Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Figure drawing: Composition 101

Color pencil study - Graham Smith
Drawing from life forces the artist to distill their ideas quickly. There is always a time limit, and the artist must decide quickly what is important, and what they want to say about the figure with their drawing.

I think about placement on the page first - the composition of the drawing. And the most basic concern of composition is getting the figure to fit on the page. You know, without the feet running off the bottom of the page.

Whenever I see drawings, and the feet run off the bottom of the page, I know the artist is drawing from "the top, down", and not drawing "on purpose". The artist must consider the entire page, and the placement of the figure within it, to create a composition deliberately. And not accidently "end up" with whatever you get. "Ending up" with a drawing is not mastery over your craft.

Now that I think about it, my very first thought, when viewing the models pose, is "tall or wide"... which way shall the paper be oriented, for the best composition?

Color pencil over acrylic wash - Graham Smith

Second, after I've decided where I want the figure on the page, I draw a line straight down through the figure's center of gravity, from the top of the head, to the bottom of their feet. This represents the scale of the figure as a whole. As long as the figure is subdivided within that line, the figure will then fit on the page. 

Please consider the rule of thirds, or any other composition aesthetic when making the decision where to place this first line. Only fools rush in.

Sometimes this is called the gesture line, and includes information about the flow of the figure, too.

Other drawing methods create an "envelope", an outline that roughly represents the area of the page where the figure as a whole, will reside.

color pencil over acrylic wash

Third, I imagine a triangle between the head and the feet, making marks on the paper that represents their relative positions to each other. This insures everything will fit, and immediately indicates how solidly the figure will sit in the space, and how dynamic the pose is.

After those initial calculations, I begin to subdivide the gesture line, into proportions that match the figure, indicating the axis of the waist, shoulders, and knees.

These are my first thoughts, when figuring out how to fit the figure on the page, when drawing from life. 

Draw deliberately, with purpose, and place the figure exactly where you want it within your page. Do not just start drawing in the middle of the page, and "see what happens".

What do you think about when first drawing the figure?

2 minute warm ups. graphite stick.

2 minute blind contour warm up drawings
2 minute warm up studies, graphite

2 minute blind contour warm up drawing.

See More: Life Drawings.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"The Craftsmen Series" - Graham Smith

"The goal is to get your professional work and your personal work as close together as you can, to be happy." Graham Smith

I illustrate packaging for the Blue Moon Expressionist Collection - so, the crew from Complex Media dropped by to talk about craftsmanship, and the creative processes involved in creating the Blue Moon artwork.

Creating artwork for a national brand like Blue Moon is a collaborative process, where artists work together toward a common goal for the benefit of their client. Ideas and strategies to achieve those goals flow between many people, before the artist begins making all those ideas into one visual presentation.

To communicate many ideas quickly, the artist provides pencil sketches, so everyone on the team can see a concrete version of how the artist has decided to put all the ideas and strategies together, so they can deliver their input. This is a very social part of the process, where communicating between people is key.

Pencil sketches get revised and tweaked to match the overall plan, and eventually the artist is set loose to actually create the finished artwork - which, in my case is a many step process.

Agencies expect the artist to have the ability to edit every aspect of the work to meet the clients plans. And that's where the artists craftsmanship comes into play. A good craftsman will have understanding and control over all the aspects of the creative process. The art has to look good, but it also has to to created in such a way to be editable, on message, and most of all, on schedule.

I do many extra steps in creating artwork for a national brand, compared to the spontaneous nature of my personal work.

How does craftsmanship play a role in your work?

Pencil sketch: Blue Moon Rounder label

Final inking: Blue Moon Short Straw Farmhouse Red label

Final inking: Rounder label

Color proofs: Short Straw point of sale posters.

My desk at the end of a great project.

For the art nerds: Generals layout pencils, Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencil, tracing paper, quill pen 513ef nib, india ink, Strathmore drawing paper, Loew-Cornwell brush #8 round, flat 1 inch brush, and all the stuff you see in the photo above.

- G.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Grace Hightower Di Nero

I'll never forget thinking, if this portrait of Grace Hightower, for Worth Magazine doesn't come out right, I could get whacked! Not only is Grace Hightower drop dead gorgeous and fun to draw, she is a socialite, a philanthropist, and is married to the actor, Robert Di Nero. I illustrated 2 versions, just to be on the safe side.

"Are you looking at me?" 

"Ummm, I was looking at your wife.... Oh! That's worse, isn't it?"

For the art nerds:  These ink portraits are illustrated at about twice the size they print. I use an old school quill pen, with a #99 nib and a EF 513 nib, a generals non repro blue pencil. Sometimes I fill in details with my trusty Lamy Safari fountain pen. The india ink I use is general purpose stuff, nothing fancy. If I remember correctly, these were drawn on Strathmore drawing paper, which has a bit of a yellowish tone that must be color corrected in Photoshop.

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