Well, I’m going to teach an art class again — thought I was finished with that, but guess it’s in my “blood.” Beginning September 15 (Thursday) from 1:30 – 3:30, I will be teaching a class on how to compose a work of art at the Maumelle Senior Wellness Center in Maumelle. This is a seven week class, and will include examples, critiques, information, exercises, and perhaps occasional homework. Students will use their own materials, as well as materials provided by the instructor. I’ve had many years of experience teaching this subject, both in high school art classes, children’s classes, and adult classes. A lot of the lessons will be based on the blogs I’ve shared on this site. Cost is $45, and there is a maximum of eight students so call MSWC as soon as possible, if you want to register (501- 851-4344). I’m looking forward to seeing you and sharing my understanding of composition and design principles.
I Always Come Back to Landscapes in Pastel
I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to do non-objective paintings, and they always turn out to be landscapes! I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to paint with acrylic or watercolor, and I always go back to using soft pastels! I guess I should just be myself, and stop trying to do what everyone else is doing.
My favorite subject is the landscape — could be Arkansas’s rivers, mountains, lakes, farm lands and fields, houses, bridges, roads, rocks, forests, majestic trees or their roots; it makes no difference. It’s what I love. At one time, I did a lot of plein air painting, but I haven’t done that in a while. Instead, I take my camera with me as I walk the paths of my home town or travel from town to town; take vacation trips to places like Charleston, Martha’s Vinyard, or Portland, Maine. I must have a zillion photos of landscapes that I want to experience in pastel.
Yes, soft pastel! It’s always been the easiest medium for me. I like to hold the stick broadside in my hands and be able to swipe across the sanded paper, or use the point of the stick to make drawing lines on top. The colors are there for me to use – I don’t have to mix them to get the right color. They are intense, dull, gray, brilliant, sizzling, and/or calming. I can layer on top of a watercolor or ink underpainting, or I can start with a hard pastel underpainting and dissolve it with water or turpenoid. I can use local color, complementary colors, or really intense colors for the underpainting and then layer other pastels on top. Sometimes, the painting just paints itself! What fun!
Here are a few photos of my latest pastel landscapes. I tried to show the mood of late afternoon/twilight landscapes — the time of day when everything is shutting down and the hectic, busy times are over. Time to go home and rest. I call this style “Romantic Realism” because of the emotional content. These paintings are part of an exhibit named “Where the Sky Kisses the Earth” that will be at the Searcy Art Gallery August 5-September 21. The opening reception is August 6, Saturday from 1-3 pm. I will be there; I hope to see you there as well!
Draw a rectangle 8″ high and 10″ wide in the middle of your large drawing pad. Draw your eye level a little above center so that you will have a lot of floor to play with.
Set your left and right vanishing points.
Close to the middle of your rectangle, draw a vertical line about 2″ long — this will be the corner of your room.
To draw the ceiling, connect a line from the top of that corner to the left vanishing point and a line to the right vanishing point.
To draw the floor, connect a line from the bottom of the corner to the left vanishing point and another to the right vanishing point. Do you see the floor and the ceiling now?
On one wall, draw a window and make sure your tops and bottoms are parallel — use the vanishing points. Draw the window casing as well, if you can. If you want, you may draw a door in the other wall as well.
To draw the floor tiles in 2-point perspective, measure off 1″ marks on the floor line from the corner of the room along the wall. Do this on both walls. You will have to extend your floor lines all the way off the paper in order to make all the tiles.
From each of those points on the floor line, draw converging lines to the vanishing points. If you do this on both walls, you will have tiles that grow smaller and smaller as they go back in space. You can darken every other one of these so that you can see the pattern.
I know this is difficult — I hope you understood my directions. Please let me know if I need to explain it further. We’ll draw a house in a landscape for the next lesson in perspective.
The ancient Greeks studied real human proportions in order to make their statues more ideal. The Roman architect, Vitruvius in the 1st century BC also studied the relationships of the human body and used these in his buildings. Leonardo DaVinci is known for his “Vitruvian Man” which he got from Vitruvius’ writings. He used the human head as his comparison point and based his measurements on an ideal proportion of 8 heads tall. This is pretty convenient in that the figure is 4 heads tall at the lower part of the torso, and can be divided into quarter points at the chest and knees. The arms are usually divided into half at the elbow as will the legs just below the knee.
But the human body is different in everyone. Most artists now say that the figure is 7 ½ heads tall, as in the following example. This was developed by a 19th century anatomist, Dr. Paul Richer. The half-way mark is just a little below the pubic bone, and the third head is at the belly button.
In the example below, see that the human body is basically 7 ½ heads or 7 heads tall, based on the length of the head. Males and females are the same, which means, of course, that the female head is smaller than the male. See where the arms come to – the waist, the knee, the pelvic bones. This is only a guide, because you have to look closely at your model to see his/her true proportions.
The illustration below is taken from Anatomy and Drawing by Victor Perard, 13th printing 1948 – one of my most prized drawing books.
If you really want to learn how to draw the human body, draw from photos, magazine pictures, and any time you’re sitting in a waiting room with others. Keep your sketchbook and pencil handy. One caveat, however: If you draw from fashion models, realize that the rule of 7 1/2 heads does not apply. Fashion illustrators and photographers enlongate the female figure so as to make the clothes look better. CHECK IT OUT!
Using a grid is the easy way to reproduce a photograph, and IT’S NOT TRACING! Renaissance artists such as Durer and da Vinci used a standup grid to get correct proportions of a live subject. In my last portrait drawing class, I showed my students how to use a 1″ grid on an 8×10″ photograph to draw their own self-portraits. Here is the result from one of my students, Linda Keesee. She placed the grid on the photograph and made another 1″ grid on her drawing paper, then drew from the photo square by square to complete the final product. If you want to enlarge a photograph, either use a 1″ grid on the photo and a 2″ grid on your drawing paper, or a 1/2″ grid on the photo and a 1″ grid on the paper. Either way, your drawing will be twice the size of the photograph.
Of course, if you’re confident of your ability, you could skip the grid and draw free hand, but that could get you in trouble! Also, some of you who have done this before might like to try the alternate method – making an x on the corners and dividing each section equally. If you do this, you’ll need to trace your photo and use the grid on the tracing.
You may think the ear is hard to draw because of its intricate folds and wrinkles, but if you just get the basic shape right, it’s not that difficult. If the head is drawn straight on, like a wanted ad, you can hardly see the ear, especially if hair covers it. The problem comes when the head is seen in 3/4 view, or in profile. That’s when you need to look carefully at the ear’s inner and outer shapes. Here is an example of the ear seen in profile:
And here is a young girls’ portrait
Getting the correct proportions of the face you’re drawing is one thing, but what about shading the face so that it looks three dimensional? You need to think about the structure of the face as consisting of several planes that either catch the light or seen in shadows. Imagine that you are sculpting a head out of a big block of stone or clay. You have to remove chunks at first to shape the head, and then you have to chip away in slices — no curves as yet. You are modeling the form, which is what you need to do in drawing a portrait as well.
In your drawing, you will look at the planes to shade the portrait as it recedes into space. You can use hatching and cross-hatching to define the areas. Always remember one simple rule — what comes forward catches the light; what goes back is in shadow. So the nose is always in light, as is the forehead, the chin, and the cheeks to some degree. Darker values will be seen under the eyebrows, the nose, and the lower lip. Here is a diagram to illustrate.
Knowing about the basic proportions of the head is fine, but what happens when the artist doesn’t have a frontal view, or the head is tilted causing foreshortening? A bigger problem, of course. Actually, a profile view is easiest of all to draw because you have the negative space to help, and maybe because you only have one eye, one ear, one nostril, one-half of the lip to draw! At any rate, most people would not like to have their portrait done head on – like a wanted poster. The best view for portraits is a 3/4 view.
And if the head is tilted upward, or downward, the basic proportions of 1/3, or 1/2 no longer work. If the head tilts upward, you see more of the chin, neck, nostrils, etc. and less of the forehead. The proportional ‘thirds” diminish near the top of the head, and the nose appears above the lower part of the ear. If the head tilts downward, you will see more of the hair, the forehead and less of the eyes, lips and nose. The top “third” seems to be larger and the nose is below the lower part of the ear. Always remember to find the center line and the slant of the head. Notice the curves in the vertical and horizontal center lines. Here are some examples. Although not the best drawings in the world, you can see what happens in each case.
A good way to plan a composition is to use recognizable color schemes. Each color scheme has its own appeal and mood. As I wrote about previously, complementary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel. Complementary color schemes can be pretty chaotic unless one color is used as a predominant, and the other is subordinate. I used a simple composition in the following watercolor studies (5 x 7″) to show how value, intensity, dominant and subordinate color affects the mood.
I used blue as the dominant hue in this first small study in values from light to dark. The complement, orange, was used as an accent. The study seems to suggest evening with some light from the sinking sun.
I reversed the colors in this second small study, using orange as the dominant and blue as the subordinate colors. The oranges are used in a variety of values from light to dark, and the accent of blue is used both dark and light in the foreground grasses and in the tree trunks. A little blue can also be found in the texture of the barn. Do you see the difference in the mood?
I wanted to share with you the pastel painting I recently did of my cat, Kalila. I decided on a vertical composition because of the way cats love to sit up high. It is pastel on board 29 x 16″ – still unframed. I have entered it in the Pastel Society of the Southwest Show in Texas, but I don’t know if it’s been accepted or not as yet. I chose the colors to complement the silky black of her fur. I call this painting “Wishful Thinking, ” because Kalila always wants to go outside. I only let her out for a few minutes at a time.
Kalila is a tuxedo cat that we got from the Animal Shelter — already a grown cat, and it took a little while before she really accepted us. She’s now eight years old. Since my husband passed away last year, she’s become my number one buddy! She sits on her tower and looks out the window when she’s not cat-napping. Last night, Kalila was sitting on my lap while I was watching TV. I had the AETN show on about tigers, and when Kalila saw that female tiger with her cubs, she got off my lap and positioned herself directly in front of the TV. She was enthralled and watched the entire show! Guess I have a new TV buddy. Hope she doesn’t think she can control the remote now!