Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Drawing Practice

There are a lot of painters who don't draw. Some have even claimed they couldn't draw at all (the British painter Francis Bacon, for example). But drawing is still a fundamental skill for artists. Increasingly these past few weeks I've been drawing and then drawing more. It isn't only metalpoint that prompted me to draw more. Actually, doing a drawing or two every day grew out of my daily routine. Now each morning after a cup of coffee and the morning news I draw for an hour or so. The subject doesn't matter, nor does the method. It's the practice that's important. As the great illustrator Albert Dorne said, "You learn to draw by drawing."

Some drawings are warm ups, some become continuing studies, and some are for trying out new materials or methods. Once in a while I do draw just for fun. Whatever the reason, drawing is an integral part of life in my studio. For years most of my drawing efforts were either graphite or charcoal. About 10 years ago I went through a period of investigation of pastels, but eventually returned to older, simpler materials.

"Gettin' Funky"(graphite)
Lately I've practiced with graphite, ink, Copic markers, and pixels. Mostly these drawings stay in sketchbooks, although the silverpoint posted at the bottom has been exhibited. One of the most interesting things about drawing in several different media is how many if not all of the skills needed to draw carry across all of the different ways to make marks. Naturally there are many differences and peculiarities, but drawing is drawing whether done with a pencil or a computer.

Here are a few from the past year or two. The first is graphite on a 9x12 gray-toned sheet. I was struck by the rather stiff, uncomfortable posture of the older man dancing, whom I paired with a younger woman. This one was originally intended as a study for a painting, but the painting has yet to materialize. Even so, "Gettin' Funky" is a light-hearted celebration of the game, if clumsy, middle-aged male dancer.


  
Pen and ink study of narcissi, from a photo
The next is an ink drawing I did to test a new dip pen. The name "dip pen"  tells you exactly how these pens work. They're actually sold as metal nibs that fit into a holder and are dipped into a bottle of ink. These pens are made of spring steel that will deform and return to its original shape, which facilitates line work. These are the implements of illustrators of the late 19th century and the poison pens of umpteen newspaper political cartoonists. Today the dip pen is a true anachronism. This is about 6x8, on paper intended for ink work. I was interested in varying line weights using a traditional dip pen. If you use a mechanical pen like, say Rapidograph or others, you can't vary line weights except by doubling. Varying line weights using a dip pen is dependent on the amount of pressure applied. Heavier pressure means thicker, weightier lines. Pen and ink is still a wonderful way to draw.

The Dying Woman (silverpoint)
The silverpoint drawing to the left was done using a photograph of my own for reference. The woman in the drawing was in the final months of cancer. Like many of my silverpoint drawings, this one is on a gessoed panel, 6x8. Silverpoint is a difficult medium, but it captures the essence of gray scale values very well. Over decades the silver will tarnish to a warm, dark gray, just as silver table ware or tea sets tarnish.











Finally, here is a really scary clown, done digitally. I've been learning a drawing and painting program called Sketchbook Pro, a full-featured program that allows the artist to produce all kinds of variety of line, color, and the like. There are many digital art programs out there, of course, so I've been trying a number of them. This happens to be one of my more successful works, developed using a Mardi Gras float for inspiration. A lot of people are scared of clowns, I'm told, but I've been calling this guy "Loki" after the trickster in Scandanavian mythology.

"Loki" or "The Scary Clown" (digital)










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