Saturday, May 24, 2014

SKETCHBOOK: "A Day With A T-Rex"

Today I went to the brand new museum at PRAIRIEFIRE Shopping center in Overland Park, Kansas.  It just opened on May 14th.  It is part of the AMERICAN MUSEUM & NATURAL HISTORY Exhibitions in New York City.  I only paid for general admission, so there wasn't much to see in the main hall.  You pay extra to go into the other galleries (which I was not interested in today).  In June, there will be more Kansas-native dinosaur bones coming from California, so I will go back to sketch those. But I got my $5 worth drawing the T-Rex for about 5 hours!
The gorgeous glass windows make the place look like a cathedral...a very cool design!
Below is a sketch I did of the Museum from across the street.  I had gotten there about 30 minutes before it opened.  It was raining outside, so I just sat in my car to draw.  The colors of the red-orange and yellow windows, with purple and blue accents is the colors of a real prairie fire! There is still construction work going on...the grounds were quite muddy.  I liked that the "Cherry Picker" lift was the same colors as the windows.
Here are a few photos from inside.  This is the view from upstairs, just outside of the "Discovery" area for kids to explore with hands on science exhibits.  You have to have a child with you to enter that space...which I did not have on hand today.
And here are a couple of views of the T-Rex from below.

As you enter the main hall, there is an "augmented reality" display on the wall.  The camera shows the patrons...then various dinosaurs and a dragon periodically walk or fly onto the screen.  On the left photo, I am seen in the lower left of the screen (wearing a black shirt), about to be sat upon by a giant IGUANODON.  The other screens show me standing in the middle, while a DRAGON and a T-REX appear.  Luckily, I escaped and was able to make it home to post on my blog!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

SKETCHBOOK: "More Dino Bones"

Today, I went to one of my favorite places to sketch again...Kansas University's Natural History Museum.  The forecast for the day was rain, so I figured it would be a great hangout in nasty weather.  But it turned out to be sunny for most of the day.  Oh well...rain or's always a good day to draw dinosaur bones!

The sketch above was one of the skulls in a display of saber-tooth cats...a BARBOUROFELIS, the largest of the breed.  I spent way too much time fiddling with this.  I had a pretty good pencil drawing that I liked. But once I started adding color, the pencil lines were covered up.  So this became an exercise in layering opaque washes...definitely a mixed media approach.  I came back in and added more pencil at the end.

I was so excited to try a new PILOT cartridge pen I had recently ordered from Japan!  But turns out, the ink was NOT waterproof.  ARRRrrrrggggg!!!  I found this out when I tried laying in a wash on the MOSASAUR sketch below. When I got home, I did a quick makeover in Photoshop, just to show you what the color was supposed to look like, had the black line not bled everywhere.  I used a white Sharpie pen to try to cover up the smeary black ink...didn't care for the final results.
Next up...the trusty TRICERATOPS.  I used a brown brush pen for the line work...not sure I like how it came out...too thick.  A bit overworked, too.  I think I can say that about all my drawings today.  But I still enjoy the process.  In fact...historically, that has been a real problem for me...I like the process of drawing and painting so much, I don't know when to stop.
As I was leaving for the afternoon, I had been admiring the Museum building.  The sun was still shining, but some rain clouds were looking threatening.  Consequently, I was drawing faster and looser than usual.  I was sketching with a 6B pencil...then added watercolor.  There are things about this one that I'm pleased with.  Just as I was getting close to finishing...the darker gray clouds started moving in. Time to head home!
As I was walking to my car...the sun was still shining.  I heard the chimes ring from the campus bell tower...the historic Campanile, where all graduating students walk through to end their journey as a KU student.  I decided to try the PILOT pen again.  I made a very quick sketch, and just wet the line work with a water-brush to create the ink washes.
It still had not rained when I got home, so I mowed the yard. Looking out the window now...the sky is all gray like my sketch above.  Let it rain.  :)

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Today, I did something new for me at the Kansas City Zoo...CHALK ART!  Okay...I guess I have to count drawing on the driveway with my daughters, and grandson.  But nothing like a "real" mural.  I was part of a team of around 500-plus volunteers from Hallmark Cards.  Each year Hallmark sponsors an event called "Wild Saturday" at the zoo.  In the span of about 4 hours, they get a crazy amount of work done for the zoo...mulching, planting flowers and trees...and of course, there's The Artists Project!
I had never participated in this Hallmark event before. When I had inquired of the Hallmark Volunteer Coordinator, Amy, what this year's project was going to be, she said..."We haven't decided yet.  Feel free to brainstorm some ideas."  So I did...several.  The Zoo team voted on my suggestion of trying Chalk Art this year.  So I found myself helping to figure out how to make that happen.  The end results were...I had a blast today! (Though my hip sockets and back are taking revenge on me this afternoon...but it was worth it!!)

As I usually do on my projects, I will show you the step-by-step process of how I made it.  I had no idea if I could complete this big illustration in the alloted time.  All totaled, it took me about 5 hours to finish it.  Most folks quit around lunchtime.  I had to come back and spend about 2 more hours on mine.  But I got it done!!

The chalk drawings were to be created outside of the new Penguin enclosure.  Retired Hallmarker, Larry Greenberg, did a ton of prep work...for 15 years he has been heading up these artist projects.
We chose our spots and got busy.  My area was 7'x7'.  I had prepped my sketches for a 6'x6' square.  Knowing that it would take a lot of effort to cover that much square footage, I made my space smaller.  Then I drew a grid, so I could transfer my sketch in the "old school" way.  I bought a metal chalk holder, and attached it to a long wooden dowel. (Photos of me working were taken by Larry Greenberg.)

Then, I began to sketch out the basic layout.  I had created the sketch at home with Photoshop, compositing a lot of photos to get the right expressions and composition.  I was not going to worry about making it photo-realistic...but needed the details that I would get from photos.
I began to block in the base colors for everything.  We used Crayola "Drawing Chalks"...since Hallmark owns Crayola, it was a natural choice.  I really liked the colors in the box...nice and bright!
I'd like to show you this nifty little rolling stool that I made prior to the Zoo Day.  I used a heavy-duty trash can dolly...added a "knee board"...then covered the top with thick foam from an exercise mat, custom-fitted for the shapes.  I used "tacky glue" to adhere the foam.  It worked great!  I added the strap, last minute, from something I had in the basement.  It was removable, so I wasn't rolling over it.
Okay, back to the chalk drawing!  I went ahead and finished the basic under painting of the animals.
Then I decided to use a little cloth to blend the colors. Looking back, I wish I had not done that.  I lost a lot of time doing it, and had to redo a lot rendering that I liked in the loose application of chalk.  Oh and learn!
The next stage was adding the crisp detail with more intense colors.  I was going for an "Impressionistic" approach, as that is my style when I do oil paintings.

Little by little, the characters started coming to life.  I found that I had to work upper left to upper right, then work my way down, going left to right.  Otherwise, I messed up a lot of details rolling over the finished areas.  The chalk was also very "fragile" on the surface of the concrete.  The texture on the surface was little bit rougher than everyone might prefer.  Therefore the powder of the chalk just piled up.

The reality of a strong wind blowing it away is the risk that comes with this kind of work.  Also, we were watching the weather reports, hoping it would not rain. It was a gorgeous day!! Some folks were distressed by the fact that these are "temporary". But I likened it to building sand castles, when you know the tide is going to wash it all away. Basically...this is "performance art"...the fun is in the doing!

Here is the finished piece!!
Below are some close-ups of my little group:
Silverback Gorilla...
 Giant Galapagos Tortoise...
Golden Lion Tamarin...
And a smiling Crocodile!
And here's a Smiling Warren!  The camera is just about 6 inches off the ground...makes the chalk art look huge!

To end this post, I'll show you a few random photos of the other artists at work.  It was a wonderful day!