ARE ARTISTS TOO RELIANT ON PHOTOS?


Research for my latest coloured pencil drawing.

Recently I asked, “How would cp (coloured pencil) artists (and most other artists for that matter) cope if there weren’t photos to use a s reference material?”

The responses I received were both interesting and varied. Not everyone understood the question. Some saw it as a ‘fait accompli’, a negative statement about how some artists work. Then the topic of ‘imagination’ was raised, fortunately more in the positive than the negative.

I surveyed a number of groups that I belong to. Not all responded, but the majority of those who did were well aware of the (potential) shortfalls of relying on photos for one’s art. The value of drawing plein air was raised as was drawing from life. It was refreshing to see that so many recognized the need for basic drawing skills.

We have been bombarded with media of all kinds (with some yet to be invented), its seductive brilliance has made producing art faster and easier than ever before. Most artists use photos at some stage in the production of their work. Commission artists need them constantly to satisfy the needs of their clients, while others prefer to stay ‘indoors’ and use images either their own or from the Internet in the production of their art. Each to their own!

More often than not, I use photos in my work. I take my own, spending time at a particular place to get the ‘feel’ for my subject. I often research the physical and social history of the area to reinforce (and appreciate) what I’m trying to ‘say’ with my work. I also work from maps and occasionally I’ll use photos from other sources if I need them. I rarely use a single photo because there’s a danger that I’ll simply copy the photo. Is such imitation really art?

Working from ‘live objects’ is quite challenging. Drawing outdoors is certainly a test of one’s skills and patience, especially if you use coloured pencils. On one hand you have the moving sun, moving shadows, wind, maybe even a shower, noise, smells and let’s not forget the flies! Setting up a group of objects is a great way to come to terms with 3D objects, especially when it comes to light and shadow. I often set up a still-life outside and photograph it on-the-hour for say, 6 – 8 hours to see how the light and shadows change. Time-lapse photography is an excellent accompaniment to one’s observation drawing. The more grist for the mill, the better!

Photos are a wonderful resource and they are certainly here to stay, but are they draining artists of their imagination?

Richard

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I GET KNOCKED DOWN,


THEN I GET UP AGAIN.

Now that you have Chumbawamba’s 1997 hit song in your head, read on!

2017-glover-entry

“The Disappearing Highway near the Disappearing House”

Digital Media 104 x 154 cms

In 1969, the village of Conara was by-passed by the addition of a new section of the Midlands Highway.For nearly 50 years this former section of the highway has remained virtually silent, the only sounds being the transient herds of sheep and the resident wildlife. Apple trees have grown along the roadside thanks to the many apple cores thrown from passing vehicles.

This section of the Midlands Highway was once famous for the ‘Disappearing House’, built in 1839-1840 and originally the local Inn and could be seen whilst driving from the south. One moment it would be in sight, then, the next moment it would disappear behind a hill. Unfortunately, the new section of highway doesn’t offer this intriguing view anymore.

Walk along this section of the former highway and the house is still to be seen appearing and disappearing. The road itself is far from what it used to be; in fact it’s slowly, but surely, disappearing too.

Nature is reclaiming the landscape it once lost. The status is returning; what goes around comes around.

I didn’t make the Glover Art Prize Finalists’ list this year (again), but I’m grateful that I’ve made it on 2 other occasions. Entering major art awards is fraught with danger. The (often) large amount of entries and the influence of the judges’ varying opinions, one’s chance of ‘making it’ is rather small. So why enter in the first place? For me, it’s all about the challenge to produce something ‘extraordinary’, something very special. That’s not an easy task, but the ‘journey’ to think, plan and create something unique (the process) is very rewarding. When, after all the hard work, one’s entry is not selected, it’s easy to be depressed, but one should remember and celebrate the creative journey that has occurred.

Learning to deal with rejection is something that all artists who enter major awards have to deal with. In the past some of my colleagues have not dealt well with this. It’s okay to be angry, but only for a short time. Regroup and start again! Rejection can actually make you  stronger and more resilient. When you do experience success (and you will if you keep ‘getting back up’), you will appreciate it even more because of what you have gone through.

I am primarily a coloured pencil artist, but this year I decided to enter a digital work. Both my previous successful entries were in coloured pencil. Should I have stuck with the tried and true method? All entrants should be given feedback about their work. I know it would be a huge task, but such feedback is always beneficial to the artist.

Congratulations to this year’s finalists. Enjoy the experience that makes the Glover Prize one of the best in the country!

Richard

 

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CORCD


mersey-stones“Mersey River Rocks”

32 x 45 cms

Museum Aquarelle, Prismacolor, Polychromos, Luminance & Derwent Artist’s pencils on Mi Teintes paper. Own reference.

Do you suffer from CORCD? I do.
“Compulsive, Obsessive Rock Collector’s Disorder” has been with me for many years and I’m not ashamed! I love it! I collect a lot of things, especially subjects for my artwork, particularly coloured pencil drawing.
As I said in my last post, it’s important to know your subject well. I rarely do ‘random’ drawings. I like to fully understand my subject before I draw it. This means many visits to various locations where I ‘map’ the area by photographing as much as I can, collecting (where it’s allowed), making sketches and taking notes. I spend time in and outside my studio photographing my subjects under different light conditions to study and record where light ‘hits’ an object and the resulting shadows.
One can never have too many rocks!
rock-samplesSadly, I had to part with my rock collection before we left Tasmania to live on the Australian mainland, but I had taken the time to photograph my collection. I now have a substantial folder full of images to refer to.
My collection is continually being updated through my trips to other parts of Australia and with our forthcoming move to Port Macquarie I’m looking forward to re-visiting the many beaches there where some wonderful rocks are to be found.
rock-nursery-01Despite what some may be thinking, I do not draw rocks all the time. I work in ‘themes’ that may last a month or two, but no longer. I like to vary my subjects and ‘return’ to them after a break and tackle them in a different way.
I also occasionally suffer from:
COBD: Compulsive Obsessive Bread Disorder (several ‘Bread’ themes),
COSLD: Compulsive Obsessive Sticks & Logs Disorder,
COWSD: Compulsive Obsessive Water Study Disorder.
Happy New Year to everyone!
Richard

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KNOW YOUR SUBJECT WELL


rocks-for-blogSome of the drawings that I’ve done over the past 2 weeks. Each is 45 x 32 cms, Prismacolor, DerwentArtist’s and Luminance pencils on Canson Mi Teintes paper.

I’ve received a few comments lately on Facebook regarding the speed at which I work. When I’m ‘in the zone’ I can complete a drawing in coloured pencil (up to 40 x 60 cms) in 2-3 days. This may seem very quick for a CP drawing, especially considering the comments I often read where people make the point about how long they spent on a particular drawing. If you don’t enjoy the process of creating something regardless of how long it takes, why do it in the first place? We all work at different ‘paces’ because of a variety of reasons both physical and emotional. I do work rather quickly, push my pencils firmly, and I ‘draw’ upon my 30 years of CP experience to keep myself focused to ensure that I don’t lose direction. If I tire of a particular drawing I move on to another one, then return later to the first one when I’m ready. I have been known to have 5 drawings ‘on the go’.

I’ve been complimented on my patience, but really, I’m often not that way inclined at all! How do I do it?

First of all, I’m always well prepared (my career as a teacher has helped me a lot in regards to being organised). I spend a lot of time researching (which I enjoy) each subject that I draw. I’ll visit the particular location (sometimes more than once), take many (many) photos, make notes in my diary and even collect ‘samples’ where I can. I also collect books about the history of the area in question, as this provides me with a better understanding (and appreciation) of what I’m looking at. In other words, I want to know (as well as I can) the character of my subject.

Working from a single photo trying to interpret what I ‘see’ doesn’t do it for me, unless I have prior knowledge about the subject in question. Often I’ll work with several photos.

Over the past 2 weeks I have completed 5 drawings featuring rocks from Tasmania, plus a commission. My preparation has paid off!

Know your subject well before you embark on creating an artwork and you will be rewarded!

Val and I are leaving Cairns at the end of next month and we’re re-locating to Port Macquarie. Long-term, Cairns isn’t for us, so it’s time to ‘hit the road’ and explore another part of Australia. I’m looking forward to some art teaching and finding a local gallery to show some of my work. Having already visited Port Macquarie, I have a large collection of photos, especially of the coastline that is noted for its wonderful beaches. I have a series of drawings in the pipeline which is a little different to my current subject. The idea came to me as we were dining out the other night.

This time we want to lease a house, not an apartment as we did in Cairns, and I’m looking for a much larger studio space.

I wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas and a very prosperous New Year. Thank you for your support, I very much appreciate it.

Best regards,

Richard

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ART IS A GREAT HEALER


healing-cream“Healing Cream”

83 x 148 cms

Prismacolor pencils on Canson pastel board. Own reference.

The therapeutic benefits of the art making process are recognised by all who practise the visual arts. Often it is the process of creation that gives one the greatest form of satisfaction; the product being a bonus. The use of art therapy in times of trauma or struggle can be a vital part of a person’s recovery. Engaging the mind, while promoting relaxation at the same time, the opportunity to deal with personal issues, makes art an important part of one’s recovery. Art is a great healer. A tube of paint has far greater value than its physical properties

Last night I saw a report on the tv news about a teenage girl who had turned her life around through art. It was a touching story and reminded me of the article I posted in May, 2014, about the therapeutic benefits of art.

Time and again we read of the benefits of art therapy in a broad range of situations involving people of all ages. Of particular note is the involvement of art in dementia research. I believe this has exciting possibilities for helping those seeking a cure, or at least slowing the onset of dementia. Art with very young children is a wonderful, often tactile experience. As a former high school and college art teacher, I saw what art did for my students. I not only remember many of those who excelled, but I can recall the ‘success stories’ where art made a huge difference in the lives and well-being of some of my students who struggled with a range of personal issues.

Those involved in the art industry know of the benefits of art practice. One doesn’t have to be an artist to reap the rewards of art. Why doesn’t our government think the same? Why is there less art taught in schools than ever before? Why has government funding for art been heavily reduced over the years? Are there any politicians with an understanding of the benefits of creativity to our society?

Surely the happiness and well-being of our society is more important than a budget surplus?

Richard

 

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CROSSING THE LINE


a-touch-of-pollock“Forest Floor, Tasmanian Highlands” 

20 x 28 cms, Pablo coloured pencils on 190 gsm acid free paper

Own reference and imagination.

The tsunami of adult colouring books has subsided significantly in the past few months and there are many cp artists who are now breathing a sigh of relief. The impact of these books has surprised many in the literary world, amazed others and shocked the world of ‘fine art’. Many believe that these books cheapen art, devalue its creativity and should never leave the kitchen table. Many cp artists have been dismayed at seeing stocks of their beloved pencils dwindle at the expense of ‘colouring book addicts’. Is this a bad thing, or is it simply market forces at work? Why can’t everyone be ‘allowed’ to use high quality coloured pencils?

Mention ‘adult colouring’ in most of the Facebook coloured pencil groups and one is quickly ex-communicated. How dare you use that blasphemous term here! Go wash your mouth! I can understand that some don’t consider this to be ‘art’ in its true form. Colouring someone else’s design isn’t that original (but they can be coloured in very individual ways).Downloading royalty-free photos and copying them is okay (even if they are sometimes traced). That’s art isn’t it? Hand-colouring mass-produced prints is okay too?

The question is, where does one ‘draw’ the line when it comes to originality?

I DISLIKED adult colouring books so much that I designed and published my own; a book that encourages people to respond to what they see (interpret) in their own way, hence its title, NOT YOUR AVERAGE ADULT COLOURING BOOK ($29 inc postage anywhere in Australia, slightly dearer for overseas). Every time one of my illustrations is coloured, it’s done so in a very different way. According to many though, this is still not ‘art’ as we (supposedly) know it. Art isn’t about the medium, it’s about the message. If that’s true, why can’t you colour an appropriate design in such a way that it becomes a personal response? How can ‘fan art’ be considered creative and a genuine form of art?

There are some terrible adult colouring books on the market. I hate those with thick, heavy black outlines, with very basic desings; they are so aggressive looking. How in the world can they be calming? Why do so many print their designs on cheap (nasty) paper? Why have designs back-to-back? Why not bring quality into play? There are some high-quality books on the market, but they are in the minority.

Following the success of my first publication, I’m currently working on a series of drawings that will be available online.

Today’s featured drawing is one that will be available. The subject is a small part of the forest floor in the Tasmanian (Australian) Highlands, but with a twist. I have added a ‘touch of Pollock’ to the composition to give it more depth and complexity. I hope those who understand the work of Jackson Pollock will appreciate the addition!

Is this (my own) drawing an example of fine art or is it simply adult colouring? It mightn’t look 3D, or realistic, but then again, examples from colouring books can be very 3D, or flat and pattern-like.

Where does art end and craft begin?

We are supposedly modern thinkers, but are our attitudes way too conservative when it comes to accepting different forms of art?

I wonder how many ‘adult colourers’ have been ‘converted’ to the world of fine art?

Richard

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A Ticket to Ride?


2-versionsI came across the 2 coloured pencil drawings featured above while I was researching for an article that I’m writing for the UKCPS. What is interesting about them is that they are from the same area, but drawn some 20 years apart.

The Liffey Valley is about a 45 minute drive from where I used to live when I was residing in Tasmania. It is indeed a special place that not only features the Liffey River, but a wonderful series of waterfalls, pools and fern glades.

“The Long Pool” (top) was drawn in the late 1980s (own refs)with Derwent pencils on yellow ochre-coloured printmaking paper, 55 x 75 cms, the second version, “Liffey Light”,  (2007) was drawn on Canson pastel board, 40 x 60 cms, with Prismacolor pencils.

I got serious with coloured pencils in 1986, and my work was rather realistic. 20 years later and my work became more simplified. What brought about this change?

I don’t think of my work changing, I believe it was (and continues to be) evolving. Artists can ‘plateau’ in their thinking and be happy to produce the same type of work for as long as they like. Others like to experiment and change direction from time to time. Being ‘safe’ always guarantees a result, being adventurous has an element of danger to it. Isn’t life like that?

In order to ‘grow’ as an artist, I feel that it’s important that from time to time, to try something new, to not only freshen up one’s work, but to freshen one’s attitude to their art.

As I get older, I have seen my work become more simplified. This isn’t out of laziness or impatience on my part. I believe that it’s harder to say ‘ a lot with very little’, than to make one’s work as detailed as possible. The more detail in your art, the less ‘room’ you give a more an imaginative response from those who view your work.

I hope to find the time to once again visit that long pool and see how I would interpret it after 9 years. Have you ever tried this with some of your ‘older’ artworks?

I’m not sure if one’s art gets ‘better’ as they get older, maybe it’s more a case of being more open to different ideas.

Art is a wonderful journey, especially if you have a ticket to ride on the train of imagination.

Richard

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