I got myself a year’s subscription at schoolism.com, an online platform that offers me a year of watching recorded classes, workshops and former students’ critiqued homework.
I’ve been through a workshop with Ian McCaig (a concept artist with decades of experience). And I’ve done a whole class with Thomas Fluharty (a draughtsman and oil painter with decades of experience).
Currently, I’m in the fourth week of a class on the Essentials Of Realism with Jonathan Hardesty (a chap who only decided to go into art in his early twenties and then ended up making the decision to join an atelier with 3 other students and be taught classically by 2 classically trained artists for three years, he also seems to be a great teacher).
I am learning what compressing the darks means and why that is so important. It seems we (as observers) don’t gain much information from the parts of the object which are in shadow. And when we draw (or paint) we don’t have the range of values that real life offers. So, if we use up too much of the reduced range in the shadow areas, we are left with much less range to work with in the light areas. It may also be that we intentionally reduce our value range even more, before even starting the drawing, just to achieve a specific mood or capture a certain ambient light effect. The more range we have left to work with in the lights, the more we can achieve when modelling the form.
The transition values in the light area play an important role when it comes to form. The more room you have in your light value range, the easier it will be to create that transition.
It is about now that I’m starting to understand why Jonathan Hardesty teaches us to begin a drawing by blocking in the lights and darks. We have mainly been drawing portraits (which is good for me, I enjoy portraits) but we are not focusing on anatomy, instead we are “just” learning to identify the shapes that outline the shadows, highlights and transition areas of the model. This is the stage that feels like copying, but as soon as we start putting down the values and have to activate our critical vision and make sensible choices, it starts to become a very creative process. It is challenging and fulfilling at the same time.
The two homeworks I have made for his class are not exceptional but I think I have already learnt a lot (the portraits don’t really look like the originals much, but they look pretty realistic to me and I’m fine with that). They basically grew out of blocks of light and dark, and it was fun to see the face appear once I started adding the values.