Drawing Skills

Assigntment One

I have worked on this final assignment for a couple of weeks. I planned ahead of weeks so I could complete it on time.  I chose my set up of things in combination of what I found interesting in the house and things I really like, such as plants, gardening, nature. I used a lamp because the light in the house is either too much some times or nothing at all. I used a black piece of cloth as a back to give it more shape.

The set up was tricky. I was hoping for something very interesting and this is what I came up in the end: The frame had some great source and reflected lights. The two small pots were very muted and the red one had more shine to it. The plant on the red pot had interesting light and shadows. Also the garden tool had interesting reflections of lights.

For the initial sketching, the hardest part I would say was getting the proportions right and trying to make it fit. I struggled with ellipses (still!) and when you look at the picture of the sketch the ellipses do seem off. But I think it was pretty accurate and knew I needed to wait for the rendering so they could take more form. I used willow charcoal and pencil (specially for the drapery which was tricky) for the initial sketch so the paper wouldn’t be damaged if I needed to erase. Other materials I used were: Charcoal pencils Hard, B2, B4, B6; Strathmore Charcoal Paper 500 Series 18×24; kneaded eraser; backboard and easel for support; Windsor & Newton fixative; black drapery and lamp for creating the scene; a great playlist to keep the flow going.

Overall, I think the result of this assignment is good. The set up worked well. I like the plants, the frame and the back of the drapery. I think the angles are interesting and they don’t seem “stiff.” I will say that the drapery seemed ambitious in the end. It took time and dedication to complete it. I am satisfied with the result. I am pleased with the tones of the pottery (both the red and the smallest ones). But my reflected lights could be more subtle. For example in the red pot and the frame (left side). I could see how this could easily be fixed by toning it down. I’m not completely happy with my ellipses.

I don’t think my work on the drapery is the best. It does seem stiff and the value in the drapery doesn’t seem to flow as naturally as it should look. The transition between light, midtone and shadow is to hard in some areas (center of the drapery). I think there is room for improvement.


Reflection On my Progress

I am satisfied with my profess so far. I will admit that I have been in doubt with some of the assignments and how to present them. But I have fail to consult my tutor. I should be in more contact with my tutor, and this is my goal for the next sections.

My technical and visual skills could be improved. I feel I have a good understanding of observing and basic concepts in composition, value system. But I would argue that more practice on a daily basis, practice from artists’ work as well as personal compositions on a larger scale would help me improve these skills. I don’t remember drawing that much last year in large assignments. Mostly were on my sketchbook and did not make it to larger pieces.

I think I could be more creative experimenting with materials on a larger scale. I concentrated too much on charcoal and paper because I took steps back to basic concepts and I just wanted to focus on it. Too obsessed maybe? I don’t know but at the time I thought it was what I needed to do. In comparison to my personal sketchbooks, my work throughout this section of the course wasn’t that creative (in terms of use of materials).

After I complete this post, I will go back and review my work even more. Thinking back on all I’ve written on my learning log… There is more that comes up to mind now that I could’ve expanded. And I’m eager to do so. Is that allowed? (To update my learning log with additional notes)…

I will need to plan better some of my exercises. I do have a lot of resources I use (like books, notes and links I’ve collected over the years) and going back to them is always helpful. I need to let loose, practice more and just get on with it.

***I updated this post on April 30th with further comments on my work and set a “featured image”

Notes: On Light & Tone

Overall, in the beginning I had difficulty distinguishing between light from the primary light source and secondary reflected light because I was more concern with the proportion and the shape of the objects. Somehow I always am. I would say to myself: How am I going to draw that?! The use of basic concepts helped to keep in mind the five value system. And taking a few step backs to analyze the set better and try to find the forms of light as well as shadow, helped in understanding where the light comes from. In some objects, it was more obvious (the sphere), and in others not so much (the frame in the set of my assignment).

From what I learned, tone is everything specially when using chiaroscuro techniques. The tone is what helps gives the object its volume and make it more real and three-dimensional. For example, if the sphere did not have the light and dark tones, it would be a circle. But the use of tones it what makes it stand out and have a form. I think that once you understand the use of tone, you can move on to creating more complex forms and providing that same form, value and volume they possess.

My study of basic shapes individually and in composition (done previously) helped a lot in understanding how the light is reflected upon each object. As we know, all objects are in the form of a basic shape, so when the time comes to observe more complex objects there is a better understanding. Looking at other artists’ work also helps. Studying their work can be very helpful and there are a lot of sources to use. I’m very happy I revived basic concepts and feel I have a fresh start in completing the exercises.

Research: Odilon Redon

Previously to this small research, I have never heard or seen the work of Odilon Redon, except for one painting: The Golden Cell (It is the cover of the book What is Art?” by Leo Tolstoy, Penguin Classics editions and I’m about to start reading). I have to admit that I am fascinated by the simplicity of his drawings and paintings. Yet the use of tone creates so much atmosphere that it makes his art feel very “complete”.

For instance, the example in our material is “Two Tress” (c.1875 – charcoal on paper) and simplicity of the scene, two tree trunks, may come as no surprise. But the intensity of the tone and background paper turns the scene into a story. The darkest tone in the background makes the viewer reconsider the shape and details of the trunks, as it makes them stand out. Also, the foreground to background give a sense of space and dynamics. I imagine  a gloomy day in the forest or backyard.

Of what I was able to see in the artist’s work is that most of it has certain atmosphere as a result of the use of tone, even in his paintings of lighter colors. In his drawings I can see a good use of the value system as well as his knowledge in the use of charcoal.

According to the website Musée d’Orsay, the artist once said: “This everyday substance, which has no beauty of its own, aided my researches into chiaroscuro and the invisible. It is a neglected material, scorned by artists. I must say, however, that charcoal does not allow kindness; it is sober, and only with real emotion can you draw results from it.”  In his drawings you can feel this connection of the material and the dynamics the artist gave to each image resulting in a very emotionally toned drawing.

I also came across a video from a recent exhibition in honor of the artist called La nature silencieuse. Paysages d’Odilon Redon.” I don’t speak French, but it was beautiful to see all the images from this collection. And again, there is so much atmosphere in each painting and drawing, it doesn’t matter how simple they may appear, I feel there is a story behind.

I hope you enjoy the video and the images. I found a lot of his work through the website “The Complete Works” and also found a past event at the MOMA of drawings and lithographs from the artist. There are a couple of documents free to download through MOMA – Odilon Redon: Drawings and Lithographs.

I’m really glad I came to know about this artist, specially in this stage of my studies. I think it can help me in my study of charcoal as well as in interpreting tone and atmosphere in drawing.


Project 2 – Exercise 3: Creating Shadow using Lines & Marks

For this exercise I used some items around my house like items from exercise 1, items on my desk and individual shapes that came to mind. I used a variety of materials such as pen, brush pen, pastel oil and watercolor. I worked with lines, cross-hatching and spots.

I am currently using Mixed Media Sketchbook from Strathmore for my sketching of this course. But I took some time to use another sketchbook that has a smoother paper and a post-it note just to vary. I noticed I did not use any dots or more broken shapes to create shadows. I realized I tend to cross-hatch or use lose lines. The spontaneity with pen feel so much richer than using pencil. Is it the thought that I can delete it if I make a mistake or that I have tend to work slower with it?

The watercolor was fun to use because it allowed not to have strong lines to create the shape of the object. But instead the amount of water and color I used helped in achieving the shadow and shapes. The same happened with the oil pastel stick, but I had to be a bit more careful with the pressure. The last two images were worked on quickly just to practice a bit more. I thought of the image and put it on paper pretty quickly with a blue pen.

Project 2 – Exercise 2: Observing Shadow using blocks of tone

Sources for practicing: Because I felt my initial sketches in the previous exercise were not entirely accurate, I decided to step back and go back to basics with some concepts and practices. I read again “Drawing Basics” by Artist Daily, which is a free document you can find on the internet and has basic concepts about drawing shapes. I have local holidays so this has been great, as most of my time has been working on these studies of the basics.  Each drawing took about an hour and a half and I used charcoal pencil and Strathmore Charcoal Paper 11inx17in 300 Series. I find this paper great for working with charcoal it has a medium tooth and the charcoal adheres decently well. Great for practice.

The basic shapes were easy to work with. I had to take care of the cylinder and the top size. I think it could be improved but I was happy with the result of a quick study. The Still Life I worked on were two simple shapes of ceramics at a friend’s house. I used a cheaper quality of paper and charcoal, both willow and stick for this exercise. Had a pretty good set up and decent light. I think I improved on my ellipses but the shape of the smallest ceramic really seems off from the right. I don’t see the same shape. Overall, I’ve always struggled with ellipses and shapes of bottles (making the necks equal), ceramics and other round objects. It’s hard to get it right at once, but after some work it can be as accurate as possible.

The two ceramic items are pale and simple shaped. They were fairly easier to draw than my Complex Shapes in the the previous exercise.

***Materials: I purchased a plaster cast kit a few years ago in the U.S. I will update the post when i find the link. The plaster cast includes a head, torso, cone, sphere, square and cylinder. I recommend it if you want to practice drawing, proportion, value and quick sketching. 

Project 2 – Exercise 1: Group of Objects

For this exercise, I practiced with two set of objects. The first set was pretty standard. I chose a cylinder, circle, square and triangle shape. I realized I hadn’t practiced this type of drawing in a while so I wanted to go back to basics. I’ve always had issues with cylinders, and on this first image I don’t feel my cylinders are exactly as the picture. My view was different, but I think they could be improved.

For the second group of objects, I chose objects a bit more complex with a more varied shape, size, reflection. The instructions doesn’t indicate it, but I wasn’t as clean with my lines as with the first drawing. I struggle more in terms of size and relation of objects. It wasn’t part of my initial idea, but I decided to incorporate the reflection in the mirror so the composition could be understood more. I had a lot of work with the evaluation of the relation of the shapes to each other, the space between them and drawing them as accurate as possible. Mainly, the cylinder shapes and the glass in the middle of the composition. It was very tricky.

The materials I used were Charcoal pencil 6B and willow charcoal (initial outline), Blick Newsprint paper 18×24 paper, kneaded eraser, easel and backboard for support.  The charcoal pencil I’ve used for some time now, and the thin shape it has now helped in making more straight lines as a bit of soft edges. But it was difficult not to press hard and make strong marks with it. In the picture I can really tell where I pressed harder.

What I learned with this exercise is that I need to go back to basics, practice with the still life at home and try to be more secure with the lines I make. I struggled with the shapes and proportion, so definitely need some practice!


Exercise 2: Experimenting with Texture

I guess the hardest part was trying to reproduce the texture. I think I limited myself to pencil, pen and ink -for the most part. Now I’m thinking I could’ve explore more with other materials like salt+watercolor, but I’m feeling “rushed” because I am feeling like I’ve fallen behind on my assignments and exercises, and also because I felt some frustration with the textures (specially the wall 1 texture and the tree trunk). So I tried to work as fast as possible so as not to overthink it. It seems this is an issue for me -overthinking the process- and I do feel that when I don’t do it, the results are better…more natural.

So, overall: 1. The modeling paste I used for Wall1 texture didn’t create the effect that I wanted. I think I need to experiment with the material more and the acrylic dried too fast. 2. Wall2 texture was great and interesting in the frontage but turned out weird on my experimenting. It seems broken. 3. The frottage of the tree trunk didn’t come out as “its true form/shape/texture.” 4. Frottage with pencil is way better than color pencil. I tried frottage with a fruit peel and it didn’t work. I will definitely get to try more with experimenting in my sketchbook.

***The sketchbook I am using is Strathmore Mixed Media 7.75in.x9.75in. (19.7×24.8cm); 90 lb. (190 g/m2)