Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ways To Kickstart Your Imagination 2

"Draw lines, young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist." Ingres advice to a young Degas.

At the High School of Art and Design Irwin Greenberg advised his students to draw every day. Till this day I strive to adhere to that advice, drawing from imagination, from life, from photo reference. 

Sometimes I would pause my TV and draw one of the actors on the screen or I will read a book and try and visualize the characters and scenes and sketch those out on paper. My preference is to draw from life but sometimes a model is not readily available so I prop a mirror on a chair so I can do a self portrait or a just sketch away using my imagination. 

Drawing the face has always been more interesting to me than anything else so I often fill up pages with different heads. In the down time, between paintings, when I am wondering what to do next or trying to build up to tackling a large painting I make these sketches. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ways To Kickstart Your Imagination

The head on the upper left is the Ghost of Christmas Present.

 I have found that one of the best ways to kick start my imagination is to read. When I read I get a visual image in my mind of what the author is saying. I liked reading from writers like Charles Dickens or J.R.R Tolkien. When I do their characters find their way into my sketchbooks. This helps me especially when the ideas run dry and I wonder what to do next. Rather than staring at a blank sheet I can recall characters or scene's from some story I've read and draw those images.

The figure on the far left is Marley's ghost from A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. It illustrates the following line, "At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon. But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wear in-doors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast." 

 Another sketch for the ghost of Christmas Present.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sketching From Memory And Imagination

Once again I find myself with little time on my hands and taking to my trusty sketchbook with every spare moment. That would be my lunch brakes and that time I wake up in the early morning before anyone else does. I like the early morning most of all.

Irwin Greenberg, my painting teacher in the High School of Art and Design, wrote an article about his sketch habit of waking up in the morning and starting off in his sketchbook to warm up for a days work of painting. He would sketch from memory faces that he saw while watching television the night before. I do a variation of that and try to recall the face's of people on the subway or someone I saw in the street or on my job, etc. Of course I also make a whole bunch of doodles from my imagination.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Working Pass A Creative Block.

First, let me apologize. Its been some time since I've posted anything. Life has thrown a few curves recently and I have had to deal with things as best as I could. The name of the blog says it all, its a busy world and sometimes as much as I want to sit down and draw or paint its hard to focus on one thing.

 Life happens and sometimes you have to slow down, regroup and pick up again.

It can be very difficult to just pick up and start again. I find it nearly impossible to begin where I left off. I find that if I just start sketching I will eventually begin to challenge myself to do more and more, to become more ambitious.

Sketching is a way of going back to a starting place, where you began your artistic journey.
Just pencil and paper, your curiosity and your imagination and the need to reinterpret what you see or what your thinking into a language that others can read.

It becomes fun again.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Is Digital Art Art?

Is Digital Art Art?
That is the question everyone seems to have an answer to although everyone may not arrive at the same conclusion.

I have had arguments/conversations with other artist regarding this. Traditional artist either detest digital art or, in cases where they actually do some digital art, they view it as a time saver, lesser art form, evil necessity, etc. I’m not talking about photo manipulation, or programs like Poser, in which case I personally believe that all arguments against would be valid. I’m talking about digital works that artists create using the same methods they would if they worked on paper or canvas only using digital counterparts. Programs like Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop, Corel Painter, Procreate, Mischief, etc. I’m talking about it from the point of view that you have to know how to draw and paint first before you can create something on the level of what has been done before pixel art. I have worked both ways, traditional and digital; I prefer Traditional but have no problem with working digitally.

There are two main arguments I hear.

1)      Digital art is not real. It’s virtual. There is no paper, no canvas, pencil or paint. Just pixels. Therefore it does not exist.
One can argue that all you have to do is create a quality print. Painters like Rembrandt took up etching in order to offer affordable art to a wider audience. In the same way art can be created on the screen instead of on a metal plate or an lithographic stone and then printed and sold. It is simply another process, one that still requires the skill of knowing how to paint and draw in order to create your image.

2)      People will never value digital work as much as they do traditional work. Okay, but does that mean it’s not art? I think that may depend on how much people enjoy the image. Collectors have placed a value on printed work, maybe not as much as work done on paper or canvas but significant enough. It’s a matter of what the artist creates more than it is the material he uses.

There are, of course other arguments but all of it comes down to process. I respect and enjoy the process of creating art, of painting and drawing. I enjoy learning how to use different mediums. But that is an artist’s personal journey. What the audience sees is the final image and they make their judgments on that. Is that final image compelling enough to make you want to hang it on your wall? Does that make it art? Only time will tell, but that would hold true for any image no matter how and what it was created with.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New How To Book On Sketchbook Pro Painting Essentials

A while back I received an email from PACKT Publishers asking me if I would be interested in writing a How To book on painting in Sketchbook Pro. They may have seen my You Tube Chanel or this blog or maybe my Deviant Art page, don't know which but it lead to my writing this book. Though its mostly about painting I spend sometime talking about pen and ink as well. There is a sample chapter available on the PACKT website . The book is written with the beginning to intermediate user in mind and Sketchbook Pro is a lot easier to learn, in my opinion, then a lot of other graphic software. Sketchbook Pro also less expensive and still able to turn out professional quality digital works of art. So this would be a good jumping in point if you want to explore going from traditional media to digital. There are demos in the book on Painting, Pen and Ink and Pen and Ink and color as well as how to create a Do It Yourself Brush in Sketchbook Pro.

The book can be ordered on the website ( which has the best deal- the book which is printed in black and white is bundled with a color PDF/Epub  version ) or from Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble and a couple of other outlets. A link to the book will also be listed on the store page on this blog.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sketch Book Pro

I miss easel painting. I hate living in this really cramp apartment and having to work at a 9 to 5 to live in this box. Would be nice to have a studio and the time to work in it. There is enough space to work on watercolors, which is what I mostly do, but its my nature to switch media rather than work with just one medium all the time.

As I've said before, it helps to be able to work on my computer. I don't feel cramped by the lack of space, because there's just enough for my computer which is all I need. The time it takes to set up and clean up is shortened by just having to open the program and save the document. There is also a lot of different software to choose from and always new ones to try out. Right now I'm enjoying Sketchbook Pro. I like it because I can focus more on actually drawing and painting then trying to learn about how to use the software. Sketchbook Pro is so easy to use, so straight forward. The learning curve is as minimal as you can get.

The software allows me to switch mediums digitally so that I am either painting or drawing in  pencils, markers or with pen and ink. Its a wonderful tool.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Paintings Of My Mother


When I was a teen I struggled hard to learn how to draw and paint. I had a very supportive family. My brother and sister would pose for me from time to time; I would even sketch my brother as he slept in the bed across from mine. My mother would pose for me too. They weren’t always patient but they would fight through their discomfort and sit as I would try to draw as quickly as I could. My mother even bought me a large mirror so I can work on self portraits when no one was available to sit for me.

It’s taken me too long to remember this and appreciate the time they took to indulge me. My family has given me many good memories of love and patience. 

My mother is now ninety years old and I am not sure if she knows who I am when I visit her. I try to talk to her but I’m not sure if she can understand me.   Most of the time I pass the time by taking out my iPad and sketching her in one of the many drawing apps I have loaded on the tablet. While I sketch her I am playing music for her, the music that she liked and listened to. Most of the time she would fall asleep, as I continued to draw her.  It’s a very hard thing to do.  I would rather have a conversation with her. To be able to talk and laugh, to remember the old neighborhood, family, etc. To hear stories about her childhood and the grandparents I never got to know. But drawing is all I can do and maybe it’s a way of helping her to remember the son who loved art so much. 

This was done many years ago when my Mom would sit for me.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Secret To Becoming A Better Artist ????

The secret to becoming a better artist…? Surprisingly, although one would think you begin with talent and although talent will give you a big jump start, it is not the key ingredient.  Talent may in fact even get in the way of progressing. 

Having the humility and willingness to be taught is a key to an artist continued growth no matter at what level he or she is. Humility doesn’t mean that you take every bit of advice that is thrown your way but that at least you have an open ear to what’s being said. It maybe that what you discard at the moment you will recall later and find that the advice had more merit than you initially assigned to it. I have talked to someone who expressed how earnestly he wanted to improve his drawing. Upon looking at his work I suggested that he take life drawing classes or at least make it a point to continually draw from observation to improve his skills. He went on to explain how he took life drawing classes in college and that he was already sure of what he has to do right now to get better- this after he asked for the advice. I later discovered that he had expressed the same things to others (some who were notable artist and illustrators). They gave him the exact same advice I did and he ignored it of course. He has not been able to grow beyond what he already knows. 

Perseverance is also a key to becoming better. Never give up on this life -long pursuit of excellence. Have set in your mind that it will take your entire life time to learn everything that you want to learn about painting and drawing. One of my favorite quotes, often repeated here, by the Japanese artist Hokusai, 

From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie.”
Another quote from Hokusai made in his old age, (some have said that this was said by him on his deathbed),

“If heaven had granted me five more years, I could have become a real painter.”
Like Leonardo, art to Hokusai was a life- long pursuit of understanding and communicating in pictures the world he lived in.

Another key ingredient would be discipline. With discipline art becomes more than a hobby, it becomes a habit, an extension of one’s character.  Habits are hard to break, shaking off the need to express yourself visually should be the same. I had a teacher in high school who read to his student a quote from Calvin Coolidge that I’ve often repeated. He swapped the word “persistence” for the word discipline and I will do so here,

“Nothing in the world can take the place of discipline. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Discipline and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Getting Back To Watercolor

I spent so much time working on my computer the last couple of week's and I couldn't wait to finish the project I was working on so I can get back into some watercolor. It's funny, even though I was drawing all that time I still don't feel confident enough to rush right back into paint.

I work the same way on a computer as I would in traditional media. I draw and paint directly onto my screen with a stylus, the software tools and brushes mimic the pencils and brushes I would use when painting or drawing on paper. Then again, if I had set aside my watercolors for sometime and worked in oils I would feel the same way. So I guess it's best not to blame the computer. It could have been any medium or just being away from practicing that one medium that throws my confidence off. So anyway I start to draw- a lot. I play in a sketchbook of toned paper. I start off by using graphite and a white prisma color pencil. I add white gouache later on and finally do some watercolor on this toned paper. I spend the better part of the weekend doing this. Stopping only to spend some time with my kids and getting a bite to eat and of course some sleep.

Still feeling like I could use a couple of more days of this, or it may I'm just having a lot of fun doing this.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Digital Painting and Drawing

Continuing what I had mentioned in my last post I figure it is best to talk about what has kept me so busy these past few weeks. I have been asked by a publisher to write a how to book on digital painting. It will be a six chapter book. Four of the six chapters have been accepted and am currently waiting on acceptance of the final two.

The images on this post are some of the images used in the book. The one at top left will most likely be the cover and is one of the demonstrations in the book.

I look forward to the completion of this project. It has been fun, exiting and flattering and it has also kept me up late at night. The book is supposed to be available sometime in October. I will have more information about it then.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sometimes Busy Weeks Are Good.

Okay, I haven't been ignoring this blog and I definitely haven't taken a break from work. It's good to be busy right now and I have been. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I will be able to give some details about the project I've been working on.

In the meantime I have completed 3 illustrations, two spots for a magazine and a book cover. With the kids getting ready to go back to school those jobs came in at a good time.

Of course there is always the ongoing commitment to paint or draw everyday. On the top left is a drawing I did on the subway. The man was standing a bit of a distance from me and he definitely saw me drawing him. That made him a bit nervous I guess so I did my best to draw him quickly.

When I got back home I used the sketch to create the colored drawing at left in Sketchbook Pro 6. Taking the sketches I made outdoors and working them up at home is fun to do and is good practice.

I also created a video that I posted on YouTube. The video is embedded below. I also include  another video underneath that one. A time lapse video of  a painting completed in Sketchbook Pro 6 and related to the project I alluded to earlier. I will let out more details about the project in the coming weeks, but hopefully this will look interesting enough to make you curious.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Inking In Sketchbook Pro 6

I love this medium. Its just a black line but you can suggest so much by varying the weight and density of that line. seeing how much one can do with so little is a great challenge.

Sketchbook Pro has a number of brushes that can be used as is or tweaked to resemble a line made with a nib pen or inking brush.. The pencil tool can also be used as an ink brush as long as your properties for the canvas is set to a high resolution.

If you have Sketchbook Pro the default properties for the canvas are set for a low resolution image.You should set your preferences to get the best quality image by going to your menu bar and selecting  Edit-Preference-Canvas. The height or the width should be set at no less than 4000 the other number being slightly lesser, (my width is set to 4000 and the height is set to 3075). The resolution should be set at no less than 400. When you hit okay restart the program for your changes to take affect. You will see a better quality of line right off.

There is a brush I used for the drawing of the woman on the left that I honestly can't remember if it came with the program or it was one of the many tweaks I made as I went along. It resembles a line made with a brush with split hairs. The resulting image looks like either a dry point etching or a dry brush drawing.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Painting the Passage of Time 2/ Portrait of My Mother at 90


Been a busy few weeks. Finished a book cover illustration, (and layout) as well as two spot illustrations for a magazine and I am in the middle of another project. It's good to be busy and get paid for it.

Still found time to do this portrait of my Mom in Sketchbook Pro 6. I guess this is a continuation of my last post about painting the passage of time. I've painted my Mom so many times and at different points in her life. Not easy to paint her right now, sometimes it can drive me to tears because its so hard to reach her. I always wonder if she can understand what is happening around her, what is she thinking or remembering. She can not articulate these things. I sit with my Mother listening to her favorite music and sometimes I draw her as she sits in her wheelchair or lies in bed.

Bellow is a video capture of my computer screen as I worked on the painting.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Portraits, Painting and Drawing the Passage of Time

 One of the hardest things to deal with in life is aging. I am at a point in my life where I feel like I am standing in the middle. On the one side I have those who came before me grow older and in need of care and on the other I have my children who I have watched grow from infants to their preteen and teenage years and have become more and more independent.

I go almost every other day after work to see my mother. She lays down in her bed staring outward, occasionally trying to communicate something. I can only make out a few words, not enough to understand her most of the time. I play some music that I downloaded for her, the music she played when I was younger, and I sit and draw her.

 My mother sat for me a few times when I started painting from life in high school. She was a very patient sitter. She was in her late fifties then. My mom is ninety now. I guess as much as entries in a journal these images represent some personal note, my continued affection for my mother and the passage of time.

On the left is one of the earliest drawings I've done of my mom, way back in high school. Bellow that is an oil sketch I did when I was in college. The drawing on the right and bellow are the most recent ones.