If you want the lines of your under drawing to disappear when you make a watercolor painting, draw with a watercolor pencil in a lighter hue that will blend in with the final painting. These orchids were bright orange, yellow and red, so I used a yellow ochre pencil for the drawing. Watercolor purists never erase their graphite pencil lines and leave the drawing as a part of the final work, or they work totally with paints and brushes with no pencil drawing at all. This watercolor pencil drawing trick gives you a solution somewhere between the two traditional methods where the under drawing vanishes and you will not have to rub an eraser over your painting.
Painting bamboo with ink in the Chinese brush painting / Japanese sumi-e style is really relaxing. Trying to create my own bamboo art gave me an even bigger appreciation for the masterful works of Asian artists. I have some oddball hand-made paper that I created that needs to be used up. What I made is too soft for drawing and not strong enough for many paper crafts; so the brush paintings will be sent out as mail art. The bare minimum you need to get started is paper, a brush and ink. I like grinding an ink stick on the stone because it is also relaxing. If you feel bored or stressed out, give this a try. I have collected two videos and some scans from Japanese Ink-Painting:Lessons in Suiboku Technique by Ryukyu Saito [Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1959] so you can get started right away.
The Artist’s Magazine January/February issue 2015 had an article on landscape composition, but it was these thumbnail sketches that illustrate the concepts which I found to be the most helpful. Reading through a lot of descriptive language is a lot slower for me to do than just seeing an illustration of the concepts. Landscape painting is not really my thing but I have attempted a few canvases. I learned from the article that landscapes can be composites made of elements pulled together rather than a recording of what one may see if they were standing at a particular place in person.
The 14th sketch is really just a viewfinder made of four strings attached to the opening of a mat. It is more of a composition tool than than a composition formula. Maybe there was an editorial push by the magazine for the author of the article to come up with an even number of formulas.
If you want something fun and challenging and like to make miniatures, inchies are a dangerous addiction. The challenge is to make a one inch square artwork. I think they are a lot of fun. I like to do pen and ink with watercolour, but have done fully painted, colored pencil and mixed media inchies. Two sets were sold and the others were mail art inchie trades I did from 2013 to present.
Like ATCs, you want inchies to be card thickness, 140# to 300# water color paper, illustration board, Bristol board or mounted on chipboard. I tend to use watercolour paper or paste thinner drawing paper onto cereal box board. I have my traded inchies from other artists in plastic pages in a binder. I have the pages made for collecting Pogs, but postal stamp album pages also work well. Some collectors glue them onto sheets to make “inchie quilts” by placing them together with the edges touching to create a larger artwork out of all the individual inchies.
I made this set this past week for a group trade.
A friend was getting married and I asked what he wanted for a gift. He and his fiancee had seen a pair of owls at local nature park so I set forth to put
a bird some owls on it. I made the mistake of offering an oil painting, which given three months time from learning about the wedding to the date of the ceremony was not possible, since an oil painting takes 10 months to a year to dry enough to varnish. I opted for watercolours on an 12 x 16 sheet of Arches. He didn’t know what kind of owls they had seen and it turns out it could have been any of six species indigenous to Illinois. I swiped and modded an image of barn owls via Google image search and put ten hours into the painting. It looked very nice matted and framed. That’s just how it goes when you invite the starving artist to your wedding, you’re not getting fine china or crystal but it will be something unique.
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