Archive for June, 2009

What I was hoping for

June 27, 2009

I planned my garden for colour. I’d love to see a butterfly or two.

When Elizabeth came for her drawing lesson on Tuesday, as she was drawing the foxglove beside the lilies and this is what we saw:

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I got colour, n’est pas, but better than I hoped, I have butterflies traipsing through my yard. This one stayed quite a while and allowed me to photograph it while it explored the bright orange petals. I like the background fill in this one. It sure brings out the  sunshine in the flower

Here’s a slightly different view.

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The butterfly is more fully defined  in this one.

One of my readers has let me know: This is a Tiger Swallowtail. Isn’t she beautiful?


Lucy Adams

June 20, 2009

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Reflections on Lucy Adams’ work at the Fort Gallery

I was over at the Fort Gallery on Tuesday. Once again, your intrepid art sleuth did not check times and found herself in front of a closed gallery. I did, however drop in at the Birth of B.C. Art Gallery and there is an interesting watercolour show on there.  It’s all representational, and some of it is hyper-realism, if you like that kind of art. There are lots of flowers, landscapes, seascapes and a few animal paintings.

I had lunch with the woman who manages Gallery Direct – blog that I show my art work on, especially my watercolours.

Being hard headed, I returned to the Fort Gallery afterwards. I don’t know if I thought I would find a stray artist in there who would let me into the Lucy Adams show or not, but there wasn’t. There are long banners showing this month. They appear to be done on canvas and hung from rods. I’d say they were about 8 feet long.

It’s a very appropriate show for summer. Each banner has a specific garden flower painted on it, cascading down the length of the canvas. It’s a bright and happy exhibition, a little unusual in the display and therefore more interactive than paintings hung flat on the wall.

Framing is always a major issue for artists. To frame or not to frame. The problem being, most artist as struggling to pay for materials. Framing for an exhibition can easily be over $2000 unless the artist is in some way creative in the framing department. Hanging these as she has, she has found a more economical means to display, and it’s very effective, even startling, which is a good thing when you want people to engage with your art work.

I took photos through the window and with all the reflections on the glass, I got these photos which I found very interesting as photos. The reflections obscure the actual paintings too much for you to tell. But I loved the photos and how they cut up the colours and allowed the flowers to peek through sometimes and then not.

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I’m hoping to get in touch with Lucy to see if she has some photos of her work to add to this blog. Until then, you’ll have to do with my reflections.

Form and volume

June 18, 2009

BM lilies Graphite on paper approx 5 inches by 5 inches. Student work.

It’s been two weeks since I last saw Elizabeth for a drawing lesson. We had discussed tone. As in the musical arts, drawing and painting have scales that need to be practiced. Tone is sometimes referred to as shading, since it is often used to produce the effects of light and shadow.

For the lesson, I had Elizabeth make seven small squares (like music has seven notes going up a scale). There is no point in trying to do this on a large scale since the purpose is simply to be aware that one can produce distinct grades of light to dark by varying the amount of drawing material on the paper and by applying more or less pressure. There will be plenty of opportunity later in your drawing life to tackle larger areas.

To refine the task, I asked her to fill in each square evenly (no variations in tone within the square) and to be precise, going right up but not over the edges. This exercise was done in vine charcoal which is a relatively forgiving.

If a person wants to draw representationally, then they need to be able to control their materials. A technical understanding of drawing methods and concepts is essential if we are going to be able to discuss drawing (and by extension, painting and all two dimensional artwork).

As homework, I set her the task of drawing some flowers from the garden. I asked her to remember all the other things we had learned while she was deciding on her imagery. I wanted her to be aware of the placement of objects in her drawing so that there was an interesting composition. I asked her to be mindful of specific shapes; to obtain a balance of light and dark; and then to apply and develop her skills of translating the light and shadow throughout the picture by shading.

“This time I was smart, ” Elizabeth e-mailed me mid-week. “I was drawing in the garden and I knew the light situation would change so I took a photo to remind me.” A few days later, she sent me this photo of her drawing, above.

Elizabeth has only been drawing with me for about three months, so I think her progress is phenomenal. She did a great job of the composition. The tonal balance is excellent. The pattern of the petals provides good textural interest and the details of the stamens and pistils is sharp and contrasting to the smoothness of the petals. She has been quite specific about each flower’s shape. I think she has done a wonderful job and I wouldn’t ask her to change the tiniest bit of this drawing.

For her next drawing, though, the best step forward would be to practice tonal differences – to catch nuances, to look more closely at how light and shadow work together. Note on the drawing above that the glass container appears to be flat when I suspect that it must have been round. Note too that there is an outline around each of the flowers.

To deal with these minor problems, I set Elizabeth the task of drawing an egg. It’s not an easy task. I challenge you to try it! First of all, I set out a plain surface that would show the shadows well. Then I shifted the desk lamp to ensure that there was strong light coming from one side. For this exercise, a strong light source is essential.

Then I set out three eggs. One was in an egg cup, to demonstrate that the lighting affects the egg differently when it is standing on end. One was on a black surface and the other on a white table napkin. The one on the black doesn’t reflect light back up from underneath; while the one on the white cloth has reflected light coming back up from underneath.

I asked Elizabeth to show me the whitest, lightest spot on the egg (the highlight) and then asked her to note that the shadows were actually coming from two light sources – the window and then from the lamp. Where the two shadows meet, there is a darker overlap

So here’s the set up:

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Elizabeth started with a simple oval which she refined as she sketched around a the same shape a few times.

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I asked her if she thought she was finished, and she thought she was. But I wanted her to push the frontiers and to see that there was no line around the egg – it has no edges; and to my mind, whether she could see the darkish shadow on the lower part of the egg or not, it didn’t aid the observer to identify this object as an egg. It made it looked rather more like a plum!

I asked her to observe whether the material she could see behind the egg was lighter or darker than the egg. I asked her to observe where the linen napkin met the egg, and she adjusted her drawing accordingly. With the shadows that she had determined, she had the possibility of a good compositions.

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For the hour that she had to do this in, she learned quite a lot about drawing.

  • Shading provides the means to indicate form. Learning to make transitions in shading can help give volume to a flat shape.
  • Some objects do not have lines that contain them; they are continuous. Eggs are a great example, but faces and body parts have those subtle transitions as well. When a drawing looks flat, think about what you know and help make the object three dimensional by graduating the shadow and highlights.
  • A dark shape behind a light one increases the intensity of light on the forwards shape and removes the need for a line to define its shape.

As a final consideration of her work, I asked her to take another look at the composition. The parallel and diagonal light-coloured shape underneath the egg tends to bring you into the image on the left hand side and drive you out the right hand side just like an arrow.

If you go back to the photograph of the egg, above, you will see that the napkin edges play a significant role in the composition. They provide a vertical influence on the picture.

I asked her to think about cropping the image she finished with (the last illustration, above) and perhaps to find a way to use the vertical edges of the napkin to improve it.

I sent her home with a challenge. Try the same thing over again, but use pen and ink for one drawing and graphite for another. It sounds simple. But just try it!