Sunday, November 18, 2012

Drawing and Painting In Italy

Whatever your creative pursuit, when the opportunity arises to be a part of the most inspiring environment, the most exhilarating atmosphere for your particular artistic discipline or genre, I think that you owe it to yourself and even the gifts that you've been blessed with to take it.

Drawing and painting in Italy is for me, a very different experience than creating my work or teaching in my native New York. Please do not misinterpret this... New York city arguably remains the single greatest modern and contemporary art scene in the world. I adore it's energy and unmatched cultural exchange. However, picking up that charcoal and putting it to paper while in Italy, specifically the region of Tuscany, well... that is very different. With that first intended visual description, you have instantly joined the ranks... and these are revered and exalted ranks... of those who decided to make a very human statement... the artistic statement at it's highest levels. I see art as being perhaps the best narrative on humanity. It is either the subject of the human condition (narrative, historical painting or portraiture) or it is simply the personal translation of what is around us... profound enough to the individual to be worthy of canvas and paper. This kind of statement, of course, can come in the form of writing, music, performance and fine art. Drawing and painting in Italy though, is very much like driving at the Indianapolis 500 or performing at Carnegie Hall... the act alone is certainly amazing and enjoyable enough, but the company that you keep is historically staggering.

The Renaissance was a period that started in the region of Tuscany and it represented the return to the Classical emphasis on humanity. The artwork produced during this period continues to be a benchmark of excellence and an inspiration for all who follow in the footsteps as painters, sculptors, designers and architects. If we put the history aside, if one is not as well versed in the stories and the periods, Italy still inspires those who draw and paint in ways that few other places on earth can. If you are in the right location (and there are many) a simple turn of the head can reveal public art, incredible structures, classic designs and natural beauty all coming together.

Some even see drawing and painting in Italy as something akin to climbing Mount Everest. The obvious major difference here is the physical toll and personal peril involved in that one time, personal accomplishment. My advice, unlike for that dangerous and rewarding travel to the peak of the mountain top, is to try and "climb" towards this creative summit as often as possible. Try to experience the feeling of creating where creativity was first appreciated the most. The quote from the German Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer sums up the unique appreciation for art during the Renaissance as he compares the status of the artist in his native Germany to Italy: "Here (Italy) I really am somebody, whereas at home I am just a hack." Times have certainly changed, but those brushstrokes somehow, still feel indescribably different when applied in my art studio in Lucca or looking out at that Tuscan landscape. The food and wine aren't bad either.

Laura Knight - Her Early Life, and the Painting of 'Self and Nude'

The early life of the painter Laura Knight was dominated by adversity and overshadowed by tragedy. Her father abandoned the family shortly before Laura's birth in 1877, leaving his wife struggling to support their three children. Both elder siblings were sickly, and when Laura was 12 the younger of the two died. Two years later cancer claimed her mother's life, and Laura had to assume responsibility for herself and her remaining eldest sister. Courageously, she took over her mother's job as an art teacher by convincing the authorities that she was older than she was.

Shortly afterwards she gained a place to study at Nottingham School of Art. Here female students were denied access to nude models, having to make studies instead from plaster casts. It was at art school that she met her future husband, Harold. He was five years her senior and Laura, greatly in awe of his technique, used to peer over his shoulder as he worked, rather to his annoyance. Harold was very different in temperament from Laura. While she was gregarious and outspoken, his emotions were inhibited by a strict Victorian upbringing. This shy and introverted man was a deep thinker who advocated the cause of pacifism.

After their marriage the couple moved to Staithes, on the Yorkshire coast, where seafaring tragedies were an ever-present threat to the community. The Knights' Staithes paintings documented the harsh lives of the fisher folk. Laura's portrayals of women and children at this time seemed to hint at nostalgia for the lost world of her childhood, which had been abruptly cut short.

In 1907 they decided to move to the south west. The contrast between the coasts of Yorkshire and Cornwall could scarcely have been more dramatic. Here the sun sparkled on an aquamarine sea bathed in light. Laura had shouldered enormous responsibility from a young age and had struggled through early adulthood to forge her career. Newlyn represented a carefree way of life in which she could relax in the company of like-minded friends and fellow-artists. Cornwall's mild climate enabled her to work out of doors, which she took to with enthusiasm. She became accustomed to dragging unwieldy canvases across rough terrain to obtain the perfect vantage point from which to work. Newlyn had become a popular holiday destination and her paintings now reflected this lighter mood, with the sea forming a backdrop to scenes of children playing on the beach, splashing about in the water or exploring rock pools.

But I believe that it is in her representations of women that Laura Knight's best work is to be found. 'Self and Nude' is probably her most well-known painting, and the relationship between the women depicted in this work was far from conventional. In 1913 the Knights, who had no children, left Newlyn to settle in the secluded Lamorna valley. Here they made a number of close friendships, in particular with their neighbours, Ella and Charles Naper. Ella was a ceramicist and maker of exquisite jewellery, and the two women collaborated on enamelling projects. Laura and Harold had drifted apart emotionally and Harold fell in love with Ella, though there is no evidence of marital infidelity. Laura encouraged the relationship as it made Harold easier to live with. Furthermore, she was attracted to Ella's beauty and gained emotional sustenance from their friendship. In her autobiography Laura described Ella as 'an adorably lovely slim creature, brown as a berry'. The Napers had a hut on Bodmin Moor which provided a retreat where they would relax away from social pressures. Often they were accompanied by close friends such as the Knights, where they would enjoy a bohemian existence, swimming, sketching and taking photographs.

'Self and Nude' is a large canvas depicting the artist, viewed from behind, with her head in profile, turned to the right towards her friend. Unclothed, Ella is positioned standing on a dais with her back to the viewer, hands raised and clasped behind her head, with her body turned slightly toward the left. Though painted in a studio setting, this work manifests the ability Laura Knight had acquired, through earlier studies of the female nude, to portray the effect of light on bare flesh. By contrast, she presents herself in practical working mode, dressed in a bold red cardigan, paintbrush in her right hand, with her trademark black felt hat lending a bohemian touch. Ahead of her time, she proclaims her status as an independent individual, in control of her destiny. The image is repeated on the left, as a work in progress. This is a painting within a painting - and also, a double portrait. The artwork represents a seminal moment in the career of a painter at the height of her powers - a woman confident enough to risk scandal by encroaching on the territory of male artistic creativity. Perhaps she was aware that the world was on the brink of a tumultuous upheaval which would, in the longer term, herald a new era for the status of women.

The First World War abruptly changed the lives of the Cornish artistic community. Many young men volunteered for the trenches. Harold Knight suffered from poor health, and would have been eligible for exemption from active service. Despite Laura's pleading, he refused to undergo a medical examination. Instead, he declared that he was a conscientious objector, in the full knowledge that he would be subjected to a harsh regime of working on the land for the duration of the war. Laura was furious and it is said that she never forgave him for this. The tough manual labour affected him physically and mentally, and he became unable to paint. Those in the local community who lost fathers, husbands or sons during the conflict felt betrayed by Harold's stance.

The Knights left Cornwall in 1919 to begin a new life in London. Harold returned to his career, becoming a successful portrait painter, while Laura developed a passion for theatre and ballet. A divergence of interests was probably inevitable in such an ill-matched pair. Harold would never be drawn into discussing painting with his wife. He rarely expressed an opinion on the calibre of Laura's work, possibly because he felt threatened by her talent. They never again lived in Cornwall though Laura often returned, maintaining a close and life-long friendship with Ella Naper.

'Self and Nude' was dogged by controversy when it was first exhibited in 1914. The elevated position of the nude figure confounded the traditional balance of power between the artist and subject, confusing the critics at the time (who were, without exception, male). It is difficult to ascertain what Laura really thought about her painting. There is no mention of it in her autobiography of 1936. Perhaps her reticence on the subject reflected an unwillingness to engage with emotions associated with memories of her married life in Cornwall. 'Self and Nude' was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in 1971. This iconic artwork continues to exert a fascination today.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pen And Marker Drawings - 5 Basic Steps How To Draw With A Black Pen Or Marker

Beginners love to draw with pen and markers. When you start to learn how to draw and you see you are already comfortable using the pencil and eraser, it is time to go ahead and add pen and markers to your drawings. It is easy because you don't have the colors to worry about mixing them yet, you just have one color - black, and one material - pen or marker.

Drawing with pen and marker is a very broad subject and it is difficult to cover up everything in one article, I will mention the basic steps so you can immediately start with these drawing materials. Now you can add tones, shadows and texture to your drawing to make them look real. I recommend you experiment with different pen nibs, styles and methods to decide what you like best. Try out your favourite pens in your scrapbook before you start on your drawing.

The 5 basic steps how to draw with pen and marker. I will explain each step shortly later in this article.

Draw the picture you want.
Erase all extra lines and leave only the outlines.
Go over the pencil drawing with a black pen or marker.
Add texture to the drawing.
Add tones for lighter and darker areas.
Draw the picture you want-when you draw, make sure your lines are gentle and light, don't overdo and don't add pressure to the pencil while you draw. Keep it clear.

Erasing - clean up your drawing using a good clean eraser. If your eraser is dirty it may leave a grey color where you used the eraser so clean it before using. Erase all extra lines and leave only the outlines. I must mention that erasing the pencil marks after you added the pen or marker can ruin your drawing.

Go over your drawing with your pen - make your lines even and give it a nice flow. It is time to relax and have fun! - don't feel nervous about it. It's just a drawing. There is no absolute way to do it and you can always make another one.

Add texture to the drawing - according to the surface of the object you are drawing you are trying to describe the texture if it is smooth, bumpy, rough, like wood etc. Use a variety of strokes. Some of the common pen and marker drawing strokes are hitch-hatching, cross-hatching, dotting and scribbling too. You may study different strokes first in your scrapbook before you use it on your drawing.

Add tones and shading to your drawing - these are techniques to add lighter and darker values of the black to show the form of the object you drew. there are light, medium and dark tones. The shading shows where the source of light is coming from. If the light is coming from the top left so you need to add shading to the opposite sides - the bottom right.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Begin To Draw - 6 Basic Components And A Tool List

How to draw is a question asked often among kids, students, mothers, teachers and more. So drawing skills can be accomplished just like writing. It may seem difficult to draw if you never really tried but as you practice you get better and better till you achieve success.

There are 6 components to learn before you start drawing and each one of them is extremely important when you are in the real beginning. So don't go fast with these, take a few days and train your eyes and hands.

6 Components to consider before when you begin to draw:

Lines - start drawing lines. No, I am not joking... take a pencil and paper and start drawing simple curved lines, straight lines, vertical, horizontal diagonal, swirls and spirals. This is also what I do as a 'warm up' every time before I start drawing.
Shape - draw different shapes. Use lines and 'close them up' make free shapes with curved lines or straight lines. Draw the basic shapes too - squares, circles, triangles ovals, rectangles, cones and more.
Form - turn your shapes into forms. A ball out of a circle, a picture frame out of a square etc,
Shading - turn your forms into 3D - make them look real as you add the shading. Add shadung according to the source of light on the form - object. If the light is coming from the top left so those parts of the objects will remain light and all right bottom parts of the objects will get the shading on them.
Cast Shadow - that's the shadow that falls on another surface because lack of light, just like your own shadow on the sidewalk at night when the street light is behind you.
Perspective - that is a formal way to draw what you see. Perspective determines how objects seem to diminish into a distance when you add height, width and depth. Its actual drawing the depth of the object in a right way.
Composition - adds dynamic to a drawing when you draw more than one object. Lets say you draw an apple, and 2 pears. Don't draw them all in a line nor place them in equal places on your drawing sheet. Think of an interesting way to lay them out.
Now that you know these basic components, you must be ready to start. I decided to explain the basic tools you will need for pencil drawings.

A variety of pencils: H2, 6B and 4B. These are different degrees of leads, the softer the lead, the higher the number. Harder leads are for drawing and sketching and softer leads are to shade your drawing.
An eraser: there are different types of erasers: kneaded and vinyl, these just lift the lead from your paper, you can mold them into a point to erase a tiny space or mold them into other shapes to make interesting textures. You don't need to scrub with them - just dab. Gum and rubber erasers are made to erase larger areas.
Paper: there are different kinds of paper for pencil drawings. They vary by colors, thickness, surface and texture. Start with smooth paper like bristol paper then experiment with more quality paper.
Paper Stump: that's made to create different textures in your drawings and also helps to blend.
Now that you know about pencil drawings it's time to sharpen up your pencil and start drawing lines and shapes to train your hand and eyes finding the basic shape of each object. Look at a book - draw it out of a rectangle, draw an apple from a circle and so on.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Brief Introduction to Oil Painting - The Last Supper

The Last Supper is one of Leonardo da Vinci's most widely-known representative works. It's a late 15th century mural painting with the theme from the Bible Story. The evening before Jesus Christ was betrayed by Judas, he gathered all the twelve disciples together to have a meal and gave them explicit instructions on that ritual. Leonardo da Vinci specifically depicted the reaction given by each apostle when Jesus dropped the bombshell that one of them would betray him before sunrise. All twelve disciples reacted to the news with various degrees of anger, shock, and horror.

Leonardo completed this work in 1498, and at that time, he was not the only artist who chose this particular biblical scene as the subject for a religious painting. Compared to other depictions of The Last Supper from this period, however, Leonardo's work was the best. Unlike other artists who excluded Judas by placing him alone on the opposite of the table from other eleven disciples and Jesus or placing halos around all the disciples except Judas, Leonardo instead has Judas lean back in the shadow with his hands clutching a small bag, which perhaps signify that Judas had been paid for his betrayal. In addition, we can see in the painting that Judas is tipping over the salt shaker. This may be related to the Near-Eastern proverb "to betray the salt", which means to betray one's master.

From left to right, the twelve apostles are sitting in groupings of three. Bartholomew, James Minor and Andres form the first group. All are aghast and Andrew holds his hands up in a "stop" posture. Nearer to Jesus, Judas, Peter and John form another group of three. Peter, who is holding a knife, looks visibly angry. The feminine-looking John seems about to swoon. On the right side of Jesus, Thomas, James the Greater and Philip comprise the next group. Thomas is clearly agitated. James the Greater stunned and Philip appears to be seeking clarification. The last group consists of Matthew, Thaddeus and Simon. It appears that both Matthew and Thaddeus are turned toward Simon to see if he can give them any explanations.

The work is presumed to be started in 1495 while Leonardo completed it in 1498. In order to find the most proper face that fits each apostle, Leonardo spent large amount of time observing people in the market. As a result, in The Last Supper, every apostle appears to act like a real person. This is one reason for why Leonardo's work is much more remarkable and unrivalled when compared to works of other painters.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Plein Air Requires a Direct Approach As the Natural Light Is Ever Changing

Painting outdoors directly from nature can be a little daunting at first but once a routine is established then I consider this Plein Air technique the best practice for both beginners and experienced painters. The artist must paint quickly, be spontaneous and decisive with his brush strokes as the natural light is ever changing. This forced discipline is the best way to improve as an artist in my opinion, as quick decisions must be made and rendered accordingly.

Painting outdoors can be a challenge for any artist but if the elements are on your side then the process can be quite enjoyable. Unlike painting pictures from photographs in the studio, the end result of a Plein Air painting is usually more of a personal statement which is clean and fresh.

I believe it is not always necessary for an artist to travel far to find inspiration. In fact I have been returning to the same scene to paint this group of old mill houses for 25 years. These cottages always appear different due to the changing light, seasons and time of day. My use of artist's licence will be an essential factor also in making sure each finished artwork is unique and original..

Plein Air is my favorite painting method and on this particular morning the light was changing fast so I chose my vantage point and set up the easel. The mill homes displayed a strong composition but required a little imagination regarding color enhancement. I was aware not to paint everything I could see but simplify by selection.

My approach was to suggest the far distance and methodically work forward. I began by covering the whole canvas by blocking in the main shapes and my basic composition was established. The sky was brushed on followed by a distant inlet showing through trees. The old sagging roofs of the mill houses and their leaning water tanks were exaggerated, all of which added character and age.

There was a hint of pink in the sky when I arrived, however it was no longer there due to the changing light but was remembered and included. My attention was momentarily stolen by fighting magpies. However, the aroma of wildflowers along with the sound of wind in trees made me aware that all my senses were simultaneously activated. I felt as though a sixth sense of intuition occurred which was fuelling creativity.

Some rooftops were already colorful, others were shiny, metallic and bland. I changed these colorless areas to bright pink, blue and orange. More artist's licence was used to add bright reds and yellows to white sheets on washing lines. These same colors were applied to curtains, doors and to the many flowers in surrounding gardens. A strong color statement was now becoming apparent.

Another break in concentration occurred when a gust of wind almost blew over my easel. I quickly secured it with a log. To paint from nature, you must contend with it also. There was an old picket fence and letterbox in the foreground. These were included as I considered them to be an essential part of the overall composition. A grey bitumen road occupied the extreme foreground. However, I remembered this was once a pink sandy track many years ago, so I decided to return to that era and use this sandy track as an all important lead into the picture.

Using a sharp tool I scratched lines into the thick wet oil paint on roofs and walls of each mill house. This gave the impression of corrugated iron and timber cladding of which the cottages were made. Free ranging hens and a little wispy smoke from one chimney only added life to suggest that someone is home.

Finally, using the same sharp tool, number 25 is scratched into the foreground letterbox. This signifies the number of years I have been returning to this historical place to paint pictures of these enchanting cottages.

Michael Cartwright is a professional artists who has won many awards. He paints in two distinct techniques, Quirky Cottages and Traditional Landscapes. Both styles explore the beauty of Western Australia's south coast where he lives. Michael's favorite method is painting outdoors ''Plein Air''. However the Quirky technique is produced in his studio as he relys on imagination only.

Original Oil Paintings and Quality Canvas Prints of the two techniques are available. The Prints are produced using an Epson Printer and we use the highest quality inks and canvas available. Each print is U.V. protected and produced with expertise, skill and attention to detail in order to reproduce the beauty of the original artwork.

Friday, August 31, 2012

For An Artist Imagination Is Everything

Whether you are a full-time professional artist or a beginner you need imagination. It doesn't matter whether you want to produce paintings that represent real life scenes of the world around you or invent objects that have never yet existed...

"Your imagination is the key and you should be prepared to use it"

If you are less confident in your drawing and painting skills the results of your artistic efforts might be called by some as abstract art.

No doubt to some, whose confidence levels are greater and have more practised skills, your work might be considered as junk. If you get this kind of response don't despair and feel disappointed with your efforts. Instead, build up an argument to defend your artwork and be prepared to describe its worth to you and tell the story of its origins...

How you became inspired
Why you chose to use the painting medium used
What you see
What you are pleased with about it
You might agree with the criticism of a more experienced artist and want to learn from their experience but it shouldn't take away from the qualities you and your efforts have produced.

Remember this...

"It is your drive and imagination that drives what you want to do with your art, and not theirs!"

This doesn't mean for a moment that you deny scope for improvement. Without your ability to transform your own ideas into writing, drawing, paintings, film, performance art or crafts, no progress can be made.

At whatever stage of personal development it isn't your practical ability alone that gets things done...

Your effort to do the work is required and it is only from this that you show what you think and feel. This is the only way that your art and design can physically exist.

Having said that, it doesn't matter how much work and effort you put in, without ideas and imagination there can be little of artistic merit achieved...

Even if you intend to copy from photographs you still need imagination to convert a machine-made image into a work of Art - you need to be able to see the results in your 'Minds' Eye' before you plan and make the first mark. And, once you have made that first drawing or painting stroke it is your knowledge, experience and imagination combined that give you the confidence to continue making marks.

Using imagination is the only way any artist manages to make and overcome the physical mistakes that will be made...

It is your imagination that controls the process of adjusting imperfect lines, arcs, smudges, splodges and streaks such they appear to produce perfection.

Whether you are attempting to create a picture showing realism or you are more intent upon producing artwork of atmosphere and abstract emotion, what ever the results of your artistic efforts depend as much on your imagination as in the skills of drawing and painting.

And if you find your painting abilities lie in a particular direction, whether it be a particular field of specialist realism or abstraction, why not be happy with what you do?

Never forget that, before you try to separate abstract from representational art, it is good to take note of the fact that all paintings and drawings rely upon seemingly random marks that have no apparent definition. Even newsprint photographs and digital reproductions build images from dots of colour, hence the term 'DPI' (dots per inch).

In Art it is only from the use of your imagination that separates your painting and drawing masterpiece from the computerised technology responsible for producing photographs of a famous personality or star featured in a newspaper press release.