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Drawing – leaving a mark behind on a piece of paper?

Drawing is about making marks but, more fundamentally, before true creativity can develop (in any artistic medium) you need to make sense of the form of things.  In my view, this begins with understanding what you are looking at. I believe that to do this there is no better approach than learning to draw.

There are five basic steps to seeing your object and creating a drawing.

  • The Perception of Edges.
  • The Perception of Spaces.
  • The Perception of Relationships.
  • The Perception of Light & Shadow.
  • The Perception of the Whole or Gestalt.

In order to convert this theory into a drawing, I suggest that you start with the mantra

Look, draw, look look draw, review and repeat.

Mapping out the 2d interpretation of the 3d set up in front of you is much simpler if you repeat this mantra and try very hard to look at the object more than at your paper.

This is Ray doing a textbook look and draw in one of our drawing sessions.

However, before you start drawing, take some time out and doodle for 10 minutes. Draw patterns or remind yourself about the qualities of your drawing implements by creating patterns. I believe this is fundamental to drawing well. It gives your brain time to focus and also to stop the negative process of labelling and telling you you know what it (say an apple) looks like…….

See! you are doing it now …. you had a fleeting picture of an apple in your head. You know what an apple looks like don’t you!!!!….but is it actually the particular apple you are using as a still life object?

No! and to draw this particular apple you need to understand:-

  • The apples’ relationship to the objects and the space around it…
  • Where one edge meets another – be that the edge of your drawing or the other objects in the picture area.
  • The shape of the spaces which join the body of the apple to other things around it
  • Where the light falls and the shadows that this creates

And also –

  • the composition of the image as a whole. (Gestalt)

To start your drawing

  • Mark up where objects meet, and, if using a viewfinder, mark up where they intersect the edge the paper/viewfinder
  • Mark out the negative shapes to help describe the silhouettes of individual components.
  • Work over the whole image drawing the composition as a whole.
  • Start with a harder lighter pencil and use it lightly
  • At this point, you are not directly drawing an apple. Particularly not the apple n your head. You are mapping our a series of shapes.

Don’t be too precious about what you are doing.

Remember:-

  • At the end of the day, it is just a piece of paper with pencil marks on.
  • If you are worrying that someone is going to be judgemental – then don’t ask for their opinion
  • Don’t kid yourself – if it is not right – it simply isn’t right.

But take heart because:

  • Seeing that you are getting it wrong shows that you are getting it right.

 

Moving away from the object and starting to draw:-

As you progress you will break each part of your drawing down into smaller and smaller areas of interest.

  • You will note how one area is lighter than another.
  • These areas of different tome will also make shapes of their own
  • These will relate to one another.
  • In a very short time, you will notice you are no longer drawing an apple but that you are drawing a series of shapes.

change from drawing an apple to a state where you become aware that some areas are lighter than others. Measure the range of lightness or darkness and how they relate to each other.

Critical review:

An honest assment of your imagery is crucial. Reviewing your work is not being self-critical it is not a comment on your skill. It is a chance to ask yourself if (and be completely honest here) the image is showing you what you can see in front of you.

If it isn’t then look at the drawing and the object you are drawing and ask yourself why.

Why isn’t it going well?

If you can’t get it right then ask yourself why –

what are you doing in your head that means your hand can’t translate what your eye is seeing.

Ask yourself – Am I looking at what is in front of me of using a preconceived idea of what this object looks like.

Remember – your brain always thinks it knows best but you want to use the information you see with your eye not what your brain thinks this object should look like.

Don’t worry if your image is looking wrong – be prepared to refigure large parts of your drawing.

To be fair you can buy yourself a good rubber!!! However – never use a rubber because its wrong – use a rubber because you can see how to improve your drawing, use the mistakes you can see to help you judge how to redraw.

Be prepared to accept that you may well have to loose parts of the drawing (that have taken you a long time) but accept that it is better to be proactive and concentrate on training your hand eye co-ordination than it is to kid yourself into believing you are picture perfect (even though when you look at your drawing you know it isnt – we re all very good at this little brain trick!)

  • The more honest you are with yourself the quicker your hand and eye will co-ordinate
  • The more you practice the more quickly this will happen
  • The more open you are with yourself the better your drawing will be.
  • When your hand and eye can co-ordinate efficiently – then you will begin to draw what you can see.

Look, draw, look, look, draw – review – repeat.

and remember

The reason to come to drawing lessons is to learn to be self-reflective, not self-critical.

n.b. As a teacher of a creative skill please note that I am striving to be constructive. I am here to teach you how to draw what you can see in front of you!  When I offer feedback it is not a criticism of you. I am not passing judgement on your ability merely offering constructive advice on how your eye could inform your hand more effectively.

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Mapping a drawing with Negative Space

Creating an acurate depiction of a still life can be much easier if you understand how negative spaces create structure to a composition.

Today our drawing class was pretty small…well very small! Everyone gets so busy over the summer. So DPH and I had a one to one session – Thrown in at the deep end rather as it was DHP’s first session with us…… She did survive – LOL – and enjoyed herself too.

Today’s session was working with negative space and, as usual started with a doodle warm up. It is always such a good idea to start your creative session with some time out repetitive drawing. Whatever pattern you chose repeat it and set yourself tasks such as starting in a different place, changing pencil grip or drawing hand. Do this for around 10 minutes (or, if you are enjoying it keep going until you are suddenly mind-blowingly bored.

Reading through our hand out and having talked through how useful it is to understand negative space and use it to map out your composition we were ready to start.  As usual we began with a series of quick drawings to help get “our eye in”. One, two, four and twelve minutes working small on four separate drawings of the same set up really helps you assure your brain that whilst you know what a ???? looks like (in this case a pair of nut crackers) drawing it relies on making sure that each area is mapped out as a shape and not as a nut cracker!

IMG_7478

This drawing shows how I mapped out the still life using the paper meeting points and the angles the nut crackers created as they crossed the papers to map out a negative drawing of the objects. Something that DPH soon realised was a new and slightly brain straining approach. However, with each attempt I could see how well she was bringing the idea on board; having begun to understand what we were looking at it was time to start on a longer study.

With the longer study I was pleased to see GHP critically appraising her drawing, realising that she was tending to rely on what she thought rather than what she could see. By encouraging her to really look and evaluate she was more and more ready to move lines and remap her composition.  This is a great start and possibly a difficult approach as, in general, it is so easy to try and work round parts of a drawing which you have invested time in and are reluctant to discard.

Below are some of the mistakes I was making along the way and the final layout done in around 1.15hours.

IMG_7486

Drawing Tips

Drawing: critical reflection on compositional errors

Possibly one of the most difficult things to do when you are drawing is to reflect on your own work. It is vital that anyone learning to draw learns to evaluate their own compositions.  The style in which you draw or your approach are obviously influencing factors in the aesthetic of your image but, however you approach your project there should be an element of realism to your delivery if you have chosen to draw from life.

IMG_6484 2

Constantly checking the still life (landscape etc) in front of you against the image appearing on your page is all part of realising a reality in your work. Even abstract work needs to have roots in reality to have a proper integrity.

Given that the ratio to looking at the still life set up to drawing is a minimum of 65/35 it can be easy to overlook small assumptions in your drawing.  After all we all know what an egg/apple/flower etc look like don’t we?

However, the honesty you can give yourself when critically evaluating your work will make all the difference to its credibility. Also mistakes in compositional integrity create a strange jarring quality even if the viewer has not seen the original set out of objects.

Learning to see and more importantly correct your mistakes (however far on in the drawing you are) will pay dividends as you progress. It’s very hard to say to yourself, “no that is wrong I must alter it but the end result will bring you one step closer to a harmonious and believable composition.

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Drawing shapes – re-seeing form as a series of shapes

Quite a task for a Monday morning!  We all hold a visual memory of an object in our head. We know what something looks like. If I asked you to draw an apple for instance, you would know that it is a solid distorted sphere with a hard often shiny skin. You might even add a stem for good measure.

The likelihood however is that when presented with an apple as a study piece you will see that an apple is less round than you thought. It may be wider, longer or bumpier. Certainly, the inner shapes in terms of surface pattern and light fall will be more interesting and detailed than in your drawing from memory.

I took todays exercise from Bert Dodson’s book Keys To Drawing available very reasonably priced on @worldofbooks.

The intention of today’s session was to help us see the form of an object through the shapes on it.  This called for an object which would trigger the “I know what that is” response. We spent 45 minutes on three drawings of a plastic toy soldier!

The first step is to draw an outline of the edges of the object as a single line before beginning to identify negative spaces, larger areas of shade before refining the drawing down into more tonal areas. The soldiers had to be dropped from shoulder height to set the placement. (no cheating allowed! This meant that, inevitably, the figure was placed in a non-familiar way so it would be more difficult to use automatic responses when drawing.

Repeatedly the comment was that it was very difficult “indeed” to look at the shadow shapes without labelling them as a leg, or shirt, or hat. As we progressed through the morning it became apparent through the confidence shown in the progressive drawings that everyone was beginning, more easily, to identify larger and larger areas of pattern within the figure and divorce these areas from the need to label particular forms. As an aside I noticed that the description of the outside shapes of the small plastic soldiers became more accurate with each rendering.

As a reward for sticking at it we finished the morning with a simple clothes peg. A simple and easy way to realise shapes in the shadows and lighter areas rather than through contour drawing.

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Drawing – using tone instead of line and changing the emphasis of your own drawings marks

I set a real challenge today for the drawing class. The idea was to use our tone/value aid to really concentrate on lost and found edges.

This required, not only really looking very hard at the daffodils, our chosen object for today, but also making decisions on which parts of the flower head qualified as what value of light and dark on the scale.

To help a little participants took a black and white photograph of their chosen blooms to use as reference as the photographs could easily emphasise the dark and light areas when set to monochrome or noir and then darkened a little.

The drawings and decisions for shading were taken from eyeballed (al la Hockney phrase) and the photos used as an aid and by  working across the drawing to ensure that the right values where being put down proved really quite hard to get a handle on. (I guessed this from the many “this is very hard” comments!!!!!!) however as the second hour progressed I could see a definite understanding of how to work the drawings, but also how a new understanding was creating a new shorthand from each of the artists drawings.

I have to concede that it was a hard thing to grasp especially when, to date, we have tended towards line drawing (outline drawing) before adding and tone or mark making to the drawings.

Today was no exception but as the drawing progressed it became apparent that at least some of the outline would have to be removed as the value of the colour tone being laid down was lighter than the outside line. Similarly with the lost lines in the shadows or in very light areas changed the emphasis from the outside line to the form and shape of the inside of the object being drawn.

One helpful tip today has been adopted to reassure that their drawings were not “messy”. Many of the attendees where perplexed and rather discombobulated by the marks they were making. I explained that the flowers where looking messy because the image was showing the lines as very prominent on the white paper.  So the outside of the images were softened with dark shading to enclose their pencil marks. We had worked into drawings already as a warm up this morning using old drawings.  It had been a revelation to everyone how much it changed their drawings and how they needed to work back into the drawings to create more contrast.

This simple approach really bought out the lights and made them believable. Very satisfying.

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Drawing:Negative shapes help with Accuracy

Todays lesson began with four short drawings of some laurel leaves. 1 minute, 2 minutes, 4 minutes and 12 minutes before taking the rest of the session to concentrate on the one drawing.

The focus of todays drawing session was to, initially, concentrate on the negative shapes made by the leaves and start to get to know the subject by understanding the shapes it made where it wasnt!

These quick fire sketches really help with hand eye co-ordination and hone observation skills and prepare your head to settle down and really get absorbed by the simple yet complex subject of a small twig with leaves.

The second string to the bow today was to use a simple measurement system to map out the image accurately to the life object. taking note of at what point a curve or space lines up with another feature. This helps to ensure that the drawing accurately resembles your subject.  Placing the subject overlapping the white surface also helps you visually tie the drawing together.

In the images you will see how the images still show the simple parallel and vertical lines which line up particular elements and help the artists capture the important negative shapes within the setting.  These help establish the form in a way which takes away our brains favourite labelling occupation.

 

 

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Drawing: Working with Negative Space

Working with negative spaces really helps you look and see what it is you are drawing without being drawn into the labeling battle with your brain.

negative space takes the labeling away

As usual it is easier to understand a new concept if you look at how someone else has done it before. We worked, initially from an example (google negative space drawing)

we used a simple tree outline and a directors chair. One of us was having a lot of difficulty with the concept of only drawing the spaces where the chair was not and not drawing the chair ,so we turned her example upside down and that really helped her labeling brain stop labeling!

I like to follow an exercise with drawing from life so that people can put the two things together and use the new skill transferabley. This is an important aspect of the way I teach.

We used the ivy above and, to make it as easy as possible, I drew a rectangle on the display paper so that everyone could judge where the ivy left the space and thus, judge, relative to the edge and the leaf shape, what shapes the negative shapes where. I hope that makes sense 🙂