Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Study in Lighting

It was something like eight hours work here. The exercise called for drawing a smooth object with shadowing in various lighting conditions, then repeat with a rough or twisted botanical object. It wasn't until I completed the eggs that I realized that it's be a stretch to consider an egg a botanical object. Hen fruit? No matter, no worries, I think I made up for it with that oak twig.

I tried out a transfer with the twig using a bit of Bienfang parchment. Very handy stuff... I used it here as well for covering completed drawings, preventing most smudging. I traced out the drawn twig, scratched in plenty of HB on the back side, and then traced over that with a 4H. Instant twigs!

Just what made this exercise feel so rewarding? Well, for one thing, a few of the objects came through with some realism. My favorites are the overhead egg and the side, low side, and back twigs. Another thing is simply the thought that shading is quite nuanced and requires a patient eye to experience the subtle details.

This is an exercise that I've wanted to get to on my own, that is, prior to deciding to join in this course. I'm so glad I have one study accomplished. Of course, just like any other exercise I've been through and posted out here, each exercise is meant to be repeated.

One last thought... Over the past few weeks, I've been brought through various techniques and probably didn't quite realize that each exercise built upon the one prior. From line, through shapes, perspective, and now shadowing, each component is included with each next exercise. It was a real thrill today when I remembered: Hey, I can go back and lighten up those contour lines in the highlights. Very, very cool, was that feeling!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Not So Hairy Pear With a Side of Chiaroscuro

Doesn't yesterday's pear look positively hairy? Upon some research and review after that post, I realized that hatching is the laying down of parallel lines (or nearly so if following curved contours) of varying strength and distance. The lighting today is once again intense but with a different direction-- 9 o'clock from the side, straight into and even with the pear. Today I try to better follow the spirit of hatching by following contours with hatching and cross hatching. There is also graded shadowing and varying line strength with even a lost edge. Phew, that's a mouthful, but it might be some indication that I am learning. ;-)

After the pear redux for Exercise 1, it was time to move on to Exercise 2, Chiaroscuro. (For those like me who'd need the pronunciation.)

Quoted from the course material:

An Italian term translating to "light-dark," Chiaroscuro refers to the modeling of volume by boldly depicting light and shaded areas so as to show deep contrast. This strengthens the illusion of depth on a 2-dimensional surface.

Chiaroscuro was first used during the Renaissance, notably in 16th Century Baroque art. The Chiaroscuro art from this time often shows a dark figure being lit by a constricted and unseen single shaft of light.

Okay, that was the second exercise. The third is using pen and ink to depict shading and I just recently completed two ink washes, leaving only hatching work for pen and ink. I'm going to let that go by the wayside, at least for now as I am eager to get started on this week's required submissions. It just so happens that the week with the most work is the week I have the least time so it's pedal to the metal for tonight into tomorrow.

Next up are series of thumbnail sketches with varying lighting angles and surface textures.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hatch and Crosshatch

This week's first exercise is titled "How To Shade". Prior to applying shading, one must be firstly cognizant of the light intensity and direction, and then of the areas of shadow and highlight. For instance, in my sketch the light is intense and above at about 10 o'clock. The right side is shadow, the left highlight. There is a bit of highlight on the belly of the pear that extends in somewhat to the right. Then also the darker shading of the cast shadow. (I think I missed a darker shadow about the middle and reflected light at the base of the pear.)

Once a shading plan is decided, one must pick the shading method or methods--hatching, cross hatching, graded shadows, or stippling. In the above sketch, I am using hatching and cross hatching. I used graded when I worked with a stomp in Sunday's still life. I think stippling is a very cool technique but not very effective with pencil. In fact, I'm not much of a fan with crow quill. But, I absolutely love it with a Rapidosketch. (Mine has seen better days and I'll be replacing it with a Rapidograph.)

Today, my dear friend Val Littlewood of the Pencil and Leaf blog included a piece on Nuncketest in her post on Slow Art. Also check out this post from earlier in the week where she kicks off the Slow Art celebration. And be sure you are not in a hurry when you head over because you will surely lose track of time as you enter her wonderful world of bees.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

An Early Start To Week 5

I've uploaded the last couple of ink washes along with the blog articles and that really wraps up this week's work.

Week 5 is titled "Using Light to Add Dimension to Botanical Illustrations". There are a lot of exercises! In fact, there are so many that I will wait to describe as I work through each. For now, I'll just list some basic principles we'll be working with this upcoming week.

The four main categories of light:
  • Highlights
  • Form Shadows
  • Reflected Light
  • Cast Shadows

Light Sources:
  • Overhead
  • Direct
  • Oblique
  • Low Side
  • Backlit
  • Overcast
This week's required reading is once again Chapter 4: Ink Wash from Beautiful Botanicals. Optional reading is Chapter 10 of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and chapters 3 and 4 from The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature.

Our instructor, Marcia, has called upon four of us to provide student input that could become a component of a Cornell presentation, "Facilitating Online Learning: An Introduction to Tools and Methods." Sounds interesting and fun. More on this as it develops.

Dutch Masters: The Age of Rembrandt came in today. The little Sony DVD player sits well on my elliptical trainer so I'll be getting in some entertaining exercise. :-)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ink Wash II

After last night's exercise, I did take the time to read Chapter 2, Ink Wash, from Beautiful Botanicals. Well, I had it part way right... It is quite important to smooth those edges with a water-only brush, and do it fast. That ink sets up in no time!

The other thing is that I was probably using way too much water. I cut back this evening and also dripped in more drops at a time. This mix was so much better!

I got cut short on time this evening--I probably would have preferred a few more washes. Also, it just struck me at this moment that I could have used a slightly watered down ink instead of straight out of the bottle for the veining.

All in all, I like where this is going. Ink is a very cool medium.

The fog was just thick enough to create softly glowing clouds of sodium light. These shots are from a late night walk up the road. And you know what? It feels good to post something other than a b/w drawing. Let's hear it for monochromatic sodium!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ink Wash Experiment

I have completed this week's required assignments so I thought I'd try an optional, an ink wash according to instructions in Beautiful Botanicals. Even though I love books, I went at it without a review. I must have read the ink wash instructions at some time but they didn't seem available upstairs this evening.

I plodded along with light washes until I began plowing in the ink and then reducing the mix and dumping in more ink. I wanted it darker. Then I remembered something about using water washes to smooth the edges--that made things looks less blotchy. So I figured, why not? Why not just try a tiny bit of raw ink on a watered down spot? I liked it. Only thing is that I think I needed the rest of the leaf to be darker. (It looks mildly better here in real life.)

Those white veins? My first try using masking fluid from a bottle a bought a few years back when I thought I was going to watercolor. It looks kinda rough and it should--I used a pine needle to apply it!

Fabriano Artistico HP 140 lb on 9 x 12" block.

The instructor reviews on my uploads came in this morning. Wow, wow! That's a quote from her messages.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Journal Entry

One of this week's assignments is to journal on these thoughts:

Often, when you work over a period of time at drawing -- when you're drawing a lot and engaging deeply in it, you can have a "break through:" one of those wonderful feelings of "getting it," when everything seems to come together.

Have you had any such moments? What activity were you doing, and how did it feel? Conversely, have you felt frustrated and unable to have such a feeling? Why do suppose that has happened?

And here is my submission:

Oftentimes in a drawing, I have this moment when some little piece sparks coherence. By way of an example, in my submission for this week's exercise, when I placed in the blossom end for the middle pear, it cemented the pear's (and the light's) orientation. It got me thinking that just a few promiment points can serve as markers for the viewer. Little pieces that inspire reality.

If I might now go in the other direction, I have been struggling for that gestalt of seeing fine line quality. It seems a place where I need to focus. I can easily get caught up in short and straight lines. Now I'm beginning to see that it's okay during blocking in to square things off before working in the curves and that once that initial work is complete, to then glide effortlesly over the laid out terrain with smooth and confident strokes. Oh, and of course getting that line thickness flowing in and out appropriately.

I think that over time, all the techniques being presented within this course can become more automatic for me. (I forgot all about negative space with the 4.1 exercise!) Right now trying to remember blocking out while staying aware of negative space while observing line quality is a bit of jerky excursion. I am reminded of my first times behind the wheel of a car. All this to me is antithesis of that aha moment and reminds me more of advice along the nature of, “Keep at it, kid, and you'll do just fine.”

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Still Life - New Layout

I liked this new layout enough to start right in on it. And then on it went...just a bit more here, then a bit more there, and by late last night here is where I stopped. Now I want it all to rest for a bit.

But I do have first impressions. I am mostly okay with the three back objects but that foreground pear, I think, could use a bit less black and a bit more detail. And, maybe a bit of darkening for the second pear. Either way or both, I feel that it is about balancing those two objects. I'll let it all simmer for a while before I go back in.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Still Life Exercise

Here's my first rough sketch at my first still life. Not until I saw it on screen did I realize some obvious straight across object lineups. I don't think this is what I want to start with although I'm not sure how much that would show on a finished drawing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Week 4 Begins

Depicting Perspective and Foreshortening in Illustration--that is our week 4 topic.

Three dimensionality is the goal here. Converging lines, overlaps, and relative values and sizes are the means. Stand on a highway overpass and gaze out over the highway below. It’s a perfect example! Road width decreases with distance. So does color, value, and object size. See the trees overlapping the trees behind. Now, this all sounds easy, right? Sure! We can all stand on that overpass and confirm our theory. But where the rubber hits the road (yeah, I know) is when one must pick up the pencil. It's hard for me to see just what is there (compared to what I think I see.)

Required reading this week is a review of Chapter 1 of Beautiful Botanicals, Basic Form and Perspective.

Optional reading includes Chapter 8 of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

There is an exercise where we are asked to tape clear plastic wrap to a window with an 8 x10 inch border and trace out the scene with a permanent marker. Then take the tracing, drop it over white paper, and simply examine the principles of convergence, overlap, and relative size.

There is one required drawing this week, a still life. The idea is to include perspective qualities—overlapping objects, tonal gradations of near and far, and convergence.

And of course, we have a journaling assignment. This week’s topic: breakthroughs… aha!... the gestalt.

This past week's assignment grading came in with more "Outstanding" ratings. Cool.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rework on the negative space

I really wasn't happy with the quality of my first submission on negative space--lines were messy and the background kind of scratchy looking. I did go a bit wild with line thickness but hey, why not? :-) I also had a fantastic time playing around with a blending stomp! At first, I went in with the tip and that seemed to create unevenness--not what I was looking for. Once I began using the side of the stomp, I was able to work in some nice smoothing, just what I wanted.

And here comes a shameless plug for my band. Come see us Sunday at Steve's for a good cause!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Journal Entry

Here are this week's guidelines for our journal submissions:
  • Think of a favorite painting, drawing, or other work of art...
  • What was it about that piece that spoke to you?
  • How did the artist use color, line, form, texture, and light to convey feelings and ideas? What ideas or themes are represented in the piece?
Here is my submission:

I would like to share with you my appreciation of the work of Kory Fluckiger. Working mostly in watercolor, he presents loosely botanical paintings with lovely composition and a unique and limited palette. Often monochromatic, sometimes even black and white, his watercolors give me such a sense of peace and interest. The backgrounds are works of art themselves—beautifully textured and displaying cast shadows with eloquence.

It seems to me that his paintings that I most admire have softly directional lighting. The subtle color gradations seem to me a bit richer and wider ranging than realistic. I feel a bit of surrealism, elegance, and perhaps even a bit of somberness in these works. Curiously, most of my selections display a strong vertical line and something of an ethereal character.

These are my favorite pieces:

2006 Commiseration
2005 All October
2004 Cymbidium Equinox, Autumn Dragon
2003 all plant and bamboo paintings

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Simple Update

I received some complimentary feedback this morning on my upside down drawing. Once again Marcia made mention of my line quality. She has offered consistent encouragement for me to focus on line.

I want to quote from her note to us today:

"You are collectively such an interesting class -- you are the most active to date. I receive submissions and notes from you all week long, and when I'm away from my computer, don't want you to think that I'm neglecting what you have so evidently put time into. Look forward to seeing all sorts of upside down drawings and negative space upon my return."

(She'll be back with us on Friday.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Negative Drawing Exercise

My negative drawing exercise calls for drawing the spaces between the stems and leaves of a plant. Around here, that pretty much means a houseplant. So I was off today to the local florist, thinking of the connections I will establish--tossed exotic leaves mine for the taking and perhaps the chance that I could display some pieces there. Ah well, closed. Probably exhausted after V day.

The local Home Depot came through with a beautiful ZZ plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia. Only thing is that it's quite poisonous so it has a home high up with no landing points for my clever cat. The good news is that he has little interest in plants of any sorts so we'll do well no matter. Also brought home a hanging ivy which will no doubt be making an appearance soon.

Here's a little closeup with poor lighting. Better shots to follow.

And here is my first try at negative space drawing. The idea is to squint until the spaces between become the objects of attention. Once complete, shade up the spaces and see the subject pop out. Hmm, it really works. I'm not thrilled with my first attempt but I do like the possibilities. A simple, interesting look.

I keep getting these intense urges for color and this little sketch just screams that out for me. I'll be honest, I am so anticipating the completion of this course so that I can break out my watercolors. I know, I tell myself to simply slow down and enjoy this learning process. And I will. And then I'll cut loose.

For weeks, I've been meaning to put together this little triptych. I'll take it to the office for display. Now what will I say when someone asks how much? That happened with the last one I hung. I've sold a photo off that office wall but I still don't know the price and the buyer tells me he isn't worried. It will be my first sale so I'm still unsure...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Upside down

Saturday was a weird day, the weather and my moods in concordance--gray, gloomy, low contrast...and topped off with horrible traffic. But shortly before closing time I did make it to the South Shore Art Center's exhibit titled "Water". There was a highlight! I always like to imagine at an exhibit that I am the judge of merit. I can't say that my picks could be so very different, except that I would have needed a much larger basket of prizes. It's simply fascinating to witness how uniquely artists interpret their worlds. I can still feel the sunny warm yellows that surprisingly leaned slightly into a grassy green--that work sadly received no mention. All works are priced so I of course played the game of finding the most highly valued. $15,500. Whoa! So I'm looking at it, wondering what the hullabaloo is all about. All of a sudden, it appears as if out of darkness. Exactly! It's name, I think, is "Twilight". It's as if my eyes need time to adjust to the low light, and then the patterns slowly emerge. Only the slightest hint of color appears, my cones just on the edge of firing. I then humbly imagine the skill of the painter to handle his oils so eloquently.

Saturday's attempt at upside down drawing was nothing less than annoying. I margined out my sketch pad so as to match my drawing model and then somehow disregarded the bottom margin. Of course, I didn't realize this until I was through and frowning at the misshapen mess. In all fairness, I wasn't really paying close attention to my work. During art, explosive movies do not make good background. Jazz does.

So today I regrouped. Quiet jazz in the background. I applied grids to my model and my paper. Somehow yesterday I'd forgotten all about that technique. You can still see the grid in my model here:

And a couple of hours later, here's my resulting sketch:

So what's so great about drawing with the model upside down? Well, if I don't know what I'm drawing, I am left simply with shapes and their locations. I put a good deal of time into those negative shapes. After all, they are just as accurate as the shapes created by physical objects.

This all got me thinking...

Breaking recognition off of perception is a powerful technique.

Paper stops being paper when the first line graces the page. That first line becomes a thing, a something, an object on the field.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A new week begins

I've received most favorable instructor comments on the past week's submissions, along with the encouragement to push line quality further. In my last submission with the overlapping leaves, Marcia suggested that I could make the top leaf a bit darker and the bottom leaf a bit lighter. She calls this giving the drawing more "lift".

This week's topic is "Learning to use shape and negative space in drawing." The main goal will be to see and draw the spaces that lie between the subject's components. Those shapes hold as much contour information as the subject itself.

Also introduced is proportion drawing, where one key measurement is used to determine the ratios of the remaining measurements. Simply line up your pencil with the longest measurement and base other measures off this. This is most useful where the support size is different from the subject size and for those times when things just don't seem to shape up well.

The reading assignment is Chapter 3 of Beautiful Botanicals, Pen and Ink, with an optional assignment of Chapter 7 from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

There are two required exercises this week:
  • Draw a supplied contour drawing upside down.
  • Draw a plant using its negative space.
This seems to me to be a freer and looser type week, more about expanding creativity and perception than last week's technical assignments.

I've been spending time simply playing around with pen and ink. Did you know that if you pause for just moments, that the ink will dry right up on your nib? Yep, it takes no time at all! It seems one must keep moving and keep dipping.

Okay, I'm off to start on my upside down drawing. More soon!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Journal Entry

Starting with the second topic week, each student is asked to submit a weekly journal. Here are a couple of excerpts from the guidance header for this assignment:

... feel free to journal about any element of creativity, the plant world, the garden, art, and so forth -- anything that is relevant about what you're learning, how you're learning it, what is having an impact on your learning...

Think of a time that a public garden space, personal garden, or other landscape had an impact on your personal well-being.

And here is my submission:

Over the years, I have changed careers by saturating myself in my new subject. I've wondered if that level of intense involvement would ever again happen. Now I know; it is happening. My art library is growing. My interests in art are broadening—exhibits, history, techniques and media... I will soon be able to retire and I'm quite sure that I will be extending myself deeply into art. It is good to once again have direction. I couldn't be more excited about the possibilities.

I hesitated over taking this course until I faced up to the point that it really all came down to my fear of putting myself on the line. Now, I'm actually looking forward to more classes. I may be limited to evenings or online while working but that's okay, as long as I am advancing.

I think I'm really starting to get it with line quality. At this time, pencil is much easier. It could be because I've been working with graphite for about six weeks prior to the class. My only experience with pen and ink has been these exercises. I like the look of ink and figure that with practice I can get a better handle on line control. I plan on doing some supplemental exercises solely in ink towards that end. I'm trying out my various nibs and can see and feel a really big difference in handling.

I can see that the exercises of this course are not simply for the duration but are tools to use regularly for improvement. I wonder if beyond that you could suggest additional methods or books to help me along once the course ends.

You know one thing I really like about drawing is that I can go off into a meditative state where hours pass. I actually went for twelve hours one Saturday. Totally spaced out and loving it. You know what else is cool? I hung a piece I did up in my office at work and each person who looks at it just keeps looking and then gets their nose right into it. It doesn't get any better than that.

Okay. Let me tell you about one of “my spots”. I spent the past year photographing and identifying species around my lake. There's this little point of land on private property that I'm allowed to visit—it juts out a bit into the lake. There are many species of ferns and bushes and even the quite rare Plymouth Gentian. But my favorites are a clump of birch trees. When I visit, I rub their smooth bark and talk to them. I worry about them. Yep, they are my little friends. When the weather turns nice this year, this spot will no doubt be a prime location for outdoor drawing and I'll be doing many birch studies.

Well, that's it for now, except to say how much I am enjoying this course and appreciating your guidance. Thanks for everything!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Second Exercise Completed

Wednesday's snow day made time to complete the assignment. I felt pretty good about line quality with the pencil but the ink is still difficult. I think I want to try sticking with a more sensitive nib--the Gillott 290 being an example. That nib did very well for the veining but my outline work came in heavy-handed (using the Hunt 102). This piece was submitted along with my weekly journal so I'm caught up with this week's work. There is an optional exercise to copy line work and I may get at it a bit with ink.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Second Exercise and Feedback

State government asked that many workers stay home today in light of a pretty powerful snow storm coming in. I complied without protest. Curiously, here it is 3 PM in southeasterm Massachusetts and the ground is still bare. Our weather predictors insist that the big stuff is still coming.

Whatever, the day off gave me time to rough in the second exercise. The top--rhododendron, english ivy, and white pine--will be in graphite. The bottom--vinca, holly, and white pine--will be pen and ink. The previous exercises were all dried leaves. Enough dead stuff; time for the living! All these subjects are fresh and green, harvested just hours ago.

Marcia's review came in this morning. Wow, lets just say that I'm having trouble getting my swollen head through the doorways. She recognized that my line work is improving and gave me suggestions. She noted that my pencil work had somewhat better line work, that I should feel free to use various nibs with my ink work. You know, I did think of that late last night, long after the exercise was uploaded. No matter, once ink is down, it is down. I did try out a Gillott 290 earlier today and I will use that as well. It is a very touchy tip; the slightest pressure widens the line. But, it can do an extremely fine line, just right for those very tiny suggestions of veining.

Okay, it's back to my work for a review of my sketches before getting serious with line.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First Big Exercise Done!

Here's pencil at the top and ink below. A higher res version has been uploaded to the course. This is my first serious attempt with pen and ink and I really had a great time with it! One thing I must learn to remember is to watch out for wet ink. I created more than a few smears, particularly where the ink was thick.

Ink is so cool. Crisp and contrasty. I used the Hunt 102 nib exclusively. A strong pressure is needed for very wide lines so it's no doubt a good beginner's nib. I was amazed at the line width variation possible. So, so cool.

Next is to rough in the layout for the next big exercise. It's similar to this one but with the leaves overlapping. I took Friday off so as to have plenty of time. I hope to have instructor comments sometime Wednesday.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Pencil done...

... pen and ink to follow.

Here's the pencil half of this week's first exercise. It's done and covered over with parchment paper. (I'm very nervous about messing it up.) It's getting late so I think I'll wait until tomorrow evening to wrap this up with the pen and ink. If things go according to plan, I'll post out the final piece here Tuesday evening after uploading to Marcia. I'd like to have her feedback before completing the second exercise.

Here are a couple of upcoming attractions in my local art world:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

First Exercise Preliminary Sketch

The first exercise calls for a drawing of at least three leaves both in pencil and well as pen and ink. Multiple dissimilar subjects is a new endeavor and I was quite intimidated. A few instructional pages in this week's assignments proved useful--a rough block in of all objects, followed by a bit of refinement, and only then to the details. It really helps!

It's getting late tonight so tomorrow I'll drop in the veins and get started on the final line work.

Ink Lines

The next exercise up for this week was pen and ink explorations, same as yesterday's pencil warm ups. I guess crow quill can be cause for consternation with students. We're asked to at least try it out and if it proves too unmanageable, to then look to alternatives--Rotring, Rapidograph, etc. Me, I like crow quill. My lines are often wiggly but I'll work on that. The line variation possible is completely absorbing.

And absorbed I was when my fearless feline, Timothy, came skidding across the kitchen table and directly into the bottle of Higgins ink. It could have been a lot worse. The bottle didn't tip, and splashed only a few smalls puddles about, none landing on the artist, sketch pad, or even the perpetrator himself. A bit of scolding and less of cleanup and I was right back to it. In Timothy's defense, the kitchen table is most often not nearly so cleared, that done so only to make room for my exercise.

My scan does not nearly capture the awesome detail, the plain beauty, of the finest lines. Next up is an exercise of sketching a few leaves using pencil, then with pen and ink.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pencil Lines

Here's an example of my warm up exercise in pencil. I'll be into more of these as well as revisiting my blind contour drawing exercises.

I may not have mentioned that our course web site includes a weekly forum where we can post our thoughts and share comments. After some instructor encouragement, a group of us are perhaps becoming comfortable sharing our experiences.

Now, I know I should be focusing in and applying myself for the next five weeks but I simply could not resist sneaking down this curious little avenue. Images in the Margins is a wonderful little hardcover that has just arrived. And it's not just the fascinating content that excites me--the book itself is so nicely built. Heavy weight, smooth and glossy, the paper is so wonderful. The quality of the illustrations are just awesome. Layout is a work of art. Images in the Margins belongs to the Medieval Imagination series that includes Beasts Factual and Fantastic and Faces of Power and Piety.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Week 3 is all about lines

This course week is titled "The Use of Line in Drawing". Curiously, my past week's work elicited comments on "line". I think this week will draw out in me an awareness of a line's properties. We'll see...

Okay, on to the reading assignments. There's chapter 2 from Beautiful Botanicals, Graphite Pencil. For optional reading, there's Chapter 2 from The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature, Putting the Basics to Work.

We are encouraged to use warm up exercises in both pencil as well as pen and ink. Make strokes from bold to delicate and everything in between. Straight, curved, coming from all angles. Work from the shoulder or elbow--not from the wrist or fingers. Draw anytime. Find lines in anything and think about how to portray them.

This week marks the first time that we upload a weekly journal. I'm sure that snips of my posts here will end up in it. Later in the week I'll post out the whole journal here when I submit it up to Marcia.

There are two drawing assignments this week. Both require submissions in both pencil as well as pen and ink. The first involves a medley of leaves; the second is similar but with the leaves overlapping. These assignments are all about the line--no textures or highlight/shadings here, just expressive line. Outlines and veins, that's it.

There we have it! A week in a nutshell. By the way, this is a really great exercise for me to get a handle on my assignments. I can be a bit spacey and spelling it all out here helps keep me on the straight and narrow.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Week 2 Wrapup

This was the first week of real work and I had a really splendid time. Although I am one to wander up and down many avenues, the focused direction of a course is a welcome respite. It's rather nice to be simply "doing the work" of an assignment.

Thursday morning, Marcia provided feedback on the blind contour drawings and the b/w photo. My scribbling was taken as a good indication that I didn't "cheat" by looking over to find my place. Oh, how I wanted to! The italian peppers and dried beech leaves received the best grades for "good strong lines". Mention was made of the lines and form that stood out so well in the b/w photo. A cautionary note was made that one should always try to draw from life.

So, what did I really learn this week? The line. It's all about the line. From light and graceful to strong and demanding, a line can be most expressive. I will admit that I don't yet understand it all that well. Just what is a "good strong line"? Well, Marcia has encouraged me to look, so perhaps she understands that I need to learn. I'll poke through some fine old books by Harold Speed and John Ruskin for thoughts on this. I'll have some chats with the lovely artists who frequent this little blogspot.

Although this course week officially completes on Friday, it looks like I'm done. There is some content that has an upload box but don't think it's really an assignment. Tonight I'll collect my thoughts around what's up for next week and present that out in tomorrow's post.

Getting off the drawing path... I am often intrigued by the rhododendron's pronounced reaction to cold. Here the temp is probably in the teens. Down around zero, those leaves will curl up like cinnamon sticks.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Seeing Form and Texture in B/W

In an earlier course, a student described using black and white photography to isolate form and texture. Based on that, an optional exercise is to upload our own b/w photos. I scanned back through the Nuncketest archives and cropped out this bit of Arrowwood.

We do have available some b/w images from Natural Art Forms by Karl Blossfeldt and are encouraged to draw using them only if we have difficulty finding natural sources during these winter months here. I'm going to try a drawing based on this image.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Feedback and New Assignment

Feedback on the English Ivy piece submitted Monday evening came in Tuesday morning. I got a good grade and a bit of guidance. I'm asked to look closely at my subject and see if I can notice that some leaf edges are really thicker than others. Yes, now I can see that! Where the leaf edges are more or less straight on, or where the edge turns up on a curve, they are definitely thicker. I'll quote just a bit from Marcia's feedback, "Varying the line will bring an energy and vibrancy to your work...the variation is what will make it feel like art!" I like that thought. And...I just noticed that the title of this week's work is "Observation of Art in Nature".

Here are my first blind contour exercises. Beauties, aren't they? :-)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Beautiful Botanicals, Chapter One

This week's assignments includes reading Chapter One of Beautiful Botanicals, Basic Form and Perspective. Here are the key points of the chapter:

  • A light introduction to botanical anatomy.
  • A nice presentation on perspective and foreshortening with examples of flowers and twigs.
  • A couple of tips on composition--overlapping rather that tangent leaf edges, and the avoidance of converging lines.
  • Checking placement with gridlines and negative space.
  • Building good arrangements by:

    • Avoiding evenly spaced, straight up verticals. Use asymmetrical positioning.
    • Mixing textures for contrast.
    • Using depth in placement to add dimensionality.

Okay, that's it for now. It's time to do up some blind contour drawing. I've tried a bit of this in the past but missed the important point of taking my time. I'd been buzzing through a sketch in seconds instead of working along slowly. More soon...