a personal art course, but with too many words and not enough drawings

Archive for September 2010

Ignore the clutter!

leave a comment »

tl;dr – read the blockquote

I’ve got a viva voce-type thing tomorrow, where I’m supposed to talk about (“pitch”, apparently) my art coursework for this year. Except most of the class is only in the middle of coursework, and we’re at that stage where we haven’t got enough material to present for fifteen minutes yet. They couldn’t have held it right at the start, when everyone was relaxing after the holidays, or after everything is over, when we’d have a substantial body of visual work to present. No, instead we’ll just be showing sketchbooks and somehow turning 30-odd (probably around 15, considering that my style is to move to the next page once the previous one has markings on it, no matter how few) A5 pages of sketchy pencil doodles into a 15-minute sales pitch.


Anyway, the point of this post is something I discovered only today, and far too late. I stumbled upon this revelation while desperately trying to pump out studies this evening – I’ve only done three small ones (less than 10x10cm) – in preparation for tomorrow. It seems to me as though the system here places more emphasis on blindly copying photographs in vast numbers than any form of visual study that engages you on a more practical or artistic level.

I’m not saying that photographs are bad – I don’t think I could ever bring myself around to that stand, considering how useful they have been to both amateurs like me and countless other accomplished artists. Rather, it’s how being a photocopy machine gets you grades around here that irks me.

Great, I’ve managed to add another few paragraphs between “the point of this” and the actual thing that I wanted to share. Well, I shall tarry no further; here it is:

When gathering visual reference (with an idea of the final work already growing in your mind), your studies don’t necessarily have to be a slavish copy of your model. Gather what is useful to you, and omit visual clutter. Especially when you’re on a tight deadline.

To me, “visual clutter” encompasses a variety of things:

  • When gathering conceptual reference (for lack of a better term)
  • For costume reference, if I can tell that the original artist didn’t use reference for the drapery, then I’ll save myself the trouble of painstakingly replicating the folds and just note down the style and kind of fabric that’s on my model. I can always do my own drapery studies later, when I know how exactly the clothes are to interact with the surrounding forms.
  • If I’m trying to work out how the planes of, say, a face, should be (to help me with lighting it from imagination, for example) then my shading doesn’t have to be that photorealistic – just enough details and value separation for me to understand the way the form turns.
  • Architecture obviously has to be more detailed in some regards, and it’s a pain in the ass for me to draw. When short of time, I find it useful to just take note of the general structure and make one or two detailed texture/structure studies of things like roof tiles.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel it’s silly and a massive waste of time to expect information-gathering studies (as opposed to, say, technical or figure studies) to contain every bit of detail that was in the original. The kind of visual shorthand that I prefer – sketchy and incomplete but rife with the information I need (just noting down one tile of a repeated pattern on a dress, maybe, or reducing an elaborate carved pattern to its basic lines) – is what I feel makes the most sense for time-starved students like us who just can’t afford to spend a disproportionate amount of time on art.

Perhaps if you work mad fast and draw like a man possessed it would be a different story. But this is my take.

(Or maybe I just have bad time management. I read a fairly long novel in one sitting this afternoon. Probably should have spent it drawing.)


Written by krysjez

September 15, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Posted in Inspiration, Tips

Tagged with , ,