I have been involved with trying to learn how to draw and paint Since March of 2008.
Continuing here are samples and discussions from my 2013 experiences along the way.
This presentation is different than blogs for previous years as these are ordered: First-In-First-Out
and are ordered chronologically from top to bottom. I am told it is not 'blog-like' but
the serial form makes more sense to read and see for the first time reader.
Please Note: All Rights Reserved for All Images on this Website.
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Better resolution images are available for circumstances that warrant.
The following art comes from wherever it happens, plus, assuming it is worth documenting.
Much of my effort ends up in the trash barrel when it does not prove to be worth showing.
I consider the discards to be experiments and try to move on from them and do something better.
Much of what follows is from formal classes in pursuit of completing prerequisites so that I will
be allowed to sign up for Painting I, eventually, at the university. Thus the art this year is mostly
aimed at marking time. Fortunately I have a lot of that---or so I think.
January 16, 2013. Dot Grouping with Gradation
11x14 Ink on Bristol Board
This and the following paintings were done in connection with ART110, 2D-Design, a pre-requistie course
to being able to take Painting I in the future.
The dot array is in connection with the first assignment where we had to first make 10 sketches each
for dots, lines, and planes in the application of six design elements:
Symmetry, Asymmetry, Grouping, Gradation, Rhythm, and Depth. The total number of sketches came to 180.
From the thumbnails we chose three (one dot, one line, and one plane) images to enlarge onto illustration
board each no smaller than 11x14 inches. They were required to be inked with utmost precision.
The drawing here is my Dot offerring which combines Grouping with Gradation. I selected it to show here
because I thought it made an interesting abstract painting. It seems to 'pull' me in, when I look at it,
so that I think it makes a mandala kind of drawing that would be useful for meditation as you wait for the
last drop to fall.
January 30, 2013. Biomorphic Shapes
8.5x11 Ink on Letter Paper
14x22 B/W Acrylic on Bristol Board
In this second exercise we were required to sketch a set of shapes into a 10x12 grid on a 8.5x11 sheet of letter paper.
The shapes were specified to be whatever we wanted except that at the boundary of each rectangle there could be
no White against White nor Black against Black. The shapes had to change from Black to White, or White to Black
as they crossed any boundary. This procedure yielded what are called 'Biomorphic' Shapes in a process that
simulated cell division and growth---I assume. It proved to be a meditative, absorbing, process to
just make the initial set of B/W squares. My initial set is shown here on the right.
Once I got into the swing of oozing along through the squares, I decided to see if the random patterns,
that were happening, would mask regular geometric patterns. As I was doing this, the instructor walked past my desk
and immediately spotted what I was doing. He then announced that another rule was to not use repeated patterns
as that defeated the purpose of the method. They would not be Biomorphic shapes.
I reverted to the random generation method as I had found the answer to my premise: No, random patterns
do not hide regular shapes.
Once the 10x12 set was completed, we were instructed to select a 3x4 pattern, from within the set, and to redraw
the shapes using precise elements of dot, line, and plane onto two 11x14 Bristol boards. They were to be done
using only Black and White acrylic paint. The result is shown here on the left.
A puzzle for the reader is to find where, in the original set, this 3x4 array originates.
A source of confusion is that the redrawn version has been straightened up along lines and circles so the shapes
are accurately geometrical. Note it is possible to see a division between the two 11x14 sheets as one edge is
slightly curled, or warped. [Hint: As I searched the 10x12 set for a suitable 3x4 array, I inadvertently
turned the array upside down. It is a sign of abstractness if a drawing looks just as good upside down as it
does rightside up.]
Just like the dot drawing, above, I find this 3x4 pattern to be quite appealing to view. Doing this exercise
gave me a new perspective on the possibilities for purely abstract art. This was a decided, and unexpected, bonus
to the project.
February 13, 2013. Gradations: White to Black
14.75x3 Graphite on Strathmore Smooth Drawing Paper
11.25x2.5 Acrylic on BFK Rives White
This next assignment involved
an interesting subject for me as it involved using different pencils to make a spectrum of progressively
darker shades of color. This is something that was always somewhat mysterious to me as I felt all pencils
make equally dark lines depending entirely upon how hard you are willing to press the pencil onto the paper.
The assignment involved trying to learn how to do it correctly by using pencils graded in hardness
to control the darkness of resulting applications. An array of 19 rectangles was used to illustrate the
result of using different pencil hardness as shown in my first attempt here on the right. I chose a rectangle width
of 20 mm to just make the 19 columns fit within the 18 inch length of the drawing paper.
[I should note that it is a battle to get the camera to not try to 'equalize' shading in each region,
especially if Photoshop is used to crop and print the photo. Even printers have automatic level equalization
if you don't take steps to disable them.]
The first space, labelled WW, has no marking. It is the white reference.
A 4H, hardest, pencil was used for the next three spaces with light, medium, and hard pressures: 4H, 4H+, 4H++.
A 2H was used, similar to the 4H, in the next three spaces.
The cycle repeated across the strip using H, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, and 6B pencils to complete the 19 rectangles.
B denotes softer lead which makes darker, blacker, marks. The middle of the array is labelled MT, for mid-tone,
where the HB (hard-black) pencil is used as the reference between the light, shaded, side and the dark, tinted, side.
The figure shows progressively darker values across the array---as was expected.
The exercise, which took quite a long time, shows that, yes indeed, with care and deliberation, you can,
in fact, make progressively darker marks, however, I am not satisfied with the result because the shades
are not uniformly rendered: they are 'patchy'. This bothers me as I would like to make uniformly textured shades
across an entire region. Currently my rendering makes 'ridges' as I move the pencil across the space. I think it is
due to the pencil point eroding as graphite is applied. So far I have not been able to figure
out how to render such uniform texture as you can get from a photo of a shaded object.
The assignment required the edge of each region to be precise; some words were used about the use of masking tape.
I see, in this attempt, that there is a problem of uniformity in each region, with stress at the boundaries. I did
not use masking of any kind so am interested to learn how to do that operation, especially with paint.
It seems to me that the use of masking tape will either lift graphite, or smear paint, when it is lifted from
The figure here on the left shows my first attempt to make a shaded spectrum with the use of acrylic paint.
Also included is a strip, across the top,
which is painted with the mid-tone shade for its full length. It is included there as a reference to compare
shades to the mid-tone for the full length of the array. Doing this revealed the paradox that the reference
strip appears to be darker on the left, near the light rectangles, and lighter, on the right, near the dark
rectangles. Somehow that seems normal to me.
For the left half I started with a wash of pure white, in the first section (WW), and then added one full brush
of black paint to the wash to paint the second section. I repeated the process of adding a single brush load of black
to the wash for each subsequent section. This `shady' operation continued up to and including the middle, mid-tone,
section (MT). With the left-half done, the next step was to make a pure black wash for the last section (BB). For the
next left section I then added one brush load of white paint to the mix.[I did use masking for this painted
gradation and found that the 'blue' tape used by professional interior painters works quite well to remove
without tearing the paper or smearing the paint.]
So I tinted myself leftward, by adding one brushload of white paint to the black wash for each subsequent section.
A fear was that the process might not `match' when it got close to the middle but, surprise!,
it did work out rather well.
It was hard to tell, as I painted, about what the color would be when it dried. There was a remarkable
difference between the wet and dry paint. The boundaries were also difficult to assess as I felt I trespassed too
far into adjacent regions, as I applied the paint. After drying, it is possible to see that the paint left
weak coverage at boundaries.
I would rate this assignment as interesting but a long ways from being finished. It will require a lot of work to
learn to render uniform shading in the application process.
March 18, 2013. Homage to a Master
Two Photos plus two Drawings:
11x14 Graphite on Bristol Board
11x14 Acrylic on Bristol Board
In this fourth assignment we were to study a master painter and then select one of his/her paintings to copy.
The painting had to be in color and we were not allowed to make a Photoshop grayscale copy to use for a reference.
Our renditions were aimed at studying gradation by first making a graphite drawing and then, when satisfied
that we understood the gradation requirements, we were required to make a B/W acrylic copy. Both copies were
to be done on 11x14 Bristol Board, as usual. We had about a month to complete this assignment before the class
critique scheduled for March 18th.
First, we obtained 'our Master' via random means of drawing a name from a bucket. After drawing the name,
which you had to keep, you then went to the University library to research your master, check out two books,
and use these to find a painting you wished to analyze and reproduce. I drew Rene' Magritte, shown here in his
painting called Son of Man.
Rene' Francois Ghislain Magritte [1898--1967] was a Belgian surrealist artist. He was well known for his witty
and thought-provoking images that fell under the umbrella of surrealism. It was a fortunate choice for me, as I
immediately appreciated his realistic art superimposed with out-of-place objects; e.g., the apple masking the
face of the man in this image. As he named it the 'Son of Man', then he appears to be saying that man is not to be
known due to 'The Fall' dating back to the Biblical Garden of Eden story.
Magritte painted images of himself into many of his paintings. He is recognized through the black evening
coat and the bowler hat but his face is never evident. His work features extreme realism in the rendering of
objects, color, and landscapes but his titles forever annoyed his critics as they could not 'understand'
either his metaphors or the naming of his paintings. While I entertain no hope of ever painting as well as he did,
I nevertheless felt that I related to his feelings about critics and their superficial role in the field of art.
With Magritte's extreme ability, it was clear that there was no way I could ever draw any of the majority
of his paintings. I had to search quite hard to find this Homage to Shakespeare where he made an Eyeball
looking at the world shown on a stage prop. The idea is from As You Like It where Jacques says to Duke Senior:
"All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players."
The original, a copy of the oil painting, is on the left. My Graphite gradation is in the middle and the
Acrylic is on the right.
I like both drawings as they each have positive attributes. The graphite has a better rendering
of the color gradation, of the original, and it has a 'clothier' look to the curtains. The contrast, of the sky and
clouds on the stage prop are not as sharp as the original. I like the crispness and smoothness of the acrylic.
It has a better contrast for the sky and clouds, on the stage prop, but the curtains do not convey the same cloth
effect as either the original or the graphite do. Overall, I enjoyed doing this assignement very much and was
encouraged to see that I could make a reasonable replica of a Master Painting.
April 15, 2013. Apple Still Life
Each Drawing: 8.5x11 Acrylic on Printer Paper
In this eighth assignment, of ART110, we studied the results of painting a given scene in different color combinations so as to
create various effects. An Apple 'Still-Life' was used for the study [as shown on the left] in what are called
"Local Colors," i.e., the real colors of the scene. The picture was to be rendered
as realistically as possible and true to the colors seen using the studio lighting.
This scene consists of an apple placed on a piece of Blue construction paper centered on an off-white sheet of computer printer paper.
The instructor wanted the paper to be painted so that it had a color other than white of the paper.
The little book is my MIT Coop Weekly Calendar and it is included to give some perspective as we
were asked to include items to make an interesting drawing. The date book is seen to be
well worn as the gilded printing on its cover is worn to where it is virtually unrecognizable. The apple did
indeed have that narrow 'pointy' shape along with its burnished glow of ripeness. The apples were supplied
by the instructor and he did not know what strain they were but they strongly resemble Braeburns that we get at the
In order to facilitate replicating the pictures, we first drew a 'cartoon' of the scene and used that to create
four copies to paint the required versions: Local, Warm, Cool, and Personal Choice.
The exercise was more concerned with painting rather than drawing.
Three of the paintings are shown here: Local on the left; Warm in the middle; and Cool on the right.
The Personal choice is not shown as it was not really a choice more than it was an accident. I was doing what I
thought would be a 'warm' rendition but I confused colors. After consultation with my color wheel, I then arrived
at suitable colors for the warm and cool paintings.
My favorite is the first, Local Colored, painting. The warm colors do not really look warm to me and the supposed cool
colors do not make me think of cool. I do like the rendering of the Green book in the third painting but the first one
is more realistic with just the right amount of type remaining on it. It looks worn. One thing I did like about the project
was the ease with which the paintings were obtained. I like the result for as fast as I was able to do them---right in class.
Making an image and printing it surely does speed up the painting process, especially if you want to experiment with
May 3, 2013. World's Tractor---A Study
11x14 Graphite; 11x14 Acrylic; 14x11 Acrylic
All on Bristol Board
With about two weeks to go in ART110, the instructor announced that he would like to see our photos in the next class.
The ones we were supposed to be collecting all semester---the artistic photographic compositions---ones we would like to paint.
There was some scurrying around to collect photos in time for that next class. When it came, the instructor reviewed our
collection, privately, and picked out three choices for each us to use for our 'final'.
What that amounted to was to use the photos, however we wanted, to show what we had learned in class. It was our final exam
and they had to be ready, for a full class critique, at the scheduled exam date.
The first one he selected, for me, was a composed scene that involved a full set of chess pieces dumped helter-skelter
on a chess board. I spent about a week trying to make a graphite gradation study but the shadowing was too intimidating for
me to finish in time for the final. [I may show a final painting of the scene here if I get it done this year.]
The second choice I had was this tractor scene. The photo was taken from the file cabinet, here in my office, where I have
various memorabilia on display. It is of a Farmall tractor model, an 'H', that is sitting in front of a world globe. When I took
the photo, I thought it made a metaphor for the 'World's Favorite Tractor' but John Deere owners, or even Japanese Kubota
owners, may disagree. This painting is an example of local coloring---a realistic rendering.
Well, not quite. I omitted the support for the globe so that it looks like the world is orbiting the tractor.
That was deliberate artisitic license for the purpose of making an interesting drawing. However, if it was orbiting in free space,
it probably would not have the shadow trailing behind it on the wall it was sitting in front of. The moral appears
to be that one should be aware when you start fooling around as it may result that you are only fooling yourself.
Prior to doing the acrylic painting, I made the graphite drawing to illustrate that I thought
I had learned how to judge and make the assessment of values in a scene. In spite of thinking I learned how to do the
evaluation of values, the drawing impresses me as being 'flat' and I don't care for it very much. I debated about not showing it here
but, as the discussion is about my final in ART110, I opted to include it anyway. It did get good credit for its accuracy.
The tires and engine details, about shadows and reflections, are better than in the painting.
The painting on the right is derived from the tractor painting and is titled: Tractor World Transformed.
It is based upon a procedure referred to as 'Color Inventory' that I did not do well on the class assignment.
The procedure is to estimate the area of each color, in the original painting, and then to use the same colors and areas
to make a second drawing. The second drawing is connected to the first through its common colors and extent of coverage for each color.
The color inventory method is a means to create abstract art from any given painting. When I did the exercise in class,
from a photograph of a hamburger with lettuce and tomato, vivid colors, all I could think to do with the set of colors
was to make an interlocking set of rectangles. I arranged the colors to have motion across the page but I did not care for
the result at all. It got high marks in the class critique because I used mixed, textured colors; e.g.: for the hamburger and
some purple grapes that were included in the original.
So, for this final, I decided to take a second cut at Color Inventory and transformed the colors to the globes on a chess board.
The idea came from not being able to do the first photo choice, for my final, so I put a chess board into a color inventory. It is
strange that this globe picture is pretty uninteresting by itself but when you see the two, side by side, there is some sense that
they belong together. Without knowing about color inventory there would be no way to know how they are related.
The background in this photo, of the color inventory, has been altered through the process of photography and reproduction.
The painting itself provides a decent replica of the color but I was unable to get a decent photo of it. I tried several shots, with
different lighting, all to no avail. It is a puzzle as I had no trouble with the tractor picture. There has to be some reason for
this discrepancy but, so far, it has not cracked my brain barrier.
July 29, 2013. After Mass---A Master Study
12.75x15 M1 Tients Gray
Last October, 2012, in a Senior College art class, Lola gave me this picture to do a copy of a master painter. She did not recall
the name of the artist and, so far, I have not been able to locate it through an online search.
I think it was her way to try and get me to loosen up to paint
in a more abstract fashion. She said the title of the picture was: Chinatown.
The class ended before I could finish the painting and it sat here until this past May when ART110 came to an end. I did not try to
finish the drawing during all that time even though it sat on my easel and stared at me each day. I finally finished it to get
it off the easel and out of the way as a diversion to getting another hard painting completed. [That painting will be described
later as soon as I finish its companion].
Of course, my problem was that I could not figure out what the devil this painting was about and, with the blurred background, it could have
been anywhere. The title did not have any meaning for the picture. Obviously, I did not care much for the picture, or the assignment.
The woman in the forefront is apparently the focus of the painting but with the fuzzy stuff over her head, and around her body, it did
not make any sense. Lola opined that the woman was wearing a Doily on her head to go to Mass or was possibly returning from Mass
on a Sunday stroll.
OK. I decided to go with that and make it look like some center-of-town-village-square-scene. So that's what I did
as shown here in my version.
About the best thing I can say about this result is that everything is recognizable as to what it is. The fuzz, vagueness, is gone but
I do not care much for the scene as it gives me a feeling of sterility. There is no life to it even though everything is
recognizable [to me]. The character approaching the woman now has facial features and is possibly Chinese although I
think he looks more African--American.
One thing I learned by this exercise was that I could 'mess' things up and then paint over them to start again. In the beginning
I attempted to do a lot of that fuzzy stuff but became disillusioned and so 'painted' everything out by using a gray colored paint
to match the paper I was using. That works OK as long as you don't have to do very many 'paint-overs'. The second thing I learned
was that too many paint-overs creates a muddy lump on the paper.
Note, I did preserve some 'unreality' in the painintg. It had taken some effort to get that leaning building, on the right rear
of the scene, and so the picture has a leaning tower in it. I decided to leave it in my new version. To go with it, the window of the
church, that encloses a Cross, is also distorted. It seemed a small error, compared to the leaning tower, so that I opted to just
leave it in the scene. It seemed fitting for something that originated from such loose thinking.
December, 2013. Chess Endings
11x14 Bristol Board Acrylic [Both paintings]
Two presentable pictures remain to present to round out the year 2013. They are based upon chess, the great game.
In ART110, the professor selected a photo of a box of chess pieces to be a 'good' scene for me to paint for my final critique.
After some considerable effort, I had to decide that I could not do the necessary renderings in time for the final and so opted
for that World Tractor painting shown earlier. It proved to be satisfactory, for the course final, but still I was
left mentally with the challenge to do a chess scene. The idea would not go away.
The original photo was of a standard Black and White set in a wooden box sitting on an unfolded chessboard. It proved to be
difficult, time consuming, due to the large number, and variety, of shadows that were present everywhere: in the box,
around on and under the pieces, and even outside the box. It was hard for me to know how to mix and apply the paints to get
all that shadowy effect. So, prior to 'giving up' on the suggested drawing, I composed this scene, from my wooden set
on its matching plastic board, and offerred it as a substitute for the original B/W composition. The instructor agreed
that this one was even better. By that time, however, time was short and so I bailed out and did the easier, less shadowy,
world-tractor scene. That was, after all, a unique composition of my own doing.
After the successful completion of ART110, I started, with enthusiasm, to do this painting but gave up about halfway
as it being still too difficult for me to do. My shadows kept 'messing up' whatever else I did. So it seemed.
A thought occurred that possibly I needed to do a simpler chess scene, with fewer pieces, and then the idea came through
to make a filtered color scene to symbolize the realization that you have been checkmated by your opponent's last move.
So I set up a mate position, against the player of the
Black pieces, and then photographed it and ran it through Photoshop to get the result shown here [below]. This is another unique
composition that I really do like as I dreamed it up myself. The original, local, colors were filtered by removing all color
below digital code 80 and all color above digital code 170 [on a 255-element color code palette]. The result is this plasma looking
picture where the shadows have complimentary colors to the pieces and nothing is in its original color. The board and pieces
in this second painting are from the same set as in the first painting so you can see the filter had a great effect upon
the rendered colors, especially the chessboard and the White pieces.
Aside from being persistently stubborn about doing this exercise, I did learn something useful from the process.
One thing was that I was glad I did not throw away my first half rendering of the first picture when I decided to quit on it.
I just put it away in my portfolio with a vague thought that maybe I would come back to it some time in my uncertain future.
In the past, I have just thrown my failures away and forgot about them. Not so with this challenge. It was 'talking' to me,
as writers are wont to say about their characters in their novels. These pictures wanted to be done.
The big thing I learned was that I could 'paint out' mistakes by using white paint and then repaint the area again---with
more care. This can be done a couple times but after that the paper builds up and it is harder to do. I learned that
you don't paint wrong, you just paint different. That was a big step for me as I get frustrated with mistakes and want to
put the mess in the trash barrel. Being able to do that, correct mistakes, and go on, was an epiphany of sorts for me in
regard to making both of these paintings. Don't give up on the painting if you like its ideas.
And what are the ideas involved here? I am glad you asked!
The first one is entitled: The Last Game. There are several ideas, maybe metaphors, in it depending upon how much
you know about chess. I was thinking about it in terms of having to give up the game, in 2008, and having to draw something
to depict that last game. It represents a Draw because I wanted to draw it. At the end of a chess game most of the soldiers are
gone, lying dead on the battlefield, hence the pile of pieces at the feet of the two Kings which are still standing and in Oppostion---a
chess strategy. In addition, two Rooks are still standing so the game ended as a Rook versus Rook ending which is usually a
Draw---hence end of game.
The answer to: What is a 151-move Chess game is 'CLI-mate'.
The second painting is entitled: Check Mate Shock. It shows that Black is checkmated with the White Bishop's last
move which put the Black King in check. Each side was in the end game with nominally equal strength: Bishop versus Knight and each
side with a passed Pawn. Normally this would be a Draw as well but the White pieces are better placed and Black is too late
bringing his Knight into capture White's bothersome Pawn. The King's are in Oppostion and so, with one extra move, Black could
capture that Pawn with his Knight but White delivers the knockout punch before that happens. Black goes into shock at the
realization and so colors get distorted.
As the ART110 professor likes to say: "Each picture tells a story." That is the idea behind these paintings---they tell stories.
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