BASIC VALUE/TEXTURE EXERCISES
After the class was comfortable with dealing with 2-value and 4-value exercises, I introduced assignments in which the students experimented with various ways to modulate and blend a more subtle range of values...
The students used different media and materials to create a variety of value scales...graphite pencil, charcoal, charcoal pencil, conte crayon, pen & ink, etc. They came up with imaginative ways to configure them...
ABSTRACT MODULATED VALUE COMPOSITIONS
I brought in the concept that line quality, type of materials, texture, and composition could, in themselves, convey expression and meaning. Creating space, volume, and movement through the modulation of value as well as using the entire picture area to create a dynamic composition as well as spatial ambiguity...
The students found a variety of ways to present the modulation of values...
THE ILLUMINATED SPHERE
After the class had become familiar with modulating value in different ways, I introduced a more nuanced way of seeing and recording the subtle illumination of light.
Getting my cue from Cezanne's famous quote, “Everything in nature is formed upon the sphere, the cone and the cylinder. One must learn to paint these simple figures and then one can do all that he may wish,” I went to a toy store and got a giant inflated play ball for the students to draw. I painted it with layers of white and placed it on a platform covered with a white sheet...
I demonstrated the handling of light subtly as well as dramatically illuminating objects...creating highlights, shadows, and reflected light on and surrounding the form...
The students created an array of approaches to explore the complex highlights, reflections, and shadows...
And their work exhibited both mastery and imagination in the handling of light through using a variety of media.
'ORGANIC' STILL LIFES
After these modulated value exercises, I introduced 'organic' still lifes...still lifes that incorporate a more complex and varied range of shape, texture, and drawing challenges. I went to markets and thrift shops gathering a whole panoply of fruits, vegetables, cookware, and utensils...and painted everything white and laid them on a white sheet.
WHITE ON WHITE STILL LIFES
The result was that the process of drawing became more like working in sculpture...the students were 'carving' out form with light. As they 'chipped away' with their charcoal and conte crayon, forms began to emerge from the paper. There were open passages of value where one object blended into another, where the light of an object merged with the light of the background...or the shadowed grays of one thing merged with another.
Everything being white, 'thingness' again lost its distinction and everything seemed to made of the same material. It was only the contrasts of dark and light that created the forms...
I brought in large rocks and some old braided rugs and created artificial mini-landscapes which I lighted dramatically to accentuate form...
The students took the ball and ran with it. They created monumental environments of rocks and they, through the complex movement of line, followed the undulating contours of the braided rug...this was achieved through sheer creative ingenuity, not by mechanically copying the appearance of that rug. They put revealing lines where, visually, there were none and they left out lines that didn't contribute to their revelation. They showed that they understood what they were seeing, not merely copying it. That is the power of a strong drawing...it can reveal the invisible...
DRAWINGS OF MASTER ARTISTS
And I wanted to develop what I call visual literacy by exposing the students to drawings of great masters and having them learn by studying and copying them.
I recommended that the students get an inexpensive Dover paperback called '150 MASTERPIECES OF DRAWING.' I would show examples in class and have the students research great master drawings on their own.
The students learned how artists have used line through the centuries for expression and discovery. Seeing the variety of materials, techniques, and approaches to drawing throughout history opened up unconceived possibilities in charcoal, graphite pencil, crayon, pen or brush with ink, chalk, different colored and textured papers, etc....
There were many interesting results...
SOME INDIVIDUAL PROJECTS: LINE QUALITY AND MEDIA EXERCISES
Here is a range of drawings that the students created as the semester of basic drawing was coming to a close...they were left to their own devices but drawing on what they had learned from prior exercises. They worked with contour drawing and with modulated values. They worked from photos and they worked from life. Some challenged themselves by drawing using the opposite hand from the one they ordinarily favored...
My goal for basic drawing classes
was the students leave the class:
- being comfortable drawing with a variety of media...in
both line and value,
- seeing and recording life with greater facility and
attention...understanding that the visual world is made up of shapes,
values, and relationships, and not 'things',
- with greater confidence in their own ability,
- being much better problem solvers,
- appreciating doing things that they might not have
otherwise done...with increased self-discipline and, hopefully,
- knowing that success is more likely to be the result of
the ability to withstand pain (psychological) than any innate talent one
might have, and, finally,
- seeing that doing something well is
beautiful in its own right and is its own reward.
Copyright (c) Donald Archer 2020 All rights reserved.