Thursday, 25 November 2010

The worst daily blogger in the world

I guess I'm still working up to the idea of a "sketch per day"...

In the meantime, here are some more recent drawings that I've done. I've temporarily taken a break from The Book to focus a bit more on learning how to draw people when I'm out and about with the Bristol Sketchers. Chris, one of the sketchers, gave me a loan of this book...

... which describes how to draw the human body in various poses as well as specific exercises for various anatomical parts. I have to admit that the book can seem a little intimidating at first because the sketches seem so detailed and complex. I had a go at drawing the first figure, whereby you build up the image from different lines, but I think my insecurities got the better of me. The drawing on the left is my first attempt. It seemed to start out ok, but it went a bit wrong as I started drawing the legs.

The image on the right is my attempt at the next drawing. For this one, Bridgman suggests that the human body can be represented by three solid masses: the head, the chest and the hips. Once I got my own head around this idea, I found it slightly easier to draw the body and feel that I got the proportions slightly better.

At the time I was having a go at drawing the above I was working in Lancaster, staying at the Holiday Inn. And I had (and still have) a horrible cold. Let's just say the Holiday Inn in Lancaster is not the most inspiring place to be at any time, let alone when you're feeling sick and miserable. I had a go at sketching my horrendously bland surroundings from my sick bed, and this was the result...

It's not amazing (but then, neither was the room) but it's a small step towards keeping a sketching journal and reaching that holy grail of a sketch per day ;)

In other news, last Saturday the sketching group went to Cabot Circus in Bristol. It was an interesting place to draw because of the various architectural features (swooping glass domes, brickwork, steelwork, etc.), the gazillions of shoppers and the gaudy Christmas decorations. My first sketch was the view from outside Starbucks up on the third level. I was trying to focus on drawing the outlines of the buildings and various structures, rather than getting bogged down in the details. However, the shape of the roof was really difficult to capture and I ended up getting a bit frustrated with it. So the drawing didn't turn out exactly as I wanted, but I think I'm getting better at using perspective.

After this, I headed downstairs to the ground level for a gingerbread latte and to have a go at sketching the stairs beside House of Fraser. I found this interesting because of the shape of the stairs, especially as it retreated back into the guts of the shopping centre, but then there's this open space above it with glass barriers and the ridiculous reindeer Christmas decoration...

Aside from the fact that the reindeer's head looks like it's exploding, I'm pretty happy with this one. It's also the first time I've tried to properly include some people in my drawing. There was a little girl leaning against the glass barrier just looking down and people watching, and, most importantly, not moving, so I thought I'd have a quick go at sketching her. Her dad was in the background, so I included him too.

After sketching, a few of us headed out on a massive art trail of south Bristol - the Paintworks, Totterdown and the BV Studios in Bedminster. Then on Sunday I went to Bath to catch the last day of Don McCullin's "Shaped by War" photography exhibition which was immense. Whilst the war photos (Vietnam, Cambodia, Biafra, etc.) were incredibly moving and powerful, it was his photos of Whitechaple in London that really struck a chord with me. He has a way of making the mundane and the ordinary look kind of beautiful - something that I'd love to be able to do. I think I'm getting better at taking those kinds of photographs, but I definitely need to start lugging my camera around with me (in addition to my sketchbook) so that I've always got it when I see that perfect opportunity.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Drawing negative space

The next exercise in The Book is learning how to draw negative space. That's the space around objects, rather than the object itself. And, to be honest, I'm struggling a bit with this one. Apparently you're supposed to look at the object and then look "through" it to see the negative space surrounding it. If you then draw the negative space, this will help you with things like proportionality and sizing.

This is something I do struggle with in my sketching - how to size objects appropriately to keep the relative proportions and also so that I don't end up running out of space on the page. But having tried out these exercises, I still seem to be unable to get the size of whatever it is I'm drawing right. Hmm...

Here are my efforts:

As you can see, I got totally fed up with the last one and gave up halfway through. The table is a bit better, but still not great. I think I might have drawn it better if I'd been looking at the table, and not the space around the table... But that wasn't the point of the exercise ;)

If anything good came out of this exercise, it's that I'm quite happy with the shading on the chair in the first picture. The exercise was to shade in the background first with graphite and then draw the chair over the top (I don't know why) but because I didn't have any graphite, only charcoal, it didn't quite turn out as planned. But after I'd drawn the chair, I used an eraser to highlight the chair. And I'm pretty happy with the result.

In the meantime, I'll have another go at drawing negative space.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Drawing the left hand from the right side of the brain...?

When I got home from sketching in Brizzle today, I dug out The Book again, and picked up where I left off - using the picture plane to learn how to draw foreshortened objects. In English, that means using a piece of glass that has a basic four-square grid on it to draw 3-D objects on a 2-D plane.

Today's exercise was to draw my left hand. I started by tracing the outline of the hand in marker directly onto the picture plane, and then recreating the outer frame and grid on paper. Then, with the picture plane beside the paper, I had to mark the key points of the outline on the paper. Then, looking at my left hand (the actual hand) which was in the same position, I had to draw the rest of the detail and shading etc.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how these turned out. It took about an hour or so to draw both of these, and I found that I really started to focus as I got more into the detail. So much so, that I even managed to completely tune out Ireland's defeat to South Africa... which is not necessarily a bad thing ;)

Incidentally, I found out last week that two of my fellow Bristol Sketchers have used this book and they are both incredibly talented, so that's inspired me to continue working through it. I'm going to try to spend a couple of hours on it again tomorrow. I've also vowed to take my sketchbook with me to work every day this week and to try to take just five or ten minutes each day to stop, have a coffee and draw something. So hopefully I'll have some more little sketches to upload here during the week :)

Sketches from today

This morning, I headed into Bristol with the sketching group to the St. Nicholas Market on Corn Street. It's a great place - loads of stalls, indoors and outdoors, selling all kinds of art and clothes and bits 'n' pieces. It's usually fairly busy on a Saturday too, so ideal for sketching. I was feeling a bit aprehensive, having not done any sketching at all (again) this week. But I tried not to let that put me off...

To start off with, a few us out sat outside (in November! Amazing!) and I had a go at sketching the stalls opposite us.

I was happy enough with the finished product, but think I ended up putting too much detail in there. I think it might have turned out a bit better had I left some of that out, especially the flagstones.

I then headed into the St. Nick's Market to have a go at sketching some of the stalls in there, but to be honest there's just so much stuff that it seemed a bit impossible to try to draw any of it. 

Underneath the market is a fantastic art gallery, which is packed with some amazing local art. There were some drawings by a Bristol-based artist called Tim Lane. The Jekyll & Hyde drawing in particular really appealed to me - I love the fluidity of the two characters; the fact that you can't tell where one stops and the other begins. There's a really dark undertone to his drawings which I also loved, but I had to leave then because although the drawings were about £200 each, the gallery was offering an installment payment system and my credit card started buzzing in my pocket...

But enough about other artists :)

So, I wandered around a bit more and ended up sitting outside The Crown, looking down an alleyway past some bookshops. One of the bookshops had all these shelves outside which were piled up with books. As I was trying to draw these, my perspective went a bit wonky, and so I ended up with bookshelves that were a bit longer than they should have been, and I couldn't quite figure out how to draw the books. Anyway, the pic on the left below was my best effort.

I did also have a go at drawing another alleyway, trying to capture the sense of narrowness etc. of the space between the buildings, but I got a bit caught up in the detail of an iron gate on one of the doors and then ran out of time...

So that's definitely an area that I need to work on - perspectives and vanishing points and all that. I'm starting to think about whether it would be useful to take one or two art classes now to learn how to do these kinds of things. I'll have to work my Interwebs skillz to see what I can find ;)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Waterfront sketching

Unfortunately I didn't do any sketching last week. Entirely my own fault - I felt particularly lazy and uninspired all week. Unfortunately that also meant that when I finally opened The Book to pick up where I left off, I felt a bit intimidated all over again.

However, when we went sketching on Saturday, I managed to overcome the little voice in the back of my mind that kept saying "Boats? You can't draw boats!" I decided to use a gel pen again, as I find that it forces me to slow down, to take more notice of what I'm trying to draw, and to pay more attention to details. With a pencil, I suppose I always know at the back of my mind that I can erase any errant lines, but with the pen, I don't have that option and so I've found that it focuses my mind more.

I only managed to draw one boat, but I'm pretty happy with it. The proportion of some of the details isn't great (e.g., the boat was actually longer than it seems in my drawing, and the mast at the front is too short), but I think I managed to capture the essence of the boat that I was looking at. Unfortunately, I got a bit carried away with the old poetic license and started trying to draw in a tree in the background (because I felt that it looked a little bare without) and then sort of messed it up...

But, it's all progress, right? :)

Thinking back on it, it probably would have been better to leave the background blank and then use some watercolour to give it some definition. But because I used a gel pen, the watercolour would just have washed away the ink, so... it'll have to stay the way it is. Next Saturday, I'm going to try drawing in biro so I can add some colour later if it suits.

In the meantime, back to The Book!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A week later

OK, so I haven't been posting a sketch per day, but I have been sketching daily! I've continued working my way through the book and doing the various exercises. Although I feel as though I've improved a bit, I wasn't sure how this would translate from the relatively safe environment of a book telling me how to draw a prescribed image with step-by-step instructions to drawing in a real-life environment.

So this weekend's meeting of The Bristol Sketch Initiative was the perfect intermediate because we went to the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery - a real-life environment that doesn't move :)

I started off in the Dead Zoo (a.k.a. the stuffed animals area) where I had a go at sketching Alfred the gorilla who used to live in Bristol Zoo. Alfred appealed to me because his profile is a very simple shape and it felt like (Darwin-haters look away now) one step closer to being able to draw people.

After Alfred, I wandered around and found the display of stuffed birds. There were a whole load of birds caught in various stages in perching and flight. The one below interested me because again I loved the shape of his outstretched wings. The bird was actually clutching a dead rabbit but I decided not to draw that part...

Part of the museum includes an art gallery and there was an exhibition by a Japanese artist (who's name I can't remember - argh! I'll try to find out and will update this post) which consisted of a series of large drawings of various insects. Now, I'm not a fan of insects as anyone who knows me will testify, but there was one butterfly drawing which really attracted me. I think it may have been because of the colours he used - mixes of purple and blue watercolours - and I wanted to try to replicate it.

I drew this one in pen rather than pencil because I quite like the cleaner, bolder lines produced by the pen and to me the pen seems to flow better than a pencil. I always feel a lot more pressure when using a pen though because you can't erase any mistakes so you've got to be a lot more careful. But I think this one turned out really well so it's given me a bit more confidence to use pen again in the future :)

Finally then I headed downstairs to the Egyptian display. After wandering around amongst the Egyptian coffins and mummified cats (of which there were a lot), I found a stone head of the god Atum, the creator, tucked away in a corner and had a go at drawing him.

All in all, I really enjoyed the day and felt like I'd made a huge improvement on last week. I felt a lot more confident about drawing this week and I definitely feel it's a direct result of using the book. Rather than trying to draw "animals" or "people" I found myself focusing on shapes and lines and gradually building up the picture from there. And I'm only about a third of the way through the book so hopefully will keep improving!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Drawing on the Right side of the brain

In a previous life, I used to do a lot of watercolour landscapes but living in such a vibrant city as Bristol has really inspired me to want to capture urban scenes. And the best way to do that is to (1) learn how to sketch people and (2) learn how to sketch quickly as city life tends to be fairly fast paced.

So, how to draw people? Yesterday, this was the best that I could do:

They're recognisably human (at least to my eye!) but that's not a great drawing. I think you can get the general gist of how these two ladies were sitting, but the proportion is all wrong and there's no detail - just scribbling. The problem was that I was focusing too much on trying to draw "people" or "ladies sitting on park bench" and not focusing on just drawing the shape of them.

So today I spent a couple of hours doing some exercises from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The first couple of exercises ask you to copy some line drawings upside down (to stop you from thinking about what you're drawing and instead focus your mind on drawing the lines and the shapes). I admit I was skeptical to begin with, but I think the results speak for themselves.

This first picture is a reproduction of Picasso's portrait of Igor Stravinsky. Click on the images to enlarge them.

That's my sketch on the left, and the original on the right.

What's interesting to me about this picture is that, firstly, it was drawn upside down. But secondly, the book actually said that whilst you're drawing upside down you're using that more creative right-hand side of the brain which doesn't bother with trying to identify or name what it is you're looking at. It just draws it. However, the book said to try to do this drawing uninterrupted; if you do get interrupted - for example, if your husband sticks his head around the door and asks how you're doing - your brain will switch back to left-hand thinking to allow you to verbalise a response and you'll lose your focus. If you look at my drawing above left, you can see that the head is really out of proportion with the rest of the body. As I was working upside down, the head was the last thing that I drew and just before I started on it, my husband popped his head around the door and started talking to me. I didn't consciously notice any difference in my focus, but when I turned the picture the right way round, I could spot immediately when my brain switched back to left-hand thinking.

The second drawing I did (also upside down) is a reproduction of Lichtenstenin's Anxious Girl.

And finally, a reproduction of a soldier on a horse by an unknown German artist.

Now, I've never been able to draw a horse before in my entire life, so I'm absolutely thrilled to bits with that last one :) Maybe there's something in this right-side drawing after all!

A sketch per day keeps the madness at bay

Having recently started drawing again, for the first time in... well... a long time, I really need to improve my technique and get into the habit of sketching anything and everything around me. The plan is that if I draw even one thing every day, something wonderful may begin to emerge. At the very least, it should make staring down that blank page a little easier each time.