Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Foggy with a chance of snow

Not much art happening for me lately as I have been busy with homeschooling and free-lance work. Hopefully the next few days will offer me more art time. The photo above was taken about mid-morning from our back deck. This is also what it looked like here yesterday. All day. And now today. Snow may be coming too. yippee. So for a little bit of color I tried this quiz that I saw over on Paula Pertile's blog, Drawing a Fine Line.

Well, maybe I'm not so colorful after all.

Your rainbow is shaded violet.

What is says about you: You are a creative person. You appreciate beauty and craftsmanship. You are patient and will keep trying to understand something until you've mastered it.

Find the colors of your rainbow at

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Sound (study)
4.5 x 6.5 inches
colored pencil on paper
©Ann Thompson Nemcosky

This is a study for a possible larger work, to perhaps become a series of pieces. I did this one on the back side of Fabranio 140lb hot press. I was trying to avoid the texture on the front of the paper by drawing on the back, but the texture is still visible anyway. Some things about this paper really appeal to me but because I am considering a series I want to be sure I will be satisfied with the surface for the duration.

I am eagerly awaiting an order of museum board, as I am going to give that a try too. One of my favorite colored pencil artists, Bet Borgeson, recommends Rising Museum Board in her book, Colored Pencil for the Serious Beginner. In the end I may go back to Stonehenge, but I have to try them all out first, just to be sure. I always do have a heck of a time making decisions. Hubby says it's fun to watch me try though.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


4.5 x 6.5 inches
graphite on paper
©Ann Thompson Nemcosky
Click here to buy

The other day while I was doing some planning (procrastinating) for a series of works I would like to do, I was researching (wasting time I could have used to draw) visiting other art blogs. So I stopped by the Virtual Sketch Date blog to see what was happening there for this month. Finding this interesting image by Jeanette Jobson submitted for the month of January, I decided to give it a try. And doing this piece helped to get me out of my rut and got me thinking of even more ideas for developing a series. Actually more than one series, but you'll just have to wait to see how that unfolds. I had been wanting to do some drawings in graphite again, and this was just the push I needed.

Friday, January 16, 2009

We call it a . . .

Yes, I am behind on my Everyday Matters drawing challenges. I have kept up with doing them, just not with posting. So rather than bore you with the ones I have neglected to post, I am jumping to the current challenge, #206, "We call it a . . . " which in this case is called a "mess" of beans. I used watercolor and watercolor pencils in my landscape journal. So what is a "mess"? I'll tell you how I learned just how much a "mess" of something actually is.

Hubby and I bought our first house here in this southern mountain community in an older neighborhood right in town. Most of our neighbors were "locals". In these parts, one is only considered local if you can trace your family back at least six generations or more living in this particular county. If not, then you are "not from around here". Our "local" neighbors were quite friendly, most were much older than us, and always ready to offer help and advice to this new young couple from parts unknown living in their neighborhood.

Now, in this town, gardening is a competitive sport. Maybe because the summers are so short and summer temperatures can be rather cool. And maybe because we tend to get a good deal of rain in the summer months and have hard, rocky clay soil. Gardening can be challenging, to say the least. Every spring one of our neighbors would bring in his tractor from his farm and plow over a large plot in the lot next to our back yard. There he would plant neat rows of corn, some beans and cucumbers, and a few tomato plants. He also plowed a smaller section for another neighbor, Mrs. W., where she would plant her corn, beans, and cucumbers. Our first spring in that house this kindly neighbor plowed a section of our backyard for us so we, too, could begin a garden. I know these neighbors were privately laughing when they spied us building a series of square raised beds in that newly plowed plot and then consulting our treasured copy of All New Square Foot Gardening
to plan our planting for our vegetable garden. So obviously were we "not from around here".

During the summers we watched our garden of raised beds produce an abundance of wonderful vegies and would often chat with these neighbors over our by then constructed backyard fence about the trials of growing tomatoes and how best to get rid of the ever present slugs. Mrs. W. would often mention that she had spent an afternoon picking a "mess" of beans or corn from her small plot. I always assumed a "mess" meant 'a lot' and nodded impressively over the success of her growing season. Until one day she said that she had worked so hard picking two "messes" of beans. Then I was stumped. I had to ask, "so how much is a 'mess'?" Knowing she was amused by my non-local ignorance she told me that a "mess" was enough for a pot full, for one family meal. So that was cleared up. And now you know too.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

So what about it?

August Tree Study
colored pencil on Stonehenge
4.5 x 6.5 inches
©Ann Thompson Nemcosky

Working from photographs, that is. In my last post I talked a little about the value of drawing from life. But there is that other method, drawing from photographs, that is often talked about with embarrassment, if mentioned at all. Well, I am here to say that yes, of course I work from photographs as well as drawing from life. Many of my ACEOs are drawn from life. And my sketchbook works are almost always done from life. But for finished colored pencil pieces I always work from photographs.

There are many advantages to working from a photo. I think the problem lies in works that try to only duplicate the photograph. These become more about exercises in skillful rendering than anything to do with making art.

Anyway, how do I use photographs to my advantage when making a colored pencil piece? The first, and most important criteria for me, is that it must be a photo that I have taken. With landscape imagery I need to feel a connection to the place. I have to have been there, experiencing that scene first hand. Once I have a photo I want to develop into a colored pencil work, I adjust it in Photoshop. This allows me to quickly play with various crops for format and composition. I also play around with adjusting the contrast, color and saturation of color. These are all my decisions that will influence the final piece. When I have something that I am satisfied I can work from, I print out my reference. Once the drawing begins I rarely stick exactly to the reference photo. Sometimes the photo is just a mere suggestion, a starting place.

With that in mind, when I take photographs while out and about, I usually don't care too much about the composition of the photo itself. I know I will be editing out stuff, cropping, etc., when it comes time to actually use the photo, if I use it at all. And sometimes the photograph is just a really bad photo, but there may be an element there that appeals to me, so I'll work with just that. Like in the example above. This is a study for a possibly larger work, to try out color combinations and what support to use. On the left here you see my very poor photo reference that I used to make this drawing. And this photo reference is cropped out of a larger scene from an equally not so interesting photo. I may or may not try another composition from this photo. But my drawing will probably look a bit different than the photograph anyway.

So how do you use photography in the creation of your art work? I would love to hear from others about this.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sketchbooks and blogging

watercolor sketch in Moleskine watercolor journal

Today is my last day of winter break before kiddo and I return to our homeschool routine. So I am spending the day trying to tidy up any loose ends, finish up or at least organize ongoing projects, and generally just mentally preparing myself for our back-to-school routine. I have nearly finished reading Danny Gregory's latest book, An Illustrated Life, and wow - what an inspiration it is. I was struck by an observation from the artist, Paul Madonna, who said, ". . . sketching is like stretching. It helps you to stay loose."

You know I have mentioned before the value of sketching from life, and this phrase really nailed it for me. Doing all these little Everyday Matters sketches and all the other scribbling I put into my sketchbooks has this effect of helping me learn to see, and translate what I see from the three-dimensional world onto the two dimensional surface of a sketchbook page. You just can't get there from copying a photograph. It's more about being in the moment and learning to focus. And so when I do sit down with my photo reference to work on a more finished color pencil piece, what I have gained from all this scribbling and splashing watercolor around is a better understanding of color and form. I have already done the warm-up stretching.

You may have noticed that I did a bit of housekeeping on this blog. Sometimes I suffer a little angst over what exactly I want this blog to be about. It really has so little focus what with finished colored pencil art, ACEOs, sketchbook and family stuff. For now I have decided that all of that is okay with me, because it is all a part of my artistic process. I respect the wisdom of those who keep their blogs more on task, so to speak, but I feel this is more of an informal format for discussing my artistic journey. I added the little 'following thingy', which is kind of fun. But I still find myself just going through my bookmarks when I go blog hopping. I also added that blog roll thing. I thought that was pretty nifty when I started seeing it on other peoples' blogs. The problem with mine is that I have so many blogs to include. So I set it to just show 10 and then you can click to expand the list. I probably left off some that I had before, so I'll be working on putting those back in. And that's another thing, my criteria for adding links to other blogs. They are chosen because there is something about the work or the writing or both that inspires me in some way. I am not into screening for a particular perceived quality of work, level of professionalism, genre of art, or whatever. I have chosen these because they have a spirit for creativity that pushes me along when I visit there. I had thought about organizing them somehow into categories but aside from all the work of doing that, there are many that simply don't fit neatly into one category. So it's a very organic, eclectic list. And the other new item is that you now get a photo of me in the 'About Me' box. How about that.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Last week's Everyday Matters drawing challenge was to draw something frosty. Here is my effort, a box of frozen spinach. It was the first frosty thing I spotted when I opened the freezer looking for a subject for this drawing challenge. What else do I do with frozen spinach besides try to get its likeness in watercolor? At our house we make spinach pie fairly often. It is actually kiddo's favorite meal. Want the recipe?

Defrost 1-10oz box frozen chopped spinach and squeeze out all the water, let drain. Beat 3 eggs with about 1/4 cup of milk and add your choice of seasoning. For convenience we use Italian seasoning, but fresh oregano and/or thyme are excellent if you have that available. Then we layer ingredients in a pie shell (you can use frozen pie shells or make from scratch). The ingredients we use for the layers vary, but usually it is crumbled cooked bacon, canned mushrooms, spinach, and about 1 to 1-1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese. Start with a thin layer of cheese, add the spinach, another layer of cheese, then bacon and mushrooms, topping with more cheese. Then carefully pour the egg mixture into the pie. Add a final sprinkle of paprika. Bake at 375F for 40 minutes. We always double this recipe to make one for the freezer - freezing the extra one after it has been baked. It is an easy meal to re-heat on those days when you are so busy making art that you just don't feel like cooking.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin