Dec 11, 2011

Anatomy Basics: Skeletal Anatomy of the Hand, the wrist bones

Bones of the hand
I want to focus on the bones in the hand for a bit. This is because I noticed that many of the students I work with struggle with drawing hands and I thought this would be a good subject to cover here in order to help out those of you who have the same difficulties.

Even though hands are a challenge to draw, one way to learn to draw hands is to start looking at and thinking of the hands structurally. Understanding the structures that make up the hand allows us to see what kind of shapes these structures will create in the hand and to draw the hand accurately in different positions.

Today, we are going to look at the skeletal structure of the hand to identify the grouping of bones at the wrists and see how they help with the movement of the hand.

Let's take a look.

Nov 7, 2011

Color Basics: Subtractive color

It is easy to be confused as to why we call the color system we use when painting a subtractive color system. After all, we are adding different colored paints to each other in order to get the desired color and it seems natural to want to think of it as an additive method of creating color. The trick to understanding why it is subtractive is to look at the characteristics of light. In doing this, we will understand we are relying on the subtractive qualities of the paint to get our desired color.

Today, we are going to look at how light is affected by the pigments in the paint to better understand the subtractive color system.

Let's begin,

Oct 20, 2011

Drawing Basics: The picture plane in 1 point persective

Dealing with one-point perspective has its challenges. It seems simple enough but we can sometimes run into unforeseen problems. This often happens because we miss some of the specifics about the guides of one-point perspective. One example is recognizing the relationship between the front planes or front surfaces in a scene and the picture plane. It's a straightforward guideline but if it is missed the drawing will not come together how we would like.

This post is going to take a look at the picture plane and positioning of the front surfaces in one-point perspective respective to the picture plane. We will discuss the principle and show a simple explanation using an exterior scene. 

If you would like a refresher on one point perspective visit this link. Otherwise, let's get started. 

Oct 10, 2011

Anatomy Basics: A couple of online references I like

If you are looking to improve your understanding of anatomy for drawing the figure, here couple of nice resources to try.

These are sites I have used and have recommended to my students. Take a look.

Sep 17, 2011

Drawing Basics: Checkerboard illusion explained

Checkerboard illusion
One of the best ways to understand how value is perceived is by looking at how it can be used to create illusions.

There is a popular video on youtube showing a pretty cool illusion involving a scene similar to the one you see to the right. The illusion is one where a light tile is moved over a dark one and they turn out to be the same value.

If you haven't seen the illusion click on the link below to watch.

Checkerboard illusion video clip

Let's see how it is done.

Sep 8, 2011

Beginning Drawing Posts: Just the very basics

I have put together a small list of links to previous posts from this site to help those who are new to drawing find relevant articles quickly.

This is a list of links prepared for those just starting out and who want to learn the basics of charcoal drawing.

Sep 5, 2011

Painting Basics: Selecting and editing the scene in a plein air landscape

Landscape oil paitning
Plein air, editing a scene
I went plein air painting with a student of mine a couple of weeks ago. After we finished we took a look at each other's work and commented as we usually do. One of the comments for this painting was that the painting looked nothing like the scene in front of me which, of course, was true. I picked the scene because I liked the silhouette shape created by a few of the trees. That shape made by this grouping of the trees was what I wanted to focus on and all the stuff that was unimportant to me in the scene just didn't make it into the painting.

Today, I thought we would look at how to select what is important in a scene then edit the information to design a composition that we like. I want to show that you do not need to include everything in a scene when painting it.

Let's take a look.

Aug 28, 2011

Painting Basics: Watercolor Demo, a pink rose

A watercolor painting of a rose.
By Hsuan Chi Chen

Painting flowers is sometimes tricky. But all you need is some patience and practice, then you will master the art of painting flowers. This article is going to show you step by step of painting a pink rose in watercolor. This demo requires both wet-in-wet and wet-on-dry techniques.
Also few things to keep in mind when you paint:

a. Keep in mind that where is the light source, and where the dark side of the flower is.
b. Treat all petals as a group. Sometimes we focus on detail too much, we forget the whole picture of the painting. As a result, the painting would lose its harmony, and each petal would look like not belong to the same flower. 

Aug 18, 2011

Drawing Basics: Breaking Down the Components of Light and Shadow

The basic forms
In a previous post, I have mentioned a little about how an object might appear when under a single light source and the particular elements that will consistently appear. This is something I teach my beginning students and I have found that sometimes it is helpful to separate each component for easier identification and explanation. Looking at each component or element individually helps in understanding the role of light on form and helps in identifying how everything then ties together.

Today, we are going to look at the elements of light and shadow on a simple cylinder to identify each component individually.

Jul 31, 2011

Painting Basics: A Plein Air Demo

About once a week I paint plein air. This time I brought along my camera to show how I approach painting on location. I want to show you one way I handle painting a landscape outdoors. Though I am calling this a plein air demonstration it is not truly a step-by-step demonstration. It is just a chronicling of my process at different stages as I paint to give you some reference.

Today, I will recount the process I took to get the painting of the scene you see to the left to show you how to approach painting plein air painting.   

Let's take a look.

Jul 24, 2011

Drawing Basics: Value relationships

It is easy to think of value as a stable element in a composition. For example, dark hair is dark hair.  An artist would always use the same value to paint the hair, right? After taking a look at a value scale that is set up in distinct steps it might seem so. But what effects does the environment have on the hair? Or more specifically, how do the values in the areas around the hair affect the look of the value level of the hair?

Today, we will look at one aspect of value relationships that can change the look of the image with a simple exercise.

Let's begin.

Jul 10, 2011

Color Basics: Using local color as an element of contrast

Here is another painting I have just started to work on. I want to demonstrate that color variation can be used to highlight or separate different parts of the body. It is tempting to want to paint the figure using one color for the flesh and adjusting the value using tints and shades to create the forms. To me, this is a mistake to rely on just the value relationships. For various reasons, our flesh expresses different colors in the skin at different locations on the body.

Today, we will look at one of those reasons why the color may vary throughout the body and see how we can take advantage of that to help separate the forms.

Jul 3, 2011

Quick Note: Copying as a way to learn to draw.

A master copy of a Rembrandt painting.
One way to learn to draw or paint is by looking at work by other artists and trying to duplicate the image. In grad school was I reintroduced to copying artwork to learn how to draw or paint. When I was young I used to copy from comic books or whatever else I liked for fun. I did not actively look at other work to see how it was done. I just drew what I liked. I did not realize that it could be a valuable way to learn.

It was in one of my figure drawing classes where I was first assigned to copy paintings done by established artists. There the goal was to learn how other artists accomplished tasks and resolved problems by figuring out how they did it. It was not easy and was sometimes frustrating but I did learn from it. 

Jun 27, 2011

Anatomy Basics: More on Muscles

I usually don't post much about my work outside of what I make for paint draw paint. Most of the stuff here is made specifically for the site. I am going to change that up today and write a little about one of the things I  like to think about as I work on my own projects. I started a new couple of paintings this week and while drawing the figure for one of those paintings I thought it would be fun to show you how I look for the anatomy in the figure and how I use it to guide my painting.

Let's take a look.

Jun 19, 2011

Anatomy Basics: Using anatomy to help with figure drawing

Here is something a little different this time around. I have been writing about human anatomy for artist's reference, identifying muscles, and describing what they do, and I wanted to explain why I write these posts and write a little about how studying anatomy will help artists if they are interested in drawing people.

I find learning the human anatomy to be very helpful in my work. The forms created by the human figure are complex. That is to say, there is plenty of stuff to work out when drawing the human figure and having an understanding of what is creating those forms makes it all easier to work out.

Today, we will look at a drawing of a male model to see how an understanding of the underlying muscular anatomy can guide us in figuring out how to draw the forms we see.

Jun 12, 2011

Anatomy Basics: The Muscles of the Torso, pelvis

Moving back to the torso for the anatomy basics posts we will move down to look at some of the muscles that attach the pelvis to the upper leg bone. These muscles play an active role in moving the leg for such functions as running or walking. They also help with stabilizing the torso when standing. Understanding how these muscles cooperate will help us understand the movements the muscles make at this joint.

Today, we will look at the muscles attached to the pelvis, to see the general shape, points where these muscles are attached to the skeletal structures, and how the muscles move the leg.

Let's begin.

Jun 9, 2011

Quick Note: Plein Air Painting

Pein air painting of a field in Elk Grove, 5 x 7 inches
While in school I didn't much care to go plein air painting. I struggled with it and couldn't find anything to keep me interested in it. It's not that I didn't enjoy landscape painting, I just didn't like to go outside and paint it. That has changed.

Now that I have been out of school for some time and teach landscape painting, I have had the chance to explore what plein air painting is all about and I find that I enjoy painting plein air quite a lot. It just took me some time to figure out how to apply what interests me in painting to the plein air process. I like playing with color and I now paint small plein air landscapes as an excuse to play with color and try new approaches.

If you were to compare my paintings to the scenes I used as a reference you would see that I do not try to mimic or copy exactly what I see. I usually simplify the scene to make a nice clean composition and then use the environment as a reference to set up the light and color cues.

Jun 5, 2011

Painting Basics: Atmospheric Perspective in Landscape Painting

Plein air painting showing atmospheric perspective.
When painting a landscape, visual perspective is an important element of creating a successful image. This will include considering where to place the horizon line and the two-point perspective guides. Along with that, there is one more thing we need to consider when painting a scene covering a large distance. That is how the conditions of the atmosphere affect the elements in the scene, which is called atmospheric perspective.

Today, we will look at how to create atmospheric perspective, so that we are able to describe what it is to start using the guides in effectively painting a landscape.

Let's begin,

Jun 1, 2011

Quick Note: Measuring technique when drawing

I thought I might mention that it is alright to measure when drawing or painting from observation. All too often I see people struggling with aspects of their drawings, trying to get things placed correctly but have trouble figuring out where to do so. Measuring and comparing the lengths of a subject in the composition is a good way to remedy this. 

Today, I will demonstrate one way to use your pencil to measure the sizes and positions of features on a face.

Let's take a look.

May 28, 2011

Anatomy Basics: Muscles of the forearm, flexor muscles

Muscles of the arm
As we continue our look at the muscles of the arm we will next look at some of the muscles found in the forearm. One of the first things you may notice is that there a many more muscles in the forearm than the upper arm. This makes sense once we understand how we move the fingers and hand. Though there are some muscles in the forearm that move the arm, many of the muscles located there move the fingers and thumb or the hand at the wrist. Since there are several muscles to discuss I thought I would break them into groups based on their actions.

Today, we will look at a group of the muscles found in the forearm that flex the hand and fingers. We will look at where these muscles attach to the skeleton and describe how these muscles move the arm.

Let's begin.

May 21, 2011

Anatomy Basics: Muscles of the upper arm

Now that I am finding the format I like to follow for the anatomy basics posts I want to revisit the anatomy of the arm to present it a little more clearly. I am looking to for ways approach the anatomy of the human form that assist us in our drawing. Looking at the shapes and location of the muscles is a good place to start.

Today, we will look at a few of the muscles found in the upper arm, including the biceps, triceps, brachialis, and coracobrachialis. We will look at the attachment points of the muscles and how these muscles move the arm. 

Let's begin.

May 16, 2011

Anatomy Basics: The Muscles of the Back

A charcoal drawing of the shoulder and back.
It has been a while since I have done an anatomy basics post and it is time to do another. As mentioned in the last anatomy basics post, the next subject is going to be about the muscles of the back.

Today, we will look at a few of the muscles of the back. We will look at the location of each muscle, including the origin and insertion points. We will also describe each muscle's action.

Let's start from the top and work our way down.

May 8, 2011

Painting Basics: Limited Palette

In the previous post about color palettes, I showed examples of a basic or limited palette. I thought I would continue this topic by demonstrating how to create a wide range of colors using a palette of just a few colors. This can help us gain a better understanding of mixing color and how the pigments work together.

Today, I will use a limited color palette I teach my students to show that most colors can be mixed from just four paints.

Apr 24, 2011

Painting Basics: Something Useful

This is something I learned to use that helps me evaluate certain aspects of what I am painting or drawing. If I am having trouble identifying the exact value or color of something, I found that isolating the area with a viewfinder helps me figure out how that area relates to another.

It is a simple tool as I just take a piece of cardboard and punch a hole in it. This creates a viewfinder that allows me to look at one area of the scene separated from the rest of the scene.

Today, we are going to look at how to use this type of viewfinder to examine the value of the local color.

Apr 17, 2011

Painting Basics: Color Palette and paint choices

One of my messy palettes
I am often asked what colors I use or what colors I put on my palette.  There are a wide range of paint color choices and trying to decide which ones to use can get overwhelming quickly. I like to keep it simple.

Today, I will show you a basic color palette and some variations of that palette.

Apr 10, 2011

Color Basics: Color Temperature in Painting

Color temperature 
I thought we might take a look at the subject of color temperature in this post. Color temperature can be a confusing term as it is used to describe slightly different concepts. For example, color temperature can describe the overall color range in a composition, can compare the relationship between two colors, or describe the difference between two similar hues. Color temperature can be used for emotional effect, or set up the lighting of environment of a scene.

Today, we will look at the different ways color temperature is defined and applied to painting.

Apr 3, 2011

Drawing Basic: Starting a figure drawing from life.

A  figure drawing of a model/
I like to draw using a living model as a reference as often as I can. Here I can practice what I have learned about drawing the figure, work out new ideas I want to try, or simply draw to enjoy the experience. I find drawing from life both fun and rewarding.

I usually go to drawing groups or invite a few friends to pitch in to hire someone to model for us. The advantage to these options is that it makes drawing from life much more affordable. The disadvantage is that I have less input over the setup and length of time for each pose. I like long poses that allow me the chance to work slowly but this opportunity does not always present itself in the drawing sessions. In turn, I have had to learn to be more economical in my approach to drawing and have learned some ideas on how to set up a figure drawing quickly.  

Today, I thought I would share one way to set up a figure drawing while working on a drawing from a life session. The steps are straightforward as they build on one another allowing me to get much of the information I need down quickly.  

Mar 27, 2011

Drawing Basics: Drawing the hand, proportions

Proportions of the hand
Hands can be tricky to draw. The anatomy seems more complex than other forms created by the figure. There are subtle proportional cues to keep in mind. Also, the forms and shapes found in the hands must interlock well in order to read right. For these reasons, I find hands a challenge to draw.

In an earlier post on drawing hands I demonstrated how to look at the hand as simple shapes in order to construct and draw a hand. Today, I thought we could look at some of the general proportions of the hand.

Remember that when discussing proportions of the figure these are just general guides to give us a starting point. There will be some variation from these guides as each individual is different.

Lets take a look at some of the proportions of the hand.

Mar 13, 2011

Drawing Basics: Line and edges

In an effort to help some of my students find new ways to illustrate the forms of the human figure, I have been working with them to try out new ways to describe the shapes they see.  One way to do this is to avoid using the line to describe the outside edges of the forms. Line is an effective device to describe the boundaries and edges of forms and surfaces but it is not the only way.

Today, I want to show how we can describe the figure without relying solely on line to both avoid outlining the figure in one even line and to suggest variety in the ways the figure is interacting with the space around it.

Mar 6, 2011

Painting Basics: Portrait painting part 2

Continuing from where we left off in the post about how to start a portrait painting, we can paint over of the initial drawing using the color and value relationships we want. There are several directions we can go with this. For example, we could paint in just black, white, and shades of gray to set up the values as a next step in painting. We could also start painting in one location on the painting, working on that area we are happy it is finished, then move on to another. We could also work out the light side and shadow side of the subject as large fields of color then refine the shapes, values, and colors as we work down to the smaller forms. This is the method I chose to demonstrate today.  

The direction you choose to take in the process is a matter of personal choice.  Give it a try, see if it works for you.

Today, we are going to continue painting a portrait, looking at how to block in the large value and color fields in order to set up the composition for further development.

Feb 28, 2011

Drawing Basics: How to sharpen a charcoal pencil

A correctly sharpened charcoal pencil.
I was sharpening some charcoal pencils and realized this might be a good subject to cover. I sharpen the charcoal pencils differently for more freedom and flexibility when drawing. As you can see to the right, I learned to sharpen my charcoal pencils to have a long sharp point. This is because I have been taught to use the charcoal pencil more like a paintbrush and to draw using the whole movement of the arm rather than just the movement of the wrist. To draw this way requires the pencil to be sharpened in a different manner than I normally would sharpen other types of pencils.

Today, we are going to look at how to sharpen a charcoal pencil in a way that exposes more of the charcoal, making the pencil easier to use and allowing us to take advantage of the medium more effectively.

Let's look a the benefits of sharpening the pencil this way. 

Feb 20, 2011

Painting Basics: How to begin a portrait painting

Portrait painting demo
I thought I might continue with the subject from the last post today. In the last post I demonstrated how to start a portrait drawing by setting up the simple structures and then defining the plane changes of the surface using a charcoal pencil. This time around I want to apply the same techniques and concepts to painting in oil paint. 

Today, we are going to set up a portrait painting like we did for the portrait drawing in order to highlight the similarities and differences between the two mediums.

We will start by with the materials used.

Feb 12, 2011

Drawing Basics: Portrait drawing, how to start drawing a head

Starting a portrait drawing.
Like many others, I like drawing portraits. I like the expressive qualities of the face and also enjoy the challenge of getting something that looks like the person I am drawing as well. In order to be able to balance both effectively I find it helpful to know how to construct a head and face rather than just copying the all the details I see. I want to be able to understand the forms created by the head and face in order to get a likeness and capture the expressiveness of the person that I am drawing.

Today, I thought we could look one of the ways I like to start out  when drawing a portrait.

We will look at the steps to find the forms using basic shapes and the surface planes as a way to construct the structures of the head.

Jan 30, 2011

Anatomy Basics: The Skeleton of the Back

The Back
As we move down from the neck, the next group of muscles we will look at we at will be those of the back. I find the back one of the more interesting yet difficult areas of the body to draw. There is so much happening in the back that it is easy to get lost in the forms of the muscles as they weave together to  create the large mass that is the back. Learning what muscles make those forms and how they move the body makes the process easier when translating what we see into a drawing.

Before we start looking the muscles we need to look at the skeletal structure that supports them.  

Today we will identify the major components that make up the skeleton of the torso as seen from the back.

Jan 20, 2011

Drawing Basics: Proportions of the Arm

Proportion is it is all about the relative relationships of the parts to each other and to the whole form. When drawing the human figure, we can use one part of the figure  as a guiding measurement to compare the size relationships of the other forms found in the figure.

There are many approaches to this and artists have used different parts of the body as guides for figure proportions. The guide I was taught and use, is to compare distances between points on the body with the length of the head as the standard of measurement. You may often see the figure height described in head lengths when artists discuss proportion of the human form. This simplifies the process of evaluating the relative sizes of the figure and its parts by allowing us to work from one reference point.

Today, we will look at the proportions of the arm as it compares to the measurement of a head.

Jan 14, 2011

Drawing Basics: How to draw a pineapple, part 1

Detail of pineapple leaves
Using shape is one way to simplify complex forms into more manageable information that we can use to build on to create that form. Looking for the large simple shapes in an object first, then working down to the smaller ones, we can find a starting point to build up the structures.

Today, we are going to draw a pineapple to break down the process of drawing realistic form by using two dimensional shape information. We will  look at how to manage the information in order to make it easier to draw as we evaluate the size and location of the shapes in the pineapple.

I thought it would be a good exercise to show the process of drawing something with plenty of forms interlocking and texture on the surface. The drawing process below is only one approach to doing this. There are other ways to handle the same problems this form presents, but you may find this particular approach useful.

How the process is broken down into steps is somewhat arbitrary, as well. We could combine steps to make less or separate steps into more. I want include as much information as possible without making this process seem overwhelming. My goal here is to provide one technique useful in dividing the information we see into steps that make seeing and drawing easier.

Let's begin.

Jan 7, 2011

Drawing Basics: 3 point perspective

After reviewing one point and two point perspective we can now look at three point perspective.

Today we use a box drawn in three point perspective to better understand how to construct a scene using three point perspective.