Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Painting values from life: black and white spheres, student work

Yesterday's post highlighted two of my Introduction to Painting students. The classes first project was to render cubes in black, gray and white that were set up in the center of the room. The goal was to teach them to painting values from life. None of my students had painted before so the outcome was a good one; most of them did well. Today's post reinforces this as I focus on two other pieces of work from two other students.

The second project was to introduce another geometric shape, this time a sphere. If you have recommendations for additional projects to teach these concepts or you have changes to these projects please let me know.








Student #1
What he did well:
  • Seeing the value changes as light passed over each form
  • Rendering the forms' values with paint
  • Maintaining a circular shape
  • Spacing his objects consistently (both on canvas and between his objects)
What he needs to work on:
  • Communicating space through the effective use of shadows (he simply didn't put them in)
  • Rendering his shapes so edges are crisp and the gray underpainting isn't visible








Student #2
What she did well:
  • Seeing the value changes as light passed over each form
  • Rendering the forms' values with paint (though her forms look a little lumpy in spots)
  • Spacing his objects consistently (both on canvas and between his objects)
  • Integrating the shapes with the space using shadow
What she needs to work on:
  • Maintaining a circular shape (when reviewing her work, we both agreed that her shapes were a little sloppy)
  • Communicating space through the effective use of shadows (he simply didn't put them in)
  • Shaping shadows so they are more naturalistic given the light source's location
Project Overview
As I indicated earlier, this lesson is deceptive due to the many layers and concepts students have to integrate into applicable skills. These can be difficult to "get" all at once:
  • Composing your painted space
  • Rendering shapes effectively
  • Translating the effects of light as they pass across a three dimensional solid
  • Using value (instead of line) to delineate edges
  • Achieving a sense of space through effective use of shadow
Space Planning
For this exercise, the issue was centering the objects and not making them too big or too small. So, it wasn't too complicated and the issue for many of my students was laziness in not wanting to make changes or start over it once they did it once. Making judgment calls about possibly excluding objects for to increase focus or add interest didn't come into play for this exercise.

Shape and Perspective
Integrating objects into a believable environment for this type of exercise centered on creating believable circular shapes, rendering the light passing across the form so that the shapes look hard and not lumpy and placing naturalistic shadows relevant to the light source. In my demonstration, I showed students how to adjust the shape and size of their circular form. You'll notice in that demonstration, the black sphere still remained rather un-circular while the other two were corrected.

For most of the students, the shadows proved challenging; getting their shape and perspective took some time and individual teaching. I'm sure I'll need to reinforce that lesson when circular shapes are reintroduced in a full still life setup in a few of weeks.

Value
Value has got to be one of the toughest concepts to master because it's not merely about seeing (which is problem #1) but also about translating it to canvas now that you know what you're looking at.

When I first taught this lesson last semester, I had the students do a color chart and simple value scale. I didn't have this semester's students do that because of the time involved. That was a mistake. I was surprised that I had a couple of students who didn't see the differences in dark and light at all; they were completely baffled. While they somewhat get it now, I think doing a simple value scale would help.

To get my students started, I have them "sketch" on the canvas using thinned-out paint. This is hardly new or revolutionary. However, in starting this way many of my students got stuck in "coloring book mode." You know, outline it and then fill it in. I had to remind them that the real world doesn't have edges (i.e., it isn't outlined) and that outlining is merely a convention artists use to talk about changes in value, color or space. Seeing things three dimensionally is something we take for granted until we have to take the 3-D world and translate it on a 2-D surface.

Recommendations Anyone?
Overall, I think these two particular students did real well with this second exercise. In an upcoming post, you'll see how others managed the follow-up exercise rendering a geometric grouping. As always, your feedback and thoughts are coveted--especially if you have recommendations for additional exercises or modifications to my approach outlined above to teach these basic painting principles.