Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The holidays are upon us--Perspective II

I don't know about you, but I am feeling the holiday spirit very early this year. I'm not really sure if it's because of  the encore art show at Blue Moon Coffee or if it's just enjoying life once again from a child's perspective. So often, especially when I'm drawing or painting, I feel like a five year old, playing to my hearts content, which I think is helping me to slow down the time and taking a break to embrace the day. It's been a long time coming, but I think I've finally arrived at enjoying the present, more than ever. So enough of my stuff, let's move on to some fun things:

Encore Student Art Show December 6th
Let me invite you to the Encore Student Art Show next month. Since we are scheduled to be at Blue Moon for two months, we thought a second  reception was in order, this time with a holiday theme complete with new art, new cards and new gift ideas. So come by on Sunday, December 6 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Blue Moon Coffee in Lake Oswego. Grab yourself a warm cup of coffee, enjoy the new art, peruse the students' portfolios, if you didn't get to them the first time around, and maybe even purchase a cool Holiday card or a lovely present. (click graphic)

Perspective Part II--One Point
Last issue I talked about the horizon line (your eye level), which is a hard concept for people to understand. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of it. Today, I'd like to go over  simple one-point perspective. As I've done is classes before, look at these two line drawings below (click graphic):

The lines going to the vanishing point are called orthogonals. I just call them vanishing lines since they vanish into the distance. One-point perspective is when all the vanishing lines converge on one point (see photo below, click on it for a larger view). Next month, I'll cover a little more about this and touch upon two-point perspective. Let me know if this helping. And one more thing: Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Student Show, Perspective Part I

Student Show a Grand Success!
The first "Drawing from the Heart" student show was a huge success. Over 50 people attended the reception on Sunday, November 8th held at the Blue Moon Coffee shop in Lake Oswego. We will have an encore reception on December 6th with fresh holiday gift items from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Please join us.

Perspective, Part I
For the next few months, I will be covering perspective. Let’s start with the most confusing concept: horizon line.

So many of us have problems with perspective. For years, I had the hardest time understanding it, and I think my main problem was the idea of the horizon line (HL). No matter how many books I read, how many people I talked with, it just was one big puzzle.

I think my confusion was based on the traditional concept of the horizon. As all of us, I was taught that the horizon was where the sky met the ground. But that's NOT necessarily the horizon line in art. So for now, please try to forget that whole idea.

Instead, your horizon line is YOUR eye level. As an example, I’d like you to take your hand in a horizontal fashion up to your eyes. Then move it forward—what do you see? That’s your eye level—your horizon line. Now stand up and do the same thing. The horizon line has just moved up. Sit down on the floor and do the same. The horizon line has moved down. What you are doing is seeing different horizontal lines or your eye level as you move up and down.

You can do the same exercise with your camera. Place your camera up to your eye and change your different eye levels. When a photographer takes a picture through her viewfinder, she is looking at the landscape at her eye level or the horizon line. I hope this helps you to understand this complicated, but in fact, fairly easy principle.

Next month, we’ll cover vanishing points and lines.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Making a value finder

In a lot of my classes and workshops, I talk about value finders. Sometimes I ask students to curl up their hands like a telescope and look through the little hole that's formed at the end of the "tunnel." This works well when you out-of-doors. I can't tell you how many times, I've used this simple method to get my values correct.

Another value finder is simply made by punching a small hole into some paper. Like so...

But what's the whole point of this value finder stuff? I'm glad you asked. :) Let's look at the following photo of an orange. Notice there are various tones or values all over the orange. It's fairly easy to see that there is a highlight facing us and shadow underneath the orange. But what about all those subtleties we may overlook? Well, that's where the value finder comes in. You can move it around the orange and "see" all the values.

Here's an example. By using several value finders (since I can't move it around), you are able to zone into how many different tones you see.

What's nice about value finders is that because you wipe out all the extra information with either your fingers or surrounding paper, you're able to focus in on the real tones. 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Portraits in Watercolors

We've been studying the portrait during this past summer in my private Drawing Studio class on

Tuesday nights. We spent one week each various parts of the face: the eye one week, the nose the next, and so on. Near completion of the class we put all the pieces together and painted two
portraits: one in watercolor and the other in oil pastel. Everyone did a spectacular job, considering for some, it was their first attempt at creating a portrait using a different medium other than pencil.

I have to say I was rather surprised myself, as I've always shied away from watercolors. In fact, I've battled with this medium so much, I've been known to call it my nemesis. I wanted to teach skin tones. So, believe it or not, I decided to use watercolor and why not mix the skin tones by using just the primary colors (someday I find that loose screw rolling around in my head)!

With that challenge in mind, I began to experiment. I knew I could make some browns and/or grays by mixing my complimentary colors (those opposite each other on the color wheel), but what about all those little nuances of color on the face. I spent the next couple of days mixing my three Daniel Smith primaries with abandon and really had some fun. Here are some things I discovered and passed onto my class.

I use Daniel Smith primary triad: Perylene Red, Hansa Yellow Medium, and French Ultramarine. I like Daniel Smith because the colors seem to mix better than others. They are
clean, highly pigmented and come in inexpensive triad formulas.

After “playing” with my paints, I came up with this formula for a base skin tone:

What’s fun is that by adding the other three primaries to this base skin tone, you can create so many other skin tones.

So how in the world was I supposed to teach this when I feel so inept when it comes to watercolor (even though I have lots of friends and students who tell me otherwise). Well, I guess I had to do what I always preach—just jump in and go for it.

I selected one of the photographs we were studying and began my process of sketching, then laying in the first colors and then onward and upward, as they say. I took pictures along the way, so that you could see the progression.

While I still don’t consider myself a watercolorist, I must say I am proud of this one. Feel free to try it yourself.

Before I close I want to tell you about new blogspot that I think is going to be fun. It’s called The Virtual Paintout. You visit an area via Google Maps and then paint it, just as if you were there. Google Maps has also offered their map pictures into common copyright, so there’s no problem there. Check it out. This month, the paintout is Lisbon!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ink Pens

Last month I talked about line, so I thought it appropriate to cover a bit on ink pens this month. I love to sketch and draw in ink. Just putting ink to paper frees me up because I can’t use an eraser, which means I get what I get. I do a lot of over-drawing, that is, if I make a mistake I just draw over with a corrective line.
My favorite pen, and most expensive, is the Rotring sketching art pen. I get wonderful, full lines and no skipping. I use non-permanent ink and experience wonderful washes. However, I don’t take it out with me on sketching trips as I’m afraid I might lose it. Mine cost over $20 , so it has a nice safe home in my studio. (at DickBlick on-line store: $18.89) In general, when I’m sketching outside, I use whatever pen strikes me for the moment. Sometimes I’ll use the Koh-i-noor’s Rapidosketch pen, the cheaper cousin of the standard rapidograph pen. They come in three nib sizes .25, .35 and .50 and for me, perform the same as the expensive ones. (at DickBlick on-line store: $13.70)
Micron pens offer the same and are a bit more convenient. What bothers me about the tech pens is that the nib can get clogged—a bummer when you’re outside. The Microns are always at the ready for sketching, but unfortunately are disposable. They are available with permanent ink in several different colors and come with different-sized nibs, my favorite size is 5 black. Make sure your pen says “waterproof and fade proof.” You can purchase them in any art or craft shop for about $2.45 Fountain pens in general are a nice addition to my sketch box. I started using them when we lived in England for a spell. Back there, students still use fountain pens to learn writing. I like the flow of the fountain pen, and the ones I own, create rather thick lines. Sometimes they’re hard to start going, a drawback for outside work. But they are worth it, as they also make wonderful gray washes, giving me the freedom of just taking my sketchbook, waterbrush and fountain pen out and about instead of lugging a big bag filled with all sorts of things.
Speaking of gray washes, I also use the Uniball, Onyx gel pen, which you can find at any stationary store for less than a $1. I buy them at Staples –a box of 12 for $6.49. Wow. This pen is so convenient and makes crisp washes. I’ve had a great time playing with them this summer on our Sketch’n on the Go ™ trips through out the Portland area. So there you have it. My little review of pens I love to use. Check out the video below. I want an iPhone!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I want an Iphone

Recently, a friend sent this to me about creating art with your iPhone. What a great tool for our Sketch'n on the Go™ group.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What's in a Line

When we begin our sketches, we usually start with line. Of course, we could develolp light and shadow right from the start, but most of us draw with line and then move into form. There is so much variety with line, and I guess that's why I find myself drawing more than anything else on a daily basis. Weeks can go by without me picking up a brush or pastel stick. I love to see what a few lines in graphite or ink can create.
It's always a toss up for me who is the true contemporary master of line: is it Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) or Ben Shahn (1889-1968)? With Picasso, you have an artist who used one line to describe an object, such as the lithograph , A Dog. With a few more lines, he created La Femme.
Then there is Ben Shahn, who did a lot of commerical work and social realism in the 50s and 60s. Shown here is Supermaket 1957 and one of his political posters. The simplicity of Shahn's work draws me into his pictures.
Tried a bit of line work myself.
The above pictures inspired me. So I thought I'd have some fun just playing with line and watersoluable ink this past week. I re-discovered the basic line. What fun it is! The palm tree and faces below were drawn with only one line--I let my pen do some walking! Why not try this yourself. It's a cool exercise.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Sometimes when I'm studying art history and how things came to be, I am surprised that the Renaissance artists "discovered" certain things because they seem so common to me. But like all things in the past, I am trying to peer through a 21st century looking glass and have absolutely no idea what life was really like back more than 500 years ago. Sometimes my ignorance gets in the way of my understanding.
The same is true in regards to chiaroscuro (kee-ahr-uh-skyur-oh), the Italian word for light and dark. I’ve always been told chiaroscuro was simply the idea of using light and shade. We use values to create a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional object (the canvas, paper). Usually we’ll see the following picture that describes the process:

source: http://doloresjoya.com/blog/color/

It surprised me that pre-Renaissance artists didn't "see" the light, so to speak. But after doing some further reading on the subject, I’ve learned that chiaroscuro originally wasn’t just about creating form or the illusion of space and depth, but instead it was the first time light created drama. Now a painting wasn’t just a replica of the world; now a painting was worth a 1000 words. A story unfolded before one’s eyes.

Now I could see why this was a big deal. Up until then, paintings weren’t using light and shadow to create form or anything else for that matter. Even perspective wasn’t in use, so the idea of painting showing any kind of depth was hopelessly lacking. Then an explosion happened. Europeans were introduced to some fantastic concepts (thanks to the Islam communities in Spain and Sicily), like math, physics and a whole slew of new ideas. From then onward the world of art and science would never been the same.

The Renaissance painters such as Leonardo da Vinci (1452 –1519) and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, (1571 to 1610) used light and dark to express not only form but also added excitement to their paintings.

Let’s look at some paintings that were created in 14th century as opposed to ones that were painted less than three hundred years later. The first set of paintings were done in the 14th century. The Portrait of Jean le Bon, the King of France was completed by an unknown painter in 1360 and the Madonna del’Umita was created by Vitale de Bologna (1309-1360) in 1353.

Now compare the next paintings created three centuries later using chiaroscuro.
Da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine (above), painted in the late 15th century, is a perfect example of how light creates interest even for a simple setting. But the lighting master of the age--Carravaggio--really knew how to turn on the spotlight and create masterful dramatic pieces, such as Supper at Ammaus in 1601.
Another one of Caraviggio's paintings (above) also shows how skillful he was at chiaroscuro, The Death of the Virgin (1606). Notice on the close up how the light helps to depict the sadness, grief of the moment.
I personally like some other masters of light and dark: Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606-1669) and Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797). Below you'll see a couple of my favorites: Hendrickje Bathing in a River (1654) by Rembrandt and Experiment on a Bird in the Airpump (1768) by Wright--notice the close up and see the light.
And finally, I ran across a wonderful website that discusses chiaroscuro in film making. The author compares early paintings to scenes in some movies, very interesting and informative: http://www.bluesky-web.com/broadcastvideoexamples-Chiaroscuro.html.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Color Wheet Basics

Although most of you have had some exposure to the color wheel, I'd like to take this opportunity to review some basics. I'll only cover the six main colors: primary (red, yellow, blue) and secondary (orange, green, purple [violet]). But first, let's talk about Sir Isaac Newton. Yes, the guy who was sitting under an apple tree one day and discovered the concept of gravity. Along with watching apples drop, he also created the first color wheel. In 1666 Newton split white sunlight into the colors red, orange, yellow, green, cyan and blue within a prisim, combining both ends and then forcing a progression of the different colors. He also equated colors to music (so did Wassily Kandinsky ). Notice on the wheel he had listed the associated music notes. As stated above, there are six colors on a simple color wheel. The primary colors are red, blue and yellow. These three colors cannot be created from other colors. They are, in fact, used to mix other colors--from secondary colors to hundreds of others. When I first got into watercolors, I bought lots and lots of colors, thinking that I'd use them to "create" the perfect colors I was searching for. That's true. Today you can get thousands of colors from different vendors. Just with Daniel Smith, a local vendor in Seattle, you can select from over 200 colors. While some media, such as pastels and colored pencils, lend themselves to the use of less mixing of colors on a palette, others like watercolor, oil and acrylic paints can be done almost exclusively with the three primary colors. Secondary colors are those that are mixed using the primary colors: blue and yellow create green, yellow and red create orange and red and blue create violet. It should be noted that when mixing these colors, you may not get the exact match that you are looking for right from the start. Sometimes it take a bit of experimentation and using like colors (warm to warm or cool to cool). Complimentary colors (those that are opposite each other on the color wheel) are very neat. Although some people warn you to resist mixing them (you'll hear, "They turn into mud."), but done right these colors can in fact create wonderful browns and grays. So what are these colors and how well do they help us in our painting and drawings? First of all the colors are red and green (Christmas), yellow and purple (Easter) blue and orange (football team). You can sometimes create outstanding pictures by placing these colors side by side in your composition. Here are some examples:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Composition and Design

Composition and design can be such subjective topics. Literally, what is one man's art can be another man's junk. I think we learn that especially through my Composition and Design workshops. Play a couple short perception games and we see that one person's view can be so far skewed from another. Rule of Thirds When discussing composition and design, we must first look at one major concept: the Golden Mean (or golden ratio, golden section or divine ratio). As you can see with the grid below, there is an exact science to dividing your pictures. Without getting into too much math here, the Golden Mean has a ratio of 1 to about 1.618.

Grid source: Elizabeth Gilber from website: http://www.rethinkpresentations.com/the-rule-of-thirds-and-your-slides/

You might ask, "Who cares?" Well, it appears that nature itself has this ratio. I've read that even the human body is set up this way. For example the the lower half of our body is 1.618 as long as the upper half. We use this Golden Mean by creating the rule of thirds--the closest way to follow the method. Thus, we divide our canvas into thirds or six sections. The rule of thirds gives us a guideline to where things go. Consider a landscape, the first third could be the foreground where everything is close up, the second third could be the midground and the last third could be the background where everything is blurry. What's more, at the intersections, we have what are called hot spots or sweet spots. This is where the focal point can be placed. We can have the focal point on one spot or as many as three. The rule of thirds also prevents us from splitting our pictures in half. Instead, we want to arrange our paintings with the pleasing layout of thirds. See the grid below and then the grid on top of the woodcut: The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai (c. 1829-32 25.7 × 37.8 cm.). Notice how the wave covers three of the hot spots and takes up 2/3 of the painting. A perfect example using the rule of thirds! (However, as I've always stated, you are the artist and the design is up to you. Just remember the rules before you conscientiously break them.) Below are some pictures that were discussed recently in the composition and design workshop. I've included the title, artist, date and some background when I could find such information. Students who took the class will notice that some paintings, which were somewhat troublesome in class, were indeed cropped during the process of printing. Click on the pictures below to obtain larger sizes. The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche (1833) 8'x 9.7' Oil on canvas National Gallery, London Click on picture as well as detail A mere child, Lady Grey was the Queen of England for only nine days. She and her husband were executed on the same day. He on Tower Hill and she inside the Tower grounds. Although Delaroche depicts the execution as an act done inside. She was actually beheaded outside on the lawn facing her quarters. The Britannia site states that upon approaching the chopping block, "Jane... tied the handkerchief around her eyes. Unable to locate the block, she became anxious, 'Where is it? What shall I do? Where is it?' she asked, her voice faltering. Those who stood upon the scaffold seemed unsure of what to do. One of the standers-by climbed the scaffold and helped her to the block." I think we can really feel Jane's apprehension in Delaroche's painting. Here is another example of a white cloth used to show inner anxiety. Notice the detail of the painting The Mocking of Christ by Matthias Grünewald. Christ is in similar agony and apprehension with the blindfold on. Flaming June, c.1893 Lord Frederick Leighton 47 3/8 "× 47 3/8 " Oil on canvas The Ponce Museum of Art in Ponce, Puerto Rico In 1830, Frederick Leighton was born in Yorkshire, England. Although he began as a painter of history and mythology, he became the leading neo-classical artist of the Victorian era. He has an interesting background which you can find by clicking on the link above. As we discussed in class, this painting is a great example of the S curve or even the zig-zag line.Leighton's excellent use of lighting really helps us to move into the picture and view this young woman's nap. Notice how all the folds on her dress sort of "frame" the girl's long legs and torso. Please note that the photo used in class was indeed cut off on the sides to accommodate the 4 x 6 format. I'm impressed with those of you who suspected that. Good observation. Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877 by Gustave Caillebotte Oil on canvas I'm not sure if I read this or discovered it on my own, but Gustave Caillebotte's painting Paris Street, Rainy Day, breaks one of the major rules in composition called segmenting. If you will notice the lamppost, you will see it splits the painting almost in half. Thus, I see two different pictures here. One of the people and one of the building in the distance. Does this take away from the painting? Of course not. It shows however, you can break rules and still carry off your message--which in this case is rainy day in Paris. I can feel the cold and inhospitable weather. Further, there may have been a deeper meaning behind the segmentation. As I have not researached the piece in great length, I am only offering my observation. Apple Tree with Red Fruit, 1902 Paul Ranson 85,1 x 118,7 cm. Oil on canvas A post-impressionist, Paul Ranson's (1864-1909) Apple Tree with Red Fruit demonstrated his use of decorative art, using nature and symbol images. He, along with Paul Sérusier, Maurice Denis and Pierre Bonnard started the Nabis movement in 1888. Meaning "prophet, Nabis members leaned away from the Impressionist, using art to express one's inner feeling through symbolic and metaphoric ideas. Some would say that this was the beginning of abstract artwork, leaving realism and representational art behind and picking up a new baton for expression. Ranson's work in particular, was highly influenced by the Japanese art explosion in Europe in the late 1800s as well as Art Nouveau, both emphasizing the organic and highly styled manner. You can see the Japanese influence in the painting to the left called, A Japanese Landscape. Also, notice the similar palette and diagonal lines to draw you into the picture. Apfel Und Weintrauben by E. Krueger Oil on canvas I looked for information about E. Kruger on the Internet. However, all I could find was her work for sale at art and poster shops but no biography. Even so, we have lots to talk about when we consider composition. I personally love still life. When I returned to fine arts, I had a great drawing teacher, Renee Paudler. Although she was one of those instructors who didn't demonstrate (I need learn by hearing and seeing), Renee was a damn good teacher. She taught me how to really look at any object--hone in on it like an eagle. I really appreciate this still life because (1) I know how hard it is to paint it ,(2) The composition is superb. Everything is placed together in order to give the star its place on the stage, and (3) I love the lighting and colors. Even the white cloth has touches of color that unifies the whole picture. The Wedding Dance, c. 1566 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder oil on wood, 47 x 62 inches Here is an example of how perspective improved from the Middle Ages to the 16th century. Pieter Bruegel, the Elder painted many pictures of peasants. This one being my favorite. If you will notice how the dancers are in varied movement, large and fully detailed in the foreground and less so in mid-ground and even somewhat lost in background. In comparison, here is a painting of the medieval period where perspective has not been used. Called Medieval Peasant Meal (found no attribution), the painting shows people who are relatively the same in size. The one thing that I notice in this painting is that the background is in blue and smaller. Perhaps the beginning of some perspective knowledge. For more information go to: evolution of perspective at Wikimedia. Modern vs. Medieval I originally thought this was a medieval piece. It has all the trappings, but one of my students recently informed me that this painting was done by Olga Dugina and Andrej Dugin for the book The Adventures of Abdi (c) 2004 by Madonna. This illustration is highly complex and a wonderful example of how you can "suck" a person into your picture and keep her there. A visual delight. So this ends my exploration of perspective. In th next few months, I'll be examining other artists to help us both learn more about our craft and its past Thank you.