The last time I painted at Grayton Beach State Park, it was pouring down rain, so today’s partly cloudy skies were a treat. A lot of painters showed up. I didn’t work as hard at accuracy, instead trying to capture the general impression of the funny-looking clumps of greenery on top of the dunes, and exaggerating the texture of the sea oats. These are the two 8 x 10’s I painted, oil paint on canvas panel. A number of visitors to the park passed by, all pleasantly wishing me a good morning, a few stopping to see what I was doing.
If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you know that I am teaching a “Back-to-the-Basics” drawing class for the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County. We had a lot of fun this week, experimenting with various drawing media which “wash out” or “bleed” when wet. We used watercolor pencils, Flair pens and Vis-a-Vis pens, Graphtint, Derwent sketching pencils, and Aquarelle china-marking pencils. I gave everyone a small piece of 140-lb hot press watercolor paper, so they could practice with the flat, smoothness of hot press. Most were familiar only with the textured cold press or rough watercolor paper. An example using a Flair pen is at right. The color is not lightfast, so if it were framed, the best thing to do would be to use UV protective glass.
We reviewed last week’s lesson of 3 types of lighting — silhouette, high contrast, and full-values, and I showed the drawing at left to demonstrate full values with core shadow, cast shadow, reflected light, light reflected into the shadow, and rim light at the very edge of the silhouetted part of the shape. I gave everyone a ping-pong ball, and suggested they practice drawing it over and over, with light coming from a different direction each time. I know that practice will result in development of a great deal of skill in shading.
The primary subject of the lesson for the day was Texture.
The next image, at right, is a detail off from a drawing I did that shows different textures in the landscape, and I also pointed out that I had dented the paper with a stylus to make lines that stayed white when I shaded across the reverse embossing, for some of the tree trunks and branches.
Pictured below the farmland detail is is a charcoal drawing on Kraft paper, of a huge chunk of charred wood, a texture study I did in college. I did a series of drawings from that charred wood piece, each evolving into something unique, and the next drawing is a part of that series. The textured parts in this drawing took on a more flowing appearance, like hair. The next piece is a stump out on the Intracoastal Waterway, although you would
not necessarily be able to identify that — it was a fun texture study, and you can see that not all of the textures are drawn — where it is smooth, I left the interior space undeveloped.
In the brown drawing of 3 heads, I used an eraser to streak the drawing and create an interesting stylized texture. The subject actually was a smooth mannequin head for displaying hats.
The drawing of the tree shows how the needles are spiky because they are drawn with short, hard strokes, and the tree trunk bark is textured in the lit areas but nearly black on the shadow side. Many of the branches are actually drawn in silhouette or high contrast. This is very different from the texture I used in the drawing of the teddy bear, which is smooth and soft. I wanted it to look cuddly. if I had drawn it with short, straight, hard strokes, it would not have looked as soft and cuddly.
We practiced drawing textures of real objects, using pieces of coral, twigs, a piece of a root, a weathered piece of wood, a seashell, and feathers. We can practice with anything, and we usually find that once we get started, it’s not hard to do. It takes some effort in the beginning, and then once we get the hang of it, we wonder why it seemed difficult. It’s essential to learn how to NOT draw every single bit of the texture, but rather, for the sake of interest, to leave some of it simply implied. Sometimes texture can be indicated just by the external contour.
The last four pictures below are covers of magazines, to illustrate different ways of treating texture. The first one is particularly interesting to me, in that the hair is hardly drawn at all, but just enough of it is drawn that it implies the texture very well.
Last week I didn’t draw, except for my practice at home. Instead I watched and listened to a lot of live music at the 30A Songwriters Festival, which I blogged about in my last post. And last Friday I attended a yoga presentation on the Root Chakra, the first in a 7-week series, a subject which is all new to me. Then on Tuesday a friend and I got together and brought each other up to date, all good. And Wednesday, a whole bunch of artists I hadn’t seen for a while were at figure drawing, at the regular weekly session at Studio b., which was exhilarating.
So whether a positive result of my fledgling efforts to allow more energy to flow through the Root Chakra, or good old-fashioned open communication with a dear friend, or listening to so much good music, I felt very confident in my artistic expression this week. I found myself very quickly lost in the process of executing each pose. When I lose myself is when I enjoy it the most and feel the most successful at capturing what to me is the basic emotive and visual essence of the pose, whether I am focused on the light, or mass, or shapes, texture, or line.
Our model struggled with the standing pose at top left. Supporting herself on one leg with a locked knee, she wasn’t able to hold it for as long as she had intended. Nevertheless, even with the pose a little shorter than expected, I felt completely comfortable with the end result, leaving portions of the drawing a little sketchy. In fact I think I am enjoying that more and more, developing only the more important area of each pose, although I need to be careful not to always leave the feet undeveloped, because that might be suspected laziness. Feet are difficult to draw.
The drawing at upper right is the only drawing I was unsure about, when I was finished, because her right elbow creates a triangular shape above the woman’s throat. Effective composition requires the artist to be judicious, to leave out visual description which merely confuses. So I worked on this drawing when I got home, removing the elbow shape entirely, and then drawing it back in. Sometimes it is that little quirk of confusion that requires the viewer to puzzle for a moment, and engage a bit more, holding his attention for a bit longer. And in this day and age of instant communication, holding someone’s attention is like gold to an artist.
Speaking of attention, to those of you who wade through my blogs each week, from the bottom of my heart, thank you! You don’t even have to say anything, though I love it if you do — I feed off your collective support. May we all give support to each other for our efforts at creative expression, whatever the avenue!
Most of my images are available for purchase. Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot