Sunday, January 31, 2010

Drawing - Part 5 - Grasp and Sweep

Hello my art loving friends. Tonight I thought I'd write again about drawing or draftsmanship. We've been covering all the "right" ways to sketch. Above are 3 little people properly sketching in the best manner. I say "best" as you may often sketch in less ideal ways but these methods will produce the finest work. "WHY" you ask?

Well the arm has to be employed to draw really well. When the arm can sweep over the entire sheet of paper or canvas, an artist can get the most casual, masterful look to the work. Accuracy will also be enhanced with longer strokes. When I have a serious drawing to do or when I go to a life group I always set up as you see above. I'm usually the left or middle guy. The right hand person is sitting on an "artist horse" . This is a very old piece of art furniture that some may not have seen. It has slots to angle the board to the perfect angle.

Now to the "grasp". Above our little folks are two hands. The one on the left shows a typical writing grasp. Now this is great for writing and small sketches and doodles but it won't cut it for larger work. The right hand shows an artist grasp as used for sketching. this hold of your charcoal, conte', or vine, will give you the best drawing possible. When drawing large I usually use 18x24 inch pads and paper or larger sheets of Canson Mi-teintes 19x25. I carry a hardboard panel about 20x27 inches in my setup for setting my paper on. I make it a habit to try to use the whole sheet. I sometimes cut the sheets in half and do them at 18x12" .

When approaching the work, it is a nice idea to swing your whole arm over the whole sheet. Be certain you have the angle absolutely perfect and that it's perfectly comfortable. (see earlier drawing posts) Also, swinging your arm allows you to imagine your strokes. It relaxes your mind and helps loosen your strokes. Now you are ready to begin your sketching using your arm and not just your hand.

Obviously, when sketching in your personal sketch book (I hope you have one) you will probably be drawing on your lap. This is where I sketch out my ideas or work something up for a painting. In this case I use the "writers grasp" and my favorite pencil. In that case, I'm not concerned about beautiful draftsmanship. The appearance is just for my personal recording and not for show. I still may draft accurately but the line quality is not so important. Perhaps I should do a post on exactly what I mean but that's later....

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Good day my art loving friends. We will chat about "mirrors" today. Most artists have heard about using mirrors to check their work. "Why?" you ask. Well, we all have tendencies when looking at something, for a long time , to sort of "get used to the way it looks". Our art becomes like our old dog. He may be a shaggy, flea bitten, one eyed, 3 legged, overweight, sack of smelly fur, BUT to us he looks wonderful. If we went to someone else's home and saw a similar dog we would think, "Boy, that old dogs on his last legs."
Our art is exactly the same way. We've spent all those hours looking at it and lovingly caressing it with our little brushes and we just think it looks marvelous. It may actually stink the sewer up, but not to us. We must understand and know that this is a tendency for all artists. Our drawing can be off. Our colors may be bad. The design may fail miserably and yet we can not see it.
MIRRORS! This is what mirrors do for the artist. They flip the painting around and for a brief moment, it looks like something we are not familiar with. We have no attachment to this stranger. We didn't work for hours on this interloper. Who is this guy? Now, we are able to pick out the faults of this interloper with ease. Why the design stinks! What was this poor whacked out artist thinking! We instantly know what's wrong with this strangers work. We sure can see how to fix it.
Well, there you have it. That is what mirrors do for artists. I'd like to point out an interesting thing that most people have observed. Nobodies face is usually perfect. Our heads are often a bit crooked and our eyes are not always exactly even on our face. It's very common for one eye to be 1/8 " higher than the other. It's not hard to find folks that are 1/4, 3/8 or even 1/2 inch off. Take a look at models in magazines. Look closely and you'll see many with eyes that don't line up. Now we get very used to seeing ourselves only in a mirror. Our understanding of our face is, therefore, flipped. When we see a photo of yourself we see the "real" version of us. You may feel that photos of yourself are "odd" looking and this may be due to your own face not being perfectly symmetrical. You will observe that looking at loved ones in a mirror will often be and odd experience for the same reason. If your spouses face isn't perfectly symmetrical, when you see them in a mirror they will look odd to you. Suppose their right eye is 1/8 of an inch higher than their left. You are used to this and probably don't notice it but in a mirror, it will suddenly appear as if their left eye is up 1/8 inch. This sudden change will be 1/8 +1/8 = 1/4" difference from your normalized view. Even though it is slight, it will "jump" out at you because of the "mirror effect" .
With art, you can also photograph it and flip it on your computer. Handy. Also, note about models in magazines: The magazines regularly flip the images of models so don't be surprised by that.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

More Picture Plane!

The "picture plane" is an interesting thing. As a continuation of the last Blog, I wanted to point out the fact that accurate drawing is exactly like looking through a piece of glass. In reality this is what a camera does. Yes, cameras with cheap lenses do "distort" the image a little. A quality lens will shoot "flat" or undistorted images. It's not worth worrying about for most of us though, but I mention it. In the old days the image was produced literally on a glass plate. As I pointed out, this image is perpendicular to wherever the camera is pointed, exactly like one's eye.

I think anyone familiar with books on "How to Draw" have seen the etching or block print of an artist looking through some sort eyepiece and then a string gridded frame. Before them on the table is a paper with a proportional grid drawn on it. This is grid devise is a way to get the picture plane and the "drawing plane" to be exactly the same. Today we could put a piece of glass before us with an eye piece in front of us to look through. The eye piece is to make sure we are always looking from the same spot. We could then draw the scene before us onto the glass using a marker. The resulting drawing would have perfect perspective. In essence, this is the goal we are trying to achieve without the bulk of such a devise or by using a camera. Yes, projecting an image from a camera will result in the same thing, provided the lens shoots "flat". For my money a camera is nothing but a nuisance. Cameras, projectors, and drawing frames all have their place but I'd rather go for the speed and convenience of being myself, an expert at draftsmanship. Why mess with the rest when you can learn to draw it in seconds or minutes and be very accurate. What ease, what Fun!

I spent a long time in the last post trying to pass along the importance of getting your paper of canvas in exactly the right position to work at. There is nothing as sad as working on a portrait for an hour or two while it lays flat on a table in front of you. You finally are positive you have it right and then you lift it up and "Ugh" ,the face is too darn long and skinny. This is what results by having the drawing in a tilted plane to the eye.

I wanted to point out a really weird thing done by a few artists in the past where they used this effect for purpose. You may happen upon one of these weird paintings in a museum someday. They look like some sort of normal painting with a weird looking blur diagonal across the work. "Why?" you ask. Well they are designed for the viewer to walk up to the corner of the painting and then look glancing-ly across the piece. What they will see is an image that they couldn't make out from the normal view. This "blur" is in reality, an image set down from a very close perceptive. These paintings are known as "Anamorphosis" paintings and were done by such artists as Hans Holbein the Younger. One could easily get the same effect today by projecting an image across their canvas from a very close position and at an angle. Another thing that is similar in our world are letters on the road. When we drive along and see the word "Stop" painted on the road, they are very stretched out but don't appear that way when we see them. If you actually stop to look at the letters, they are 4 times longer than they are wide. In some cases they are 8 times longer. This is an "exaggerated" perspective drawing but is exactly what happens, to a lesser degree, when an artist doesn't properly align their work to their eye. to last post HERE
I should add that there are artists still making art using "anamorphosis" effects and a simple web search will show that.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Art Basics -Drawing 3 - The Picture Plane

I'm going to illustrate and explain how to begin every drawing. To start our journey into the world of accurate draftsmanship we must understand what is called the "picture plane". To understand the Picture Plane we must use our imagination. Everywhere that we look with our eyes we must imagine a piece of glass that is exactly perpendicular to wherever we are looking. In other words if our eyes could emit a laser beam straight out to where we are looking, the picture plane is like a piece of glass that is perfectly perpendicular to that beam. It is perpendicular in both the x and y axis.

Now if we are to draw something we must imagine look at the thing we are to draw as if it were inside a Picture frame where the frame is the boarder of our paper or canvas. Imagine the frame having glass in it so that we can see our "object" to be drawn. This is in essence the picture plane. It is always square to our eye no matter where we look, high or low.

Here comes the important part that nobody seems to teach that I've ever observed, the paper or canvas you are going to draw on, must be in a similar relationship to your eye as the imagined picture plane. In other words the paper, when you look at the center of the page, must be perfectly perpendicular to your vision. You can't sit at a table and lay the paper out in front of you. It must at a perpendicular to your vision. You can't be off to one side or too high above or below.

Hopefully those pictures are helpful. The next point is that one needs to be a goodly distance from the paper or canvas, as the size increases. I've seen artists trying to draw on an 18x24 paper while having their nose 10 inches from the sheet. You can't do this. To draw on a full 18x24 one needs to stand at arms length from the sheet to have any sense of accuracy. My illustration above show different placements. The sheet can be low or high but your vision should be square with the center of the sheet. It is practical to draw on a pad in one's lap up to about 14 inches high and one can hold it up to ones chin if drawing about 6 inches high.

If working really large on a canvas of greater that 30 inches, one will need to keep backing up a step or two to judge the drawing. There is, in essence, a perfect angle of view that and artist can effectively work in.

Another point I want to make is this: "Keep ones head level!" You can not accurately draw anything if you bend your head this way and that. You must keep your head level to the "drawing plane" when observing and level to the paper when drawing. This may seem like a "no brainer" but I can't tell you the number of students I've watched twist their heads first one way then the next.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Art Basics - Drawing 2

These three paintings are currently available on Ebay. Look up "Cole Burton".
Tonight, lets continue the talk on "drawing". Let's clear the air about drawing for the sake of clarity for "drawing" is a complex critter. When we talk about drawing, it does not have to mean pencils on paper. Drawing has two definitions to the artist.
1. The correctness of objects in relationship to one another in a work of art (usually a painting or drawing). This generally refers to representational art and I'll clarify that term another time. Let us suffice to say, art that shows real things as opposed to abstract art.
2. Use of drawing instruments on paper(usually) to create a work of art or the work itself. I'm careful about not saying the word "line(s)". A drawing can be made of tones, with no apparent "lines" in it.

OK, let's handle #1. Artist's often talk about the drawing in a work of art or a painting. They might say, "The drawing is off." or "The drawing is right on." What is being judged is whether the thing represented is correct in proportion, placement and perspective as is deemed "proper". I say "proper" not "correct" as there is a difference. Some artists, like Thomas Hart Benton, intentionally bend, and distort from what would be "correct" but they are "proper" for the work and style they use. In other words, style may mean that an artist is not correct but that for the work of art in question, the drawing may be right. In the past, it was common to say,"It's out of drawing." While today someone usually would say, "The drawing's wrong in that paint."
Now for #2. A drawing is usually a work of art on paper (noun), made by use of pencils, charcoal, conte, etc... or the act of creating the work (verb). Actually we can break the use of drawing into subcategories. There are sketches, studies and cartoons that are quite often referred to as "drawings".
A sketch is usually a quickly done drawing, or painting, that is used to lay out a composition for a finished painting.
A study is usually a detailed drawing, or painting, of something that will later be part of a finished painting.
A cartoon is a drawing that is the exact size of the intended finished painting. It is used to transfer the artists idea to the canvas. It can be transferred with transfer paper or other transfer techniques. This also is a good subject for a future blog. Let me just say that traditionally this was done with a pouncing bag and a tool known as a "roulette". They are still available today and work as well as ever. Again, let me cover that in another blog.
I hope that helps with "drawing" terminology. I think most artists understand these things almost intuitively but for the novice, this may straighten out some confusion.
Let me proceed to the goal most people have with drawing. Most artists want to be able to create a painting that has "good drawing". To gain the ability to get things correct in a painting, it is advantageous to be good at #2. It's obvious that once you can create really good drawings on paper, you are going to more easily get it right in the final painting or sculpture or architecture or design. The goal is to learn to draw correctly. Next time, I'll cover one of the most common defects I see with artists learning to draw, and how to fix it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Art Basics - Drawing

I've been ruminating on the basics of art. What does art consist of?
Art is basically a communication from one person to others. The communication will create a feeling in the viewer. Art consists of ways to communicate and includes : writing, dance, architecture, drama, painting, music, sculpture, film plus probably a bunch of things I've missed.
Fine art is separated by the other arts (film, drama, applied, etc...) by being judged only on aesthetics. It includes painting, sculpture and architecture. I personally see architecture as split between aesthetics and function, but that's another matter anyhow.
Painting and sculpture have as their most basic ingredient, drawing. By drawing, I don't mean pencil and paper but rather the term "line". Line in art is the way in which things are laid out in relationship. There is "line" in everything save for some of the minimalist's one color canvas'. The way things are laid out via line can be practiced with pencils and paper. It can be done in 3D as a "model" or smaller version, for sculptors.
"Drawing", that is drawing on paper, is the one traditional way to educate painters and sculptors to make art. Drawing includes: perspective drawing, proportion, and plasticity. Put another way: Getting the drawing realistic, getting the sizes correct, getting things to look like they have dimension or mass.
It is possible to be an artist today and study none of this. Modern art made that the way it was done in the middle of last century. Some abstract art has little necessary skills in drawing. Some abstract art has a lot of need for drawing, it depends on the work. Still, I think it important to have drawing skills in ones quiver to pull out when needed. I'd rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
In summation, draftsmanship or drawing skills are the first building block to gain in the climb up art mountain. More next time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Colored Gray

How do you mix the color gray? Black and white, correct? Sure, you'll have a gray but there are other ways. "Colored Grays" are made by mixing complimentary colors. A red with green, a blue with orange, and a yellow with violet. An artist may try various hues of each together and then add a bit of white. Most of these "grays" don't quite look gray until a touch of white is added. Actually a lot of white may be called for in some cases if you need a light gray.

The principle involved here is what's important for an artist to know and that is: "Graying is the act of reducing a hues chroma (intensity). This can be achieved with a touch of black and white or a mixed gray meaning, adding a bit of complimentary color and possibly a little white. or other light hue.

Some compliments like Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna (dark orange) will create a paint that is near to black. Isn't painting fun?....

This painting is currently available on eBay. Search "Cole Burton"or click here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Tenebrism is my subject for tonight. Tenebrism is art that emphasizes the effect of lights casting shadows in the night. My two favorite night painters are Atkinson Grimshaw (a British bloke) and an American named George Sotter. I also can think of a few by the western artist: Frederic Remington. I love night paintings and have had a go at it a few times. I have one piece I did 9 years ago that I have continuously had hanging in our home.
Today I decided to post a post on my blog. It's available on Ebay currently.