Monday, May 30, 2016

Learn and Pass It On

I am an artist and a teacher. One of my favorite things to do as a teacher is to travel to different art centers, art clubs, and associations and give demonstrations. I get to meet so many fascinating people who are just as passionate about art, and how its created.

The subjects may include landscape, still-life or portrait but my primary focus is to share my knowledge in a fun entertaining way that will inspire the attendees to try a new approach to painting or to discover a way of seeing something that they haven't before. Just as important, I want to reassure beginning students that there are stages to learning that we all must work through to become better artists and encourage them to keep at it. 

Documented here is from a recent still life demo. Most venues provide wireless microphones and overhead video projection so everyone can see and hear.

Pictured above is a four step breakdown of my approach for this particular demo. Having only one hour to paint this, I wanted to show a systematic approach. (See my May 9th &16th posts to learn more approaches to painting). First is finding the composition. Second is stating the dark values. Third working middle values. Fourth, adding highlights and relevant detail.

Monday, May 23, 2016

One Step at a Time

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I make it a point to practice drawing from live models once or twice a week. The adage, "if you don't use it you'll lose it" is so true with drawing and painting. Frequency is the key to maintaining skill level and dexterity.

For me, drawing and painting aren't that different in approach. I took progress photos using my phone every 20 minutes during this portrait to document my approach. (See image below).

The first 20 minutes is the most crucial. I look for a comfortable placement of the head on the paper. I'm working a linear approach at this stage. The big shapes are laid out: head shape silhouette, division of hair vs. face, placement of features in correct proportions, etc.

Since I'm working from a living breathing being, I know when the model comes back from a break the pose will be close (with some direction) but will never be the same. Hair will change, fabric folds will always change, the model may make slight adjustments to make themselves more comfortable as he or she settles into the pose. If I don't get this first stage down and locked in during the first sitting, I'll be chasing the drawing for the rest of the session.

Second, 20 minutes is simply separating light vs. shadow shapes. At this stage, I transition from using the line to a tonal approach. No different than painting. It's about laying down big areas of value and getting the value relationships to read correctly. I even start to indicate lighter values with white charcoal. I'm using a terra cotta colored pastel pencil on tan paper by the way.

Third 20, is about refining value shapes, building lights & highlights as well as building texture in the hair.

Final 20 minutes, boy does that last 20 go quickly! Refinement and polishing are the objectives until the model timer rings. Don't forget a signature!

Medium: Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencil & General's Charcoal White
Paper: Strathmore Toned Tan
Dimensions: 11x14 inches

Monday, May 16, 2016

What's your plan? Part 2

Picking up from last weeks post - Another popular method among plein air painters as well as studio artists is to develop the entire painting all at once. The artist tries to mix the best average value and color temperature for each shape in the scene then progresses onto giving each shape more recognizable three-dimensional forms. This method allows the artist to monitor the painting as a whole and can make mistakes easier to catch and correct early on.

The grisaille has been an approach that has stood up over the centuries. It allows the artist to fully separate value from color by first completing a painting in monotone. Typically, this tonal underpainting is left to dry fully. Then the addition of color is applied in opaque or transparent layers over the corresponding values already mapped out by the underpainting. This method does add one more step to the process and may not be the optimal choice in fleeting light situations.

Since there isn't a single best or any hard fast rules here, you can combine different approaches if you wish. The important thing is to have a plan before laying paint to canvas. Your strategy choice should reflect the working scenario presented and what makes sense to you at the time.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

Eat, Drink, Draw.

Drawing should be part of every artist's routine. The subject matter is less important than the act itself. An honest representational approach will be a better gauge of progress than that of the abstract.

Medium: Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencil & General's Charcoal White
Paper: Strathmore Toned Tan
Dimensions: 11x14 inches