Monday, February 17, 2014

Preparatory sketch for my next painting (Skull study)

My 1st attempt at this was lopsided, so I tried again but this time I used better constructive techniques - starting with a very pale perimeter shape that I kept restating gently until it really looked right and everything squared up properly, I looked for all the lines that seem to join other lines across the shape, like the way that far edge of the cranium goes through to become the curve of the jaw. 

Drew entirely with the side of a charcoal pencil, very gently at first, and when I had the forms basically right I did the shadows with very broad strokes, thinking of value rather than outlines or shapes. The whole thing has only about 6 values - essentially 2 in the light, 2 in the shadow, plus I went darker for a couple of accents and some of the background shadows and struck in highlight accents with an eraser. 

My whole focus was on the mass light and mass shadow, trying to see where the shadow is darker and where it's filled with reflected light, and where the halftones are.

This is by far my most successful skull study - for the rest I was really doing details way too early rather than constantly checking accuracy and searching for the proper places for the values. Reading all the Level Up threads on ConceptArt and doing some of the master studies is really helping. Jason has me understanding now that the great artists think first of the big shapes, make sure those are right in terms of value and edges, and only then start to work toward smaller shapes and finally details. This completely agrees with what I've been reading in Harold Speed and the Reilly method.

And I'm struck with a thought - maybe the reason the drawings of the artists of the past look the way they do is largely because they were intended as studies for paintings, rather than as finished products in their own right. I approached this one differently because that's what it is - a working sketch serving a very specific purpose.

I feel like I'm beginning to think like a painter.

I used a very traditional technique to get the drawing transferred onto the canvas -

Something I spent some time researching and have been wanting to try out. Well, the first step isn't traditional - for that I dug out my old Artograph opaque projector from my t shirt airbrushing days and printed up a very small version of the sketch (like 2 x 3") and projected it up I on the canvas. I struck in the lines using vine charcoal, which I also used to use on t shirts. On the shirts it was a one-shot deal though - as you followed the lines with the airbrush it blew the charcoal out of the fabric as you went. The way I did it this time is to go over the lines with diluted india ink using a script liner brush, and when that was dry use a soft brush to dust away the charcoal (which I followed with a stiff brush and finally a kneaded eraser).

Tommorrow the lay-in begins.

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