Schoolism - Pictorial Composition - Week 1, Engaging Your Audience

I often wonder if I've hit all the marks with a piece I've worked on so I decided to take Pictorial Composition with Nathan Fowkes because I know that it's an important aspect to making a successful image.

Nathan said, "Artwork is made up of rendering, colour and composition." He shared that we all have a tendency to focus on the first two but, without composition, an image can lack depth and fall flat. Colour is the frosting while composition is more of a fight. We need to learn what to emphasize or leave out. The course would cover what makes an image a compelling and engaging piece. 

This week's assignment began by putting together a reference file of images of any kind that inspire and move us: frame captions, photography, animation, or films that we felt had a pleasing composition. Of 3 images we were asked to paint copies but in a specific way. We were to deconstruct them to find out what made them tick. I chose one background painting from Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away (art by Kazuo Oga), one painting by Lord Frederick Leighton, and one painting by Frank Frazetta.

How we went about deconstructing them:

  1. Create a quick study of each that uses only 3 greyscale values to depict the original scene. No soft edges, no textures, just 3 values forcing you to think and make clear choices on what to edit and why. It reminded me of gesture drawing where you must quickly put down the essence of what's important. One should be able to tell at a glance what's going on in the picture.
  2. Make a full-range greyscale study of the same images, maintaining the strength and intent of the originals while minimizing extraneous detail. Again, no textures, just the guts. This was tough because I normally love to add detail; I had to constantly remind myself not to do that.
  3. Lastly, do another study, almost the same as the previous step, albeit in full colour. Each study was to be made in under an hour.

I'm not sure if I was completely successful but I feel like I already learned some valuable tips that I'll keep in mind for future projects.

Schoolism - Foundation Studies Course, Weeks 2 and 3

Below are my assignments for week 2 on 'the Power of Value'. I chose to work traditionally on paper.

For the angel, I first experimented with harder pencils on a 90lb medium-tooth paper and while it is close to the tone of the original photo, I would have liked to have gone a little darker. I felt it was already little overworked and I didn't want to take any chances of wrecking it and having to start over. I'm told that harder pencils tend to work better on art board, so I may try that another time. The assignment was to copy the sample greyscale photos and either get as close to the values we saw or change the lighting entirely. I chose to draw what I saw because I wanted to learn from it.

For the lion I chose to not be so concerned with all the little details and just get the essence down. In the original photo, the lion's mane is a mass of detail. I also decided to experiment with pencil crayons on brown craft paper which was a lot of fun but I still felt that I could have pushed the darks more had I used cont√© or soft pencils instead. 

For week 3 on 'the Power of Perspective', we were asked to draw or paint in greyscale using a couple of provided photos. The greyscale of the White House is from an old black and white photo and the La Gondola photo was originally in colour. For speed I chose to paint both in Photoshop. Below are my efforts. 

The balcony portion of the White House picture was a little tricky to draw because the building is almost parallel to the picture plane and so close to the horizon line that it made drawing a test of patience. I originally thought it was a cylinder set halfway inside the building but upon googling it, I discovered that it's not quite a half cylinder so I ended up eyeballing it while keeping it aligned to the perspective I set. I did make the perspective slightly different than the photo where the right vanishing point is further out and I gave the White House a little more breathing space around it and added some more trees. The La Gondola picture was also challenging because of the various elevations of the buildings and the three-point perspective. I resisted the urge to cheat and use Manga Studio. :) All in all, these were great exercises. I think I'm getting more comfortable painting in greyscale so that's a plus.