Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Shapes and Values

3/8/17 colored pencils, smooth Bristol (in progress)
This week’s colored pencil class exercise is a major departure from all the previous ones. Using a photo reference with strong value contrasts, we are to focus firmly on the shapes and values in a limited color range – no textures, no details, no forms – almost to the point of abstraction. After weeks of highly detailed work that focused on form and realism, my classmates and I were all a bit shaken and puzzled this morning – what the heck?? And how?!

Fortunately, we had enough time to get a good start on the assignment during class so we could ask lots of questions. (For most of the prior exercises, we had a few minutes in class but did the bulk of the work at home. I think I would have been lost trying to start this on my own.) With Suzanne’s prompting, however (mostly constant reminders that we should stick to shapes and values), it started to click into place for me.

In fact, not only did it click – I started seeing this exercise as an entry to using colored pencils for urban sketching. Though it’s not quite done, shown here is about an hour’s worth of work. This approach is much faster than anything we’ve done before, and with more practice, I think I could be even faster. It takes some doing to get used to the “blurry” look – when I look at this, I feel like I’ve forgotten to put my glasses on! – but if I get the values right, it should still be credible and “readable.” That’s the goal, anyway.

At my request, Suzanne promised to talk at the end of the quarter about colored pencil techniques for sketching on location (and she concurred with my speculation that today’s exercise is one of them). Yes! My diligence and hard work this quarter will finally pay off – I’ll be able to apply what I’ve learned to sketches that match my style (instead of these time-consuming drawings from photo references which I may never attempt again once the class is over).

reference photo
(In class all morning and at an appointment in the afternoon, I made exactly zero sketches of people today for #oneweek100people2017! I’ll have to work double time tomorrow.) 

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