Saturday, September 8, 2012

"P" Words!....Painting/Drawing Class and Paint Out!

Our painting class held at new member Marsha's lovely riverside home focussed upon drawing. Both Robin and Marsha expressed a common need to develop new strategies to help build better draughts(wo)manship in their work. Both have purchased Philip Jamison's book "Making Your Paintings Work at my urging. It is a "must" for every serious painter... no matter their level of skill. It is not the conventional "how to" type art book... it travels well beyond that genre because it addresses  thoughts on creativity based upon years of trial and error... and master water colour recognition.

Simply stated... it has been a "bible" of sorts... a source of reference and inspiration that continues to fuel my imagination and to act as an important contributor to my own personal artistic growth.He expresses his ideas and thoughts in plain everyday language and provides plenty of visual support in the book to guide personal home study at every level... in all mediums. I began this week's introduction to the focus merely by opening his book at the opening chapter... aptly entitled: Using Drawing as a Foundation." Within that title lies the "Holy Grail" of every artist.... and this is the opening paragraph to reinforce his position and my own:

"Drawing is the framework of all art. It is the foundation of painting, the glue that holds it together.

A popular misconception is that the term drawing means only linear representation i8n a medium such as pencil, oink, or charcoal. Drawing, however, exists in works that have no lines. "Lines" can be formed by colour areas abutting each other. Even a non-objective painting contains drawing.Drawing is the ability to express or put down on canvas or paper exactly what you want. Once you have acquired good drawing habits, everything will come much more easily.

Drawings may be made for two reasons...... one is to produce a finished drawing, a work of art that exists for its own sake,. The second is to make studies for other paintings. The main purpose of such studies is to explore a subject try out ideas in preparation for larger or more important work. When trial and error are behind you, it is possible to approach the final painting with more confidence.

If you obtain good groundwork in drawing, you have the framework on which to hang any kind of painting, from realistic to non-objective. Without this foundation, you may flounder because you lack the necessary skills to put down in paint exactly what you desire."

-taken from Chapter One, p17 in Jamison's book

For our lesson on Tuesday, I borrowed a technique that I picked up after reading and working through Dr Betty Edward's classic "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain." Her research and teaching centres around the notion that linear drawing which is directed mostly by the left lobe, or language area of the brain... rarely makes use of the more creative and less controlled right side which houses the imagination and dreaming capacity of the brain in all of us. Her work and this marvellous book encourages us to engage the right side more into the creative process... say in drawing tasks. She has developed some very novel approaches to help achieve this goal... and are worth considering as support bin becoming a better draughtsman.

The one I chose to put out to my duo on Tuesday last was to simply provide a picture reference that was in itself easy to translate and to attempt to draw it working with the reference completely upside down... that is... inverted. We began the drawing exercise by first completing a notan drawing... or thumbnail sketch to explore the pictures basic's elements/masses and lines. We then evaluated each of our finding and shared our feelings about this "turn of events"... excuse the pun!

All of us enjoyed the experience... and all of us were as bang on with our renderings... as if we had pursued the conventional "right side up" approach. Both ladies were entirely surprised with their success... although Robin had braved the experience earlier on her own. My next step was to introduce colour as a drawing tool into the process. I accomplished this by using a program on my computer which can take a photographic jpeg and reduce it to an image built entirely from abutting masses of colour. Each person was given this colour map... not merely to copy... but rather to look at and to understand how these masses translate a sense of line... without translating as purely linear entities. This approximates the strategy of looking for and painting masses... a skill which most plein air painters often rely upon to start a painting outdoors.

Again each of us found success from employing this technique as well. Both strategies, when combined... do create a new and exciting path for those who have only approached drawing and painting using The "draw carefully  in pencil... then draw again in paint method." In plein air painting... one does not always have the luxury of the time it requires to come at a subject in such a way, The chance that you are going to become overwhelmed by the tremendously distracting presence of so much visual detail is likely. Simplifying becomes the safest order of business.

The ladies took their work and references home to complete the exercise while I completed my own watercolour version of the same subject... demonstrating techniques to encourage free flow and quick decision-making. Being away from my usual oil paint box was at first a bit of a stretch for me. But things quickly started to fall in place as we worked lesson by lesson over the summer. I'll be more than ready for an possible trip south to the Barbados... should that occur during the winter months. But regardless... the process has helped me rethink and reshape my own method of working.

An extension of the principles used in this lesson can be seen in the artistic method which my wife Deb uses in creating her "A Cut Above" stained glass artistry. Deb begins each her projects with thumb nails that point towards a line drawing pattern. She selects and cuts pieces to be used in her design from various choices of coloured glass from her inventory... aka palette. When all of the pieces have been cut out and lie on the pattern... she encloses them with a metal jig to hold them firmly in place. Notice her incorporation of negative (open) with positive (glass pieces). This is a feature of her stylism that separates her from "the ordinary" totally glass works! Think of the sun light that flows into a room.... especially on dark days!

The next phase of her work is to put 1/4 inch  foil with one side adhesive uniformly the perimeter of each piece of the "puzzle. This accomplished... she is ready to begin the tricky and time-consuming task of soldering all of the parts together using a carefully laid bead of zinc solder to join each of the pieces together into a whole. Then the piece is flipped and the soldering is carried out on the reverse side... safely encasing the design from both sides to make it rigid and  permanent. The final step in the actual glass making.. is to add a solution which causes the copper foil to oxidise... leaving the pieces of glass separated by a web of black lines... like colour partitioned by black lines... which appear only in the final stage of the creation process. How neat is that?.... Painting with Glass... with class! That's my Gal!!!

Might be worth a try... to "shake the tree"!

"Sunken Rock Lighthouse, Alexandria Bay, NY
SOLD!.... now lives happily... in Washington

Good Painting to ALL!!!

THE CLASS IN PICTURE SEQUENCE.... From Drawing to painted finish

 Sunken Rock Lighthouse .... the subject reference

The reference photo ... inverted for the preliminary drawing activity

 Masses of abutting colour vs line approach

Finished water colour

"Sunken Rock Lighthouse, Alexandria Bay, NY watercolour on paper 14x 10 inches

PS 2nd Annual Paint Out will take place in Rockport next weekend... Excitement's are the registrations for the event! Still not too late... see the Poster included!!


  1. Hi Bruce,
    Congrats to you and Deb, her work is amazing. You are both very gifted artist. It's great that you both share so much together. God Bless.

    All the best to you,

  2. HI there Joan!... Thanks for your kind words and for dropping by!

    We are both deeply blessed to have found each other... and to share the journey!

    God bless you and Mike as well! Many blessings!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Hi Bruce, it's interesting to read about your working methods, as usual. I've tried the idea of inverting the subject (I'm not talking about "plein-air" of course!) and it definitely works. In the same way, I find that looking at a finished painting in a mirror can help to quite literally give a fresh view of it. Anything that allows the unconcious side of the brain to come into play must be a good thing. I think that's why some paintings just seem to "flow"; something about the subject or the situation brings out our creativity and the difference is amazing. If only we could turn on that creative pathway at will.

    It's nice to see some of Deb's work and some of the working process. She's a talented lady.

    All the best,

  4. Good Morning Keith!..... Thanks for visiting and for once again sharing your ideas on line!

    Your mirror strategy certainly sounds like great strategy to "shift brain consciousness" ... as does the use of positive-negative play when drawing or painting.

    I thought that using Deb's method confirmed visually what I was getting to with using masses of abutting colour to create line without intent... as some of us often do in our painting process.

    She is indeed talented... many people think so too! And I'm blessed to have her at my side to share art and our life journey! How good... does it get?

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. What a fabulous post, Bruce! I have to look up this book on payday for sure. I so loved stained glass and wish I had time, energy, and money to learn how to do it myself. I still have a small lampshade frame that needs glass on it and I'm just afraid to even try it.

  6. My dear Sherry!... Thanks for your cheery visit and thoughts... as always very welcome!

    Do get the Philip Jamison book... Robin purchased hers thru Amazon for.... get ready.... $0.28 + postage... and it arrived and was in the same good condition as my own!~ Get out the piggy bank girl... and shop till ya drop!

    Deb is a master... NO FEAR artisan with her unique approach to her glass!

    Glad that you enjoyed the post!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  7. A very interesting post Bruce, particularly for someone like me who doesn't have a right-side to my brain. I must always start with pencil, though I am making a conscious effort to minimise the lines. I'm certainly going to try the inverted approach. Your painting is really good and I love Deb's glass work. What a talented couple you are.
    All the best

  8. Good morning John!... Contrary to your beliefs John... all of us have a right lobe of the brain! Sadly, most of the world is measured... governed and rewarded by left brain thinking... and thinkers!

    Your own latest sheep post revealed the revelry you experienced when your right brain... revealed new thoughts about sheep... how they think... and more importantly, how they caused wonder...for "You"!

    Do get a copy of Dr Betty Edward's newer ... "Drawing on the Right side of the Brain Exercises". Lots of right brain strategies in that wee book!

    Thank you for your complimentary words about our combined work here at the Paint Box Gallery!

    We are greatly blessed!...

    Good Painting... and herding! HA HA!!
    Warmest regards,