Okay, well, where has the time gone? Each week I put “blog post” on my to-do list. And each week passes right by without writing an update.
With this new month of the new year, I’ve been busy with my volunteer work, which has brought with it a couple new responsibilities, and also taking two online classes. (Actually, I signed up for three online classes. But the third one is a free class, and, honestly, the two that I paid for are my priority.)
So, what are these two online classes?
The first class is called Drawn to Expression with UK artist Gillian Lee Smith. I absolutely love this class and it is getting most of my attention right now. This class is more process & technique based than product-outcome based. I love that I’m learning to use new-to-me materials, like charcoal sticks, graphite powder, Conte sticks, and pastels. And trying to become more expressive in my work.
The other class is Lets Face It with Kara Bullock and 15 other mixed media artists. Kara also lead the “Angels Among Us” online class that I took last fall. In “Lets Face It” the topic is faces. Full on face portrait, side view, 3/4, as well as portraiture with bust, hands, and even a full figure. This class runs the whole year and is chock full of information, process, technique, and final product.
Drawn to Expression: Week One
Most of the work I’ve created since the classes started has been in DoE. So that is where I’ll start.
We’re two weeks into the class but I’m still working through the first week’s lessons. Of course.
We started by sketching a household object. Something with interesting angles or curves. These early exercises are timed. The time limit keeps you from getting stuck in the details.
10 minute sketch-Household object
From here Gillian takes us through a variety of exercises to help us loosen up as we work with our materials-charcoal, charcoal pencil, graphite pencils, Conte crayon, and pastels. I haven’t practiced drawing this much since high school art class. It has been a great practice. I actually *want* to get into the studio to sketch or draw.
The first week has also included practice in sketching portraits. Or at least the “hint” of a portrait. When exercises are timed at 30 seconds, then one minute, then five minutes, an impression of a face is about all you get.
30 Second Portraits
One Minute Portraits
Five Minute Portraits
When I started this exercise, I stood, frozen, in front of the paper. Literally. I could feel myself stop and not know where to begin. “How the heck am I supposed to draw a face in 5 minutes?,” I thought. What about those guide-lines I’m so used to putting on the paper first? I don’t remember how to draw a face!
Well that moment took up about a minute of my allotted time. The result being the first picture in the upper left corner above. Gradually, I loosened up and was able to start making sketchy, flowing lines.
Now, I love this as a warm-up exercise or to simply practice, to get your hands moving, and get something onto the paper if I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the studio. It’s a great way to get out of your head and to not worry about details and accuracy. It’s PRACTICE. Not a finished piece for exhibit or sale.
20 Minute+ Portrait Sketches
This exercise culminates with a 20 minute or longer portrait sketch. Now you get more time to delve deeper and explore a particular area in your portrait sketch. It’s kind of a balance between having the right amount of time and too much time before you get hung up in picky little details. That is, self-editing and knowing when to stop. (Or as Flora Bowley says “Spiral in, spiral out.”)
In this first attempt, I was more hung up on the materials, especially the graphite powder and trying to build layers. This was created on Bristol board. The surface was a bit too smooth.
Now I’m getting used to the materials and also the technique. I like the highlights on his chin, nose, and under the right eye. But the darks are too dark, I think. It doesn’t feel like I’m building the layers slowly and gradually enough to give the portrait a more “mysterious” feel.
Okay, now I think I’m getting the hang of it. I decided to very lightly sketch in some guide lines for this face first, then added in successive layers of graphite powder. I’m learning I have to add in some darker areas, then remove some of them to get the depth.
I really like the highlight on her lower lip and on the philtrum under her nose; on the right eyelid, and around her right nostril. I also like the dark shadow under her chin at the top of her neck and the light area directly below it. She looks serious and pensive. And her face isn’t even finished. It doesn’t have to be completely finished.