Intro to Watercolor class, Charlestown Library

Over the weekend, I was pleased to discover several art classes offered at public libraries throughout Boston.  Yesterday I went to the first of four classes offered by local artist, Elisa Solignac, at the Charlestown Public Library.  Lest anyone think I might have some drawing ability (at least not without instruction), this class demonstrated my lack of innate ability.   It’s a good thing I’m teachable.

We started with a couple of drawing exercises.  After repeatedly telling us to take a close look at the still life she’d composed, she covered it and asked us to draw it from memory.  I have no clue as to the purpose of that exercise, unless perhaps it was to see how we drew something we couldn’t see.

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Drawing the still life from memory.  My attempt at creating folds in the cover cloth is pretty hilarious.  The items are floating above the cloth, and I have no idea why everything is so small. 

The next exercise was one of my favorite types of exercises:  we were to draw the still life without looking at the paper.  I often seem to do better when I’m looking at the form rather than the paper.  The exercise works well if you’re drawing a single object–e.g. a hand or model–but not so much for a multi-item still life.

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Drawing without looking at the paper.  The draping of the cloth is the best of all attempts.  There’s more perspective in the table legs too. 

We were then told to paint the composition.  The only instruction we were given is that light blue and purple are useful for shadows when something is white.  I wouldn’t expect a beginning watercolor to feature so much white (table cover and bowl were both white and the bottle was clear) and multi-level no less.

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1st watercolor attempt — that blue blob at the bottom doesn’t belong there and my attempt at fabric folds on the left side was a complete failure.  There’s also no sense of perspective identifying the table as such.  There’s maybe a hint of it being multi-level.  I didn’t even attempt to paint a white bowl on a white cloth.
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With some instruction, this might have turned into a decent piece.  I like how the clear part of the glass bottle turned out.  The table cover definitely needs work.  My attempt to use blue and purple to highlight the cover folds and create perspective was a big fail.

I was really looking forward to the class but left kind of frustrated.  Unfortunately there was no instruction.  I heard someone comment to another that when they took the same class last year with the same instructor, at the end everyone felt they got at least one thing from the class, as if that was a consolation.  I won’t be able to make the next class; whether or not I return for the final two classes remains in the air.  At least I learned one thing…I’m seriously in need of instruction on perspective!

Up next in about an hour…figure drawing with Elle!

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Self portrait drawing class

Last year, I took a six week art class that covered a different medium each week.  This year, the class is back, but it’s open-ended so we have more time to devote to each medium.  I love doing art, but I’ve never had formal training and have no clue what I’m doing.  I used to believe I wasn’t creative at all; at least, that’s no longer the case.  I would’ve also told you I totally suck at art, but I’m coming to believe that’s not the case either.  It’s amazing what a little instruction has been able to do to those beliefs.  I now believe with instruction and practice, I might find I’m pretty decent.  I’m gong to record the journey in this blog.

The last two weeks we’ve been focusing on portrait drawing, especially lights and darks.  We began by outlining the whites in a series of black and white portraits.  We then used tracing paper over a face to color in the dark and light spaces.

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Traced lights and darks of face

I didn’t do this exercise correctly.  I was supposed to trace the darkest and whitest space.  I did the darks, but instead of doing the white, I did the intermediate shades.  What isn’t traced in are the whites.  It still shows the contrast, though not as clearly as if I’d done it correctly.

We then moved on to a series of handouts showing the proportions of the face and how to draw each element.  These handouts have been crucial in helping me, though my noses are still WAY too big.

The next exercise was to scratch out the whites of our face, using a mirror, on a sheet of black coated paper with a special tool.  Being my first attempt at a face, I wanted to attempt to draw it first then move on to the black paper, but the instructor really wanted to see what it would look like as a first attempt, so I abandoned the drawing attempt and went on to the black paper. It wasn’t until I added the whites of the eyes that it looked anything like a face.

The final exercise of week one was to complete the other half of a face.  My proportions are off in relation to the other half, but overall I thought it wasn’t half bad for a first attempt:

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Finish the face

In week two, we did a series of 5-15 minute self portraits, each with a different focus. First, we did a 5 minute drawing of the face (you can really see the problems with my nose proportions here) followed by a quick drawing on black paper with colored chalk focusing on the whites of the face.

The next two exercises were my favorite, though I definitely didn’t expect them to be.  We covered the paper with charcoal then used a charcoal pencil and eraser.  The first attempt was ten minutes and the second fifteen.

None of these look like me, but at least they they could look like someone.  Everyone, most especially I, was impressed with my final attempt.  With only three hours of instruction and limited time to work on each drawing, I’m very happy with my progress.   I should take some time to see what I can do.  How long might it take me to get something that actually resembles my face?

For the last half-hour, the class focus shifted to gesture drawing.  Again we only had a few minutes for each drawing.  My basic shapes were all drawn without looking at the paper, focusing on the outline of the model.  Elle wanted to see what we’d do with no instruction.  Next week, we’ll learn about anatomy and figures.  I had a bit of an advantage here, as about 15 years ago, I attended a weekend long camping retreat called, “Art without Walls,” that included some quick gesture drawing.

Finally here’s the drawings of everyone in the class.

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Class self-portaits studies
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Class gesture drawings