Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Assignment 2. Thoughts on the feedback

My tutor has a lot of good points to make. She’s right again about the composition errors in the jug painting. I must really focus on getting the balance inside the painting right.
I’m happy she liked the apple too, as I do think still it is the most successful charcoal drawing I have ever pulled off. She’s right about the bounced light at the bottom though.
I read somewhere once: “The lightest shadow is still darker than the darkest light.” I think at the time I thought, “well of course!”, but I obviously forgot that lesson in this drawing.

Juan Sánchez Cotán (Spanish1560-1627)
I don’t particularly like Juan Sanchez Cortain’s paintings; they strike me as very gloomy and morbid. Are they supposed to be reminders of death and the fleeting nature of life, maybe? He does have remarkable control though and the details are fantastic. The shadows really do lend a definite weight to all the objects.

Francisco Zurbarán (Spanish 1598-1664)
Zurbaran’s chiaroscuros I find less depressing and more dramatic for some reason - some kind of understated vibrancy which I like.

Jean-Baptiste Chardin (French 1699-1779)
Influenced Matisse, Manet and Cezanne.
Wow. Look at the colours in these paintings. And the economy of the strokes. They are beautiful. I must investigate this artist further.

Harmen Steenwyck Vanitas (Dutch c. 1612)
Dutch Golden Age.
Love the light in his still life and the messy jumble of the setups. The beam of light beautifully balances the heavy weight of the all the objects to the right.
Man’s greedy materialism against the divine light of God?

Assignment 2, Tutor Feedback

My tutor writes:

Overall Comments
This is another good assignment.  I like the vibrancy and fluidity of your work.  Continue to look at perspective and shadows.  Also look at ways of creating depth within the whole picture space.

Feedback on assignment
I like your objects but I still feel compositionally that they are too far to the left of the picture.  I like flowing shape of the fold in the fabric and the way you have shown the corner of the table, but I think I would have moved the fold and the orange across to the left more and cropped the image so the picture becomes square. I think the light area to the right of the painting needs to be toned down, darker and cooler in colour as it is too bright and tends to come forward in space. I think the shadow behind the jug should be stronger where the handle is, but it could be that the light is reflecting off the paint in my picture.  I like your use of yellow to bring the orange forward and the top is well painted but it does look as if it is cut out, I think this is because you have left some light edges on it at the bottom and because the shadow on it is not dark enough, the same problem occurs with the jug. The perspective is not quite right on the bottom of the jug.  The tins feel convincing in the painting and I like the way you have handled the lettering and design on the front of them. 
The studies and painting of the apple have good depth to them.  I like the softness of your technique in the first charcoal drawing, and I think like you that this is the most successful of the studies.  The light area across the bottom of the apple seems a little too light.  I think the shadow should not be so round.
In the second study I like the way you have picked out the light edge against the shadow on the apple but the shadow is a bit too dark.
The painted apple works very well, it has good depth generally but just needs more shadow on the bottom.  I like the way you are scumbling the colour and using cool colours to receed and warm to come forward in space.

I really like your bonsai painting.   I think your preliminary studies really helped to resolve compositional problems, which is good.  The bonsai itself is very 3D, and I like the way you have interpreted the leaves.  The ellipse on the pot is a bit off.  The shadow from the pot is quite strong so I would expect the right hand side of the plant pot to be lighter and you would have a shadow over the soil from the tree trunk. The table is well painted but the perspective isn’t quite right on the far side of the table.  I think the painting on the wall and the cupboard could be less defined and toned down so they recede more in the picture space. 

Learning logs/blogs/critical essays
Your blog is good, just more sketches and analysis of artists work.

Suggested reading/viewing
Juan Sanchez Cotain good for shadows, fruit and vegetables, also Francisco Zurbaran.  Jean-Baptiste Chardin and Harmen Steenwyck vanitas paintings.

 Try using mixed media for sketching, and washing charcoal with water for different effects. 

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Nintendo DS

I love drawing on my DS. I think it beats the iPad because I get to use a pen. I can't get used to finger painting.
Here's one I did a while back.

Thanks to Ben Jaques for the lovely Java applet (http://masscat.afraid.org)

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Light relief between assignments

I like practising my portrait skills. More often than not the first sketch is absolutely horrible and looks nothing like the person, but after a few attempts it seems to flow easier.
I just need to get over the initial disgust at the first drawing and keep going - I don't always manage it :o)

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Project 4.3 - Reflections

What have I achieved?
I feel like this assignment has suffered from being stretched out too much. My workload varies immensely and the course has suffered as a result these last two months. I nearly forget what I thought when painting the apple, but I will try to sum up what I think about both projects now.
For some reason I absolutely loved drawing the apple with charcoal. Especially the first one makes me proud. I think I have managed to get more solidity into these drawings than I have managed in a long time in my sketchbook.
The apple painting was fun to do, and I do like it, although the red parts are not really convincing. The composition is not great the apple being placed dead-centre, but as I was asked to fill the canvas as much as possible with the fruit, I think it is fine for the exercise. The timing of it suited me very well too. Only took me an evening to do. I find it really nice to complete a painting in one go for the first time…
I don’t think it’s a better painting than the previous one, but I think it achieved the task that was set out.

Do you like your paintings and have they tackled the problems set in the projects?
I do actually the paintings of the jug and the apple. I think they fulfill the briefs and that I have learnt quite a lot from them.
I don’t care for the bonsai much, only odd bits, like the front bit of the table and the pot. I had difficulties with this one; both as I have written before the trouble with setting up the subject in a believable manner and with settling on how much detail to add to all the leaves and the surroundings. The bonsai has the strongest colours and the lack of detail behind it makes it stand out and give it solid form, which was the aim.
However, I think the leaves make the tree look oddly fake. I should have either done more detail or less. It looks like a “Summary” of what a bonsai tree might look like. Not sure if that makes sense. I debated whether I should go in and paint a lot more details to save it, but gave it up as a bad job. The exercise was not about photorealism, but to make the plant stand out and appear solid. I think I’ll leave it at that.

Do you feel they express something personal to you?
These paintings look utterly foreign to me. First of all I am not used to painting and second they do not depict anything I would normally choose to draw. So my response is: “Did I really do that?” when I look at them. The sensation is curious, but not bad. I expect it will change as I get more painting done.

I do feel at this stage I should be aiming at doing quick paintings but lots more of them, simply to get the practice in. Work permitting; I’d like to try some more “one-sitting” paintings in the evenings.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Painting a Plant - Project 4.3

Choosing the subject

I chose a little bonsai as my subject, and set about trying to find a good spot for it that showed a good deal of background too.
This wasn't easy at all. Usually my plants are arranged on window sills or other furniture close to the wall. I don't have them in the middle of the room where you can easily stand on one side and see a good part of the room on the other. So any arrangement I set up ended up feeling contrived.

The first colour study shows this. Slap dash and weird. I then left it for a bit, both to get some perspective and because work interfered, so the next two weeks I didn't work on this at all.

When I did return I decided to play around a bit more with some thumbnails until I was happy. The setup still felt contrived, but I was happier with the new point of view from a sitting position. I prefer to stand when I paint, but the angle just looked odd on paper.
In the second colour study I decided to focus not just on getting the right colours for later, but to use it to see if the balance of the colours were ok in the composition. Brightest colours to the front to pull the plant into definite focus. It showed me that the apple, though needed for the composition was too dominant. I would have to play it down in the finished painting.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Painting in Three Dimensions - Books in perspective

Project 1 was all about drawing boxes in perspective. The most trouble I had with this exercise was fitting in the horizon. I had to redraw the whole thing several times because I underestimated the distance up to eye level. I tried going to a lower view point but all the planes I was drawing just got too small and flattened. So I just had to have a very small drawing in the end. I won't bore you with the result here.
But the exercise was valid anyway. It's very hard to be absolutely accurate with the converging lines, especially since I do have two eyes, but I got close enough.

What have I achieved?

The exercise itself is one I have done many times before. If I draw something and the objects don’t sit quite right I like to establish and draw or imagine the perspective lines and the vanishing points.
This time however, the subject was different to any drawings I normally check for perspective. All the objects were up close, and that makes all the difference.

I pondered why this was. The course book mentions the fact that our brains modify what we see for it to make sense in the everyday world. I had never tried the two hands experiment before, and that was quite a revelation, but I have noticed the same phenomenon work on the moon. 
From Wikipedia

The moon for us is a constant distance away, but when it gets close to the horizon, what we instinctively know about perspective kicks in. Our brain now computes the information about the moon’s size in relation to everything on earth and suddenly it appears huge. First time I noticed this as a kid I thought the moon might be about to collide with the earth so big did it occur to be.

Anyway, when I viewed my books in front of me trying to note the converging lines, it was that much harder to get accurate because I have two eyes and see two versions of the lines. Logically I told myself that this just means that I draw something in the middle; that it is the average line I am trying to see.
But that’s not how it works at all. My eyes see both versions and the brain then works to interpret that into a unified vision. But for things up close, where the difference in viewpoint for the eyes are much greater, what we really see is a three dimensional version of the world. We don’t see the flat perspective, we see “around” the objects close up.
If I place one book so that one eye can just see the end plane and the other cannot, then logic tells me the plane shouldn’t be visible in my perspective drawing. But it is when I look at the book “live”.

This must be why drawing from life is better than drawing from photos. To be honest, I suspected that artists saying that were displaying some snobbish inclination like when some teachers insist that using a drawing grid or smudging with a finger to get a more even shade is ‘cheating’ - Yes, I’ve had some great teachers along the way :o)
When drawing from life we can get a hint of that extra dimension in there, which is already lost in a photograph. I think this makes the experience of seeing the drawing come ever so slightly closer to seeing the real object, and this is what gives us the feeling that a drawing is alive and objects seem to leap out at us.

Now I just need to figure out what it is we see and add in a drawing which isn’t present in a photograph. Is it that line of light that runs around the contour of the apple that should be in shadow? Rim light? Does the drop shadow grow slightly larger and hug the base of the apple as a result? It will be fun to find out.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

More drawings

Tonal and not so tonal.
Magnolias, I think? Drawn from my own photo.

From photos found on Flickr.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Studies for new Still Life

I wanted to try another still life, this time with a more obvious and warm light source. Haven't started it yet, work is mad at the moment, but here's a few sketches.
I've been trying to get more volume into my drawings.

Oh, and I made a start on a little sketch study of van Gogh's Chair.

It's not easy to emulate oil with acrylics, but it's good fun anyway.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Project 3.2: Painting Objects in an interior.

Stage 4: What have you achieved?
Fairly happy with the result. And not a little surprised, I have to say. Immediate descriptive words that come to mind are solemn, muted, and strong. The jug remains the main focus as I wanted. I think it was a good decision to mute the blue fabric and it now provides a nice backdrop which isn’t overpowering despite the dark value.
I made some last minute adjustments to the shadows on the jug with a dark transparent blue. Bad technique and the result is rather clumsy, but it needed something extra to appear less flat – a problem I have all too often.
There are a few problems with the perspective and accuracy which I feel I could have done better. I had at first the painting mounted higher on my easel than eye height. I put it there to have more brush control, but the fact that I was looking up at a motive that is seen from above muddled my sense of perspective. When I realised this, I moved the painting down, which made it easier to spot perspective mistakes, but harder to be accurate on the tins as I was leaning down to paint them. Made quite a few bad mistakes with a jittering brush that I had to correct afterwards. Some of them are still present, but I decided to leave it. Any more small corrections and the painting is going to die. I will look into getting a more adjustable easel or some kind of kneeling pad.
I should have known the angle and height was important. I make the same mistake when drawing sometimes. I hold the pad on my knee in a flatter angle than it should be and the drawings come out elongated and have to be corrected in Photoshop to look right.
One of my knee drawings...

It’s not like me to end up with something solemn. I was trying to keep the colour theory in mind and carefully kept to one half of the spectrum, yellow-orange to blue, with only a hint of red to keep the painting harmonious. The cloth helped me there, as all the shadows has some of the reflected colour of that blue, helping the whole piece come together.

The poor orange looks like it’s dying :oD

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Using Colour to Describe Objects: Theoretical Studies

Itten says that colour can be used in three different ways – to create an impression, for expression or for construction.

Impression – as the impressionists tried to express it. How a scene at a certain moment in a certain light is perceived by a single human through his visual filter. A visual impression of the subject.
Marcus Krackowitzer

The colours are kept more vivid by separating them and letting the eye do the mixing, it has a high emphasis on the light in the given moment.

Monet is of course the most obvious example of an impressionist, Paul Cezanne another.
Is beauty judged by the eye and not the mind? I have believed this to be true, but then how could Monet be received as he was? Most of his canvases today strike us as pleasing to the eye and very naturalistic and beautiful. Yet back then they were classified as monsters. Are we really that influenced by trends in even observing and interpreting beauty? Or was it just the established École des Beaux-Arts that condemned this new movement and nobody dared object?

Expression – a psychological interpretation, expression of a subject. Here the figurative, what is really there takes second place to what the artist felt about the subject. Among famous expressionist are Edvard Munch and Egon Schiele.
Vincent van Gogh

This beautiful painting represents not only how a cornfield looks on a sunny day, but also the feeling of being there. Engulfed in warn colours, you can almost feel the breeze playing with the corn and the warm sun on your face. Harmonious colours along with the spiralling brushwork all serve to uplift the mood of the viewer.

Construction – symbolic use of colour. The objects used and the colours given them speak to the viewer on several levels. The colours carry with them a certain meaning in each culture and the artist uses that to send his message across.

Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt uses more than colour symbolism in The Kiss. Round swirly patterns in lots of colours for the feminine, square sharp forms in black and white to represent the masculine. The couple is completely united in gold/yellow, symbolising happiness, sun, the divine, idealism. Their shapes merge in this colour, showing that their passion and love elevates them to something more than the earthly brown and green around them. In love they are both divine.

While all these three categories are valid, I’m not sure they are the only ones colours are used for, and at any rate they are always closely related. Maybe we should call them aspects instead. Especially symbolism and expressionism seem to be intermingled. When you are trying to depict an emotion through colour, one way to do it is through the associations that the colour carries.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Reply to my tutor, Assignment 1

Thank you very much for your swift feedback.

I think you are right about the composition. I’m afraid I tend to easily disregard my good intentions about the composition once I am drawing/painting. I must confess that while I totally agree that the balance is wrong, I never quite believed the idea of the eye being led around the painting. My eye jumps all over the place, and while there are obvious places where it comes to rest, I never even in good compositions feel like I am being guided properly around. But I will read up on the matter, as I definitely need to improve that skill.

I’m so pleased you like my drawings. Thank you for pointing me towards Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Those are wonderful sculptural drawings. I’d like to get more of that sense of volume into my own.

I’d like to do a few more still lifes, so I might slow down a bit on the projects and let myself investigate more thoroughly. I’ll let you know if this means postponing the next deadline a bit.

Assignment 1, Tutor Feedback

My tutor writes:

Overall Comments
This is a very good assignment. You have a confident and distinct style of drawing and your painting technique is good.  I would be interested in seeing you explore different approaches to drawing.  Look at ways of developing your compositional skills.

Feedback on assignment
I like the objects you have selected for this project and your bold and confident approach to painting. In the colour study I think you need to carry more of the colour of the objects into the blue cloth to hold the painting together.  Scumbling is one of the ways you could do this.  Artists sometimes under paint first and then let some of this colour show through the next layer of paint.  Or you could add some reflected colour from the objects into the tablecloth.
Compositionally I feel the painting is weighted too much on the left hand side.  The jug tends to lead the eye out of the painting.  We tend to scan a picture from the bottom left hand corner across and round towards the right.  The tins are very 3D but the jug looks a bit flat.

I like your idea of painting with ochre as your main colour, this creates a harmonious feel in the painting. Your painting technique is good and I agree that you don’t want to overwork the painting and smooth out every fold, try to keep a more painterly approach.

I feel cropping the painting by 2 or 3 inches on the right hand side would improve the composition, making it feel more balanced. Playing with the image in Photoshop is an interesting idea.  I like the image and I think you made the right decision in lightening the objects.  I am not quite sure about the perspective of the chair; the drawing of it doesn’t quite make sense to me on the bottom left.

The charcoal studies work well; you show a confident approach to drawing.  Your drawings are very animated and you have a distinctive style of drawing.  It would be interesting to see you try different ways of drawing particularly as this is an area you enjoy.  As well as Seurat look at Henry Moores underground drawings and Barbara Hepworths studies of Surgeons hands; maybe these will give you some ideas.

Using emerald green is fine and purple is another useful colour if you like vibrancy, because mixing as you say doesn’t always give you a very bright colour.

Learning logs/blogs/critical essays
I did think of Van Gogh as soon as I saw your chair.  It might be interesting to put the painting by him into your blog with some comments or even make your own copy of it.

Suggested reading/viewing
Look at still life compositions by artists such as Cezanne and Moriandi. 

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Section 3: Using Colour to Describe Objects

Project 3.1: A Colour Study
This was good fun. My kind of thing just splashing the colours on the canvas without much thought about the outcome. I went more or less with the same set up as section 1, I don't think I have exhausted the potential of those objects yet and I still love my green jug.
I did substitute the red apple for an orange, though, as I thought orange would be a milder contrast to the vivid green.

I set up the composition carefully, deliberately placing jug and orange on the diagonal thirds to play of each other. The cloth was arranged to create a nice diagonal too, countered by the slip of cloth going the other way.

I am quite pleased with the result, although I think I could have gone even looser, but I was thinking of the study as a kind of memory map and wanted all the shades of blue to be in there and so on, so quite a bit of the detail had to be there. These are the comments I jotted down just after finishing:
Top left corner is not the right blue; straight ultra-marine tints and shades work better. But overall too bright.
Orange turned out a bit too bright and somehow doesn't look dense enough?
Gold doesn't look gold on the tin.
Love the green, emphasize emerald in the shadow areas.

Looking at it now as this thumbnail I know I will definitely loose that strip of cloth. It's not clear at all what it is, better to make a slightly different shape out of the material to avoid a repeat of the diagonal the jug and orange.
The blue is quite overpowering and I'd rather have the jug in focus, so I think I'll downplay that clean colour in the next version.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Itten's colour squares

The squares illustrate nicely that colours can effect each other. What I find harder to classify is how they affect each other and what quality – hue, saturation, tone or value has the most effect.

I found that subtle values behave like Itten states; darker values come forward, warmer hues come forward. But where the contrast is strong, it can go either way. The two colours fight for attention and will shift backwards and forwards.  Also, when in a figurative context, our brains make logical sense of a picture, and will push objects into their proper place in the context, regardless of hue and value.
James Gurney does a lot of experimenting in his blog about how the eye is tricked in certain situation. One example actually shocked me and really made me understand how relative our colour perception really is.

James Gurney's colour experiment. The two marked squares are exactly the same colour.
Don't believe it? Next only the two squares are shown.

Inducing colours:
Basic experiments like this always fascinate me. It proves elegantly the idea of complementary colours.
Click the image to go to a larger version. Stare at the dot in the red cross for 20 secs. No moving about! Then move your eyes to the dot below.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Colour Theory - Reflections

There is something very slavish about colour theory. I do appreciate that Itten’s classifications are a good place to start understanding colours and the effects they have. I can’t help but feel that he seems to force generalizations through in an attempt to make colour theory teachable. It’s a bit like the Hero’s Journey for writers. It’s a form, a suggestion of how things might hang together and serves as a good starting point. But to say all stories have to stick to 12 predefined stages is just nonsense.
Moreover, there is nothing as uninspiring as strict rules. Trying to adhere to all these rules makes me seize up and not be able to produce anything at all.

Ian Simpson makes the good point that theory like this should not replace actually practising yourself and learning from experience. I totally agree.

Leonardo da Vinci - Madonna of the Rocks
©The Bridgeman Art Library - London, New York, Paris.

Leonardo da Vinci assigned 6 primary colours; white, red, green, yellow, blue and black.
I remember as a kid being very surprised when I was told that green wasn’t a primary colour and that black and white couldn’t be counted as colours at all. Instinctually I agree with da Vinci.
He associated his primaries with elements: Light, fire, water, earth, air, and darkness. Now doesn’t that immediately get the imagination going in a way Itten’s perfect squares cannot?

Colour Theory - Project 2

The colour circle. I like having one of these around.  Very handy when planning colour schemes for a picture. And when you can't quite remember the complementary colour of yellow. According to my newly made circle that would be a muddy Bordeaux :oD
Some of the jumps in this circle are much greater than others which I don't like. Three reds, three blues and three yellows and just one spot between each for the secondary colours. I think it would be better to give those three spaces as well, or maybe mix the two outer blues with green and purple and so on.
That way the circle would be a lot more smooth.
Like this:
Of course, this one is digital, which means I can brighten any colour without loosing saturation. And digitally, because we are dealing with light on the monitors, the colours add up to white, not muddy brown, and yellow is replaced by green in the primary colours. Very confusing.

Colour Theory - Project 1

First project is the basics. Mixing colours from the three primaries. I am always disappointed doing these exercises, because the colours that come out in practice are always more muddy that I anticipate. The purple in particular was very muddy and more a brown-red than any purple I ever saw.
Adding black to the orange of these colours made it not just darker but green.
Very hard to stay pure, which I daresay is why there are so many other pigments on the market. I do feel inclined to buy my emerald green rather than relying on a perfect mix every time. Is that cheating?

It's a very good point about using 2 variations of each primary. That does really improve the mix.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Art mess

I like when my work area is a bit messy.
Doesn't it just give a nice illusion of productivity?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Reflections on project 2

Well, I have got a painting, like it or not. I like the viewpoint I chose to paint in the end, although some of the others had potential too. I like the restriction to paint with only 3 colours, because frankly I am still a bit scared of colours. I tend to go completely over the top and go mad with complementaries screaming at each other. Wasn’t sure when to stop with the painting, so I let the hours estimated in the text be the guide. I could have continued, smoothing out every transition, but I think it really wasn’t necessary for this exercise.
Funny thing, when I was told to use only three colours, Ochre and White and Black, I thought of white and black not as colours I could use in themselves and the shades of grey, but only in terms of what they could do to the Ochre. I kind of like that. I was Restricting myself even more, but I see some of the other students have used the full range of greys. I took care not to blend the ochre with both black and white at the same time as I think that would have made the colour muddier and less vibrant, I quite like the clean ochre shades that came out of that.

I did at first choose a middle ochre for the flat shapes. It was meant as an average of the objects value, but I had a play with a photo of the painting in Photoshop, and thought that since the shapes are abstracts I might as well make them stand out even more, and it added a much needed lighter tone to the painting.

A bit annoyed that I didn’t manage to paint faintly enough with the black at first. Some of the lines show through a bit, but I think I managed to cover it in the end.
All in all a very good exercise and I’m pleased with the result. I would like to do more monochromatic work. I like the way it frees me to concentrate on value and shape, rather than on colour.

Reflection on charcoal drawings

I found it hard to stick to four tones in the charcoal. I felt I didn’t have enough control over the 'dust' to have four distinct shades only, but I think I mostly succeeded. Didn’t manage to stay away from the lines and stick to shades only. That is something to practice.

 I love drawing and I'm especially in love with a quick fluid outline, and this was the opposite. Interesting to move into something else.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Random Sketch

Sketched this guy from a photo found on the web. I often draw from photos, taking pleasure in capturing a likeness as quickly as possible. I start with my trusted blue animation pencil, then go back over with a 2B to add more contrast and definition.
Then I usually leave it. When I do decide to take it further I am often disappointed by the result. The render ends up a bit lifeless and stale and tend to lack the dynamic strokes of the sketch. It is one of the things I hope to learn on this course. To take my work that step further without loosing the energy of the drawing.  A lot of people struggle with this, I think.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Extending and cropping

This one could be cropped slightly to tighten it up, but really it was pretty close to the best frame, I think.

This one I both cropped and extended, and it's much better for it. Now one of my favourites.

This one is extended and works much better now. I think I would choose this one to work one further, but then I must sort out the apple, which is floating weirdly against the cloth. I also think the chair's perspective needs looking at, and I need some indication of what's behind the chair.

Charcoal 1.2 take two

Like this one.
The direct sunlight made the tones nice and clear.
The jug, though slightly badly shaped seems to gain some personality.

This one it at this stage my favourite and I can see it as a painting. Van Gogh style.

The objects work nicely together here, but the chair messes up the composition. Feels unbalanced.

Like this one, but would be better extended to include the tins fully.

Different, rougher paper made the charcoal easier to handle.
Tried standing for this one which meant working quicker. Should have worked longer on it, but got interrupted by the door bell.

While the perspective on the tins is nice, the rest isn't very interesting from this angle.

John Ruskin Gallery

I had a look at the John Ruskin Gallery next to the Winter Gardens in Sheffield yesterday. Not sure I can quite pin him down, but amongst other things he was an art critic, a naturalist, a writer, a painter and had lots of ideas about how society should work. Very good ones too.
"...in order that a man may be happy, it is necessary that he should not only be capable of his work, but a good judge of his work."

His little gallery in Sheffield is one he would be proud of, I think. Lots of different objects to please the eyes and hands. Rocks, fossils, and casts (please do touch), butterflies and watercolours. One artist represented stood out to me - John Whartlon Bunney.

John Whartlon Bunney
©The Bridgeman Art Library - London, New York, Paris

Beautiful rich watercolours full of atmosphere. He had a soft spot for Italy as do I, having lived in Florence for a year. I love the way his use of colour makes his studies look almost like old Da Vinci or Michelangelo drawings.
I love that, and it challenges the prejudice I have about watercolours being a bit bland and dainty.

One last quote from Ruskin, something I have been trying to teach game designers for years:
"Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them."

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Tonal Charcoal, first attempt

I can see why we need to use charcoal.
Forces me to think about tones instead of detail. I'm not a great fan of charcoal. I guess because the lines go on the paper with brute finality. They are sooo black. I usually prefer to start with a soft, soft line almost invisible and feel the shape by moving the pencil back and forth.
Can't do that with charcoal, so this is a good exercise for me.
Wasn't at all happy with the first tries. I feel I should be able to do better, especially with the perspective, but considering I don't usually use charcoal, it turned out ok. I really liked drawing the same thing several times, something I get lazy about normally. I got more comfortable and familiar with the shapes and had time to contemplate the composition. One consequence was that I found I wasn't keen on the collection I had chosen. So I'll start again and set up slightly different objects. I want to take my time with these exercises and get it right.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Kitchen Sink

In painting a breakfast table, John Bratby captures a mood and tells a story. The table has just been left, possibly by a busy family. All the utensils are white and simplified. They strike me as stiff and colourless, maybe hinting at stressful nine to five days. The object that dominates the picture surprisingly is the table. A wonderful piece of organic wood, sprawling and colourful, and in it the only hint at the people who was just here having breakfast. A smiling face scratched in the surface. Maybe a clue to stop taking life so seriously and enjoy nature and the moment?

John Bratby - Table Top
©The Bridgeman Art Library - London, New York, Paris.


Little drawing done on my DS console.

Walking around art galleries you sometimes get to hear a classic line from an onlooker: “Is that art? I could have done that.” It usually emanates from a person who has been dragged to an art gallery against her will. The only aspect of “art” this person can enjoy is the display of skill the artist shows in mastering the craft of his medium. But that’s not where the imagination lies.

A large part of being an artist is deciding what to paint and how to paint it. Imagination is employed not only in drawing a unicorn, but when setting up a still life, arranging what objects work well together, setting up the composition, deciding what to leave out. By just having a go I can appreciate the imagination that goes into all the stages of creating a painting.

The only response to the line above is: “Well, you didn’t.”

Shapes and Tones

Georges Seurat
©The Bridgeman Art Library - London, New York, Paris.

Just looking at some of the examples of artists mentioned in the theoretical part of this assignment. Georges Seurat's tone drawings are absolutely beautiful. The text implies that this form of tonal drawing is more true to nature than a line drawing. I'm not sure I agree; it is a simplification of reality just as a line drawing is, especially when using this few tones.
But what it does do that a line drawing can't is to give a wonderful sense of form. I can see the softness of the arm and feel the shoulder's roundness.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Setting out into the woods.

So here goes. The aim of this blog is to help me reflect on the process of learning to paint and to help some of the more valuable lessons to better stick in my head in years to come.

I can draw reasonably, but I don't know much about painting. Yet. Hoping to learn lots in the coming years. I have signed up for "Starting to Paint" at OCA. Distance studying at my own pace suits me as I already have a full time job to keep me occupied.