Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Still Kinda Life: Still Life Drawing Initiative: PHASE ONE

[Compressed Charcoal on Newsprint]
 

     I honestly don't know what I was thinking when I decided that I would set up a VERY large Still Life in the middle of my studio to draw right before the MADNESS of the Holiday Season.  I was CRAZY THINKING. That's what I was doing, lol. ;0)


[Graphic by Artist: Samie Marc. Original Source Unknown.]
 

     As part of my Back to Basics Self Assigned Drawing Program, I decided it was time to spend a little part of my life on Still Life drawing again.  Though I don't know why I thought I would complete the project in 2 weeks time in between the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays. This time is the height of getting ready for Christmas: digging out ALL your Holiday decorations, actually decorating your house, putting up the tree, lighting the pre-lit tree (because the middle section of lights went out last year, decorating the tree, making a Christmas shopping list, a Christmas card list, going Christmas shopping, wrapping the Christmas gifts you bought, putting them under the tree in a semi-pleasing visually aesthetic manner, taking all the presents out and re-putting them under the tree because you didn't like what you did the first time, and etc and etc and etc... Etc still is covering A LOT of time consuming activities there.


     So, yeah. I decided to try and add this project on top of all of that.... CRAZY THINKING.  

     Anyway...  I was planning my first piece of my New Portfolio initiative (yet, another project I was working on) I was originally thinking of doing it in charcoal or ink wash. I REALLY wanted to show some Black and White pieces in this New Portfolio, so I was thinking of which Black and White Medium would suit this work best.  I had a vision in my head of the composition, even though I have to yet sketch it down. I have a small thumbnail composition of it but will be actually developing the illustration this next week (alongside phase 2 of the Still Life Drawing Project as well as a Illustration Friday Project, I'm certain I will want to do.)   I certainly never make things easy on myself.  I'm unsure why. lol.  This is really more so a post for that particular Illustration when I complete it. Suffice to say I ended up deciding to use Scratchboard as my chosen medium for the piece....  I haven't used or practiced or even thought about scratchboard as a working medium for my illustration in 10 years and I didn't really have any recollection of how to work with it.... CRAZY THINKING.

[Compressed Charcoal on Newsprint]

     I felt that before I could dive head first into working with scratch board, I wanted to really dive back into just the world of working exclusively in Black and white.  I am honestly surprised I haven't gone back to it in so long.  I very much have enjoyed this process and am still in the midst of it (hence this Post Title: Phase One.)  Phase one of this drawing exercise involved just working with some of the most recognized and traditional black and white drawing mediums: Graphite, Charcoal and Chalk (Conte Crayons).  I wanted to go back to the days in college when you would walk into a huge dimly lit room with a spotlight on a magnanimous pile of random stuff in the middle of the room.  I remember the excitement and shear joy of just loosing yourself in the pleasure of drawing for drawing sake.  I have never really been a doodler, in fact I find I don't really doodle much at all at this point in my life (as opposed to the little bit I did when I was younger.)  So Still-Lifes and Self Portraits and other random assignments were my Doodling. I ate it up!  Don't get me wrong, I loved to go out and sketch in my sketchbook back in those days too, but I didn't doodle. I would sketch people (if they were around) or plants or trees or benches or the buildings or my coffee or whatever it is that I was eating if I was somewhere where there was food (which is a VERY LIKELY POSSIBILITY.)

[Compressed Charcoal on Drawing Paper]

     To be more to the point, I wanted to rediscover and experience the joy and pleasure of that kind of drawing experience.  Most of the time, in fact all of the time, most of what I draw has to deal specifically with a client project or a specific illustration.  It never is just drawing for drawing sake which eventually makes you a little artistically frustrated.  Also, I hadn't drawn the way I used to draw back then, because there wasn't a need to do so for whatever I was working on.  Not that you forget to draw, but drawing is a SKILL and though many have more of a knack at doing it than others, it is still a skill and skills require practice.  I dealt almost exclusively for the past 10 years drawing in a style that I worked tirelessly to develop towards the end of my college days and continued to fine tune since then.  I NEVER set up some objects in my studio and just draw them as I see them. NO STYLE, Just As I SEE THEM.  It had been years since I focused n just developing an object as realistically as I could. I wanted to embark on a project that, not only helps me work towards the piece I was planning (in the sense it was practice in working in Black and White media) I was truly curious if I still had it in me to create images the way I would when I was 20.  I used to meticulously render things in graphite till they almost resembled a photograph. I wanted to try and do that again to see where I was now, a little over 10 years later.


[White Colored Pencil on Black Paper]

[White Colored Pencil on Black Paper]

     The original plan was to set up an elaborate still life in the middle of the studio and leave it there for 2 weeks.  Week One (Phase One) I would concentrate on sketching with charcoals, pencils and chalks, drawing a selection of the massive grouping each evening.  I also want to play with drawing in reverse (negative) and well as the normal/traditional drawing/sketching method (positive).  Week Two (Phase Two) would deal exclusively with scratch board, practicing at creating images with that medium only. This is to prepare me for the New Illustration Project I was planning.  As you might have guessed, this was a rather ambitious plan to be completed amidst the Holiday Season.  I just really finished Phase One week before last.  I wasn't always able to spare each consecutive evening to drawing the still life exclusively.  Evenings had to be shared with other creative endeavors I was working on simultaneously.  So The project has extended into the following 2 months being able to be revisited a little here and a little there.


[White Conte' Crayon on Black Paper]

[White Conte' Crayon on Black Paper]

     People sometimes say that It is always better late than never, but I am not entirely certain I agree with that.  But seeing as this project was only set to a personal deadline of where I would like it to be completed.  Obviously other things, like Christmas, ended up taking precedence, unfortunately.
It has been rather frustrating dragging this one out, as the Huge Still Life has my studio hostage. It is quite literally in the center of it. I have to carefully creep by it every time I need to get to the other side of the studio... CRAZY THINKING.

      I want with this particular Back To Basics Project to concentrate exclusively on the Elements of Value, Texture and (most importantly) Contrast.  Each evening that I worked that I drew the Still Life, I decided before hand which element I would focus on.  You can see, obviously, looking through the images ( I posted them in chronological order from when I drew them) which Drawing exemplifies each  chosen Element on that particular day/night.  I mostly drew these at night as the lighting in the studio at that time was more conducive to more dramatic lighting of the objects themselves. 

     [A Shout Out to my partner for loaning me the Lighting Kit.  A convenient PERK of dating a professional photographer and videographer. Thanks, Handsome Man. I Love You. ;0)]

     There really isn't much more to elaborate on for this phase of the project.  I had fun loosing myself in the joy of Drawing again.  I was like a giddy 20 year old again. I t was a nice vacation from what I normally work on, not that I don't enjoy working on those projects.  Nothing can quite compare to the bliss of just... drawing.  Not having a purpose other than just... drawing.  It's rather difficult to explain to those who do not draw, but I hope you can, in some way, imagine the blissful pleasure of it from description alone.  I enjoyed getting my hands dirty with charcoal again, mapping out (lightly) my composition in vine and then getting in there with some good ole compressed charcoal.

[Graphite on Drawing Paper]

     I admit that working with graphite again was somewhat frustrating in the sense that I was used to moving/working faster than was required to work in the manner I was attempting to do.  i found myself having to put the sketchpad down several times to just breathe and calm down and BE PATIENT.... Be Patient.... be patient.
Not to mention, my ability to see keen details from a distance was quite difficult, even from the rather short distance I was sitting at from  the still life. [Back when I was a Freshman in college, I had two pretty serious eye surgeries.
I was told by the surgeon that I could have been permanently blind had I not gone in for a routine eye exam and they not found the issues I had with my eyes.  Imagine that: Pursuing a Career in the Visual Arts only to become Blind my first year of study... Sounds like something right out of an Alanis Morrissette song.]

     Point of that: My surgeon also told me that my eye sight will slowly become more and more near sighted to an exponential degree (more so than normal) as I grow older, because of the nature of what they did to my eyes to fix them.  It's HONESTLY a very SMALL TRADE OFF in my humble opinion.  So in context of this project, I don't think I am able to see the details in the objects as clearly as I once did.
That did present a challenge, but I persevered, for better or for worse. After all, this was just drawing for enjoyment sake anyway, right?  The point to all this, really, is that I decided to make a separate Back To Basics Project Assignment exclusively for Graphite in February.  I will put together a much small still life on my drafting table and realistically render that in graphite as I will be close enough to observe the detail and translate it to paper the way that only graphite can do. 

     I did dabble some in reverse drawing (drawing on black paper with white drawing media).  I had a blast working on small black paper squares (left overs from college projects past)  with a white colored pencil.  I always enjoy when I can use the old scraps/remnants of materials used for old projects. You know you always say to yourself,"I'm not going to throw that away! That is perfectly still good scrap of (enter here) and I MAY JUST NEED IT AGAIN SOMEDAY."  lol   Admit it all you artists out there. You do this very same thing. I know you do! ;0)   So I got to recycle some of that with this project.  I liked that!


[White Colored Pencil on Black Paper]

     Another quick shout out to RumTum, my cat who keeps me company in the studio while I work and provides wonderful distractions and Play Breaks from Projects. She certainly enjoyed the Still Life in her own way.
She had a comfortable little Cabana. She would prop herself up on the pillow that was in the grouping underneath the Umbrella.  It was adorable. She would fall asleep there, even when I wasn't drawing the Still Life.  I was able to sneak a little photo of her there. ;0)

     Well this pretty much wraps up all I had to say about Phase One of the Still Life Drawing Initiative. I hope you enjoyed that ramble about it and the drawings I had fun producing from it.  Stay tuned in the next week or so for a Post on Phase Two.

until next time...
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, keep making art. 
Cheers,
LEWIS

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