Dudlow Drawing Board

SUDDENLY EVERYONE IS DRAWING! Which is great, because we could all do it when we were seven years old but somehow we got rusty. Here in the leafy Liverpool suburbs, veteran illustrator John Minnion runs a three-hour Tuesday afternoon session teaching people to improve their drawing.

PEOPLE PLACES AND THINGS are all fair game for our pencils. Figures (with and without clothes) faces, fabrics, flowers, fields, dogs, doorways, rooftops, treetops, treetrunks – all on the agenda. If you fancy joining us, contact johnminnion@gmail.com



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PICTURE-MAKING: THE NASTURTIUM AND ITS SHADOW

This is a demo. I don’t often do them, but it seemed like the best way to address some of the points that come up in the process of executing a picture. I first presented it to the group in PowerPoint.

Last week I was making a point about shadows. Generally we ignore shadows because they have no substance nor significance. But artistically speaking, shadows are just as real and important as the objects that give rise to them.

So while the left brain dismisses shadows, the right brain appreciates them. And an artist or photographer should welcome them as valuable elements in a composition. So often shadows provide visual comment, as it were, upon key objects in a picture.

The potted nasturtium in sunlight was an excellent example, and I decided it made for a promising picture. This is what I saw:

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COMPOSITION

By photographing it like this I was already creating a composition. It is instinctive, but here’s the thinking:

I look for a cornerstone from which to built up the picture. In this case, clearly it is the black bowl, and the plastic flowerpot sitting in it.

From this cornerstone, the nasturtium flows upward and the shadow flows outward. The background has a simple division – the table edge. These are the elements of the composition: a cornerstone, two related rhythmic flows, and a background divided into two areas by a curved edge.

So I’ve placed the cornerstone quite tight to one side in order to create a bit of tension on the left and plenty of space above and to the right for the plant and its shadow to flow.

CONSTRUCTION

It’s often a good idea to use a part of the subject as a unit in measuring out the rest of the subject. The obvious example is the head in figure drawing – a standing male figure is typically 7.5 heads high.

So here I used the black bowl as a unit of width to map out the extent of shadow.

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And I map this out on my sheet of paper. Now I know I won’t find myself sprawling off the edge.

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So, what kind of paper have you decided to use, I hear you ask.

Well, I’m not sure I got this right. Obviously you choose your paper to suit your technique. My technique today (which I am not at all used to, by the way) is water-soluble coloured pencils. So some areas may get quite wet, which suggests a thick paper. I chose water-colour paper. You’ll see how that worked out.

As you see, the other bit of early-stage construction is the ellipse of the black bowl, after which I can draw the ellipse of the flowerpot.

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The crossing horizontal and vertical lines are the scaffolding for ellipses.

Now I map out the shadow…

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…and the plant. (At this point I decided to shorten the flowerpot a bit.)

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And since it is important to be thinking about the background from an early stage, I now draw in the division between the two areas of background. This is the edge of the table, of course, but I don’t want to be quite so literal, so I make the curve reflect the overall composition: tight on the left and more relaxed on the right.

As you see, I have also sketched in the border of the picture. That can be adjusted, but the important thing is to have a boundary in mind.

BUILDING

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Now I just fill in some basic colour. The bowl will be the darkest point, so i do that early. I’m also paying attention to warmth. The flowerpot will be the most vibrant spot, so i put a little red in.

Although the shadow will be very dark I want it to have some warm brown in it. It may be a lot darker than the table, but the shadow is still part of the table.

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I would love the leaves to have the luminosity they have in actuality (see the photo). The way to do this is to contrast them strongly against the background. So I try some dark blue in the spaces round the leaves.

It’s good to build a picture on contrasts. I had the cool blue in mind for the background as a contrast to the warm brown tabletop. But it needs to work distinctly against the leaves and the flowerpot too.

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I decide to add some warmer purple to the blue on the right-hand side, as a bit of balance to the hot red of the flowerpot. Don’t know whether that was the right thing…

Now I get a wet brush ready to do the watercolour thing…

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I have realised by now that this may not have been the best choice of paper. I think the way to use water-soluble coloured pencils is to allow both the pencil marks and the wet brushmarks to show. This water-colour paper adds a third texture which I think is in conflict with the texture of pencil strokes… I didn’t really want that sort of texture conflict, but never mind.

I continue to darken the background, making the leaves stand out more and more. It also brings the table top forward.

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Finally, I darken the shadow… and that’s it.

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Ok, so it’s not Cezanne…

And it’s not a formula as such. Just an indication that there should be this sort of thought process. Otherwise you can be wrong-footed. At least I guaranteed that I would arrive at something I more-or-less intended.

I hope this was some help.

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SOME LONDON SKETCHES BY GEORGE

George sent over some pages of his sketchbook with this note:

Thought I would just send a couple of sketches I did while in London last week for Tumblr if you want to use them.  Think it would be a good idea if we all tried to bring back something when we are away if only as an incentive to draw something.  Maybe I can do something when I’m in Dounreay next week.

     I have also attached a sketch I did in the Victoria and Albert from a sculpture by Jules Dalou (see below) that I particularly liked.  How about a sketching session in on of the Liverpool museums sometime?  Just a thought,

Thanks George, and yes, I believe we should all be doing this kind of sketching: it always enhances the experience of a place, and often conveys the feel of it as well as a snapshot would.

And I, for one , am on for a museum drawing session.

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PLANTS IN POTS

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Our six artists each picked a plant in a pot and then chose different parts of the house to settle down and draw in their own way…
The result was six quite different approaches. All unfinished – so next week we shall continue where we left off and see what comes out of this.

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A number of interesting issues arose over the afternoon, mostly things that come under the heading of picture planning.

So here’s a few points/suggestions:


1. COMPOSITION
Be aware of the shape of your drawing, and control it. Have borders in mind. Otherwise, a drawing will tend to creep outwards until it assumes the boundaries and shape of the sheet of paper. And the world is already too full of A4-shaped pictures.

Draw in picture borders early – lightly, so you can easily adjust them as you go along. The important thing is to be considering the composition all the time, not just at the end of the drawing process

2. BACKGROUND
Deciding how to fill in a background area should not be an afterthought. This is especially true if you are using colour.
The background should reinforce the foreground, not compete with it, and this is usually done by contrasts – of tone or colour. So, if your foreground is both light and dark, what will you choose as a background?

3. SHADOWS

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In day-to-day life our Left brain tells us to ignore shadows. But so often they can be a part of the subject when you are making a picture. They have great compositional potential:  they often provide balancing areas, tonal contrasts, and echoes of the shapes in the main subject.

So make a point of seeing the potential of a shadow at an early stage: don’t just tack it on later.


4. MID-TONE PAPER
If you are drawing something that is fundamentally mid-tone, it might be worth using mid-tone paper.

If you do use mid-tone paper, don’t treat it like white paper. Make the mid-tone do a job.
So, decide in advance what part of the subject is to be rendered as mid-tone. And then use dark (eg charcoal) and light (eg chalk) as shadows and highlights to define and clarify the subject.

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5. WATERCOLOUR PENCILS
These ‘aquarelle’ colour pencils give the possibility of combining the texture of pencil strokes with the feel of watercolour. First you draw, then you use a wet brush on selected areas to turn pencil marks into paint marks.image

If you paint over all the drawn marks, your picture becomes a watercolour painting. If that was what you wanted, why not just use paints in the first place? No, I think the point is to combine the drawn feel with the painted feel. So, restrict yourself to just a little bit of brushwork – just enough to enrich the pencil work, not flood it out.

And remember, you can always draw over the painted areas once they have dried.

Here’s a good example of technique from Wikihow: http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Watercolor-Pencils  This site suggests one simple step-by-step approach,

imageFirst the pencil work (above)… then brushworkimage

…and here’s a life drawing which has that balance of pencil line/brushwork:

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And a landscape:

This is by an artist/teacher called Karen Gillmore, and you can read a good introduction to this technique on her blog:

http://karengillmoreart.com/2014/01/18/technique-of-the-week-watercolour-pencils/

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Reblogged from zoebalthus
zoebalthus:

(c) Hirabayashi Tatsuya

Here’s a wonderful Right-brain exercise: grab a pencil and, starting with the trunk, copy this onto a sheet of paper. Hardly look at what your pencil is drawing: concentrate on following each branch with your eyes. 
Your Left brain will flounce off in disgust and leave you in a liberated state of Right-brain bliss.

zoebalthus:

(c) Hirabayashi Tatsuya

Here’s a wonderful Right-brain exercise: grab a pencil and, starting with the trunk, copy this onto a sheet of paper. Hardly look at what your pencil is drawing: concentrate on following each branch with your eyes.

Your Left brain will flounce off in disgust and leave you in a liberated state of Right-brain bliss.

(via fantasyofawanderer)

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Avocado and cherry tomato by Julie. Delicious! A fine composition, and companion piece to your lemon.
My only disquiet is about the shadows. I love the peachy colour and texture of the background, but in reality the shadows would have something of that colour in them – which they don’t at all. So the shadows seem oddly separated from the surface they should be part of. I don’t know if you feel that matters?

Avocado and cherry tomato by Julie. Delicious! A fine composition, and companion piece to your lemon.

My only disquiet is about the shadows. I love the peachy colour and texture of the background, but in reality the shadows would have something of that colour in them – which they don’t at all. So the shadows seem oddly separated from the surface they should be part of. I don’t know if you feel that matters?

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KURT WEILL by Kevin. I thought I’d upload this to show the very skilled tonal work on the hand. It loses a lot in the scanning, unfortunately.
I look forward to the completed image: it should be very good.

KURT WEILL by Kevin. I thought I’d upload this to show the very skilled tonal work on the hand. It loses a lot in the scanning, unfortunately.

I look forward to the completed image: it should be very good.

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Catkins in a glass of water, by Marta

Catkins in a glass of water, by Marta

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KEEP DRAWING THOSE HANDS

Hands by Jane and Julie.

Make it a daily exercise: just draw your non-drawing hand every day after breakfast. Eventually it will become a dear friend and you’ll be able to draw hands in your sleep.

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WILDLIFE BY JULIE

Partridge and Hare, I think. Julie draw these two taxidermified creatures at Lucy Wilson’s workshop at the Victoria Museum&Gallery.

I think they have great charm; there’s something of an oriental delicacy about the drawing.

lucyswildlife.wordpress.com

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PETROVA’S BOOKS

Petrova modelled three half-hour poses by the bookshelves. The idea was that they were to be  very natural positions, and I encouraged our artists to pay special attention to her hands.image

Angela sneakily chose a back view, which cut out one of the hands. But she made a nice job of the hand she could see, so she is forgiven.

Actually, I like this a lot, and I wonder if you would like to develop it into more of a picture. You might want to do more work on the bookshelf. Seems to me the pattern of the books could make a strong, decorative background against which the figure (which as well as being convincing is quite sparely drawn) would stand out well. Just a thought.

imageSame pose, from the opposite side, drawn by Jane. You had to deal with the outstretched arm coming directly towards you, which is quite a challenge. It’s the only weak part of the drawing, but it’s human nature for that to override the good things – such as the excellent drawing of hips and thighs. At base, this sort of drawing is not about perfect results, it’s a process that walks a tightrope between successes and failures, and really it’s about what you learn from it.

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Marta's view of the same pose. The anatomy isn't quite right but this has poise and charm and the feel of a children's book illustration.  Nice work on the clothes.

imageAngela. The essence of the pose is right, but you had a nasty bit of foreshortening to deal with on the knee, and somehow it didn’t come right for you. Good hands, I’m pleased to see.
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Marta. Shame there wasn’t time to finish this, as you’ve caught the pose well. I like the work on her blouse, and the way the background shading defines the hair. Good hands!imageJane. You seem to have no trouble getting the poise and weight of the pose right, with angle of the head and slight tension of the shoulders particularly well judged.

It’s interesting that you feel more at ease with charcoal than pencil. No problem with that.

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Marta. Once again, I clearly haven’t given you enough time – sorry! But, having watched you struggling with the facial features of your figures, I’m really pleased to see such a convincing face here. And good hands!

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Angela. And more good hands!

It’s very gratifying to see these good results after the intensive handathon of the last few weeks.

I should make the point that Kevin and Julie were drawing these poses too. Kevin’s pencil work was just too light to scan properly – sorry – and Julie, who was wrestling with the problem of containing her pictures on the paper (she ended up on A2, and could well go bigger yet) decided she didn’t want her results posted this week. Julie’s fans can look at her wildlife pics instead.

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Reblogged from tso2blaziken

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ANGELA posted this and commented: Good music hour at the Victoria gallery. the chair bottom right needs attention and the hands are cartoonish but have the right no. of fingers. x
Well, I think it’s splendid.
Either you forgot the cello’s spike… or that’s a bass viol rather than a cello.
I intended to go to that concert – really wish I had.

ANGELA posted this and commented: Good music hour at the Victoria gallery. the chair bottom right needs attention and the hands are cartoonish but have the right no. of fingers. x

Well, I think it’s splendid.

Either you forgot the cello’s spike… or that’s a bass viol rather than a cello.

I intended to go to that concert – really wish I had.

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THE ELOQUENCE OF HANDS

A few random examples of hands in everyday situations. Try and read these pictures by deliberately focusing first on the hands rather than the faces.

Ok, some of these are a bit posed, but they make the point: the hands have a language of their own. A cartoonist – or any other figure artist – usually keeps a mirror handy to check out these gestures. After a while they become second nature.

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LESSONS FROM A HAND-DRAWING MARATHON

I think the biggest lesson from our Handathon (see A Show of Hands) was that it is important to really understand the structure of the hand and look for the structure in every hand position.

The more complicated the hand position, the more crucial it is to be aware of the structure and the mechanics of every finger. With something like this for example:

…or this:

or this:

…You have to understand how each finger comes to be in its distinct position and angle.

Then you can do drawings like this (by Giacomo Cavedone)…

    …or this (by Otto Dix)          

…and they look convincing.

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A SHOW OF HANDS

Hands are so important, so expressive. But such a challenge to draw. So we spent the whole Tuesday session drawing them.

God gave artists one hand to draw with and another hand to be drawn. So our artists – all right-handers – started by drawing their left hands in a variety of poses…

Here are some of the results: quick drawings by Kevin, Eve, Ola, Angela and Marta.

First, Kevin's:

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Then Marta's: image

…and Eve's. The scanner struggled to pick up Eve's light pencil work, so I laid on the contrast button, which produced this curious effect…

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Then Ola's:

imageOla.

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Angela got bored with drawing her left hand, and switched to using it to draw her right hand. Impressive.image

Then she got bored with that hand too, and decided to draw Marta’s hand instead:

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After that, Eve posed for the rest of us, holding her hands in a variety of ways:

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