Art Group. April 2016

Last month I set myself a goal to draw from photographs whilst at Art Group. Oops, I forgot! But I have made a big step forward in developing my drawing skills. As you can see from the examples above, three out of five of my completed work contains colour! In the past I have relied on the use of shading with either a granite pencil or a fine tipped pen to make my outcomes three dimensional. This time I decided to use colour pencil to achieve the same result.

I bought myself a set of colouring pencils that contained several shades of each colour so that I could experiment with shading and gradients. One person asked me how I learnt to colour in like this, but the truth is I did not learn, I worked it out using logic and my knowledge of shading techniques. Instead of colouring in the bananas in one shade of yellow, which seems the obvious thing to do, I used two yellow pencils AND a black, brown and green pencil. By doing this I was able to add shadow and make the image more realistic.

The downside to producing art work like this is it is time consuming! I am used to drawing two to three images per session, whereas sometimes I only managed to complete half a drawing. On the other hand, I am pleased with my outcomes, so the hours I spend drawing and colouring are worth it, right?

Current work in progress:
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Recycling “Boring” Greeting Cards

For years my Mum and I have been making our own greeting cards by cutting up and reusing shop bought cards. I also know a lot of other people who do this too. After Christmas and birthdays we sit down and cut out the parts that might come in useful: the “happy birthdays”and “merry Christmases,” stars, hearts and other shapes. But quite often we get “boring” cards – a painting or photograph that cannot be cut up into reusable parts. HOWEVER, if you have a creative mind, nothing is completely useless.

Here is one idea that will turn a generic image into an effective hand made greeting card. All you need is: 1 “boring” card, 1 blank card, a simple template (Google has many), a craft knife or scalpel, Blu-Tak, a glue stick, and a cutting board.

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In this instance I am using a greeting card version of Lowry’s The Old House, Grove Street, Salford 1948.

 

 

Step one: Cut the back of your “boring” card off, you will not need that part. Blu-Tak your chosen template onto the front of the card. This will prevent it from slipping when you begin to cut it out.

13059643_10207611221070037_138096388_nStep two: Using the knife, carefully begin to cut out the inner sections of the template, pressing really hard to make sure you go through both the paper and the card. Take your time, rushing leads to mistakes. If you have not used a craft knife before it would be a good idea to practice cutting out shapes, or following lines before starting on the real thing.

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Step three: Only once all the inner sections have been cut out should you begin to cut the outer shape. Depending of the complexity of your template you could either do this with scissors or the craft knife.

 

Step four: Once everything has been cut out, glue your cut out card onto the plain card and, voilà, your unique greeting card.

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Once you are confident with using a craft knife, the possibilities are endless! Have fun creating cards for all occasions and impress your family and friends.

(Sorry the examples are not that great. I’m out of practice!)

 

 

 

Learning to Draw

Many people ask me how I learnt to draw, and the most honest answer is “I don’t know.” I never had drawing lessons, art classes at school consisted of copying rather than learning how to, and, to be perfectly honest, I passed my Art GCSE with a grade C and appalling artistic ability. My two years of Graphic Design A Level were purely computerised and it was not until my second year of my BA that I realised that I COULD draw – or as the tutors saw it, EVERYONE can draw.

In some ways it feels like I suddenly developed the ability to draw, but in hindsight I think the skill was always there but I needed someone to explain the method of drawing and what to look for – something I will always be grateful to my degree tutors for.

As I look back over the artwork I have produced I can see a marked improvement over time, even in the past few months. It is not possible to create your masterpiece on your first try with no experience behind you. Everyone needs a starting place, and mine, I believe, was when I received some Draw 50 books for Christmas 2008 (or 2007? I forget).

Draw 50 is a series of six books by the late-American artist Lee. J. Ames. Each book contains fifty step-by-step methods of drawing realistic images. Of the six I had four: AnimalsHorses, Endangered Animals and Flowers; and by using these instructions I produced the first ever drawings I was proud of.

My favourite book was Flowers, which I found much easier to draw. It helps that if you go a little bit wrong, the drawing still looks like a flower, whereas if you draw an animal incorrectly it looks horribly misshapen. I also found that, although all the books were by the same artist, the Endangered Animals contained so much more detail that it was almost impossible to produce a perfect replica.

It is that idea of a “perfect replica” where the flaws of these types of book emerge. Draw 50 did not teach me to draw. They taught me to copy. My friends complimented me on a drawing of a horse, but did that mean I could draw horses? No, it meant I could copy that particular horse in the book. There are no written instructions as to what to look for when drawing the animals or flowers in real life.

Yet, these books gave me a starting point on my artistic journey. They gave me the opportunity to practise holding a pencil, creating line marks, shading etc. Also, learning to copy is not necessarily a bad thing. Whether you are drawing something from a step-by-step guide, from a photograph or from life, you are essentially copying what is in front of you. I often rely on photographs or even line drawings as a starting point for the art I am producing today… so am I any better than I was when I was sixteen and using the Draw 50 books?

I do recommend the Draw 50 series (or any step-by-step books) for the wannabe artists, the people who wish they could draw. It is a great way of boosting your confidence about drawing. However if you are serious about becoming an artist you need to be able to move on from these guides and learn about different drawing techniques so that you can draw (or copy) the things you see around you. And, do you want to know a secret? I am still learning with every piece of art I produce!

Below are three examples of drawings I made using these books (2009, aged 17)

Coloured in… Now what?

So many colouring sheets… Too many to keep…

Everyone seems to be enjoying colouring these days. The amount of different books you can buy is phenomenal, and it is so easy to purchase individual sheets online. But the question is, what do you do once you are finished (other than the obvious: beginning another page)? It seems such a shame to eventually throw these works of art away.

Here is a solution: turn them into something new.

A couple of months ago I was told about a group of women at a care home who had found a love for colouring. They decided to use their new passion as a way of raising money for charity. After finishing each sheet they turn them into placemats!

Making placemats is quick and easy to do. All you need is a colouring sheet, coloured pens/pencils, a laminator and laminator pouches. Once you have completed your amazing artwork, you simply put it through the laminator and you have a waterproof place mat to brighten up the table. These are perfect handmade gifts to give to friends and family, or as the women mentioned above have done, a means of raising a small amount of money for a charity of your choice.

Have fun!

Looking for free colouring sheets? Here is one of many websites to take a look at.

Art Group. March 2016

This month I feel like I have made a little progress with my drawing ability through attending my Art Group. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am still practising by drawing from other people’s artwork, however I challenged myself, on a whim, to draw from a photograph. Twice!

Although the art group lacks resources, they did have an out of date calendar full of wildlife photographs.Whilst idly flicking through it I came across an image of a herd of donkeys, where one was gazing sweetly into the camera. All of a sudden I had an urge to draw that particular donkey, positively thinking to myself “I can do this” rather than my usual “I’m not good enough.” It is this drawing that I am most proud of this month.

The second drawing I produced by studying a photograph is the one of an elephant. I have drawn these creatures before but always using other artwork as a guide. Using photographs as inspiration gave me the chance to work out for myself how to visually represent parts of the animal and work out where the shading needed to be, without influence from other artists.

By proving to myself that I can draw with photographic references, I am beginning to feel more confident in my drawing ability. I CAN draw rather than merely copy. I am beginning to believe that most people can produce art, it is their inability to trust themselves that prevents them.

My goal for next month is to continue to draw from photographs and boost my confidence. Eventually I hope I will be able to start drawing from life.

Jigsaw Puzzle: Why won’t you love me?

Over the past year I have completed at least six jigsaw puzzles. They are fun to do and a great distraction from the trials of everyday life. But doing jigsaws is not for everyone. Many people roll their eyes and sigh “boooooooring” at the thought of attempting one. Others do not have the patience to sit for several hours, or days, tackling the harder-than-it-looks puzzle.

As a result of all the negativity, the completed jigsaw puzzle goes under appreciated. But have you ever stopped to consider the art work? I admit that some are of famous paintings that one could easily see in a gallery or online, however there are some that are actually amazing to look at and study carefully.

This blog post is actually inspired by the most recent jigsaw puzzle I completed. The Bizarre Bookshop produced by Ravensburger is an amazing work of art.

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This was designed by the artist Colin Thompson: “It is often said that you can escape into a good book, but enter the The Bizarre Bookshop and discover a treasure trove of wacky book titles. Each one has been inspired by a famous novel but has been given a curious twist. Take a closer look and you can even glimpse whole new worlds hidden on the crowded shelves.”

Now, I admit that I am one of the world’s biggest book lovers, and so this jigsaw puzzle was bound to appeal to me. What I want to share with you, however, is the incredible detail that Thompson has gone into to create this master piece. His use of colour is fantastic and his imagination is out of this world. I cannot begin to guess how long this took to draw – I am willing to assume it was longer than it took me to fit the pieces together.

Every time I look at the completed puzzle, and also as I was fitting it together, I keep noticing something new. It is an image you cannot get tired of. Even if it were hanging on your bedroom wall for a year, I guarantee you would still be noticing details that had escaped you before.

I had not come across the artist Colin Thompson before receiving this puzzle for my birthday in December. All his illustration work is crammed full of intriguing objects and humorous images. He began writing and illustrating children’s books back in 1991 and has now had published over 50 titles. One of his picture books The Floods is being turned into an animated television series. As well as The Bizarre Bookshop, Colin is producing many more jigsaw puzzles for Ravensburger; keep your eyes peeled!

So next time you complete a jigsaw puzzle, whether for fun or because an elderly relative forced you to join in, take a closer look at the art work. It may be, like with Colin Thompson’s work, that the illustration, painting, photograph etc was created purely to be turned into puzzle pieces. I feel like these works are dismissed so often due to the format they are shown in. They need to be celebrated just as much as those hanging in galleries!

Below are close up photographs of various sections of the puzzle.

Greeting Cards

Art with purpose

Greeting cards bought on the high street are ridiculously expensive nowadays and often do not express exactly what you are trying to say. It always seems to be the way that the nicely designed cards contain messages that do not relate to the recipient at all, whereas the cards that do, look really naff.

The solution? Make your own! That is what I have done a few times this year already. I have been making cards for over a year now, however I got stuck producing the same style and got rather bored with it. Although these cards were popular amongst church members where they were being sold, I could not face designing any more. So, I adopted a new style.

Since I have been practising and developing my illustration skills over the past few months, it seemed logical to continue to do this through card making. Rather than mass producing them as I did previously, I have only made the for specific occasions. This gives me the chance to take more care and put more effort into each design.

Making your own cards gives you more control over the contents of the design. For example my Dad loves football so I drew a football. I did not need to worry about finding a card where the players were wearing the correct colour shirt, or one that would not imply that my Dad was a football player. Likewise, my friend loves cats, so I drew one – no silly comments, inappropriate wording, annoying glitter that goes everywhere…

A friend of mine requested a card for a mother of a new born baby boy. I was left to my own devices as to the actual design (although she admitted she was hoping I would do an illustration). At the time I had been drawing a lot of hands as practise, therefore I used hands as part of the design. The colours (blues) represent the sex of the baby.

Although I said I was only going to make cards for specific occasions, I have, in the past week, made a couple of cards using paper craft inspired by images seen on Pinterest. In our house there is a complete mess of gathered materials, papers, stickers etc that have been accumulated over the years and it is about time they got used. Hopefully over the next few weeks or months I will be able to create many more handcrafted cards, without the pressure of needing to mass produce. These can either be used as and when needed or donated to charity.

Overall, unless you find the perfect card in a shop (and are willing to pay for it), hand made cards are much more personal and show that you have thought about the recipient, rather than it being a last minute purchase.

Continuing to Think. Draw. Create.

Every weekend I have completed a task in my Think. Draw. Create. book that I blogged about back in January. Above are a few examples of the art I have produced since then. I have found a few of the tasks challenging and have been unhappy with the outcomes, which is why I have only included five images.

My favourite is the Shadow Puppet. People have commented saying that the hands and shadows look like they belong on the included background papers. For this I used my usual black fine liner to draw the hand, but decided to use black pencil to shade in the shadow as I thought using ink would make it too dark.

I enjoyed drawing the cartoon sheep (see top two images). The task was to add bodies to the arms on the pages, and for a while I did not know what to do. When it comes to drawing people I need an image (preferably an illustration) to copy. It would be impossible to find what I need to fit with those arm positions. Instead I decided to create something cartoon-y. Sheep, especially in caricature form, are fairly easy to draw. For each set of arms I drew a similar sheep, but experimented with the facial expressions. I think some of them look quite good – slightly amusing.

One of the problems with forcing myself to complete a page a week is if I am not in a creative mood the outcome is not that great or imaginative. It does not help that some of the tasks are rather peculiar. Take “draw this grasshopper’s chirp” for example. Being someone who occasionally struggles to think outside the box (my box is very comfortable, thank you very much!) this assignment was particularly difficult. I resorted to writing the word “chirp” over and over again. I wish I was able to think of something more exciting.

I am going to continue doodling in this book regardless of how creative I’m feeling, as it should help develop my drawing skills in the long run.

Art Group. February 2016

This month I tried a few different drawing subjects at Art Group: people, animals and still life. As I am only using these sessions to practice my drawing skills, I am still copying from other images I have found online. Having said that, these are not exact replicas – my own developing style comes into play and I omit or add certain details.

The animals – an elephant and a bear – were only quick sketches and I am not sure that I have got the proportions correct. Someone at the art group offered to photocopy the elephant so that I could experiment with colouring it in. I rejected this at the time, but this is an idea I could take up in the future. Maybe with a drawing I am happier with.

The drawing I am most pleased with is the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter franchise. I copied this from an image I found on Pinterest. Whilst I was drawing I could tell that my version was not accurate in comparison to the original. The eyes and mouth are a lot higher on the picture I was copying from. I thought I had ruined the whole drawing, but once I looked at it separately from the printout, I saw that it still looked like hat from the films. I got a lot of comments from some of the other group attendees, including one I was probably not meant to hear: “she’s so good isn’t she?”

After looking at examples of my art work, someone told me my drawings deserve to be in a museum. She then proceeded to show me examples of Rembrandt’s paintings saying that I should attempt something like that. A bit too ambitious, maybe!

How To Draw Anything: a review

If you can write your name, you have enough touch to learn to draw

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How To Draw Anything by Mark Linley

Author/artist Mark Linley believes that anyone can learn to draw and inspires everyone to pick up a pencil and create a work of art. Unlike many ‘how to draw’ books – those that provide step by step visual aids but no further insight – Linley goes into a lot more written detail.

First of all an artist needs to be able to look properly. Without studying the subject or object properly, no one would be able to produce an accurate sketch. Starting with landscapes, Linley tells the reader how to and what to look for when beginning a drawing in order to get a basic outline. It is only after this is down on paper that specific details can be added.

Linley explains various methods of shading and line marks to give a suggestion of perspective, and emphasises that an illustration does not need to be 100% accurate – that is what cameras are for. After landscapes, Linley takes the reader/future artist through plants, animals, people and cartoons in a similar manner.

Each chapter provides the reader with a few assignments to undertake based on what they have read, or the example illustrations. Many of these tasks are to copy Linley’s own examples, however he stresses that the outcome does not need to – or rather should not – look exactly like his. Each artist needs to develop their own style.

I found How To Draw Anything a lot more useful than the ever popular step-by-step guides that most people gravitate to. In those types of books we are NOT taught to draw, we are taught to copy. You may be able to accurately draw the same cat as the artist/author of the book, but you would not know where to start when face with a real life cat. Linley tells us what to look out for and where to start in these situations – you feel like you are actually learning something.

Mark Linley comes across as a humorous individual – his writing is full of puns and quips, intending to make the reader smile or laugh out loud, thus making them feel more relaxed about the subject. Linley does not only attempt to teach people how to draw, he tries to make each of us feel more comfortable about our abilities and encourages us to keep on trying.

Before reading this book I had already begun developing my own illustration style, however I gave a few of Linley’s assignments a try (see below). I am pleased with my outcomes and feel inspired to try more landscape drawings in the future.