Monday, July 28, 2014

Back to the Drawing Board, or Rather Class

Had a fantastic week in drawing class.
Everyone made good progress at creating their own art.
Betty, who struggled with the idea of negative space last week, got it. She did not know it, of course. That is the way it happens. The week before, I had her doing a negative space exercise which really threw her. It usually does when you try to do this. This is normal! We have a short stool at the Renaissance Art gallery, just the right size to put on the table and drive drawing students crazy. Now driving them crazy is not the aim of this exercise, just one of the added bonuses! The aim is to get the student to notice the spaces in a work of art. These can be just as important as the objects and effects the overall success of any piece. But to deliberately work in negative space will make the best student go cross-eyed!
Betty, like most students got very frustrated! Normal. But it is vitally important that the beginning student becomes aware of this. Many of us stumbled on this ourselves but it is much easier to master if you have someone to clue you in. Betty did the exercise, and did rather well, although she did not think so herself. We are not always the best judges of our own progress.

Well, this week we worked on drawing accurately and judging distances. Most people tend to think of judging distances only with distant objects, like cows in a field. But judging distances also means within an object from your point of view. Such as the distances between legs, uprights and braces in say, The stool sitting a few feet away on the floor of your drawing studio.
accurate drawings require accurate observations
Well Betty undertook to draw that *&^** stool again. This time she was trying to draw the stool, not the spaces around it. Did rather well, but suddenly, she said. "Ah! I am drawing those spaces!" This is how she was getting the placement of the legs, rungs, braces etc. correctly, using the size and shape of the negative spaces to double check herself! Erecka! Breakthrough!
Mary Anne is working on a portrait of her grandson. One of the consequences of doing a successful portrait of one of your grandchildren is that you must do them all! These portraits are being done in colored pencil. Colored pencil takes time and commitment. (some say doing any art in color pencils means you should be committed!)
Mary Anne conquers solvents
Getting a really saturated portrait mean a lot of hard work. Keeping the details from smearing calls for a delicate hand. And using solvents to blend the many layers necessary for a really good, saturated colored pencil painting takes nerves of steel. So this week I helped Mary Anne in working with colored pencil and solvent.
Word of caution to those of you working in colored pencil. Don't buy the cheap stuff! Only use mineral spirits/paint thinner you get from a quality art supply house. Do not use stuff from the hardware store. It is false economy. And use a light hand. We use rather cheap acrylic fine paint brushes for this. The solvents are hard on the brushes and destroy brushes. Watercolor brushes are too soft for this. You want something that is a little stiffer. Mary Anne also learned to use a larger stump to blend her background.
Speaking of backgrounds. These should not simply be afterthoughts. While you do not want a lot of detail, this does not mean you should not give them a lot of attention. In many ways the background can set the overall tone of the painting. If dark and moody, or with a lot of clutter, etc. your overall impression of the painting is set by the background. Think about it. A lot!
Julia's colored pencil painting
One person who has gotten the hang of fully saturated colored pencil is Julia. She worked a scene form how to train your dragon 2. She found out just how much work a good background takes. Julia work hours on this painting.

 Julia has moved on to working on her original story, in her case a fairy tale, complete with pen & ink illustrations.

Other students are working on their own original graphic novels. Interesting story lines. They are at the creating characters stage. working out just who these people are  and the universe in which they live.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Getting Ready to be a Guest Artist

Big news.

I have been invited to be the guest artist at Main Street Art Studio in Hurricane, WV for August. The opening "Art Moves" will be July 26, 2014.
Boat at Kanawha Falls

Once a month, Main Street Art Studio has an open house with music by a live band and refreshments. People can come in and simply enjoy themselves.

Hurricane, WV is a delightful small town and the main street has many unique family type businesses. See their website

It should be fun. Getting together with fellow artists and talking about what we are doing and enjoying an evening of music with friends.

Cathedral Falls
Ink Wash
I am going to show my recent artwork along with a few older painting I have not shown in years. Most of it will have a tie to West Virginia scenery.

I am including my recent works in colored pencil. I worked very long and hard to perfect these paintings Each represents about a months worth of work. They are also representative of the way things are going with colored pencil.

I have not decided if I am going to display any nudes. That really will be up to them. I kind of want to, as they are done in tinted charcoal, which in itself is unique.

But the display space is limited and I will need to cull the selections simply to keep the display interesting.

Art Moves is July 26, 2014 from 6-8 pm at Main Street Art Studio in Hurricane, WV.

Anyone in the area is invited to stop by.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Working on Art Projects

Everyone was working on their own projects this week in the Wednesday art classes at the Renaissance Art Gallery.

Negative Space

Working on proper placement of objects in a drawing, understanding negative space and trying new media.

Working on negative space, drawing the spaces between.

Placement can be a challenge, but if you don't have objects in the right places on the paper, no amount of detail will help. Learning to visually measure and line them up, as well as draw that in the correct size in relationship to each other takes practice. Sometimes drawing the negative space between objects can help you understand this.

Dip Pen & Ink

Adding character with a dip pen.
Using a dip pen for pen & ink drawings seems to becoming a lost art quickly. Few art supply/craft stores are still stocking these pens. While the pre-filled technical ink pens are wonderful, with their full range of sizes, the fluid and graceful transition between thin, thick lines you can get by mastering a dip pen can ad real beauty to artwork. They even feel different on paper.


Portraiture and Colored Pencil

Blending, blending and more blending
Mastering portraiture in colored pencil takes commitment and patience. The most beautiful come from manipulating layers of pencil. For this you need a strong enough support, but also the commitment to the time and effort it will take to blending and smoothing layers of pigment.  Getting the right texture of hair, face and fabric calls for differing techniques in blending.

Drawing Trees

Working on the details of the "knees"
Drawing a botanical drawing of large trees is a complicated undertaking. Cypress trees, growing I southern swamps have amazing adaptations. From breathing "knees" needle-like leaves and large luminous seed pods. Getting the varied textures and colorations right takes hours of effort.

Matt board is strong enough for this work, as well as added good texture or tooth to hold the multiple layers of colored pencil. It can be cut large enough for a work of this scope. Being ridged, it does stand up to the abuse of colored pencil, blending, burnishing and polishing that really good color pencil paintings requires. 



Simply drawing

Of course simply using a pencil is still a basic drawing tool. Even a number 2 standard pencil can give a wide range of value to a sketchbook drawing.

Working from life or your own photographs is rewarding.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Working Through the Rough Spots

A still life in Oils
I can't believe it has been almost a month since I posted.

Way to long.

Not that I have not been busy with art, just the opposite!

It has been a totally busy month!

I am working on two paintings and many, many projects with students at the Renaissance Art Gallery.

I am finally getting to a place where I think I will keep the paintings I am work on rather than destroy them.

Hollyhocks at that Ugly stage!

Doesn't it seem as if all works of art go through an "ugly" stage when you are sure you have ruined them?

It does for me. And the more I have invested in them the worse it seems.

One thing this does is that I can assure my students that this happens and if you work through it, believe in what you are doing it will turn out. Not necessarily as you first envisioned, but it will turn out!

I will be posting the final version(s) of my paintings next week!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Drawing From Life, June 2014


Everything is beautiful and everything is interesting. Look around and see what is really there. Notice the texture. Notice the surface. Are the edges hard or soft? How does the light hit it? Examine it. Shadow and shading change constantly.


Drawing from life, ea. From what you see, it different from drawing from a photograph.


When you draw from a photograph, you are in essence coping the photographer’s composition, or point of view. The lighting, distance, arrangement are all ready laid out for you.


But when you are drawing from objects you have selected and arranged, it is different. Also, your perception of these objects are much different from when you look at them in a photograph. Photographs are flat.


Looking at the real objects gives you to sense of 3-dimension you will never get from a photograph.


Walk around and move objects. Let the arrangement be your selection not  what someone else selects.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Scratch Board 2 - I think they got it!

I think they got it!

How to create interesting scratchboards.

Drawing with a paper clip
When I was showing them now to make the scratchboard I was not sure the young artists really got the concept of planning art.


I think they got it!

they had no difficulty at all drawing with paper clips, old pens and even nails!

They seems to really enjoy the unusual drawing tools.

While using really sharp things is traditional with scratch board, I was a little apprehensive about giving 10 year old a knife to draw with!

But they had no difficulties with using an old pen, out of ink, paper clips and nails.

Sci Fi Fan drew a Tardis
They were very careful and deliberate in their use of the tools. No one scratch through the cardstock, one of my concerns.

They also used several different colors of oil pastel to create their boards, and did plan ahead to the artwork they were designing.

It took planning to get the right colors just where they wanted under the layers of India Ink. Simple thumbnail sketches helped in this.

Still, it is a lot for anyone to plant ahead like this.
Sunset on the ocean

Monday, May 19, 2014

Scratchboard Drawing: Part 1-Making Your Own.

Scratchboard is a form of art, where you have a nice smooth unblemished surface and you scratch your drawing into it. 

Usually this is a stiff board, with a layer of white wax on it, covered with a layer of black India ink. Many companies make prepared scratchboard for you in various sizes.


You can make your own.


When  you are working larger than card sized, you do want to use a stiff support. The layer of wax means that if it flexes a lot, it can crack and peel. Something you don’t want if you work very hard and achieve really good results.


You can practice this skill and enjoy some new takes at a smaller size.


For my drawing classes, we made our own scratchboards.  We used card stock. Stiff enough for the first try.


Covering them with hot wax and getting a smooth layer could be a problem with a junior class. Also, a bit boring.


Instead we are using oil pastels.


Cutting the cardstock into 2 pieces. We do have a support that is large enough to work on, but not so large that the piece will over flex and crack a lot.


And covering it in oil pastels was a lot more interesting.




Using a standard precut mat, we drew a rectangle that will contain our masterpieces. This also gives us a large margin for handling the material without compromising the scratchboard surface.


Also, using a bright, light color will make the finished pieces more interesting for the class.


Choosing a light color, we colored in our rectangle. After it was filled in, the surface was checked for missed areas (much easier to do with a color than white wax) any missed areas are fixed, and the whole thing smooth with a chamois cloth.


Then a layer of good India ink was used. Something permanent is necessary for this.


It does require 2 good coats, one in each direction to get a good coverage. If you have used more than one color for your scratchboard, you can mark the card with the top.


India Ink should set for at least 24 hours before you beginning scratching a drawing into it. It does work better with some time to cure.