How to open doors

Venezia - Riflessi

(Not a door, but a water-taxi access flooded by water, from one of my trips to Venice)

These last days I thought about this analogy for various kind of interactions among people: the door. There are doors that will open when pushed, and others when pulled. A few doors work both ways. I have heard that some people work well under pressure, and others work better when they are in control of the decision-making process. These would be the two human equivalents of the example above. There are of course many variants, also according to time or conditions: some doors open on their own when their sensor detects movement, some doors have a lock, or a button, or a code, or opening hours; similarly, people react very differently to pressure and have developed complex ways to interact with the world.

One can try to push the door that needs to be pulled, and if one is strong enough it will force the door open anyway. One could have only met push-doors until now, and have concluded that all doors work that way. I find it a powerful analogy for human interactions, and it made me think how I have been looking for THE best human interaction, the one that works with everyone, that makes everyone happy – but there is no such thing.

What I do now is to look for signs and have more than one strategy ready. I usually assume that resistance is a sign that it’s not how the door works, or that there is some protection mechanism in place. I am not strong, so I don’t even try to force the door. But even if I were, I would not use my force in this kind of situations. I have seen that this observation-before-action works well with children and usually works well with adults too, unless there are layers of complexity to unveil, in which case it just takes longer – but hopefully keeps the interactions respectful and relaxed.

There is something along these lines in Warwick Schiller’s video “pushing a horse through a problem”, where he explains how the horse would benefit from learning how to address a difficult situation, instead of just making it go through it with force every time:

and “Bits for bolting horses”, where he explains how a severe bit doesn’t control the horse – the horses have to learn to control themselves:

OK, the connection with the door analogy could be weak, but for me it’s like a 3D model coming together by joining lots of pictures from different angles. I hope you enjoy my ramblings and find them interesting 🙂

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Drawing update: mammal heads and faces, seals, horse muzzles

Some time ago I watched John Muir Law’s lesson on drawing mammal heads and faces, sketched along and took notes:

Along the lesson John gives ideas for drawing tasks that make you practice what he explained, for example “draw 10 heads and faces of the species of your choice within a week of the lesson”, “draw 10 ears of the species of your choice”. I was a bit cold about this kind of homework, but I discovered that it made me observe better, and remember the concepts better too.

As first homework I chose to draw heads of two seal species: grey seal and harbour seal. I found a book in the library, “Robben an Nord- und Ostseeküste”, that presents the two species, and features high-quality pictures. There was an extra challenge, as the description of many pictures did not mention the species, and this made me observe them with even more attention. I drew seal portraits on two pages, one for each species.

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Grey seals
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Harbour seals

Another homework I picked was “draw 10 noses of a species of your choice”. I chose horses, first because they are my favourite animal, and second because I have never drawn decent horse muzzles. I first thought that ten muzzles would be too much, that I would get tired after the first five. On the contrary, after the first attempts I noticed that I was nailing increasingly more details, seeing more in three dimensions, and getting the proportions and shades right. My favourite muzzle is the ninth, from the picture of an Arab horse.

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For the next tasks I have found a book about foxes, with a lot of pictures! I’ll keep you posted on the drawings I’ll make – spoiler alert: one homework is “draw one page of a species’ ears” 🙂

Weekly drawing: flying change

A few weeks ago I started a more regular drawing routine, with the plan to scribble anytime I wanted, and produce a finished drawing once a week. Some time ago my fellow blogger Anne Leueen made a post about flying change – but it took me until today to make a drawing out of one of her pictures!

I chose one of the pictures where horse and rider faced the camera. During the flying change, the rider communicates the change of lead through body and leg positions, that’s why the shoulders, hips and legs look more on a S-shaped line than on a vertical. That bend is what I wanted to capture on my drawing. Therefore I decided to use only black and white, no shadows at all, and let the lines be the protagonists of the scene.

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It was not easy to visualise the proportions of horse and rider, so I used the pencil-as-a-ruler technique, and started tracing light lines. I discovered that it was especially difficult for me to copy the proportions on the horizontal axis (and I would have made the horse and rider either too broad or too slim, or an ugly mixture of both) so I rotated the picture 90 degrees on the left – so that the head of the rider was on the left side – and rotated my paper accordingly. I kept drawing, checking where lines met: the rider’s hand next to the horse’s eye, the rider’s arm on the tip of the horse’s ear, and so on. It helped me to know a bit about horse anatomy, but I don’t see it as necessary.

When I felt I scribbled enough, I took a new sheet of paper, went to a window to trace the drawing with a graphite pencil. Back to my desk, I traced most lines with a black pen and filled the darker areas with a felt-pen. I briefly thought about adding shadows, but decided not to, at least not for this drawing.

I hope this explanation can give you some ideas on how to approach drawing, and encourages you to try!

Study of a foal – pencil drawing

Today I watched John Muir Law’s workshop on colour and value, taken from his blog post of the same name – it’s a long video, but I found it really worth watching:

I was intially surprised when he said that getting value right is far more important than picking the right colours. He showed the effect of colour filters over a picture, and one participant added a comment about black/white filters, which ultimately remove all colours and leave only values in form of greys. I looked again at the blue foal I painted last week and found that many areas of the painting were either too dark or too light. I am not so good at painting, so what happened most of the time was that I painted a stroke with the brush, to discover only afterwards if it was of the right value – and I was not very lucky 🙂 So today I tried again, with a HB pencil.

Study of a foal - pencil, value study

This time I got closer to the appearance of the legs. I left less white, less light tones, and tried to get the strong shades around bones and tendons, especially in the hind leg. The head was not so much in my focus, so I think that for example the ears could have been darker, and some details are missing; but overall I find this attempt more 3D than the blue one.

What do you think? Is there anything big that I miss, or some advice I could make good use of? Thanks in advance for your comments 🙂

 

Study of a foal – acrylic paint

Today I wanted to make a painting out of yesterday’s study of a foal. At first I thought of watercolour, but as I tidied up my pencils, pens, paints and paper in the past few days, I thought I could give acrylic paint a go. I have little idea of the proper techniques so I just tried painting with blue. Here is the result:

Study of a foal - acrylic paint

I especially like the neck, with its soft shadows. I painted several layers over the legs, but I’m not as happy with them as with the neck and head. Any tips from more experienced artists? Just type a comment below! I’d be very grateful for your feedback.

Drawing update: study of a foal

Today I dedicated some time to drawing, after a pretty long break. I was in my local library, reading a horse magazine, and found the picture of a foal particularly sweet, so I decided to copy it. Its pose was quite challenging:

Sketching in the library: study of a foal

I first measured the total height and width of the foal with my pencil, and found out they were the same, so I transferred the measurements on the sketchbook and drew a large square. Then I measured with the pencil some intermediate points, like where the ears met the square, where the elbow was, how high was the hip from the bottom of the square. I didn’t make much measures and started outlining the shapes right away. Therefore, when later I looked at the picture and the drawing side to side, I had to make a few adjustments in the proportions.

I then used a pink pencil to draw some schematic lines, like the midline of the head, and the circle where the neck meets the body. It was not easy at all, with the foal lying on the grass all bended in many directions. I chose a red pencil to draw over the outlines, so that the pink lines represented only imaginary boundaries.  I finally drew light blue lines that connected the eyes, the shoulders and the hips (well, for the hips I was only able to guess). After double-checking with the picture, I made some corrections with a green pencil:

Study of a foal: corrections in green

I’m going to continue another day, by using a new sheet of paper and copying only the outlines, and then proceed to draw the shading. I will maybe do another sketch with watercolour, to quickly test the main shaded areas, and to resume with that technique too. I’ll keep you posted!

Watercolour: first negative space painting

Yesterday I gave a try to the negative space technique, and this is the result:

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I picked Horsepower by Chad Hanson on Flickr and drew the minimum amount of lines needed to reproduce the scene. I then put one layer of watercolour after the other. I suspect that the paper had to be prepared before painting, because it bent a lot and made a strange effect on the left side. Maybe I used too much water. As a first result, it is not so bad! For sure I need practice in painting uniform surfaces (not like the darkest layer, where you see all brush strokes 🙂 ) but this painting encourages me a lot.

Thanks my fellow bloggers for your inspiring posts about watercolour, and I hope that some of my readers feel like trying watercolour as well!