Thursday, February 25, 2021

Composition is a Big Word–PART ONE

By Alex Zonis




Composition can be difficult to teach

Do this, don't do that… 

Unless you want to deliberately break the rules, then do it… But it may or may not work… 

You stick to the rules - and it may end up boring. 

You break the rules - and it may end up unbalanced. 

What is a sketcher to do?


Composition is a skill, just like drawing or values or accurate color. This means that with practice a sketcher can develop a vision and understanding of the design as well as a feel for positioning of shapes within the boundaries of a drawing. By practicing composition it is possible to get and improve the sense and sensibility of what is composed well and as a result has a built-in beauty, and what needs improvement and what this improvement might be.


Composition is also a vast subject. This is another reason art students shy away from it.



Here I will suggest three things that can be practiced right away. They will work for on-location sketching without burying one's head in theory.


1. Balance positive and negative space


See that your actual objects of interest (positive space) and space around them (negative space) take more or less the same amount of space on your drawing.


Some examples:

- Crowded drawing - very little negative space


- Unfilled drawing - small subject surrounded by a lot of negative space



- Balanced drawing - subject and surrounding space take about the same amount of space



A helpful trick - an empty unfilled composition can be improved by creative cropping or borders.



2. Repetition and pattern


A human eye loves pattern. When we see and recognize repeating shapes it makes us feel clever and calms us. Repeats and patterns give an image rhythm and make it dynamic and lively.


If you are lucky to chance on a pattern when sketching on location, consider adding it to the drawing.

 





3. Connection


Let your subjects and objects connect, touch and overlap. This is one and an obvious way to keep the composition together, like holding hands.


Here's an example of a composition with overlapping objects.






The other way to connect is by intent, using directional lines and visual tension.

In the following sketch three solid groups of people are connected by individual figures situated between the groups. These figures create the tension that holds the composition together.





These 3 concepts are easy to remember and use when sketching on location: 

  • Positive/negative space balance
  • Patterns
  • Connections



How to use them? 


When you chose your subject or view, take another minute and make a tiny plan. Here's an example of such plan: "I will include this bridge, and the river with its interesting colors and these trees on the right bank. I will leave out these buildings on the right shore, and a willow tree on the left… they will overcrowd my drawing." 


Better yet, make a thumbnail sketch and see how it looks. Take the view you are sketching and make it into a design. Emphasize patterns if they are there. Look for geometrical patterns, color patterns, contrast patterns.

Check if your shapes connect/overlap or stand alone. If they are standing alone, is there a way create a connection or directional pull to tie the composition together? Even if there is not, you have taught yourself something about composition by having tried. 


Want to learn more about composition? See you here on March 11 for T&T Thursday!


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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Seeing the Light



 Let’s Sketch!

Winter Light

Sunday, February 28

12 PM - 3 PM CST

Hosted by  Brian Wright, and Urban Sketchers Chicago



As we begin to thaw out and start thinking of the spring weather that will soon be here, we want to take an opportunity to celebrate the Winter Light, the long shadow, the cool pale blue light, the bright white reflection, the red of dawn or dusk, as inspired by T.S. Eliot in “Little Gidding”.

“Midwinter spring has its’ own season,
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames on the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart’s heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror,
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And a glow more intense than blaze of branch.”

Come on, how good is that?!


The days are growing longer and while we look forward to the time when we can all be together again sketching, until then, let’s enjoy the season we’re in. So, grab a hat, fingerless gloves, frozen watercolor pans, and take that walk, and share your art! And if you're so inclined a winter light poem or haiku.


This week’s banner sketch is graciously provided by the talented Joan Szalay Tavolott, with whom I had pleasure of sketching with in Amsterdam at the USK Symposium. Her painting from her window so beautifully captures that winter scene, and I love how the footprints in the snow draw you in. We thank you for agreeing to let us use your photo and for visually taking us on that walk in the woods.


Share your Urban Sketches with us from 12 noon to 3pm on Sunday
Please include #uskchicago and #uskathome on your posts to Facebook and Instagram.

A reminder that we are back to following USK Global's posting guidelines of sketching live on location and not from reference photos.


Want to keep up to date by email? Fill in your email address in the place provided in the upper right corner under the banner. We look forward to hearing from you.



Wednesday, February 17, 2021

What's Your Background?


Let’s Sketch!

Backgrounds
 
Sunday, February 14

12 PM - 3 PM CST

Hosted by 

Anna Rappaport,  Gail Dokucu, and Urban Sketchers Chicago


This week’s theme is brought to us by Anna Rappaport, back for her second round of guest hosting! Thank you, Anna!


Here’s what Anna has written for us.

DETAILS

We get interesting drawings by using different papers or layers under our drawings. 


These may include: 

  • a light wash of ink or watercolor, 
  • collage, use of colored drawing paper, 
  • drawing on a page from a book, 
  • drawing on ledger paper, etc. 


I particularly like using water soluble ink for the wash.


One of the things I enjoy with using different backgrounds is that it is unpredictable what will happen. Choose a different background or two and experiment. I encourage you to use something different from what you normally use. 


Some hints:

  • If you use a wash, a light wash is better.
  • If you use collage, you can put clear watercolor ground on top of it and then draw or paint easily on the wash.
  • If you want white on colored paper or over a collage or wash, you can use an opaque white (like Daler Rowney PROWHITE) or gouache.
  • Drawing on black or dark paper works well if you draw with white or a light color.
  • Torn newspaper and security envelopes are good collage materials.


Select a subject that fits USk rules. Share your work Sunday, February 21. Please include #uskchicago and #uskathome  on your posts to Facebook and Instagram.


Banner Sketch by Anna Rappaport


A reminder that we are back to following USK Global's posting guidelines of sketching live on location and not from reference photos



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Thursday, February 11, 2021

Ta Da!


By Barbara Weeks

It’s that time of year when the USk Chicago team usually starts planning in ernest for our annual seminar. Well, obviously, this is not a usual year, BUT we are making plans! We can’t gather all together in person, but we have a great time getting together virtually with our weekly sketch prompts. Why not join together virtually to learn and review sketching pointers and skills? In the past we posted a column on the blog under the headline Tuesday Tips and Tricks ...


Introducing Tips and Tricks Thursday (aka T&T)!


T&T will  be a twice a month column about sketching skill-building ideas. Some of the columns will be brand new, others will be refreshed columns from the past. 


To get started let’s review the benefits of doing what we do – keeping sketchbooks.

Quite a few years ago, (thanks to an invitation from Don Yang) Alex Zonis, Wes Douglas, and I spoke at the American Academy of Art in Chicago as part of their Visiting Artist Series. My section of the presentation dealt with the value and habit of keeping a sketchbook. I want to share my thoughts with you.


I’ve been involved with art for my livelihood since graphic design was called commercial art and cut and paste was literally cut and paste. My first job right out of college was with a small ad agency in Hackensack, New Jersey and let me tell you, I rejoice, everyday, for the miracle of the digital world, 

BUT…

Every Visual Creative Should Keep a Sketchbook!

There are as many different kinds of sketchbooks and as many reasons for keeping them, as there are sketchers. I’m only going to give you five.



Five Reasons to Keep a Sketchbook


1. Practice – the most obvious, 

Drawing is a skill and must be developed. Great athletes, musicians, actors, and artists, we all need to practice to improve and hone our performance. 


2. Record ideas

Keep a sketchbook with you always. Do it! Ideas can be fleeting. How many times have you thought, “Wow, what a great idea. That will come in handy later,” and when later came the great idea was gone? Jot it down or scribble a quick sketch!



What kind of ideas? A scribbled gesture, an eavesdropped conversation, a fleeting image or thought, a color scheme – anything!


3. Experimentation 

Try out and practice with new media or tools, compositions, play with new styles– again, ANYTHING! 


4. View progress

  • Overall progress – the strides you make in your artistic development over a  period of time, whether it’s months or years.
  • Idea development – the evolution of an idea from the first scribble to finished concept or product.


5. Cheaper than a psychiatrist

This reason may be my own little reason, but I share it with you. Waiting used to be a time of aggravation and annoyance for me. Now, I think, “Oh good I can sketch.” I also have more  sketches done in hospital emergency rooms than I care to think about  but they kept me calm and sane. And sometimes when I’m “in the zone” it’s like meditation.






Good Reasons but How?


Five Tips for Developing the Sketchbook Habit


1. Love your sketchbook (but not too much.) I’ve had  beautiful books given to me, and some I’ve bought myself and saved them for  something special because they’re “too good” – that’s very inhibiting. It’s one more excuse not to start. Get a sketchbook you like but won’t be upset if you spill your coffee on it or the cover gets scratch etc. Get one that you will  actually use.


2. Carry it with you always. (I know I’m repeating myself. It’s that important.) and use it!

I use several sketchbooks at one time, all different sizes. Some are themed – like Urban Sketchers or travel. Some are for convenience or size, a small one in the glove compartment of my car, a tiny one that fits in an evening bag, one  near the TV and the best of all my daily workhorse that is also part journal, part agenda. That’s the one that is in my bag, on my desk and beside my bed. 



3. Get over the first page fear. If a fancy new sketchbook can be “too precious” the first page in ANY sketchbook can be intimidating. 

Some ideas that I’ve had success with in getting over the first page roadblock:

  • Skip the first couple of pages, go back to them later, if at all
  • Paint the palette, brush, or tools that you’re using now
  • Set up an index that you can fill in as you go along
  • Write a favorite or motivating quote


4. It isn’t for sketches only. 

Write in it – grocery lists, phone numbers, quotes, notes.

Glue stuff in it – business cards, ephemera, travel info, maps, napkin drawings,  random scribbled ideas and thoughts etc.

Make it a workhorse, the more you use it the more you use it!




5. Share some of your sketches 

There is a remarkable community of artists all over the world who connect by sharing their work online. They make hospitable and willing companions to sketch with wherever you may find yourself. They’re only FaceBook post away. Sharing your sketches whether it’s Instagram, FB, Pinterest, or wherever, is also a great motivator and you’ll find inspiration in the work of others. The sketchbook habit develops our drawing skills and

cultivates that spontaneous work on location.


By keeping a sketchbook and acquiring the sketching habit, urban sketching isn’t something we do; it becomes part of who we are – Urban Sketchers.




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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

 



Let’s Sketch!

Postcards!
 
Sunday, February 14

12 PM - 3 PM CST




Details:

Sunday is Valetine’s day and a perfect day to make original art postcards!

Any subject matter will do as long as it is an Urban Sketch!

Sketch on a postcard if you have them. If not, cut a piece watercolor paper in size 4x6 or 5x7 or 6x6 and you got yourself a card.



Here is the important part of the assignment:

  • Write a couple of lines of greetings on the back, add address and a stamp, and mail to your mom, your brother, your niece in college or your friend in TX! They will love it!
  • Give it to your neighbor, your mailperson, your pharmacist, your barista - as a random act of kindness.
  • Better yet: Make several and give them to many people!

Share your Urban Sketching postcards with us from 12 noon on Sunday

If you like drawing on postcards, here’s an interesting Facebook group for you to join:

Postcards Urban Sketching 


Banner sketch by Alex Zonis



Please include #uskchicago and #uskathome  on your posts to Facebook and Instagram.

A reminder that we are back to following USK Global's posting guidelines of sketching live on location and not from reference photos



Want to keep up to date by email? Fill in your email address in the place provided in the upper right corner under the banner. We look forward to hearing from you.




Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Strut Your Stuff


Let’s Sketch!

Choose an Artist Style
 
Sunday, February 7
12 PM - 3 PM CST



Details:


Have you ever wanted to experiment with sketching, using a style of one of the masters? Well, now you have an opportunity!


  • Choose your subject to sketch.
  • Select a style you like or are curious about and incorporate it into your sketch. 



Do you like Impressionism? Abstract art? Modernism? Now’s your chance to play around with a style you normally wouldn’t use. 


For some ideas of different styles to choose from, check out:


https://www.thoughtco.com/art-styles-explained-realism-to...

or

https://www.kokuyocamlin.com/blog/world-art-day-understanding-different-painting-styles-part-1.html


These articles show different painting styles. However, you don’t have to use paint for your drawing. Use your favorite media and have some fun experimenting.


See you at our virtual throwdown! Be sure to explain the style you chose in your post.



Banner sketch by Carla Nelson in the pointillism style of Georges Seurat.



Post your sketches from 12:00 noon and until whenever!


Please include #uskchicago and #uskathome  on your posts to Facebook and Instagram.

A reminder that we are back to following USK Global's posting guidelines of sketching live on location and not from reference photos



Want to keep up to date by email? Fill in your email address in the place provided in the upper right corner under the banner. We look forward to hearing from you.






 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Think Negative

 



Let’s Sketch!

Stop, Look, and See

Sunday, January 31
12 PM - 3 PM




Details:

To you make positive use of negative shapes in your sketches? Flipping the script can produce sometimes surprisingly powerful results as Wendy Easton’s lovely banner sketch shows


You might think of rendering negative space as drawing the shapes on your page around and between objects, rather than drawing the objects themselves. 


Don’t forget, though, about interior negative shapes – recall that Beatles posters where each Beatle is instantly recognizable from the shadow shapes in the eyes and under the nose and mouth. 


Wendy’s sketch uses both approaches: 

  • Through the window, the trees appear as bare paper surrounded by sky shapes 
  • Within her studio, the shadow shapes within objects reveal curtains, furniture, and art supplies. 


You can use negative shapes for an entire sketch, or just in selected areas.



Join us for our virtual throwdown on our group Facebook page on Sunday, January 31, between noon and 3pm, but always welcome late entries.


We follow USk Global’s guidelines of sketching live on location and not from reference photos. When outside your home, be sure to socially distance and wear a mask to help everyone stay safe. All skill levels welcome – happy sketching! 


To make your sketches easy to find and see, please include #uskchicago and #uskathome on your posts to Facebook and Instagram.



Banner Sketch by Wendy Easton




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