Through a Glass Darkly

I've finally rested my palette and brushes after a whirlwind summer painting for my show. Everything is up on the wall (37 pieces in all) and it is time I move on to other things. Interestingly, this is the first year I am actually sad to stop painting; usually, by the time I get the art hung, I am completely burnt out on the entire project.  This year though...I'll wait to see how the show is received but I may need to continue painting creatures here and there to satisfy this inner urge to let the monsters out.

Anyway, I have one more post coming about my show (once the reception is held) and then the content of my posts is going to shift. The new school year is looming and I need to start preparing. First and foremost, I need to get back into regular sketching since I am going to be teaching that for an entire year as a companion element to my Art of the Americas course. (The idea is to work up to a travel sketching project in Mexico next June.)

While I paint like a fevered madwoman, I draw with exactly the opposite mindset. I've loved painting all summer but at the same time, I've been craving the quiet respite of my sketchbook. It is time to spend a few hours a day simply sitting and looking and recording. And first up on my agenda is an exploration of glass.

Glass is a difficult but exceedingly lovely surface to render. Every glance at your subject reveals details you didn't notice before. Those details shift and transform with even the slightest change in lighting. It is an exquisite drawing challenge. 

In this sketchbook page, I began my glass bottle series by exploring how well the depiction of glass translates in various mediums. Outlining an object tends to flatten it out visually but an initial outline does make it much easier to draw the object in the first place. I think it is best to start learning to draw by using contour lines to define the shapes you see and that's an approach I'll use with my students. However, I have a feeling that I will continue to practice rendering objects in value only. It is a technique that takes me back to those years of scientific illustration in art school.

My scientific illustration professor taught that while we may think we see hard lines when we look at an object, we are actually seeing a contrast between a light value and a dark value. In other words, he felt that there are no actual lines but rather that all lines are perceived. On assignments, he allowed students to lightly sketch key shapes but then everything - lines included - had to be crafted with an intricate map of values. For example, if we thought we saw lines in the petal of a flower or the wings of an insect, we were not allowed to "draw" the lines. We had to pair light-valued shapes with dark-valued shapes to create the illusion of a line. This is a tedious approach but I find myself relying on it when working in my sketchbook. It is probably why I prefer the drawings without the black contour lines. Now that I think about it, I might pull out some of that old classwork and take some pictures as I'm not sure if I've ever posted any of that here and it may be of some interest.


carol said…
Wow! I love them all! And your patience level is obviously light years beyond mine!!
Emie58 said…
"I might pull out some of that old classwork "
Yes, please... would love to see some of your old works. The glass is amazing and I love all the different ways you handled one subject.