Art ~ Writing ~ Life

From Handprints To Footprints

My New Heroine Sketch

March 12, 2015
Steve Campbell

Yesterday I wrote about creating characters, putting them on the story stage, and watching them act. In that post, I included a watercolor sketch of my current main character, Vree Erickson. Today, I drew a different sketch of her with a pair of HB and 2B pencils. While I drew, I studied her facial features and concentrated on her eyes. I zoomed in on her face in the attachment so you can see detail better. There’s a bit of uncertainty and fear there. But there is also dauntlessness on that face, which makes me know that despite the odds against her, she was the right choice to battle Margga in my Night of the Hellhounds e-novel (available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble).

NotH

Sketching Critters

January 6, 2015
Steve Campbell

I enjoy watching small animals skittering and dashing about with their daily activities. I have my favorites, like chipmunks and squirrels, that I try to capture with pencil and paper. But lately I have been studying birds more than usual. Although I’m not a bird painter, per se, I have done a few paintings with birds in them based on life sketches from my wildlife sketchbooks. And I did a finch painting based entirely from reference sketches.

Sketches in the Sun

Sketches in the Sun, Oil Painting, circa 2002

With so many species of animals, each with its own particular charm and beauty, the wildlife artist never lacks a subject. No matter where you live, there are always animals to sketch—in cities, gardens, parks, forests and farmland. Sketching them in their natural habitat gives you an opportunity to study their fascinating behavior. Whether sitting in a park, at a roadside, at the edge of a river or lake, sketching critters is a wonderful way to spend a day. And your sketches give a rich source of reference for your paintings.

When you have found a subject and settled down, spend a few minutes looking hard at the animal, in the same way as you would carefully consider a still life before starting to paint it. Ask yourself questions such as, “How long is the neck and how much of it disappears when the animal stands up?” This will help you understand the form better. Then, when the animal adopts an interesting pose, begin sketching. You’ll find this is when your patience is tested. The subject moves all the time, so you have to wait until it returns to either the original pose or something close. It might even scurry off or fly away and leave you with an unfinished sketch.

If the animal changes pose quickly and a lot, don’t continue with the sketch—it won’t be precise, and therefore useless for reference. To use your time well, have several sketches of different poses going at once, and dart around the page as the subject shifts position. This is challenging, but you should end up with a page of interesting studies. Don’t worry if the animal you’re sketching doesn’t return to the same pose—just a few lines can be full of information. And get down those shadows too. Their shapes help describe form and make your sketches more convincing.

Spend some time looking at the pattern of fur and feather masses, too—this is essential reference when you come to paint. Try to catch the “personality” of the animal by noticing any characteristic features that make it unique as a species.

Critters
You might find it useful to use cubes, oblongs and cylinders to describe the general body shapes. You can also use these to show the relative shapes and sizes of different species. If you are sketching many ducks on a lake, for example, do a whole page of these simple shapes. This is invaluable information when it comes to painting various ducks together. Try to show the size of an individual duck—or any animal, for that matter—by sketching its surroundings.

It goes without saying, of course, that you should take a note of the date, place, and time of day in your sketches—these will help you recall the scene later when working in your studio. Also, note the colors of the animal if you’ve not sketched it in color.

My favorite sketching tool is a box of watercolor pencils, but you should use whatever feels comfortable to you.

So make a day of drawing critters … and happy sketching.

My Sad Panther Drawing

October 2, 2014
Steve Campbell

While going through some old art files, I came across this pen and ink drawing of a black panther drawn February 14, 1982. I was learning the craft of illustration, clearly seen in the clumsiness you see in my execution. Still, it is a nice drawing, which is why I kept it. Also because it made my seven-month-old son laugh. After all these years, when I see this drawing, I still hear his giggles.

Panther

Drawings

September 24, 2014
Steve Campbell

I like to draw. Figure drawing, cartooning, doodling … you name it. Graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, pastels, various kinds of erasers, markers, styluses. Line drawing, shading, hatching, cross-hatching, broken hatching, stippling, entopic graphomania (you make a dot at the location of each imperfection in the drawing paper, then connect the dots using straight or curved lines) — the list could go on if I had more time.

Drawings 01

I have no favorite medium, drawing instrument, or even subject matter. I like to draw … period. As artist Grayson Perry said, “Until we can insert a USB into our ear and download our thoughts, drawing remains the best way of getting visual information on to the page.” But I don’t draw haphazardly unless I’m doodling ideas. And even then I’m aware of what I’m doing, which is usually observing size and viewpoint. The drawings can look childish, but I never toss out any childlike drawing. Most children instinctively draw objects from the viewpoint that gives the most information. So they draw a house from the front, but a truck from the side — because it’s from there that you can see the truck’s cab, trailer and wheels. I still draw that way today; whichever drawing has a viewpoint that gives the viewer the most information is going to be the easiest to understand. That’s what I look for in my artwork (and my writing).

Drawings 02

Everyone has their own ways of expression, and finding ways to say it can be a battle. The power of any kind of art is keeping it simple and understandable. Anyone who can do that can make the uninteresting things in life look complex, advanced, and largely exciting. That’s the true power of art.

Unfinished Projects

June 28, 2014
Steve Campbell

Unfinished Hawk

Unfinished Hawk

I have many unfinished projects. Whether artwork or writing projects, I’m surrounded by incompleteness. But I will finish some of my projects. Others I won’t because of time and procrastination.

I am not a morning person—I lack energy during the early part of the day. I’ve tried to be one of those people who are awake before dawn and barrel into the day with enough energy to power a continent. But I have a second-shift job that keeps me active past other people’s usual bedtime. Therefore, my brain and body don’t begin functioning until around 5pm. So, getting around to working on a project is a consequence of overcoming sleepiness, slowness, and often a ringing telephone. I may be half-asleep, but the “normal” world is active and busy reminding me that I have bills to pay and appointments to keep. I turn on my computer—my social connection and alarm clock—to remind me when it’s time to do A), B), C), or D): All of the above. Email notices chime away. Oh, look: WordPress is telling me that I have new likes and followers and that they’ve created a new theme that would look great showcasing my blog. And amidst the bells and whistles, I hurry to do this, that, and the other until writing the next chapter of my book or drawing/painting the detail of a wildlife picture has to wait.

But still I persevere, writing and making art, even though I’m a zombie until evening. I perk up then … and head off to my 9-to-5 second-shift job, unless I have a day off, which happens twice a week (though the days are not usually consecutive). My creative juices flow and I attack whatever current project I have on my agenda. And then my wife comes home from work and wants to socialize. My projects linger, unfinished for weeks, months, even years.

Oh well. Tomorrow is another day. With more of the same. But every new day gives me a dash of hope.

Autumn Woods Sketch

December 5, 2011
Steve Campbell

A study from the 1990s; oil on canvas board

Buck Portrait

November 3, 2011
Steve Campbell

Buck Portrait
Watercolor/Gouache on canvas board
Circa 1985

Cow

October 18, 2011
Steve Campbell

Cow and landscape study, 1990; oil on canvas board

Church and Field Study, 1989

July 30, 2011
Steve Campbell

Copy of a painting I saw in a magazine photo, Oil on canvas board

Sketches in the Sun

July 22, 2011
Steve Campbell

Sketches in the Sun

Sketches in the Sun, Oil Painting, circa 2002

1980 Glam Girl

April 25, 2011
Steve Campbell

1980 Glam Girl
Charcoal and Oil Pastel on canvas board

Waterfall Study

April 17, 2011
Steve Campbell

Waterfall Study
Oil on canvas board

Clouds Study

April 1, 2011
Steve Campbell

Clouds Study – Storm clouds, sunset
Oil on canvas board

Oak Sketch

March 24, 2011
Steve Campbell

Oak Sketch
Oil on canvas board

Powered by WordPress.com.
%d bloggers like this: