Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Peach Delight - Color Fun!

I say this painting is color fun, because there's nothing better (to me) in art than complementary colors that play so well together. Ripe peaches have such gorgeous warm color tones; dark maroons, bright reds, oranges, school-bus yellows, and of course, the actual "peach" color... there's no way to combine them wrong. The complements to those warm colors are cool - royal blues, periwinkle, purples, and even some muddy greens. I haven't been keeping track of my painting time so vigilantly anymore, but I know this painting took less than 30 minutes to complete. Peach Study, watercolor, 6"x9".

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer Painting

Back in early July, I painted this yellow daylily, which we have growing in a very non-conspicuous place on the side of the garage. The true color of the flower was eye-poppingly bright, but paint can only do so much to render those amazing colors found in nature! I enjoyed painting much larger than my usual sketches, this was on 9"x12" thin (too thin) watercolor paper. I am still used to working smaller but enjoyed the splattering and other fun effects I can  use more to my advantage on a larger painting. Daylily, watercolor, 9"x12".

Monday, August 6, 2012

Paul Bielewicz here! This is an illustration that I made for my daughter Natalie for her second birthday. Natalie loves tigers, so I thought it would be fun to create a "special" illustration for her (note her name hidden in the tiger's stripes!). She loved it!

The illustration is 5.5" x 8" and is ink and watercolor.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Banana Muffin

"Banana Muffin," watercolor, 6" x 6"
A tasty homemade banana muffin, captured with some wet-in-wet technique and splattering. I am not sure how long this little painting took, but I bet it wasn't much more than 20 minutes. The color scheme is a little lackluster, as the flavor of this little treat does seem to warrant some brighter colors!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Citrus Delight

"Lemon-Lime," watercolor and water-soluble crayon, 5 1/2" x 8".
I never tire of classic food (or not-so-classic food) still life. This painting started out as a basic watercolor but drawing with water-soluble crayon over the top, rewetting and then painting again gave it a new intensity that I really like. Without being constrained to a 20-minute timeframe, the benefit is that I still work quickly and with purpose. But I am free to spend 30-40 minutes on a small painting like this, seeing it closer to completion. Is a painting ever truly finished?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Warm Weather Painting

"Delft Duck," watercolor, 5 1/2" x 8".

"June Strawberries," watercolor, 5 1/2" x 8".
My blog has languished in need of an update for some time now, so here's a couple small paintings I've done recently. I have several others, so I will update more in a few days. Watercolor painting is much more enjoyable to me outside in the warm weather; the paint dries on the paper quickly and I can accomplish more in a shorter period of time. Besides, I enjoy being outside, even if the occasional leaf, cotton tree fuzz or bug lands in my paint or water. I guess you could call that "added texture" if it ends up in the painting.

Not being limited to a 20 minute timeframe, I have been more experimental with paint colors and splattering. I usually work on small paintings in one session, but the strawberry painting had to be put away before it was done. When I came back to it another day, I gave it loose washes of bright yellow green and pink, and it immediately improved. I am not always patient enough to revisit or rework a piece, but now I want to to see what effects I can get with some other techniques and revisit some of my 20 minute sketches from last year. The sky's the limit with sketching this way!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Painted Easter Egg

It's been a while since I've done a 20 minute sketch or painting, but this brightly colored painted Easter egg was a perfect subject with which to try it again. The egg has a high gloss sheen to it which was nearly impossible to convey in watercolor, but the rest of the colors are accurate. I have several of these eggs and really enjoy bringing them out this time of year! Watercolor, approx. 3 1/2" x 4".

Thursday, March 8, 2012

An Embroidered Baby Gift


Designing and stitching custom embroidery has become a small passion of mine recently, occupying several hours which would have been spent last year painting 20 minute sketches.  Though I deeply love both pursuits, the embroidery can be enjoyed as small gifts in ways paintings or sketches aren't always practical, like for little ones. Finding a gender-neutral subject was no trouble here. What baby wouldn't love a toadstool-drum-playing gnome?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Birthday Fraktur

I completed a few larger art and stitching projects lately, one of which was this beautiful fraktur-inspired painting (shown unframed). I was inspired by the style of 18th-century Pennsylvania German dower chests, with painted panels. Besides the traditional flower arrangements, they often include personalization like initials or dates indicating a marriage or other significant occasion. I liked trying to duplicate the carved-type somewhat primitive lettering here. Many of the fraktur-inspired paintings I've done before were vertical format, so the horizontal format of this one was also a welcome change. Pencil, pen and watercolor,
8" x 10".

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Have a seat!

Illustrating a series of regular household chairs was an idea from another sketchbook artist's blog. I like the simplicity of it - something you look at around your house all the time, but recorded (in an artistic way) for posterity. I have some new sketch paper, slightly larger than I normally use (7"x10") but it thin for multiple washes and wrinkled. I am happy with my fancy lettering here! Pencil, pen and watercolor.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Back to Basics


With several upcoming painting projects in mind, it was time to update my watercolor color wheels and palette map. Many years ago I decided to work with a very limited palette of watercolor pigments. Since I do so much travel sketching and journaling, I use a small portable palette and the fewer colors that requires, the better.

I have 14 colors on my palette (top), but the Payne's Gray and Cobalt Violet, both good mixing colors almost never get used. Cerulean blue, Winsor Green (Blue Shade) and Burnt Umber are rarely used too - in fact, those five colors had no place in my color wheel exercise. Burnt Sienna and Fr. Ultramarine Blue I use the most - together they make all the wonderful browns, neutrals and shadow darks you could ever want. The scanner couldn't quite fit the 9" x 12" piece of paper this exercise is on, so the Cadmium Lemon and Burnt Sienna names were cut off the top. It may seem boring, but color wheels are to painting what stocking your pantry is to cooking! It is fun to see how so few colors can make a full rainbow of brights and neutrals. Looking forward to what's to come, now!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bay Street Park - Fun with Sketchup

I am working on an article for the Rochester Red Wings' 2012 yearbook about the various ballparks that the team has called home throughout the years. From 1908-1928 Rochester's professional baseball club played its home games at a stadium called Baseball Park at Bay Street. The ballpark was located on Bay Street, east of Webster Avenue.


There are many images of this quirky ballpark available online in the Rochester Library's archives. For the article I thought it would be interesting to render the ballpark in 3D based on these images. When finished, it will provide a more complete picture of what the ballpark looked like, since none of the photos show the entire ballpark. Aerial photography was in its infancy at the time and unfortunately no aerial photos of the ballpark seem to exist.

A panoramic shot of Bay Street Park comprised of three images. This scene depicts an overflow crowd of 13,000 fans on opening day 1909.


Using a map from 1910 for reference purposes, I was able to create the basic property area to scale in Sketchup. Although not all elements are to scale, the map provided a rough idea of the shape, location and size of the 4 basic structures of the ballpark - a main grandstand, 2 bleachers and an auxiliary building.


Detail area of the ballpark property, 1910
Basic Sketchup model


Once I had the basic geometry created, I was able to use photos for comparison.


View of first base side
View of third base side

The model is still very sketchy, but it gives an idea of the basic layout and scale of the ballpark. I have a lot of detail to add before it's finished, but it has been a worthwhile exercise to enable me to get a hang of the functionality and features of Google Sketchup.

Once my Bay Street Park model is complete I will likely do one for Silver Stadium (1929 - 1996), and perhaps even Frontier Field if I'm feeling ambitious!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter Blooms

"Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories." I think that's a nice quote (though from a unknown source). This week has been very cold, and thoughts of spring flowers are pretty far away, so all the more reason to paint something bright, cheerful, and very spring-like. I started with a pencil sketch to get the curve of the flower stems the way I liked them. That seemed like such a luxury compared to starting right off with pen when I was cramped for time in the 20 minute sketches! I went over the lines with pen, and then filled in with watercolor. All in all, this fraktur-inspired painting probably took around 50 minutes to complete. Pencil, pen and watercolor, approx. 5 1/2" x 7".

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rochester Skyline

The city of Rochester has a beautiful skyline, and as many Rochesterians know, the Ford Street Bridge is one of the best locations from which to enjoy it. Set against the Genesee River in the foreground, the Chase Tower, Bausch & Lomb Building, and Xerox Tower form a distinctive silhouette when joined with smaller buildings such as the HSBC Building, Hyatt Hotel and others.  


Last week, looking for inspiration for forthcoming drawings, I stopped on the way home from work at the Ford St. bridge to take some pictures of the Rochester skyline. I was pleased with the results and knew that the photo would prove a worthy challenge to draw.


Rochester skyline from Ford Street Bridge (image copyright 2012 Paul Bielewicz)


To begin the drawing, I set up a virtual grid on the photo using Photoshop. I translated this grid onto the sketchbook and created key reference points for each building and other features in the photo in order to ensure that the drawing would be to scale. This proved time consuming, but it was worth the effort. As I began "connecting the dots" with pencil, the buildings and river area started to take shape.


Pencil sketch - note visible grid along edges of sketchbook


Due to the precision involved, the grid method somewhat takes away some of the "organic" nature of a drawing... but that was less important to me for this subject matter composition than it might be for others in the future.


When I was satisfied with the pencil sketch it was time to begin inking. The first step was to create a line drawing to capture the fundamental elements of the drawing. I began with the bridge, continued with the buildings, and continued with the trees and foliage along the west (left) bank of the river.


Early inking - bridge, towers and trees along west bank of river


I continued with the buildings on the East (right) bank of the river.


Line drawing with buildings outlined


Once the line drawing was finished, the next step was to add detail to the buildings. The Bausch & Lomb building (the peaked building in the middle) was the most challenging due to the architectural details of the building. The bridge also proved challenging because I couldn't "cheat" with a ruler! 


Detail completed on central buildings


The apartment building on the East river bank (right side of drawing) proved challenging as well due to the colorful and scattered exterior paint scheme. Once the buildings were complete to my satisfaction, I added trees, foliage and detail to the riverbanks.


Buildings, trees and riverbanks complete


The next challenge of the drawing was to translate the intricate cloud pattern into ink and finally, to add detail to the water in the foreground.


Finished drawing


All in all I was very pleased with the finished drawing. This drawing was really fun, and I learned a lot which is the important part after all. Although pen is pretty unforgiving, I don't think there were too many mistakes - whatever I wasn't 100% happy with, it was easy enough to cover it up. I did take some artistic license too - for example, I chose to leave out the cell tower that's in the original photo (on the right side), and I simplified some of the trees, smaller buildings, etc.

I thought the water and the clouds were going to be the hardest parts, but they really weren't. I just had to pick a pattern I liked and stick with it.

I am definitely looking forward to the next challenge! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Paul's Artwork - Guest Post!

Brief intro: I am delighted that my brother Paul has started a sketching challenge for 2012, and will be posting to this blog on occasion. In his words:

I am excited to join my sister Melissa in posting artwork on the Syncopated Sketchbook blog! Although the majority of the postings will still be made by Melissa, I will periodically contribute as a guest and post some of my own artwork to complement hers.

Art is not part of my profession, but I’ve always had a passion for it and have always been interested in exploring my talents in the area. My experience to date has been largely with pencil drawings. Although I tend to draw buildings and architecture most often, I also like to create likenesses as well.

Inspired by Melissa’s wonderful 20-minute sketches, and especially by her pen-and-ink drawings, I decided that it was time for me to give it a try, so I’ve made a new year’s resolution for 2012 to hone my skills at pen-and-ink and to create at least one completed drawing per month for the entire year. In addition to Melissa’s work, I’ve especially found inspiration in local artist Michael S. Smith – I love his drawings and own quite a few. I’m amazed by the intricate detail and seeming perfection of his work.

My only experience so far with pen-and-ink as a medium was for a drawing I did for my daughter as a Christmas present last year. I drew her name in a stylized manner, reminiscent of turn-of-the-century graphics, a particular area of interest of mine.

In order to learn a little more about the medium, I purchased Claudia Nice’s book, “First Steps Drawing in Pen & Ink.” It has proven very useful already in learning about the tools and techniques. I already have a set of pens that I purchased for my daughter's project last year (Pigma “Micron” series pens), so the only other thing to purchase was a sketchbook. On Melissa’s recommendation I decided on a simple 5.5” x 8” mixed media sketchbook.

In general, I am very interested in buildings and architecture, and I think that much of my art in 2012 will revolve around this subject matter. Perhaps it appeals to my engineering background, or perhaps it just seems a little easier to do for me. Regardless, the city of Rochester, especially the downtown area, has been very inspirational for me, and I am very much looking forward to tackling some drawing challenges revolving around the downtown areas – the Rochester skyline, the High Falls area, etc.

I work in the High Falls area, near Brown’s Race and the Pont de Rennes bridge. So recently I took a little excursion to take some photos and become inspired. I got some great photos and will very much look forward to drawing them once my skills are a bit more honed.

In the meantime, for my first drawing project, I decided to begin with something a lot simpler, some of my daughter’s blocks. As Claudia Nice recommends, I began by making a simple pencil sketch, I then added ink to create a line drawing, and I then utilized various shading techniques to add depth and dimension. Along the way I made notes on the drawing, capturing information about the tools I used (e.g. the different pen thicknesses), and some key learnings.

Even though it was a relatively simple sketch and it didn’t take very long (about 40 minutes), I definitely learned a few things along the way which will be useful as I continue to create more drawings.

For example: Straight lines are tricky to do in a freehand manner. For this drawing I made the conscious decision not to use a ruler in order to try my hand at it. I will probably often rely on the use of a ruler going forward, especially to capture the crisp lines of buildings.

Additionally, although I was drawing cubes, one of the simplest shapes available, getting the perspective just right was very tricky as well. My engineering background has taught me about using squares and 30-60-90 triangles as drawing aids, and I will perhaps at times employ these as well in the future. An additional technique that I will likely employ is creating a grid on the source photo and utilizing the reference points of the grid for key reference points on the drawing.

The “mixed media” sketch paper itself was not as smooth as I was expecting. It tended to absorb the ink a little more than I thought it would, and any given line in fact came out a little thinner than I thought it would. As a result, the paper is very “forgiving” for things like fine line shading (for example, on the sides of the blocks).

I don’t think I will be using the .5mm pen too much. I tried it for the stippling, but it was too fat for that. I think it will likely be relegated for use with thick structural lines and to blacken very dark shadows. I found myself using the .35mm and .25mm pens most often, and I assume this will likely continue going forward depending on my subject matter.

My overall learning from this sketch is that I am anxious to attempt something more ambitious and see how I do!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Creative Variations

Though I have been sketching nearly daily for the past year, I have also continued my pursuit of other creative outlets. I don't think there's any shame in expanding the horizons of this blog, as this year my challenge is "Creative Every Day," and creativity comes in many different forms.

Today, combining some old silk flowers I had on hand with some ribbon and Valentine's sparkle hearts, I decorated this grapevine wreath (above). I was eager to have something bright and cheerful for Valentine's Day (as I love red and pink together) and couldn't find what I wanted in the store. It took me about 30 min. and cost less than $10 for the materials. Seriously. I am very happy with it.


And - I finally finished the Tooth Fairy pillow I've been stitching for the past few months. The child couldn't wait to lose her first two teeth this past week, however... but fortunately there will be many other teeth to lose and place in this pillow before adulthood. Taking the child's ideas (sparkle threads! rainbow colors! blonde hair! red shoes!) into account, I drew, designed, charted, tie-dyed the fabric, STITCHED and sewed this fairy pillow, all myself. I have charted several other designs before, but this was probably the largest and most involved one I have done. I was happy to complete it, and the child was delighted beyond compare. Creative success!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sweet Summary

Hand-dipped chocolate covered pretzels with white chocolate drizzle. You paint the drizzle by... painting around it and leaving the paper white! This would have been more challenging for me last January, but after a year's worth of practice doing paintings like this, I feel I efficiently accomplished a nice little painting in 20 minutes. Watercolor, 4 1/2" x 6".

A brief summary of how I fared in my 2011 20-minute daily sketching challenge:

I had, as close as I can approximate, 240 20-minute sketches, paintings, and drawings, described and elaborated on in 245 or so blog posts. The other posts represent commissioned or other finished artwork that nearly always took longer than 20 minutes to complete. An average of almost 5 sketches a week for the calendar year - keeping me in good artistic practice!

For anyone wanting to take on a challenge like this, I highly recommend it. It's been said that anything you do repeatedly for 6 weeks becomes an ingrained habit, and a positive habit like sketching regularly most definitely develops artistic skills we usually put on the back burner.

Some things I learned: keep my subject matter simple for the "best" (most finished looking painting) results, have all necessary supplies or tools on hand ready to go, and be willing to put myself out there for criticism. However, people have been so supportive of my creative endeavor here, that it's their support which has kept me motivated for the course of the whole year.

So what's next?

For the 2012 calendar year, I am planning a slightly more flexible kind of challenge. While searching online I found the "Creative Every Day" Challenge  (see link at the top of the page). With so many different creative passions (painting, needlework, crafting, cake decorating, etc.) I could pursue each in turn, while also working around a busy homelife. I realize it may not be a set 20-minute block of time every day, but I hope it will even out to a regular skill-building and learning exercise much as this past year's challenge has.

In 2011, there were days I did not have even 20 minutes to spend on necessities like eating, let alone sketching, and other days I hated to finish painting/drawing after only 20 minutes. I could have worked on a piece for hours or maybe even days. More flexibility in my creative schedule this year will ease those difficulties, I hope!

So - for 2012, my blog posts may become more infrequent than they have been, but they may also be longer posts, full of a variety of my creative pursuits. I hope to update at least twice a week, so we'll see where the year takes me. I hope you will stick with me as I continue to pursue creativity, in whatever form strikes my fancy. I would love to hear your comments, ideas, suggestions! And if anyone is interested in purchasing my artwork, it is for sale, of course!