Saturday, May 11, 2013

In The Lines

I'm a person who has long been in the arts... you know, since preschool - crayons rocked. Do you remember the moment you realized that they came in bigger boxes than the standard eight colors? Do you remember the first time you saw that massive box with a ton of colors and its very own sharpener? Moment of bliss, right there.

Still, as a person who has long been in the arts (and the art supplies) you can never know it all, see it all, do it all. More, sometimes you've been doing for a while and then suddenly find out that maybe no one else is doing it that way, and has instead been doing it in a much different (and possibly easier) way all along. Such has been my experience this week.

When I got my art degree in the 1990's, there were a lot of classes to choose from. I pretty much dove into everything that was offered from drawing to painting, and sculpture to throwing. The only classes I did not take were digital, watercolor, and airbrushing. I likely would have gotten to the last two eventually, but the digital was reserved for those going only for a commercial graphic arts degree. I think no one knew how blended they'd all become back then. I suppose it's worth noting I stopped after I got my Associates because I didn't want to teach, and I realized I was learning more on my own than I did from any classroom - for the record though, do hold a Bachelors in business administration, but that came almost ten years later.

In the drawing class, we spent time on the exciting live models and then the most boring still life's you can possibly imagine. We explored all sorts of drawing techniques, and through it all was a mantra that was burned into my mind; "by your own hand." I didn't pay much attention to that, because what else was I going to draw with? My foot? But that wasn't what the teacher meant. What was going on was a sort of revolution with projectors. Remember those silly things that the math teachers used to sit next to that looked like a mini-alien from War of the Worlds? Apparently, many artists were using transparencies of various things and putting their paper/canvas on the wall and tracing it on. More sophisticated projectors were around that did even more than that with photos, and thus began a new (?) art movement of tracing the picture onto the canvas and then relying on the artist to paint it in nicely.

It seemed so far fetched to me that leaving that behind for my art classes was no hardship. It didn't make sense for me anyway. Well, unless you were painting a mural - then I would definitely want to draw something out and blow it up for the wall. Otherwise, it's a bit tougher to get correctly. Not impossible, but trickier.

What I didn't know about was that in the watercolor genre, some method of tracing is actually quite common. The professional method is to draw out what you want, erasing as needed until you get it right on tracing paper, then putting it on a lightbox with your watercolor paper over it and tracing the correct lines onto the surface so you eliminate erasure marks and paper degradation. Another method is to use carbon paper on top of the watercolor paper and transfer the traced design that way. I never knew that! I only discovered it this week, if you can believe it. I suppose if you are an artist who needs the ability to work and then rework until you get it right, it makes extremely good sense. Plus, it IS your own work, so it's not like you're tracing a photo or someone else's hard work.

I never knew that. I know of many people who use projectors or lightboxes to trace things that they did not draw themselves, which I don't like - especially when it is someone else's work. I even know of one painter who actively makes her living in portraiture who uses a projector to not only trace the lines on the canvas, but also for color placement. I really don't like that. I know it takes skill to blend the paint correctly, but for me it just seems one step above a paint by numbers kit. It just isn't for me.

But I have no problem with people transferring their own work to paper. In fact, it makes a lot of sense. It makes it all seem a bit easier, less fraught with worry over getting it right the first time. I wish I had known! I really do, because... I think I'm too old to switch my method. No, really. I think I'm actually set in my ways on this one, and incapable of switching to a tracing method. I have always free-handed it right onto the paper - rarely even plotting out where elements of the painting are going to go beforehand (I tend to draw the main element, and then build the painting around it.)

Even though my stomach ties itself into knots every time I approach a blank canvas or block of paper, even though my mind races with the worry I'll mess it all up... I think I'm stuck this way. I wonder if my drawing would improve with refinement, and I'm doing myself a huge disservice. However, the voices of my teachers from way back keep echoing in my head "From your own hand" coupled with the idea that even if I'm tracing one of my own drawings, that it's just adding an extra step to what I already do. More work, rather than freeing myself.

I don't know if I should try it, just to see. There's something that makes the back of my neck prickle about it. But I might pick up some carbon paper today while I'm in town... just to see. Maybe I'd stink at tracing the lines anyway? Hmm.

For those of you artists; how do you all work? Do you freehand it? Do you draw many "drafts" of the painting and then draw it? Do you draw your draft and then transfer it somehow? What's your method?

Well, anyway... we'll see. I think I'll try it on one painting, just to see if I'm even capable of switching or if it's worth my time. In the meantime, however, here are three free-handed, right onto the blocks paintings all sketched out.

I did these two little ones so I have something to work on while the big one is drying:

Another for my small dragon hatchling series. I decided twins were in order. This is 4x6".

I've been getting lots of requests for unicorns, and I don't know why I've been dragging my feet. They're even a part of my family crest. I've drawn them for many years growing up and such, although it's been many years since I've drawn them. 

And then this is my new big one. It's 12x18, the biggest I've worked in watercolor in a long time. I have one bigger pad, a 14x20, but I haven't even unwrapped it yet. We'll see how this one goes:

I've set Alice aside right now, until I feel back in my head with the paintings. I'm hoping these will get me there! I don't know how much time I'll get this weekend to work on them though. I was also thinking of doing a time lapse video of one or more of the paintings. I might get that going this week.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


Magic Love Crow said...

I agree, from your own hand! I can't even imagine someone taking someone's else's art and tracing it! Horrible! All my art is free hand! Sometimes, I do sketch something on the canvas, but a lot of times when I do that, it doesn't work out for me? My brush likes to be free! LOL! Your new sketches are wonderful! Twins is so cute! You have actually gave me an idea! Thank you ;o) The larger piece is stunning! Happy Mother's Day ;o)

Melissa Adams said...

Hmmm, Kyra, I'm hearing a great idea right here for one of our monthly challenges! You could make this something we all have to try - it'd definitely be an interesting challenge for us all, and would really encourage us to all try something a bit different. =) I've never heard of using this as a method, but it makes a ton of sense. I love how all your drawings look right now and I seriously can't wait to see them all painted in! You have such a wonderful gift - not only with art, but with story-telling within your art as well. Have you ever written a children's book? Because you really could use your works as illustrations for some amazing little books, if you ever decided to go that route with them. Great job as always Kyra!

Nadia said...

Love your thoughts about tracing methods! My art is also free hand but carbon paper works really well on watercolor paper when tracing your own sketch, but don't push to hard because then it would be better to use a pencil (which you can erase and carbon lines not). But your work comes out much cleaner with carbon so you don't have spots and smudges from your pencil and the watercolors come out brighter. Love the dragon twins! Hugs

Introverted Art said...

this is so beautiful Kyra, so full of sentiment...

Jess said...

I don't like transferring the same image onto something else, it takes the spontaneity out of it, that's the fun part (for me). When I do watercolour paintings I draw first in pencil, then ink over with the intention of improving the lines but in truth I rarely change anything. When I use acrylics however, I layer upon layer until I'm happy with the result. This can take a very long time though so I know I do really need to plan more before doing my acrylic on canvases!xx

Cameron said...

When I used to do watercolors, I would sketch on a separate sheet of paper and transfer the drawing over when I liked it. I would still do a bit of tweaking after that, but I wouldn't disturb the surface as much as starting directly on the watercolor paper. I erase a lot....haha!
You make it look so easy :)

Now that I'm into acrylics and mixed media, I just dive right in on the surface.

I love those unicorns! Horses are so majestic in and of themselves...but add a horn....and pure Magic!
....and I'm swooning over your hatchlings. Cute little guys!

Thanks for stopping by earlier. To answer your question....nope, no flaking. I've worked on children's book covers with a similar coating with good results, too. I did sand those a little first.
I may use the backs of these cards next time, though. They aren't coated and then I don't have to cover up the sweet little animals....haha!

I have plenty. I'd be happy to send you a few to try out, if you'd like :)
You could even pick the letters ;P

Hope you are having a good week so far.
My best,