Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Color - Part 2

Tuesday Tips and Tricks

This TTT post is a continuation of the Color discussion we have started last year. This is Part 2. Here's  Color - Part 1 post, if you want a refresher.

Let's talk about color schemes. If you leaf through your sketchbook, you will likely note the similarity of colors on your various sketches. We tend to find something that works for us, satisfies our aesthetics to some degree, and we then run with it.

How can we expand our vision on colors, get out of out boundaries of habit? Regardless of the media we use - paint, markers, color pencils - we can use the logical relationships of colors on the color wheel to control and expand our palette. This is where basic color schemes are helpful.

Color schemes are based on color similarities or differences, and usually feature a dominant color. Color schemes based on similarity are monochromatic (one color in different values) or analogues (colors that are neighbors on the color wheel). Color schemes based on difference are composed of complementary or triadic relationships, they are opposites or triangles on the wheel. An exception is a pure color contrasted with a neutral – white, gray or black.

I will give an example sketch for each of the 8 color schemes here.

Note how much variety of middle tones Don uses in this sketch. This variety give the image richness even though it is monochromatic.

This is my sketch, I use an analogous color scheme from dark red-brown through orange to yellow. This set of colors creates harmony. One speck of green punctuates this harmony, but we will discuss this in the next chapter.

Complementary color schemes usually have an added benefit of simplifying the image, like here a fairly complex market scene appears calm and relaxed.

Many have seen this amazing yellow plane at Architectural Artifacts at our sketch crawl. What makes this sketch successful is its pure Triadic color scheme executed in primary colors. Yes, I made the brick wall more red and designs on the rug more blue to make the triad more obvious.

An interesting variety results when we can split a complement into two colors. The image become richer and more complex.

Notice how yellow, yellow-orange and orange are balanced out by blue-violet shadows and recesses give the eye a resting point.

In my color class I find that this color scheme - double complementary tetradic - seems the most puzzling for students. That's until they realize that this is just two pairs of complements that are adjacent or next to each other on the color wheel. Like here:  yellow and violet is one pair, and yellow-orange and blue-violet is the second pair. That's all there is to it, complicated name non-withstanding.

See how the main colors of this sketch red-orange, yellow, blue-green and violet are positioned on a color wheel. They form a rectangle, this makes it a tetradic color scheme. Tetradic is a well balanced scheme, and this quality can be used in composition.

I invite you to practice color schemes to get familiar with them. Draw a sketch with each one of them. If it is an Urban Sketch, share it with us on our Facebook group. If not, just use it as an opportunity to practice.

Our next color topic will be Contrasts! See you then!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sharpening Your Mind’s Eye – Memory Drawing

Tuesday Tips and Tricks

A photo flip sketch done after studying the photo for about 10 seconds.

Let’s face it almost all drawing is, in a way, memory drawing. Whether it’s a past vacation vista or the second it takes to look from your subject to your paper, it’s your mind’s eye holding the image for you to draw. The trick is to develop that eye to keep the image true while you transfer it to the paper. The tip is to do memory exercises – the sharpen your memory the better your drawing.

Here are a few games to get you started.

1. The Photo Flip 
You can use a photograph or an image from a magazine or newspaper. Choose something in the photo that attracts you. Study and simplify your chosen image carefully but quickly, twenty seconds tops.  Now, flip the photo over and draw what you remember. Try it again with the same photo, this time study it for ten seconds. How much more did you remember?

One of my favorite books on drawing is The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study by Kimon Nicolaides (1891-1938) and one of my favorite quotes from the book is:
"Try not to remember merely the position of the model, just as when you memorize a poem you are not just trying to memorize just the shapes of the letters."

2. Quick Sips
Go to a cafe. Choose someone to draw. Observe them carefully. You won’t be able to control the amount of time you have since they will move. You can count on that! Now draw what you remember. Wait a bit and you’ll find they’ll return to the same pose again and again. Draw them again. And again. How do your sketches compare? While your waiting for them to return to the same pose choose another subject and use the same techniques.

Not done in a cafe but in a park watching my granddaughter play.

3. Red Light Green Light
When you’re a passenger in a car and the car stops for a red light observe what you see out the window. When the light turns green sketch what you saw. (Sometimes as a variation I may just see how long I can hold the afterimage in my mind. Of course this can be done anytime.)

4. No Erasers Allowed 
Rather than do a new sketch for each observation in these exercises try them by drawing over/correcting your original sketch.

Another quote from Nicolaides
“Memory drawing is a little like touch typing. If you try consciously to think of where the letters are you are likely to become confused, but if you rely on your sense of touch you can become very accurate.”

Powerful observational skills and a strong visual memory are a tremendous skills for an Urban Sketcher who shares a view of a fast moving world. Practicing observation and memory skills will improve your on location sketching. 

I call this a memory doodle, done totally from a memory of Casa Batillo in Barcelona.

Monday, January 5, 2015

"Random Selection"


As a visual person, I have often wondered why two or more people can look at the same object and have a wide range of opposing reactions. Take for example the gas meter and construction site below:

Reactions to these photos might be mixed, ranging from "that thing is ugly!" to "so what?" Perhaps the only person who might think of the gas meter as a thing of beauty is the guy who designed it. How you think about something as mundane as gas meters or construction sites is largely dependent on your personal experience with them. Now let's look at each of them as a sketch:

Did your reaction change at all? Of course I am hoping that your reaction was a positive one. It reminds me of my favorite fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen called "The Ugly Duckling." When I chose to sketch this gas meter, I must have passed it a hundred times to and from picking up lunch, but one day something caught my eye. Did this gas meter suddenly become beautiful or interesting? Or was it always interesting but I had failed to see it before? According to Denis Dutton in his TED Talk "A Darwinian Theory of Beauty," he suggests that "beauty is an adaptive effect which we extend and intensify in the creation and enjoyment of works of art and entertainment."

How about these other boring or ugly scenes?

What would happen if, instead of walking up to a sketching location and pacing for a half hour (in search of the perfect subject to sketch), we just closed our eyes, spun around and sketched the first thing we saw when we opened our eyes? Regardless of its beauty or ugliness you have to sketch it. Imagine how that soiled plastic bag and paper coffee cup sitting in that murky puddle will look as a sketch by you? 

I would love to see the "swan" that comes out of your "ugly duckling."

The Ugly Duckling" (DanishDen grimme ælling) is a literary fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875). The story tells of a homely little bird born in a barnyard who suffers abuse from the others around him until, much to his delight (and to the surprise of others), he matures into a beautiful swan, the most beautiful bird of all. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Sketching Resolution

(Early) Tuesday Tips & Tricks

The holidays are famous for taking up new hobbies, learning a new skill or proclaiming that the next year will be (somehow for the better) different. Perhaps you have some time off from your work, picked up a new device (as a gift or otherwise), or the New Year presents an opportunity to "start something new." With the looming prospect of a failed diet plan or an underused gym membership, allow me to present another resolution for the New Year that will not cost anything and could last longer than six months. All you need is your favorite sketching pencil, pen, marker, paint brushes or anything you like and something to draw on (such as a notepad, sketchpad, whiteboard, or even a digital tablet device).

It's called Urban Sketchers (USK) and we are a local community of artists who come together with a common interest of sketching in urban settings, socializing with like-minded artists and learning some new tips along the way. We practice sketching various scenes that often include interesting architecture, landscaping, people, animals and sketching anything else in cities, towns and villages in which they live, work or have traveled. We are a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to raising the awareness of artistic storytelling and educational value of drawing on location, promoting its practice and connecting people from around the globe.

Our local chapter, USk Chicago, meets at a different location in and around Chicagoland (so you see, we already have a support group!) which we call "Let's Sketch Chicago" and it is a great way to meet other like-minded sketchers and learn new tips and shortcuts. If this sounds like fun and you would like to check out the Urban Sketchers' scene, simply go to the following pages and look at some of the examples. And come to one of our next "Let's Sketch" outings and see what fun it is to meet real strangers from a Facebook group. We're really not that strange :)

We have this weekly series of posts called "Tuesday Tips & Tricks" where one new tip, trick or shortcut is shared with visual details at this link:
Urban Sketchers Chicago Blog: http://urbansketchers-chicago.blogspot.com

Here is where the bulk of our postings, shared sketches and discussions happen:
Urban Sketchers Chicago Facebook: Urban Sketchers Chicago
This is also where you can join our group if you are so inclined.

And the following links are more places where you can see our sketches:
Urban Sketchers Chicago Instagram: #uskchicago
Urban Sketchers Chicago Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/USkChicago
Follow up in Twitter: @USk_Chicago 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's been an awesome sketching year!

It has been a tremendous year for Urban Sketchers Chicago! It was our third year sketching Chicago! We have nearly doubled our group! We imagined, planned and put out our first Chicago Sketch Seminar! We produced an inordinate number of sketches and managed to have oodles of fun in the process :)

In this holiday season we wish you health, happiness and a lots of sketches! Merry Christmas - Happy Hanukkah - Lovely Kwanza - Wonderful Yule and a Happy New Year to you!

Our USk Correspondents are taking a much deserved break and will come back with new TTT posts in January.

Here are some shots from our Holiday Sketching party:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Creating Value with Line

Tuesday Tips & Tricks

I've enjoyed being able to contribute to the TTT series so far.  It’s challenged me to think about why and how I do what I do when I am sketching and to put it all down into words.  This is something I have never really done until recently.  It has also been incredibly beneficial to read the weekly posts of the other contributors Wes, Barbara and Alex.  In the last couple months, as Chicago winter has settled in and limited outdoor sketching opportunities, I've found myself coming back to bits and pieces of advice from several previous posts from Alex and Barbara.  In Playing With Line, Barbara reminded us of the versatility and simplicity of line.  In Thoughts on Talent, Alex reminded us the more we work on something the better we become, and that all of us can become great sketchers.  And most recently in Every Visual Creative Should Keep a Sketchbook Barbara gave pointers on how to use a sketchbook, turning it into a personal habit and practice, something we carry with us everywhere.  With these tips in the back of my mind, and knowing how the winter months can put my sketching into hibernation, I started thinking about how to encourage myself to maintain the sketching habit in spite of the inclement weather conditions.  So, (at least for the time being), I decided to trim down my entire sketch kit to one or two fountain pens and one sketchbook.

Simplifying my entire sketch kit down to two or three pieces has made it easy me to carry my sketchbook and pen(s) with me wherever I go, which has also encouraged me to sketch more.  More importantly, (and to the point of this post) I've been learning how versatile one sketching tool can really be.  This post goes over some of the techniques I have been playing with in the past few months that allow simple line drawings, with one pen (or whatever you chose to use), to be transformed from flat, valueless sketches into dynamic value filled sketches.

Creating Value With Line

Line drawings that do not incorporate value can often seen flat and static.  Drawings that incorporate value have a sense of depth and are more dynamic.

-Use different sized pens (pencils, brushes, markers etc etc)  For the purpose of the post I am focusing on and using pens as an example.  You only need one or two.  There are several different brands of pens that come with a variety of sizes.  Some popular choices are the Sakura Pigma Micron pens, Staedtler’s Pigment Liner pens, or Faber Castell’s PITT Artist Pens.  Or you could use a fountain pen that has a flexible, springy nib, such as Noodlers Konrad Flex Pen.  My preference is to use one or two fountain pens.  If only using one, I use my TWSBI580 with an EF (Extra Fine) nib.  The extra fine nib is great for creating really thin lines, but the flow of the ink in the pen is fast enough that I can easily add value to a line(s) or easily fill in larger areas with value.  If using a second pen, I will use one that has an M (medium) or B (bold) nib.  Having a second pen with a larger line weight provides a quick contrast in line weights which can be used for things such as the profile or relief of a building, objects that are in the foreground or any line or object you want to pop from the rest of the drawing.

-Cross hatching.  Cross hatching can be done in many different  ways and patterns.  Cross hatching allows you to build value up through the layering of marks.  Hatching can be done by layering lines that are all going in the same direction, or lines that are going in different directions (diagonal, perpendicular etc etc…)  The Urban Sketcher Paul Heaston is renown for his cross hatching.  (Check out more of his work on his Facebook Page) Here is one example of how he uses cross hatching to create value in his line drawings.

Here are a few simple cross hatching examples:

Multiple Pass – This is a name I made up.  Maybe there is another name for this, but the idea is that the more times you go over the same line, the more value, and thickness it will have.

Line variation – When using a pen such as a flex pen, brush pen or felt tipped pen, and with varying amounts of force, you can create variety of value in your lines. 

Line Weight - Check out the unique ways that Illustrator Lyndon Hayes uses line weights to achieve value with line.

Lastly, here are a few of my most recent sketches, each completed with one pen, that demonstrate creating value with line:

As soon as I narrowed down my every day sketch kit to a single pen and started re-visiting basic sketching skills as these, I became reacquainted with basic sketching styles I had started to overlook. These basic techniques, all completed with one or two pens, can produce some real impressive work. So my challenge for you is to keep it simple, and keep on sketching this Chicago winter season.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!