Tag Archives: honing observational skills

Drawing nudes preserves memory better than exercise or puzzles…..

This week will be dedicated to the joy of drawing and painting the human form.

Last week I was sent an article based on a research paper from Newcastle University, entitled ‘Drawing nudes preserves memory better than exercise or puzzles’

I have been drawing/painting nudes for over fifty years, and it is still one of my greatest pleasures to be working in a studio with a good model – particularly for the fast poses.

Twenty minute study – watercolour & felt tip pen

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Life drawing is widely accepted as the foundation block for a fine art training.    Given that the human form offers the artist the most complex of creations, learning to draw it is considered one of the more difficult artistic challenges.    In my opinion it is the best way to hone observational skills.

I was fortunate in that when I went to art college in the early sixties we had life drawing sessions every day, and I am pleased to see after years of neglect, that figure/life drawing has come back into vogue.

Twenty minute study – watercolour

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“It is my belief that the creative process in all its many forms is the key to physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing”. 

When I begin work….I start with one to five minute poses – referred to as ‘croquis’     These are all about capturing the gesture.      

When giving workshops with a life model I suggest that people start out using newspaper. This removes the fear of messing up a good piece of paper, and allows people to warm up.      It is so often the case that these warm ups turn out to be the best work, simply because the obstacle of fear has been removed. 

Watercolour & felt tip pen – five minute study. 

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In this rapid sketch – I focused on the head and hand….endeavouring to capture as quickly as possible the gesture and expression of the model.

Watercolour & felt tip pen

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A somewhat redundant statement, as I don’t buy lottery tickets,  but were I to win the lottery, along with the perfect Marmite Heaven scenario, I would work with models every morning for two hours a day………

Tomorrow how the creative process benefits our physical wellbeing.

A Bientôt

Different points of view.

Fifteen years ago, when I was living and working in Wales, I gave a workshop for the Brecnoc Arts Society, which entailed a day’s hike along the Brecon/Monmouthshire canal.   

The plan was to walk for fifteen minutes and then sketch for fifteen minutes  which was a pattern we repeated for several miles.

The idea of the exercise was to focus observational skills and to recognise that by standing in one spot for a short period of time, the vista before us could be seen from many different points of view. 

The following two watercolours are from the Art School, in Olhao.  They demonstrate that by shifting the eye slightly, the same subject is seen from a very different point of view.    http://www.artinthealgarve.com

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During art school in the early sixties, one of the tutors had us observe a crack in the ceiling of one of the studios for several sessions.     We were asked to do a series of sketches based on the crack.     At the time I thought he was nuts, but in hindsight, he focused our observational skills and showed that anything can be seen in a myriad of ways…even a crack in the ceiling.

Today’s magical hummingbird. 

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A bientôt.

The importance of sketch books….

‘You can’t do sketches enough.   Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.’  John Singer Sargent. 

Given the emphasis I put on the importance of keeping sketch books, every now and then I will share the contents of some of mine.     All the sketches in this post were made in Mas Cabardes, SW France.

My sketch books are small – a place where I can record anything and everything that catches my eye.

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The light in S.W. France is magnificent, and it was the play of light and shadow on this chair that made me want to record it several time.

These sketches are very fast….and are excellent for honing observational skills.

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Again, light and shadow…looking from the inside out….something I love to do.  Two different worlds.

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Early morning looking down into the chicken pen from my bedroom.

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Chicken

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Roof tops from higher up in the village.

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Inside shutters….

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And one of the many cats that visit me when I am in France:)

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When I sketch, I use a tiny palette, one brush and as is the case in some of these sketches, a felt tip pen….Sketch books help me to stay free, and connected to the world around me in a deeper way.

When I pick up one of my many sketch books, I am immediately taken back in time to the place….all my sense are re awakened.

Click on image to see a larger version.

http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

A Bientôt

 

Allowing the brush to dance….

The following watercolour/gouache painting is an example of warming up, playing and allowing the brush to dance…..

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I cut an unsuccessful painting into quarters so that I could re use the paper for this and other images.

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Using a mix of Opera Rose gouache – plus a little permanent white gouache I rapidly indicate the flower heads….I use violet and Alizarin crimson to indicate the darker areas of the flower.

Note that the underlying colour from the original sketch integrates with the flower.

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Allowing my brush to dance across the surface, using a mix of burnt sienna and prussian blue watercolour, I begin to indicate the stems and leaves.   I have also added a little Winsor & Newton green gold – an expensive pigment, but one I highly recommend.

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Using a knife I scrape out some of the paint while still wet….which gives a sense of energy and movement.

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In the final frame, I mix some Green Gold with permanent white gouache to highlight areas of the image and to indicate seed pods.    I also move more opera rose around the image to bring a sense of harmony and balance.

This is all about spontaneity.     Working like this is a great way to hone observational skills.     The key is to let go, be playful and allow the paint to do its own thing……It also helps to work on several pieces at the same time.

I would also add that my ‘wet brush no paint’ technique is used throughout….this means as I add colour, I immediately clean my brush to pull out the colour.    This prevents muddiness, the enemy of all watercolour painters:)

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Here is a Magical Hummingbird to start the new week…..

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http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

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A bientôt

The Big Picture

It’s all too easy to see one or two images of an artist’s work and make judgements.     If an artist has been working for many years, it is better to see the big picture.   In other words examples of work from different periods in their career,  so that we can understand more fully where they are coming from.

I was reminded of this on Wednesday when friends came to see the two large canvases I am currently working on.   Although I have known them for eight years, they hadn’t seen any of my oil paintings, and were particularly interested in a ‘Symbolic Self Portrait’ – large oil on canvas – painted in 1989, because it is so different from anything they had seen previously. 

Everything in this painting, symbolises my life.   The photograph is of a large self portrait oil painting, currently housed in Wales. 

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My friends, are used to seeing me work in a spontaneous, free manner, and indeed that is how my work has evolved….however, by the mid eighties, I knew that I needed to re-hone my technical skills….I needed to bring consistency back into my painting and life, and to do that, I set myself the task of painting a series of large oils.

During this period, I had a large studio and so was able to work on several large paintings at the same time….which is my favourite way to work. 

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Each painting started with a formal underpainting.       Given the complexity of the subject matter, this was necessary so that I could  establish a solid composition before adding colour. 

Each painting became a ‘Biographical still life portrait’ of people near and dear to me at the time. 

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There were about 30 paintings in the series.     I am glad to say that they all sold, except for my Symbolic Self Portrait, which travels with me wherever I go, as a reminder of this period in my life.    

It reminds me that no matter how difficult things might be, that I can work my way through it…

This detail from a very large oil on canvas, represents my dear friend Sue Hineman.    Although Sue is no longer with us, I do have a watercolour portrait of her which always stays with me. 

 

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Although my natural instinct is to paint in a spontaneous manner, this four year exercise was probably one of the best things I could have done.   

Like a solid underpainting, this series proved to be a new beginning and foundation block.     My observational skills were honed, and an understanding of my tools and technical ability expanded. 

During the middle of my career, working with art consultants, I completed many corporate murals, which was a great way to bring money in and at the same time give me the freedom to explore my own work.     During this period, technical know how was key….my tools had to be an extension of my body….which is why I consider these ‘quilt’ paintings to have been an important foundation block. 

This very large oil on canvas, represents two friends, Dick McClure and Jean Frohling.

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As an artist’s life grows and evolves, so does their work.  

 When I returned to the Uk in 1993, and made my home in Crickhowell, Wales (the Magical Town of Crickadoon🙂 I had to focus on smaller works….namely because I was living in smaller spaces.    

However, during that period, I did complete two large panels for St. Edmund’s Church, Wales along with several large mural projects including one in what was then the new Cardiff Bay.      For these, I rented space from a good friend who had a small industrial park close by to the town. 

It never ceases to amaze me how our needs are always met when we are following the right path. 

This painting represents my dear friend Sammy who gave me the wicker chair, and Nicholas who gave me the quilt. 

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There are many more of these quilt paintings scattered about.      

Every now and then it is good to be reminded of where I have come from.     It helps me to understand more of what I am doing today. Each period, brings with it new experiences, insights, and understandings, and the good news is that this never stops……

As Picasso once said – ‘An artist’s best painting is their last painting’  – I like that. 

Wishing everyone a  beautiful weekend. 

http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk

A Bientôt

 

 

 

 

Observing the Human Form

September is always the beginning of a new work year for me.   A time to re-evaluate.

I was fortunate enough to go to art college in the early sixties when life/figure drawing was a key element.     In fact, there  is no better way to hone observational skills than to work from either a nude or draped model.

It’s good to see that this traditional way of training the artist’s eye is back in vogue.    I see that life groups are springing up all over the place.

Note that in this watercolour, I am again using the same techniques as shown in my tutorials.     By applying juicy paint into the negative space surround the model…..the model is revealed.     All the white you see in this image is dry white paper.    

Twenty minute watercolour from Boathouse Studio series.   

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In an ideal world, I would work from a life model at the beginning of each day.     As I have mentioned many times before on this blog, artists are no different than dancers, athletes or musicians…..we need to warm up….and the most integral part of warming up is to hone observational skills on a daily basis. 

In a life drawing/painting session it is the norm to begin with a series of very fast one to 5 minutes sketches.      When I tutor life painting sessions, I suggest that people use newspaper for the very fast sketches.    As mentioned before, this frees people up to make rapids marks without the fear of messing up good paper.    Consequently, this is often when the best work is done.     

It is during these fast sketches that we begin to observer the model’s form, and equally as important the space surrounding the model, (negative space.)      By observing and sketching the human form we hone all our basic skills.

In this fast fell tip pen and watercolour sketch, I have left the space surrounding the model (negative space) as dry white paper.    

In these sketches it is my goal to capture the gesture and essence of my subject.    Once again, less is more comes into play.     We don’t have to fill in all the spaces, the viewer’s eye will do that.

Twenty minute watercolour from the Boathouse Studio series. 

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For those who are concerned about their drawing skills, here’s something to think about.     None of us came into the world able to write our own signature.    We had to learn how to do this……and it is exactly the same with drawing the human form or anything else. Remember the fifteen minute a day exercise….This quote from the book Buddhist Offerings, says it so beautifully……

Do not take lightly small, good deeds, believing that they can hardly help.    For drops of water, one by one, in time can fill a giant pot.

A Bientôt