Confessions of a Ballerunner

Essays on Sports, Arts, Culture, and Life

Archive for the tag “watercolor”

Collection of hand-drawn sketches from Illustration course

This fishbowl sketch was based on the class’s theme of surrealism. We had to pick an object – in this case, a vase with flowers – and give it a surrealism spin. I decided to turn one of the leaves into a fish trying to escape the fishbowl – a metaphor for how employees can sometimes feel trapped working in a corporate office 9 to 5, day in and day out. The hands represent ‘working for the man (or ‘woman’, as the situation may be)’. A classmate – a florist by day – later remarked that the drawing made her think of Little Shop of Horrors. The sketch was done using watercolor pencils and wash.

Fishbowl sketch

The sketch below was a very quick fashion sketch I did on a break. It was my modern interpretation of Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer. The sketch was done using a combination of graphite and color pencils,and wash.

Girl with a Pearl Earring sketch

The sketch below arose out of a themed exercise the instructor assigned to the class. We had to incorporate black beans and a ‘found object’ of our choice – in my case, a broken candelabra – into a drawing. I decided to do mash-up of the classic children’s books, The Little Engine that Could and Jack and the Beanstalk. The drawing is done entirely in graphite pencil.

Beans exercise_sketch

‘The Hare and the Elephant’ fable: illustration of a passage

“As he passed, all the villagers exclaimed: “Look at his paws! And those ears! That’s the biggest hare we’ve ever
When he heard this, the hare turned to his friend, saying, “We can go home now! That’s settled! I’m huge and you’re tiny!”

The hare and the elephant fable

This is a passage I illustrated from the fable, ‘The Hare and the Elephant’. During the first class of an introductory illustration course at the Ottawa School of Art, our instructor had asked each student to select and illustrate a passage from this fable. All of the illustrations – some more elaborate or imaginative than others – were then collected and scanned into a single keepsake digital book, which was given to us as a souvenir at the end of the course.

My drawing was sketched and colored by hand using india ink and a quill pen initially and then watercolor paint.

Farewell to Winter and the Magic of Skating on the Canal at Night…

Farewell to ice, snow, and cold for another season and the pleasures of nighttime skating on the canal…

[Below: Hand-drawn sketch using thin Sharpie marker + charcoal. Figure in foreground then colorized using watercolor pencils and light wash. Drawing then scanned into Photoshop for background colorization and addition of whimsical moon & stars.]

Poetry in Motion: Byron meets Van Gogh along the canal…

With apologies to both Lord Byron (& the Romantic poets) and Van Gogh… BTW, can’t wait till the Van Gogh exhibit comes to the National Gallery of Canada next month! 🙂

[Below: Runner takes flight over canal – this is a mixed media illustration initially drawn with pen & ink, colored with watercolor crayons & wash, and then scanned into Photoshop to darken the lighting of the image and add some wispy white clouds to create a more dream-like ethereal feel.]

Polka dots and flowers – it must be spring…

I recently picked up this great hard-cover fashion retrospective book (Style Book by Elizabeth Walker) that showcases all these fantastic vintage photos. (The Sartorialist is another great blog for admiring street fashion – modern and vintage.) I kept noticing it in Chapters every time I would visit – which is often – and couldn’t help but pick it up each time I was in and leaf through its pages to admire my favourite photos. I finally decided to purchase it when I realized how much fun it would be to interpret some of these photos through any combination of ink, conté, charcoal, watercolor crayons, acrylic paints, or colored markers. Since I am a big fan of fashion of the 20s and 30s, it is of no surprise to me that I gravitated to all the black and white photos of that era first. I also love polka dots, especially white ones set against a navy blue background. I can remember a favourite white polka-dot and stretchy navy blue sleeveless dress that I bought back in the mid nineties from Club Monaco while I was an undergrad in Halifax. It was my ‘femme fatale’, confidence-booster dress – I can remember how it totally turned the heads of these guys I used to play basketball with when I wore it out one night… Despite the film being barely out of the 80s – my least favourite fashion period – I still love the polka-dot outfit Julia Roberts wore to the polo match in Pretty Woman. In fact, I should confess that I actually bought a similarly awesome, 3/4 length, A-line, sleeveless white polka-dot on brown background Ralph Lauren dress last spring, which I wore with a pair of strappy brown platform sandals to a meet-and-greet event; just need the white gloves and a cool hat (like the ones you find at Ogilvy’s in downtown Montreal – which I always used to try on whenever I was out shopping along St. Catherine Street) or fascinator, and I’d totally rock my inner Pretty Woman at a polo match or derby! 😉

So, the sketch below is an (India) ink drawing with a bit of white conté for the polka dots and highlights. The “Paris 1934” text is done in watercolor crayons. I also used a brush and water to add some shading. Can I just say how much I LOVE working with India ink and especially painting with it? It’s wonderful for creating texture. Anyway, the photo for this drawing was shot in 1934 and features a model wearing a polka-dot evening gown by the French designer, Jeanne Lanvin. The fluted or ruffled white collar accessory seems to pay homage to that famous of French mimes, Pierrot, and adds a nice touch of whimsy to this otherwise formal pose. Is it me, or does it almost seem like there should be a chatte noire added to the scene below, à la famous Théophile Steinlen painting (La Tournée du Chat Noir avec Rudolphe Salis)?.. Maybe not. Would probably be distracting. (I’m more of a dog-person anyway, of the non-purse variety though.)

This next sketch is also done in India ink 🙂 along with some watercolor crayons, colored conte, and a wash. It’s an interpretation of a really cool 60s photo taken in London of a model wearing what looks like an equestrian or London bobby-inspired hat in shape, whose wattage is amped up by an oversized flower power appliqué in very cool polka-dot motif. (Was this the birth of the modern-day fascinator craze?) The model looks like she could be playing a spy in an Austin Powers movie, perhaps crashing the annual garden party at Buckingham palace… Anyway, I thought the hat was really cool – I’m a total hat person and I love flowers (as long as someone else with a green thumb tends them) – and it reminded me of some of the bright flower motif stuff I would wear in high school. I was always into patterns and bright colors, but prefered to experiment more on paper (hello, Fashion Plates anyone? – best toy ever!.. OK, I think I need to go call my mom now and have her ship my old Fashion Plates set up to me…) than in the halls of high school or university classes, though I was known to pair bright pink tights with a red mini-skirt or loud flower-print skirt on occasion. I won’t get into the litany of bad fashion trends I attempted in the 80s – that will just trigger my PTSD… (Hammer pants, star earrings, neon, and Madonna – ’nuff said!..)

Like a kid in an arts & crafts candy shop…

So it’s winter and that means going downtown for general interest art classes at the Ottawa School of Art is on hiatus for another season (sigh) until the temperatures start to rise and the canal paths shed their heavy coat of ice and snow enabling the resumption of (safe) cycling. It is one such wintry Saturday afternoon that I find myself at Wallack’s curious to experiment with some new art media while also repleting some old supplies. I decide to pick up some colored conté and watercolor crayons. My natural artistic inclination (since I was a pre-schooler) is to draw, so it was of no surprise that I would gravitate towards the drawing implements! (Perhaps I also subscribe to the business aphorism for success of focusing on one’s strengths as opposed to one’s weaknesses…) I had also just completed a lifedrawing class – my first – in the fall, where we had experimented with charcoal, conté, india ink, and washes, and to my amazement, I absolutely loved the course. I have to admit, that I was a little hesitant about the idea of engaging in what I believed to be a form of voyeurism in drawing nudes, but this initial discomfort quickly disappeared when it became very apparent how comfortable everyone – model, teacher, fellow students – was. In fact, as we would gather around on our stools to watch the teacher sketch the human form on the chalk board underneath the industrial-inspired warehouse-like lighting in the clinically-white studio space, I actually imagined myself as a first year Medical student (a bit of an unrequited dream – but that’s another story…) taking her first Gross Anatomy class, albeit with a very much living and breathing specimen amidst a decidedly unconventional cohort of “Medical” students… For me, the lifedrawing class was where I could get lost – in the best sense of the word – every week. I’m referring to the kind of immersion, where you can get so into a given project that you nearly lose all track of time. Our teacher and noted visual artist, Blair Sharpe, was particularly good at balancing the teaching of concepts and fundamentals with adequate time for hands-on practice and experimentation. He was also great at reaching uber-serious types like me, adding a much needed dose of humor when the situation called for it. I would always have to suppress a smile when he would entreat the class to be free and unstructured! (Heresy!) This was Ottawa afterall, where if you weren’t a student, employed in the technology or engineering sectors, you were almost certainly a government worker, where rules and process reign supreme!.. So, in short, this class was a much needed breath of fresh air, along with getting me to step a bit outside my comfort zone. I would highly recommend the class to anyone thinking they’d like to try lifedrawing. (I should say, in the interest of full-disclosure – pun intended – I had previously taken a creative painting class with Blair, which I had really enjoyed, so I knew it was a pretty safe bet I would enjoy taking a drawing class with him. He also has a very loyal following of students, who continue to take his classes, year after year.) Aside from the pleasure of taking an art class downtown at a venerable institution like the OSA, I have to admit it was a pretty cool esthetic cycling back and forth from my apartment to the downtown along the canal, art supplies slung over my back. Often, I would be cycling under moonlight on the way back. I imagined myself as this hip, Parisian art student played by Audrey Tautou pedaling along the Seine, with that charming, whimsical music from Amelie accompanying me on my ride home…

So back to the conté and watercolor crayons… I did some experimenting and really liked the effect of the crayons! (See bowl of fruit at left – kind of Cézanne-ish, non?) They were fun and easy to use. A little easier than the conté, in fact, but I guess that doesn’t surprise me. Conté has always intimidated me a bit, for some unknown reason. I can remember being astonished at the work of a classmate back in grade 7 or 8 when we were working on individual art projects. There were several of us in the class who were recognized as having some natural artistic talent. However, one girl from our little Group of Four or Five had done this amazing rendering of Sigmund Freud in black and white conté. By contrast, I had done this colorful pastel reproduction of a windsurfer out on the ocean – quite pedestrian, by comparison. So I, introverted by temperament, but ever the one for engaging in social comparison (and its close cousin, ‘competition’) – even off the field/court, felt like I had just been served!.. So that’s why I probably stayed clear of conté for years – staying focused on perceived strengths – or maybe that’s just a euphemism for being ‘avoidant’…

So, onto the colored conté experiment now… (See left.) I decided to select a photo from a spread in a National Ballet of Canada mailing, which featured no shortage of expressive figure poses from this talented company of dancers. I settled on Noah Long and Heather Ogden in an emotionally-charged scene from Carmen. I did the original sketchwork using a black Sharpie marker, which was a bad decision, on retrospect, as this did not deliver the desired level of precision and left the figures looking a bit wooden, in my opinion. The effect from the colorizing and shading with the conté, however, was not too bad. I also applied a wash using a watercolor paintbrush. All in all, a positive experience with this previously-dreaded conté!?..

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