Monday, July 26, 2021

Trees Near and Far


7/23/21 Green Lake (graphite on 98 lb. mixed media paper)

I had an easy commute by foot to Kristin Frost’s class last Friday: It was held at one of my own “home” parks, Green Lake. With trees all around and the lake shoreline easily visible from anywhere, it was an ideal location for her topic of the day: learning to “establish deep space” in a composition and differentiate between trees near and far.

As always, the first task at hand was to choose a scene and simplify what we see into a manageable composition. In her demo, Kristin drew an arching tree on the near shore with the distant shore in the background. I liked what she chose, so I found a different tree in a similar composition.

One idea she showed for pushing the background into the distance was to use a blending stump to blur out details. After putting in the values, I smudged away at the background trees, and I was amazed by how easy and effective that technique is. By contrast, she showed us how making the foreground elements as sharp and dark as possible would bring them forward.

To my eye, the distant shoreline, especially the horizontal line separating the shore from the water, was darker than the foreground shadows, so my first impulse was to make them darker in the drawing. To do so, however, would immediately attract attention to that area of strongest contrast, so unless the distant shoreline was where I wanted the viewer to focus, it was better to keep it lighter. Instead, I made the shadows of the rocks and other foreground elements the darkest, which pulls the eye to that part of the composition first. Hopefully, other elements in the drawing will lead the eye through the rest of the composition.

One of many things I appreciate about this in-person Gage class and about Kristin’s teaching style is that students receive multiple opportunities for feedback from her while the work is in progress. Although online Gage classes have their benefits, chiefly the ability to see demos easily and clearly (on the screen instead of peering over the instructor’s shoulder), one frustration was that we did all the work on our own, and instructor feedback came only after the piece was finished. What I learned from that feedback was still valuable when applied to the next piece, but then that piece would have its own challenges.

Working at the park with Kristin, I had the luxury of being able to ask her for help in real time – I’m struggling with this; what would you suggest? I’m considering this; would that be a bad idea? – and her feedback at that moment was enormously helpful because I could act on it immediately and see the results.

The excellent class was especially enjoyable on a beautifully sunny, not-too-hot afternoon.

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