Learning InDesign Basics

Through my day job I have access to Lynda.com. I found a course called “InDesign: Creating Fixed-Layout EPUBS”. It’s a three-hour course that targets what I need to do with InDesign: create an EPUB. It’s a course that would have saved me many hours of frustration.

Today was a balmy, sunny day perfect for a Vitamin D Club outing. As the other member of the club basked in the sun, I retired to the shade and did some doodling…rough doodling of what’s supposed to be a Jaybird and a Monarch butterfly on the wing to Mexico. I’m thinking of my next book.

flying_down_to_mexico_blog.jpg children's book, flying down to mexico, jaybird, butterfly, buddies

Duck and Cover -- Worst Air Polution in the United States

Sometimes the real world interrupts my dreamy, idealistic life as an artist. Every year we have a fire season that runs from July to October. Last night smoke from the first fire of the summer poured into the Rogue Valley, which is a little basin in the earth with high mountains on all sides. It’s perfectly designed to hold the smoke from wildfires burning in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

When the smoke settles in, it’s hazardous to go for a walk, or even leave windows open. Everyone wears a protective dust mask. The stars are wiped from the sky. The full moon is snuffed out, and the Al Fresco Art club cancels its Sunday outings. It’s hard to think about Art when simply breathing is hazardous.

Despite the ugly weather, art happens. Here’s my most recent Vitamin D Club 15-minute sketch. Actually, it took 3 x 15 minutes to do this one.

Crape Myrtle tree with irrigation buckets

Crape Myrtle tree with irrigation buckets

Al Fresco Art Club Artrage Masterpiece Challenge for July 20, 2019

There was a full day of Arting around here today. It started with the Vitamin D sketch, which I do every sunny day it’s not freezing. In the Pacific Northwest we get short-changed on sunshine. Vitamin D deficiency is epidemic. While I’m catching rays and generating Vitamnd D, not to mention resetting my biological clock, I do these sketches in 15 minutes. With the short time limit I have to simplify. I like to do a pen and ink drawing when I’ve got just a few minutes.

Here’s the Vitamin D sketch. I used by Kuretake Sable Brush pen and a 5.5x8 in. Strathmore Visual Journal (140 lb. watercolor paper).

For the weekly meeting of the Al Fresco Art Club, we decided to do another one-hour challenge that forces us out of our comfort zone. We decided that trying to copy a masterpiece always pushes us to do some thinking. The bonus is that we learn something about humility, as I did today when I tried to copy Gaugin’s “Woman with a Mango”.

Here’s the Alfresco Art Club painting of Paul Gauguin’s “Woman with a Mango” done using Artrage on the iPad Pro. Really, you should check out the original here.

Feeling Low Key

Today is a low energy day. I didn’t move an inch forward today, at least not by drawing or editing or working with inDesign. I feel weird, as if I’m unemployed. When I’m feeling like this — kind of overwhelmed, really — I like to sketch and do lots of hatching.

I’m in the foul mood partly because I’m physically tired, and partly because I made the big mistake of looking at other illustrators’ books. I found the makingpicturebooks.com site and started browsing through some of the incredible work from illustrators around the world. It was inspiring for a moment, then it became an enormous downer. My brain went off on the wrong track and started playing a horrible comparison game that goes somethings like this:

“Wow! They’re good, really good. Your stuff, it’s you and that’s a good thing, but wow! They’re great. Too bad you got such a late start with art and have so much learning to do. Oh, well…Good for you for even trying! Art is long and life is short, so it’s great that you got started at all. I know you’re doing your best, but damn! Look at the great stuff those thousands of illustrators are cranking out…blah, blah, blah.”

Those thoughts have me rattled. When I try to calm down by meditating, I have to fend off those voices coming at me from all directions. I have to remember not to look into the Palantir (that’s a reference for TLOTR fans).

I did this sketch in the raw vegan deli on Main Street. Time, 20 minutes. For kicks, I posed my self-portrait on top of my Thinkpad.

July 17, 2019 — Raw Self-portrait with hair as it was 20 years ago

Sunday al fresco sketch of the Southern Oregon Siskiyous

This my third al fresco sketch. As I collected my gear I was thinking that there’s nothing interesting in my back yard. Could I be bored with the Al Fresco Art Club already? Once I seated myself under one of our dominating deodor cedars, I looked to the East and noticed some large cumulonimbus clouds over the distant Siskiyou mountain range. There was interesting atmospheric perspective (which I didn’t capture in my sketch), and my partner, wearing her Van Gogh straw hat, sat in the foreground painting in her sketchbook.

I used my Pentel Brush pen for inking. It’s pretty beat up — it doesn’t come to a point anymore, but then again, it never did, really. I did a rough sketch with a 2H pencil then inked the sketch with the brush pen. It was fun, and not at all boring.

al_fresco_june_16_2019.png al fresco, brush pen, ink

Al Fresco Sketching with my Sunday Art Club

This sketch took about 45 minutes. I spent most of the time on the flagstones at the bottom of the picture. When I think about these sketches I wonder what they would look like if I could bring myself to take the time to get the values right, especially getting the darks darker. The fact is, after spending 45 minutes on this picture, I was mentally exhausted, which, in my mind, translates to “finished!” I’m aware that I’m an impatient artist when I’m learning something hard. Sketching, for me, is hard work.

I’m working on making every stroke be a mindful stroke. Let’s just say that I’m at the beginning of my journey.

I intentionally don’t remove the three dandelion plants growing in the pathway. They give the place a lived in look.

al fresco sketching, graphite, back yard, pathway