As children, many of us spent countless happy hours drawing and painting. Over time, though, we stopped; maybe the demands of work and family crowded out such time-consuming pursuits, or perhaps the art supplies were too expensive, or possibly we just didn't feel talented enough to pursue creative but unprofitable endeavors. But some of us eventually start thinking about picking up the pencil or brush again -- feeding our inner Monet or Norman Rockwell, as it were -- except we don't know where to start.
If that describes your situation, this post is for you.
Russell Stutler* is a long-time itinerant artist in Japan ... well, sort of. He actually has a nice home and family and a day job, so he's not a true vagabond. But whenever he heads out, he totes his portable art studio so he can indulge his artistic Jones wherever he goes -- to the park, on the train, in restaurants ... wherever.
And Russ spends his weekends and other time off wandering about the Land of the Rising Sun and creating remarkable works of art. (Click on sketches to enlarge.)
"That's very nice," you say. "But what's it got to do with me?" Well, as it happens, Russ has put together an online book for others interested in kindling their own artistic dreams. You can get it here.
And it's free!
Granted, getting the supplies from your local art supply store will set you back a bit, but you don't need every brush and pen in the book. And you can make many of the items yourself and buy others relatively cheaply, if you have a little time and motivation.
The book has 16 lessons:
2 Tools and Materials: pencils, pen and ink
3 Tools and Materials: brush and ink
4 Tools and Materials: waterbrushes, watercolors, sketch kits
5 Tools and Materials: making a plastic palette
6 Tools and Materials: sketchbooks, postcards, ATC and ACEO
7 Tools and Materials: Moleskines, digital sketching, stools, hats
8 Where, when and what to sketch: sitting or standing, the weather
9 Where, when and what to sketch: spectators, family trips, public
10 Where, when and what to sketch: subject matter, famous landmarks,
mountain and valley subjects
11 How to sketch: jump right in or preliminary sketch
12 How to sketch: fill your sketchbook
13 How to sketch: continuous line drawing, squinting, beauty of line
14 How to sketch: using a waterbrush, imagination, coloring later
15 How to sketch: lighting, adding text, failures
16 A sketch demonstration
As this table of contents reflects, Russ's book covers everything from different types of art media ...
to pencil and paper selection ...
to making your own portable watercolor kit ...
to how to hold a brush pen ...
to what you should wear when out doing your art thing (hey, Russ is a working artist, not a fashionista).
In addition to Russ's advice and instruction, the book provides links throughout to other Internet resources and contains all sorts of useful information. I'm the type that likes to see how things are made, so I particularly enjoyed the sketch demonstration of an ancient shrine in a park near Russ's home.
As he explains the process, "First I made a rambling scribble in pencil on a cheap pocket sketchbook to get a feel for the subject. (Click on sketches to enlarge.)
"I had already penciled in some borders in my sketchbook. This makes a nicer finished product, and also gives me margins to rest my hand without smudging the sketch. I lightly penciled in the basic shapes, referring to both the subject in front of me as well as the small pencil scribble I made."
"Then I drew the main outlines in ink. In this case, I used a Kuretake brush pen filed with waterproof carbon ink. I decided that the right part of the subject had too much dead space, so rather than redraw the pencil underdrawing, I just moved the right border in closer."
"I then went back in and added some details and hatching in the really dark areas."
"I was standing ... holding everything in my left hand. The watercolor box lid doubles as an easel. The color swatches are on the small pocket notebook that also holds the trial sketch. There's even a tissue paper in my hand for wiping the waterbrush."
"Then I laid in light washes to establish what the basic color areas would be. I used a waterbrush with my limited palette of 9 colors."
"I took the sketch home in its unfinished state... I then finished painting the sketch, adding more ink lines as needed. I let the sketch itself (rather than the subject) tell me how to proceed and what to emphasize.... Many of my sketches have been taken so far along that some people would say they are no longer sketches, but 'on-the-spot ink and watercolor drawing/paintings' done in a sketchbook. That's a lot of words, so I prefer to call them sketches. There are very few rules in art, so you are free to make up your own -- and to see if you can convice other artists that yours are the real rules. Good luck on the second part."
I love this drawing, particularly after seeing the process that created it. And the rest of the book is fascinating too; I highly recommend it. Here's the link. But beware: it might just re-infect you with the drawing bug!
*My older brother.
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