Monday, May 14, 2012

Location + Angle + Distance

Every Friday, I teach students in my studio. I have 10, ranging from age 6 to college age. They are my brave little guinea pigs I try out various and sundry methods of art instruction. I tell them right up front that I believe in only three absolutes in art. 
1. You learn to draw by drawing. No Shortcuts. 
2. Talent only takes you so far and then its work, work, work (basically, back to #1). 
3. No matter what you want to express, be it comic, portraits, abstract, fantasy, etc., you need to learn to see and draw accurately. 
One of the first assignments I give them is this Line Challenge. I first heard about it from Jeff Hein. I've had other teachers verify the importance of being able to "locate" the placement of line, determine it's "angle" (using the horizontal and vertical plumb lines of the paper), and finally, gauge the "distance", or length of the line. 
I give this sheet of paper to my students and ask them to tape it to a wall and then tape a blank sheet next to it. They can use their pencils to help measure but no rulers are allowed. I ask them to stand and copy the lines on to the blank sheet and when they feel they have it correct, take them off the wall, put them together and hold them up to the light of a window to see how they did.
This might seem too basic but it truly leads to many more advanced methods artists use in life drawing, like triangulation. Many teachers recommend students begin with forming an envelope of their subject using STRAIGHT lines as opposed to curves. There are so many ways one can go wrong within the formation of a curve so get your lines down first, then, when you are sure they have been accurately "mapped out" on your paper, you can draw the curves over them. Any way, give it a shot. It's actually a challenging family activity and helps you train your eye to brain to hand process that's so important to artists. Have fun with it....that's another rule if you are my student. There are no mistakes....Only Learning.


Tammie Lee said...

this is a wonderful idea, i might have to give it a go.

Amy said...

The basics are so important in art! I am going to have to try this one. Thanks for the tip, Kim. Tempted to start drawing again :)

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

Give it a try Tammie and Amy. It's actually a great exercise for the brain. Thanks for both your comments.

Jeanette Jobson said...

I so agree with you. Drawing is the backbone of all art, yet so many want to skip the technical aspect and the work involved but wonder why their work never looks right.

The lines exercise looks very useful, I may test it on some of my own guinea pigs (and myself) soon.

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

Thank you Jeanette. Let me know if you or your guinea pigs do the exercise. Curious to see what any of you think of it.

John Calvin said...

It's a great exercise, I like doing things like this. Of course, I was a bit disappointed when I held mine up to the light. I would have spent longer on it, but my daughter was done.

I try to tell my students that drawing is about training your eyes to actually see. You know, shapes, distances, angles, relationships, sizes, etc. It's not about having fancy pencils or expensive paper (they're always disappointed, as they hope the tool is key to drawing skills).

They also hope that I'll be able to tell them some magic "secrets" that will make them into good observational artists. Sure, there are a few tips and techniques, but it's mostly practice. Kind of disappoints them..

I like Picasso's quote: "To be good, you have to draw eight days a week."

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

Hi John. Love that Picasso quote. Yeah...there are no shortcuts. I confess, at times I will do what your students do. I'll see one of my favorite artists display their palette or materials list and think, "if I buy that paint brand and use those same brushes, I should be able to paint just like them". The truth is, if I put in the hours and the number of paintings they have over the years, I might get close. No way around it.
BTW, both you and L did a wonderful job on the exercise. I was most impressed.
Thanks for stopping by.