Thursday, 30 June 2011

Between Assignments - Fairy tale illustration

That lovely time again where I take time to do a few things completely off topic. The ArtOrder blog has a nice challenge this month. Deadline is this week, which is good to get me in gear.
The call is for illustrations to a Grimm Tale. Can it get any better?
I chose the Frog King. I like the idea of the little princess being so utterly disgusted with the frog. Here's the thumb I chose to work from.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Life Drawing Workshop

One of the great things about OCA is that they every now and then offer workshops for us students to attend completely free of charge. I think that's very generous and gives us a good chance to meet a few of our fellow students.

Tinted Charcoal

I attended a workshop in York last Saturday. Ok, I still had to buy a train ticket to get there, but it was worth it. At the York Art Gallery, Jane Lazenby and the model Helen, met us all and we had a great day sketching and chatting about techniques. Here are some of the sketches I cam away with:

Blue Col-erase and mechanical pencil

Blue Col-erase and stick charcoal
My Col-erase pencil is a trick I came away with at university. We were given these pencils as part of an animation course. The blue doesn't show up on the film and is therefore great to sketch in initial shapes with. I find it fantastic to start on. While it isn't invisible, it never dominates and I feel freer beginning with this little pencil. Like I have a free trial before the serious strokes have to be put down.

Monday, 27 June 2011

William Etty Exhibition

York Art Galley has just opened a fantastic collection of William Etty painting. He was an absolute master at drawing the figure, in particular he had a love for the female figure, which earned him some scathing rebukes from the press, who considered him scandalous. This was the first half of 19th century.
The first room was filled with paintings of the female form, the skin carefully rendered and always the brightest part of the painting so that they stand out and almost glow. I find such preoccupation with the female form quite natural, but they certainly didn't back then.

William Etty
But he was still a very well respected artist and portrait painter. Perhaps that was why it so offended when he strayed from the classical. Two portraits particularly caught my interest. They have both been done in a hurry, one is just a study really, but I like the liveliness which often gets lost in the formal, polished portraits.

Study for the Crochet Worker, Miss Mary Ann Purdon


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Project 8.3 Reclining Figure

This assignment opened up for use of photograph and I sort of jumped at it to avoid the 'man on a sofa' syndrome. Instead I had a bit of fun with a photo of a classical statue. I'm sorry to admit that I do not know what it's called or who made it.
It had an extremely busy background which i decided to simplify.

Again I could have been bolder with the shadows on the actual figure. I really must try to focus on that. They could also do with being more saturated in colour. But I am very pleased that I managed to finish this one in one day. I put down the background all in acrylic, so that I after lunch could start on top with oils on a completely dry ground.

What have I achieved in this Figure section?
Reference: It was definitely easier to work with more than drawings as reference. Having the drawing as well helped a great deal to keep in mind what I was aiming for.

Drawing the Figure: I made the reclining lady slightly rounder than she actually was, but other than that I am very happy with my proportions and drawings of the figure. I have been practising the figure a lot lately and that helped.

Colour: My paintings come out looking more flat in colour than intended. There is a mixture of reasons for this which I shall try to keep in mind in the future:

  • I am trying to hold back to avoid a colour explosion. I have before been very prone to jam every colour in there and have them all fighting for attention. This might be too much in the opposite direction.
  • The colours look a lot more vibrant when I am painting them. As they dry they loose some intensity which is hard to adjust for. I need more practice.
  • The photos never come out as intense as the paintings are no matter how much i colour adjust in Photoshop. This is really annoying.
Medium: Still not very satisfied with my water soluble oils. And I wish I had a media with a drying tome in between acrylics and oils. When I using "quick-drying" medium in the oils they come out far too shiny. I wonder if there's a medium that dries more matte. When I use Slow-drying gel in the acrylics they just come rather tacky and hard to manage.

Style: I'd like to be better at blocking in general colours and simplifying the values a lot more. I always end up blending everything smoothly which kills some of the dynamic. I think I could benefit from trying to copy Greg Manchess or Al Gury. They both try making each brush stroke count. I tried focusing on this in the Reclining Figure and felt that it did move in the right direction. More of that would be good. Especially in the next assignment with al fresco paintings.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Project 8.2 - Artist and Model

It was with a bit of trepidation that I started this particular project. Drawing myself? Plus it seemed to me hard to do a set-up that didn't look exactly like the suggested composition. But then I spotted that you were allowed to use yourself twice, so I decided to play with that idea instead.

Here's my arrangement:

I drew myself standing behind the chair first.

It was really just to get the pose right, because with my chosen set-up I could do direct reference for both figures.
Then I added the rest from the seated position.

What have I achieved?
The sitting me is a much better likeness. For the standing one I didn't get the jaw right at all, mainly because I was trying to change the drawing to fit a viewpoint that was lower down. That was hard and it didn't really work. But I'm quite happy with the result. It lacks a bit of contrast, though. I think I am still afraid of being too harsh with the shadows.The standing me looks a bit stiff and faraway, which I can't say was on purpose, but it sort of works because it puts more focus on the sitting model. She stares straight out, but in a more relaxed way than some self-portraits. It actually looks like she shares a secret with the audience that the standing one is missing.
I think it would have helped to work larger than I did. The painting is 30x40cm and some details just got too fiddly.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Project 8.1 Girl Sitting at Table

This was interesting to say the least. My drawing worked to get the pose right, but was no support for the subtle values of the skin and hair. Still I am quite happy with it. It would have been much easier to use a photograph as reference here, and I think I would prefer that. There is a certain new pressure when painting people. Not only are they waiting for you to finish and concious of being watched closely, so they don't relax. There is also the expectation to produce a likeness. But I like it.

Compared to the figure, the background was no trouble at all. I didn't feel the need to draw from direct observation, in fact preferring to keep it minimal so as to not compete with the figure, so the drawing was fine as a guide.

Drawing and underpainting:

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Portrait Approaches

Imitating Matisse. The style looks so loose and easy, but it is very hard to get a good result from it. With so few lines, each one has to be expressive.

Next up, trying to draw in blocks of value. Not my normal style, but I am quite pleased with the result.

Next up, imitating Da Vinci. I have some ways to go on this one :oD

Quick sketches trying to capture a likeness without thinking too much:

And a more careful caricature:

Here a careful almost Sight-size approach to copying a drawing. Shading this smoothly had me itching with impatience. Must be good for me.

And last a one hour speed paint, just blocking in with colour and refining on top:

Portraits are fun! and really hard. What goes for people recognising proportion errors in the human body goes double for the face. A slight error in the relationship of the features and people won't recognise the person at all. Of all of these the caricature comes closest to my comfort zone, but the speed paint taught me a lot. I think this approach is more useful when it comes to painting. Starting with the line work forces me to be careful which causes me to overwork some images. This looser approach I think will give more life to the painting.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Section 8: The Figure

I've been looking forward to this section. The figure is especially challenging I think. As Ian Simpson says, we are all of us so adept at and used to reading the figure, that even someone who can't draw can still tell if the proportions are off in some way.

It is clear from teh two drawings by Goya and Epstein that they have different objectives with their drawings.

Goya's portrait of Wellington is a careful study of the likeness, whereas Epstein's is a quick impression of shadow and light. I wouldn't necessarily be able to pinpoint them as painter and sculptor from these drawings. I think both kinds of drawings can be relevant for both art forms.

Michelangelo was clearly driven not only to draw accurately but to understand the structure of the human form.
I think it is very important to have a good understanding of anatomy to be able to draw the body well. It's important to draw not just what you see but what's important, which means emphasising the gesture and tension in the body, and for that it really helps to understand the underlying muscles and bones.
Michelangelo had even more reason to understand it well, in that he constructed scenes from imagination and wouldn't always be able to find models that could hold the poses for him.

Matisse is after something different.

His drawings are airy and delicate with as few lines as possible. It is almost as if he is trying to capture the memory of the pose, the very first impression left on the eye. He is not interested in accuracy.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Project 7.4 - Using Photos and grids

Project 4 in this section calls for using a photograph and staying true to it, by even using a grid to ensure everything is in its right place.

I chose a photo I took in January of a street in Sheffield. I liked the composition and the way the houses seemed to lean up against each other. I'm sure this has to do in part with the distortion from the lens, but it looks funny.
Again I worked from photoshop, making it easy to set up a grid on the reference. I made the painting about twice the size and squared it up and drew all the shapes meticulously with a small brush and some Burnt Umber.
Here's the reference and underpainting:


I've been working with water mixable oil colour, liking the way I can clean after with just water and soap, but I have to say that I find them a bit frustrating to work with. Some of the colours turn tacky really fast, some dry almost as quickly as acrylics and some stay wet for days. I haven't yet learnt which does what, which would probably help, but I am tempted to switch to proper oils at least for a while to understand the different.

What did I achieve?
Well, I think I chose the right motif for drawing from a grid. There were so many details that needed to be right for the scene to be convincing and the squaring up really helped with that. It does feel very restrictive, but also relaxing. It was almost a paint by numbers, which gave me room to just focus on the choice of colour and how to simplify the scene. I definitely want to try it again, but I doubt if it will be my preferred way of working.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Project 7.3 Finished painting

So there it is. The lawn got a bit messy. I need some practice in simplifying, but all in all pretty happy with my first landscape attempt. The mood is rather different from the photo and comparing them in Photoshop I can see why. I have skewed the colours somewhat. Should actually look more like this:

Which I actually prefer. Hmm. I don't think I can correct that on the actual painting.

Painting from photos definitely feels different. I painted this from from my computer screen instead of a printed photo, which gives me greater flexibility. For one it has more of the real life brilliance on a screen, and I could make it larger than a small print, which was helpful. I like it and will definitely be doing more of them. It won't beat painting outdoors, but this way I can practice before venturing out.
I think having just one view helped me stick with it. If I was out there, I might have been tempted to move about and always find some other angle that was slightly better. Something to remember. The photo's composition wasn't exactly what I wanted, but then I just changed a few things and went with it.