Sunday, November 29, 2009


There were a lot of changes this week that I am still assimilating. One very welcomed change is in how I am seeing the things I am drawing. Something fell into place for me and I am beginning to make more sense of the act of drawing. It is difficult to explain. The challenging part of that is that now there is more to correct and get right! The picture above is the still life we did on Tuesday before Thanksgiving vacation. As always, the drawing is never really finished. I would want to work several more hours on it to get it to a satisfactory point. I would make the darks a lot darker for one and smooth out the shading. The star box was particularly challenging.
The biggest change came right before lunch. All of us students were asked to gather around and take a seat. Now anytime someone tells a room full of focused art students to put down their pencils and brushes and take a seat you know that something big is in the air. We all got seated and looked at each other a bit nervously as the director stood up in front of us to make an announcement. He started out his announcement by talking about change. That made us even more nervous and now all attention was riveted on him. I was almost holding my breath thinking that they were going to close the school and all move to Italy or something. Well, the school is not closing but it is Portland Oregon! We will be finishing the academic year here and then I will be starting my second year in Portland.
I called my husband during lunch break to let him know that we will be moving in a year instead of staying in Ashland as we had thought. Notice, there is no question that I will continue my studies with the Academy. Fortunately my husband is at a highly flexible stage in his life. Both of us will have some regrets at leaving Ashland. It is beautiful here, my husband is in a few bands and we are just getting to know the area and the local people. Portland does have a lot to offer in exchange. For the first time since we were married, we will be living in the same city as a few family members. They are recent arrivals to the Pacific Northwest and we will be happy to be able to get to know them better. Portland has a lot to offer an artist and is a vegan mecca to boot. I have never lived in a large city so it will be different. Portland has always been my favorite city too. I might have had to re-evaluate my school plans if they were intending to move to Detroit or some such city. Not all students will be continuing with the school when it moves but they will be able to grow their program much bigger than if they stayed here.
What a roller coaster of a ride these past few years have been. I am curious to see what will happen next. I am excited about the change in spite of the daunting logistics it will bring.
We have the rest of the year to enjoy Ashland and prepare for another move. Next Thanksgiving will be celebrated in Portland...
Back to work! -Renee

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Adding More...

Notice a difference? We are finally transitioning to charcoal drawing and have added tone, or value, to the list of challenges we need to tackle. With the introduction of tone, we also added two more tools to our drawing kit, a black mirror and a white mirror. The white mirror is a plain old mirror. The black one allows us to see the tone easier and flattens the image a bit although everything is reflected backward. Alas, using them does not provide any shortcuts, just more information (and sometimes more confusion).
There are only two pictures this week because each of these pictures took six to seven hours to draw. They really aren't finished pictures either. One begins to see the scale of work involved.
It doesn't really bother me that much. Weavers are used to delayed gratification. Right? As Virginia Harvey used to say when asked how long it took to weave/create that, it takes "many pleasurable hours."
Ok, sometimes the hours aren't pleasurable but if they were, everyone would draw or weave. I must admit though, weaving isn't nearly as painful for me as drawing is at times. I do miss it but will be able to return to it when my schooling is done. That is a great comfort to me. I do still bring my drop spindle to use during lunch break and I hope to haul Jane out for the holidays.
I had to order warmer clothes to wear here in Ashland. Looking around I see we are ringed with snowy mountains and the snowline is about 200 ft. above us. When the wind blows, even a little, it is colder than I am used to. Thankfully the warm clothes came in time for the weekend weather. Our little trailer was rocking in the wind and we had to put our awning away for fear it would be torn off (that happened to us once!).
Due to the holidays, we only have one full day of class next week. I will still go in on Monday on my own as there is a certain child's bike we drew for construction drawing on Friday that made me want to kick it across the room. I will be drawing it again, not kicking it, on Monday. I also just received a portable easel that I can take on a hike with me if I wish to use in our trailer. Like the Jane loom, it folds up and stows away so now I will be able to draw here with comfort if I don't feel like going to the school on the off days.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here in the U.S. and a toast to all around the world.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Repetition, Repetition....

It has been an interesting week at school. We continue to do still life drawing day after day. It can get a tiny bit tiresome. I am always glad for Fridays, not because they are the end of the week, but because we get to draw gesture sketches from a live model and it isn't a still life! Friday afternoons we draw a single object and add the construction drawing, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Here is Tuesday's still life drawing:

I know, as usual, hard to see as they are in pencil and deliberately drawn lightly but there is a shoe in the foreground that was rather fun to draw. The two sticks are actually paint brushes greatly simplified. It took me a bit of adjusting of my scale and proportions but I am fairly satisfied with the shape of the vase which had a wonderful round fullness to it.
Here is a drawing from Thursday:

This was challenging because the birdhouse was so much smaller than the toy chair. You really had to turn your mind off, that is the left side, to just draw what you see.
We draw two still life drawings in a school day, each three hours long. And, when I go to the evening class, another three hour still life is drawn. I did go to Tuesday's evening class and skipped Thursday because it was cold with snow and rain mixed, I was tired, I needed a bit of down time to digest some rather deep learning experiences, and I really just wanted a cozy evening with my guy and dog. None of those are good states to be in when concentrating on a drawing and when they hit all at once, it is time to retire for the evening.
Friday's construction drawing session was very satisfying. Here it is:
A simple little red sleigh. I should explain a bit here. With a construction drawing we start out drawing the object visually, which is how we usually draw still life. After we get it as close as we can visually, we add the perspective in to correct angles and lines. The corrections are usually very small, sometimes a line-width or up to 1/8th of an inch. Anything more and you know you need to correct it a bit more visually before moving onto construction.
In spite of all the repetition, I do notice a few things that change. The still life set-ups are getting more complex. They are also getting faster to draw and easier to process. Notice I didn't say easier to draw! We are all getting better. Most importantly, my understanding is getting deeper. That is very exciting to me. One other change is the sketchbook requirement. We are now required to keep a sketchbook. We have been asked to sketch people and animals in quick gesture sketches, never longer than 2 minutes a "pose." We have a minimum of 20 sketches a week. With the weather turning colder, it is a welcomed excuse to go sit in a cafe in the corner with something lovely and hot to drink and sketch, which is where I can be found tomorrow afternoon! Healthful, healing, and warm thoughts to all. -Renee

Monday, November 9, 2009

Week 5

First I wish to thank those who left such encouraging comments on my last post. I appreciate the comments! I am a day late posting because I went for a hike with my husband up Grizzly Peak instead of getting the pictures taken. The day and the views were breathtakingly beautiful.
The still life set-ups we are drawing are getting more and more complex. All of us are improving rapidly and are catching many of our own mistakes. The process goes faster and easier, well sort of!
I see that Sue at Life Looms Large got to see the documentary "Who Does She Think She Is?" I am envious as there is no screening within a few hundred miles of me. I have contacted the Ashland Independent Film Festival about the movie and I got a nice e-mail saying they will look into it. I would love to have it come here and I think there would be others interested as well. Theresa, any suggestions? I have been following the progress of the screenings online with updates and all.
So, here are two drawings from this week.

The second one is very light at hard to photograph and therefore see. I think all of us had fun drawing the second one. The teacher put that one up to force us into seeing abstract shapes.
The first drawing was interesting to draw too.
The gesture sketching on Friday went well and for the construction drawing we drew a watering can. It only took us an hour and a half so those of us who stayed until the bitter end got to construct another drawing.
I have a special treat this week. The Ashland Academy of Art was featured in a local TV program that is also online. They give a tour of the school and talk about what it takes to learn and be an artist. You can view that here by clicking on the link.
Finally, I have a request for Dana W. The e-mail I have for you is no longer working! Could you please send an email to me with your current address? Thanks Dana!
Tomorrow is a long day so I will end this here. Until the weekend, -Renee

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Art School-Week Four

This was an interesting week for several reasons. One is that I am getting used to the schedule and am not quite so tired by the end of the week! That is a relief. The still life setups are getting more complex but the process is getting easier. By process, I mean it is getting easier to spot my errors on my own, I catch more of them, and the technique comes easier. The act of drawing itself remains intense and challenging as I think it always will.
The picture above is of the still life we did in the Tuesday evening class. It was fun to have a more complex object to draw. The still life below was Thursday afternoon. I would have liked to add a lot more detail and shading but that is not the purpose of this exercise at this time. We are starting to have fabric drapery to draw too. The shapes become more abstract.
The final drawing I posted is from the construction drawing on Friday afternoon. A bit more challenging than the cube we drew the first time. I actually enjoyed this one even though it was pretty tough to get everything going right and still needs a bit more work. We draw the object visually first then add the perspective lines to do the minute corrections usually needed. It is really amazing how the drawing just snaps into place when the construction is added.
I am making a short post this time as I have two posts this week. I am looking forward to next week's challenge! -Renee

Gesture Sketching

First things first. I finally remembered to take my camera with me and take a picture of the school, so here it is! The classes are held on the top floor with the bottom floor being dedicated to rooms for students to livet. I don't live here as I have a husband and dog with me and we wouldn't quite all fit.
I am doing an extra post here to show a bit of the gesture sketching we do on Friday mornings. The gesture sketching session always has a live model for us to draw. One week is a female model and the next week is a male model so we have a variety of shapes and forms. The session lasts three hours and we start of with one minute poses to warm up. It always seems like I just put my pencil on the page when the timer goes off. If you pause to scratch your nose or something, half the time is gone! The picture below is what I get with a one minute pose.
After several one minute poses, we move on to 3 minute, 5 minute, and finally 10 minute poses. Below is a 3 to 5 minute pose (I don't remember which it is).
The final picture below is of a 10 minute pose.
We have timed breaks during the session as it is physically demanding for both us and the model. It is a pleasure for me to draw from a live model. You really begin to appreciate the beauty of the human form in all its variations when you begin to draw it. At the moment, I have to say that Friday's gesture drawing session is my favorite time. It also gives us a break from the relentless intensity of drawing still life.
All the different years draw together at this time. It is always interesting to see what the more advanced students are making of the model. It is also encouraging as we know that we too will be able to draw like that eventually. Friday is the only time the first year students have to draw from a live model. That will be changing next semester when we have more model time (more model fees too!).
Off to post the results from this week's still life...
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