Friday, June 24, 2016

New Drawings

Over the last few weeks, studio work has involved not only drawing folds and drapery but various paintings and other drawings. In particular I've explored preliminary thoughts and ideas of new subject matter. Most mornings I spend at least a few minutes drawing, either to warm up for the easel or to explore various techniques and so on.

Here are a few new drawings.

This is a small 5x5 graphite and chalk drawing of a gargoyle that lives atop Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. I drew the head from an old photo I found online. The gargoyle here almost seems to be smiling at the hapless city spread below its gaze.
This graphite line drawing was also done from an online reference showing a draped back. It was interesting to work on smooth lines in various weights, values, and widths as well as the obvious need for accuracy in drawing the figure. The folds were intricate enough to be challenging to bring off without much shading. This is about 10x10 on tan paper.
Finally, here's a drawing after Degas. This figurative work of drapery can be easily found online. The original is charcoal on paper, and is mostly lines. With this copy I was practicing the use of white on a tan background and a darker line drawing. This one is actually a digital image that I made using Sketchbook Pro and a Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet. It's remarkable how digital images can emulate "real world" drawings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Other Art Show

This week is Art Week in Des Moines, a new concept that began last year and continues this year. The idea is to promote broader local participation and increase support for the city art scene, an idea which is definitely welcome. The week includes a number of events ranging from a plein-air painting event with subsequent sale to a film festival, tours of the Art center, and even culinary art. The week culminates with two art festivals that run concurrently. The Des Moines Arts Festival is a three-day event that originated long ago as an art-the-park exhibition benefiting the Des Moines Art Center. In the subsequent years it has morphed into something much larger. There are about 150 booths in the art portion of the exhibition, but they sometimes seem overshadowed by the other features of the festival, including live music and food, street performers, beer and wine tents, and the like. Held in  the heart of downtown to great enthusiasm, it is nothing short of a three-day street party, and very enjoyable.

The second show that weekend, known unsurprisingly as "The Other Art Show," happens this year
Saturday and Sunday June 25 and 26. Officially called ArtfestMidwest it is an indoor show held in a very large exhibition hall at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The beauty of this show is that it's in cool comfort indoors (summers in Iowa are hot), with excellent security. An outdoor show is at the mercy of the elements, but not so the Other Art Show. Furthermore, since this is only an art exhibition, people who attend are there for the art, not the party. It's been held there for about a decade now, and though it does favor locals to an extent, artists come from as far away as Colorado and Oklahoma as well as from closer states.

I've participated in Artfest Midwest a number to times over the past few years and always enjoy the show for it's informed patrons and cool, art-focused atmosphere. I'll be showing new cityscapes this year, some of which I posted a few weeks ago. Quite a few are Des Moines cityscapes, but there will be pictures of other places like Paris and New York as well. I posted an example of a Paris cityscape below. So if you're in Des Moines this weekend, stop by our booth and visit.
"Paris After the Snow" (homage to EC), 2016, 20x16

Art Week
Artfest Midwest
Des Moines Art Festival

Friday, June 17, 2016

Drawing Clothing and Folds

When drawing or painting figures, one of the most difficult things to master is clothing. Although drawing a nude figure is hardly simple, believable clothing is tougher to do realistically, at least it was for me. It's true that you can simply draw or paint the person or figure before you, including how their clothes drape and fold on the figure. You can use reference photos, too, provided they're of sufficient quality to delineate the drape of fabrics on flesh, although many snaps aren't good enough. But it's probably a lot easier to use those things if you understand clearly how cloth folds and drapes. That way, you can fill in details that aren't easily seen in reference pictures. There are only a few kinds of folds, so learning them is simple enough and the knowledge is something you can keep in your visual library.
Kinds of Folds
Lately I've been doing studies of drapery and clothing for practice, having not done very many in years past. Although sketching draperies can be quick and simple, actual finished drawings require more time and considerably more intense concentration. Part of the issue with draperies and clothes is the seemingly overwhelming intricacy. In classical sculpture, particularly, draperies can be quite daunting.

daVinci, "Study of drapery"
Accurate and believable rendering of the various curved and smooth surfaces of fabrics means in particular close attention to rendering the form as it curves from dark to light, which necessarily translates into almost minute attention to detail when doing almost any other kind of realistic work. There is a drapery study by da Vinci (left) which illustrates the point. In that study, Leonardo doubtless devoted considerable time and study in seeing exactly how the cloth drapes over the knees of  an unseen figure and lavished even more care on rendering the smooth curves of the fabric. Moreover, this study incorporates many of the commonly understood types of folds discussed below.

There are seven structural folds: pipe, diaper, spiral, zigzag, half-lock, drop, and inert. Each has different, recognizable characteristics. I've listed these in increasing level of complexity--that is, pipe folds and diaper folds are fairly simple, while drop and inert folds are more complicated and may even include examples of the more simple types within their overall makeup. Others describe folds differently, citing tension versus slackness, twisting forms, and so on, but I prefer this system because it's immediately useful in drawing clothing.

I did the sketch copies that accompany the text by copying various online reference images using graphite on an approximately 5x8 sketchpad.

Pipe folds
These are, unsurprisingly, shaped like pipes or long cylinders. They typically drop straight down from a support, owing to gravity. A common kind of pipe fold is seen in window drapes bunched along a curtain rod, or (as at left) hanging from a single support. The folds are rounded or cylindrical in each case. This sort of drapery is seen quite commonly in realistic art. 

Diaper folds
These folds occur when a cloth is suspended at two points. Sometimes the two are at the same level, but more commonly one point is higher than another. These are often present in classical sculpture. In my childhood, before everyone owned an indoor dryer, clothes drying on a backyard line often took this shape. Notice the diaper folds in the daVinci study, above.

Spiral folds
Cloth may bunch or twist on a cylindrical support (an arm, say). These are quite common in sleeves and other tubular clothing. You might see spiral folds in a woman's skirt, or a man's bib overalls when the figure is stretching. 

Zigzag folds
This kind of fold occurs when material buckles in alternating opposite directions. An excellent example is the knees of trousers--jeans are especially prone to this, both in the back and front. Note the folds in this drawing of jeans.  When I look at reference materials about this kind of folding, it seems that there's some disagreement about their structure. Some sources say these folds also interlock, which sounds more like the half-lock folds, shown below, than zigzagging..

Half-lock folds
When material bunches at a turning point of the cloth or drapery, a half-lock fold or a series of half-locks are commonly present. These folds often have a deep, pocket-like recess at their center. Most often these are seen in clothing at elbows and knees, as sketched at left.
Drop folds
These folds are found when clothing or drapes fall downward from a support--a chair back and seat for example--sometimes even changing directions. The resulting folding of cloth is more complicated than the others above, sometimes incorporating half-locks as well as pipe folds, as in the line sketch, left.

Inert folds
Fabric forms this sort of folds when it's collapsed into a mass on a surface, like a discarded bath towel for example. Inert folds lack an innate structure and each instance will be different from the next. Inert folds often incorporate several types of simpler folding. This type of folds are common in classical sculpture and painting. I did this drawing using a dish cloth tossed onto the studio floor.

After spending considerable time reviewing the subject I'm confident that the structure and kinds of draping seen in clothing will not only be easier to recognize and reproduce when using live models but also that it's possible to use the same principles to invent figurative drawings when necessary. I'd recommend a period of this kind of review to anyone who wants to improve their skills. It has definitely been useful for me.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Windowsill Works 4

These are three quick morning studies of a frilled bud vase that I keep around the studio. I did each of these on successive mornings around 7 to 8 a.m., although the blue vase does look as if it was done at twilight. As is the case with nearly all of these morning warm-up sketches, I was interested in a specific idea about composition with each, as well as working on technique. In each of these I tried very hard to make a single stroke and leave it alone, not making two when one would do and trying therefore to look closely before applying paint. Such careful consideration and observation is essential, at least for me.

It's interesting to use the same subject for a series, as anybody who enjoys Monet can attest. Using the same subject frees you from worrying too much about drawing and allows more time on light, color, reflections and refractions of light. I also limited my palette in each of these, so they don't necessarily represent the precise light or colors that were actually present, although they're
intended to show specific times of day and different lighting. Besides premier coup and limited palette, these sketches required believable rendering of clear glass, which I find challenging. So I particularly enjoyed painting how the light was bent in the solid glass bottom of the vase.

These are all about 6x8 on gessoed hardboard.

Previous posts in the series:

Windowsill Works
Windowsill Works 2
Windowsill Works 3

Friday, June 03, 2016

Digital studies

Since I posted about computer art programs last fall, I've continued experimenting with digital painting and drawing, sometimes making original images and sometimes using the digital format as a supplement to real world painting. Digital images can be altered indefinitely, so you can scan a drawing or painted sketch and then use one or another computer program to change the digital copy indefinitely without worrying about the original. Then you can use the experience to complete the existing painting.

Digital persimmons (study), 2015
 These digital persimmons were  "painted" using Sketchbook Pro and an online image of an oil painting by another artist. The image was a striking one and I simply wanted to explore a similar, very warm palette. This quick study probably occupied less than an hour's time but could easily be used to construct an actual oil or acrylic painting.

Washington Square Arch, sunet (study), 2016
The study to the right is also based on an online image that I grabbed to use as my primary source, although it is much modified with figures, etc. In this case I used digital imaging as a way to decide whether or not to pursue an actual oil painting. Using an image of Washington Square Arch and the park beyond, I made this study to see how the proposed composition would look using a narrow gamut of two complementary colors. I drew the image using several values of violet for darks and yellow for the highest. This is another way I sometimes use digital programs.

Night Street, 2015
Sometimes I start and finish a work digitally. Here is an original digtal "painting" of the view from my studio window at 6 am, most winter mornings. This was created (as were all of these) using Sketchbook Pro, which I've found fits me best of the computer programs I've been trying out.

Digital images like this don't sell, of course, because in a very real way they are more ephemeral than handbills. You can print one of these onto a good support using top-quality archival inks (and there are machines that can convert it to oil paint, too) but digitally created images are a tough sell, I'm told. 

Computer Art Programs