Thursday, March 30, 2017

Paging Mr. Herman

Paging Mr. Herman 5x7" ink on Bristol
I don't know about you but when I think of someone being passionate about something my mind always goes to just how passionate Pee-Wee Herman was to find his bike. If we all put as much effort into what we love as Pee-Wee did to get his bike back...
A while back I saw a commercial for some sort of computer or tablet or whatever kind of technological gadget that was fresh on the market and the premises was that with this new fangeled technology you could do whatever it is you have mediocre feelings about doing. It showed two young people, probably fresh out of high school age and one said something like, the great thing about the time we live in now is that you don't have to have all of the knowledge to get started. You can start something and through information on the internet you can figure it out that way. Basically what it sounded like was something like this, we don't have to actually be good at anything. If we watch enough Youtube videos and read how-to blogs we can make things just as great as the person who spent half their life honing skills for. SERIOUSLY!!?
Honestly, how to videos and blogs are really great for those things we only sort of want to do so let's be happy that they exist.
"Talent has to work with knowledge to do anything well."-Andrew Loomis
Andrew Loomis is a wealth of knowledge and in his books he drives home this silly notion that hard work will take you pretty far.
A few years ago I was approached to work on  comic book.  It was an anthology of several artists/writers. I was stoked about it, until I had to do ALL of the work. I had to write it, draw it and INK it. At that point I had zero experience in inking and loathed it. I didn't understand it, nor had the desire to learn about it. Because of this the artwork suffered, horribly. The story was great and it even got me a gig to write another story, but nobody was knocking down my door to pencil/ink anything. In my defense I was always under the impression that one person penciled (drew), one person inked and one person lettered and none of these were the same person. It's just what I knew, so why would I ever think I'd need to learn how to ink and letter my own work? Well, if you're an independent creator you absolutely have to have knowledge or be able to pay someone else to do that for you.
Years went by and I never gave inking another thought until someone told me about Inktober. I thought it looked like fun and figured it was just something I could do in my spare time and gave it a shot. Thirty days of inking, at least I'd learn something in the process, right? It's absolutely right and it wasn't until just recently that I figured out what I had actually learned. I hated my first experience with inking because I failed and didn't put in any effort to make it better. I was thinking in a similar fashion to those dumb kids in that commercial.  If I watched enough Youtube videos on how to ink I'd surely be able to do it too. WRONG!  Only after putting in a greater amount of effort did I start to appreciate the process. I actually enjoy inking now. It's almost meditative and it's fun to see the pencil lines sort of come to life. I'm in no way prepared to dedicate the rest of my life to inking comic book pages but this whole experience taught me one of the most important lessons I've ever learned. What's crazy is that it's a lesson that I already knew, I've already done, I just didn't see it that way. How many times have I crashed my dirt bike or fell off my skateboard, but got back up and did it again? How long did it take me to train the dog to not go to the bathroom in the house? Those things were worth the effort to keep working on so I put in the work. With that I'll leave you with some more words from Mr. Loomis.
"Does it mean enough to you to give up time from other things in order to learn? Search quietly and thoroughly for this basic motive, because if it is powerful enough, it will give your efforts the strength to withstand discouragement, disappointment, disillusionment, or even seeming failure".

Monday, March 27, 2017

Maggi Hambling on 'Brilliant Ideas'

The Monday movie this week is a short show about the artist Maggi Hambling. I held off on watching this one for awhile because I was afraid I wouldn't have anything nice to say about her work. After watching this I'm kind of in love with her. Her work may not be your cuppa but she has some really great things to say. One of my favourites was her comment on why she draws every day, "getting rid of your inner rubbish so that something else can take over."  I have friends who are writers and they've told me they do something similar every day. They just sit and write/type whatever comes to mind to get it out of their head so that they can start on what they want to work on. Some days I will sit and stare at a blank piece of paper and debate what to put on it. It's not that I'm afraid of messing up, it's that I have so many ideas swirling around and I try to nail one down.  Rather than trying to work out that one great idea in my head I should just go ahead and scribble them all out and get rid of the rubbish so the right idea can take over. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

"The Secret of Drawing" Episode 2: "Storylines" 2005

Your show for this week, the second episode to "The Secret of Drawing" by Andrew Graham-Dixon.  I'm in love with this series and this episode is absolutely amazing at showcasing the power and effectiveness of a simple pencil and paper. At the very end Graham-Dixon makes a comment that I rather enjoyed. He mentions that satirical cartoons, comics and animation should "aim their art at the man in the street".  If you have a story to tell and you want everyone to be able to understand it then consider how you tell that story. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Moonshine: Artists After Dark

Your Monday movie for this week is a short six minute video.  This one came from my friend Deb again.  I watched it as soon as she sent it to me and I thought it was fun. I recognised some of the artists and their work and didn't realise they made a book. The book isn't very expensive and it's a great way to showcase the artists' talent. After watching it a second time it hit me, this is actually quite thought provoking when it comes to that debate of illustrator vs. fine artist.
Over the years I've learned something about this illustrator vs. fine artist debate, all of the real illustrators/artists are too busy working to debate it.  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Going Goth

Pen and ink on drawing paper
A few weeks back my friends and I met up at the American Gothic House in Eldon, IA.  It's the house that Grant Wood used for his painting, American Gothic. We were there during the day but I thought it might be fun to make it look like a night scene. Mostly because whenever I hear, American Gothic, I always think of the horror movie with the same name. It came out in the late 80s and back then I thought it was scary, it even has Yvonne De Carlo in it. It's kinda funny to consider how many times Grant Wood's painting has been parodied.  There are websites simply documenting the parodies. The painting is said to be much like the Mona Lisa and The Scream as in very few people have actually seen the real painting but identify it by the many parodies. I s'pose it's a lot like music or movie remakes. If you grow up only knowing the remade version of a song or movie it's what you identify with first.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Why We Can't Quit Alizarin Crimson

It's only been a couple of years since I started taking watercolour class so I'm not going to pretend like I know everything there is to know about it, but I do know that everyone refers to Alizarin Crimson as the "fugitive" colour. I had no idea what that meant and before taking watercolour class I never even used the colour. Since I have been using it I know that it's a wonderful mixing colour and makes painting sunsets easier than without it. It's also an overpowering colour. As my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Mayle, would say, a little dab'll do ya. It only takes a little, which makes it even more puzzling. The fugitive reputation comes from the fact that it fades, probably faster than any other pigment out there. So it really is more of a bully pigment, or the pop star of pigments. All show and no staying power. Yea, it's the pop star of pigments.
The other day my friend Deb sent me a link to an article about this very topic.  It shows a before and after and just how much it can fade. I recently switched to the M.Graham Alizarin Crimson permanent, which is not the same thing as Alizarin Crimson, but sure looks the same. I switched because they were all out of Alizarin Crimson at the store.  It costs a bit more than AC, but if it's not going to fade and works just as well I'll keep working with it.
I was just at a demo the other day and the artist said he uses Ultramarine Violet on his palette, but you could get the same results with Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson. Well, if Ultramarine Violet doesn't fade as much as Alizarin Crimson then maybe that's an option to put on your palette for your purples.  I do a majority of my work on location and therefore need to pack as little as possible, so I'm not wanting to add new paint to my own palette.
What I'm curious about now is what happens when you mix Alizarin Crimson with another colour, like blue to get your violets. This painting above, I used the permanent Alizarin Crimson with Burnt Sienna to get that brown colour of the building. For this particular painting it might be interesting to watch it fade over time, much like the paint on the actual building will, but for those looking for a more permanent solution, what is it? A lot of blogs and articles simply tell you to keep it off your palette, but then what do you replace it with? It's such a great mixing colour that now I'm not sure I can give it up. This is a tricky one. In a way you could compare it to eating healthy vs. the strict diet of cheeseburgers and nachos I tend to stick to. (I WISH!) My Grams always tells me, eat dessert first you could die tomorrow and how sad that you didn't save room for that piece of pie. Yea, so eat what you like and paint with the pigments that make you happy. EXCEPT most artists have to consider what is going to happen to their work after they eat their last piece of pie. The work will outlive the artist so there's that to keep in mind. Is it important for us to consider that or do we try to adopt a different attitude about the permanence of our work and what that Alizarin Crimson will do 100 years from now?

Monday, March 6, 2017

"The Secret of Drawing" Episode 1: "The Line of Enquiry" 2005

If you need some motivation to get off your bum and draw then you need to watch this. "The Secret of Drawing" is a BBC television series hosted by Andrew Graham-Dixon.  A while back I tried my best to shout from the rooftops to inform everyone how important "basic" drawing is. Thankfully I found this show because Graham-Dixon does a much better job of proving this point.
It begins with a surgeon explaining the importance of drawing, unfortunately it's not for the squeamish people as it does show surgical procedure and the doctor even demonstrates how he uses the patient's own blood to sketch after operating on them. If you can't handle that just cover your eyes for a few moments because the rest is well worth it. They show, in great detail, the drawings da Vinci did and how they helped with modern medicine. The doctor had this to say about drawing, "If you're not afraid of drawing it's a wonderful tool". Indeed.
The show covers a lot of other artists and their drawings/sketches but one that's a delight to see is Constable's sketchbooks. Graham-Dixon even travels to some of the places where these artists created their works which is pure eye candy for the viewer.
He described Turner's sketches as a means to an end. This is something, I think, more people should remember and practice.  Spending most of my time plein air painting I see so many who try it and give up because they think they need to walk away with a masterpiece. Also there are artists who refer to the end piece as a sketch. Well, if all of your final pieces look just like your sketches then what's the difference? One hundred percent I believe a sketch is simply a means to an end.
One of the comments he made about Turner that I found interesting was that he sketched EVERYTHING. Looking at his work it seems as though he actually did do that. So was Turner being like people today, the ones who walk around, with their cellphones held out in front of their faces, documenting everything? In a way it could feel like that but, for me, sketching definitely puts you more in the moment. You're actually observing your surroundings and soaking it all up.
The last bit I'll leave you with so you can actually watch the show, then come back and comment, is something George Shaw said, "If you don't find the world beautiful, that's your fault".  Even if you don't take the time to watch the show take a couple of moment to think about that. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Straightforward and Clear as Mud

How do I clearly explain how I constructed these ellipses? 
Still sifting through a sea of information in order to get this "book" finished. If you're new to the blog I'll take a moment to explain. A couple of years ago I set out to put together a book, for myself not to publish, of information on drawing and painting. The idea came from endless disappointing searches for information on specific topics. For example, if you're looking for a simple explanation on two-point perspective you end up reading a book full of technical jargon and it may never clearly explain what you need to do to accurately recreate two-point perspective in a drawing. A lot of information seems to start and stop. It's as if every person who wrote about anything art related assumed we all have previous knowledge of everything they're trying to write about. Another example, I'm currently working through a book that used the term "jugular notch".  That artist assumes everyone has a laymen's knowledge of anatomy. The term students in an Anatomy course would learn is suprasternal notch. Either way, if you have no prior knowledge of this particular anatomy you're just not going to follow which in turn makes the information sort of useless.
What I've also found useless is nearly every explanation on how to draw an ellipse. I have yet to find a straightforward explanation. Keep in mind I didn't ask for an EASY explanation, just a straightforward one. Some things aren't easy but surely there's a way to get from point A to B without taking so many detours. This explanation is about as straightforward and really good, but you still need the information on how to draw a square in perspective. The information on that can easily be inserted so I'll give Mike Sibley a gold star for his good explanation, and dare I say easy? It was easy to follow so yea, gold stars across the board.
The reason why I'm looking to make the best, most straightforward, explanations of concepts is because the book is going to take on more of a recipe box form. So if I want to make something I need all of the information on one recipe card. Have you ever known anyone wanting to make a casserole and had to get each step and ingredient off of a different recipe card? Forget that, just go to Wendy's and get a cheeseburger.
Are there any books out there that give straightforward answers on basic concepts? Why do most authors insert the assumption that the reader has prior knowledge of certain concepts? Should books come with requirements like some workshops do? Some workshops/college courses require you to have previous experience before you can sign up maybe the books should come with a label that says something like; must have prior knowledge of bourgeoisie concepts and terminology before proceeding.