Thursday, November 27, 2008

Beginner's Drawing, Lesson 1: Materials for Drawing

Last week Dr. X asked me if I could teach him to draw, but only if I didn't feel it took away from what I wanted to accomplish during my session.

Immediately I felt a sense that something was up? Inside my head I was thinking all week..."why is he switching gears this way? What is the purpose of this request. What is his "ploy".

Despite my "suspiciousness" I pulled together some information, drawing materials and ideas to follow though on his request. I was extremely anxious because I kept thinking, "what if my teaching him, only goes to show I am a crappy teacher?"

I was really worried about that: What if Dr. X would not think I was good enough? It mattered to me more what he thought, than what any of my students have thought...and that is: "It matters a lot", because I also really worry about what my students think.

I left the suspiciousness behind and did it anyways. I taught him a "speed lesson" in 40 minutes. I thought maybe I would share some of it with you in case some people who read are interested in drawing:

1) First and foremost I discourage erasing in all my classes. Some of the great master drawers, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Leonardo Da Vinci often worked through and over top of their mistakes. I believe leaving our mistakes allows us to see them so the next time we can work through that error from a different angle.

Mistakes are great lessons and we never want to lose those. This is why I usually begin teaching using charcoal as opposed to pencils for drawing. Charcoal is difficult to erase.

2) Second I always encourage students to sign, date, and write what material/ mediums were used to draw each drawing.
  • It is a really eye opening experience to look at the drawing you did in the beginning and see your improvement.
  • It is also helpful to watch the progress of your ability to use and control each of the materials.
  • Also, by listing the materials/mediums used on different learning projects it will help you latter when deciding which materials you want to use to achieve which effect on a specific piece of art.

Drawing Materials:

Willow Charcoal: Literally burnt "charcoaled" pieces of willow. Very messy, but creates a beautiful range of tonal values right up to a beautiful black. It is what many old drawings were drawn with. My favourite drawing material.

Compressed charcoal: a "man made" version of charcoal; burnt wood or bone mixed and compressed with a gum/glue. The benefits of compressed charcoal are:
  • It is not as messy as willow charcoal (although it is still VERY messy)
  • It comes in different (h) hardnesses, or (b)"blacknesses". A 2b compressed charcoal stick is much harder and less black that a 4b, which is harder still, and less black than a 6b stick
  • I find 4b compressed charcoal to be a good softness/blackness to do most of my compressed charcoal drawings.

Conte Stick/Crayons: Pigment mixed with a harder binding agent than charcoal

  • It is less messy that the above "charcoals"
  • You can draw more detailed drawings with it because it is harder and doesn't fall apart
  • it comes in white, different sepia tones and black. When people began drawing with conte the paper was not white (no bleach) it was brown or even darker, so white was often used to create "highlights" in drawings, where we would not simply leave the white of the paper exposed

Pencils (h=hard, B=black):Pencils are wooden stick with a graphite (not lead) middle.

  • I suggest that 2b, 4b and 6b pencils are really what you need in a drawing kit to draw.
  • If you use H or Hb pencils you run the risk of create "indents on the paper because they are so light in colour that in order to "see" the drawing you will be inclined to push harder on the paper. It is possible to erase the graphite, but the indents will remain and can negatively impact a great drawing
  • The can be sharpened to create a pencil point which can be used to create intricate details in drawings.
  • Generally I suggest using a 2b pencil, very lightly to do initial gesture drawings or studies for a drawing. Then use the 2b to lightly create the contour drawing and the lighter shading, then move to a 4b pencil to introduce darker lines and tone, and finally use a 6b to create the blackest tonal values in the drawing
  • Remember it is much easier to make something darker than it is to make it lighter. Start out being stingy with the shading
  • When pencils are used on their edges they can be used for shading

Graphite Sticks: Sticks of graphite that are similar in shape to compressed charcoal. Basically pencils without the wood around the graphite.

  • Can be sharpened and used to create details
  • Easier to create tone/shading with than pencils
  • Much tidier than charcoal and conte
  • However, you cannot get the black tones with graphite that you can with charcoal and conte

There are many more mediums you can use, for example pens, or pastels. Right now this will be what we use in the first lessons.

I taught Dr. X more than this (we did three lessons in 40 minutes...but that was theories and introductions to materials. This week I will introduce the rest of what I introduced to him, to my fellow bloggers (gesture drawing, blind contour drawing and contour drawing). Next week he and I will practice these techniques together.

I figured out his "ploy" by the end of our session. As I was teaching him I watched him watching my gestures and my positive exuberance. I was conscious of the joyous nature exuding from me while I was showing him what I do.

I felt the lightest I have felt in a long time in one of my sessions. It was a good session. Thanks for the reminder that I do love doing some things.


Polar Bear said...

That's a really great first session!! I'm also glad it made you feel so good and light afterwards.

I especially like the first point about not erasing mistakes. I think you could apply that to life as well - we try not to forget the mistakes we make so that we don't repeat them.

It's so cool that you are giving Dr X drawing lessons!

Lola Snow said...

Aqua this is great! I've submitted it to stumble upon, so who knows who will pick up some useful tips! I like the idea of you changing the therapy dynamic a little, it could be very eye opening, consider it role play maybe?

Lola x

s said...

That was a great technique. I wish I could draw.