The Art Elements | April-May 2015

Line | Session 1: 22 April 2015

line-collge-projectIntroduction

Line – the first of the Art Elements to be learnt about during the Art Elements evening course.

So much to say about drawing line and so little time.  I tried to distil into a single evening those things about line that I think are the most important that students need to know, to be able to improve and progress as artists. I hope I got the balance right!

The course got underway with a lovely group of 7 students– a mixed group of beginners and more experienced artists, so I wasn’t surprised that some were feeling a little apprehensive.  It’s to be expected on the first class of a 6 session course!

The Art Elements course began with an overview of the difference between the ‘Art Elements’ and the ‘Principles of art’ by looking at images by different artists. Both really important things to consider when drawing and painting – and crucial to know the difference.
See my Pinterest board for artists images.  

Exercise 1

After a brief discussion, we moved into a round robin group exercise to help students relax into the evening and not worry about their drawings being ‘judged’ which helps students relax and get to know each other a little.  I asked students to explore different kinds of lines they can make with charcoal and pencil, based on the still life display in the centre of the room.  

The idea was to look for inspiration and starting points in the objects they were looking at to enable them to make as many different kinds of marks as they could.  I wasn’t bothered if their drawings were realistic or completely abstract – the focus was purely about line.  As students moved from easel to easel they had to add a new kind of line to what was already there – no repeating! 

We stopped to discuss the range of lines we can make, their ability to suggest objects and places and how each type of line holds an emotive quality too.  It was amazing to think just how much we expect of the humble line!

Project Line

The project we started during this session is designed around 3 parts.  Part 1 was completed during this evening and enabled me to make sure all the students had learnt and understood new things about Line.

Parts 2 and 3 of the project are designed for those students who have the time, and who wish to take the project further at home.  I hope students left inspired to make the time at home to continue with the project.

In the studio
We prepared about 4-6 A5 sized pieces of drawing paper.  We stuck the first piece to the centre of our drawing paper/sketchbook page and after looking at a number of different artists for inspiration who each use a very different quality of line in their drawings the students set to work.  The idea was to emulate a different artist on each piece of drawing paper and build up a loose jigsaw puzzle of the still life.  As their drawings developed they began to mix and match the line styles and used their growing knowledge of the principles of Art to help bring the completed drawing to a cohesive conclusion with all the different bits working together with all the other bits.

If you like the sound of this project please follow
this link to the ART PROJECT page,
where you can select the art project brief you are interested in.  
You will find all the instructions and resources you need to try this yourself at home.

DEMO

We ended the evening with a short demonstration of the technique students would need to use if they continued with part 2 and 3 at home.  I hope they have, and look forward to seeing the fully completed drawings.

We took inspiration from the drawings of artist Cameron McEwan who mixes beautiful line drawings with background layers of smudged charcoal and red ochre conte (similar to chalk pastel).  I showed them how to layer their drawings, blend lines using white chalk pastel to create layers of subtlety, half hidden lines and blend in soft shades of warm red ochre which works really well with the pencil, charcoal and graphite lines of their original drawings.

I hope students left more knowledgeable about line and it’s importance as one of the fundamental Art Elements, increasingly confident in their abilities and inspired to make the time at home to continue the project into part 2 and possible part 3 for the very dedicated.

Project Line

This an an example of one students work who continued at home to complete part 2 and part 3 of Project Line.

You can see the paper edges under the charcoal from the original paper drawings they started in the studio during the class.  It gives a wonderful layering quality, full of texture and sense of depth.  You can also see how they have added the red ochre colour based on inspiration from Cameron McEwan’s drawings and brought the drawing into a cohesive whole, paying attention to all the Principles of art.


Colour| Session 2: 30 April 2015

Introduction

Colour – the second of the Art Elements to be learnt about during the Art Elements evening course.

Throughout my 15 years experience of teaching adults I find the most regular thing I need to explain to students is the relationship between colour and tone.  Colour is so enthralling and captivating it’s no wonder students don’t always want to slow down and consider the other side of this art element.

I began this class of the Art Elements course by introducing the Tone or value-based approach to painting compared to the Colour-based approach.  It was important to explain that it is only when you understand that each colour has a corresponding tonal value that you can truly control how you use colour in your art work.

See my Pinterest board for artists images that I used while teaching this course.

PROJECT COLOUR

In the studio

The first exercise was designed to help students understand the Tone/value-based approach to painting.  We began our first exercise by making a tonal drawing of an arrangement of coloured shopping bags.  Using white chalk pastel and compressed charcoal the challenge was to represent each coloured bag in its tonal equivalent.  

The first exercise was designed to help students understand the Tone/value-based approach to painting.  We began our first exercise by making a tonal drawing of an arrangement of coloured shopping bags.  Using white chalk pastel and compressed charcoal the challenge was to represent each coloured bag in its tonal equivalent.  Students did very well, but it did require quite a lot of squinting, concentration and alteration to get the tones just right.

It was amazing to see how some bags that had stood out quite clearly in colour, actually faded together when drawn in tones of grey.

The second exercise that we started in the studio during class was designed to help students understand the colour relationships that happen between the colours in a painting or drawing.

For this exercise we make 6 small thumbnail sketches of a monochrome still life on A2 paper.  Each one was then to be painted in acrylic paints in a different colour relationship.  The colour relationships we covered were

  • Cool Harmonies
  • Hot Harmonies
  • Complimentary
  • Related Greys
  • Hot and Cool together

 The important thing about this exercise was not only getting the colour relationships correct but also matching the colour to the tonal equivalent of the monochrome objects in the still life.  This again presented challenges which the students managed impressively well.  I think the students learnt that it was important for both the colour and tone to work together to describe an object.  Something, I think, many had not considered before.

The remaining colour relationships studies, and the 6th thumbnail sketch which is to be used as a study for part 3 of the Colour project, was to be completed at home.

If you like the sound of this project please follow
this link to the ART PROJECT page,
where you can select the art project brief you are interested in.  
You will find all the instructions and resources you need to try this yourself at home.

I ended the class with a quick overview of part 3 of the Colour project which took inspiration from Chuck Close. See my Pinterest board for images. If you want to know more about this click the link above which will take you to the Art Project page on my website.


Tone + Form| Session 3: 6 May 2015

Introduction

Tone + Form – the third of the Art Elements to be learnt about during the Art Elements evening course.

Tone is probably the most important Art Element as it affects so many different aspects of your drawings and paintings. Last session we looked at how tone is inherent in colour and this class we looked at how tone is used to change 2D flat shapes into 3D forms that have volume and look like you can lift them off the page.

I began this class of the Art Elements course by explaining to students a classic art school project of shading a sphere.  You will find this in all the art books but it is so important to understand I just had to include it in this course too.  Learning how light wraps around an object to reveal its shape and make it look 3D really helps you create convincing and dynamic pictures – whether realistic or abstract.

See my Pinterest board for artists images that I used while teaching this course.

PROJECT TONE + FORM

In the studio

We turned the lights down to try to create a single light source for our spheres (polystyrene balls) and set about  drawing them with as much detail as possible.  This first exercise was about carefully observing the exact tone of grey as well as the position of the 5 tonal features of a sphere.   

Students got engrossed in looking and shading, carefully improving the spheres while I went round to each student helping them to get their drawings increasingly accurate.  They all did a grand job within the time we had during class.  I hope they continue at home to fully complete the blending of the tones and smooth out the shading.

The final blending stages can take many, many hours of careful work – which we don’t have during class time so we can’t expect fully finished drawings – but all the students completed the exercise, fully understanding what was needed to enable them to continue with the next stage of the project.

See the course gallery for more images from this course.

The second exercise that we started in the studio during class was designed to help students recognise how highlights, mid tones and shadows changed between objects of different base-tones – in our case boxes, cones, fabric and cylinders.  We worked hard to complete as much of this exercise as possible before the end of the session – and took the drawing home to complete smoothing and blending tones to fully complete the drawing.

We used white chalk pastel and compressed charcoal which I think is a lovely (although somewhat messy) technique as it makes changing tones really easy.  It was interesting to see how all students came to see that highlights are not always the same across all objects, and how even white objects can have darker tones within them than black objects.  It all just takes a lot of careful observation!

Everyone did really well, worked and concentrated hard throughout the class, and I think went home having learnt new things about how to create 3D looking shapes on a flat piece of paper.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this new knowledge translates into future drawings – both naturalistic and abstract.

 

If you like the sound of this project please follow
this link to the ART PROJECT page,
where you can select the art project brief you are interested in.  
You will find all the instructions and resources you need to try this yourself at home.

The project brief has a step 3 which is there for students to try at home, on their own, using what they have learnt in class.  If you want to know more about this click the link above which will take you to the Art Project page on my website.


Texture| Session 4: 13 May 2015

Introduction

Texture – the third of the Art Elements to be learnt about during the Art Elements evening course.

Drawing the texture of objects is one of the most important ways of describing the feel, weight and substance of an object.  It forms an important part of representational art as well as abstract art.

‘Surface quality’ is another way of talking about texture and becomes visible to use by the way light is absorbed or reflected off a surface.  

When we usually draw in class I ask students to ignore the surface quality and concentrate on the form and volume – so this lesson felt quite self-indulgent as we tried to capture every light reflection, bump, dip and texture of the surface.

I began this class by showing students different kinds of textures, both tactile and visual – and explained that as we learn a lot about tactile textures on my other courses like Creative Sketchbooks, Abstract painting, and Paint with textures, we would focus on drawing visual textures by trying to draw reflections, shiny and matt surfaces or highly rough objects.

See my Pinterest board for artists images that I used while teaching this course.

PROJECT TEXTURE

In the studio

Each student was given a still life object to draw such as a shiny key, a highly reflective teaspoon, a tough leather shoe, or a transparent glass and we spent the rest of the lesson carefully observing every last bit of detail.  Students used soft pencils (2B – 9B) or graphite along with a putty rubber and plastic eraser to achieve the fabulous results that they did.

 

This is a really good exercise to do – even if you only do it once – as it will teach you how to really see and observe – something that will help you in whatever kind of art you make.

See the course gallery for more images from this course.

It was totally absorbing and the lesson was extremely quiet as all the students were concentrating so hard.  Time flew by! By the end of the lesson everyone knew far more about the objects they were drawing than when they started – showing how important direct observation is for accurate drawings.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this new knowledge and skill translates into future drawings – especially if they take up the challenge and complete stage 2 of the project at home.

 

If you like the sound of this project please follow
this link to the ART PROJECT page,
where you can select the art project brief you are interested in.  
You will find all the instructions and resources you need to try this yourself at home.

 

If you want to know more about this project click the link above which will take you to the Art Project page on my website.


Visual Balance| Session 5: 20 May 2015

Introduction

Shape and Pattern – the fifth of the Art Elements to be learnt about during the Art Elements evening course.

Understanding the dynamics of shape is crucial when composing pictures.  We looked at 2 things this evening – Visual balance (the way shapes have a perceived weight) and how they create a sense of space when used in a picture; and we looked at the language we use to talk about paintings depending on what kinds of shapes are used – Realistic or Representational or Abstract pictures. 

This is all very complex stuff as so much of it is open to personal interpretation – making it quite difficult to teach!

 

We started the class by doing an exercise of small thumbnail sketches making diagrams of the theory behind the visual balance of shapes – this got everyone thinking and making those personal judgements on how they think shapes interact with each other.  A simple start before the more complicated challenge! And already some students began to question what they were seeing, how shapes were working.  They began to really question the dynamics of what was happening within the little pictures they were making. 

Everyone did these very successfully.
See my version on my Pinterest board, along with the Kandinsky images we used later on in the session.

PROJECT VISUAL BALANCE

In the studio

We took inspiration from Kandinsky’s abstract compositions where he plays around with flat abstract shapes.  We made our own versions using collage papers of different sorts.  This exercise seems really straight forward and quite simplistic – but when you start to think about how each shape is working with or against another – things can get quite complex and confusing.  To make an image as sophisticated as Kandinsky’s takes a lot of care, thought and study and I was so impressed with the way students took to this project.  I think their results show the amount of effort they put in over the hour or so we spent on this project.

 

See the course gallery for more images from this course.

 

It was totally absorbing and generated a lot of conversation and discussion about picture dynamics.  The lesson went really fast so we stayed on for an extra half hour so everyone could reach a point in their pictures where they were happy with the results (but not everyone can be totally happy every class.  One student was not very happy with their result at the end of the lesson.  They did however grow to love their composition after living with it for a few days and had the time to see its merits.  Often a bit of distance from the creative process is really helpful.

 There is a third stage to this project which is reserved for those students wanting to do the homework.  This takes inspiration from Matisse’s cutouts that he did late in his career.  I look forward to seeing the results and I hope some students post these on our Facebook page.

Students will have to remember everything we have learnt on the course over the last 5 weeks when we bring it all together next week and concentrate on composition.  That should be fun!

If you like the sound of this project please follow
this link to the ART PROJECT page, 
where you can select the art project brief you are interested in.  
You will find all the instructions and resources you need to try this yourself at home.

If you want to know more about this project click the link above which will take you to the Art Project page on my website.

 


Composition| Session 6: 27 May 2015

Introduction

Composition – the final week of the Art Elements evening course with the chance to put everything we’ve learnt into practice.

It’s all very well learning all the individual Art Elements – but if you don’t know how to use them all together – then something is missing.  You’ve got a toolbox of equipment but no idea what to do with them.  This final week looked at picture composition, or how we arrange all the art elements into a coherent drawing or painting. 

We could just throw everything together and hope for the best – but a more considered approach would probably be better!

We started the class asking questions about how shapes and objects are arranged within the picture frame and looked at some paintings to see if we could identify any logical order.  Amazingly we discovered certain common ‘categories’ or ways of arranging shapes.  We made a list of these and then used these as the starting point to create our own drawings from the still life in the middle of the studio.

Thumbnail sketches are the basis for good composition – its visual thinking.  We use them to plan, stripped of all the detail and distracting textures and paint techniques, to see what the underlying structure of our picture is going to look like.  If we get this structure right it will result in a much stronger picture.    

Students went off to their easels and did three brilliant thumbnails each – really showing how they were thinking about picture composition.  

If you’re wondering what a thumbnail sketch is have a look at the course gallery or our Pinterest board.

PROJECT COMPOSITION

In the studio

I pinned about 30 examples of sill life paintings and drawings on the studio wall as inspiration and for students to get ideas for how they might compose their drawings.  After choosing the most promising thumbnail sketch, they drew out their picture full size and started rendering it in either oil or chalk pastels. 

 

 I love pastels as you can layer and blend the colours quite a lot and get a pretty good ‘painterly’ quality.

The rest of the session was spent using all their knowledge of line, colour, tone, texture, shape and pattern to draw the best still life picture of their lives.  No pressure then!

See the course gallery for more images from this course.

We stayed on for an extra half hour so everyone could reach a point in their pictures that they were happy with.  Most students completed their drawing in the 2 hours they had, but one student still had more to do at home.  Everyone works at different speeds, so this is expected. 

I was very impressed with the drawings they did, and I know the students were too.  A brilliant culmination after 5 weeks of learning about the art elements.  I could almost hear the mental cogs spinning as students focused and concentrated hard to find ways to use line, colour, tone, shape, pattern and texture more effectively when drawing and painting.

I’m sure students will be thinking about what they have learnt for many weeks and months to come and will notice how their new knowledge slowly begins to change and improve the ways they make drawings and paintings. 

Read the students’ testimonials on the Art Elements course page to see what they thought about this course.

If you like the sound of this project please follow
this link to the ART PROJECT page, 
where you can select the art project brief you are interested in.  
You will find all the instructions and resources you need to try this yourself at home.

If you want to know more about this project click the link above which will take you to the Art Project page on my website.