Embracing the Gray

If you live in Ohio you know that whether it’s cold or colder, January is 99.999% gray. No wonder we get cranky! Instead of fighting it, I decided to go with it.

All my art this month has been done in shades of gray. I started off the new year with a sketch done from my studio window as a cold rain was hitting the snow that was already on the ground.

I used graphite pencils and a blender with a kneaded eraser and an electric eraser. Anyone who thinks an electric eraser is frivolous has never tried one. You can go back into a darken area and get very precise whites. It’s definitely worth it.

My next sketch was from a photo that I have been considering as a source for a painting. I got out my gray scale to match the values. My first attempts were off by at least two steps so I wasn’t getting the contrast I wanted. I may use this study as the basis for a painting later.

Next I decided to capture some everyday things like this dollar store doll. The texture of her sweater was a real challenge and the print of her skirt was tedious.

I have a set of Prismacolor gray scale markers that I bought on clearance after I hear Joshua Beam talk about using them to create thumbnails for plein air paintings. I tried that for a while but it was too much trouble so I went back to just using regular drawing pencils for my thumbnails.

I decided to get out the markers to do a sketch. I saw a crow while I was walking my dog so I did a Google image search and found a pose to use. Turns out the image was from Australia, but it was close enough for what I wanted to do. I tested out the markers and found that the ones from about 60% on up to black all looked pretty much the same. The lower saturations had a bit more differentiation but partially because they lightest ones were almost dried out. It was still a good exercise in drawing and looking at relative values.

I decided to do the next sketch with Studio 71 gray scale alcohol markers on photo paper. I also plan to draw a face each day even if I draw it badly. So I started with an online photo of a famous person. Studio 71 markers are less expensive than Copic. The gradation of the values seems more accurate than the Prismacolor markers. The ink seems ok, but the nibs are junk. Mine have turned to mush in no time at all. Here’s the little sketch. I didn’t spend a lot of time on it, just tried to see if I could get a likeness with some big shapes and value changes.

I redid the same sketch with pencil the next day in a sketchbook. I continue to be amazed at how far off I am on values until I use a gray scale.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa

This little guy is an almost- likeness of sweet little kindergartener from a photo I took. I really like doing faces so I think I’ll continue drawing one each day.

More sketches to come this month. The value studies continue. So as you read this, be sure to have a GRAYT day!

Nature in The Round 2020

As the months go by and seasons slide from one to the next, nature cycles through an array of delights. I chose items that I saw each month to create a bit of nature in the round.

  • Slides of each painting

Each element had to be something that caught my attention. In January I started out thinking I would collect pieces and create the arrangement on the ground, take a photo and then paint. Life got in the way and I only had time to look and paint. Sometimes I looked at reference photos on my phone.

The first designs were made with Copic markers. I love to blend with them. These designs were all done on 11 x 14 Bristol board which absorbs more than marker paper or photo paper. When the markers started to dry out I couldn’t find refills online. I suspect the pandemic had something to do with that. So I continued with colored pencils, ink, and watercolor.

I included the following natural material:

Januarytwigs, frozen berries and pinecones
Februaryfrozen berries and branches with a cardinal
Marchforsythia, daffodils and hyacinths
Apriltulips, phlox and dandelion
Mayirises, poppies and hydrangea
Junepeonies and petunias
Julylavender, echinacea, snap dragons, beebalm and lily
Augustcatalpa leaves, Queen Ann’s lace and chicory
Septembersunflower, ironweed, thistle, and unidentified wild flowers
Octoberacorns, locust leaves, oak leaves and maple leaves
Novemberdried grasses, leaves and bittersweet
Decemberholly and birch berries

I’m glad I kept going with this project each month. In a year when so much went wrong, it was a constant reminder that there is still a beautiful world around us.

I have a different plan for a monthly series in 2021. Stay tuned!

Merry Christmas!

I want to wish everyone a very merry and healthy Christmas. It may look a little different this year, but the message is still the same. We still celebrate the coming of Christ into our world with light and joy! Remember His love even in the darkest of times.