Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Watercolor Portraits

These are my better watercolor portraits this month, even though I used pen to draw with and not pencil. You can see the corrections I made, on the whole body figure. I got back into watercolor after a period of no action in that medium. They were done at the Firehouse Gallery, at night, on 12 x 12" Lanaquarelle Cold pressed 140 lb. paper.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Sketching on the Ipad

I don't have the newest Ipad. I have the first one that came out. Still, I have managed to amass a collection of apps for drawing, painting and sketching. I've found them super-convenient substitutes for the real thing during my travels. This one started out as a doodle, and I added elements during subsequent sessions. I used an app called Art Set. I fell in love with it because its creators understand that simplicity and ease of use is the number one need artists have. I wish it offered more colors, though. I like it produces leaner files than say, Art Rage, which i also like. Also, I think that as they listen to artist feedback they will come up with "tools" that won't necessarily mimic what real life tools do, but that enable exciting effects.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cart For Mabef Giant Easel Part IV

Here is a "semi-exploded" diagram of such a handcart. I did write 39" but it is really 40" long. I am thinking of building it out of wood.

I do not, however, have a drill press. So I am unable to drill holes at the end of a 15"x 1/2" axle shaft to attach cotter pins. I could always order a custom length axle shaft from one of those internet companies. But the prices are outrageous.

Some of you might ask, well why not buy the type of bike cart designed for walking too? For example, Wike's "Speedy Cart"? This foldable, lightweight cart is as good as the Burley Travoy but much better priced ($99 vs $269). Unfortunately neither the Speedy Cart nor Wike's Golf Cart is narrow and long enough to hold the Mabef Giant easel securely without major bungee intervention.

Cart for Mabef Giant Easel Part III

After I decided that a handcart, and not a wagon, was what I needed, the question became what shape, and how deep. I took the measurements you see here and discovered that when I placed the chair on top of the easel, the total height is a bit more than 5 inches. And the width of the two arranged in this way is 12".

I reasoned that the cart would need to be about six inches deep for the chair not to fall off the handcart, and about 13 inches wide to give the chair a little play. The entire box would have to be 40" long.

For that box to become a handcart, I would need to add a handle. I already have a recycled steel handle that will work well, that I took from a plastic seeder cart.

One more thing: the axle would have to be at least 15" long and 1/2" in diameter. The length worried me because it had "non-standard" written all over it. By this time I had done enough research online to realize I was not going to find a 15" long axle unless I fabricated it myself. I decided it had to be 1/2" in diameter after I realized that no matter what size of the cart wheels I used, these spoked wheels would only accept a 1/2" diameter axle.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cart For Mabef Giant Easel Part II

There is something else I consistently carry to the field besides the backpack that holds my paints. This child-sized steel folding chair is surprisingly lightweight and actually small, 33" long by 12" wide. I usually strap it to a handcart without any problem.

I decided that If I am going to go through the trouble of creating a custom cart, that this cart should also carry the chair. The easel and the chair actually fit together quite well. The whole package is 12" wide, six inches deep, and 39" long. 

After some research online, I also decided that a wagon would not do, due to the fact that I often have to go up and down stairs in my search for suitable painting spots. Hand carts are also quieter and much lighter in weight if made with the right materials. Wagons and bike trailers online looked attractive, but were too expensive and not really what I needed.

Here I should add that I have weak hands and the thought of tying bungee cords brings pain to my senses. I decided that this cart should help me do away with the need for bungee cords.

So why not buy the Burley Travoy? Two reasons: The handle system in this hand cart/bike trailer not really made for long treks on foot. And, although the Travoy sports an award-winning design, it requires securing the load with...you guessed it, straps.

I did like the 12" wheels on the Travoy, so I decided that this would be the type and size of wheel I would use on my custom cart.

Cart for Mabef's Giant Easel Part I

I paint outdoors on "big" canvases. Since size is relative, let's say that for me, big is around 2' x 3', with a width of 2". Not only are big canvases hard to haul around, they behave like a sail under windy conditions. So it is important to work on a sturdy easel, made to accommodate the demands of larger sizes. I have tried several brands by now and have found Mabef easels to be well-constructed, so this last christmas I bought myself Mabef's "Giant" easel. At 30 something lbs and 39" long, this is what we could call "the daddy" of field easels. Don't be fooled by the nice leather strap and handle. It is unwieldy.

In fact, as a side note I should add that the white parts are pieces of UV-resistant styrene I had to add to hold the 2" wide canvas in place, because this beautiful italian easel is built with metric measurements. This was an unexpected problem I discovered the first time I took it out to paint on a steep El Cerrito hill.

After experimenting with various ways of attaching this easel to the carts I use to transport smaller easels, I realized several things:
1. I cannot carry it by the handle (since I have the canvas to contend with)
2. It is so long it cannot be strapped to a wagon weighing less than 30 lbs
3. It is so heavy it has to be strapped in several places if you want to stay in place on a handcart
4. Can't even think of strapping it to a backpack!

I began to think of a custom hand truck for it....

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Digital Learning In The Arts

Before anyone thinks I am going to write about the many ways in which artists are using digital media to express their ideas, let me clarify that this post is simply about the way that digital learning has transformed our small community of painters. We got together four years ago, one of many groups in the Bay Area that did so to support each other's development as artists. Karen and I started our group because we searched the web and found no other local group with similar goals. As it turned out, we were so very wrong. There were other groups but they did not have a web presence. Several of these groups collected dues to support, among other things, postage for a traditional mailing list. If there was a need to talk, they waited until an actual face-to-face event, and if there was an urgent matter, they picked up the phone. Blogger Vs Personal Websites Because we had decided we would not collect fees (too much work!)and that the group would be open to anyone who wanted to show up, we had a communication challenge. We had no money to set up a group website that would do what we wanted. We tried to set up a Google Site, but back then, its features were not friendly to people whose work was mainly images. I didn't know Tumblr existed. We had group members who had fantastic images of their work, but no idea of how to share them digitally. Some had paid family members to set up websites for them, others had no idea of where to start. I suggested setting up a group blog. They all stared back at me, so I figured we needed some workshops. I began teaching blogging sessions, which included how to use a digital camera, how to format images with Photoshop, and how to post on Blogger, the hot authoring tool back then. We agreed on general norms we would use when posting, and began giving editing privileges to members who completed these workshops. These were our first contributors. From them, we learned it was important to agree on how the type of content that should go with images of our work. In order to keep it easy, fun and simple, we agreed that name, media, size, and a short description should be the minimum. Very soon we built up a collective blog. I was a frequent reader of Boing Boing back then and noticed they had guest bloggers, so we used this model. Every time we went out to paint, someone would write about it and share their work on the blog. Our visibility grew. So did our readership, and eventually, our membership. But not everybody became a contributor. For some members, this process was an added layer of work. For others, it was simply too complicated and they had no support for their learning at home. Google Groups Vs Meetup Back then, most group members referred to the blog as a "website." They didn't know about another tool we came to rely on, the Google Group. Having been a member of Yahoo groups, I was ready to try out the advantages of Google Groups. I learned by trial and error. For example, I took a snippet of code provided by Google Groups and pasted it on our blog. This enabled all kinds of people people to sign up for our "mailing list," so we decided to weed out the non-artists by providing a short prompt with the sign-up process: "Describe the work you do as an artist." Our Google Group was originally open to anyone willing to sign up, but then it was vandalized. We were forced to close it and open a new, private group. The best part of using Google Groups? It is free. This enabled us to maintain communication with the overwhelming majority of our members without having to resort to traditional mailings. And I would say that despite the fact that all of us are "older," almost everybody in our group knows how to use e-mail. So e-mail notifications have proved to be the best way to make weekly announcements. The ability to reach people quickly becomes really important during the rainy season when we are forced to cancel painting sessions, and also, when we want to announce shows. In addition, those who are planning to attend our sessions RSVP by e-mail. With my smart phone, I am able to reply and help members who need directions or who cancel their attendance. These days several of our local painting groups use web-based tools to organize themselves. Some have gone public, and others have chosen to stay private. At least one of the private groups has decided to use Meetup to schedule their sessions. Meetup is very convenient because it fuses the group management functions with blogging capabilities. Unfortunately it costs money to use it. Because using Meetup would force us to start collecting dues, we have decided to stay with Google Groups for the moment.