Friday, December 18, 2009

Shem Creek Shrimpboat

"Days End on Shem Creek", 9x12, oil on canvas panel

Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant, SC is a wealth of great painting subjects. Sort of feels like stepping back in time. More and more technology is taking over alot of handwork so it is really fascinating to see fishermen mend shrimp nets, separate the days catch, clean fish and weight out fresh catch to sell. I always like to stop by Wando Shrimp Co. to buy some shrimp and fish to bring back to Spartanburg.

This painting is currently available at Sandpiper Gallery on Sullivan's Island, SC.

This is a place I will return to paint over and over!
Happy drawing & painting.... & Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Inside the Skillet Restaurant

One of my favorite subjects... the skillet!
This image shows my studio setup. You can see the monitor to the right of me and I use that as my reference for the painting. I've come to prefer painting from the monitor as opposed to using a photograph or print out because the light is better in the photo on the monitor. I can also use Photoshop to "look" into shadows that would normally just go black in a photograph.

Should have the painting complete by next week to post. Check back to see it!

Happy drawing & painting!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beyond the Line - Drawing for Painters Workshop

March 18, 2010 I'll be teaching a one day class about called "Beyond the Line - Drawing for Painters". The idea behind this class is to show painters why I think it is important to draw a "thumbnail" drawing before I begin a painting.

The drawing in picture #1 really is more about determining my values. This will help me to push back areas I think aren't important and make sure I'm clear about my center of attention. A lot of time is spent with the painting so why not take 30 minutes and to get my head wrapped around what I'm about to tackle. I don't always draw a value sketch and when I don't I seem to fight with my painting more.

The picture #2 is my finished 11x14 oil painting on my easel. I really had some fun with this because many issues were thought out first. Give it a try and see how a value drawing can support your painting.

My one day workshop is March 18, 2010 at Burton Gallery & Emporium in Clarkesville, GA 706-947-1351.

The building in my painting is the Sea Biscuit on the Isle of Palms, SC. The food is wonderful, but it is a small place and if you don't get there early plan on waiting.

You can see this finished painting at the Sandpiper Gallery on Sullivan's Island, SC.

Happy drawing & painting!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My New Drawing Tool - the Iphone

Digital drawing 2"x3.5"

Digital drawing 2"x3.5"

The ultimate thumbnail drawing.... these two drawings were done on my Iphone's 2"x3.5" screen using the application "Brushes". I attended a local life drawing group at the Hub-Bub showroom and decided to experiment with my Iphone.

I read about the Iphone application "Brushes" this summer in the New Yorker. Read the article here. This article spurred me on to get it a try. With no "How to" manual in hand it did require a lot of trial and error. The undo option does help tremendously with the experimentation. I did find a User's guide while write this blog entry so stay tuned for some more experiments.

The screen on the Iphone is 2"x3.5" (the size of a business card) so I use a stylus instead of my finger because it is so hard to see what I'm doing with my finger in the way.

Check this cool video of the process of drawing the first figure.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Practice seeing

6"x8" oil on linen panel

Thought I'd have the "Late Sunday Morning" done by this week but remembered I have a "miniatures" show at a gallery in NC I need to create work for. I also decided I want to get out of the studio and paint those buildings on site for a day. Finishing that painting will have to wait until mid November.

So this week I worked on enlarging miniature things and in the process practiced really seeing....

When I draw or paint I discover things I've never seen before... I noticed alot of things in my travels during the day, but seeing, that's another matter. For the minitures show I thought is would be fun to find everyday items that I use and take for granted. A clothespin for example. Have you really seen a clothespin?

Alot of my work is painted from photographic reference. I certainly would never knock using photography as a tool. Thomas Eakins used photographs as a tool as did many other Masters. The problem happens when the artist hasn't had enough experience drawing or painting from life. You see things while drawing/painting from life you just don't see when working from a photograph.

If you use photographs as a tool try to find some things around the house to paint from life and really see what you might be missing.

Happy drawing & painting!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Edward Hopper

Self-Portrait, 1925-30 Oil on canvas 25 1/16 x 20 3/8 in. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

A couple of years ago I painted a fellow at a local "landmark" restaurant here in Spartanburg, SC called the Skillet. I called it Morning News. When I paint or draw something there is always a combination of emotional interest and design interest that captures my eye and inspires me. In this case there was this wonderful landmark of a restaurant (I read in a newspaper when I first moved back home that the building/shopping strip the Skillet was located in would eventually be torn down and redesigned and rebuilt.) and the great design of the figure against the background and counter.

To make a long story longer.... when a friend saw the painting in my studio she remarked that it reminded her of Edward Hopper. That comment piqued my interest so I (alway the student!) did some research on Hopper.

In 2005 I had the opportunity to visit Hopper's childhood home in Nyack, NY when I was attending at week workshop with Burt Silverman in Upstate, NY, so I of course knew of Hopper. As I researched him more I did feel a connection with some of his subject matter - the world that he lived in - the hotels, motels, trains, highways, restaurants, theaters, cinemas and offices around him.

Early Sunday Morning, 1930 Oil on canvas 35 x 60 in. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

I decided to paint a group of building in Spartanburg's downtown area (one of which was my Step-father's Drug Store which was the first painting I painted upon returning home, Heinitsh Walker.) which are inspired from Hopper's "Early Sunday Morning" I've created sketch in my Moleskin Sketchbook with waterproof uniball, then I colored it with watercolor. On the easel is a 15"h x 30" painting which I'm trying to photograph the process.

Hope to complete the oil painting by next week and post the process. So on the the easel.... happy drawing, and painting. Be inspired and learn from the Masters

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Village Tower

OK, finally here is the finished oil painting. The size is 30"h x 15"w and is oil on canvas.

I had a studio near the Old Village in Mt. Pleasant for a couple of years and I saw this great old water tower everyday. I've been wanting to paint it for awhile. One day as I was walking in the Old Village back toward my studio I looked up and saw this perfect composition. Boom! Like a hit on the head.

This painting isn't the typical "pretty" painting. What is attractive to me is the design. Underneath my paintings my goal is to have a good design, if it happens to be a beautiful thing, like a tree in bloom with a lovely bird feeder, that's icing on the cake.

Those types of paintings might not be the most "salable", but I have to paint something I believe in.

I entered this painting into the Oil Painters of America 2009 Eastern Regional Juried Exhibition Of Traditional Oils. I'll keep my finders crossed as this is a highly competitive exhibition.

Happy drawing & painting!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mt. Pleasant Waterworks

I've started a new oil painting. This is the thumbnail drawing I worked out before I started the painting. On Simmons St. in Mt. Pleasant, SC you'll see this old watertower watching over the old village. I had an art studio just across the street from this tower and got to see the sky do some wonderful things to this tower. Finally, now that I've moved up to Spartanburg, I've decided to paint it.

The day I made some sketch notes for this painting a thunderhead was moving in. Past plane trails were also etched across the blue sky. A Redtail Hawk lives up there so I felt the plane trails could symbolize that for me. What interests me about this is not only the very cool old watertower, but also the fun design possibilities. Stay tuned for the up load of the finished painting... should be next week. Happy drawing & painting!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A New Commitment

Today I'm beginning my second blog. 2007 I started my first blog, Drawn to Draw. This was my first adventure into the blogghisphere. I learned alot and still have a world to learn about blogging.

My main objective was and is to share my love of drawing. Thumbnail Drawings is my new attempt to "share the love". The definition of a Thumbnail Drawings (or sketches) are, "Drawing quick, abbreviated drawings. Usually, they are done very rapidly and with no corrections - you can use any medium, though pen or pencil is the most common. Thumbnails sketches are usually very small, often only an inch or two high." The thumbnail drawings I will share with you will run the gamut. I'll post small sketches, full page drawings from my sketch book and watercolor with drawing also from my sketchbook. These drawings are my inspiration for studio paintings which I will also post.

Ideally, as with the title of the blog, my vision for this blog is to write small posts about small drawings. I also hope to post on a much more regular basis.

I hope you will following me on this new commitment and journey

Happy drawing!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Town & Country

Working feverishly on the last few paintings for the show with Garry Turpin, Town & Country: Urban Scenes by Isabel Forbes and Beyond City Limits by Garry Turpin.

I've enjoyed getting to know Garry. He is originally from Spartanburg, then moved to Greenville. After I finish the paintings, frame them and tie up loose ends I'll post some more about the show.

This is a Press Release about the show, written by Beverly Knight.

“Town & Country: Urban Scenes by Isabel Forbes & Beyond City Limits by Garry Turpin,” opens May 1 at the Artists’ Guild Gallery in Spartanburg’s Chapman Cultural Center.
Both artists work in oil and focus on subjects that they find to be compelling, attempting to capture a visual moment that the viewer can experience vicariously.

Forbes’ “Smith’s Drugs #1” pictures a nondescript storefront that people drive by every day as they hurry from one end of Spartanburg to another. The painting transforms it into a colorful scene, a red bicycle leaning casually against the front wall contrasting with the blue striped awning of the small building on Main Street.

Turpin’s “Mountain Folk” recreates a relaxed scene as well, but one filled with people—and in the forefront a young woman, red hair flowing and bare feet dangling from the edge of a front porch, smiling directly at the viewer.

“Goldenwater,” a painting of a mountain stream, white water rushing around boulders and toward the viewer, showcases one of the recurring images in Turpin’s work. The artist says his work captures water’s variable nature, “its beauty and power, its color and lack of color and its varying degrees of transparency, always providing an interesting ‘painter’s journey’.”

Forbes, since her recent return to Spartanburg, her hometown, after three decades away, has focused her art on urban scenes that “had a visual spark or surprise and revealed something new about the familiar.” For several of the paintings in the exhibit, she explored Spartanburg with a bicycle rented for three months for $15 from the Hub Cycle Spartanburg Community Bicycles program run by Partners for Active Living. With her sketchbook and watercolor pad, she rode around, drinking in the sights until an image attracted her attention.

“Typically I work quickly and directly from life for two to three hours on a painting or drawing until I get the feeling, light, and space of a location,” Forbes says of her oil paintings, referring to herself as an observational painter who works from subjects that are part of her everyday life.
“I will then work on the painting back in the studio, developing the forms and trying to resolve the design. I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Painting, for me, is a way of connecting and discovering.”

She chose paintings for the current exhibit from subjects that she had a personal response to, focusing on subjects with a “sense of familiarity not just because I recognize a particular place but because I also recognized a feeling or remembered an experience.”

Turpin, who received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Mars Hill College in 1971, has lived in the Spartanburg area, with his wife Bonnie for the past 38 years. After twenty-five years in the graphic design, illustration and photography business, a career that led to numerous awards and opportunities, he decided in 2000 to return to fine arts, more specifically oil painting. For the past nine years he has made painting his primary work.

“I invite the viewer to join in my interpretation of our world.” Turpin says of his paintings, many of which are portraiture or landscape. “I use the rich variable colors of oil paint to capture my feelings and the presence of my subject and hopefully pass it forward to trigger a memory or connection in viewers to what they see.”

Turpin describes his art as “my memory, the many paths I take, the people I encounter and the balance and rhythm that are created by man and nature,” those things that not only express the artist’s experiences but also revive memories in the viewer’s mind of things he too has experienced. Turpin loves the challenges that are presented in portraiture. “Rendering a physical likeness and projecting that person’s personality make portrait painting a unique offering to both the person being painted and to the artist,” Turpin says.

An artists’ reception for the exhibit is scheduled for May 2, 6 - 8:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public. The exhibit continues through May 28.
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Admission to the Guild Gallery is free of charge.
For information, contact Laura Pinkley, 864-764-9568.

Happy drawing & painting!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Paint NC Plein-Air Invitational

Startown, NC

This painting was done in the back seat of my car. On the way to Germanton, NC I stopped at a little town just below Hickory, NC named Startown. This sweet little church was on Startown road. As I painted this I thought this would be a perfect place for an American Idol contestant to be from.
Germanton, NC

Once I arrived in Germanton, NC I found this great farm just accross the street from the home I stayed at for 3 nights. (More on my gracious hosts in another post.) The farm, Buffalo Creek Farm, was a fun place to paint and one of the owners, Robin, shared alot of interesting farm stuff I didn't know. I painted this on a foggy/rainy day. Luckily, I found a great shelter and painted the back of the barn/house. This farm had llamas, guinea fowl, goats, rabbits, turkeys, Great Pyrenees dogs. Some animals had special duties on th farm. The guinea fowl are said to be good for controlling the Lyme Disease-bearing deer tick. The Great Pyrenees dogs protect the livestock and are rarely out of sight or hearing of his flock. It is a calm animal that moves slowly to avoid disturbing the livestock and possesses a better than average sense of hearing, sight and smell. Llamas bonds with its herd of livestock, it takes over as a protector. Friday, I "forged" their Buffalo Creek to paint their restored log cabin and one of their llamas kept his eye on me as I crossed the pasture.
I used the second shed pictured here as shelter to paint the barn/house - see my easel next to the ladder.
Friday I forged this stream to paint in Buffalo Creeks back pasture.
This llama was keeping his eye on me.

This is were I painted on Friday. If you look closely you can see my easel setup to the right. They had two outhouses which I did use. Hint: overalls are not the attire to wear when using outhouses...

The Reception
Friday night Germanton Gallery held a reception for 30+ artist they invited to be a part of this paint-out. It was a fun evening and I meet some really nice artists from all over the country. One artist, whose work I admired, was Robert Brown from Charlotte, NC.

Next post I'll put up some of what I painted while in Germanton and tell you more about my adventures.
Happy drawing & painting!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Painting NC Plein-Air Show

I am thrilled to be apart of this event. If you love to see artists in action, this event should be a great opportunity to see some great plein air paintings. The Germanton Art Gallery represents some of my favorite artists and it is my understanding some of them will be present. After the recption on Friday, April 3rd, many of us, including one of my favorite artist, Scott Burdick, will be painting in the downtown area of Germantown Saturday and Sunday. Hope you can venture up to see us. After the show I will post the plein air paintings I make during this event. Happy painting!

I am painting "day trips" into NC Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I travel to Germanton, NC to paint through Sunday. Rain or shine this should be a good time! Monday's painting - March 30, 2009. This sign is on Hwy 176 on the way to Saluda, NC. The painting, 12" x 9" oil on panel, "Valley Courts Sign", was painted on a cool and breezy day. I needed a bungee cord to keep the panel from blowing into my pile of paints.
Today's painting (March 31, 2009), 8" x 6" oil on linen panel, "That's a Dandy" was painted at FENCE. It was a very overcast day so I chose something simple. They have wonderful nature trails, which I also explored. This is a must come back to plein-air location!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sketchbook "Thumbnails"

I am painting for a May show at the Chapman Cultural Center in the Spartanburg Artist Guild gallery with Garry Turpin. The theme is 'Town & Country". I am painting urban scenes and Garry is painting "beyond the city limits scenes". This sketch was used to get my creative juices going for the 18"x24" oil on canvas painting.

The top sketch was painted on location (plein-air painting) downtown Spartanburg using a portable watercolor palette and a Moleskine sketchbook. I love this sketchbook. The paper is made for watercolor and the whole feel of the book inspires me. There are many kinds of Moleskine notebooks but for watercolor sketching I use the Moleskine Large Watercolor Notebook: Size: 5.25 x 8.25",Pages: 72 pages of acid-free paper.

If you love sketching try of one the Moleskines out. You'll love it! Happy drawing!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Nu-Way Thumbnail

This example of a thumbnail sketch before I painted sort of shows my thought pattern. I was much more interested in the abstract shapes of the buildings with the vertical intersecting lines of the sign and electrical pole. I was looking at the shapes the values made. I was also awestruck by the red door shape. I'm always on the lookout for discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary.

As I painted this I kept those thoughts and feelings in the front of my mind. These feelings are what kept me excited about painting this. The Nu-Way does also happen to be a Spartanburg, SC landmark were many a drink was poured and story shared. Not the most beautiful of places to paint, but then again beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

The Nu-Way, oil on panel, 16' x 20" painted 2007 "adopted" by Nan Coghill

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Recently, while looking at old sketchbooks, I noticed how important drawing thumbnails before I tackle a painting is to my creative process.

The thumbnail drawing allows me to look at shapes and values so I can (hopefully!) create a strong composition. I play around with several thumbnail design possibilities and once I hit on a thumbnail that seems to work I feel excited about starting the painting.

The thumbnail drawings above is about 5"h x 4"w. The oil painting is 16"h x 11"w.

I thought over the next few posts I'd share some of my thumbnails.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A great Evening

Dispite frigid tempatures people came out for the Spartanburg ArtWalk! My "Homecoming" reception had a steady crowd. Carolina Gallery always does a great reception. Delicious catering and the nice background music of classical guitar.
I saw alot of friends I hadn't seen in 30+ years and met some new friends. One person shared a favorite saying with me that seemed to fit.... "you can't go forward until you go back". That summed up what this show was all about.
If you couldn't make the opening reception the show will be up until mid February. They also have 2 more floors of wonderful art.
This photo shows one corner of th gallery. That's me in the salmon colored jacket.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An Invitation

I just received my invitation to my art show! After a year and a half of painting the day is almost here to share what I have created. I have heard other artists say every painting an artist creates is really a self portrait and I am really feeling that thought this week.
If you are in the area, please come to the reception. The show will be up for a month at Carolina Gallery.
January 4th my local paper ran an article about this upcoming show.