Bringing Art Making Into Your Life
We all have our own way of working when we draw. But as a beginner it can be tricky to know if you are doing the right thing. When you are learning to draw you don’t often get the chance to hear from others, about how they work. We see the end result, but have no idea how they got there. If you go to group life drawing classes, you are usually focusing so hard on what you are doing that you don’t notice what anyone else is doing, which is unfortunate because it can be really instructive seeing how others work.
Last night I went to an interesting event . Enmore Talks are held by the Design Centre Enmore, in Sydney, and are a series of talk on a rage of topics around the theme of creativity and design. Last night’s talk was called ‘Masters, Media, Methods’. There were 7 artists on the stage drawing the same model, who moved through a series of poses of varying lengths. The MC was chatting to the artists as they worked asking about their background and method. While they worked we could watch how they developed their drawings, see their approach and the result. The interesting part was that the artists were using a variety of media, including computer programs and traditional media, like pen, wash, charcoal, conte and watercolour.
The audience was also invited to join in, find a spot around the model and start drawing.
Above: Audience members and the seven artists at work on one of the longer poses.
What I found so fascinating was that the artists not only worked in very different ways, but they appeared to have different strengths.
Artist Gail Rogers, blocks in the shadows, leaving the highlights of the white paper, then sketched in the line afterwards. When asked what the importance of the short two minute warm up drawings is, she replied ‘ You see the body as a whole, not getting bogged down in detail’. This ability to see the whole body, the gestalt is a very important ability to develop in order to get the scale and proportions of a drawing correct.
Above: One of Gail Rogers pieces from the event. I really liked this piece before she added the line. The whole image seemed to be there, even without any detail.
Young artist Laura Ives [http://lauraives.com/] used pen and watercolor to create her ethereal and spidery pieces. Her work had a lot of texture and life.
Above: One of Laura Ives pieces from the event. If you notice on this piece, capturing the line from the coccyx up to the base of the neck, sets the tone for the energy of the whole piece. The energy is carried up to the tip of the hand..
Above: In this piece Ives uses the light and dark with beautiful simplicity. Even though it’s intricate, she’s not fussing with perfection.
Above: I love the way Ives has managed to get the weight of the figure, with a few simple curved lines at the hips, using the lines to model the curved shape, not just the outline.
Artist and ex-teacher of the institute, Heidi Hereth was sketching in the audience, and was very skilled at capturing the potential movement of the model.
Above: I really like the line on the figure on the left reaching upwards. If we follow the line from the lower arm we really feel that pull in the top arm. The movement on the figures, the gestures, emanate from the direction of the lines and the weight of the line at certain points.
Another artist /illustrator Michael Perkins who works digitally in Illustrator for a lot of his work, when asked about the importance of drawing on paper said ‘ you capture your freedom….a little bit of life’ and ‘retain that life in your drawing when you go digital’.
Former Disney artist Lily Dell had an amazing capacity to capture the whole form. Dell had worked as an animator at Disney and I feel like I can almost see the next step of the figure.
Above Two works by Lily Dell. She worked as a caricature artist [doing a few hundred quick drawings a day] and learnt how to capture an impression very quickly. Again looking at the angle of the hips, shoulder and feet. They all agree, and we can practically feel that model moving.
One of the artists Barry Dean who had trained in traditional media, used Corel painter, and I must say the way he used it really did emulate traditional paints.
Above: Barry Dean’s digital drawings of the model.
When I spoke with Lily Dell, I commented that you don’t often get to hear about, or see how artists work. And that it’s tricky to talk about exactly what we do. She responded,[ paraphrasing here] that ‘she’s sure there is a common language, but that there are so many individual ways we work that it is hard to tak about.’ Later I heard her telling a student that the only way to really find your style is by practising.
All the artists at this event did have their own style, their own special way of working and it is from the many hours they’ve spent drawing. There’s no way to skip this step if you want to be good at it. And do try to work from real life not just from photos. A photo can be great to work from if you are working on a complicated piece, but you don’t gain the ability to understand gesture and movement and of a line that travels around the form if you only draw from photos, because the image in a photo is already flattened.
The other thing that is very apparent watching these experienced artists draw, is that not every piece is good. Maybe a certain section of the work is brilliant but that they’ve’ slightly missed it in another section. Or the whole thing is just slightly off from the start. Its ok. That’s normal. All artists make some dodgy work. But they don’t hold on to it in their heads, they go on to the next piece.
So what do you need to remember to find your own style?
So go forth and draw draw draw!