Posts Tagged ‘Drawing’


How I learned to stop worrying and love the color wheel…

December 17, 2018

When it comes to drawing people in public I always run into two big challenges:

1) People rarely sit still.

2) I don’t want to get caught staring at them.

That’s why I love going to play readings.

If you aren’t familiar with the theatre world, a reading is part of a playwright’s development process. Once they have finished a draft of their play, they invite actors to come read the script aloud for a small audience of trusted friends and creatives, who then give feedback about their experience. The playwright uses that feedback to help inform their rewrites.

Play readings provide a great opportunity to draw people because the actors sit in relatively the same position for the duration of the play, and as an audience member I am supposed to look at them. So I get to hear a play for free, be part of a playwright’s creative process, AND get some good sketching in. Triple win!

Some time ago I attended a reading of a play called Ear*, written by my brilliant friend, Ashley Naftule. Ear is a f’cking great script, loosely inspired by my man Vincent Van Gogh.

Meet Steve and Marcella, two of the actors from the reading.



I was real happy with how these two drawings came out, and I kinda agonized over whether or not to color them.

This was right around the time I was first starting to become an alcoholic.

On the one hand, I knew that I needed to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone of black and white, and into the wonderful world of color. On the other hand, I liked them in B&W and was afraid I’d eff ’em up!

Then I remembered that you can’t move forward without taking risks, and you sure as hell shouldn’t be precious about your stuff. So I dove in.

(BTW, I realize that using the word risk in reference to coloring a little 4×6 inch drawing might be a stretch, but I can’t afford to go skydiving.)

Before going to town with markers I laid down some undertones with red, blue and yellow colored pencil. I learned how to do this on a great You Tube channel called Kiara’s Studio. Kiara calls this “color zoning.”


The pencil undertones show through the marker layer and create a level of depth and richness that I think would be difficult to achieve with markers alone.

Since we were reading a play inspired by Van Gogh, I put a third grade quality version of Starry Night in Steve’s background.

(Third gradeness not intentional, just the best I could do.)


For Marcella’s background I wanted to do a simple design with colors that would compliment the one’s I used on her face.

I have a pocket color wheel that I use all the time when figuring out color stuff. It’s a great tool. For this picture I chose a split complementary color scheme.


The reddish orange area of Marcella’s cheek seemed to be the most eye catching area to me, so I used that as the base point. The complement of red-orange is blue-green. In a split complementary scheme you use the two colors one each side of the complement, hence the blue and green background.


In the end I was real happy with how these little portraits came out, and so so so glad I faced my fears and colored them.



I know that I still have a long ways to go when it comes to color and markers, and even when it comes to drawing. But I feel like I’ve made some big strides forward this past year or two — not just in art but in other areas as well — and that has everything to do with trying sh*t that feels kinda scary.

Pretty much 100% of what I know about using alcohol-based markers I learned on You Tube, mostly from Kiara’s studio. She specializes in portraits and is amazing with skin tones. She’s also on IG at kiarasstudio. Her work is lovely so go check it out.

*Happy side note: Ear went on to have a very successful production at Space 55, and was nominated for several awards! Way to go Ash!


Special Features

November 30, 2018

I am crazy lucky that I just happen to be married to my favorite person to draw. And although one might assume that any artist’s favorite person to draw would be their spouse — because they love them so much or whatever — that’s not really true.

(Although I do love him so much or whatever.)

Richard would be my favorite even if I was married to someone else. He just has a really fun face. And he’s actually a life drawing model, so there are lots of artists and teachers around town that agree with me.


There are some types of faces that I find tough to draw. This has nothing to do with their level of attractiveness. I know tons of people that are super good-looking, but whose likeness I just can’t seem to recreate on the page.

The people I find the most challenging to draw are kids. I think this has something to do with the lack of special features: the things on your face OTHER than eyes, nose, and mouth. This could be things that are actually part of the face such as wrinkles, moles, facial hair and scars. Or it could be add ons, like glasses, braces, nose/lip/eyebrow ring, a cigarette, or a monocle.

(Sadly, I don’t get nearly enough opportunities to draw people with a monocle.)

Richard has a lot of special features. He usually has facial hair. He often wears glasses. He has 3 tiny moles that form a triangle on the upper left side of his face. He has another mole on his right cheek. He has a very distinct nose, and these mischievous eyebrows that sometimes make him look like an evil magician.


All that extra stuff helps break up the face, which makes it easier to translate a 3 dimensional human onto a 2 dimensional plane. I can get the size, shape, and angle of something more accurate by looking at it in relation to something else.

For example, whenever I do someone from a 3/4 angle I almost always draw their face too narrow the first time around, and I end up having to erase and adjust. I never seem to put enough distance between their nose and their ear. That’s because there usually isn’t much there. Cheeks are kinda like the desert of the face. Just a big open space with not much happening, which makes it hard to determine where things land.

In the drawing below I was able to use Richard’s glasses to figure out the distance between his eyes, nose and ear. And even though my style is way more caricature than realistic, the same rules still apply. Your baseline is still reality, you just choose which things to exaggerate and which things to simplify or exclude.


In addition to the special features on his face, Richard is also a big fan of accessories. He loves watches, rings, wristbands, buttons, all kinds of hats, and fun T-shirts. He also likes to change up his look regularly. He’ll shave his head in different ways, reshape his goatee, paint his nails, or put on a tie and jacket for literally no reason.

All of this stuff makes a person more fun and interesting to draw. When I am out in the world trying to discreetly draw strangers, details like these will inform the story that I make up about the person in my head.

I did all of these drawings with pen and colored pencil. One of the challenges with using colored pencils is that because of the nature of the medium, a lot of paper shows through, even with with layering, so the drawing comes out looking kinda dull and muted.

The way to fix this is by blending. There are several methods you can use to blend. My favorite way lately is to use a Prismacolor colorless blender MARKER. This is basically the same as using rubbing alcohol solvent, but it’s contained in a handy dandy marker.

Afterwards I use a white gel pen to add some highlights. (Not too much!)


One cool thing about being married to a life drawing model is that he is used to being stared at AND he’s great at sitting still. So whenever we go out to dinner he lets me sketch him while we’re waiting for our food. It’s way better than staring at our stupid phones.


Griffith Observatory

September 13, 2018

Last weekend I visited my little brother in LA. Turns out he lives within walking distance to the Griffith Observatory, which is a place that I have been wanting to visit for many years. It’s a steep little hike to get up there, but totally worth it.

Unfortunately the observatory didn’t open until noon and I was there at about 10AM, so I didn’t get to see inside. But while I was up there I did some pencil sketches.

After I got back from the trip I inked and shaded.

This is a bit out of my comfort zone. I mostly draw people, and I get really impatient when it comes to architecture and nature. I did kind of a sloppy hasty job here, but I still had a lot of fun.

I recently bought some brush pens and I have enjoyed experimenting with line quality. I think the brush pen is a great tool for drawing foliage and stuff, but I am definitely going to need more practice.

After I finished I remembered that my pal — rad artist, and lover of sharks– Jessica Hickman proclaimed September to be Sharktember, a drawing challenge where you draw a shark everyday. So I decided to put a hidden shark or two into everything I draw this month.

Here is the new and improved Sharktember version. See if you can find the sharks.


Sketchtober 2017

September 13, 2018

Every year during the month of October many artists participate in a drawing challenge called Inktober, which was invented by an artist named Jake Parker as a way to improve his inking and to develop daily drawing habits. I learned about this because many of the artists I follow on Instagram participate in it.

The rules are simple. Draw something in ink every day and post it online. Lots of artists create and share their own list of prompts to use as inspiration each day.

When I learned of this I became really excited because A) I love October and Halloween  and B) I love finding ways to motivate myself to do creative work.

I wanted to create my own list of prompts and invite people to participate. The only thing was that I did not want to limit the requirements to ink only. I just wanted to do something that inspired people to make art, whether it was in pencil, crayon, photoshop or whatever they want.

So I decided to make my own challenge called Sketchtober, and I invited my pal Jessica Hickman to help me create a list of fun Halloween-inspired prompts.


I have attempted to do nanowrimo many times but I never get far. Partly because nanowrimo is effing hard, but also because I put too much pressure on myself to write something “good”, or even “not horrible”, which is not the point of it at all. Nanowrimo is all about getting your ass in the chair everyday and hitting a word count goal, even if what you come up with is just gibberish.

That’s what I wanted to do with Sketchtober. Just draw something– ANYTHING– everyday. October was already a really busy month for me, as I was frantically writing a play that had a looming deadline, so I didn’t really have any extra time for other projects. I just wanted to do a quick little sketch every night to end the day on a creative note.

That shouldn’t be too hard, right?

On October 1st I did my first Sketchtober, which turned out to be a little cartoon. Even though the drawing is pretty crude, I already set a dangerous precedent by making a joke.

Uh oh! Now they all have to have jokes!




On day two I upped the expectations by adding shading.




On day three I used alcohol-based copic markers for the shading, instead of the water-based tombow markers I used on day two. I LOVE alcohol-based markers when doing full color, but I realized here that I don’t really like them so much for black and white work. The tombow markers just look a little cleaner or something.

I spent a little more time than I wanted coming up with a joke here. And then I had to look up pictures of Wolverine and Freddy for reference. Damn it! It was only day three I was already spending more time on these than I intended.




By day four I started brainstorming ideas for what I would draw as soon as I got to work in the morning. I’ve never seen That’s So Raven, but I went down a rabbit hole reading the wikipedia page so I could learn enough about the show to make a joke.




According to the baby book my mom kept, I was afraid of men with beards when I was a baby. So this one is a little autobiographical.




By day six I realized that it’s better to get the drawing done earlier in the day, because if I photograph it at night it looks yellow due to the lack of natural light.




For day seven I drew myself and my husband dressed as Gomez and Morticia. Richard is a huge Addams Family fan says every year that we should be them for Halloween, but we never do because we are lazy.




On day eight I made a Harry Potter reference. I can’t believe it took 8 days.




On day nine I just wanted an excuse to draw the lady Ghostbusters. This one took 2 or 3 hours to do, but I did it while watching Ghostbusters so it was fun.




On day ten I found a way to put Sho Nuff  and the Frankenstein monster into the same cartoon. This required looking up reference pics for both characters as well as the background. Again this took 2-3 hours total and it looked like there was no going back now.




On day eleven I took a shot at internet trolls, the scum of the earth.




Day twelve was basically an homage to my love of old time radio. This ended up being one of my favorite drawings from this series.




On day thirteen I spent way too much time making an underwhelming joke.




I used to think that Vampira and Elvira were the same person until I saw that movie Ed Wood. Then I fell down an internet rabbit hole and learned all about Vampira and how Elvira kinda stole her persona. So that’s what day fourteen is about.




On day fifteen I referenced Orphan Black, which is a super cool show. Well the first two seasons are super cool. After that the plot kinda goes off the rails. But the characters are fantastic, and they are all played by the same actress, Tatiana Maslany, who is rad AF.

Anyhow, drawing anthropomorphized cat versions of the clones was way harder than I thought it would be.




On day sixteen I did a haunted house because I looooove haunted houses. This one has a hidden Mickey. Speaking of haunted houses, check out the work of AZ painter Lew Lehrman. He takes commissions to paint people’s houses, but he makes them look like a haunted house. So cool.





We have a magnet on our fridge with a picture of Edgar Allen Poe, which I used as reference when I drew this one.




On day eighteen I did my other favorite drawing from this batch. The prompt was “Lon Chaney’s mom” so all I could think about was how she would be having to clean up the hairballs from her werewolf child. That made me think of vacuum cleaners, and then the next thing I knew I was looking up sexist magazine ads from the 1950’s for reference. This is such a weird joke, but I really liked how the drawing came out. This took 3-4 hours.




On day nineteen I came across a coupon for a haunted house that had a picture of this scary clown on it, which I used for reference for this one. It was really fun to draw.




On day twenty I put up a poll on social media listing several urban legends and asked friends to vote. El Chupacabra was the winner, so that’s what I drew. Every time I try to draw some sort of monster they just come out looking cute and not the least bit scary.




The word wicked made me think of Disney villain, so on day twenty-one I drew Ursula.




On day twenty-two I was really freaking busy and could not carve out any time for a Sketchtober drawing, but I did have lunch with my mom that day where I did a quick sketch of her. Later I added a cauldron and called it Sketchtober.




On day twenty-three I managed to put the peanuts gang, Wonder Woman, and a pro transgender message all in the same picture.




On day twenty-four I had a blast drawing the spice girls with pumpkin heads.




And then here is where it all fell apart. I knew from the beginning that I didn’t have a lot of time to put into these drawings, but I kept doing it anyway because I was having so much fun. But I had other projects going that month that were more important and I really had to focus on them.

I could have just done quick little five minute sketches each day, like I had intended from the beginning, but because the drawings had grown more and more carefully crafted I felt like I had to keep up that level, and I just didn’t have time.

So I let four days go by without doing any Sketchtober drawings at all. And then I felt completely overwhelmed by the idea of having to four drawings to catch up. But I also had been doing so well up until that point, that really I didn’t want to just stop when I was so close to the end of the month.

So finally broke down and did four dumb little sketches on the same page. The exact kind of sketches that I had intended to do when I started this project. Whew. Now I was caught up.




Throughout this whole time, my artist friend Manny Burruel, had also been doing daily Sketchtober drawings with me. Manny is a lover of sci-fi, especially Star Wars and Star Trek, so on day twenty-nine I made a cartoon about him.


29) SCI-FI


Most people are familiar with Garbage Pail Kids, the insanely popular collector cards from the 80’s that depicted Cabbage Patch-looking kids doing weird and gross stuff.

But guess what? There was a whole other set of cards out at the same time called Grossville High, which depicted high school kids (and staff) doing even weirder and grosser stuff. I preferred Grossville High to GPK because I thought the artwork was better. So on day thirty I attempted to do my own Grossville High character.




On day 30 I thought about all the stories from when I was a kid that people would put razor blades and poison inside trick or treat candy. It was a real scare back in the 80’s, right up there with satanic cults. Apparently, both the jacked up candy and the cults were greatly exaggerated rumors.

Anyhow, it made for a fun idea for my last drawing. After I finished inking it I felt like it was missing a little something, so I grabbed some nearby markers and did a very hasty job of adding some color, which I regretted immediately.




So there it is! Thirty-one completed drawings for Sketchtober! The whole thing ended up being waaaaay more complicated and stressful than it was supposed to be…

BUT I definitely achieved my goal of drawing regularly and staying creative. I learned a lot and I am really proud of a couple of those drawings.

When it was all over I was pretty relieved, but also kinda sad. One of the best side effects of this project was that a few of my friends on social media joined in and did daily drawings too! Creating that little community of sharing art and encouraging each other was super neat-o.



Snapchat in the Garden of Good and Evil

September 25, 2016

Next up in the “big head people with different backgrounds” series…

(I need to find a shorter way to describe these things.)

This one is my brother. I won’t identify which one (I have three) because the bro in question was horrified by this representation of him. And to be fair, it truly is a horrible representation.

But hey, I’ve been saying all along that the person I’m looking at is merely a jumping off point. From there I blow up their head and distort their features. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes it’s not.

When he saw the initial pencil sketch he said, “Where are my muscles?”

Then he said, “I guess I’d better shave.”


Anyhow… I did the sketch one night while he and I (and some other fam) were having dinner outside. He’d been snapchatting all day, which is why he is staring at his phone.

SIDE NOTE: I am going to take this opportunity to rant about something that’s been getting on my nerves lately.

There are a lot of cranky old curmudgeons (aka COCs) who like to make stupid jokes about millennials (I’m looking at you WWDTM) and gripe about how they are a bunch of lazy entitled brats who just stare at their phones and take selfies all all day.

Well, I have three things to say to you COCs:

  1. Oh shut up! Do you realize that people have been making the old “this new generation is sooo lazy” complaint since BIBLICAL TIMES? Really, they have. Here is just one of many articles quoting angry old fuddy duddies who’ve been saying the same damn thing since 20 BC.
  2. I happen to think Millennials are pretty freaking impressive. Most of the ones I know are very smart and open-minded. And they’re doing a lot of cool, creative, ambitious work. Meanwhile, a big chunk of the Gen X-ers and Boomers I know seem to be spending quite a lot of their free time watching Netflix, posting selfies, and complaining about Millennials. (Contrary to popular opinion, oldsters post a lot of selfies too).
  3. As someone who likes to sketch strangers in public, I find it VERY convenient that so many of them are staring at their phones nowadays. Not only are they keeping still, they are completely unaware that I’m staring at them. The smartphone phenomenon has led to a huge reduction in awkward, “Are you drawing me?” encounters.


So back to the drawing. When coming up with ideas for the background, I tried to think of stuff that my bro was into. One of the first things that came to mind was Doctor Who.

And what is the best Doctor Who episode of all? The weeping angels, of course!


So I added a weeping angel type statue to the background.

Then that statue made me think about the book/movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which I always thought was the best title ever. I saw that movie in the theater entirely because of the awesome title, and because I loved the creepy cool poster.

(BTW, the movie was disappointing. Very boring IMHO. Maybe the book is better.)


The poster has this statue of a sad girl in the middle of a swampy overgrown graveyard. So I added in my own swampy background, with the same sort of alternating rays of dark and light cutting diagonally across.

My biggest regret here is that I jumped the gun and colored in my brother before figuring out what I was going to do with the background.

If I had known I was going to do the whole creepy-swampy-statue thing, I would not have used such bright colors in the foreground. I would have tried to integrate him into the setting more, like I did with the Frankenstein drawing.

Too bad I can’t hop into a TARDIS and go fix it.

Ah well. A not-so-great drawing is still a hundred times better than a non-existent one. Plus, I had a lot of fun coming up with the setting for this one.

Even though I have regrets about each of my drawings, I usually have things I am secretly proud of too. Whether it’s a happy accident, something I learned while working on it, or just a nice memory attached to it, I’m always glad I have the drawing in the end.

The thing I secretly like about this one is the smartphone in the statue’s hand. I know it’s corny, but when I came up with that idea I was pretty darn pleased with myself. It’s that one little detail that turns this picture into a story.

Failing forward!


Monsters are Real

September 18, 2016

I like monsters. Especially the old Universal Monsters. The Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Vincent Price stuff from the 30’s and 40’s. I particularly love the posters. Like this and this. Whenever I see one of those old sci fi horror posters my heart kinda skips a beat.

I wish I enjoyed actually watching the movies. They’re fun, but (IMHO) they never quite live up to the promise of the poster. And yes I do realize that any movie made almost 100 years ago is not going to have the pacing a 2016 audience is used to, but still… in the Bride of Frankenstein the Bride doesn’t even show up until the last five minutes of the movie! If you call the movie BRIDE of Frankenstein then I think you owe it to the audience to give the bride a little more screen time.

Anyhow, when I see those old posters they get my imagination going. Pretty much every play I have ever written has a monster in it somewhere. Sometimes other people will suggest that I do this as a metaphor for how people can be monsters, but if that’s true it’s a subconscious thing. Metaphors are for people smarter than me.

Okay enough with the random ramble about monsters. I’ve posted recently about how I’ve been doing these distorted pencil sketches of people wherever I can, and then after a little time and brainstorming, I will ink it and add some kind of background setting. Here’s my latest drawing like that.


I sketched this guy at Space 55 one night, and then a few days later when looking back at it I realized that the shadows under his eyes, the hollowed out cheeks, and the long neck made him look a little mad scientisty.

So I decided to put him in a Frankenstein-type laboratory. I google image searched “Frankenstein comic strips” or something like that, to generate some ideas for simple things I could put in the background that would suggest a lab. The background that I came up with is a mishmash of about 3 or 4 of those.

That’s right, I’m a thief.

By the way, if you haven’t read the book Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon run–don’t zombie walk–to your local library and get it.

Initially I wanted to do a really limited palette on this. I was planning to go monochromatic blue. But then for some reason I didn’t think that would work, so I expanded the palette to cool colors. I’m glad I did. I like how that blue works against the green.

When I look at this drawing I notice that my ellipses are off, the shadow under Frankie’s operating table is going the wrong way, the machine on the right could have been drawn a lot cleaner, and the window ledge is at totally the wrong angle. That’s annoying because when I was inking it I consciously tried NOT to do these very things.

But after all these years, it might be time to embrace the fact that mistakes, flaws and deformities are just a part of my style. My drawings are clunky and awkward, kinda like me. Maybe I should go with it.





September 7, 2016

I love drawing statues and sculptures. Mostly because of the obvious reason: they don’t move. But I also love the challenge of trying to make them actually look like a statue. I rarely succeed at this challenge. Correction: I never succeed at this challenge. Every time I try to draw a sculpture of a person, it just ends up looking like a person, not a sculpture of one.

Here is one of those times when I failed. This is a drawing of a bronze sculpture at the Phoenix Art Museum. The PAM is one of my favorite places to take my sketchbook. The special exhibits are great, but the permanent collection is where I like to draw. And even though I been in there a million times, I always seem to find something that I never appreciated before. That’s what happened with this sculpture – Apache by Malvina Hoffman.

I went to the museum last spring with my husband Richard and my friend Laurie to see the Michelangelo exhibit. Afterwards we headed over to the permanent collection, and they wandered off while I sketched. I had just finished drawing this other sculpture which came out okay-ish, when Richard and Laurie came back and said they found something they thought I would love. Then they led me over to Apache.

They were right. I probably spent about an hour on this one. Maybe more, maybe less. I really don’t know, because it was one of those magical times when you lose all sense of time and place and just get lost in the thing you’re creating. It was almost like going underwater. Everything outside of me, the statue, and my sketchbook became blurry and muffled.

Apache PAM

When I finished it was like coming up for air. I remember looking around and thinking “Oh look, it’s the real world.” Then I looked at my drawing, as if for the first time, and thought “Oh hey, that’s really good.”

Or at least, really good for me. And that’s all I care about anymore. Doing the best drawing that I can do. Not trying to compare myself to other artist and then hate myself when I fall short.

My drawing still doesn’t look like a sculpture, but I like how the expression on his face came out. It’s actually a little different from the one on the OP*. I think my guy has a more suspicious look on his face than Malvina Hoffman’s does. He kinda looks like he’s giving someone the side eye. I guess it’s because of that dark line that goes up the slope of his nose and into his eyebrow.

I found Richard and Laurie in the museum cafe and showed them my drawing. They seemed genuinely impressed, which made me happy. Then they let me eat their leftover omelettes, which made me REALLY happy.

When we went on this museum visit I was in the middle of a very long period of creative frustration. Actually more like despair. A big writing project that I was (and still am) working on was not coming together, despite months (okay, years) of work that I’d been putting into it. And because of it, a low level bummer cloud had been hovering over my head for a while. Spending a few hours at the museum, hanging with two wonderful people, seeing lots of great art, and creating something myself–something that–

A) I was happy with


B) was actually complete

…was surprisingly soul-filling. It really lifted spirits that day. I think that’s why I love this drawing so much. Whenever I look at it, I am reminded of a really happy day in the middle of a pretty tough time.

Also, I just love using black and white conte on grey-toned paper. I really should do that more.


*OP – Original Piece