Sketching: Deri

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I must admit that, at first, I wasn’t too ambitious when it came to mapping out where I wanted to be at the end of my drawing journey. I just wanted to be able to draw shapes accurately, which I could then use as templates for my patchworking/quilting work. But, inevitably, one gets sucked in.

I began to take snaps of my lovely animals, initially to do sketches involving proportions.

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Here’s my first drawing of Deri. Not great, I know, but the point was getting the proportions right. And it does look a bit like him, although I think his head is not big enough, especially towards the left-hand side of the paper.

When I was a little bit more confident, I had another go.

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Better shading and I think I caught the experssion in his eyes. The nose isn’t terrible, but I clearly have a lot to learn about drawing fur. Onward and upward.

 

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Learning to draw. An adventure story. Episode 2.

After trying to get to grips with proportions (see Episode 1), the next step in my learning journey was to try shading to make objects look three-dimensional.

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Firstly we learnt about different kinds of shading: shading that is smooth vs. shading that is made by drawing lots of lines close together, and where you can still distinguish the individual lines. Then we tried out different colour values in smallish boxes. Next we progressed to colouring in a larger square with a gradient from very light to dark grey. And finally: how to draw a three-dimensional sphere. My one’s not great, but illustrates how light and shade together produce a (somewhat) three-dimensional effect.

Shading takes time. Lots of time. I blame shading for the inordinate time it takes me to finish anything. 😀

After some experimentation, we tried out our newfound skill and drew a watercan. As you do. Again, the model for the exercise was a photocopy of (mercifully) a drawing of a watercan. The more advanced students in the class were drawing a collection of real watercans artistically arranged in the middle of the room. Phew. Was I glad to be amongst the beginners.

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As you can see, my watering can is a bit wonky and the proportions are a tad wrong. But I was pretty pleased with it nonetheless – after all it was only lesson #3.

Lesson #4 was used to consolidate skills and progressing to something a bit more difficult: we were drawing deer. Don’t ring the RSPCA folks, the tutor didn’t drag a stag down from the forest. Once again, we were working from pictures.

Why are we doing such a lot of work from pictures and not from life? Well, for beginners, it’s a lot easier as the shapes we’re drawing are already two-dimensional. At this stage, us beginners are still battling with replicating the shape accurately, as well as the light and dark areas on and around the shapes. Trying to do that as well as morphing something that’s three-dimensional into two dimensions is another step. Some drawing tutors like to teach their students to work from life from the beginning, and I’m sure there are good reasons for that. Personally, I like the step-by-step approach. And those deer require some persuading to come down into town and enter a Volkshochschule builing, let me tell you!

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I think this one’s not too bad. The proportions are about right even if my drawing isn’t exactly like the original. For one, my doe is entirely smooth-haired because I hadn’t worked out how to draw fur. But I managed to get the eyes almost right, which pleased me. I found the nose and the ears most challenging. The tutor gave me a hot tip: turn the original picture sideways or upside down, just draw what’s dark and leave out what’s light. By turning the original image sideways, a nose no longer looks like a nose, which means you’re genuinely concentrating on drawing what’s there, rather than what you think is there (‘a nose’). After some assiduous drawing of various shades of grey, you turn your image the right way around again and, hey presto!, a nose emerges. Try it, it works! But only if you work from pictures. Asking a deer to turn sideways as well as come down from the forest is just adding insult to injury.

After this our tutor thought we were ready for some drawing from life. Tune in again for the thrilling Episode 3 in this journey and find out what happened…

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A Brace of Doggy Doo Bags

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Today I want to show you a bona fide invention of mine. It’s totally fantastic. It’s totally fantastic, that is, if you own more than one dog and live in a place, where you have to pick up after the little darlings.

Does your head spin when you’re juggling leads, have one doggy doo bag in your hand and are trying to tie a knot in the second bag, while at least one dog has decided that standing around is boring and they’d rather walk on? Do you ever struggle to hold on to one or several doggy doo bags and to your dogs at the same time?

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This is usually the moment, when another dog with a sleepy person attached to it strays into our sensitive zone. For my little nervous JRT Deri that’s pretty much a radius of 10m around. Said JRT then turns into a snarling, slavering monsterdog (I’m sure that’s what he thinks he looks like) shouting “Kill! Kill!”, I’m still trying to tie up the steaming bag of poo, get tangled up in the leads, my other dogs begin to think that Deri has a point and that little, innocent-looking Maltese dog has a vicious air about it, and I… I just want to sling the dog poo bags on the ground and go back home.

Well, no more of that! Because I have (*drumroll*) invented the Doggy Doo Bracelet – the DD Bracelet. How charming. Yet how practical.

All you need to do is find some clips. The ones I used are sold in packs of six in B & Q, Homebase or a similar DIY store and they are used for tea towels and the like. You slide them over (or you sew them on or simply tie them to) a bracelet of sorts – it doesn’t matter whether that’s strong elastic, just string or, in my case, a cheap XXS dog collar. It needs to fit fairly snugly around your wrist.

That’s it.

What does it do then?

Basically, whenever a dog of yours has done their business, and you’ve picked it up you can attach the bag to one of the clips. I have three clips because I’ve got three dogs.

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In other words, you no longer have to hold on to the bag/s and can concentrate on holding on to the leads instead. And when that little innocent Maltese dog strays into our comfort zone, I can launch Operation Distraction – I scatter dog treats on the ground, Deri forgets about the presence of the evil one and happily hunts for treats instead. I can simply forget about the dratted bags for a while and unclip them when I get to the next rubbish bin.

If you can sympathise, why don’t you make one yourself? It’s dead easy, and it so works!

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Learning to draw. An adventure story.

When I moved back to Germany, there were a few things I wanted to do. Among them was getting involved in local politics (I’ve become a member of the Green Party and have become involved in local party stuff) and going back to the marvellous Volkshochschule (adult education centre) to learn something new. When the programme for the autumn term of 2017 arrived, I automatically gravitated to the languages-section and to the computing-section. But then I thought: why not do something I’ve never done before? And so I looked at the applied arts section. And remembered that one of the stumbling blocks to my learning appliqué properly is that I can’t find templates online that I like enough, but can’t (or think I can’t) make my own.

And that’s why I joined a ‘Drawing for Beginners’ class. And what should I say? I’ve loved every minute of it. Drawing is totally engrossing, so much so that time just goes past without me noticing. Those two hours class time just fly by. I’ve also begun sketching in my spare time. It’s so enjoyable, in fact, that I’ve decided to share the story here and, hopefully, my development from beginner to moderately competent drawist.

Everyone can draw. Not everyone is necessarily a genius at it, but, with enough practice, anyone can be competent. All you need is some paper, pencils (as you’ll develop, you’ll acquire different grades other than the ubiquitous HB), and an eraser.

We began by just doodling and discovering how we can create texture by using a light touch and then push down on the lead rather more heavily.

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The next exercise was probably the most important in the entire course: it was about proportions. If you get proportions right, your drawings will already look lifelike.

The exercise involved laying a bunch of keys on a square of paper, marking out the same size square on my drawing paper and attempting to get the outline of the keys down so that, the keys would fit exactly on the outline if placed on it. And, in the second exercise, we were given a photocopy of some cutlery and told to do the same thing. Try it. It’s harder than it sounds. You need to forget that you’re drawing keys. Instead, focus on outlines only. Check where your keys hit the side of the square and work out where they are compared to the edge or the middle of the paper.

Every model can be reduced to a number of simple, underlying shapes. Key to lifelike drawing is to get those underling shapes (outlines, if you will) down on paper, and to get the proportions right, so that a nose is in the right spot in a face, that the ears are not too near the eyes, that the eyes aren’t too close together, etc., when you’re drawing a face.

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The next exercise was to draw the outlines of animals. Again, we were working from photocopies of drawings. At this stage, three dimensional drawing wasn’t the object of the exercise: again we needed to get the proportions right.

And if you’re curious how I learnt about shading in order to make my drawings appear more three dimensional, look out for the next exciting instalment of this story. 😉

 

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Sockmania continued

I’ve not been posting for some time as I’ve been moving again. Finally, after waiting around for 6 months, my animals and I are in our own flat. Hurrah and cue utter exhaustion.

What better thing to do during those trying times than to keep knitting socks.

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I mentioned in a previous post, that I’d bought some lovely sock yarn at a Frankfurt craft fair. I’d also been given the rather gorgeous, hand-dyed yarn in the picture above as a parting gift from a friend in Swansea. So, for a while I was just doodling along, knitting sock after sock.

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This lovely yarn from Ferner Wolle, a company in Austria, ist just the best. It is probably the softest yarn I ever knitted with, and it develops into this really rather funky colour pattern. I thought that a knitted pattern would destroy the effect, so these became very simple socks.

This yarn came from the craft fair, too. Yup it was self-striping and very nice to knit. Here I was trying to see how a moss stitch pattern would work.

And finally…

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… my favourite. This yarn is just to die/dye for. It knitted up very well and feels very comfortable when worn.

And I even managed to get a pair of mittens out of the remaining yarn.

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I’ve never been convinced by mittens. As there is a big, massive hole where the fingers emerge, I thought that wearing them would not make much difference in cold weather. But – they do. They are very useful when the weather isn’t freezing, but still fairly cold. They basically work like an extension to your sleeves. The best thing about them is that you can still handle things, which is sometimes a bit awkward when wearing gloves.

And now, I’m happily settled in the new flat and … I’m all socked out!

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Autumnal Beanies

It’s November. I moved back to Wiesbaden in June, but I’ve still not unpacked my stuff as I’m still not in my own flat. This situation has decided drawbacks, one of them a surprising one: I can’t for the life find my autumn/winter hats in the pile of stuff in the cellar. What a wonderful excuse to make new beanies for autumn.

The Beanie pattern is available free at Pattydoo. The pattern itself is bilingual (English/German), but the instructions are in German only. It is a very easy pattern though, and even non-German-speaking folks will be able to follow the video tutorial.

To make my beanie, I dived into my box of scraps and came up with enough fabric for two beanies. I always have two: if one is wet/in the wash/currently lost somewhere, I always have another.

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I discovered these weird teardrop shapes in my mum’s crockery cupboard. I vaguely recall that you were supposed to balance wine glasses on them, but they serve a much more useful function as pattern weights. 🙂

And here are the finished beanies. They really are ever so easy and quick to make.

I’m not really sure whether Penny really feels like wearing one. She has that haunted look she puts on when she wants to say: “I do love you, but what *are* you doing to me?” Bless.

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Sockmania 2017 has begun

Making socks has become an annual ritual since I realised just how wonderful real, home-made socks are. They come with an inbuilt temperature gauge, for one. They keep my feet nice and toasty when it’s cold but they don’t make my feet sweat when it’s more temperate. Genius! And they are quick projects, which keep the instant grat monster at bay. Yes, I do like endless-seeming projects, like my hand-sewn EPP quilt, but sometimes it’s just nice to finish a project speedily.

So, my sock-making frenzy began with… making gloves. As you do. My last neon-coloured pair of gloves had been eaten by the knitting needle crunch moster (aka Dylan the dog, who also has a bit of a wool fetish). Turns out the craft supplies shop in town, where I got the original yarn from, had a few balls of similarly bright yarn left. I’m not sure why this yarn appeals to me so much – but it is kinda cool to have virtually glow-in-the-dark hands when you’re out and about in November. I made the fingers slightly longer than I normally do, which keeps my fingers nice & warm.

This time I found it especially hard to tell left glove apart from right glove, There is a difference in the positioning of the thumb, so the difference matters. So I decided to place a little marker in the form of a pair of Kamsnaps.

This turned out to be a genius idea because I can stick the gloves together & will never be frantically searching for a single glove again. And I can tell the left apart from the right quite easily.

After the gloves, I *of course* ended up in a situation, where I had too little yarn for one pair of socks. Which *of course* meant going back to the shop to buy an additional ball of wool, and then making two pairs of socks. If you don’t think that’s a logical decision, you’re probably safe from knitting/sock-making addiction.

I also had a bit of fun with adding patterns. I don’t much like openwork patterns and much prefer playing around with knit/purl stitches.

There was a craft fair in Frankfurt recently. For some reason, I was a bit bored by the selection of fabric available (or just not in the right frame of mind to buy), but ended up buying a few balls of sock yarn. Watch this space…

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