Sunday, 12 December 2010

More Tonal Studies

 Some more tonal studies this week, all John Singer Sargent. Some didn't photograph so well as I took them in a bit of a rush, sorry. Some more successfull than others, in general all are still way too overdone, really they are supposed to be simple maps of the tonal values in a picture but I can't quite stop myself making them into finished little drawings.

 And little they are, comming in at A6 in size. I had originally thought that this would keep me from trying to finish them too much but nope...still do. I have to stop myself being so fussy with them. Trying to add too much detail at this size with charcoal is just too difficult, the third drawing was a real problem and took way too long for what it is.

  But I enjoy these, they're very good for learning, my next sketchbook might go up a size to A5 to help but I'll have to be quite diciplined that this doesn't lead to me putting in even more detail. A recent class taken by painters Linda and Barry Atherton suggested breaking the whole picture into three basic tones and that's the way I've tried to start these. I find my darkest dark and block that in fairly early; it means that if you get it wrong your drawing is hosed but I find although you're meant to build a drawing upwards in gentle steps, if you don't commit at some point you never will. I don't however block in the lightest light until the very end, in fact a lot of paintings I've looked at are quite restrained in how they use highlights.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Still here

Just a quick update to let everyone know what I have been up to recently. Apart from digging a lot of snow I'm glad to say that I'm still drawing; I finished my first sketchbook in years last month and have started another. On a recent trip home I found a lot of old sketchbooks from art college that were unused, so I decided to put them to good use (one can be seen in the backround of the picture). I'm trying to move away from just anatomy study and get into painting more and I think some more masterworks studies in charcoal.

Life drawing in Leith kind of fell on it's butt a bit. I knew there was a period in the middle of the term that I wouldn't be able to attend due to other commitments and after that it was difficult to go back. In fairness I had already pretty much decided that class wasn't for me, the time (Saturday afternoon) wasn't good with a 6 month baby to look after and I hated the fact that they didn't have decent equipment. The atmosphere wasn't amazingly friendly when I was there, I prefer Maryhill- just a shame it happens to be in a different city :/ When I went to wasps in the evening last year I liked the time of the class but not the format, anyway that class got cancelled. The search for a figure drawing class continues.

It's also been a hell of a month for books, not only animation but I splashed out and bought a set of John Singer Sargent books. He's my favourite painter by far at the moment, I think I can learn a lot from him. They are beautiful books but it just so happens that some of my favorite things in them are little study sketches and thumnails that aren't very large in size, bit of a shame. Nothing better than putting the feet up with a cuppa and flicking through them for inspiration. There are little nuggets/ hints to his working methods which are really interesting, He seems to use a yellow ochre/raw umber mix for his ground which I like and will be trying out.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Influence Map

Doing the rounds on Deviant Art at the moment is the notion of doing an influence map of the artists that inspire you. I recommend doing one, it's good fun and a nice trip down memory lane. Though, I admit looking through all my Disney reference was kind of depressing as my dream was to work for them...and I didn't get there. Write ups are comming, they take a while- keep checking back :)

1. Bruce Timm- Originator of the Warner Brothers Batman Animated style, Bruce Timm is heavilly influence by the work of Jack Kirby but is a true original. The two things I love the most about him are the fluid quality of his inking line and his marker sketches in colour. Do you know how good you have to be to colour in marker? His skills are off the chart. I hate him.

2.Glen Keane-  Is a supervising animator with Walt Disney studios and when I was at college studying animation was pretty much my all time hero. I love the energy in his drawing, a lot of animation drawing can be quite tight and technical but his is the polar opposite. The Art of Disney's Tarzan is above my desk and I still read it all the time...I don't quite know what to say about him except that his talent is sickening. When I was finding animation difficult I'd look at his drawing and it would remind me to persevere. 

3. Star Wars- Being born in 1978 I am a Star Wars baby. I've specifically shown Empire Strikes back as it was my favorite movie and also one of the first movies I saw in the cinema (I remember my Dad having to read the title sequence because I couldn't read). When I was younger I wanted to build space ships for movies like Star Wars when I grew up. It hasn't been bettered, all the design work in the Star Wars originals is stunning and hasn't dated in 30 years. Empire still looks more impressive than most modern sci fi movies, including the terrible prequels.

4. Disney-

5. Darwyn Cooke-

6. John Singer Sargent-

7. Andrea Del Sarto-

8. Aliens-

9. Paul Felix-

10. John Watkiss-

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Don't Stand Directly In Front of the Model

A slightly unsuccessful life drawing session this week, though I think mostly due to feeling ill than the usual artistic reasons. I had a problem this week in that everyone turned up early and booked their spot on the quick pose floor- so no quick poses- darn.

I decided to go for a long pose and set up pretty much directly in front of the model. I had an inkling this was a bad idea but it got worse once the model was set up and posed. At home I've been enjoying drawing twisting torsos and dynamic poses but today....completely flat pose and it kicked my butt back to 800 BC. Of course if I had the abiltity I could twist the drawing a bit to make it more interesting but I'm still focused on getting a fairly accurate drawing on the canvas so I'm not there yet. Pelvis and torso where straight as an arrow and at my particular angle quite a few of the landmarks where hidden by cloth. Eventually I will make these up out of my head when I can't see them but at the moment that really threw me.

Oh yes and I got my leg muscles mixed up, I thought I was looking at tensor when I was looking at the Satorius; that's odd I thought, how it doesn't connect to the trocanter...em that would be because it's not remotely the right bloody muscle you dimwit.

The drawing below is from the week before. It's not the best drawing in the world but it does have something that I'm trying to get into my work. In true me style it was done in the last 15 minutes of the 4 hour day after struggling quite a bit. I figured out I wasn't enjoying how pastel handled on my cartridge pad so I switched to newsprint and...there it was. I do seem to get quite badly affected by the materials I use, sometimes it just doesn't feel right and it all goes downhill. My thought process is a lot better now though, I constantly think about what I'm doing, I know what I'm looking for, I don't always get it right but it's in there and it's getting easier gradually. In the beginning I just drew without knowing what I was doing.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Life Drawing week 1

So I finally got off my butt and started some untutored Life classes in Edinburgh. Not going to say too much about these except that most of them aren't very good but there are positives to be taken from the day. One is that most of these are short 5 minute drawings and I plan to continue that way for quite some time- interestingly I was pretty much the only one doing this, everyone seems to love long poses.

The idea is that this drums in a drawing process that I should be following, making sure that I'm actually thinking about what I'm doing and that I don't loose focus, which is all too easy to do. So when I started the first drawings I found that I wasn't paying attention and I defaulted back to my old habits- I stopped myself doing this and tried to address it in the next drawing. Then when I found myself making other mistakes I just stopped and thought about what it was I should be looking for- the gesture, not the details. In fact all of these drawings are taken too far towards finish, which is why they don't work, the goal is to get gesture and measurement/ proportion down, then I will progress to other stages when I'm ready.

It's amazing just how nervous you can be sitting in a room surrounded by people you don't know, I can find it quite intimidating and part of of my progress will be learning how to relax at the drawing board. My confidence is still shot but I have to say considering it was only a year ago I was scared to pick up a pencil, I have to be pretty pleased, there is a long road ahead but I could have given up drawing for good.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Lieutenant N

A little delay on the art side of things due to the arrival of this little fella. Luca Nolan arrived on July 17th, weighing 7 pounds 15 ounces but is unfortunately ill and therefore gets priority I'm afraid. I have begun to pick up the pencil again after quite a stressful month of being in hospital and staring at the walls with worry.

So some sort of update is comming soon- but don't blame me, blame:

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Masters Thumbnail Studies

So here's the start of another sketchbook on Great Masters tonal studies. I've done a few of these thumbnails before but they weren't in a sketchbook. All of these are very small; fitting into an A6 book. They're not designed to be exact copies, rather more a method of studying how they laid out tonal values accross a picture. The small size really prevents you from doing any detail work, which is ideal.

These are in order from left to right; a Titian, a Bourguereau and (I think) a Rubens. The Titian was drawn first and is quite tight, in the other 2 I tried to loosen things up a bit. These thumbnails are great for experimenting with what materials work best together- the second drawing uses Conte for the darkest darks and the third uses compressed charcoal.

I enjoy doing these, they're quick to do and remind me what I should be looking out for on larger drawings. So if I get up in the morning and don't know where to start I will do a few of these. Considering a baby is due this week (should have been last week) I need things like this to keep me going when everything goes crazy.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Tone Studies

Following my pretty unsuccessful self portrait and a class last week where the light changed regularly all afternoon I decided that it might be a good idea to study how light affects the head a bit more. Any Art tutor will probably faint/ hurl into a bucket but I decided to start a sketchbook of tonal studies from TV shows/ movies etc- cue Mad Men season 3. This isn't a replacement for life drawing, it's just one sketchbook out of the many that I'm trying to keep. Personally I feel it's a valid thing to do in order to understand light and shade. Of the 3 I like the second one (top right) the best, the third one didn't start off well and has just about turned out OK.

I now have 3 simultaneous sketchbooks: Anatomy study, light and shade/ tonal and a small sketchbook that is more for very basic tonal study and composition- I realised last week that composition is a bit of a weakness. I'll probably add another sketchbook for cafe studies and for keeping in my bag all of the time. Then I intend to start some weekly life drawing when the new term starts up in September.

Added to that I'm mulling over buying a full size easel for home- drawing at one in class is still uncomfortable and doesn't feel natural. I still need to understand how to use charcoal without getting into a mess, so there'll be a bit of exploration of that I think. Maybe some small skin tone oil studies as well. That is my sock btw, bit windy for taking photos.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Abandoned self portrait

Ok, I really didn't want to post this but since I have to post the failures as well as the successes it's going up. There are 2 problems; 1- it doesn't look like me and 2- it's terrible. In actual fact this started off quite like me and fell off a cliff the more I struggled with it.

I'm told the average drawing time is about 3 hours. Well this took 6, I can't believe it took that long but it did and as I write this I am well and truely shattered and defeated. I went through to see the Glasgow Boys exhibition at the Kelvingrove yesterday and at the moment I couldn't feel more opposite to the enthusiasm I had last night after seeing it.

I know what went wrong, for the life of me I still can't control charcoal. I totally get why it is a great medium but it's erasability is it's achilles heel to me. I put construction lines down and very soon they've disappeared, it's smudgy, it's blunt (even with breaking the sticks) and willow charcoal only goes grey at it's darkest.

And by 6 hours in my eyes just don't want to see anymore and I'm done. I'd come back to it but I want to try and manage these in 1 sitting. Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself. Must repeat and do better.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Break Through Number 2

So.....for the last couple of weeks I' ve been concentrating on keeping an anatomy sketchbook. It seems pretty technical and boring but I' ve been quite enjoying it. I am aware that concentrating too much on this type of drawing is probably bad so I will move on when the time is right but my thinking is to do it just enough to have a better grasp of anatomy and to always keep the sketchbook going on the sidelines.

But the drawings below aren't the breakthrough, in fact some of them are plain wrong- that's OK right now, the main breakthrough is that I have figured out an approach to tackle figure drawing in a logical order. This had previously been a big problem; where to start? Added to this, I seem to have figured out how to draw open handed with the pencil on it's side- another breakthrough, the pencil grip in figure drawing is a big deal IMO.

Why? Well, in the weekend classes I've been to this year I've been given all sorts of great tutoring, ideas, tips and tricks, I've even bombarded the poor teacher for even more info on the train home. I did this because I'm so eager to learn something. I soaked all of these things up like a sponge and pretty soon all I had was a long list of techniques, not necessarily a logic in how to use them. I realised this in my first class when I totally froze up and couldn't draw and interestingly I've seen other people do the same; they come in with a checklist of what they've been told and end up being confused.

I think that this happens because you get shown so many new tecniques in a class, often without repetition- you try one and then quickly move onto the next one, sometimes it has been hard to see how one fits into another, sometimes it plain doesn't make sense. Added to this, different tutors have different styles of teaching and opinions on the subject and really when you are a beginner you are slightly at the mercy of the person teaching you.

But what I've realised is that in order to progress you have to lean less on waiting to be told what to do and find your own way to understanding all of this. My approach lately has been to get less upset at my lack of ability and try and analyse what it is I wasn't doing right, then try and figure it out. So number one was getting the first marks on the page, the gesture, using the pencil. I'm a big believer that when people get upset over their drawings it's not that they can't draw, it's that they don't know how to use the tools. It's a practical thing and it has taken me over a month of drawing simple geometrical shapes to learn how to use the pencil open handed- I am convinced this is a majorly important step.

Next was taking all of this information and putting it in an order I can use, so I have taken some things, discarded others for the meantime and I feel that it's starting to make sense. In one particular class the tutor was more keen for you to draw what you see. This was good in the sense that using your eyes to see is majorly important and usually taken for granted but with a room full of ambient light often these things are very subtle and they forget beginners can't see what they see. This is where having some sort of anatomy knowledge is useful- to show you what you should be looking for.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Normal Service Will Resume Shortly

No updates in a couple of weeks but I have been up to quite a bit, I promise. First of all I have started an anatomy sketchbook which I can't really show on the blog because it's quite a technical type of drawing and may not be that interesting but it has taken up quite a bit of my time. I've been following the Glen Vilppu lectures that I bought last month and so far I think he's excellent and really explains things very well. I have however noticed a few things that he leaves out when I cross reference him with Bammes or Loomis so I still believe learning from a few different sources is the way to go.

Secondly I was on holiday in Skye. I don't think I've ever used the word 'wow' so much on a holiday, it's an unbelievable place and to top things off we had amazing weather. But there is a slight snag as I had intended to do some sketching up there and that would form the basis of this week's post, except.....I failed miserably. I sat on a hill in front of the Quirang mountains, dusted off the watercolor set that I've never used and then proceeded to paint worse than a 6 year old. My water fell over, my paper blew away and my leg fell asleep from having no seat to sit on. Yes, I looked pretty pathetic as I limped back to the car, dragging my leg behind me, tail between my legs. Not good.

Never mind, I can draw a stone bridge right? Er I can't it seems. Pretty horrific just how far my drawing has fallen by the way side but I guess I have to be practical about it. Ok, I couldn't do it, now let's log it in the (rather large) art to do list. It does show you that if you concentrate too hard in one area you really neglect other skills you should be developing. One other big interest of mine is photography, so here are some of my photographs from Skye to browse. Self portrait next I think.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Cast Drawing

Here we have a cast drawing that took roughly 4 hours to complete. It is in sanguine chalk and wax pencil and roughly 8x10". Against the big taboo this one is from a photograph but only until I can source a real cast for myself. I had one of those days (which happens a lot) where you wake up and haven't a clue where to start. During the week I purchased some Glen Vilppu drawing videos, I like him quite a lot, he draws open handed (which I still can't do) and teaches in a similar way to how I have been taught. So I didn't want to do a still life this week, I wanted to do something related to the figure.

One of my biggest problems right now is how to structure my home learning. I can't afford more than a couple of classes per term and yet I need to progress, it's very hard to know where to go. I don't think I need weekly tuition so much now as I've been given plenty of teaching to go on but I do need regular practice. Added to this pressure is the fact that my actual job can really drain my energy, I am often very tired when I get home during the week, this is before I mention there is a baby on the way in 11 weeks :) One thing  I am going to do is look for some weekend figure drawing classes in my home city of Edinburgh. Hopefully that will give me a chance to experiment a bit more with what I am learning.

This drawing was useful to do. I discovered that it is best to lay down the chalk pencil first and then use the waxy version on top to give your darkest darks. These pencils are quite permanent and don't erase as easilly as willow charcoal. At my last class I had a problem where I was rubbing off the charcoal from my drawing with the palm of my hand. This caused a problem because just when I had got some of the drawing about right, I then accidentally got rid of it later on causing me too keep chasing my tail. I love the way you can constantly keep knocking back willow charcoal but I'm starting to think that sometimes something more permanent is not necesarilly a bad thing.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Studio MK 2

I don't have any art this week but for good reason. I spent all of my Saturday art time putting up shelving and re-organising my home studio. Well... it's a small room really but it's my studio none the less. I used to have everything including my PC on the one desk but for 3D work that doesn't cut it and so I decided to bite the bullet and buy another desk. This means I can have everything 3D related on one desk and have another table for drawing- it works really well. I've mainly been concentrating on drawing since Christmas and this will continue but recently I've been getting the itch to do something in zbrush, just to remind myself that I can still  sculpt and now that we don't use it in work I miss it a lot. I'm hoping that my recent MAS classes in anatomy will will help with my sculpting.

I have a lot of books, in fact I was a little disturbed when I saw them all in the one place like that. There's some Graphic Novels, Art of books, lots of animation books from years ago which I absolutely love and quite a bit of photography. But I love books and I look at them for inspiration all the time. The drawing board has various small still life studies on it at the moment. I find that posting up your work somewhere and being able to see your progression is really helpful. Next week's post will have some artwork I promise!

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Monday, 5 April 2010

M.A.S Weekend Course

This week I have a few examples of work done from the weekend classes I am attending. The Black and white charcoal drawing is most recent. It's not quite as finished as I would have liked but it does represent some progress on my part. For example I am now using willow charcoal comfortably and able to stand at an easel and draw- I used to hate easels. It was a tough one to do, a real battle back and forth but I was trying trying out various things with this and they all worked. I was seeing things happening in front of my eyes, knocking back areas, ballancing the whole picture, recognising the errors and not panicking (all too easy to do).

The paintings don't quite work but I'm not going to be too hard on myself because this was the first time that I have painted in about 15 years and also the first time I've attempted these techniques. We were drawing with large Filbert brushes and the model was moving quite a lot- I found this quite hard. About 3/4 through each of these I started to get the idea, so I'm going to try it again with the benefit of hindsight and see how it goes in round 2.

But right now I'm content, you learn to be pleased with the progressions that you have made, whatever they are and even if they are small; I don't think it's likely that you would master these techniques first time. It wasn't so long ago that I was in that first weekend class and came out with nothing. I'm starting to get it, I just need to keep going.

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Sunday, 28 March 2010

Small Still Lives- Part 2

So... More still life value studies this week and I think a bit of a turning point. The more I do these the more I realise how useful they are. The third drawing isn't as successful as the 2nd one; I struggled to draw it that small and could probably have used going up a size, that meant I got a bit too fussy with it and lost my way about half way through.

But the second one I like quite a bit, I think it's the first drawing where what I'm trying to learn has actually started to work. I've finally dialled back that intense graphic line I seem to have and it looks much more natural to me; I am drawing more with value and tone, not line. More to the point whether I'm there or not, I seem to be following a much better process for drawing in general and I'm pretty happy with that, it means progress and this is quite a personal step forward.

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The 2 drawings below have been drawn in the space of 1 week and it's amazing how many different things I have been able to try just by keeping the drawing small and the subject simple. The proof is in the pudding, these small studies are definitely working. Not only that but I feel that this will help a lot the next time I go to a class- I have a tendancy to not know what approach to use or even what pencil- these small studies help me figure out what works best.

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Friday, 19 March 2010

Squeeze My Lemon

Just when you think you're progressing, you try drawing a lemon and it all goes to hell. I'm still directing all my attention to studying tonal values which is why I've moved to these small charcoal studies. These drawings are about 4"x3", part of me thinks this might actually be too big as I still catch myself getting bogged down in the details; even though I know not to do this. To be fair I'm a lot better at this than I used to be , I at least have some sort of approach now and I know what I'm looking for.

The first lemon is quite honestly a complete crime against humanity, moving to the second I had started to feel that maybe my paper was too dark. I had to add chalk to lighten the ground to the correct value and I'd prefer not to do this as the more chalk you add the greater the risk of everything getting mushy. On the 3rd try I moved to white paper; much better but I think I got the local value of the lemon too dark.

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Below is a step by step of how I'm handling these sketches. Step 1 is the basic line drawing and shadow block in, Step 2 develops these shadows slightly and adds the objects local colour values and Step 3 is where I introduce black pastel to really bring out the darks. My Step 2 is a bit overworked and I'm overblending the final product a bit but because I'm mostly concerned with tonal value at the moment I'm not too worried about this. I'm sticking to willow charcoal for the time being though I'm finding it wipes off too easilly, so when it comes to placing the darkest darks I use pastel or conte crayon so that it stays whilst I work on the rest of the picture. Not too pleased with these but I am happy with how I'm starting to see all the different tonal values- this is improving and I think it has clicked.

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Sunday, 14 March 2010

Masterworks Tone Study Thumbnails

This week's update is a couple of small thumbnail studies from 2 of the Masters of painting; Rembrandt and Vermeer. These are only a few inches accross and are really designed as quick studies in how the Masters structured tone in their paintings. As I am mainly concerning myself with the study of tonal values at the moment it seemed liked a good idea (that and my teacher suggested it). I'm not sure how many of these I'll do, maybe just a couple more and then onto still lives. What's interesting is that not only do you have tone to contend with in the object you are painting but also in the picture as a whole. Both of these pictures have lost edges and sharp edges if you notice and this is something I will be using in my own paintings.

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Saturday, 6 March 2010

Boring Old Spheres?

Well no, what you are looking at here is the palette system for skin tones (previous post) put into pratice. You can attempt to paint a portrait without any kind of system but it helps a lot to pre mix the palette like this because it tells you exactly what value should be placed on any given plane of the head.

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I felt that I had painted the first sphere too yellow with too high a saturation/ chroma. So I decided to go and look at some paintings both in a gallery and online. Now I'm not saying online portraits have accurate colours, they don't but as an exercise I felt it was quite useful- just to get an idea. I picked portraits from a few different artists and analysed the colours and values. I am sure some of the values on these are wrong but it did show me that I was closer than I thought, especially on the Sargent painting.

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Sphere 3 is meant to to be closer to the De Laszlo portrait colours. I did this one slightly differently by painting an underlayer in white first. I wasn't really trying to do a Grisaille, I had found with the first sphere it was difficult to paint the lighter value colors without the dark canvas showing through.

Half way through painting I struggled to get close to his choice of colours which tells me that he might be using a different red and maybe yellow- I couldn't get the bright orange you can see just before the face goes into shadow. There's a lost edge on this sphere too as it goes into shadow, which I think really helps it look three dimensional. Next up is some rough small portrait copies I think.