2020-05-09T16:06:12-04:00

Drawing Studies

Drawing Studies

I’m working hard trying to finish up some artwork before the virtual Emerging Artist exhibit this upcoming Thursday! For this blog, I wanted to share some pencil portrait studies I did in my sketchbook in preparation for one of these artworks. These are for a piece about hope in suffering. All of these were based on reference photos of friends and family. Each participant was sent a different image of a pose and instructed in how to set up the lighting. I typically draw from life, but because of the expressive nature of the portraits (not to mention the pandemic), I had to make due. I hope you enjoy these studies, and I am looking forward to the exhibit on Thursday, the 14th!

 

 

2020-04-28T22:03:09-04:00

Composition

Composition

I’ve said a couple things about composition in the past, but I’d like to explore the topic in a bit more depth. I carefully consider each one of my compositions, and I think that adds to the strength of my artwork.

Composition sketches

Composition sketches 5.5″ x 8.5″

Planning out a composition ahead of time helps you to envision the overall picture and keeps you moving in the right direction. This planning stage can be accomplished in many different ways, such as thumbnail sketches, Photoshop, and gestures. I find that thumbnail sketches work well for me. A thumbnail sketch is a small drawing of what you anticipate your end product to look like. I like to do multiple to see what works the best for the piece. When doing these types of sketches, here’s some things to consider:

  • Orientation (horizontal or vertical)
  • Size/proportion of work surface
  • Placement of important elements
  • Scale of elements
  • Value (light vs. dark areas)
  • Balance
  • Line of sight
  • Focal point

This is no single formula that works, but the rule of thirds is not a bad place to start. The rule of thirds is the idea of creating a 3 x 3 grid on your work surface and lining up important elements at the intersections of these lines. Even if I don’t always follow the rule of thirds, I like to consider it as an option.

Drawing in progress showing the rule of thirds

Work in progress showing the rule of thirds

Another thing that can help to figure out a good composition is considering artworks that you like and what makes those compositions good. Do you prefer when the subject is centered or off to one side? Do you like paintings that are symmetrical or asymmetrical? Dark palettes or light palettes? This is one of the reasons that art history is such an integral part of a fine art degree. When you are exposed to a lot of different art in different time periods all over the world, you can find out what you like and use that in your own work.

In addition to thumbnail sketches, I also like to plan out my compositions digitally. Photoshop helps me to easily change the scale of elements and move things around until I find out what works best. I can do everything at the scale of my paper and then simply print it out, transfer it, and start working. It’s an easy way around the grid method, which is not a bad method, it’s just a bit more time consuming.

Photoshop rendering

Photoshop rendering

If you prefer to work more spontaneously, a gesture is another good way to plan out a composition. This is how I approach composition when doing a drawing from life. A gesture is a very quick drawing that captures the most basic things about your subject. Think about angles and big shapes, work light and loose. Because this is such a short drawing (1-2 minutes typically), you are less attached to it and can erase and redraw it easily in order to place it how you want. As a figure drawing instructor, I also have my students start with a gesture, because there is nothing worse than spending an hour on a figure drawing and realizing the foot is getting cut off by the edge of the paper.

Gestures

Gestures in charcoal on newsprint

Artists work in many different ways, but I think most consider composition in one way or another. With your compositional choices, you have control over what the viewer is drawn to in your piece and even what feelings may come about as a result. In this way, composition is crucial to creating meaning in your artwork.

2020-04-11T21:47:35-04:00

Artistic Approach

Artistic Approach

Artists have many different approaches to making their artwork. I wanted share some insight with aspiring artists as well as talk about my own artistic approach.

In order to give my work a sense of consistency, I’ll restrict myself in the materials, subject matter, and design of my work. I don’t have to think about reinventing the wheel every time, which frees up my mind for thinking of ideas. For artists that are just starting out, I do recommend trying different things. However, once you find what you like, sticking to it for awhile will help develop your own artistic style. This artistic style can evolve over time as you do.

For my main body of work, I always start with a figure drawing done from life. In some cases, I may have an idea and pose in mind, which I convey to my model. In other instances, I look through my sketchbook and find a figure drawing I’ve done and think of a setting for it. I will typically use a small sketchbook to plan out my ideas.

Composition sketches

Composition sketches

Some of my artworks are more about the composition and design whereas others have more of a story. I’ve been moving in the direction of telling more stories with my art lately. I look to literature, Greek mythology, and the Bible for sources of inspiration.

Charcoal, chalk and gray Rives BFK paper are my staples, even if I do add other media on occasion. I incorporate a good amount of negative space because I like the contrast between highly rendered areas and more empty, calm areas.

My art-making is very methodical, but some artists may have a more expressive approach. My advice is to find what works the best for you. An artist is his/her own worst critic!

If you want to hear more of my musings on art from my own voice, tune into the Emerging Artist Conversation happening on Facebook Live this coming Thursday, the 16th from 7PM to 9PM!

2020-03-30T14:24:59-04:00

Figure Drawing Process

Figure Drawing Process

Figure drawing progression, each 20 minutes

The more people are staying home due to the Coronavirus, the more they are using their time in creative ways. I wanted to provide a little lesson to inspire people to start drawing from life. Even though I’ll be talking about figure drawing specifically, many of these techniques can be applied to drawing anything.

In the GIF above, you can see how the forms go from general to more specific, as well as from from light to dark. The pink in the background is chalk pastel. I use the chalk pastel to do a gesture, a fast drawing that captures the general pose or shape of what I am drawing. When doing the gesture, I am thinking about things such as the overall angle of the figure, the tilt of the head, the angle of the torso, and the position of the legs and arms. I use the gesture to place my figure on the page. At this phase, I can easily erase and redraw the figure if I don’t have it where I want. I typically spend no more than 3 minutes on this step.

After doing the gesture, I lay in some light lines with my charcoal pencil. I then start looking more closely at the proportions of the figure. I’ll use a string to see if the overall height and width of the figure are correct and adjust as needed. To do this, I mark where the top, bottom, and sides of the figure are. I then position the string on each side of my drawing and compare this width to the height of the figure in my drawing. The important thing to note is the ratio. How many widths equal the height? The seated figure I drew above is about 1:1.5 width to height. The reclining figure below is about 1:4 height to width. I can then hold the string up to the model and see if this is accurate. If not, I may need to make the drawing either taller or wider. Keep in mind that your arms should be fully extended when measuring your subject and you should be standing or sitting in the same place to make sure your measurements are consistent.

Figure drawing progression, each 20 minutes

In the same way I checked the overall height and width of my subject, I can check the head heights using the string. See my Math and Art blog post for a visual demonstration of finding head heights. I also hold the string up vertically to my subject to see what areas line up and compare this to my drawing. It is good to step back and look at your drawing periodically to see if it looks right. If something looks off, using your string will help you to adjust it accordingly.

I start putting in the shadows from the beginning. They start light and loose and I refine and darken them as I go. When I do life drawing, I work on newsprint, which is an easy surface to erase on. I think of my eraser as an additional mark-making tool to carve out forms. I add the bright white highlights with chalk pastel at the end of the drawing so I don’t muddy up the charcoal.

This is a very brief overview, but I go into much more depth in my figure drawing class at the Dunedin Fine Art Center. The art center is closed at least through April 12th due to the Coronavirus, but I plan to teach a class over the summer if we are in the clear by then.

2020-03-20T22:17:30-04:00

In the Wake of the Coronavirus

In the Wake of the Coronavirus

Within a week, so much has changed due to the spread of the Coronavirus. This has had a big economic effect on many different areas of society, the arts included. Since last Thursday, I found out that two of my upcoming outdoor art shows were cancelled. I am disappointed but fortunate that I do not rely on these shows for my primary income. However, many artists do depend on these shows to make a living, and I hope they get the help they need during this time.

The Dunedin Fine Arts Center has been temporarily closed to the public. I was not teaching my figure drawing class at the time due to my outdoor shows, but I’m anticipating some of my future classes being cancelled. I also won’t be able to return to the open studio that I monitor for awhile, so I’ve had to cancel models that I had scheduled. Other open studios in the area have also been cancelled. As a result, I plan to work more out of my parents’ garage, hiring private models. I’m also thinking about the possibility of teaching art online, as the Dunedin Fine Art Center has encouraged.

Regarding work, I will be working less hours and my husband will be taking a pay cut as a result of the Coronavirus. This is obviously not ideal, but something we can overcome. I’m looking on the bright side and thinking about how I can use the extra time to get more art done. Earlier this week, I started a piece for a contest held by the Florence Academy of Art. The theme, “View From Your Room” encourages people to make art from their homes. I am doing this drawing primarily from life and am happy with my progress so far.

In progress drawing of the view from my room

In progress drawing of the view from my room
14″ x 18″ charcoal and chalk on gray Rives BFK paper

If you’d like to enter the contest, visit florenceacademyofart on Instagram for entry details. Also, check out some of their posts while you are there. Their students and faculty make stunning artwork.

2020-03-12T21:27:00-04:00

Preparing for an Outdoor Art Show

Preparing for an Outdoor Art Show

*Edit: The Tarpon Springs Fine Arts Festival has been cancelled due to concerns about the Corona Virus. I’m disappointed that the show won’t be happening, but I know the city is doing their best to keep everybody safe.

I’ve been participating in outdoor art shows for the past couple years. It’s a great way to personally connect with your audience about your artwork. I will have a booth in the upcoming Tarpon Springs Fine Arts Festival, so I wanted to share what I do to prepare for a show. Here’s one of my most recent pieces, which will also be displayed in the Emerging Artist Exhibit opening May 14th!

Echoes of a Moment

Echoes of a Moment
22″ x 30″
Charcoal, chalk, ink wash, and pencil on paper

 

Finish Art in Progress

I like to put my newest and best work in a show. So if I have anything in progress, I like to try and finish it up beforehand. Works that I need to get professionally framed and scanned will have to be done at least 2 weeks ahead of time, but I can also frame last minute work myself if I need to.

 

Get High-resolution Scans

I am lucky to work in a print shop that does fine art scanning and printing as normally this would be expensive. Regardless, I think having professional high-resolution scans of your artwork is important. It is good to have on hand for not only making prints, but also submitting to art show, exhibitions, and magazines. Additionally, if you sell your original, it is good to have a record of it. The process of scanning, proofing, and color correcting an artwork typically takes about a week. Then, it’s just a matter of ordering the prints themselves.

 

Prepare Giclee Prints

I usually start with 5 prints per artwork and I will make more once these are sold. I limit my editions to 30, which means that I will not make more than 30 total giclee prints of an artwork. Most art shows require giclee prints to be matted. After taping my prints to a mat, I put the title, edition number, and my signature in pencil on the mat board. I also write this information on the back of the print itself. Then, I add a backboard to the print and put it in a clear bag for protection. I also slide my business card in the bag so people can remember who I am.

 

Make a List of What to Bring

It’s very important to make a list of artwork to bring as well as odds and ends. If I skip this step, I can forget things I need. Things on my list include my tent and panel set-up, my toolbox, my giclee reproductions, my reproduction bin, title tags, business cards, water, and sunscreen. It’s good to have a plan in mind about where the artwork will go before set-up. Doing a scale drawing in photoshop has been helpful for me. Here’s one I did for my upcoming show:

Art show scale drawing

Art show scale drawing

 

Those are the main things I have to do before an outdoor art show. Of course, there are always things that come up or new ideas I have to make my display even better. I’m looking forward to the Tarpon Springs Fine Arts Festival this weekend! It’ll run from 9AM – 5PM on Saturday, March 14th and 10AM – 5PM on Sunday, March 15th. I hope to see you there!

2020-03-02T21:00:46-05:00

Makeshift Figure Drawing Studio

Makeshift Figure Drawing Studio

For this grant period, one of my goals was to start doing private model sessions. Doing so would allow me to pose my figures exactly how I wanted to fit my artistic vision. However, this is an expensive pursuit because I would have to both hire a model and rent a studio space. The solution was to turn my parents’ garage into a makeshift figure drawing studio to save on the studio rent and be able to draw on my own time. I am grateful that my parents were both art majors and were willing to help me out. I also got some helpful advice about lighting from my mentor, Kevin Grass.

Garage studio

Garage studio

Here’s how I set-up the studio:

Model stand

One of the features I wanted to incorporate in the studio was a model stand. I prefer to stand up while I draw, so having the model be on a stand instead of just the floor allows for a better view. My dad and I built this out of some scrap wood and it worked really well. It consisted of a long rectangular box with an additional piece of wood in the middle for support.

Building a model stand

Building a model stand

Lighting

I was able to borrow some spot lights from a friend, which were perfect for the space. I turned off the overhead lights, covered the windows with paper, and had one light shining on the model and the other behind me, illuminating my paper. I’ve found that having one main light source on the model is ideal for creating dimension. It also reads as more dramatic.

Easel

I used a cheap plastic display easel, which proved to be a little too flimsy. It ultimately got the job done, but next time I’ll be bringing my nice sturdy, wooden easel. The downside is that it’s a bit of a pain to transport. I may opt to get a metal easel that folds up in the future to make it more portable.

Space Heaters

My parents’ garage has AC but no heat, and it happened to be cold that day. We used some space heaters, one of which was borrowed from a neighbor, to make the model comfortable. We had them running for a few hours ahead of time to ensure it would be warm by the time the model got there.

Here’s my drawing from the first model session I had in the garage this past Friday. I’m looking forward to the future drawings I’ll do in this space!

Figure drawing from life

Charcoal and chalk on newsprint 18″ x 24″

2020-02-23T17:17:47-05:00

Taking Art Further Than a Hobby

Taking Art Further Than a Hobby

There are people at many different stages of art-making, from dabbler to professional. What defines an artist as opposed to a hobbyist? How does one take his hobby further? This is something I’ve been thinking about recently, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

A hobby is something done for fun in one’s free time. Hobbyists typically do not sell what they produce as it is solely for their enjoyment. Furthermore, they are not necessarily looking to better their skills. Cooking is a hobby of mine because it is something I like to do in my free time. I don’t call myself a chef and I’m not looking to make money doing it. I like to try new recipes and techniques, but I’m not interested in pursuing culinary school.

When a hobby ceases to be fun, the hobbyist will stop doing it. The artist will continue to push through, even when it is not “fun,” because they find greater fulfillment in what they are doing. Most of the time, I enjoy making art, but at the same time, it feels like work! Something that helped me take my art further was studying studio art in college. For those who are not looking to go back to college, there are other options for art education. Taking a class at a local art center is a good place to start. Having an instructor to guide you can really help you grow in your abilities. There are even art courses online if you want to learn at home.

Another thing that is really important is setting aside dedicated time for your art. If you develop a routine, it will help you to push through the times when you just aren’t feeling it and keep going. This can be a real challenge if you are busy, but just setting aside half an hour a day can really make a big difference over time. I like monitoring the open studio at the Dunedin Fine Art Center because it means I have a 2.5-hour time-frame to draw the figure every week. I also like to work on my art over the weekends and sometimes after work. One of my goals moving forward is to develop a more organized and specific art routine.

Once you’ve honed your skills and have a large body of work, you can look for opportunities to display your work. I started with local exhibitions and outdoor art shows. You want to get your work in front of a lot of people, but it is also good to be selective in where you show your artwork. I recently turned down an offer to display my work in a gallery because I didn’t feel the gallery was a good fit. Creative Pinellas is a good place to start looking for art opportunities. Another site I’ve used is St. Petersburg Arts Alliance.

 

News

I will be teaching a portrait drawing workshop on Saturday, February 29th, from 10AM to 2:30PM. Spots are still open and details can be found here.

Portrait drawing

Portrait drawing

2020-02-13T23:30:55-05:00

Math and Art

Math and Art

Most people don’t think of math and art as being related, but I regularly find myself using math concepts in my art practice. I use proportions, ratios, and even basic algebra all the time and I think I’m a better artist because of it!

When I am drawing from life, I am very attentive to proportion. I use a string to determine the relationships between parts of the figure to the whole figure. A common example of this is head heights. To figure this out, you stretch your arms out while holding the string and position one thumb on top of the person’s head and the other at the bottom of their chin. From there, you move the string without moving your thumbs to determine how many heads high the figure is. Every person and every pose is different, but I find that 6-7 heads high is typical for a standing pose. Six head heights can be represented as the ratio 1:6. Other parts of the figure can be measured in this same way. This can be used as a way to check one’s drawing for accuracy. When I teach this method, many students are surprised to find how different their initial drawing is from what they are actually seeing!

Measuring head heights

Another way I use proportion is when I am doing a composition study in my sketchbook. I usually work on paper that is 22″ x 30,” so if I make the sketch 7″ high, I would need to figure out what the width would be in a vertical orientation. Figuring this out requires some basic algebra. Here’s how to solve the problem.

Proportion math problem

The basic idea is that with 2 equal fractions, the cross multiples will also be equal. So if I make the width a little over 5 inches, I’ll get an accurate proportion. If you are looking for an easier way, check out this proportion calculator I made.

Composition sketch

Composition sketch
5.13″ x 7″

Work in progress

Work in progress
22″ x 30″

Knowing about proportions is also helpful for making smaller reproductions of your artwork, which many artists do. For example, if your original artwork is 24″ x 30,” you can make a reproduction that is 16″ x 20.” If you try to get a size that is an inch or two off, your image will look stretched out compared to the original.

Those are just some of the ways I use math when doing art. One artist who I always think of as being particularly mathematical is M. C. Escher. His drawings and prints reveal a deep understanding of geometry. In fact, the mathematical concepts he was dealing with in his artwork were ones that mathematicians at the time were also working on. Art can really be as loose or as mathematical as you want to make it!

 

2020-02-05T19:17:22-05:00

Art Show Displays

Art Show Displays

I’ll be participating in two local outdoor art shows this spring, the Tarpon Springs Fine Arts Festival and the Mainsail Art Festival in St. Pete. I’ve been in both of these shows before and am excited to be there again.

In the past, my booth displays consisted of DIY panels, but this year I am looking to up my game with a more professional display. Some considerations I had while researching panels were for them to be lightweight for easier transport, but also durable because I want them to last. I have been looking around for used panels, but haven’t had much luck so far, so I started looking into getting them new.

DIY booth panels

DIY booth panels

I was originally looking at ProPanels because I have seen displays using these panels and really liked the look of them. They are also easy to set-up and break down. However, these are the most expensive, especially when you add on extras such as telescoping legs and hanging bars, so I wanted to look into some other options.

I thought that the mesh panels from Flourish were a decent option. I got to test these out and especially liked how easy the hanging system was. Drapery hooks are simply inserted into the holes of the mesh to hang artwork. The only downside to the mesh panels is that they don’t have the same solid look that the ProPanel walls have. I could also order fabric coverings for the mesh panels from Flourish, but then it would end up being more expensive than the ProPanels.

Another option was to purchase a grid wall from Graphic Display Systems. These panels are a much cheaper option than both the ProPanels and the Flourish mesh panels. They are durable and lightweight, but the grid itself is not very attractive. However, adding the fabric coverings from Flourish would give it a nicer look and allow me to hang my artwork easily with the drapery pins. I ordered some sample fabrics from Flourish and was really impressed by the self-healing fabric technology as well as the look of the fabric itself. After poking a hole into the fabric with the drapery pins and rubbing it with my finger, it’s like the hole was never there! I think this is the solution I’ve been looking for, but I will keep looking around for used panels just in case something comes up. I’m looking forward to my upcoming outdoor shows even more now!

ProPanels

ProPanels

Graphic Display System grid panels

Graphic Display System grid panels

Flourish fabric covers

Flourish fabric covers

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