Studio Mysteries

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.

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 31, 2009

Mapping The Land Of Golf Balls

Filed under: 2D Anatomy Course, Anatomy — Tags: , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 5:49 am

It’s all very well to learn about bones and muscles from anatomy books, where everybody stands like a soldier at attention and conveniently has no skin. That is the first step in learning artistic anatomy – memorizing what’s where.

The second step is no less challenging, perhaps even more so. The second step involves looking at an actual human body, or even a representation of it in figurative art, and identifying what it is that you are looking at. To me, it feels like reciting the Bible backwards in a foreign language while doing a handstand. Just when you thought you got a handle on it, somebody takes it upon themselves to bend a limb and rotate it as if to mock every diagram ever drawn and labelled, and you have to discover America all over again while the native people point and laugh.

It’s week 8 of the 2D Anatomy course, and we are doing exercises that at first seemed competely impossible: taking a master drawing or sculpture, tracing its outline and drawing the muscles and bones within it. The first few assignments, I would look at a figure, and it would be covered with a myriad of completely random bumps, as if the model was wearing a pelt of golf balls. “Who are you, Random Bump # 317? I demand a valid identification!” I would shout, and the golf balls would dance and undulate as if to mock the very concept of sobriety.

Now it’s a bit better. I can look at the work of even the most beef-happy artist, like Michelangelo or Rodin, and identify at least a couple of bumps. And once you get a handle on a couple of bumps, you can get them to snitch on their neighbours! If bump X is an elbow, there are only so many possibilities as to what bumps Y and Z can possibly be. I correctly triangulated a scapula off a muscle the other day, and it was almost as much fun as ice-cream.

This is Rodin’s Thinker. His forearm is basically a sea creature family reunion, but hah! Science named them all. Score one for Team Darwin.

anatomy2D_week8homework_2

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

Tonal Drawing with Rick Morris – 2-week pose

Filed under: Drawing, Rick Morris, Values — Tags: , , , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 7:57 pm

It is said that she who knows what she is doing with values can make a successful painting, even if she is a total mess at handling colour.

With this in mind, I am studying with a teacher who really understands values and focus as a storytelling tool. This class is already helping me a lot with my actual art-project-type drawings (still at it! pictures coming soon!), and I hope the skills I am learning will also bridge me back into my painting projects with less frustration therein.

tonalDrawing1

In this exercise, we toned the paper with charcoal powder first, to a middle-dark tone. Then we did a block-in with charcoal pencil, erasing the lines carefully and re-blending the powder with a bristle brush.

The actual work with values started with defining light and shadow by squinting and looking at them as 2D shapes – what I call doing the cow-pattern. (You know? Those black and white blotch cows?)

Then we started building up darker shadows with vine charcoal, blending it in some more with the brush, so it’s really worked into the paper surface, and to get rid of streaking. Texture in shadow distracts from texture in light.

At this point, Rick surprised me by coming over and sticking a big ole highlight on the lady’s forehead. I am still used to keeping the highlights for the end, reserving them as a sort of magical sword that will make the whole thing work somehow. But no, Rick sez if you are setting up the dark value range by building in the darkest areas, you should also introduce the brightest points in the composition at the same time. Then you’ll know how light or dark everything in between the extreme points of the value range should be.

We picked the forehead because I wanted the model’s face to draw the most attention.

Guess what all the male students picked as their point of dramatic interest? No, guess.

Oh, alright. It was the boobs.

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