Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Getting Down, Small and Dirty




With charcoal.

 I have no idea what training illustrators go through, but they seem to know how to draw small the best and are very skilled with watercolor. I have noticed that there are a lot of working and retired illustrators in Bloggersville and the painters of "Big Boys" are few if here at all?

My reference photograph
 Coming from the architectural design field, I was running away from small images drawn to quarter and three eighth inch scale. I was tired of the right side of my neck being stiff, my shoulders and back aching from being crunched up for hours and drawing with my nose. Coming back to art meant shaking loose with large size canvases and full body action. But it doesn't seem to work like that here--nor will it be that way next week. And so, 9 x 12 is the size to conquer this week.

 On 9 x 12, I tend to want to use pencil, not charcoal. Now charcoal comes in pencils, but the marks are darker and don't lift so easily--and charcoal is as much a subtractive medium as it is an additive. When working with it, I move between the two actions. That's imperative.

 What I have gotten so far working small on just one portrait is: forget the details and go for the dominating shapes, albeit shadows and negative space. My stick of vine isn't exactly helping me out. Where I unusually use roughly a one and a half inch piece, I find myself wanting to break that in half. Three quarters of an inch is pretty small to grasp with authority.

I struggle on. Observing. Calculating. Bungling. And fixing. But not the top one. This one I started too close to the top of the page and had to crop off a top curl along with the spiral line. The curl gave that head a better shape. The only fix is to take a closer look at what you don't like. This time getting the subject solidly placed on the page :

Zac looking a bit older than he was at the time of the reference photograph five years ago.
--Actually, closer to what  he looks like today.

10 comments:

  1. Really good charcoal work Linda. I find that medium too messy for me, I'm just one very messy painter, so it is a delight to see you handle this with such skill.

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    1. You're kidding me. But thank you. These were very difficult for me, given the 9 x 12 format. I do like to get the eyes in and in this size, blurry blobs are the only things I can get somewhat where they occur. Very annoying.

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  2. Have just been to Konstantina's blog about charcoal, one of my favourite media... I love that it is so messy... I think the messiness gives it a freedom we don't get with other media..... I find it forgiving and spontaneous...had already decided to start doing my prelim sketches with charcoal and seem to be talking myself into using it more....I tend only to use it for portraits... don't know why really, need to get going with it!!!

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    1. Charcoal is a great prelim medium and a finish medium as well. I like it for all they reasons you listed. The key is to keep that knead eraser clean. A chamois is a good thing too for covering large areas OR obliterating a poor start.

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  3. Your charcoal work is wonderful! I love the expressiveness that can be achieved without color getting in the way. I heard an artist say once that value does all the work, but color gets the credit. Thanks for explaining your technique. I do the same thing, with the subtractive work. My erasers are just as important as my charcoals, and I have my favorite brands of kneaded, and stick erasers, as well as my favorite blending stumps. Keep up with the charcoal, please! These are awesome portraits. Maybe increase the paper size to the next size up after every few portraits.

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    1. No Katherine. You don't understand. These are done on 9 x 12 on purpose. I'm practicing for my workshop where 9 x 12 was specified. I usually work on 18 x 24 and I'm a lot more comfortable and the drawings are better. This little stuff is torturous. I'm glad you mentioned stubs and stick eraser. I'm going to throw them in the bag along with my charcoal pencils and a sanding block--maybe even my eraser templates? Like them or not, they might prove helpful when working this restrained. --Maybe I'm making too big a deal out of this. I am making too big a deal out of this. I'm going there to make mistakes.

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  4. You really captured the boy's expression in the single sketch, well done.

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    1. He's still a little older looking to me than the reference. I'm going to have another go at him today--not that I'm not a gluten for punishment:)

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  5. I love this ... makes me want to break out my charcoals and willow sticks. :)

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    1. Charcoal is fun. It's spontaneous. There's no friskets to cut, paint to mix, brushes and palette to clean up. I highly recommend it for a fun afternoon, evening or morning.

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