Monday, August 16, 2010

Beginner Drawing Lessons, Part II

Welcome to the second lesson of this three-part series: Value

In art, value refers to the darkness and lightness of color or tone. The variations in light and dark within a drawing are what will make it come to life. Have you ever noticed how an unexpected highlight on an object makes it really pop? Or have you felt the depths of a darkly-rendered shadow? Yep, it's all about value. From the highest value—white, to the lowest value—black, and everything in between—this is what creates volume and sense of space and depth.

In our still life of the group of tomatoes, we first took note of where the different light sources were coming from. Then we noticed where the brightest and darkest parts of our scene were. After those easier to identify values were determined, we discussed the more subtle shades, looking at how the lighter parts of the tomatoes fade gradually into different shades of darkness. This lesson is meant to be practiced in black and white, using pencil/charcoal on paper, so kids won't confuse light and dark color with light and dark value.

There are different ways to render value. Some artists use cross hatching, others use sketchy lines or scribbles, others blend their pencil/charcoal to create gradual changes.

A good way to practice different values of light is to make a value chart. Simply draw a rectangle about 6" long and, starting with white, gradually sketch darker and darker values across until you have the darkest possible color your pencil can make. Show them how they can create darker colors by bearing down harder on the paper, as well as by using more lines closer together.

Value Exercise:
  • Start by having your kids make a value chart. This will help them recognize the subtleties in all the shades between white and black.
  • Have them try a few different ways of shading, and let them chose the method they prefer.
  • Using a simple still life like the one in the previous lesson, ask your kids to tell you where the light is coming from how it is shining on the objects. It may help to set up the still life next to a window or a lamp, so that there are strong lights and darks for them to identify. You could even rig up a flashlight to make extreme shadows.
  • Next, ask them to point to the brightest and darkest parts of the objects. Once those are established, have them take note of all the different shades in between.
  • When they begin to draw, encourage them to use their value chart as a reference. Suggest that they use the white of the paper as the brightest spot, and fill in the lower values from there.
  • If the kids are into it, ask them to try drawing one without using any lines at all. See if they can render objects just by creating various values.
Have fun! See you back here soon with the last lesson: color.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Beginner Drawing Lessons, a Three-Part Series: Part I

NOTE: My apologies to those who subscribe in a reader. I accidentally hit "publish" in the middle of my first draft of this post. I deleted it immediately , but I think some of you still got the wonky post. Oops!

Welcome to my Beginner Drawing Lessons, written with kids in mind, but perfect for adults, too. This series is the result of many sketching sessions with my girls, during which I realized there are a few recurring concepts that I am always reminding them of. For these lessons, I have reduced lots of information into three basic ideas that can be utilized when drawing:
  • Line
  • Value
  • Color
There are the shapes and how they relate to each other (line), there is light and shadow (value), and there is color, with its many variations.
Those three things are basic concepts that, once understood, will help you or your child have a better grasp of your subject matter. This information can also be applied to painting, sculpting, digital art, and so much more. Each of the three lessons include an exercise at the end of it, so you can practice your new skill. I would recommend this series for children 6 and up.

The first lesson of this three-part series is Line.

Line is the shape of objects, the actual outline, and how shapes relate to each other. For example, in our still life of a group of tomatoes, we noticed how each tomato looks different—some had more lumps, some were more round, some oval in shape. Then we looked at how the tomatoes were arranged. We saw how some were in front of others, and that some were partially hidden. Look at where these objects overlap, as well as the negative space. Sometimes, when an object proves tricky to draw, observing the shape of the space between the objects can be helpful.
Encourage the kids to look at the true shape of things, meaning not what their brain says they should see but, rather, what they are actually seeing. Our minds register "tomato" as bulbous and round in shape, but their shapes can be quite varied. Point out irregularities in objects, and encourage your kids to include those. We (and especially kids) tend to want to draw the "idea" of a certain object, rather than what we are really seeing. A college art teacher of mine used to always say, "draw with your eyes, not with your brain."

Line exercise: Set up a still life made with a few simple shapes. Fruit, balls, bowls, and vases (skip the flowers this time) are good choices for this first exercise. Avoid objects that have a lot of detail on them, as the kids will be tempted to render all that detail first thing.
  • See if you can get your kids to just observe the still life for a few minutes before starting
  • Talk about the outlines, the shape of the negative space, the places where objects overlap each other, and how that effects their shapes
  • Ask them to point out irregularities in the shapes
  • have them trace the objects with their finger
  • When they begin to draw, remind them to draw what they see, not what their brain tells them a shape should look like
Have fun! See you back here soon with the next lesson: value.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Italian Ice For All

I think we can officially can this summer the Summer of Italian Ice. We're obsessed, but the frequent trips to the store to get our hands on some Richie's Italian Ice is getting pricey and junky. So we figured out how to make our own, and haven't stopped making it yet.

Watermelon: cut up half of a watermelon and put into blender with 2 tbsp of sugar. Blend until fruit is liquid and sugar is dissolved. Add one tray of ice cubes and blend.

Blueberry: Combine 3 cups of berries and 2 tbsp of sugar. Blend until fruit is liquid and sugar is dissolved. Add one tray of ice cubes and blend.

Peach: Combine the meat of 6-8 peaches and 2 tbsp of honey (the honey compliments the peaches nicely). Blend until fruit is liquid. Add one tray of ice cubes and blend.

Coffee: Make coffee to your liking. Be sure to sweeten while the coffee is still warm. The finished product would be delish with a bit of whipped cream.

For all Italian Ice flavors, pour mixture into shallow tray and put in freezer. Every half hour or so scrape the surface with a fork. Do this until the entire mixture is frozen and snowy.

I forgot about the coffee in the freezer, so it got no fork scrapings. You can see it is much more crystallized than the others.

We have raspberry and lemon on the list for this week. What flavors can you think of? We'd love some new flavor suggestions!