Friday, October 1, 2021

How to compose a picture correctly.

October 2021 Newsletter: Composition Part I

How to compose a picture correctly?

For the past five weeks we've been covering the subject of composition and design in my studio class. It's been so very interesting because even though I know the subject, it's always nice to review. That's what I'd like to do here this month and next.

Most of us know the rules. Here are a handful:

  • Use the rule of thirds, placing your important subjects on "hotspots"
  • Always odd numbers
  • Must have a focal point
  • Never place your subject in the center, never divide up your drawing into equal halves 
  • Always have objects off center
  • Don't have a lead line go outside the picture 
  • Crop when necessary
  • People should look at the focal point or viewer
  • No kissing allowed (objects touching)
Rest assured, there are more rules. But let me point out, in all my years of teaching and exhibiting my work, I have never witnessed an art cop. These rules are guidelines to help you to put together a pleasing drawing and/or painting. You probably already know all these rules just because we live in a visual world with magazine ads, flyers and billboards. You know what's appealing because if it isn't you'll pass right on by.

But it's nice to know what works and what doesn't. In the next couple of newsletters I will share these composition rules and concepts with you by using pictures--drawings, photos and paintings. I hope that will help you more than a bunch of words.

Let's begin with some terms. In composition there are two distinct parts: Elements of Art and Principals of Design. The elements are all the bits and pieces you have that goes into a painting: 

  • Line
  • Shape
  • Form
  • Color
  • Space
  • Texture
The principles of design are where you put those bits and pieces, in other words, the layout: 

  • Balance
  • Contrast, 
  • Proportion
  • Pattern 
  • Rhythm
  • Emphasis
  • Unity  
  • Variety

It's about guiding the eye. 

Line

The following photo is a perfect example of line, drawing you into the picture. It's also an example of the Fibonacci sequence, part of which is called the golden mean. It appears everywhere in nature. See this link to learn more. 


Shape
I love this picture. It's monochromatic, but speaks volumes through strong values. Notice the triangle in the lower right-hand corner (spit of land), which points to the woman who then takes you to the boats and then the moon. 

There are three basic shapes we work with in art: rectangle (square, parallelogram), circle (oval, ellipse) and triangle.  Notice in this photo there are all three with the moon as the circle, spit of land as the triangle and the boats as a series of rectangles. To give all these shapes a three-dimensional presence, you need to create form.

Form
A simple circle is just that until you add value to it, then it becomes a sphere. As we have discussed in my workshops and classes, the best way to add value is to study a value finder (below) and the lighting of the object. 


The sphere above was drawn with graphite pencil. I actually repeated the value scale on the page to help with the proper shading. It helps also to fine a scrap of paper that's similar so you know how the "color" will look like to help guide you

Rule of Thirds

The golden mean. mentioned above, is too lengthy to discuss here. Instead,  I'd like to introduce a related subject,  the rule of thirds. While teaching, I refer to this visual aid all the time. Here it is visually:

I usually use this as a grid (rule of thirds) to help me with proportion. How many times have you drawn a person and suddenly when you get to her feet, there's no paper left. This grid helps to keep everything inside the picture plane. I also use it to help with placing my elements near or on top of my "hot spots"--those black circles where the lines intersect inside the grid. They not only help you keep your pictures well balanced, but they also help you determine your focal point.



Here is an example using Monet's painting, End of the Summer. Notice that the larger haystack on the right is the focal point, placed on two hotspots. But also consider the shapes and form. We have triangles placed on top of rectangles. He used light and dark to express the volume, giving further substance by shadow on the ground. You can almost feel the texture as well--to be discussed later.

Now that you've been given just a smattering of what's involved with composition. Here is a trick question. Does this painting follow the “rules”?

Paris Street; Rainy Day, Gustave Caillebotte| 1877 |Oil on canvas | Art Institute of Chicago


Hint: the rule says never divide your drawing (painting) into equal halves 

Next newsletter, we'll cover color, space and texture. 

What's coming up in studio?

5-Week Online Classes

Discover Watercolor Pencils

An easy approach

Tuesdays October 19- November 16  or
Wednesdays October 20 - November 17

10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
$90 per five-week session

Here's another chance to learn more about watercolor pencils in conjunction with ink and watercolor. We'll explore a variety of drawing subjects, embellishing them with color by using the techniques of form.

For more information or registrations, please write me at this address:  jjgoodell@gmail.com.

Wahoo! Celebrating 40 years in business!


Saturday, August 28, 2021


Glastonbury Studios
August/September 2021
Newsletter

What's my line?

When we start a drawing or painting project, most of us begin with the line. Even Michelangelo, who sculpted the famous La Pietà in Vatican City, began with a pencil and paper. In fact, it's been said that he would create 100-150 drawings before he ever struck stone. He wanted to know his subject. I have done the same with commission work, drawing over 60 poppies to get them right. To this day, I can draw a poppy flower from my mind.

Why go through all the trouble? Simply because, drawings are the skeleton of all art and the line is the foundation. We either use contour lines (French for outline), or sketch lines or gesture lines. A simple drawing with no modeling (creating the illusion of three-dimensionality using value) looks like your typical coloring book drawing, like these: 


They are called line drawings. In the olden days in advertising (I’m showing my age), it was too expensive to include photos in ads, so line drawings were used a lot. If you notice, these above drawings have no values (light and dark). They are clearly two-dimensional

Another famous 2-D drawing is the one that author, Betty Edwards included in her book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It's Picasso's drawing of Igor Stravinsky, the Russian composer. She tells her readers to draw the picture upside down, encouraging everyone to "see" shapes instead of the object itself (a great exercise, by the way).

Notice the drawing is all lines. There are no values. Just a 2-D object on a 2-D surface. Even so, you can still feel the tension of the subject through his facial expression, seated position and hands. In other words, simple line drawings can tell your story as much as those with more detail and depth.

Creating 3-D effect with line
Fortunately, you are not stuck with line drawings. You can create volume and the illusion of a three dimensional object by also using line (of course you can use the side of your pencil and a blender to shade in values, but we’re sticking with line for now). So how do we create this illusion? By using several marks, two of which I will discuss today: the hatch and cross-hatch lines.

By manipulating these lines or marks you can add depth, value and volume. As you can see in the example below, the hatch marks are simply lines drawn together. The closer they get the darker they become. The same is true with cross-hatch. The more lines you add, the deeper the value.


Here are two line drawings where I added hatch and cross-hatch marks. Can you see the illusion of a 3-D object?

Hatch marks

Notice I have drawn lines farther apart to indicate light and closer together to create shadow.

Again, I have used hatch and cross-hatch lines that are farther apart to indicate lighter areas and closer together to indicate dark or shadow.

Cross-hatch marks 

The psychology of line
Along with creating lines for volume and depth, you can also draw lines that indicate how you feel or how the artist wants you to feel. Look at these examples:

These are random feelings and my interpretation of these lines. Perhaps I may not feel the same way tomorrow. It's all subjective. These type of lines are often used in an abstract way. Take for instance Edvard Munch's Scream.

Notice the variety of lines and how abrupt and scary they are. I really don't know if the figure is even necessary as the marks give me the creeps alone,

 Drawing with one line

Now that we have briefly touched upon the subject of line, I'd like to offer a fun exercise, called the continuous line or one-line drawing.

Picasso is famous for this method. If you ever get a chance to read up on Picasso, you may find out that this guy, who created very confusing portraits (to me), was truly a master. He began his career as a realist probably because his father, who was an art professor, pushed him in that direction. But as we see he went from there, on to creating a whole new form of art, namely cubism.

These fun drawings are done by placing your pen on paper and not letting up until you are done. It’s similar to blind contour drawing, but in this case you look at the subject. What's more, Picasso had a method of reducing an object to one line. Here's how he did it with a bull:

Now let me show you what I mean by showing some of Picasso's many one-line drawings.



So what do you think? Can you do it? I chose very simple subjects, a lamp and a mug. It took me quite a few times to draw it, but I did. Quite primitive, wouldn't you say -- but fun.

And just one more picture. Here is a great example of continuous line by DFT.  I love it!



In conclusion, the line is a fascinating element of art--it's versatile, expressive, a guiding light and so much more. I hope you enjoyed our journey to today. While speaking of composition, keep on going and see the classes that are being offered by me this fall.

 What's coming up for Fall of 2021

5-Week Online Classes

Composition for the Artist

An easy approach

Tuesdays September 7- October 2 or
Wednesdays September 8 - October 3
$90 per five-week session

One of the most mysterious things I faced when I returned to fine art was all these rules I kept on hearing about when composing a picture. No one really explained it fully, just a comment here and there—“always use odd numbers, find your sweet spot, never have subjects in the center” and so on. It took a while, but I found out that yes, there are rules, but rules are made to broken. Let me share my knowledge with you for five weeks.

 Some of the topics:

  • What is composition?
  • The rules
  • Elements and principals of composition
  • Learn how to create a good design
  • What to do and not to do
  • Going with your instinct, expressional self
  • Imitation vs. Imagination

Is this a good composition or not? Come to class to find out!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Household Stuff for Art

During this transaction time, I'm writing a smaller article than usual. Next month, you can expect one with much more information, such as single line drawing. See you then.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

We've move, but nothing has changed.

 April 25, 2021

As I write this, I am hidden away in my office while the movers are here. We are moving back to California, after living and working here in Oregon for 30 years. However, our new location and phone number will be the only things that will change for Glastonbury Studios. You can continue to expect the same art newsletter with stories about individual artists/movements to working with different media. To date I have written over 100 different articles and hope to write another hundred--God willing and the creek don't rise. 

For those of you who signed up with the Blogger Feed Burner, you will now have to go to a new site for the newsletter sign up. Blogger has dropped this feature. Now I'm going to be using MailChimp, which may send the newsletter to promotion or spam, so you may want to check out where the newsletter is going if you don't hear from me every five or six weeks. 

For now, you don't have to do anything. I will try to transfer your address to Mailchimp. If that doesn't work, then you can always sign up at this link: http://eepurl.com/byzfYv.  

BTW, I will continue writing my newsletter at this site and just use MailChimp for mailing. Nothing ever stays the same, does it?

What's coming up?

Online Spring Classes

Tuesday mornings: May 25-June 22
Wednesday mornings: May 26-June 23

10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
$90 per five-week session

Subject: Drawing Birds

Media 
Pencil, pen, colored/watercolor pencils, 
some watercolor paint.
Supply list provided upon registration.

Register for class today.
Contact me through email: jjgoodell@gmail.com



10 Seminole Court, Rio Vista, CA 94571
jjgoodell@gmail.com
www.glastonburystudios.com

Thursday, March 25, 2021

March 2021 Newsletter

 Giving up!

I created a slogan for my business years ago that helps me overcome my worst days.

Don’t be afraid to make bad art. Be more afraid of never creating any art at all.

When times get tough, it’s really easy to drop the pencil or brush and walk away. That’s okay if it is just to give yourself a break; it’s not okay if you plan on walking away for good.

Back when I was teaching beginning drawing classes at Portland Community College, my first exercise called for every student to take a piece of paper from their sketchbook, crumple it up and throw it across the room (even at me!). Then, I’d say, “Good. You’ve done it. You’ve thrown your first piece of paper away. Now you can start again.”

Obviously I was trying to show my students that it’s okay to get to a point where you need to move on and begin looking at your project with a new eye. Is that quitting? Not at all. Notice I didn’t say walk away for good or give up. I emphasized staying with the subject, but trying something new.

 Thomas Edison
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Thomas Edison was an amazing inventor. He refused to succumb to failure. Instead he viewed his attempts not as failures but just learning what doesn’t work. As he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” It’s attitude. In the creative process so many of us think we are a failure if we give up on a project. Not so, in fact, I believe it may help you. Why hit your head against a wall and get the same result. Of course, I’m not suggesting that when it gets hard, we should just give up. Instead I think we should first try all sorts of things.
 
Walk Away
First walk away, take a breather. There’s nothing like a break. Go for a walk, call a friend. One artist I read tells us to go wash dishes. The warmth and monotony of the process may help to nudge things along.

I’m a strong proponent of putting projects away. As a copywriter in my previous life, I had to write copy under extremely short deadlines. Sometimes it seemed I’d never make it or what I was writing was sheer hogwash (sometimes it probably was). That’s when I’d put the piece in a drawer. Yes, I’d even print it out and physically set it aside. Why? I needed to step away from the problem. The same goes for any difficulty.  Sometimes you just need a new perspective, a new way of approaching what’s in front of you. Giving yourself some space helps you “noodle” around in your thoughts.

Fear
Fear is often a stumbling block. What’s holding you back? We all want perfection in an imperfect world. There’s that nasty internal critic who’s saying you can’t do it or you’re not really an artist. Let me tell you here and now, perfection is over-rated in art. I believe that art should not be imitation but interpretation. Unless you are doing commission work, your art is you.

I remember the scene in the movie Modigliani when Andy Garcia’s character is being criticized for the
portrait he is painting. It’s actually sort of silly because the patron should have known his style. As someone who is committed to his own work, he simply continues. Yes Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) created
unusual portraits, but what magic. If he had listened to his critics, we would not have his magnificent work. In other words, trust your gut. Stop if you must, but be true to your interpretations—even break some boundaries.(Right: Blue Eyes, 1917).
 
Do something else

James A. Michener
“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”

Another consideration is doing some drawing exercises to loosen you up. How about taking your subject and drawing it and then redrawing it at three-minute intervals. It’s amazing what you will discover each time you encounter the process.

A while ago, I was planning a class. I had already promised a subject that I found to be rather difficult—to teach and to accomplish. I was in the middle of a quandary. What should I do? Tell my students I couldn’t teach the subject because it was too hard for me? Nah, that wouldn’t work. So I spent hours trying to conquer it. No luck. I figured the only thing I could do was set it aside, try a new approach. I did.

A day later I came back to the project and just started drawing, drawing and drawing. Yes, the first two or three drawings were crap, awful. I persevered and kept drawing in short spurts. Guess what, the more I did, the better I got and eventually was able to teach the process. It worked.

Hang it up for now or throw it away
I have absolutely no problem with throwing away my work that I’m not happy with it. Yes, I have spent, perhaps hours on the piece. Even so, it hasn’t been time wasted. I’ve learned what to do, what not to do. It’s more the journey than the task. But I’m also big on revisiting my work. So for now, perhaps I’ll put it away and look at it months from now. If I still dislike it, then maybe it’s time to move on.

Whatever the case, give yourself permission to carve another path in your artwork, but also it never hurts to persevere just to see what happens.

What’s coming up ?
 Online Spring Classes

Tuesday mornings: April 6-May 4
Wednesday mornings: April 7-May 5
10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
$90 per five-week session

Subject: Spring Flowers

Media 
Pencil, Pen, Colored/Watercolor Pencils
Supply list provided upon registration
To register, email: jjgoodell@gmail.com

Monday, February 8, 2021

February 2021 Newsletter

What's age got to do with it?

Grandma Moses

I started my advertising and public relations career at 18 years old. I attended college in the mornings and worked part-time in an ad department for a supermarket. My dad got me the job. I was rather lucky. How many kids get that type of opportunity so young? It was a good fit as I’d always been creative. So I learned the ropes from the bottom (believe me, the very bottom) and learned my future craft. 

Anna at 15

I'd say it was a good career for me. However, the best part of my life is right now. Painting, drawing, writing and teaching. I love it. I am definitely the person I should have always been. I’m just grateful I didn’t have to wait until I was 76 years old, like Anna Mary Robertson Moses, aka Grandma Moses. But hey, it’s never too late.

Aging is an extraordinary process
where you become the person
you always should have been. David Bowie

A late-bloomer who just liked to paint.
Born a year before the Civil War began in upper state New York, Anna came from modest means. She was the third child of 10, and at age 12 left home to work as a hired girl in a nearby farm for 15 years. At 27, she married Thomas Salmon Moses, both relocating to Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. They had 10 children, five that survived. In 1905 she returned to New York. 

Okay, enough of the dates and stats. Now for the interesting part of her story.  Anna had always dabbled in art. As a young girl she would use lemons and grapes to color her pictures. She usually drew from memory and used only the materials at hand such as house paint. To pass the time away, she embroidered, until her arthritis was so bad, she had to stop. That’s when her sister, Celestia suggested that she start to paint. That was the beginning of a whole new world for Anna, although she just considered it something to do.

Painting's not important.
The important
  thing is keeping busy. Grandma Moses

Be it raising cows or children, embroidery, painting, Anna wanted to keep busy. She wasn’t career-minded. She was simply living a life that was enriched by her painting. By the way, she did enter her paintings, along with baked good and preserves, at the county fair. But only won prizes for her food. The paintings were ignored.

Sugaring Off 1943
Hanging your work in a drug store can work.
Then, Anna happened to hang her pictures in a nearby drug store, 
which was common even when I was a kid. I remember local artists’ works hanging in the post office and several coffee shops. I always wondered if anyone ever bought them. 

In Anna's case, it worked. One day an art collector, Louis Caldor, walked past the store, noticing the paintings in the window. He went inside and bought all of them, which were going for $3-$5 each.

Within one year, she was exhibiting at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in the show ”Contemporary Unknown American Painters.” Eventually, she became so popular that her future exhibits drew record-breaking crowds. Anna’s work was often used to promote the holidays in the 40s and 50s. In 1947, Hallmark sold 16 million cards with her art splashed on the front covers.

Speaking of covers, Anna also appeared on the front cover of Time magazine when she was 93 and received two honorary doctorate degrees. Those $3-5 paintings are now selling in the millions. In particular, her Sugaring Off painting was sold in 2006 for $1.2 million. Not bad for someone who couldn’t even sell one picture at a county fair. Even the post office got into the act with one of her paintings.

Age doesn’t matter.
So what does this tell me? Of course, we’re never too old to start something new.  Age is only in our minds. I met a woman once who told me she was too old to learn something new. She was 52. I thought that was incredulous thinking. Today, I suspect it’s more societal thinking. We are obsessed with youth to a point where we think only the young can create fresh new ideas. That’s simply bunk. Perhaps this thought process comes from the glorification of the high tech industry that is famous for young entrepreneurs starting companies (i.e., Bill Gates at 23 and  Steve Jobs at 21).

In fact when I was researching for this article, I searched under “late bloomers.” I was rather surprised to see that many people were listed as young as 32 to 41. What? If these folks are considered late bloomers then no wonder someone would think 52 is too old to learn. In all fairness, there were a lot of people I found who are above 60, but many were listed in their 40s.

Here’s a short list for the 60+:

  • Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe at 60.
  • Harlan Sanders started KFC at 65.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when her first book was published.
  • Harry Bernstein was 93 when he wrote The Invisible Wall: A love story that broke barriers (he went on to write another book a few years later).
  • Dr. Peter Mark Roget began writing his Thesaurus at 69, published  it at 73 and continued to work on it until 90.
  • Noah Webster finished his dictionary at 70.
  • Ben Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence at 70 and then the Constitution at 81 (and that was in the 1700s!).
  • Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House at 67. Today she is 81. 
You are never too old to set
another goal or
to dream a new dream
.
 CS Lewis

Yes, I agree, no matter what age you are, you can learn something new or set a new goal for yourself. I have students who are in their twenties all the way up to their eighties. If I see any difference between the young and the “old,” it is that the latter is more conscientious, more deliberate, more open to learning new ways.

So my point—don’t let age stop you from being the person who ought to be. Grab your passion and run with it as long as you can! 

Getting older is an adventure,
not a problem. Betty Freidman


An interesting fact about Grand Moses
When her arthritis got worse in her right hand, 
she taught herself how to paint with left. 
Now that's tenacity!