Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Back to the Drawing Board (Literally)
The day before yesterday I went back to the drawing board – literally. I haven’t done a charcoal drawing in two years although I think about it often.
The stand-up easel is always ready with a drawing board and a blank piece of paper attached. I also set up a table easel nearby, also with a board and a blank piece of drawing paper taped to it. There were a couple of photographs on the easel for a someday drawing. Neither were what I really felt like working on, but I didn’t feel like looking through photos on the computer and printing anything new.
I put a drop cloth under the stand-up easel, put on latex gloves (charcoal is messy), and got out a wide piece of vine charcoal. Returning to drawing is like riding a bike, right? You don’t forget. I began laying down the background. I used a lint-free piece of paper towel to rub the charcoal smooth for the sky and water; so far, so good with that first layer.
I work in short time frames and after a break to work on my book, I went back into the studio. This time I put in a few foreground trees and leaves. These first steps are getting just the basic shapes and the darker values. Oh, wait, I forgot to put in the reflections in the water. I squeezed the shading between trees and once that was done, although not perfect, I was satisfied with the first day’s work.
Yesterday, I returned to the drawing board. I added color. I’ve added touches of pastel color in the past, but this time I want to do more color. Uh, oh, here’s where I realized I had made a very amateur move: I had already started putting in foreground shapes before fully finishing layering in the background. And, as I said, charcoal is messy – and so is pastel. Both media smudges easily and while smudging is used in layering, once I start putting in foreground detail, it’s harder to correct/change background without making a mess of the drawing. I reached the stage I don’t like what I’m doing.
So, what did I do? I started another drawing, a different picture, on the table easel. Jeez, I can’t ever just do one project. I have to have multiple things going on at the same time. I got the first layering done then went back to working on the book.
I always go through a period of not liking my drawings. There’s that time frame between the thrill of the beginning and the excitement of the finished piece where I get discouraged and hate what I’ve done. I see all my “mistakes.” Sometimes I’ll walk away for days – the last time I walked away turned into two years. I have uncompleted drawings that I’d like to finish, but for this first time back in awhile, I wanted to do a new picture.
Usually, when I persevere and continue working, I get past what I don’t like and get a finished product which pleases me. There’s that sense of accomplishment. I can’t compare my work to anything anyone does. What’s ironic is that when I look at other works of art, I prefer the crisp lines and fine detail, yet that’s not how I work. Then again, one of the aspects of my work is in creating the “illusion of detail.”
What also amazes me is, after I’ve been away from the drawing for awhile, what I notice in the picture I’m working on compared to the photograph I’m using as a guide. Why didn’t I notice the reflection came over farther? Why didn’t I see that branch bent the other way? How come I didn’t see that tree should be taller?
This never fails and it intrigues me. Luckily, I’m not trying to do an exact copy of the photo. The photograph is just a guideline to the drawing. I still want to capture the essence, though, and I want to have sizes proportionate.
And so, the work continues.