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Drawing forms an important part of designing harps,other musical instruments and woodcarving. I studied art at the academy of fine arts in Antwerp when I was still living there in the late sixties . When I did a refresher course in life drawing at the National Gallery in Dublin recently, it took a few days to get the hang of it again ! Pictures of some of these drawings are included . They are by no means masterpieces but it was great to get back behind the easel. ( the drawings are A1 format ) There are of course many good books available on the techniques and principles of drawing ,but there’s nothing like regular exercise and practice.
Here follows a short text with guide to start drawing , not a full textbook , but I hope enough to be of help when starting from scratch.
Still life drawing
starting with loosening up exercises to warm up. All free hand .
connecting points , 2 points for a straight connection , make curves with 3 points , double curves with 4 points , progressing to circles and eggshapes . Circles within circles .
straight lines converging to one point on page in all directions .This from left to right , right to left , up to down and down to up plus any angle in bethween . Recognise your own favourite angle! get away from that” comfortable position” to learn new angles. Use a pencil first and also a dry pastel or chalk on it’s edge.This helps to get straight lines. Also try doing this with your nr 4 pointed brush.
Progress to lines converging to a point outside the page limits .This from left to right , right to left , up to down and down to up. Again watch your favourite aproach and try to get away from this.
” the rules of perspective work in all directions”
How to recognise perspective . Is it horizontal as in close up still life drawing ? or vertical as in drawing buildings looking up or drawing from a height looking down ?this also applies when drawing objects placed on the floor or hanging from a height and when drawing hall ways and staircases.
the basic three shapes contained in all objects remain a circle and sphere ,a triangle and cone and a square, rectangle and cube. This means that the inherent rules attributed to these shapes, Such as dividing diagonals , tangents , radius and diameter, remain true in perspective. So this way you can construct arches bridges and gothic ceilings by finding the starting points of the curves.
To start drawing object(s) placed near to you or an indoor situation
If any way possible set up your table with objects in a corner of a room . This way you have a definite line of division , two “horizons” where the table meets the wall, and a vertical line to measure from .Put the objects on a sheet of paper so you can mark their position and replace them correctly if you have to interrupt your drawing session and remove them temporary .you can also create a corner by folding a sheet of carboard or plywood at 90 degrees in a neutral colour and put it standing up behind your objects.
All objects have outer limits. Consider these to be the outside dimensions of a “box” . Several “boxes “ can be created within a drawing to complete an accurate composition .Mark your original position and that of your straight backed chair on the floor with masking tape .This way , with your back pressed into the chair , you’re sure to be exactly in the same spot as before after getting up . Bring a proper camera and take a shot of your object or chosen composition from eye level as you see the object(s) .This will allow you to retrace your steps after the object(s) has been taken away or the composition has changed Or also to finish the work at a later stage , maybe in a different place all together.
When working in a standing position indoors ( or outdoors ) again mark your feet position with tape or have a reference point such as a joint in slabs , tiles or a ledge.
Note the nearest point to you of the assembled objects and place a 5mm dowel touching this point , in such a way that the dowel is parallel to your eyes ( or at right angles to your line of view to the objects.)This marks the lower edge of your drawing. The highest point will mark the upper limit. Same with left and right outer limits are determined by the objects outermost left and right.Use the corner created by the wall or cardboard .
Have only one very strong source of light as defused light gives poor definition of shapes , shades and borders. Defused light also doesn’t show clearly the highlights or shines as on glass and metal.
Always draw what you really see and not what you presume is in front of you as from memory or imagination.
Use a “standing stick” as a “ steady start” for all your measurements horizontal and vertical with a “ T” piece connection. This can be moved to a new position to obtain new dimensions or reach outwards to other parts of the composition.
How to measure dimensions using a graded stick .Use a dowel with a diameter of 5 mm and mark 1 cm spaces in fine black lines , use a different colour for 5 cm gaps .Make sure to stretch your arm the same distance every time, otherwise dimensions won’t stack up! Don’t fall into the trap of “following” an angle with the stick while measuring as your figures won’t be correct .
Act as if there is a pane of glass at arms lenghth , so you can only hold your measuring stick parallel to your eyes and not leaning or following angles.
PS , Multiplying a taken measurement to increase the size of the drawing on your paper or canvas can create amazing possibillities as vertical and horizontal dimensions can be manipulated to distort reality. (This is done automatically on your computer with “stretch and skew” percentages) It can also lead to mistakes…
Find the main axis of importance or action (such as in a leaning flower or garment) and place this line on your paper as a guide. Inter relate measurements as multiples or fractions of each other .This way you can again cross/check if your perspective lines and proportions are correct.
Use a soft pencil (4B) on paper and a Nr 4 fine- pointed brush with a light blue well diluted water colour on canvas .It can always be removed or painted over.It allows great freedom and lends itself to easy flowing lines. Free your hand from the surface of the paper or canvas. Otherwise you’ll be restricted in your movement and only have the curves allowed by your wrist.
A few tips on how to get a clean and accurate end product,
When an area has been correctly marked for shading , remove the initial lines as much as possible using a putty eraser. In reality there are only boundaries between areas and rarely do we see an actual line. If you’re planning from the start to shade in areas with a medium that doesn’t totally cover lines ( such as poster paint or acrylic in your final piece ) use a light cardridge paper on top of your final canvas or paper to do your initial drawing . Make sure you place this in the correct position on your final canvas using masking tape. This way you can cut very important areas out of the “waste” paper using a scalpel .Then use this cut out as a template to directly apply colour or shade onto the final canvas without smudging the final work or showing draft lines .This works really well when using dry pastels or charcoal. A sponging technique using poster paint water colour or spray paint can also be used to fill in areas in this way . After these important areas are filled in with colour or shade , you can re-place the cut outs in the original paper and re-fix them with tape. you can then cut out further shapes to form the basis for your final work. This process will all lead to a better end product and can also be used to reproduce the same still life with minimum effort if it turned out to be really nice ( maybe a second version using different colours or a different way of filling areas with colour such as You can also use entire pieces of coloured or printed paper (as from magazines and newspapers) , cloth or adhesive film to fill the areas giving contrasts instead of conventional paints or pastels.
sample of a small water colour with fruit . A thirty minutes still life drawing
I have over the years taught at secondary level and also prepared students for art college by helping them with their portfolio . I have given classes to primary school teachers assisting them to teach drawing and composition to their pupils .The teacher I had when I was 11 years old awakened my love for the visual arts and nature.It is very important to lay a good foundation at a young age.
I’m available to teach art groups and courses can include Drawing, composition , perspective and colour balance ,the content can be tailored to your requirements . Included are some pictures of my oilpaintings which are basically exercises in balancing two colours by making two forms within a set boundary .The size of these is not really important nor is the way they are hung as there is no “top” or “bottom”. The other paintings are studies in colour variation with two basic colours hiding and showing in different degrees. Understanding these principles can be of help in composing photographs and still live painting.. I hope you enjoy these few samples .