Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thumbnail Critique

Conté pierre noire pencil on Cartiera Magnani Velata paper (cream tone, 3″ x 4″, 3″ x 5″, and 6″ x 3″), August 2008.
Brian McGurgan

I won't be doing crits, except by request, and then gladly. Brian McGurgan, of Brian McGurgan's Drawings and Paintings, has asked for one as he follows along with my Abandoned Barn Workshop. What I do hope to do with this series is to post about the Abandoned Barn Project every week at least once a week. Since Friday is Tips, I'll choose another day of the week.

We'll be doing color sketches after the B&W thumbnails, and eventually I'll post my artist's demo as we finish this work in my studio. I started the painting on site, with all of the flavor of plein air work, but I'll be completing it in the studio for ease of teaching from a blog. This whole thing is an experiment for me in teaching, blogging and demonstrating a Work in Progress (WIP).


There is no doubt you get the feel of the site, with its lonely and abandoned barn. Maybe you'll have to get me doing some NYC buildings, next, from photos and while I'm in my western studio. I hope to show some of these to the farmers who own the property some time. They'll be thrilled, I know. That distant mountain shows up in many of my own artworks, and I like to tell people it is "almost in Canada" .

You have a great understanding of your aspects, and how they effect the outcomes. I would do several sketches of each (or one) aspect, because the one-each system is too confusing.

I'm glad you're thinking in color at this stage, already. A true sign of a painter! Be willing to change your color ideas as you ruminate on the image over time. I like the brown and neutral idea, but it will dictate certain things down the road, and we'll need to figure that out along the way.

The lower left image makes the barn the star of the show, but the negative space remaining is ambiguous - there is too much of it. And, be careful about getting the barn in the center of the drawing.

The upper left one is an interesting study of what happens when looking at photos (you don't get my advantage of being here to see it in reality). The photo (I call them "evil") flattens perspectives. I have to constantly be aware of this, and
stretch the vertical view on my paper to counter this. So, when you lower the horizon line intentionally to include some sky, you fall into the photo-become-drawing trap of flattening the view too much. I have addressed the same issues in my Charcoal Thumbs, but I have kept the hill mass above the barn "fat" to avoid the evil camera perspective effect.

Also, my sky inclusions are for pictorial (linear) purposes, and not for color purposes. I am keeping these two aspects in compartments: first the linear composition, then the color composition. Don't let the color needs screw up the linear composition or failure lurks near.

On the subject of drawings from photo reference, see my post here.

The vertical format is nice
because it keeps the loneliness of the barn intact, and yet crowds nothing. A bunch of issues develop here, though. Remember our friend, Wolf Kahn? He is all about Hans Hoffman's "Push-Pull" theories, and Kahn's drawings are a virtuoso performance in allowing lines to push the sky down (or up!) as the composition needs. Same story with his foregrounds.

So, in looking at your third drawing, I wonder which element will dominate. The sky, mid and foregrounds share thirds equally. My eye needs to be told which element to favor. In fact, you risk having four elements equally weighted, if I think of foreground, barn, mid ground and sky. I do like the "fat" field mass above the barn, though. I think #3 is my favorite over all (vertical).

Finally, I want to get into your drawing a bit. The barn drawing works great for it's value scale, and has perfect "weight" and is anchored well to the ground. It's a great drawing! I
want you to analyze the perspective as a 3 point perspective, though. It looks like you have a 2 point perspective going, with almost a slight third point (the vanishing point below the dirt would wish for the vertical wall lines to be more acute). Does that make sense? My thumb#3 illustrates a 3 point perspective of this barn, where the viewer is slightly above and looking down on it. The vanishing point for the vertical lines is below the ground level.

Anyone else willing to follow along? I'll be out-of-pocket through Monday, and then we'll be resolving my compositions and moving on to the demo.

1 comment:

Brian McGurgan said...

This feedback is very helpful, Casey, and I’m grateful for the observations and recommendations you’ve provided. The guidance you gave in your comments is quite clear and makes perfect sense to me. After spending time studying your thumbnails, I see how you’ve made use of three-point perspective to more accurately suggest the viewer’s spatial relationship with the barn. I also admire the way that you’ve depicted three-dimensional form in the field and hill with spare lines and shading that gives a sense of the structure of space around the barn. Looking at my own recent work I notice that – even when drawing onsite – I tend to flatten landscape elements into overlapping shapes, relying mostly on color transitions and softening definition in details to suggest greater distance. You’ve successfully provided an understanding of three-dimensional form in your field and hill using just a minimal amount of line and modeling. This is something I’ll be studying further and working to achieve in my own drawings.

I’d like to work some more at the thumbnails before moving on to color studies and should have another set of sketches within the next few days. I’ll focus primarily, I think, on the vertical format I used in the third thumbnail and will work with the composition to give greater visual weight to the barn so there is no ambiguity as to my subject. I’m also going to go back and look more at the "Push-Pull" theories and Wolf Kahn’s writings and drawings to gain a better handle on land mass and sky relationships.

I’m having fun with this project and am glad you’ve proposed it. Thanks again for all of the thought and time you’ve put into critiquing my sketches!