It’s summer!!

It’s summer and now that school ended, it’s time to reflect, re-charge, spend time with the family and get busy in the studio. To kickstart the season, I went camping to the beach in North Florida with my husband and two boys. We enjoyed a nine-day getaway, which was a great way to wind down from a busy and rewarding school year.

On this trip, we visited Hannah Park for the first time and really enjoyed the beach and the bike trails as well as the lush wooded campground. As usual, I packed up my favorite drawing supplies and sketchbook and worked on some nature studies of the vegetation and trees around our site.

In a couple of these drawings I set out to explore warm and cool temperature relationships by using the brown and the black or gray.

I enjoy working with different media. Pen pushes me to explore value and mark-making through line, while sanguine and graphite offer more flexibility. The latter allowed me to mass, using the side of the drawing tool while also layering some line work and taking away with the eraser. Pen is less forgiving and forces me to make decisions through the additive approach of mark-making.

In both pen drawings, I set out to create emphasis in the compositions by developing some areas further and gradually easing to a contour line drawing.

Hannah Park, pen study

I have found that when working with this medium, I enjoy emphasizing negative spaces to bring out the positive, something I admire in Corot’s landscapes which inspire me greatly when it comes to plein-aire work.

These nature studies take up quite a bit of my sketchbook work and I find it interesting because I don’t consider myself a landscape artist. The main motivation for these sketches is my love of nature and the act of drawing from direct observation. The process of recording what I am seeing allows me to really experience a particular place and I find it meditative.

Observing natural forms

There is perfect design in nature and botanical forms offer beautiful subjects to study pattern, movement, repetition, form and shape. Today I am featuring some old pure contour sketchbook drawings from plants and fruits found in my kitchen. I enjoy observing nature through different drawing methods and although my preference is a structural approach, I find pure contour to be a great process to work from complex subjects. To read about my thoughts on contour line drawing you can click on the red letters.

An old sketch re-visited

It is interesting when old notes still resonate. Last week I was looking through several old sketchbooks and found a gesture drawing of my boys at play. I drew it a couple of summers ago, while they romped through the sprinklers. Today I worked on a refined sketch using the original as reference.  These images speak to me of childhood through the physical movements.

Sprinklers

Adriana Burgos, Study for “Sprinklers” based on a quick sketchbook drawing. Ink, watercolor, charcoal, sanguine and pastel

For today’s piece, I started out with ink and watercolor and then added layers of dry media with charcoal, sanguine and pastel to develop surface and emphasize shape and form.

sprinklers progress

Adriana Burgos, Study for sprinklers in progress ink wash and watercolor.

Using only a quick drawing as reference forced me to rely on memory, gesture structure and a familiarity with anatomy. Exploring the co-relation of gesture and memory to construct images is very beneficial for my artistic expression at the moment and I look forward to seeing where this process will take me.

Mixed media karate sketch

The sketchbook is a great platform for media exploration. I was experimenting with ink wash this week, playing with warm and cool temperatures. This drawing was based on one of my quick karate sketches while observing my kids’ classes.

I love the immediacy and happy accidents that happen when drawing gesturally with ink. A lot of the warm against cool relationships of the drawing are mainly in the negative space surrounding the figure. For the background I applied brown, black and blue ink and let all the colors run into each other with wet into wet marks. After the wash drawing dried, I emphasized a few areas  with white and blue chalk and black charcoal.

The end result is exciting and has inspired me to explore gestural drawings with ink wash more. Studies from the karate sketchbooks will be a great point of departure for more work like this.

with bow pole study

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Adriana Burgos, Mixed media sketchbook study, 2016

Southern landscape in ink wash

Here is a little ink wash study I did years ago. This was done from direct observation at the Old Ebenezer Church grounds about 15 minutes from my home. The grounds of the church are beautiful, wooded with tall pine trees and large oaks overlooking Ebenezer creek.

I don’t usually work with ink wash, but it is a great medium to explore form and value. In this particular drawing I was exploring value to create a sense of atmospheric perspective, which can be achieved by decreasing the value range as the space recedes. In other words, a sense of deep space can be depicted keeping the darkest darks and lightest lights for the foreground and using gray values close in contrast in the background.

I’ve been thinking about dusting off my brushes and working some in watercolor and ink lately, so you might be seeing more water based drawings soon.

Ebenezer

Adriana Burgos, Ebenezer, Ink wash study en plein air

 

Trees at Magnolia Springs

This past weekend  I was away on a camping trip with my husband and two boys. We took advantage of the long weekend in observance of the Martin Luther King holiday, and took off to one of our favorite Georgia state parks nearby, Magnolia Springs.

The weather was cold and windy, perfect for sitting by the fire. I did this little study on the camping journal.

At the beginning, I set out to do a pen drawing with my favorite sepia copic pen, but then I changed my mind and switched to graphite. I realized early on, that I was really in the mood for a drawing emphasizing big blocks of value.  I created some of the value shapes with the side of the pencil and then layered with finer marks, an approach I wouldn’t have used with a fine pen.

I liked the end result and had a great time slowing down to take in the beautiful natural setting.

Trees at Magnolia Springs

Adriana Burgos, Study of trees at Magnolia Springs, sepia pen and graphite on sketchbook paper 2016

Reflections on life and on being an artist

three generations detail

Adriana Burgos, “Three Generations” detail, Charcoal and pastel on paper 2008

With the transition of 2015 into 2016, I have been reflecting about a lot of things,  especially remembering my father who passed away last February. My dad lived a great life, he was very accomplished professionally and personally, he earned his PHD and became a father before he was 30, he went on to have four kids and a great career and throughout his life he was always generous and very humble. He experienced true love with my mother, I can honestly say, their marriage was truly exemplary. Thinking about his life has led me to reflect on how to live a full life myself. This is why my main goal for 2016  is to learn to integrate all aspects of my life in a balanced manner.

Like everyone else, I wear many different hats, I am a mother, daughter, wife, artist, professor and someone who loves to be active and enjoy nature. Being one thing should not rule out another, but after all these years I am still learning to juggle it all.

Professionally, I am a college professor and artist. Time for research and studio is as important as all the other professional demands. Over the years, I have come to realize that productive time in the art studio does not have to be a long painting session like the ones during graduate school. Although uninterrupted studio time is ideal sometimes it’s not possible. Under those circumstances it is better to work shorter times than do nothing at all, even if it means an hour here and an hour there.

When I first graduated from my MFA, 17 years ago; I balanced a full-time job and studio practice, by scheduling long studio sessions in the weekends. This was a change from being in the studio day and night but I adapted.  Two years later, I became a professor and I am still teaching full-time. I love teaching, it has deepened my understanding of visual arts and creative thinking; more specifically my understanding of drawing. I find that teaching forces me to evolve continually and allows me to be a constant learner.  My work in the classroom has influenced my art work, for example I have reconnected with direct observation drawing and though it’s not the only way I work, it has affected my work in a positive way.

During the academic year, I tend to work on small pieces and focus on larger ones in the summer.  As long as I’m regularly drawing, even if it’s only in my sketchbook  I am still growing as an artist. This is one of the reasons why keeping a sketchbook is so important for me, and why I started the Sunday sketchbook feature in my blog.

At  a personal level, my roles as mother and wife are central and I also try to find time to nurture personal interests such as reading, exercising and being in contact with nature. My reality as a mother is changing now that the boys are 9 and 12. I can do many of the  things I love with them, such as taking long walks or bike rides, enjoying a movie together and finding time to work in my studio. Things were not like this in their early years, I remember feeling like studio time was simply impossible and it would frustrate me. Now looking back, I wish I had not been so hard on myself for not being able to do much art work then. In the end, the joy and intensity of motherhood has only made me a better artist.

Many artists often have to change the way they work while they have small children. In my case,  I began working small,  which was a contrast to my preference for large format. Because of my focus on a new format, I began exploring silverpoint as a medium and did observational drawings of Nicolas (my firstborn) as he slept.  At the time, I was concerned about the drawings of my baby coming across as sentimental, now I understand I was responding to the wonderful experience of becoming a mother.

My work has become much more personal over the years. At my age, I have seen people’s stories unfold and I am more responsive to life. I realize now, that the drawings of family members at different ages, including the ones of my children and the ones of my father’s struggle with Steele Richardson’s disease are all part of one grand narrative. My every day life experiences provide powerful content for expression.  I have come to the realization that instead of compartmentalizing each aspect of my life, the key is in the integration.

Three generations

Adriana Burgos, “Three Generations”, Charcoal and pastel on paper 2008 Enter a caption