Friday, 25 July 2014

Take this Drawing Test to See Visually Alert You Are

Drawing not only involves what the pencil is doing on paper, but also what is going on in the brain between the mark-making. In fact, drawing begins before the first line is drawn.

During my years teaching, I came across students who struggled to draw. I noticed that a common feature of this low drawing ability was the tendency not to look at what is in front but to draw what is believed to be in front. A struggle to draw often comes in tandem with a low visual awareness.

Cure for Low Drawing Ability

Optical Illusions can Occur in Real Life
when Drawing
Low visual awareness means taking little notice of how things are arranged around us. This might be difficulty in judging the angle of a contour, the size of an object next to another object. An inability to make visual judgments can manifest itself in many ways, such as the inability to hang a painting perfectly level, or to arrange objects in a balanced still life.

How Distorted Perception can Ruin a Drawing

Visual distortions or optical illusions come in many forms, examples of which can be seen in this image. The impossible trident would appear to have 3 prongs, but does it? The dot in the triangle falls midway up, although it would appear to be higher. The 2 lines within the chevrons run parallel with each other although they appear to converge. And both squares on the upper right are the same size. These are crude examples of visual distortions. In fact, such illusions can fool the eye in the most subtle ways which can sabotage the drawing.

See my Youtube clip testing your visual alertness - a key to great drawing. You may need to view full screen during the test.

Test into Drawing Ability

My Youtube clip examines the issue of distorted perception when it comes to drawing. A test within aims to give a rough indicator to how prone your eyes are to deceiving you. Get pen and pencil at the ready, as there are 10 multiple questions within. These questions ask for visual estimates of four figures. Simple shapes can be found within the clip which will test your ability to visually judge angles, sizes, the relationship of one object to another and even its tonality.

Look before Drawing
No visual aids are allowed and don’t pause the video. Some questions are more difficult than others. Guessing the right answer does not award a point.

Where Drawing Talent Really Lies

Answers to the test are given at the end of the clip. 8 out of 10 or more indicates a keen eye for making visual estimates. You may not need the spirit level to hang that painting, or you may have a natural flair for arranging flowers. 5 – 7 out of 10 and you have good visual awareness, but there is room for improvement. Less than 4 out of 10 and you may have low visual awareness.

Improve Drawing Quickly

Don’t worry if a low score is the result. Practice is the key to good visual awareness. Practice looking around you regarding:

The size of one object in relation to another (is it bigger, smaller? By what degree? (a half, a third, a smaller fraction?) How does the object’s width relate to another? Is it twice as wide, etc?) Use a pencil and hold it at arm’s length with one eye closed. This can be used as a visual measuring tool.
The position of one object in relation to another (is it higher, lower? And what about the distance between?
Estimate the angle of straight lines. Is it fairly horizontal, vertical? Estimate the number of degrees out it might be?
The contour of an outline. Is it quite curved, jagged? Does the line thicken in places?

Learn to Look at Things

Drawing involves setting up an internal dialogue regarding how things look. Question assumptions. Tables do not always appear to have four legs; a drinking cup may appear to have no handle and a hat can look like a tortoise.

By increasing your awareness of how things look around us may result in a better score on this drawing test in the future, not to mention drawing.

The Most Important Part of Drawing

Low visual alertness to how objects look can create a drawing that disappoints. Learning to really look before lowering the pencil to paper can result in a drawing that holds truth. Check how visually astute you are by watching the video clip which includes 10 questions within. A high score would indicate a good eye for judgment. This skill is an asset to drawing. A low score can be improved upon when practicing the skill of looking. Overcoming distorted perceptions means dispelling assumptions about how objects ‘should’ look.

Articles on Drawing Tips

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Pastel Pencil Exercise on Shading Buildings on Ingress Paper

This simple shading exercise on Ingres paper was completed as a step by step Youtube clip. Each stage is clearly laid out within the speed art movie, but is explained in depth here. This drawing demo comprises a typical village scene, in this case, a church enclosed by trees. The church is located in the Lake District in the UK.

Materials Needed for Shading on Ingres Paper

Pastel Pencils for Shading Ingres Paper
The drawing equipment used for this sketch was pastel pencils in the following colors: white, light grey, mid grey, sepia and black. A wide pencil sharpener, HB pencil and eraser were used for the preliminary drawing. The Ingres paper used was A5 (8inx6.5in) in size.
What is Ingres Paper?

Briefly, Ingres paper is simply a toned paper with a canvas-like texture. I used mid grey paper in this exercise, where the texture was like canvas. Ingres paper can be found in an array of tones from duck egg to dark grey. The texture of Ingres paper means that soft pencil can ‘skid’ over the rough surface, leaving behind pleasing textured effects.

See my speed art clip on shading with pastel pencils on Youtube

How to Sketch with Pencil Pastels

After carefully completing the line sketch (use the eraser sparingly as it could flatten the texture of the paper) I shaded the sunlit rooftops with white. I applied firm pressure to create a relatively solid tone. The edge of the white pencil was used to bring out sharp detail around the spires and the sunlit walls.

Using Sepia Pencils in Drawing

Step by Step on Shading on Ingres Paper with Pastels
For the shaded walls, I lightly shaded sepia pencil to create a sharp contrast in tone, but softened the tone with mid grey afterwards. Working pencils in layers helps to bring an even, soft tone to the buildings. Always avoid exerting too much pressure initially. I used the soft edge of the pencil tip.

Once the mid grey was shaded over the church walls, I carefully illustrated the windows with black. Keep edges sharp for detail. This means using the sharpener for these areas. Take note that a little mid grey is needed where the light catches the architraves. This will help suggest recesses in the church wall.

Shading on Grey Paper

Once the church tones had been blocked in, I shaded mid grey on the drystone wall in front, dappling white at the top of the wall. This helped suggest sunlight catching the top of the wall.

As can be seen, an array of textures was used for the background. I applied pointillism and irregular marks over the sunlit canopies behind the church, and then shaded a more even layer over the distant woodlands. I moved the pencil in vertical strokes to emulate the trees. White was used for the sunlit tops and the hills. Remember to keep comparing how one tone relates to another throughout the painting. This helps retain tonal imbalances.

Sky Shading with Pastel Pencils

I applied an uneven layer of white over the sky and the foreground to bring harmony to the composition. I allowed some of the grey paper to show beneath in places to retain that textural feel. I finally scribbled sepia over the large tree on the left, moving the pencil in the direction of growth. I was careful not to overdo it, or the area could look overworked. I used a black pencil for the darkest areas.

As a final touch, I drew the spires at the top of the roofs and neatened detail. Sharpened pastel pencils were needed for these areas.

Quick Shading Exercise on Ingres Paper

As can be seen here, an effective sketch in pastel pencils on Ingres paper can be completed within an hour and with just a few pencils. I began light first, working into darker shades later on the drawing. Applying shading lightly will bring out the texture of the paper.

Articles on Drawing and Painting

Take this test to see how visually aware you are
How symmetrical drawing can improve drawing ability
Draw an ellipse step by step
How to judge tones in your painting
My website about colors

Paint a Waterside Tree with Five Oil Colors

An effective oil painting can be completed in half an hour and with just five oil colors. This oil painting demonstration required the simplest art materials, ideal for the student who prefers to use basic materials. The scene comprises a tree next to a river, ideal for painting reflections.

Simple Art Demonstration on Painting Reflections

How to Paint Water Step by Step
The art materials needed for this demonstration are:

Oil colors: titanium white, pthalo blue, burnt sienna, cadmium lemon and viridian. Only a flat bristle no. 6 and round sable no. 3 were used. Artists’ spirit was needed only for cleaning the brushes at the end of the session.

I had primed a small panel with two coats of gesso before beginning the painting. The panel measured 7x9inches. A HB pencil and eraser was needed for sketching in the composition before laying down the paint.

My youtube clip shows how I completed the painting

Oil Painting Demo in Minutes

1 I worked from light to dark and therefore began with palest areas of the painting. I mixed a little burnt sienna with mostly white and plied this uneven mixture over the sky area and corresponding reflections. I applied this color thinly towards the top and bottom of the painting as I wanted to introduce another color in these areas.

Simple Landscape Painting Demonstration

2 I then mixed a little pthalo blue into white and introduced this color unevenly at the top and bottom of the picture. With a clean bristle, I smudged together the warm and cool colors careful to avoid contamination that could result in muddy mixture. I blended the colors more smoothly on the areas of water, to suggest reflections. I flicked the bristle in vertical strokes.

3 I then mixed a little viridian and cadmium lemon into white and dabbed this warm green onto the field in the background with a fine sable.

Burnt Sienna on the Landscape

4 I mixed burnt sienna and a little white and made vertical strokes around the reedy area at the foot of the tree. To add contrast, I plied on viridian, pthalo blue and a little white for the trees in the background. Areas of color were softened where they met, such as the treeline and sky.

5 Burnt sienna, pthalo blue and viridian were mixed for a deep, rich dark and this was applied onto the reeds at the foot of the tree. A clean bristle was used to smudge out this dark color into the pervading reflection color, to suggest a glassy surface to the water.

Simple Demonstration on Painting Reflections

6 The surrounding to the tree trunk and its reflection sets up the tree to make it look more dramatic. Any niggles should be ironed out before beginning the tree itself. I mixed pthalo blue, viridian and burnt sienna to create a rich black and I applied this dark onto the tree trunk initially. I worked the same color for the tree’s reflection to ensure the subject and its reflection accorded.

7 A narrow brush was used for the branches and twigs, moving the brush into the direction of the tree’s growth. Care is needed not to get carried away with adding too many twigs or the area could get confused. The secret is to generalize. Look for clumps and feather out the dark color to suggest ‘gathers’ within the tree.

Oil Painting Reflections

Oil Colors Needed for Painting Water
8 And now for the water. With a fine sable, I mixed a little pthalo blue with white and dragged the brush in small horizontal strokes to suggest disturbances on the water’s surface. I let some of the undercolor get dragged into the upper color.

9 With a separate sable, I mixed a little burnt sienna with pthalo blue and lightly applied horizontal bands over the water to contrast with the paler streaks. I allowed some of the underlying color to get dragged with the horizontal strokes to bring a fluid quality to the paint.

Finishing Touches to the Landscape Painting

10 Finally I dabbed burnt sienna with a little white, to produce a rich, rustic color and applied small, vertical strokes over the stalk tops. This warm color provides great contrast with the cool colors in the background.

A Landscape Painting in Five Oil Colors

An effective oil painting can be produced with just five oil pigments as can be seen in this demonstration. Basic art materials were used. This painting took around half-an-hour to do. The secret is a strong, striking composition that will carry the basic oil colors. This tree also provides stark contrast against the background.