Keywords: [Method of Subtractive Values; Drawing Light; 30-Step Art; Music Art; Figure Drawing]


After the pastel Hammond Street class began to break up, due to Linda's leaving, I registered to take an art class at the University of Maine at Orono. This was possible through the 'Senior Waiver' program in the Continuing Education Department. After an intense period, I was able to register to take the ART 200 DRAWING II class taught by Professor Nina Sutcliffe. The class met on Monday and Wednesday from 9 to 11:30 am in the art studio of the old Carnegia Hall art building. It proved to be a rigorous exercise to do all the homework, on time, and to keep up with all the young energy that surrounded me in that studio. We had to use a large portfolio, to hold our cumulative works through the semester, as well as to bring all our drawing equipment to each class. I ended up buying a portable dolly to truck all the equipment to-and-from class as well as going to class at 8 AM to be able to find a reasonably close parking location.

The class developed into a memorable experience as I worked through the semester. This blog attempts to document that experience while showing some results obtained along the way. They are LIFO ordered, Last-In-First-Out.

Please Note: All Rights Reserved for All Images on this Website.
Please ask permission to download images. Better resolution images are available for circumstances that warrant such need.
Actually, these drawings are available for sale if you are interested. Some are framed, others are not.
You may contact me at my email address to obtain more information.
Fred Irons at email address: fsmax11(at)gmail(dot)com

Early 2012 Easel Construction
3x4 foot Workspace, Scrap Lumber

After I finished the formal art class I realized I needed a better easel in my own studio. However, there was not one to be had from local stores. So, a plan developed to build my own---I had some scrap boards that would make a rugged frame. The plan was to laminate a sheet of masonite onto a piece of 1/4-inch plywood to make a large work surface. This would give me an easel comparable to the ones in the art studio at UMaine.

After some effort I managed, by trial and error, to get the frame cut and assembled. It proved to be as sturdy as a rock.

Next, I messed up the construction. This happened as I tried to glue a 3x4 foot piece of masonite to create a smooth work surface. My first attempt failed because I did not have enough glue. So I went and bought a larger bottle. That was not enough either, to uniformly cover both surfaces with a `thin' layer. The result was that the masonite warped away from the under-layment and I ended up with a mess on my hands. The masonite bonded in some places and did not want to come apart so I ended up with a dilemma about how to `fix' it without breaking or making the problem worse.

Apparently I used the wrong kind of glue to try and do this job. There's a glue, used in a gun, that's often used to attach wallboard and it's possible I should have used that rather than liquid glue.

Finally, in order to preserve flatness, I screwed the layers together using countersunk holes for the screws. This proved unreliable as some came out deeper than others as the screws went straight through the hardboard and did not hold. Then the screws also were too long and stuck dangerously out the other side. Short screws wouldn't work as they did not get enough bite to hold and so I was forced to use longer screws with deeper threads.

After a copule days thinking about how best to proceed, I took out all the screws, to undo my mess, and was amazed to see the masonite stay flat against the underlayment with no visible warping. This was quite a surprise to behold as I thought it would pop back, as it was before screwing down, and then I would pry it off to start over.

No such luck.

It's sitting there, with no screws, as tight as if it grew on top of the first layer.

``Look Ma! No screws,''

it's saying---through all the empty screw holes.

Rather than fuss about it, to remove the masonite and start over, I decided, what the heck, I would just use it until it fails---and that may be longer than I live.

The plan then switched to using wood putty, to fill all the screw holes, and put on trim to give it a finished looking appearance.

A photo of the completed art easel is shown here. It turned out to be a substantial piece of real estate with its 1x4~inch frame boards and the layered 3x4~foot painting surface. Across the bottom of the hardboard there is a bordered tray, or shelf, that holds jars for brushes and water, plus bottles, or tubes of paint. The painting, work, surface consists of an under-layer of 1/4-inch plywood to which is glued a 3x4~foot piece of smooth Masonite to create a large work space. The whole structure is quite heavy, and very awkward to manage with its floppy back leg and so it doesn't get moved around very much.

In fact, which was the whole point behind its construction, it doesn't move when you are painting on it. Its sheer size keeps it in place wherever you put it so there is no moving, or shuddering from mere brush strokes. It's more like it needs a healthy shove to move it.

With the exception of the Masonite work surface, that easel is made entirely out of scraps that have been sitting around here for years. The seven foot legs were ripped out of 12-inch boards I picked up at the Orono dump 22 years ago and the 1/4-inch plywood came from an old divider I removed from our home in Massachusetts in the 1980's.

The parts of this easel have been around for a long time just waiting to be put to good use.

And the building experience convinced me that art looks more promising, for me, than does furniture building.

December 12, 2011. Fork in a Jar of Water
12.75x19.5 M1-Tientes Violet---Pastel Drawing

My portfolio, of the full semester's work in Art~200, is due at 9~AM this day, a Monday morning. Getting everything together plus finishing the last homework assignment created a lot of tension in these last couple days. I finished the Emmaline drawing, by coloring in the negative space, and wrote a lengthy self-evaluation report. That was in response to a given questionaire. Then I sorted out the work, in-class versus assignments, and put one half on the back side of the portfolio and the second half in front. Everything was in order and was clear for the professor to review.

The big worry was the final homework assignment due at the same time as the portfolio. It had to be of something in water, or any unfocused or unclear object. Well, gee whiz! That was a lot coincidental as wanting to draw glass objects was one of the driving motivations for my wanting to study art from a more structured approach. This assignment is the very thing I wanted to learn. Clearly I chose the fork in water as this photo shows.

The drawing, a pastel on M1-Tientes paper, is approximately 20x26 in size so it is a large drawing. The pink-red (violet) background is the color of the paper and it was left to be the negative space beyond the canning jar and fork. The jar is half full, or half-empty, depending upon how you feel today, and the jar plus the water act to collect and focus distant color.

What I like about this drawing is that the jar really stands out---it looks 3-D and appears to be separate from everything. The shadows ground it on the table mat but its values, and contrast, are about as good as I have ever done.

It is probably safe to say that taking this art class has, in fact, helped to improve my art ability.

The only reason I can see, for that jar to stand out so much, is those few marks, of light, give it depth and `glassiness'. They are in just the right spot for the viewer's left brain to recognize it as a reflective jar. The jar also collects green, from the subtle stripes, on the mat, into its rings which helps to complete the shape---the idea of roundness.

As I was doing the drawing, I made an interesting discovery. In order to compose the drawing, on the colored paper, I used a gray pastel to lay out a grid and to outline the jar. Later, when I was using yellow, in various places, it blended with the little bit of gray to make green. That was a complete, and unexpected surprise. It was a `nice' green, not a dull one coming out of black and that's what contributed to the surprise. Possibly it was only because of the gray on red that contributed to that result. I suppose I should try it on white paper to check out that theory. It will be interesting to see if I remember to try this the next time I get out the pastels.

The whole point of bringing up the discussion was just to note how uncanny it is that with just a few marks, the reflected lights on the jar, on a drawing makes such a difference in its appearance.

By the way, those reflections are not white. They are heavily tinted (white added) pink.



What you think you see may not be what it really is---if there's any reality at all.

The conclusion is just that marks on a paper can make you think you see something that really isn't there.

November 20, 2011. Human Figure Drawing
18x24 Smooth Drawing Paper for graphite drawing.
12.75x19.5 M1-Tientes Red for the pastel drawing.

The last month, or so, of class, has been involved with drawing the human figure. This is something that I thought I could not do but it turned out I did a respectable job. We spent three classes with Kaidi, shown in this first figure and she got to be a familiar person after so much staring at her---to get the angles and proportions just right. The young girl is clad and her name is `Kaidi', a rather unusual name but probably of Scandinavian origin.

This is a `subtractive values' drawing. The shadowing is impressive as I do not consciously recall putting it there. But the subtle shadows around the neck, collar bone, and left arm really add to the `reality' of the drawing. Her right leg is a little round, rubbery, but still the perspective is quite good. As I was working on this drawing I was feeling like everything was wrong and not working but then, the next day, when I looked at it I felt like, ``My gosh!, did I do that?''

The feeling was like I must have been in another world (zone) when I did that drawing. [Thought: maybe people do figure drawings to get zoned out.] Well, one reason I took up this art journey was for its therapeutic value. When you are engrossed in drawing---creating a scene---you are not dwelling on all the ills of society. It helps to control your internal, never dying, anger at all the nonsense, and corruption, that is going on, around us, all the time.

Anyway, Kaidi Lounging is currently a favorite drawing for the ART~200 experience. Surprise to me, I enjoyed doing figure drawing.

This next drawing is a color drawing of Kaidi shading her golden complexion from the sun. Here the full body is in proper perspective as the legs and arms all `work' just right. The thing about this drawing, that pleases me, is that it was drawn in real time as I figured out the dimensions, to best fit the paper, in real time---just by looking carefully at the scene. It's the shape that I like best. The colors are not so good as when I worked on the red paper it was hard to let it `shine' through as the `dark' coloration for the drawing. The yellow umbrella provided a good complement to the red as it gave contrast to the picture. But it was hard to deal with Kaidi's light complexion and yellow hair under that umbrella.

Kaidi Sunning is not a favorite drawing but is presentable as a good figure drawing from the point-of-view of shape.

November 20, 2011. Figure Drawing
18x24 Newsprint

The last art class provided an introduction to both figure and gesture drawing---for me. The regular art students had all done gesture drawing in earlier pre-requisite courses so that it was only new to me. Figure drawing is code for drawing images of people. It was a curious use of the word because anything you draw is a figure in its strict sense. The artists are using the word `figure' to mean a `person'. That was new to me.

Gesture drawing means to make a full sketch in a short time. These first sketches are each two-minute gesture drawings. The skeleton, of a real person (figure), was real (as compared to plastic) and it was missing its left arm. It was affectionaltely referred to as "Bones" by the teacher. We drew about a dozen of these two-minute sketches with the skeleton in several different positions. Eventually we worked down to a one-minute sketch but none of mine proved to be worth showing here.

The idea of a gesture drawing is to just record the `essence' of a scene in a short time. Details are deliberately omitted due to not having enough time to record them. Still, the `essence' of the different figures is rather amazing to me as, somehow, the brain pulled out the correct scales and shape ratios to make a realistic looking images.

At the beginning I had serious doubts about being able to do this exercise at all but it turned out that I was, in fact, able to keep up. Periodically the instructor gave us breaks and we walked around the room to inspect each other's art to see how everyone else was doing. That was reassuring to me as it turned out that my drawings were no worse than anyone else's.

It was interesting that my left brain kept sending me messages about how the exercise of gesture drawing was aimed at making `garbage', and it was foolish to even bother. Finally it shut up and went somewhere else and it seems to me the right brain came through with flying colors to be able to sketch so many interesting figure drawings in such a short time.

In the next drawing we were asked to pick four colors, two warm and two cool, and given 20~minutes to sketch a color rendition of the figure onto newsprint. Drawing in color has the potential to add depth and that's exactly what happened here. I gave so much space to the upper half that I had no room for the feet. This experience proved quite revealing as I learned I could erase the pastel (several times) and start again, plus it proved possible to make a decent looking pastel on newsprint. The colors here are layered and background is blended. The drawing has good depth and I like the final result.

November 13, 2011. Jimbangle Art
Various sizes and types of drawing paper

A large portion of time was spent working on this homework which entailed using music as a source of inspiration. The object was to create an abstract rendering by listening to music. The next class project required us to bring in our own music piece to use during class. First I had to find a 5~minute piece, without lyrics or any familiarity, and record it on a cassette tape so I could listen to it privately in class. I recorded it three times end-to-end so I could play it longer without having to rewind.

The piece I selected was from a CD~album called Prestige Profiles and it featured a Gil Evans in a jazz piece called Jimbangle. It was 4~min 57~sec in duration---just perfect. Next, I listened to the piece several times searching for visual impressions and to perform an analysis about the technical features of the music: tone, rhythm, melody, contrast, range, coloration, layering, and other ideas. We had to write out all these ideas in sentences and paragraphs. I did all that but still had no ideas about images or colors to describe the music, or any response to it.

Next I drew a couple sketches of representational ideas from listening to the music. I titled one, Cacophony of Sound, and the other, Jammin'.

The first was a scene with a steamboat going down a river with its paddle wheel going `slap, slap, slap', on the water along with a crow cawing from the top of a nearby tree plus a bell clanging in a distant buoy. These sounds represent the trumpet, the piano, and the string bass. In the second I sketched the instruments in action with a piano player, a trumpet player, and a standing bass player. The sketches were free and easy and conveyed the meanings clearly.

The last part of the homework involved making a grid of the music sound levels for the three main instruments, plus a slithering saxophone, as the music progressed in time. Here I used colors and rhythmic intermeshed lines to indicate tone and pulsing rhythm. This all constituted a large part of my day but I managed to get fully ready for Monday's class.

At Monday's class, the teacher reviewed our preparation and we had to play our music for the class to hear what we were working from so they would have an idea for each resulting abstract rendering. My jam session idea was disallowed as being too representational and not in the spirit of the assignment. The teacher encouraged me to think of how to change it or do something else.

During class I whipped out a drawing of sound waves, originating from speakers, as shown here in this first drawing. In the subsequent end-of-class critique this drawing was also disallowed as not being abstract enough, nor was it following the request to make marks in response to music.

Back to the drawing board as time was running out. Ready or not the next attempt is it. I finally settled on a combination of representational art with abstraction based upon the music. The problem is---it looks like it could be any music as once again I am stuck on the instruments producing the music.

Generally, the class, and the teacher, liked the composition of the drawing but it failed on gradation of values and colors to give it depth. The picture, shown here, is actually brighter than the real picture thanks to Photoshop and its `Curves' adjustment feature. That allowed me to adjust to get slightly better contrast for the floating piano keys and the bottom saxophone.

The trumpet has the best contrast, as it does in the music, as the blue is complimentary to the orange-red piano notes.

The lines used for the thumping bass, as it spreads throughout the music, was a strong idea but the contrast wasn't any good. The lines were supposed to morph into waves and insinuate around the other instruments. The same with the tinkling piano notes and the muted trumpet bursts, or bubbles of air. The sax emitted tones that slithered around, almost unnoticed, and so it does not propagate across the whole picture.

I tried to rectify the `flatness' but it was too late to fix it as the paper would not take anymore color.

It got `muddy'.

By this time I was ready to toss the whole thing into the trash barrel but I did not have time to do another before the deadline.

In the end, the drawing met class requirements, and was not the worst drawing, and so it served the purpose. If I should ever get interested to try a fifth rendition I think this one gives me workable ideas that could translate to a clearer, more interesting, drawing.

Emily summed it up with: ``Fred, you already did a trumpet. Try something else!''

November 5, 2011. Cornet Diptych
Two 22x33 inch sheets of 140 pound watercolor paper

This project was listed, on the course syllabus, as a `wrap' project. Four class periods---10 hours--- were spent to make the unwrapped, upper half, of the drawing. A second set of four periods was scheduled for the drawing of this same object when wrapped.

The two drawings were used to make the diptych combination shown here.

Personally I didn't have much interest in the wrapped drawing as I did not understand what value it had. It would just be a blob of wrinkles and shadows and so the wrapped drawing appeared to be basically an exercise in drawing shape and shadows, which is actually not that easy to do.

The first, open, drawing surprised me as it came out with better quality than I expected I would be able to do when I started. There is an aura of it being metal, possibly a brain trick because of what it is, and it appears to have a vivid presence because of the cast shadow. The light on the bell gives a reality to the horn surface and so, overall, the unwrapped version makes an interesting drawing that I like reasonably well. It is in the realm of one of my favorites both because I drew it and also because it recalls pleasant memories of using it a couple years in the Adult Ed Sebasticook Valley Community Band.

The cornet originally belonged to a Brewer Band friend from whom I bought it a few years ago. I was tempted to name the drawing Klitch's Kornet for a little bit of alliterative humor but, in the end, decided against it.

The complex shadows of the two objects work together to provide interest. At first I sketched the wrapped object to be parallel with the unwrapped image (with horn bell to the right) but the shadow was not very interesting. Well, neither was the wrapped shape. Then I turned it around and, presto!, the object shadow became much more interesting plus the wrapping showed more detail of the horn, the valves, and the mouthpiece. The teacher was right---as teachers should be---you need to make multiple sketches before starting to draw. It's the sketching from different points-of-view that allow you to properly compose a picture for drawing purposes.

In the beginning I did not understand how drawing a wrapped object would have any value but now I see, from this photo of the planned arrangement, that yes, the wrapped object makes a helpful comparison to the open object. The two drawings definitely complement each other.

Interesting---they also compliment each other by paying homage to each other.

The only remaining concern, about this diptych project, is how one would actually frame the two drawings one over the other. The result would be a 44x30 size picture which seems very large to me. What would anyone do with such a monstrosity?

In the meantime, I made a framed version using 12x18 photos of each object to yield a 28x22 framed diptych of the two drawings. The result was quite striking and not too large to consider using in a normal size room.

November 3, 2011. 30-Step Art
Smooth 18x24 inch drawing paper

Another example of my left brain (LB) versus right brain (RB) standoff is the second example of yesterday's art.

After the homework critique we got set-up with an 18x24 sheet of paper on the easels.
Then we spent the next 90~minutes doing a 30-step exercise to develop an abstract rendering.

Step 1. Draw five lines on the page.

``What kind of lines,'' I asked. ``Do you mean as in the definition of a line?''
``It's whatever you make it to be,'' she replies.

Oh boy! That let's in arcs, wiggles, whatever you want to do. This is weird my LB yells.

Well, I thought, the teacher always wants us to compose using the entire sheet so I slashed in 3 straight lines at different angles on the page and then swooped in two large arcs to tie them together. I was trying to be `loose' and cool.

Step 2. Erase 2 of the lines.

Wait a minute! Why did we put them in to begin with?
To select the 3 you like best. Who knows? Why do we care?
At this point a problem emerged as the lines would not erase very well. We were required to use charcoal on a watercolor paper and so the marks had soaked into the material and could not be fully removed no matter how hard you erased---or what type of eraser you used.

OK. We are in the process of making a mess. I was certain of this after just the second step.
That was the immediate thought of LB, the art critic.
Get on with it.

Step 3. Make 3 geometrical shapes, or patterns, anywhere on the drawing.

That was easy. I just put in three scalene triangles to connect some lines.
This yielded something that looked like the ends of the cornet I drew in a recent exercise.

I don't recall the next few steps but one of them was to spend five minutes drawing the sound of weather---whether we wanted to or not.
Then somewhere along the line we were instructed to divide the drawing into four parts.
``How? With scissors?'' I asked.
``If you like,'' was the response.

So one of the students did just that with an Exacto knife. I used the eraser and divided the drawing in half, along existing boundaries of lines and objects, so that it did not do much damage to the drawing. One division was along a line that we had previously been asked to triple its width.

Step 12---Draw a circle around the area of the drawing that you like best.

Heck. I didn't like any of it. So I circled one of the X's I had put in earlier, in response to a step requiring the addition of 3 X's.
It was clear and neat so I picked that.

Step 13---Erase everything enclosed by the circle.

Whoa! This step evoked many cries of disapppointment around the room.
Tough darts kiddies! Don't get too married to what you are drawing. Anything can go at anytime when you are drawing abstractly. [Or is it abstractedly?]

Boy was I glad I had picked such a clear and simple space to erase. A student next to me had selected a space that was filled with detailed shading.

And so it went.
Every so often the step was given to spend 5~minutes `tightening' the picture to enhance it in anyway you wanted. I took those opportunities to put things back, that had been erased, and to add shading tones to give contrast and depth to the drawing. At one point the step was to choose a closed shape, from the drawing, and add marks to create an idea of warmth and serenity. I made a rectangular area look like a window by adding curtains to it. That resulted in making my drawing look like a spaceship trumpet with a living room in the middle.

This was outrageous stuff.

Finally the project ended after Step 30 which was to `integrate and tighten' the drawing.

At the subsequent critique it was interesting the drawings were so different. One girl hated hers so much that she wadded it up and sat on it to ensure it got smashed. It seemed to me it was a miracle how the drawings were all so different and especially how plain mine was by comparison. Most of them were dark with blended shading with very few recognizable geometries.

Mine was very light by comparison and very geometrical. It seemed everywhere RB would put in an abstract object old LB would add something to attempt to make it look like something real. The result was a hodgepodge of unrelated items that looked like some Rube Goldberg creation.

It would be nice to have a photo to show all the drawings together for comparison. It made me marvel at how each of them derived from the same 30 steps of instruction.

One drawing had a face emerging through the chaos. That was entered on one of those: spend 5 minutes to enhance the drawing, stages.

Another had an amoeba crawling through some shadows.

Each brain is different. That was unmistakeably clear from this 30-step exercise.

October 13, 2011. Dim Room Scene
Smooth 18x24 inch drawing paper

Next is the completion of the `Dim Room' homework shown here. I plugged away at that, in my dark moments, and finally got all the bookshelves filled. It took over three hours to put the books in the shelves. This was done mostly with my stick eraser, that has a fine point, plus a 4B charcoal pencil. Making this drawing, which took on the order of 12 hours, was a labor of tedium.

As a side note, I think I have learned how to sharpen my various pencil shaped drawing instruments; e.g., charcoal pencils, Nero lead, and sketch pencils. First you use an exacto knife to give them a four-sided chisel point and then use the electric sharpener, gently, to round them to a working point. Don't try to remove too much with the electric sharpener and you won't be breaking off the point.

This last drawing has become my current most favored drawing of my short art career. I think I will frame it and show it at the Bangor Art Society member art show in February. It is a large drawing that makes a big looking picture.

In the class critique it received the ultimate compliment, to my ears, as a timid voice said that it looked like a photograph.

That made me feel good all over as I have felt that I wanted to be able to make detailed drawings that look realistic. This drawing succeeded at that goal. The secret seems to lie in using large enough paper to make detail and in composing the picture with the help of sketches and the use of grids.

What makes the drawing work, according to the teacher, is the center dark object along with all the important shadows coming from the light entering the room. There are shadows on the dark chairs that give them depth as well as into the recesses around the bookcase and across the wall and floor.

It's a most interesting drawing that features the books, and knowledge, of my life.

It is `Enlightenment in a Dim Room'.

The enlightenment term is a small attempt at dry humor in that there is an enlightenment metaphor to the picture in addition to actually letting light into the room. The metaphor would be that books are a source of enlightenment and the books in this room represent a lifeltime collection in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, religion, and writing. Then, at the central focal point, there is an actual telescope which does exist here in the room. A telescope, when used by Galileo about 500 years ago, shed enlightenment into our culture about the nature of the structure of our planetary system. It was enlightenment that got shut off by the church for centuries. So-called educated, and civil, people refused to 'See the Light'.

Enlightenment can be a frightening thing when it exposes secrets hiding in our dark rooms.

September 30, 2011. Dessert Works
Smooth 18x24 inch drawing paper

This homework assignment was finished on a Friday, Sally's birthday. The drawing took much longer than I expected it should. In the end it is basically a charcoal drawing, however, the charcoal was only used to finish a very light pencil drawing. It took about 3 hours to do the pencil composition and another 5 hours to add the charcoal finish in an attempt to get gradation values into the drawing.

I like the drawing layout and detail. That part feels good but I find it hard to get adequate depth and contrast by using the charcoal medium.

It frustrates me that I have this consistent problem with getting good value and gradation into my drawings. It seems to be a problem for me regardless of what medium I happen to use. I am beginning to suspect that maybe it has to do with working up close and not stepping back often enough to get better perspective.

Anyway, it's a relief to have that assignment finished (as much as I am going to do) because the next assignment, a mirror study, is now hanging over my head.

It is due Wednesday and it looks like I need to find 8 hours, or so, to do that exercise before it is due.

September 6, 2011. Antique Chair
Smooth 18x24 inch drawing paper.

Our first homework assignment, due at the next class, was to be done on paper from our big tablet of "Smooth" Strathmore drawing paper. We were instructed to use any combination of charcoal, graphite 'Nero' pencils, and Conte pencils; particularly the White Conte to add light onto the drawing. The subject of the drawing could be any interesting object in our room.

After some serious consideration along the lines of: "what the heck could I draw decently?", I picked an antique chair sitting here in my den. The chair is a lot older than I am as mother told me it was an antique when she put it in my room for me to use when I was 10 years old. 68 years later it is still able to perform its intended function. That's after tagging along with me throughout all the moving that went with my previous career.

The result is shown in this adjacent photo. In order to compose the drawing, I took a photo here by my desk. I cropped and printed a B/W grey-line image into the proper ratio for the desired drawing paper and then drew a few gridlines onto the result in order to properly orient the chair dimensions onto the drawing workspace. This procedure gave me a realistic rendering that greatly resembles the real thing.

With critical dimensions thus setup onto the page, I was able to make a decent drawing of the chair itself. One interesting aspect, about the chair, is that it has an intricate, and ornate, back rest that makes the chair a curiosity to look at with its inlaid 'gargoyles'. I tried hard to make these evident in the drawing but it was not easy to do due to their smallness on the drawing. Nevertheless they are recognizable so that their presence makes a focus for the drawing.

The complex shadowing did not work out too well. The close desk lamp cast the floor shadow which came out good enough but the overhead flourescent light cast a weak penumbra on the wall behind the chair and that did not come so well in the final drawing. In retrospect I have concluded that I should have just ignored the light shadow on the wall as it causes more wonderment than it deserves. The exercise helped me to better appreciate the role of shadows in adding depth to a drawing. The teacher pointed out to the class that, by my putting in the faint lines of the panelled wall behind the chair, I had grounded the drawing so that the result had a presence. Overall, she thought the drawing 'had character'. Hurray!

I did use the White Conte, a first, to try to add some light highlights around the seat and on the back rest of the chair. That did not work out too well as the crayon smeared and was not easy erase and control. Probably if I had some previous experience with them I would not have been so negative about their ultimate value.

Later, as we congregated to watch a movie on various forms of sculptured art, an outspoken young artist came to me and said she really liked my drawing of the chair as it had an "air of decadence" that she admired.

That comment made my day as I began to feel accepted in this class of young and talented artists.

September 5, 2011. Pots and Pans

The very first class proved to be a revelation as we were told we would kick off the class by going into the studio to do still-life drawings by the method of Subtractive Values. Next, the teacher handed out work paper, and little cups of graphite powder to blacken our paper. The paper was larger, at 17.5x23 inches, than anything I had ever worked on before and we were told to be sure and use the entire sheet. Be Bold!

Where have I heard that before?

Then I soon got the idea that the students knew what they were supposed to do and so I just followed the student next to me and began rubbing graphite onto the paper. Once that was done I noted that tissue paper was used to obtain a smooth tone and texture on the paper. After a few minutes we all went into the adjacent studio there were the largest easels I had ever seen anywhere. They were about 8 foot tall and ringed the large room. A circular dais in the center was loaded with a large collection of pots and pans plus various other kitchen odds and ends, such as: hand beaters, large spoons, paper rolls, and other miscellany. We were allowed to hunt for a view of the pile of junk that looked interesting to us and that became our drawing site for the exercise.

OK. All's good so far but now what?

Get out your erasers and start erasing to 'Put in Light'. That's it. Instead of drawing lines and putting in positive images, we were taking out dark and putting in light to make our drawing. I expressed admiration for the concept and quickly learned that this was a technique taught in Drawing I, which I would know if I had taken it before coming to Drawing II. Oh boy! That's where I figured it would be best for me to just be the auditer that I was signed up to be.

So we spent about 90 minutes putting in light and then finished the class by adding darker contrast to complete the drawing as shown here in this image. The teacher encouraged me to draw in more of the background, of the pile in my view, but I refrained as I wanted to be sure and finish it in time for the end-of-class critique.

For a first attempt at this subtractive value method, I like the result. The kettle, near the center, stands out well and dominates the scene. Then the row of utensils lends some movement to the drawing which makes it interesting. As usual, my values in contrast are weak, but still the end result appears to have some sense of depth and shape. I learned that the starting darkened page serves as the mid-depth tone with light and darkness being added to give contrast and depth to your images.

It was interesting to just have this one first class and to feel that I had learned something so important to drawing. That would be that you can make a drawing Basically by just adding light to a dark background. It seemed to me that we would be using this method again in future work.

This site last updated on August 31, 2012