Our local life drawing group has not met since last March because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I’m happy to report that yesterday we started our weekly drawing sessions again. Many of us have not done figure drawing from life for over a year and were worried that we might have lost the knack for doing it in all that time. Those fears seem to have been misplaced because everyone in the group came up with some good drawings and we had a very positive session.
We usually start with five minute drawings to warm up and to focus on capturing the gesture of the model’s pose. Then we do some longer poses of 20-25 minutes aiming for a more finished result.
As of this week, our Danville Life Drawing Group is back in Danville, Vermont! We have been meeting for several months in North Danville, VT in a generously offered space in the North Danville Community Building. We are grateful for their hospitality. We are also very happy to be back at our original location in the Danville Community Center where much construction work was done during our absence.
This week’s drawings are done with ballpoint pen. When I want to work lighter (with less bulky materials) I will often use ballpoint pen because it allows for the strength of pen and ink and the subtlety (almost) of pencil. I’ve listed the timings of the drawings in the captions below each.
Recently, I have been talking about “process” in creating art. It occurred to me that I had documented many of the stages of cutting this particular block, Sap Buckets, Tampico Road (2010) and thought that it might demonstrate an interesting example of “process”. We are used to seeing finished works of art but rarely have a chance to view various stages leading to the final image.
For an explanation of the block printing process in general, please click here.
What I show below are, in chronological order, a few of the many steps needed to complete the final block to be printed. You can look at the individual stages and compare them or view the slideshow to see the gradual changes in sequence.
There is a kind of “translation” that occurs in the process of cutting a block for printing. It’s very direct to do a pencil drawing and transfer it to a block. But to make a final block print image I need to cut away all of the areas that will not be printed. All of the white (unprinted) areas must be cut away leaving the surface that will be inked and printed (black areas). If I want to print a line, for example, I have to cut everything around that line. Look at stage 2 and 3. You can see that the drawn branches of the trees on left and center are created by cutting all of the area around them at the same time negatively creating the sky. To realize a drawn image in a block print, it has to be “translated” or realized by the process of cutting and letting it emerge from the cut area around it.
I usually start with a complete drawing of an image but leave some areas not fully realized. Look at stage 4 and stage 5. The large area of roadway at the bottom was left blank in the original pencil drawing. I was’t sure how I wanted to represent the path at the bottom of the image. It made more sense to use the cutting tools (gouges in this case) to “draw” the textures rather than “translate” from a pencil drawing.
For me, one of the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of making block prints is being aware of and controlling these two (at times opposite) techniques of drawing; with the pencil and with the cutting tools.
I hope you find this of value in understanding a bit about the “process” involved in making block prints.
There is an old ramshackle house down our road that we pass by often. I’ve wanted to do a drawing of it for some time and finally did one. Because of various circumstances (uncertain weather, time constraints, etc.) I had to do it in stages. It occurred to me that if I photographed the drawing in each of the various stages, it might make an interesting addition to the blog. One of the aspects of art that I’m interested in is the idea of “process”. Most people who are not involved in the creative process look at an artwork, whether a quick sketch or a masterful painting and only see the finished product. They are not aware of the “process” of how it came to be. The idea is to show at least part of that process through several stages so that getting to the end result can be better understood. For this drawing I started with a light pencil drawing of the composition which I went over with ink. Then gradually added areas of watercolor eventually adding more detail both with brushwork and pen drawing. I hope you find this of interest. Let me know if you have comments or questions.
Well, for the most recent session, I was back to using pastels, my favorite medium for life drawing. The new model from August 22 was back and she offered some very natural and interesting poses to draw. It seems to me that the more natural and un-contrived the pose, the easier it is to get down on paper and the more interesting to view both as an artist and as a viewer. Any comments on that would be welcome; let me know what you think.
Yesterday I continued to go between ballpoint pen and mechanical pencil for the life drawing session in Danville. I started out with ballpoint pen for the short poses and for the first long pose and then went to pencil for the remaining two drawings. It’s interesting that even though my approach to drawing the figure (style?) doesn’t change, there is a decided difference in the end result between the two mediums. The ink is bolder but the pencil is somewhat more nuanced, a bit more subtle if less defined. I like experimenting with both.
This week I stayed with pastels (chunky charcoals and Nupastels) for life drawing. However, there was a new element to the session; our model, who had posed for us some time ago and only for a couple of sessions. She provided very natural and some quite animated poses that were inspiring to draw. Although we are fortunate to have several excellent models to work with regularly, it was a challenge and an inspiration to have this new model to work with.
This week I decided to go back to pastels for the Danville Life Drawing Group session. The materials that I use for these drawings usually consist of the following items. Dick Blick sells a very versatile paper (Blick White Sulphite Drawing Paper) in various sizes and weights that is quite reasonably priced when purchased in quantity. I use the 18″ x 24″ size. For the drawings, I normally start with Chunky Charcoals by Cretacolor. They are quite large, 5/8″ (16 mm) thick, and 3-3/8″ (86 mm) long, and I usually break the sticks in half to work with them. They are available in eleven subdued colors. What’s really nice about these sticks is that they can be used either on end to make line drawings or using the long side for broad tonal marks. I will often additionally use NuPastel sticks (available in many more colors than the Chunky Charcoals) to enhance the colors of the final drawing.
This week at life drawing in Danville, I decided to use ballpoint pen again. There is something about the way it feels somewhere between using an ink pen and using a pencil that keeps bringing me back to it. When I want to concentrate on really “drawing” the figure and not being preoccupied with color, it seems to be my medium of choice. It looks and feels like an ink drawing but the ballpoint and its oily ink allows for a much greater variety of tones than a nib pen or a drafting type of pen (micron). It all has to do with the amount of pressure I use (lighter pressure, lighter tone). I was using a standard ballpoint pen, in this case a giveaway pen from Manoir Hovey (a wonderful Inn in Quebec) but any ballpoint seems to work well as long as it doesn’t leak and leave splotches.