Saturday, April 30, 2011

My First Exhibition - Third Prize

This weekend, two of my portraits are on exhibition at the Gosford Regional Art Show. This is the first time that I have entered into an art show and exhibited my work. So, I was really excited to win third prize with this portrait! 

Now, on to the next project - I am busy, right now, doing preliminary sketches and photos for my next portrait. As always, the first idea develops and changes as the possibilities become reality. 

I discarded my initial idea, as my subject was obviously uncomfortable with her pose. This is a really good sign that the portrait will fail to capture her personality, so I am rethinking how I need to portray her. A second sitting with a different subject produced the following photo.
With some adjustments, this could work, but I am still concerned that the composition lacks interest and focus. I have begun work on tonal studies and close up studies, but I will probably leave this to a future project, in order to develop the idea further.

In the meantime, I am working on a different theme. I will post next time with the pictures and sketches showing how the initial stages of this new portrait progress.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Sketchbook through the Years

This portrait of my daughter, Melanie, was drawn 2 or 3 years ago, many years after my first self-portrait had ignited my passion for portraiture. I do not usually like self-portraits - my interest is in depicting the beauty I see around me, rather than some sort of introspective exercise in self-analysis. However, I did keep that first portrait and I'm glad that I did. Not only does it show me how I've grown as an artist, it is also a treasured keepsake and triggers an abundance of deeply-hidden memories. 

Here is that first portrait - I  hope it will inspire other developing young artists who feel that they are lacking in talent. Who knows where those first tentative attempts at creativity will lead to?
Incidentally, though I dislike self-portraits, they can be extremely useful when there is a distinct lack of interest among your personal modelling agency. As a girl, I found that family members quickly became tired of posing for my life drawings - especially, when my skill levels were insufficiently developed to produce a flattering image of my subjects. The following picture is typical of the response I received when I scoured the house, searching for likely victims!
Not so much a portrait as a study of hair!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

What I'm Drawing Now Day 12 - Portrait of Melanie

And, now to the floor. A shiny, wooden floor will add contrast to the softness of the skin and the dress. I will have to be careful not to make it too dark or it will dominate the composition, the subject consisting of muted, pastel colours.

As I commented on yesterday's post, the angle of the pose was constructed to emphasise the youth and uncertainty of the subject. Looking from a level viewpoint would have indicated equality and a certain peer factor, while an angle looking up to the subject would have shown the authority or dominance of the subject.

The angle of the gaze is also important. Staring straight at the camera is difficult to do well in portraiture, but it can be used to good effect to show great power and control. A steady front-on look can be a bit confronting in a strong personality unless the artist can successfully convey an empathy with the subject. With most people, this sort of pose is just bland. Looking away to the side or into the distance is suggestive of dreaminess, ambition, thoughtfulness and many other emotions. Body posture, colour, expression and composition will make the story clearer.

Lighting is another especially important aspect of posing a subject. There is so much to consider in lighting a subject that I'll save that for another post.

Please leave feedback on my work - I appreciate all comments and opinions on my pictures, and I welcome all visitors to my blog.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What I'm Drawing Now Day 11 - Portrait of Melanie

Now, on to the dress!

The limbs are finished, apart from a final touching up. In this picture , I have worked on the limbs as a whole, although I often do one limb, at a time. This way is quicker and sometimes results in more consistency of colour and texture. As I am working to a deadline, I have chosen this faster method. Working on each part of a picture separately is useful for concentrating on fine detail and, also,  I find that it can be less monotonous than tackling lots of large areas of continous colour in many different layers.

Once again, the photo was taken in fading light so the colours are a little faded and cooler in hue.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What I'm Drawing Now Day 10 - Portrait of Melanie

Today, Andy, my husband, started working on the picture frame. He is terrific with his hands and likes to design new projects so he has a clear idea of what will look good.

This needs to be finished in 5 days as it is entered into a regional art show. So, back to work!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What I'm Drawing Now Day 7 - Portrait of Melanie

 This is where I'm at, after about 30 hours of work. Now, I'm rendering the limbs, slowly building up the layers to create depth and a believable skin tone.

Working from a photo has benefits but some real disadvantages. For instance, the colours are rarely accurate and distortions often occur. It is also easy for the artist to get overly concerned about detail to the detriment of the picture as a whole. To compensate, I periodically squint at the photo and the picture together, to get a general idea of value, rather than specific details. I will also go over the entire picture during the final stage to make adjustments. Glaring errors will be more obvious when I can see the picture as a whole.

Below is my drawing table. As you can see, this is a large picture - it doesn't even fit on the table! This is something I hope to remedy before my next big project.

Below, is another photo of Melanie - a different day, different lighting and a different look. No wonder it is easier to work from life!

Monday, April 18, 2011

What I'm Drawing Now Day 5 - Portrait of Melanie

This is where I'm at, after about 25 hours of work. The portrait is a large one for coloured pencil - about 64cm X 52cm - so it takes quite a while to fill in washes.
The colours are a bit warmer than shown here. This photo was taken in fading light, this afternoon, but it's clear, even from this, that more work needs to be done on the hair. The hair looked dark in the reference photo and was lacking enough contrast because of poor lighting. This has meant that I've had to compensate with artistic licence. I think it still needs to be lightened somewhat to reflect the golden tones of the subject's hair.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What I'm Drawing Now 4th Day - Portrait of Melanie

21 layers have been applied to make the skin tones and the features are almost complete - further fine-tuning will come later when it is easier to see the picture as a whole. Any problems of symmetry or shadowing will be corrected then. Now, I will begin to work on the hair, before moving on to the body.

The skin consisted of a variety of different hues, including pinks, reds, orange, yellow, browns, peaches, lilacs and indigo. 16 colours were used, with yellow ochre, peach, pink and pale vermillion being repeated several times. Once the rest of the picture is complete, the main shadows will be intensified and more highlighted will be lifted out to create more depth.

What I'm Drawing Now 3rd Day - Portrait of Melanie

This is the progress after the 3rd day of work. The lips are almost finished - more darks and lifting of highlights will come later. Also, the modelling around the mouth will be done - these shadows will go a long way to achieve a likeness.

Now, I am working on the skin tones. I've started to model the nose and am building up layers on the face, modelling as I go. There are 4 basic layers on the skin, at this stage, and I am just beginning to use pink and orange hues to model the contours of the face. Later, I will use a soft violet and increasingly darker tones to gradually create depth and translucency.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What I'm Drawing Now - Portrait of Melanie

This is where I started, this afternoon, on my latest portrait - the second day of work on this project.After about 2 hours of work, this is where I finished up for the day.
Two layers of skin tone have been laid over the whole face and neck. The eyes are looking more lifelike and are now at the fun stage where I add the darks and lift the lights. At this stage, I also add pinks and reds to bring the skin to life, but that will come later.
The next stage is to lightly lay in the tones of the nose, followed by the mouth.
Once the main features achieve a likeness of the subject, I can relax and catch up with the rest of the face. From there, I usually render the subject as a whole, returning to further develop each feature as I build up the skin tones.

Here is the main reference photo.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Draftmanship - The Foundation of Drawing

One of the most important skills an artist can acquire is observation skills. The ability to see shapes, colours and tonal values can be developed by regular practice and will greatly aid the artist in the portrayal of his subject matter.

Of first importance are draftmanship skills. Without the ability to faithfully reproduce the shape of an object, it is likely that the finished artwork will look 'wrong' or even unrecognisable. Good draftmanship skills establish the foundation for success and optimise the potential and ease at which the subsequent stages are constructed.

One of the most common objections a novice will proclaim is that "I can't even draw a straight line." Fortunately, that skill is not essential to the creation of a masterpiece! However, there are techniques which will help the artist to create more uniform and realistic-looking shapes. The shape of a circle, for instance, is terribly difficult to draw correctly, unless guidelines are lightly drawn first to map the proportions accurately. By drawing a cross and marking equal distances from the centre to each of the four 'arms,' a more symmetrical circle is easier to sketch. Draw the circle lightly with an HB pencil, and reinforce the curves with a B or 2B when the correct shape has been established. Other shapes, such as cubes, elipses and cones, are just as easy to plot out by laying out the appropriate guidelines, first.

The composition of an entire picture can be mapped out in a similar fashion, particularly when the artist is using photographs as a source of reference. There are a variety of techniques which artists use, but a simple one is to draw two light lines from corner to corner on the paper. From here, it is a straightforward process to identify the location of the various elements of the subject matter and place them accurately in the composition. If more detail is required, a grid system can be constructed which will ensure an even greater degree of accuracy. One important point to remember is to use a harder pencil and a lighter, more easily erasable touch for grid lines and the initial sketching, unless you intend to trace your draft onto another surface to render the final drawing.

Life drawings entail a slightly different approach. Measuring distances and sizes, by holding a pencil at eye level and comparing lengths to the pencil length, is a common technique used to accurately establish form in the drafting stage. Even here, however, it is still useful to see the scene in front of you as a series of shapes. Tree canopies, for example, often have a circular shape while buildings are usually rectangular. Even the negative space between objects has a shape. In fact, the observation of these spaces and their accurate representation will greatly assist in the successful interpretation of a subject.

Children, with their innate curiosity of the world, seem to have the ability to see shapes more clearly, while adults often get distracted by the detail and their own prior knowledge. Because of their immaturity, the art of young children is generally simplistic and symbolic. A child's style normally takes on a more realistic appearance after the age of ten, when observational skills combine with more sophisticated technical skills to produce more lifelike forms. But, as we become accustomed to the world around us, our brain can begin to trick us into seeing what we expect to be there, instead of what our eyes are actually seeing. This familiarity can lead to technical errors, such as drawing the individual leaves of a tree which is much too far away for such detail to be remotely visible or drawing heavy lines to outline the lips when closer observation shows that it is the shadows around the lips which define their shape.

Techniques to improve observational skills include Betty Edwards' methods in her book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. She recommends turning the paper upside down when copying. In this way, the brain is unable to recognise the subject in view and will, therefore, avoid substituting the actual details with its own expectations of them. Other techniques are detailed in the book which were used to successfully improve drawing skills within a short space of time.

Many artists, from the Old Masters to modern-day amateurs and professionals prefer to use mechanical devices to save time and errors in drafting their compositions. Optical aids, such as the early camera obscuras and modern projectors are, no doubt, a useful and valid part of the artist's technique but they should not replace the development of freeform drawing skills. Indeed, without these skills, the artist will be unable to produce a successful work of art, no matter how accurately the intial draft or sketch is completed.

Beginning artists are often advised to practise life drawing. Indeed, life drawing is a useful practice for any artist, no matter how accomplished they might be. Practise often and learn to observe what you see. If there is no one willing to pose for a drawing, then practise still life drawings, landscapes or nature studies. Whatever you draw, look for the shapes first. Tone and texture can follow. Start with graphite sketches and practice often. When you feel comfortable with moving on, experiment with colour. Look for the different effects that light has on the appearance of colour. Look for the existence of other colours observable within a major colour scheme (for instance, observe the different shades of white - rarely, is white purely white). But don't move on too quickly. Time spent building up your observation and draftmanship skills will be invaluable to your progress later on, and, if you progress too quickly now, you run the risk of starting each project with poor technique and limited opportunities for success.

Happy drafting!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Art Journals - Or the Art of Journaling

Journals are great keepsakes and memory joggers. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and serve a wide variety of purposes. But, one thing they all have in common is that they are creative. Whether it is a nature journal, filled with paintings of local wildlife, or a maths journal, crammed cover to cover with figures, creativity of one sort or another has played a part in its formation.

Of course, journals can easily be bought to suit just about any need, but they can also be easily made and personalized to create a special keepsake which is cheap and adaptable to different projects. A simple journal can be made using thick card, wrapping paper, beads, embellishments and leather (see my very well-worn journal in the picture above).

An art journal doesn't have to be used exclusively for drawing or painting. My journal also contains notes about the sketches I do and my personal diary entries. Quite often, the lines between painting and writing tend to blur. Looking back at pictures that I painted several years ago, I can frequently remember exactly what I was thinking or what was happening in my life as I painted or drew each section of the picture. In this way, they act as a sort of diary. It is, then, very natural for me to use my sketch as a personal diary and jot down my notes and thoughts, as I draw.

One of the hardest things about journalling is actually making a start. A sub-conscious fear of failure is often the cause of procrastination but, with a sketchbook, there is no pressure. The very word 'sketch' implies a quickness and spontaneity for which no expectations are to be exerted. The sketchbook artist is, thus, free to experiment, break all the rules and express himself with uninhibited abandon. And the great part is that, for all this unrestricted fun, the end results, though often of no artistic value in themselves, have often provided the means for advancement and personal self-discovery.

I often use my sketchbook to experiment with different media or to indulge my creativity with 'no pressure' art - that is, pictures for which there is no pressure to succeed. Mostly, I keep my failures as well as my successes - there is often more to be learned from a failure than a regular success. But, if I really can't bear to see a particular disappointment in my sketchbook, if the very sight of it makes me cringe with embarrassment, I simply untie the leather cord and remove the offensive image from my collection. Easy!

Most children love to journal. It doesn't have to be an organised activity with printouts and craft paraphernalia - in fact, the more freedom that they have to create, the better. The learning experience is enhanced and the children will learn to paint and draw well, by developing their own skills of observation. Combined with nature study, science or some other area of personal interest, this can become a really productive, and fun, method of learning. But, for the serious artist, young or old, it is more besides. It is an opportunity to lose oneself in another world - a utopia where peace and happiness reign supreme and self-expression has never known the fear of consciousness or reprisal.
Happy sketching! Vicky PS. Take a look at my sidebar to see what's coming up soon!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Welcome to my blog

Hello and welcome to my blog!

My name is Victoria and I am a portrait artist, specializing in coloured pencil art. I also enjoy working with pen and ink, graphite and watercolours.

Over the coming weeks, I will be posting some basic art lessons, tips on technique, some interesting subjects for art appreciation and updates on my own latest artworks.

Amongst all of this will be glimpses of my life as an artist and, also, of my large family who have each inherited their share of the creative spirit - from the wild enthusiasm of our one-year-old scribbler to our nearly-adult music, film and art lovers!

I hope you will be inspired by what you see and enjoy sharing with me the world of art from my perspective.

Happy painting!