Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fear of the Smear

TUESDAY TIPS & TRICKS


One of the most frustrating aspects of drawing with a wet medium is the accidental smear that results from not allowing ample time for the ink to dry. A smear can result from an object coming into contact or sliding across a wet part of a freshly drawn line or painted surface.

I like to pencil in my sketch lightly and then trace over it with pen and ink. Of course, I am a little bit of a neat-freak and cannot wait to erase the grey lines of the pencil--sometimes a little too soon after inking the line--and create a smeared line. Other times I have inadvertently rubbed the heel of my hand across a wet line when I am working swiftly back and forth across the drawing and created a mess.

Thankfully there is no need to slow down the speed at which the sketch is drawn because there are a few tricks to keeping this from happening.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Marker Techniques – Materials: Part 2

TUESDAY TIPS & TRICKS

When it comes to picking out the right marker types and paper suitable for how you want to use markers, there are a few considerations you should think about:

Who should use markers?
Any artist/creative who has traditionally worked with colored pencils, watercolors, pen & ink, and even digital art can benefit from working with markers.

Where do you most often sketch?
At home or in the studio
On location – stationary
On location – In a busy environment, 
moving around
At a client – their home or office

What speed do you work at?  
Quick Sketch: least detail
Fast Sketch: less detail
Detailed Sketch: medium detail
Refined Sketch: more detail
Fine Art: most detail

How do you like to sketch?
Loose Sketch: (Least detail)
Gestural sketch, rough ideas, Pictionary, and quick communication of idea

Memory Sketch: (Less detail)
A quick capture of a thought, a vision, a dream, or a fragment of an idea

Observational Sketch: (Medium detail)
Diagrams, how-to visual descriptions or processes, explanations, sketchnotes, botanical recordings, science experiments, field notes, cutaway views, courtroom sketch artists, consumer behavior patterns


Conceptual/Imaginary Sketch: (Medium detail)
Science fiction, creative development, product design, automotive design proposals, theme park and restaurant theme designs, mood boards

Planning Sketch: (More detail)
Storyboards, planograms, interior designs, landscape designs, fashion, and architectural proposals

Presentation Sketch: (More detail)  
to leave a positive impression with the audience
to pitch an idea with the goal of alignment or approval
(such as a real estate development)


Fine Art: (Most detail) Gallery quality

As you can see there are many different uses for markers because they are so adaptable for different applications and portable. You can now get a sense why there are so many materials available and how they have evolved out of the many new uses. 

They key is to play around with lots of materials, try them out and find which ones work the best for you. It would be really hard to make a mistake but you will start to see which ones behave the way you like.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Marker Techniques – Materials:

TUESDAY TIPS & TRICKS

Many people that I meet at the Urban Sketchers Chicago Sketch Crawls will ask me about using markers and some of my techniques. In my continuing series on urban sketching with markers, I must address the question “which markers and why?” And while I may have 30 years working with these wonderful little tools of the trade, please know that the following is merely from my perspective and experience. There are plenty of other marker artists that will tell you which materials work best for them and I welcome that feedback in the comments below. 

As you can see (from the attached photos) you will notice the wide assortment of marker brands, marker types and paper pads available for the marker. You can appreciate how the materials have evolved out of the many sketch needs.

TIP #1: Select a paper pad that is designated for marker use
There are several reasons for this. Most markers are alcohol-based and tend to soak through papers that do not have some kind of coating or seal. The trick is to find a paper that you like that does not have such a heavy coating that it dries out your marker at an abnormally fast rate. Most sketchbooks rated for sketching or drawing will be sufficient as well as those books rated for watercolor. Pages in the sketchbook or paper pad that are very thin run the risk of bleed-through unless they are “marker” papers. Additionally, thin sheets will prevent you from sketching on both sides of the paper—a popular technique employed by urban sketchers.


When I work with markers, I am a big fan of super-smooth papers because I can keep my line work clean. A slight tooth (or roughness) to the paper can also work in your favor if you wish to add texture to your sketch. For years I have used Graphics 360 (by Bienfang) as my paper of choice because I can put my rough sketch underneath the top sheet and put my marker color down and finish it off with a clean line work. For urban sketching, I have a heavier weight sketchbook where I pencil my rough sketch, add marker tones and then finish with a black line all on the same page. Because the sketchbook paper is thicker, it is harder to see a rough sketch under the top sheet for tracing.

TIP #2: Select a brand and style of marker that fits you
At the risk of sounding like I am a paid spokesperson for any particular brand, all I can tell you is that I have been a big fan of a few different brands because I like how they lay down color for the way I work. What works for me may not work as well for you but that is why there is a Tip #3 below.


  

I was introduced to the Design® Markers (by Eberhard Faber) when I first began as a graphic designer. Over time, I switched over to Prismacolor® Markers (by Sanford) because the odor is far less overpowering. There is a different kind of alcohol used in Prismacolor markers and odor is definitely something you should consider when trying out different markers. The other thing I like about Prismacolor markers is that there are two different tips on the same marker barrel. This can save you space and time when you are packing a travel sketch kit.

My newest favorite markers came at the suggestion of fellow Urban Sketcher Donald Owen Colley: Pitt® Markers (by Faber-Castell). I have a set of 4 Cool Grey and 4 Warm Grey markers. These markers do not bleed–through most any kind of paper I can throw at it–and the pointy brush tip allows me to get into tight spots as well as cover broad areas with ease.

TIP #3: Now just play
Do yourself a favor. Print out the attached photos of the markers and the marker paper selections, bring them to your favorite art supplies store and look for as many of the brands as you can find. Many art stores will have some kind of scratch pad around so that you can try out each marker. Purchase one marker of each brand that you like and test-drive each marker for a few days. In your different sketch situations, you will see how well the markers respond to how you work. You can always go back and pick up more colors later, but make sure you like how one marker works for you first.


I recognize that I did not have much technique in this week's post, so in my next post I will go over some more techniques and tricks with markers. Good luck and have fun discovering your new sketch friend.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Composition - Part 2

TUESDAY TIPS & TRICKS


A month ago we started talking about composition in sketching in a post Composition is a Big Word. Today we will continue discussing composition and talk about several rules.

1. Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is an easy compositional rule to remember. Splitting an image in half vertically or horizontally produces a sketch with a point of interest squarely in the middle. This can be just a little bit boring.
Instead divide a page in thirds both horizontally and vertically, and place the focus of the sketch in one of the spots where the lines intersect. As a result a viewer eye is drawn to the strongest point in one of the intersections, then around the sketch following the lines of the object.



At first it may be helpful to draw the lines to section the drawing in thirds and use them as an aid to find "sweet spots" as they are sometimes called. After some practice the lines will become unnessessary and you will just see where the strongest impact spot is. If you do thumbnail sketches first, draw the grid of thirds on top to check the composition.

2. Rule of Odds
How many of anything is included in a composition makes a difference. An easy thing to remember is that odd is better than even, an odd number make a composition more dynamic.
When there is an odd number of objects in an drawing it is harder to pair them up, which we do subconsciously, and this means that we will be staying in the drawing longer and keep our eyes moving within the drawing.
Of course if we are sketching in a sidewalk cafe and drawing four people sitting at a table in front of us, skipping one or inventing one extra may not be the best solution. Instead we can be creative and check for interesting reflections, or a shadow, or a pigeon!



There are 6 bottles in this drawing - an even number, but 3 strong and interesting shadows bring the number of shapes to 9.

3. Full range of values
For a good composition we want to have a full gamut of values in the image: from lightest lights to mid tones to darkest darks. If we have this variety of values, the drawing is already pretty good. For a really strong composition the lights, mid tones and darks need to be included in different amounts. Here's a simple way to remember it: "two thirds, one third, and a little bit." For example, "two thirds of dark, one third of mid tone, and a little bit of white for flowers and highlights"



4. Golden Ratio
No discussion of composition is complete without talking about Golden Ratio. This magical ratio is also known as Golden Section, Golden Mean, Golden Number, Divine Proportion, Golden Proportion, Fibonacci Number, and Phi. Leonardo da Vinci used Golden Ratio in his paintings quite a lot.
This is an extremely interesting and beautiful concept. I enjoy reading about it, but was unable to use it when sketching on location - it is a matter of time. So I cannot talk about from a practical standpoint. Instead I would like to refer you to this article on Empty Easel blog - Golden Section for Artists.



I hope you find these thoughts on composition useful and would love it if you will use them in your sketches!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Say What…

TUESDAY TIPS & TRICKS


As artists we each have a unique voice that we express in our work. It’s our point of view, our style. We also have another voice, the little voice in our heads that speaks to us when we draw. It may be small but it’s powerful and really influences how we draw.

Do any of these sound familiar?
“I can’t draw people.” 
“That hand looks like a claw.”
“This building is wrong. I never get the perspective right.”
“I can’t post this sketch it isn't good enough.”

How about these?
“Is that line curved or straight?”
“What shape is that?”
“Which roof is higher?”
“This sketch expresses what I observed.”

The first set is the voice of the critic. It speaks to us of drawing as a noun, judging what we’ve done. The second set is the voice of the coach. It speaks to us of drawing as a verb, helping us to observe our subject, get lost in the act of drawing and render what we see. One is negative and self-defeating, the other is positive and constructive.

You’ve heard it here before – practice, practice, practice. In this case you really practice what you preach. 

What do you say when you talk to yourself?




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Graded Wash in Watercolor

Tuesday Tips and Tricks

Watercolor is a great tool for urban sketching.  In this post, I will show you a technique I use frequently in both urban sketching and my professional work.

Watercolor is a delicate media and can be frustrating to work with if you do not have some basic steps to work with.  Graded washes are a helpful skill to know when wanting to capture light, shade and shadow.  In nature, light rarely hits a surface as a flat tone.  Factors such as the orientation of the subject, the context of the subject and the direction from which the light is coming from all impact how light appears on the subject. 

Here is a step by step process for creating a smooth, graded wash with watercolor, followed by a few practical applications for graded washes:

Creating the Graded Wash:



1)
Hold your sketchbook or paper at an angle to allow the watercolor to flow down the paper.  About a 35 degree angle works well for me.  If the angle is too high, the water will drip too fast for you to control.  If the angle is too low, the paint will not move fast enough, could cause unwanted buckling of the paper and will not allow for a smooth wash.

2) Load brush with completely clear water.  Apply clear wash to paper, creating a bead, allowing the water to gather slightly.  (If your angle is just right, the water will stay where you guide it.)  Make sure there is an even amount of water in all parts of the bead.



3)
  Load your brush with a highly diluted watercolor wash and introduce it into the clear wash before it has time to soak into the paper and dry.  With downward brush strokes, pull the bead of paint down the page.  You will begin to see the pigment from your brush get pulled into the clear wash.



4)
Load your brush with a slightly more pigmented wash and introduce it into your bead, continuing to pull it down the page.  (Work on doing this quickly.  If you allow the bead to dry, you will be left with a line of color that will interrupt the graded wash).



5)
Load your brush with the highest pigmented wash and continue to pull the bead downward.



6) Bring your bead to your desired edge or location.  Shake the brush off of or touch the brush to a paper towel to absorb the excess water.  Gently touch your dry brush to the bead.  Your brush will absorb the excess water back into the brush, leaving an even surface of paint on the paper.  If we left the bead of water on the paper, the excess paint would diffuse back up into the earlier wash and would create an unwanted stain.





 



7) Repeat steps 2-6 until you get the values you want.

Graded Wash Applications:
Here are just a few examples of applications for graded washes

Shadows
Here, the graded wash works perfectly for a shadow cast on the underside of an awning.  On a sunny day, light will reflect off of the ground surface back on the building wall.  The graded wash allows you to show this reflected light gradually darkening as it gets farther from the ground and up under the awning.



Curved objects
Curved objects have a range of tones (highlight, mid tone, shadow, reflected light, cast shadow) that can be achieved with graded wash.

Skies
Depending on where the sun is in the sky, the sky will have a graded wash.  For example when the sun is low on the horizon, the graded wash will be light on the horizon line and darker the higher you go into the sky.  When the sun is higher in the sky it is generally the opposite.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More on Marker Techniques

Some of you may be curious as to how I apply the "Arched Fade" technique so I thought I would respond to that with a few examples. The top photo shows the same lifting action that I mentioned in my tutorial. Now take that same motion and follow the shape of your rounded object and it will help define the shape as well as indicate highlights.

A good thing to keep in mind is to always have your starting point furthest away from the light source and your lifting action should happen closest to where the light source is.

The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, the iconic brand vehicle of the Oscar Mayer company, is a great exercise in lots of curved surfaces. Here you will see examples of the Push Fade, Pull Fade and Arched Fade techniques.

On any object that is curved, if possible, try to follow the contours of the surface to show the shape. On the shoes, I decided to use the "Flat Run" technique but instead of pulling straight lines, I curved them slightly to match the shape of the shoes.