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Something changing around here…

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Well hello and aren’t we looking fabulous!

No surprise, I continue to be an absent blogger.  Let me assure you – it is not for lack of time spent on my craft.  I have been drawing and painting so much this year, it blows me away.  You know they say small changes can add up to big things?  I don’t have a facebook account – but I did have access to Frank’s account on my iPad.  I finally just deleted the app one day.  And suddenly I was spending less time on other forms of social media and more time getting things done.  Amazing.

And that brought me to the next step.  One of the girls whose fashion illustration blog I have followed since about 2013 posted that it was the 8 year anniversary of starting her blog.  In that time I have watched her quit her full time job, move to New York City, become managed and marketed by luxury brands and cosmetic firms worldwide, and travel – all while settling into a style uniquely her own.  It got me thinking.  While reading about it over the years it felt like something of a fairy tale, but she started that momentum on her own – no one did it for her.

I started my Etsy shop around this time last year with no idea what to do.  It’s a lot of work – there were about 10 hours put into the back end before it ever went live.  My first sale did not come until the 2017 Calendars went live.  But that first sale was to someone who follows me on Instagram – a complete stranger otherwise.  What a fantastic feeling.  I decided recently to start putting more energy, a lot more research and even more work into the Etsy store.  I have been drawing and sharing it now seriously for five years.  I’m ready to take things to the next level.

I have read about fear and what it means in various artistic professions.  One is being ridiculed or hated.  But equally highly ranked?  Being ignored.  Lucky me(?) – I’ve been ignored largely online for about five years.  That scab has healed.  So with that – time to put myself out there.  Like really out there.  This image is the new banner for the store – I’m trying to evoke the sense of magic I feel when I look at the world so often.  My about page in the shop has been updated, and Frank and I will be doing a photo shoot to end all photo shoots in the very near future to attach my face to the name behind Design by Streetlight.  In FIVE years of doing this I have managed not to have a single professional photo taken of me.  Good grief.

So that’s all for now.  Wish me luck!  Any words of support and encouragement and especially advice would be very welcome right now.

 

first rooftop sketch – and the struggle of calling myself an Urban Sketcher

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I’ve seen images such as this all over Pinterest and Instagram and was on the lookout for rooftops to try.  I was initially put off of this one because of the snow on the rooftops (see my last post!) but ultimately decided just to go for it.

Here’s the other funny thing about me (okay, like any of us have just one!).  Labels?  Really trip me up.  Totally off the sketching topic for a second, I got a new belt in capoeira last year.  When I was going up to the stage to accept it they called me Graduada Baqueta.  I’m a graduada – a graduated student.  We don’t use that as an official title in our school – others do, and I think it’s a big deal.  I’ve seen videos online of other Graduado’s/Graduada’s, and a ton of them could kick my arse in a second.  I think because of both of those I shy away from calling myself Graduada in and around capoeira.  Shouldn’t I feel like I know way more?  Can DO way more?

Transfer that over to my art.  The first three years of this blog I was doing fashion illustration.  Was I a fashion illustrator?  Maybe.  Sure.  Why not?  It didn’t bring me joy, in fact at times it was downright boring.  I can see in my own work the initial improvement and then the fall off where I fell out of love with it.  It wasn’t until the end of 2014 that I stumbled into Urban Sketchers.  All that time spend online and it took three years to stumble onto my first urban sketch.  I think it found me when it was meant to.

Urban Sketchers did start following me on Instagram at the end of 2015.  Then they started reposting my work.  I was over the moon!  My followers have grown which has caused my confidence in trying things to grow.  It’s been a positive growth relationship – until I started overthinking the title.  Urban Sketcher.  Right in their manifesto, it says you draw on site.  I’ve done that.  But not all the time.  So does that make me a fraud?  Not sure!  These rooftops.  They’re from a photo.  Sure I could find a high point in Calgary and draw some of our rooftops, but these ones are way nicer.  And this was a daunting subject to tackle! No clear perspective, angles didn’t necessarily connect to anything.  I spent hours on this and was hesitant to post it, because is it technically not an Urban Sketch if I didn’t do it on site?  Even though it is an urban scene?  Even though I did it, all alone, and brought a piece of the world to life in my own perspective?  What about drawing from photos I’ve taken?  They’re totally mine and I make them into a painting…a sketch, an urban sketch, no?  Lots of Urban Sketchers will state something was drawn on site and coloured later in the hotel.  That’s legit then, isn’t it?

Tough – for me –  to say.  I read books, so I’m a reader.  I rarely go more than two days at a stretch without drawing or painting, and if we call that doing art then I am an artist.  I do yoga several times a week, making me a yogi.  I am a capoeirista, even if the title of Graduada sits pretty heavy on my shoulders.  But an Urban Sketcher?  Even if I don’t draw on site all the time, I think I am an Urban Sketcher.  Just trying to clarify for both of us.

 

As for these rooftop sketches – they were hard, and fun, and challenging, and enlightening.  I want to try again with different cities, with different approaches to the watercolour and with integration of the colour theory I’ve been slowly but diligently trying to study.  So…there.  Urban Sketcher or not – I am giving myself permission to keep working on anything and everything that brings me joy.  And in the back of my mind – one day I will draw these from life.  One day.  Until then, there’s always that internet.

Rossland and area sketches

Christmas this year was exactly what I needed.  We headed out to Rossland to spend the week with Frank’s family – longer than we’ve ever stayed out there.  I asked for an absolute ton of reference books for Christmas – I feel like I go through bouts of enjoying fiction but then shift into learning more about illustration or my other passion – life hacking.  Sounds like an odd category, but I have loved spending hours learning about creativity, finding your purpose, financial independence, minimalism, all of it.  I keep waiting for the day I want to explore religion further but it hasn’t happened yet.  I’m okay with it.  Everything in life in due time, no?

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Snowboarding Selfie!

A little heavy for a blog post.  The lead in was really just to say in between reading new books, sleeping, trying SNOWBOARDING (loved it!) and yoga, I got out a few times to sketch on site.  Once in a coffee shop to gain some insight into people practice, and once to draw buildings.  Shari Blaukopf writes a lot about her car studio for winters in Montreal.  I’ve let winter be a hindrance before.  I did start sketching a little more on site last year, and it was a learning curve to be sure.  At first I was so nervous I would completely drop scale, then once I got over that I would overthink things.   I also had to get over feeling self conscious.  Then once it got cold it was the perfect excuse to stop…wasn’t it?  But the truth is, the more you do it, the more you want to.  There’s an unexplainable rush that comes from sketching on site once you get past that initial curve.

Rossland-1

There are two cars in this image buried completely under snow.

This first sketch was done from the car in Rossland.  Frank and his family left a few minutes behind me, I went out on my own, pulled over at the first thing to catch my eye and I started sketching.  I know Shari has said she prefers to sit in the drivers seat with her paints and equipment in the cup holder at her right hand.  I’m left handed but found the first hump for me was actually trying to angle my sketchbook around the steering wheel.  It was uncomfortable – so instead I moved to the passenger seat.  Things went much more smoothly there, but I also found I was cold enough that I stopped at the base sketch, retreating to the warmth of the house to do later ink and watercolour.

The unexpected upside of this exercise though, is that it made me look more at all of my surroundings.  Things you’d normally dismiss or even find unattractive are suddenly calling to you.  A view down the road that you once would have said was way too much is all the sudden so appealing.  There’s a quote about this.

“How strange painting is, it delights us with representations of objects that are not pleasing in themselves” – Eugene Delacroix

Right he is.

Warfield-in-December

my version of magic

This painting was my favourite.  I did have to do it  from a reference photo – it was the day we headed back to Calgary.  We stopped in at a friends house to drop off a package and I was sitting in the passenger seat of a very packed car, staring at the road in front of me.  It was magical.  The photo I took, when I went back to look two days later, was not.  But I could remember that feeling from before, and so I persevered.  I was really happy with the result.

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my reference photo. slightly less magic, no?

And here’s my last bout of sketches from the trip.  To be honest this was from a mashup of photos I took of houses around Rossland.  Frank asked me once what I was looking for that would draw me to a house and I couldn’t give him a definitive answer.  I just know when I see it.  What I DO love about Rossland is that the houses are not uniform – there’s so much variety, clearly no architectural controls, and a lot of stuff is built into the side of the mountain so there is rarely a flat surface for any extended stretch of  the road.

Rossland-2

The other big thing to point out – I just got over fear of painting snow in the last little while.  It was this mental block.  How do you paint a colour that isn’t there?  No idea.  My solution has been an exercise in fun and I can continue to tweak colours on it later, which I likely will.  But it’s to start with a wash of water and then to drop in purple and blue around the edges where I feel the weight of the snow would fall.

So that’s it for now!  Hope you enjoy it.

 

 

 

working on colour

color wheel

Practicing my colour wheel this morning, and mixing colours into greys. I have a lot to learn – and step one is memorizing that wheel.

You know when you start to get that feeling creeping up that you’ve been doing something all wrong?  I just realized I have been doing that with Pinterest.  I’ve been idly scanning my way through the main page for years, pinning things as they came to me.  Last night I decided to scroll through my own pins in a moment of boredom.  And stumbled on an article about tricks with watercolour, which led me to an entire blog about architectural rendering in watercolour.  Oh.  Look at that.  I even had the foresight (go me!) to have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to Illustration References.  What do you think that board was doing?  Aside from collecting internet dust it has an absolute ton of tutorials for me, just waiting there.

books

I asked for a number of books for Christmas and the one I’m currently puzzling through is Betty Edwards “Colour: A course in mastering the art of mixing colours”.  It’s a good one.  I actually remember using her first big book, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” in high school.  It’s a really well written book, as is the new colour book.  It is fascinating to learn new things as an adult.  But I have to keep taking breaks to let it sink into my brain, and to do some experimenting with my own paints as she more or less insists on.  And the insights I’ve gained so far  - wow!  Just this morning I mixed two colors that have already been sitting in my palette all this time.  I can safely remove the pre-mixed ones to make room for other colours I’ve been missing.  I also washed and reorganized my palette – see?

old palette

I really believed in my ‘Make Messy’ mantra last year.

I laughed out loud at myself doing this.  I didn’t want to use soap because I don’t want to affect my painting area – it drives me crazy when colours pool but won’t spread.  I used Q-tips to get into the corners of the mixing area where old colours were stored.  Normally I leave my mixed colours on my palette, allowing them to dry there for later re-use.  I suspect I’ll keep this habit up as I feel it lends consistency to my paintings.

I don’t think I ever changed it out of the order it came in.  Then last year I met a very nice dude named Ernest in our one sketching encounter together and he was very kind to give me a small palette of 8 artists grade watercolours. Cue #2 on what i was missing out on.  Other than my travel palette I have not bought new paints for myself ever, really.  I’m using tubes my mom gave me as a Christmas gift when I was 17.  Yes, they’ve lasted half my lifetime.  But they must have been student grade paints – artists grade, I have learned, pack the pigment much looser so it takes a lot less water to wake up the colours in the palette.  I’m still learning my way through this though – the first time I tried using just the artists grade colours, the brightness damn near scared me away :)  I was juggling two palettes for a few months, which did not fit comfortably at all into my travel kit, but finally had the insight to combine both palettes.  Lightbulb moment, I tell you…

new palette

Feels a little naked in here!

But back to that palette reorg.  Before they were more or less just plugged in where I thought they fit.  Now I’m trying to follow the colour wheel while making sure that complementary colours are across from each other.  Let yellow fade to browns, purple into reds, and make sure purple is across from yellow.   There were a few duplicate colours I took out, although side note – Burnt Sienna is very different across brands, and in this case I actually really prefer my Windsor & Newton one!  I’ve added in a proper violet as well as Prussian blue, and there is a blank yellow pan waiting for Naples Yellow.   I have seen other artists use it and really love it’s warmth.

cleaning out

Cleaning out (read: agonizing over) blues and reds. Note those brown boxes in the bottom – the two on the RIGHT are actually the same colour!

 

I really want to integrate more colour theory into my works this year.  I found one image on this guy’s blog – check out those tree trunks.  They’re mostly yellow fading into purple, no brown or grey in sight.  Amazing what our brains are just hard wired to see after awhile, huh?

Akers rendering

Illustration by James Akers. This guy knows a lot more than I do.

 

As a side note, Frank had a good laugh at my expense this morning.  One of the other books I asked for this Christmas was the Marie Kondo book “The Life Changing method of Tidying up”.  I went on a three day house purge following that and I still feel refreshed and lightened from it.  Yet, here I was this morning, just agonizing over removing one of my four shades of red to replace it with purple.  Frank said it was almost tweet-worthy that I could throw out half of my clothing without second thought – but remove one red from a colour palette and I was just frozen.  I guess it does let me know where my priorities are these days. :)

 

 

 

 

my Christmas Card

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I wasn’t sure if I’d get one finished this year – after working on those Calendar months to finish up the 2017 DBSL Calendar my eye was tuned to look for more complicated scenes.  The past few weeks have run along at a pretty insane clip if I am to be honest.  In any event, I came home last Tuesday and gave myself an hour on the couch to relax.  I was looking up at a set of older paintings from 2014 that are hanging on our living room wall and thought of one of them, I could re-do that one in a Christmas theme.  So that’s exactly what I did.  It was a nice small piece to get me back to sketching again too.

I’m about to start my last week of work for the year.  This Friday we head to Rossland to be with Frank’s family for Christmas.  I’m looking forward to the time away, for the change in routine and time to work on hobbies.  I asked for several new sketching books for Christmas and have visions of hours tucked in reading through new books and working on new sketches.

I have a few goals for my art in place for 2017 – hopefully there will be some fat pockets of time to start exploring some of them in the coming weeks.

Happy holidays, I hope for anyone reading that you have some slower periods these next few weeks to enjoy some time to yourself!