Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Extended Away

I've been away for awhile but am hoping to be back into the swing of things right after the holidays. I haven't finished my Boy's Life drawing yet, nor have I given up on it. More updates on that in the near future. Until then, here is a little sketch (ACEO size) that I'm working on.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Musical Musings and WIP update

Slow ride ... take it easy!! I love to listen to music when I draw. My favorite music is probably classic rock but I wanted something a little different to help me pick up the pace on this drawing and boy did I find it. I did a little searching for some instrumental songs and here are the one's I downloaded from either Amazon's or Walmart's mp3 sites (whoever had either the best sounding tracks or better price-- all other things being equal):

Apache- Jorgen Ingmann
Wipe Out- The Surfaris
Green Onions- Booker T & The MG's
Out of Limits (Lp Version)- The Marketts
Pipeline- The Ventures
Walk Don't Run- The Ventures
Tequila- The Champs
Peter Gunn Theme- Henry Mancini
Sleepwalk- Santo & Johnny
and just for fun . . .
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Theme Song- Hugo Montenegro & His Orchestra

That's just a couple minutes shy of a half hour of music and I have to say that the time goes by FAST! I can't believe how quickly time flies when I'm drawing anyway but these tunes really push my productivity as I find myself drawing in time with the music. Would love to hear anyone else's suggestions of favorite music to draw or paint to??

Monday, August 24, 2009

WIP- A Boy's Life (update)

Update on progress, which continues to be slow because I'm trying to do too many things at once. But progress is progress, right?

"A Boy's Life" is the name for this series, not necessarily this drawing. I'm not sure what I'm going to title this yet. I usually never know until it's finished and even then, sometimes I start with a certain title only to change it when I eventually think of something better.

Monday, August 17, 2009

WIP- A Boys Life (Update)

Here's my progress since this weekend. It's coming along slower than I'd anticipated but I was a bit under the weather over the weekend and didn't accomplish much of anything. I showed it to my son and he said "why are you drawing my butt mom?" I told him I was NOT drawing his butt, it's a drawing of him climbing. Seeking a second opinion, I showed one of my daughters and asked her what she thought of my progress. She said, "it looks okay so far, but why are you drawing Bubba's butt?".

I'm hoping as I progress, less focus will be placed on his backside and more will be on the drawing as a whole. We'll see if I can divert the viewer's eye to flow the way I want it too. Right now though, with that dark shadow beneath him I'm afraid my kids are right. Bubba's butt seems to be the star of the show!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Current WIP- A Boy's Life (update)

Started on my latest drawing . . . here is my progress so far:

This is going to be challenging I think. Right now I'm just moving about a bit, trying to get my base tones right (the darkest darks, the whitest whites). This is the area I've always had some dificulty with- establishing enough contrast in my drawings so they don't look flat. I think this piece will be a good study in contrasts for me.

The paper I'm using is 11x14 Strathmore Bristol Vellum 500 series. It's 100% cotton rag, archival quality, with an even, slightly textured surface and a soft white color. This is one of my favorite types of paper to use so far-- but I'm still experimenting!

I'm using a 2B Staedtler 925 mechanical pencil. I like this pencil because it's realitively lightweight and allows me a lot of control with very little "effort" when building up layers.

I started drawing with a basic set of Generals' drawing pencils. Then I discovered Derwent graphite pencils which have become my favorite brand of wood cased pencils. After taking a workshop with Armin Mersmann, who primarily uses Graphgear 1000 mechanical pencils, I thought I'd give mechanicals a try, but I wanted something a little lighter to handle. It's not easy finding a wide assortment of lead grades (hardness/softness), but there's enough of a range of leads to do everything that needs to be done. I've primarily been using only 2B to "force" myself into being patient with my drawings and build tone with layers. Also, by using a light touch, I don't "crush" the paper texture like I used to- which not only creates a graphite "shine" but also limits the paper's ability to hold multiple layers of graphite.

In a future post, I'll do an overview of my studio space and the materials I use most freqently.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Project- A Boy's Life (possible series)

I've started a new project. This one will most likely be the first in a series with the theme of "A Boy's Life". I want to illustrate the natural, adventurous free spirit that inhabits the hearts of so many little boys out there. I got the idea when I found some old pictures of my son from a photo shoot he and I did several years ago on a "just mommy and me" excursion.

This is the picture that I chose to start with.

I figured these would be great reference photos to inspire me to practice drawing the natural textures in rocks, trees, leaves and water. What better model to have than my own boy!! Of course, he's not really a boy now but has become a fine young man any mom could be proud of. Instead of looking down at his trusting, innocent eyes, I now have to look up... way up ... and I see smiling eyes full of hopes and dreams. Enough waxing poetic, time to pick up the pencils and get busy!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Emily- Completed

Here is the completed drawing of Emily which I delivered on Sunday. She seemed to be very pleased with it. I gave her a note with it to explain what I was trying to convey. The three rays represent The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. I wrote, "when you look at this drawing, remember that no matter where life takes you, over seas, thru forests and over mountains, the Lord is always there to guide you."

I feel like I'm getting better but I'm still so far from the level I want to achieve. The only way to get there is by drawing, drawing some more and drawing some more. So, it's back to the drawing board. . . wonder what my next subject will be???

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Update- Commission of Emily, Nearing Completion

Here is the image from my last post:

This is the reference I decided on for the background. I found it at a geocities website- Places of Refuge, but have no idea who the owner of the original image is. If he/she stumbles upon my page or someone out there might know, please contact me so I can give an appropriate credit to him/her. I started shading in the background as seen in the photo reference, but decided that the leaves on the right weren't going to work well with this drawing. It was at this point, where I started blocking out the rays of light, that my ruler transferred the sticky substance to the drawing (see previous post). Because of that, I had to change my approach and go much darker with the background than I intended in order to "hide" the stains.
Layering, layering, layering!

Added a bit more detail to her blouse so it didn't look so two dimensional. Went a little too dark with the background on the right so I'll have to add another layer on the left to keep this in balance. As you can see, I still have to finish laying in her hair too. And her teeth are just a bit too bright. I read somewhere that the whitest part of a portrait should be the hightlights in the eyes. Not the whites of the eyes, but the highlights- the "sparkle" in the eye.
I'm also considering removing the heart shaped necklace and giving her a cross necklace to keep with the "theme" of this portrait. I know Emily from church. She's a sweet young lady, very active with the youth ministry. I wanted to remind her through this portrait that, over seas, forests and mountains, no mater where on earth her life travels take her, our Lord in Heaven is watching over her.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Update- Commission of Emily- Disaster Strikes

Previous post picture and updated picture. I'm further along than this but I've got some fixing to do before I post the next picture.
It was quite a night for me. More excitement than I'd rather have had.

I was making really good progress on my Emily portrait last night and was starting to work on the background. Then something happened that made me want to cry.

I needed to use my ruler to put in some guidelines for the background. I laid down my first line but when I picked the ruler up, I noticed a couple spots on the drawing. Apparently there was some kind of sticky substance on the ruler--like syrup. I don't know what it actually was, or how it got there, but it had transferred to the paper.

I've had the experience of blowing on the paper and transferring just a spot of moisture and how that can blemish a drawing. That's why I now use my drafting brush to remove any eraser dust. This was sooo much worse! There were at least fives spots total. One was in Emily's hair. That one was bad. It wouldn't lift with the kneaded eraser. I ended up having to scrape it out with an exact-o knife. Ohhh the breaking of the heart! I reworked the area the best that I could and it certainly looked better than the shiny syrupy spot, but it also changed the texture of the paper in that area. I'm going to have to do some experimenting with some scraps of the same kind of paper to see if there is anything more I can do to "doctor" that kind of injury. If I come up with anything helpful, I'll be sure to share it.

The other spots were all within the background area. I was able to lift most of the syrupy stuff to get rid of the shine, but they left behind a dark grey "stain". I was able to work around these and make the tone of the background match the stain so the stain would blend as much as possible. There was one spot that was in a crucial area of the background that is giving me a bit of trouble, but I haven't given up yet. I'm layering, then layering some more, then layering some more until I get it as close as I possibly can.

Stubborn stains- I'm a Taurus, I will not give up easily!!!

Here are my drawing tips for today:
  • Before you start to draw, make sure ALL of your equipment, hands included, are clean, dry and free of anything that might transfer to your drawing.

  • If your drawing is large and you must rest your hand on the surface, place another piece of paper between your hand and the drawing, preferably something smooth to minimize any smudging.

  • If you are in the habit of blowing on your drawing to clear away eraser debris, I recommend investing in a drafting brush or hake brush (something with very soft bristles). Learn a new trick and brush, don't blow!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Update- Commission of Emily

Here is where I left off yesterday and where I am today. I believe I'm starting to get somewhere now. I had to fix Emily's eye on the left, the shape was wrong- too much of an arch in the eyelid. I've always had a problem with staying too close to mid-tones and my drawings would always look flat. That's not a look you want when you're trying for realism! But I think I'm finally getting better at putting more depth into my portraits.

I'm kind of working from the center of the face (eyes/nose/mouth) and outward on this drawing. In the past, I've worked mostly from upper left down to bottom right just because I'm right handed and that's what I've seen done so often. I'm learning, at least with portraits, that it's best to work on the key facial elements first.

I have some minor adjusting to do on the shape of the nose/mouth, it's not quite right yet. I think the mouth needs to be just a bit wider on the right and the nose seems slightly off to me. Overall though, I believe Emily's face is starting to take on some life now!

Key tips to remember:

  • Make sure you have strong values to create depth (I've found that working in layers and building my values slowly - leaving my top layer unblended- works best for me, but there are other methods that may suit your own style better)
  • In all drawings, shapes and proportions are extremely important but that is especially true in portrait drawing. Pay particular attention to the eyes!
  • Don't get caught up in doing what you've always done. Try varying your techniques a little and you might be surprised at how much your drawing improves because of it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Project- Commission of Emily

I've started on a new project, a commission of a young lady named Emily. To the left is part of the reference photo I'm using. I did some slight editing of the original photo in Photoshop. The overall lighting isn't very good so I'm going to have to use some imagination to bring some depth to this drawing. I always seem to be a little disappointed with the early stages of my drawings since they don't really look like much . . . I even tend to procrastinate working on them when I get to this point because I get discouraged that I'm ever going to get anywhere. I seem to be having that problem with this one in a very big way. I've made excuse after excuse over the past two weeks NOT to pick up my pencil and move forward. Last Saturday, I had a dream about drawing this portrait and I was so excited when I first got up! I wanted to jump right in . . . but then, after a shower, then after breakfast, then after a little nap, then a movie on t.v., then playing with my grandkids . . . well, then it was bedtime again- so I accomplished nothing on the drawing. Here is what I have so far:

I had another picture that showed off Emily's beautiful, curly hair, but I kind of liked this one because it features her smile and makes her neck look longer. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with the background on this. I was thinking maybe a kind of stained glass look or something. I don't know for sure but I'd like it to reflect her personality somehow.

I've promised myself that I'm going to try to get some substantial work done on this tonight... if I succeed, I'll have an update for you tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Resources For Artists- My Favorites

I've been really busy this week with work and Vacation Bible School right after work. I haven't had any time for drawing. But I promised myself I'd try to be consistent with updating this blog so I'd like to share with you some of my favorite art resources.

Art Communities:

  • Deviant Art: community of artists and those devoted to art. Digital art, skin art, themes, wallpaper art, traditional art, photography and more.
  • Wet Canvas: Artist's community with articles, news, forums and information on art supplies. Registration required. (Not just for wet media, there's a really nice drawing and sketching forum too). If you post to the forums, expect constructive criticism. The tips are not malicious, just helpful advice intended to help you grow as an artist.

Online Learning/Tutorials:


  • Drawspace: This site offers downloadable and printable drawing lessons featuring Brenda Hoddinott's unique style of teaching. There is also a nice forum here. Lots of positive encouragement from forum members.
  •'s Drawing/Sketching:


Favorite Pencil Artists:

Hope you enjoy browsing these sites!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Grand Champion

I entered three drawings into our local Open Class 4H exhibit at the fair this year and they all did very well.

1st in Class (nature/animal)

1st in Class (other) & Reserve Champion

1st in Class (portrait) & Grand Champion

But now is not the time to be complacent.. I have a commission portrait to do so it's back to the drawing board.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Natures Bounty- Part 3 (final)

This definately proved to be more challenging that I'd thought. Here are the final steps and a few notes:

Still laying in the background bark and foliage details.

Getting the base down. When I tire of working on the base, I go back to the beginning and work in even more details from left to right.

Then it's back to detailing the bark . . .

To give you an idea about how much time I spent on this, the little incomplete section on the bottom right took me almost two hours to complete.

I did not like the big leaf that was originally in front of the bunny. I found it too distracting so I decided to take it out and rework that area. When you are working from a photo, don't get too caught up in making your picture look exactly like the photo. Take some things out, add some things if you want to. Many of the leaves and grasses are from imagination, letting the drawing work itself out visually. So often, if you depend on your photo reference too much, you will end up with a really flat drawing. This is one of my better ones, I think, because I looked more at my drawing to see what I needed to do next instead of looking at my reference photo.

I hope you've enjoyed this work in progress. I'll try do do more of these, with more detail, in the future.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Copyright- A Brief Introduction

Note: I wasn't able to progress much further with Nature's Bounty since yesterday so I don't really have much to update today. The next update will probably be on Monday. Until then, I'm happy to share some other information with you.
I found a picture on the web a couple years ago and thought it would be the perfect reference to try my hand at doing a charcoal drawing. So I used the photograph as a reference. Since this was just me doing a practice drawing for my own benefit, I figured that it was okay. Uhhh, no. Not necessarily true.

"Tea Rex" by John Watson, see article:

The drawing turned out really well. So well, in fact, that I wanted to post it with my collection of other drawings. However, I did not want to be a thief (not knowing at that time, technically, there was a high likelihood that I already was a thief). Although my brain had not been educated about the facts regarding when you can and when you better not, my heart was in the right place. Of course when it comes to ignorance of the law, I doubt the courts would care much about the positioning of my heart.

I went back on the web to search for the original photograph so that I could contact the artist and ask if I could use it. Yes, that is the backwards way of doing it and I don't recommend it. I did find the photo and discovered it was posted under a Creative Commons license allowing use for derivative works. Yay!!! I escaped theifdom!

But then . . . what do you do if someone likes your derivative work so well, they want to buy it? You contact the original artist, obtain written permission to sell your piece and abide by any conditions that he or she requests in return. If you sell your painting, drawing or whatever derivative work you created without that permission, you've entered theifdom. Don't go there. Have the same respect for other artists as you would want for your own creations.

"Caffeine Rush" by Sarah Salisbury, a derivative work of "Tea Rex" by John Watson

I contacted the photographer and he gave me permission to sell my piece. Then we all lived happily ever after. Please reference the US Copyright Office for more in depth information about copyright and the types of creative commons licenses:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Natures Bounty- Part 2

Here's where I left off in my previous post:

Here is where I am now:

This is about three hours into it so far. I've found the coldpress watercolor paper, which gave such a lovely texture to the bark, is working against me now that I'm really getting into the details of the foliage. It's not so much the paper as it is the Graphitint I'm using for the slight hint of color in this piece. Because of the tint of color in the Graphitint pencil, the lead is much softer than I'd recommend for paper this rough. But hey, I like a challenge! I do think I'm going to back off a little on the color and use it only for larger leaves and blades of grass in the foreground. I'll have to trust that my reliable 2b mechanical pencil and a lot of patience
will get me the results I'm looking for.
Now that I'm into the details of the foliage, I'm using a bit of imagination and the negative drawing technique.

I have some basic leaf and grass shapes laid out for placement based on the reference photo. As I go I'm imagining where I want other blades of grass and leaves to be then I'm blocking in the space around them. Mike Sibley's book, "Drawing from Line to Life" is an excellent reference for drawing foliage and negative drawing. (Here is his site address: I've also laid out the basic tone on another large section of bark. I will go back in later to add the texture details of the bark.

For now, my focus is on the foliage in the lower left corner. I've been scooting along with confidence until now. I've reached my first, "oh crap, I'm never going to get this right" creative barrier. I go through this, usually more than once, with just about every piece I do.
One thing I've found is that a single reference photograph will only take you so far. I recommend having multiple photo references when possible, but even more importantly, study your subject in "real life". So I think it's time for me to step away, do some study sketches and reference Mike's book for a refresher on drawing foliage.

Part Three coming soon!.

Copyright 2009 Sarah D. Salisbury. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nature's Bounty- Part 1

Last weekend my sweetheart and I hopped in my convertable and took a drive north to the state park in Brown County. It was a beautiful day for a drive with the top down! We went to explore and to get some scenic nature shots for artistic reference. God is always sending us little surprises when Cecil and I are out and about like that and this time was no different. We decided to explore the Friendship Trail (which isn't really a trail as much as it is a community meeting circle with a circular stone campfire pit at it's center- way cool actually) and one of God's most adorable little creatures decides to get into the friendship spirit and do a little posing for us.

I had some Strathmore cold press watercolor paper, 6x18, at home and I wanted to do something on it. With a little cropping of one of my bunny photos, I was able to come up with a layout that would work for me with those dimensions.

I initially intended to try an ink and wash, but as is often the case, intent rarely has anything to do with what actually happens. Normally I would not do a graphite drawing on cold press paper, but as I was putting down the outline and brief notes of tone, I discovered that I liked the way the paper and graphite were working together for the textures in this piece. I still wanted just a hint of color so I decided I'd try out my new Derwent Graphitint pencils.

To emphasize the subtle color from the Graphitint, I decided to do straight graphite, 2b, on the tree bark. So far, I like the effect.

I have a pretty good layout now so I'll work the details into this piece from left to right. Stay in touch for part 2 of Nature's Bounty.

Copyright 2009, Sarah D. Salisbury. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Little Color

Rebecca and Doll
8x10 Mixed Media

The process: Last night I just felt like doing something with color for a change. The garden, girl, doll and bird bath are all from separate references that I digitally put together to create this scene. This is acrylic paint on acrylic canvas paper with some colored pencil overlay. It didn't turn out the way I'd anticipated, but the whole point of this piece was to do a little "experimenting".

What I learned: I tried underpainting with a red first, hoping it would bring out the greens. It just didn't work out very well on the acrylic paper. The paper is just too textured and the underpainting showed through too much. Also, the heavy texture was not friendly to colored pencils and did not allow for fine details. If I had used Strathmore or Crescent illustration board or watercolor paper, I'd say this would have turned out much better.

Final thought: Since my favored technique is realism using graphite, this was a step outside of my comfort zone. I think I'm going to need a lot more practice doing illustrative type work, especially since one of my goals is to eventually write and illustrate a children's book. I really liked the concept for this painting and will probably revisit it again using a different technique, or at least a different paper!