Monday, 1 April 2019

Draw Stonehenge in Pencils Demonstration

Stonehenge a stone circle in Wiltshire, England is the ideal subject matter for drawing. Shading technique and blocking in have been practiced. Here, I expressed Stonehenge in silhouette against a big sunset, creating drama.

Negative space of Stonehenge

The first image shows Stonehenge’s negative shapes within a narrow rectangle. The central dividing line makes plotting this enigmatic stone circle easier. Notice the interesting shapes where the sky peeks between the stones. Negative space is a great technique for practicing drawing freehand.

Gridlines over the Stonehenge drawing.

1 Onto a sheet of A5 sketching paper, a rectangle of 10x5cm was divided into 5 sections via a HB and ruler. The lines have been drawn lightly but have been emphasized here. The bottom segment is where Stonehenge will inhabit. This segment has been split in half to make the freehand drawing easier. The image showing Stonehenge’s negative shapes can be used a drawing reference.

Watch my video clip.

Shading in the zenith of the sky

2 The four segments above Stonehenge serve as signposts for where tones in the sky will shift in value. The zenith will be darker than the horizon. There is also ample room for expressing a dramatic sunset. I sketched out uneven horizontal lines across the sky to represent banner clouds melting at sunset. With a 2B pencil, I began at the zenith, expressing dark, but not too heavy shading, working downwards.

Shading the sky towards the horizon

3 The background sky will exhibit a gradual tonal shift as it moves towards the horizon. This provides the perfect backdrop for clouds that appear lit up by sunset. I worked the pencil past the upper banner cloud, easing the pressure off as I worked towards the horizon. Keep the pencil moving in an organic manner to create soft effects.

Applying paler shading further down.

4 I worked past the second banner cloud, creating progressively paler tones as I worked the pencil towards the horizon. Be careful not to shade too heavy here or the sky won’t appear to glow behind the stone circle.

Shading lightly behind the stones

5 The negative shapes of Stonehenge seem to glow against the rest of the sky. The pencil shading was very light here, adding a little shading to the far left and right of the scene. This will help suggest a single light source.

Dark shading on the banner cloud

6 For the banner clouds, I expressed heavy shading on the upper edges of their formations, easing off toward the cloud base. This will help suggest oblique sunlight hitting the cloud base. Notice the tones veer steeply on the clouds against a sky of a gradual tonal shift.

Step tonal gradations on the cloud

7 Horizontal streaks and highlights were expressed here and there to inform upon the texture of melting clouds. I shaded out from these streaks to create softness.

Notice streaks in the cloud base.

8 I worked similarly on the other banner clouds, creating a progressively steeper tonal shift upon the cloud base. Notice each banner cloud appears narrower as they recede towards the horizon. This helps create the illusion of distance.

Working similarly on the other clouds

9 I deliberated over the texture of the clouds so that they contrast against the smoothness of the background sky. This creates interesting focal points within an otherwise empty sky.
Refining the shading on the clouds.
10 The third banner cloud is the narrowest of all and therefore would exhibit the steepest tonal shift of the three. I left pale streaks and expressed darker streaks adjacent. Although not the main subject matter, the sky provides the setting for Stonehenge.

Blocking in Stonehenge.

11 With the stage set, I shaded in Stonehenge itself. I applied heavy shading via the 2B pencil, moving the marks in various directions with the stones. The effect sought after is not a solid block of black, but marks of various weights, betraying expression from the human hand. High contrasts between the sky and the silhouette, provides the central focal point of the drawing.

Working dark shading over the stones.

I continued to shade in Stonehenge, moving the pencil organically. This is great practice for getting to know how pencils behave under various pressures. As can be seen, only one pencil has been used throughout this drawing, proving lots of art equipment is not necessary for drawing practice.

The finished drawing

This exercise has practiced freehand drawing via awareness of negative space, basic plotting, followed by the expression of a multitude of shading. These pencil techniques can be used with increasing challenge with added techniques.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Draw a Cathedral Window in Ballpoint Pen

I conducted a pen drawing of a church window during a trip to Coventry Cathedral. The trees breaking up the sky captivated me and I liked the linear aspect. This is why I used a ballpoint for the drawing. I had taken HB pencil, ruler, A5 sketchpad and a couple of ballpoint pens (not the cheap sort that fade or blotch). I used Bic. This ink drawing was not intended to be a draughtsman’s finish, but loose and expressive.

Close up of church window drawing

I took a quick measurement of the window’s proportions and transferred a grid onto the page. The lines were then used as a guide to ensure the drawing did not end up wonky or lopsided which can easily happen when working close to a drawing. The rectangular part of the window drawing measured 10cm by 12cm, adding an extra 4cm for the arch at the top.

Grid used as a guide for the drawing

1 and 2 As can be seen in the first image, I had divided the rectangle in half and then half again where the window panes will fit. I then sketched in the arch at the top freehand using the grid as a guide. I have darkened the grid for visual purposes here, but these guidelines were in fact drawn faint with a HB pencil.

Applying the initial lines for the church drawing

3 and 4 I got on with the drawing, being brisk and loose with the ballpoint pen. It doesn’t matter if the drawing looks scribbly at this point. In fact, I want it to have a scribbly aspect. Perfection isn’t the aim.

Heavier marks were added to the slats

5 and 6 I continued to move the ballpoint into the direction of the window slats, allowing marks to remain. I then made rudimentary marks on the ornate decoration, allowing some of the white paper to show between the marks.

Brickwork expressed via crosshatching

7 and 8 Once the window slats were illustrated to the required width, I embarked on the brickwork on either side of the window. I conducted crosshatching marks, where horizontal and vertical lines cross over one another to suggest regimental brickwork. The mortar was left blank for now.

Definition is added to the slats before expressing the trees

9 and 10 I continued to work briskly over the background brickwork using crosshatching marks. Care was taken not to get bogged down with detail, but to keep the pen moving. In order to retain balance, I worked over the window slats again, reinforcing the dark lines. I then made faint marks to suggest tree branches breaking up the sky.

Lines of varying thickness expresses the trees

11 and 12 I kept moving the pen over the branches, allowing the lines to vary in width as the branches reach into the sky and adding depth to tone. Notice how they curve up in various directions. With faint marks, I began shading in the upper section of sky.

The sky is shaded in and the brickwork reinforced

13 and 14 I continued to shade the sky with light scribbles, leaving the sky at the bottom white, to suggest a glowing aspect. With the window done, I worked over the brickwork again. I could do this last part at leisure, adding depth to tone and refining edges. The mortar required light shading here and there.

Church Window at Coventry Cathedral

As can be seen, the humble ballpoint pen can be used for artistic expression. The linear aspect of the cathedral window and the branches breaking up the sky lent itself to expressing lines and marks.

How to Draw Using the Grid Method Demonstration

A tip for drawing is to use the grid technique. Here, I have simplified the grid into four sections. Drawing from life is made convenient and easy. This drawing demonstration requires HB and 2B pencils, ruler scalpel, A5 sketchpad and eraser.
The head fits into left
quadrant of the grid 

I set myself up in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral where an interesting statue happened to roughly fit into a grid of four. This was ascertained by holding the pencil to eyelevel and measuring width to height proportion. The head and torso of the statue was twice as high as it was wide. The photograph of the statue shows how this works. Of course, the photo and a drawing from life will always look different.

As can be seen from the rudimentary sketch, the face of the statue roughly fits into the top left of the grid.

On the page, I drew a rectangle of 18cm high by 9cm wide. I then divided the rectangle into four quadrants. Take care not to sketch too dark at this stage. I have emphasized the lines in the image for clarity.

Drawing with the grid method

Key marks are made, bearing in mind the four quadrants of the composition. Notice the left arm moves in right angles down the right quadrant to join the hand in the bottom left. Similarly, the right hand fits neatly in the bottom right grid beneath the left arm.

The left hand fits into the bottom right quadrant. These basic shapes are ideal for practicing the grid method for the first time.

Only once the first lines are reasonably accurate and fit together like a jigsaw, can detail and shading be worked into.

Lines are made a little darker.

Here, the lines are darkened a little, making adjustments along the way. With a HB pencil, I shaded in the water stains on the statue. Once happy with the drawing, I rubbed out the grid.

I shaded over the upper section of the statue, varying the pressure on the pencil to attain different values.

Shading in the waterstains and shadows.

I shifted to a 2B pencil to attain darker shades for the shadows on the statue. The side of the pencil is used for softness. Detail is applied with the sharp point of the pencil around the eyes and hair. Being soft, the pencil tended to wear down quickly, so a scalpel will come in useful. I worked over the hands, arm, torso and face. Working simultaneously ensures tonal balance is maintained.

Shading in the darkest areas and background.

Finally, I shaded in the background, bringing the statue into its environment.

Statue at Coventry Cathedral

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Raise Student Motivation in Art Class

How to Raise Students’ Enthusiasm in Painting and Drawing Lessons

Classroom management includes motivating students in art lessons otherwise the students may not reach their creative potential.

According to Reece & Walker’s book Teaching, Training and Learning – a Practical Guide (Business Education Publishers, 2004) a student of low ability but high motivation can experience greater success than a student of high ability and low motivation. For this reason, motivational issues should be treated with equal gravity as a learning need or a disability.

The Causes of Low Motivation in Art Classes

Before tackling this problem, the causes of low motivation must be identified. The following might be worth exploring:

A messy art studio
The learning environment looks unwelcoming, messy or uncared for. Paint spills and dirty pots full of unusable art brushes can be visually off-putting.

The area might also appear impersonal and clinical with strip-lighting and insufficient natural daylight.

There is insufficient differentiation in the lesson plan to accommodate those who have a natural flair for drawing and those who might cringe at the thought of drawing a line

The learning objectives are unclear, leaving students unsure of what is expected of them

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs has not been applied, leaving issues such as tiredness, hunger and stress to hamper creative expression. This means addressing issues such as external stress and breaks in class.

Unchecked disruption in class hindering the focus required for completing a painting or drawing

Tips for Art Teachers on Promoting Creativity in Students

A dreary art room with no daylight.
Although there might be limitations on what a teacher can do, the following alterations might enhance the learning experience for art students.

Displaying the students’ work on the walls shows their creations are valued. Altering the display periodically will refresh the view and provide a talking point

Adjusting the differentiation in the lesson plans in order to accommodate those who enjoy a challenge as well as those who have little confidence in painting, is more likely to ensure both will experience success in learning. This may involve blending both the cognitive and the Behaviourist approach to teaching.

Ensuring objectives are clear, achievable and on constant display on the whiteboard will help students feel secure in what is expected of them.

Identifying issues such as tiredness in the evenings or hunger near lunchtime will help students focus on the task at hand.

If disruption occurs, splitting the class into still life groups will often provide focus and settle the class down.

Using Praise Appropriately when Teaching Art

Last, but not least, praising has fundamental effect upon motivation. The student for instance who finds it hard to draw a straight line will feel liberated by small achievements, as well as the more able student who has been stretched creatively. Finding any opportunity to praise will often compel the student to venture further within their learning experience.

Stimulating Creative Processes When Learning Art

The causes of low motivation in art classes must be identified before they can be tackled effectively. Issues such as a dour and tatty-looking environment will do little to encourage creativity. Creating clear and visible objectives will also provide clarity for what is expected of students. This will also involve stretching the differentiation in order to accommodate the students’ diverse drawing and painting abilities. This will in turn will provide opportunities for success in learning by making the objectives achievable. And of course, making them achievable means opportunities for praise.

Other articles on this blog

Monday, 25 March 2019

How to Conduct an Assessment for Art at the End of the Course

What happens at the end of an art course? The answer is the end of course assessment. How is such an assessment conducted properly?

Students may be given an allotted time to attend the assessment with all the work as set out in the criteria requirement. The agreement as set out in the mock assessment may be referred to if necessary or appropriate. Again, praise whenever the opportunity arises. The final marking should never be a surprise and the student should be informed on exactly why a particular marking has been awarded. This will prevent nasty surprises.

Criterion for Assessments
The teacher may write a short feedback on the student’s work, relating to the creative use of materials, the painting style and willingness to try new ideas.

How to Evaluate Art Work

The student has the opportunity to write a feedback on the learning experience, which might include the teaching, the resources or the institution’s policies. The teacher may collate this information and use it for self-evaluation. Recurrent themes may crop up, which might highlight a need for change. The feedback may inform on anything relating to the learner’s experience within the module and indeed can be invaluable to the teacher. The following list serves as a guide.

Assessing the final Artwork
Evidence of creative use of materials.
Competent use of mediums.
Research work.
Experimental and/or developmental work.
Participation in tutorials and critiques.
Written work such as project proposals, essays and dissertations.
A creative log.
A presentation.
Completed artwork.
At least 80% attendance.

But the following outline the typical requirements to pass a single painting module:

Evidence of experimentation and competent use of mediums which might be oils, acrylics or alkyd mediums. A clear progression to the final piece should be evident.
Completion of the artwork as set out in the criteria at the start of the course.
Written work showing evidence of critical evaluation, reflection, research as well as a creative log.
Presentations as set out and participation in tutorials.
Attendance as agreed on the outset of the course.

How to Assess Art Work in Painting Class

How does the teacher grade artwork properly? The summative assessment must be fair or it will not be valid.

Assessing artwork objectively may seem impossible, but a fair system of conducting the final assessment of any art course can be done. This involves using the same criteria from which to judge all art students’ creations.

The Criteria to Pass an Art Course

Making Art Marking Fair
At the beginning of the art module, the teacher may provide a brief for each student. Not only should this outline the theme or topic of the art course, but also the requirements to pass, get a merit or a distinction. Each criterion should be clearly outlined and the final work measured only against these criteria. Below is an example of the requirements to pass a single painting module.

A creative diary evidencing self-evaluation. This might be in the form of a reflective log of the student’s aims, problems encountered and how solutions were found during the creative process. The log should be 500 words or longer.
2 pieces of experimental and/or developmental work.
1000 word assignment as outlined on the project brief.
The final artwork.
Evidence must be shown in creative use of materials, competent use of mediums and research work.

Guide for Art Teachers in Writing Course Objectives

Determining the criteria to pass a course is very similar to writing objectives for a painting class, as both must be clearly set out. The mnemonic SMART serves as a useful guide. SMART objectives stand for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. This means that each criterion should reflect the level of the course, be realistic under the time and resources available and can easily be measured. Such matters such as more than 20% absences from art classes or late submission of work (which should be set out on the brief) will impact upon the final marking.

How Not to Assess Art Work

The art teacher must not assess students’ work against anything not stated, for example, marks should not be deducted from a written assignment if the views expressed by the student are controversial. As stated on the brief, evidence of research, a thorough bibliography, fewer than 5% typos and grammatical errors, neat presentation, evidence of logical thought and at least the required word count should be used as a yardstick instead.

Differentiation in Art Class

How to Grade Artwork
Special needs students, such as those with an individual learning plan may be given grace to submit work late or be given extra time to catch up with good reason. With such a concrete agreement set out, the student concerned should not be penalized so long as the work has been submitted as set out in the ILP.

Issues that persist, such as incomplete coursework without good reason, will award a fail. However, the teacher must handle such situations with sensitivity and decorum and give the student concerned prior warning and a chance to put the issue right.

How to Make an Art Assessment Fair

Conducting an assessment of artwork should never be subjective, in that any two art teachers should agree what the final marking will be. The measuring tool should be unequivocal assessment criteria. Creative use of mediums, a written assignment of a particular word count as well as a complete portfolio as set out in the project brief should award a student a pass. Additional issues such as lateness, absences or missing work should be made cautionary to students in that they may detrimentally affect the final marking. Of course, the brief should set out such criteria fully and clearly. Students work should be judged only against the stated criteria as set out, but students with special needs may be granted extra time or resources if agreed.