146 Self-portrait #12 – and something about critique in art

2014-11-07b

Hmh.. I should not have added the dark background.. i should not have toned my face so much. Own own face remains the most difficult.

I stumbled across this blogpost about critique and feedback and thought that I would share it. I’m an architecture student, and I believe that architecture school and art school have the culture of critiques in common. At the end of a project, each student presents his/her work and the teachers and sometimes students give their feedback. It’s not alway positive – teachers are not pedagogues, and with time, you get used to not taking negative feedback personally.. (Or you get better at it…) – I think that this culture of critique and feedback is really important for evolving, either as an artist or as an architect (and one could argue that an architect IS an artist). I get a lot of really positive feedback on my blog.. And while it flatters me, and motivates me, i can’t help being a little suspicious.. I am just beginning my learning proces – it’s not THAT great, is it?

I suppose that what I want to say is, that you can give me negative feedback aswell – as long as it’s constructive.. I’m in the process of rounding up my studies as an architect, and sadly, I don’t think that i can devote another 3-5 years on an art degree.. But there’s a lot of experienced artists out there – either autodidacts or people with art-degrees. I’d like to encourage everyone to help me evolve in my art (i almost feel like writing “art” because i don’t think i’m quite there yet) – If i were a student and you were a teacher in an art school/university, what would you say to me?

Anyway, I’m really happy about the comments and feedback that I am getting! Although people are being really nice, and not that rough, I still think that people have given me a lot of constructive suggestions and examples of things to look at, so even if you don’t feel like being more agressive, I’m still really happy that people respond to what I’m doing!

And now I’ve better get back to that architecture degree!

0 thoughts on “146 Self-portrait #12 – and something about critique in art”

  1. If you use your eraser and create high ights on the hair as of light enhancing the curve of the skull from the back it will give you head depth, shape and definition from the background, as well as giving the hair texture. Just a suggestion. With pencil or charcoal the eraser is part of the medium. Also you could highlight the contours of the face, as well. 😀 If you are concerned about damaging your portrait, practice on some other sketches. Squint your eyes and look at your hand in different lights with different backgrounds. How can you tell, visually, that your hand in curved and has dimension? What does the light do?

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  2. That’s a good suggestion. I’ll se if i have the time to try and do another one later today. You’re quite right that i very rarely use my eraser. I haven’t really thought of it is a drawing instrument, but rather as a help to correct mistakes.. Now that you say it, it does make more sense to think of drawing as adding + removing graphite to the paper, rather than just having it go in one direction. Yep – in reality my head is much rounder !

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  3. I agree with bearspawprint about using an eraser to take away. A good putty eraser is what I would recommend. I either use ink or charcoal when life drawing and tend to get quite dark quite quickly with charcoal so I used a putty rubber a lot to erase and sculpt out areas of light and highlights, including catch lights in the eyes. My other recommendation is using a tortillion to help you blend – if blending is something you want to achieve, of course.

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  4. It can be difficult to critique art – it is something so personal, it can be like telling someone their baby is ugly. There also seems to be a development in art education moving away from technique and traditional media, towards a focus on concept and execution of ideas. One of my tutors once asked a student who wanted to learn painting technique, “why would you want to do that?”

    As you requested critique, here’s one my drawing teacher used to love: squint a bit to look at the tones in your picture. You will want a range of different ones, from the very dark to very light. Don’t be afraid to go dark! It will bring your drawing to life. I can see your line work and proportions are excellent, ultimately it is the shading that lets you down. You might even get away with the dark background if you had a wider range in the portrait. A putty eraser is a good suggestion for the highlights, and I would recommend an even darker pencil (6B or 8B, almost black, I still swear to Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils) to be used sparingly for greater contrast.

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    • Why would you want to learn that!! Excellent!
      Yes, it would seem that art is taking a different direction than that of its past. I think it’s interesting but it’s hard to approach from outside. Maybe it’s a seperation of aestetics – things that please the eye – and then on the other side “illustrations” of ideas and concepts that go beyond the objects (if there are any objects)… I can gather that you’ve done art school then. I imagine that everyone in the “first year” is focused on the traditional mediums, and that they then gradually are encouraged to evolve in a specific way, where the projects become more conceptual.. If you don’t mind, could you decribe how art school has been? What has it done to you?

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      • I think I came into it expecting it would be like art in school, valuing aesthetics, traditional media, technique, basically a place to continue to learn and develop skills. It turned out, doing an art degree, you are given a space and freedom to do anything you want – the value is placed not on a beautiful or skilful piece, but in a meaningful one, the more conceptual the piece, the better. I thought it a strange experience, felt out of place, and would probably have dropped out in my second year if I hadn’t also done a philosophy module that I loved. The more I got to know the “art world” the more I tended to reject it – I found it pretentious, and where the attitude in the “art world” seems to be that a skilful traditional piece will be considered illustration rather than High Art, my personal opinion was that it was very much the other way around – a drawing may be understood on its own merit, if only for being beautiful, but many (though not all) conceptual pieces invoke no curiosity or sense of wonder at all, and cannot be understood without a description, or advance knowledge of the piece – the physical object appears as an illustration of an idea or concept, and cannot be understood without it. Learning more about art and attitudes in the art world has made me move away from the dreams I used to have about being an artist, and it has made me embrace and enjoy the non-artistic, “illustrative” traditional work I used to enjoy before. I wouldn’t say art school is a waste of time, but it is suited for the very open minded, very creative individual, while I’m probably too close-minded and critical.

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  5. Hi-
    I have a similar background… hobby drawing, eventually got into architecture (graduated in 93). Your city drawings are really nice… for an architect, i’m actually terrible at building sketches… go figure. I’ve always loved pencil portraits. I first started as a kid doing superheroes… which are great cause they have “generic” bodies and pretty much identical faces… the differences come in their costumes mostly, though you can thin up or fatten their bodies for some variety.

    Anyways, I’d say you already have an eye for proportion, but it seems your sketches are small (judging by the line thicknesses i see) maybe 4×4 or 6×6?
    Try bigger works, when the dwgs are small, a hair’s width of error shows more. Larger sizes are more forgiving and its easier to hide/adjust proportional relationships between elements.

    Also, for reference photos look for pics with contrast… black and white pics are also nice, you’re not misled by colors. I like 1930’s-40’s actors/actress pics… they are high quality and you’ll see how light/shadows play on faces and they seem more “3-d” than today’s magazine/newspaper pics (many of which are not well focused, poorly lit, etc).

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    • Hi, thanks for your suggestions! Yes my drawings are small – 10×14 centimeters (or 4×6 inches i think) – the reason I’m using this medium for now, is that i can finish a drawing in about 30 min – the same detailing in a bigger drawing would take much longer i think. So it’s easierly doable with this small format. I have on rare occaisons done drawings in a3 – and i think that I’m going to do these more often in the future, as i get more routine in drawing. I realize that the details and small errors would be much less important in a bigger format, so I’m looking forward to doing something bigger – like a portrait in a3 in the future. I think that eyes and noses can be easier to get right when they’re bigger. Thanks again – I’ll look into the old black and white photos!

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  6. as an artist, I recoil at using pencil and as for drawing realism…argggghhh. I believe you are right on track, most importantly keep on doing what you are doing. I nursed, and did not draw/paint for over 30 years (the length of my professional career) and it’s interesting to see the anatomy and physiology from my field of study appear in my abstract work. I agree the lines between architecture and art blur considerably, as with many other areas. there’s something unique and beautiful about the art of one that’s self taught, it’s an x-factor that’s hard to describe. often school/college can inhibit this. great blog and I’m learning a lot from you and your followers. thanks.

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    • I think that a “double focus” like that is a great quality for an artist. It brings something into the out from the outside. It’s interesting to think of an artists style as an accumulation of life experiences. The artwork really becomes an essence of who whe are that way..

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  7. I’ve enjoyed reading the above comments – many good points have been made! My contribution is more general about your process. The first step in any process is becoming accustomed to your tools – physical and mental. In any case, there will be many frustrations along the way to being able to express anything until the tools can be used fluidly. In my experience that is what the process of drawing in a naturalistic style is about. The trick is not to get caught in the idea that the more something looks natural or “real” – the better it is. Once drawing has lost it’s freshness – it can become conceptual or a fixed style even if it is based on naturalism. Several of my best mentors encouraged me to use drawing as an aspect of “seeing” as opposed to a demonstration of skills. Once you focus on the experience of seeing – the world becomes full of many treasures regardless of how well you can manipulate your tools to demonstrate “traditional” drawing ability. This can lead to many other ways of expressing yourself. Two books I always recommend to anyone who wants to draw (all those intimidated non- artists too) are: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards and The Zen of Seeing by Frederic Franck. These were recommended to me many years ago to help me overcome the early frustrations of drawing. Like handwriting – drawing is a skill – used to express oneself – it can be learned by anyone with a will – some may find it easier to control eye hand coordination and also to see 3D space and translate to 2D but in the end everyone can learn and improve their skills of seeing and drawing.

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    • Thanks for your comment. One thing i have noticed since starting this thing two months ago, is that i seem to be in the mindset of analysing what i see – as if i were going to draw it. Whenever I’m speaking with someone, i catch myself noticing the shadows and shapes of their faces as they talk. I’m still in the very beginning of learning to draw, but i think that this point of drawing as a way of seeing is very good..

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      • That sounds wonderful. Drawing is working its magic on you! Whenever I travel I try to stop now and then and just draw and be aware of some details around me- as if tracing along the contours with my finger and making a mental note of my environment. Slows me down and keeps me present when the impulse is overwhelmingly to grab imagery/experience quickly with a camera and “possess” it somehow. Slowly you will become enchanted with all the details of the world around you and your life will be very rich in any circumstances.

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