Art Group. October 2016.

I began the month continuing with the same method of portrait drawing that I focused so much on in September. I sourced a large amount of well lit photographs online for future use, so that I have a wide range of images to draw should I need the inspiration. The three portraits completed this month are studies of a few of the photographs in that collection.

As mentioned, I began the month using pencil (usually a combination of 4B, 5B and 6B) to draw another portrait in the style that I have recently adopted. But looking at the images above, you can tell I experimented with a different medium in the latter two. I expressed in my blog post last month that I wished to try using charcoal so, after locating one of my many unused charcoal pencils, this is what I have done.

Unlike when I use pencil, I did not have a range of differing hardnesses, therefore I had to be careful when shading so that sections of the faces did not become too dark. To help prevent this, I combined pencil and charcoal together, saving the charcoal for the darker tones. I think this has worked well and I quite like the contrast the two media produce.

Eventually I would like to produce a drawing purely using charcoal. I have some thin charcoal sticks, which may be easier to handle than the thicker pencil version (although messier!).

Despite only completed three drawings (I missed a couple of sessions), I am pleased with what I have achieved. Also I learnt something this month… Beards are hard to draw!

Advertisements

White Space is Important

Give a child a blank piece of paper and some crayons, and they are likely to colour-in the entire page. Unfortunately this instinct remains with many people as they enter adulthood, however in the design world it is a big no-no. In order for design to function it is equally important to look at what is not there as it is what is there. This is what the art and design world calls white space (or negative space). Without it most designs would be rendered useless.

It may seem silly to spend so much energy ensuring the balance of white space is correct, however if designers did not take this into consideration magazines would become illegible, posters confusing and indecipherable, leaflets a complete waste of time etc. Occasionally the concept of white space is abused with the purpose of portraying a particular message, however when legible typography is concerned, white space is a must.

Typography, from a graphic design perspective, became highly regarded after the emergence of the 1950s art movement, Swiss Style. Noted for its functional characteristics, it soon developed into the international typographical style.

Swiss typographer Emil Ruder (1914-70) taught his students the importance of using a grid, often asymmetrical, when placing typography into a design. Careful positioning of typefaces and other elements – including white space – is essential to the overall clarity of the final outcome.

“The typographer is familiar with white as a value in design…”
-Emil Ruder

For those struggling to grasp the concept of white space, the following citation from an ancient Chinese philosopher explains the importance. Although written centuries before it was relevant, this quote just about sums it up:

“From clay, pots are made, but it is the emptiness inside them that makes the essence of the pot. Walls with windows and doors form the house, but it is the emptiness between them that makes the essence of the house. The principle: the material contains usefulness, the immaterial imparts essence.”
-Lao-Tse

Keep this in mind when you are working on designs and you are not likely to go wrong. A designer’s job is often to get a message across through a balance of art work and typography. Do not let an aversion to white space ruin your work.

image21

c27rby1

Smokin’ Hot Art

When drawing a picture the artist has a lot of control over the pencil, paintbrush, charcoal or whatever medium they have chosen to use. With precise strokes, lines and shading can be placed exactly where intended. However there are more obscure media that involve risk and a great deal of judgement to produce something as equally impressive, or even more amazing than the humble pencil drawing.

For over a decade, the artist Michael Fennell has been using the unconventional method of smoke painting to create astonishing works of art.

By using the smoke emitted from lit materials, Fennell experimented and practiced the technique of applying the smoke to his canvas. What emerged was a delicacy that could only be produced through happy accidents rather than pre-thoughtout design.

Not including all the dangers that come with playing with fire, using smoke is an extremely flawed process. With a pencil you can draw a straight line, whereas with smoke it is entirely impossible. At best, all that can be managed is a straight-ish smudge. So what are the benefits of smoke painting? No other medium can produce the water effect that smoke does. Although it is only possible to produce monochrome artwork, the varying tones of black that can be produced is phenomenal. At least double the amount that a piece of charcoal could manage.

Overtime Fennell has produced some astonishing outcomes that look so realistic that it is hard to believe they were “drawn/painted” with smoke. The photographs above and below do not do enough justice to the final pieces, in fact they could easily be photoshopped photographs.

Sometimes, especially with “realistic” outcomes, the art is in the method rather than the final piece. The act of setting something alight to produce smoke then transfer onto a surface is an art form itself regardless of the outcome.

Smoke painting may have existed for hundreds of years, especially as it is not completely clear how cavemen produced their drawings on the walls of their dwellings. With appropriation being a key part of the post-modern art world, it will probably not be long before smoke painting becomes popular and mainstream, leaving artists with a struggle to find a new method to wow their audiences.

David Hockney: 82 Portraits of People You Probably Haven’t Heard of

This year David Hockney returned to the Royal Academy of Arts with a selection of his latest works, 82 Portraits and 1 Still-Life (July-October 2016). Throughout his life Hockney has painted a variety of subject matter, however the almost octogenarian is continuously lured back to the genre that has played a major role in his lengthy career: portraiture.

Although born in West Yorkshire, Hockney has spent a vast amount of time in Los Angeles from where he accumulated numerous friends and acquaintances. Critics on viewing the recent exhibition will have noticed that the sitters Hockney has painted, although named, are unknown to the general public. Hockney has painted the many friends of Los Angeles, their friends and their families, thus giving an insight into the types of people Hockney chooses to be associated with. As Hockney does not take commissions, instead inviting individuals to sit for him, he has not painted any celebrities.

Some may feel disappointed at not being able to recognise any of people in the portraits hanging in the gallery, however this gives everyone the opportunity to admire the artwork and painting technique without being distracted by who is being depicted. Whilst Hockney’s portraits are realistic they do not resemble photographs, thus highlighting different personalities, emotions and attitudes surrounding each individual. There is a uniformity in colour (vibrant blue and green acrylic backgrounds) and use of brushstrokes that makes it obvious that each portrait belongs to one body of work.

Studying the paintings closely the brushstrokes may look rushed or imprecise, however Hockney spent two to three days working on each individual canvas. His is a style that is impossible to replicate by anyone else, as only he can create such an immersive effect. Hockney’s work is not merely a painting of the subject in front of him, it is an intense psychological study of both the model and the artist.

Those already familiar with David Hockney will instantly recognise the style of painting – mostly due to the garish colours – and for those who don’t, these 82 portraits (and one still-life) are a great introduction to the renowned artist.

– If you are wondering about the “1 Still-Life” aspect of the exhibition, here is the story behind it: “The still-life was painted when one sitter was unable to keep the appointment; primed to paint, Hockney turned to what was available in the studio – a selection of fruit and vegetables.”

hockney