At the end of each year, I like to do a little recap of the work I've created and reflect a bit on my progress. Am I improving in the quality of my work? Plateauing? Plunging into a never-ending downwards spiral and realizing I'll never be at the level I was once? These recaps let me compare my favorite work from each year and see what I might need to focus on in the months to come.
With the introduction of the blog, I figured I could share this year's top 10 publicly and write a little about why each piece made the list. So, here we go!
10. Imagined Snowscape
This was the first watercolor landscape I did from imagination and is my favorite watercolor painting to date. I studied abroad in Italy in the fall of 2021. I traveled to Florence on the weekends and was awestruck by the countless watercolor painters showing and selling their work as I walked around the city. These people were the real deal! I came home in mid-December, eager to get my hands on some real watercolors and see what I could create. My girlfriend Lia bought me a (rather extravagant) set of Daniel Smith watercolors for Christmas and I was off and running.
If you've seen my other work, you know that I usually work monochrome or grayscale. Color is freakin' scary! When I was just starting watercolors, I limited my palette to three colors to make things a little more manageable. This painting was done in one sitting on a snowy afternoon!
9. One-Point Champion!
I worked at a tennis-based sleepaway camp over the summer. It was an absolute blast. During the breaks we had throughout the week, I drew sketches of various campers that stood out for one reason or another. This young camper shocked the world when she won the weekly one-point tournament, wherein all hundred-something campers are put into a giant bracket and each match consists of a single, daunting point. This sketch depicts her victory stance moments after winning the final point: equal parts surprise, confusion, and joy.
8. Animated Bear
This bear drawing was the final image in my first attempt at traditional animation. I created a series of nine bear drawings on black paper showing the bear's walk cycle. The hope was that I'd be able to put them into a digital software like Photoshop or Procreate and have a short animation sequence. The final animation was super choppy, almost comedically bad. Even though the overall project was a failure, this little character is still one of my favorite things to come out of 2022.
7. Winter Cityscape
This piece makes the list because it is the clear winner of the 2022 Most Improved award. For the majority of time while I was working on this painting, it was SO bad. Like... why is this guy wasting his time bad. I was so close to giving up and starting over so many times, but I figured I'd keep throwing water and paint around and see what happened. Eventually on the third and final day, it began coming together and I felt like I could finally stop holding my breath. Today, this painting serves as a reminder to always finish the artwork, no matter how terribly you think it might be going.
6. The Cellist
This guy was the product of a looong character design process. In the spring, I began drawing a bunch of heads and learning about all those pesky proportions. I found that I was drawn to a long and skinny style that really stretched everything vertically. I drew a head similar to this one and eventually went back to make it into a full character! The whole process probably took a couple of weeks, and it was a neat little experiment that taught me a lot!
Fear! From Pixar's super fun movie, Inside Out. I was on a pen and ink kick this fall and began drawing a bunch of movie characters using Micron fine-liners and Copic markers. I sold them at Clark University for $15, and they were really popular. Every so often, I'd make one I liked too much to sell, and so I would keep it for myself in a little binder. This drawing is one of my favorites from that series.
Leonardo was a fun piece to make. I was in a bit of an artistic drought and hadn't made anything I was genuinely proud of in what felt like forever. One rainy day in August I decided I wanted to do a big one, which for me is basically anything larger than 12 x 18". I looked through some wildlife books for inspiration and realized I had yet to do a lion! And you can't call yourself a wildlife artist without having drawn a big lion... everybody knows that. So, I found some photos that had some nice light effects and got to work making my largest drawing to date, at 24 x 30". I shaved white chalk onto the paper to create a value map first, and then went back over the drawing to add texture. The piece took me nine days to create, and I spent about three hours a day working on it.
3. Lorenzo "Lil Arms" Luciano
Lorenzo is my favorite character from this year, and maybe ever. I began this drawing while tabling at Clark University on a day that had no business being as hot and sunny as it was. I found a picture of an opera singer and began drawing in the "blind-contour-not-really" style the great Thomas Fluharty had been teaching me (more on that in a future post). I wanted to really exaggerate the face and pull it into that vertical format I like so much, similar to The Cellist. After the face I went on to the torso and looked for a way to balance the huge cabeza this guy had. I settled on super small arms and hands, and the result made me laugh.
Slate! In October, I started drawing on slabs of slate from quarries in Wells, VT. These slabs come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, which means each drawing is unique. Each drawing is created using a mix of charcoal sticks and toned chalk. This medium has proven to be extremely popular with college students at Clark who commission specific animals and with the adult population in West Hartford who are looking for something special to display in their homes. The added weight adds a nice sense of luxury to each piece, and the abstract shapes make them perfect to display without any extra material. I'm completely out of slate at the moment, but I'm hoping to restock in early March and create a large inventory to sell at Celebrate West Hartford in June.
1. A Long Day
And finally, this tired little guy. I thought I should end the list with the drawing that sets the tone for the next year. I've been incredibly inspired by Thomas Fluharty and his Prismacolor 901 Indigo Blu pencil drawings, and he's been teaching me how do draw expressively for the past few months. This basset hound exemplifies the geometric but organic style I've been working towards this fall... and his face is just super cute.
Woof! If you've made it this far, thank you so much for reading the whole thing. Or, for scrolling down to see what #1 was. That still counts. Here's to another year of drawing goodness in 2023. What a time to be alive. Cheers.