Saturday, April 26, 2014

Observational skills

Artists look at objects differently than most people.  They observe detail in shape, value, colour that differ from what their 'left brain' tells them should be there.  The analytical side of the brain tells us that an apple is round and red.  Wrong.  Even if round and red, there are many changes in colour and shape that occur and must be translated into a drawing or painting for it to look recognizable as an apple.

Learning how to observe is one of the most important elements of learning to draw and one of the techniques I use in drawing workshops is blind and continuous contour drawing.  This focuses the mind on exploring an object and blocks out the analytical side which keep trying to tell you how something should look, instead of how it actually looks to your eyes.

Blind contour drawings are done by observing an object and drawing it without looking at the drawing as it progresses. The tip of the pencil never leaves the surface of the paper and you are forced to really look at the nuances that occur in the subject instead of comparing it to the drawing.

Continual contour drawing takes it up a notch by allowing you to look at the drawing and the subject but still never allowing the tip of the pencil to lift from the paper surface.  It forces you to observe and make decisions on what areas will have crossed lines and where they should go in creating the drawing.

Neither blind or continuous contour drawing could be called realistic but they are often quite abstract and beautiful.  These are a couple of demonstration drawings that I completed in a drawing class this morning. The moment when a student really starts to understand how their observation translates from preconceived 'left brain' drawing into true representation of an object is amazing and always makes me smile.  I see lightbulbs fill the studio classroom as it happens and I will never become tired of that moment, because I know people are heading down the path of learning how to really see.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Finding your style

 Study for a boat painting

 How do I find my style? Its a question that I get asked by artists starting their journey and my answer is " You don't. It finds you."

A style is something that makes your work recognizable as you. It can be a subject, a medium, a palette choice or technique of applying paint to a surface.  Whatever it is, it becomes associated with you - your style of working in art.

Development of a style comes over time.  Initially there is a lot of experimentation with technique and materials and subject matter until you find yourself doing the same thing over and over.  The repetition shows how something pulls your interest and never leaves.  You spend your time expanding your knowledge of the subject and honing your ability with a technique and realizing that is now your comfort zone.  It becomes almost like a comfortable chair.  You sink into it, knowing the contours, creating colours is intuitive and you could draw/paint it in your sleep.

But it does take time.  And experimentation.  And hard work.   Style  doesn't come easily or instantly usually.  As artists evolve over their lifetimes, style will change and adapt, and the artist may explore other aspects of a subject or medium, testing its limits through abstraction to realism or vice versa or toss the brush and reach for the knife instead.   

If you lined up all the work you have produced, what would be a common element in them?  Colour, subject, or technique?  You should see a thread connecting them all, even if it is just a glimmer.  Continuing to build on that thread by constant painting and drawing constantly. 

Step outside the box of safety and really paint using instinct as well as theory.  See what is there or invent it. Choose your own colours, not what you see in front of you.  Become an artist, not a copyist.

Be prepared to fail.  Not every painting will be good.  A lot will be horribly bad.  That is a good thing.  Its how we learn.  Keep painting.

Your style will find you.  Paint your path and meet it half way.