Thursday, January 16, 2014

Windows and Doors in Santa Fe

Last May I had the chance to go on an art department field trip with a group of students and faculty from the illustration, photography, and studio art areas.  We drove in a convoy of giant vans down to Arizona and New Mexico to visit a bunch of both scenic area and art galleries to get inspiration.  The goal of the trip was for each person to create a book or zine based on the things they saw on the trip.  We did a lot of sketching and photographing of the landscapes and the people we saw.

We also did a lot of driving in the vans.  A LOT.  I was almost six months pregnant at the time, and I was so sick for approximately 75% of the trip...
 Good times.  It was a very neat experience though.  We went to Canyon DeChelly in northern Arizona, where there are ruins of ancient cliff dwellings.  So cool! and I forgot my camera.  The hike down into the canyon itself is amazing and beautiful. The trail is half carved into the side of the red-rock cliff and half sculpted by the river as the canyon was formed.

From there we traveled to Santa Fe to explore the town and visit a lot of art galleries on (I forget the name of the street), specifically one where one of the faculty, Joe Ostraff, was opening a show with some of his work.  It was very cool, lots of paintings and sculpture, a lot of southwestern-themed stuff obviously, but not entirely.  I scoured some of the galleries for all the free postcards I could find.  One of my favorite places had a big garden of wind sculptures and fountains outside that were lovely all moving in the breeze.

I found myself taking lots of pictures of doors and window frames, because in Santa Fe EVERYTHING is made of orange stucco and then everyone paints their windows and doors blue or turquoise, because they look great together, and I guess I liked it too.  Eventually I decided to focus on that in my exploration, and that's what I ended up painting when we got back.  We also took a day trip to some other towns and to an old, old church in the middle of nowhere called El Santuario De Chimayo.  The church has a basin of red dirt that supposedly has miraculous healing properties, and people come from all over to visit and take a bit of the dirt.  It was a very cool place.  And on the way home we went to Goblin Valley.

When we got back I worked on a series of small gouache paintings to be put into a book for the show.  It took a while, between working, moving to Boston, and having a baby, so I was glad to get them done before the show went up!  I was delighted to be working in gouache again after all my senior year had been painting with oils (or digital).  

Now my little book is up in Gallery 303 in the Fine Arts Center at BYU!  There are lots of other book projects from some other trips too, and they are very cool.  It was neat to see what each person focused on as they made their own project.  It was a great trip.  I am also proud of myself for having multiple paintings in a show 3 months after having a baby.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Very Favorite Pen

My favorite tool is the Bic four-colored retractable ballpoint pen.  I first got one as a present in my high school seminary class. Every kid has had one of those multi-tip novelty pens that writes in like 17 different neon colors and you unscrew the case to write with all the tips at once; you know what I'm talking about. So I didn't think much of this particular pen at first. After all, it only had four colors.

I rediscovered it when I took Chemistry my second year of college. It came in handy for taking notes since, being a visual person, it helped a lot to color-coordinate descriptions versus equations, and diagrams of ions versus isotopes. Eventually I was taking all my class notes in four colors, and actually it really helped to keep my thinking organized. But I was still sketching in pencil for the erasability, though as time went on and I got into the habit of carrying my sketchbook with me everywhere, it got excessively smudgy. Also, I had heard the advice that if you sketch in pen, you pay much more attention to the process and take more care with it, which is true. If all your marks are preserved, you pay more attention to the marks you're making. At the same time you learn not to get too attached to the sketch phase, because it won't turn out perfect, but you can get your ideas out and work through the problems before going on to a more precise drawing. For a while I tried sketching with fine-tip black gel-type pens that I'd used for linework, and I could do some cool things, but they were too bold and not as flexible as I like for sketching.

Eventually, under the influence of my friend Hannah, who does some amazing things with a ball point pen, I tried sketching with just the basic black Bics that you can always find lying around. (Side note: this is the same friend who once gave me a complete henna tattoo on my arm, during a digital illustration class in the computer lab. We had lots of fun in that class...) I had realized from watching her that you can actually get a pretty good range of value and shading if you're careful, and the ink smudges just enough to create a smooth finish if you want it (though your fingers will end up covered in ink). You can do some cool things with line and texture too. And (after a few minutes anyway) your drawings won't smudge every time you turn a page!

It wasn't a huge step from there to drawing with my four-colored pen since I always had it with me anyway. I found that it was great for practicing more exploratory sketching, because I could draw with the green tip and sketch a few shapes, then go over with the blue tip once I had something I liked, then finish off with a solid black outline when I knew where I wanted to end up. Now I like to draw in just four colors and see what kind of look I can create. It's interesting to have just enough range to convey light and shadow, warmth and coolness, without a full complement of colors. And I find that I like having all the different colors in my sketches if I go to paint them in Photoshop later. A little bit of green in just the edges of a face can add a neat look, and I would never have thought to put it there on purpose.

Now the four-color Bic is my favorite tool for pretty much everything. I color code my shopping lists, doodle multi-colored knots, draw red flowers with green leaves over and over again... I highly recommend it for every endeavor. Color all the things!