Monday, February 22, 2010

My Beautiful Kumkum

I have been preoccupied this week helping to plan the opening of a new art exhibit. Usually these are quite happy occasions, despite the huge amount of work involved. But this event is bitter sweet. While I am happy to do it, it is for a retrospective of my friend and fellow artist, Kumkum Majumdar, who passed away this last year.

She was a beautiful person as well as a fine artist, but it is her beauty as a person I will miss the most.

I am including in this post information about her and an example of her work
Kumkum Majumdar

Born August 26, 1946 died September 14, 2009

An artist by heart, she always tried to create beauty in art form, either on canvas or in fabric. Color combinations and the cubist style were her specialty. Her paintings were a true picture of her inner feeling. She chose to concentrate on Batik, an ancient art form of wax resist dying of cloth. She decorated both wearable and non-wearable silk fabrics.

Kumkum studied in the prestigious University Visva Bharati, Santinketan, India to receive her undergraduate degree in fine art. Then continued studies to receive a post diploma in Fine Art. She also took courses at Marshall University, in Huntington, WV in Commercial art.

After marriage, fine arts were put on hold for a more important task. She devoted herself to the raising of her two sons. As such, the space for art went empty for 20 years. After her sons were raised she was able again to devote much time to fine arts and the development of her own style.

Her work is in both public and private collection both in India and the USA. She is a showcase artist at Tamarack and an important member of The Renaissance Art Gallery. She has taught Batik to many students, so leaves a legacy of artists behind her.

Her life was a song to the importance of generosity, family, love, devotion and beauty.
She worked on 100% Silk. If you want to know more about Batik, there are many websites that show this art form and will tell you more about it.
I can't believe I forgot to put in a link to Kumkum's work. I am sure you all want to enjoy her many works of art.
Take the opportunity to see how totally different her artwork is.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Fiction Project

The Art House Sketchbook Fiction Project

My new sketchbook project has arrived from Art House. The Fiction project, a sketchbook library, is to marry artwork with fiction. It is a sister project to the previous sketchbook library project, where we did sketchbooks for addition into a library of artist sketchbooks. This project is to be an illustrated narrative. Each artist/writer is given a topic, or theme to use and develop into a work of fiction, with illustrations. The theme can be as closely or loosely followed as desired, but each sketchbook should be 51% literature.

These books are to be part of a permanent collection of sketchbooks, creating a library of them. The public will be able to come and look through them free. What a good resource for new artists and simply people interested in art and literature!

These are not really aimed at children, but they can be. Any prose or poetry is acceptable or any combination there of. But quality is what I am aiming at.

I received my sketchbook yesterday, and with it my theme: This is Where We Start.

Now, this is where I start!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Eye of Ra

We all tend in the beginning to draw the eye of Ra. This stylized oval eye is instantly recognized as an eye—a generic non-specific one. But a human eye nonetheless. This eye is applied to the faces we try to draw, and we wonder just why the drawing, so carefully done, does not look like anyone. The eye is recognized as human, but not this human. We have to look carefully, and see what makes this eye individual, unique.

Just what is the structure of the eye? How does it vary by species and individual? What makes it human and your eye? So lets take a closer look at the eye, both human and other animals. What does it really look like? How big is it, what is it shape and features? Just where and how does sit on the “face” and how does it work?

The Animal Kingdom, a brief overlook

For each species, the eye fulfills its function, to see. Obviously, but just why the variations? What does each individual animal need to see and how does that shapes both the eye and its function?

First, fish eyes. While fish often have excellent eyesight, they usually lack external structure, ea, eyelids, lashes, and eyebrows. They do move in their sockets, some working independently, but they are not typically expressive. We invent such expressiveness when we cartoon. By endowing these eyes with more human characteristics, animators make us relate to these fishy characters. Fish, because they live in the water, really don’t need things like tear ducts and eyelashes. As you move up the animal scale, the eye structurally changes, becomes more complex, sometimes bizarre and frighteningly inhuman, like the compound insect eye, or the hypnotic and sinister eye of the crocodilian, with its yellow iris and slit pupil.

Mammals also have a wide variety of eyes. Pray animals usually have their eyes mounted on the sides of their heads, (the better to see that staking lion) unlike predators, whose eyes need to be front and center. (The better to see that fleeing gazelle) All eyes are different for different functions. From the Large light-sensitive eyes of the cat to the liquid brown eyes of the bloodhound form follows function. Eyes that closely resembles our own tend to evoke stronger positive emotions in us, as we tend to humanize them. It is no surprise that we find sea otters, with their large brown child-like eyes cute, but shutter when we see the alien slitted eyes of a snake. (Of course, that forked tongue does not help.)

But just why do our human eye drawings so often go wrong?

The Eyes of the Beholder

To really be able to draw the human eye, we need to be able to clearly see and understand their structure, and how they appear from differing views. Back to Ra. The Egyptians were masterful artists. But whenever they drew the god Ra, even in profile, the eye stared straight at you. This is not because Egyptians did not understand the structure of the face. To the contrary, they had very firm grasp on anatomy (preparing all those mummies does teach you a few things about how the human is put together). So why the forward, stare you in the face eye?

Because the Eye of Ra was always on you, the all-seeing, all-knowing Ra. This representation of Ra was not so much literal as symbolic, and this holds true down to our day. We need to fight the tendency we all have to draw the eye as we know it to be. We need to observe it and draw it as it appears to be. When we start to draw the human face, we have a truckload of symbols preloaded into the brain just waiting to spill out onto our paper.

Resist this urge!

Draw what you see, not what you know.

This brings us to the major stumbling block in drawing faces, the stored symbols and how they sabotage our drawings. We have to learn for the first time the true nature of the human eye. It symmetry and lack there of. No two eyes are alike. While we share common structure, each of us has a unique eye. These things tend to run in families, so if mom has a nice round eye, chances are most of her children will too, but remember, there are always two parents.

Your eyes are your best tools in learning to draw real eyes, and unlearning the symbols stuff in your head. Look at eyes. Make a study of it. And draw them. The handiest pair is of course, your own. Get a nice mirror that stands on its own, and look at your eyes. Notice how they are similar and how they differ.

One major mistake is to make the left and right eyes exactly alike. They are not. They tend to be mirror images of each other, but not perfectly. They will be differences. One will tend to be slightly larger. This is good news for the artist, because you don’t have to be perfect! Just observant.

Notice also that the eyes are not really round or even real ovals, but their own totally unique shape. They will tend to be more rounded by the nose, and then taper off towards the ears. Watch your eyes in the mirror move. Even the eyeball is not completely round. Look at the opening for the eye, the lids, both top and bottom. Just how much of the eyeball is covered by the top lid as opposed to the bottom? Notice where the lashes really are, not where you have been drawing them all these years!

Shifting shapes

Get yourself a tablet of tracing paper and cut out a bunch of ads that show the face close-up. Cosmetic ads are good for this, as are shaving cream ads. Any ad that shows the face clearly will do. You can also use family photos, but make cheap copies of them for this. Trace the shape of the eyes, both of them. Then take the tracing paper away and look at the shapes of the eyes.

As the face turns

You might want to trace out the angle and placement of the face for reference, and see how the shape of the eye(s) changes as the face shifts in relationship to the camera. Notice the difference in the eyes in the frontal view, the profile and the near profile views of the face.

As the face turns from the full frontal view through the profile, the eyes seem to change position. They don’t really, but your view of them changes, the further eyes almost seems to come closer to the nose until it is completely hidden by it. Trace these shapes and see how the shape of the eye itself seems to change. Once you see these isolated shapes, you will have these stored in the old brain-box to counter those pre-loaded symbolic eyes.

Draw what you really see

With the help of these tracings, photos and close-up family photos, you can study the shape of human eyes, and the eyes that run in your family. Notice where the lids cross the eyeballs, making for what appears to be rounder or narrower eyes. Notice also how deep the elliptical fold is and how this varies person to person and from younger to older eyes.

One major mistakes children make, which does tend to carry over into adulthood, is placing the eyebrows too close to the eyes themselves. The opposite can also be a problem, making all your people look surprised.

One last word on drawing eyes, look before you draw

Monday, February 1, 2010

Art And The Lollipop People

First Drawing, First Language

Art is our first written language. Drawing is communication and recording. Children do this instinctively. They draw pictures and when you ask them what it is, they tell the whole story. They are recording their world and their view of it. Mommy, daddy, kitty going to grandma’s. They illustrate their lives effortlessly. Their drawings record their observations of the world.

When we are children we put down our recordings of the world according to us. But is it real? Depends on your definition of real. To the child, yes. It really is amazing how alike children’s drawings can be. Their “realistic” symbols of humanity are universally recognized. We all understand the rendering of lollipop people. These rendering are a step up from most first efforts, of tadpole people, all heads with little wiggly things hanging off the bottom that represents the rest of the body

Facial Recognition and Drawing

All of this shows how important to humans is facial recognition. The face is so important that for the first maybe 3 years that is just about all children really observe of their families.

We are hardwired to recognize and respond to other human faces, and in the animals that we tend to cherish, we often “see” something human in their expression or faces. That is why our first drawings of people are often simply heads. While we know bodies are attached, most of us remain rather vague in our understanding of this. Just think back to your first full figure drawings and you will have to agree with this! How often have we got going on a drawing and had to stop to wonder just how is the shoulder attached? Where is the elbow, I know they have to have hips, etc.

Focus on the Face

Our focus on the face is, I believe one of the reasons we have such difficulties getting both facial and body proportions correct. We all tend to make our figures a bit top-heavy. We are still putting mental emphasis on the head and face.

Even with our drawing of the head, we tend to over draw the facial features and under draw the rest of the head. Leave some room for the brains people!

Still, we first recognize people by their faces more than any other body part. We have all seen those game shows where men were asked to pick out their wives by just their legs, or some other body part, and we all laughed when most could not do it. Just the reason why so often the rag mags get away with pasting Celebes heads on other bodies in Photoshop.

The Link Between The Symbol And The Meaning

The link between the symbol and meaning, that ability to make that connection is what makes written communication possible. They way we assign meaning to a learned symbol. This same learned response however, can be a stumbling lock to learning to draw well and accurately.

These learned symbols are shortcuts that speed up our drawing, in the brains attempt to change drawing into writing. The very speed of these learned response engender sabotage any advancement in drawing and art. This leads to the frustration that causes so many to abandon art in their pre-teen years, with the idea that “they have no talent”

Drawing is more than talent

Drawing is not about talent, but skill learned and applied. A certain gift is helpful. But what is really needed is desire and a willing to unlearn what one thinks they know. When we are learning to draw we need to fight this mental shorthand and learn to refocus on what we really see. We have to see the real shape of things.