Monday, October 22, 2012

Post-It notes

My new CGMA quarter started and I will need to use my desktop for the upcoming assignments. Since I've been writing code on my Linux laptop and doing art with real media, my computer desk turned into a makeshift repository for everything that didn't fit anywhere else in the room. As I was going through months of piled up paper, spare light bulbs and unused art supplies, I found a stack of post-it notes.

When I started training with Jonathan, I had to write everything down: my teacher uses very specific procedures and methods. As I was pushing past my limits, I was making notes so I wouldn't forget important things while being under stress. My notes were quite random, but they usually covered observations of my progress, helpful perspective on things that frustrate me in my training, and a bunch of art-related ideas.

I know I will eventually throw these notes out, so before it happens, I think I should put them here. They might help me in the future and maybe somebody else will find them helpful as well.

Some of these notes are quotes from books, some from movies some came out of my own head, it's a mess, so I apologize for not giving credit to the those who wrote the original text. If it's any consolation, you've helped me through some tough times and I'm eternally grateful to you for sharing your insight.

"2 values in the dark, 3 values in the light. Squint to 10% to establish relationships & shapes, not value or color."

"Simplify all area down to 5 values: black, dark, mid, bright, white. Simplify all edges down to 5 types: soft, medium-soft, medium, medium-hard, hard "

"Observe areas, not shapes. Pay attention to size and placement, not contour and position. Everything is always relative"

"Look for what's wrong, not for what's right. What you would do better."

"If I can learn to see opportunity as fast as I can see the faults of others, I will succeed in a very short time"

"Focus on large areas first, observe size and placement; Size and place correctly all negative space around focus area; Then place all the small shapes: positive and negative, within the large area. When small shapes click, they will adjust and define the shape of the large area, so don't waste time on completely defining the large area beforehand"

"'Creaturize' & 'letterize' large positive and negative spaces. Then do the same for small included shapes"

"27 to 30 days are required for body-mind re-adjustment and adaptation. Be patient, do not expect immediate results! Continuous work without skipping a single day during this period will trigger the desired change"

- Take your time with everything
- Relax into practice and routine
- Practice, focus & mileage are everything, speed and 'results' are nothing
- Art is a struggle, struggle between dual opposites is what brings a unified successful result
 - Do not worry, doubt, or resent the struggle and frustration. It's a natural part of the process. Accept it for what it is, as it is not an indicator failure or success, nor does it define you
"my thoughts while reading Harold Speed:
1. technical excellence (copy + repetition)
2. Mighty appreciation of form (get inspired + analyze + interpret the feeling for each shape + repetition)
3. Understand and see it as an abstract shape"

"1. Negative space
2. Impression
3. Value relationship
4. Edge relationship
5. Keep tools sharp
6. squint at model"

"Always simplify shapes. squint!"

" 1. Draw 2. Check 3. Correct - always work in this order "
"Size it, place it, then see if it's not right"

"Pressure and time make diamonds"

This should do for now. I'll add a few more notes later.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fechin master copy

Just finished a master copy of Fechin's "Angry Woman". I still need to work on my proportions, but I put it together and that's what matters.

My next copy is Pierre-Paul Prud'hon. Stylistically, it's the exact opposite of Fechin, so we'll have to see how well I do.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Paris sketch

I'm working through Ernest Watson's Course in Pencil Sketching. Watson's manual is amazing: it feels like you are sitting next to him, while he explains the material and shows different ways to approach the assignments.

After finishing a few projects, I decided to put my skills to the test and sketch something challenging. I picked Paris as my location and here is what I ended up with

It's based on a photograph from 1925 I found on the web. I changed perspective, viewing angle and elevation. I focused the composition on the street corner area. My intention was to start at the corner, guide the eye to the Eiffel tower and gently return back to the street corner.

I think I accomplished what I set out to do and got to see where I need to improve. This ended up being a great learning experience for me, and now I feel even more enthusiastic about Ernest Watson's course.

Columbus Day sketches

Spent some time outdoors on Columbus Day. Started the day by taking photographs before and during sunrise. After the sun came up it finally got warm and I ended up sketching some wildlife.

Kokanee salmon showed up in numbers and its colorful skin inspired me to capture its brilliance.

I later went to the local corral and was supposed to draw some horses, but got sidetracked  by a collection of awesome horse skulls they had on display.

And since I got my markers going, I decided to give my old CGMA flower sketches some color.

I think I developed a mild addiction to white prismacolor pencils.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Atelier work In chronological order

I started atelier training with Jonathan Hardesty in March 2012. I didn't realize at the time how much work it will take to get my training off the ground. Keep in mind that I've been doing graphic design for a while, so I know my way around shapes and colors.

What I've been lacking, was art fundamentals and a structured art education. I knew how to get around that to get the job done, but it was so frustrating to be able to do complex effects, yet fail miserably at reproducing a likeness or not being able to sketch an animal with confidence.

My first project with Jonathan was this bargue master copy.

I thought I'd get it done in a few hours. About 140 hours later I made a drawing which looked close enough to the original. I had 2 more bargue master copies to complete.

My next project was a girl's head. It looked relatively simple. I ended up redrawing it 13 times before I arrived at a version which was good enough to finish.

The girl's face bargue took just under 300 hours to complete. And then came the final bargue copy. It was the most complicated of the three.

To my surprise, I finished it in just over a hundred hours. In the process, I learned a very valuable lesson: past experience in art hardly ever translates into future outcomes.

After this came a series of cast drawings. In chronological order, they were:

A charcoal drawing on white paper of the back of a Philippe Faraut female torso cast: 100+ hours

Charcoal on toned paper of the front of a male torso cast: 60+ hours

and the front of a female torso cast done in charcoal and white chalk on toned paper: 8 hours drawing (proportions, values, edges) and 8 hours on cleanup.

I'm now working on my color charts and a master copy of Nikolai Fechin. I'll post it when it's done.

Art is never easy

Hi. I'm an artist.

Since I was a kid, I loved looking at artists' work, admired their talent and skill, dreamed about how I would make amazing artwork; but when pencil was put to paper, the results always came out embarrassingly weak. I quit doing art more times than I quit smoking, but I never managed to beat the art addiction.

I made my first serious approach at a somewhat structured art education when I was 33 or so. By that time I've been working as a graphic and web designer for almost 10 years. Used my strengths, avoided my weaknesses. I discovered Gnomon DVD workshops and found that Glenn Vilppu started teaching online.

Looking back on that attempt, I realize that I should have focused on my flaws, but I was impatient. I wanted to make it happen as soon as possible.

After about 2 years of hard work and practice, the needle finally moved. I caught my first break: a small game development shop hired me based on my portfolio. The project ended in less than a year and the team was let go. It was somewhat disappointing, especially since I realized I just spent a year in the industry and didn't get any better at art, nor did I build a competitive portfolio. In fact, I spent a year doing essentially the same UI design work I did for other companies.

Bills needed to be paid and I got back into corporate web design. I almost gave up on art for good that time.

In 2011, Visa was looking for web and UX people and I got hired as a Senior Web Designer. As I started my new job, something clicked inside my head. I don't know exactly what happened, but I finally got it: it didn't matter if I had a respectable designer job at Visa, or if I was working at a diner flipping burgers. It didn't matter if my art sucked and I had a long way to go. What mattered was that every day I could be practising art; but I wasn't. Doing art is my responsibility and mine alone. I shouldn't be waiting for an opportunity to do it for somebody or for compensation, or because some day it might make me rich. I should be doing it because it's what I am.

It finally occurred to me that I am not an artist because I finally "made it" and I'm getting paid to do art. None of this makes me an artist.

I am an artist only when I do art. That is the only thing that separates an artist from everybody else. For the first time in my life, I saw it with perfect clarity.

Since then, several wonderful opportunities opened up for me. Jonathan Hardesty accepted me as his student into his classical art training program and I started taking classes at CGMA. I realized how much time and support it would take to build myself up as a skilled artist, but doing it patiently, step by step, is the only way to go.

I started this blog to share my experience of making art and, hopefully becoming a better artist in the process. I also hope that watching my progress will help people like me through their journey.

I'll be updating as I go, so subscribe or visit me from time to time.