Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Drawing and Composition...


1. Start by drawing shapes, not identifiable objects. You’ll hear this advice over and over again in art classes and workshops. To understand what it really means, think about the way children draw faces. They know that a face has two eyes, two ears, a centered nose, and two lips. No matter how the person facing them is posed, children will insist on including all the features, even if they can only see one eye, one ear, and a protruding nose. They draw what they know, not what they see. To some extent, adults do exactly the same thing.

2. Consider the negative shapes as much as you do the positive shapes. Students often find it difficult to determine how to draw an arm that extends away from a model’s body or the distance between two objects sitting on a table. The way to do that is to imagine that the “negative space,” or the open space between the model’s body and her arm, is a solid object with a height, width, and length. The same technique can be used when trying to determine how far one building is from another or how high a head is above a model’s shoulders. It helps to deal with the negative space in the same way you deal with the positive shapes.

3. Visualize and draw the lines you can’t see in order to draw the visible lines accurately. Sometimes the best way to draw something that is partially concealed from your view is to continue the lines as if you could actually see it. For example, if you want to determine the curvature of a bowl filled with fruit, draw the complete circular top as if the bowl were empty, and then erase the sections that are obstructed. And if you want to know how far a leg extends beyond a person’s waistline, drop an imaginary plumb line from the waist to the floor, and then evaluate the shape of the triangle formed by the leg, floor, and plumb line.

4. Draw connected shapes, not disconnected shapes. It’s very difficult to calculate how far a person’s head is from the bottom of his or her feet, the distance from one ear to the other, or the distance from a far tree to one in the foreground unless you draw all the shapes in between. That is, after guessing at the total height of a standing figure and establishing a scale for the drawing so that it fits on the sheet of paper, work your way down from the head to the shoulders, from there to the waist, on to the knees, etc., so you can judge each shape in relationship to the others.

5. Draw light guidelines between shapes to better judge the distances between them. Artist Robert Liberace recently issued the first of five instructional DVDs on drawing, and in it he provides lots of useful information. Among the artist’s recommendations is to start by making very light, straight lines between all the component parts of the figure or still life objects to guide your hand as you begin to refine the drawing. Then gradually add more lines using Conté crayons, graphite, charcoal, or Prismacolor Verithin pencils to darken the edges of the shapes and the shadow patterns in between.

6. Start by drawing the lightest values and build to the darkest. Most artists find that it makes sense to gradually build from the lightest areas of their drawings to the darkest so they have an opportunity to make adjustments along the way without damaging the surface of the paper or creating ugly smudges where they have erased inaccurate lines.


# Avoid putting the center of interest in the middle of the painting. It’s very hard to engage viewers in a complete painting if they are focused on what’s happening in the middle, or the “dead center,” as it is appropriately called. It’s better to move the horizon line up or down in a landscape, to make the focal point into one of the four quadrants of the rectangle, or to use one of the time-tested principles such as the golden mean to determine the best placement of the center of interest.

# Use a diagonal shape to bring the viewer into the painting from the bottom. Think of the bottom edge of a painting as a ledge the viewers have to cross to enter the space. If you show them where they can easily step over that ledge, they are more apt to feel invited into the picture. The diagonal can be established by a large, dark clump of bushes in the foreground; a road or pathway to walk along; a knife lying on the edge of a table pointed to the rest of a still life arrangement; or a shaft of light coming from over the viewer’s shoulder into the space.

Once you have persuaded the viewers to enter the painting, it is helpful to lead them through the space and out again. Don’t take them down a road that ends in the middle of the painting or suggest they follow a piece of cloth that disappears behind a box within your still life arrangement. Use a well-defined diagonal shape to lead viewers out of the painting.

# Recognize that fences, roads, railroad tracks, and other pathways are like arrows pointing viewers’ eyes in a specific direction. Make sure that if you point them toward one area of the painting you don’t leave them there.

# Don’t shy away from leaving some areas of the painting open and airy. Many people who work from photographs fail to adjust for the fact that the camera has a limited depth of field and will only document what happens within a narrow space. When they paint from those photographs, they wind up filling their paintings with all the leaves and flowers shown in their close-up shots or with just the foreground elements of a landscape. Since everything in the background of their photographs is a blur, they don’t know how to develop those sections of their paintings. That’s why it helps to take a lot of photographs of a potential painting subject—details, overall shots, various exposure settings, etc.—so that you have enough information to paint a complete view of the subject.

# Consider repeating colors, shapes, and patterns to help create interest throughout the painting. This is one of the “rules” of composition that often gets repeated, and it certainly has merit. If you only have one red object in your still life, it will overwhelm the rest of the picture. If you only have one orange shape in your landscape, it will likely become the focal point of the image. The best thing to do is to repeat colors, shapes, and patterns. You don’t need the exact same mixture of red or the same textural pattern. Just make sure to maintain some level of repetition and variety.

# Try to look at the paintings objectively: Turn your paintings upside down or look at them in a mirror. Put them away for a few days. We all become so completely engaged in our drawings and paintings that we can’t judge them objectively. It helps to turn the image upside down, put it away for a while, or look at it in a mirror so you begin to see it differently and can therefore recognize how to improve it

Esther J. Williams wrote re: 6 Ideas for Better Painting Compositions
on 05-22-2009 10:55 AM

I think we all have learned the hard way and made many mistakes in compositions, I like this article as a reminder of what not to do and suggestions on what to do. I like the term 'illusion of space' especially when we have only four sides to work with for the most part, excluding oval surfaces. I like to think of the canvas as a stage where the observer can be presented either a balcony view, front box seats or off-side seats. Rex Brandt taught that illustrious view. An artist can involve the viewer as a participant in perspective positioning and transport them from a 2 dimensional surface to a 3D one. From above, below, to the side or eye level, there are more ways to enter into a painting than you can shake a stick at. Rex Brandt also believed in a passage through the work to take the viewer into the setting. Through trial and error we learn how to place our shapes and directional lines that best suit our creative statement. I no longer look at the four sides like borders, it is good to have half a tree coming in from the sides or bottom, it allows the viewer to use their imagination and take part in the creative process to see more outside the painting. As long as it is not a pine tree that is running out of the top of the painting in stark contrast to the sky. I have learned not to lead a viewer straight out of the painting with strong contrasting objects. I try to use design fundamentals to keep their eye moving around the painting. I also like the idea that each side of the painting needs to have different combinations of shapes, values and colors leaving the edges, not divided into equal divisions of shapes exiting the sides. Within these borders an artist has a wide range of choices in shapes and lines, values, color and textures to entertain the viewer. Yes, I do like 'illusion of space' and how I can tweek it within each canvas and beyond it. We want our customers to enter into the painting and stay awhile to enjoy the scenery and feel as if they were taken somewhere other than where they stand. 1. Start by drawing shapes, not identifiable objects. You’ll hear this advice over and over again in art classes and workshops. To understand what it really means, think about the way children draw faces. They know that a face has two eyes, two ears, a centered nose, and two lips. No matter how the person facing them is posed, children will insist on including all the features, even if they can only see one eye, one ear, and a protruding nose. They draw what they know, not what they see. To some extent, adults do exactly the same thing.


4 Ways to Get a Likeness in Portraits

There is agreement among top portrait painters that a person’s likeness is dependent on the proportional relationships between facial features, not the specific shape of the nose, mouth, ears, or eyes. That is, the location of the eyes is more important than the color or shape of the eyes.

The proof of this assumption can be found when you compare photographs of someone at different times of their life. They may have lost hair, gained more wrinkles around the eyes, added a second chin, or started wearing glasses, but you will still recognize them as being the same individual because the proportions have remained largely unchanged.

But although every portrait painter might agree on that general concept, they differ on how to put it into practice. Some advise their students to use straight lines to establish the level of the eyebrows, nose, chin, ears, neck, and shoulders; others insist that the best approach is to draw or paint the large shapes that correspond to the structure of the skull. The first of these two approaches emphasizes the lines defining the outside edges of the features, whereas the other utilizes big painted shapes that indicate the identifying eye socket, angular jaw, protruding nose, etc. There are also those portrait painters who have developed a technique of combining these two approaches, starting with briefly drawn linear markings and then proceeding directly to the big shapes that indicate the framework of the head.

One way or another, all of these artists find ways of taking visual measurements of the proportional relationships down the central axis of the head. They make use of the approximately equal distances between the top of the forehead and the line of eyebrows, the distance from there to the bottom of the nose, and the space from the bottom of the nose to the chin. Another common proportional relationship holds that the length of the ears is equal to the distance between the top of the eyebrows and the bottom of the nose.

When portraitist John Howard Sanden begins evaluating those relationships, he uses a bristle brush loaded with a thin mixture of a neutral color (titanium white, ivory black, and yellow ochre) to mark the top and bottom of the head, then the left and right sides. He continues indicating the neck and shoulders before he runs a vertical line down the center of the face that follows the curvature of the head if it is turned in one direction or another. Sanden then places a horizontal line in the center of the head where the eyes appear and makes other short horizontal lines to mark the eyebrows, jaw, and the bridge and bottom of the nose.

Everett Raymond Kinstler refers to himself as a value painter, meaning that he is more concerned with the relationship between dark, midtone, and light values than he is with carefully drawn lines or specific color combinations. He finds that any number of different pigment combinations can look like flesh so long as the relative values are correct.

Ann Manry Kenyon is a direct, or alla prima painter, which means she likes to complete a portrait while the oil paints are still wet. That allows her to lay down thin patches of color mixtures and then blend them together as she refines the portrait. Some artists refer to those brushstokes of color as tiles—disconnected marks indicating the appropriate shapes, values, and colors that can eventually be brought together to create the appearance of skin, hair, clothing, etc. So although Kenyon does start with a brief indication of the lines establishing the placement of the overall shape of the head and the relationship between the features, she quickly starts to build up the oil colors to capture the personality and likeness of her portrait subjects.

Anthony Ryder is best known for his stunning drawings of posed models, and he frequently demonstrates his procedures for groups of artists. He starts by judging the proportional relationships between the features inside a roughly drawn head, but he spends most of his time judging each shape in relation to the others that have already been put down, gradually moving from one eye to the bridge of the nose to the other eye, and from there to the cheek bone and the mouth, and so on. He doesn’t jump from the nose to the ear or from the forehead to the chin, because he needs to measure all the connected landmarks. For Ryder, a likeness is achieved by accurately judging all the component parts of the face, hair, neck, shoulders, and ears.


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