We started tonight with lots of pure gesture drawing, wow this was difficult for me. Generalizing the body in just a few arcs yet keeping proportions close, and an elegance in the motion, very difficult.
We then went into a few longer poses where I just did a bunch of starts, to try and figure out how to get proportions of the body correct in the first minutes of the drawing. I believe this is the absolute most important part of a drawing. If you don’t get these measurements correct here, the rest of the drawing will suffer completely. Needless to say, I didn’t “finish” a drawing these session, but I think I have a better idea of what I need to do to start a drawing best.
I bit of a rush though this Bargue drawing, it only took me 30 minutes. I wanted to go through it pretty fast, but at the same time I wanted to focus on my lines and try to get then as decisive and confident as possible, even if I had to trade some accuracy for it.
I may have to buy some clear acetate, its hard to see the Bargue drawing under this tracing paper. But, you don’t need to be able to see perfectly though this to see all the errors. I was expecting this to be off because I worked so fast. I think the next Bargue drawing I do, I may spend three times as long to see if I can get the accuracy perfect and end up with confident lines.
Tonight I started this drawing pretty late, so I wanted to get it done quickly so I tried to do it without much measurements at all. It took me much less longer than any previous drawing, only 30 minutes. I think the comparison shows the rush.
One thing I notice from looking at this is a hesitance in the line, I would like to, at some point, be able to draw these with much more confidence.
Lots of errors here, but considering I barely measured. Its not that bad.
One figure drawing session a week is not enough. I could maybe do two a week but three would not be possible. So in comes the photos. I recently found this post from www.freshdesigner.com which has some wonderful information on what a good reference photo is as well as a big list of images. This is where I picked this image from.
So the big question is. Does drawing from photos hurt an artists progression?
I will have to continue to write about this question tomorrow, as it is too late tonight.
I was feeling a bit lazy yesterday, so I only did a 1 hour Bargue drawing, and not much else. I sure its because I haven’t been hitting the gym regularly.
So I hit the gym today, and I hope I didn’t push myself too much or my muscles will be so sore that it will be hard to draw on Wednesday.
I was hoping that this drawing would take less than an hour but it proved to be quite difficult even though it was super small, I think I conquered it though.
I first did a digital comparison. I have been studying how my camera distorts images and I’m to the point now where I will only use my phone for documenting purposes. Other than that it is completely worthless as far as comparing exact drawing lines. Look at the photo above, these two ears are less than three inches apart and the height / width distortion is there, you can tell by looking at the digitally drawn caparison and testing that against the two tracing comparisons below.
I tried tracing in sanguine but, the line proved to be too thick, so I traced it over in red ink pen below.
Much closer than the digital comparison would lead me to believe, although it is not without errors.
I know that this drawing isn’t perfect, but I believe it to be much close than the following digital comparison illustrates.
I thought I was closer than this
I have noticed a trend with my drawing comparisons, that the drawing becomes more inaccurate the closer to the bottom of the image I go, or the further from the center of the photo.
So I left this setup overnight and today I drew markings for a grid made of 1 inch measurements around the subject, then took another picture of the drawing and subject. I then pulled the drawing into Photoshop and resized it so that the beginning top left inch measurement on the paper was exactly one inch in Photoshop. I then proceeded to rebuild that grid in Photoshop by putting a line every vertical and horizontal inch. What I ended up with is a drawing with an inch grid on it, and a digital representation of those same inches over it. In theory, once I get to the bottom right of the grid, both the digital grid and the drawn grid should match up. As you can see below that is far from the case.
Distortion test 1
Not only is the width smaller but so is the height, and not by a little but a very large amount. That seemed to be to much, of a distortion, so as I good scientist would do, I repeated my experiment to test with similar results. And this time I too extra care in insuring I re-size the photo correctly.
Distortion test 2
I also did a third test where I took a picture a bit farther away thinking that the lens of the camera would distort only the parts of the image closer to its edge. This was incorrect, the distortion was the same even when taken from a larger distance.
This is much closer to the truth. The distortion is not as much but it’s still there. It looks like an average of 1/4 inch inaccuracy per 12 inches of space vertically and maybe worse horizontally.
What does this prove? That my drawings are not as bad as I thought, but this is no excuse, I still have errors in my drawing. This whole exercise was for me to help realize how the camera distorts an image and to be aware of it.
Moving forward, I’m not sure how I can compare my drawings with a three dimensional subject accurately now.
I tried painting a leaf a while ago, it was a large dried leaf and the painting turned out really bad. As charcoal is easier to manipulate I figured I could improve with this one.
A few weeks ago I used India ink and water to tone some Arches watercolor paper a nice grey. Unfortunately it was a big sheet of paper and I wasn’t used to toning, so it turned out with a lot of variation in value. The value variation was a bit organic so I felt it to be fitting considering my subject. It was also nice to get some good use in on the white chalk and figure out its properties a bit better.
I’m not really sure if the drawing here is really that far off or if my camera is distorting the image.
I have the feeling that my powers of observation when comparing two dimensional imagery is getting better. There were more than a few marks on this drawing that flowed effortlessly from my hand and were even accurate during comparison. That being said, as I compare the drawing in digital format, I see many differences that I would like to have caught during drawing.
I continue to wonder how close I should get these drawings to the original. I’m sure if I spent long enough that I could get the drawing perfect, but at what point is it too much?
I will get right to the point with this post because I feel if I take too long I will forget what I’m thinking about. I really need to have my notebook handy when I work so I can take notes on my thoughts.
Painting white into darker colors is easier than painting darker colors into white. In this instance the titanium white will totally dominate the raw umber in tinting strength.
A dark color scumbled onto the canvas thinly will reduce glare.
Work background to foreground.
Fussing with paint too much and value transitions makes any surface look fuzzy, overly modeled, and fake. I don’t have any other way that I think I can describe it.
Focus more on surface plains and their value transitions rather than trying to match a gradient perfectly.
Always condense the value scale, paint cannot achieve your lightest light or your darkest dark.
Don’t try and save an edge by painting along it, this will achieve a brush stroke similar to an outline around the form and ultimately bring that background forward and noticeable. Paint across the edge, or loose the edge if the values are real close. I the case that the edge of a foreground object is very hard against the background, paint the foreground object last and get the edge stroke right the first time, don’t fuss with it.
When painting monochromatic use a brush with no paint to pull up color off the canvas and lighten it by using the lighter surface beneath the paint.
If you have two values that meet and the edge that is made is slightly soft, paint the colors up to each other with a hard edge then carefully draw a dry brush along the edge to soften it slightly. This has to be done very carefully any jitters in the brush stroke will wobble the edge.
Look out for reflected light in shadows, they will look lighter than they actually are. An interesting phenomenon described by Richard Schmid in his book Alla Prima, if you stare long enough into a shadow your eyes will dilate slightly letting in more light allowing you to see many more values than you should paint in a shadow, always squint your eyes when comparing values.
Here I started into the painting by adding the darkest dark of the background, and the value transitions upon the sheet. I proceeded to do the same with the base, then the cone, the cylinder and lastly the most foreground element, the sphere.
The reflected light on the cylinder is too dark, and needs to be just a small bit lighter. I also should have extended the shadow on the cone further up closer to its top point. The biggest value issue though is the base below everything is much too dark.
The gist of the book is this. Harold Speed went through two major schools, did his training and became a professional artist with great skill at mechanical accuracy, but it was not enough. So he studied the great master drawings and found that his years of training were lacking in some way. And only then did he “set to work to try and climb the long uphill road that separates mechanically accurate drawing from artistically accurate drawing”.
I can relate to Mr Speed, I have always felt that my training as an artist has always been lacking in some way. So, I’m reading this book to learn from the mistakes of a man who live over 100 years ago and to find the path that I should have taken years ago. Part of this new path is the painting that I started on tonight.
I’m currently doing everything I can to work hard on drawing accuracy and training my eyes to notice the smallest differences. And this is mostly being done in the form of charcoal drawings from another old book “Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme Drawing Course“. This form of training is used in most of ateliers around the world and the work coming from students whom have trained like this is amazing. But, accordingly to Harold Speed this training is good but its lacks the combination of “mass drawing” in paint. Mr Speed indicates that in order to fully train in drawing one must utilize line drawing exercises as well as mass drawing exercises, separately as to fully understand each approach to drawing. The painting started tonight is the first of hopefully many mass drawing exercises.
Here I will go though the steps he has indicated for this exercise. I’m paraphrasing from the book, so if you want the full description I suggest you download the free epub book online.
Mass Drawing Steps
Select a simple object
Place it in strong artificial light (Make sure only light from 1 bulb is hitting your object, its easier)
Light should come from the left or the right, but not from the front.
On canvas draw in the outlines of the masses in charcoal.
Use straight lines and take care to get all the light and shadow shapes correct.
Use spray fixative on the drawing.
With raw umber and white oil paint mix up the exact half tone of the object.
Scumble the halftone over the entire canvas, you should barely see the drawing through this tone.
Mix up the lightest light on your object and map out the light areas on the object.
The scumbled half tone should stay where the halftones appear on your subject.
Take care in noticing how the light side edges meat the dark and if they are sharp or soft.
Mix up the darkest tone on the subject and map out the dark areas.
The thicker you paint the darker or lighter the tone your using will be, use this to indicate variation over you subject.
That is really simplistic, the book goes into much more detail.
I worked hard to get the drawing in charcoal pretty close, but I didn’t hesitate to obliterate it with paint. One thing I have heard over and over again is how artist kill the excitement in paintings by trying as hard as possible to save perfect drawings. Remember, painting IS drawing, your just using a brush loaded with paint. If you constantly think drawing while your painting your accuracy with your subject will increase.
Some things I noticed about this exercise. Its probably best not to start it on a previously toned canvas like I did. Also, it may be better to have a lighter background to start with rather than a dark sheet like I have. In the book Mr Speed says to take the utmost care in getting the beginning halftone color perfect. I didn’t do that and I had to do a lot of corrections even at these beginning stages.
I plan on continuing this painting tomorrow, hopefully I can complete it and do another Bargue drawing, I want to see how my brain reacts to switching from drawing in mass with a brush to line drawing in charcoal.
I was moving pretty fast on this one, maybe a bit too fast. I drew the whole ear very similar to the guide on the left, the I wiped it down to very faint lines. This prep drawing had a lot of mistakes so I re-drew all the lines again with more measuring, then once again wiped it all down to make the lines very light. I also added a bit of charcoal to the paper to tone it a bit so that any of my guide lines would be hidden easier. Lastly I used a generals charcoal pencil to draw the finishing lines.
At least two major errors, circled above, and a few smaller errors in accuracy. Like the far left line of the ear, and the top most line.
I found another great use of the sanguine lead that I was using today in life drawing, unfortunately I had worn down the only piece I had to a very small nub, so it was very hard to get a point on it or hold it. This is why my traced line is so bad.
While browsing A&C Supply today I was next to the graphite pencils choosing the best variation of leads for my sketchbook when I saw the “Cretacolor Leads” and one of them was red. Now most of the red chalks that I have tried have been bound with additives and turn out to be a bit waxy, but this one was dry as a bone, just like chalk. I was going to by a few but all they had was a couple sad broken pieces on the self, and the clerk was nice enough to give me a piece to try during my class.
I must say I really liked working with it, especially on newsprint. Where charcoal would scratch over the paper, the chalk would roll over it smoothly with a nice line. Thinking about it now it kinda makes since, charcoal is made from wood which naturally has fibers, very stiff fibers, ones that easily turn into splinters. Dragging these over paper especially in the wrong direction isn’t the smoothest. Chalk on the other hand is compressed dust, or dirt like substance, when dragging this over any surface the feeling is much smoother with the added bonus of the ability of drawing against the lead.
After working at home tonight I was still thinking about the “Cretacolor Lead” and I jumped online to see if I could purchase some, and to my surprise, they call it Sanguine!
Sanguine is the red chalk that most Old Masters used when drawing, you will see tons of master sketches in this red color, that is Sanguine. Originally it came in big irregular chunks and you would have to chisel off a good size piece and shape it with a knife. I looked for hours once online to see if I could buy it anywhere, but the only place I could find it was a store in Italy, and it was super expensive.
So if anyone is interested here is a link to the products.
Here you can see that I’m alternating between the sanguine and the charcoal. I’m not sure of it yet.
This happens all the time, I like the drawing when I’m at the class, and I leave feeling great, then I get home and look at it again and hate it. I wonder if its the lighting in the class… maybe its so dark in there that I can’t see bad drawing.
I have been toning the paper lately. Not prior to doing the drawing but after the initial stage of the drawing, before I put down my finishing lines I will rub charcoal over the paper darkening it a bit, softening the initial lines. It’s very similar to scraping a painting then working into it, the drawing is there and done, now the focus is on the surface.
I worked fast on this one, I keep wanting to put in lines with flourish and command. Yet I fear my lack of accuracy. A few mistakes here, the worst of them is the top and left of the eye, considering this was right next to the major intersecting vertical and horizontal line that I placed at the beginning, it should be more accurate. I think the speed as to which I was working caused this.
I feel as though an instructor would be most helpful in navigation here. What am I supposed to be learning with this plate beyond honing my skills of judgement and measurement?
I shall have to do some online research into this subject, until then I will just comment on my mistakes and successes.
The tracing is working out well, its much faster than Photoshop, and I think the act of tracing over my drawing is a bit of training in itself. While tracing, if I imagine that I’m not actually tracing, but producing the drawing with superb confidence and accuracy, it give me a glimpse of skills that I’m working toward.
The eye socket drawing is just about perfect, the only discouraging area of this drawing is the placement of the mouth, upper lip, and nose.
I worry constantly now that I’m not working more hours on drawing. Today I did this Bargue drawing plus I did a couple sketches in my sketch book, but I still think I need more time. But, with work and other things, I really don’t see how I can spend more time working on art. If I really pushed myself I think I could average about 3 to 4 hours a night, but that would be pushing it.
I think from now on I’m going to do tracings of my drawings instead of doing the comparison in Photoshop This is much easier and faster, and I don’t have to worry about camera distortions.
So the big inaccuracies here are, the placement of the nose, it needed to be more to the left and same with the upper lip. The placement of the eye was a bit off, I was working hard to get the eyebrow shadow shape so exact that I totally didn’t focus on the more important eye itself.
I was going very fast on this drawing. I had just got home from my painting class and I wanted to get this drawing started at least. It was very interesting with the different setup. I was correct on my previous statement, it was very difficult in sizing up the vertical measurements for this setup.
I utilized the guide a bit here to get the drawing setup but I quickly realized that I couldn’t look at the guide for any measurements at all, I had to measure completely from the subject.
This is after about 40 minutes of drawing, and the photo is very blurry.
This is the normal method that I use to compare my drawings. I take a photo, then I outline my drawing in Photoshop, then I take that outline layer and duplicate it then move it over the original for comparison. As you can see in the above drawing it is completely and totally wrong, I don’t think there are more than two lines that are correct here. Now, I know I was going fast but I was sure that my accuracy wasn’t that bad so I did the following.
Holy cow! Look at the difference. My iPhone camera really distorted the previous image so bad that it was ridiculous. I feel much better now, my drawing really isn’t that bad, I was fairly accurate even with this new vertical setup. From now on I’m going to trace my drawing with tracing paper and overlay that on the subject and take a photo.
The huge number of material options and possibilities is basically limitless for Oil painting and it really comes down to one thing, there is no absolute correct or incorrect way to paint in Oil. There are some good choices and some bad, but that really all depends on your goal. Here are some notes of a few things that I learned during the class
The price of paints mostly depend on amount of pigment in them or the rarity of the pigment.
A vehicle of Walnut or Poppy-seed oil is best for lighter colors, especially white.
To get a super intense color, you have to glaze or subdue the colors surrounding it, or both.
Walnut oil takes longer to dry.
Encostic painting is basically painting where the vehicle use is wax.
A chalk and marble dust ground over rabbit skin glue is a much better surface to paint on, but it takes a long time to prepare.
When sizing with rabbit skin glue do not boil the glue.
When drawing on canvas with charcoal you can use a brush dipped in turpentine to move the charcoal around easy.
Bring a small lamp to class when you can to light your canvas/paper.
1/3 Solvent, 1/3 Damar varnish, 1/3 Linseed oil: is my new favorite medium.
The painting was quick, I did a fast drawing without much rechecking at all. I then began a wash of the general color/value of each area with lots of medium. I then began adding in direct color with much less medium after the painting was covered. I continued to work in mostly paint right out of the tube with just a little medium until finished.
I didn’t take a photo of the still life, so no drawing comparison. But here is a look at the values. Interesting how the painting turns mostly all to grey.
Plate three of the Bargue course introduces a bit of shading, but that wasn’t really much of an issue here. For some reason I was pretty far off in the accuracy here, my theory is that it was the increased size do the drawing, that caused issues.
The problem here is not that the drawing is inaccurate, its that the drawing is inaccurate and I didn’t notice these glaring inaccuracies. I did make an attempt to fix the vertical height of the upper lip, I noticed that it was a bit short, but I failed in making it long enough even after adjustment. I should have gotten the horizontal line for the base of the nose much closer than that.
Well, one thing I do know is that my biggest weakness currently is judging horizontal distances. What is interesting about this plate is that the guides were originally placed above the finished drawings, but I moved then to be to the left of the original. I wonder if Bargue did the vertical placement intentionally so the student would be forced to have an easier time judging the horizontal distances but not the vertical.
While thinking about that, maybe its not that I’m better at judging vertical distance more than horizontal distances. Its more likely the case that its easier to judge the vertical distances when you subject is situated on the same horizontal plane as the drawing. I bet if I situated my drawing below the original next that I would have an easier time of judging the horizontal distances but more trouble judging the vertical distances. There is only one way to find out…
This drawing seemed to be one of the easiest of plate two. I barely looked at the guide this time. I’m finding that the guide is a bit to general and I break the form down a bit closer to the original much sooner.
This is how I’m starting all these drawings currently.
Top most horizontal line
Bottom most horizontal line
Place vertical line in relation to subject to garner as much info with it as possible
Place the rest of the vertical measurements
Place the horizontal measurements and begin generalization of the drawing
I hope to look back on my beginning drawings one day and see that I have improved massively, right now I “feel” like I’m improving but I really can’t tell.
Since January I have been painting and drawing in my apartment with a very humble setup. This made since at the time, the main goal was to set to task as quickly and as easily as possible. Nothing kills work like a long and arduous setup time. Time and again I have seen great artists always have materials quickly at hand in studio or on location. Either to capture a fleeting landscape scene in a moving car or aboard a plane, or a fleeting moment of inspiration with a well prepared and easily accessible studio.
I was never one of those people who had to have a perfect situation to paint in. I can make art anywhere, anytime — it doesn’t matter. I mean, I know so many artists for whom having the perfect space is somehow essential. They spend years designing, building, outfitting the perfect space, and then when it is just about time to get to work they’ll sell that place and build another one. It seems more often than not a way to keep from having to work. But I could paint anywhere. I made big paintings in the tiniest bedrooms, garages, you name it. you know, once I have my back to the room, I could be anywhere.Chuck Close
I would do well to head the words of this master artist and strive to be ready anytime and anywhere to capture inspiration with minimal setup and lack of “perfect” conditions. I do recall one very inspiring day where I ended up painting in my own kitchen, the conditions were far from perfect but still the painting turned out great, although as I recall, I found the process to be more enjoyable.
As I write this post I made a note in my daily ledger to begin my next project of having a sketchbook with me at all times and ready to sketch in any situation. I think I will swap my ledger for a sketchbook of the same size and make it a constant companion equipped with drawing tools.
So, to get back to my original thought. I needed a better home studio, one that could be compact, always ready, portable, and held all the supplies I needed with good lighting conditions. I dared to dream and I think I have come up with my perfect compact home studio.
I have made a lot of notes on the idea of this transformer like studio with the possibilities of almost any situation. But to be brief I can sum up the idea as a movable taboret with adjustable glare free lighting a detachable easel, a larger working space with a glass palette and plenty of storage.
If you have shopped online for taborets you will know how crazy expensive they are. And everyone that I have seen would not match my particular needs. So I had only one choice left… I must build it myself.
Stage one: The Dresser
I started my search for the perfect taboret base at IKEA. After figuring out the approximate height that I would need the base to be, including the later addition of wheels, I chose a dresser called HOPEN. Not only was the design nice and simple but the addition of frosted glass fronts on the drawers was very stylish, and the price was great. I must say that the IKEA website is far superior to most furniture websites, too many other websites lack specific information as in exact measurements. Thanks to IKEA I knew this piece would work perfectly for my needs before I made the hour long drive to the store.
Fueled by inspiration I didn’t waste time in traveling to IKEA to pick up the base of my taboret. While on the way I even took the time to stop at a parking lot and do a landscape painting.
Like all of the IKEA furniture that I have assembled this one was simple and easy with as minimal hardware as possible. That being said, this was the most complex assembly of IKEA furniture that I have done yet, most of our previous purchases were simpler items.
The next day I took a trip to my local Loews for all the supplies I would need to turn this normal chest of drawers into the perfect taboret.
Two panels of wood cut to size, one for the base, and one for the back.
Four wheels at 4 inches in height.
Hardware to attach the base and back to the chest.
Hardware to attach the wheels.
1″x2″x8′ wood boards for lighting rig.
A saw to cut the wood. ( a humble replacement for the wood working shop I once had )
The next few photos are of the additions added to the chest of drawers, you will notice that I tend to over engineer things a bit and opted to attach everything with bolts rather than wood screws. I figured there was going to be a lot of stress on these joints as it is of considerable weight and I will be moving it frequently.
I had the half inch plywood cut to size at Loews, much easier than using a hand saw. In this photo I am attaching the wheels to the base piece after previously measuring their location.
A picture of some of the supplies that I gathered.
Detail of one wheel bolted to the board.
After attaching the wheels to the base plywood I set the chest of drawers (without the drawers) on top of the base so I could prepare for attaching the chest to its base with bolts and “L” brackets.
I was accurate as possible in my measurements, I learned years ago to measure multiple times before committing to any cut or drill.
The wheels I chose are 3 inch casters that are about 4 inches in height. The thick carpet in this apartment makes rolling the chest very difficult even with these large wheels. The front casters have locks on them, but currently the carpet and weight of the chest keeps it in one place easily. All four casters swivel so that it can maneuver into almost any orientation. Unfortunately, I have found that due to the weight of a full chest and the thickness of the carpet that it is hard to get the chest to start moving because the wheels have to swivel into position first, then roll. This initial swivel makes it very difficult for to start moving but I corrected it by adding some handles low on the sides of the chest ( see later images ). I believe that if this was put on a more flat surface that it would move very easily.
More images of hardware and how the base is being attached to the dresser. I had to be careful not to have the bolts stick out too far inside the chest as it would impair the sliding of the drawers.
Detail of one of the six “L” brackets attached inside.
Outside detail view of the bolt attached to the “L” backet inside the dresser.
I used a total of 12 “L” brackets with two bolts each. Six for the base and 6 for the back. As you can see here there base sticks out from the back about two inches. This was a previous oversight on my part but it proved to be very helpful in the end.
I attached a new plywood back to the chest because the original backing was a very thin pieces of masonite nailed to the chest. That would not have held up to what I plan to attach to the back of the chest, nor would it have done well under the stress of rolling the chest around the apartment.
The Lighting Rig
The main idea of the lighting rig is to allow me to pull my lighting along with my portable taboret. My first idea was to get a bendable standing light that would hold a single Compact Florescent Light bulb but I couldn’t find a lamp that would fit my needs correctly, and I was also worried about a single compact bulb only lighting some of my canvas or paper. I wanted to end up with a consistent light over my substrate and palette with reduced or no glare.
My solution was to build a lighting rig that would suspend a light above the taboret. It would need to allow for the light to move forward and back as well as up and down to take advantage of higher ceilings in later places that I’m sure to move to.
This is the rig after completion. I used the more expensive 1″x 2″ wood a Loews because it was straighter with little to no knots. For supporting the Joints I used “L” brackets and screws plus four triangle pieces cut out of the original backing for the chest of drawers, its a fairly thin Masonite. I made sure to use glue with every connection here and let it dry for at least an hour.
These are the horizontal pieces that will eventually be above my head and attached to the light. I just used an “L” bracket on each side, but I only attached it with screws to the horizontal pieces so that the horizontals would slide easily forwards and back.
Here is a better shot of how the “L” brackets were attached to the horizontals but not the rig itself.
I didn’t want to attach the rig directly to the taboret because it will eventually need to slide up to extend as high as possible depending on ceiling space. Unfortunately the ceilings in this apartment are a little less than eight feet. You can see here that the base of the taboret sticks out about an inch, this is essential as this is where the verticals from the lighting rig will rest as well as the easel that is going to be added later.
Here is the full lighting rig attached to the taboret, complete with light. I must say a few things about lighting.
Lighting for Artists
I did a lot of research on what is the best lights to get for a studio. There is so much information out there and most of it never matched my needs perfectly, but it all comes down to the correct bulbs. Here is what I have found to be the best and least expensive.
If you work very small and don’t care too much about uneven light over your canvas and palette than go with a Compact Florescent Bulb. If you work larger and even light over canvas and palette is essential than you will need to do like I have done and go with Florescent Tubes. Originally I wanted to go smaller than 4 foot tubes but price goes up the smaller they get and there are not may options at smaller sizes either. Now the most essential thing is you MUST get bulbs that produce a color of light between 5000 and 6000 kelvin (this is the same color as north light). The bulbs I purchases are Phillips, 5000 Kelvin, 4 foot, T8, Florescent tubes. And they are housed inside a very inexpensive plug in shop light. You can go with 6500 Kelvin bulbs but I found that color to be much too blue.
The best thing about the florescent tubes is that they will cast a larger more even light over your work space and if you get the correct color (5000 kelvin at least) it will be just like working from north light. Actually the window behind my taboret in this post faces north and when I compare the light coming from the window to the light from my 5000 kelvin florescent tubes, it is almost exactly the same. The light from the window is much brighter of course, and is very slightly more blue.
Close up of the shop light attached to the horizontal brace and the “L” bracket allowing it to be easily slid forwards and backwards.
The only problem with this shop light is that the cord is very short…
Picture of paintings taken while illuminated by my new setup. Here there is a lot less glare on my canvas and the colors are exactly the same as if viewed from north light. Keep in mind these were taken with my iPhone 5 without a tripod.
I purchased an Italian made metal tripod easel that was recommended by Marc Dalessio for plain air painting for tall persons that want to do site-size in plain air. I had several necessities for choosing this easel for the taboret. First I wanted it to be easily detachable so I could use the easel for any other situation. Secondly it needed to be adjustable in height as well as in tilt. The Italian metal easel achieved all of this. The greatest thing about this is that the easel cost me only about $50 plus shipping from Madison Art Shop.
Side note, I looked at other easels locally that were of similar construction, and I would suggest NOT to go with them, they are sub par in many ways. You want to get the one by Richeson, trust me.
Attaching the easel is pretty simple. All I have is a horizontal piece of plywood screwed across the back of the taboret with about 1 inch of space between it and the back of the taboret. I have a Velcro strap attached to the top center of the taboret, that wraps around the center leg of the easel, and a metal loop below (its hard to see in the next picture) that the center leg will also pass through.
After working with this setup for several weeks now I can safely say that its very sturdy and easily adjustable. You can even see from this post that I was able to start a drawing that was almost 5 feet wide and 3 feet tall.
The humble light box
I needed a very cheap and tall light box that was easily adjustable. The solution was “Wire cube shelving system” at target. It was very cheap and would take on lots of configurations for storage and light boxes. What is really great about this is that you can easily attach a light to it from almost any angle and shine light through the wires, much better than a box with holes. Plus I use the rest of the shelves to hold extra still life items, books, supplies, and anything.
This image shows my still life all lit up with a very cheap sheet from target also. I later replaced that light bulb with a CFL at 5000 Kelvin.
I figured I would give a total of all the supplied to make my setup happen.
IKEA Chest: $100
Wood for base and back of Chest: $36
Hardware: $5 + $5 + $6 + $5 + $16 + $23
Wire cubes, Target: $25
Sheet, Target: $10
Chest handles: $8
Light rig wood: $4 + $12
CFL bulb: $6
Florescent Tubes, Home Depot: $10
Shop Light, Home Depot: $20
Total = $387
That is not an exact total I would guess that the grand total is right at 400. But still this is much cheaper than and all in one store bought item like this one.
This will be used for a game called “Pin the radio transmitter on the rhino”, so the drawing only needed to be a simple illustration. I decided to do much more. I’m in the mode now where I want to train my eye every day to become more accurate in judging spacial relationships. And this proved to be a very fun and informing drawing, that really showed how great site-size method drawing really is.
Of course I would love to be drawing from a real life model but, unfortunately the cats would not like a rhino in the apartment.
This is the first stage of the drawing, I anticipate one more session to finish it.
Very large drawing here, its about 4 and a half feet wide and 3 feet tall.
In order for me to site-size this correctly I had to get the picture the same size as the drawing, which meant I had to setup the drawing about 10 feet away from the paper, and I stood about 3 feet from the picture. I marked a place on the carpet with tape so I knew what position I had to return to each time I needed to compare. I also marked two notches on the photo which corresponded with two drawn lines on the far left of the drawing, you can’t really see them here they are too light and small.
So the basic idea is that I would line up my body and head in the correct position using the marks on the floor, the picture and the drawing. Then I would make a judgement such as the placement of a horizontal line intersecting the top of the horn, or the top of the whole rhino. Then I would move forward quickly without taking my eyes off point in the drawing where I think the point should be, make the mark on the paper, then return to my observation point to compare correctness. It turned out to be a lot of walking back and forth, but the drawing began to bloom out of the paper slowly, and I was very surprised at the accuracy.
Considering that I was about 13 feet away from the drawing and any measurements that I was doing would vary wildly with the slightest movement of my hands or arms while measuring, I think the accuracy turned out really well. The only bad part is that I truncated the rhino a bit, and worse than that is the paper ends and the rhino extends beyond it. I will have to add some paper to the drawing and fix its hind quarters.
Just one more drawing after this one and I will move on to plate three of the Bargue drawing course. The next plate gets into some shading with full faces. Hopefully I can keep up the accuracy that I achieved on this drawing through to all of the next plates.
I’m very happy when the drawing is this close. I think marking a vertical line first then measuring out from there is the best way for me to get the best accuracy.
Not sure what was going on with me during drawing class but I couldn’t get anything to work right. I didn’t feel like I was rushing at all. I was measuring as much as I could. Yet, the drawings are severely lacking in accuracy.
I purchased some simple shapes from the store today and I’m going to paint them white so I can do some mass drawing and painting studies.
I did much better on this drawing than the last one. I changed my process up a bit. First I drew horizontal lines indicating the top of the subject and the bottom. Then I put an arbitrary vertical line, that represented an imaginary line on the subject passing through the further right point on the chin, through the part in the lips and through where the nose meets the upper lip. With this line I was able to get several vertical and horizontal points located easily.
From here I was able to measure out from the vertical line to find the placement for the furthers right point of the tip of the nose, the furthest left on the nostril and the corner of the mouth. I find it much easier to measure out from a central line this way then creating a rectangle around the entire subject and measuring into it.
I did much better with the accuracy of this drawing and I think my process here had a lot to do with it.
Here is how I began the drawing, I didn’t use the vertical and horizontal line shown by the guide. I did an angled line that touched the top of the lip and the furthest right point on the chin.
After setting in some vertical measurements I added in the vertical line similar in placement to the guides vertical line. This was very helpful in placing the extension of the nose.
There are many errors here, and I’m not sure exactly how to correct them. There comes a point in a drawing where my powers of observation and judgement obviously need honing. I’m trying to get away from measuring as much as possible because its not always possible when dealing with a more un-sanitized drawing environment. In a real environment I have to rely mostly on my own powers of observation, I have to be able to spot the most smallest difference without any aid beyond just looking and comparing the subject to the drawing.
For plate number four I decided to follow the guide on the left much more closely. I was interested in the central intersecting line that Bargue used. It seemed to be a very obvious way of finding the location of most of the feature while at the same time keeping their angles coherent. Unfortunately it proved to be very difficult as you will see in the comparison below.
Here I started with the central line then I found points on that line that would correspond with the angles that intersected it through the top of the lip, the center of the mouth, the crease of the lips and where the lips meet the chin. I found it very difficult to get these exact points, they seemed to be based on arbitrary locations within the face and existed somewhere within an angle.
Instruction would have been helpful here, I really don’t know how to deal with these angular measurements.
Here you can see a bunch of errors, the largest being the placement of the nose and nostrils. As I look at it now I’m amazed that I misjudged the furthers nostril so much. So far the bridge of the nose has been off in the last few drawings, I really need to target that as a week point and eradicate the behavior with more measurements.
I’m definitely getting to know charcoal well. I’ve never had to sharpen the sticks so much to get such exact lines. During this drawing I was a bit distracted so my focus wasn’t up to what it should have been and the comparison shows that. I will need to do better tonight.
Well, I’m getting my vertical distances down perfect, its the horizontal distances that I’m having trouble judging and measuring. I need to find a way to better measure a horizontal distance. I kept looking at the nose thinking it was too big, but then I would measure and it was correct. The issue was that the nose was not placed correctly it should have gone to the right just a small bit. Same wit the crease in the mouth and the line to the right of the nostril.
For some reason these plates are going much faster than the first plate, I’m not sure if I’m getting better or the simplicity of the line is just easier.
I started this one a bit different. I began by closely measuring the more internal parts of the face, the top lip first, then I move outward from there. I was hoping that this would fix my previous error of getting the bridge of the nose in the incorrect place, but it didn’t.
This is the start of the drawing. I can see now that the generalization of feature is essential for quickly getting accurate drawing down. And enough of that accurate drawing for a good comparison with the original before moving on to refinements.
I thought that this plate would be much harder but I really enjoyed doing this plate much more than the first. This was much closer to drawing from an actual face rather than just a drawing. I tried as hard as I could to make the lines as exact as possible.
This is how I began the drawing, unfortunately the line of the bridge of the nose was off and that difference continued through to the end drawing. I used the Bargue guide on the left only as a possible indicator to how to begin the drawing but I found my own path.
I’m very pleased with the accuracy here, even though the bridge of the nose and the ends of the mouth are off a bit.
Plate 1, eye number eleven. I went quickly on this one, trying to get as much done with only eye judgement and not much measurement. Forcing myself to do this can only help me in the future I’m sure.
I did figure out one major thing for this drawing. I dislike the Strathmore 300 series charcoal paper for fine detail, the Arches watercolor paper is far superior for fine detail, although the Arches really clings on to the charcoal and makes it a bit harder to move around. If I added a light grey wash to the paper it would be perfect.
These comparisons are really essential for telling me if I’m getting better or not. I feel like I’m getting better, my judgments are closer and these drawings are not taking as long, but I still have a long way to go.
For the top right lines that are so far off, I really didn’t measure those at all, they were added by just looking closely and trying to make the best judgement. Most of the rest was done the same. I can tell I went quick on this one cause I have much more lines incorrect than before.
I came in a bit under an hour here. I was able to speed up a bit by making judgments on the fly here and going for the correct line without much preparation.
Most of the internal lines here I did without much point preparation and I’m happy that they are very close. Again, the lines further from the center are the worst, I need to find a more accurate way of judging these lines.
Bargue plate 1, eye number nine. I’m trying to do as much as I can without measuring and really trying to train my eye to see differences and make judgement based on that alone. I will make a judgement fix in my head what I need to change, but then I will double check that judgement with measurement, most of the time my initial judgement is correct. It seems as though I need to gain more confidence of my own judgments though.
Also, just seeing a difference is only half of the issue, I have to be able to judge correctly what needs to be changed. If a height is wrong between two lines, then which line do I change? This was this issue is several places on this drawing.
Although it looks a bit clunky, I drew the eyeball curves just once with only minimal points plotted earlier. The small line above the eyelid I redrew three times and still didn’t get it correct. With all the incorrect areas here, there are still a few places where I have excelled and I’m happy about that. I still have 3 more of these eyes to do before I go on to the second plate. And I believe that I have about 50+ more plates after that for the first section of the course… WOW!
I started drawing the two minute poses to night in a site-size method which quickly became stunted and ugly. I was focusing on seeing the proportions correctly and getting the drawing correct but the duration of time necessary to get the model on the page needed quick work. Unfortunately I didn’t see their opposition, but luckily Jamie made a comment that really changed how I was drawing from horrible to wonderful.
I must also mention that I was lucky to be standing next to an artist that was so kind to offer up a huge chunky piece of charcoal. Without his kindness and Jamie’s insight tonight’s would not have been as fantastic.
Basically Jamie broke me out of the rigidity of my method and allowed me to start much more expressively with broad strokes defining the figure as simple as possible quickly at first, then later working into those planes in more detail. This is why I love charcoal so much, the ability to push and pull it around like paint is a thing of beauty.
I want you to grab a large chunk of charcoal and define the entire figure in only a few very broad thick strokesJamie Bollenbach
I think you will easily be able to tell at which point in my drawings tonight that the change happened.
Still working hard on training my eye through the Bargue course. Even though this session was only an hour long I worked really hard on getting the drawing as perfect as possible.
So this is the 100th consecutive session that I have done and I wanted to do something special but I have been so busy that I have been finding it difficult to even do more than an hour a night. So, I just continued with the course, although at this rate I will finish the Bargue course in about a year… I do plan on working hard on my drawing for at least nine months before going back to mostly painting, I think this really strict schedule can only help me in the future. From session 1 this year the my biggest failure has always been drawing and I need to really focus on it hard.
As I did a search for this book to link it I found that it is also a free e-book, of course I find this out after I purchase it.
What is interesting here is that even the weight of the line is throwing off my ability to judge if a distance/width is correct. There are a couple places here that look incorrect but when compared are not.
One hour is not a very long amount of time to spend on these drawings. I still need to strive for perfection here, it will only help me more in the future.
Its interesting that this is the first plate of the course. A whole bunch of eyes. It makes since because the whole purpose of this is learning to see.
I knew that the top brow line above the eye was too far down, but I left it there anyway. Luckily I fixed the bridge of the nose placement, that was much farther off previously. The most important part of these drawing is learning to judge distances. And even though this drawing is not perfect I feel like I’m getting better at being able to see differences in shapes much more accurately.
So I couldn’t find a good painting spot anywhere down the mountains from Hurricane Ridge. I checked out a few spots on the way and another park on the coast, but I ended up driving for a couple hours before I found this good spot. Lots of shade that didn’t change one bit and good and simple scene.
Wow… everything is so blue compared to what I was seeing. I’m not sure if this is the camera or maybe I didn’t notice at all.
I had a great setup here so there is no excuse for that being the cause of my painting issues. Here I made the distant shore values correct, but the closer island is too dark as well as the water is too dark in the distance. Making the island too dark compounded my issues throughout the painting because I made everything too dark and I think I was comparing against the island instead of the sky.
I couldn’t do much hiking on hurricane ridge due to the 10 feet of snow covering the trails. But I was able to find this wonderful scene on the side of the road. It was such a clear day, I only wish that I had an umbrella, I would have painted three paintings here. But, the sun was moving very fast and I ended up with a bit of a sun burn and only one painting as my shade ran out.
Back to the Julian easel and sitting but, I was still using sight size here.
I continue to paint the distant objects much too light. Parts of the mountains should be a bit darker. Also the highlights in the trees should be light, and I can’t believe that I didn’t even notice the cast shadows on the top of the snow over the patch of dirt. I think the distractions of the changing scenery and sun was too much for me to stay focused on the painting and getting it correct.
This scene was super difficult, it had every problem in the book. Quickly changing sun, changing tide, atmospheric perspective, moving water, mass of random foliage, intense color, lots of drawing and subtle values throughout. I was not ready for this scene at all. I’m glad I took some photos cause I will have to study all of these issues one by one.
There is my new setup… I have already changed it as I was not happy with how functional it was.
I can’t believe that the trees past the beach are that dark. I painted these values very far off.
The location change
I took several picture showing the change in scenery within one and a half hours.
I was a bit rushed to start this painting. After driving over three hours to get out here I wanted to get two maybe three paintings done. But due to this new setup and my forgetfulness I had forgotten my brushes for the first spot that I picked and had to walk all the way back to the truck to get them. After that setup, I decided to paint a different spot on the coast.
Here you can see that I’m using my new easel which is perfect for site-size. Although it was kinda hard to get this easel setup on the rocks and in a correct position. Then I realized that I had forgotten to fill my medium cup, which I had to do on the spot. Later to realize when I pinned my palette to the easel that I had filled it way too much….
Really the whole start to this painting was very annoying. I found that my palette was way too bouncy and I had to constantly support it with my left hand while mixing. Also my brush holder that I made up didn’t work well at all and it was a bit annoying throughout the painting. Needless to say I need to make some modifications to my setup and for the remainder of the trip I used my Julian easel. Which I was very happy that I thought ahead and brought it with me.
My main focus for this painting was the values and drawing, unfortunately I failed on both. I keyed the sky correctly, but the lighter part of the rocks on the shore is extremely inaccurate.
This was the scene that I was going to paint until I realized that I left my brushes back at the truck.
For this drawing I’m using two sheets of paper. First is a Strathmore 300 series charcoal paper, second is a Canson pastel paper. After putting the first stroke of charcoal down on the Canson paper I immediately hated it. The texture was much to prominent to even be useful in making a drawing. Luckily, after the drawing I tried a few strokes on the back of the paper and it wasn’t too bad, so the whole pad will not be a total waste.
The Strathmore 300 is good though. I’m not liking the vertical line texture much, but I have found ways around that. This will be my go to paper for a while. Its kinda cheap, and works well.
The Strathmore paper is on the right and the canson is below. You can see how far I got on the canson paper before I didn’t bother with it anymore.
I really need to work on my accuracy here. I’m happy that I got a lot of the line weights done well, but moving forward I think I may need to go for an exact 100% reproduction.
As I was drawing the fourth eye of plate one of the Bargue drawing course, I noticed that any time I would erase a line on the Arches 90lb hot pressed water color paper the next line that I would put over that erased line would skip like crazy, it was terrible, like trying to draw with a pin out of ink, all I was doing was making a channel in the paper. So I decided that I was going to do this drawing on all the paper types that I had with me.
So at life drawing class tonight I set my easel up so that my paper was really high and I was able to view the model in a spot where she fit on the page. Unfortunately the class was so packed with people that I couldn’t set up my vantage point far behind my easel. I has to be pretty close to the easel and just keep head in one place.
I was very self conscious trying this method out in the class because I know that Jamie would prefer a more fluid approach to drawing, but I really feel that right now what I need is a good drawing foundation and eye training. So I stuck with it and the proportions turned out good, but the drawing didn’t turn out too well. If I had the skills to get the proportions correct right at the start then I could be more fluid and I think the long pose would have turned out better.
I have had the Bargue Drawing book for going on 7 years now and this is the first time I have really used it, and I believe that I am in a mental space now to continue with the Bargue course for a long while. I’m tired of my frustration and the almost debilitating feeling of failure when another painting or drawing goes horribly wrong due to lack of draftsmanship.
After last nights failure, I started today fresh and new with Plate number 1, its going to be a long journey but I’m confident that at the end of it I will be a much better draftsman. Plate one has a total of nine linear drawings of eyes, tonight I did the first three.
My studio is a million times better now with all the work that I have put into it, its almost done, and I have no excuse that my working conditions is causing issues. Now if my drawing turns out bad its simply because I lack the skill yet to do it correctly.
So I purchased some Generals charcoal pencils, pan pastel with a cool palette knife like applicator, they call it a sofft tool, and some really cheap ingres pastel paper. Turns out that after working on the drawing for over an hour I figure out that I hate this paper tremendously and totally stop in disgust. So the following is what I have ended up with.
How can I improve the drawing
Luckily I was able to get far enough so I could still compare the drawing. I’m pretty happy with my accuracy of the countour.
Here I did some test of the pan pastels, it goes onto the paper nice and smooth, I can build it up really dark then easily remove it all the way down to the bare paper with an eraser. And the best thing about it is that it stays really well in one place, only the eraser picks it right off the paper.
I didn’t take this drawing very far tonight because I setup my site size and the figure turned out to be way too small for any kind of detail. Lesson learned there, and I’m going to have to change where I place the still life in relation to my easel so that the figure is larger on the paper and I can really work into the detail.
How can I improve the drawing
Again site-size drawing is really the way to go. This drawing was dead on at the very beginning and continued to be very close throughout. It’s so much easier to see the differences and changes when you can compare your drawing to a life size subject.
This is by far the most intuitive way to draw. I found it much easier to compare my subject with the drawing when I didn’t have to figure out size difference. Further into the drawing it became unnecessary to measure with my pencil, I could flick my eyes back and forth to see issues.
I don’t have my new taboret plan setup so I had to set some fruit on our tiny shelf above the fire place then use my easel at its most highest position. At some point when I get time I will do a lengthy post on my taboret master plan.
This was about an hour plus into the drawing.
How can I improve the drawing
The drawing is super close, except for the apple, which I fixed as soon as I saw this comparison. I’m still trying to figure out why I got the apple so wrong. I think it is still hard for me to see differences that small I guess.
How can I improve the values?
Well the background is extremely far off, that should be much darker. And the difference between cast shadow and the fabric in light is much more close than I thought.
I didn’t do much drawing today. We had plans to see the European Masters show at the Seattle Art Museum then right after that we had to rush home because it was Thursday and that is release night.
So, here is the very short drawing, I basically set a rolled up poster on the window sill. It was a really nice day out and I had the door and windows open. I’m really fortunate to have big windows with north light streaming through, I really need to take advantage of it.
The European Masters Show
It was a good show,but I didn’t find myself moved by any of the pieces. I will add a few pieces here and give my thoughts but I have to say, as I look through google images at paintings, every single picture of these paintings that I just saw in person are absolute crap compared to the real work. I can’t stress this enough, NOTHING compares to the real thing. I’m not saying this because I’m an artist and I have a feeling for this that maybe most people would not say. That is not it at all, literally if you say the painting in person then looked at any of the photos online you would think it was a different painting. Even my wife said “Wow these pictures really suck”. Now that that is out of the way.
The star of the show, Rembrandt.
Everyone knows, Rembrandt is great. They have heard it since they were young, even if they weren’t an artist they have heard about Rembrandt. Everyone uses Rembrandt as the ultimate comparison for every other artist. “Who do you think you are Rembrandt?” is synonymous with “Who do you think your are Shakespeare?”.
I was no different, I was taught that Rembrandt was the best and I believed it. Then I grew up, became an artist and at some point in my life learned to question everything. So, I questioned the belief, and honestly Rembrandt really didn’t move me. I don’t care what the historians have said about Rembrandt I really didn’t care for his work. Kinda like the Beetles I really don’t like the Beetles that much, I have to be careful when I say that, I may get stoned or something… Maybe I shouldn’t say “stoned”… Anyway, the point is, I didn’t care about Rembrandt. UNTIL, The National Gallery of London, I can’t remember exactly which self portrait it was that I was looking at, but the painting actually moved me. I, after questioning Rembrandt’s rule over all artist for years, saw the light and I never questioned his supreme mastery further.
The self portrait above, painted in 1661, isn’t his best, but it was displayed in the middle of the room surrounded by masters who came along close to 100 years later. It was like mannequins surrounding one man, the room was full of lifeless portraits modeled into stone while a scruffy old man moved within his frame.
Yeah, that is a bit dramatic, I’m trying to be eloquent here. Basically the Rembrandt self portraits have life to them, movement, air and power. And I’m kinda tired of the overly modeled perfection of the other portraits. Of course, they are all amazing, but we all know who the king of artists is in this room.
Joshua Reynolds Self Portrait late in life
Joshua Reynolds portrait right out of school.
The setup of these two painting in the gallery by Joshua Reynolds was great. They both were set next to each other. The right was painting right after he left school as a young artist. The left was a self portrait late in life just a few years before his death. I stood in front of these paintings for a while, comparing, trying to find growth or change in his work. Maybe a bit more bravado with the brushwork, maybe a bit more confidence in his work, something anything. But I couldn’t come up with anything. These could have been painted within the same year, maybe I just can’t see it, but as far as I’m concerned I don’t think he changed as an artist at all. Its as if he became his greatest early on, and then never surpassed that, or maybe never tried.
This was another great setup in the show. On the left is a portrait by George Romney and on the right is a portrait by Joshua Reynolds. And they are both of the same woman. Its great to see that the likeness is there in both images. But what I was most interested in was how each artist portrayed “Mrs. Musters”. The plaque next to the painting said she was a very solemn woman and I think Romney nailed it. But Reynolds is was trying to bring the depiction of classical mythology back into painting so his painting is more like he put Mrs Musters on stage and had her play a part.
Kitty Fisher as “Cleopatra” Dissolving the Pearl was one of the better of all the paintings there and another depiction of Reynolds bringing classical mythology back into art.
There were a few other painters there that it was nice to see. William tuner, one of his earlier pieces. It was a very sober painting compared to his later work, I prefer his later work much better. Now here is an artist that grew and changed and became absolutely amazing further along in his career, Reynolds stagnation through his entire life really confuses me…
We saw a Henry Reaburn portrait of a child. I have always liked Reaburn since I saw him in the National Gallery in DC. And it was necessary that he be in this show with Reynolds, Romney and Rembrandt. Every good curator knows that you have to have the four R’s to r