Sunday, 26 January 2014

After the Rain Finished

After the Rain
Watercolour on Paper
24cm x 34cm (9.5" x 13.5")

This is the picture I started at the last meeting of the Shelford Group of Artists, but ran out of time before painting the figures and the reflections (see After the Rain).

My aspiration for the figures was to integrate them with the rest of the picture – I didn’t want them to look as though they were stuck on as an after thought.

The steps I took to achieve this were to:

  • Draw the figures with a reason to be in the picture. I gave them something to do and made their stances all different.
  • Paint the figures in the same style as the rest of the painting. I didn’t give them special treatment because they are people.

I tried to lose some of the edges between the figures and the rest of the picture, but the best way to achieve this is to paint them while the other parts of the painting are still wet. This allows the paints to merge and the edges really are lost. It’s quite tricky to do well, but it is on my list of things to practice.

The shop in the foreground is GH Porter – a traditional food shop and landmark on the edge of Newark’s market square. It is a difficult shop to categorise – it specialises in coffee, tea and smoked bacon. They roast the coffee and smoke the bacon on the premises. It is a throwback to another age.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Keys to Drawing – Chapter 6

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6F
60 Minutes
16 January 2014
Graphite Pencil on Paper
21.5cm x 39.5cm (8.5" x 15.5")

Christmas, the New Year and working away from home have hindered my progress, but finally I’ve finished Chapter 6 of Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson.

Chapter 6 concerns The Illusion of Texture. It begins with some general guidelines for drawing texture and then provides more detailed advice for a few familiar surfaces:

  • Hair
  • Foliage
  • Drapery
  • Reflective surfaces

One of the main themes is articulate and suggest – combine areas of carefully rendered texture (articulate) with areas in which texture is depicted in a more stylised way (suggest).

Dodson recommends the best way to draw texture is to start by articulating it until you develop a technique for describing the surface, which you then use in a more abstract way in the areas of suggestion. He calls this concept “sensing the stroke” and suggests you imagine feeling the texture of the object with your pencil. This is the same as the imaginary touch used in contour drawing and modelling in The Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicoladides

There are 6 exercises.

6A - Contrasting Textures. My drawing contains the contrasting textures of the skin, stone and flesh of an avocado.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6A
90 Minutes
26 November 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
38cm x 21.5cm (15" x 8.5")

6B - Unifying With Texture. The little crosses are derived from the texture of the weave in the baskets on the windowsill - they don’t really work as a unifying device. Most of the unifying with texture examples in the book use a more scribbled mark. I should have used a similar approach. This is another exercise that is supposed to be drawn outside, but I drew it inside because of the weather and limited hours of daylight.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6B
60 Minutes
2 January 2014
Ink on Paper
30.5cm x 23cm (12.5" x 9")

6C – Hair. Sometime I wonder why Elaine poses for me. I was pleased the hair came out quite well, but Elaine was less thrilled with the extra weight and years the picture gives her.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6C
30 Minutes
3 January 2014
Graphite Pencil on Paper
28cm x 30.5cm (11" x 12")

6D – Foliage. I finally braved the weather. This strangely shaped conifer is the only thing in our garden with much foliage. It gave me a chance to try some fingerless gloves, which Elaine gave me as a Christmas present. They worked well, but the rest of me ended up frozen by the end of the exercise.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6D
45 Minutes
14 January 2014
Graphite Pencil on Paper
24cm x 37cm (9.5" x 14.5")

6E – Drapery. I focused too much on the light and shade on the folds in the cloth. I should have put some description of texture into the large white area. The only white in the picture should be the highlights on the top of the folds.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6E
60 Minutes
15 January 2014
Graphite Pencil on Paper
21.5cm x 35.5cm (8.5" x 14")

6F - Reflective Surface. Why did I choose a spoon? I considered drawing a metal serving bowl, but rejected it as being too complicated and then I picked a spoon. Where is the logic in that?

The time limit for exercises 6C, D, E and F had an unexpected result. I started each of the exercises by following the instruction to map out the areas of light, shade and different directions in the texture. In each exercise, I abandoned the mapping because it was taking too long and there was a danger of running out of time before drawing any texture. The experience of rendering the texture without a completed map is similar to the experience of modelling from the Natural Way to Draw. The results are more spontaneous and less thought out than in some of my drawings.

Sunday, 12 January 2014


Subordination - Apples
Ink on Rice Paper
15cm x 18cm (6" x 7")

Subordination is the third of the five principles of composition from chapter 3 of Composition by Arthur Wesley Dow.

The first two principles are:

Dow defines subordination:
"To form a complete group the parts are attached or related to a single dominating element which determines the character of the whole. A tree trunk with its branches is a good type of this kind of harmony; unity secured through the relation of principal and subordinate, even down to the veinings of leaves - a multitude of parts organized into a simple whole." 

Examples of Subordination - copied from Composition
Ink on Rice Paper
18cm x 19cm (7" x 7.5")

He identifies 3 types of subordination that can appear in line drawings - subordination:

  • By grouping about an axis, as leaf relates to stem, branches to trunk.
  • By radiation, as in flowers, the rosette, vault ribs, the anthemion (a motif in decorative art that resembles the fan-shaped leaves of a palm tree – also called a palmette). 
  • By size, as in a group of mountain peaks, a cathedral with its spire and pinnacles, tree clusters, or Oriental rug with centre and border 

Subordination - Sailing Off Brighton
Ink on Rice Paper
16.5cm x 25.5cm (6.5" x 10")

Dow stresses Subordination is about fine relationships – it is not as simple as making one object bigger than the others:
"A work of fine art constructed upon the principle of Subordination has all its parts related by delicate adjustments and balance of proportions, tone and color. A change in one member changes the whole."

Subordination - Orchids
Ink on Rice Paper
12.5cm x 24cm (5" x 9.5")

There is a variety of exercises:

  • Copying examples from the book
  • Arranging drawings of flower or fruit with stem and leaves in various rectangular spaces
  • Designing rosettes, anthemions, and palmettes
  • Finding examples of subordination in nature and the landscape 

Subordination - Scallop Shell Palmette
Ink on Rice Paper
20cm x 18cm (8" x 7")

Dow’s instructions for the exercises are:
"After choosing the best out of many trial sketches, draw in line with the Japanese brush. Then, for further improvement in arrangement, and refinement of line-quality, trace with brush and ink upon thin Japanese paper." 

Preparing the Apples

The photograph shows some of my preparatory sketches for the apple composition. I used a marker pen or a brush pen on tracing paper for most of the drawings. The photocopies on the right of the picture are the images from the book that I used as a starting point.

Subordination - Holly
Ink on Rice Paper
14cm x 12.5cm (5.5" x 5")

The first sketches of the orchid and the holly appear on Why Can't Plants Keep Still? and Preparing for Christmas. The drawings on this post are the result of many experiments with cropping and rearrangement of the elements.

The process of tracing and refinement is more enjoyable than I anticipated. I could happily spend more time improving the drawings, but I've been working on them for weeks - its time to move on.

Paul Foxton has some interesting posts about Subordination (see A Powerful Way To Improve Your Compositions You (Probably) Haven't Tried and Designing Nature: A Series of Composition Exercises - Part One)

Sunday, 5 January 2014

After the Rain

After the Rain
(Work in Progress)
Watercolour on Paper
24cm x 34cm (9.5" x 13.5")

Happy New Year

Yesterday was the Shelford Group of Artists’ first painting day of 2014.

Tony Slater's theme for the day was "After the Rain". His intention was for us to paint street scenes including reflections in wet roads and pavements.

There is still a lot to do before I paint the reflections, but I’m glad I ran out of time because there is something not right with the foreground figure – he has the shambling gait of a zombie. I will sort this out before I paint him. The solution may be as simple as sloping his shoulders slightly down to the right, but I will probably redraw him.

I took the figures from a number of different photographs. Tony was pleased I drew their heads close to the same horizontal line – the horizon. It is a classic mistake to make distant figures smaller by moving their heads down the page instead of moving their feet up the page.

In linear perspective, the horizon line is the eyelevel of the viewer / artist. Parallel lines appear to converge to a vanishing point on the horizon. Anything the same height above the ground as the viewer’s eyes will appear to be on the horizon line no matter how near or far it is from the viewer.

Horizon Line = Eyelevel

The letters on the signs set the tone for the whole painting. I want the writing to be legible because the shop is a landmark in Newark (the English one), but I am no sign writer. I was deliberately carefree (careless?) when I painted the text and need to carry this through into the rest of the picture.