Basic 101: Class 27
No, I haven't lost my mind! I just decided to go ahead and post this early so those of you who have long since finished the previous class will not have to wait any longer!
Okay gang, let me begin by thanking all who participated in class 26. I am still catching up and making notes based on your input, and will be getting back to each of you if I haven't already.
Now, recently we seemed to be following a logical progression with our studies that could only lead us in a particular direction. I want to pick up where we left off in class 24 and move forward with the next lesson in the natural progression of things.
I'm sure that it will come as a surprise to some of you, but I'm talking about ice cream. Folks, the textural wonders that this subject matter offers for our exploration are infinite, so prepare for a journey to the end of the artistic earth. Some of the full color interpretations of this subject that may come forth in this lesson just boggle the mind. I'm looking forward to this one.
Before we get into the heart of the lesson, it should be noted that I just made all of that up to see if you were paying attention!
This week we will be drawing metal. Now, some among you are no doubt shattered by this news, after having gotten all excited about ice cream. Well, let not your heart be troubled. If some of you wish to be adventurous and draw, for instance, a metal bowl CONTAINING ice cream, that would be perfectly acceptable. Encouraged, even! Or you can be like Judi, who has already assured me that she intends to construct a bowl from ice cream, fill the frozen bowl with various metal objects, place it on the front right fender of a rusty tractor, photograph it when the bowl is half-melted, and use THAT as her reference photo for this project. Now that is the kind of outside-the-box thinking that I applaud, and I look forward to seeing Judi's creation.
Now, one thing amused me during the lesson on rendering glass. Some of you who did extremely well in that class immediately expressed reservations, trepidation, and indeed panic when it was revealed that the next lesson would be on rendering water. I discussed this with Jay, and it was clear to both of us that you guys already knew how to draw water. You just didn't know
that you knew. But now you know. And I know that you know, and Jay knows as well. You know? You know, because as the rearview mirror of history now confirms, you guys went on to do very well in the water class as well. This is all definitive proof of one very important thing that cannot be overstated: the irrefutable superhuman cognitive powers of both myself and JayD.
Or, it could be proof of something that I hope you ALL have come to recognize by now, which is the fact that there is actually very little difference in terms of principle and technique between effective rendering of glass and water. Well I'll go ahead and let the cat out of the bag at the outset this time. As you make the transition from glass to water to metal, you will find that the same phenomenon applies. Any of you who are intimidated by this week's subject should rest assured that if you have successfully completed the lessons on glass and water, then you already know how to succeed in this lesson.
The reason that some of you were intimidated by the water class, and may be intimidated by this class, is that, in keeping with the nature of human psychology, you separate glass, water, and metal out in your minds without regard to their rather obvious similarities. It is because of these preconceived notions that we often hinder our own progress or set ourselves up for failure. I've said before that the psychology of art is as much or MORE important a part of the process as the robotic performance of technical skills. We are often our own worst enemies because we put up unnecessary psychological barriers to our own success, allowing fear to keep us in a rut. This is true in any area of human endeavor, but particularly so in the arts.
Why mention all of this? Simple. One of the things that I want all of you to get out of this program is an understanding of the role of psychology in art, and an understanding of how to use it to your advantage rather than the converse. This is something that we will explore more in the future, but I figured now would be as good a time as any to raise the subject, since it has some value relative to this week's class.
That said, let's examine the specifics of what we're talking about with this week's lesson. In the three dimensional, physical realm, there are dramatic and obvious differences between glass, water, and metal, texturally and otherwise. When thinking of them in the intellectual sense, the idea of convincingly rendering any or all of the three may seem quite daunting, depending on your individual skill level. But the two dimensional world of visual art is the great equalizer, if you will, and it simply boils down to light and shadow when it's all said and done. As elusive as water is in the physical, logical sense, I'm sure that it seems a lot less intimidating a subject when you think of it in terms of nothing more than light and shadow. The same is true of metal, and indeed of anything you choose to render in the two dimensional world.
The bottom line? If you say you can draw glass but you can't draw metal, I say "NONSENSE!" It's all in your head. Just as walking is a simple matter of putting one foot in front of the other, rendering ANYTHING convincingly is a simple matter of proper representation of light and shadow. Now, of course that can get incredibly complex depending upon your subject matter, but the fact remains that whether you are rendering a coffee cup or a shaggy dog, a toaster or a portrait of your grandmother, a penny or a cluster of trees at the edge of a still lake, it's all light and shadow in the end.
Okay, this is simple. I want you to draw some metal, ladies and gentlemen!! What metal to draw? That's up to you. The only requirement is that you post not only your work but also the reference material, which means you need to stay clear of copywritten material. I'm sure you can find all kinds of material in the RIL. Or you can follow Judi's lead and do your own still life as a reference.
Things to consider with metal:
* As with glass and water, to convincingly render metal it is of paramount importance that you incorporate as broad a value range as possible. High-contrast with extreme lights and extreme darks will heighten the realism.
* Often with metal, particularly shiny metal such as chrome, silver, brass, stainless steel, and so on, you will often see much sharper edges between adjacent values, with a less subtle gradation than you may find with water. I thought of illustrating this with a drawing, but I don't even find it necessary. If you have a kitchen pot or pan with a shiny metal exterior, pull it out and set it on the counter. No matter where the light source is, my guess is that if you step back and look at it, you will see areas of blinding highlights right next to areas that appear near black. (I just tested that, btw, and I'm right, of course!
* With painted, dull, or more textured metal such as cast iron, brushed aluminum, pewter, etc, you will want to be more subtle with your value transitions and use more diffuse highlights. You can also manipulate the texture of these metals by using directional strokes or even some stippling or indentation and allowing some of this to show through instead of blending beyond all recognition!
* Shiny or not, the same applies here as with glass and water: KEEP YOUR HIGHLIGHTS CLEAN!!!!!!!!!!!! Some of you got yourselves into trouble with that issue on previous projects. Clean highlights are extremely important with this particular subject matter, so make every effort to keep your highlights sparkling white! If the size of your project permits, I would even recommend masking them off, for those of you who may have liquid or film frisket handy. If you have no frisket, don't freak out! Just work smart, pay attention, and do everything you can to keep dust, eraser debris, and your SKIN away from your highlights!
Did I mention keeping highlights clean? Happy drawing!