December Sketches (Sketch With Me!)

Officially closed out NaNoWriMo at 58,504 words. No, I didn’t make 70,000, but I’m still writing. And forget NaNoWriMo; it’s December. As usual, I’m trying to sketch every day of December, for a total of 31 sketches. I haven’t actually finished the challenge yet, but perhaps this third year will be the one!

I haven’t done my Dec. 1st sketch yet, but here’s the self-portrait I made yesterday. It’s my third annual Monday After Thanksgiving Self Portrait. A little less relevant since I didn’t actually get a day off for Thanksgiving, and also Monday was still in November this year, but what can you do?

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.40.39 PM

You can find my 2013 portrait is here, and the 2014 portrait here.

And, calling all artists, are you looking for a challenge? How about 31 sketches in 31 days this December? Join us! You can post sketches to your blog, and we also have a facebook group for posting sketches and encouragement. Just search for the closed group December Sketch-a-Day Challenge and request to join. Hope to see your sketches!

A New Painting

I could spend a lot more time perfecting this painting, but I’ve been working on it off and on for almost a year now. I need to move on. It’s a set piece with Vanya and Taniel, Wanderlust main characters. I painted in black and white because my book illustrations are black and white, but it’s not an illustration of any specific scene. Click the image if you’d like to see it a little larger.

VanyaTanielNewNewEarth

This is a digital painting created in Adobe Photoshop. Comments and constructive criticism are very welcome. Everything’s still a learning process, and I’ve discovered since graduating that I have a very hard time finishing anything without deadlines. Part of this is that I’m still figuring out my style, and how far to polish things while retaining a sketchy and loose quality to the work. Still figuring out whether the sketchiness is a choice, rather than a lack of skill or inability to take an image to the level I would like to achieve. At any rate, I think I’d learn a lot more by completing pieces and then making more work, rather than by agonizing over a very few pieces that never reach completion. I hope that “finishing” this piece, and sharing it here, is a step in the right direction.

People have told me they enjoy seeing my rough work, so here are a few in-progress pics for the above completed image:

First, I sketched this sketch and decided I liked it:Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 11.49.03 AM

 

Originally, I wanted a futuristic city-scape for the background (I’d been watching a lot of Doctor Who, okay?):

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 10.50.54 AM

Then I started using photos of myself for anatomy reference. Someday this will be the first step, instead of the oh-crap-I’ve-already-started-drawing-and-now-that-I’ve-spent-three-hours-on-this-pose-I-realize-it’s-not-anatomically-possible step.

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 10.52.18 AM

Suddenly clouds, more anatomy reference for Vanya, and All The Trouble In The World with that face. I used a de-colorized still from a Studio Ghibli film for reference while working on the clouds.Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 10.55.37 AM

I decided the city was way too much trouble, but still wanted to keep the blimps. Face is getting there.

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 10.59.29 AM

And nearly there. Goodbye blimps, hello castle.

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 11.01.46 AM

And the rest is mostly lighting and finishing. Scroll back up for the [as] finished [as it’s going to get right now] piece!

Vanya Snapshot: High School Chorus

This is a behind-the-scenes post. It gives away more of Vanya’s past than I am usually comfortable sharing—but I really wanted to share it anyway. I will be especially grateful for your thoughts in the comments section today.

I attended a high school music concert a few nights ago that featured middle school and high school chorus and band. There was one very small, skinny kid in the High School Chorus with a mop of dark brown hair that completely obscured his eyes when he looked down, although when he looked up he smiled a bright smile. From far away, he didn’t look like a high school freshman; he could have been eight. And he reminded me of Vanya.

A sketchy-sketch of how Vanya may have looked at 15, all dressed up for his high school concert and staring down at his shoes.

A sketchy-sketch of how Vanya may have looked at 15, all dressed up for his high school concert and staring down at his shoes.

Vanya left home when he was fifteen, just a few months into his freshman year of high school. While listening to this concert, I wondered how Vanya’s experience with the high school music program might have gone during the short time he was there. I like to imagine the school was large enough to have a pedal harp sitting around somewhere that Vanya played in the orchestra, which went fairly well because he sat in the back, and hid behind the giant instrument. But how about that chorus concert?

He probably wouldn’t have auditioned for the big solo. He probably would have known that he couldn’t handle that kind of commitment and pressure. But what if the kid who did get the solo was sick on the day of the show? Or drunk? Maybe Vanya saved the day, and sang that solo so perfectly that the audience cried and cheered. Maybe afterwards, they tried to tell him how beautiful he was, all of them, parents and teachers and classmates, crowding around him and shouting congratulations at him in the hallway after the show, overwhelming him with so much praise and admiration that he couldn’t breathe. Maybe that’s when he ran. Or maybe… maybe he did audition for the big solo. Maybe he sang it so perfectly at the audition that the director awarded it to him with hardly any deliberation at all, and the choice was so obvious that even the slighted upperclassmen couldn’t be angry. And when the big night came, maybe he just couldn’t do it. Maybe Vanya showed up drunk, or ran away right before they drew the curtain, and instead of his angelic voice the audience heard only silence, and the whispered confusion of a high school choir that had depended on that beautiful, blonde-haired boy. Either way it happened, I like to think his mother found him hours later in a McDonald’s parking lot, sitting on the wood chips beneath a strangled-looking tree and kicking his heels against the curb. She convinced him to get in the car, and when she saw the wet tears on his cheek she prayed that the Blessed Virgin Mary would help her console her son, even though she’d never understood him. She’d known she would find him that night because his harp was still at the house. If she knew a single thing about her strange and alien child, it was this: on the day he left her forever, he would have that harp at his side.

Painting

Oof—it’s been a little while since I posted. Happy New Year! I hope you all had a delightful celebration and that you’re looking forward to a happy and productive 2013. I don’t have any New Years resolutions, and I’m okay with that. I do have goals; they’re the same goals I worked on in 2012 and, in 2013, I plan to keep on working.

My life has temporarily veered rather sharply off its usual course, which both refreshing and fun. I am house-sitting for some family friends while they are out of town, and also hanging out with their fifteen-year old son and making sure he gets to and from all his sporting events and other commitments. My duties include feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, feeding the dog, and keeping the wood stove running. Most importantly, for another whole week I get to hang out in this house on a mountain and write. By next Saturday, I plan to have made significant progress on this draft of my novel. I’ll keep you updated.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a fun thing I meant to share about a week ago. Last Saturday, Brackett (whom you may recall from the Sandy Hook NJ adventure), Brother, and I had a game day at our house. We also did a gift exchange, and Brackett got me a set of Acrylic paint and some canvases. They are so much fun to play with after working on the computer for so long! After spending an entire afternoon playing Middle Earth Quest (Sauron won, alas) we all took a paint break. Here are the results!

First, mine:

Acrylic on canvas, 4x6"

Acrylic on canvas, 4×6″

The boys decided it should be hung on a restroom door instead of a gender sign, just to see what people would do.

Next, Brackett’s:

BrackettPaint

Acrylic on canvas, 4×6″

All abstract-expressionist, with a Jupiter sort of vibe.

And finally Brother’s:

BrotherPaint

Acrylic on canvas, 4×6″

He was channeling Bob Ross. And you thought I was the artist in the family!

I did my smaller canvas in about 30 seconds, so I got out a larger one and spent the rest of the time on this painting of Vanya, which is still unfinished:

UnfinishedVanya

Acrylic on canvas, 8.5×11

Originally I was going to put Taniel in the other half of the painting, but then his proportions were all wonky so I painted him out. I’m getting into the dark forest as a secondary focal point now (I can put more detail in it and make it all creepy and stuff), but what do you think? Any suggestions for how I should finish this painting?

I Can’t Get Away From The Wolves

That’s what it feels like, anyway. I’m slogging through Wanderlust Chapter Nine. My heroes are exhausted; tired and aching and scared, already nearing the limit of their endurance, and that’s when the wolves attack. My boys have to find a way to save themselves so they can travel on and complete their quest. My task is much easier. I just have to fix all the sentences, tune up the dramatic pacing, and use the perfect words to describe how it all goes down. I’ve been thinking about it all day, I’ve been working on it on and off, and somehow I’ve barely made any progress at all. My characters feel tired and stupid in this scene (I’m at the part right before the “oh-god-I’m-being-chased-by-WOLVES” adrenaline kicks in) and I feel tired and stupid as I’m writing it. The only good part about this scenario is that, at least, we’re in it together.

When I sat down to my manuscript after a week or so off and looked at my characters’ names, I got a momentary case of the giddies. Like when you’re walking down the street and you unexpectedly see that guy you have a crush on, or when you’re watching that television show and that one character you just can’t get enough of walks on the screen. Vanya and Taniel, I read. Ooh, squealed something inside of me. Really? I get to write about these guys?!

So the wolves are attacking. I’m tired and grumpy, and I want to know when we’re getting out of this stupid chapter. Are we there yet? But I’m on the journey. I’m in the book. I’m working on it—and that’s so much better than the alternative.

-Grace Out

P.S. I’d love to hear about your own projects in the comments section. How often do you remember your excitement for your characters? Would you rather be involved with a project, and frustrated, than not working on it at all? How did you get away from the wolves?

DarkWolfMakley

The Dark Wolf © Grace Makley. Watercolors, some editing in Photoshop.

Taniel

Sketch of TanielA stylized sketch.

Taniel is one of the main characters from my upcoming novel, Wanderlust. His face is a little too thin here, and he looks slightly elven—no doubt a result of my current Tolkien kick.

I believe I’ve posted the most drawings of Vanya, the blonde one, and spent more time talking about Vanya than Taniel in this space. I did create Vanya first, and he is exceptionally dear to me—but Vanya never worked as a character until he had Taniel. Vanya is a sort of mysterious man-child, a wandering waif with a harp. This works as an archetype, as an idea, but in terms of story he needs someone to engage with. Wanderlust is written in very limited third person, and we see the whole story through the eyes of Taniel. Taniel’s thoughts provide readers with an access point to Vanya, and to the story. He is Vanya’s sine qua none; without him, Vanya could not function as a character and, indeed, Vanya could never embark on the adventure of a lifetime that is chronicled in Wanderlust. They didn’t know it, but before they met each other both Vanya and Taniel were waiting for their lives to begin.

And there, I’ve talked about him all in terms of Vanya again. It’s a little inescapable, as they both exist for each other. Yet who is Taniel?

He is a band manager when the story begins, having turned to the business side of music when he decided early on that he didn’t have what it takes to become a professional musician. He has worked very hard for a very long time, and most of his life centers around work. He doesn’t have very many friends. He is health-conscience, rule-abiding, and something of a scholar. Though prone to panic and quick bursts of anger, he has always felt most comfortable with himself when he has someone else to take care of. He is an orator, a dreamer, and a teller of stories, but he was forced to be practical very early in life, and he needs the influence of Vanya to re-discover his creativity and appreciation for the beauty and magic of the world.

Does that whet your appetite? Knowing this much about Taniel, would you pick up my book and read more?

“Work When Others Are Resting”

This is one of 9 pieces of advice from artist David Jon Kassan, posted by a former professor on a Facebook Group for Illustration Students along with a link to Kassan’s website. The list also includes, “Do more than what you are told to do,” “Take lots of breaks,” and “Love what you do or just don’t do it.”

Work when others are resting.

I love this maxim, because it’s not saying, “Do not rest.” It’s also not saying, “Do not go out when the air is bright and your friends are calling and the time has come to raise a glass and shout because you’re alive and the world is beautiful.” Rather, it is a gentle invitation from your work, from your vocation. It is a soft whisper from that which you love, saying, Find me in the liminal spaces. Come to me when the house is quiet, and we can be alone.

Figure drawing January 30th, 2011. Adobe Photshop. Copyright © Grace Makley (me).

 

More Sketches

Source photo from Anatomy for the Artist by Sarah Simblet. Drawn from observation entirely in Adobe photoshop on Tuesday (23 October 2012).

I didn’t draw on Wednesday (I did hike five miles and write some things!) but as a warm-up on Tuesday I worked on a sketch of Taniel to go with the glam sketch of Vanya I posted last week. I even fixed it up a bit today; if you think the eyes are funky now you should have seen them before!Several things wrong here; mostly it’s an example of why I’m doing more work from observation.

Happy Thursday!

David Triumphant

I found a boy with a harp, so I drew him.

It’s a David, of course, from the David and Goliath story. I didn’t have as much time to draw as I should have liked, but what can you do? Here’s a photo of the sculpture:

Thomas Crawford (artist)
American, 1814 – 1857
David Triumphant, model 1845/1846, carved 1848
marble and bronze
height: 114.3 cm (45 in.)

Source: http://www.nga.gov/

I arrived back in Maine at 8 am this morning after traveling through the night via Greyhound Bus. I have so much enjoyed my trip to North Carolina and DC, and I’ve had so many diverse experiences in the last two weeks. With any luck I’ll get to writing about them in the next few days, on the off chance you’re getting tired of all these pictures. 🙂

-G

Woman at a Window

 

 

Sketch from yesterday, at the National Gallery of Art. It’s of a woman in a Spanish painting.

 The Original:

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (artist)
Spanish, 1617 – 1682
Two Women at a Window, c. 1655/1660
oil on canvas

Image Source: http://www.nga.gov

 

As I worked, I had a sudden, shocking moment where I looked at my sketch and thought I was looking in a mirror. I didn’t realize when I started, but I this woman looks a lot like me!