Thursday, July 30, 2015

Safety is not outrunning your brother

An old but beloved joke goes something like this. When you are walking in the woods with your brother and an angry bear approaches, you don't have to outrun the bear; you only have to outrun your brother.

Like many jokes, we don't tend to look past the punchline, but remember that after your brother is killed, you are simply next in line. Increasingly, our society seems convinced that it is good enough to outrun our brothers when the bear is societal or institutional violence or oppression. But those sorts of bears don't grow tired, and we should understand that we are somewhere in the same line simply waiting our turn.

Some conservative white good old boys in the South saw this recently. They might have laughed if a man in a pink shirt in a Gay Pride parade was roughed up, but when the violent eye of society cast its way at them in their Confederate flag shirts, they should have realized that the line is fickle. A well-to-do white male dentist in Minnesota might not have thought much about the threats of violence or death thrown at women on the Internet regularly, but after killing a lion as part of his "passion for hunting" and having to shutdown his Facebook page and website, he should recognize that the violent threats can turn toward you at any time.

We are all in line, and the only way to save ourselves is to tackle the bear together. If we accept uncontrolled violence from our police, we should not be surprised when it eventually hits us or our families. If we accept discrimination from our government, we should not be surprised when it eventually turns on us. If we accept violence and harassment and abuse leveled at the poor, the black, the women, the GLBT, etc., we should not be surprised if we suddenly find ourselves in some less-favored group because we are too liberal, too conservative, too rich, too poor, too intellectual, too uneducated, too fat, too thin. The insatiable bear will be out there as long as we think our safety depends on pushing others in front of us in line rather than dealing with the bear together.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Face it - I have a long way to go

This week, we started on faces. Our first task was to sit across from someone else and each draw the other's face. We had a cheat sheet showing us some ideas about where the eyes appeared and so forth. (You can see my guide lines on this first drawing.) The goal of this lesson was to understand better the ratios of the face. For example, the forehead and everything above the eyes is about half the entire head, which seems counterintuitive. The face tends to be about five eyes-width across, and the bottom of the nose is about one eye width down from the middle of the eyes. And so forth.

I was pretty happy with this, but our next job was harder. After the teacher showed us another technique for measuring out the face, we were supposed to do self portraits using a hand held mirror. I worked hard on this, and the face is reasonably good, but it doesn't look anything like me (as far as I can see). Le sigh.

I worked on some other partial faces, but really need to try this one again. For one thing, my face is definitely larger on top and smaller on the bottom, and the mouth is too prominent here. Also, I need to work on hair, though I tried this again and again.

Incidentally, my counterpart, whose name is Larry, I think, gave me the portrait he did of me, which is a lot closer to what I look like. Perhaps looking at yourself in a small mirror isn't too effective, as his own self portrait wasn't that great either.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

If he were bright red

If he were bright red, he'd be more recognizable.

For drawing class today, we did stuffed animals. I chose this part of Elmo and a very cute elephant who was difficult to capture straight on. While I was drawing Elmo, I kept thinking about the advice that I should draw what I saw, not what I thought I should see. It is hard to draw a well known character without unconsciously trying to correct those features which don't look like the image in your head. If I were a more experienced artist, I might even be able to get away with that, but at my level of expertise, I just manage to make it look less realistic.

One thing I felt good about was that I was more willing to erase and re-do than I have been. At first, I made the eyes on the elephant too small and high, so I erased and changed them. Similarly, I first made Elmo's head too round, then made the furry edge too dark, and in each case, I let myself erase and try again.

The negative space thing worked here pretty well. I was also forced to think about how to communicate shape with shading, which is something I definitely need to work on.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Negative space (but not Reddit)

This week in drawing class was all about negative space, or at least starting there.

I made a few different drawings because I was trying to get the concept. The goal was to focus on the negative space (anything other than the containers) and shade that in, and only afterwards fill in details of the containers. The reason I did a few is that this is a hard concept for me. I get the idea (I think), but the execution is going to take some practice. Also, it makes erasing parts difficult if you don't get the proportions of the handle right, for example. But it is an interesting way to look at things, and I understand how it helps with composition. All I need is practice, practice, practice.

While I usually don't, I've also included a photo at the bottom of at least one of the perspectives I used (the one for the top), though I moved somewhat between drawings.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Crumpled paper bags

For week 4 of my drawing class, we had to draw two paper bags, both somewhat crumpled. Ugh. Very difficult, though it led to good discussions of shading, blending and planes, as well as how to show whether it is crumpled in or out. Not super excited about my drawing, but I guess it can't all be easy or everyone would do it.

I drew my eraser as well to give a sense of scale. Big mistake, as then I didn't have my eraser. Sigh. Also, you may notice some circles showing up. My bad, as I had sketched faces on the preceding page in my notebook. I need to learn to take the pages out first so I don't leave dents which show up in my drawings. So much to learn. 

Also, a fellow student had a blending tool, which I don't. His planes and shading were way better than mine, so I improvised blending with a crumpled paper towel (and promised myself a blending tool before the next class). Our teacher emphasized that blending can be quite different when using different materials, such as cloth vs. paper. I plan to try experiments with that, so expect random shading and blending attempts, at least if they turn out well enough to post.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

First sketch of a girl

Trying to sketch a girl's face. Hmm. I need to figure out what makes a girl look like a girl without going into stereotypical exaggerated big eyes and small round face.

A friend on Facebook suggested that I need to spend time drawing faces of actual girls to get a sense of what I actually see as opposed to what I think I see, so that later when I sketch, I have a sense of contours and such. Sounds like a plan to me.

As a quick note, I have no idea whether my use of the words sketch and draw are correct. I think of a sketch as more representational and without a model, while a drawing is (intended to be) more accurate, less representational and uses a model of some sort.

Also, drawing class today!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Because cats

One of my author friends suggested that I try sketching cats, as they can be quite challenging. From what I can tell, the faces aren't too difficulty (as sketches, not as drawings), but the bodies are harder for me. I will work on them more, but here are two I sketched last night (while sitting in the car at 3am at the Amtrak station waiting for my son to arrive).

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A bit of sketching

While my drawing class is mostly about drawing actual stuff in front of us, I have been playing with sketching on my own. One of the fascinating things is that it is easier in some ways to add fewer details and let the viewer interpret. Such as this face, which doesn't even have an outline, but still works (I think).

I tried a couple of others before this which didn't work quite as well, but were still interesting to try (though I messed up the lighting when taking the picture).

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Just boxes all the way down

Straight line drawing plus shading

This week's drawing class was exhausting. The teacher had set up a stack of boxes and pointed some lights at them. Then we talked about "straight line drawings" (which are somewhat easier, supposedly, when your objects have straight lines), points of intersection, how to get perspective right and how to get relative sizes right. Later, he showed us some ways to do shading for the shadows and the relative light and dark sides of the boxes. I felt like I got the shading okay, but the shadows were fairly vague and I made them too dark. Still and all, I can tell they are boxes and I learned a lot.