Two Portraits

I have been inspired lately to use conte, pan pastel, and pitt pastel pencil on Rives BFK paper. I love this particular mix of materials with the velvety texture of the paper. Even with all smudging I did, I found that Rives BFK paper was able to withstand multiple layers of conte, smudging and erasing. I can't wait to draw more!
 "Walter", conte and pastel pencil on rives bfk paper
"Christopher", conte and pastel pencil on rives bfk paper

My kitty Maggie watched me during much of these portrait sessions. She's a great studio companion except for the occasional snoring.

This past year I have spent almost my entire life outside of my full time job taking workshops. Although my personal schedule was definitely pushed the max and at times stressful, at the end of this year I am looking back and feeling hopeful, energized and inspired. For about ten years after I left Chicago to move to San Francisco, I stopped painting outside of my illustration job because I was too busy making a living. This year I've made connections back to what truly inspires me; I've been studying Nature closely and all the while looking deep within my own heart, thinking carefully about what I truly find beautiful.

I am eternally grateful to those artists around me, right here in San Francisco, who generously choose to pass on their wisdom and support!

With so much gratitude, thank you!

Lundman-plein air box

The art of sharpening pencils


 I went to the American Academy of Art, in Chicago, where I quickly learned the art of sharpening a pencil, charcoal, china marker, and any other writing instrument that can be sharpened to a point. At the time I thought it was over kill to sharpen my pencils to such an extreme as required by my professors. I soon realized the reasons and advantages for doing so.

The methods taught to me at the American Academy of Art were passed down from the previous generation of professors, most notably William H. Mosby, the academy's master artist professor and graduate of the Belgian Royal Academy, and the great Andrew Loomis, who also taught at the school during the 30's and 40's. Some of Mosby's notable students include artists Gil Elvgren, Bill Parks, Ted Smuskiewcz, Howard Terpning, and Richard Schmid, who credits Mosby as his most influential art professor. (I had the good fortune to study under Bill Parks and Ted Smukiewcz while at the Academy, and learned a lot watching Richard Schmid paint and dispense wisdom at the Palette and Chisel in Chicago - an amazing learning experience!)

It is the influence from Mosby and Loomis that no doubt caused my generation's professors to require their students to sharpen their charcoal sticks and pencils in such a particular manner. I am still amazed the information lived on in our era of deconstructivism and forever grateful that it has. As silly as it might seem at first, sharpening drawing instruments is an important feature in mastering dexterity and refining technique, and I encourage everyone to try it at least once or twice regardless of final intention, be it illustration, "fine" art, cartooning, or whatever.

I try all kinds of pencils for sketching, but particularly love col-erase in various colors (mostly brown or red) for preliminary drawings (a habit I picked up while working in animation) and Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 series in 2H, H and HB for final lines. I don't care for electric pencil sharpeners because they will not go far back enough into the pencil. I like to expose a good portion of the lead, say just under 1/3 of the way from the writing end. Part of the reason for this is because once the lead is exposed, I can also use the side of that exposed lead for blocking in or textures. Pencil sharpeners, electric or otherwise, just don't do the job as nicely as a utility knife or razor blade does. I also find it quite meditative and zen to spend some time getting my drawing instruments ready and have come to love the process.

Lundman_drawing materials

My typical drawing/sketching materials are from left to right:
staedtler sanding pad, col erase pencil, staedtler mars lumograph pencils in 2H and H, papermate tuff stuff eraser stick, olfa brand snap off utility blade, kneaded eraser (top right). 

I have tried many different types of utility knife over years, mainly using raw razor blades. Recently when I took Sadie Valeri's classical realism painting course, she suggested we purchase an Olfa brand snap off utility knife, one that I had not tried before and now quite like. I always carry these materials in a small bag in my purse and a sketchbook and at home I keep them in a bowl on my desk that I can sharpen the shavings into.

The technique is simple. Shave away the woody part until the lead is exposed.


Once the lead is exposed, sand the tip of the pencil using a sandpaper pad until sharp. By sharp, I mean really sharp, like a needle. The sharpest you can get it. It takes some time and practice to get it just right and there are bound to be broken points, which is completely frustrating. I always trudge ahead knowing that having those sharpened points will give me one less thing to worry about while i'm drawing.

I use the same method for drawing with charcoal. I like to use Nitram Fusains, medium to soft, but mostly medium. When I sharpen this, there is no need for a razor blade or utility knife, just sand paper. I always sharpen at least two pieces to a fine point and keep a raw square piece for textures and block in of large areas.
Charcoal zen

I've also recently started using sharpened pastel pencils, Faber-Castell Pitt brand. Same methods apply. However, this pencil is quite soft, being a pastel, and therefore when sharpened does not keep it's point as well. That's ok however, because usually when I'm working with pastel pencils I like to smudge a bit.


And when I'm sketching gestures or quick 5-10 minute poses, I like to use a red or brown china marker which I sharpen, unwrapping the paper around the wax lead. It was in art school, again, where we learned to draw with a china marker as the great illustrators did. China Marker (not sure why it's called by this name) is really fun and produces a lovely line. I like to use red and brown tones because those colors are usually the undertone color of organic material.


So many artists are passionate about materials and quite specific about the type and methods used. It makes sense, after all. Pencils, charcoal, pastels, inks, feel like extensions of our hands. We channel all of our energies into whatever tool is being used; I sometimes feel like the pencil is a part of my hand.

Toronto Comic Arts Festival: Pencil it In from Toronto Comic Arts Festival on Vimeo.

Happy drawing! :))

The Value Sphere, an exercise worth trying

I was reminded of how important rendering the sphere is when I took Sadie J. Valeri's two week painting workshop last January. Sadie had all of us render a sphere using graphite pencils on the first day of the workshop, and also as homework. Some of us rendered several by the end of the week. After the workshop ended I began some research on lighting conditions and thought I would share the details.

In lighting, there is a simple division between light and dark that is important to understand.
The term for this lighting effect is THE TERMINATOR. Regardless of whether you are interested in observational art or imaginary work, this simple lighting principle can be applied to great effect.


Once the terminator is indicated, there are several more effects to observe and understand, which I have indicated in the chart below. Many effects within the shadow can be observed, but does not necessarily mean they need to be rendered. Simplifying shadows into two values has a pleasant effect when rendering form because the eye does not dwell in the dark areas. Logic tells us that if the eye does not dwell there, then calling attention by over rendering shadows will break the believability of the form. That is not to say that the shadow areas are not important; they what hold a picture together (more on this concept in later posts):


I did this exercise with pencil two times, and then digitally in Photoshop. I found both very difficult and challenging in unique ways. I think my digital samples above, for instance, still need some work - and I will continue to try perfecting. I highly recommend doing both analog and digital; the traditional method helps build motor skills and sharpens the eye and digital is a good way to refine your wacom or cintiq skills. (I recommend using the soft airbrush at 30-50% opacity to build up tones)

1. BEFORE YOU BEGIN - traditional method: sharpen two graphite pencils, a 2H and H. Sharpen your pencils with an xacto blade taking off the woody part of the pencil and then use sandpaper to make a very very fine point. Use a pad of strathmore 400 lb paper with the cream surface, widely available in art supply stores (also great for drawing in general and also inexpensive). If doing this digitally, use the soft airbrush and follow these steps exactly using the smallest diameter of brush.

outline only-sphere





Finished sphere can have a foil behind it and an edge indicating a horizon line for a sense of place. Do this exercise more than once or twice! I have seen a noticeable improvement in my drawing/painting skills since having incorporated this exercise into my routine. There are other concepts about light and shadow that I have learned about that I would like to share and will do that in coming posts. In the mean time, have fun trying this! Not as easy as it looks ;) 

Good luck!

CTN Expo Wrap Up

The CTN Expo was a lot of fun again this year, although the attendance was about three times the size of what it was last year yet the floor space was the same, making it very crowded. Jamie and I didn't get to see any of the panel discussions this year because we were manning down his both, selling prints and books, and answering portfolio questions to the many students who were seeking advice.

It is difficult to give advice actually, given that the animation industry has changed so very much from when Jamie and I both began our careers. Well, to be fair, I'm not sure my 'career' in animation ever 'started' - I worked at Calabash Animation for many years in Chicago on many commercials and short films, and then went into games after I moved to California, while Jamie began his career in 1981 at the age of 17 working at Hanna Barbara...big difference! Even so, I think we both have some perspective on how to survive as an artist; it was nice to share some of that perspective with the students and new grads. Jamie's advice is so good that HE should have a panel discussion. He's certainly talked me down off a ledge more than once (actually more like twice a week). I imagine students would benefit from some iron clad Jamie tips for how to protect your fragile artist soul.

Speaking of fragile artist soul, here are a few life drawings from the past few weeks. I have been very busy at work lately. I have been contributing design work to game pitches, mostly background game board paintings and a few other things.

I was going to crop these in Photoshop, but I kind of like how noir the the photos turned out. haha

Some of the things on my desk right now are: a Christmas card, a reworked sketch for my Seasons piece, "Winter", a sketch for an elaborate blog header illustration, and some fairy and faun sketches.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all my readers. I am truly GRATEFUL that you visit my blog. It encourages me endlessly and feels so good to know people are actually paying attention. THANK YOU.
"Terry", pastel pencil on paper.

On Tuesday evenings I attend the long pose life drawing open studio over at Sadie Valeri's studio. If you haven't seen her work, check out her blog. What an awesome artist to have discovered among my web of friends this year! To draw with a group of women on Tuesday nights, all practicing in the same classic tradition, is... well, I am grateful.

When I graduated from art school in 1993, I went into deep despair knowing that with working full time I would no longer be able to devote my days to improving my skills and perfecting the craft of drawing and painting. Over the years I adjusted and realized that what truly matters is the joy of drawing, learning, discovering in art - and that it never ends. There are still opportunities to learn and grow outside of work, nights, weekends, vacations... It's funny, too, because I swear that even in short bursts, one or two evenings a week, my skills have improved faster than I would have guessed. I'm not sure why that is.

At the same time I cannot deny that having a year or two off from working in order to dedicate my time to creating all the art I have in my head and take workshops would be great. It would. In fact, I'm not even sure how much longer I can hang on not being able to do so. But what eases the yearning a little is life drawing, sculpting, painting, and being able to do so with fellow artists. I am really grateful to be drawing over at Sadie's studio - it came along just when I needed it.

LIfe Drawing at Sadie's Atelier

On Tuesday evenings I go over to Sadie Valerie's Atelier for an open studio life drawing workshop. We extend the pose for four Tuesdays, ensuring that all of us can get the level of finish that we like, thoughtfully observing and indicating anatomy as best we can. I have been experimenting with Pitt brand pastel pencils on charcoal paper and having fun with it, although I do feel the redness of the tone might be a bit much. (and for some reason hard for my camera to photograph)
Lately I have been engrossed in human anatomy while resting between illustration projects . After I finish up my various projects for the fall (hopefully four to five prints, the Sephalina pin up, and some additional pieces, revised website, blog header, and etsy shop...), I plan to fully immerse myself in a rather intense ecorche class taught by Andrew Ameral, who taught at the prestigious Florence Academy (a school I would LOVE to attend...). I want to, once and for all, KNOW what it is I am drawing, rather than just putting down shadow patterns. Shadow patterns are fine and all in drawing, but it's also very helpful to know the structure underneath in order to make a believable picture. Not to mention that knowledge of anatomy for sculpture is extremely useful, as well as drawing from memory and imagination. Solidifying knowledge of human anatomy, I expect, will go a long way, whether I am painting realist or imaginary subjects.

Hopefully by this time next week, I will be posting the finished PIN UP I'm working on at night and weekends for Jamie's new book, Sephalina. I've been taking photos along the way, so maybe I'll include a few work in progress shots to show the haphazard and chaotic way I approach an illustration, tears and all. :)


because i am a painter, i usually work tonally on figure drawings. the eye does not see contours around forms; the eye sees masses of shadow and light. for this reason, when drawing from life, many painters choose the tonal approach to drawing over the linear approach. while i agree that learning to see the light as opposed to delineation of separate objects is helpful for painting, after many years of working tonally, i have begun to feel that my work overall has a certain emotional disconnect. ultimately, what the artist is creating is work that expresses his or her own uniqueness, so do i really need to continue along a path in perfecting accuracy?

American Artist Magazine on the subject:

As prevalent as it has been historically, the contour remains an artificial construction. We don’t see in lines, no matter how accustomed we are to delineating objects with them. When I look out the window and see the edge of a building against the sky, I do not see a line, per se. I see a mass of dark tone juxtaposed against a mass of much lighter tone, and the point at which they meet creates an edge. This edge relationship might be described in an abbreviated fashion with a line, but it might also be more fully described by re-creating the tonal relationship between the two masses whose congruence makes the edge. In tonal drawing, there are edges to masses, rather than lines between them. To substitute a line for the edge of a value relationship is to substitute something that is not there for something that is. That is why linear drawing seems more abstract and intellectual. A line seems intellectual not because it lacks feeling—for what could be more emotive than a Leonardo silverpoint line—but because we don’t actually see in lines and therefore they have to be decoded or interpreted. Juxtaposed tones, being so much closer to vision, seem much more immediate.

i actually like a combination of the two, lines and tone. i hope to develop my drawings much further with the hope of emphasizing expressiveness; less literal, more experimental.

my lines are brown china marker and white conte pencil on pastel paper

I found this little watercolor portrait I did about ten years ago. The memories rushed back when I looked at it. I was still at the American Academy of Art, in Chicago, enjoying my watercolor class, and just about to start working at Calabash Animation as a background artist. It was a time filled with anxiety about my future...someone should have told me that life as an artist would always be that way!

Saturday Morning Zen: CANCELLED.

The place in Mill Valley that was hosting our Saturday morning drawing/painting workshop is no longer willing, canceling our sessions, much to the disappointment of the regulars who attended. I am sad, yet I am confident something else will open up.

Ironically, two years ago I bought a large amount of charcoal paper to be used specifically for this workshop. The drawing below is rendered on my very last sheet.

Thanks so much to Lenny Lee for putting the workshops together at Mill Valley Art and Paper. It was a great run!

my car was stolen while I was in Chicago during the holidays. the entire set of drawings I did during the two years of my "saturday morning zen" life drawing workshop were in the trunk. All those drawings gone, like tears in the rain. :)

Oakland Bay to Golden Gate

Judith, model today at my Saturday morning zen workshop:

What a gorgeous day it was all over the bay area. How do I know it was nice all over? Because my drive to this workshop spans two bridges, the Oakland Bay Bridge (still being retrofit...) and the Golden Gate Bridge, the most beautiful bridge ever. The weather was nice on both spans.

and a better photo from a few Saturdays ago:

the model in the drawing above reminded me of Waterhouse's nymphs: