At our weekend watercolour course, we led the students through a lot of information about values and contrast. We began with pencil thumbnail sketches, studying photos and imagining how light sources could move or change to enhance an image. Then we moved into the painting, following through in colour all the thoughts about light and dark.
Above is Judy’s value sketch of a small waterfall, brightly lit by the summer sun. Her painting is below. The snow study was done by a student.
Carolyn’s winter building was chosen to show the use of warm and cold colours as well as primary, secondary and complimentary colours.
Here are more examples of value studies, all student work except Carolyn’s painting on the right:
I recycled a loom, a nine by twelve wood frame with nails all around, into a facsimile of Vincent van Gogh’s perspective frame. All it takes is four strings, strung from corner to corner and in a cross across the middle so that the large rectangle is divided into four smaller rectangles and four triangles. It has a centre line both horizontal and verticle, and the exact middle is indicated where all the strings cross each other. A basic guideline to help arrange the composition of a scene, and also to give lines of perspective.
Van Gogh practiced with his a lot, crediting it for helping his perspective immensely. These days, with phone screen photos and print outs, it’s easy to draw these lines right over a photo, mapping it out or even using a program to crop an image to your liking. However, it is still wonderful practice to draw or paint right on site, where nature or a street full of buildings can be confusing to put on paper. Van Gogh’s frame is easy to prop up, literally framing the scene as you like it, cropping out the excess space in your field of vision. It’s a great feeling to realize that you can condense all that information and focus only on what pleases you, and then you realize that, even within that frame, you are allowed to take out more of what you don’t find necessary to the feeling or message of the image. You are the artist!
Here’s my scene from a local picnic site. The photo shows the view as I could see it through the frame (without strings). Lot’s of trees, branches, leaves!
Below is a quick sketch. My frame doesn’t have legs yet so I had to hunch down on the picnic bench, adjusting my eyes to the frame rather than the way it’s supposed to work. My guide lines are faintly visible criss crossing roughly through the middle.
This frame helped quite a bit! I usually find that my drawings from photos are better than those done en plein air. That could be lack of practice, but I think I’ll practice a lot more with a nifty drawing frame to help me see the world.
When Grade Fours sat down, they were asked to draw the best person they could draw – whatever that meant to them. In less than five minutes, here is what they came up with:
Then, the artists were asked to observe a real person in a photo and to draw the person, perfectly in proportion and with foreshortening where appropriate. They had more like 45 minutes to do that.
Of course, these nine and ten year-olds didn’t just go from cartoons to realism just like that. There was a lot of instruction, and a lot of work! Each artist was quite amazed to see how their drawing improved.
The Artists at School program is in full swing again. Grade fives were assigned some research drawing: they were given certain elements to form a scene and given free reign to create their own compositions, including figuring out foreground, mid ground and back ground as well as values. Some of them were really good at scribble sketching! There were about 50 kids, so here are just some of the results of their explorations. Next time we’ll make these into paintings.