51. DEVELOPING MY TEACHING CHOPS (BASIC DRAWING, PART 5)

2-VALUE COMPOSITIONS FROM PHOTOS

The second stage in working from photos was to go from line to value, experimenting with cropping and compositional possibilities, simplifying the subtle values of a photo image into just 2-values...

I wanted the students to see the basic light-dark patterns and decide what shapes would best reveal the essence of the image.  I did a variety of demonstrations...some with ink and brush, some with charcoal or conte crayon, and some where areas of charcoal or conte were erased to create the light...

Some I created with pen & ink line drawings over which torn black paper shapes were pasted.  This collage process was helpful in that shapes became paramount...the shapes could be seen as puzzle pieces rather than particular things, and they could be shifted around in the compositions...

The students used various materials and techniques to achieve different textures and drama...always considering the basic 2-values of black and white, light and dark.



SIMPLIFYING AN INFINITE ARRAY OF VALUES INTO FOUR

The world we observe has an infinite array of values...from the lightest (white) to the darkest (black) with an infinite variety of middle values in between...
A photograph already limits the scale of values, but in order to visualize and create a strong composition those values have to be reduced to families: white, middle values, and black.  I had the students squint at the photograph they were working from and reduce the values to four: 1) white, 2) light gray, 3) dark gray, and 4) black.

To do this required decision-making.  The very lightest and the very darkest values were easy to spot, but reducing the middle values to only two required some consideration and the making of choices.

In the photo on the left (below) you can see that there are many more than four values of lights and darks to choose from and that the 4-value collage on the right has created simpler, less detailed shapes by eliminating some of the nuance of value...yet still is perfectly understandable as a figure...

4-VALUE COMPOSITIONS FROM PHOTOS
Eliminating some highlighted detail in the photo gave way to a more integrated and solid image.  That was a decision and change I chose to make.

Below you can see how I made decisions about how to handle certain value areas.   For example, in the original photo on the left, the forehead of the man is in highlight (1); the cheeks and top of the nose are in highlight (2); and the hand is in highlight (3).   However, in order to create a richer blending of shapes and values as well as to capture the mood of the figure, I chose to use a light middle value rather than white...


This assignment forced the students to see families of value shapes and not simple 'hands', 'faces', etc....and all the nuance of detail was eliminated.  I started with layering ink washes, first isolating the whites (2) by overlaying the second value...

I then introduced pen and ink drawings incorporating torn paper from a light gray, middle gray and black collaged to the white paper ground.

Because I limited the value on the shirts to the two lightest ones, the shirts 'read' as white.

Below are examples of some of the demonstrations I gave using torn papers of three values applied over the preliminary pen and ink drawing...

I also demonstrated from photos using just a brush and applying the value washes.  This was all a matter of keeping the value separations clear and being mindful that we were dealing with shapes, not really with people or things.  If the shapes and choice of values were right, the people and things would magically appear without thinking about it...simply a matter of accurate observation...

Below are examples of student work.  The one on the left is collaged paper and the two on the right are done with ink washes...

As you read these posts about my teaching drawing, you may think that I am spending an inordinate amount of time and space devoted to this subject.  However, developing and teaching this course changed my life and my painting...and that's why I'm writing about it.  I'll get more into this as I continue recounting my evolution as a verb.

My teaching experience deeply affected the way I approached my life...and the way I approached my painting.  I acted differently and I created differently after having that experience.

The fact is, I was discovering that I was learning how to learn, I was learning how to see, and I was learning how to communicate these things to others.  

I had a doctor in San Francisco, a homeopath, who had studied medicine in Switzerland.  He told me that art was a required part of medical education in Europe.  Why?  Because the medical school had learned that art encouraged and developed three particular traits important not only to practicing medicine, but to all fields of endeavor: 1) problem solving, 2) the ability to carefully observe, and 3) the ability to communicate.

Copyright (c) Donald Archer 2020  All rights reserved.

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