Through this course, I have learned drawing true to my eyes versus my preconceived idea of an object, varying the values of my drawings more, how to work with charcoal as well as incorporate the use of the eraser, and patience when working.
Although I have always tried to draw based on the actual ratio I see in front of me, I still let my bias of what an object should look like show through in my drawings. I would lose patience when trying to carefully compare the exact shapes in front of me, and would instead rely partially on what I knew the object should look like. By taking this course, I started working on using my pencil as a guide to finding the true ratio of the subject in front of me, not letting myself slip into my idea of the appearance of an object, and carefully correcting any misguided ratios when finished with a draft of a drawing.
Another aspect of drawing I worked on throughout this course was the varying of shades in every drawing. By using the full spectrum of black to white, I could then highlight features of an object, while emphasizing shadows more. I had not drawn with charcoal before this course, so while it was difficult at first to transition to this slightly messier tool, I soon found that I could have a wider range of tones with charcoal than with pencil. Even when I went back and used pencil for some drawings, having some new experience with charcoal helped, as I learned to vary my shades of grey more.
Although charcoal definitely helped create darker tones that allowed me to have a wider array of shades, it definitely came with its own problems. As a more expressive drawer, I tend to have stray markings and smudges, and this was particularly accentuated when I tried charcoal. Since I used the spray to prevent my drawings from smudging, and then did not come back to correct them until quite a few days later, many of the smudges that I meant to fix stayed permanently on the page. In the future, I should make to clean up my drawings as a default, and not wait until later. I was surprised by the amount of dust working with charcoal can generate, and got many workplaces covered in charcoal. On the other hand, I found that I could make much richer, darker tones with charcoal, and that shading with charcoal came much more naturally to me. While I usually just use my finger for smudging pencil, I turned to tissue paper, paper towels, napkins, and eraser. Similar to painting, I would start by smudging a grey shade over a large area with a paper towel, just like a large brush. After etching in smaller markings of charcoal, I would blend those with a folded tip of a napkin, using it like a medium sized brush. The eraser would give an even smoother blend, and would allow to put in little details and highlights.
This brings me to another aspect of drawing that I had not fully taken advantage of until I learned to do so from this course: the eraser. Although I had painted mountains before, I had never been able to draw them to my satisfaction. When Bill showed us how versatile the use of the eraser can be, I tried to use an eraser to carve out the details of a mountain, and in this way create the effect of shadows, snow, and the crevices of the rock. In this case, I used the eraser more than I used the charcoal, and after that drawing, I used the eraser more than ever.
Lastly, this course taught me patience when drawing. I love capturing the details of subjects, but have not really had the patience in the past to complete many drawings. I would get wrapped up in the details of one section, but would tire of the subject and give up before I could complete drawing the object. Having taken The Art of the Comic Book (a really really fun and awesome class - everyone should take it) last year, I had drawn simplified versions and paid less attention to shading. That worked for drawings comics, but for realistic drawing, I learned to pay attention to every shadow and highlight, and capture the essence of an object or photograph in front of me. In my sketchbook, I especially liked studying the human eye, as successfully showing the shades of the skin surrounding the eye, creating the delicate folds of the eyelid, depicting the hairs of the eyebrow without seeming too cartoon-ish, and capturing the unique shine of the eye is incredibly challenging yet fascinating to me. At the beginning of the semester, I drew an eye in my sketchbook, which is anatomically correct, but more on the cartoon side of drawing. In the middle of the semester, I decided to start looking at online tutorials for drawing to help my sketches improve, and found one drawing tutorial on the human eye done by a professional artist. I copied her steps, and came up with a more convincing eye. At the end of the semester, I took a photograph of an eye, and carefully studied all of the lights and darks of the picture. Now with a better proficiency with charcoal and an eraser, I was better able to capture the nuances of my subject, and drew a more realistic eye.
I have learned a lot from this course, and hope to continue using these tools in future explorations of visual art. Although I will be studying abroad next semester, I hope to continue taking art classes when I come back to Duke in the spring.