Monday, June 22, 2015

REVIEW || Imagine FX | Issue 122 - June 2015

Imagine FX Issue 122 June 2015 Film Art Star Wars Cover


ImagineFX - ISSUE 122 - June 2015

 This month's magazine covered Film Art, right up my alley.   Also up my alley, were some letters to the editor that covered women in art where editor Claire Howlett fielded some tough issues and promise further discussion of the topic in future magazines.   It would be wonderful if they could touch on women artists who also balance a family element.  The artist Q&A section was packed with many tutorials and a lot of knowledge to share;  among the demos were Mark Molnar on lighting a scene at dusk additionally lit by fire light, Tony Foti on painting a hot glowing light source, Bram Sels on quickly rendering pirate coins, and tutorials on how to paint fog and reflections.

 The article on The Art of George Hull, now successful visual development artist, was inspiring.   George starts his article by saying he didn't go to the right school, but by creating his own curriculum and putting in more work then required, he made it into a visual development career at a young age.  I identify closely with George since I didn't attend a Concept Art program either and ultimately did the same thing in school.  After graduating I continued my Visual Development studies, which I am currently still doing alongside being a full time mom.

 In the workshop section Alex Garner shows how he created this month's cover illustration, a Star Wars spin off.   Additionally Jim Cornish shared all about being a storyboard artist, a great read for anyone interested in that field.   A tutorial by Jana Schirmer on lighting a female figure was stunning, with a few great shortcuts shared and how to add finishing touches on soft paintings to make them look more rough and painterly.  

The reviews of the Jot Mini Stylus and Forge, an app made for sketching, has me wanting to try them out.   Also featured was End of the Line, a creative space in London with a unique rooftop location.  It is a place for artists to work, glean inspiration, attend life drawing classes, and even hold other art events like comic book releases.  Sounds like a wonderful creative space, wish there was something like it more local.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Composition of Outdoor Painting || Chapter 2, Part 1

Thumbnail Value Rough of Idea for CGMA Lost Civilizations Contest by Mary Highstreet
Thumbnail Value Rough of Idea for CGMA Lost Civilizations Contest by Mary Highstreet

We are currently reading,
"Composition of Outdoor Painting" by Edgar Payne
(Go HERE for the full reading plan.)

Chapter 2 (Part 1)
(pp. 27-78)

. . . . . . .

This chapter is all about how to create good design when composing a picture.  Very straight forward, Edgar Payne presents an abundance of ideas for composing various scenarios and subject matters.

. . .

Summary of Main Points:

1a.  Always consider the main elements or masses (including the focal point) and keep those at the forefront of the design.

1b.  Unique artistic quality and individuality in art is equally important to good design.

3.  "Deciding the unequal quantity or measure of masses, spaces, color, values, and their placement, establishing horizon and other main lines and creating artistic equalization in perspective or recession are the chief principals of full balance in all directions" (p. 39).

4.  Sketching a scene multiple times, daily, is essential to build both knowledge, confidence, and skill.

5.  The aim of composition is to create unity.

6-9.  When selecting any subject for painting, a prior knowledge of forms and features must be mastered by frequent and careful study and observation.

8.  "By shadowing the ground, placing the horizon or land contours low and keeping the proportions unequal are the main postulates in cloud compositions" (p. 56).

10.  The focal point requires the main attention and consideration from the artist and of all parts of the painting for any composition.

11.  Drawing should include artistic qualities and not be an exact representation of nature.

12.  There are four main styles of drawing and design:  Mass Principal (large ideas considered first), Decorative Approach (details and color predominating), Linear Design (emphasis on line work), and Perspective (drawing and painting in three dimensions).

. . .

More Details:

A.  Selection and Composition

1.  Selection

Selection covers choosing what visuals to include in your painting.  Good selection is needed in choosing the subject matter and is essential during the beginning processes all the way through the end stages of the painting.  The attention and treatment of detail in a painting should never overpower or push aside the main design.  The main design should always be at the forefront of the painters mind for all compositions.  When making judgements on what to include or what to leave out, "the main masses or larger interest should require little or not alteration, with only the less important items being altered, rejected, or introduced" (p. 34).  In terms of design, whatever is chosen to be the main feature all other parts of the design should yield dominance.

Art is always an interpretation of nature, "...everyone must put something of himself into his work.  While nature furnishes the visual motive, art comes from the depictor" (p. 32).  Making a work "artistic" is found in the artists unique brushwork.  The main design determines the larger picture, but the details reveal personality, charm, and individuality.

2.  The View Finder

Use a view finder to select the best composition, especially when there are many objects or "motives" to be considered.  It helps to select the main masses and find unity.  Using a large mirror opposite the canvas gives the artist a refreshed view and also aids in making sure unity is being achieved.  Other judging unification are minimizing the work, reversing it, viewing it sideways or upside down.

3.  Balance

Balance is achieved by using two or more large value areas and by balancing "color, line, breadth and detail, and the influence of abstract factors or principals" (p. 36).  The first consideration of balance should be the placement of the horizon line, main lines, masses, spaces and light/dark areas.  "...each area [should have] variety and interest which does not interfere with the main design" (p. 37).  Masses can be placed virtually anywhere as long as they support the main design, create balance and unity.

One tool to aid composition can be to draw two straight lines: one vertically and one horizontally in the center of the canvas, this helps to avoid the dead spots (where the lines are and converge).  Repetition of color throughout the design also aids balance.  Balance is also needed in perspective, "full pictorial unity depends on an equilibrium in three dimensions" (p. 38).

Edgar Payne says even the most accomplished of artists make mistakes and that discouragement is normal, so beginners shouldn't feel bad or be overwhelmed by these two things.

4.  Preliminary Sketches

Record/sketch your artistic ideas and visions immediately since they are often temporary and fleeting.  Compositions should be considered and drawn in a multitude of pencil drawn variations, with a variety of design.  Drawing accomplishes three things: problem solving, artistic mental exercise, and developing skill with the hand.  Mileage (a minimum of 1-2 sketches per day) in pencil drawing will build knowledge and facilitate drawing the same subjects in the future.  The more preliminary work done, the less will be needed later in the painting process.  Sketches should be done both from observation and from the imagination.  The benefit to drawing a the same subject multiple times is an increase of knowledge about the subject and the ability resolve unity in composition.  Initial studies create familiarity with the subject and allow the painter to be more confident in painting the final version.

5.  Composition

The aim of composition is to create unity.  One feature is the main interest that dominates all others.

"If through carelessness or lack of knowledge or practice, important factors have been ignored, the feeling of unity or balance is destroyed, the work is inevitably doomed to mediocrity" (p. 44).

Artists must have a first plan, by thorough planning and preliminary notes of main structures, if the final painting is to be a success.  Some common problems encountered are:  the horizon is too centered, a vertical edge or line divides the canvas in half, two points of interest, several equal masses, or spaces.  In composition, the idea is to arrive at a finished work quickly with a feeling that at anytime in the process it can be called done.  "There is always a place to stop painting.  This is the point where maximum quality has been achieved" (p. 46).

"If one has the knowledge, ability and experience, he can change or remove a tree, invent a path or road, or alter any of the innumerable items without the change of addition being obvious, or artistic quality lessened" (p. 48).

6.  Hills and Mountains

Hills and mountains deserve careful study of characteristic forms and features, much like in the study of the figure.  The qualities to be present when painting hills and mountains are mostly invisible: nobility, height and grandeur.

7.  Trees

Trees are expressed in ideas of beauty and rhythm and depiction requires a sound knowledge of form.  To avoid a boring or overly repetitious arrangement, the location of trees must appear casual.

8.  Clouds and Marines

Clouds and marines are the most challenging to draw and paint, of all subjects.  This has largely to do with the fact that they are fluid and constantly changing.  When painting clouds and marines you must draw from your memory.  "Therefore, the main characteristics of these two motives have to be firmly established in the mind...the student [must] learn typical forms of clouds or sea" (p. 54).

With clouds the horizon is typically placed low, the next consideration is the ratio of clouds to sky.  Never divide the two parts equally, 2/3 is a good proportion although exceptions can be made.  Cloud shadows cast on the ground can be positioned anywhere to aid unity.

Some focal points of marines might be:  breaking waves, spray, cliffs or headlands, partly submerged rocks, foam on top of boiling water, the surf hitting the beach, spray lightened by sunlight, light on a rock or headland, patterns within form, or whatever appeals to the artist.  A warm wash either of burnt sienna or other reddish earth colors is considered a good underpainting for marines.  A warm foundation creates vibration, depth, unification and balance of warm to cool.

9.  Boats

The mobility of boats makes them easily placed in the picture plane to support the composition.  Some challenges here could be the variation in sale shape and movement and their reflections in the water.

10.  Main Interest in the Composition

The main interest must always be considered first.  It's placement is important, as well as the necessity of other parts to not overshadow or overpower it.  The focal point should never be placed too near the edge or it may cause abruptness and lead the eye out of the picture.  Figures and animals should be integrated seamlessly into the design, usually facing the center or focal point to lead the eye back into the picture toward the main interest.

11.  Drawing

If art was merely an exact copy of nature, the camera could replace it.  The camera is precise but not artistic.  "The inaccuracy resulting from artistic leeway, esthetic taste and judgement is what determines quality in drawing in fine art" (p. 62).  Payne explains four main styles of drawing which are expounded on below.

12.  Mass Principal

Broad impressionistic drawing design that focuses on the main points of interest or large masses.  Artists must think in large masses and achieve quality from a their simple organization.  Squinting the eyes can help to locate large masses and achieve "bigness," main unity, and a relation of all parts.  The mass idea helps to unify the canvas.  It is a simple overall depiction, an abstract representation of the whole, that unifies the minute details of nature.  Think in mass and form, not lines, which must be disguised.  Early drawing of composition and mass can be kept light to avoid outlining objects too heavily.

13.  Decorative Approach

More of a flat mass design.  A good example of this drawing style is Sir Frank Brangwyn's Murals.

14.  Linear Design

Line is of the utmost importance in this drawing style.  There are three categories of line to be utilized (which symbolize different things):  vertical (height, stability, nobility), horizontal (repose, tranquility) , slanted/curved (movement, activity, rhythm).  Every composition should utilize all three types of lines in order to unify the picture.  Lines create balance and help to guide the eye around the painting.  Unseen lines exist in the spaces between main points of interest: these areas also guide the eye.

15.  Perspective

The perspective approach is the creation of a three dimensional painting as seen in recession/depth to the view as well as a feeling of roundness to forms.  This is accomplished by the use of "atmosphere, graduation of values, contrasts to tone and color, dark and light masses, and linear perspective" (p. 70).  First artists place the horizon (eye level determined by the station point of the painter), never to be placed exact center.  In landscape painting, horizons are typically placed low and Edgar Payne suggests 1/3 or 3/5 devision of the canvas, he also gives examples of where to place the horizon for panoramic views at high elevations and views that do not contain man made structures (p. 71).  This type of composition allows the viewer's eye to travel in three dimensions: near and far, as well as horizontally and vertically.  Shadows and texture (less detail in the background) should also be considered in the adding of depth/perspective.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Composition of Outdoor Painting || Preface & Chapter 1

Study by Mary Highstreet (L), Original by Glen Dean (R)
Study by Mary Highstreet (L), Original by Glen Dean (R)

Composition of Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne

Preface & Chapter 1
(pp. 1-26)

So let me first say, it is a very dense book!  Don't be discouraged, however, there was so much invaluable advice for the artist that if you can comprehend it, it is a must read!

I am just going to point out the main principals that stuck out to me and things I want to take away.  If you are reading this along with me, or at any point in the future, feel free to leave constructive comments on the book as well as your thoughts below.  The full reading plan, for those interested in following along, can be found HERE.

. . .

Summary of Main Points:

1.  Balance.  We must have a proper balance of both artistic freedom and fundamental principals.  We must learn rules to avoid common artistic pitfalls.  But, too many rules and we risk loosing originality.

2.  Artists, even those who delve into fantasy, must go back to nature to achieve realistic and believable depictions.  If we never look to nature and reality, we run the risk of our art looking fake and contrived.

3.  The enjoyment for the artist should be in the process (in the work of painting) and not the outcome (the finished artwork).  We must learn to value the work art takes even more than the end result.

4.  The artist is never done learning.  "The true artist is always the student." (p. 20)  "The study of art is a lifetime matter." (p. 22)

5.  Enthusiasm is key for the artist, it pushes the artist to continue to seek out and enjoy artistic pursuits.  On the other hand, a lackadaisical approach will lead nowhere.

6.  Art is not a means to an end.  If we only pursue and derive our passion from art alone, we miss bigger and more wide-reaching influences.  Artists need to look everywhere for inspiration:  from philosophy to science to almost anything on earth.

. . .

More Details:

A.  Preface

Here, Payne lays a solid foundation for art application via a necessity to build on art history, study of nature and solid ideas, as well as the knowledge of already conceived principals of art.  And in so doing, shooing aside the idea that art is only talent or only imagination.  Not to neglect the latter, but instead bringing the need of a proper blend and balance of both processes to the artist's table.

B.  Chapter 1:  The Approach to Art

1.  Origin and Purpose

Art is the result of an artists desire to express and the need for appreciation.  Idealization, perfectionism,  and a desire to excel are often attributes of the artist.

Art is a universal language.  In it's beauty, a get-away, an escape from mundane in life: "relief to the jaded mind, and windows to the imprisoned thought." (p.2)

Artistic principals have been developed and established since the beginning of artistic expression, even as far back as the caveman.  Why reinvent the wheel?

2.  Talent and Genius

We artists need to preserve our most basic artistic instincts (our talents and gifts) in the arts and not let it be squashed by teachings of principals.  But our natural abilities are merely a starting point and without determination, perseverance, and hard work our natural talent will go to waste.

3.  Elementary Principals

"...truths and principals are [a] stabilizing permanent foundation [for the artist]." (p. 5)  Edgar Payne points out an expression from the Bible, "there is nothing new under the sun."  Many "new ideas" are often innocent re-hashings, ignorant of the exact same old ideas long ago thought of.  Rather than claiming these principals as our own ideas, we should look to art history and study the fundamentals so we can avoid imitation, however innocent.  If learn from the past, are merely guided by those principals, and on top of that apply our own creative faculties, it can steer us to originality.  "To be original one needs to learn the ideas of other painters in order to be different from them."  On page 7, Payne lists attributes necessary for the artist, and fundamentals of design that must be mastered.  

We must have a proper balance of both artistic freedom and fundamental principals.  We don't want our paintings to go off the deep end one way or another, the results could prove disastrous.  We must balance "no thought" strictly rule driven methodical methods with the other end of the spectrum, extreme liberty no limitations what-so-ever imagination overload.  Where you, the artist, fall on the balance is up to you.

4.  Opposition of Influences

Every problem we face in art is a matter of opposing forces (nature vs. principal, light vs. dark, patterned vs. minimal), and we the artist are a third element that has the ability to choose how to balance them.

The enjoyment for the artist should be in the process (in the work of painting) and not the outcome (the finished artwork).  As I have read recently, this statement is true for kids too, we must praise the process and not the outcome.  If we constantly praise the outcome, it leaves kids with little determination to work hard, and instead they will select the easy route to get the finished result.  I am a product of the later methodology, that of praising the outcome.  I know all too well the feeling of admiration when one receives praise of the finished product, it leaves you little room to want to go back to the drawing board.  This way of thought, of praising the outcome, has been detrimental to me personally as an artist, and now I am working to correct those long instilled principals.  I see the gain in learning to enjoy and even praise the process itself; it produces a desire for hard work and perseverance, which are essential to artistic life.

We must enjoy painting in and of itself, and it will eventually end in a great product.  If we just seek a reward, skipping hard work and imagination, we only cheat ourselves.

5.  Rules  

We must learn to value the work art takes even more than the end result.  If all we see is the finished product, then the means of getting there may escape us. "The glamor of any achievement should never overshadow the means of producing it." (p. 14)

We must learn artistic head knowledge first, then understand how to apply it.  You must learn rules to avoid common artistic pitfalls.  For the artist rules are to be used as a guide only not a means to an end.  Too many rules and we risk loosing originality.

6.  Imagination and the Emotional Impulses

Artists use Imagination, Emotion, and so called "feelings," to produce originality in artwork.  These natural instincts and emotions are key to achieve unique creative expression in art; something that cannot come from techniques alone.

7.  Nature

Artists, even those who delve into fantasy, must go back to nature to achieve realistic and believable depictions.  If we never look to nature and reality, we run the risk of our art looking fake and contrived.  

Here is an analogy for this idea (which is one I was challenged to do before):  

Grab a pencil and paper.  Now, without looking, try drawing a dollar bill from your imagination.  Get every detail you can remember!  Be sure to finish drawing until you can't remember anymore.  Put down your pencil.   Now, find a dollar bill.  What did you miss?  How much of the image and details could you conjure without the dollar bill right in front of you?  For me, I remember drawing a rectangle, and oval, a generic stick person and some dollar signs, that was the extent of my memory.  When I looked there was so much more detail!  I remember being frustrated: how could I not remember more?  The dollar bill is something we see every day, but yet our brains cannot store all their is to know about it without careful study.  The same is true with nature, for the artist to convey natural objects we must observe nature itself both carefully and continually.  To drive the point home, how much more does nature change than the dollar bill?

Going to nature for study doesn't have to produce a photorealistic copy, "A pictorial representation is always a translation.  Nature suggests ideas for interpretation, the artist supplies ideas of how the interpretation is to be made." (p. 17)

8.  Abstract and Visual Quality

In order to awe and inspire, artists must conceal their methods and principals so that the abstract meanings shine forth.  Skill, craftsmanship, and a handling of pigment can be, in and of itself, beautiful.  If the craftsmanship is ignored, the painting as a whole will suffer.

9.  Knowledge and Discipline

The artist is never done learning.  "The true artist is always the student." (p. 20)  "Self taught" artists are so commonly put on a pedestal.  Much of my childhood I was self taught, but I realized my limitations and the need for further study.  Being "self taught" can only go so far.  There is nothing wrong with artists seeking out education.  As Edgar Payne exhorts, natural decision making is important and comes into play during the painting process, but between sessions "[the artist] may put any amount of time he chooses on research, analysis and conscious effort." (p. 22)  "The study of art is a lifetime matter." (p. 22)

Enthusiasm is key for the artist, it pushes the artist to continue to seek out and enjoy artistic pursuits.  I have been utilizing this in my current studies, it helps to battle the blank canvas and build myself up to prepare for a painting.  To get that enthusiasm, I ask myself questions like: "What subject matter would make me excited to paint today?"  On the other hand, a lack of enthusiasm, is swift to kill all endeavors.

10.  Direct and Remote Influences

Art is not a means to an end.  If we only pursue and derive our passion from art alone, we miss bigger and more wide-reaching influences.  Artists need to look everywhere for inspiration:  from philosophy to science to almost anything on earth.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

We All Have to Start Somewhere

WIP - Study After of Edgar Payne by Mary Highstreet
WIP - Study After of Edgar Payne by Mary Highstreet

Ultimately, for the things I want to paint, the areas I need to learn more about are color and light, landscape painting, perspective, animal anatomy, and the figure.  When faced with so many areas of study, it is hard to choose just one to focus on.  On the other hand, trying to learn them all at the same time leaves you overwhelmed and without solid direction.

My realization is that I just have to start somewhere, so I have decided for the month of June to focus on landscapes.  My goal for this month is to spend 1-2 hours per day digitally painting master copies of landscape paintings I admire (both 15 min. and 1 hr. studies) and to read through "Composition of Outdoor Painting" by Edgar Payne.

I will be posting my progress each week!  Feel free to read and study along with me and/or at your own pace.  I have devised a reading plan you can view it HERE.