Saturday, February 21, 2009

Drawing 2, about charcoal

I will return to copying drawings of the masters in a subsequent post. Raise your hand if you had any intention of doing it. All of you? Oh I'm so pleased. I know its going to help you so much with your painting! I was so sure you were just going to ignore that suggestion.
Since I have begun a large drawing in preparation for a painting I think I will show you that. When I draw these days I generally work in charcoal as I am doing studies for paintings. If I go to a life class I draw in pencil.
Because I am making a drawing 24x30, the size I want my painting to be, I have taped two sheets of Canson Ingres charcoal paper next to one another on a half sheet of plywood. I have several of these big drawing boards that I can trade in and out of my easel for different projects. When I am taping things down as references I use ordinary masking tape.
Charcoal that has wax in it or the compressed sorts are impossible to erase and I want to be able to push this drawing around until it is looks the way I want the finished picture to look. It seems sometimes as if I erase as much as I draw.
Vine charcoal is just what it sounds like, it is made by heating vines in an airless environment. I always buy the sticks they grade as hard. I am using Winsor & Newtons charcoal. I sharpen it to a needle point with my sandpaper block. My teacher the late R.H.Ives Gammell would call these our "dental instruments" I have a little brass sleeve that will hold a piece that has become too short to work with. Here you see a piece of vine charcoal and my brass charcoal holder.
It is important to use top quality charcoal paper. I like the Canson Ingres but Strathmore makes a suitable paper as well. These papers take the charcoal well and will withstand a great deal of erasure. I will probably throw these drawings in a portfolio or even discard them when I have finished this project. If I was concerned with keeping them I would have drawn it one one big sheet. But I had the Canson on hand.
I have a kneaded eraser, a pink pearl and a couple of ordinary pencils for their erasers. I also keep an ebony pencil handy for drawing fine lines.
The next image shows the study I painted outside on location in the Boston Public Garden, last spring. It is also a 24x30, so I have squared it and transferred its outlines onto my canvas. I guess I should explain squaring a canvas for transfer. . I have numbered the squares down the left side of the canvas and lettered the squares across the top of my canvas. I then drew squares that corresponded to them on the drawing paper. Often squaring is done to enlarge a drawing, that is I might put 1 inch squares on the sketch and 2 inch squares on the drawing to be.
At the time I made the painted sketch I also took photos from my viewpoint with my digital camera. I then photshopped those a little and printed them ou tas 8x10s. I have this big sheet of plywood so there is room around my drawing for me to tape photos and often reproductions of paintings that I am mining for infleunce.
For a pure landscape I probably wouldn't have bothered to make a finished charcoal drawing, but that bridge is extremely complex. If it were not in the painting I would probably just wing it in paint. But that bridge needs to be drawn very carefully.
Some artists have a problem with using photography.I think the trick is to keep it from using you. I would never start a painting from a photograph. In order to do good landscapes I feel I need to go out and stand there and make a painting, even if I intend to make a studio painting. Down below in the last image you can see my drawing progressing. When I took this shot the light had failed so I shot it under my studio lights. That made the darks look way to dark but you can see what I am doing anyway.
This drawing is like the blueprint for a house. The amount of drawing in this scene and the need to have it all right is of utmost importance to me so I can work out all the bugs ahead of time. I will probably recoup the time I spent on the drawing when it comes to making the painting. I think it was Norman Rockwell who said "genius is the ability to take infinite pains" I now have about a day and a half in the project. I will return and show you this again when it
is more complete.

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