Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tips, techniques, and tools

Thank you to those of you who took my survey. Your suggestions will help me make the blog better. One of the suggestions I received was that you’d like me to include more in the way of tips and techniques. There are quite a number of posts that have some tips and whatnot, but I haven’t done much of that recently. I will go back in to the old posts and tag them with “tips” so you can more easily find what I do have on this blog. In the meantime – here’s a bit of info that you might find useful for drafting designs.
For those who might not be familiar with my process – I always have a general idea of what I want for background when I begin a piece, but I only draw out the foreground to begin with. I don’t draw the design for background on the substrate until I have finished the glass on the foreground, if at all.
The backstory: here is the photo I took of the still life composition I set up at my house (top photo) and two others that I printed as reference for what a chiaroscuro background should look like -
While the lighting in the top photo is much less dramatic than in the paintings below it, the light source is a single spotlight. The paintings have a similar, single source light, but it’s slightly off-center which enhances shadows – different angle, but close enough for government work, as my dad used to say.
The background will be done in my typical style with random colors, shapes and sizes of glass. I finished what I wanted to be recognizable as table/bottle/basket/etc. but as you can see, I already started to blend the table into the background. Next I will go to the center of the piece and begin the background at what will be the lightest point (which will really only be mid tones), and work my way outward.
I thought it would be a good idea to give myself some lines for reference – where to begin the shift from mid tones to darks to deepest tones. Because the light source is a round spot, I got out the compass and flexible ruler. I put the point of the compass about an inch below the top of the loaf of bread and drew a partial circle. This is for the separation from mid-tone to darker. Then I shaped the flexible ruler into a flattened arc and drew another line to mark where to shift to darkest tones. If you have never seen a flexible ruler before, let me tell you now that this is the BEST TOOL YOU NEVER HEARD OF.
You can bend these things every which way and they will hold their shape until you move them again. I laid the ruler out and just fidgeted with the arc until I liked the shape, then traced a line around the outside edge.
I decided the compass gave me too tight an arc, so I ended up erasing it and drawing a flatter arc with the flexible ruler, but I forgot to photograph the results, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
I think I’ll turn the work upside down to work on the background. If you’ve read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards you know that you can force your brain to begin telling you what you really see, rather than what you think you should see. I HIGHLY recommend this book.

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