Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Sense of Place, Part 8 (The Final Workshop)

Log Cabin Village -- the perfect venue for an advanced sketching workshop

Or alternately this post could be titled, "Tools of the Trade #3.2 - Toned Paper (The Workshop)."

Last week I revisited the subject of toned paper as a support for sketching and journaling. Yesterday I met with a group of sketching enthusiasts for the forth, and final, workshop in the series sponsored by the Fort Worth Central Library's "Worth Reading" Program. Our host venue was (for the second time in this series) the Log Cabin Village... and our medium was black and white Prismacolor pencil on toned paper.

show and tell (looking at a few examples of toned paper sketches in the school house)

After a brief session in the one-room school house to distribute new Strathmore Softbound Toned art journals to each participant, and to discuss the process of working on toned paper (and how to avoid overworking toned paper sketches) the group members went off to explore the Village's flora, fauna and architecture to sketch.

"find your bliss" (sketching near the tipi)

Temperatures were quite mild and the overcast sky was just thick enough to guard against glare and sunburn issues. And, while the humidity was much higher than normal for north Texas, the toned paper of the Strathmore journals held up admirably -- allowing both excellent tone and line control, and easy erasure.

using horizontal and vertical cross-referencing to sketch the gris mill

Most of the students were working on toned paper for the first time and were pleasantly surprised to discover just how much faster a tonal drawing on toned paper progresses compared to the white papers they have usually worked on.

some worked outdoors...

The quicker working time translated into more time for observing and recording the detailed nature of their subjects, or more completed drawings in a given period of time. (Participants were able to complete several fully developed sketches in the two hours we met as a group. And several opted to stay on and explore the medium further after the workshop concluded.)

...while others chose to sketch in

The folks at the Village very kindly opened up several of the interpretive cabins so members of our group could sketch the interiors.

some were attracted to the artifacts (in this case a farmer's milk can)

discussing toned paper/color pencil technique...

The Village is also small enough that I easily managed to visit with each student, answering their technical questions, offer options and advise for further exploration of toned paper, and sharing the occasional humorous anecdote. 

...and having FUN

everyone (except our early departures) showing off their new 

Among the many "dividends" of teaching sketching and journaling workshops -- the smiles that everyone seem to be wearing by the end of our time together.

presenting Diane with her Sakura Pigma Micron pen and pen case set...

...and Lynn Dee with her Sakura Koi watercolor Pocket Field Sketch Box

Many thanks to Julia Stafford and the folks at Fort Worth Central Library for sponsoring the workshop series, to the folks at the FW Botanical Gardens and Log Cabin Village for so kindly allowing us to use their sites as workshop venues, to John Wittmann at Strathmore Artists Paper for turning me on to the new 400 Series Softbound Toned art journal series, to the folks at Sakura of America for generously donating the "door prizes" for our two lucky winners, and most of all to the workshop participants; it was a delight working with each and every one of you.

Happy sketching!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tools of the Trade #3.1 -- Toned Paper (The Sequel)

toned paper -- a faster way to sketch form and volume

Later this month (on the 29th) I'll be wrapping up the series of workshops I'm doing for the Fort Worth Central Library with one of my favorite sketching materials: toned paper. So, I thought it might be a good time to visit the subject I first addressed back in August of 2012 -- this time with more of a focus on the techniques of working on toned paper.

For those of you who are new to toned paper, or who haven't worked with it for awhile, a little review might be in order. First, you may recall that the majority of most tonal (i.e., volumetric) drawings is middle tone. Second, if you are working on white paper (as most of us do) you spend most of your time in any given tonal drawing getting rid of (covering up) the white of the paper. Third, if you begin with a middle toned paper most of your "toning" is already done for you. (That is, drawing on toned paper is faster than drawing on white and involves less "drudge" work.)

But, if the majority (or all) of your drawing experience has been on white paper it is easy to overwork a drawing on toned paper. So, here's a step-by-step demo in colored pencil, and a few sketching suggestions, that you might find useful.

if graphite pencils are what you have the most experience with feel free to start with them

First, if you usually sketch in graphite feel free to do your preliminary sketch in the same. (Just make certain that you use a light pressure.)

be sure and erase any excess graphite before proceeding to the next step

Once you have blocked in your subject lightly define the shapes with a colored pencil. (Here I'm using a Prismacolor Verithin to avoid excess pressure, which would result in getting too bold too soon.)

this visual reminder that your paper isn't white will help avoid fall back 
on "habit" and overworking your drawing

When the shapes have been established with outlines, you depart from the working practice you normally use when working on white paper. On white paper we are working from the white of the paper toward our darkest dark, passing through middle tone along the way. When working on middle tone paper we work from the tone of the paper (middle) toward BOTH our darkest darks AND our lightest lights.

So, as a "visual reminder" that the paper is middle tone, begin to identify and lightly build up those areas that are lighter than the tone of the paper. (Beginning with light pressure will allow you the luxury of making errors in color pencil that can easily be corrected with an eraser. Bold areas of white or black will usually be far more difficult to erase.)

reserve an area of middle tone between areas of light and shadow, and let your lights 
and darks fade away toward the edges of curved forms

Next, begin to identify those ares that are darker than the tone of the paper and, again, begin to build them up with lightly applied color pencil.

to create the greatest volumetric allusion place your boldest highlights and core shadows away from the form's 
outer edge (on the other had, the strongest cast shadows should be against the object casting them)

Once you have established your three tonal areas (and begin to become more familiar with the tonal details of your subject) you can also begin to identify and apply your boldest highlights.

 don't overlook the secondary or reflected highlights -- areas (never actually white) 
where light reflecting off neighboring surfaces "softens" a shadow

Identify and apply your boldest core shadows (the shadows within the shadows.)

increasing the contrast along the near edge of the cast shadow (by making the edge darker and adding a  bit of "highlight" just outside the cast shadow) will help place your object on an advancing/receding ground plain

October 20 Update: (Oops! Sorry folks, I seem to have left out the final stage when I posted yesterday. My apologies for the oversight. Cheers!)

the arrows show where outline has been eliminated or judiciously weakened

Finally, to maximize volume in the drawing we want to eliminate (or at least downplay) the outlines*. The easiest way to eliminate outline is to simply take the tone of the line and blend it out into the neighboring dark area. (Outlines almost always define the border between a darker and a lighter area.) Alternately (if, for example, the "darker area" is merely a middle tone and the lighter area is white) erase as much of the outline as is practical and then apply additional white to the highlighted area.

... And you're done! (See, I told you it was a faster way to sketch tonally.)

*Outlines define shape and are generally an invention of our creative imaginations. (If you don't agree, look for the actual line painted on your subject before you begin that next sketch.) Outlines are excellent at conveying 2D shape and are the fastest tool for that job. However, a dominating outline is like an exclamation point that will often compete with -- if not cancel out -- your efforts to convey 3D volume. By integrating the "tone" of the outline into your volume-building value patterns you move the exclamation point from Shape to Volume.


A few "rules" you may find useful --
  1. Never blend your light and dark pencil together when drawing on middle-toned paper; this would only create a middle tone and THAT is the job of the paper. (Don't overwork your drawing.)
  2. Light and dark are only found next to one another when one form overlaps another, or when one plain meets another at a sharply defined edge. In rounded forms lights and darks are separated by middle tone (i.e., the tone of the paper.)
  3. Avoid placing your strongest highlights and your strongest (core) shadows at the outer edge of rounded forms; doing so will flatten out the volume.
  4. Look for, and include, secondary highlights in your shadows. (Secondary highlights are ares where light is reflected of nearby surfaces and soften shadows. This, in turn, adds a sense of curving form and spacial allusion to a drawing.)
  5. Light/dark contrasts will generally be weaker in the background and stronger in the foreground.
  6. If you tend to be "heavy handed" or want to straighten out the lines in your hatching, try holding your pencil farther back and "underhanded" (as opposed to the way you hold it when you're writing.) This will result in less downward pressure on the pencil and a longer, straighter stroke.

laying the lead on its side also allows you to use the pencil in a less linear, more tonal fashion

New from Strathmore!

the softbound cover is a warm rich brown and has the look and feel of nubuck leather

watch for sample images on this watercolor paper in an upcoming blog post!

Strathmore Artist Papers has recently added three softbound artists journals to their outstanding line of Series 400 sketchbooks. Two are toned paper (one gray, one tan) and one is 140 lb. watercolor paper. All are archival, pH neutral, and acid free.

ink is handled with ease: no feathering, no bleed-through

The Toned Tan paper has a warm color that is flecked with darker red and blue fibers rather like a very up-scale version of the brown paper bags we use to wrap our school books in (although those bags never had such a seductively smooth surface to draw on!)

mushroom cap -- w/c, pen & ink, color pencil

mushroom - more mixed media

The paper is heavily sized and handles repeated erasures with ease. It is also receptive to a wide range of media and techniques, and even handles modestly wet watercolor washes with a minimum of buckling and no "show-through."

pen & ink (3 plein air sketches on a humid afternoon and no buckling!)

Best of all, every registered participant in my workshop at Log Cabin Village on October 29th will receive one of these new journals to "test drive" themselves!

highlights can really sing on toned paper

You say you can't make the workshop on the 29th, but would like to try Strathmore's new journal for yourself (or gift it to a friend)? No worries! You can find it here. Happy sketching!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Sense of Place, Part 7 (The Third Workshop)

A group of DFW area sketching enthusiasts met Sunday for Urban Sketching -- the third in Fort Worth Central Library's sketching and journaling workshop series.

distributing free gear (the perfect ice-breaker for all occasions)

Distribution of the beginning and intermediate sketch kits was followed by a talk on the colorful history of nature and travel journaling and a discussing of some of the options (media, technique, subject and style) the modern sketcher has to choose from.  

discussing sketching options and viewing the journaling exhibition during one of the breaks

After a short lunch break we took to the street and, after scouting some of our options in the Sundance Square area, opted for a study of the 19th century county courthouse.

temperatures were perfect for sketching plein air, and the bright overcast 
meant we could focus on sketching rather than worrying about sunburn  

The forecast thunderstorms never materialized. And everyone became so involved in their drawing that it was 5:30 before anyone bothered to check the time. The workshop was originally scheduled to end at 5, but no one complained about running overtime. (In fact, it wasn't until the lights came on in the courthouse clock tower that the group conceded that it might be time to head for home.)

discussing architectural history and the finer points of linear perspective



the Epsilon is a consistent smash hit with workshop participants  

Thanks to a generous donation from the folks at Stillman & Birn every returning participant in the Sept./Oct. journaling workshop series has received a FREE 5.5" x 8.5" Epsilon Series Sketchbook!

Pigma Micron pen set and pen bag

pocket-sized Koi watercolor sketch set with water brush

In addition to this month's giveaway of a Pigma Micron pen set generously provided by Sakura of America, one lucky workshop participant will be selected at random to receive a Sakura Koi 12-color watercolor sketch kit.

The final workshop (and final opportunity to sign up for the free giveaways) will be at the Fort Worth Log Cabin Village on Tuesday, October 29th. The workshop is free but participation is limited. (Phone 817.392.7323 for registration information. Or visit the workshops page here.)

Hope to see you there! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Sense of Place, Part 6 (The Second Workshop)

the Log Cabin Village proved the perfect venue for a sketchcrawl, 
whether your interest be in nature or historical structures

After the passage of a cool front overnight (accompanied by some much needed rain that ended just around sunrise) our group of 14 was treated to a bright, thin overcast sky and refreshing autumn temperatures for Saturday's sketching workshop (the second of four being offered through Central Library and the Worth Reading program). 

while still inside the one-room school house some participants 
opted to sketch some of the interior's historical features

During the introductory session we discussed the history of journaling, sketching vs. photography, different sketchbook and format options, wet and dry media, collage, and the journaling techniques at the artist's disposal.

the Village offers several very sketchable historical structures...

Participants were reminded that journaling is a personal journey of discovery and, once outside, were encouraged to find and document those things that were of greatest interest to themselves.

...and a good deal of natural subject matter too

plenty of time to sketch the Village gris mill...

Participants were also encouraged to utilize all of their sense and to make a record of the total experience (including notes about the sounds, smells, colors, moods, and textures that helped build each individual's sense of pace and experience.

...and to discuss journaling media and techniques

General information was shared with the group as a whole but instruction advise was given on an individual level -- geared to meet the artistic needs and interests of each participant.

the buildings offer an opportunity to study historical structural designs while the interiors are 
well stocked with a variety of period furnishings (here a well equipped blacksmith's shop) 

first-time participants worked in landscape-formatted Bare Books from Tree Top Publishers...

returning participants were treated to Epsilon Series sketchbooks (thanks to a generous gift from the folks at Stillman & Birn) -- outstanding for graphite, pen & ink, and buckle-free watercolor washes

Our third workshop (focusing on the topic of urban sketching) will meet at the Central Library in downtown Fort Worth at 1 p.m. on Sunday, October 13, followed by an optional two-hour sketchcrawl of the Sundance Square area at 3 p.m. For additional information please visit the workshop page at http://fortworthtexas.gov/library/WorthReading/event/?id=114616 or phone 817.392.7323 to register. (As with all workshops in this series, the October 13 workshop is free to the public. However, enrollment is limited.)

selecting the next page to display

On Tuesday of last week I paid a visit to the "Sense of Place" journaling exhibition at Central Library to turn the pages in some of the journals and rotate out a few of the exhibition pieces. (This is intended to maximize the experience for return visitors.) If you'll be in the area I hope you'll pop by to see the show before it comes down on October 30. 

one Japanese accordion is fully open while three are partially opened