Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Goodbye Dakar...

...Hello Figure Skating Nationals! Yes, I have a new distraction but at least it's just over two weekends. Here's my new little sketchbook made from a 14 x 17 inch piece of vellum Bristol drawing paper. Its 100lb weight is less than the watercolor paper which made for easier folding and a thinner stack. The smaller starting size of the paper has yielded smaller individual pages which I cut to produce a portrait orientation, slight as it may be. This paper is oh so much easier to draw on. Both of these sketches are from images I found on the Internet. I have both Prismacolor and Prismacolor Verithin colored pencils, but up until now, I haven't been able to use the Verithin because of the roughness of the watercolor paper. While the Dakar Rally car with confetti was done in the thicker, softer Prismacolor pencil, the skates are done with the harder and more precise Verithin - lovely to work with in such a small format.

I don't want you to get the idea that I'm an expert on drawing pencils and paper - I'm still feeling my way along and building on what I learned in the class I took last year, and what I've read since. Read all you want, the real learning comes with trial and error. And although copying from photos and illustrations may seem mundane, I am always amazed at how much I learn through the careful observation necessary. At first I usually don't know where to begin to draw (and as in the skates don't get the image centered very well). I start to panic & think I should give up and look for something simpler. Then I remember that I just have to start somewhere, with a single shape and build from there. I am using the trick of drawing the negative space a lot, which seems to get me past the initial "I can't do this" feeling. Before I know it, I am totally absorbed in my subject, and noticing more and more detail as I go along. I am finding it particularly helpful to study shading. Ok, this is probably obvious, but it's the shading that takes an outline and gives it dimension. Seriously, when I found the skates picture I thought this would be a quick easy line drawing. Only after I got some of the basic shapes down did I notice how some of the lines were a bit thicker to suggest a little shadow. I wasn't going to add the pink color but then I realized it was not just color, but the way the artist used shading to bring out details and dimension. Do this often enough, and eventually I will not have to copy someone else; I will see with my own eye how to use shading. It's all about observation and training your eye (and a little eye/hand coordination, of course).

Ultimately, I am hoping to transfer what I am learning through sketching to my art quilts, to more effectively employ these tricks of shading and negative space to bring a depth missing from many of my designs.


Felicity said...

When I got my first basic sewing machine, my DH suggested I make new covers for the sofas! Everything looks easy until we do it and understand what is involved, don't you think?

You touched on something that makes me quite cross - that is, that using photos is supposed to be inferior or somehow wrong. You are so right - there is so much we can learn from them. It's just plain dumb to dismiss something that we can use to help us. For instance, why can't we learn about the muscles in an arm from a photo? I learned so much from drawing from photos that when I did eventually switch to drawing objects from life, I wondered what all the fuss was about. Being able to draw is as much about being able to see.

The Idaho Beauty said...

There's no better way of gaining appreciation for a skill than trying it yourself, for sure. Oh, my goodness - sofa covers! I considered it once, then read up on it and decided it wouldn't be worth the grief!

Copying from photos, no different than students being sent to museums to copy the masters. Time-honored learning technique & people who deride it must have another agenda or are terribly insecure imho.