Visiting a luthier

Wateau, a luthier specialised in guitars, moved in my extended neighborhood around a year ago. Since then, I have been quite curious about his work, and finally had the chance to visit his worshop thanks to the European Artistic Crafts Days.

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I was the first visitor to come for the open day, and Mathieu guided me through the workshop, explaining the functioning of odd tools and giving me information about guitar construction techniques. Then a few clients arrived and while he was performing a few fixes and tuning of their instruments I looked around, searching a good subject for a sketch.

I finally decided to draw the press that Mathieu built himself, and that is used to bend the wood of the sides of a guitar. I somehow didn’t save the picture of that tool, but only the one of the drawing:

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The press works by appling heat to flexible metal plates, between which the soaked wood is placed, and by progressively bending the wood in the shape of a half-guitar template (that is a removable part of this tool).

It took around 20 minutes to sketch it, including a quite long phase of observation. It is definitely an odd machine with a lot of parts and it was quite difficult to choose where to start! But Mathieu has been patient and let me sit on one of the tall chairs while he cut wood parts for guitar necks and cleaned one of his workstations. It was pleasant to share a silent moment with each one focused on independent things. I found it remarkable, because it is usually the result of a longer acquaintance, but I’m experiencing it more and more often with like-minded people whom I just met. I plan to ask him to pay another visit, so that I can sketch a few more subjects, and enjoy the atmosphere of the workshop. Stay tuned for more craftsy posts!

 

 

Value study: kitchen chair

Yesterday I wanted to draw, after a week of total break. I walked around the house in search for an interesting subject and decided to draw a part of a kitchen chair, that had a nice combination of lights and shades.

I tried to remember the explanations and tips given by John Muir Laws in his workshop about colour and value, namely nailing the value of a given part of the drawing rather than focusing on colour. I translate it as getting the shades right, by guessing the black component of the colour of that area. I’m not sure if this is technically correct, but it is a good approximation. Another source for a cool explanation of value, hue and contrast is this colourful post from Tin Can Knits.

I’m quite satisfied with the light areas of the top of the chair and the contrast with the dark background, while I think that the rest of the drawing is not as realistic. My drawing is more the effect of starting the shading from the top of the drawing and progressing one patch at a time. This has the risk of drifting values, especially in a large drawing. I think I can do better by doing a longer observation phase before starting any shading, so that I will keep track of areas with the same value. Another help can come from a black and white preview made with a phone/camera.

Further tips are welcome!

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 🙂

 

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 painting: red fox

A couple weeks ago I saw a picture of a fox that invited me to make a watercolour painting. Today I stumbled upon this watercolour lesson from Laurie Wigham on John Muir Law’s blog and, after browsing the lesson’s slides, I grabbed my watercolour set, a largish pencil, my sketchbook and the watercolour pencils I have never used before, and started painting.

This is the outcome:

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I enjoyed experimenting with watercolour. I was initially worried of doing mistakes that I could not correct, but instead felt a lightness in filling large areas so fast, with a light touch of the brush, and see how I could move paint around thanks to water. I added pencil details after the paint had dried a bit, so in some areas the wet paint diluted the pencil and made very rich colours.

I’m happy with the right side of the drawing, I consider the colors right and the pencil addition quite balanced; the left side was too lightly painted and I used a lot of pencil, a bit too much. The proportions of dark and light areas on the left side are also not so similar to the picture, maybe because I started painting when I had observed the picture too quickly (especially that part).

Overall I am satisfied with this painting, it gives me a positive sensation and it motivates me to try again! I liked the speed of the paint part and the combination with pencil. The video and slides give a lot more information and techniques, so I’ll consult them in the future to pick new tips and improve. I hope I inspired you to grab a pencil and try this yourself! I’d love to hear your feedback on the post and hopefully see your own paintings 🙂

Drawing updates: coloring book and animal sketching

Today I dedicated some time to drawing. First, as a relaxing activity, I picked a set of brightly-coloured pencils and started filling this drawing of a dragon:

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The book is called Mein zauberhaftes Muster-Malbuch (my magic colouring book of patterns), but I am equally inclined to recommend any book with subjects of your liking!

Then I wanted to do some animal drawings, after having seen this video of one of John Muir Law’s lessons (it’s 1h30 long but totally worth seeing until the end!):

I was chatting with friends about alpine ibex and Wikimedia offered me a very cute picture of a Spanish ibex kid:

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By J.Ligero & I.BarriosOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

… that I sketched, trying to understand a bit of his inner structure (of the legs, essentially):

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I plan to make further drawings of this little one, the fur texture is very interesting. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Landscapeito: first attempt

Today I watched John Muir Law’s lesson about drawing 5-minute landscapes and got inspired to draw one myself. I went to the park near my house and picked a corner with a couple of trees. The sun started to shine nicely right as I started drawing, so that it made better shadows. I took longer than five minutes, but not more than fifteen. Here is the result:

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I am quite happy with the result! The subject in itself is not so exciting, the drawing is far from pretty, but I am proud of having been able to watch the video, grab my sketchbook and pencil, go outside, find a subject to draw, and actually draw it. I could have stopped anywhere in the process – I could have thought: yeah it’s late for today, there is not much light, there are no nice landscapes around my house, this sketch is not looking that good, I’m not going to finish it… instead, here it is!

I hope this inspires you to do the same, find a small art task like these 5-minutes landscapes, complete it and feel proud of your achievement. Any journey starts with a small step!