Studio Mysteries

March 13, 2010

Anya’s Children: #1

Filed under: child images, Drawing — Tags: , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 6:38 pm

I have been mulling over the fact that I draw children a lot. I don’t set out all, “I shall now interrogate the image of the child as a signifier and site upon which the situational socio-political constructs can be acted upon as well as acted out”. I invite people to show up on the sheet, and a lot of them turn out to be children.

But I might as well admit that they are a recurring theme and roll with it – draw children deliberately rather than accidentally.

Just for fun, though, I am running a small retrospective: Anya’s Children, Thus Far.

Well, if I had babies, I’d be forcing you to look at their photos, so be grateful I don’t.

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February 7, 2010

Aaaaaalmooooost…

Filed under: Drawing — Tags: , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 10:08 pm

My camera has the vapours, and I cannot show, but only tell for the moment. But what I have to tell is that after MONTHS of work, my big drawing (see posts below) is just about done. It’s amazing how little there is left to do. It’s that moment when you round the corner of the track and you see the finish ribbon flapping in the wind.

It’s amazing how good it feels and how much it felt like this moment is never going to come. I must have put in no less than 400 hours and probably more like 600 into this drawing. I pushed pencil as far as it can go. It’s probably the biggest size that I will ever work in pencil and my subsequent works will probably be a bit smaller, in the 3-4 foot range rather than in the 5 foot range. But I am glad I went there.

The figures emerge out of velvety texture like ghosts. I was going to call the drawing Friends and Family, but now I have rechristened it Formal Occasion.

October 25, 2009

Big Group Portrait, State 3

Filed under: Drawing — Tags: , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 11:28 pm

I have spent the past month going to class and trying to beat this drawing into coherence. That’s it. It’s easier to reconcile myself to leaving LA because if all I do is scrath at this drawing, I can do so anywhere, even in Alaska. There is really no point to all this beach if I would rather be in front of my easel anyway!

(There, that seems to be working).

The thing I learned since the last time I posted about this drawing is that  sharp vs. diffuse edges make almost as much of a difference in the composition as value. I kept reducing value in certain areas until I noticed that edge contrast has an equal amount of power and focus as value contrast. Now if I want something to shut up, my first step is to examine edges rather than how light or dark something is in relation to everything else.

It’s been a beast of a project, some kind of a dark abyss that sucks in labour hours and bends the laws of physics, but it’s amazing how much I have learned from it. (But it will be a while before I no longer hate its guts).

I am still a bit away from finishing, but the drawing is starting to be a lot less of a din, which is all I want from it at this point.

bigass_drawing_state3

I cannot, for the life of me, take a good photo of a graphite drawing.

Side-by-side comparison of the previous state I posted (the right side of the drawing looks brighter in #2, but only because there is a lamp right next to it):

bigass_drawing

October 8, 2009

Legs! 3-for-1 Leg Sale! Get Your Leg Here!

Filed under: Anatomy, Drawing, Rey Bustos — Tags: , , , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 7:57 pm

2009_analyticalDrawing_3legs This fabulous leg bonanza is an exercise we did in Rey Bustos’s Analytical Drawing. Rey has taken to calling me his groupie, and perhaps this accusation is somewhat grounded in reality. In the spring term, I took his 3D Anatomy/Ecorche class, in the summer I took his 2D Anatomy, and now I’m taking Analytical Drawing to top it all off. Not only that, but I elbowed my way into the Analytical class as one of only 3 part-time students, because this course is in the full-time program, and I had to whine fight to get in.

I am very happy I did, if only for this exercise alone. A lot of figure drawing teachers tend to teach a style (their own) and a shorthand for indicating anatomical information (also their own). Before I knew anything about anatomy, such a teaching approach was useful to me as a student, albeit in a limited way. I could put visual information into a drawing that helped the viewer recognize human features in it, even if I didn’t know what it was that I was putting in.

But once I learned all my fancy anatomy learnin’, the shorthand and styles of the teachers stopped working for me. Now on top of actual information about actual, real form, I was also memorizing arbitrary information and arbitrary ways to convey it. I found that when a teacher taught me to find anatomical goods myself, I could do it, but when they said, “here is a formula for a leg, just use it,” I couldn’t reconcile it with the actual leg in front of me or what I recognized in the leg and wanted to portray.

Another interesting problem I developed after learning anatomy has to do with style. Again, I used to have my own style of conveying what I see. But what I see is now different from what I used to see! That’s knowledge for you. It messes up your whole system of dealing with the world. Now my habitual stylistic flourishes don’t work anymore and I haven’t developed new ones yet.

This is where the triple-leg bonanza steps in. This exercise came after we spent several weeks learning the skeleton and muscle structure of legs, and did a bunch of ecorche drawings. Now, when the class sits down to draw from the model, everybody’s drawings tend to look like skinless people! The stylistic breakdown has occurred. We think about bone and muscle, about what’s inside the leg, so we draw that instead of the outer form. It’s a normal stage in the life of an artistic anatomy student. This exercise is designed to move us past that and to help us develop our own new way of drawing the leg – informed by what’s inside, and showing evidence of what’s inside, but actually depicting the visible, outside form. And doing so in a visual language that is uniquely ours, a recognizable individual style that arises out of an individual perception.

It’s very interesting how the Renaissance not only brought the individuality of the viewer into the picture, by using perspective and showing an image as seen from a specific vantage point, but also made it impossible for artists to be anything other than individuals in how they went about producing images. Once you learn anatomy, you can’t draw to a predetermined canon. You have to find a way to articulate what you see, because you can’t unsee it in favour of an externally imposed system. If you draw from anatomical knowledge, you are forced to develop your own pictorial language, and the hand that is visible in the drawings becomes as unique as fingerprints. That’s a huge difference from anonymous workshops making works that also look anonymous (like Egyptian frescoes, for example).

So back to the triple-leg threat: the exercise was to draw specifically a skin-possessing, normal-looking leg, and we had to do it from imagination rather than live model or reference. Because we drew from imagination, we had to rely on internalized information and cement that memory further. Because we drew a normal leg rather than an anatomical chart, we had to grapple with how to show anatomical information in a realistic drawing. But why the three legs, you say? Why, why, why? Well, that’s where we got to play with style. Leg #1 had to be a roughly normal leg. Leg #2 had to have the muscle articulation dialed up a bit, going from a mellow interpretation to someone more jazzy, like Raphael, who would emphasize musculature while still keeping the overall gist of the drawing relatively grounded. Leg #3 is in Michelangelo territory – a beef festival! You can see that my natural sensibility is somewhere between 1 and 2 – my heavy metal leg is not especially loud or bumpy. Some people created terrifying and magnificent bump landscapes with their Leg #3, and it was a lot of fun to look at them.

The exercise result is a boring and weird-looking drawing, but it’s a fantastic journey that trains some very important mental muscles. The idea of this exercise can be applied in other art exploration – take a material or a subject, and do a range of pieces that explore just how far you can push the technical aspect of something, or the intensity of a stylistic approach, going from subtle and quiet to roaringly insane. Or in my case, mildly louder than before.

October 1, 2009

More Drawing Bits

Filed under: Drawing — Tags: — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 5:26 am

I’m starting to like the details of this drawing a lot. That’s because details are the easy part! The hard part is wrangling them all into a whole. Before all these learnin’s, I’d just draw until it looked done. Now I have more specific demands for the piece, I want it to do this and that, and NOT do that and this.

In multi-figure compositions, clatter and din are the biggest obstacles. There are all these players that have to be orchestrated into sounding like actual music, and quite frankly, it’s a little like herding cats.

Slow going, but it’s getting there. And the separate bits are shaping up.

bigass_drawing_detail_mariika

bigass_drawing_detail_notLin

bigass_drawing_detail_leanna

September 28, 2009

Hatchmarks

Filed under: Drawing — Tags: , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 10:43 pm

I have always loved the hell out of the graphite pencil. When I was a kid in the USSR, we did graphite still life drawings as part of the junior art school curriculum. How people complained and moaned through those, and how I totally secretly dug them!

Later, in Canadian high school, I did a graphite figure composition and loved it, but for some reason stopped there. I came back to the pencil in Year Three of art college, when I took up old exercises out of sheer frustration with the reprehensible level of instruction in the college’s Fine Art department. I remember drawing something very tedious with a flower in it, and contemplating not being an artist due to the whole difficulty in earning money that this profession involves for many people. As I was thinking cowardly thoughts about defection, I hatched away for several hours, and suddenly felt a huge and overwhelming sense of peace, a sense of deep and utter rightness. Hatching away at a sheet of paper is the functional specification to which I was built.

It took a few years of flailing hither and yon to accept this truth and act on it, so after art school, I didn’t do much with the pencil until I did my first big, insanely ambitious multi-figure composition in the spring of 2004. The good news is that I have been drawing steadily ever since and show no signs of repentance whatsoever.

Just for fun, I pulled out a close-up of the hatch work on the First Big Drawing, and compared it to the piece I’m working on now. It seems that what I crave today is softness and a kind of smooth elegance, where you can’t see the marks at all. I wonder how this will evolve. I have been contemplating using visible marks again, but in a very different way, using the direction of the strokes to follow the form, rather than dominate as a single-direction slant across the picture.

strokes

September 11, 2009

Big-ass Drawing, Progress Report

Filed under: Drawing, Values — Tags: , , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 6:40 am

bigass_Drawing_state1

bigass_Drawing_state2

Working like a fiend on my death-by-drawing drawing. Spot the differences: top image is from my previous update, second image is from this afternoon. I feel like I’ve made miles and miles of progress, but on comparison, if anything, the second image seems more busy and scattered than the first. Which would be the opposite of my objective.

Now, where’d I put that drink?

August 24, 2009

Actual Creative Project I’m Working On

Filed under: Drawing — Tags: , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 6:59 pm

It’s a really big drawing. About 5 by 4.5 feet. I was going to call it Family And Friends, but now I am thinking of naming it Big-Ass Drawing That Took Forever To Do.

bigAssDrawing

The reason it’s going to take an ice age to finish is that I am doing the whole darn thing in pencil. Although this is the first creative piece I tried starting with a middle tone rubbed into the paper with charcoal. I absolutely fell in love with this technique and the kind of soft, velvety shifts in value you can have with it.

bigAssDrawing2

The other new thing I am loving is lost and found edges. I used to separate everything a lot more, and now I’m seeing how clearly you can show something with edges completely dissolved in places. The eye just fills in missing information, and if anything, it looks more convincing than something that is meticulously outlined.

August 19, 2009

Tonal Drawing With Rick Morris, 2 Week-Pose, Week 2

Filed under: Drawing, Rick Morris, Values — Tags: , , , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 6:53 pm

tonalDrawing2

Not finished, but this is probably the furthest I have gotten in a class assignment. In the unlikely event I have free time, I would like to finish it – right now the value range in the body is much lighter than the head. Her head dwells in darkness! (Oooh.)

August 16, 2009

Drawing Stages: Now Slightly Further

Filed under: Drawing, Values — Tags: , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 8:19 pm

In my last Head Drawing post, I talked about the stages of doing a drawing from start to full finish, and how there are generally three. I haven’t learned how to get a drawing All The Way There yet, because in my classes thus far, I run out of time by Stage 2 or so. The last post, however, actually shows a drawing that is some way into Stage 3. So here is my revised list of drawing order:

Stage 1: The Blueprint. A linear drawing sticking down all the elements of the composition. Sometimes it’s called the block-in if only straight lines are used to describe the form, or a lay-in if it’s using curved lines.

Stage 2: The Cow Pattern. Defining light and shadow as 2D shapes.

Stage 3: (Haven’t named it yet, but that’s where the full value range and final finish happen.)

  1. Laying in a mid-range flat tone for the shadow shapes.
  2. Defining the dark value range by doing the darkest areas – those will have most of the dark range except for the very darkest tones.
  3. Defining the darkest value. It’s basically the opposite of the highlight – rather than a whole area, it’s a shadow anti-highlight. Usually, but necessarily it’s in the area of greatest drama. Usually, but not necessarily it’s in the area that receives the most light as well.
    (The area of greatest drama may not have the darkest dark, but it should have the most contrast.) <– that right there is one of THE keys to an eloquent painting or drawing.
  4. Defining the lightest value. Should be in the area of greatest interest.
  5. To be determined! (Very determined).
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