Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays from the Oregon Coast

We are having a wonderful holiday snuggled up on the Oregon coast just south of Yachats. The weather has been so very beautiful and surprisingly warm. We take walks on the beach, read a lot, sketch and relax.

Even Twill is enjoying herself!
Happy Holidays to all!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

End of Term!

Well, that went by awfully fast! It seems like I just started school and here it is the end of the first term and 15 more to go. Above is another five tone charcoal drawing. The idea behind five tones is that every shape of light, dark, and mid-tone has to match one of five. That means there is the lightest light, the darkest shadow, a light-dark shadow, a dark mid-tone, and a light mid-tone. Unfortunately it isn't as easy as just matching each color shape to a tone. As usual, you have to work it in relationship to the whole. I have a feeling that looking at the details in relationship to the whole is one of those primary concepts or universal rules.
At the moment, the drawings look rather blocky or pixelated. We have been told that next term we will be moving on the the total tonal gradations and also using a full sheet of paper. The charcoal drawings are done on half sheets of roughly 18" X 24" sheets of paper. That is a lot of paper to cover with a rather messy medium. We have small mirrors to use to "see" our drawing in another way. That helps to get the drawings right. I also find I use my little mirror to check my face for charcoal smudges! We are all forever telling each other that "you have a bit of paint/charcoal/graphite" on some area of the face. It can be quite comical.
One thing you will notice in the drawing is the basket sits on top of a book. I remember how much of a struggle drawing books was in the beginning. You would be surprised how challenging it is to get those innocent looking books accurate. It is totally counter-intuitive. They are much easier to draw now. I have realized that my mind no longer labels the things I am drawing. It is all just a collection of shapes and their relationship to one another to draw.
The purpose of the charcoal drawings, or paintings, is to get us used to the techniques that we will be using in painting without the added complication of color. It is a different way of working than drawing is. I am still getting used to the shift in thinking. It is getting easier and faster to work with. I still need a lot more practice though.
We will be taking part of the two week break to spend a bit of time on the Oregon coast. I love the ocean and we have a cozy little room with our own kitchen and a view looking over the ocean awaiting us. I will be drawing. Drawing is like playing music, it must be practiced daily. I also will be bringing along charcoal and a cheap water color set. We shall see what happens. I will try to post the results if I am able to.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Winter Holiday and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Five Tones

This week we did a four session (12 hour) charcoal study. That meant we got to use two more tones. Eventually we will be using the whole range but starting out simple is the way to go not only in drawing but in just about every other endeavor.
I always think charcoal drawing is like a developing Polaroid picture. You start to see random shapes and shades and then as it develops further, the image begins to resolve. However, you don't just draw one object and then move to another. You have to work the whole picture. It is a constant battle to keep things true and it always amazes me when I have something working nicely and come back only to find that now it is too big/small or off kilter. I would love to have a time lapse video of the whole process. Perhaps one of these days I will have the space and proper tech to do that. Actually, I do have the technology needed just not the space to set it up. A time lapse video would show the cone, for example, morphing from cone shape, to something that looks like it was underwater, to smaller, and finally to bigger. The angles would change, the planes would change. the shape of light would be all over the place. Well, you get the idea.
The abstract pile of stuff on the left is actually a wad of fabric. The instructor deliberately left that as an abstract shape. The composition isn't too bad even though it is really for the purpose of the lesson, not to look pretty.
We have one more week of this term. Whoo Hoo! Time sure flies. At this rate four years will go by awfully fast. I do have a sense of the hard work that has been put in and hard it has been, for everyone no matter what their skill level coming into the program.
Now, for the final week...

Sunday, December 6, 2009


We finally started charcoal this week. Even so, we didn't just jump in with full out charcoal techniques. The first day we got to produce a picture with just two tones, lights and darks. I didn't post it because it looks quite abstract. Thursday they allowed us another tone. With a light, medium, and dark tone, the picture begins to take on more of a realistic shape. We have been promised an increase in tone allowance as we get better. The master teacher commented that we all had made his day at the end of this one. Drawing with charcoal is much different than graphite. Composing and rendering in charcoal is much closer to painting than drawing. They have also removed some of our scaffolding as good teachers will. We no longer set up a "box" to use as a guideline to draw our pictures. I was surprised to find that I did fine without the training wheels.
Two more weeks before the end of this term and we break for the winter holiday. My, time flies when you are learning a lot!
It is dark and cold and my dog suddenly needs to go out. I best put on my 10 layers of clothing and give her a respite. Until next week, -Renee
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