Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Amsterdam drawing lessons - back to the drawing board

In my Amsterdam drawing lessons I try to emphasize the importance of drawing as the foundation for visual art, whether you aim to be a draftsman/woman, a painter, an illustrator or even a fashion designer, such as is the case with some of my students.

Since I strongly believe in practicing what you preach, I spend most of my time reinforcing my own drawing technique and only occasionally going into painting.  I consider drawing to be the training and painting to be the fun, or the event you've been waiting for.

There are a few advantages to this approach.  One of them is to build a very solid base on top of which to base your work.  If you have to constantly second guess your drawing skills, there won't be any bandwidth left in your head to make a true artistic statement if your aim is to create realist figurative art.

Secondly, your drawing practice is cheaper and more practical.  All you need to keep the skill growing and becoming second nature is to sketch and the tools are a piece of paper or notebook, pencil and eraser.  Some people prefer pen, which is also fine.  Compare that to the endeavor of painting which requires solvents, mixing, brushes, cleaning and potentially making a mess out of your clothes and the choice becomes clear.  Add to that the cost of good acrylic of oil paint (and you should always use the good ones) and your have a few good reasons to keep going back to the basics.

During my drawing classes in Amsterdam I discuss the use of materials, and I may go into some of that in a later post, but in this one I will go on a bit more about drawing vs painting.

Here are some of the portraits I created during the Portrait Month, which takes place in April at the atelier where I often paint and draw from the live model in Amsterdam.

Considering that these are portraits created in 3 hour sessions, with changing daylight, I was pleased with the colors and values that resulted from them.  More satisfying though was the fact that the drawing was very solid in each case and that I was able to pull off full color portraits in a single session, being extremely accurate regarding construction of the head and the resemblance of the models involved.

The material used in this case was Canson paper (the rough side) and Caran d'Ache pastel blocks and pencils, which are again very high in quality and give you pigments that are a pleasure to work with, as well as the ability to create layers easily given the fact that they are hard pastels, not soft.

Once the portrait month finished I retreated back to learning more about drawing and even went back to the very basics of portraiture, including the head lay-ins of the (Andrew) Loomis method, and more intense studying of the Reily method, gaining even further knowledge of constructive drawing, placing of the features, fast sketches and drawing calligraphy.

This may sound silly for someone who can already draw, but I went quite deep into methods of sharpening the charcoal pencil, different grip styles and the use of papers that I did not know about.

The key message is certainly to not underestimate the studying of the basics, nor to neglect them because you feel as if you "know enough".  Art and drawing in particular really are about the details, the understanding you gain and how you apply it by knowledge of the subject, the tools and the masters who solved problems before you.

I hope to have enough discipline to reserve some time every year to revisit these basics as I immediately see the effect they have on my work.

All the best!

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