Thursday, June 21, 2012

Life as an art student | Days 11 & 12 of 20

The last few days have held my lowest lows and highest highs of my art studies so far.

Yesterday we had a discussion in class but I can't even remember about what. Why? Probably because it was such a bad day at the easel for me and I have blocked it from my memory.

While that sounds like a gross and dramatic exaggeration, it isn't. I ended up scraping my canvas at least half a dozen times in order to start over. I was using MASSIVE amounts of paint and pretty much just making a mess. My work was getting overly impressionistic (in relation to what I was actually going for which was more realistic) and despite the professor's best efforts to help support, encourage, and steer me, I wasn't making any reasonable gains.

In the midst of my painting, my professor actually stopped me and took me and my very wet canvas into the art gallery to see it in better light in an effort to help me to look at it in a different way. (Below is one of the versions I painted but scrapped)

He started trying to discuss what I had done so far and I just sat there not budging with my own perspective/opinion that I am largely failing with my efforts. I explained to him that I wasn't taking this class in order to do the same kind of painting I have always done - that is very impasto and impressionistic and mostly yielding things that could be considered "interesting" but is pretty much abstract in quality. He was very receptive to my ranting and proposed aspirations to learn to paint more realistically, proportionally, and accurate to what I am actually seeing versus what I see in my own mind when I look at something. 

At the end of class I scrapped my canvas once again and then three orange lines over my dirty canvas. Why? Because who cares? That was seriously my thinking. 


As we were all packing up to leave for the day the professor reminded us all of the homework assignment that he had given two nights ago that was due today in class. I inwardly groaned about it because it is my least favorite type of assignment that I've done over and over again in previous art courses. What was it? Doing a master copy of a line drawing but doing it when it's oriented upside down. 

Now, while I fully acknowledge that doing master copies from upside down subject matter is very instrumental with learning how to see and then draw more accurately, I hate doing it just the same. Pretty much I strongly dislike drawing across the board. Why? Because it's too flat for me. I mean, I know that it's a very important skill to possess in art but I just don't like it much. That being said, last night I begrudgingly did the assignment. I spent not even close to an hour at the very last minute right before I went to bed. Here is what I did in the right side up orientation. The original is on the left and my master copy version is on the right.

 I did OK, I think. Major issues include the fact that a enlarged it so much I couldn't fit a quarter of the drawing on my paper. (I have this issue with always enlarging things *shrug* and apparently it's the opposite problem than what most people have since typically they draw things smaller. I'm backwards. Go figure.) Anyway, I was satisfied enough that I went to bed and turned it in this morning at the start of class. We had more discussions about what the exercises was intended to help us accomplish and I did acknowledge that it did help me feel a little more confident that I could (to a certain degree) recreate what I do see and that I therefore do have a connection between my head and my hand so I wasn't a total loss.

When we got into the studio the professor did about a 30 minute demo to show another approach/technique to lay out and block a painting. When I was watching him it was like a light bulb went on in my mind with the realization of what I SHOULD be doing. He suggested a way where you lay out the forms and lines of the painting from the top down to the bottom and then from the background to the foreground. Kind of hard to explain but it made complete sense and was totally counter-intuitive to what I have (always) been doing. 

When we wrapped up with the demo I was completely motivated to try out his suggestions. I tried to scrap my canvas down but ended up slicing a hole in it. Luckily I had another spare one - that was dirty but still - handy and I used that instead. I did my best to wipe it down with turpenoid to get rid of what had been on there and ended up with having it lightly washed in colors from my previous painting. Despite the fact that it would have been more desirable to have a clean canvas I was actually OK with this.

When I finally got started using the method the professor suggested in his demo, I found (for lack of better word) my "mojo" in a way I never have even had when painting. It was AMAZING!!! Here is what I was able to lay out with the professor's suggested strategies.

When he stopped by my easel to check on me he was obviously delighted with my progress and even took it off my easel to show the rest of the class. I kind of didn't care about that and just wanted him to give it back to me so I could keep going with things. He gave me the go ahead to start laying in the color and while I was intimidated with the idea of it, I went with it and tried not to be too critical of myself and the mistakes I expected to make. The first image is when I first started laying the color into the forms and the second is where I had to stop for the day and call it finished.

I wish I had more time to work on it and develop further but I feel like I made so much progress today that I don't even care of the painting looks underdeveloped or not done. I am not touching it anymore because 1) I am just fine with it being in this state and 2) this was the last day with the model and the professor has pushed us to adhere to the rule to NOT paint anything unless the model is actually in front of us.

Next week we are doing landscape painting en plein air. I have never been a fan of landscape painting or doing work en plein air but after this week with doing this type of painting/work - also a kind of painting that I wasn't keen on getting into but now I feel like I have conquered (relatively speaking), I am very excited for what we are doing next week.


  1. I'm so glad you felt better with your work today! I'm interested in what he taught that changed your mojo ;P

  2. Basically he instructed us to draw in the background and then the foreground. Work top to bottom, background to foreground. It might seem like hardly a brilliant thing to do but it was completely counterintuitive to what I was doing. I already think in terms of negative space naturally - I actually see the background before the foreground even when I try to read words on a page - so this completely transformed my approach to painting.

  3. Sounds like you have had a great learning experience that you can now use in your own teaching! I like how the painting is developing!


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