Tuesday, January 26, 2010

two ladies and a wash

I had the urge to practice drawing things in front of me (I don't want to say "real" - things in our imagination are real too, right?) and I've long wanted to draw the pendant on one of my favorite necklaces. I had originally planned to try a pen drawing on top of the acrylic painted background shown earlier, but this time I felt like playing with my watersoluble pencils.

I ended up with two versions, both drawn in the same colours graphitint pencil -chestnut and indigo, with one washed with a bit of plain water, the other left dry. The dry one is more subdued in colour.
lady, unwashed

It's amazing how much colour shows up when you add water - colour that isn't really even perceptible in they dry version. So much tint came off in my waterbrush that I used it to paint in a bit of shadow, which wasn't actually in the drawn version at all.
lady, washed

I'm not sure which effect I like best, but this encourages me to do more experimentation with these. They're just Derwent Graphitint pencils,  more subtle and earthier in colour than the regular watercolor or Inktense, but equally easy to use. Just a bit more surprising when wet. I should note that they're on different papers - the dry version in an Exacompta sketchbook, the wet in a Canson. But both similar weight, and lightly textured. Aside from the creamier colour of the Exacompta paper, I would expect similar colour shifts to happen to the pencil drawing when wet in both books.

Friday, January 22, 2010

unwinding the right brain

shiny happy
I actually really enjoy labwork. I like the orderly, persnickety process, the troubleshooting, the problem solving, the excitement when you see your efforts pay off at the end of the day. It is, however, exceedingly finicky and mentally taxing. So at the end of this very long and busy week, I very much needed two things - a gin and tonic, and some time with my sketchbook. Therefore,

a G&T fueled watercolour doodle, not quite a mandala, based on odd numbers, for extra random-ness :)
Title is just a play on William Blake's poem. The drawing itself is not particularly fearless (nor fearful either, for that matter).


And now, I apologize in advance to Polish people everywhere. I'm sorry I made your eagle look like a demented rooster sporting pantaloons. I really didn't mean to. It was very late at night, and I picked up my sketchbook after whining on Twitter  that I couldn't sleep.

I did the coin rubbings earlier that day, then attempted to draw one of them. A friend had given me this little Polish coin he found in his pocket, and it was so tiny and worn I could hardly make out what was on it. I rubbed it, in hopes of getting a better view but really it was still hard to see. Then I tried to draw it, which didn't go much better.

And while  I was on a roll with the coin thing, I dug through my drawer and found a few more coins worth rubbing - an Ontario quarter, US half dollar, and another Canadian quarter commemorating wisdom. I'm not a coin collector, but I do tend to squirrel away coins that look interesting to me, and now, I'm more likely to notice interesting designs on them. They're a handy way to look for a little drawing inspiration, sinceyou're very likely to always have them around, unless you've squandered them all on coffee.

aye, there's the rub

And by way of a postscript to last week's post about whether or not  a doodle is done, I did end up coloring the last one with gelly rolls. However I used metallic gellys, and now it looks like an overwrought easter egg that flung itself onto a pile of glitter. I'm not scanning it, but I'm still strangely happy with it: my school/work life is so concerned about doing things exactly right, this is the arena in my life where I'm perfectly fine with things going wildly askew.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I can't help myself!

Why do I love Shakeit so? Because you can lie in bed before the start of the work week and instead of getting precious and much needed sleep, process pictures in a completely unnecessary way.



Just because it was fun. And I could.
But really, part of it isn't because it's so easy (though it is). Part of it is that you give up a bit of control. When I use Photoshop Elements or Lightroom, there are almost infinite degrees of adjustment you can make to a photograph. I doubt I use even 5% of what these programs are capable of.  Shakeit - at least the version on my iTouch, gives you one choice - do it, or not. There's an unpredictability to how it crops, and the colour treatment, which looks a bit lomo-ish to me, with the garish colours and blown out highlights, can't be adjusted at all. I understand the version on the iPhone gives you filters and other options, but on the iTouch, it's just the one thing. Shake, take what you get, and upload. Even lying in bed! That's cool.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

are we done yet?

When I'm drawing pictures of more-or-less real things, I have a pretty good feel for when it's complete: either the dog looks like a dog, the tree looks like a tree; I've reached the edges of the page or said what I have to say.

This month, I'm playing with shapes and lines and doodles, and I realize I'm never quite sure when I'm done. I'm not quite sure when to stop filling in space, or whether to just let it be white space. I'm not quite sure when to stop adding colour, or to add colour at all. In this hand drawing, I feel like I could add more, but I also like it the way it is.

unhand me

I had just gotten a new fountain pen and ink, so traced my own hand with the intention of doing another hand mandala. But the blue colour made me think of images of the Hand of Fatima (or Hand of Miriam, or Hamsa) so it started to turn into that. I'm not sure if this is done yet, but am not really sure what else to do.

I used Pilot Iroshikuzu kon-peki, drawn with fountain pen then washed very slightly with waterbrush. I realized right away I wouldn't be able to use watercolors to color it, then also found that Pitt brush pens would also muddy the ink, so I used gel pens for color. I think, in the end, this is as close to finished as I want it to be.

This, on the other hand, seems to be asking for more colour:


But really, I just don't know where to go from here. Like many others, I draw while waiting, and at this point, my son's haircut was finished, I closed the book and left. So I lost momentum, and don't quite know how to resume this. I have some options since this is in Pitt pen and gel pen and would tolerate a neocolor or watercolor wash. I'll probably play with this later this afternoon.

unfinished 2

Tammy at Daisy Yellow suggested trying to draw a mandala starting with a linear shape working inward, then outward from the centre till they meet. I still don't know if this is finished, but it occupied time nicely while waiting for my kids at their piano lesson.

Bar at the top doesn't mean anything - I was just trying to get my rapidograph flowing again. But I didn't enjoy the scratchiness, so I pulled out my fountain pen with Noodler's black. That's a great drawing combination except for the tendency to dry slowly on smooth paper, as can be seen on the lower point of the mandala where I rested my hand. Smmmmmmmudge. So I don't feel this is quite done either, and would like to add colour. But I know that the paper in this pocket Habana buckles horribly with watercolor, and that Noodler's black doesn't always stay put, so I think I'll try gel pens again with this one. Or...maybe it's time to try Tammy's suggestion of putting fountain pen ink in a rapidograph? I haven't tried that yet...so off I go to clean out a pen.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Footwork, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.

Possibly the most ludicrous thing I've done in the name of science.

The lab centrifuge went on the fritz last month right in the midst of an experiment, and in the heat of the moment my supervisor dug out this old beast from the '70s, fired it up, and lo and behold it worked (and saved our bacon). Then last week caretaking polished the floor in the lab, and did such a great job that it now kind of tries to walk around the slippery floor when it reaches full speed. So I was sitting on it to try to keep it in place while centrifuging my samples. Longest 15 minutes of the week, and yes, I tried many different positions to avoid going numb.

Creative with the body? hell, yeah.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Out of the vault

An old - well, not that old - picture from a trip I took to Seattle with my mom and two of my sisters. We were picking up a cousin from the train station, but had plenty of time to kill. It was my first time to Pike's Place Market and I had so much fun - it was like Granville Island on steroids.

I played with this pic early last year. It was one of my earliest attempts at Photoshop Elements, learning how to use layer masks and before the happy times of discovering actions like those so generously provided by Rita of CoffeeShop photography. Then I forgot about it for several months.

My kids started this silly game: running Shakeit on my iTouch, and choosing pictures at random by pressing the touchscreen with it facing away from them. This one wasn't quite random - I kind of cheated, actually. But I liked how it came out.

Pike's place, shook up

Thursday, January 07, 2010


Handala, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.
inspired by Stephanie's hand mandalas, and along with CED for January's theme, Body. Marker pen (Pitt, Sakura) with fountain pen ink and watercolor.

I really enjoyed working on this; I want to do another one and take it a little further. This time, I just wanted to keep the mandala part small and play with colour.

This was done in my new best friend, the Exacompta Basics sketchbook. I had some small vials of fountain pen ink that I'd gotten as samples from the Pear Tree Pen company, which were handy - I didn't have to worry as much about spillage. I tried a few different ways to put it on - water brush, regular brush, and drawing it in with the pen then wetting it. But in the end the method I liked best was to wet the paper first around the outline, then dip the fine brush point into the ink and apply it  around the black outline. I'd let it bleed a bit over the wet portion of the paper, and sometimes help it along by adding a little more fresh water. The smaller areas in the mandala, were just  painted right onto the dry paper - I didn't want to fool around too much there.
Inks used were J. Herbin Vert Olive, JH Rose Cyclamen, PR Arabian Rose, and then just regular Winsor and Newton watercolours for the yellow.

Be sure to check out Stephanie's many hand mandalas  for more inspiration!

eta: oh no! I just noticed hair on the scanner! it's too late now. maybe I'll rescan it tomorrow. Maybe.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Blues of winter

blue compass

One of the things I promised myself I'd do this year was try out some techniques I had only read about. Stephanie has written elsewhere about using fountain pen ink for painting, so I gave it a shot. I'd do it again. I like the way the ink dried a bit irregularly, and the colour stayed vivid. I wish the white gel pen I used was more opaque, though.

blue lady

Again with the experimenting. I've never painted a journal page background before with the intention of drawing or writing over it. But I have quite a bit of acrylic paint lying around from various kid's crafts, so I used some turquoise, gold, and purple glitter.

I had thought to draw something body-like on it, to keep in with the January CED theme, and the necklace I happened to be wearing that day might make a good subject, I was thinking.

c'est l'hiver

And finally I vaguely remembered reading an article about using modge-podge to do photo transfer, and since I was procrastinating anyway, I printed out some of my recent winter photos, slapped some podge on a couple of sheets, and rubbed them as if they were a tattoo. It wasn't exactly a success, but I liked it anyway, and will probably play with this a bit more. I would welcome suggestions as to how to make this work better!

Watercolor and lyrics, from the very Quebecois chanson Mon Pays added after the podge dried.

I'm not Quebecois - but it IS awfully wintery here; the world looks mostly grey, white or blue - but I like blue better.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

whole body sock

I'm fixin' to make a sock, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.

as I was plying this, I was musing on what I could do for the Creative Every Day challenge theme for January, Body. The obvious thing would be to get back into anatomical drawing - usually my own injuries, or that of someone in my family. But, as I stood in the family room watching LOTR with the kids, rolling the spindle along my leg with one hand, letting the single-ply roll off the improvised nostepinne with the other, and wrapping the plied yarn around my elbow to grab the spindle and roll the yarn onto it, I realized this is a whole-body process.

Skeined and waiting:
sock to be

Saturday, January 02, 2010

At the true turn of the year

The day before school begins feels much more like New Year's eve to me than December 31st, because for me, that's the start of when things need to get done. I've had eleven or twelve delicious days of waking up without the alarm, enjoying my family, not checking my university e-mail account, and gently pushing aside all my thoughts and plans for the next semester. Now, it's time to pull them back out again, and prepare to give them my full attention.

As the school holiday draws to a close, some time around the last day of December I start feeling mournful. I thrive in the company of my children and husband and dog. I know that soon we have our duties and responsibilities to attend to, and I feel reluctant to face that. Then, in the first days of January, my mindset starts to shift. It's not merely duty and responsibility, it's opportunity and challenge. It's purpose and commitment. And as that start to takes hold, I feel ready not just to start school again, but to hit the ground running.

So why be creative every day? Two (among many) reasons. One, my discipline is science, and research. It requires a very left brain, orderly, logical approach to problem solving, leading to the need for some stress relief.  Two, my discipline is science, and research. Without a right brain, intuitive approach, I think there's a risk of getting stuck in dead ends, of losing the context in which the research question lies.  I don't necessarily think that doodling on a piece of paper or knitting a sock will guarantee I'll be a better thinker. But I hope to be a less stressed one, with a more open and exploratory approach to what problems may arise. I believe that science demands creativity.

On a practical level, I sometimes find myself in the middle of the work day unable to string two thoughts, never mind two words together; and since I am too old for the usual student vice of gleeful midday drunkenness (that sure came in handy a couple of decades ago), I can at least relieve some of that with a restless pen, or a walk with a camera.

(picture not really related to post. I just like it. Shakeit is fun)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Shake it, baby!

Okay, just because I'm done with project 365, doesn't mean I'm going to stop taking pictures, particularly not when there's the tail end of the Christmas holidays left to enjoy. I apparantly can't quite let go, and am still lurking at the 365 groups at flickr, especially the Shutter sisters 365. That's where I ran across a terrific picture by brklynphoto processed with shakeit, an iPhone application. I only have an iTouch (I stubbornly refuse to go the smartphone/contract route) but shakeit works on that too. Also, a milestone, my dear husband is picking up the camera these days, yay! Using our old but trusty Canon S2IS, he got a nice pic of a coyote while on today's walk. I love seeing the pictures my kids take, so I hope he keeps it up.