My students should have this phrase firmly buried in their subconscious mind by now. Hopefully it re-appears in the conscious mind, front and centre, every time they observe (with squinted eyes) something with the intention of drawing it. If you learn to see the shapes of tone in everything, you should be able to draw that thing. If you draw the shapes of tone you won’t draw the subject as your brain wants you to but as your eyes describe.
By shapes of tone, I mean the shading and shapes of the shadows (tones) that appear as a result of light and/or lack of light. This can be tricky when you observe objects with different colours. Your brain will tell you that a black item is just black and it may demand that you shade it in as dark as you can. However, if you observe carefully (with squinted eyes) you will notice highlights – light on the lit side and shadow on the non-lit side. The same thing happens when you see a white object. Your brain might expect you to draw a completely white object but your eyes will tell you otherwise.
When drawing a portrait the whites of the eyes seldom appear white as the brow, eye-lashes and eye lids create a shadow when the light comes from above e.g. the sun and ceiling lights. When a face is lit from the side the bridge of the nose also causes a shadow. Sometimes we can’t even see any differentiation between the iris and the white.
During a workshop on portraiture I demonstrated how these shapes of tone are observed and used as a visual guide to drawing the 3 dimensional form of the face.
Thanks to Elise Kooperman for filming and editing this video.
I never cease to be amazed at how many ingrained habits surface during my drawing classes. No doubt some of you have them too. The habit I’m on about today is putting a strong outline on a drawing once you have finished adjusting a sketch to your liking. I can imagine the automatic thought process- “Yep, that’s right. Now to firm it up and make it proper!”
In class this morning Lee-Anne, my longest standing student, asked “Do you think they have an outliners anonymous?”
Outlining automatically, because you think it’s the right thing to do, is NOT a great idea. If you are after a stylized, decorative drawing then that’s wonderful. Then outline deliberately, because you want to emphasise the lines and not out of habit. However, if you wish to render your subject in traditional 3D then strong outlines are not your friend.
The quality of your lines should vary depending on whether you wish to show a light or dark edge, or make things come forward or recede. Tones that change depending on shadow and light do not need outlines. The change between one tone and another does not need a line to emphasise it. Strong lines tend to make your drawings look flat instead of three dimensional.
Oh yes. Strong lines are also really difficult to erase. Even if you’re sure that you’ve made all the adjustments you need to, chances are you’ll need to change something.
I am continuing, in fits and starts, with the journey of producing my “Get Drawing” book. In the process I am also filming myself drawing the sketches that may eventually appear in the book. So the journey is one of broadening discovery as well. Discovering how to set the camera up in the best possible way; how to edit the resulting video; how to make it interesting;how to add a narration (still to come) etc.
On one of our recent hot nights (27 degrees Celsius at 11.30pm!) my thoughts found their way to ideas for the book and I remembered that I thought my new camera (purchased for my trip overseas last year) had some sort of way of connecting to my smart phone. So the very next day I experimented and discovered that the camera could, indeed, connect via wifi to my smartphone so that I could remotely see what the camera could see, zoom in or out, and then take a picture or start recording a video. Woohoo!
So, I’d love you to take a look at my first try and leave any comments. Just in case you think I’m working very fast, I have sped the video up. Future videos will hopefully have tighter editing etc. but I was excited to get this out there. The beautiful music accompanying the video is my talented brother, Ilan Zagoria.
My first sketch of the holiday while having coffee looking into Convent Garden markets. While I’m happy with the general feel of it the lady’s head could’ve been better proportioned. No matter, it’s a lovely memory. I used a fine waterproof pen first and then added colour with my watercolour pencils and waterbrush. I didn’t draw with pencil first. I would’ve proabably remembered to leave space for the lady’s head if I had. I drew her after drawing the market carts.
A very quick sketch done with a Derwent watersoluble graphite sketch pencil and trusty waterbrush. The perspective of the fantastic arches worked but didn’t match the buildings above. Sometimes I wish that my teacher head matched my doing head at the same time.
My third sketch is my favourite so far. I sat with a pot of tea and a slice of cheese cake and drew the building opposite. The flowers all over London are wonderful. Every street has hanging baskets of flowers. Outside buildings, hanging from lamp posts and mostly, adorning pubs everywhere.
Well, I haven’t managed to keep up with my idea of doing a sketch a day but I am happy with some that I’ve done. Happy because I love the doing, happy because I did it, happy because they’re not too bad. However one particular sketch didn’t go so well.
By coincidence my South African brother and his youngest son were in London for a cross-over 2 days visiting the two other siblings, (nephew and niece) and grandnieces. So 7 adults and 3 girls just over and under 2, spent a Saturday visiting a pub in the country. We travelled down beautiful country lanes with large farm houses, pubs, shops and post boxes against the road. We finally arrived at the Stag on the River up against the lovely river Wey
After lunch I took out my sketch book. I started drawing one of the buildings and it just wasn’t working. Perspective and proportions were out and windows were drawn from what my head was telling me rather than my eyes. Then the magic started.
My unsuccessful beginning of a pen sketch was turned into a canvas for my three gorgeous grand nieces to explore. I showed Imi how to first put the colour down and then paint over it with the waterbrush. What a pleasure for me and her. Drew, Imi’s twin, preferred the black pen and with beautiful pen holding skill drew fine, careful words. I would love to understand the story she wrote.
I was pleased to redeem my belief in my ability the next day. Whew!
A few days ago I visited Tate Britain. This is where Turners bequest is housed and, happily, where a new exhibition of later works has just opened. I followed the signs to the Turner wing, not realising that I was completely missing the main entrance with maps and information. It was like creeping into the secret back entrance. There was no grand reception just some well placed signs to point me in the right direction.
I found them.
I hadn’t realised how large the works in oil are. Enormous canvases depicting great battles, mythical stories, storms and historical events – sometimes all in the same painting. His colours, brushstrokes and techniques were/are wondrous. However the wonder, for me, is in his brilliant watercolours. No wishy washy feint marks. (How did watercolour ever get its bad reputation for insipid colours with Turner setting the benchmark?). I was also excited to see his use of mixed media. Whatever gave him the effect he wanted he used. Chalk, graphite, watercolour and body colour (guache).
Although photos were allowed in the main section (not in the new exhibition) it is obviously difficult to take decent photos of work under glass so do yourself a favour and explore google images (or printed books) of Turner’s work.
I made some purchases including a book partly written by wonderful Australian artist Tony Smibert who works with the Tate as a Turner specialist. Inspiration to bring to my studio when I get home.