24 March 2009

Head Drawings - Winter 2009

The sketches in today’s post are from a head drawing class I just completed, taught by Meadow Gist. Each portrait was drawn from life and took about 2 hours using a Conte 1710 B charcoal pencil on smooth newsprint (24in x 18in). After getting them home, I usually worked on them a bit more, looking for ways to improve the next one.

In the head drawing class this term, I found myself focusing most on getting the proportions right, unifying values on the light and dark sides, and adding convincing halftones. I like what Juliette Aristides says about halftones in her book The Classical Drawing Atelier: "The illusion of form is the domain of the halftones. The shadows can be simplified and unified, as to some degree can the lights, but the halftones must be gradated in order for the image to read as a turning form.” Sounds so simple.

I also like William Maughan's related advice from The Artist's Complete Guide to Drawing the Head: "...all shadows begin as form-shadows and end as cast-shadows, falling away from the light." A good drawing mantra.

I plan to post more portraits after each term to check for progress.

18 March 2009

Inking as Fine Art

Dip Pen and Ink: After Charles Dana Gibson, Two Strikes and the Bases Full, 1904 (top); Fanned Out, 1905 (bottom)

I’m just finishing a class taught by Jeff Watts called "Inking as Fine Art". I took the class to improve my dexterity, and to learn hatching and inking techniques (mission accomplished). Since time was limited, the class focused only on ball point pen, dip pen, and brush on smooth bristol board. We didn’t try washes, ink color, types/colors of paper, mixing with other mediums, etc. I figure I can explore those on my own, now that I know the basics. The images in today’s post are some of the pieces I did for the class, mostly studies after Renaissance masters and early 20th century illustrators. I plan to ink an original work during the upcoming break, a sort of final project for this class, which I’ll eventually post.

Dip pen and ink: After Joseph Clement Coll, Character from Dickens, 1912.

Regarding materials, it’s personal preference whether you use a dip pen or brush, they are basically interchangeable. I like the Speedball #513EF Globe Nib (dip pen) used with Speedball Super Black India ink. It was as flexible as the brush for line variety. I also used a Rafael 8404 #3 Kolinsky Sable brush. The brush is good for extremely fine lines, for filling large areas, and for washes, and you don’t have to reload it as frequently as a nib. I also liked the Staedtler pigment liners for ball point pen work. We didn’t use technical pens in this class.

Brush with ink, gouache, charcoal: After Vittore Carpaccio, Head of a Man, 1507.

From my bookshelf:

Finally,there are plenty of modern day inkers out there, posting every day in blogs like Urban Sketchers.

Staedtler pigment liner: After Charles Bargue, charcoal study from the drawing course.

Staedtler pigment liner: (Left) After Raphael Sanzio, Study of David (Right) After Vaselius, De Humani Corpus Fabrica, 1543. From "Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters"

10 March 2009

Bouguereau Master Study

My post today is a master study in graphite of the painting Baigneuse Accroupie by William Bouguereau. I completed this for “Figure Drawing from Photos”, a class taught by Lucas Graciano at the Watts Atelier.

For me the class was an unexpected lesson on the value of master studies. The most significant lesson learned was about the value of careful observation. I've never observed anything in such a careful, focused way and I realized that this is yet another skill I need to cultivate if I want to develop artistically. And because of focused observation, I had many a-ha moments in this class, when technical advice I’d heard over and over finally began to sink in...about edge control, anatomy, modeling the form. It was a pleasure and a revelation.

My source photo was downloaded from Art Renewal Center. The basic technique was the same as described in my post on cast drawing. I completed this drawing in about 35 hours.

From my book shelf, some books I highly recommend, that touch on master studies:

Baigneuse Accroupie after William Bouguereau, 2008, 16 x 16, graphite on bristol board

03 March 2009

Oil Painting 101

At the Watts Atelier, students are encouraged to develop drawing skills before painting, which is why I spent my first year working with graphite and charcoal. In this first term of my second year, I’m taking my first oil painting class, taught by Meadow Gist. I’m focused on tonal black-and-white studies, and some warm-cool studies. Next term I’ll move on to full color. Mostly, I’m learning the basics…how to use the tools, how to move the paint around, how to clean up…I'm painting on canvas-covered board with boar bristle brushes and Gamlin paints. The instructor sets up an elaborate still life and I choose a vignette to paint. I take 2-3 hours in class to complete each painting, with instructor help where needed.

For paintings 1 and 2, I muddled my way through, just trying to end up with something recognizable. I started feeling more confidence with paintings 3 and 4. The fifth is a warm-cool study, using burnt sienna, ultramarine blue and titanium white. I’ll continue with warm-cool studies through the end of this term to explore the role color temperature plays in the illusion of form. For more on this approach, I refer you to Paul Foxton, who examines the limited warm-cool palette in great detail in his blog, Learning to See.

I’m looking forward to joining the ranks of competent painters. With just this small exposure, I begin to understand why so many lifetimes have been devoted to mastering this art.

Painting 1. Garlic and onion, 11x9

Painting 2. Two peaches, 9x11

Painting 3. Silver service with strawberries, 11X9

Painting 4. Copper pitcher with daisies, 11X9

Painting 5. Ceramic sugar bowl, 9x11