Friday, May 22, 2015

GJ Book Club, Chapter 8—Line Drawing: Practical



On the GJ Book Club, we're studying Chapter 8, "The Study of Drawing," from Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing.

The following numbered paragraphs cite key points in italics, followed by a brief remark of my own. If you would like to respond to a specific point, please precede your comment by the corresponding number.

This is one of the core chapters of the book, with many good illustrations. Rather than try to comprehensively summarize the content, I'll just call out a few key points to provide a memory jogger and a discussion starter.

1. Appearances must be reduced to terms of a flat surface.
In many modern academic ateliers, one proceeds from a 2D shape analysis in an early stage, to a 3D construction stage later. Seeing the forms in front of you as flat shapes can be a challenge, and Speed offers various methods for doing so, including......

2. Method for creating a drawing grid: cardboard with cutout hole, and black thread held in with sealing wax.
Over the years I have experimented with various forms of this grid, including one with black threads woven across. By the way, sealing wax is a sticky wax people would melt and then stamp with a tool for sealing letters. You could use hot glue for the same purpose. 

I've found a more useful grid is a set of lines drawn with an indelible marker on a piece of acrylic or plexiglass sheet. In order to get accurate measurements, the observer must maintain a constant distance and position relative to the grid. Holding it at arm's length is one way, but there are others. Maybe in a future post or video I'll show some other methods.

3. The drawing grid or frame should be held between the eye and the object to be drawn in a perfectly vertical position.
This needs a bit of clarification. Rather than being held in a "perfectly vertical position," the grid or viewfinder should be held perpendicular to the line of sight, which is a different thing in the case of an upshot or downshot. Holding the grid vertically in such an up or down angled view would negate the normal convergent effect of vertical lines. In fact, in photography, "tilt-shift" lenses are sometimes used to artificially hold the lens vertically to negate the normal perspective of verticals.

4. It is never advisable to compare other than vertical and horizontal measurements.
A corollary to this is the importance of being able to judge a true vertical, often aided by a plumb line.



5. Three principles of construction.
A. Block out shape by analyzing into straight lines (Figure X, above)
B. Breaking down the shapes of curves.  (Figure Y).
C. Vertical and side measurements. (Figure Z).
These three basic geometric methods, used in conjunction with each other, are used in the demo of the figure block-in below.

6. Method for blocking in a figure, with the prime vertical drawn through the armpit.
He also says, "Train yourself to draw between limits decided upon at the start." This is so important for placing figures accurately in multi-figure work. Some other methods, such as building outward from the center, will not serve as well for producing figures that must fit within strict limits.

7. In the case of foreshortenings, the eye, unaided by this blocking out, is always apt to be led astray.
This is so true, and in the case of foreshortenened lengths that I try to always remember to make measurements.

8. In blocking-in, observe the shape of the background as much as the object.
In many modern books, this advice is put in terms of judging "negative shapes."

9. Lines bounding one side of a form must be observed in relation to the lines bounding the other.
He continues, "The drawing of the two sides should be carried on simultaneously so that one may constantly compare them." 

10. In line drawing, shading should only be used to aid the expression of form.
Even though this drawing has some tone, Speed uses it to show the way parallel lines can express form and textures like hair.
11. Diagram of a cone (seen from above) next to a window at left.
Speed proceeds to go into some detail about the theory of what we would regard highlights, terminators, core shadows, and cast shadows. But he's not primarily concerned with accurately producing a tonal analysis of form. That will come later in "mass drawing." He is still thinking in terms of a drawing conceived primarily in linear terms. That's why he suggests using the soft frontal lighting of an open window at the observer's back.


12. You seldom see any shadows in Holbein's drawings; he seems to have put his sitters near a wide window, close against which he worked.



13. Lines of shading drawn across the forms suggest softness, lines drawn in curves fullness of form, lines drawn down the forms hardness, and lines crossing in all directions so that only a mystery of tone results, atmosphere. 
In his book Creative Illustration, Andrew Loomis recapitulates these same points, not only for drawing, but also painting techniques.


14. In the method of line drawing we are trying to explain (the method employed for most of the drawings by the author in this book) the lines of shading are made parallel in a direction that comes easy to the hand, unless some quality in the form suggests their following other directions. 
15. Don't burden a line drawing with heavy half tones and shadows; keep them light. 
He says, "The beauty that is the particular province of line drawing is the beauty of contours, and this is marred by heavy light and shade." 


16. Analysis of forms of the eye, the eyebrow, and the eyelashes.
There are many good pieces of advice in the text.
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The Practice and Science of Drawing is available in various formats:
1. Inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, (by far the majority of you are reading it in this format)
3. Free online Archive.org edition.
and The Windsor Magazine, Volume 25, "The Art of Mr. Harold Speed" by Austin Chester, page 335. (thanks, अर्जुन)
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GJ Book Club Facebook page  (Thanks, Keita Hopkinson)
Pinterest (Thanks, Carolyn Kasper)

Original blog post Announcing the GJ Book Club

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Urban Sketchers, Montreal

Yesterday we painted in Montreal's Chinatown with the Urban Sketchers group.

We met at Place Sun-Yat-Sen, facing the East Gate. I used gouache, dramatizing the lighting a little to spotlight just part of the face of the main building.

There were four of us painting next to each in one small cluster, and it was fun swapping sketching stories with each other and chatting with the people who were passing by. 

The photo is by Urban Sketcher correspondent Shari Blaukopf. Have a look at her painting on her daily sketchblog.

Afterward, we had a congenial supper together. Clockwise from left: Blue, Elise, Marc Holmes, his wife Laurel, Shari Blaukopf, Jeanette, Ubisoft art director Raphael Lacoste, and Chantal.

After the meal, I drew this little portrait of Raphael Lacoste.

Since we were all sketching at the table, we attracted the attention of a couple of very observant girls at the table next to us, so I invited them over to try out some water-soluble colored pencils and to watch a little demo on how to make something look 3D.

P.S. Yes, we saw the Benjamin-Constant exhibition! I'll post about it on Saturday.
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Urban Sketchers Montreal will meet this Sunday. Anyone is welcome to join them, and here's information about their meet-up. 
Shari Blaukopf's sketch blog

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Painting a Pelican at the Pember


Yesterday we stopped at the Pember Museum of Natural History, a collection of old natural history specimens that is still displayed in Victorian-style glass cases.


The small museum is in Granville, New York, near the border with Vermont. They have about 10,000 taxidermy birds, mammals, and insects, as well as birds' eggs, nests, and minerals. 


I painted the American white pelican in watercolor and gouache. The colors were white, ultramarine blue, yellow ochre, and burnt sienna. 


The specimen has the large growths on the top of the beak that occur temporarily during breeding season, which gave me ideas for pterosaurs.


I recommend the museum to artists who want to sketch. Nearly everything is on display. They welcome artists, and they even provide comfortable wood chairs. 

Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote about the wonder of the 19th century cabinets of curiosity, and the different assumptions they present about imparting natural history knowledge:
"The display of organisms in these museums rests upon concepts strikingly different from modern practice, but fully consonant with Victorian concerns: Today we tend to exhibit one or two key specimens, surrounded by an odd mixture of extraneous glitz and useful explanation, all in an effort to teach (if the intent be maximally honorable) or simply to dazzle (nothing wrong with that either). The Victorians, who viewed their museums as microcosms for national goals of territorial expansion and faith in progress fueled by increasing knowledge, tried to stuff every last specimen into their gloriously crowded cabinets — in order to show the full range of global diversity. . . . You can put one beetle in a cabinet (usually an enlarged model, and not a real specimen), surround it with fancy computer graphics and pushbutton wwhatzits, and then state that no other group maintains such diversity. Or you can fill the same cabinet with real beetles from each of a thousand different species — all of differing colors, shapes, and sizes — and then state that you have tried to display each kind in the country."
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Pember Museum, Granville, New York.
More about the white pelican on Wikipedia

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rare Video of Illustrator Arthur William Brown


Here's a rare archival sound film from 1949, showing Golden-Age illustrator Arthur William Brown (1881-1966) as he tells the story of his career and the principles behind his pictures. (Link to YouTube)

He says: "I think I was one of the first to realize the advantages of the camera, whether to get natural attitudes, telling expressions, and quick accidental poses that a model couldn't hold long enough for an artist to get on paper. Today, with a few exceptions, every illustrator uses the camera in some way. We don't copy the photograph. We use it as a guide."

"If I were giving advice, I would say, be sincere in your work. If you admire the work of a great illustrator, learn from him, but don't imitate. You won't last long if you do. And if you really want to be popular, make your girls beautiful. Then you can't miss."

Sorry the quality isn't any better. I added subtitles to make it a little clearer. It has been duplicated a few times, and I'm not sure if the original film even exists.

The footage was shot by Frank Reilly, part of his "Artists at Work" series. According to Reilly himself, the purpose of the film "is to impress upon us the accomplishments of those among us now and to perpetuate their memory for the inspiration of those who are to follow."

If you like this, you might also like the ones on Dean Cornwell and Harvey Dunn
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Wikipedia on Arthur William Brown

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tone Paper Studies

I drew this study from a live model in charcoal and white chalk on brown wrapping paper. It was made in preparation for a National Geographic illustration. 

I drew the study instead of taking a photo because it's faster. In 20 minutes I had all the essential information I needed. Getting a pre-digital photo printed out would have required driving to the one-hour-photo place at the mall or shooting a Polaroid (which I never used). 


Here's a detail of the figure in the final painting, along with other figures that were also based on charcoal studies from models. The model for the guy working the lever on the ground is ski instructor Mike Rogan, back when he was still in high school.

Iron smelting at ancient Populonia, from The Etruscans, National Geographic
Tone paper studies are one of the oldest of old-school methods, and it's still one of my favorite ways to develop reference for multi-figure work, not only because it's efficient, but because it allows me to immediately begin selecting significant details and making a statement. 

Previously: Doing a mirror study for Kushite King
More old-school methods in my book: Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist

Sunday, May 17, 2015

H. Septimus Power's Horse Paintings

Septimus Power, The End of the Day
H. Septimus Power (1877-1951) was a New-Zealand-born Australian artist who was always fascinated with horses.

H. Septimus Power, Horse Cart, Watercolor
He got an early job painting animal heads on butchers' delivery vans, and later worked for a veterinarian. 


He studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and then moved to London, exhibiting at the Royal Academy. Arthur Streeton said of him: "One is impressed first by a tremendous display of colour and a dauntless feeling of optimism … He displays remarkable knowledge and vigour in his paintings of animals."

H. Septimus Power, Bringing Up the Guns
In World War I he worked as a war artist, specializing in scenes with horses. The biplane is almost a ghost in the distance.
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