Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pencils! What'll they think of next? (Unusual Art Material)

OK, maybe pencils have been around for a while, maybe you've even used one before.

I don't have to tell you that pencils are usually made of graphite, and come in all sorts of "grades," from the very hard pencils that maintain a sharp point for a long time (but don't apply a very dark line), to the very soft pencils that glide sensuously across the paper and can put down very dark tones (but don't hold a point for long).

And you probably also know that the each specific degree of hardness or softness is indicated on a scale that runs from "H" for Hard to "B" for black (the ones with the soft lead), with an "F", for fine point, right in the middle of the scale. And since people like variety, the scale is also subdivided further with numbers for a scale that usually runs about 8H all the way to 8B.

Hard pencils are popular with draughtsmen because they offer consistently fine lines, but for the artists, it's the soft pencils that are the most popular. the softer the pencil, the more tonal range it offers from light shading all the way to a very dark tone for really deep shadows. And the soft ones blend more easily. And the softest pencil known to man is the 9B pencil.

Until now, that is!

The Mitsu-Bishi pencil company of Japan offers a 10B pencil!! (Here's the line in the sand: a lot of you will be saying "Who gives a ******?!", but there are a few of you jumping out of your chairs, pulling your coats over your pajamas and exclaiming "10B Pencils?! I need them now!!" You know who you are).

It's extremely soft and smooth writing, and provides a wide range of tone, although you need a light touch to maintain a light tone. It smudges fairly easily, which can be good news or bad, depending on your style.

I found mine at Kinokuniya bookstore in NYC, a bit pricey at $2.60, but it's a well made piece of drawing equipment. I'd bet they can be found at other stores that offer Japanese stationary and art supplies. They can also be found on-line. Do a search for Hi-Uni 10B, and then do a little comparison shopping.

And if you just love reading everything about pencils (again, you know who you are), check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pencils.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Drawing in 3D

Here’s a quick primer about shading, and the way to create a sense of depth to make your drawings look more “three dimensional.” This is going to be pretty basic and simple, so you’ll be able to start using it immediately.

But first, what is this image a picture of?

Is it a figure? A woman? A statue? The girl who invented cheese?

It’s a picture of a piece of paper with light and dark chalk rubbed on it! That’s all it really is, however, that chalk has been put on the paper in a particular, precise pattern so that your eye recognizes that pattern as a human figure. But it’s still a piece of paper, just like your drawings. Now, the pattern in which the chalk was put down on the paper was done in a very precise way, so precise that it can encode very specific structural details that a viewer’s mind can instantly understand to represent a figure when they look at it. If you look at the drawing closely, you can see how expertly the artist has captured on paper the texture, form, hair, musculature under the skin, shadows, etc. (This drawing is by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, possibly one of the greatest figure-sketch artists of all time, and a favorite of Marie Antionette).

A computer, at its most basic level, processes everything, whether text documents, pictures or video, as a series of 1s and 0s which are called “bits” of information, and this is known as the “binary” numerical system. Similarly, all visual information can be broken down into 2 bits of information: light and shadow (use of color puts an added spin on the art, but when you understand light and dark first, color becomes much easier and more meaningful to work with).

Most of the time, if you’re drawing, you’re going to be using white or light-colored paper, and the substance you’re going to be drawing with, whether pencil, pen or crayon, is going to be darker.

A “contour drawing” is a line drawing where the line follows the contours, which is to say the edges and details, of the subject of the drawing.

Contour drawings can be great, and convey a lot of detail, but they can also look a little bit flat, since they only convey detail about the edges of what you’re drawing and not about the depth.
Now, when your eye perceives a three dimensional object, what it actually sees is the light reflecting off of that object and into your eye. Because the object is three dimensional, some parts of that object are closer to you than others, and are likely to reflect more light, and the parts farther away from you are more likely to be in shadow. If you’re only using absolute light and dark then the parts of a thing closer to you would be white, and the parts farther away would be black. Like this:

It creates a very bold image, doesn’t it? It’s powerful, but also a little bit cold and if it’s very detailed, it can be confusing.

Notice the transition between light and dark is very intense, “all or nothing,” and the edges all seem very sharp, don’t they? By adding a third, transitional value, we can modulate the intensity of the light and shadow, and create softer, rounder transitions.

The middle tone is half dark and half light—50% of each. And each tone represents how far away from you the object is. This is basic “shading.”
Now we have a lot to work with!

Try playing with this for a while in your drawings and see how many ways you can use this. Your darkest tone is going to be the farthest away, lightest tone is closest, and middle tone is in-between. From here it makes sense that you can continue to split the tones for greater detail as you need them.

Going further—styles of drawing
There are a few other ways of suggesting depth by way of light and shadow, the most common are:

Line weight: Darker, heavier line suggests darkness and depth. It’s an effect that’s used a great deal in cartoons and comics and also in some styles of Asian brush art. It’s also sometimes used in technical illustration.

Cross hatching: Etchings, line drawing and pen-and-ink art typically utilize only solid lines. In that case, the half-tone can be approximated by increasing the density of the lines or "cross hatching." By applying more lines in a particular area, it blocks out a certain amount of the light reflecting back to the viewer’s eye, say, 50% of the reflected light, which is the same thing that the 50% (solid grey) half-tone did earlier.

There are many ways to imply shading with line alone: cross hatching, stippling (little dots), and other textures you can make up yourself. Notice that they all suggest different surface textures to the viewer.

Look at all the textures the famous illustrator, Harry Clarke, used in this illustration for Poe's "Tales of Mystery and Imagination."

If you’re just starting out, you can take for granted that the brightest part of the image will be closest to you, in the way we’ve been discussing. But after you begin to get some familiarity with the ins and outs of shading, you’ll begin to notice that sometimes the light may not be closest to you.

Other Traditions
Also, be aware that that in different cultures, different rules may apply. In Asian Painting, for example, closer objects are often darker, while distant objects may be lighter, as if disappearing into a fog.

Further Reading:
Guptill, Arthur L.-- Rendering in Pen and Ink: The Classic Book on Pen and Ink Techniques for Artists, Illustrators, Architects, and Designers

Eisner, Will-- Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative

Simmons, Gary-- The Technical Pen

Now go and have fun with this stuff!

(c) 2010 Jeff Sauber

Harry Clarke illustration from http://www.grandmasgraphics.com/index.php

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The CIA?! Too strange NOT to be true!!

The cold war was a funny time. The US & USSR were locked in a life or death struggle over ideals, and no weapon was too extreme or too exotic. Anything that could demonstrate the superiority of Democracy over Communism was fair game, and the guys at the CIA were no dummies. What better way to show that America was home to all kinds of thought than by supporting arts that no one seemed to quite understand! Apparently, they used their influence, to the consternation of much of the rest of the government, by getting modern art into the public eye in any way necessary. But it seems they had as much resistance at home as they did from the Russians..

Read all about it here:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Holding Still

Ever wonder what it's like to start posing nude? Here's a great article by a terrific model in Montanna...


Not in New York? (Class listings all over the place)

You know figurative artists are obsessive about honing their skills, and artists in New York are lucky in that there are so many places they can go. What if you're not in New York/ What if you're new and can't find a place to go?

Here's a great site that lists figure drawing sessions all over the nation!


Saturday, May 29, 2010

A commercial for the Summer Sketch group?

Yeah! Well, kinda. Meetup has recently added the ability to mount a video on the homepage, and I had to give it a try. Have a look and tell me what you think of it. Art by the sketch group members (Jim Fleming, Bunham Yu, and Whitney Turkanis), voice over, such as it is, by yours truly.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Crazy For Good Art?

Michelangelo's David, regarded as the world's most beautiful statue, can trigger mental imbalances in overly sensitive and cultivated onlookers, says a top psychiatrist in Florence.

Dr Graziella Magherini reported the preliminary findings of a year-long study at a symposium at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, where the naked marble man attracts 1.2 million visitors a year.

She says David can have a particular emotional impact on a certain kind of visitor.

"I've called it the David Syndrome. It causes mind-bending symptoms and affects mostly those travelling on their own or in couples," says Magherini, who is president of Italy's Art and Psychology Association...

Read the whole article here: http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/health/HealthRepublish_1512809.htm

Thanks to Art New Blog (http://www.artnewsblog.com/) and Pearl Paint for this!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

New Advice for Models

I've been getting a lot of contact from people looking for work as art models. It's getting so frequent that I thought I'd put the info up here for ease of access.

If you're "cold calling", which is to say, sending out an email to someone you haven't spoken to before, present yourself in a professional manner. Modeling is a kind of performance, and performers send a note of introduction that includes their skills, contact information, and a photo. A model is no less a performer. Offering complete information up front projects an air of confidence and experience. Be aware that a photo has 1000 times the impact of an email alone. Even if the recipient isn't hiring immediately, a picture is more likely to stick in the mind and result in a future job. It doesn't have to be a nude or modelling pic, just a nice, simple photo that clearly depicts your face and shoulders is fine. If you have some really unusual image that might help you stand out consider including that if you think it's appropriate, just be careful of the audience you're sending to. An art school might have more conservative tastes than an independent arts group.
Don't forget your contact information!!

The idea is that you're offering something (your unique skills) not asking for something (work). This resonates better on a subconscious level, and makes you seem more valuable.

Be persistent, not insistent!
Do follow up every couple of weeks, even if they don't hire you immediately. A gently reminder that you're available might keep you in mind when something does open up. Don't call too often, though--it comes across as needy and gets irritating, and will work against you.

Specifically for male models: It is unquestionable harder for you guys! Don't take it personally. Experienced artists are comfortable with models of any gender, but less experienced artists may be uncomfortable with male models. You might expect inexperienced guys in a class to be a little put off, but inexperienced girls can also feel intimidated. Don't take it personally, it's not you. Many women who pose have dancing experience, and pose well. It's much less common to find a male model who can pose well, and that's a highly desired talent, much more so than a good physique (the artist can always draw in extra muscles if he really wants to). If you have some unique physical training, do mention it up front, and maybe include a picture of yourself in action doing it.

Also check out my earlier post--some advice for a new model: http://nyfiguredrawing.blogspot.com/2009/02/tips-for-art-models.html

I have a list of all the walk-in classes that I know of in the NYC area (as of about a year ago). It's called Classes about Town, feel free to download it and use it for leads. There are also new classes springing up on Meet up.com all the time.
You can download the list here: http://www.meetup.com/FigureSketching-NYC/files/

Regarding my Summer Sketch Group: I only have 2-3 sessions per month, and I usually hire models I've worked with before, so I don't have too many openings, but I do keep contact info on file, since occasional openings DO come up.

Best of luck,