Artemis – Kristin Krimmel’s drawing course

Judith’s mark making exercise

Think about it. Humans are the only animal in the animal kingdom who draw. Children, at a very early age, teach themselves to draw. There is a natural progression of mark-making in a child’s development that is so uniform from one child to another, no matter what culture they come from, that it is possible to know whether a child is developing normally or not, just from their drawings. Left alone, children will continue to draw not only as a pleasurable visual activity, but also to teach themselves motor control and hand-eye coordination. When adults begin to interfere by telling a child to stay within the lines, or by “correcting” the child’s rendition of a rabbit or cat or house, then the child’s mind easily shuts down and diverts from the normal path.

I don’t know how many people I’ve met who have been quashed in their artistic development any where from pre-school to adulthood, and they’ve stopped drawing!

My class, this time,  was composed of  mid-life or older adult students who had not had much instruction in drawing but who had a strong desire to start drawing again.

So of course, we began with some non-threatening exercises, making marks, wiping them off, starting again, erasing with an eraser – as marks, not to correct anything – using vine charcoal which is one of the best, most forgiving drawing materials to work with.   You don’t have a drawing if you don’t have a mark on your paper!

Marks in their infinite variety are what make drawings.

An exercise in placement: Karen’s interpretation

Next I talked about composition. I ask the students to take two colours, to place three shapes of one colour strategically, so that the eye travels over the whole picture plane. Then I ask them to do the same with the second colour. Then alternating, always thinking about what the next shape does to lead the eye around, continuing until the background (the white) comes forward.

Karen discovered in her drawing that if the colour didn’t go right up to the edges, the shapes got lost or “fuzzied”  and often left “ghosts”, those lines of white between the colour and the black line, which were not intended, but happened if one didn’t take care of them. This drawing shows both completely filled in shapes as wel as “ghosted” shapes, since I photographed it before Karen had the opportunity to finish the process of bringing the colour up to the line.

An exercise in placement: Mary’s interpretation

Mary discovered, in her drawing, that when a colour is  more intense, solid or saturated, that it pulls the eye towards it. Her white spaces got lost in the final rendition, but the balance between blues and greens is maintained because the textured places are acting like the white spaces would have. I love this drawing. It’s delicate and strong at the same time. The initial placement of lines gives a completely different flow from Karen’s drawing. Mary lines are more static as they are rectangular, whereas Karen’s flow like waves. But in the end, Marys mark making is so varied and dynamic that her drawing does not remain static. It’s full of life.

Other ideas of composition that we discussed were The Rule of Thirds; one, two and three -point compositions; geometric composition, a Renaissance concept using “Divine Proportions”.  If you want to see information on these concepts, look at these other blog entries:
https://artiseternal.wordpress.com/2008/02/03/snow-photos-compositional-notes/
and
https://artiseternal.wordpress.com/2008/02/16/napkin-sketch-2/
and
https://artiseternal.wordpress.com/2008/03/09/the-rule-of-thirds-another-compositional-concept/
and
https://artiseternal.wordpress.com/2008/04/10/divine-proportions/
and
https://artiseternal.wordpress.com/2008/04/14/musings-on-compostion-in-early-photography/
and
https://artiseternal.wordpress.com/2008/04/15/white-rock-photo/

Judith’s composition of cherry blossoms

The last exercise of the first day was to translate these ideas into a finished drawing that kept in mind all the principles of composition that we discussed.  I  had  a package of various photos for participants to chose from, each of which would adapt easily to the things we had been doing up to this point – strong on mark making, composition pretty much already in place. I allowed for the addition of one colour only of chalk pastel. I ask this of the students so that they are not having to complicate the drawing process by adding the problem of colour choices. That’s a whole other ball of wax!

Lorraine’s image of winter fields is made with a multiple use of sinuous marks creating an overall texture,representing long grasses. Underlying the major shapes is a geometric proportion that helps keep this composition moving in a triangular fashion.

Karen’ composition of two trees in a field of marsh grasses

Karen is an avowed abstractionist. She has emphatically stated that she does not want to  draw objects, so this exercise was contrary to her artistic temperament.  I was delighted to see her tackle this exercise by reducing the photograph to its essential elements.  I love the two simplified trees. It reminds me of Milton Avery’s simplified landscapes. http://www.google.ca/search?q=milton+avery+images&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=gwo&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=np&prmd=imvnso&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=Tn9rT7uTCo_YiAKUoPy4BQ&ved=0CCkQsAQ&biw=1444&bih=642

It’s hard to see on these small photographs how beautiful some of the mark making in this drawing is.  And, I will add, the participants did not have sufficient time to finish their drawings. These drawings are all mid-process.

Judith’s texture sampler

On the second day of the course, we had a short exercise in texture and pattern.

I can explain texture easily as the visual representation of the feel of a surface – rough, smooth, velvety, stringy, hairy, etc.  Pattern is more difficult to define.  Pattern involves repetition of shape or of repeated similar marks. Think of wallpaper, where there is a repetition of a motif. Or polka dots. Or  fabrics.  Pattern can also be a repetition of texture. Where mark making stops being texture and becomes pattern instead is not critical to define. It’s just part of a continuum.

I asked the participants to divide off the page somehow to make little enclosed spaces. In each one, I directed them to fill the various shapes with such things as parallel lines, cross hatching, organized dots, randomly spaced dots, wiggly lines, etc.

Next, we used a still life as inspiration to draw shapes and work with concepts of positive and negative shapes ending in a balanced composition.

I brought an old Chinese teapot in traditional cobalt blue and white, and a bowl that was similarly designed. I had oranges and apples for the bowl, a lamp, a salt and pepper shaker pair, a square facial tissue box in lime green, and a fan. The objects provided a variety of easily drawn geometric shapes and these needed to be composed using the full drawing paper so that the negative shapes and the positive shapes balanced out.  The drawing had to be made in charcoal only; and when I was satisfied that they had a good composition, then they could add colour with chalk pastel.

We started with some blind drawings – the kind where you keep your eye on the object while your hand follows your eye, drawing in line with charcoal, on the  paper. It’s not only a lessons in eye-hand coordination, but a lesson in observation. The better we observe, the better our drawings become. If we never become famous artists, we will have at least gained the joy of being able to see things more richly.


This drawing of an old kitchen scale and a bottle is Mary’s first attempt at this  type of drawing.  I love it because it is simple and in one fresh line describes the object clearly

Kathleen’s drawing of the big teapot works much on the same principal of one single line defining the shape. It’s an energetic drawing with a flourish.

This drawing is Nona’s. She has taken a lot more time to explore the intricacies of of the weigh-scale, including the embossed patterns on the plate and some of the mechanism that is hidden from view in Mary’s drawing.

Judith’s blind drawing includes some of the pattern, which for a purist, steps out of the boundaries of a blind drawing, because it is not just following the shape of the object. But the resultant drawing is rich and fresh. If you put this in amongst a batch of Matisse drawings, you would have a hard time selecting this one out as “not his”.

Next, using Canson Mi-teinte paper, we started our last exercise of the class, as described above.

Of course, I now had a batch of temperamental artist on my hands, as easy to direct as cats! Yes, some drew the objects I had brought, but others found objects that interested them more than my traditional still life. Hooray for independence! You will see that the results are very interesting and include the tea kettle and teapot that we used during our break; and some glass canning jars that are being used as storage cannisters.

This is Karen’s drawing, with the handle of the teapot and the cord of the kettle doing a great task of leading the eye through the composition. It is modernist in subject matter, finding beauty in daily objects – taps, kettles, mugs, and the stainless steel sink.

Lorraine’s drawing brings the eye in delicately on the upper left with the daffodil blooms and stems; then lower, there is another entry leading to the centre of the image with the tissue box. The vase provides a good strong vertical force to counteract the strong shadow forms going horizontally. It’s sitting in the left hand “third” of the drawing.

The top line of the black mass, mid picture plane, takes a meandering walk across the page, sometimes going up, sometimes down, so that the eye stays interested in the picture; and the bowl with its pattern and orange fruit makes a good stopping point to keep the eye looking at the image.

Mary’s drawing of the storage jars and the tissue box  divide up the page nicely. She has started this drawing with a “blind” drawing, carefully searching out the form, and then looking for the shadows that help attach the forms to the page while breaking up the space around the jars. It is in harmonious tonal balance with mid tones, white and dark all having about equal activity in the picture. The two strong black masses (the shadow from the box and the top of the box) do not overwhelm because there is a strong thick line at the base of the jar which pulls the eye to the right hand side.  With the round shapes – the lids and the glass jar bottoms, echoed by the shadows – this drawing has a nice circular flow to it. It’s a very good composition.

I liked the development of Nona’s drawing, too. It’s a simplified line drawing to begin with, then the placement of shadows and the basic light/dark  values complete a good, solid composition; and then the addition of colour and detail draws the eye to the part of the image that interests Nona the most.

I particularly like the traceries of light colour produced by erasing back through the charcoal shadow in the foreground, and the sensitivity that Nona brought to the coloured fruit and the bowl decoration.

It was a fun class and everyone went home feeling they had learned some new things to work with.

If you are interested in taking some courses in a super studio location, contact Artemis Gallery in Deep Cove, just east of North Vancouver.

http://artemisinthecove.wordpress.com/

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2 Responses to “Artemis – Kristin Krimmel’s drawing course”

  1. MDW Says:

    Cool class, K. It’s one thing to try and learn something on your own from books (something I do a lot of), but somethings are better learned from an actual person. I tried to teach myself Sumi-e. I got a hint of it, but I really need to learn from a person to understand it – someday.

    • lookingforbeauty Says:

      Wonderful to hear from you, Mark, I’ve been working up to this Art Studio Tour which is happening this weekend, so haven’t been doing much blogging. But this Artemis place is wonderful. I’ve got another course coming up called Sketching for travel. May 24th. It filled up the first night it was published, so when I get a chance Ill do another. It’s so much fun to be out with other artists and painting/sketching/working. I think I’ve found a new career! K

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