May 18, 2020
Last week we looked at the head from the front. This time we are going to consider the profile view. Four years ago I ran a short course called ” Eyes, Ears, Nose, Mouth, Face” in which we explored facial features each week, alone, and in context with the rest of the head. For the last week we had a delightful model called Lea but for the first four weeks our models were each other. The students kindly gave permission for me to photograph their work and publish on my blog or social media pages. The drawings of Lea and Colin below, are among my favourites for their observation of the models and for their very different drawing styles.
Below is what I can only call a photo-fit of a fictional face but note just as the eyes are about half way down the head in front view the same applies to the profile view. All the features and the shape of the forehead are revealed in the profile view including the ear which may be seen totally or obscured by hair. Often when someone turns sideways we are surprised to find a nose that is a very different shape to what was imagined from the front. The information in profile view is quite different, lacking wholly the other eye and the other side of the face. It is why the most informative view and that which is perhaps most popular among portrait artists is the three quarter view because partial information about the face in profile and full face is combined, but more about that in two weeks time.
Here are a few suggestions for this week’s challenge.
Try finding some photos, preferably of someone you know in profile view, and spend a while just looking before drawing, better still if you have someone at home willing to sit for you. Look especially at the shape of the whole head and the placement of the ear. It may be further back than you might have thought. Look also at the relation of the line of the jaw to the ear. See how different the eye looks in this view. Look at the angles and shape of the nose and its relation to the eye socket and upper jaw.
When you start to draw sketch the largest shapes first and loosely enough so that you can refine the shapes as you work, always bearing in mind the relationship of the shapes to each other. Start to block in tones as you go, lightly at first and as your drawing becomes better defined work on the tones making them communicate the forms more strongly. Think about the underlying shape of the skull before adding the masses of hair.
This first drawing will have made you question. Next try drawing from life or from photographic reference the eye or both eyes, the nose and the mouth in full face and profile views. Also practice drawing several ears. You may like to try making a silhouette head and placing the ear.
When you have tried some of these exercises make a painting of a of a head in profile. If you prefer to continue drawing perhaps try making two further drawings one of a child and one of an older person in profile. What differences do you notice and how do they affect the way you draw?
Angela’s reference was in colour but I converted to gray scale so that everyone can see the tones in the reference. I would love to see another drawing or painting where the tones were as in the reference. When painting tonally the shapes of the back of the neck and hair are “lost”; the similarities in tone merge the head into the background. Another important lost edge in this reference occurs under the chin. These very soft almost indiscernible edges contrast with the sharply defined edges of the young man’s brow, nose, chin and front of the young man’s neck. In drawing it is good to be aware of all the structures and edges and then to think about the lost edges that will help the portrait to sit within the volume that the work is depicting. If too much emphasis is placed on delineating all the edges with sharp difference in tone between the background and the model, the artist risks the model appearing as a cut out on top of rather than part of the work. The drawing here is helped by the texture of the hair which softens the tonal differences with the background and also the well observed shadow in Angela’s drawing, under the chin. Love Angela’s handling of the hair!
May 12, 2020
This week’s challenge is to draw something found in a garden; anything from a lawn mower to a fishpond, ornament, watering can, topiary shears and a ladder if you have a very grand garden or remember what it was like to visit one! or perhaps a simple bench with a backdrop of flowers.
If you usually draw in pencil, try ink and a wash or two of watercolour.
If the weather is cold settle for doing a few sketches on the same page of a sketchbook with a view to painting a more considered work indoors with a warming coffee.
Hope these give you a few ideas!
Your Paintings and Drawings:
May 5, 2020
I have been asked to present a portrait challenge so I’m going to do three but every other week so that in between we’ll concentrate on the outside world of gardens, flowers and lawnmowers! We’ll be considering full front, profile and three quarter views and if you get really hooked the back of the head, though that may get left till I write a post on hair.
When you set about drawing a portrait head there are several considerations;
How much of the sitter to include apart from the head?
Even if the head is viewed full front is the sitter’s body also facing front or is the neck slightly turned?
Which direction does the main light come from?
Lit from the side the contrast between one side of the face and the other may be dramatic.
How do the features sit within the general form of the head and what is their spatial relationship with each other?
What measurements should I make to help construct a framework to build a convincing drawing?
Then the most important question:
What is it about the sitter I want to communicate and what will be the mood of the drawing?
Below are three very different portraits made for different reasons and from different kinds of reference;
This small portrait in scribbled pastel pencil began as a thumbnail sketch of a convicted criminal in a Russian Jail. I didn’t visit; he was featured in a television documentary. There was no time for detail, just an atmospheric drawing of a person possibly with much to hide but with a grim determination to carry on in harsh conditions. He is tight lipped and his eyes though open are scarcely defined.
He is looking straight at and through us, his face strongly lit from one side. The eyes are vertically in the middle point between the base of his chin and the top of his head and about one eye’s width apart. These measurements are approximations for when the head is turned fully towards us and this is true for nearly all heads, human heads, that is! In case the head is tilted a little it can be useful to make a feint line through the axis of the head before you start on drawing the features. I usually start by getting an idea of the overall shape of the head, sometimes measuring its overall width and height. I then indicate the neck and shoulders. After that I usually tackle placing the features, The eyes are usually in shadow so before marking out the detail I may work a pale layer of tone over the eye socket area.
Many people place the features with line, again usually starting with the eyes. Take care to look at the length of the nose, it is easy to make the nose too long. One famous artist quote is that ‘ the nostril is always nearer the eye than you think!’ Also the relation between the base of the nose and the upper lip and the lower lip to the base of the chin. Can you see the ears?
Place them and the mass of the hair if there is any! Then work tonally to describe the form of the head and ts features, adding any detail you feel is necessary. Look to see where areas of shadow are on your model or reference, especially under the nose, the upper lip, under the chin, the eye sockets and under the hair line.When you go back to working further on the hair it may be good to show the flow of the hair with line work in places but it can look laboured if you try to draw every individual hair. This is especially so if the tonal mass of the hair has already been well indicated. In the portrait of Lea below I scumbled masses of dark pastel so the hair became a texture. Always be guided by what you observe and use the appropriate technique. Explore line and texture on a separate paper, imagining the kind of hair you wish to depict.
For your first drawings use charcoal or pencil, about an A3 or larger sheet for charcoal and a much smaller sheet for pencil studies. You may like to make several quite small sketches in pencil, from different people or photos till you get used to describing various head shapes and features so that you become confident to tackle a more considered portrait.
Tackle a portrait of someone you know, perhaps a family member either from life or from a photograph. Try to draw directly or scale up your reference by using a grid. Use a grid just to place the main features then draw everything with as free and fluent a hand as you can. But please do not trace your image as it may become wooden and not have your own personality in the line. The way we draw is as unique as our signature.
For the portrait of Lea I decided to include her cape and the top of her dress to show off her beautifully braided black hair.
Just wish you could hear her sing!
If you have not tackled a head before don’t worry about likeness just go for making a convincing head!
Your drawings and paintings;
April 28, 2020
It doesn’t sound as though this week will be the best for sketching and painting outside so bring some flowers inside.
This week’s challenge may be painted in any medium but if possible I would like you to select white flowers and a white or very pale vase or jug. I have no sample painting but have explored with a camera one of the most important decisions in still life painting, the background. The background tone and colour will help create the mood the artist wishes to convey, and photography is one way to record different backdrops for the same set up, especially if time is limited and decisions must be made and a painting done before the plants wilt! The reward is that you can efficiently choose a backdrop, get the painting accomplished and have a record of possibilities as a reference for future work.
Try to photograph the same view of the flowers each time so that you can compare like with like. As you can see I added a bloom after the first photo so the images are not totally consistent but good enough for you to get the drift. At the end of your exploration you may of course wish to change things before you start painting. There is always something that needs a tweak!
There are no rules, just play with the cloths till you find a set up you wish to paint and go for it.
My personal preference for the lilacs is the simplicity of the white backdrop, but that is today, on another occasion I may feel in the mood for something patterned and jolly. As always think about the tonal contrasts in the painting as well as the colour. I think that is why I am so drawn to enjoy painting the white set up.
For interesting table coverings and textures in subtle colours do look at still life paintings by Jacqueline Rizvi and Charlotte Halliday. For some of the most beautiful paintings of lilacs reference Edouard Manet and if you are excited by colour, shape and pattern, look at flower still lives by Henri Matisse.
If you enjoy this challenge, try another floral still life exploration with brightly coloured flowers and investigate harmonious (analogous) and discordant (complementary) colour combinations.
Have fun !
Vivienne has made an exciting composition with tone, using light against darker areas effectively. The curve of the table, shape of the jug and diagonal with the two tiles in subtle blues at the upper right, gives this painting a strong abstract framework.
Heather has very skillfully suggested the lilacs without drawing every tiny flower.
A delightfully fresh watercolour from Angela
Ann has given us a delightful pattern of flowers and leaves on a dramatic black ground.
Ruth has made a bold statement with colour. She has picked up the turquoise colour of the jug both in the tile and in the background behind the white backdrop, and in front of the tiled stand. This gives the whole painting a unity and at the same time our focus remains on the flowers and their dominating red. The white backdrop provides a great foil to the red flowers in tone and colour. The warm terracotta tile provides a complementary colour to the turquoise and links back to the warm reds of the flowers. This painting is all about shape and colour.
From the photo of the set up below you can see that the turqoise in the background and nearest part of the foreground has been invented and works brilliantly.
April 20, 2020
At this time of year those of us with a garden and an apple tree have the perfect model for this week’s painting challenge. Start by looking at Vincent van Gogh’s paintings of peach and almond trees in bloom. Also look at blossom trees painted by Monet, Pissarro or Sisley. If you don’t have a live model in full bloom, use a photographic reference or make your own version of a Van Gogh or Impressionist work.
There is a fine balance between getting the essential character of the tree by getting the angles of the main trunks and branches right and the challenge of overlaying it with blossom and leaves in a way that does not appear overly detailed or fussy, but does give an idea of the tree’s character. If the blossom is all the same tone it can appear quite flat so look at where the light is coming from and observe the shadow areas well.
Composition: You may like to make a tiny tonal sketch or even two or three to work out a successful composition and to observe the overall shapes and tones. These should made in pencil and be no more than about 2 inches by 3 inches. Remember to include suggestions of where background objects you wish to include, garden sheds, fences etc. Also start to think about what you may leave out.
Paper: Choose a pastel paper that has a good enough tooth to take several layers of pastel. This may be white or coloured. I used a sandy coloured paper for the example above.
Making a Start: When ready to start on the final work I find it useful to start with the trunk and main branches, delineating them with a very light touch at first and observing the girth of the main trunk and the angles formed by the main branches. I then like to indicate the outline of the whole mass of the tree with a broken fine line and mark out any other features I wish to include like fences, shrubs, a garden shed etc., again with a light touch.
When indicating indicate these first shapes it is sometimes useful to indicate these areas with colours and tones close to the colours and tones you see for each shape especially in the palest areas. Whether working in a rather impressionist style with short strokes of broken colour or you decide on a blocking in approach after your initial drawing, try to keep the work fairly open by continuing with a light touch. This gives far more scope for modifying shapes and forms as you develop the painting.
Develop the Painting: Look for colours and how they are modified across the form. Shadow areas of blossom may reflect some of the colour in the sky. Look out continuously for colours that are reflected from one object to another. At some stage you will want to go in with much stronger colour in some areas. The palest colours and vivid colour accents are best added last as then they will remain fresh and undisturbed. As you can see from my middle stage of the ‘Apple Tree’ I don’t always follow this advice, sometimes preferring to add touches of the palest tones so that a balance can be worked between extremes of light and dark.
Do fix your work as you add layers of pastel, but after your last touches of bright pastel are added, fix very sparingly or leave the work out for a few days. In our fairly humid climate the pastel will become somewhat fixed just by the moisture in the air. However if your work has to travel, a light spray is advisable with the nozzle no nearer to the work than 2 feet.
A complex branching system can be daunting but as you can see from the finished work at the beginning of this post it can be reduced to little dots and dashes of pastel. I hope to finish the ‘Apple Tree in progress’ tomorrow or Wednesday and will insert the final stage sometime this week.
Enjoy the colours and hopefully some sunshine!
April 13, 2020
Unbelievably this is ACT 4 the fourth Art Challenge Tuesday since I was able to give classes. Hope you enjoy this one.
Silver point was a very popular technique for drawing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The drawings were made with a silver wire in a holder on a ground prepared with gesso, which provided a tooth for the silver particles to be deposited. It is easy to experiment with silver point with materials you are likely to have in your art equipment and around the home.
Take a piece of heavy-weight watercolour paper, preferably Hot Pressed 300gsm or more, but NOT will do, or even a small off cut of mount board. Apply two layers of Chinese white, or as I used, permanent white gouache; the first coat should be dilute and the second much stronger. You may wish to prepare paper with more layers of white; the aim is to provide a fairly uniform surface before starting to draw. When dry the support is ready to use. For a large scale drawing it is advisable to stretch the paper first to avoid cockling but for your first small scale experiments that should not be necessary. The sketch above was about 7 x 10 inches and the one at the end of this post only about 7 x 5 inches.
Next find your drawing tools; silver jewellery, silver spoons, butter knives and sugar tongs, even EPNS cutlery will work. In fact most kinds of metal including gold will leave some sort of mark on a prepared paper. Drawing with silver leaves quite a delicate trace of the metal but after time this will tarnish and produce a darker and warmer drawing. Start by finding what marks you can make with various tools and then make a drawing.
The images are my first rather crude attempts. I am also going to make some drawings with silver wire and surfaces prepared with a casein chalk gesso manufactured for use with silver point. Traditionally, surfaces would have been sized with rabbit skin glue, then coated with several layers of gesso and sanded, so that an even surface was achieved that still had enough tooth for drawing with a silver tool. Spoons and found implements do not give the control that a wire in a holder would, but do provide an interesting variety of broad and more delicate marks, so have fun drawing with your bling or the family silver!
April 6, 2020
Responses to this challenge would be a lovely way to contact your friends with a virtual cuppa. You could even do this one in a garden setting if the weather’s good, part of an alfresco cream tea perhaps!
Getting the drawing right isn’t essential but if you would like to end up with a convincing structure there are a few things you should think about. If you feel confident with the brush you may like to go straight in with paint but reading through the following and looking at the photos may help your observation skills and thoughts about the composition.
When you are very close to the object you are painting, it becomes more difficult to measure so when you have chosen your cup and saucer, put it down on a table. Then make some observations. Move your head/eye level up and down and you will see changes in what you see, so once you have decided on the view you like best, stick to it!
So you have chosen your view. The object is on a suitable cloth and you are ready to draw.
Ask yourself the following questions;
Where do you want to place the cup and saucer on the paper?
How important is the background(cloth, pattern, wall behind etc.)?
This may impact the size and placement of your cup and saucer in the composition.
Cup and saucer itself
What is the relative overall width and height of the cup and saucer?
How wide is the saucer in relation to the width of the cup?
Can I see the bottom edge of the cup?
How much of the lower surface of the saucer, if any, can I see?
Vertically how far up the cup does the widest point of the saucer occur?
At what point does the saucer disappear behind the cup?
How much of the inside of the cup can I see?
How is the handle attached?
In some ways it is easier to draw from a photograph but photographs can have unwanted distortions especially if you take a shot very close to the object. These distortions can be largely avoided by taking the shot at a distance from the object and zooming in.
Draw the main shapes of your composition on watercolour paper.
It may be useful to indicate the mid-line of the cup and saucer with a feint vertical line. This will make it easy for you to check that you have the widths of the cup and saucer symmetrical. Some cups have wide tops and much narrower bases and all sorts of curves in between. This vertical will provide a marker so that the symmetry of all the parts of the cup can be checked.
Concentrate on the largest shapes first, then add the details of fluted edges etc. You may choose to paint pattern directly with the brush after putting in the main washes or to indicate the main areas of decoration very lightly with pencil.
Before adding washes observe how the light falls on the objects and note if there are any areas you need to remain absolutely white. These may be very small; note the base of the cup, handle and part of the saucer rim and a couple of reflections in the photo above. You can do this by either leaving the paper white or using masking fluid. Slightly more subtle lights can be achieved by lifting out. If lit from the side the difference in tone between the light areas and more shaded parts may be dramatic and obvious, but where the light is diffuse or from more than one direction this may not be so clear. Start by washing in the main areas of tone and the background fairly lightly at first then add further washes till these are built up sufficiently before adding the pattern.
Think about the background. I chose to invent a wet in wet background . You can do the same or choose to have a patterned cloth, or for the backdrop to take in part of the room. Always look carefully at the tones and how they relate to the cup and saucer. Look for shadows; the shadow that may be cast on to the saucer by the cup and the shadow below and/or to one side of the cup and saucer that falls on to the cloth or a wall behind.
When the main areas have been painted, the detail of pattern can be added, and if gilded the last thing to add would be some imitation gold watercolour to lend a decorative touch to the painting.
Have fun with the paint and don’t take the words too seriously; just look and paint!
March 30, 2020
This week’s challenge is to find a flower and draw it from bud to full flower. You may still have daffodils and there are loads of primroses, periwinkles and flowering shrubs and very soon we will have tulips. Look especially at the relation between the stem and the flower head and the axis of the flower. The daffodil in bud follows a line almost straight from the stem and then the stem bends down sharply as the flower opens. The trumpet starts as a cone behind the petals and is aligned with the new stem direction. Look at how the petals attach near the base of the trumpet and how seen from the front the petal tips lie on a circle. As you turn the flower head around the tips lie on an increasingly shallow ellipse till you see the flower in profile.
In June we’ll see the poppies emerge doing the opposite, their buds dangling till they open then turn up to face the sun! The daffodil example was drawn in charcoal on green Ingres paper and then layers of soft pastel were applied to finish.
The Response: Your Drawings
This is the first of my art challenges for Art Challenge Tuesday which I hope to publish every Tuesday on this blog. Hopefully it will be a good way to cheer everyone up till we can meet again face to face. I have been running a course on watercolour and acrylic glazing techniques for my group at Norden Farm and will be running a similar course in the autumn for another group.
Sadly the isolation rules came in half way through the course, so the project below exploring acrylic glazing techniques has already been sent to that group by e-mail. Below is a bit of a recap plus a few of the things we would have explored in the remaining Tuesday sessions.
Acrylic: Opaque and transparent colours
To explore grisaille (working in monochrome) and glazing techniques we have been producing under paintings in greyscale and then adding layers of transparent glazes to colour them. It’s obviously important to know which the transparent colours in your box are, so here are a couple of things you may like to try.
Number one may be a bit basic for some of you but have a look and do what you feel like attempting.
To find which paints in your box are transparent
Paint half a small sheet of thick paper with black and half with white.
Paint a stroke of colour across the white and black.
Opaque paint will obliterate the join where black meets white.
Very transparent colours that contain no white will almost disappear on black making the surface look rich and shiny. Dioxazine purple and phthalo blue and green will do this.
However they won’t if the tube also contains any white.
To keep working transparently always mix your transparent paints with medium or water NOT WHITE.
Most yellows are either opaque or translucent. Translucent colours become more transparent when diluted.
Judging how much to dilute pigments for glazing.
Sometimes you will require quite an intense glaze and at others you will want just the merest hint of colour to tint your painting.
You can practice different strengths of pigment by glazing on newsprint that either has text or greyscale images. You need only glaze small areas but if you have time do glue the newsprint down on a sturdier piece of paper first with some acrylic medium.
When dry paint over with acrylic colour. Try different colours and make a note of which colours are transparent when dry.
Diluting acrylic paints;
Do the same thing with more dilute pigments.
Dilute with water or acrylic medium.
Medium makes it easier to blend pigments and to control where the paint is laid down. Acrylic mediums usually appear milky when wet but dry transparent. Diluting with water makes the paint behave more like water colour.
Always add a tiny amount of paint to the medium or water not the other way round or you may waste a lot of paint. You can always add more but generally you won’t need as much paint when you are tinting an underpainting than when working in colour from the start.
These are experiments so can be done on a very small scale.
They will help you find the right paint dilution for your purpose.
You can also experiment with overlaying different colours but always ensure one layer is dry before adding the next.
3a. If you have access to a photocopier you could photocopy a landscape or room interior in greyscale on to watercolour or other substantial paper. It would be great to make two copies of the same image and glaze one in a very subtle way with very dilute glazes and a much more vibrant version with bolder colours and some more concentrated colour.
It is always best to use your own photos if possible.
3b. Make two similar under paintings in greyscale for a simple composition, then glaze with colour to produce a subtle version and a more vibrant one. Take care with the tones in your under painting. Think about the fact that every time you add a layer of transparent paint that area will become darker. Make sure you paint some white areas for the palest glazes and any areas that will remain white. However, with acrylic if you haven’t got the tones quite right you can always repaint with white or the right shade of grey and add more glazes.
You could choose to make your versions of a Matisse interior for this exercise; judging the tones will be a challenge. Or you could make your version of a Hammershøi interior. His paintings are very tonal with very subdued colour, so getting the under painting right will be much easier. It would be a good exercise to do one version with subtle glazes echoing Hammershøi’s use of colour, and a second with vibrant glazes of bright transparent colours. Remember in either case you can glaze part or all of the painting and you can further modify the colour and tone by overlaying glazes.
The response: Your Paintings