Archive for the ‘Drawing’ Category

Enlisting helpers

October 15, 2010

So, as fall descends upon the west coast of Canada again, my time shifts indoors. My pencils and other utensils have been calling and I am preparing to heed that call. I have to complete a piece for a December group show that I will be part of. I have decided to put in either a charcoal/acrylic or graphite/acrylic piece to hang on the wall. My research work is mostly complete and now it’s time to start some initial sketches, with a focus on values. I decided that I would work from photographs which I have doctored already. One thing that challenges me is value. On a ten step grayscale, for example, determining between a 7 and an 8, or a 4 and a 5 is tough. I have made a few grayscale cards that I’ve hole punched. Now I can place the card over the photograph and hopefully see which value I’m working with a little clearer. I just realised, while reading this post, that I should number each step. This may train the eye to connect a step with a number.

The photos are not good, but it gives you an idea. These three little helpers will hopefully make life easier while my eye maybe gets trained to see these values clearer.
peace,
harold
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The beautiful aid of books

May 31, 2009

I just finished reading Anthony Ryder’s The Artist’s Complete Guide to Figure Drawing.

Anthony Ryder's The Artist's Complete Guide to Figure Drawing

Anthony Ryder's The Artist's Complete Guide to Figure Drawing

First, it’s a really good book on the techniques of figure drawing. I found the materials section to be very helpful as I have been wondering which papers to try out of the millions of options that seem to exist. I also like his first step in capturing the form. He builds, what he calls, an envelope. 4-6 lines that meet, forming angles, at the peek points of a pose. I also like his block-in explanation. He then builds the contour and begins working the inside, which is the inside of the “shell” created by the contour. He spends quite a bit of time talking about the various aspects of shading the figure, which I liked as well.

What I didn’t like was the lack of interest in using any aid in creating proportions. Ryder mysteriously builds his proportions based on intersections and relationships between lines/forms of the model. This part I found confusing.  Maybe a second or third read would clarify this point for me, but I think we may not share a fundamental perspective here. I also distrust this method of building the form because of the evidence of incorrect proportions in a few of his drawings. One in particular is found on page 46. The model’s left foot is ginormous. Maybe she was stung by a bee during the drawing, or maybe she has some unfortunate foot swelling issue, but the foot clearly ‘looks’ too large. I have a feeling that careful proportional measuring would have resolved this.

Another thing I am not fond of with his method is leaving the contour line on the drawings. This is only a personal opinion though so should be taken as such. In Harold Speed’s book on drawing he talks about line drawing and mass drawing. Ryder does both of these two masterfully, but I don’t think that Speed would want them in the same drawing. They are two almost opposing situations. We see an apparent outline to a thing when we view it, but it’s not really there. We feel the form when we look at it, and that is really there. Like I said, it’s a personal thing.

I also wish he had more examples of the works in progress using his method. He draws the envelope, block-in, and contour as overlays onto completed drawings. This is handy, but I really would have liked to see him build multiple drawings, photographing the stages as he did them. Added to those photos could be times so we know how long it takes someone of his calibre to accomplish a task. I think this would be helpful as most students move too quickly through the stages and miss many details which then are next to impossible to correct later. There is, however,  one example of a work in progress in the back of the book, but it lacks the envelope and the smaller steps with dialogue on how he solved the issues as they came up.

All in all I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is wanting to learn or improve their figure drawing. It’s not a “complete” guide in my opinion as I don’t think any book could be a complete guide as it lacks the ability to respond to the need for clarification, which I experienced while reading this book. If you don’t have this book already, you can purchase it HERE.

peace,
harold

Lessons on drawing

May 14, 2009

I recently finished reading Harold Speed’s classic book ThePractice and Science of Drawing. It was originally published in 1917 and is currently published through Dover.

Harold Speed - The Practice and Science of Drawing

Harold Speed - The Practice and Science of Drawing

Speed breaks drawing into two components: Line drawing and Mass drawing. Line drawing is what we see (or think we see) when we look at something. We imagine an outline to the object we are viewing. Mass drawing is what we experience. Mass drawing is about the form of the object instead of the outline.

Speed also has some amazing chapters on composition, balance, portrait drawing, and kinds of lines/brushstrokes.

There are many great images to copy for practice or to study. I have attempted a couple and even posted one on this blog here.

It’s an inexpensive purchase and well worth your money. Certainly the kind of book you could reread many times and find fresh thoughts to ponder. This is an inexpensive addition to your personal library. If you would like to purchase it, you can do that HERE.

peace,
harold

Partial post

May 3, 2009

I need to post something I guess. It has been over a month. So I’ll post a self portrait I started, for Noreen since she was looking for a photo of me. This is only the completed construct and nothing else. The shadow shaping didn’t go as well as I wanted. It felt like I was trying to leap the fence again. They say something is better than nothing, but I usually dissagree with this. I’d rather post nothing than something that’s not very good, but who am I?

self-portrait-constructpeace,
harold

Dam promises

April 1, 2009

I mistakenly said I’d post the latest study I’d been working on. I say mistakenly because it hasn’t worked out. Normally I would take the lessons learned and move on to the next page of my sketchbook. However, since I said I’d post it here I’m stuck.

I feel like a little baby, just learning how to walk and deciding to grab a pogo stick and leap the neighbour’s fence on it. That’s one of the things this study has shown me. Another is that if you rush, which I didn’t feel like I was doing at the time, you will lose your way.

Drawing is all about seeing. I’m almost getting sick of hearing myself say that. It is though, and one of the things I am finding interesting is that I can see so much clearer when some time has passed. After just finishing something I can’t see the errors that I can see later in the week. I don’t think that I see clearer days later. I am wondering if there is something else going on. Am I unable to see the errors because I am too wrapped up in the idea of what I’ve done? Another way of saying this is, am I wrapped up in the result instead of the process? The process of seeing is very present. You look back and forth between the original and your drawing trying to see differences. I find that I can see these differences with less trouble when I look at a photo on my computer. I know that there is detachment from the image while looking at the screen. So, I am thinking that there is an emotional component to my inability to see just after finishing, or maybe even during (I’ll have to watch for that).

This image comes from an amazing book called, “Classical Drawing Atelier” by Juliette Aristides. This is an amazing book. I am not even finished reading it and find myself telling everyone about it. If you don’t have it, you must purchase it. Juliette talks about the process that ateliers use to train students. The photos of various students and professionals are super helpful. I really like that she has a full spectrum of image contributors. She could clearly have just put her own work in the book (which is awesome), but she chose to put in many works by great contemporary and classical artists. She also had a really nice explanation of the golden ratio and how da Vinci used it in his painting, “The Annunciation.” Her understanding of art is deep and very refreshing and inspiring.

This image is in three stages: block in where you set the overall proportion and likeness, position the shadow shapes and indicate the background to create context for the head, and carefully turn the form between the light shapes and the shadow areas.

Instead of using a grid of any kind, this time I drew in the horizontal lines to define the vertical space and added a vertical line from which to work horizontally with. In her book she refers to this as relationship measuring. This is where you measure your line, or point, in relationship to another line or point.

Classical drawing atelier - lesson five - portrait drawing

Classical drawing atelier - lesson five - portrait drawing - stage 1

I was happy with this process because I was able to more accurately find points. I would choose a point and then mark it on my sketch. Then I would pull out the ruler and check it. For many points I was within one millimeter horizontally. Often though, my vertical was off. The fact that I had many points so close is the feedback I think I need. It tells me that I am improving, if only a little. I think this stage is almost the most important because it sets up everything that follows. Mistakes here will translate and grow exponentially in the following stages. This was a very  important lesson from this study.

In the book the next photo is partially shaded already. For me, the blocking in of the shading was a first. I hadn’t tried this before and found it quite interesting to do. My previous post already had the shading blocked off for me. Again, this is one of the reasons I think I tried to leap the neighbour’s fence. They call them baby steps for a reason.

Lesson five - portrait drawing - stage 1.5

Lesson five - portrait drawing - stage 1.5

Another interesting difference is that the stage one photo was a close-up compared to the stage two and three photos. This made it more challenging also because now I had to shift to what Juliette calls “comparative measuring” where you are using proportions to determine accuracy.

Lesson five - portrait drawing - stage 2ish

Lesson five - portrait drawing - stage 2ish

I just realized that my stage 2 photo has the image from stage 3 beside my drawing. That makes the comparison difficult. I can honestly say that my image isn’t the same as hers. This will be more evident with my stage 3 drawing (this is the moment I’ve been dreading).

Lesson five - portrait drawing - stage 3

Lesson five - portrait drawing - stage 3

Again, I am only posting this because I said I would. I am really unhappy with this study. Almost all of it is wrong. Like I said though, I learned many things during this one. The most important is to not take too large a step at once. There is a reason why there are steps in the first place, otherwise it would simply be a sheer rock wall – straight up (grab your rock-climbing shoes and get moving). I am going back to my Bargue plates. I found a good copy of plate one on google today and printed it.

Once the tears dry from my pogo stick I shall return to the sketchbook (shouldn’t take long now since I have the heater at my feet while I watch the unbelievable snow falling in April – weird).

peace,
harold

A plate isn’t just for putting food on

March 31, 2009

My latest drawing study is one of the plates from the “Charles Bargue: Drawing Course” book. Which, if you don’t know, is an AMAZING book on drawing. Many of the greats – Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh – used this book and copied the plates. There are three levels within it and the student copies all of the first level before moving on the the second and finally the third. I really want this book, but am nervous about the 1-3 months it takes for Amazon.ca to ship it. I will have to just bite the bullet and wait I guess. Although I might check some used bookstores that could have it in stock right now. (Update. I did receive this book and cannot recommend it enough. You can purchase it HERE.)

Anyway, my point was my latest drawing. I copied the plate, which I got from Google, while I desperately await the book. There are two stages to this drawing. The first is the block in. These are angled lines that give general shape and proportions. Technically, the next step is supposed to be rounding out the form and blocking in the shading, but that was part of the first step here as well.

Charles Bargue plate - torso

Charles Bargue plate - torso initial block in stage of both the form and the shading

The idea is to be as accurate in your reproduction as you can (or at least that’s my understanding SINCE I DON’T HAVE THE BOOK). I was very pleased with myself after getting to this stage. It’s only now, days after the fire of my ego has died down, that I can see that it’s not that accurate at all. All three of the diagonal lines intersecting the vertical line are off. This means that the sizing is wrong for the back. This is pretty major and would have been nice to ‘see’ before I went on, giddily, to the next stage. Chalk it up to learning. The idea of being able to see is more complex than I thought. It’s neat though. Doing these drawings reminds me of the self-reflective process or being on a spiritual path. The goal is just to see things as they are without all my thoughts or opinions on a subject or ideas. Sounds so simple, but my patterns of belief and opinion run deep.

The second part of this drawing is adding in the shading and then building the form by adding more values. I am beginning to believe that value studies are probably one of the most important things we can study when trying to learn to draw or paint. Realistic drawing is found in the ability to provide values that convince the viewer that they are seeing something real.

Charles Bargue plate - torso with final shading

Charles Bargue plate - torso with final shading

Again, I was happy with this after completing it. A happy dance in my head as I stroked my ego. I make myself laugh (even out loud sometimes) with how silly I am. So, days later, again the fire has died down, I see how off I was with this. The left hip looks like this torso ate too much pumpkin pie last weekend (I have one of those rolls too). The right shoulderblade line is completley wrong. The shading just above the left butt cheek is out of whack and the size and shape of the lumbar area is also incorrect.

Alas, I am not dismayed as I am loving the learning that is happening. I still can barely believe how challenging it is to simply draw what I see. See it, draw it. Sounds so simple.

I am almost done my next little study too, which I will post once complete.

peace,
harold

Gorging on Humble Pie

March 28, 2009

I recently decided that I need to become better at drawing. I agree that drawing is the foundation for painting (even abstract painting, but this isn’t the place for that conversation).

I have always considered myself to be pretty good at drawing too. In high-school I was almost as good as the two guys I admired for their ability to draw girls from magazines very realistically (Cosmo, not Playboy).

So I thought that learning how to draw would be a pretty quick situation to cover and then get on to the matter of life drawing; which I already recognise as a weakness for me.

I decided to draw the first image that I liked from the book, “The Practice and Science of Drawing.” Although I haven’t read it yet, I know it’s a good book from the reviews I read. I do like the images in there.

 

This should be easy enough

This should be easy enough

 

So I flew at this one giving myself 20 minutes to draw it. Should be easy enough – straight lines and a couple of curves. Not so. I couldn’t even keep the image in the box! I didn’t want to erase (being a purist – didn’t take long to let go of that belief) so I left it ‘as is’.

For the second one I decided that I would draw an X from corner to corner to give myself some reference lines. Now it’ll be easy for sure. The good news is that I kept inside the lines (wicked memories of kindergarten colouring class flood my bloodstream and chill me to the bone, “Stay inside the lines. Stay inside the lines.”).

 

X marks the spot

X marks the spot

 

It was an improvement, but certainly not an exact replica. Okay, one more time should do it.

I added a cross. I almost felt guilty about adding so many reference lines as it felt like cheating. But, in the name of quality reproduction I would do it.

 

+ medic, call a medic!

+ medic, call a medic!

 

Someone squashed this guys head. For the love of god what have I done? Each time I finished I would hold the original on top of the drawing against a window to see how close I was. This was the closest so far and almost good enough to make me happy. Perfection is my Siren though, and I hate to admit my attraction and weakness for her.

Then I decided to do one more. This time making the full-blown triangle dangle (doesn’t make sense but I like the rhyme, pathetic I know). I may have overdone the reference lines here, but I HAD TO FEEL LIKE I COULD DO THIS. I mean seriously, how hard can it be to see a line and draw that line. C’mon, this is as easy as it gets.

 

Maybe 100 triangles would be enough

Maybe 100 triangles would be enough

 

Well, 8,000 calories of Humble Pie later I feel bloated, over worked, underpaid, and spent. Once I pass this pie I am going back for more.

peace,
harold


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