Sunday, 27 March 2011

Drawing subjects... and visual feasting.

Every moment of every day is a visual feast. Even if you haven't time to sit to paint, allow your eyes to absorb the amazing beauty all around you - this means not Thinking about it, but just.... Looking. When we really start to observe light, and shape and colour, our lives begin to be transformed. How could we not have noticed how colourful everything is? When I was walking the dog yesterday I noticed some unusual looking objects on the ground - just one or two at first, but eventually a whole heap of them.  They look like buttons from a formal blazer, or perhaps little drawer-knobs. They look like they have been carved, each one with the same pattern on the top. Knobbly, very solid, brown with hints of greens and red. They are seeds from Eucalyptus trees, I deduced by looking...up! (I am very grateful that they'd already landed on the ground, they'd be a bit painful if they landed on your head)
 Just peering at the detail on objects like this increases your visual awareness,  with no effort on your part at all! Stare, wonder, unravel the details with your eyes, and the next time you draw something, you will be as tuned in as if you'd been drawing all week. 

Tip of the day - don't look hard for somthing interesting, it's right beside you. And when you are out and about, sometimes the most interesting landscape is at your feet. 
Double click on the image to see it BIGGER....

Next Workshops, April - Drawing on location.  Portrait Drawing.  Email for details. 

Monday, 21 March 2011

Musicians Hands, Colour Pencil.

This drawing was done a while ago in Colour Pencil, on Bristol Paper, size  11in x 8.5in (small), and was part of a series I did of musician's hands, holding their instruments. I love drawing hands, and all skin tones. This week I am painting more hands, in Oils. But I'm not speaking to it at the moment. Nearly very painting I do, I have a fall-out with at some point, which is such a regular occurrance now that I take it as Normal, if Annoying... Still Learning..

Musicians make great subjects for drawing while they are playing - you have to work quickly, frequently revisiting sections of the drawing, as the subject is moving constantly. It leads to fast decision-making and lively drawings, and loosens you up. No time to be Precious. I did some in a local bar where I used to live, and found that drawing the musicians as they played was a much more intimate experience than photographing them. Taking a photo is very quick, and I guess we are accustomed to seeing a camera. But standing still and drawing is rather different - I was very discreet (as I didn't want anyone to inspect what I was doing, an audience is not helpful...) but the musicians were aware that I was doing Something. But of course, when they weren't playing, I wasn't drawing, so the embarrassment blossomed on both sides. Eventually, after a few sessions, one musician left the group while they were still playing and glanced over my shoulder at what I was doing. Then gleefully shouted out, hey, Christy, she's even got your HAIR in.... They'd twigged!!  (and I was too shy to go back - tip, take a friend to sheild you!)

I have been asked many times over many years if I would write a book on drawing and painting. I began this a while ago, and would be thrilled if you contributed by asking me a question! I won't necessarily answer all of them, but I will try - it is so interesting hearing what bothers you, when you are learning. Often, it is the same questions that come up, over and over. Which means that you are not alone with your problem!

Upcoming Worshop - Drawing on Location, Belfast UK. Email for details

BIG NOTE.... I really love teaching. Not everyone can say that. If I can help you in any way it would be an honour to do that. Just ask me a question. But I know that you will not learn anything by copying my work. Not a thing. So please do not do it. Don't print out my images, don't try to draw them, for the copyright is mine and you don't have my permission to do it. Thank you. Rest assured I will never, ever try to copy anything that you have created.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Oil Painting Workshop.. Oranges 8in x 10in Oils

Today I finished this painting of Oranges. Oils on board, 8in x8in. (though I added the stalks after this shot was taken..) It was very quick, for me - I got the whole first layer in, in one day, which felt terrific. I then had a couple of busy weeks where I hardly got to sit down with it, but it was a joy to complete, over a couple more days. (which probably means about 4 more days..) Last week I did a one-day flit to London to visit the Dulwich Picture Gallery (a lovely gallery, well worth a visit) who were showing the first ever UK show of original paintings by Norman Rockwell, a wonderful American Illistrator, who was HUGE in illustration from the 1920's - 60's. I wrote about him for my college thesis rather a long while ago and this was the first time I'd seen the work for real. Wow, it was amazing. Larger than I'd imagined, and some pieces loose, and some so painfully fine and fabulous, I was leaning over the barriers so I could really peer at the canvas. Deeeeelicous. Sadly, the best book of his work for sale in the Gallery Shop was also the most expensive. But I'm worth it.. After a whizz around the National Gallery too, for my top-up of Venus-flesh and floaty-angels, I feel very inadequate back at my desk. But will plod on, regardless. Practice practice practice...

Next Up - Oil Painting Workshop 20th March. Email for details. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Water Colour Workshop, Dublin

 I'm always looking for subjects which lend themselves to the particular media I'm using, and peppers allow for great use of the layering techinques in water colour as the tonal areas are strong in their contrasts. Its not easy - but well worth the suffering. This first little painting was one of some demos from a recent workshop. It is very simplified to help students See the shapes and tones I was looking for. It's these factors which give the painting the 3-d look and explains the twists and turns in every subject. Also, I don't like spending too long on a demonstration because basically, students are just watching paint dry, and I don't want them to get bored.. Or worse still, to be putting off Starting themselves... (yes, I'm wise to all your stalling tactics, sheesh)

 Here's some folks pretending to Suffer for their Art after the demo... The completed painting below is by Tomm Moore, who was rather surprised and delighted with his own genius!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Colour Pencil Demonstration Step by Step, Skin, Cloth, Hair - LAYERING

I get many enquiries about Colour Pencil and how to use them, particularly regarding the Layering required. Like most things, there is more than one answer to this, and the way I use them works for me.. but may not be the same way that the next person uses them. For me the answer to the question of How?, is often, Maybe... or Try...  (Actually, How? is simply the wrong question...)
Firstly, always blame your tools. Its not You, its Them. Secondly, remember that in this case, the tools are Pencils, Sharpener AND Paper Surface, not just Pencil. A couple of years ago I decided to use only Light-Fast colour pencils, and my Brand-Nightmare began, so I really so know how awful it is when the pencils won't go down as you want them - and I'd been using pencil successfully for 25 YEARS, already..!! Yikes. (that's since before I was born, obviously)
I tried many brands and some remained useless as far as achieving strong, dense, rich colour. Some were grainy - I wanted smooth and line-free. Some only accepted 3 layers of colour, when I wanted...the option of just one or two more, if it NEEDED it. Also, I was using Extra Smooth Bristol paper - Bristol paper is a gorgeous surface for colour pencil, after the initial shock of how slippy it feels. But Extra Smooth is going too far, so I ditched that and use Bristol, without the Extra. I also ditched the idea of using only 1 brand of pencil, and mixed them up, according to colour.Doing this actually had the fantastic bonus of a new Palette of colours, especially for skin tones, rather than restricting myself to the one brand.  I also keep my pencils really sharp (= cocktail stick sharp!).

Next thing is to know that everyone has a different way of working, everyones Process varies a bit, so if you get lots of advice which is contradictory, don't worry, they're all right! I personally try to do as few layers as possible, because it is slow enough as a medium without dragging it out longer than necessary. I also don't do an all-over base layer, though MANY do. I just get fed up going over and over the whole page that way, and prefer to do small areas at a time, but completing them as I go. The very important thing about working this way is to creep along the page till you're finished, and not flit from one area to another or it feels like the spots you've done will never join up!

As far as pressure, there's a long way between pressing Lightly and pressing Too Hard. Get some Bristol paper and draw some 1 inch squares and practice filling them in using different techniques- lots of light layers in 2 or 3 colours, try mid-pressure layering and leave the heaviest pressure till the end. Trial and error in small little boxes, rather than on something that you have carefully drawn out.

These images show some of the stages on a recent artwork using Colour Pencil. It was mostly Caran d'Ache (water soluble hard ones, but no water added) plus the Luminance range, which is expensive, but you're Worth It (it includes a good range of Dingy, non-colours, far more useful than Brights), and Derwent Artist. (The colour difference between images is purely because the photos were taken at different times of the day and night, but it shows the stages). The full artwork was A3 size and it took 60 HOURS to complete. Sheesh...! And yes, I rub out my initial line drawing as I go along. And no, I did NOT use a grid. So you shouldn't either... Copyright on this drawing (and on all portraits) belongs to the sitter, please do not copy or print this in any form. I also use on pencils, no smudging, no brandishing tools, just pencils.

Next up: Two day Big Drawing for Distance Learning, Belfast. 5th & 6th March. 
Email for details. 

BIG NOTE.... I really love teaching. Not everyone can say that. If I can help you in any way it would be an honour to do that. Just ask me a question. But I know that you will not learn anything by copying my work. Not a thing. So please do not do it. Don't print out my images, don't try to draw them, for the copyright is mine and you don't have my permission to do it. Thank you. Rest assured I will never, ever try to copy anything that you have created.