Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ups and Downs of a Figure Drawing Student

P1000629This is a semi-accurate copy I did of John Singer Sargent’s “Mrs. Horace Webber.” I wonder if he had to struggle with figure drawing.

Figure drawing to me is an immensely enjoyable, frustrating, and, I have to admit, humbling experience. Every Monday morning, full of vim and vigor (or with as much vim and vigor one can have on a Monday morning), I head out to our weekly Figure Drawing group. My goal is to get a really good drawing of our model, a good likeness, a good expression, the whole shebang……..and at times I do.

Most of the time, though, I don’t reach that goal, and for those times I have learned to scale down my expectations…. at times, way, way down……like, being happy just to get the species right…..I once actually ended up with a horse’s head instead of a detailed study of the model’s nose. I admit, that was a low point. At other times, I have to be content just to get the gender right, or the ethnicity. And if I can nail all of those, I’m usually still far away from my goal. That’s a good time to cultivate my sense of mystery and anticipation over who might show up on my drawing paper. Once it was Paul Newman (the model’s name was Tim), and the next time I tried my hand at drawing Tim, Muammar Gadhafi showed up. Blessings to the person who invented erasers!!!!

I would think knowing the model really well would help. Not necessarily. I couldn’t get a decent likeness of my darling husband of 31 years. Big sigh.

But then there are the times, when the drawing works out, and I can see the person I’m trying to capture emerge. And when artists and teachers I respect say, “this is really good,” and mean it, I know I’ve been making progress.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Winter is over


Now that spring is here, I thought is was time to finish this winter picture. Sometimes I like to paint a landscape during a season that is different from the current one.

Living in the South, we don’t get to see many such scenes. A cold day in January, snow on the ground, but sunny skies. The light is very strong and harsh. The dog is thrilled to be out in the cold, making a strong shadow in the blinding snow. A few human footsteps can be seen, but the visitor changed his mind and turned back. Didn’t want to disturb the rare snow……..

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What’s in a Title–part 2


While the subject of meadows comes up frequently in my paintings, fishing is another topic I paint quite often (as in this painting, ‘Fishing on a Warm December Day’).

Not that I’m much of an angler myself. I can’t quite deal with putting a slimy, wriggling worm on a hook, but once ‘somebody’ (bluntly speaking, my husband), puts it on, I’m content hanging the bait in the water and become mesmerized watching the bopper dance on the waves. Catching a fish is great excitement, but taking it off the hook……..weeellll, whoever hooks the worm (aka. sweet husband) has to take the fish off, also.

Despite all my shortcomings as a fisherwoman, though, hanging a line in the water, being outside, listening to the birds, etc. is a wonderfully relaxing way to spend a few hours.

My first introduction to fishing came in the form of a book, Hermann Hesse’s ‘Unterm Rad’ (Beneath the Wheel). It deals with the intense stress an intelligent young boy is  dealing with trying to fulfill people’s expectations. His outlet is fishing, and Hermann Hesse describes it in such a beautiful way, that many who read the book, want to try it themselves.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How to (or how not to) paint a portrait

MaraMonday morning is Figure Drawing day at the Huntsville Art League. This week, we had a beautiful young woman as our model, which in itself presents a challenge. No wrinkles to serve as  landmarks and ‘architectural’ scaffolding.

She asked me how I go about drawing or painting a figure. A caveat before I proceed: I’ve been known to do an in-depth study of a nose and turn it into a beautifully rendered horse’s head. Interestingly enough, I tried to draw an actual horse’s head from life this weekend and failed miserably, but I digress.

The first thing in drawing a portrait is to get the features placed where they ought to be. I use a wooden steak skewer to help me measure distances, angles, etc. Which works very well for marking distances that are fairly far apart, such as the width and length of the head. What I learned this Monday is that with my wiggy contact lenses and fuzzy vision, measuring small distances is not quite so accurate. So not much of a likeness.

Regardless of likeness or lack thereof, I then proceeded with the painting process. It started out pretty good, but what can go wrong when one uses such faint values to be almost invisible. I had a feeling of problems ahead when I realized that my only red on my palette was a strong hot pink (another lesson learned: pack my stuff the day before. Monday mornings are not a good time to think with a clear head about which colors to put on a palette, and just grabbing one leads to such situations as this one.) So I threw realism into the wind and decided to use all colors on my palette, get the values believable, and have fun. Which I did. Lots of it. And I learned another thing about watercolor as a medium: when I don’t want it to drip, it will, but if I actually want a drip, it won’t do it. Go figure…….

Monday, September 27, 2010

What’s in a Title?


As I was going through my paintings, I noticed that many of them had the word ‘meadow’ in the title. I have at least 5 of them, all done in the spring time. All started as plein air (on location ) paintings (this one is titled ‘Meadow along Hays Greenway.’)

After the long, gray winter weeks come to an end, I love to finally get outdoors without having to worry about freezing my toes off, find a warm spot in the sun and paint. And meadows on a spring morning are just about the best places to be. Especially when they just start to green or when they are full with clover and buttercups.

One time I was out there for so long, a deer went right across the scene I was painting. I wish I were a better painter and could just add it, but I think I need LOTS more practice for that. Especially since the deer don’t exactly hold still.

Watch for the next post where I will talk about the other most frequent word in my title.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First Green

First-Green-Redone It’s been a very busy summer, but it’s time I start posting again. The painting ‘First Green’ came out rather well, and it was accepted into the Unique Views of Huntsville show at the Art Museum.

The actual location is on the Madison County nature trail on Green Mountain. In the springtime, the creek has quite a bit of water in it, and it’s a very peaceful and quiet place, especially early in the morning. During the summer and fall, the water pretty much dries up, and the landscape shows a different kind of beauty.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Feeding the Donkeys


I couldn’t resist this grouping of animals and child. There is something goofy and funny about donkeys.

I chose a limited color palette to tell the story. After working out the composition, I made a detailed drawing, then transferred the outlines to watercolor paper. I covered the sheet with a mixture of raw umber, burnt sienna and raw sienna, carefully preserving the white of the paper. This gave me a wonderful ‘roadmap’  on where to go after that.  I worked up the patterns with multiple glazes and  blending colors with a soft brush. Since I wanted a soft feel, I smoothed any hard edges.