A Flower for Owen Ransen

Last week I got the e-mail newsletter from Ransen Software which inspired me to get back to my Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook.

I have known Owen Ransen for 13 years and occasionally test new versions of his marvelous program Gliftex. The patterns being caught in the butterfly net on the header of this blog and the background tile were all done in various versions of Gliftex. It is one of my favourite programs of all time, and one I often use for making jewellery as well as digital backgrounds. I am still working on the playing cards I am making with Gliftex patterns.

As his daughter grows up, Owen is encouraging her to draw with paper and pencil so she can appreciate beauty and the three-dimensional world in addition to the computer. Since he is a computer programmer, that says a lot to me about how we all need some balance to our artistic endeavours. I came back to art via digital graphics and gradually bought some art supplies and books so I could take up art outside the computer and really understand the “hand of the artist” again.

So the newsletter was about drawing from real life, simply so you can learn and tune into the world of form and representation, and the choices and all the little decisions you make while drawing a representation of something like a flower or plant. It is very much like a meditation, just you and lines and shading, and the Zen of Seeing as Frederick Franck calls it.

I decided to do up a page in my sketchbook showing gradations of my set of O’Bon pencils. I did that and sprayed it with Krylon Workable Fixative, and then left it for a few days while I decided what flower to draw. Normally I would go out in the garden but our weather was really cold in Ontario this week, so I worked from a photograph in a book. I wanted the layout of the flower to be part of the shading chart.


One of the things I find tiring to the mind while sketching is those decisions about shading and tonal values. It takes time to re-develop an eye for values in graphite, but if you don’t practice, you don’t learn. Thanks for the inspiration Owen! I used a Staedtler 2H pencil to put down my initial drawing and then shaded with an O’Bon 1H and 3B pencil.

The other exercise I did this week was just for fun and nothing special except it got me to sit down and use my sketchbook. I haven’t used it for two months, but I had a bee in my bonnet about using the new home furnishings template I bought, particularly the grand piano shape.

I did this up, put some patterns inside the shapes and outlined them with various colours of Prismacolor pencils, and then I overlaid it with some watercolour. High art? Maybe not but it sure was fun, and I gave it a grand sounding title because it caused me paroxysms of delight to do so.

Here is “The Mythology of the Allover Pattern”:


May you have as much fun as I did with a shape template of some sort. I often do this sort of exercise and fill shapes with patterns if I feel stuck and perfectionistic about making art. It’s like doing a meditation by drawing a mandala, only you use a shape other than a circle. You can do a single shape or overlap them or whatever you want.

Here is another example of something I started in an old sketchbook using a shape. I go back to it now and then and fill things in when I feel stuck. The shape is actually a free tag pattern for scrapbooking, but the idea of using it intrigued me.





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4 Comments on “A Flower for Owen Ransen”

  1. Roseanne Dix Says:

    paroxysms of delight – what a sheer delight to read your words and to share your working thoughts. am intrigued by the template idea.
    Always in awe of your exquisite work. Rose

  2. I love the hollyhocks page. Lovely drawings/shadings, with notes.

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