Archive for the ‘charcoal’ Category

Call Me a Cock-Eyed Optimist……

  I’ve always been known as an optimist, and since I only see out of one eye now, it seems that “cock-eyed” is appropriate. I have been mulling over a bunch of words for the year: liberate, enthusiastic, positive, optimistic, focus, abundance, willing. I do want to be more positive, as I have been sinking down somewhat this past year and worrying more. But it seems, as I review everything, that “optimistic” covers a lot more ground than “positive.” I feel that “optimistic” encompasses the whole year in a more vibrant, inclusive way than “positive.”

I’ve marked all my new moon dates in my calendar so I will be sure to write my abundance checks. And there is a bit of mathematics in “optimistic.” For the last three years, the business has been growing each year, a little more. This past year saw about a 75% increase in sales and opportunities, and already the possibilities for this coming year are increasing….exponentially. With the exponential growth model, things start out increasing very slowly, and then grow very rapidly. If I were to actually model business income for the last three years, I would see exponential growth at the very beginning. So I am optimistic that the growth will continue and will pick up pace. I’m putting in the time and doing what I need to, so optimistic really does describe how I want to approach the year.

I am committing to two year-long activities (which is a 100% increase in what I committed to last year – the Free Motion Quilting Challenge). The first is part of Art Quilts Around the World, with a total of six two-month challenges of art quilts for the year. The first one is about completed, and I did struggle with it, but I learned a lot. I’ll do a blog post when it’s reveal time. The second is participating in Dale Anne Potter’s 52 Sparks. This is journaling a response to a specific question and creating a piece of art along with it – each week.

This is definitely breaking out of my comfort zone. I am getting used to writing a lot (hey, I am at nearly 800 blog posts), but I usually don’t try and create artwork to go along with it. As part of “optimistic,” I was thinking about what I could do for art. The idea of “is the glass half-empty or half-full” came to mind, and I’m always the one who sees the glass as half-full. So I thought about doing some sketching of a glass. A very long time ago I used to work in charcoal, and it occurred to me that using charcoal again would be quite the risk, especially as I am not always confident with my sketching.

I noticed a number of things in the sketching. First was extreme tentativeness. I haven’t held charcoal in a very long time. I really studied the wine glass I set out. I wondered about how to capture the light in the glass and the cuts in the crystal. Finally I just started and got a good beginning oval. I left blank some spots where the light seemed to make the glass transparent. I got the basic shape of the top, but my proportions are seriously off on the bottom half of the glass. I really got hung up on how it didn’t look like the glass, that the stem wasn’t as long as it should be.

Then I started using my finger for blending, adding details, and the next thing I know, I have captured some of the essence of the glass. It is definitely fragile, a bit tipsy, and delicate. I found I wasn’t looking at what I thought was wrong with the glass, but what I found interesting and true in the drawing. That is a major breakthrough for me. And I really liked the charcoal. I will continue with that for a medium for a while. Here’s my finished piece:

The use of different media should be something I try this year. Crayons, markers, ink pens, water colors…I have them all, and I don’t use them. I think I need to push myself with something new – maybe a different medium each month.

That said, I think I want to add another year-long piece to my goals, that of creating a 12 x 12 piece each month as part of the online gallery I am in: Galleribba.

I have been busy working on goals and lists and loose ends, but I must say, four days into the year, that I am certainly optimistic about a really good 361 days left.


When I was a teen and drawing, my two favorite media were pen and ink (the kind you actually had to fill the nib) and charcoal. I still have a framed drawing I gave my dad one year for Christmas, done in pen and ink. Not bad some 40-plus years later. Most of my charcoal is still in an old sketchpad.

I always used charcoal pencils where you could peel off some of the pencil layer and expose more charcoal. And now I own a bunch of pencils of different hardnesses for drawing. I haven’t gone back to pen and ink, although the new supplies now would be wonderful.

I am reminded of Janet at MMU who created some amazing calligraphers, before the calligraphy fonts were so popular. She really worked at the details for serif and sans serif, along with the many styles, and kids were picking up side work doing calligraphy for others. I did a couple of lessons with the kids, and good hand-calligraphy is an art in itself.

In introducing the kids to charcoal I had them do some shading by pencil to get the feel of the different types of shading. Then I gave them charcoal sticks (the boys all wanted to know if they would “light up.”) and showed them how to hold and use them. One of the most interesting things in this lesson was trying to convey pressure – light and heavy – for my English-language learners. Overall, not an easy thing to do!

Some of the kids really got into the charcoal, and a couple discovered the rubbing for shading on the different layers. Some didn’t like it at all – too messy, and they had trouble adjusting the amount of pressure.

A successful lesson for all, and now the kids have another tool they can use when it comes to shading for one of the next assignments.

Perspective, Part 2

The “dream rooms” as part of the perspective project have gone really well. I have learned so much from this assignment in how to kick my right brain into gear to break down art tasks into elements the kids can follow. Ironic, isn’t it, that since I am nearly done with art class I am figuring out how to actually teach it!

The use of the math vocabulary has been so extensive – I really had no idea just how much you use the vocabulary of math in art. If these kids don’t know “parallel” by now, they never will! It has been so interesting to see how parallel lines play such an important part in creating perspective drawings. I showed a few of the dream rooms to my eighth graders, and they really kicked the assignment into gear. I have found it also helps if I work at a table with a few of the kids, on my own drawing, and then answer questions and give suggestions.

This was really funny Thursday with some of my eighth grade boys. We had a great time – we were working on rooms together, and the “hard-core” guys were asking me to add stuff – like a Playboy Bunny logo on their full-ceiling plasma TV (hey, these are dream rooms) – so I sketched the logo – very lightly so that they would have to go over it and make it their own. You should have seen their eyes bug out when they realized I knew how to do that!

Next week I should be able to get pictures of rough drafts and their final copies – quite impressive, for a teacher who doesn’t have a clue!

That said, we started working with texture Friday. Again, thanks to a great website,
Intro to Art I had a good way to get the kids started. I worked up a PowerPoint on tonal, crosshatch, and linear textures, and made a worksheet with guidelines for them to follow. Then I had them repeat that exercise using charcoal…and that’s another story….

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