All art copyright (c) Mike Kloepfer
"The level of achievement that we have at anything is a reflection of how well we were able to focus on it."
-Steve Vai

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Life Drawing at Helikon Gallery

After returning home from a friend's wedding, I was fortunate to log onto FaceBook, where I saw the Event posting for Life Drawing at Helikon Gallery and Studios.I grabbed my kit, jumped in the car, and made it in time for the majority of the session! :)
Helikon Gallery and Studrios

The interior of the gallery space
I had been to Helikon once before to see Dave Rapoza's demonstration a few weeks back. It is a super-nice gallery and studio space in Denver (and very convenient for me to get to!)
But I was unprepared for just how nice of a setup they have for Life Drawing.
The space is very nice and open, the lighting is superb (probably the BEST lighting I have experienced for life drawing.) There was also a very nice backdrop and floor covering for the stage (which is not shown in the photograph below.)
And the room is outfitted with Klopfenstein Pro Studio Easels. OMG... I am in LOVE with these easels!

The AWESOME Klopfenstein Easels
with the trays.
I am in love!!!
The Klopfenstein Pro Easel
Showing the top clamp,
which holds the board tight,
or allows you to tilt the surface
They are uber-sturdy (mine did not budge at all through an entire 3-hour drawing session.) They have a whole bunch of very easy - and sturdy - adjustments to put your surface right where you want it, at the angle you want it. They also have an assortment of handy clamps and devices to keep your drawing/painting held in place. And the gallery had them fitted with the tray for pencils/brushes/etc.
Did I mention they are sturdy? And handy?
Now I know what to ask Santa to bring me for Christmas. But I might not wait for him. lol
The group was small, but very nice. The environment, light music, great lighting, and beautiful stage made for a great setup.
On top of all that, the model was awesome. She had a terrific dignity and demeanor, the expressivenes of how she held her head up, and her great poses... I was a very happy camper.

Since  I have started my studies with the Watts Atelier, I have been curious to try out the methods on the figure. And I was very pleased. The method is in many ways more like painting with the charcoal than drawing with a pencil. It allowed me to comp in envelope shapes, block in light and shadow, all very quickly - which allowed me to get to the stage of building the interesting areas sooner and with more confidence. I was able to say more, with less - and decide where I wanted to add detail and interest. My experience of drawing was much more confident, pleasant, and satisfying than I have experienced in life drawing for quite some time.
I can hardly wait for the next Life Drawing session!
Here are some samples from the mid-to long-poses.
10 minute poses
Wolff's Carbon Pencil on Newsprint, 18x24"

20 minute poses
Wolff's Carbon Pencil on Newsprint, 18x24"

30 minute pose
Wolff's Carbon Pencil on Newsprint, 18x24"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Watts Atelier- Gouache Phase I

I am approaching my studies from two angles.
First of all, I am going back to the beginning and working through the Drawing Fundamentals. This will reinforce what I already know, and I am learning a few new things along the way. There are many specific methods that Jeff and his staff teach, and I want to take full advantage of my membership. It is also designed to build the skills that will lead into painting.
At the same time, I am starting with Gouache Phase I, which is basically the introduction to painting. It is a fun medium, and is experiencing a bit of a comeback after many years of being considered passe.
The Watts Atelier teaches a very disciplined approach. I am no stranger to discipline, having studied with Juliette, Tony, and other traditional instructors. I am taking my time, enjoying the structure and the methodical approach, and I am learning a lot.
Gouache Phase I
Van - Black & White
Working on the under-drawing.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Watts Atelier Drawing Fundamentals Phase I

Rather than breeze through, I decided to approach this as a beginner, which has worked well for me in many situations. I think it's a more open and receptive frame of mind, and I intend to get as much out of my efforts here as possible.
Basic Forms - Sphere
Conte 1710B Pencil on newsprint

Basic Forms - Cube
Conte 1710B Pencil on newsprint

Basic Forms - Cone
Wolff's Carbon Pencil 2B
on newsprint

I even used the Watts Atelier grip
to sign and date the exercise.
(It's not as easy as it looks. )
Warm ups and the box structure
for the Cylinder
The exercise in progress
Finished exercise
Basic Shapes - Cylinder
Wolff's Carbon Pencil 2B
on newsprint

mikeyzart and Watts Atelier - setting up.

I was excited to get started with my studies in the Watts Atelier. I have been looking forward to this for quite some time.
As it turns out, I spent most of the weekend rearranging the studio and getting things set up. I intend to get the most out of the studies. Jeff insists on not having the reference at an odd angle, and had several recommendations on how to get the reference in front of me and at a good angle. He is also insistent on a clean, efficient setup, and a relaxed, comfortable posture.
I found the activity of rearranging and getting set up properly to be a delightfully 'zen' process. And it sure has made a difference.
The drawing table setup.
Skulley oversees the operation.
Note the reference holder on top of the board,
and the cork board on the wall.
The painting setup.
Now there's room to move back and forth.
After getting set up, it was time to get the materials together and tuned up.
Chicken timer looks on in amazement.
After. Elegant?
Give me time to get into the swing of it.
The Watts Atelier method of sharpening pencils is similar to Juliette's and Tony Ryder's approach, but even so, it's been a while....
I even got wild and tried the method on a Prismacolor pencil, but that pencil didn't like the process too much.
The Wolff's Carbon Pencils were the easiest, and the smoothest.

More fun with the Plein Air Club - Super Secret Underground paint-out!!!!

Saturday was fun. Met with the DIS Plein Air Club for a 'Super Secret Underground paint-out!"
This location was AWESOME. The light was otherworldly, and we sat silent and listened to the sounds of the garage as we painted. It was really unlike anything else I've done.
I can't wait to do another outing!
Top: Scoping out the location with the Plein Air Club.
Bottom: My final study.
Gouache, 6x12"

Thursday, September 18, 2014


It's official!!!
After much preparation - and even more anticipation - I am now finally enrolled in the Watts Atelier Online.
I have been following Jeff Watt's work for years. Recently I stumbled upon the videos from the Atelier, and the Friday Night Workshops. I could tell right away that this is the place where I want to continue my art education.
I can listen to Jeff talk for hours while he demonstrates. He is knowledgeable, skillful, and practical, as well as inspiring. I was captivated by Robert Watts' wit and charm, his superb skills, and easy demeanor. And the other instructors each bring a wealth of knowledge, skill, and passion to the table.
But just watching was not enough... I was determined to participate, to jump in, to learn, and to grow.
And now it's official!!!

I will be posting pictures, anecdotes, and "ahas" as I work through the courses, so stay tuned. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Another fun weekend of art with Denver Illustration Salon and friends!

Red Rocks - 09/13/14
I apologize for the low quality pic - my scanner is not working. :(
Gouache with Pilot Hi-Tec C and Pentel Aquash brush pen
on Aquabee Heavyweight Drawing Paper sketchbook, 6x12"
This has been another adventurous, fun- and art-filled weekend!
I started Saturday by joining the DIS Plein Aire Group on an excursion to beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO.
As always, there were way more phenomenal scenes than one human being can paint. The hardest part was choosing which view to paint.
After a week of rain and overcast, we had a beautiful day of weather. It was warm, but not too hot. The other members of the group found a spot on top of a big flat rock that had an epic panorama. Since I had baked like a potato the last few times we went out, I picked a spot just off the path in the shade.
And it was a good thing for me. Toward the end of the day, the park ranger came up to chase some climbers out of one of the restricted areas, and gave a warning and to our group for being up on the rock. There was a spirited discussion about the absurdity of it all, which ended with a citation.
I roll with a rough crew. ;)
We are thinking of calling ourselves the Pigment Outlaws. (Hey, our battle cry can be "Pig-Out!" LOL)

Saturday evening, I joined the DIS Drink & Draw for a terrific Costumed Life Drawing session with two awesome models. As luck would have it, during each pose, someone was blocking my view of one or the other model, so I just drew the one I could see. That was a good thing, because both of the models were terrific - and it alleviated the need to decide which one to draw.
I saw many regulars and met several new people. We drew, talked about art, pens, brushes, and breaking the law. 
My friend Michael accepted my invitation to attend, so the whole evening was friends, art, costumes, and fun.
Today is being spent in the studio, chilling and watching the Watts Atelier Friday Night Workshop video, featuring Robert Watts doing a gouache demonstration - a painting of Keith Richards as Captain Teague from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Now, that's my kind of weekend!
Red Rocks - the view from my spot in the shade.
It looks better if you step back.
Unfortunately, optimum viewing distance
puts you off the edge of a cliff.
DIS Drink & Draw Costumed Life Drawing
Upstairs - Billy's Gourment Hot Dogs, 600 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80203

DIS Drink & Draw Costumed Life Drawing
Warm up sketches (2 min.)
I'm having fun using different colors of pens with the water brush.
Pilot Hi-Tec C pens and Pentel Aquash brush pen
on Art Alternatives 110lb. sketchbook paper, 8 1/2 x 11"

DIS Drink & Draw Costumed Life Drawing
Warm-up sketches to medium poses (2-20 min.)
The red sketch just might be my favorite one of the evening.
Pilot Hi-Tec C pens and Pentel Aquash brush pen
on Art Alternatives 110lb. sketchbook paper, 8 1/2 x 11"

DIS Drink & Draw Costumed Life Drawing
Long poses (20-30 min.)
Pilot Hi-Tec C pens and Pentel Aquash brush pen
on Art Alternatives 110lb. sketchbook paper, 8 1/2 x 11"
DIS Drink & Draw Costumed Life Drawing
Final long pose (just under 30 min.)
Pilot Hi-Tec C pens and Pentel Aquash brush penon Aquabee Heavyweight Drawing Paper sketchbook, 9 x 12"
Watts Atelier Friday Night Workshop - Sept. 12, 2014
And now, to sit back, relax with a cup of hot cocoa, and watch the Watts Atelier Friday Night Workshop featuring Robert Watts, as he works on a gouache painting of Keef as Captain Teague. How much cooler can this weekend get?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pirate sketches!

My friend Arthur Whittam (aka Cascabel) courteously agreed to let me use him as a reference for some drawing/painting  studies, along the lines of the Golden Age of Illustration. I was so excited - I've always considered Cascabel "The Pirate's Pirate," and he is a perfect for the project.
Stay tuned - there will be more to come!!! 
A small color study.  I liked the
light with the sun setting.
Cascabel 01
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen and
Pentel Aquash water brush pen
with gouache, 3 x 5"

Isn't he the perfect subject?
Another small sketch
Cascabel 02
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen and
Pentel Aquash water brush pen

Taking the new sketchbook along for the ride.

So my car is in the shop, and I've been taking the bus to work for the last couple days.
I thought it would be a good opportunity to take my new sketchbook out for a spin, so to speak... take it for a ride.
It's pretty amazing how much interesting and draw-worthy stuff you find where you least expect it, if you take the time to look. I was sketching one scene looking underneath the pedestrian walkway, and the more I looked, the more interesting shapes I found. Then the bus came before I was finished. I'm gonna go back and develop it more.
Most of the sketches are very quick, as the scene is changing rapidly. Even sitting at the bus stop, there is usually only a few minutes to create a sketch. 
I'm trying out a bunch of different pens too, including the Pilot Hi-Tec C Black, Blue, and Brown pens, along with Pentel Aquash water brush, Copic gray markers, and Gelly Roll white Gel pen.
Update 090814:
I'm glad that the car is fixed. However, I was happy to make the best of the situation. I did a lot of drawing, and I am considering riding the express bus to work on occasion, just to enjoy the ride, draw, and not worry about traffic.
Plus, it's so darn comfy.

Here are some samples:
The Express bus is big and comfy,
plus it goes right by the
SunCor Energy plant, which is
One of the connections is at
Fitzsimmons Hospital.
Everywhere you look, there's
something interesting to draw!
Pilot Hi-Tec C Black and
Pentel Aquash water brush pens
Westminster Park & Ride
Pilot Hi-Tec C Blue and
Pentel Aquash water brush pens
SunCor Energy and Highway underpass
Pilot Hi-Tec C Black and
Pentel Aquash water brush pens,
Copic 3 and 5 Gray markers,
Gelly Roll white gel pen

My Mind Is Blown
Pilot Hi-Tec C Black and
Pentel Aquash water brush pens

I liked the FB page photo for
my nephew's band Anatomy of Bad
So I was messing around with my new pens...

Zoo Sketches! Plus Drink & Draw

Here are some sketches from a recent outing with the DIS Zoo Sketch Group. In addition, there are some pages from the DIS Drink & Draw.
NOTE: Normally, I avoid drinking and drawing. You could spill your drink on your drawing. That's not only an affront to art, it's a waste of rum. That's bad. But in the spirit of art, community, and being social, I decided to give it a go, and I really do enjoy these get-togethers.
I had a fun time at both, and I'm looking forward to doing both of them again. I really appreciate what the Denver Illustration Salon is doing to create a sense of community among artists in Denver.

I was trying out my new sketchbook and my Pilot Hi-Tec-C pens with the Pentel Aquash water brush, a combination that I am liking more and more.
Zoo Sketch-
(Later embellished during Drink &Draw)
From the Big Cats section.
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen
and Pentel Aquash water brush pen
Zoo Sketch-
More Big Cats
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen
and Pentel Aquash water brush pen
Zoo Sketch-Lotsa Big Cats.
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen
and Pentel Aquash water brush pen
Zoo Sketch-Siberian Tigers, Clouded Leopard cubs,
Otters, and more.
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen
and Pentel Aquash water brush pen
Zoo Sketch-When is a Wild Dog not Wild?
When He's a-Lion.
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen
and Pentel Aquash water brush pen
Zoo Sketch_
 ...and back to the Big Cats area.
This big fella was always on the move,
so I had several sketches going at once.
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen
and Pentel Aquash water brush pen
Zoo Sketch-Lotsa sleepy Big Cats.
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen
and Pentel Aquash water brush pen

from the DIS Saturday Night Drink &Draw
After a day at the zoo, I was in the mood to
vamp on the big cats. 
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen
from the DIS Saturday Night Drink &Draw
This particular night, I was out of ideas.
Surrounded by art, and brain-dry.
So I started drawing rabbit teeth.
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen
and Pentel Aquash water brush pen

Okay, sometimes Drink & Draw
do go together well.
Marion Turning Away
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen
and Pentel Aquash water brush pen

Marion Embracing Robin
Pilot Hi-Tec C brown pen
and Pentel Aquash water brush pen

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day weekend 2014

This has been a fun - and art-filled - holiday weekend.
I started off Saturday with the DIS Plein Air Club outing to Clear Creek in Golden, CO. We had a good time, there were tons of people, and we even got kicked out of our spot (Clay and Dylan found a cool vantage point, but the Park Ranger ousted us because of safety reasons.)
I wasn't satisfied with my resulting field study, but I got some pics to bring back to the studio.
Afterward, we went to Golden City Brewery for a beer and some art talk.
I spent Sunday at Taste of Colorado, drawing with Ben from *LoL* Caricature Company, and our good friends Robby and Chad. What a day! We almost didn't have any time to chat, but fortunately managed to take a few near the end of the day to catch up. Afterward, Ben and I went to Yard House for food and beverages.
Today was a 'chill' day, in the studio with some new art supplies (I picked up a couple new brushes and some paint, along with a butcher's tray for watercolor/gouache.) I was concentrating on getting used to working with gouache, and on the light and color.
I had fun painting, doing small studies, and working on compositional ideas for some large pieces.

Now it's time to wind down with pizza and a movie.
Yup... that was a good holiday weekend.
Everyone was enjoying
Clear Creek on Saturday.
Artists under the brige (again?)
Can you spot trouble?

My field study.
Back in the studio. L-R:
Cascabel, another view of the river.
Concentrating on light, color
and getting used to the gouache.
Robin/Forest Guardians
Thumbnails and Scenes
Putting it all together
into a composition.
Picking up where I left off on the
Robin/Forest Guardian series.