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Friday, February 22, 2013

Visual storytelling

I have a fascination with illuminated manuscripts. One could argue that all artists are visual storytellers , but the illuminators where the masters of this craft. Their work was done at a time when people could not read words. They had to be able to read the pictures to understand the stories and meaning behind them.

The illuminators had a distinct disadvantage over those that were doing fresco's and large painted works. Where most of the artists had an entire wall or an entire ceiling to describe the biblical text, the illuminators were forced to work with the single page. In some cases they didn't even have an entire page to work with. Many times they met this challenge by presenting an entire story in one Illustration. I have quite a collection of illuminated pages on my Pinterest board if you are interested in seeing them. 

Over the last month I have grown to appreciate the problem-solving that these illuminators must have done. What do you leave out? What do you illustrate? When presented with an entire book out of the Bible these questions can be very difficult. In my case the book is Revelations. I am limited to three images. If you've ever read the book of revelations then you know it is full of imagery. The entire book is metaphor and simile.

With that in mind I have finished my second line drawing of the book of revelations. I decided to go with The woman in the Dragon. Since my first piece deals with how the writing began, iI decided my second piece needed to describe with how the war began.

Thumbnail sketches for Woman and the Dragon
Thumbnail sketches of Woman and the Dragon

My processes been fairly simple starting with a lot of sketches. I did thumbnail sketches because I wanted to figure out what my page layout was going to look like. I went with the second thumbnail sketch because it complemented the first piece I did. When everything is put together these will act as bookends to my story. My design is very circular in nature. That not only works well as a composition but it describes a circular nature of the book of Revelation. 

Michael S. Vieira has some very quick an informative video's concerning composition.  You can catch his channel HERE.  As I pull this all together, his advice and the advice given to me by my instructor James Werner about putting together a composition is sitting in the back of my mind.  Line, rhythm, unity.. all the words I learned are taking form.

Rough Sketch for Woman and the Dragon
Using Pink Breeze 8, I did a rough sketch of my main idea
My next photo is it sketch that I did to get the overall feel of what it is going to look like with some values. I used a photo reference from Deviant Art called Pink Breeze 8, by Auroradreams.  As you can see the Seven Headed Dragon is surrounding this woman. I did that because I wanted to present the urgency of the Dragon waiting to eat her child. In the final work I change the direction of his tail  because I wanted to show that his tail was knocking out one third of the stars.

I used the glass top of my desk as a lightbox
I slid the glass top of my desk out so I could use it as a lightbox to trace my sketch on to my paper.
I did most of this using the glass top of my desk as a lightbox. I traced what I wanted to keep. Then I turned the paper upside down to make sure was reading well in reverse.  It is a trick I learned from watching the methods and techniques of Michael Parkes.


In the next photo you can see my line drawing. I've added the angel, Michael, at the very top left, and I have added some angels going down the side to show that they drove the Dragon down to the earth. At the very bottom there is a woman looking at the wings of an eagle.

I placed the drawings side by side to see if they work together visually
I placed the drawings side by side to see how they would read visually.
Once my line drawing was done I put them side-by-side to see what they would look like together. I want to make sure that when they are displayed together that they show it congruency in design.

I have one more line drawing that needs to be done and then I'm ready to start painting.  I fully intend on using watercolor/gouache for this project, simply because I want to learn to use it effectively.  I love the glow watercolor gives.  If I do not get the results I am looking for, the line drawing can easily be put on canvas or panel and painted in oil.  That is the glory of having a line drawing done like this.  I can use it over and over until I get the look I am going for.




Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Back in the saddle

After many tries at many different social outlets, I find myself back here at blogger.

Without much ado, let me share what I am working on, currently. As you can see my first try with watercolor was a failure. That's nothing new for me. The advantage to failure is that I get to see where the problems are.

I started with a basic sketch in my sketchbook. From there took it to paper I could add watercolor to. Things were looking pretty good at the underpainting. Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there.

I decided to go for redraw. There is a distinct advantage to working on paper that is semi transparent. By looking at the image in reverse I can tell where the mistakes are. This is just a basic white sulfite paper from Dick Blick. http://www.dickblick.com/products/blick-white-sulphite-drawing-paper/?clickTracking=true. The advantage to using this paper is that I can draw on both sides. Once my drawing is complete I can transfer the final copy onto a clean sheet of paper.

I plan on giving this another try with a better drawing, and most importantly, a much better idea of what I want this illustration to look like.







Thursday, April 28, 2011

Angel Eyes and Some Studio Notes

Angel Eyes - Graphite on 11x17 Bristol
This is a drawing from a photo.  The baby I have drawn has all of the classic cherub qualities.  She is beautiful.  She has the most amazing little lips.  She has the perfect baby nose.  The most important thing that makes me want to draw her is that her little eyes look as though she knows something the rest of the world does not.

I am pretty close to the finish line on this, but this is where I had to stop so I could go to the studio for class.  I will most likely finish her today and start working on a few others I have on my list.

The studio time was great.  I am setting up to do a cast drawing.  I am using the site size method on this and it is going slow and methodical -just as it should.  A game I play when doing these are to make a small mark where I guess it should be using pure observation and then measuring to correct my guess.  It isn't the fastest way to complete the cast drawing, but it makes me really tackle those observation mishaps. 

I was pretty surprised how very off I was on a few marks but absolutely delighted with my visual accuracy on a few.  I don't keep track of how many times I am on or off.  Instead I let each mark be it's own action and celebration.  Right or wrong, I win every time because I am learning to see.  There is an immense amount of being in the moment in doing it this way.  It is like artistic meditation.

Beside me is another student Tanya that is working on a still life.  I am learning by listening to her struggles and watching her progress through struggle.  This is the biggest advantage to working in a studio with other students.  It is awesome to have an instructor guide you through your own problem areas.  It is even more awesome to have a fellow student ask a question you had not thought of yet.  This is why learning on your own is so very slow, tedious and somewhat ineffective.  The questions you never ask are the missing pieces.

I showed my drawing to James and he told me that I need to be careful about my edges.  Babies are soft and fatty and there are no true hard edges on them.  Keeping that in mind I will continue to finish this piece and prepare it for possible entry into the art show in a couple weeks.

Monday, April 25, 2011

More Work Less Complaining

I went to portrait class last night to get a better finish on my drawing.  James did a painting demo using a black canvas and limited palette of Yellow Ocher, Vermillion, Ivory Black and Titanium white.  I wish I had pictures to show of this palette and the arrangement of colors he had there.  It was a nice fleshy palette and I learned a lot just watching him scumble it onto the black canvas.  Using the black to his advantage he let the natural graying quality show through, yet it had a pop to it because of the contrast.

Toni - Charcoal and Chalk on Gray Paper
 I worked on my drawing.  I spent a good amount of time wiping off a lot of charcoal and cleaning up the areas where I planned on putting the white chalk.  I tried to follow the contours of her face to make it pop.  I wanted to be sure to use the white sparingly for emphasis on her face.  I am pretty happy with the results.  As usual I walked away knowing what I would do if I were to do it again and other assorted notes to self.

We have one more session with her and I am contemplating if I want to paint or get a good line drawing.  I would really like a different angle.






I have learned a few things since I last attended the atelier that are making this time around much more exciting than before.  Not only do I have a much better idea of where I want to go with my education, but I understand what I need to do to get there.  It is going to take a tremendous amount of drawing and sketching and trial and error.  It is going to take much more than the two days a week (sometimes three) that I am scheduled for currently.  If I am going to make it on this list, I am going to have to work diligently.  Getting a scholarship like this is just as hard, even though I would like to attempt that as well. 



This is going to take a lot of hard work but, I think it is all together possible.  I have the time as long as I use it wisely and continue to stay focused on the dream.  Some of these guys are only 10 years or less into this.  If I remain focused that means I will see some positive outcomes by the time I am 55.  That is an awesome time to really get started doing some meaningful stuff. 

I am not sure how, but I want to make images of hope.  The world we live in now is scary and ugly.  There isn't a whole lot of beauty and hope going around.  People are getting tired of being scammed and told to believe lies by our governments, our businesses and yes, even our artists.  I am coming to this at just the right time, with just the right intent.  Honest beauty.
My images of hope are going to have to include nice feet.  I am horrible at feet so I am going to make special effort to understand them and draw them correctly.   There are 12 feet in my household and an infinite amount of pictures on the internet to choose from as I practice.

Hope begins with good feet.. 

so that is what I am going to really focus on in my home studies.
Most students of the bigger ateliers do not show sketchbooks.  I don't know if it is because they do not do them or if it is because they do not show them.  Perhaps every drawing is a finished product and each effort counts for them?  I don't know.  What I do know is that I need the sketching.  I need to work it out on paper.  I need to slowly whittle away at what I am seeing wrong and correct it until I see it right. 

The masters sketched.  They thought on paper.  They took visual notes about the world they lived in and the projects they would do. 

The inner critic?  His ass is not permitted in the building. - Steven Pressfield
It's time to work hard!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Back to school - Do the work!

Toni 




Starting April 16, I am officially going back to Lafayette Atelier to finish up my art education.  I am so happy I could just wiggle.  Ok, I am wiggling!

 This is my first charcoal drawing for portrait class.  We have another 3 hour session on Sunday where I will do some cleaning up and adding white to make this thing pop.

Starting next week I will begin a cast drawing.  I will start with a line drawing that I will trace to use for a painting once the drawing is complete.  It is going to be exciting to work in the studio again!  I have so much to learn. 

In addition to my class work, I will continue to work on personal projects outside the class.  I think this is important for my growth as an artist.  While the class time will help me improve my skills, it will be the out of class work that will help me improve my artistic voice.

Sketch 
I am at the point that I want to start exploring what it is I want to tell the world.  That is, after all, what an artist does - communicate with the world in visual form. In some ways that is harder than learning about light and shadow, forms or lines.  No one can teach you what you would tell the world.  They can teach you the visual language and give examples of messages sent from other artists, but your message is unique to you.


Since going to class and working out a schedule and plan, I have noticed an incredible change in my motivation at home.  Chores seem simple and easy.  My general outlook seem very positive.  I am on a motivational high that is hard to explain.  I am hanging out on Facebook less and getting more done. That is how I know this is the right thing to do. 

Yesterday was the debut of a book by Steven Pressfield titled "Do the Work".  It is free if you download it on your Kindle, but for under $10 it can be yours in hardback or paperback.  If you are the type that believes in such things as signs or signals from God or the Universe, then this would probably qualify. 

Just when I needed to hear "Don't stop.  You will get discouraged.  You will get frustrated, but don't stop" the book arrives automatically on my Kindle!  I like to get caught up in details.  That is my nemesis.  Will these classes cut into my quality time with my family?  Will my fees and supplies be a problem to my budget?  Will I be able to learn fast enough to do something with these skills?  When will I be making real art?  Doubt after doubt, detail after detail I began to sabotage the dream.  This, I leaned in the Orientation chapter, is resistance.

I was planning on abandoning this blog.  I even thought about abandoning my dream to become a fantastic artist.  After all, the odds of doing anything remarkable is slim.  The art market is in the toilet with this awful economy.  I am 45 years old (way past the point of being easy to teach).  I have very little skill and less instinctual talent.  Since I am not going to take down any of my old posts you can thumb through and see that I am anything but consistent. I have ideas I don't act on.  I act on things I other than my plan and I am horribly, horribly disorganized.  All of this is just resistance.

After reading this manifesto I took on a whole different set of questions such as:

Why aren't I making "real art" now? 

Seriously?  What is stopping me?  Why am I doing study after study after study with no real intent on making it something someone is supposed to hang on their wall?  (answer:  because if I call it a study then I am not responsible for failure)  What would change if I called this stuff my art?  What would change if I actually took a sketch to the finish line and it was ugly?  Would they bomb my house?  Would they take my pencils away?

If I want to make narrative work, why am I working on still life all the time?
 Yes, still life can be narrative, but that isn't the work I see in my head when I close my eyes and imagine what my paintings will be.  Yes, still life is great skill building, but what I am doing is a lot like chopping up vegetables and then throwing them in the garbage instead of in the pot.  I would never get dinner done that way!  Seriously, why am I not scheming up my first narrative piece?  (answer: because if I do something other than what I want to be doing then I can avoid failure? yeah, that's not working so well.)

I have been listening to the chatter inside my head telling me "not yet.. you are not good enough yet.. " for years.  I have heard the same voice telling me to feel guilty for even wanting it.  I have heard the same voice urging me to take my attention elsewhere and do other things.  - It's just resistance.  Now that I recognize that it changes how important those words are.

I am scared out of my ever loving mind.  I don't know which I fear more - failure or success.  I don't know how to begin.  I only know that I must start.

Here is a link to the free Kindle copy of Do the Work.  I just downloaded the Poke the Box.Workbook.  It seems to be a similar message.  I will sort through it and give an update if I like it.

Now Go... don't click another link.. go Do the Work!