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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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Painting – bright backgrounds and creating luminescence

Setting a challenge for yourself when you are learning to paint can be quite daunting. You look at a pear (in this instance) and you want to get out the yellow and the brown paint and paint a yellow and brown pear with maybe a touch of green. All quite normal, but as many of you will know if you want to play it safe the one thing I’ll do is set you a challenge to push yourself.

To make painting the pears more of a challenge I set them on to two very bright file folders (one is a light cyan and the other a pinky magenta) but painting he whole background in these two startling colours the challenge became to paint reasonably believable pears over the top and allow semi translucent paint layers to only partially obscure the under painting.

So not only was the re a challenge in eh compositional layout of the two pears on a stark background but also the play of colours between the two parts of the painting.

It certainly did prove a challenge and took everyone out of their comfort zones. But what happened during the process was truly satisfying.  This technical exercise took two sessions (four hours) and I admired the tenacity of the KA who certainly struggled as the painting came and went. She struggled with the form of the pear the strange affect of the pink and blue through her pear colours and the wetness of her paint for much of the two lessons.

However, there was a turning point. She stuck with it and turned her painting round. For the last hour of the session she worked back into all parts of the pear and the fore/background. Took risks with the colours she used, and took proactive decisions on the tonal properties of her painting. She even scratched into the paint to reveal underlayers of colour and I almost did a jig round the room when I heard her comment “Wow! That has made the painting luminous.” Well done KA.

I am not sure whether to record that she did later add that she wasn’t sure that if left to her own devices that she wouldn’t get out the yellow and brown paint! ……Just give me time, I thought ,and yellow and brown will have a whole new meaning for you 🙂 (See left hand photo)

Well Done KA – I am very proud of you. Keep at it.

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.

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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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Painting -Finding the right red for a camellia

What a fantastic Camellia tree in the studio garden, it is completely covered in big, decedant, waxy flowers in a riot of pint, yellow and glossy glossy dark blue green leaves. Understanding how those colours work together and how to create your own lucious, delicious pink/red to do justice to this flower was not as straight forward as it initially seemed.

I have a very natty little colour guide wheel (Pocket Colour Wheel 13cm. Compact Paint Mixing Learning Guide. Art Class Teaching Tool ) which I got from Amazon but I also have a colour pallette mixing book which covers watercolour, acrylic, gouache and oil paints.  It is throoughly useful indeed. I got it some years ago and cant actually find it on the internet but here is something similar on World of Books The Watercolour Painter’s Pocket Palette by Moira Clinch.

Using this as a starting place a suitable pinky red was selected, we didnt actually have the exact colour specififed so chose similar colours in terms of warm/cool spectrum adn started mixing. What becomes a little tricky is that there are so many vairiables…the amount of water mixed with teh water colour, applying wet on dry or wet on wet and then getting a consistent ratio of the two colours when creating the palette.

What did become apparent was that the initial choice of Cadmium red, violet pink, cadmium yellow, sap green adn ultramarine didnt quite give the mix needed when put up against the flower. What became apparent was the need for a more robust pink. We tried rose pink and alizarin into teh mix and then finally it dawned that the cadmium yellow would dull the pink down just enough and BINGO! we had it.

Creating our work strainght from life with observational drawing adn looking closely at the soft lost and hard found areas of shade and light helped bring beleivable form to teh paintings. A very satisfying demo and work from the the class was so productive. KA really was exceptionally brave with her brush strokes, painting from life bought rather than a copied image really bought her image to life. A very different approach from  her previous work: Well done you.

 

West_dartmoor_art_courses_Watercolour_classes_apple
Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, Art Courses,

Painting: getting to know your watercolour pallet

Learning how to make the right colour for your project will make all the difference to your work and learning what colour make what colours when mixed together is key to making the most of a simple limited pallet which will help tie your painting together.

For these apples chose a variety of yellows, a red and a blue and a dot of black to help tone down colours when necessary, this project uses:

  • Cadmium Yellow Hue
  • Lemon Yellow
  • Cadmium Orange Hue
  • Scarlet Lake
  • ultramarine
  • and a little Ivory Black

Start by creating a tester sheet start by simply mixing the pure colours. Because we are trying for apple colours use the second line uses the colours on the first line mixed with the Scarlet Lake at 50/50 and below the same again with the first colour at 70% and second colour at 30%. Whilst the colours are pretty similar in the yellows there are subtle differences.

west_dartmoor_art_courses_watercolour_tester_pallet_apples

As you can see to help keep track of the mixes I have numbered the swatches and noted the mixes. This makes it easier to identify which colours you need to mix where on your image.

Here are some examples of the project made by participants in the class. It is interesting, but not surprising really, to see how the individual artists work differently, and of course their mixes are very individual. The difference is reflected in the final outcomes. This definitely shows how you can personalise your work in line with your own preferences.

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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.