28 Aug 2012

How do you work?

"The reason that art (writing, engaging, and all of it) is valuable is precisely why I can't tell you how to do it. If there were a map, there'd be no art, because art is the act of navigating without a map." - Seth Godin

Today I thought I would blog about how I get a sketch ready to paint. I'm always curious about other artist's workflows and I would love to hear how you work too. Feel free to leave a comment here.
I have two ways of working when I sketch.

If the sketch itself is the focus I tend to focus on the detail. I draw out my rough sketch first and then refine the shapes and add the details as I go. Shading and crosshatching to bring out the form. All the drawing is my own work with no shortcuts.

If the painting is my main focus I only draw in an outline of the basic subject and paint in the detail as I go. If it is a landscape I may even just start straight into the painting and just roughly guess the scale as I paint. But if the painting is of something detailed that really needs to be in proportion I might even go as far as to trace an outline of the subject from my photograph just to get it done quicker because the sketch itself was never the focus of the work. (I'm even more likely to do this if I've already painted a small scale version and just want to quickly start on the full size piece. It's sheer laziness really but I drew it once already so why do I have to start from scratch again? I learned to work this way at school.)
I know this may sound like cheating and I guess it is in a way, but I know plenty of other painters that work this way. Some absolutely hate to draw or can't draw and the painting is the art for them. Some even project their image outline onto their canvas using projectors, or print it out and trace an outline onto the canvas that way instead. I can understand people working on huge over-sized pieces working with a projection, you'd spend a lot of time running backwards and forwards checking your scale and proportions otherwise. 

Below is an example of an outline that I would use to paint from. It's darker than I would usually draw it so that it would show up here. Just before I painted it I erased the pencil down to just a light marking, how I would usually have it marked out. The image above is of the finished bird.

As you can see it's just an outline of the bird's shape. A lot tidier than it would usually look because I darkened up the outline and you can't really see the other rough wobbly lines. I work on all the birds the same way regardless of colorings or markings on them. The details I just paint in as I go.

Something else I do is, when I'm working with watercolor paint I mix up all the colors I want to work with before I start to paint. When I'm working with acrylics I mix as I go.

So, how do you work when you're setting up a painting? Do you have any tips or shortcuts you would like to share here? I look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great week :)

6 Aug 2012

I've found the answer!

The important thing about a problem is not it's solution, but the strength we gain in finding the solution - Seneca

Last time I blogged I was testing out using acrylic paints as watercolors. I'd finished two paintings and although I felt that the finished product was okay I still had an irritating feeling about using acrylics this way. I decided to continue with the experiment to see if I could figure out what it was that I didn't like.

Today I painted three more bird pictures, shown here, using acrylics as watercolors and I think I've figured out what it was that I didn't like compared to real watercolors. It's the finished colors or perhaps more correctly their luminosity or lack of it. The watered down acrylics seem flatter and duller somehow even though the colors used are the same. I'm not talking about the finish, they are both a matt finish. It's more that the colors are somehow less luminous, they have less life in them than the watercolors do. 

Just to make sure that I'm not imagining it I'm going to paint the next couple of birds using the real watercolors and compare the results again. If I'm right I guess I'll have to stop being a scrooge and buy some more watercolor paints ;)

I've also just noticed that the shapes of the birds on the next page are showing through on these scans. One of the pitfalls of working in a book and not scanning each image as I finish it I guess. Note to self, put blank sheets of paper behind the images before I scan them or scan each image before I start the next one.

I'm not too happy with the owl anyway, it's having a bad hair day lol. I suppose that not everything is going to work out how I envision it and I'd better get used to it. On the plus side I discovered that peppy music gets me singing and working quite productively. I guess music and it's effect on my work is something else I should explore a bit more. Perhaps it may help me get in the mood when I really don't feel like painting.

Please let me know if you've discovered something similar with the luminosity of watercolors vs acrylics watered down.

Have a great week! :)