Blooming Serenity Out Now

If you follow me on social media, you know I've been working on something. It's been a few weeks since I first started drawing flowers as a way to meditate before bed. But it turns out, everyone who saw them thought they'd be good coloring pages. Well, I listened! 

I'm happy to announce that I've finished "Blooming Serenity", my first coloring book! It's a digital download, which means you can print a copy for yourself on whatever paper you like (or go to a place like Kinko's and have them print it for you). I did this to expedite the release and make it less expensive for customers as well. If you can't afford to buy it, there's still a free excerpt you can download and print at home, too! I hope you all love coloring it as much as I loved making it. 

In fact, it was so much fun to do that I have two more planned, and I've already started on drawing one. To get sneak peeks at my progress, you can follow me on Instagram. Hint: there are cephalopods in the next one!!

You can purchase Blooming Serenity here!

Octopus Tattoo Designs

So I've had a few requests for this over the year, and I'm happy to say I've started designing tattoos! 

While I'm not a tattoo artist, I have more than a few of my own and I respect the tattooing tradition immensely. I don't think there's anything more flattering than having someone ask you to create art that will be on their body forever. 

My two latest pieces were amazing to create. I admire both of the people who asked me to do this and I can't wait to see their final art! 

 Deanna wanted a tattoo of a blue-ringed octopus, similar to a piece that you can see on my portfolio page! The proportions needed to be a bit different to fit on her upper arm so I got started designing her piece. 

Deanna wanted a tattoo of a blue-ringed octopus, similar to a piece that you can see on my portfolio page! The proportions needed to be a bit different to fit on her upper arm so I got started designing her piece. 

 Natalia originally went to another tattoo artist who felt that they couldn't do the tattoo idea justice. She wanted an octopus knitting on the waves, fighting with the water. Luckily, she knows me! As both an avid knitter and lover of octopuses, I was so excited to take a crack at this concept. We are both delighted with the results and can't wait to see the final piece on her!

Natalia originally went to another tattoo artist who felt that they couldn't do the tattoo idea justice. She wanted an octopus knitting on the waves, fighting with the water. Luckily, she knows me! As both an avid knitter and lover of octopuses, I was so excited to take a crack at this concept. We are both delighted with the results and can't wait to see the final piece on her!

I love tattoos, and getting to design two this year has been incredible. I hope I get more commissions in the future and these projects have me thinking about what I want next!

What tattoo concepts are floating around in your head? 

It's Been a Rough Year

I think most of my friends can agree that 2016 has not been easy so far. We're halfway through and it seems like every time I turn around there's something new to be horrified by or sad about and I struggle to deal with my emotions. 

Sometimes I just can't help but feel useless and sad. After seeing news about the RNC today and Trump's speech, I sat down to make art. This is how I handle my emotions in times of stress--through creation. I just finished The League of Seven book by Alan Gratz. It inspired me with a quote and an old native american legend.

Fléctere si néqueo súperos
Acheronta movebo
(If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.)
— Virgil, The Aeneid

This has been stuck in my head ever since I read it.

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The second thing the book reminded me of is a Cherokee legend I'd heard before but forgotten. Legend says that within each of us there are two wolves fighting. One of the wolves is angry, cruel, and heartless. The other wolf is kind, gentle, and caring. And the wolves are always fighting within us, battling for control. You know which wolf will win? The one you feed. 

So, friends, please feed your good wolf. Face hatred and bigotry head on. If you have privilege, be an ally to those that need you to be. And if you can't move heaven, for fuck's sake, raise hell. 

Sketchbook Review

It's been a busy few weeks here (I took last Monday off for the holiday hence you have two weeks of my sketches to catch up on, dear reader!) and my sketchbook proves it to me again.  

Lots of the work I've done in the last 14 days has been digital on my iPad but totally enjoyable thanks to upgrading to Creative Cloud from Adobe (with mobile apps!) and a Sensu capacitive touch brush I picked up at Blick Art Materials. 

 

 Owyn smiling. He is just so handsome it's hard not to draw him sometimes! 

Owyn smiling. He is just so handsome it's hard not to draw him sometimes! 

 This one is a more somber, as it relates to someone who passed away in my boyfriend's family recently. 

This one is a more somber, as it relates to someone who passed away in my boyfriend's family recently. 

 An orchid I saw on my recent trip to an orchid nursery here in Chicago! It was amazing and I have enough reference photos that I'm planning to do a series of orchids soon! 

An orchid I saw on my recent trip to an orchid nursery here in Chicago! It was amazing and I have enough reference photos that I'm planning to do a series of orchids soon! 

 My good friend's cat, Alcyone, makes a perfect model for black and white vector work.  

My good friend's cat, Alcyone, makes a perfect model for black and white vector work.  

 And finally my only non-vector work this week from Adboe Sketch.  

And finally my only non-vector work this week from Adboe Sketch.  

I hope you all survived Monday in one piece! What have you been up to in your sketchbooks?  

Book Review: Urban Sketching

 An inspiring cover indeed!

An inspiring cover indeed!

 Some of the figure drawing and capturing the "essence" of an active subject–I am most inspired by the top right sketches by Juan M. Josa.

Some of the figure drawing and capturing the "essence" of an active subject–I am most inspired by the top right sketches by Juan M. Josa.

 I want to try the three-point curved perspective as soon as possible!

I want to try the three-point curved perspective as soon as possible!

 My favorite pages involve animal sketches, obviously!

My favorite pages involve animal sketches, obviously!

When I was at the library last I picked up a few books that I was interested in, one of which was Urban Sketching: the complete guide to techniques by Thomas Thorspecken. As I've been trying to sketch more regularly, I was interested in the subject and what Thorspecken would present in this "complete guide". 

Overall, I found the book to be an inspiring collection of sketchbook art and it made me want to go out and start drawing! That is high praise for a book that sets out to do just this.

According to the back blurb, readers of this book will discover:

  1. Rules on perspective that will help the sketcher
  2. Tips for sketching the essence of subjects on the move
  3. Adding in notes, commentary, and speech to sketches artistically

My notes (in no particular order, really): 

  • This is very heavy on watercolor and ink. It appeals to me because these are two media I love using, but if you're not a fan you may not find it very inspiring reading.
  • The author has some very good suggestions on where to sketch and how to find sketchable events–which lead me to search for an urban sketching group here in Chicago!
  • The perspective pages stood out most to me in all the art techniques–especially the three point curves perspective. I'm hoping to do a sketched scene using this soon!
  • The section on scanning and sharing sketches I mostly breezed over because I work with this kind of software daily and don't need much help, but you may find this section a bit dated as it looks like a much older version of Photoshop. 
  • On the section about composition of your sketches–maybe I'm weird but I don't compose my sketches this much? Then again, thinking on it now, I also don't sketch scenes nearly as much as a sketch objects/animals. I'm always encouraging my art student to think about how she will put her subject on the page, so this is probably a good reminder for me as well.

Overall, I think I'm not the target audience because I have formal art training and I do already sketch, but a true beginner may find this book a bit intimidating. By comparison I'm reading Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards right now and Edwards includes lots of true "beginner" or "novice" art as well as more trained artists' work. Though beautiful, the sketch examples in Urban Sketching may cause a novice to decide they aren't capable of this and turn away without giving themselves a chance. 

As for those three points it says readers will discover? 

  1. Perspective: yes! Even as a trained artist who has studied perspective I really enjoyed this section and learned new things.
  2. Capturing the essence of your subjects: Maybe? I don't often sketch humans, but there are some good suggestions about quickly sketching and doing more detailed studies of humans.
  3. Adding notes and commentary: Sorta. This felt more like an after-thought. One notable artist detailed in the book is Liz Steel, and she does add quite a bit of beautifully arranged text to her sketches.

If you're interested in sketching in an urban environment and sketching full scenes detailing your experiences, this would be a good book to peruse!

What are your favorite books about sketching in situ

Owletry

Hey guys! It's my birthday today, and to celebrate I decided to design a series of desktop/mobile phone wallpaper images. 

I was feeling really inspired by that great horned owl I drew last week and wanted to do something owl-related but also with a subtle geometric influence (hence the name "Owletry"). If you follow me on instagram you may have even seen my design sketch! 

Without further ado, my piece "Owletry": 

 The final desktop image I made (this one is sized for my older Macbook Pro)

The final desktop image I made (this one is sized for my older Macbook Pro)

You can download the different sized images here: 

Open the image and then set the desktop/background image as you normally do for your device (you can google instructions if you're not sure or can't remember). 

Now I'm gonna go enjoy my day with some corgi walks, some siamese cat naps, and then fancy mexican food!

How do you guys like to spend your birthday? Leave a comment so I can get ideas for next year!

–Meg

Sketchbook Review

It's been a pretty busy week for me! I got the Society6 shop up and running (HAVE YOU BEEN YET CAUSE IT'S AWESOME! /shameless self plug) and then I had a live-animal sketching lesson with Claire on Friday. We went to a pretty quiet little natural history museum associated with the Forest Preserves of Cook County, the Trailside Museum of Natural History. I wanted to start her drawing live animals somewhere we could get close to the animals and where it would be less crowded than the zoos in our area.

  Bubo virginianus , Trailside Museum of Natural History, 8.28.2015

Bubo virginianus, Trailside Museum of Natural History, 8.28.2015

I drew this great horned owl, and it was by far the most active of the animals that afternoon. (Note to self: the animals are all sleeping at 2 on a Friday afternoon.)

I think one of the assignments I'll have Claire do next is to pick an artist and try to recreate a piece of their art as well as create a new piece in their style. I've been pretty active on Instagram and there's one artist that has really inspired me, Peter Carrington, with his style. He's super talented at laying down his lines and I wanted to try doing something more like that on this sketch. It's not perfect but I'm pretty pleased!

What did you guys sketch this week?

The Weekly Sketchbook Review

It's been a busy week here and the sketchbook definitely shows it! 

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This is from a relative's house we were at for a party. It was a beautiful rustic cabin decorated with tons of moose antlers and the like. It was gorgeous and a great time was had by all! 

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And from last week's visit to the Field Museum we got a lot of drawing done. I was able to get this drawing done of a Triceratops horridus fossil. Some of you may have seen this already on the Instagram–if you haven't you can follow me @megtopus!

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And we did some sketching from the Egyptian collection. Here's a statuette of Bastet, the cat goddess. 

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Our last big sketches were done of a beautiful giraffe taxidermy from the mammal hall. These animals are so beautiful and beautifully taxidermied; Claire and I both love studying them for our work.

Phew! That was a big update! What drawing did you guys get done this past week? What are your plans for the coming days? 

Blind Contour Drawing

BLIND CONTOURS! This is one of my favorite exercises I do with Claire, my art student. 

We both find it a challenging task, but also a great way to warm up before a long session of artin'. 

Materials needed:

  • something to draw with
  • something to draw on
  • something to draw
  • a timer (optional, but good when you're beginning)

For art lessons, we usually start with our blue mechanical pencil and a sketchbook page. The subject for the day can be anything from a pinecone to a pet dog. In these photos, we were at the Field Museum of Chicago and drawing a statuette from the Egyptian exhibit. 

 Claire concentrating.

Claire concentrating.

To start with I recommend timing yourself or your student. Conveniently, my smartphone has a timer app but a watch would work just as well. Generally the first few sketches are around 30 seconds to a minute, and the final might be closer to two or three minutes.

 Claire's blind contour of the Bastet statue in 45 seconds.

Claire's blind contour of the Bastet statue in 45 seconds.

Now that Claire is familiar with the drill I usually ask her how long she wants to go for and how many she'd like to do. I give her a reminder at the 1/2 time mark so she can keep track of time but other than that, it's all on her. 

Blind contours are an awesome way to get a feel for your subject before you start drawing without the pressure on yourself to make a "finished" piece of art. They're also challenging without requiring a huge time input, which is something I love as a teaching tool!

 Her finished Bastet sketch. She has plans to stipple this with pen and ink later, so we also took reference images for her to work from.

Her finished Bastet sketch. She has plans to stipple this with pen and ink later, so we also took reference images for her to work from.

What are your favorite warm-up activities before you start drawing or painting? I'd love to hear some of your answers and get ideas for teaching!

*sketches and photographs used with permission of Claire, the artist

Calligraphy in memoriam

Today's excerpt from my sketchbook is in memoriam of a friend and very special person who passed away yesterday.

I don't do calligraphy very often (though I enjoy looking at other people's work immensely) but I felt his memory deserved my best efforts. 

You'll be missed, King Corgdahd. 

–meg

Texture practice

I love the fact that every week (usually) I get to spend a few hours with my art student, a fantastically talented 12 year old named Claire (one of the things we are going to work on soon is getting her portfolio together, so hopefully soon she will have a website I can link to).

Today we started on a project I did when I was in grad school–ink texture samples. 

Here is my sample page of pen and ink textures from graduate school

Which meant the first thing I did this morning was iron some paper that got stored in a tube (foolish me) and then measuring and laying out a grid for us to draw samples in.

 Ironing and measuring out the grid!

Ironing and measuring out the grid!

I made 5 centimeter squares for her, which is a nice size to get a good feel for the texture you're making without having to dedicate a huge amount of time to a single thing. The best part is the final piece has a really impressive feel, even if there are squares you don't feel were as successful.

We were lucky enough to find a moth in the house during my lesson, so our little dude sat so I could work on capturing its wing patterning.

 The wing texture and patterning from our moth friend.

The wing texture and patterning from our moth friend.

Next week we're going to the field museum, but the week after that I'm hoping to scan her work and start colorizing it using her favorite iPad art program!