Sunday, March 22, 2009

Season of Dirty Hands

Yes, this is a bit of a trick title. Based on my last post about gardening and planting seeds you might expect that this post would continue in that line. And if I had all the time in the world it might. But I don't so I worked on this new charcoal drawing today. That leads to very dirty hands. There may still be time to get my hands in potting soil today but only time will tell.

It's been awhile since I've done any charcoal drawings. I think I'm more comfortable with drawing than any other artistic medium. Most of my recent work has been in watercolor. But today I just felt like working without thinking. I'm much more able to do that with drawing than with painting, especially watercolor painting.

This drawing is based on a photo of a Cooper's Hawk in our backyard this winter. It was only when I looked at the photo that I saw he'd caught something. Based on its size I'd guess a pigeon.

For anyone who's interested in my process I normally start off with vine charcoal. In this case I actually did a separate pencil sketch before beginning this charcoal drawing. I then proceed to compressed charcoal when I want finer lines and more shape definition. But compressed charcoal, particularly when you press down on it as hard as I do, doesn't erase well. So the next step is to bring out my array of erasers.

In the end most of my charcoal drawings become somewhat dark. It's very hard to keep any bright white of the paper. But I think in the end there is enough tonal contrast to make the drawings still seem bright.

I'm not sure if I'll do more on this work or not. I need to take a break and return to dirtying my hands in potting soil, nearly frozen soil, and clematis pruning(I know it's late to be doing so...).

A few days later.........Soon after I did this I realized that there was a problem. I'm not going to actually say what it was. But I'm sure it was related to working from a photo rather than from life. When working from life I think that you're much more likely to get gestures, movement, weight distribution, and alignment of various body parts correct. This may just be a matter of really feeling what you are seeing. It's easy to lose this when working with photos and that was the problem here. I've replaced photos so that this shows the new drawing with corrections.


Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Lovely. I think you have a lot of tonal variety in this piece. I especially like the branch area by the prey.

Ken Januski said...

Hi Pam,

Thanks! I'm glad that you like it.

I now realize that I need to make a few small changes so I'll soon see what my erasers can do against the dark charcoal and fixative on top.

One of these days it will be warm enough to start working from life and not photos...........