Learning to Draw


After completing a self-therapeutic course called the The Artist's Way, in March, 2008, I have been involved with trying to learn how to draw and paint.
Here are samples from some of my experiences along the way. They are LIFO ordered, Last-In-First-Out.

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If you wish to send an Email message you can contact me at:
fred(dot)irons(at)umit(dot)maine(dot)edu

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December 3, 2009. Pastel---A Full Moon

Just like Charlie Brown and his football, I am back trying the pastel medium again.

This drawing was made rather quickly in our last class at HSSC where the whole class appeared to have a productive day. We started by doing a split-complement drawing exercise after which I did this drawing. Two complete drawings in one sitting is a record for me. Apparently it is the quickness with which you can do a drawing with the pastels is what appeals to me.

The idea for this drawing came from recalling the scene from 40 years ago soon after we first came to Maine. There was a lunar eclipse with the full moon and, late in the night as the moon was headed down, we saw it 'hanging' over the fields next to our home. It gave you the feeling that you could reach out and touch it.

The recall for this scene was prompted during last week's class when I overhead the teacher telling someone else that blue and orange were hard complementary colrs for her to use in a limited palette. Her favorite was yellow and purple but I thought the orange and blue was not far from that. That is when this scene came to mind and so this is another picture painted from memory. No photographs are involved as a model for this drawing and it is a limited palette drawing with the orange-blue family of color.

All the above goes for the love part of my love-hate relationship for pastels. The part I dislike about this medium happened as I took the drawing home. Some how I managed to make contact with the drawing by dragging my coat sleeve over it and staining the sleeve as a result. Not to mention pulling chalk powder off of the surface of the picture---if you look you can see spots where this happened. So I have a serious problem with secure methods of storing them. When I try to set them by using acetate spray (a fixative) it also blows patches of powder off of the drawing so that is not very satisfying either.

The drawing messed up my coat so I do not like it for that but the class liked it as it they thought it was a good rendering. I think it is the shadows and shading that really make the drawing. The big global moon catches your eye but the rail post fence shadows and the leafless tree give the picture the cold winter night perspective, or feeling.

It's shadowing that gives a picture depth.

Well---so do your choice of colors!





August 26, 2009. Acrylic---A Special Vision

Here is a second painting using the acrylic medium. It is done on a 6x9 inch canvas.

A couple things are special about this picture. First is that it is something I painted from out of my head to try and record an image I saw the other night when I could not sleep. So the image is not copied from another picture or photograph and that is something that makes it special.

The second is that it is a recollection of a one-time vision I had when trying to meditate myself back to sleep. Sometimes when I wake in the night, and can not quickly return to sleep, I try to meditate myself back to sleep. When I meditate and get into the proper state, for me, I usually am looking into what I think of as deep space. It looks like the deep blue background of this picture with nothing else in view. In this instance my meditation was interrupted by the appearance of a brilliant sun that was obstructed by what appear to be dust clouds in space.

The obscured sun was glowing and seemed to have a hot throbbing region slightly off center. That effect was hard to get into the painting as I was concerned about ruining the application of the sun. The 'heart' of the sun shows well enough in the actual painting but this photo does not quite do justice to the subtle signs of that pulsing region of the sun. Doing the clouds was fun as I used a large 'squooshy' brush to substitute for my fingers as it made whirling globs of dust.

I like how the drawing seems to show a glowing sun with reflections on the edges of the clouds. The picture came out better than I thought it would when I started. It was a blah day and I wasn't getting much done so I decided to do the drawing for therapy to cheer me up. And it did.

It is interesting that in subsequent meditation periods, such as at Meeting, the vision has not reappeared. In some sense it must have been like a dream and I wonder what, if any, meaning might be interpreted for having a dream like that.





June 29, 2009. Acrylic---An Island Landscape

The painting shown here is a first attempt to work with acrylic paint. I had considerable help from the teacher with the clouds. A procedure I did not care for was using the fingers to 'fluff' the clouds.

A scene from an old calendar was selected by the teacher as being an 'easy' first drawing for the acrylic medium. I chose this one from a set offerred to me as reminding me of being up on the beach at Kwajalein and looking across the lagoon as a storm swept on by.

The color has landscape balance which was a surprise when I checked out its histogram in PhotoShop 'Curves' adjustment menu.

The grain of the canvas is quite noticeable and I don't much care for that effect. It may be exacerbated by resolution of this viewing screen I am using here at home. One nice thing about these paints that I learned, and had not seen in water color painting, was that you could 'load' the brush with several colors at once and make a shaded and textured application in a single stroke. For example on the tree branch there is pink and yellow mixed with brown to make the limb look like the coloration of the island plumeria tree. It's pretty cool to add just tiny drops of color on the corner of the brush and then sweep out a fully shaded and textured image of a branch. Same with the leaves. They were applied with paint mixtures in a circular sweeping motion to make a shaded and textured leaf image.

Another interesting feature is that the paint dries relatively fast and you can paint right over it without making a mess as in water coloring. It's easy to see why people like this medium but I have my reservations still as I like the colors better (so far) that I can make with the water washes.





April 23, 2009. Pastel---Florida Sunset

The pastel shown here is a recent drawing I made in art class at the Senior Center in Bangor. It is modelled on a photo that granddaughter Alexis sent us last January.

The result is quite pleasing to me and it makes a very nice looking card to use for the letters I do.

The color is an illustration of the four color levels described by LH Carlson in his Guide to Landscape Drawing. They are: Sky Overhead, Level Ground, Vertical As in Buildings and Trees, and Sloping Hills. The two-toned sky accounts for the sky and sloping hills while the tree and the pond account for the vertical and the level colors.

An interesting feature of this drawing is that, when it was scanned into the computer and checked with Photoshop, it did not have any appreciable change when subjected to Auto Adjustment of Levels and Contrast. The colors are balanced from my original drawing. This was accomplished by putting complementary colors under part of the sky and especially under the black shadows. The grain of the paper is responsible for the granularity showing in the black portion of the drawing. The sky was smoothed by using a wet sponge to blend the color smoothly over the grain of the paper. This grain is a problem inherent to the 'cheap' pastel paper that I am using.





April 23, 2009. Pastel---Florida ``Blue'' Sunset

The pastel shown here is a inverted copy of the above sunset drawing. This was done in Photoshop under the Images - Adjustments menu.

The result is also quite pleasing to me and it also makes a very nice looking card for letters that I do.

Again, this drawing also has the four colors recommended for a landscape, but here they are reversed.

It is interesting that the inversion of colors turns the sunset picture into a pleasing moonlit picture. The inversion is accomplished by flipping the colors from right-to-left in the color spectrum. Think of the colors quantized from 0 thru 255 (8-bits) from Black and Reds at zero to Whites and Blues near 255 (the high end of the spectrum). Then the inversion takes all the pixels for a given code and changes them to the color at the inverted code. E.g.; suppose a code is 135 for a particular color, the inversion would change it to color code 255-135=120. And so on. The transformation is pixels of color x go to inverted colors xinv=255-x. Thus Black goes to White, and vice versa.





March 9, 2009. Pastel Landscape---Riverside

This pastel is the last one in the HSSC Winter Term class. I did not finish it in class but finished it here at home. While it does not do justice to the photo there are some interesting things I learned from the experience.

I put the sky on the entire page and fixed it using a damp sponge. This smoothed out the color and gave it a nice texture to match the clear blue sky of the photo.

I felt good about getting a 'sheen' for the building reflections on the river. This was accomplished by using a stiff brush after applying the chalk so as to smooth it more into a smooth layer. The picture scanner does not do the colors justice, even after I tried to correct them in PhotoShop.

The near-in foliage contribute greatly to depth.





Jan 20, 2009. Pastel Art---A Rose Bouquet

This is my first completed pastel drawing (colored chalk). I used a still life arrangement of plastic flowers, a vase, and a towel for a model.

This art was done in an art class at the Hammond Street Senior Center (HSSC) in Bangor. I signed up for the class to get more experience drawing from yet a different teacher but I had no idea what "pastel drawing" meant when I signed up for the class. I didn't really care because I just viewed it as getting more experience from a different teacher and the brochure description claimed that any ability (or lack thereof) was welcome in the class.

This type of drawing is complex as you put down complimentary colors first, fix all the chalk powder with an obnoxious spray, then do the colors you want---the primary ones---fix again, and then use light pastel colors to add depth and dimension (shadowing) to the drawing. This is the most important layer.

What interested me about this drawing is that I did not care for it much until I took this photo. Then I could see its depth better. This is actually my second pastel drawing. The first one was only good enough to put in the trash barrel.

This is a messy art medium and I conclude that I prefer water colors to using chalk.





December 2008. A Lilac Breasted Roller

This is my first water color DRAWING. I used a photo for a model. The parrot-like bird is a resident of the Serengeti National Forest in Africa.

The photo was in the 2008 Inner Reflections Calendar.

The thing about water color drawing is that you can't really draw it on the paper and then paint in the lines like a coloring book. You don't want any pencil marks to show through the drawing like they are in the North American Cardinal watercolor.

I drew this after taking an Adult Ed class at the Orono High School in October - November, 2008.

I like the unusual coloring and I was pleased with the way the eye came out. That bird has a penetrating "eagle eye" look in the photo.

That penetrating look comes from the fact that you can just make out the 'white' of its eye. In regard to the Blue Bird painting, presented in the ART_2014 blog, it is the reflection of light on the eyeball that makes the bird look 'alive'. [This is the answer to the question posed there.]



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Oct 2, 2008. A Self Portrait

This drawing is the next step after doing a profile portrait and is more difficult to do. I used a shaving mirror to reflect my face and it sat at an angle on my desk, hence the elongated appearance of the lower part of my face. It gives me a "jutting" chin! Like a tough hombre! Again I approached this assignment with skepticism but was satisfied that the result represented a fair effort.

The nose is a particularly challenging aspect of doing this part of the portrait. It is hard to give it a 3-D look on the flat surface. Some of the shadowing on the face was also hard to control as the light and mirror arrangement combined to distort the depth of shadows.

Or so it seemed to me...Sad Sack that I appear to be!





Sep 29, 2008. Portrait from a Photo

This drawing was done to practice drawing a portrait. It is a profile drawing which is supposed to be the easiest portrait to draw. The subject is an old friend from Westford, MA, June Kennedy. She is the head of the Westford Historical society. Her photo portrait was in a special centennial book prepared by the town to celebrate its history. She might be hysterical if she saw this! Anyway, it's my first attempt at doing a portrait. The result is better than I expected when I started to do it. My feeling was that I could never do that. But I did! It's surprising what you can do when you just try instead of listening to all of your internal critics.

The drawing does suffer from one novice error. That is the tendency to "squash" the top of the head in relation to the chin-to-forehead features so the person loses the top of the head perspective. The text warned me of this problem but I was not conscious of actually doing it as I was doing the drawing. Apparently concentration on minute detail can lead to less awareness of the overall large scale effects upon a drawing.

The method is designed to teach concentration and to give confidence that you can draw a variety of objects. It is taught in the book: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards.





June 2008. Antique Chair

This drawing was done to practice drawing empty space. Instead of trying to draw the object, you draw boundaries for the empty space surrounding the object. It is an exercise to emphasize the unity of spaces and forms in composition.

The chair is one I had in my bedroom, in my teens, as I was growing up on the farm. I thought it was at least 50 years old then so you can imagine how old it must be now 65 years later.

First I thought it would be hard to draw without trying to actually draw the object, but you can see it works pretty well.

The method is designed to teach concentration and to get the right brain to participate in the drawing process by tricking the left brain into opting out of the drawing process. It is taught in the book: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards.





March 2008. Boltman

This drawing is called "modified contour" drawing. This is done by drawing the contour without looking at the drawing paper. You only look at the object you are trying to draw. After the contour is finished you can add finishing touches.

Boltman is the official paper-weight of the College of Engineering which I won at the last Christmas Auction of the College. I think it was made by Ed Huff in the former Ag-Engineering department.

First I thought it would be impossible to draw without looking at the paper, but then I was amazed at the result. It really works!

The method is designed to teach concentration and to get the right brain to participate in the drawing process. It is taught in the book: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. A good readable book to help get started drawing.




This site last updated on June 22, 2014