Monday, January 31, 2011

Life Drawing Workshop: Gesture Drawing - Part 2

Gesture drawing is challenging because you have to observe and distill information quickly.

For life drawing beginners, the tendency is to draw memorized symbols for the respective body parts instead of drawing what is actually observed. The challenge is to unlearn the symbols and replace them with observation. A good set of observational tools will allow an artist to understand what they see. If you understand something, you can draw it.

To practice those observational skills, to practice seeing, we do gesture drawings. Lots of them. Here is a pile of drawing of life model and artist, Jono.

"To draw from life, one must learn to see. Seeing is drawing. Drawing is understanding"

Learn to see the basic shapes that build complex shapes. Learn to see values, an objects relative lightness or darkness. Learn to estimate angles. Learn to see negative space. Learn to estimate proportions. Learn to see things that visually rhyme. Learn to see patterns. Look for them.

To improve your drawing chops, carry a sketchbook and practice your observational skills by drawing the world around you.

2 minute gesture drawing of life model and artist, Jono.
General's wide graphite stick on Strathmore 50lb sketch paper. 18 x 24 inches, by Graham Smith.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sketchbook Jam: Pam Am

Pan Am at Sketchbook Jam, January 2011.

Shannon Bates on sax and Kimo Shim on djimbe.

Rodney Hubbard by Graham Smith

The Pan Am soul acoustic trio plays while artists draw in their sketchbooks at the Friday Night Sketchbook Jam in Encinitas. Vanessa Lemen, of Studio 2nd Street hosts this wildly popular event once a month and I was happy to attend, listen to the music and draw.

I made some new friends, traded art supply tips with the other artists, and a great time was had by all.

Plus, Vanessa bought donuts! Win!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Life Drawing Workshop: Gesture Drawing - Part 1

Gesture drawings are the quick warm-up drawings artists practice at the beginning of a life drawing session. The goal is to capture the essence of the pose in a series of two minute drawings, warming up your drawing engine.

"Marks are your words, drawn me a poem."

The exercise is extremely challenging. There are so many things to think about. Proportion, movement, rhythm, volume, contrast, value, expression. The short amount of time forces the artist to make decisions very quickly. The first marks the artist makes on the page are the most difficult - the instant of creation when the drawing leaps from the mind into the world.

A big blank sheet of paper and a two minute ticking clock can be intimidating. But you have to start drawing somewhere. For beginners, I recommend just going for it. Throw all caution to the wind, look at the model and start scribbling as fast as you can. Don't worry about being perfect. There is no time to measure. Draw large and fill the page. Express yourself.

No matter where you start, your eyes and hand better be moving the whole time, or the two minutes will slip away. Gesture drawing is about deciding quickly and reacting to the model. That's the point of drawing the figure in such a short time, the artist is forced to reduce their drawing to the least amount of elements needed to convey their reaction to the pose.

To create the different strokes, shading, and lines in these drawings, I used  a General's Wide Graphite Stick - 6B on Strathmore 50 lb sketch paper.

I draw the basic shadows using the wide, flat edges of the graphite stick, creating a nice wide stroke. The harder you press the darker it gets. To get a nice velvety texture, put a thick pad of paper under your drawing, so when you press down, the resistance is gradual and even, allowing a wide range of tones.

Switching to the corner of the stick, I build the drawing with more carefully observed line work. The corner gives thinner or thicker lines to work with, depending on how you hold it. The hard, thin lines drawn over the soft, wide strokes, provide a nice contract of marks all from one tool.

And by "carefully observed line work", I mean drawing as fast as possible while not looking at the paper.

Two minute gesture drawing of Kerry, one of San Diego's finest life models, by Graham Smith in a 20 minute live demo at the Sony Life Drawing Workshop. 18 x 24 inches. Strathmore 50lb sketch paper. General's wide graphite stick - 6B.



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The "other" Ben and Jerry

Jerry Brown and Ben Bernanke for the LA Times by Graham Smith
When I got the call to illustrate portraits of Ben and Jerry for the Los Angeles Times, I thought they meant the ice cream guys, not California's newly elected Governor Jerry Brown and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.    : )

Art Director Derek Simmons and I went straight to work figuring out how we would place the Ben and Jerry portraits in the layout for the year's end Sunday Business cover, shooting a few quick thumbnails back and forth.

With the layout locked, I inked the two portraits at the same size as they would print. I used a # 3 round brush mostly, and added the smaller lines with a quill pen. I inked Jerry Brown five times before I got him looking right. Ben Bernanke only took two tries!

Art Director Derek Simmons helped redesign the entire LA Times format recently, so I relied heavily on the templates he supplied to figure out the sizing of the illustration.

To finish the illustration, I created monoprints for background color with acrylic paint and a brayer, splattered it with ink, then printed full sized proofs on watercolor paper.

Ben Bernanke by Graham Smith
Jerry Brown by Graham Smith
I knew the portraits would be cropped into for the planned layout, but I drew the whole head and shoulders anyways. For some reason I have no worries drawing things I know will be cropped out, as long as it's me doing the cropping.

LA Times next to the original illustration
Original inking, printed piece in the LA Times and the sketch
Detail of Jerry Brown illustration - color proof on watercolor paper
Art Director's notes are the best.

I'm able to post the originals artwork next to the final printed pieces because Art Director's (and their staff) take the time to mail (as in Post Office) samples to me. Sometimes they have awesome notes attached. Thanks!
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