Sketch practice #15-16: classical bananas

Daily Art 11-16-17 still life sketch in graphite number 15-16 - cut banana

Continuing my ellipse practice, today I sketched a cut banana and also tried out a different drawing approach. I picked up a book at the library that I’m really excited about called Lessons in Classical Drawing: Essential Techniques from Inside the Atelier by Juliette Aristides. It wasn’t one that I was necessarily looking for, but this week I’ve become fascinated with the classical drawing techniques and the rigorous training that helps you learn these methods.

I came upon this path after downloading the Kindle sample of Hawthorne on Painting. When I reached the end of the sample, it recommended Lessons in Masterful Portrait Drawing: A Classical Approach to Drawing the Head by Mau-Kun Yim. My first response was “oh, I’m not interested in portraiture.” But then I realized I totally am interested in portraiture! Just not humans. I prefer drawing animals and think it would be really cool to apply this timeless, classic style to portraits of animals. I spent some time exploring May-Kun Yim’s work and am captivated by what he does with charcoal.

When I first started learning how to paint with watercolors, I got swept up in the idea that it’s all about color — bright color and lots of it. There was some internal tension there for me because I prefer neutrals. The more I immerse myself in the world of painting though, the more I realize I need to find my own way to make paintings, and using the colors that I feel good about is part of that. These classical paintings and drawings with either monochromatic or subtle color palettes resonate with me more, so I think that’s a big reason I’m attracted to learning more about how they’re made. Plus, mastery is important to me, not just playing around. I may end up with a playful look, but I want to know the skills that allow me to do whatever I choose, not get stuck in a style that’s the limit of my abilities.

So back to today’s sketches. In the DVD that accompanies her book, Juliette begins her drawing by marking the overall height of the subject to establish scale, then blocking in with straight lines at different angles. There’s a video by Dianne Mize that demonstrates this same basic idea very well. I forgot to make the lines to establish height (or width) today, but I really liked the way it felt to use Dianne’s method of phantom drawing her lines before actually marking the paper. Even though this sounds like a small step, it was a huge difference in my confidence — by mimicking the angle in the air, it helped me make the mark land more accurately on the paper because I knew what it felt like to make that line.

I also made more of an effort to use my whole arm and not just my hand and fingers to draw. I don’t love doing that in my little square sketchbook though… I can’t quite figure out a sustainable way to hold the book in my left hand. Maybe this little book will be better for contour sketches?

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