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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Tips To Make Your Art Project Exciting

Paint on something interesting

Time and time again I see students who paint or draw on white cartridge paper and nothing else. There is nothing wrong with cartridge paper. Some cartridge papers – especially thick, gutsy, wetstrength ones – are beautiful. Sometimes, a thin, flimsy sheet (the kind that warps at the mere hint of moisture) is all you need. But, often, experimentation and creativity with media brings considerable advantage. There is a joy –a wonderful aesthetic discovery – that takes place when you paint on something unexpected: a surface with history that brings with it colours, textures, marks and irregularities of its own.

Draw on coloured paper

The first thing you can do is embrace papers of other colours. Select those that integrate seamlessly with your coursework project (creams, browns, greys and blacks are likely to be more appropriate than psychedelic pink, for example).

Dark colours can be great for drawing on with light mediums; mid-tone papers (those that are a ‘medium’ tone – not too dark and not too light) are also excellent. As in theJuan Gris example above and the Indian ink work below, the colour of the paper acts as the mid-tone for the drawing; dark and light areas are added as required (this results in a piece that appears three-dimensional very quickly).

Embrace textured paper

There are lots of textured papers available. Some are machine made, pressed with a uniform mesh of bumps or grooves; others are handmade, with flecks of fibre, thread, tissue and other items intertwined within the paper pulp.  If you don’t have access to textured papers, you can easily find or make your own. Tear apart packaging or disassemble things you find in the trash. Source whatever scraps you can and draw on them, or cut, tear and glue them into a painting.

Discover the beauty of drawing on tracing paper 

Many people don’t realise that tracing paper is not just useful for tracing – it is an exciting drawing surface in its own right (see examples below by Debby Kaspari andMercedes Baliarda). Tracing paper can be used to make translucent overlays or glued onto white backing paper (be careful when gluing, as some tracing papers warp hugely when in contact with moisture). The shiny surface creates rich, glossy images that love to smudge and blacken your hands. Permatrace – a thick, waterproof drafting film – is particularly exhilarating: it produces some amazing outcomes with ink.

Use ripped, scrunched, folded, ripped, or stained paper or tissue

Tissue paper can be scrunched and glued onto a painting (shaping as required) to create a textural surface that can be painted over. As with other textures, dry-brushing will exaggerate them and make the fine web of creases more visible.

Paint or draw on patterned or textured wallpapers or other decorative surfaces

Care needs to be taken when integrating patterned items; it can be easy for the pattern to dominate and overpower a work. When appropriate imagery is selected,  however, patterned items can provide excellent drawing surfaces or collaged material.

7 Tips to Create an Excellent Observational Drawing

Tip 1: Look at what you are drawing

Failing to look at what you are drawing is one of the most fundamental errors an Art student can make

This sounds obvious, but it is the most common error made by art students. Many students attempt to draw things the way that they thinkthey should look, rather than the way they actually do look.

The only way to record shape, proportion and detail accurately is to look at the source of information. Human memory does not suffice. Forms, shadows and details are hard enough to replicate when they are right there in front of you; if you have to make them up, they appear even less convincing. In order to produce an outstanding observational drawing, you must observe: your eyes must continually dance from the piece of paper to the object and back again. Not just once or twice, but constantly.

Note: even if you pursue a theme about mythical creatures, fairy tales or some other imaginary form, you should work as much as possible from observation. Piece your creatures together from fragments of life. Dress people up and then draw them or merge different parts of insects or creatures together (using artistic license as appropriate) rather than creating an entire form or scene from your head.

Tip 2: Draw from real objects whenever possible

The phrase ‘observational drawing’ typically implies drawing from life (see the superb observational drawing exercise set by artist and teacher Julie Douglas). Ask any art teacher and they will list the benefits of drawing from objects that are sitting directly in front of you. You are provided with a wealth of visual information…changing light conditions; rich textures; views of the subject from alternate angles; as well as information from other sense…smells and noise from the surroundings etc. Transcribing from three-dimensions to two is ultimately much harder than drawing from a photograph, but it often results in drawings that are ‘richer’ and more authentic.

Tip 3: Don’t trace

Throughout history, great realist painters have traced from photographs or worked from projections blown up onto walls. But these painters are not high school art students; nor are they assessed on their ability to replicate form.

There is a place for tracing in IGCSE or A Level Art (such as when tracing over something you have already drawn or creating a repeat pattern), but tracing from photographs and then simply applying colour or tone is not acceptable. Such methods of ‘drawing’ involve minimal skill, teach you little and run the risk of producing clunky, soul-less outlines. Don’t do it.

Tip 4: Understand perspective

As objects get further away they appear smaller. The replication of this change of scale on paper (through the use of vanishing points) is called ‘perspective’. The fundamentals of perspective are usually taught in junior high school; by Year 10 at the latest. If you are a senior art student and have somehow missed this lesson, remedy this situation urgently. There are not many theoretical aspects of art that are essential to learn, but this is one of them. Please view the perspective handouts in the Student Art Guide free teacher resources to get you started.

Tip 5. Use grids, guidelines or rough forms to get the proportions right before you add details

Many students start with a tiny detail (the eye on a face, for example) and then gradually add in the rest of the image…ending up with a drawing that is badly proportioned or doesn’t fit on the page (or floats aimlessly in the middle of it). This can be avoided by approximating the basic forms before adding details or by using guidelines to ensure that proportions are correct.

If working from a photograph, using a grid can result in highly accurate work. It allows students to focus on one small segment of the image at a time and gives arbitrary lines from which distances can be gauged. This can be a helpful strategy when precise, detailed images are required and can itself become a celebrated component in an artwork. As gridding is methodical and involves meticulous plotting of lines, however, it is important to acknowledge that this approach runs the risk of producing tight and regimented drawings that lack in ‘spirit’ and should thus be approached with care.

If working from life, roughly sketching outlines of the major forms will allow you to get the proportions right, before you add the details. While you do this, you should constantly check which points line up (i.e. edge of nostrils lining up with edge of eye) and the size of every object should be estimated in relation to the things that are beside it. You must get used to seeing things not in terms of absolute scale, but in terms of how one thing compares to another.

Tip 6: Be wary of ellipses

This diagram by Rachel Shirley illustrates some of the common errors when drawing an ellipse.

Ellipses – the oval shapes that are visible at the top of cylindrical objects such as bottles or jars – frequently ‘trip up’ a weak drawer. They can send an immediate signal that a student isnot looking at what they are drawing. All ellipses, no matter what angle they are viewed from, should be rounded (not pointed) at the ends, as illustrated in the image to the left (by Rachel Shirley) and below (sourced from IDsketching).

Tip 7: Keep the outlines light

This observational study was part of an IGCSE ‘A’ grade Coursework submission by Georgia Shattky, from ACG Parnell College. It shows folded fabric hanging over the corner of a wooden dresser. Note that there is not a single black outline within the work: edges are defined solely through variation in tone.

As your drawing is fleshed out in more detail, with attention given to the subtle variations in shape and form, the natural inclination – especially of the novice drawer – is to want to darken in the outlines, to help ensure they are visible. Do not do this.

Real objects do not have dark lines running around every edge. Edges should instead be defined by a change in tone and/or colour, as in the beautiful graphite drawing by an IGCSE Art student shown to the left.

If you are producing a line drawing, a cartoon or some other graphic image, outlines may be darkened, but in an observational drawing – especially one which you wish to be realistic – dark outlines are never advised.

Tips to Save Oil Paints

1. Drying Oils

Drying oils used in artists’ paints are mainly linseed, safflower, poppy or walnut. We know that linseed oil is safe to work with because we can buy specially processed food-grade quality linseed oils in health food stores as a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. The health food industry uses the term flaxseed oil in reference to the plant from which we derive linseed. We use both safflower oil and walnut oil in cooking. Poppy oil doesn’t appear to be popular in the health food realm, and references point only to its use in paints; however, manufacturers do use it in skin care products.

2. Stabilizers

The stabilizers, if used, are metallic fatty acids. Because they’re mixed into the paint, they do not pose an independent threat to a person using an art material.

3. Soaplike Substance

Water-soluble oils contain an ingredient that would be considered close to soap, which makes water combine with the oil for assistance in cleanup.

Pigments can be as benign as common dirt or as harmful as many other chemicals are to the human body. Many of the paints used by artists from the Middle Ages to the late 20th century had varying degrees of toxicity. Even today, while the most highly toxic pigments have disappeared, no pigment should be considered nontoxic. The one property that makes oil paints so safe to use is that the pigment is bound in a liquid vehicle (the drying oil). Therefore the problem of dry powder finding its way into artists’ lungs or flying about and landing on their families’ food is eliminated. Even the nastiest of pigments, which no longer are readily available, wouldn’t give off toxic vapors or be otherwise harmful unless taken directly into the digestive system by mouth or, in the case of some pigments, they came in direct contact with unprotected skin.

Safe-Use Practices for Oils

1. Keep paint and solvents off your skin.

I would remind artists that repeatedly allowing oil paints to splatter on their hands and arms is a bad practice. That’s especially true when an artist removes paint from the skin with a solvent. Skin, the largest organ of the human body,
is a sponge for taking in substances. Unbroken skin may be good at repelling germs, but an artist negates that protection when he or she tries to remove paint from skin using a solvent-soaked paper towel. Skin absorbs solvents, and when you mix paints with a solvent, the paint can enter the body as well. When using oil paints, slathering paint on oneself and cleaning it off with solvent poses the greatest risk.

Common sense and careful studio practices are crucial to keeping the paint on the painting and off the body. My advice to painters who display a tendency to get paint all over themselves is to wear disposable gloves and to protect other areas of the body with clothing or an apron. When oil paint does get on the skin, remove the paint with plain soap and water. Painters who hate gloves should at least use a barrier cream, sold in art stores, that provides some degree of protection against paint components entering through the skin.

2. Paint in a well-ventilated area.

Use extra caution with paints classified as alkyd quick-drying colors. Unlike traditional oils, these contain a small amount of odorless solvent; you should not use these in a closed studio space unless you outfit that space with continuous airflow and exchange. When you use alkyd colors outdoors or in a well-ventilated studio, handle them in the same way as traditional oil paints.

Many artists, of course, don’t have studios, and some admit to painting in their kitchens. This is one place where food and painting materials have too great a chance to interact. In addition, the potential for fire rises when solvents come into close contact with cooking appliances. If possible, set up a painting area in another part of the home where you can establish ventilation that constantly changes the air in the space. As I’ve explained, when it comes to poor ventilation, the problem generally isn’t so much with the paint as with the solvents the artist uses for cleanup and paint dilution.

Waste Management for Oils

How to Use a Solvent Can

Open the can only when necessary and close it immediately after use. Wipe excess paint onto disposable paper towels before using solvent to clean brushes. This makes your solvent less prone to becoming overly dirty with paint. The solvent not only lasts longer, but you decrease your exposure to the solvent because you can clean your brushes quickly. Place the used paper towels in the closed metal can.

What to Do When the Solvent Can is Full

When the pigment waste in your plein air solvent can accumulates to the point of coming close to the bottom of the inner basket, it’s time to clean the solvent can and dispose of the pigment in the container. Let the can sit for several days until the pigment waste has settled to the bottom and some clear solvent remains on the surface. Slowly decant the clear solvent into another container for temporary storage. (You may want to purchase a second solvent can to use in tandem with the first one.)

Remove the inner basket from the solvent can containing the pigment waste. Pour the pigment sludge onto a flat piece of aluminum foil folded around the edges to create a shallow pan. Make sure you support the foil with a palette or sturdy piece of cardboard. Let the sludge dry outdoors in a safe place that won’t be disturbed. Fold the aluminum foil around the dry sludge, and take it to your local waste processing facility for disposal. Many counties have paint and hazardous waste reclamation programs for properly disposing of these types of materials.

Another option is to let the paint waste dry and then mix it with an alkyd medium to make a paint-like material that you can use to tone canvases or panels for future paintings.
With an adequate, well-ventilated space and a waste disposal method that limits solvents escaping into the studio, a family can live safely with an oil painting artist.

Tips to Paint with Understanding Color

If you’re an artist and don’t understand color, you’re like a traveler who left your luggage at home. Sooner or later you’ll have to go back and get it if you want to get very far.

Art without color? Inconceivable! But why settle for ordinary color when you can create radiant works of color? Beautiful color is no happy accident. You can have fantastic color, too. Color can be learned.

To explore color, you can use any type of artists’ paint, pastel, oil pastel, colored pencil, yarn, fabric or paper collage—whatever medium you work with. Make collages with colored papers to plan your paintings; make watercolor or acrylic sketches to design your oil canvases. Color knows no boundaries in art media.

Once you learn how to mix and arrange colors, exploring harmonious color triads and expanded palettes along the way, you’ll have the tools to build a solid foundation for creative color. In no time, you’ll start solving the mysteries of color and be well on your way to becoming a master colorist. That means that, if you love color, you can unlock its secrets—if you work at it. So, begin your travels now in the wonderful world of color, and have a great trip.

Within these pages you’ll find fabulous artwork by top artists to inspire you in your color journey. The illustrated glossary in chapter two (and many more terms defined throughout the book) will help you build your color vocabulary. You’ll also have a brief introduction to some newer paints and media: interference and iridescent colors in acrylics, PrimaTek mineral pigments, and alcohol-based inks for the adventuresome. Triads and color schemes have been expanded with modern pigments.