Thursday, April 16, 2009

Painting values from life: black and white geometric grouping, student work

So far, over the past two posts, I've highlighted four students and their paintings of cubes and spheres. The third project my Introduction to Painting students worked on was a grouping of geometric solids.

I have to admit that I over-extended my students with this particular exercise. Though I'm a firm believer in challenging people so they can grow, this project was too much of a leap for them. Neither I nor my students were particularly happy with the results. What I ended up doing with them individually was to look at snapshots within their work that showed me they were building upon and applying the skills and techniques they've been developing from the beginning. Having said that, here are the two student pieces ...








Student #1
What he did well:
  • Rendering some of the values and shadows effectively (see left side of piece)
  • Determining the perspective of the boxes well
  • Maintaining the proportional relationship between the objects
  • Centering the grouping well considering its complexity
What he needs to work on:
  • Rendering his shapes crisply so they look substantive, less fuzzy
  • Completing each object equally so no one element is left as seemingly unfinished
  • Ensuring that the shadows (both on and between the objects) clearly communicate the position of the light source
  • Comparing the value relationships in his painting with those on the still life to ensure the composition coheres
  • Understanding how layering operates within a painting so that objects communicate a believable sense of space







Student #2
What she did well:
  • Rendering her edges crisply so objects don't look fuzzy
  • Maintaining the proportional relationship between the objects
  • Centering the grouping well considering its complexity

What she needs to work on:
  • Rendering her shadows effectively
  • Completing each object equally so no one element is left as seemingly unfinished
  • Maintaining proper perspective within the composition so some shapes don't appear distorted
  • Ensuring that the shadows (both on and between the objects) clearly communicate the position of the light source
  • Understanding how layering operates within a painting so that objects communicate a believable sense of space
Project Overview
As I stated at the beginning of this post, I made an error in judgment with this assignment. I should have set up a couple of small geometric groupings instead of one large one. It would have made for a less frustrating assignment for them. As such, no one really rendered the grouping well. At least, the concepts from the first and second assignments that were difficult for my newbie painters provided opportunity for practice and reinforcement with this :
  • Composing your painted space
  • Rendering shapes effectively by maintaining consistent angles (i.e., perspective) for each form
  • 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 proper placement and effective use of shadow
Space Planning
Centering objects or composing objects within a painting is forever the headache regardless of your skill level. It takes practice and know-how to make judgment calls on what to include and not include. As with the other two assignments, the issue was centering the objects and not making them too big or too small. The students were not permitted to remove or ignore objects at this time. Laziness reared its ugly head again as many students refused to redraw their work once they got far enough along to realize it was off center or that the elements weren't going to work.

Perspective
I reminded the students of the simple formula for rendering a solid. Namely, you begin with the bottom angle--double checking the lines of your angle using your paint brush--and then fill in the rest of the form using lines that are perpendicular and parallel to the bottom angle you started with. While this technique is not 100% foolproof it provided them with something tangible to get them started and help them achieve more naturalistic results.

As with the first two students, student #2 got the bottom angle correct but when she rendered the top of the square in the center she opened up the shape making it appear she could see more of the top than she actually could.

Value
Ensuring a sense of continuity between values and shapes within the composition by asking oneself "Does the value I just painted appear elsewhere in the composition?" was something I brought up and tried to hammer home with my students. A couple "got" it and implemented it but only to a small degree because they stopped remembering to ask themselves that question as their work progresses.

Many of the students stopped looking at the real-world still life and started making up values they thought should be there only to realize that sections of their paintings no longer looked coherent. As I walked around observing their work, I found myself reminding them that value is a tough concept because it's not only about seeing the value but putting it on canvas.

Overall, lesson learned ... by the student and the teacher!