Monday, September 3, 2012
Art du jour, Part 1
When I was in art school one of my instructors told me, "Art is like a game of golf, the fewer strokes the better." What he was trying to tell me was that art is about clear and succinct visual communication.
Later he told us that, if we really wanted to get better at rendering the world about us, we should free ourselves of our technical "crutches" -- that is, force ourselves to see more carefully and make marks more accurately.
Scalloped Sea Shell, oils on 4"x4" canvas
The first "crutch" to go was our erasers. And, sure enough, after acknowledging the unhappy results of a few (well, probably more than "a few") bad observations and erroneous renderings we did actually begin drawing faster and more accurately.
Hard Candies & Paper Bag, oils on 4"x5" canvas
Glass Miniature, oils on 4"x4" canvas
Glass Jar, oils on 4"x4" canvas
When doing one of these little projects I generally choose a subject that has a hard reflective and/or transparent surface (for me, personally, bright colors are a nice plus). I create a simple environment (a large sheet of middle-toned paper, bent so as to provide both the "base plain" and backdrop will do nicely -- although I also have a fondness for shiny mahogany surfaces too). And a strong light source to one side for nice contrasty highlights and shadows (natural light when I can get it, but often artificial during the winter months) rounds out the "setup".
Sleeping Scholar Chop, oils on 4"x5" canvas
Glass Marble, oils on 4"x4" canvas
Onion and Jar, w/c on 4"x6" HP paper
Larry Boy, oils on 4"x5" canvas
I'm constantly on the lookout for new subjects for my little exercises (and am not averse to "raiding" my kids' toy collection). Larry Boy was something they found abandoned on a park playground and rescued from toy oblivion and the ravages of nature. (Our family have been big fans of Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki for years.)
Hopefully, the video below will also give you some insight into my workflow -- although I usually work without a soundtrack. (If you would prefer to see the individual stages as stills, you can click here to visit a special page at my website.)
Post Script, Please keep in mind that this article describes techniques that have proven useful for me. If it also proves useful for you, great! If you choose to modify my example in any way to make it more useful to you, even better still! Remember, you have an Artistic License. Feel free to exercise it in whatever way works best for you. And, if you need any art supplies to exercise that license, be sure to drop by Art Supplies & Provisions Online. (Visitors are always welcome.)