Monthly Archives: August 2014

A pastel painting in the series

Cloudy Skies

Here is the second in my series of moody, misty landscapes.  It may be my last in pastel, since the cost of framing pastel paintings is cutting into my retirement money!  The next ones will be acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas.  They will need no framing!

I’m calling this one “Cloudy Sky” for obvious reasons.  I would welcome better names from any of you — naming a painting is sometimes problematic!  This one is very greyed down to invoke a rather ominous mood.  Aerial perspective plays a large part in showing distance; there are several planes between the foreground, middle ground, and background.  Mountains in the distance are a mid violet grey.  The sky is full of grey clouds just waiting to drop the rain on the green field below.  Colors are muted purples, greens, with a little orange for an accent.   There are some blue and ochre tones as well.  The size is 15 x 23″ unframed.  Let me know what you think about this one.


A New Landscape Series

Misty Morning

This is my first pastel in a new series of moody, atmospheric landscapes.  I have been out taking photos in rainy, foggy mornings and evenings so that I have plenty of references for this series.  If I get up early enough, I drive out to the lakes and rivers where I live to take pictures of early morning sunrises, even though it’s sometimes difficult to find spots without cars, buildings, streets and houses.  Sunsets are also intriguing and will find their way into some of the paintings in this series.  Formats will be verticals as well as horizontals; colors will be monocromatic and analogous in subdued tones, and  values will be closely related.   I am excited about the possibilities in this series, and will do some acrylic paintings on canvas as well as pastels on paper.  Tell me what you think —  would you like to see more?


drawing examples 002

The  exact opposite of contour drawing is gesture drawing.  In contour drawing, you drew slowly, keeping your eyes on the model and never drawing while looking at your paper.  You are progressing from the part to the whole — seeing one section at a time.  In gesture drawing, however, work from the whole to the parts –  the “gestalt” of what you are drawing.  What you want to do is to grasp the whole movement or action as quickly as you can, loosely drawing as fast as you can.  Scribbled lines are okay.

It’s best to do gesture drawing standing up at an easel for freedom of movement.  You should use your whole body to draw.  Hold the pencil or charcoal stick loosely in the middle, not on its end.  It’s almost like “doodling.”  Don’t take your pencil off the paper and look at your model 95% of the time, but draw as fast as you can.  Use the sides and tips of the charcoal.

Your objective is to grasp the essential gesture (movement) very quickly. DRAW NOT WHAT THE SUBJECT LOOKS LIKE, NOT EVEN WHAT IT IS, BUT WHAT IT IS DOING.  Do not put facial features in.   Draw continuously and don’t try to follow the edges. Feel the movement in your own body. It might be best not to start with drawing the head.

Time your drawings — start out with 20 second drawings and gradually increase to five or ten minute drawings.  See how much you can put down of the action in the shortest time possible.  There are two reasons for this:  to train your hand to capture action and form, and to force you to zero in on the most significant element – the movement.  This is a great way to “loosen” up anytime before you start to draw.  I often use gesture drawing when starting a composition to place my drawing on the paper as large as I want it.

I first learned about gesture drawing from Nicolaides’ book, The Natural Way to Draw, first published in 1941.  From scribbly, quick drawings, he progressed to weighted or modeled drawings to suggest the bulk – the solidness of the form. In this case, you work from the center outward, not worrying about edges, almost like a sculptor modeling  a form in clay.   Where the form recedes, you press in with the pencil or charcoal; when the form comes forward, you press lightly.  This makes the appearance of volume.

The example above was done in about 7 minutes from a model’s pose.


What I’ve Leaned About Drawing

When I attended art school in the 50’s, students could only take drawing classes the first year– we did not use color at all except in the 3D design classes.  Consequently, I believe I received a good background in drawing.  I believe firmly that drawing is the foundation of all the visual arts.  Sometimes I think that if a student makes a successful painting without knowing how to draw, he is either very lucky, or has TRACED!  So I am sharing some of my drawing lessons with you.

Drawing is a skill, not a talent.  Anyone can learn how to draw — it just takes observation, coordination, and practice.  Just like learning to play the piano, a person can learn all the notes, but if he doesn’t PRACTICE, he won’t improve.  So learning to draw means drawing!  I usually give my beginning drawing students an assignment each week to be completed in their sketchbooks.  And please, have a good sketchbook — one with spiral edges so that the sketchbook can be laid flat.  The sketchbook can be used for taking notes as well.  I must have about 25 filled sketchbooks that I’ve collected over the years!  I will never throw them away — my kids will do that after I’m gone!  Always date your drawings too, so that you can see your progress from week to week.

One other thing before we get into more  instructions — don’t beat up on yourself.  Don’t say, “I can’t draw a straight line!” Of course you can’t — we all need rulers for that!  Don’t self-criticize, just focus.  We are all learners, and we all have failures one time or another.  The difference is that we learn from them.

You’ve just read the post about contour drawing.  The next post will be about gesture drawing.   This is the way I start my beginning drawing classes.