Drawing Class Lesson 8

I’ve been working on this drawing for three weeks now.  Every one of us is in the same boat, sight-sizing a drawing from a plaster cast.  Finally, this week, I felt comfortable enough with my measurements to put in some lines and move forward.

My measuring skills continue to improve.  What I haven’t done yet is the value scale for this drawing.  That will be the first thing I do next Thursday when I get to class.

Over time, as you learn a new skill, you also become familiar with different or better materials.  Now that I’ve been working with charcoal and cursing it’s mother in as many languages as I can think of (thankfully not many…) I finally found a working charcoal called Nitram that is AMAZING. https://nitramcharcoal.com/ It is used in place of vine charcoal.  I was curious what the big deal was, and it is a big deal.

  • It is much easier to use
  • Doesn’t break easily
  • Lasts a lot longer
  • Erases just as well as vine
  • Smudges with the best of them
  • Much LESS MESSY
  • Doesn’t need to be sharpened to a point

This is where you see me doing the Snoopy happy dance!  I just might be a charcoal convert, but the jury is still out.  Perhaps I’m just being stubborn!  Nitram is available from different art supply stores as well as Amazon.  If you haven’t tried it, do!  It is a life-changing drawing tool.

 

Figure Drawing Workshop with Rod Cameron

Rod Cameron Workshop, March 2, 2019

 

One of Rod’s sketches, illustrating Bridgeman’s use of stacked boxes, and a gesture/mass drawing.  His favorite resource is Bridgeman, and you can tell from the blocks above.  (For additional information please check out “The Best of Bridgeman” by Dover publications.)  Rod uses the blocks to understand the shape, mass, and angles of the head and torso.

I’ve worked with Bridgeman illustrations before, although having the explanation from Rod about how to use these images makes so much more sense than trying to figure it out for myself.  Bridgeman is almost all illustrations with little to no text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an example from my practice sketches out of the Bridgeman book.

 

Rod Cameron is a very nice guy, and hugely knowledgeable about figure drawing and art.  Apparently, he rarely teaches, and it was suggested to me that if he did, I needed to take his class, and so I did.  We had maybe 7 students in this class and we were all able to get plenty of feedback from him.  After each couple of poses, he would come around and look at our work, complimenting what he liked about it and suggesting changes to make it better.

I figured out part way through the class that I was the student with the least amount of experience, based on the drawings that I saw taking form.  It has been a long time since I’ve worked from a live model and those skills were mighty rusty.  It was a great challenge and a fabulous learning experience.  Thank you, Rod Cameron, and Kipaipai Art for hosting the workshop.

I learned a lot of incidental stuff in this workshop as well.  Some of it is new, and some was a reminder of what I already knew:

  • Where to set up. if you want a straight-on model, set up in the middle. (Much of what I was drawing was a ¾ view and angled to boot because the model was on a stage).
  • Have your basic figurative information down cold. I spent much of my time referencing my notes on how many heads made up the length to the bottom of the torso, how long legs are supposed to be, etc.  I need that information memorized so that I can focus on the drawing and not on remembering something I should already know!
  • What type of charcoal to use. For these quick sketches, vine charcoal is best, and Rod was using these fat sticks of it.  Something I just haven’t seen.
  • What type of paper. Rod sketches on Craft paper, cutting sheets off of a role and putting them up on a board.  He says it’s because that paper lasts a lot longer than newsprint, which only has a life of a few years, and at this point, his sketches can be worth keeping.  (Not hubris, just fact. Give me time, I’ll get there!)
  • White Board. Rose Adare (my Atelier instructor) had a great suggestion, use a whiteboard with a marker.  When you’re done with a sketch, erase it and start over.  If you like it, take a picture!  The whole idea is that this is just practice.
  • This was about developing hand/eye coordination and skills on the fly. This was a test of what I know intrinsically, and what I still need to internalize for information about the figure.
  • This was a great reminder that I have to practice drawing larger images. Use large paper!!! I focus too much on the small, and it is important to focus on whole arm movements since this is what brings grace to an image or a figure that you are drawing.
  • Don’t forget to stand back and look at your drawing regularly. This will point out the flaws in your work quickly.  You can also use a mirror or a camera on your phone to accomplish the same task.
  • This was also a great reminder that I can’t let my frustration get the better of me. When I get frustrated my lines get REALLY DARK.  (Let’s call it passionate, shall we?)  I was definitely out of my comfort zone, and that is a great thing.  Embrace it and learn from it.  Based on what I have here, I’d say I learned a great deal from this workshop.
  • I have to practice drawing with light lines. That way I will have room for emphasis in my drawing later.  Light lines are also much easier to correct!

If you’re thinking about taking a figurative drawing class, keep these tips in mind!

Week 7 Still Life with White Object or Sculpture

Week 7 class was frustrating for many of us.  This was the first week we started working with the casts that Rose has available for us to use, and we will be doing this for the next three weeks as well.  Here’s my “cast” as she calls them:

I keep reminding myself that Rose’s motto regarding this class is, “Be the Sloth!  Be the slowest person in the room.”  All I have to show for it so far is five or six points and the start of a line which I know to be incorrect, and a value scale with a list of where the values fall on this cast.  (This is probably the most important part of this exercise!) All of us are having a challenging time, and we’ve only been at it for a couple of hours in class.  I’ll post a pic of my progress at the end of the next class.

Work that I’m doing home in my studio includes revisions to the still life from Class 6:

 

Rose wanted me to focus on lost and found edges and to get rid of as many “lines” as possible.  Now I’m falling in love with the drawing and I have to finish it by adding the bottom of the glass.  I understand now that the lack of linework in the drawing brings the image to a new level of realism!  To do this justice, it needs another 6 hours at least.  I’m not so worried about the detail, it is the shading and blending that I am focusing on with this piece.

 

As I learned in class, you can use a piece of glass to check the curve from one side of a goblet to the other.  A sheet of slightly smoked glass or plexiglass would probably do better, but this is what I had at the time.  Hold the sheet of glass in the vertical center of your drawing and this allows you to see the reflection of one side cast onto the other.

Here’s an image showing what I mean.  In the sheet of glass, you can see a ghost of an image outside the right edge of the goblet.  I held the glass at an angle to make the ghosting more obvious.  What a great tool to have in your toolbox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I went to town on Saturday to find something white that I could draw.  There are no white statues in Kona.  I went to some thrift stores and finally found this:

I just couldn’t stand drawing something that was badly made,  and clowns or dolls are right out.  I also didn’t want to do something symmetrical which leaves out bottles, bowls, or vases.  My little 75 cent dove will do nicely!

Due Diligence Lessons 5 – 6

We’re on to Lesson 6 I think, and my lack of knowledge bit me in the, uh, backside today.  Rose wanted us to do a graduated scale on toned paper using chalk and charcoal to create the entire range.  My first attempt was an epic failure because I tried to do the whole thing with soft vine charcoal.   I modified it using a couple of my compressed charcoal pencils and it didn’t look much better.  I now realize that I have to take all my charcoal pencils and do a graduated scale for each of them to figure out which pencils I want to use, and what gives me the best representation of a ten-step scale to use in a drawing based on the way I draw, so here’s my homework for the night!  In due time I will also do one for my graphite pencils.  It is great practice and will take my work to a higher level when I train this subtlety into my fingers.

The first four blocks of this grid are empty because they would contain gratuated white chalk except for #4 which would be plain paper.

 

These past few weeks have driven home just how ignorant I am of the use of charcoal in drawings.  It never occurred to me that vine charcoal would only be used for initial marks and sketches because it is so powdery and easy to remove.  I finally know how to sharpen vine charcoal correctly, using sandpaper and shaping it into a long taper.  This, in fact, isn’t really sharpened into a long enough point.  It should be longer.

I also need to revise my drawing from Class 5, there’s too much going on with my shot glass, too much detail.  Here’s the before:

There is the addition of a shot glass to the original composition.  No, I’m not drawing the duct tape holding the glass down, or the skewer to the right.

And here’s the after:

I’ve limited my highlights to a certain section of the glass to reduce the detail.

It’s amazing that there is so much to learn in such short a time.  I used to think 12 weeks was a long time, and this is a mightily compressed class!

  • Figuring out how to work with vine charcoal.
  • Figuring out which charcoal is used for what.  I should have figured that out sooner.
  • My sight-sizing is getting much better.  The addition of new glasses (for vision) made a huge improvement.
  • Remembering what measurements need to be checked again, and checking everything at least three times.
  • Ellipses I’m starting to get the hang of.  I understand the theory behind them and that is a huge step in the right direction.
  • Shading with charcoal I haven’t been working on as you can tell from the above image.

My focus right now is sight-size accuracy.  I want to get it down on the easy stuff so that when we start statues next Thursday I’m in a good place.  I already notice the difference in ease of drawing when I start a new painting, and this process will continue to improve!

Class 4 at the Kipaipai Atelier

Wow, time flies when you’re having fun.  Week 4 homework was

  • a continuation of Week 3’s Bargue drawing, working on the shading
  • setting up a simple still life and practice sight-sizing on 3-d objects
  • setting up a simple still life at home and drawing there as well.

I’m astonished at how well my first “bust” turned out.  I continue to tweak the shading as I walk away to do something else, then come back to glaring discrepancies.  Here, let me repeat this quote just in case you didn’t absorb it the last time I shared it:

“For better or worse, we only have a brief window of opportunity to see and correct mistakes in our work.  Over time, we tend to become acclimated to the inaccuracies in our drawings and are unable to see things clearly.  Elements that are stilted or distorted can look or feel correct.  One simple solution to this problem is to take a break every now and then and remember to stand back from your work occasionally.” Pg. 58, Lessons in Classical Drawing, by Juliette Aristides.

My simple still life set-up:

When you look carefully, you will see that the back-right corner slopes down.  The back of my set-up isn’t level.  So when I did my measuring from the “straight back horizon line” and the plumb line (the string in the front of the image), my measurements were off.  My cone was leaning to the right as it should have been due to the downward angle of the right side of the image.  The great news is, I’m getting better at catching this stuff early!

Finally, I worked on Boreas again this week after a couple of weeks off.  Here’s where she is now:

For something I didn’t even think I could do, to begin with, I’m impressed!

Class 3

Yikes this week was hard.  I should have taken pictures during the week and there wasn’t and still isn’t much to look at since it is just a line drawing at this point.

 

The original plumb line and horizontal were easy.  We used a level to find those.  The angle of the face though, I had to correct that over and over.  I would think I had it correct and start drawing.  Then I would realize that something was off again.  Measure again, move the line, draw again, and it is off again.  Argh!!!!

Another huge learning curve this week has been working with charcoal.  My hands are used to working with graphite more than any other drawing media.  Charcoal is both clumsy and subtle at the same time and requires practice, practice, practice.  The charcoal pencils are not the same thing at all.  They don’t erase, the texture of the pigment is coarser even with the softest charcoal pencil.  I didn’t figure this out until I started practicing my “scales”.  1 and 2 were done with a soft charcoal pencil.  The far left was done with soft vine charcoal.  It is much easier to blend, easier to erase, and horrible to put any kind of point on.

This was a mighty frustrating week.  The line drawing above is about 15 hours worth of work.  I know this wasn’t an easy drawing to do even for a Bargue drawing.  I do think, however, that I’m learning more because it is an increased level of difficulty.  I don’t know what I was doing wrong with my measuring, and next time, I will be even more careful at the beginning and document my line lengths.

Update –

I began adding the darkest shadows to the drawing, and look at this!  Yes, there are many things I have to fix (thank you charcoal…) and this is about an hour and a half of additional work.

So the one thing I truly understand is that measuring is hugely important.  Because I was able to get those lines precisely where they belong, the short time I put into this sketch working on the shadows is a likeness of the original!  Never mind that I don’t have any of the subtle shading in place.  Since the lines and proportions are correct, it reads as the same person.

Class 2 Part 2

Here is where I ended up, I ran out of time.

 

 

 

I may come back to finish it later.

I’m still working on softer and lighter lines.  Here’s a quote from the textbook, Lessons in Classical Drawing, by Juliette Aristides that says it all:

“One of the most immediate things beginners can do to improve their work is to draw lightly.  When a student gets too dark right away, it creates an emphatic statement, essentially saying, “I know I am right.” This presumption is bad for the work.  An artist who starts off too dark and specific in their work will find their drawing finished long before they intended and not know how to go back.  Furthermore, it is often difficult to erase heavy beginning lines.”

Kipaipai -Class 2 Part 1

Week 2 of Kipaipai Atelier Drawing Class — Part 1:

  • I’m already much better at discerning differences.
  • I still need to work on my grey scale.
  • I could easily spend all my time drawing, I’m falling in love with it all over again.
  • Rose started us with blocking in tonal shapes, not letting us use many measurements. I think she wants us to get a feel for the shapes and worry about measuring it later.
  • I’m still having difficulty controlling the pencil for “side of pencil” shading. Practice, practice, practice…
  • The kneaded eraser doesn’t leave crap all over the drawing or the table and erases more cleanly. Who knew?  Rose did of course.
  • On the sheet of “what to do before drawing”: Observe:
    • Gesture
    • Relationships
    • Repeating lines
    • Repeating shapes
    • If these are in place, your finished piece of work will stand on its own. This is a missing piece of many of my previous paintings.  I just draw or paint what I see, whatever it is that interests me about a certain subject.  Luckily, what I see often corresponded with these relationships.  Here’s an example.  This is the painting I analyzed by Bouguereau.  I converted it to black and white to make it simpler to work with, and I was fascinated by it:

 

 

The energy in this simple painting is amazing.  I thought it was all about the curves, and the more I looked, the more I realized it’s all about triangles.  There are relationships EVERYWHERE.  The elbow to the nose.  The end of the hook through her skirt to her elbow.  Left elbow to the hat.  Even her head with hair makes a triangle.  It is simply amazing.  These relationships are what keeps the eye focused on the painting.  I knew I liked it when I picked it, and I had no idea why until I actually LOOKED at it.  I thought; corset, Irish, wench, sea.  Then, I saw relationship, relationship, relationship, and more relationship.  I only detailed a few of them in my drawing.  I sincerely doubt that I will ever plan my paintings the way I used to ever again.  This alone will take my art to the next level.

  • I’m already pulling my hand away from the drawing to do the measuring. Each day I use that skill I get better at it.  Today was difficult again because holding my arm still while outstretched is a completely new thing to do and I have to develop those muscles.
  • In looking at master drawings I found some of Waterhouse’s preliminary sketches.

 

This is a preliminary sketch for Lady of Shalott and the finished painting.

His sketches look a lot like mine!  This is an incentive for me to stop judging my initial drawings.  This is all about getting the idea down on paper so that you don’t lose the thought.  Fleshing it out happens later.  It is nothing more than shorthand; a mnemonic reminder of the image in an artist’s head.

I have barely started my drawing for the next class.  I’m too busy exploring all the other wonderful stuff I’m figuring out as I go along!

Back to School at Kipaipai

I finally found a classical atelier where I could take classes here on the Big Island, and classes began this month. I have permission from my teacher, Rose Adare, to post my insights from our classes here to my blog.

As you may know, I’m almost completely self-taught, since I didn’t have any interest in painting until I moved to Hawaii in my 40s, and believe me, I am well aware of the gaps in my knowledge and constantly strive to correct them.

 

Here is my first drawing after the first class.

  • I picked this image because I thought it would be easy. Funny me.
  • Early on, I realized the importance of padding my drawing paper.  The texture from my drawing board was coming through on my actual drawing.
  • Measure once.  Mark.  Measure twice again, from different directions.  THEN make a darker mark.
  • It is important to begin a drawing with lighter lines, and this one I have to work on.  It leaves room for changes.  Darker lines seem more complete and close off a drawing from further improvements both physically and emotionally.
  • I’m too lazy to use multiple pencils at this point.  I’d rather use one and figure out how dark is dark using pressure than having to figure that out for multiple pencils.

 

Here is my second drawing:

 

  • It isn’t finished, and it is significantly better already.
  • I used a 5B pencil rather than the 2B I used on the first drawing.
  • Even during the second drawing my measuring skills have increased dramatically, especially since I am measuring with my left hand while drawing with my right.
  • This is the sight-size method, we are drawing images the same size as the original.  Not having to adjust for scale (increasing or decreasing the size of the original image) makes this process much easier.  No grid, no ruler.  We use a bamboo skewer or a pencil to measure from the master drawing to the paper.

 

 

 

Not to worry, I continue to paint at the same time!  Seahorse update to follow!

A Moment in Time

I have had people ask me, what draws you to a subject?  Why do you paint what you do?  What inspires you?

As an introvert, I think on these questions often, and sometimes the answer changes.  Sometimes it is a vision I’ve seen in my mind that needs to be expressed.  Sometimes an image in real life when I’m shaking my head and saying, “No one would ever believe this is real if I painted it…”

Most often though, what I paint is an expression of the ephemeral qualities of life, a moment in time.  The drawing above is a prime example.  I sat on this photograph for years.  I knew I wanted to draw him, and I also knew that I didn’t have the skills at that point in time.  So what I did, is to draw my way through 4 drawing books, 3 by Andrew Loomis and another fellow (I’ll have to look it up since it isn’t coming to me at the moment) until I felt comfortable approaching this image.

To me, this photograph of a man was a window into his soul.  I didn’t want to do the drawing until I knew I could do it justice, and express what I saw there.  The most amazing thing to me about this whole thing is that I thought I could do it!