I’m back! Feels like forever since I’ve posted on this blog. It’s not that I haven’t been creating. But I’m in the middle of a couple of paintings and under contract for a picture book. So, nothing completed that I could post recently. More to come on the picture book when it’s finished…
In the meantime, I’m continuing my Scotland series with another drypoint etching. Neist Point is the western most edge of the Isle of Skye. The lighthouse was designed by the Stevenson family. You’re probably more familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson (author of Kidnapped and Treasure Island), or D.E. Stevenson (one of my favorite female British authors of books such as Miss Buncle’s Book or The Tall Stranger). Well, the Stevenson family in general was widely known as lighthouse engineers. Starting with RLS’s grandfather in the 1790’s, Robert Louis Stevenson’s father, uncles, and cousins proceeded to design over 90 lighthouses throughout Scotland (as well as a handful in Japan) from 1791-1937. In fact, RLS greatly disappointed his father by choosing to become a writer rather than carry on the family tradition of engineering. You can read more about Stevenson Lighthouses here.
My visit to Neist Point was on a gorgeously sunny day. We followed signs from the main highway to what seemed like a tiny road leading nowhere. West, west, west you go until you come to a parking lot near a cliff. The lighthouse isn’t even visible when you park. You must trust that it’s there and be ready/willing to walk a couple miles to prove you’re right. Of course crowds of tourists with cameras around you help confirm that there’s something worth seeing down below. The trek to Neist Point is not for the faint of heart! From the parking area, you hike down an extremely steep “stair case” of something resembling steps carved into the cliff-side. There is a railing made of metal pipes. The thing seems safe enough, as long as you hang on and don’t let gravity cause your feet to get too far ahead of the rest of your body. Needless to say, we left my mom at the parking lot. She would have to enjoy this excursion vicariously through my photos. Once you get to level ground, the next mile or so is easy! A lovely walk along a path with sheep sunning themselves amongst the boulders. If you get close enough to the cliff’s edge, you will see seagulls swooping out from crevices in the cliff-side, soaring along the sea breeze, then diving down to catch fish in the foamy waves below.
The lighthouse station itself is more like a barracks, with several rectangular “cottages” placed around the perimeter of the main building. I believe these were once rented out to tourists. However, when we were there, they were abandoned and run-down. Paint pealing on the window sills. Broken panes looking into empty rooms. An old lace curtain hanging at a window, one of the few signs that the place had once been a home. The lighthouse is owned by the Northern Lighthouse Board and has been run automatically since the 1990’s, when the last lighthouse keeper was withdrawn.
Etching cliffs was a new challenge for me! I feel like I had a better sense of shading with the scribe tool this time. I tried to vary my marks to represent each surface/texture: rocky patches, vertical ridges, shadows and ripples in water, and the flat expanses of grass. I’m also gaining a better feel for wiping the plate to maintain a haze of grey across the water. If you’d like to read more about the etching process, take a look at my previous post: Eilean Donan – Etching. Below are a few photos from our visit. Look closely at the top right photo to see a seagull nesting in the cliff side. If you’re ever on the Isle of Skye, this lighthouse is well worth the drive…and the walk!
My grandpa is one of those men who is hard-working, fun, a good teacher, humble, faith-filled and faithful…the list goes on. And, if I have the opportunity to marry some guy who reminds me of him, I’ll feel very blessed in that regard! I can only remember being in trouble with him once when I was a kid. My brother and I were fighting/squabbling while playing ping-pong at my grandparents’ cottage. Grandpa was tired of hearing us fight, so out came his gruff voice (the one that’s usually saved for commanding dogs to hush when they bark too much at the door), and he banished us from playing ping pong for the rest of that afternoon.
My main memories of him include patience – especially when teaching us tennis strokes or helping us learn to fish. Patience…and a colorful vocabulary. Now, many of you probably think that means he swears like a sailor, but I’ve never heard a curse word on his lips. No. His colorful vocabulary consists of: Hookie-doo (meaning: cock-eyed, out of whack, needs to be fixed); Unreal! (meaning: no way!, I can’t believe it! amazing!); schnockered (technically means drunk/tipsy, but in his vocab it means you got beaten soundly in Mario Kart or some other Nintendo game). Yes, he’s played video games ever since they were invented. He owned several major systems through the years, including Atari 5200 (which is now in my basement and on which I still play Pac-Man and Jungle Hunt). I remember him teaching my baby brother, Christopher, how to play Nintendo when he was a toddler. They’d be sitting next to each other, Grandpa’s bulk next to Christopher with a pacifier in his mouth, learning how to shoot ducks in Duck Hunt.
Like most men, Grandpa avoids going to the doctor when possible. I remember a day when he went fishing and caught a fish-hook in the palm of his hand. He took the hook out, cleaned the wound, and only complained of the pain when he tried to play tennis later in the day. It hurt to hold his racket, though he was determined to play anyway. He’s a tough guy but never a mean guy!
I appreciate that my grandpa has always been a faithful husband. He and Grandma recently celebrated their 66th anniversary. In all of those years, he’s been a provider, a stronghold, and has loved Grandma and worked with her as a team. They each give strength to the other. And, they’ve lived a life of faith, relying on God for strength and provision as well. Grandpa doesn’t think of himself as especially wise or Bible-smart (probably because Grandma has tons of the Bible memorized, and he compares himself to her). But he’s a man I can go to for prayer and wisdom, counsel, and insightful listening. He’s the man who (all through college and many years after) ended his emails to me with Psalm 118:24 ~ “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” I heard that from him so often it’s become the verse that rings in my head as I wake up each morning. A good way to start the day! A good reminder that no matter how my day is going, I can praise God for His hand in it. I do thank God regularly for the grandparents He’s given me. And I treasure each day I have with them.
About the artwork:
This piece was completed as a demonstration for my Drawing 1 students. We’re trying something new this semester – scribble portraits! It’s a pen & ink technique that’s faster than stippling (where the entire image is made from dots). However, the scribble mark-making is tricky because you can’t control it as easily as you would dots/stipple. If you want to try a scribble portrait at home, here are a few tips I shared with my students:
- Use a reference image with strong value range/lighting and clear details. Change the photo to black and white when you print it out, so that you’re focused on value and not on color.
- Less is more! Use very few marks in the light areas. It’s always easier to go back and add more marks than to try to lighten an area that’s too dark. Paint pens or white out can be used for small mistakes and touch-ups.
- Prop up your desk/table top while working. Step back from your artwork and look at it from 5+ feet away to see how everything’s blending. The scribble marks will look strange from up close. But, when done right, they blend beautifully from far away. Pause and check your work continually to ensure you’re capturing nuances of muscle, tendons, cheek bones, etc.
- Change pen sizes. Three pen sizes were used in the making of this portrait. One was a small (.7 mm) gel pen for tight spots and areas where I wanted thinner marks/lines. The 2nd was an ultra-fine Sharpie marker for most details in the face and hair. Third was a fine-tip Sharpie for the dark areas of the sweater. I worked on 18″ x 24″ paper to keep my pen strokes loose.
- Failure IS an option! Don’t be afraid to trash your first attempt if you blow it. It’s better to start over and improve on technique than to cover half the face in white-out because you refuse to admit failure. There is no particular scribble pattern required. Look up examples online, and you’ll see several artists who have made a career from this technique. Experiment with line patterns, and have FUN!
Leaving Edinburgh in June of 2016, we drove through the highlands towards Skye, stopping to visit 3 castles in 3 days along the way (Edinburgh Castle in the city, Sterling Castle south-west of the city, and Eilean Donan near the new bridge to Skye). Though rain had hit in Glencoe the night before, locals continued to express concerns of drought. For Scotland, I guess this means it rains periodically instead of every day. Lush green around us, with flourishing flowers, would seem to say that the land had seen plenty of water! But, I’ll admit that the fact that I could wander with my camera beneath the bridge at Eilean Donan confirmed lower amounts of rainfall than the area was used to seeing. Around 5 p.m. (according to my sketch journal), I walked a good ways out onto rocks beyond the castle and sat down with my sketchbook to draw. The panorama (in the photo montage below) was taken from that vantage point. It was interesting to see and sketch the castle from this less iconic angle. Just as I finished my sketch, large drops of water began to plop onto the page. Stowing away sketchbook and camera, I scrambled back over the rocks toward castle and proper land.
As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, Eilean Donan is one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. In fact, a photography contest was going on while we were there! People from all over the world had sent in their favorite and best shots of the place, seen from various angles, including from boats out on the water, or gorgeous sunrise shots with pinks glowing on the horizon, and nighttime shots with castle lit by star and lamp. These photos were posted all through the cafe where my parents and I ate lunch that day. Winners of the contest had been decided days before our arrival.
Fast-forward to present-day. I was prepping a new unit for my Drawing 2 class – drypoint etching, and decided my demo piece would be a good chance to pull out photos of the castle and try something new in the Scotland Series. Drypoint etching is actually a technique I had never tried before, though I’ve heard plenty about it and seen samples of Albrecht Durer and James McNeill Whistler through the years. It’s a form of etching that doesn’t require acid. Instead, you use a metal scribe (looks like a sharp metal pencil) to scratch your marks into the plate surface. In Whistler or Durer’s times, copper plates were common to use. But, for cost-efficiency and ease of procurement, I picked up Plexiglas sheets from the hardware store and cut them down to size for my students. We actually started the process simply using nails (also from the hardware store), and sharpening them with sandpaper. For my etching, the side buildings and bushes to the left of the castle were all done with a nail. But, once we were a few days into the unit, I determined that it was worth the cost of ordering a class-set of traditional scribe tools. Boy, what a difference! You get much better control and cleaner/deeper marks with the scribe than with a nail.
Though this was my first etching, I’m pretty happy with the results! After a test-print, I tweaked minor areas, adding more hatch-marks, making some transitions more subtle. I’ve also begun to experiment with the inking and wiping process. In printmaking, you can change the look from one print to the next merely by adjusting the amount of ink you apply to (or wipe off of) certain areas of the plate. On my plate, there were bushes that tended to soak up too much ink. So, I’ve begun to wipe those more thoroughly before running it through the press. I’ve also been playing with leaving smudges of ink in the sky to accent clouds there. This is the type of thing Whistler would do with his prints as well, leaving sky or water virtually empty, but using a hint or smear of ink left on the plate to give subtle shading to those smooth surfaces. My kids are really enjoying this unit! They love getting to use the printing press (which looks like a metal dinosaur with a captain’s wheel to steer it). Perhaps I’ll get permission from a few of them to post results of their work on my blog. If you’re an art teacher reading this blog, I’ve been very happy with the Akua Intaglio inks and Akua tarlatan for wiping plates. The inks have an oily consistency but are soap and water washable, which makes for easier clean-up. Having tried drypoint etching, I’ll definitely keep using this method/media. There are several other shots from the Scotland trip that would translate well into printmaking. Now that I have a feel for using the scribe tool and creating shadows and texture with cross-hatching marks, I’ll work on improving depth, shading, and subtleties within the technique.
My grandparents have often talked about which of them will go first (pass away). They’ve given each other permission to die and honestly would be happiest if they died at the same time. When you’ve lived most of your life with the love of your life, it’s hard to be apart even for a short time. Murray Tinkelman said goodbye to his bride of nearly 60 years and knew that his job here on earth was done. He had run the race. He had lived a full life: enjoying children and grandchildren, a successful career, and the respect of colleagues and students world-wide. So, only two weeks after Carol’s death, I received news that Murray has also passed away.
I wish my students could have met this man. His rough language (thanks to the army) and his tough persona (thanks to a stubborn disposition and a childhood in Brooklyn) could not hide his deep love for illustration, art history, his wife/family, and teaching. I mentioned in my last post how Carol kept the Illustration MFA program running smoothly. But the program would never have existed without Murray’s vision, knowledge, and contacts. For over 40 years, he’s been a highly respected illustrator. His work has been included in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Brooklyn Museum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and the Norman Rockwell Museum. In 2013 he was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, joining artists such as Norman Rockwell, Winslow Homer, Maurice Sendak, and Charles Schulz. In 2014 the Norman Rockwell Museum honored him with its Artist Laureate Award and an exhibition of his work.
Murray’s first illustration was published in Seventeen Magazine. When asked about that illustration, Murray is quoted as saying: “It was awful! I was paid $10. You’re right if you assume I was grossly overpaid.”
That sense of humor – quick-witted, blunt, unvarnished, and extremely funny – is what I will miss most about the man. Murray planned to retire from his role as head of the University of Hartford Illustration MFA in June of 2016. Perhaps that is the only goal he failed to achieve. However, knowing Murray, I don’t think he would regret “dying with his boots on.” His job and his life were about people. The relationships we illustrators built during our years in the Hartford MFA reflect Murray and Carol: their genius, their teamwork, their understanding that artists can’t survive alone; we thrive in an atmosphere of collaboration and accountability. Murray and Carol created just that with their program. I am honored to say that I knew him and learned from him.
About the artwork:
Murray worked mostly in pen & ink, using Rapidograph pens in a hatching and cross-hatching technique. Being color blind never held him back and probably helped to develop his sense of value range and contrast. To hear Murray describe his technique and process, click here.
* If you’d like to learn more about his life and work, check out the following sites:
For years my mom has wanted to bring the entire family together for a week on the beach. Last week we finally pulled it off! Most of my siblings, nieces, nephews, Mom and Dad were there, sharing one of the huge beach houses in Corolla. Though we all live near each other, my siblings and I rarely get to spend extended time together other than at family weddings and funerals. We’re blessed to have a family that truly enjoys each other, works together, and are patient with each other. Living under one roof for a week can test that, but I think we all left Corolla with highlights and great memories. Personally, I loved being goofy with my brothers and sisters; playing Canasta and Settlers of Catan late into the night; playing billiards with my nephews; holding my baby niece as we splashed our toes in the pool and tossed rings for my nephew to dive down and fetch; a long drive to the airport with my sister and her oldest daughter, chatting along the way; an overload of Krispy Kreme donuts…my brothers and I not realizing that each of the others had already bought a box or two. One of my favorite memories is an early morning beach walk I took with my niece, Abby. While we walked, we combed the surf for shells. And I would pause to sketch while Abby searched the sands nearby. Today’s sketches are from that walk.
The first is a gesture sketch of Abby picking up shells. A gesture is a quick sketch, done to capture the basic action of a figure. It’s a snapshot, not a detailed study. With Abby turning and stooping, standing then moving away, I only had a few seconds to study the lines, angles, basic shape of her movement. When teaching, I have my students start with a 3-5 minute study of the figure. Then we progress throughout the period, shortening allotted time for each pose, until we attempt one in 30 seconds near the end of class. It’s a fun exercise to try if you never have before! And, it’s a great way to train your eye/brain to process what you’re seeing then spit it out onto paper in a few lines.
Fishermen line the beach, particularly in mornings and evenings, casting into the surf. When walking, watch out for the invisible lines! Don’t try to walk between the fishermen and their ocean or you may get tangled in a line with them cursing you in frustration. We knew better than to get in their way. I’d say standing in cool water, with the ocean breeze on your face, beats bobbing in a boat on the lake with stifling heat any fishing day.
Stairways line the dunes – hundreds of them all alike. On a long walk, it’s easy to lose your bearings and struggle to find the staircase that leads back to your street! So, I studied ours, sketching the concrete wall and lines of sand fencing (not sure what you call it) that keep the dune sand from drifting when winds are high.
I often tell my students, “photos are great, but you really notice details when you take the time to sketch something.” Looking back at these sketches will remind me of our time in Corolla and the memories made there.
I’m currently in the middle of a couple of larger paintings, which will eventually be posted on the blog. In the meantime, here are recent excerpts from my sketch journal. The first was done in red crayon on our winter youth retreat. The second and third are from a summer sailing day in Chicago. Though I’ve seen and photographed Buckingham Fountain dozens of times in the past 24 years, many of the sculptural details went unnoticed until I took the time to study and sketch it. If any of my drawing students are reading this blog, you’ll notice that the ballpoint pen shading is done with a hatching technique. For those who don’t speak “art”: hatching is a series of strokes in one direction, used to create a range of values. More marks, closer together, makes the shading darker. The direction of a section of marks can help define various facets or planes within an object.
Above is a segment of this week’s Pick Your Portion artwork. The illustration is based on verses from 2 John, talking about our basic human need for fellowship…as well as our need as Christians to fellowship with other believers.
Artistically, I went to my favorite medium: ink with watercolor. This was a fast study, with no time for revisions. However, before I sat down at my art table, I laid out the design in my imagination, pacing basic sizes, space, lettering, before putting ink to page. I knew that I wanted a hand-written look to the lettering. I knew that “Face to Face” would be the focal point, and that the letters of each word would morph into details of the face/hair. I wanted to keep the faces simplified to a few lines…ink (not watercolor) would be the star of the show. In other words, I kept the watercolor washes basic so that they wouldn’t draw attention away from the ink line. In the written explanation on the PYP site, I talk about mentoring and accountability. So, I emphasized (slightly) the age difference of the two women chatting. For I feel we each have a lot to give younger generations, as well as a lot to learn from friends who are farther down the road of life/faith than we are. To see the full illustration, check out: http://pickyourportion.com/blog/ .