Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I have a little tin box full of self-imposed assignment descriptions - a medicine to keep momentum during the intersession! So there will be a steady trickle of posts of the most interesting ones - in the hope of some critique from the world out there. 
I had a single photo taken with my mobile camera of Nicolas sleeping in the grass on his yellow baby sling. What I liked about it was the high chroma shadows and the effects of transmitted light through the fabric, as well as the warm-cold contrasts. I thought it would make a great case study for transmitted light and chromatic reflected light. The composition also looked potentially interesting.

I made a small thumbnail first to study the value pattern and decide the edge treatment. The whole thing looked somewhat too horizontal, even for a quiet subject as this one, so I made two minuscule abstract studies and decided to make the patches of dabbled sunlight on the grass more diagonal (option 2).

I came to love pastels during the semester, and at the moment it is definitely the medium I know best, so that was the choice. I used Rives BFK paper with NuPastel, Rembrandt Pastel and the wonderfully soft but incredibly expensive Sennelier Pastels. I struggled with the color scheme a lot. I have learned that there cannot be three primaries in the same picture...the reference however looked like it had definitely some blue in the shadows on the left side, which together with the yellow and red of the right side would break the rule. Rules are there to be broken, but maybe not when you are just learning to deal with color! Much analysis later, I decided to experiment with Gurney's gamuts and picked one spanning  a high chroma red, medium chroma green and low chroma purple-red  - there are enough yellows in that one to handle the yellow fabric. Gamuts are devised for mixable media, but well, it is just a guideline. I recokened I could build the cool shadows from the purple red and the greens.So for the process, here is the charcoal underdrawing, fixed and toned (I forgot to take a picture before toning!)

Here is the first "wash" of pastel - a terrible stage when you start wondering wether the picture will work out at all...

And I think it did work out. I am quite happy with the result. The chromatic shadows and transmitted light worked out fine. The hands and folds around the head were intended as the focal point. I managed to defocus the legs and the background, I am not too sure about the bright lit fold on top. I fought with the legs a lot and I think they turned a bit muddy..maybe it was not a good idea to exclude the blues from the palette. There is one blue element, of course - guessed which one? 

The Little Blue Boat
Pastel on paper - 40x60cm (16.5"x25.5")

Pastel in my hands always seem to come out with this rich texture and gaudy brilliance that reminds me of a huge ice-cream cup with tons of smarties, cookies, cream and chocolate sauce. Maybe it is a bit too garish, but well, I will learn to tune it down one day - or maybe not! And did I mention I love drapery?

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Spring semester is over – it was a tough one indeed! Here a few notes on the courses I have been through this semester. Let’s start with Sustained Figurative Concepts, else known as ILL 612 - I followed the session held by Jeannie Brunnick. The first thing I wondered when I enrolled was: what does “sustained” stand for…my curiosity was soon satisfied. In studio jargon, it seems, “sustained” stands for longer poses of the model, about 3 hours in length. This allows for more refined drawing and also for painting, and stands in contrast with more rapid gestural drawings served by shorter poses. From my point of view, however, “sustained” stood for the amount of work we were required to do. Not only were all figure drawings in full value in pastel, but we had two or three of those per week! Particular attention was given to gesture, proportions and value structure. Our palette was mostly monochromatic red, with some green thrown in for contrast. We started with nudes, alternating males and females, then moved on to the clothed figure. From asian girls in silk kimono to old men in cobold outfit we had them all: magicians, Mexican folk singers, rock stars, civil war soldiers, you name it. I am sure there are rooms at the AAU full of costumes and props designed to torture students: before each session the teacher and model discuss how to make students’ life most difficult with scarves, folds, hats, flowers and whatnot.
We used photographs, as I expected from the online setup, which made things not in the least easier, as photos flatten the values so much: I ended up working with three copies per subject, one normal, one overexposed and one underexposed. I particularly liked the lesson on combining references: pity we did not have an assignment for that one.
I definitely learned a lot, though it feels like the very beginning of mastering figure drawing. I had a tough lesson in value structure, which I am still digesting. And learned to use the pastels for good, which now have a honor standing in my media palette.
Here is a selection of what I believe to be the best drawings,,,,and a collage of all the rest: a pretty impressive number of poses!

Cora on the sofa

One of our Asian ladies

Have to work some more on this one, but it is one of my favorites

Sexy ones...

...tired ones...

A wood spirit?

And all together!