccino and Chocolate Croissant at the beginning of this post was so good. 
For older posts on my sketchbook click here

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Larger Monotypes

Dayglow, 2017, monotype, image 12 x 18 inches, sheet 17 x 23 inches

Last year I decided to get out of my comfort zone and work larger with the monotypes.  They have been hanging around the studio since then, never got the chance to photograph them, but finally I got that done and here they are.   
 Storm Coming, 2007, monotype, image 18 x 12 inches, sheet 23 x 17 inches

The first two images were done from imagination, as most of my smaller prints tend to be.  It was such a liberating experience working larger, I was able to move my arm around more reminding me of my days as an abstract painting working on large canvases. 
Paisaje Bucolico, Irlanda, 2017, monotype, image 12 x 18 inches, sheet 17 x 23 inches 

I will continue to work in this size this year, I'm currently sketching out some ideas but soon as I get some new ones done you'll be the first to see. 

Monday, April 02, 2018

Recent Drawings

Untitled, 2017, graphite on paper, 6 x 14 1/2 inches 

Spring has arrived, at least in the calendar, but we are still getting snow in the North East.  Everyone is ready for the weather to warm up so that we can enjoy the little things in life like eating, drinking, and playing outside.  Oh let's not forget painting outside as well...very important.   
Tree Study, 2017, graphite on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

I have been keeping myself busy in the last few months, despite of what the lack of updates on this blog might say.  Is anybody still reading these things?  Blogging seems like a thing of the past, these days one can't keep up with how quickly new social media apps come up.  My guilty pleasure is Instagram, so if you are not seeing any action on this blog it's because I'm too busy developing the content of my IG account.  If you are on Instagram look for me there and give me a follow.   
Tree Study, 2018, graphite on paper, 14 1/2 x 6 inches 

I have been working on a few drawings, sticking to graphite pencils mostly.  There's a softness that I can get with graphite that lends itself to the feeling that I'm trying to convey, which is of a dream like state where time stands still.  This was not the original intent of the drawings, in fact I was just "doodling" trying to get myself familiar with drawing again. 
Untitled, 2017, graphite on paper, 6 x 14 1/2 inches

Since the first few drawings from spring of last year things have been developing and these guys are starting to find a voice of their own.  I'm currently working on a drawing incorporating watercolor, perhaps not the first time this has been done in history but it is a new thing for me.  I'll share some of that soon, but for now I offer these and hope you enjoy. 
Untitled, 2018, graphite on paper 14 1/2 x 6 inches