Work on a still life has kept me from posting for a while. It’s been slow going but thepainting should be done soon. I’ll post it when it is, along with a few more paintings Ihaven’t found time to put up yet. There’s been a fair bit ofdrawing going on too, whichwill hopefully be posted soon, but this post is all about what’s going to come next.
In mylast postI reviewed the different kinds of practice I’ve done over the past year or so. I alsosaid that the next post was going to describe the series of exercises I’m about to start inorder to(hopefully) get to the next stage. So here it is.
Many of these exercises will be similar to, and sometimes the same as, the ones I’ve been doing so far,but with the difference that they are going to be based around concentrating on basicprinciples. This set of exercises is intended to be more focused than my practice has beenso far.
There’s one basic principlewhich I’ve come to believe is the foundation on which everything else must stand. Without it,all other aspects of painting and drawing – design and composition, technique, colour – will beweakened. I think that it’s the common thread which runs through all good drawing and painting.
But it’s not my idea. I’ve comeacross this principle in a wonderful book by Andrew Loomis called”Creative Illustration”. This book is expensive, and not easy to find in the usual book shopssince it’s out of print, (there’s usually a few copies on sale atAbe books).I have to say that I don’t think I’ve seen a clearer, more concise ormore useful book on painting and drawing. Even the Harold Speed books pale a little by comparison, and youshould know by now how much I love those.
The Form Principle
Loomis calls this overriding basic principle the ‘Form Principle’, and the book is based entirely around this idea.He describes it like this:
“The form principle is the rendering of form as to it’s aspect at any given moment withregard to it’s lighting, it’s structure and texture, together with it’s true relationship to it’senvironment. Now let us see what this means. Any pictorial effect that will present a convincingillusion of existing form must do so first by the rendering of light on that form. Without light,as far as we are concerned, form ceases to exist.”
It’s all about the light. Loomis goes on to list a few basic truths of the form principle, which I won’t go into here, but haveparaphrased for you in a page describing theAndrew Loomis Form Principle in alittle more depth. I’ll try to make a note of where these things come up in subsequent practice pieces.For the next few months at least, I intend to make the Loomis Form Principle the basis of my practice.
Most of the exercises here I’ve already been working with in one form or another. But I plan nowto go back to them with the form principle in mind, and to approach them from a slightly different angle, hopefully with more focus. The exercises can be roughly split into two types, with two differentgoals, but in practice, I think that there’ll be a lot of cross over between the two.
The first type is concerned with improving accuracy. The second is concerned with tone and, you guessed it,the form principle.The more I draw and paint, the more I become convinced that tone is more important than colour, moreimportant than technique and materials, and can create almost all the most important things in agood drawing or painting. Light, mood, expression, form, design, all these things can be done with tone.Look at any Vermeer painting if you don’t believe me. I’m beginning to look on colour as entirelysecondary to tone.
Of course this is a personal opinion, and Imust admit that I have a thing for tone these days, much more than colour, but I do believe that masteryof tonal values is the key – at least, I believe that it’ll be my key. To my mind, there’s not much pointin playing around with colour too much until tone is mastered. If that mastery isn’t there, then the mostharmonious colour, the most carefully worked out composition, will fall short. On to the exercises:
Drawing and Accuracy
After an abortive attempt at a copy of plate 5 in pencil, I’m returning to charcoal for another go.Primarily, I see the Bargue plates as exercises in accuracy of drawing. Now I’m moving onto tonal plates,there’s a lot to learn regarding the form principle here too. Bargue simplifies tones down to their maincomponent blocks. That’s a good skill to be developing.
See above. These are slightly tougher than the Bargue plates since working from a three dimensionalsubject is harder. Also, these drawings will cross over more into the form principle and tone, since decisionsregarding where the main tone blocks start and end have to made as I go along. That’s all done for you onthe Bargue plates.
Self portrait drawings
These drawings are definitely a bit of both, but I’m going to be concentrating on measuring and accuracy forthe near future with these.
Still life drawings
There’s still 50 of the series of 100 to go, so lots of room to practice. These will continue as before, butwith more concentration on using tone to describe form. I plan to incorporate some exercises involving thesimplifying of tones down to a few basic values.
Cubes and Spheres
This is an exercise recommended to me by Graydon Parrish. Thankfully he’s still talking to me after Itrashed his Bargue book.He’s a nice feller. This exercise involves taking ten cubes and ten spheres, and painting them all a different stepof the value range from black to white. A painting is then done of each one in four different lighting conditions.I have a strong feeling that this is going to be an excellent exercise, although obviously it will take some timeto get them all done.
Although the above exercises will form the core of my new syllabus, there’s a few other things which I’ll bedoing as time permits, either because there’s something to be learned from them, or because they’re fun to do.It’s not good to be too much of an ascetic.
Loomis head drawings
Back with the venerable Mr. Loomis again. The Loomis books have been quite a find. I’m currently working through”Drawing the Head and Hands”, in which our Andrew covers everything from basic structure to muscle groups to, well,everything you’d ever want to know about drawing heads. I’ve already done a bunch of these which hopefully I’ll getround to posting soon, and all will become clear.
I miss my cafe sketches. They’re fun. I hope to start again if I can find time for it.
Morning practice drawings
This is an ongoing thing which I’ve been doing for a while now. Every day (well, almost every day) starts with half anhour or so drawing. I do it because it’s fun, but I won’t be posting the drawings here. Who wants to see my drawingsof coffee cups, ash trays and cartoon robots? I thought so.
So that’s it, a whole bunch of exercises which will probably take me right into next year. I’m not putting anytime limit on these, since they’re all ongoing and I’m going to have to fit them around work (the stuff that paysthe bills) and my still life paintings. Based on my experiences so far, I think these exercises represent a fairlywell considered approach to learning the basics, and should give me a solid foundation on which to build futurework. Why not join me?
Posted 11th March 2007
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