Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hidden secrets

6" x 8" original drypoint etching

Most artists have a variety of tools that help them ply their trade.  There is always something new to tempt either in the art supply store or online and the temptation shouts loudly, doesn't it?  I'm guilty I know.  I accumulate 'stuff'.  I have paper and paint and more paint and tools that I know I'll rarely or never use.  Now, to defend myself, most of the obscure tools are relics from my distant art past.  (I even have some original tubes of dried out paint from the first set that I ever bought.  I'm a sentimentalist, or so I tell myself, otherwise why would I have carted them across an ocean and kept them for 30+ years when they are no earthly use to anyone?)  

Experimentation in early days of artmaking is common and encouraged until a style emerges and a medium is adopted as a preference.  For me, its water, boats and fish, with oils as the medium of choice.  But when I need a break or the muse takes a vacation, I dabble in other mediums and am glad that I haven't banished them from my studio entirely.

Still inbetween paintings, I'm playing with etchings and decided to invest in some new etching styluses.  Of course I had to add some new inks, papers and acrylic plates to the order - to get the free shipping of course...  I have inks, I have papers.  I am weak where art supplies tempt.

 Etching Supplies

However, the tools do make a difference to the final product.  They don't have to be expensive, branded tools, but they should demand a sufficient enough investment that you know you have quality and that they will do the job you ask of them.  Buying a tool, whether paint, paper, ink or brush because another artist uses it will not magically provide you with the capability of that artist.  You will simply have another tool in your studio that may or may not be useful to you.  

 Dry Pigment

I am clearing the studio and finding things that I am putting to one side.  These are tools that I thought were vital or interesting but now I know they were more likely a random purchase and if they have not been used, they are of little use to me. know how difficult it is to let them go. There is always the 'I might use them to make...." syndrome.

What are your hidden secrets in the studio?  What have you bought but never used?  Maybe we all need a swap meet and simply go home with a new range of tools that we may or may not use.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Take five


Every day I sketch something - anything.  Drawing and sketching are the keys to keeping those hand/eye/brain skills sharp and I can't recommend it enough.  With  a laptop, tablet or smartphone there is no shortage of opportunities to capture and share sketches, no matter where you are, like this sketch I did on a plane, then captured on a webcam in my hotel room.

I had to travel to Ottawa this week for a few days on business. Travelling gives me a chance to study people in airports and on planes and see how many faces I can capture on a page before they move on.

No time?  For those who say they don't have time - you do have time, you just need to make the decision and grab it. Many of my sketches take five minutes or less.  This little sketch of the rabbit top on a sugar bowl took less time to draw than it took for my coffee pod to process.

  • Sketches are ideas, snapshots of a shape or movement, not finished drawings.  Let them be rough, show the construction lines and rethinking that goes on.
  • If you spend hours on a sketch, its not a sketch.  Don't try to make it perfect.
  • Sketches are usually from an object in front of you, not a photograph.  Drawing from life lets you see shapes and values more accurately and gives you a wide range of opportunities to capture subjects that you never would be able to otherwise.
  • When drawing people be aware that they move all the time.  That's ok, they'll always go back to a similar pose and you can start where you left off.  Simply start on another person while you wait.
  • You can sketch with any marking tool.  Pencil, pen, crayon, twig, whatever you like- and on any support.  Some of my best sketches are on the back of envelopes or brown wrapping paper scraps.
  • If you sketch daily, I can guarantee that your drawing skills will improve immensely.  As drawing is the backbone of all art, its a skill that is essential for all artists.
  • Look carefully, focus on negative shapes and values.  Fill in the broadest shapes and values then work on detail.