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Drawing and Composition Studies

organizational line drawing of a stainless steel bottle Even though I've had a varied background in arts, crafts, and drafting through childhood and high school, as well some college education in digital arts (Photoshop, Illustrator) and a couple art classes on composition and color theory, I've never felt well trained or skilled in the art of drawing: creating a 2-dimensional rendering of the 3-dimensional world by hand. I knew it would be good for me but the thought of taking a drawing class made me feel fear, so I avoided it. After leaving school, I continued to feel like developing such a skill would be beneficial to my job as a graphic designer and to growing in my arts and crafts hobbies. In the fall of 2009 I finally found the courage to take a Drawing and Composition class at the Santa Rosa Junior College. Following, are the assignments, in class and as homework, as well as a few items from the sketchbook we were required to keep.

A couple of the first classes focused on beginning to really see objects and develop eye/hand coordination. One of these exercises (with no examples so show here because I think mine always look so terrible) was to create "continuous line drawings" of objects, by drawing the contours of an object without lifting the tip of the pencil from the paper. We also made large drawings of charcoal marks using big arm movements, called "gesture drawing" and began to render the mass of objects. We were taught that using these exercises — making gesture or continuous-line drawings — was a good warm-up before moving on to more detailed drawings of a subject.

gesture drawing of gourds

The next lessons focused on organizing line and proportion by penciling in planning marks and creating searching lines, isolating and enclosing space to take measurement of parts.

organizational line drawing of bottles organizational line drawing of tequila bottles organizational line drawing of bear with reworked lines

In order to learn about the containing shapes and how they fit together, we used pencil to draw just the contours of items, showing volume and shape without rendering light, shadow, or texture. These are some of my sketchbook drawings using the contour line:

contour drawing of bananas contour drawing of leaves and pods contour drawing of instruments contour drawing of various plants and items

The next lesson was devoted to organic objects, the textures and contours. We were told to use a mixture of pencil and charcoal to see how the two mediums interacted.

drawing of dried plants

Several classes followed which discussed value, the differences between white, black, and the grays in-between. We created value scales using pencil to learn the layering and pressure techniques to create equal value steps in a 10 value scale, rendered stacks of cubes using the values on the different sides, and a sphere using all the categories of light. The first drawing assignment was of a 3-dimensional folded paper with half and full circles cut out or popped out, standing up, with light shining through.

value drawing

Then we drew objects with charcoal on newsprint, rubbing them out, and drawing over them, to create an interesting layered effect as a warm-up exercise before doing a 2-value drawing of the same objects: solid black and white shapes. Another value assignment was to do a 4-value drawing of objects by first hand-toning white paper using charcoal and then wiping it off to get an even midpoint value, then, one at a time, using black, dark gray, light gray, and white in drawing the objects. White was created by erasing, or "working reductively".

charcoal drawing charcoal drawing using 2 values charcoal drawing using 4 values

Moving on in value studies, we did a single-directional hatch drawing (straight diagonal lines) with pencil to emphasis light over volume.

single directional hatch pencil drawing

After doing several fast warm up gesture drawings of stacked cups, we drew a stack of white cups, fully rendering categories of light: cast shadow, reflected light, core of the shadow, shadow, light and high light. Also following, are also some of sketchbook drawings that proceeded this assignment.

gesture cups pencil drawing categories of light cups drawing cups sketches cups and tangerines sketches espresso pencil drawing

We did several perspective studies, using one and two point perspective, drawing cubes and then learning the technique of drawing a stairway in two point perspective. We were given a complex assignment to draw a cut away view of imaginary space starting with a horizon line and a checkered ground plane then adding walls, stairway, cubes, cones, pyramids, columns, doors, and windows.

perspective pencil drawing

In class one night the instructor draped fabric and we were to render the values and contours using charcoal.

drapery charcoal drawing

Our midterm "exam" was to draw pottery the instructor placed out for us, including broken pieces. I really enjoyed the class critique on my drawing and found it especially cool that the instructor thought it was narrative and told a mystery story. A crime was committed.

broken pottery still life pencil drawing

We moved on to study texture the next week or two. The following images are a simulated texture drawing assignment, a large drawing of a small toy dinosaur assignment, and a sketchbook drawing of bamboo.

three textures drawing dinosaur drawing bamboo sketch

The next two classes focused on teaching ink drawing techniques, using India ink with a pen and nib. In these evenings we drew a bottle and then a deer skull, using cross hatching, parallel hatching, short hatching, and/or stippling (dots) to make tonal gradations.

inked bottle inked deer skull inked deer skull detail inked glass sketch

We worked on portraits one night. This is the charcoal portrait I did of classmate Lorelle. The assigned homework of a self-portait is not going to appear here.

charcoal portrait

After learning to use India ink, we got to pick up the colored pencils and draw a cow skull. We had the use of four colors: canary yellow, ultramarine blue, crimson red, and black. I separated the warm and cool colors "which gives the drawing a sense of time and place. As in the last glowing rays of the sun as it sets", as my instructor put it in his blog post featuring my drawing.

colored pencil cow skull cow skull

One evening we did an exercise called "Exquisite Corpse", based on the French Surrealists' game of folding a page into thirds and drawing on one third, then passing it around to have the other thirds completed by two other artists. We were not allowed to look at the other parts of the drawing, but to only make two marks on the next section so that the next student knew where to begin. My first drawing of a bird head (colored pencil with India ink) had such terrible drawings added to it, I did not bother to photograph the whole thing. The second drawing (the colored pencil worm body part is what I worked on), I was able to photograph in entirety, but the third drawing I worked on was taken, by the student who began it, before I got a photo at the end of the class.

colored pencil bird head colored pencil worm body

We were given two required writing assignments and two required drawing assignments based on time spent in the campus gallery. I've posted the writing assignments: DHR1 and DHR2. But here are the drawing assignments. One is a drawing of sculptural tube drums, the other of a portion of a painting. I did not get a photo of the painting.

drum sculpture tube drum drawing old woman drawing

We spent a couple classes working on division of field. We learned about the nine general divisions of field that have figure/ground, positive/negative, up/down, and left/right relationships. We practiced implementing these by finding areas of the building and drawing them from perspectives not looked at before. Following are two such drawings, then a few from my sketchbook, and the last one from a class which we were given more time to turn the exercise into a finished drawing.

compositional space mop compositional space stairway compositional space railing compositional space lemons on the counter compositional space dresser compositional space stairwell

In the beginning of the semester, the instructor spoke about how, even though it may not always seem so, abstract and surrealist artists have usually studied drawing and practiced until mastery the techniques and honed their skills of rendering objects and space. They then apply those skills and their ability to subjectively create their art. As I had began the class knowing I wanted to do the same, to really learn to draw, after a semester of focusing mostly on objectively rendering objects and working on developing my skills and techniques, I had difficulty suddenly being required to work subjectively on this surreal cubist final project. I was given a lantern (the most difficult of the objects my instructor used for the assignment, according to him) and was told to draw it from different perspectives in one drawing as well as use other surreal styles. I turned in the drawing thinking there were areas of it I'd rework, though I still have not done so.

surreal lantern

art (21), drawing (8), sketch (3), srjc (3)

Degree (56), Drawings (6)

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