Monday, July 15, 2019

7 Confessions of a Raggedy Artist: Part 2

Greetings and welcome back to my blog! In my last post I confessed to two "sins" I commit knowingly, using cheap paint brushes and relying on photo references too much. I decided to limit confessions to no more than two per post, so there will be four parts, and the last confession will have its own post. Today I come clean about my obsessions with my own face and erasers.

3. I like to draw my own face.

Besides sounding vane, drawing my face doesn't seem like a big deal. After all, Frida Khalo is famous for her stellar self-portraits. She is quoted as saying,

 "I paint self portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best." (from the home page). 

I am no Frida, though, and I was taught in high school and later art classes to diversify my portrait subjects so I could grow as an artist. This makes sense because it doesn't take long for self portraits to lose their initial challenge. I do it now when I want to "warm up" before drawing a more difficult subject and when I need to make a quick sketch for trying out new mediums.

Most beginner drawing courses start with self portraits so the student has a live model available any time. In high school I had to pair with a fellow student so we could draw each other. It is a common class exercise, but it can get pretty awkward, especially when the other sees your rendition of his or her likeness. In this instance, our art teacher berated my partner for "drawing her (me) so ugly". The guy I was paired with later went to the same college as I did and majored in art with me. I am disappointed that we didn't get to do the same exercise at college. His version of me was hilarious even if it was unflattering.

Despite the lack of diversity, drawing your own face is not a huge problem. One benefit of owning so many self portraits is that you can compare current work to past pieces and see how your skills have developed. It also keeps you drawing even when you go through an uninspired phase. Just be sure to get your family and friends to sit for you sometimes as well. You could also commit my second sin and use random photos of people you don't know.

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4. I love erasers!

Art teachers will tell you not to rely on erasers too much, especially when you are beginning a serious art program. It doesn't mean that you have to place every stroke perfectly every time or tear up your sketch whenever you make a mistake. It is to help you gain more confidence when you are sketching out your subject. Every time you stop and erase you lose focus on the subject, and you make a mess of your paper and work space. If you are drawing from life you also do not have time to fool around with erasers.

But how can you draw without an eraser? What if you mess up? Just keep going. It is best to sketch lightly at first, so you can just keep making adjustments as you go, darkening marks that you want to keep. If you are going to complete the drawing using shading, you could just shade over stray marks, and when you are finished you can remove any extraneous marks left from the sketching phase. Not only do you save time, but you also keep your paper surface undamaged in the process.

So I have learned very good reasons for ignoring my erasers during my sketching sessions, so why do I love them so much? Well, erasers are not just for clean up! They are perfect for adjusting tones and values during the finishing stages. I use kneaded erasers for lifting small amounts of color and those tiny pen or stick erasers to pick out brighter highlights. My favorites are the Tombo Mono Zero erasers. They can get into the tiniest spots and come in square and round shapes. I own both, which I use often when finishing drawings. You can buy the erasers and packs of refills at Amazon at very reasonable prices. You can also buy other types of erasers in bulk. I get kneaded erasers by the case because I lose mine, my dog will sometimes chew them, and once they fall on a dirty carpet, I won't use them again. I vacuum, honestly! But it never seems to be the case right before I drop my eraser on the floor.

I hope by now you see that I am using my confessions to convey some tips for fellow artists, primarily beginners. My next post will cover regrettable sins of hoarding (not TLC worthy but still...). There are good reasons to have multiple versions of a tool or to keep old artwork, but when does it cross over into true hoarding territory? That is what I will discuss next time.

P.S. I am learning how to use a new camera, and I plan to have more imagery in my future posts, including some video. I apologize for the lack of photos in these past two posts!

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