Now that my sophomore year is over, I decided to make a list of what I think are the ten most important things that I have learned this year. They may not be in perfect order, but I tried to somewhat number them by importance. Hopefully, knowing these things will save you a lot of head aches when you’re working on your own art projects.
10. Green is a primary color. Today, children in elementary and highschool are being taught that the three primary colors are Red, Blue, and Yellow. This is wrong. There is actually six primary colors, existing in two different realms of color mixing: additive and subtractive. Additive color mixing is adding light (color) until you get to white, which is all of the colors. In this realm, Red, Green, and Blue are the primary colors, each one having a little bit of light. When you add two of these primaries together, you get closer to white, and one of the subtractive primaries. For example, Red and Blue make Magenta. You may have heard of CMYK, used in printing images from a computer, using a printer. Printers use ink to make their colors, and those primary colors are Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. Mix them all together an you get black. These are the same primary colors for paint and any other pigment. With these primary colors you are subtracting light when you add them together. White is the absence of color in subtractive color mixing, and mixing two primaries together makes one of the ‘dark’ primaries of additive color mixing. Example: Yellow and Magenta make Red. Now you know.
9. Quality of craft first semester Illustration and typography was a time to really focus on the surface quality of the art I was creating. If the composition and values in a drawing are sound, that is half the battle right there, but the quality and consistency of the marks and lines that make up those values are the icing on the cake and make a big difference in the final presentation. Uniformity and purpose looks better than a random mess of lines.
8. Get good reference A huge lesson in Illustration that was drilled into our heads all year. Get good reference photos. If we’re going to be drawing something, aiming for realism, then we need to know what it looks like. And we need good shadows and lots of information. So good photographs with bright lighting is essential to getting all the information needed to make and manipulate a drawing.
7. Accept the unknowns and roll with the unexpected in some mediums you just don’t know what’s going to happen. You may have a plan going into it but there’s always a handful of variables that will alter the final product from your vision. Lithography and Ceramics are great examples of this. Especially for beginners who do not understand all the little details and magic behind the processes. With ceramics, the glaze can be a real mystery. One glaze can come out bright green of brown depending on how it was fired, and sometimes those things just cannot be controlled. In our intro class, we did none of the firing and had a TA to do it, so once our pieces were glazed, it was pretty much up to fate how they would turn out. In Lithography, we were involved in the entire process in the intro class, but the process was so lengthy and tricky that something was bound to go wrong at least once in every project. None of these problems would destroy the project, but they would cause imperfections or changes that were not in the original plan. After this year, I like to think that I have learned to accept the unknowns that come with certain medium.
6. It doesn’t matter how many times you’re told the answer, you have to figure it out for yourself. This statement right here kind of makes this whole list pretty much useless; one thing I have learned for sure this year is, you can be told and taught all of the answers to the problems of drawing, and no matter how hard you listen and how much you think you understand, it needs to be thought out on your own for it to really click. You’ve got to figure certain problems out yourself. A professor can draw it out in front of you a million times but until you learn to SEE the problem and solution for yourself, you’re not going to be able to grow. It certainly helps to have someone point you in the right direction, but, this is hard to explain but it basically boils down to this: your professor says you drew your foot too short. And he can show you how long it should be. But when you try to do this again yourself, you will probably not be able to until SUDDENLY you see it and go “OH! I drew my foot too short.” It’s basically being able to recognize what you did wrong and how to fix it after its already been explained to you. Now you won’t make the same mistake again.
5. developing conceptual pieces In the past, I have mostly worked on technical pieces, depicting things as I saw them, trying to capture realism so that I could improve as a draftsman, and so that I could convey my ideas when the time came to come up with ideas. For most of my art education, I haven’t really dealt with, or at least haven’t been very aware or interested in the conceptual side of my pieces. This year, I feel like I gained a little bit of insight into myself, what kind of pieces I like and do not like, and how to go about making a piece that says something more than what’s on the surface. The steps that need to be taken to make something with real thought behind it are different for everyone, but they are worth exploring.
4.preservation of work I have accumulated so much work over the years! And it all gets stashed away in vertical paper portfolios, put behind a desk or some other piece of furniture, slumping with time and bending my paper and illustration board. All the pencil pieces mixed in with the charcoal, getting all smudged and sad. Because I never had the space or knowledge to preserve them. Before this year, I had never been taught how to preserve my work effectively, though I had always wondered and had a need. This year, I learned about acetate and glycine. Acetate, is a completely clear sheet of fairly rigid plastic, which can be purchased in rolls and cut to size to tape over drawings. This acts as a water-proof barrier to shield the work from smudges and spills. It also is a heavier weight than paper, and helps it retain its shape. Glycine is a semi-transparent sheet of paper with a balanced ph so your work can be covered in it and not yellow over time. Glycine is basically a cheaper form of acetate. These two things in combination with ways of storing images between boards or in a flat file, will help me keep work flat and clean in the future.
3. human anatomy Drawing people!! People are a SUPER popular subject to depict. Like the MOST popular thing to depict. And yes, I have drawn people before this year, and I have managed pretty well to observe correct proportions or proportions that feel human without ever knowing hard-fast rules. But this year I have been given a set of concrete proportions to follow forever. No more second guessing my measurements. We were taught at length in illustration about the skeleton and the major muscle groups that go over them. Faces too, we covered in great detail. Now I have a good set of notes to refer back to whenever I am confused about the figure. If you haven’t yet, I would suggest trying to track down a really good anatomy book to get a jump start on those proportions. (By the way, a lot of anatomy books are really wrong. So choose carefully)
2. perspective Kind of a big deal, is the way that everything in a drawing fits together to create the illusion of space. Understanding the properties of perspective and the perspective of shadows will help you create a more accurate and convincing image. Every single object in a drawing needs to be drawn in correct perspective for the piece to work. If one object isn’t right, it will break the illusion. Also, images with unintentional incorrect perspective can be uncomfortable and disorienting to look at.
1. The lightest lights in the dark, are always darker than the darkest darks in the light. This is really the rule to live by when it comes to rendering. Once you know this–and repeat this while you are drawing–you are all set. Basically, you can divide your entire picture up into areas that are in shadow, and areas that are in light. Both of these areas will have their own ranges of value to give the objects in these areas form. Lets say that the areas of light range from 0% value (white) to 40% value (an almost middle gray) this means that the ares of darkness can range from 50% to 100% value, or black. This will keep the dark and light areas separate and help make clear where light is hitting and casting shadow. In the areas where light is transitioning to dark, the 40% – 50% range can be used to create a soft transition. Area in shadow should not be of a lighter value than any of the areas in the light, and an area bathed in light should not be of a darker value than those in shadow. But don’t think that this will make your rendering too simple, because areas of light and dark should alternate throughout your image to keep things interesting and well balanced.
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