We had an interesting discussion this past week about realistic (or hyper-realistic) painting vs. realistic
painting with fantastic elements. A fellow student shared some of the hyper-realistic paintings of Charles Jeong from South Korea. I shared Allen Williams’ If Beauty Were a Book, done in graphite.
I realized while I like representational art, I prefer works that convey emotion or story more than complete accuracy.
In our final assignment of the class (costume figure), I decided to change it up a bit and use color and value changes, and even changes in the model to alter the mood.
It great to get back painting again. I combined a gouache underpainting with transparent watercolor and then Faber Castell Polychromos pencils and little touches of Sennelier pastels for highlights. It was nice to see that all of the media seemed to work together.
Had a great time with the critique group through SCBWI last weekend. Now I have a week off before starting Concept Illustration.
It’s been another busy week, but learning a lot more what CarbOthello pencils can do. I really like the medium although I have a lot to learn about making color blends. This past week had our usual gesture drawings, 2 hand drawings in pastel, and then a costumed figure drawing. Sanded paper like UArt or Wallis can receive more layers than Canson Mi-Teintes or other pastel papers, but they will eat up your pencils quicker.
I found I like the soft rich blacks of Nitram charcoal. It also doesn’t have as much dust as General’s.
I’ll also post the three examples of pastel paintings that I posted in this week’s discussion. Pastel offers such a wide variety of expression. I really like the medium.
The first is a rendering of Ophelia from Cuong Nguyen who worked as a successful web designer for many years until he got working more as a streetchalk artist, then became a full-time fine art painter. I learned from him that skin tones can be mixed with a green underpainting (verdaccio) and flesh tones.
The second is an illustration from Paul Howard from a Jill Tomlinson book called The Owl who was afraid of the dark. I like the soft luminous quality Howard was able to get from his use of pastels.
Finally, there’s The Guardian by Fiona Tang. It combines chalk pastel with charcoal and acrylic on a paper backing. The different textures of the various media used for this piece this piece contribute to the overall effect in different ways; the chalk pastel in particular is important to the trompe l’oeil effect, helping to differentiate the “three-dimensional” stag in the front from the more “two-dimensional” background charcoal elements, with the white tone of the pastel “light” against the natural brown color of the paper.
This coming week is my final one for Life Drawing IV. We’ve got a watercolor assignment, the first I’ve had since I’ve been in art school. Also this weekend, I’ll be going to the Great Critique-nic through the Western Washington Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. It’ll be the first one that I’ve ever gone to. People bring their illustrations or writing and split up into small groups where they critique and be critiqued.
This past week my class has been looking at the drawing of expressive hands. We’re still working for the most part in charcoal which is getting easier to handle for me. I like Strathmore Toned Paper and I’m finding it easier to get darker tones with a softer Nitram charcoal. I had started with Strathmore 500 charcoal, but it doesn’t have the smooth look of toned paper.
Besides drawing practice (whole body gestures) and these hand drawings, we also have a discussion post where we post examples of expressive hands. Everyone always shares very different examples – it’s a great part of the class.
The three I shaerd this past week were from Rackham, Wyeth, and Earl Oliver Hurst. In the Rackham, I thought it was an interesting contrast between the knobby hands of the old woman and the simple open hands of the children. The Wyeth also showcases contrasts in this Heidi picture. The grandfather is tanned and has a commanding gesture. It’s contrasted with Heidi’s fairer and more tentative post. The Hurst I liked because he seemed to contrast the confident face of the man with the nervous lines in his jacket and hands.
Interesting work in Life Drawing class the past week. We’re learning how to simplify figures by blocking in simple geometric shapes. It helps generalize what you’re seeing and I think will make it easier working from life.
At the Terryl Whitlach conference, she had recommended Future Publications’ How to Paint and Draw Anatomy which showed how to break the human figure into simpler shapes. I found the book (actually both volumes) online at Scribd.
Today, my teacher also shared a video that will make really help what I want to be able to do. The figures are very fluid, but also have volume.
Every week, the class assignment is to have each person suggest an illustration or group of illustrations based on the reading. For the chapter on tone, I chose this 1912 illustration by Sidney Sime (1867 – 1941) for Lord Dunsany’s The Book of Wonder. I chose it partly because it has some similarities, in terms of subject matter, value range, and atmosphere, to my own project for this week. I also chose it because it effectively uses various value and compositional elements, including a chiaroscuro technique, to guide the viewer’s eye throughout the piece. The first major area of light starts at the upper left corner, then trails around, almost like a curving road, to the first major subject, the city in the rocks. In turn, the curved shape of the light/shadow pattern and the diagonal lines of the rock lead into the menacing blackness filled with eyes under the bridge. The smoky shape at right helps to transition the viewer down to the next major subject, the man on the winged beast.
Imagine what the piece would look like without the large shadowy area at left. It would lose some of its atmosphere, with the impression of discovering something grand and menacing in a dark, obscure region. In addition, the black space filled with eyes under the bridge would be less clear as a main subject of the piece, since the chiaroscuro patterns of light and dark have the area immediately above as the brightest spot in the composition.
This Christmas break, I’ve been doing more sketching to improve my skills. I’m trying to make each single piece tell more of a story and I’m also working on more backgrounds and landscape elements. For my birthday, I went sketching at the zoo (cold, but could be worse) and took some advice from David Rankin who wrote the book Fast Sketching Techniques. I heard about him from a wildlife artist that I admire. He made the distinction between drawing and sketching – and pointed out the frustration of wanting to draw from wildlife, but difficult because it’s always moving.
We started some of the exercises in the book and put some of his advice into practice at the zoo. I still would like to touch up some of the sketches I did there, but’ll I’ll share them in a future post. He recommended staying longer with one animal and taking in all the little mannerisms. It becomes easier after you’ve drawn the same animal many times from different positions and doing different things.
The drawing of the girl is from a foreign movie based on a children’s fairytale. The man with the mustache is more my own invention and I titled it Admonition. The other photo is a sketch of Albert Schweitzer from a vintage photo.
In these exercises, we had to select works of art that reflected techniques of atmospheric perspective or ways of rendering depth or distance by tone, hue, or detail. Here are my comments on the paintings as well as my painting of Bracketts Landing near my home in Edmonds (last, exaggerated colors).
Caillebotte: Closer figures are darker than the ones in the background. Compare the dark dog and figures in the fore grand compared to the light building and person crossing the road in the back. More precise detail is given to foreground figures than those in the distance, mimicking human vision. There is strong one-point perspective composition. The side opening bridge create the illusion of depth. The railing also shows much more detail closer than farther.
Michael Orwick: Michael Orwick is a painter from Oregon that my mom recently interviewed. In Misty Morning, atmosphericperspective convey strongly by both the relative sharpness of closer trees and the relative lightness of farther trees. This painting also is a good example of how hue can be used to convey sense of depth. The close trees are orange and brown and trees in the distance behind the fog are more lavender.
Bierstadt: In Bierstadt’s painting, atmosphericperspective is conveyed by fine detail in the foreground figures, using shadows and sharp contrast (look at the use of white on the figures). It’s also possible to see details like the fringe on the mats that are being made. In the mid ground, the mountains ad less distinct with a narrower range of contrast between colors. Also Bierstadt show masterful use of contrast differences between the waves close to the viewer and far to convey atmosphericperspective.
Seurat: In Sunday Afternoon, atmosphericperspective is conveyed by detail and contrast. Examples of detail and contrast to create the illusion of depth are notable for instance in the woman with an umbrella in the foreground (strong dark garment and light face) vs. mid ground (more subtle differences in contrast). Analysis of hue in this painting is more complex because figures are in sun or shade, but what Seurat does seem to do is have bands of hue at depths that connect characters at that level whether they are in sun or shade, creating a more uniform illusion of depth. Examples include row of people in the foreground in shadow vs. a little farther back in sun, and then still farther seated in shadow.Brackett’s Landing in Edmonds, WA.
Here’s blue kangaroo that I finished from my trip to the zoo. I found out that I’m probably using too little water and paint in my gouache. I had assumed that letting the paint dry up was fine as it can be reconstituted with water, but I found out that that’s not the case. I’m working on a portrait now and hope to have something to show soon.
I’m color mixing more now.
This beautiful Cooper’s hawk was on our neighbor’s roof this morning. Coopers and sharp-shinned hawks are pretty similar except I think this is a Cooper because of his big head. Here’s a close up of his head. I wish I had a little larger zoom lens, but this was still pretty cool.
James Gurney has a great blog, Gurney Journeywith great resources for how he learns to paint imaginary characters with life-like weighting, color, and balance. He uses references photos extensively to help him figure out feel the emotions of the characters in his pictures.
From Riding a Pterosaur:
“The idea is to get into the spirit of the action, feel the wind in your face and hear the screech of the pterosaur.
I think that’s more important than getting a photographically real piece of reference to copy. If you can identify with the weight and balance of things, and especially the emotion, you’ve got 90% of the problem solved.”