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I Love Turtles
I hope you are doing well.
We had snow a couple of days ago. Here I was, thinking that spring was here :-)
Things are warming up, and the frogs and other animals are all coming out to celebrate this time of year. In this edition, I will talk about one of my favorite animals.
Stories Behind the Art
There is no doubt in my mind that I love turtles. Whether it is snapping, painted, loggerhead, or blandings, it doesn’t matter. I find them fascinating and beautiful. Many turtles can live for well over a century when not impacted by humans.
The subject of my latest work is a common snapping turtle which can be found throughout most of the US and Canada. They have such character with a definite prehistoric edge.
This turtle is drawn on 9” by 12” smooth Bristol paper using a combination of my trusty Pentel Graphgear 1000 .3 mm with 2B lead. I did try some Staedtler Lumograph pencils on this one as well. I also used graphite powder (from my pencil sharpener) and a small brush to achieve the sun's rays. I think they turned out ok, but I will take a different approach next time. I added some additional animals to the scene to create interest. I used the tadpoles to add depth, with some close and some further away. I also added shadows below them to help accentuate the light and confirm the light direction for the viewer.
This particular turtle was something I discovered by accident.
We were camping a few years ago at Black Donald Lake, which is just west of Calabogie, Ontario. The lake was formed when a dam was created, and the local town was flooded. The land where we camped was provided to the owners as compensation for the flooding years ago. Also, it just so happens that I explored the ruins as part of a SCUBA dive I did 25 years ago.
So, my daughter and I are at the end of a dock, and I have my trusty GoPro Hero camera on the end of a stick. We were trying to see if there were any interesting fish under the dock. As I was recording with the camera pointed under the dock, I looked up and saw this large black object moving toward us. It didn’t take long for me to realize it was a snapping turtle. I turned the camera around to capture this photogenic visitor. I was concerned about it destroying the camera, so I kept a safe distance. The turtle approached and decided we weren’t food or a threat and retreated back into the water.
Here’s a video of the experience.
It was quite large with a carapace (shell) measuring around 18” long, which probably puts it around 70 or 80 years old. This means this turtle was around well before the 8,500 acres were flooded in the ’60s for the lake. Amazing!
The biggest challenge for snapping turtles is that they tend to lay their eggs in gravel, making roads and highways attractive. If I ever see one on a highway, I will pull over (if it is safe to do so) and help it along. At a minimum, I will ensure vehicles are aware and allow the turtle to cross at its own pace. I will also move a turtle, but only in the direction it was going. Smaller turtles, like painted and blandings turtles, can be carried across the road. However, snapping turtles can be more challenging, and moving them can be done at your own risk.
Snapping turtles have super long necks and surprise many people when they reach out to bite, and with the distance, they can cover. I have used a stick to move a snapper, and once it grabs hold, pull it across. The other method is to grab the back of the shell on either side of its tail and pull it backward. I have not tried the second method as of yet. I carry a pair of Kevlar gloves in my vehicle for moving turtles. They will not protect against the jaws of a snapping turtle but offer some protection against sharp claws.
So, when on the roads, please watch for the turtles.
Prints of this piece will be coming soon to my shop in a new, larger 8” by 10” format.
Inside The Toolbox
One of the most important tools in my drawing kit is a tool that has no lead, but I use it to draw all the time. I consider it my secret weapon. This tool does not look like a pencil, and typically I keep it in my left hand so it is warm and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
Yes, it’s my Blu Tack. Blu Tack is very similar in feel to Silly Putty or Play-Dohand is intended for use in mounting light posters and such to dry surfaces. However, many graphite artists could not live without this material or a kneaded eraser. I know many artists use kneaded erasers which are used for the same purpose, but I prefer the feel of Blu Tack. All these “erasers” are used as drawing tools by subtracting graphite from the paper to expose or highlight your art.
Blu Tack is used to lift graphite off the paper without damaging the tooth of the paper. You can apply pressure to a drawing with the material, and the graphite will stick to the surface and lift off the paper. You can target this process by shaping the Blu Tack. Need to lift off some graphite on an eye to expose a highlight? Roll a corner or the Blu Tack into the shape of an apple stem and dab the area. Need to pull off some material on the top of an ear? Create a larger tab and touch or drag across that area. You can also expose hairs by creating the equivalent of a small knife edge to lift off graphite in a line.
Never use an eraser when you can lift off with a Blu Tack or a kneaded eraser.
Blu Tack is available through Amazon and other online retailers.
Recent Drawing Inspiration Episodes
Here are some of the most recent “Drawing Inspiration” podcast episodes. The podcast is available wherever you listen to music.
Did you know that you can now ask Amazon Alexa to “Play the Drawing Inspiration podcast”?
50: Combining Digital Visual Journalism and Activism with Cartoonist Liza Donnelly
Liza Donnelly joins me on this episode to discuss her creative journey in becoming a cartoonist for the New Yorker, Medium, Cosmopolitan, and many other publications. She talks about her mindset, tools, and what it takes to become a successful cartoonist by sharing her stories and experiences along the way. Liza’s drive to make people happy, which started when she was quite young, still drives her today. We discuss the role of cartoons in modern society, live draws, thoughtful reactions to news events, and her role in promoting women’s rights and freedom of speech.
51: Art Education, Creating Pigments and the Clubhouse App with Sunaina Buckshey
I talk about UFOs and share some thoughts on my current art pieces. Sunaina Buckshey makes a visit to talk about her creative journey. As a recent London School of Arts graduate with an MFA, Sunaina shares her thoughts on art degrees. She then talks about her exploration of pigments and how 28,000-year-old cave paintings have inspired her to create her own paints. We then talk about the new Clubhouse app in how it works and its impact on creatives.
What I'm Watching
I am going to mix it up this week and include two movies. The first is Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. The story of Beth Harmon, an orphaned chess prodigy facing challenges through life while trying to get to the top of the chess world. Anya Taylor-Joy does a wonderful job as Beth as she appears in almost every scene, carrying this series to a very satisfying ending.
The second movie is a must for any creative, and that is Kiki’s Delivery Service on Netflix. Its initial release in Japan was in 1989, and then in US/Canada in 1998. I first saw this movie years ago and wanted to watch it again. It’s a beautiful coming-of-age movie about a young witch. The movie is produced and directed by Hayao Miyakazi and animated by Studio Ghibli. The animation is a feast for the eyes. This movie is a great watch for the whole family.
If you are at all interested in drawing with ink, then you must read the book “Rendering in Pen and Ink” by Arthur L. Guptill. This could be considered the master reference for ink work. Originally published in the ‘70s, It covers materials, techniques, and processes with examples from many artists. It is not a book to be read in a sitting but rather a companion for your journey to improve your ink work.