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

Ignore the clutter!

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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

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Which acrylic medium should I use?

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This is what happens when you set me loose on the internet while I’m studying for my SOVA (Study of Visual Art) exam tomorrow.

I love the Winsor & Newton web site because there are a lot of good articles on both artmaking and the history of art materials. As can be expected the articles usually refer only to W&N products, but many of the basic products can be found in other manufacturers’ catalogs as well. Today’s post is a  handy diagram from their guide to acrylic mediums page:

Some other products mentioned that might be useful to you in your own work:

Due to its creamy consistency, I often use it instead of white paint because it blends so much easier…I prefer it to Titanium White…

  • My hero James Gurney uses acrylic matte medium to seal his pencil drawings first before beginning to paint. As the chart shows it “decreases gloss” and “reduces consistency” if you mix it with your paint.

I’ve been trying to do a bit of impasto in the middle of a painting but the impasto effect is proving ridiculously hard to achieve. I could use some of that modeling paste about now…

Written by krysjez

July 2, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Tribes of [comic book] Artists

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From Scott McCloud‘s Making Comics, all the warring artist factions summarized:

The first category is The Classicists. Artists defined by values of “excellence, hard work, mastery of craft, the quest for enduring beauty.” “First is the devotion to beauty, craftsmanship and a tradition of excellence and mastery. The desire to create art that our descendants could dig up in a thousand years and still think: ‘Hey! This is good stuff!’ The understanding that perfection may not be attainable in this life–but that that’s no reason not to strive for it.

The second category is The Animists. Artists defined by values of “putting content first, creating life through art, trusting one’s intuition.” “Then there’s the devotion to the content of a work, putting craft entirely in service of its subject. The belief that if the power of the stories and characters come through then nothing else matters. The willingness to tell stories so seamlessly that the teller of the story all but vanishes in the telling.”

The third category is The Formalists. Artists defined by values of “understanding of, experimentation with, and loyalty to the comics form.” “The devotion to comics itself, to figuring out what the form of comics is capable of. The eagerness to turn comics inside out and upside down in an effort to understand the form’s potential more fully. The willingness to let craft and story take a back seat if necessary, in pursuit of new ideas that could change comics for the better.”

The fourth category is The Iconoclasts. Artists defined by values of “honesty, vitality, authenticity, and unpretentiousness. Putting life first.” “The desire for honesty, authenticity, and a connection to real life. The determination to hold up a mirror to life’s face–warts and all–and to resist pandering or selling out. The conviction of artists to remain true to themselves while never taking themselves too seriously. To fly no one’s flag–not even their own.

Which one are you? I’m under the first category, firmly in the “Hey! This is good stuff!” camp.

Written by krysjez

June 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Inspiration

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What the hue?

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An old, but still useful post about “hue” in paints by Mark Golden (of Golden Paints):

I do understand that many hue designated colors are less expensive imitations of the hue and chroma position of more expensive colors. In fact we make replacements hue colors for the Cadmiums and the Cobalt pigment. These are important colors, especially for Universities that are required to keep the heavy metal Cads and Cobalts out of their waste streams. There is a significant difference using a Cobalt Blue Hue versus a real Cobalt Blue or a Cadmium Yellow or Red Hue versus a real Cadmium. It is wonderful that teachers want students to use the real thing. But professors please tell your students that buying a Hookers Green Hue is a much more appropriate choice than using the old – non-lightfast, real Hookers Green.

Full post here:

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May 31, 2010 at 10:37 pm

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Oil Paints!

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Oil paints!

Originally posted on my main blog.

So, yes, oil paints. I got 5 colors today, from the student Winton range by Winsor & Newton (slightly cheaper than the Artist’s Oil Colour range, and all colors cost the same).

Cadmium Red Hue (slow drying)
I was trying to decide between Pale Red, Indian Red (both of which are oxides, so they have a more rust-like color), Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Cad Red Hue for reds. I’d read that something called Venetian Red is well suited to a limited palette like what the old masters used, and that the closest substitutes here would be Indian Red, followed by Light Red. But then another source said P. Alizarin Crimson was very common on many artists’ palettes. I felt it was a bit too pinkish, but what do I know, really? Anyway finally I read Cad Red was more versatile so I got that.

From the online Winton color chart:

Light Red Indian Red Permanent Alizarin Crimson Cadmium Red Hue

Burnt Sienna (medium drying)
This was originally Payne’s Grey, until I read online that Burnt Sienna is dead useful.

Titanium White (medium drying)

Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue (slow drying) 

French Ultramarine (medium drying)

W&N have also got a series called Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colourwhich I was quite interested in, because I don’t really like dealing with solvents. I couldn’t find it at Art Friend though (or maybe I saw and forgot). Speaking of solvents, I picked up a jar of Low Odor Thinner (Daler-Rowney), left it on a shelf while I went to swap Indian Red for Cad Red Hue, and forgot to buy it.

I also saw W&N’s oil “canvas” (actually just textured and treated paper) pads. A pad of 10 sheets costs about $13, so I decided to just use my existing acrylic pad (20 sheets for the same price). As far as I could tell the difference is in the finish of the paper – oil pads feel a bit more like canvas, they do feel a bit like cloth – whereas D-R’s System3 pad looks a little bit smoother and glossier.

The staff at Art Friend sucked today. Maybe they were hungry (I went around noon). The weekend people are much better.

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May 31, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Posted in Painting, Tools & Purchases

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Thinking About Oil

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Today was the last day of school. This means that I am now free to go to Art Friend and buy a box of student oil paints. Or maybe I can borrow from the art room. Hmm…

Swore-Never-To-Use-Acrylic-Again Acrylic Painting (SNTUAAAP, pronounced AAARGH) is getting along okay, slowly, but okay. Well, as ‘okay’ as a painting can be when you’re not really painting, just using the back cover of Newsweek to prevent your hand from smudging the graphite from the pencil.


For those artists who may be on a tight budget but still want a descent [sic] quality surface to paint on, then canvas pads are a good choice. Canvas pads come in a variety of different sizes and are great for beginners who are just starting out. Canvas pads are great for practice or doing studies. Make certain you get a heavy weight canvas pad suitable to hold oil paint.

Yeah. So I think I’ll go buy one sometime.

Crap, this was meant to be a long and in-depth kind of thing but I was watching The Guild and it’s almost 11pm, so no more for now.

Written by krysjez

May 27, 2010 at 10:44 pm

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Quick Update

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Well, it’s been quite some time since I last updated here.

I’m currently working on an acrylic painting, despite swearing never to touch acrylic again at the age of 12. Sigh…for various reasons I can’t show images of the painting right now, but here’s a photo from the studio:18052010145 An upturned table (only this kind of table, unfortunately) makes a very good brush holder + tape-sticking area + place to store bottles of paint + place to keep water! If you spill the water it gets contained by the table edges.

On other fronts, my grand plan for un-sucking my art remains pathetically unrealized. I’ve been trying to sketch more people from real life but my strokes are really horribly messy and you can’t tell what I’m drawing.

What the hell? I’m not that hairy.

— A subject

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May 19, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Posted in Drawing, Painting

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