Friday, April 29, 2011

Learning to See - Pt. 2

Following up my earlier post, here are some examples of the light /dark pattern being used in drawings and paintings. I should say that there is one simple rule to follow to make sure your pattern holds together. It is this: NOTHING in the light can be as dark as anything in the dark. Conversely, NOTHING in the dark can be as light as anything in the light. At the beginning stage this idea is exaggerated so the pattern is extremely clear.

Here are 2 pages from the Charles Bargue book (link to the book on the right.) On the left, a simple foundation drawing with the light and dark pattern clearly defined. At this stage it isn't about the detail, but accurate placement using simple shapes with the light/dark pattern clearly defined. On the right, the light and dark pattern has been filled in and the shapes have been refined. Treatment of edges has also been started.

This drawing is more finished but the pattern is still clear.

In these paintings by David Leffel who seems to favor strong chiaroscuro lighting, the light/dark pattern is very evident.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Learning to See

One of the most difficult things for beginning artists to overcome is interpreting what they see before them and then putting that down on paper or canvas. Learning to see like an artist. My goal isn't to copy exactly what is before me, we have cameras for that, but to make my version. One of the first steps is simplification. Getting something down that can be used as a foundation and subsequently built upon until I decide it's finished. To begin a drawing I typically follow two main steps. Spacing and placing- getting a simple foundation down where my proportions are accurate and all elements are in the correct place relative to each other. The other main step is separating my light/dark pattern. The school I teach at, and Typical for most places, uses a spotlight as out light source for the model. As a learning tool this is beneficial because it gives us a nice light pattern to work with. It should be noted that I'm not saying shadow pattern. The shadow pattern is only part of the overall dark pattern.

For this post I'm going to focus on the light/dark pattern. In a school type setting like I am discussing you must be able to keep from being distracted by all of the information you are seeing, simplify things, and quickly establish your light and dark pattern. If you can't get this pattern right from the start your drawing will never work. It will look messy with light and dark patches all over and your construction won't read properly. The key at this stage is to squint. This will help reduce the detail, which can be distracting for most, and help us see the overall pattern more clearly.

There are so many values going it helps to simplify just to get started. We need to reduce everything we are seeing to just a few  values. We will start with 2. 

In this case we need to see/think like a camera. It doesn't know what it's looking at or have preconceived notions. For example, the "white of the eye" isn't necessarily white. It will depend on the specific situation. Here we will use Photoshop to squint for us. This is our 2 value pattern. 1 for the light and 1 for the dark. In our drawing we don't want to go all the way to black at this stage in our dark pattern. We want to reserve our darkest darks at this point.

Keep in mind that unlike a camera we can alter our light dark pattern if we see a shape we don't like. There may also be a situation where our construction isn't reading clearly and we need to, for example, push a shape that is part of the dark into the light so it reads more clearly.

No matter how much of a finish we eventually decide to take our drawing, this basic light/dark pattern we have established needs to hold together.