Starting With Abstract Painting and Abstract Work in Other Media by Kenneth Jameson is nice, old thrift edition book from 1970 and is a lovely introduction to basic ideas in making abstract art. This information shows you how to begin with abstract painting and abstract drawing and branches to other media. The author included a lot of photographs and illustrations of concepts as they were being explained in the text. He starts with a lot of source material taken from nature. Even as an experience artist, I enjoy this book. As far as I can tell, this was a small press book and it is currently out of print; so I scanned the whole thing. I am offering it for educational purposes so long as I do not get smacked around over copyright issues. You can download it from the link below or read the book by opening it in a new tab in your browser.
I did check and you can get this book on Amazon from $0.01 to $112.00. I think there is a range in prices based on the fact it is out of print but also no one wants the book. You have to know the book exists in order to be looking for it on Amazon!
Charcoal on newsprint I did in 8th Grade
Do you want to know how to learn realistic drawing? Realistic drawing is really desirable to people newer to art. It is a good foundation skill to have. Back in the day, art students were drilled in realistic drawing, especially figure drawing and perspective, then branched out to their own personal styles after they were accomplished at realism. Getting competent with realism takes time and plenty of paper. Everyone can achieve realistic drawing. When you were little, holding a pencil and writing your name was hard because it was unfamiliar. Drawing is just training your hand-eye coordination, just like a professional baseball player is not born knowing how to pitch. Here are 8 tips to help get you there:
- Draw from life. The more you draw from life, the better you get. My junior high school teacher made us draw crushed pop cans, wrinkled paper bags and the same boring pile of bottles over and over. I benefited the rest of my life from this. It also helps if you have some bones laying around, too.
- Draw big. Get out from under just using your fingers and wrist to draw. Use your whole hand and arm more. Also, see the lines better because they are larger. Half of drawing well is seeing what does not look right; the other half is making it look right. Use a large pad of cheap newsprint paper, a chalk board or anything you have that allows you to draw as large as possible.
- Use photographic references. I lean heavily on reference photos. If you draw from paintings, cartoons or other drawings, your drawing will look less realistic and more cartoony. Photographs have already taken one step for you, they are flattened into two dimensions and easier than drawing from real life because you get edges where color planes meet.
- Trick to fast skill improvement. Do this exercise: take a photograph you want to draw. Get your pencils and paper. Now turn the photograph upside down and draw it. Keep your photo upside down the whole time you are drawing. Turn it around, does it look great? It will if you try this. The verbal side of your brain is an evil control freak and bent on constant identification. You have to train your brain to let the non-verbal skills kick in and take over. If you are drawing a person, your brain is still in the background saying “eyes”, “nose”, “face”, etc. By drawing the photograph upside down, you are turning the verbal identification skills off and looking at shapes and colors. The more time your “right” side of the brain gets to be in charge, the easier drawing gets.
- The slow road. Learn grid drawing and do it until you feel confident enough to stop using a grid. The straight lines help you with seeing where things are being drawn. If you liked drawing on ruled notebook paper this is going to make sense to you. Use a ruler and draw boxes over your photograph (a magazine page works well.) Then make boxes on your drawing page and tackle them one by one. Give your reference photo one inch boxes; make the drawing larger with the same number of two or three inch boxes. Also, make the boxes light on your drawing so they can be shaded over or erased when you are done. Just because you used a grid does not mean it has to be seen in the finished art work. From Renaissance painters to living artists whose work is currently in museums, a lot of art had grid drawing as its backbone.
- Train you brain. Take a cheap ballpoint pen and a pad of paper. Take something from real life to draw, it can be anything you want to draw. You are going to train your brain with what is known as “contour line drawing”. Draw your object but do not look at the paper. You want the pen to stay on the page as much as possible. You will make a lot of drawings that look terrible with lines going all over the place. The point of this exercise is to train your hand-eye coordination and observation skills. I also took to cheating by using my left fingertip to hold a place on the page where I left off with a line. You really want to keep your eyes fixed on the object you are drawing and not look down at the paper as much as possible while you are drawing. It may feel frustrating. If you stick to this, if you do it enough times, you will see a big improvement in the contour line drawings. You will get really good at drawing something by just looking at it and not the page. This exercise will help your overall drawing skills. It helped me overcome an ongoing habit of very light, scratchy lines to make shapes.
- Learn to render graphite. Make light circles of pencil that get heavier where the shadows and darker areas of your drawing are. Even if you only have a standard #2 pencil, you can render very well. A paper blending stomp helps to smooth out rendered areas but I have also used a paper towel wrapped around my fingertip. Learning the different kinds of graphite pencils from a very hard [like F] to a softer [like 8B] helps. Buy a basic drawing pencil set; the HB is closest to a standard #2 pencil.
- Draw, draw, draw. Unlike the adage about riding a bicycle, drawing is a skill that degrades pretty fast. If you do not draw a lot or have not drawn in a long time, you will be out of practice. You need to put time in on the clock to be good and to stay good at drawing. If you are out of practice or your skills have lapsed behind what they once were, don’t panic. Just put the time in to train your skills back up and concentrate on getting better.
Graphite pencil [rendered] drawn from life done the next year, freshman in high school
Here is a great video showing a multi-layer stencil technique for spray paint art by Travis Bourne. He is using the ideal set up with a VOC mask and a spray booth. The finished work is shown above.
Color studies are usually exercises people are forced to do in a class; but if you are new to painting, color studies can teach you a lot about how colors looks when combined together. They are also a good idea to make on a small scale in order to test different versions of a composition before committing to a larger work. You can make color studies by hand or do them digitally. I made these by hand. I used carbon paper and traced the same drawing onto acrylic painting paper.
Pumping Station: One hackerspace has moved to its new location and we are still unpacking and organizing. Among all of the possible projects available, the thing I wanted to hack the most was the space itself. Saying “have at it” in an open meeting for decorative painting over the freshly painted white walls of a new space was carte blanche for experimentation. Also, I really hate blank white walls. They are boring and we were surrounded by them.
I watered down my remaining Process inks in dish detergent bottles, put down plastic painter’s sheets on the floor then got down to brass tacks Jackson Pollock style. I was so giddy; I always wanted to splatter paint a wall. I got a ladder, started at the top and let the colors run in long drips and blend. To giver credit where it’s due, I took the idea from street art by mobstr and went with Process colors and more control.
Someone, I think maybe Ryan, was sitting with another person watching and said “Watching paint dry wasn’t interesting until Shellie came along!” I was having so much fun. Unfortunately, the colors dried much paler than they were when wet and the wall has been declared to resemble an Easter egg. Next time I would not use as much water and keep the acrylic inks at a thicker consistency. I have used acrylic inks and acrylic paints interchangeably: silkscreening acrylic paints with GOLDEN silkscreen medium, water and glycerin and painting with Speedball acrylic water-based inks. Yay for the acrylic molecule!
The plastic sheet caught a majority of the mess, but the taped edge at the bottom of the wall was not a good enough seal since I used electrical tape. I had to mop up a good amount of inks but I cleaned up right away so nothing dried on the floor. Also, taping off the outlet with a piece of plastic was a good call. Just a mental note that electrical tape is not a substitute for blue painter’s tape.
Other people may add to or paint over the wall. At least there is something on it for now. I enjoyed making it and the wall area will most likely be needed for storage. I chose the Process inks because they are fast-drying acrylic and bright, offering pops of color through anything that is placed in front of the wall.
I posted how to make a pour painting using Process colors that blend together and create new colors at random. This is an easy way to make a painting and I used it as an alternative to a solid color field background which I later evolved to a faster method. I returned to the the idea of the pour painting and wanted more detail, a more energetic background. The CMYK Process colors I used were Speedball silkscreen inks for paper.
I used two coats of white spray paint on canvas. Primed canvas is white, but it is a duller grayish shade of white, not bright white. I used distilled water to dilute the inks to about 50% strength and dripped them outdoors using dish detergent bottles. The bottles worked better than I expected. I was happy with the amount of control and being able to drip the different paint colors across the canvas and vary the colors. It would be very easy to cover a large surface area this way. If I try this method again, I think I will mist the canvas down with a layer of water so the splatters and drops of color can flow around and mix together more.
If you have a color scheme that is not working, trying a wash of a darker paint over the top. Thin the darker color paint with water and add as many layers as you want. I sometimes experiment with leftover paint on cardboard scraps. I like to play around with cut out photographs from magazines and newspapers. It’s like sketching for me. The background colors of the boxing match were to bright and cheery. I splotched on a gunmetal metallic gray and dispersed the paint wash with alcohol. I think getting the color dirty and knocking back the yellow had a much better effect.
Before: The colors are too bright.
After: Much better match to the subject matter!
I am going to try this technique over the next week or two. It makes sense that using layers of clear fixative would let you build up deep hues in watercolor; doing this would keep the washes in place. This article is from The Artist’s Magazine July 1994 issue. I am thinking that spray fixatives are of a higher quality today as many advertise they will not yellow over time or are a “non-yellowing” formula.
I watched a lot of crayon wax painting techniques that used variety of heat sources, but I did not find one that used the oven. This seemed like the most obvious heat source to use. The other videos rely on dripping and wax flow and have to deal with air pushing the wax or gravity pulling the wax. I was thinking about art glass techniques that use frit and slumping and translated those two concepts to wax pieces on canvas. It was a lot of fun to experiment with and I pulled together a 40 second video on how to best make a crayon painting with this method.
I was set an painting a base layer on the canvas because blank spaces on canvas is just a per peeve of mine. I feel this method give you a lot of control on how the colors come together. You can take your time to arrange the crayon bits. If this seems too tame, I guess I can up the freak factor by stating nothing goes through fresh crayon quite like a razor sharp vintage surgical steel scalpel.
3/20 UPDATE: Some friends chimed in that a cheese grater would be a good tool for kids to get crayons shredded. Great idea! You can also mash them with a heavy rolling pin.
This is a thing? Oh, the things they don’t teach you in art school, like anything cool. Thankfully we have the internet for that.
I am going to classify this technique as “encaustic art ala Crayola.” I love Crayola crayons so much. Here are some surprising new ways people are melting down the wax for painting. I can’t believe I never heard of this before.
Here is the basic idea with two different techniques and some boss video edit.
I went to the blog for this next video, and this artist does not say anything about process. It would be my guess the toys were painted with spray paint specifically made for plastic. I would lean toward either two-part epoxy or liquid nails to hold the toys and crayons in place, but other videos revealed people were just using high temp hot glue. The glue is shielded and stays in place. Using a heat gun is clearly more effective than a hot air drier.
If you want to go with a Neo-Impressionist crayon melt, get a $2.00 cheap hot glue gun. If you can find a high temperature one, that would work better than a low heat gun. The artist clarifies that this will destroy the hot glue gun.
Also there were a few videos where the crayon was melted onto a black painted canvas or black piece of illustration board which has a nice bold look. In this video, the artist goes for more control, a slightly different composition and uses a space heater to melt the crayons.
Back to school supply sales just got a lot more interesting.