Interesting to see the same landscape view in three different mediums : drawing, watercolour & stone lithography.

stone lithograpgy cliffs & valley

‘La Vallée de Célé’ Stone Lithography 32 x 28 cm € Adam Cope

saulaic drawing cliffs south france

‘La Vallée de Célé depuis Sauliac’ Conté A3 © Adam Cope

vallee-du-cele640

‘Célé depuis Sauliac’ Aquarelle 30 x 45 cm Moulin Larroque papier fait à la main, Dordogne © Adam Cope

Different material, different effect.

Each medium is good for certain effects. In the above three images,, watercolour is delicate colours & brushmarks, conté is so immediate & so fresh, lithography is good for  a design, a powerful composition.

But a medium doesn’t simply mean the actual physical material , such as acrylic PVA wood glue sticky glue, slippery graphite pencil, etc.

Nor does ‘medium’ mean the technique  imposed by the physical nature, the touch, the feel of the actual materials …though an artist disregards this at his peril.   For example, if you wish to attain a granulation effect in watercolour, you need to use a pigment that goes into suspension, not dilution & thus will granulate out onto the surface of the paper fibers rather than soak in deep into the paper & ‘stain’ it, which is what pigments that dissolve in water do.

What does ‘Medium’ Mean in Fine Art Practice?

Train the hand, so that the hand knows what to do. This is done by the hand touching the material. Having contact with the world. It is through the hand of the artist manipulating & touching the medium that art arises. It is in the gestures of the artist’s hand that a deep respect & love for the physicality of materials is seen. After all, we artists deal with some of the most gorgeous of our  beloved planet resources : beautiful reds from madder plants, lovely rich carbons from willow, cobalts & lapis lazuri,

File:Lapis lazuli block.jpg

A block of lapis azuli – wikimedia commons

It is said we live in materialistic culture but actually , I see more & more disrespect & contempt for materials.  Trashed, smashed & built-in obselence. Built by a machine, not the hand of man. Cheaper to throw away than to fix. As we enter into the ‘Age of Resources’, a crisis of supply & consumption of raw materails, where a normal european lifestyle requires three planets of resources, what of art? How does this crazy disrespect for materials effect making fine art?

pile of junk

a pile of junk – unloved, uncared for, rubbish, consumerist debris, waste of materials, uncared for planetary resources

When I see the stone flints of where I live, near Bergerac in Dordogne, South West France, I understand why prehistoric man was willing to walk  for weeks & weeks to find these beautiful & useful materials… then learn how to transform them into tools that have even been found as far away as the Ukraine!  Home habilis = habile = dexterious. Home faber = faber = faire= to make ….We owe our existence to things that we make. They shape our experience & perception of the world.

File:Yarmukian Culture -Sha'ar HaGolan, flint axe.jpg

The Yarmukian Culture is a Neolithic culture of the ancient Levant. It was the first culture in Prehistoric Israel and one of the oldest in the Levant to make use of pottery. The Yarmukian derives its name from the Yarmouk River which flows near its type site at Sha’ar HaGolan, a kibbutz at the foot of the Golan Heights. The pictures are fromYosef Garfinkel excavations taken between 1989-1990 & 1998-2004 –  Wiki

A beautiful painting reminds us that the world is made up of beautiful physical materials, though most of us now inter-react with art via print or internet, which has the effect of dematerializing the artwork, so as to become yet another chimera without a body, another figment of one’s imagination.  I frequently am shocked physically when in front of good art. When I saw Gauguin’s painting in the Musée D’Orsay, the size, the burlap, the skin of linoxidation of the rough linseed he used, the sheer scale precipitated a gut reaction in me that mere familiarity with the image’s fame via reproductions did not.

See the world through art materials…

A medium will also determine how the artwork arises, what the artwork can & can’t do & most important of all but maybe the most subtle as well, a medium will shape how the artist gives expression to his vision.

You need to be able to see in the world in terms of your art materials. The medium gives rise to the vision… Too many beginners & too many uncultured spectators (I can’t call them ‘connaisseurs’ because they don’t see the art in the medium; they don’t even see the paint in the painting! and need cajouling to appreciate the hand of the artist) naively think that the art work should look like the world … but isn’t it a bit stupid to confuse , say for example, a tree with an ink stain? No, I believe that an ink stain should first & foremost look like an ink  stain. A beautiful ink stain yes. Yes make it as beautiful as you can. and make it a ‘truimphe d’oielle ‘ yes –  ‘pourqui pas’  and put on top of this all the rest of it: expression, signification, asethetics, – but always first of all, it is an ink stain.  First & foremost this integrity, this respect, this sensitivity for the material itself. It is this deep respect for materials that the hand of a real craftsman.

 The creative process lies not in imitating, but in paralleling nature – translating the impulse received from nature into the medium of expression, thus vitalizing this medium. The picture should be alive, the statue should be alive, and every work of art should be alive. –   Hans Hofmann

I often work in both watercolour & oil painting. I enjoy the translation from one medium to another. Same view, different vision.

oil painting of vines

‘Sept Rangs de Cot.’ Oil on Canvas. 81 x 65 cm (32 x 26 inches approx) © Adam Cope

watercolour of vines

‘Sept Rangs de Cot’ watercolour approx 40 x30 cm © Adam Cope

In this case, the watercolour came after the oil, and so, I consider it to be  a lot more than a study for the oil painting. Some historians tend to classify drawings & watercolours as preliminary studies for a more substantial, more  resolved painting.  Here for example is one of my tonal studies for a painting , but it is  fresh enough, coherant enough to stand alone :

chateau sepia

‘Chateau de Longas’ (Dordogne) Sepia. 32 x 24 cm © Adam Cope

 

 

WIP ….WORK IN PROGRESS – watercolour – a tonal ‘notan’……WIP

I’ve been working on a large oil painting these last three weeks. A commission. It’s 130 x 81 cm – approx 51 x 32 inches. Bigger than my usual size. Good to be doing something different. A lot of work, which I’ll post as WIPs (work in progress) here. Thank you for all your comments. So many of them, makes me feel that internet is full of readers who care…

Large plein-air paintings require extra attention at the planning & conception stages, especially if they are a commission ie take into account of the customer’s wishes of what is to be included in the painting.

Here is the composition sketch:


I always do one of these for every painting. Knowing what goes where is a big big relief. Which takes the stress off somewhat so one can just concentrate on the painting, and panic less about the composition. Doing one of thee is visual thinking & can’t be replaced by assuming an intellectual idea of what goes where is enough. Note how it’s a ‘plastic’ process. The framing grows or shrinks to fit. Look & see how the frame lines go on last of all. I even had to fit on an extra page so as to make the size of the sky fit. Actually I went for a longer panorama in the end & not the more rectangular format of the above compositional sketch. The point is that my mind was now more orientated towards the painting & possibilities of how it might unfold.


The next stage is the tonal sketch. A ‘notan’. I say notan cautiously because a pure notan is in fact, a sketch for Japanese wood cut engravings aka Hokusai & not all the lovely subtle graduations of one tone washing into the other that you can get in watercolour. The point is to work out:

  • where are the major blocks of light & dark?
  • where is the centre of interest ie where do you want the eye to go to?
  • where is the light source?
  • what quality of light?
  • what is the incline of the sunlight?

You can click on the notan & tonality categories on the side of this page to read more.

see the finished painting

Telly fans 9 – Child Portrait Tips

telly fans 9

‘telly fans 9’   – Valentin watching television
drawing of a child – graphite, sketch book

 

Maybe this looks like what Vally might look like some years on from now? Compare it with ‘Telly Fans 8’ below. Can you see the difference in age?
telly fans 8

‘telly fans 8’  –  Valentin watching television
graphite, sketchbook.

 

Getting the age right is an essential part of a portrait, especially for a portrait of youth. Portraits of old age are easy in comparison! For example, wrinkles. Wrinkles are a clue that indicates the age of the sitter. Their presence in a drawing or painting are frequently due to the simple fact of just too many marks & strokes i.e. a lack of an economy of means, which is the ability to get it right first time.

My fellow-painter friends who do portraits for money tell me that flattery works every time. They consciously take ten years off the resemblance by knowing the markers that indicate youth & tweeking them.

QUESTION : Can you identify the elements in the above drawing that indicate the age of the sitter?

(I reckon there’s about ten of them)

Sunflowers 8

watercolour painting of sunflowers

‘Sunflowers 8’
watercolour painting
50 x 40 cm
© adam cope

Some yellow acrylic highlights in this one, so not a totally Transparent Watercolour .
Some paintings go that way & if they require you to ‘break the rules’ , then that is what must be done, as it’s picture-making first & foremost (& not some dreary, step-by-step, formulaic type of watercolour , which frankly, has more resemblance to an obsessional activity than the magic of creating a painting). I guess it boils down to listening to what the painting requires rather than a slavish obedience to rules. What is so wrong with the odd bit of yellow acrylic anyway? The sunflowers sing ‘yellow! yellow !yellow! ‘… what would they care about a painting that missed the mark & didn’t have enough yellow?
acrylic painting unfinished - cloudy day

‘Cloudy Day at Beduer’ _
UNFINISHED, lay-in stage
Acrylic
30 x 40cm (approx 12 x 16 inches)
© adam cope

 

A demonstration piece from a recent Chateaux Painting Holiday, France

 

left of in the lay-in or block-in phase

Chromatic Black in the Colourist Palette

WORK IN PROGRESS – UNFINISHED STATE
‘Mistletoe’

medium size oil on canvas
15 F
©adam cope

Chromatic Black in the Colourist Palette

Experimenting with a new mix for ‘black’. Lets call it a ‘chromatic black’ (as does Dan Smith oil paints) in the hope that it’s more colour friendly than soot (lamp black)& burnt bones (deadly death black).

To make chromatic black, the mix is basically the same as the transparent watercolour mix of a bluey green PG 7 pthalo viridian & a bluey red magenta. This gives a very blue black. I like it in watercolours but when mixing down with white in oils, I find it way too blue, so I add some opaque Indian Red to pull it back over to a broken neutral, more grey than blue.

These last five years I’ve been using dioziane violet (normally … but often with some burnt umber) as black. Looks like black but is ‘cleaner’ in mixing on palette than the soot & bones. But.. it’s very slow drying & is complicated to work with in colour mixes. Especially with the warm colours. So I’ve tended to isolate it & not allow it to mix with the other colours. Which thus isolate my black values… making them too black? Too moch like ‘black holes’ or black cut outs. This is exaggerated by photography’s very poor performance in registering colour in very dark values. Result : not enough fluid run down through the upper mid-tones?

In the above painting, I’m using more yellow ochre than cadium yellow pale, thus softening & muting even more the mid tones.

Same old connundrum of bringing Values into harmony with Colours, especially for my preference for a colourist palette of heightened bright colours.

Anyway, the mistletoe makes fun circles doesn’t it ? 🙂

‘Semillion, Labadie, Monbazillac’
Large Size Oil on Canvas
81 x 65 cm (approx 26 x 32 inches)
©adam cope
sold
Here’s the finished state. Here’s the link to its Work In Progress : Lay-in for Plein-Air Large Oil Painting.I went out the next day for a second plein-air session with a mental note ‘yellow & grey and not yellow & pink’. As you can read in the WIP blog entry …. “actually I quiet like the overcast mid-tone grey. Still the weather will dictate to me this evening”. What the note meant was to hold fast to the prior, premeditated decision – made calmly in the studio looking at the WIP – to go for a yellow & grey major colour harmony and not yellow & pink. As a sunset progresses, it generally gets pinker & pinker. If I wanted to keep to grey overcast skies as the major, with only some bands of pink as the minor, I would have to ‘fix’ or ‘stop’ in my mind’s eye the sunset at a relatively early point of its progress.

A tip for Plein-Air Painting

A tip to help this difficult plein-air trick is to consciously divide one’s painting time between sky & land. But then, the danger is that they won’t correspond correctly…. A 4pm landscape on a 6pm sky! Sometimes you have to tinker with plein-air paintings back in the studio to correct this issue.

What do you think? Does sky & land correspond correctly in my above painting?

Here’s the painting with a grey frame so as to keep true to the yellow/grey colour theme.

Rembrandt’s Drawings of Children

 
These two drawings remind me of some of the storyboard sketches of Walt Disney’s ‘Nine Old Men’ period. The action & drama is supremely rendered with economy of means, a sure sign of mastery.
 
 

 

 

Here’s what Wiki has to say about one of the ’12 Basic principals of animation’ according to Ollie Jonston & Frank Thomas : sahme ;  wiki used to have a great story board sketch of the dwarves falling down the stairs by Frank Thomas… on of my favourite drawings… gone , broken link…probably Walt Disney tightening up on copyright. Goodbye  fair use. Anyway, back to quoting from Wiki :

Anticipation

Anticipation is used to prepare the audience for an action, and to make the action appear more realistic.

 

Anticipation: A baseball player making a pitch prepares for the action by moving his arm back.

 

 

Not without a certain amount of tender humour… we anticipate the next footstep in the above drawing! Story boarding before Walt Disney

We sense a closure, an ending,  a final stage where the action is terminated. You can see it coming…

M_L & I laughed about this naughty boy … Been there, done that! Note the shoe being kicked off. Genius.

Look at this beautiful child 🙂 Tempus Fugit.

 

One of Mine :

Adam Cope – ‘Mother & Child’

related posts :  Rembrandt’s Gesture Drawing

Rembrandt’s Gesture Drawing

Rembrandt’s Gesture Drawing

File:Rembrandt.fallhut.jpg

Rembrandt Harmensz von Rijn (1606-1669)

Zwei Frauen bringen einem Kind das Laufen bei, um 1640

Kreide auf Papier

British Museum, London, photo wiki

Gesture_Drawing = http://www.wikihow.com/Practice-Gesture-Drawing

Both these articles are great places to start reading about gesture drawing. Nicolades ‘The Natural way of Drawing’ is the best.

I would add that because gestural drawing is so quick, done in such a short time span, training the eye to identify the ESSENTIALS is vital. I suspect that ‘sympathy’ is central. If you can ‘feel’ for the subject , ‘feel’ the action of the pose, ‘feel’ the emotion weight & tension of how the person is moving, then bring your gestures into harmony with their gestures. More like mime, mimic & dance than tight obersvation of visual appearances.

You can read more about gesture drawing here below my gallery of musicians & dancers:

‘Alison & Her Cello’
1999
Ink & Brush Pen
Approx 30 x 40 cm
© The Artist

‘M-L & E’

sanguine, A5 sketchbook

© adam cope

related posts: Rembrandt’s drawings of children – anticipation & action

 

 

‘Tailles 16 à 21’
Oil on masonite
20 x 50cm
© adam cope
NFS

 

detail

This wise little saying makes me laugh & makes me think:

‘I used to have six different theories on how to raise children but now I have six children, I have no theories’

(don’t worry!! I dont have six kids!!!)

Theory and Practice of Learning to Paint

It relates well to learning to paint as too many ‘theories’ & ‘tips’ & ‘learning goals’ can blind one to being sensitive to how the painting is unfolding beneath one’s hand…. the brush is moving but the brain is stuck in a pitter-pattter of theories… Theory is fine in it’s correct place, as a support for practise…. But too much theory poorly integrated into practise can give ‘creative indigestion’… Learning to listen, learning to look & learning to respond to the painting in process, slowly integrating the newly aquired skills & understanding into one’s natural, relaxed way of painting – that’s the thing!

walk the walk, not talk the walk… too much snooping around on internet, reading snippets here & there… and not doing enough actual painting is dangerous for one’s creativity. I should know 🙁

It’s also makes one chase after false goals rather than being responsive to each brush stroke & the unfolding of each individual painting. There’s the central  &most important

 

 

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