Thursday, April 24, 2014

Observational Drawings

The other day I had an appointment at the Ear/Nose/Throat clinic that sits across the street from what some people say is the best bit of architecture in our little town. My doctor and his staff run an efficient ship and rarely run behind (yet never make my time with him feel rushed or incomplete). So I had every intention of sketching that building from the parking lot following my appointment. However, a dump truck had overturned on the mile-long bridge into town, delaying the entire staff (who come once a week from the main clinic 50 miles south) for over an hour as they waited for the lanes to be cleared. I wasn't interested in rescheduling, so I took my sketching inside once I noticed this nosy mug on the check-in counter.

I didn't have a sketchbook in my purse but did have a notepad in the back of the pocket calendar I carry there. And only a ball point pen with which to draw - and as ball point pens go, not a very good one at that. But better than nothing when you have an hour to kill and need all the practice you can get. I could have wished for something other than a waiting room chair - I'd drawn several of those during my time at the Mayo Clinic - but there were good angles and perspective to consider. I was looking nearly straight on at the left side, yet not straight on at the chair as a whole. Oh - that right arm is so wrong! And see how both sketches cant to the left? It felt like I was drawing them level but apparently not.

I ran across an interesting interview with illustrator Will Hillenbrand in the same The Artist Magazine issue I referenced in the last post (you can read it in its entirety here). As I get back into sketching, remembering how one gets better with regular practice and how one can get lost in detail for longer stretches than one would think, I found this passage about Hillenbrand's first course in illustration just what I needed to hear.

Meanwhile every night...we had to do what [the teacher] called "observation drawings" because he said the most important thing for an illustrator was to observe. He was going to train us to observe - just the way someone learns scales on a piano. We would take small things like the stem of a watch, where it winds, and we'd spend 15 minutes drawing in line only, no shading. The first week, we were all, "Fifteen minutes - you're out of your mind!" By the end of the year, we wouldn't even finish those little drawings in 15 minutes because we'd become so observant. That trains your eye. It teaches your eye to look. The eye is a muscle.

I was a little surprised at the next part though, although if I were to be honest, I know from my own experience for it to be true as well:

It's the same with Josef Albers's theory of color. You look at color; you look at what color does with color in your exercises with color, and you strengthen the color cones in your eyes so suddenly you're seeing more color. Those are the things artists have to be trained in.

I have a real desire to add color to my sketches. Well, not these here. But the street ones, I see them evolving from simple line drawings with shading to ones with splashes of color, probably added with colored pencil. But I can't get ahead of myself. That eye muscle needs a workout first. 

1 comment:

Chris said...

Boy I am having a hard time keeping up with your blogs. Last weekend we went to a quilt exhibit last Saturday in Boston called quilt and color. There were a lot of quotes of Josef Albers on the walls between the quilts. What a great show. I think I will have to check out one of his books on color.