Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Research Point - Drawing Animals

Look at how Renaissance masters such as Leonardo and Durer depicted animals. Make notes and try and find some images to include in your learning log.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) recorded thousands of drawings in his notebooks and journals. He is well known for his drawings of human anatomy and for his scientific sketches and studies but he also made many sketches from nature and he frequently would carry out preparatory sketches of plants and animals for his paintings and sculptures. He was brought up in the countryside and his love of animals led him to become a vegetarian which must have been very unusual for that period in time. Apparently he attempted to write a book about the anatomy of humans and animals but it was never completed.

He carried out systematic studies of animals concentrating on their movement and anatomy. The studies below demonstrate his close examination of the anatomy of the animal paying special attention to the external form and the way the skin lay over the tensed muscles of the horses. On some of the drawings he has included horizontal lines possibly indicating his methods for scaling up in larger paintings.

A Rearing Horse 11.4 x 19.6 cm  c1480
Studies of a horse 20 x 28.4 cm  c1490







A horse from the front 22.1 x 11 cm  c1490
The chest and hindquarters of a horse 23.3 x 16.5 cm c.1517-18
Uterus of a gravid cow 19 x 13.3 cm c.1508
This last drawing of the uterus of a gravid cow is highly anatomical and show he was carrying out studies following dissection.


Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) was not only a painter but an established goldsmith, printer, draughtsman, mathematician and theorist. He has a vast body of work including self portraits, altar pieces and religious works, and copper engravings. He is famous for his self-portraits of the first of which he completed when he was only 13 years old.

Growing up in countryside he was surrounded by nature and it became one of his most popular subjects. There are numerous drawings and prints of a large variety of animals by Durer, including birds, crustaceans,dogs, fish, exotic animals and lots of horses. This beautiful watercolour of a young hare shows his delicate draughtsmanship. It was probably drawn from a stuffed model.
Durer - Hare 1502

I found this description of the way he painted it which I though was quite interesting.  

"To begin the work, Dürer lightly sketched the image and underpainted it with some washes of brown watercolor. Then he patiently built up the texture of the fur with a variety of dark and light brushstrokes in both watercolor and gouache (an opaque form of the medium). Gradually, the painting is brought to completion with the addition of a few refined details such as the whiskers and the meticulous reflection of a window in the creature's eye. Finally, the artist dated and signed the work with his famous monogram - a mark of his approval."

I also found this later drawing of the hare from a different viewpoint. The date on this is the year of Durer's death but apparently the picture was assumed to have done within a short time of the first hare and the date was put on at a later date. Their detail is beautiful and the ways he has shown the softness of the animals fur is so impressive. You can see the difference between the velvety short hair on the top of the hare's head with the longer hair on it's back and chest.

Durer - Hare 1502?

One of Durer's most well known works of an animal, other than the famous hare, is the so called Durer's rhinoceros. This was a drawing and subsequent woodcut by Durer of his interpretation of an Indian rhinoceros. He had never seen such an animal before and created this work from a written description and brief sketch by an unknown artist which accounts for the numerous anatomical errors in the study. He shows the animal with large plates covering its body like sheets of armour and added a small horn on its back.

Durer - Indian Rhinoceros Pen and Ink 1515

Durer - Indian Rhinoceros Woodcut 1515
 This beautiful watercolour of a birds wing is incredible in it's colour and detail. It shows his ability to draw different textures.

Durer- Wing of a Blue Roller 1512

Some more examples of his work.....

Durer - Head of a Roebuck 1514
Durer - Bat 1522

Durer - Great Piece of Turf 1503
The last one is obviously not of an animal but I thought it fitted well with this chapter and having just done some drawings of flowers and leaves I can really appreciate the work that has gone into this watercolour. The detail is amazing.

Other artists of the period that depicted animals are Michelangelo, Raphael, Pisanello and Titian to name but a few.
Michelangelo - The Fall of Phaeton

Pisanello - Harnessed Horse

Raphael - St George and the Dragon

Titian - Charles V standing with his dog
Having looked at how Renaissance artists depicted animals it seems within this period the subject was  popular and the artists made a concerted effort to show an accurate (although not always successfully in the case of Durer!) and detailed representation. I wondered if there was a reason for this preoccupation and I found some conflicting comments and I did come across a book entitled "Animals as Disguised Symbols in Renaissance Art" which gives one possibility. Another reason is at that time travellers were visiting foreign lands and bringing back their finds so the whole natural world was becoming a subject of interest in general. Many of the paintings containing animals at that time were of hunting including horses and dogs so for these animals in particular the popularity of these types of sports were a reason. 

The Renaissance (literally rebirth) itself was a time of intellectual upheaval and of significant enlightenment within the sciences particularly. There was a thirst for knowledge which can be appreciated when viewing Leonardo's and Durer's work. Particularly Leonardo appeared to be studying the animals, paying great attention to their surface and sometimes internal, anatomy. So maybe you have to view these works with that in mind. Possibly these beautiful pieces of art have an educational purpose as well as a decorative one.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Assignment 3 Observations in Nature - Final Piece

The final piece for this section asked to pull together all of the things covered so far in the assignment - colour, media, composition, variety of mark making, depth, contrast, tone, and produce an accurate drawing! No mean feat. Having completed the drawing as I'm writing this I'm worried that I have missed aspects as it's hard to remember everything at the same time. I hope that I have practiced these things enough that they have come naturally.

I tried a couple of set ups for the still life but I was pretty confident with the vase of flowers and the bottle, I liked the way their shapes and colours contrasted. I added a glass and removed the fruit bowl, not really sure why , just a gut feeling that they worked better.

I wanted to do a tonal drawing, breaking all the elements into 4 tones and numbering the areas. I've done this before and I'm not sure it really helps, maybe it's just the fact I' doing a sketch and looking at the subject helps.

Composition sketches A4
Tonal sketch A4
 I wanted to put down some ideas I had thought of while planning this drawing although I was pretty sure at this stage I wanted to do a more traditional drawing to fulfill the brief. I had considered doing a Ben Nicholson style drawing, having the still life in front of a window and draw the landscape behind. This idea really appealed to me but I chose not to do it (A) because I don't have a nice view from my window so I would have had to invent one which is a bit naughty; (B) because that kind of painting would require the objects in the still life to be very basic, if not outlines then not to detailed which I think would probably have gone against the brief and (C) I wouldn't be able to use all of the aspects of the assignment such as tone and contrast and producing an accurate drawing. I also considered a close up of the flowers, similar to the style I did for the vegetables. I felt this didn't cover the brief because it asked to choose a number of objects contrasting in shape, size and texture.

Ideas A4
 I was really excited about the prompt to try more than one medium in this drawing as we haven't really been asked to do that before and it's something that I like as you can get the best points from one medium without worrying about the negative aspects because you can compensate with another medium. I had great fun playing with oil pastels and pen on coloured paper and liked their effect together with ordinary pastels.

Media Experiments A4
Media experiments A4

Following these preparatory sketches above I chose to use a grey A2 paper as I found having a colour really helped show the highlights and gave an extra something to the drawing. I chose to use predominantly oil pastels which came as a bit of a surprise to me considering my previous efforts but I really liked their rich, strong colours with the off white background. I also used the pen and ink to get a kind of outline first which gave a good effect. In the end though I lost this effect in the final piece because the pen disappeared with layer upon layer of oil pastels. I tried to thicken this as much as I could but I wanted the line to be natural and uneven. I also wanted to use ordinary pastels to block in the larger areas. I found this quite a useful way of laying down a base layer of colour first but I don't think it shows up that I've done this. Not sure whether that's bad or good.

Oil Pastel, Black pen, pastel A2 grey paper

Close up fruit
Overall I'm happy with this piece. There are bits that I really like, e.g. the fruit (close up above) which were so easy and done in a couple of minutes and bits that I struggled with and took ages e.g. the bottle, but I'm pleased with it in it's entirety. The composition is maybe a bit cheesy and contrived but I figured that I couln't push the boundries too much for an assignment final piece and that combined with my lack of adventure makes for a dull (still) life. I was however very happy with the oil pastels and I will definitely use them again and again. I'm interested to know how they would work when painting with oils or on top of acrylics and with a more textured effect maybe collage.

Assignment 3 - Drawing Animals

Grabbing the Chance

I chose my border collie Tess as a subject for this section. Although she is very (hyper) active she does spend a lot of time in that typical collie pose waiting for someone to throw her toy which gave me a chance to sketch her and of course she spends a lot of time stretched out sleeping.
Pencil various and pen A4
Pencil A4

Rotring Art Pen and Pencil various A4

Pencil various A4
Pencil, ball point pen A4

The brief asked for an A2 drawing on Bockingford paper. Unfortunately I bought an A3 pad by accident so I did an A2 drawing with conte pastels on white cartridge paper and an A3 using the bockingford with black pastel.

Conte Pastel Pencil  A2

Black pastel stick A3 Bockinford Paper

I'm much happier with the larger drawing with conte pastel pencil. I think she had clocked that she was the centre of attention by the time I did the 2nd drawing and I had to rush it a bit due to her wriggling. Also the pastel sticks were much more difficult to use and get detail with especially on the rough paper.
The conte pencils were great for showing her coat and I had fun trying to describe the highlights and shadows over her back. Her coat is longest around her neck and over her back end and much smoother over her back. The pastel hasn't shown this very well as it looks like she's bald over her back!

Fish on a Plate

I wasn't overly keen on a fish as a subject but it was quite enjoyable. I think the key to drawing the fish is trying to get the irridescent shine over the body. First of all I did a few sketches of the head and tail and tried to get a handle on the colours using the pencils.

Preparatory sketches A4

Then I gave the drawing a go using coloured inks and the Aquarelle pencils.

Coloured Inks and coloured pencils on Bockingford Paper A3
I liked using the inks and thought they worked well for this subject because I was able to do a kind of wash and drag out the colour with water. I used the Aquarelle pencils to get an overall colour in areas and for the darkest tones like the shadow under the plate and I think the two media worked quite well together.

After this attempt I had another go but I don't think it was as successful. For this attempt I just used a black pen to do basic drawing with some shading and then used the Aquarelle pencils to get the larger areas of shade and the colour. Although this photo doesn't show up the colours well, I think I have gone overboard with the black pen and pencil and if I were to do it again I would do less black and more colour pencil.
Black pen and water soluble pencils A3 Bockingford paper

Check and Log

1. What where the main challenges of drawing animals?
The biggest challange was the fact that animals can't be relied upon to stay still. This means you have to be fast and makes it difficult to really detailed drawing or painting from life. Other than that the biggest challenge is drawing their hair or fur in a life like way. I think it's all about giving an impression of the texture by indicating certain areas. I was quite lucky with my choice, although she is really hairy it was quite easy to show her coat and it was quite good fun too.
The fish was bit more difficult as the scales are unlike any surface I've tried before. I'm glad I chose the inks for this as they depicted the shimmer and the colours very well.

2. Which media did you enjoy using most and which did you feel where best for the subject matter and why?
I enjoyed the inks the best as they are the most spontaneous and I love the effect they give. Although they were good for the fish, they wouldn't have been very good at the dogs coat. I think the conte pastels were perfect. I was able to get the long sweeping lines for her long hair. I also tried with pastel sticks and they weren't so good. The conte pastel is in a pencil which gives more detail but can also cover paper fast. Something smaller like pencils would be harder on a larger scale because of the subject and the difficulty getting them to stay still.

3. Where can you go to draw more animals? Think about the sorts of places that will give you opportunities for drawing animals?
Obviously places like zoos and safari parks are perfect but I would imagine they would tend to be busy and it would be difficult to get the time to sit for a while. Photos would be useful in these places. I am very lucky as I have  a cat and a dog so I have plenty of opportunity to draw animals. In the past I have also sketched ducks at the duck pond round the corner and sheep in local fields. We have plenty of horses and cows in local fields too. 

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Kyffin Williams

I was just having a look through iPlayer and found "Rolf on Art" Kyffin Williams. I'd never come across Kyffin Williams before but I really enjoyed the program.
Kyffin Williams (1918 – 2006) was a Welsh landscape painter who lived on the Island of Anglesey apparently in that legendary place with the longest name in Europe, Llanfairpwll (full name Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!). He was advised to take up art after failing an army medical due to epilepsy. He attanded Slade School of Fine Art from 1941 and subsequently taught art in London from 1944 to 1973. Talking of his enrolment in Slade "The old prof said I couldn't draw," Williams said. "I was told I could come for one term only. There were few men around because of the war, so he let me stay for another two terms and then a year." In fact, Williams studied at the school from 1941 to 1944.
He was know for his Lansdscapes of Welsh mountains but is also for his portraits, executed in thick paints with a palette knife. Portraits are my favorite and I love his seemingly simply application of the paint.
One portrait is particularly striking - "Evan Roberts" is of a local botanist. The paint and how it's wonderfully applied reminds me a bit of Lucian Freud but the composition and the angle at which the sitter is placed really appeals to me. Apparently this was in part due to the sitters blindness which made him move his head to the side to hear. I love the angle, slighlty looking up at the sitter.

Evan Roberts Oil
 His landscapes tend to be on the dark dreary side with grey skies. It was interesting that he was forced to paint in dull light due to his epilepsy.

Welsh-farm Oil 20x24"
Llyn-Dinas water colour 16x19"
Cnicht from Creau Oil 30 x30 inch
 I also found some sketches which are more applicable to my course. I was particularly interested in the sketches of sheepdogs given that is the section I and studying currently and my subject is a collie!

I find his sketches are quite cartoon like and seem to have been done with either ink or felt pen which is unusual.  They've all caught the typical positions of a collie, that hunkered down alert posture they assume whenever anything moves. His sketch of the farmer is less cartoon-like and looks like a pen and ink wash. Although there is little detail, he's described the stance perfectly and the shadows are really nice.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Assignment 3 - Drawing plants and flowers

Negative Space in a Plant

This exercise asked to look at the plant and draw only the space around and between the leaves. 

This was a really good exercise to look at an objects shape and the inbetween spaces. It made me look at the way the leaves overlap and I think I drew much more accurate picture than I normally would. A tutor at an evening class once taught me to turn my painting upside down when I was painting from a photo. It was a picture of my niece and I couldn't get her features right. As soon as I turned it upside down I was able to see just where I was going wrong. I think drawing the negative space is a similar exercise because it forces you to switch off your brain and draw what you see not what you think you see.

Plants and Flowers in Coloured Pencil

First of all I did some experiments in my sketchbook. I had a play about with blending the colours together, trying to get a gradual change and overlaying one colour with another. Certain colours are better at this than others as some colours just overpower. I used Aquarelle pencils and colour sticks. I thought the colour sticks would be good for covering large areas but I found them too faint and they didn't give much coverage for this. They also seemed quite waxy.
I found hatching with the pencils a bit unatural looking. I tried blending the colours together with a tissue and with my finger but the pigment didn't move much on the page. I think my pencils are quite hard so maybe this is why. A putty rubber was quite good at blending or at least softening the edges.
I've never really done anything with pencils larger than A4 so this was going to be interesting.

A2 Aquarelle coloured pencils on white paper
I found this very time consuming and at times I was frustrated with the lack of progress.  Particularly the stems and leaves where they are densly packed and overlapping were very difficult. I also struggled with the petals of the flowers and they are not as accurate as I would have liked. In the end though I think the drawing has worked quite well and I'm surprised at the success of the pencils. This is the first time I've properly included the background and even though it was quite simple I can see it has added to the drawing.

Drawing Plants with Other Colour Media

The next section asked to use the same subject and draw it in another medium. I had a go using the marker pens again. I went out and bought some cheap felt pens for this because my previous attempt made me realise my colours were lacking. I used Faber-Castell drawing markers, Stadler Fineliners and general felt pens. 

I'm surprised it's as good as it is to be honest as I thought at the time it was just a scribbly mess. This attempt has not won me over to using marker pens but it was quite a fun exercise. The markers are so fixed though and although they are faster and cover more area I found their style similar to the pencils because you aren't free to play around much.

I didn't have any coloured inks and I like the effects you can get with ink so I decided to give this section another go after I bought some. It's a diferent arrangement but I thought it would give me an idea of the differences between the media.

I really liked using these inks. I found them so much more spontaneous than the pencils and much more fun. With the pencils you have to labour over one part for ages but with the inks you let the media do the work and it dictates the next move. I tried adding some blobs of water which was useful in some places and not so useful in others. The leaves are all a bit dark because of this and I could have done with taking some of that tone down to the vase or in the shadow on the surface.
I think colour pencils are really useful with mixed media. In the past I've used them along with watercolours to insert detail. Also they can be used on top of sketches with black fine pen. I'd like to try using coloured inks more especially with other media. Markers pens I think I can live without!

Check and Log

1. How will your experiments with negative space help your observational drawing in the future?
If you concentrate on the negative space then this helps you focus on the actual shapes and lines that the object consist of and you draw what you see rather than what you think the flower (or whatever you are drawing) looks like. If you can get the negative shapes correct then the positive space will be correct. This method helps you see the object in a different way and stops you drawing what you think you see.

2. What techniques did you use to ensure you drew your plants in proportion?
 I predominantly used my pencil held at arms length to compare sizes of objects to each other, I always try do this to get angles correct too. This method isn't much good with small things like the leaves on the plants so I get one shape right and then constantly go back to that and use it as a reference. I would do this through out the drawing focusing on different areas

3. How did you achieve and effect of three dimensional space in your drawings?
I think the most important way to do this is to draw accurately what you see, so when a flower stem comes in front of a leaf for example, it's important to show that correctly.
Getting the shading correct is important to demonstrate the three dimantional form of an object. WIth respect to leaves, I found that concentrating on the different colours of the back and front could help with three dimantions. Blending the colours carefully and gradually so the shadows are lifelike helps.
Colour can also help by using a bluer and paler colour to show things and more distant, more useful in landscapes with far away objects. Adding the complementary colour can make the object look shaded.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Assignment 3 - Drawing Fruit and Vegetables in Colour

Using Hatching to create Tone in Fruit and Vegeables

I started out on this exercise by drawing the 3 different vegetables with the coloured pencil. I then did a thumbnail of each and I tried to focus on the overall shapes (this was really hard for the spring onion on such a small scale - the pepper was easier). I found it an interesting exercise to focus on the facets and planes that make up the surface. The onion and spring onion were fairly boring circles but the pepper had lots of planes and angles to draw. I found it useful to think of it like that and I'll try to use that trick in other drawings.
I had a few goes at using water with the pencils but I wasn't very pleased with the result so I stopped. I just seemed to lose the detail and it became messy.

I tried a few changes in the composition and decided to try a close in view by cropping it quite closely.

I'm pleased with this drawing, especially the composition. If it had been placed further away and surrounded by empty paper, it would have been boring. This close up seems more dramatic and interesting. Possibly the pepper might have created a more interesting shape if the stalk was pointing down and to the right and as usual I should have included the background.

Drawing Fruit with Marker and or Dip Pens

Using marker pens for a drawing seemed a bit daunting at first but it wasn't as bad as I thought. Firstly, it's nice and quick which is always a good point in my book! Next, it gives a bold, bright drawing which stands out.

I started out by doing a few thumbnail sketches (above) to get the composition right. I chose to come quite close in but not as close as the previous drawing. I didn't vary much with the sketches but I knew I wanted to put some of the fruit in the bowl and have one piece sitting beside, it was just the positioning I had to decide.

A4 Faber Castell felt pens
For the final piece, I felt I needed more colours and again, this showed itself in the darker shadows and tones. I was able to get the darkest shadow by overlaying the brown with a dark blue. The brown pen I used for the shadow I bought thinking it had a huge nib but in the end it wasn't nearly as wide as I wanted. I has a brush tip however which I found quite useful becasue I could use it for larger areas like that or for more delicate lines. I just need some more colours. As with fine pen, I found that the markers were quite good at showing the shape of the fruit because it was possible to use hatching to  follow the curves.

Drawing Fruit and Vegetables in Oil Pastel

This exercise was self explanatory. Oil pastels are not my favourite basically because of my inexperience with them.

I started out by working out a couple of compositions in my sketch book. I was going to make a stir fry that night so decided to use the ingredients. I started off including the wok but I took it out because I though that would be too complicated.

Oil pastel A3
The final piece however needs something else as the bottle is too tall for the horizontal shape. Either that or I should have included some more detail in the background at the top left area which is too empty. As expected I did find the medium hard to use. I think oil pastels would be useful in a picture along with other media but alone I feel I'm just like a child with crayons. They are difficult to get detail with but maybe I should just stop trying for the detail and go for a more impressionist approach. I find it very hard to get that essence of an object just with a few strokes of a brush or pastel so I've never mastered a more loose style. As with the markers, oil pastels definitely need practice because they both require a specific technique, very different from each other.

Check and Log

1. Your composition should occupy most of the paper's surface, how much negative space do you have left?

My first 2 drawings are quite cropped and thus the ratio of negative space to positive is even and I think ok. The 3rd one however has far too much negative space in the top left corner and also along the right side. Another object behind the existing ones would help this and it could have been cropped on the right.

2. What have you learned from drawing the details of fruit and vegetables?

I have learnt in this section mostly about cropping and I much prefer a zoomed-in composition. I also will be using the idea of concentrating on the shapes and planes of an object. Fruit and vegetables often have quite smooth surfaces so you have to be able to depict the reflected light. I was quite pleased with the pencils in the first drawing although I did find that this media takes a long time to cover the paper and develop darker tones.

3. What did you find most challenging about this section of the course?

I found using the oil pastels and markers the most challenging aspect. I was forced to use media that I wouldn't use by choice which has been very informative and interesting if not totally successful. As I said above, I think these media can create great effects if you know the little tips and tricks of how to use them which I don't...yet.