So when I painted the pond in oil the first time, I also made a drawing in oil pastel. I am really in Degas territory with this one: “il faut refaire la même chose dix fois, cent fois” – you must redo the same thing ten times, a hundred times.”
Not really a drawing — I had so much fun making the scribble drawings for the painting that I decided to continue the process on the painting itself. It will all get covered up. It is, nonetheless, an energetic way to begin. I used acrylic medium to thin down the paint, to capture more of the character of the “ball point pen lines”. The canvas is 20 x 24 inches.
Here’s the first drawing for a new painting. I don’t make the drawing as a thumbnail sketch since I won’t refer back to the drawing once I begin painting. It’s just another form of rehearsal. I like to think about the shapes a few times before beginning.
I also just love drawing. I love scribbling with the loopy, meandering lines of a pen. This is not the Bic Cristal that I usually use. This one has got a much bolder line. It’s a Bic Velocity.
I found that the best time to smudge is right after you’ve drawn the line. The ink doesn’t smudge so well once it has dried. I wear gloves — otherwise my finger tips would be the same color as that deep blue ink.
There are many wonderful drawing challenges on the internet that give people ideas. Many drawing challenges serve to inspire. They may prompt you to draw things you never thought of drawing.
I have thought that — from time to time — I’d like to post some drawing challenges of my own. Some are kind of advanced challenges. But they are fun. They are tasks I give to myself to stretch my skill level. Yet I hope that artists working at all levels of drawing skill will consider giving them a try because … because you just never know what will happen. There’s always a potential for invention in trying new things. And in any case, drawing isn’t dangerous. How can you possibly go wrong?
The purpose of this particular advanced drawing challenge is not to produce a drawing to hang in a frame, though that outcome may arrive, but instead to devise ways to stretch your visual skills. It’s really more about process than product.
This challenge has two parts. Each can be fairly difficult, but for sure the difficulty of the second part depends upon the difficulty of the first part.
For the first part, you simply draw something. What do you usually draw, or often draw? Choose something familiar — or something that you can observe keenly, intensely. What you’ll do is to draw the thing or the scene very carefully and fastidiously, observing as much information as you can and recording it in whatever way you approve. You may find it helpful to use lots of contours, lots of linear elements to describe forms, but it isn’t strictly necessary. So just do whatever you do. And you might also want to redraw this motif you’ve selected a few times, two or three times perhaps. For this challenge repetitions are good.
Anyone who has learned to play a musical instrument will know what I mean.
For the second part, you go away from your motif and redraw it from memory. The goal is to capture as much information as you possibly can based on everything you know and remember about the subject. One way to help this along is to remember how you drew and remind yourself what you drew. Counting may help if there are a certain number of somethings that apply. Remembering a “seating arrangement” may help. What was here? What was over there? What was sitting next to the such-n-such?
You can prod yourself to recall not merely the details of the scene you observed but the kinetic, physical memory associated with the act of drawing, remembering both what you drew, and how you drew, and the order in which you drew it.
Some artists say that memory drawing is really difficult for them. I met one very astonishingly skillful artist who said she only drew from the motif, never from memory, that she “didn’t know how to draw from memory.” I suspect she was being too modest. But memory drawing is a skill to possess like any other skill in art. One way to develop it is to remember your previous drawings which is very different from remembering the appearance of the things themselves. Sometimes the memory of the things is fugitive but the physical memory of your hands will often be much more sure.
This is a very generalized description of a potentially very amorphous, imaginative, flexible and possibly also very complicated task. The latter quality is good if you like complication (I do) but not essential. Tailor things to suit your own preferences. I offer it — such as it is — as a challenge to try. I’ve used it drawing seashells and a few other things. You can apply it to any subject. It can, for instance, be a good way to study old masters: first copy the image, once or twice (or more) and then draw the memory of the copying.
It’s like drawing a map of part of your interior mind. What better typography to travel through ….
I like to paint big pictures. One way that I rehearse images before painting is by making large drawings. In that way, I also have twice as much fun because I make two big pictures — the preparatory drawing and its related painting. The two works are not necessarily in a one to one relationship though. This drawing, for instance, measures 50 x 42.5 inches but is a rehearsal for a painting measuring 60 x 40 inches. However they are close enough together that making the drawing offers genuine preparation for painting.
Someone told me that opera singers rehearse their parts in sotto voce to avoid straining their instrument. Maybe these big drawings are to the paintings what sotto voce is to the opera singer’s full throated singing.
I have another 60 x 40 inch canvas waiting in the wings. And another large sheet of paper waiting to be made into drawing. Seriously good fun is just around the corner because this artist likes to paint and to think BIG.
the visual steps of the old masters through a careful scrutiny of their works.
I’ve always loved that ceramic cup in the corner with the lemons in front of it. Here (above) I was making a copy using crayons, and I was mixing colors on the paper and getting slightly different color effects than one sees in Manet’s more subtle and monochromatic but beautifully colored canvas where silver gray predominates. I was able to copy the objects almost the same size as they appear in the painting, but I chose just the right hand corner for my small notebook. Below you can see what I was copying and its context in the painting as a whole.
Some art teachers will pester you about getting ellipses correct. And I urge you, Reader, to notice how out of kilter Manet’s plate and cup are! And yet — for some mysterious reason, perhaps known only by Manet’s astute visual imagination, the painting as a whole is immeasurably better, more dynamic, more psychologically intriguing by virtue of these “mistakes.” Clearly he knows how to draw things in perspective. Just observe the wonderfully foreshortened fork. But the plate and the cup are a thousand fold more lovely by virtue of the quirky perspective. Trust your instincts.
EXCEPT — when you wish to zoom on the ceramic cup which ends up being covered by part of the zoom widget itself. However, never fear — WikiArts to the rescue. A large version of the image is available here — click on the picture to access:
Between the two sources you can get a lot of visual information about the painting.
after many long years separation. Cezanne’s Vase of Flowers is back on view at the National Gallery of Art. For years and years it had its own special place and I visited it, studied it, drew it, copied it — and then it was gone. But it’s back, and recently I made this quick and rough drawing in front of the painting, drawing a portion of its features approximately life size.
It’s not the sort of drawing for getting a likeness. I was instead keen merely to make the gestures that I see in one small part of the painting. And I want to do many more such drawings in the future — private drawings that I make for my own use even if I do also afterwards make some of them occasionally public by posting them here.
The painting, for those not familiar with it, is reproduced below.
Bonnard’s bright colors, his impulsive and sensitive rendering of paint into landscape forms are qualities that I’ve adored about his art for many years. Some of his paintings are on exhibit again at the National Gallery of Art after a long time spent in cruel storage. On the walls again, they light up the room where they can bring us much delight. I’ve intended to make some drawings after various favorite National Gallery paintings, and yesterday I got a chance to begin doing so; I started with this little crayon drawing, above, after Bonnard’s “Stairs to the Artist’s Garden” reproduced below.
Making my drawing in front of Bonnard’s painting, I felt like I was in conversation with the old artist. Copying also lets one see the image more keenly and experience it with more depth and immediacy. Vicariously I stood with Bonnard in his garden. I wanted to stay there longer, but sketching some of the large elements of the scene was a fun beginning.
My drawing measures 8.5 x 6.75 inches. Bonnard’s painting measures 23 5/8 x 28 3/4 inches. He painted his picture about 1942. I made my drawing about 4pm yesterday afternoon!
A sketchy sensibility can be very close to Bonnard in spirit. In a gouache drawing of the artist’s own, the forms are put down through many delicate veils of color as illustrated here in a drawing “La Route, Paysage au Cannet” auctioned at Sotheby’s:
Lacking a brush and working with different materials, I made mine initially in the fashion of a graphic drawing and only afterwards used rubbing, smearing (and a bit of spit) to dissolve marks into tints. But I think I was able to manage some faithfulness to Bonnard’s general method-in-the-madness of big raw shapes.
To learn more about the Bonnard drawing, here’s a link to the Sotheby site:
Here’s the objects that sit on the semi-permanent still life table (this set up has stayed quite a while). In the drawing below, they sit behind another temporary still life that I set up this week for a special purpose.
I like drawing and redrawing these objects. They form many a meditation on color and shape that I contemplate, pen in hand. Here’s some earlier iterations.
I get to know these objects by drawing them over and over. I will really know these objects well someday.
If you read this blog regularly you’ll recognize them from these drawings.