Charcoal artwork: Links, promo material, and a preview

Continuing on my roundup theme I’ve been on this past week, I made a YouTube video spotlighting all my current charcoal drawings and uploaded it this morning. Keep in mind this is my first YT video, and I can see a couple things to improve, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? I think it is was a good first effort, and does spotlight my charcoal artwork to date. Here it is:

my first YouTube art video – they’ll only get better from here!

I used the format and layout for a short (too short?) video I made for Facebook, which my brother really liked although he said I desperately need some music for it (the FB one) and sent me some of his work. Yeah, my brother is very much the musician in the family, and while I didn’t use any of the mixes he shared with me, we did chat a little this morning about him writing something that fits my art better. If I worked in a more modern art style, I’d have used his demos he sent because they have a definite 21st century vibe to them, while my art tends to have a more classical aesthetic.

Prior to the Facebook short, I had made an animated Pin for Pinterest … and just the other day discovered you can embed a Pin! There’s no stopping this crazy train now …! Oops, too much? I know I can get carried away some times, but the art-geek in me is very excited by this.

my second Idea Pin for Pinterest highlighting my charcoal work

This one quickly eclipsed my first attempt in views, and even got me some new followers over on that platform, so it certainly got tabulated in the Win column. I’m playing around with idea for more, but while those percolate on the back burner of my brain, I thought I’d make up another roundup post to go with all these short videos I’ve made. It would be a little silly to make these videos and not have a matching blog post!

Links to my current charcoal artwork

Here are the links to my individual posts on my charcoal artwork:

That brings me up-to-date on charcoal artwork for now. I have an acrylic painting on the easel just for the joy of playing with color and with a medium that isn’t as dusty, but I expect I will be back at the charcoal idea after this painting because I have some new toys to play with: Derwent brand tinted charcoal. I’ve seen it on the art websites I like to frequent (Jerry’s Artarama and Dick Blick, if family members want to send me gift cards) and was intrigued by the idea, so last month I went ahead and ordered the small set of six. I now have the big set of 24 as well! That ought to say it all when it comes to writing a review without providing pictures (yet!). Tinted charcoal to go with all my black charcoal and even white charcoal (which I also now have to play with on my black paper).

Oh, tomorrow I go get a new goat, the younger full sister of my Cocoa Puff – and she is due to kid “soon,” which means I get to do the whole bottle feeding of baby goats things again “soon.” Which will mean a continuation of the charcoal kick, which was probably going to happen anyway … but this time I have tinted charcoal to experiment with.

Feature Friday inaugural edition

I am starting up a new but old regular weekly post for the blog: Feature Fridays. This will be a bit of looking back at the previous week here and also on my fellow artists’ blogs and picking out which post I liked best for the previous week, and to drop the occasional hint on upcoming ideas I plan to draw or paint. I keep a little Nikon CoolPix digicam in my purse now, so I can snap photos when I come across something that I want to paint. Given my notorious lack of photography skills, most of my snapshots will very much look like snapshots on an old, cheap digicam, but every once in a while the stars line up just right and I can get a decent photograph. Normally though, I have a snapshot that needs all kinds of cropping and tweaking or it needs to just stay on my computer and not let anyone see it. Even out of focus photos can give me a good enough idea of how the shapes and shadows fall to draw or paint … and I am sure some of y’all have heard my personal joke about learning to draw and paint because that is actually faster and often easier than getting a good photo.

The main feature

That is actually a great segue into the first link: Steven over at Backyard Image wrote an interesting post where he shows how he sometimes uses his software filters to improve his photos. Steven does a lot of fancy fine art photos, and there is no doubt he can wield his camera the way I wield a charcoal pencil, but as I confess in his comment section, there is a part of me that wants to grab a mahlstick or drawing bridge and smack his cursor away from such things. Then Bob from Carolina Footprints chimed in about how some people use software to create their art, and call it AI-generated. Since Bob opened that can of worms, I posted a short opinion about how art is communication and I have never had a meaningful conversation with a computer or software program (this excludes me cussing at a program), but it probably needs fleshing out because I don’t intend to hijack Steven’s comment section.

First of all, I do need to draw a line between photogs like Steven using various filters and editing out things in a photo editor and these so-call artificial “intelligence” programs that will spit out an image given certain inputs. This is not an intelligence at work – it is just a complex set of protocols the program runs to get its result. The computer doesn’t sit here and “decide” what color palette to use, it uses an algorithm to determine what fits the given input parameters and executes accordingly. Most of all, the program is not trying to communicate anything by running through its protocols. It is just running its program when all is said and done. Said program may be significantly more complex than the simple basic programs we used to type into the display models at the store (10 PRINT “whatever” 20 GOTO 10) but it is still a computer running through its lines of code to apply the parameters and commands.

The bottom line here is I don’t believe there is an intelligence in AI generated images, so I don’t see them as art but the results of a computer running its program. Now, if an artist is feeling uninspired, or maybe has too many ideas, or perhaps just wants to see what a program can do with certain inputs, then takes the result and tweaks it or applies filters or uses it as a basis for something worked by hand, that’s another story. I could boil all these keystrokes down to a simple criteria: to be art it needs to be the product of a human who wants to visually communicate.

So now I circle back to Steven and his photo editing. I know on the intellectual level that he is just using a different tool to achieve the same thing I do with my art tools … but the nonrational side of me is still feeling a bit …. threatened, I suppose you could call it. It took me years and many notebooks and sketchbooks and doodle pads and napkins and the backs of paper placemats over my lifetime to be able to do the charcoal sketch of a monarch butterfly that kicked off this blog conversation. I have little doubt Steven has spent many years and many versions of cameras (including film, which was not cheap) to get to the point where he can get such a great photo of a monarch butterfly, but then he just needs a filter to apply to it to make it look like mine, whereas I would need to learn all the little tricks of a camera and then the plants to attract the butterfly, and a way to keep the outdoor cats from trying to catch said butterfly … or I can do my own version of cheating, go to Pixabay or other stock photo site, and apply my own filters and learn to manipulate photos.

And the penny just dropped, right now as I was typing out the previous paragraph. Call it stream-of-consciousness journaling or whatever, but just like that the feeling is resolved. In his reply to my initial comment on that post, he mentions how the rise of the free stock photo site has put a serious crimp on photographers’ market for stock photos, and concern the same may happen to the hand-created artwork market is the most-likely reason I feel such unease when I first read Steven’s post. I’ve not been out the past two years trying to sell my art to the public much, but in the back of my mind there is the avatar of the Difficult Customer asking, “Why should I pay that much when I can get a photo from the internet and run it through Photoshop and have something better?” Oh, I have a specific face in mind with a specific voice, but I shouldn’t bust anyone out even if s/he probably doesn’t read my blog.

More noteworthy features from the past week

Obviously, I found Steven’s post very thought-provoking, which is what a good blog post should do. He posted a couple other topics this past week, but that is the post that sticks with me and therefore deserves to be shared. Some other notable posts from my blogreader list:

  • Bob Decker of Carolina Footprints wrote a rather detailed description of one of his local wildlife areas where he loves to get his nature photos, the Theodore Roosevelt State Nature Area, Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina. He even gives specific directions on how to get to both trails open to the public. If you are in that area, or planning a trip to there, this post is an excellent introduction and travel aid. I really love the tricolor heron photo where the bird is casually preening.
  • Sharon Popek has not blogged for a while, but breaks her silence to share photos of her visit to Chicago. While I am content to stay here at the dead end of my little dirt road, if picturesque cityscape photos are your vibe, then she posted some good ones. I like the colors in the sunset one.
  • Speaking of cityscape photos, Jim Hughes was setting up for photos of downtown Minneapolis when a bicyclist rode into his frame … and ended up being the focus of that series, instead of the clouds. That cyclist looks very similar not only to an affable gentleman in my old neighborhood up in Clarksville, Tennessee but also I am pretty sure I have seen a kindred spirit on a three-wheeled cycle around this corner of the county here in rural Florida.
  • Judith at Artistcoveries wrote a very introspective post about a tendency she has noticed in herself, and explores the motives behind her self-sabotaging tendency in both her art and her blog posts. I guess you could say this was a secondary influence on my current post (that you are currently reading). Sometimes you just have to untangle your mixed feelings and mixed motivations, and some of us feel a need to do it publicly, in hopes perhaps it might help someone else.

Reference photo for future art

Since this IS a visual art blog, I probably ought to include at least one image. Remember several paragraphs ago I mentioned I now carry a little digicam in my purse? That came in handy yesterday when I was waiting for my feed order and noticed these gorgeous purple flowers blooming on either side of the local feed store’s entrance. No editing of these photos except cropping out a little extraneous stuff in the frame, so these turned out rather accurate on color (I took about five or six snapshots). These will be painted at some point this year, and I have just the perfect shade of purple in watercolor, acrylic, AND oil paint!

purple morning glory flowers outside the feed store's door
a photo for future painting – I love the shades of purple and green together!

Rose round-up

I had the idea to do a post on all my rose paintings and drawings the other week. I figured it would be a compilation of links to the individual posts for each piece … then I discovered a couple of watercolor paintings that I have not blogged either here or the previous version on blogspot. Even more embarrassing is that one is my header image!

The two missing watercolor rose paintings

Yes indeed, somehow I forgot to blog my Yellow Rose painting, even though it was the first nice watercolor painting I did back at the end of 2020. I also discovered I had forgotten to upload it to Daily PaintWorks, where I have my original art pieces available, and also forgot to upload it to my RedBubble shop for apparel and accessories, though it has been up on my Pixels store for prints for over a year. Well, that has now been fixed, and it is up and available.

Yellow Rose watercolor painting
Yellow Rose, watercolor, 6.25 by 9 inches, available $45 USD

Another early watercolor painting that turned out nicely is Red Rosebud 1, a small 5 by 7 inch piece I did early last year – probably inspired by Valentine’s Day that was coming up. I did have it scanned and uploaded already, but it was scanned with the old scanner and I decided to rescan it because my current scanner is just that much better. So, rescans have been uploaded – but in the process I discovered a dirty spot on the top tape line that is not coming off, so I am hesitant to offer the original now. Prints are available at my Pixels store, while apparel and accessories are at the usual spot at RedBubble. If I can clean that spot off the original, I’ll post it as available, but I may need to do a little research on how to get dirt off a watercolor sealed with cold wax medium. Here is the rescan, which shows the colors so much better than the previous one.

Red Rosebud watercolor painting
Red Rosebud 1, 5 by 7 inch watercolor, prints available

Links to the rest of my rose artwork

Now for the roundup of my previous posts involving rose artwork:

Eight so far – but I intend to expand upon that this summer. It was actually fun looking over my work and seeing how many roses I’ve drawn and painted so far.

Cherry Blossoms of Spring

Spring is my busy season around the property, and this year has been par for the course with five goat kids, firing up the incubator, and rabbits kindling. While I have been on a charcoal kick so far for 2022, yesterday and this morning it felt so good to have a paint brush in my hand and to work with some color. The interesting angle on this is Judith over at Artistcoveries posted the other day about an historical debate between color and drawing, and how she feels she is on the color side of the argument because she can do color without drawing. I commented that given my ongoing charcoal drawing kick, I have to take the drawing side of that argument, because I can (and do) draw without employing color but flounder on the idea of using color without some drawing element. I suppose that is a succinct way of saying I just don’t feel abstract art like some folks do. We then agreed that it is better to not try to draw a line between these aspects since the art world is certainly big enough for not only both viewpoints, but some that are outside of this binary.

Inspiration

Yeah, I do indeed read other artists’ blogs, and heartily recommend doing so because the interplay of ideas often sparks inspiration all around. Case in point, fellow art blogger Steven of Backyard Image was inspired by my charcoal monarch butterfly I posted last time to play with his photographs and filter software to produce his own new piece. What he doesn’t (yet) know is a previous post of his inspired me to do up both charcoal and watercolor pictures of cherry blossoms, because what says spring quite like the brief glorious week of the cherry trees in Washington, D.C. in bloom? My post inspired him, and one of his inspired me.

I had intended to use the cherry blossom motif for a new art challenge which had the stated theme of “time,” but apparently the lady who organizes these challenges had a much more narrow interpretation than I do. I wasn’t the only participant who took a broader view of the theme, though most focused on timepieces of one sort or another. I just quietly dropped out to pursue my own thing, because that is what I do.

Value study sketch in charcoal

First step for me was to hop onto Pixabay and hunt up some nice cherry blossoms reference photos. As usual, I found a good handful that suited what I had in mind, then it was on to cropping it “just right” because I am just picky like that. Once I selected my target ref photo and had it cropped, then it was time for a charcoal value sketch, where I get a feel for the shapes and shadows. This is “just” a sketch, so nothing as fancy as a full drawing for a charcoal piece, and since it is in my raggedy sketchbook, there is no original to offer, but I did upload it to Pixels for art prints since it makes a nice companion to the watercolor version.

charcoal value sketch for Cherry Blossoms of Spring
charcoal value sketch for Cherry Blossoms, 9 by 12 inches, in sketchbook

Adding color

Once I was satisfied the image has enough value contrast to be visually appealing, it was time to transfer it to watercolor paper to paint. These days I do not sketch on watercolor paper, because even when I use watercolor pencils I can still see grid lines, so I now draw it in my sketchbook and use graphite transfer paper to get the necessary lines, which I often lighten up with a kneaded eraser before laying down paint. Just for fun, I wanted to see if I could pull this painting off only using three colors: cobalt blue, rose red (which is more a magenta if you ask me), and burnt umber. I think I succeed.

watercolor painting Cherry Blossoms of Spring
Cherry Blossoms of Spring, 9 by 12 inches, watercolor, $80 USD

For this iteration, the original is available, 9 by 12 inches, sealed with Dorland’s wax medium and if you are not local you can purchase through Daily PaintWorks via PayPal. Prints are through Pixels, along with a bit of swag like puzzles or a fancy shower curtain. I also uploaded the image to RedBubble, which has a nice variety of apparel, plus the face clock. I simply must include the image of the face clock – I think it looks awesome.

Cherry Blossoms of Spring watercolor painting as an analog clock face
Cherry Blossoms of Spring as a clock face

Now, for the best news: the goat kids are down to two and three bottle feedings a day, which means I now have more time to get back to my art. They are cute, they are affectionate, but for the first four to five weeks they are rather needy, but now they are growing up and two have gone off to a new home where I have no doubt they will be spoiled rotten (no change from their life here).

Some Odds and Ends

Looking through what I have uploaded to my Pixels site, I realize I am missing a blog post about a favorite charcoal drawing. Then I realized the scan I had uploaded that was (past tense now) available was from my old scanner, and that needed fixing. So, I rescanned the page from my sketchbook and replaced the old, smaller file size scan, and now I can proudly say you can get a print of this either a little smaller or a whole lot larger … like 45 by 60 inch at the biggest. That’s even bigger than my largest canvas right now! So without further ado, here is one of my favorite pages from my sketchbook, a monarch butterfly on a coneflower, rendered in charcoal.

charcoal drawing of monarch butterfly on coneflower
Monarch on coneflower, charcoal, 9 by 12 inch sketchbook page

In other news, there is a county fair this year, after a two-year hiatus, and I remembered in time to check for when they are accepting entries for the art category. It is Thursday evening and Friday morning, and I have that time block free. I will be taking up two works, the two first place winners from the VA Healthcare show. I still love how my Flamingo in Rippled Water turned out, and when I showed these two pieces to my neighbor who stopped by yesterday, he told me if it doesn’t get bought at the fair to come to him because he really wants my Dew on a Calla Lily drawing. Actually, he tried to persuade me to give it to there on the spot, but I am used to that routine by now, after living just down the road from him for nine years now.

Final bit is you may notice I have added an old style blog roll in the sidebar. Right now it is all art photographers, but I am hoping to find a drawing and painting blogger to also collaborate with soon. I blogged back in the days before social media was even a thing, and remember not only the sense of camaraderie we had, but also the fun things we used to do to help each other like link roundups, blog hops, and blog carnivals. Once I get through the busy part of spring, it will be, “Game ON!” with those ideas, so something to look forward to once the yellow flies come out of the swamp.