Saturday, April 11, 2009

New Focus - Painting Class and 4 Lessons Learned

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On Thursday evening I began a new weekly class held at our local artist supply store owned by two wonderful women, Jill and Nadine. Jill is the artist in the family and teaches several weekly classes. I was very fortunate to be able to 'sign up' as she originally said there was a wait list of 17 people. My goal is to share the techniques and tips I learn on my blog as I go along with my first 'real' acrylic painting. Ever since I can remember, I have had a a brush and blank canvas fear. I also don't 'perform' well normally when I am in a group class situation. I am quite easily distracted and noticed on Thursday I also 'freeze up' or at least lose my concentration if someone comes up behind to watch me. From the moment I signed up to the start of the class I had about 3 hours to chose something I wanted to paint. I have several hard cover National Geographic photo books and so I started leafing through them and came across one that spoke to me. I took it down to the copy shop and had two copies printed off. One, to mark up as a grid, and another to keep as a clean copy.
Directly above is the National Geographic photograph, although this is about 5/7th's of the image I am working with. The entire image is 15" long and wouldn't all fit on my scanner. Originally I had envisioned it as a long and narrow structure and relatively large - 20x40 inches. However, they didn't have a canvas in that size so instead I chose one that was 20 x 30 inches and cropped the original to fit these proportions.
Jill taught me a quick way to determine the correct proportions:
1) To start, take the image you are painting and place it over the canvas so the bottom edges and the right edge match. 2) Take a ruler or yard stick (depending on how large your canvas is), and place it diagonally starting at the top left corner of your canvas across and down to the bottom right corner of your canvas. Where the ruler and the top of your image meet is where the original will need to be cut vertically. 3) NOTE: You can place the image now at any position along the bottom of the canvas now if this intersecting line crops part of the image you don't want to eliminate. Here's a sketch of what I just wrote for you visual learners :0) -

Below, is a photo of the beginning of my drawing. I've divided the canvas and the drawing into a grid to assist me in ensuring the drawing is proportionate. Which brings me to my second tip - use a watercolor pencil to draw your image onto the canvas. If you need to erase at any point, you simply wet a paint brush and brush over the line to be erased and then wipe any excess water with a towel. It will erase completely. I used a Derwent watercolor pencil but any brand or color works. This prevents the ugly graphite smudges that result from using a regular HB pencil.

Drawing the Image on the Canvas with Watercolor Pencil

I began to draw the image from the left hand side, but occasionally skipped over to another part of the drawing. Jill corrected this. Why? In order to ensure the drawing remains accurate, she recommended to work across the canvas, systematically. This way you will ensure that each portion of the image is in correction scale to the others.

Finally, a tip for left-handedness. Begin drawing the image from the right hand side! This way your hand doesn't cover up what you are drawing as you work horizontally. It also makes it easier to 'see' things in their proper relationship with each other and flows more naturally. So, for my fellow LEFTIES out here in blog land - don't read the drawing like you would a book. Another benefit is if your hand is moist and resting on the canvas, it won't smudge what you've already put down.

I am hoping to have the drawing complete by next Thursday so I can start to learn her valuable lessons on blocking in the paint.


Bea said...

Wow, this is great, thank you so much for sharing this. There may be classes like this around me but I haven't found them and this is something I am sooooooooooo interested in learning. :)Bea

Bea said...

Oh, and I forgot to tell you that I love that picture of the children.

Michele said...

Yes, thanks for sharing that tip I have that very same easel!