Saturday, February 16, 2008

Shades of blue

Waterman's Pond
copyright Jeanette Jobson

My week has been pretty busy and I haven't had much time to do any significant drawing. I'm feeling the withdrawal of it. Saturday is my day to rush around and do errands, clean, cook and by the time I've done that I usually collapse on the sofa by late afternoon and fall asleep. Then Sunday is teaching again. It may be time to cut back a bit.

I've made some starts on portraits, both animal and human, but they haven't amounted to anything that I'd want to show the world. I have so many ideas spinning around in my head, at times just nothing comes out.

I love the shades of blues in this photo of a pond that's along my walk route. Its usually quiet there with just some wild ducks appearing to take up occupancy. Until the ice leaves the pond, the silence is interrupted by snowmobilers. Living in the country, most people think its a quiet, idyllic life, but at times, its quite the opposite, when either snowmobiles or ATVs race up the trail to the woods and ponds beyond the house in the wee hours of the morning.

Roll on summer...

Friday, February 15, 2008

The human head

Lancashire Man
graphite 8 x 10
copyright Jeanette Jobson

I always have a desire to draw faces, either animals or people. I think its been something that I've gravitated towards since beginning to draw as a child. There have always been people in my art. This is probably why I find it so difficult to branch out into landscape, floral, etc., etc. I prefer my comfort zone.

Explaining how to maintain proportion in drawing the human head is repetitive for beginners and they don't usually 'get it' right away. I teach that by letting students measure on themselves and others physically to find out where the relevant points are in relationship to each other. Once students are able to make the connection between measurement and getting proportion right, they often make great progress. Its partially understanding the principle of anatomy and part switching over to the right side of the brain. It also takes a lot of practice and time, another stumbling block for learners who want a perfect drawing and want it right now without much pain involved getting there!

Not all drawings need to be long and complex to obtain the spirit and likeness of an individual. A sketch, like the one here took about 30 minutes and provides an accurate records of that moment in time, the lighting, the clothing, the expression that all go together to create the character of this man. Sketches are great warm ups to a more structured drawing. I just transfer the main lines to my new paper, enlarging or reducing if I need to then I'm ready for a longer session to achieve the detail and realism that I want in a drawing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Elephant study
graphite, Canson sketchbook
copyright Jeanette Jobson

Style is what makes an artist's work recognizable as their own. Its like a signature, identifying at a glance that the work belongs to a specific person.

Style does take time to develop and in my case comes with several identifiers. I've looked at my art and see some aspects that make my stamp on my work.

1. I prefer dry media, either graphite, coloured pencil or pen and ink (ok not quite dry but close)
2. My method of drawing follows traditional lines - a master line drawing, then shading or colour
3. Many of my drawings have a delicate touch to them. I don't go for large, bold drawings, I prefer precise lines and softer colours.
4. Subject matter. Many of my drawings involve portraiture of animals or people. I do stray into other subject matter, but always come back to the living.

Do these all add up to an identifiable style or are they my comfort zone? Or does my comfort zone lead me into my style of drawing? It probably is both and I'm sure my style changes from time to time as I experiment with other mediums and supports. Developing style is a lifelong learning experience.

Every artist who evolves a style does so from illusive elements that inhabit his or her visual storehouse.
Mary Carroll Nelson)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why do you draw?

Xhosa child
graphite sketch 8 x 10
copyright Jeanette Jobson

I've explored this question before and the answers, while many, come back to the same things.

I draw because I like to intimately explore objects and recreate them in detail.

I draw because I have an instinctive need to do so. It becomes as automatic as breathing. There is no pressure externally to make me draw, but there is something internally, unspoken, unseen that urges me to make marks on paper or canvas.

I draw because it takes me away from the mundane world and lets me escape into the end of my pencil where nothing exists except the scritch scritch sound of graphite going onto paper. I am always surprised when I snap out of that meditative state and realize that time has passed.

I draw because I feel a connection to the past and need to keep the craft alive. From the time man scored marks on cave walls to the digital images of today, there is still that need to continue what our ancestors started.

Why do you draw?

Have you closely examined the process and what the pleasures and challenges are for you?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Silverpoint II

Ryan's Gate
Silverpoint 9 x 10 on Canal paper
copyright Jeanette Jobson

I spent yesterday practicing silverpoint. I prepared some fairly sturdy Canal paper using white acrylic paint, not wanting to go all the way to town just for gesso. It rippled a little and I should have used watercolour paper, but this was an experiment after all.

I had been out in the morning and taking a lot of photos locally, using the contrasts of sun, shadows and snow. I've had my eye on this gate for months. Its the entrance to Ryan's meadow where hay is made each summer. The fence is handmade as are most in rural Newfoundland, strung with wire farm fencing between the posts and a simple bar gate.

My silver was sterling silver wire, 22 gage which I inserted about an inch and a half piece into a .5mm mechanical pencil. Then I just started drawing. It is a time consuming exercise and I learned a couple of things in this.

I don't believe that I coated the paper well enough. In my impatience to get going on this, I only used one layer of acrylic paint. I believe, according to my research, that I can get deeper values if my gesso ground is a thicker layer, sanded between coats. You need a bit of tooth to your paper to enable a minute layer of silver to be left on the surfac.e. Next time, I will be using gessoed board or watercolour paper with at least three layers of gesso, lightly sanded.

Layers are built up very slowly and nothing can be erased. Silverpoint is like using pen and ink. It is precise and makes you plan and think where you will place your next stroke, however you can disguise small errors by added more layers.

Depth of tone is limited to about 10% - 40% that of graphite pencil drawings. This has advantages and disadvantages. I personally, like the subtle values, as most of my work is done with a light hand. You can create depth in your drawing, but it will demand time and patience and many, many layers. White highlights can be added or small touches of graphite to emphasize an area.

The silver wire that I used was half hard and most wire used for silverpoint is deadsoft, annealed wire. So I will be ordering some of that or simply a stylus and point online. A couple of inches of wire will create hundreds of drawings as it won't wear down quickly as graphite does.

I will have to wait to see how long it will take for the drawing to tarnish and turn that lovely sepia colour that it should. Environmental conditions, depending on where you live, will accelerate or delay the development of this change in colour which is caused by oxidization. Apparently California is the best place to live if you want quicker changes to the colour. All those environmental pollutants seem good for something it seems!

Taking an image or scan of silverpoint is a challenge as the tones are pale. Its a fine line of adjustment to get the true picture. The image here is taken with a digital camera but the values are a bit too dark compared to the original.

I'd love to see others experiments with silverpoint. I know that I will be doing more soon and may try an animal or portrait. I believe its a learning process and it does feel good to walk in the footsteps of the Masters.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Flags and snow

When sun rays crown thy pine clad hills...
Ode to Newfoundland 1904

The sun rays were definitely hitting the pine clad hills today and I set out to take some photographs of the land in the grip of February.

Each morning I drive past this lake on my way to work. There is a tiny 'island' in the middle, more like a rock jutting out and in the rock grows a very hardy little evergreen tree. An enterprising soul has swum or rowed to the island and placed the Newfoundland flag there. (click on the photo to enlarge it)

The old flag of Newfoundland was the Union Flag. It was adopted in 1931 and used until the suspension of responsible government in 1934. It was readopted as the official provincial flag in 1952, and used until 1980. The Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Royal Canadian Legion to this day does not recognize the new Newfoundland flag as the flag of Newfoundland. It contends that during both world wars, Newfoundland soldiers fought under the Union Flag of the dominion. The legion displays the Union Flag at all of its official functions.