Sunday, April 28, 2013

Artsit Post:Giovonni Boldini

The artist I will profile for my post is Giovonni Boldini. One of the reason that I like him, besides his great name, is the topic of most of his works. He does a lot of portraits and paintings of people which is an area of art that i have not yet to become good at. I love the way he uses shading and contrasting values to give life to his paintings.
Boldini  was born in 1842 and died in 1931 at the age of 88. His father was also a painter which is where he began his art. his place of birth was Ferrara Italy. He also did some architecture and printmaking. he was sought out to do portraits and to also paint landscapes of cites. His main style was pastel painting. He did work all over Italy, England, and New York.


Drawing is a great thing that is very unappreciated. I am no artist by no stretch of the imagination but art has gave me another way to express myself. I have learned so much in class and have learned to like art much more than i did before. I did not take an art class prior to this since elementary school so i have been finding my way but i have been enjoying myself netherless.

Rodney Hood

Friday, April 26, 2013

Thoughts on Drawing

     I have had very little experience in drawing prior to this class. Mandatory drawing/painting classes that I took in elementary and middle school were just  about all the experience I ever had in drawing. Naturally, I was somewhat nervous coming into this class. In retrospect, however, I did enjoy drawing as a child. Back in elementary school, I was into sketching outfits, having . I drew Japanese animations for my friends as well. Last summer, I started taking traditional Asian painting, which led me to taking this drawing class this semester. Despite my initial worries coming into this class, the class material and assignments weren't overwhelming. I was surprised at the level of drawing some of my peers with more drawing experiences were at. But as Prof. Fick assured us that it was fine for everyone to be at different level of drawing skills, I was able to have more fun with my assignments and in-class drawings.
    While line drawing wasn't overly stressful or difficult for me, as I habitually doodled on scrap papers or sketched in notebooks, when we got into shading and coloring, I had some trouble figuring out what exactly I had to do. I tried hard to resort to keen observations, but it was sometimes frustrating to be unable to express on paper what I see with my eyes. I tried using both charcoal and paper with the shading. At first, I was attracted to charcoal as it was something I have never used before. I liked the darkness and the expressiveness of it. But, I soon realized that I was better at drawing with pencil, partly because I wasn't too familiar with how to fully utilize charcoal, and partly because of my drawing style.
    I actually had the most fun when we got into drawing large open spaces. I loved walking around campus looking for a good spot to draw, as I love our school campus so much. What I especially enjoyed was that I got to choose a perspective to draw from. When it came to fiction drawing, I had so many ideas that I had a hard time settling with one. Although I had to rework on it because I wasn't satisfied with what I had at first, I was happy to end with a final work that I was happy with. I think this class allowed me to approach drawing more fearlessly. The biggest takeaway was that you should not be scared about drawing and that you should begin by being a careful observant and trying to put down on paper what you see. This was by far one of the most enjoyable classes I had at Duke and I appreciate the opportunity. I would like to further have a chance to take more art classes at Duke or even outside of Duke.

Thoughts on Drawing

I really enjoyed this semester in Drawing 199. I went into the class expecting to just practice drawing because I never thought of drawing as something that could be taught. However, I feel like I really improved my skills. Surprisingly, I had never drawn using just lines before. I always used shading to cover up any mistakes I had made. Our first assignment was two study drawings, which were supposed to just be rough sketches of a couple objects. I came into class with two drawings that were completely shaded in. I am really happy that this class was able to break my bad habit of using shading as a crutch.
I especially feel more comfortable drawing scenery, where as before I only felt comfortable drawing free standing objects. I had heard of the concepts of foreground, mid-ground, and background, but had never put them into practice. I now feel very familiar with these and am confident in choosing scenery that includes them in order to make a more interesting drawing. I also believe that learning how to use references and mixing both drawing from observation and pictures will help me.
While overall I am very glad I took this class, there were a few things I did not love. The main one was during class we sketched what was in front of us. We started off with a table, a mannequin, and some other objects. While these were interesting the first several weeks, after a while it got very boring to sketch the same objects. I also do see how drawing the same objects from different perspectives can be useful in a drawing class. As time when on I got comfortable with these objects and used a lot of different techniques on the same pair of legs.
I initially took this class because as an engineer I want to be able to show other people what I am picturing in my own head. I definitely think this class has helped me get closer to doing that. I now feel a lot more comfortable drawing from observation and not just pictures. I was always very confused on how people could just draw straight from images in their heads. When I think of ideas and want to put them on paper, they never look like what I am thinking because I don't have a clear picture in my head. This class helped me learn that nobody can just draw straight from their mind, references are always used.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I have had a good experience in my drawing class this semester. I like to draw to relax and show a creative side of me that is not easily expressed through my everyday actions. Time was a limiting factor in my drawing that really hindered some of my work. I realized it takes patience to really create a project. I hav not had much free time during my college career so drawing has taken a backseat to many other things but this semester i was reintroduced to drawing and the reasons that i love to do it. I wanted to learn more about drawing and it techniques so that i could improve on my work. I am good at copying picture from the internet but not at creating my own works. I have gotten better at creating but i still have a lot to work on.

I have learned that i need too budget time to draw so that i don't loose the skills that i have learned. If i draw for some time each day i will begin to get better in the areas that i am lacking in. I really need to wrk on my shading and values as i have seen that shading is what can really transform a piece of art.

Thoughts on Drawing

I have always enjoyed all kinds of art. I came to Duke considering minoring in Visual Arts, and whenever I have a huge test or long paper, I think maybe I should major in it? Creating art is what makes me happy and clears my mind. I always loved doodling but became more technical when I took a couple drawing classes in high school. Since then, I have wandered away from drawing to other medias. This semester it felt great to go back to my original creative roots and draw with just pencil and charcoal. I definitely think I had lost the skills and techniques I had learned in high school. So, I was able to re-learn and re-train my hand. I also feel like I really improved those skills this semester.

Not only was their improvement in my drawing, but also in my stress levels. Although it was sometimes hectic to turn in drawings on their exact due date, in general it was the opposite effect. More often then not I am stressed out about my school work and drawing just completely gets my mind off of things. I love knowing that I have a couple free hours to spend drawing alone in my apartment. I always turn on music to a loud setting clear off my table and set in on a drawing. I found that drawing with pencil is a little more tedious for me, because I feel the need to be more of a perfectionist with details. However, with charcoal I use much more expressive markings and in my strokes I can feel my self getting lost and relaxing. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thoughts on Drawing (Finn Leslie)

For as long as I can remember, drawing has been my favorite medium.  But I have to admit that sometimes I do find myself thinking, "Why am I drawing this inanimate object?  What's the point?  Why do I get so much pleasure from doing something so seemingly trivial as a drawing of something that simultaneously exists in the physical world?"  Recently, I was an article by Adam Gopnik, a writer for the New Yorker, and I came across a quote that really resonated with me.  The quote came from Bruce McCall who said, "the point and pleasure in drawing was in getting it right, trapping the truth on paper, demystifying another piece of the world."  This is it -- the answer to all my questions.  The objects around us are like a puzzle to an artist.  And when I can tackle that object and recreate it in a two-dimensional space, in a way that retains the emotions that I'm feeling in the present moment, I feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.  I've solved the puzzle.  The moment becomes permanent and portable and emotional -- touched by human time and perception.  This may not be everyone's inspiration for drawing, but it's certainly the driving force for me.  This semester has allowed me to rediscover my love of drawing and the almost therapeutic powers it holds.  I look forward to drawing a lot more in the near future, in the hopes that I can continue to learn and improve.

Gopnik, Adam. 2000. Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective.  

Thoughts On Drawing

           From a young age my mother continuously signed me up for art classes at the local community center. I dibbled and dabbled, inspired by my older brother who is an incredible artist. I was never really as well rounded as him as an artist so, seeing my artistic tendencies, he urged me to try oil painting. Oil painting came much more naturally to me and I felt that I was pretty good at it. Still, I knew that if I wanted to improve my painting skills I needed to get more comfortable with drawing since that’s the foundation I begin my oil paintings on. I decided to take this class in the hopes that I could become a better drawer as well as expand myself beyond my typical science classes.
            At first, drawing was very daunting for me. It was different from the free stroke and less constrained nature I was used to in oil painting. It took me unnecessarily long to finish simple drawings and sketches because I kept drawing lines, not liking them, erasing them, and doing them over and over again. I consider myself a perfectionist so I kept doing this until I was satisfied with it, no matter how many times it took me. As the semester went on, I became more comfortable with drawing and I didn’t over think it as much as I used to. I just went straight to it and tried to apply the free form techniques I use when I paint. This approach helped me a lot. I also became more comfortable with different mediums like charcoal and using different techniques like smearing pencil with a tissue or my finger. This allowed me to apply some of my painting skills to my drawings. Looking back at my earlier drawings and comparing them to the more recent ones, I definitely see that I improved my drawing skills. Another thing I can attribute my improvement over the semester to was the nudge Professor Fick gave me to try new things and push myself to new limits. I took his advice and picked subjects I felt would be difficult for me and in the end I feel that they turned out nicely! If I hadn’t been pushed I would’ve just continued doing simple line drawings and would not have improved my skills.
I thoroughly enjoy drawing now. I find it a good pass time as well as a time to think and just take a break from the usual science related homework I have. Before this semester I didn’t do much drawing, but I’m really glad I challenged myself and decided to take this class. I look forward to continuing drawing and filling my sketchbook with more sketches!

Reflection on Drawing

I realized after taking this class that I no longer enjoy drawing for the sake of drawing. When I was a kid I would draw day after day, sketching my favorite television characters, celebrities and athletes.  When I was introduced to digital design and software such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Maya, I no longer found sketching entertaining. Now I used drawing in the form of preliminary sketches to be scanned and altered digitally, or as references to be redrawn digitally. My entire Capstone project was hand drawn but was then live traced in Illustrator and colored in Photoshop. Before I model an environment in Maya, I first hand draw a floor plan of how I think I want it to look. Then I redraw the floor plan in AutoCad before modeling it in Maya.  For me drawing is a gateway to creating something much more detailed and complex. 

Monday, April 22, 2013


My program of study requires a lot of really dense, theoretical readings that I often have difficulty grasping (and my inability to not totally grasp these things all the time make me feel like I’ll never “know” enough things to go to grad school—but that is a different story). Drawing was incredibly time-consuming, though oftentimes that was my own fault for picking rather ambitious projects, procrastinating, being too anal about my work, etc., but it was time well-spent in that I was able to exercise a different kind of thinking, looking, and interpreting from what I have to do most of the time. Although it was sometimes difficult to get through and finish a drawing, it was ultimately satisfying. It also felt fantastic to learn through practice and actually creating something that felt tangible rather than learning through absorbing other people’s ideas.

I had take art lessons and makings things since I was very little (I remember starting community classes while living with my grandma in Beijing at around age four as well as going to “Ron’s Art School” throughout elementary school and junior high). My mom used to tell me that art was the only thing I was good at. Up until about the midpoint of high school I had ambitions of eventually attending art school (Parsons was my dream school) but gave those up in favor of ballet, honors classes, and doing things that would prepare me for a more “proper” type of higher education. As a visual and media studies major, I’m happy to be surrounded by and to get to analyze really exciting, innovative forms of art all the time, but I also definitely missed the practice itself. If I could go back to my first year of college, I’d probably try to fit in a visual arts major or minor somewhere in my program of study. Overall, I think this class was how an arts practice class should be—frustrating, tiring, but ultimately rewarding.

Drawing Reflection- Tara

Smith Warehouse holds a particularly fond place in my heart because it is actually the reason I chose to come to Duke. While I had drawn as a young girl, only because my mother used to be an artist, it didn't become an integral part of me until the end of my sophomore year in high school. Junior and senior year, it became my life. I fell in love with the way it freed me, and no matter what idea I had in my head, when it hit the paper it always surprised me; it was always so much more alive. One of the college decisions I had to make was whether I wanted to go to art school or whether I wanted to have a liberal arts education. Because I also had other academic interests, I decided that a liberal arts education would be best. After touring school after school, learning as much about their visual arts programs as I could, I still felt like I was coming up empty. Then I came to Duke, the first school where a professor agreed to show me the facilities, individually, and explain the program. I knew that it was a developing program with wonderful faculty and I was sold.

But freshman year I actually got heavily involved with art history research, and have continued that research for about the past year and a half. I was drawn into studying art and decided to declare as an art history major. I had to declare early because I participated in the Duke in NY Arts and Media program. But then I realized that I couldn't leave practicing art behind because, as cliche as it sounds, I never really felt whole without doing it. So I'm in the process of switching to a double major.

This is the first truly visual art class that I've been able to take here at Duke. Throughout high school I always drew, never painted, but my drawings were in color pencil and photorealistic. Most of all, they were much, much smaller, and I always took quite a while to finis When I learned that we'd have to be doing 2 18 by 24 drawings a week, I almost panicked. I had never had to draw that much, so quickly in my life. I also had little to no experience with drawing from observation. This class has been incredibly helpful for me in that respect. It has helped my hand-eye coordination tremendously and my perception has become much better. I have also learned how to handle pencil and charcoal more fluidly over a larger space. This class has introduced me to a more loose type of drawing, since before I have always been very technical. I have also learned that I love drawing figures. I cannot wait to take figure drawing when it is offered! I'm in print making next semester and I'm so excited about learning a new technique of art-making.

Art means everything to me, quite literally, in all forms. It's something that I can't let go of even if I wanted to, which is really refreshing. I've quite enjoyed this class and like that it has forced a pencil back into my hand!

Thoughts on drawing (Ali Lebow)

Drawing has always been a part of my life since I was old enough to hold a crayon. My mom would bring a notepad and a marker to keep me quietly occupied in restaurants. I drew portraits of my friends in pre-school, made elaborate birthday presents for family members, and caricatures of teachers in class notes. In high school, I had the option of taking Art History. I fell in love with the Florentine Renaissance, Impressionism, and the diverse world of modern art. I even wrote my Common Application essay for colleges on a painting of Henry VIII done the artist’s own blood. Yet, when I got to college, I realized that my love of making art had switched to a love a studying art. All that was fine, but quickly I began to miss drawing.
Drawing is more than a passion. It’s a therapy. It can be tedious, it can mindless or can be somewhere in between, but there’s something about drawing that takes your mind away from reality. When I’m sketching, I get lost in what I am seeing or imagining. I stop stressing about things that need to be done, or relationships that need to be tended.  Drawing is one of the few things that I do 100% for myself. It is one of the only things that I can do entirely on my own that makes me feel happy. There is no better feeling than getting lost in a work and finally stepping back and amazing yourself at what you’ve created.  Creating art is a hobby that I hope I can keep up after college.

Thoughts on Drawing and Contemporary Work

Prior to this class I hadn't practiced drawing consistently (a week or more) for some three to four years. My usual approach to the craft was very methodical and I would try, when doing observational drawing, to approximate the material to the best of my ability. I would often work under a perfectionism and hadn't learned to distinguish or internalize how my final pieces and practice work weren't always going to be judged by the same standards, or that experimenting with different styles (as learned in class) was beneficial, or even that the ability to replicate was in practice to be chosen. I hadn't at the time learned much of art history, where simply glancing through the evolution of Picasso's work would teach these kinds of lessons.

I was surprised after a few trials to see how much my previous abilities hadn't devolved, reminding me of often quoted statistics about how the repetition of some activity over ten thousand times helps to internalize it. Now I had vague understandings of how artist's production evolves, an idea of some general tropes and aesthetic dimensions I have and want to incorporate in my own work, and some encounters with both wide arrays of art history and contemporary work. This helped me overcome what had previously led to me loosing interest or focusing too much on exactitude: I would view works by canonized masters and think of them as some singular path to imitate, or see more contemporary or modern works, and think of those as examples of how deviation from classical realism was some mutually exclusive path equally hard to succeed at because of the accessibility of the approach. After I learned to consider form and content and periodization more in looking at and producing pieces, I was much less confused. Keeping a sketchbook while practicing various styles of drawing helped me tremendously because I learned to draw formally in more time effective ways (creating study drawings allowed me to develop an intuitive feel for the piece and eschew erasing marks into smears on one and the same piece) and also had an outlet for more potentially experimental, everyday, and personalized production. I learned to understand both as valuable options in my production whereas beforehand I thought of the latter as tangential to a fault.

Having finally looked through some contemporary work, I'm interested in producing work influenced by artists and styles that are somewhat incongruous in their lonesome. I like the work of Chris Johanson, for example (, for its calculated irreverence and incorporation of text. I've realized now that the latter may be much more common than I thought. A few years ago I would never have imagined having an affinity for this kind of style. I'm also interested in work that can be both architectural and ordered, and surreal, like Paul Noble or Lebbeus Woods ( The latter is purely architectural, though I'm interested in incorporating this kind of approach to drawing cityscapes or infrastructural imagery without making the work purely conceptual, but leaving room for other incorporations such as text or figures. 

Thoughts on Drawing

Throughout my time at Duke, I had focused most of my energy towards my academics, extracurricular activities and social life; none of these aspects involved any sort of drawing or painting. As a result, my sketchbook, which I had carried around religiously before Duke, lay forgotten and unused. I took this class in hopes of renewing the passion I felt towards the visual arts in high school. It definitely worked in terms of bringing art back into my life- I feel like all I’ve been doing this semester is drawing!

As well as being an extremely enjoyable class, this course has taught me a fair amount. Professor Fick always gave instructions on different techniques at the beginning of every session- one particularly interesting method we learnt about was subtractive drawing. I was also introduced to charcoal, a medium that I hadn’t explored much in the past. I may have blackened and ruined many shirts throughout the class but gaining mastery of this new medium made it worth it! Additionally, the more I practiced the better I got; my work from the end of the semester is definitely better than that from the beginning.

The best part of the course was the sketchbook. The syllabus called for 40 pages of sketches in any medium. I had a great time experimenting with pen, acrylics and even markers. With the sketchbook, I could draw whatever I wanted in whichever way I wanted and whenever I wanted! It also gave me the opportunity to explore different creative ideas that I ended up using in my ‘final assignments’.

Overall, Visual Arts 199 was one of my favorite classes at Duke!

Thoughts on drawing

I was never much of a drawing person, but some months ago a friend helped me decorate my new apartment and we decided to include some drawings and paintings to cheer up the white and empty walls. The experience was so much fun that I decided to take this drawing class. I didn’t know what to expect: a blank paper was scary enough when I had to write on it, I couldn’t imagine what would happen if images and not words had to fill it in.

Through the semester I experienced a series of mixed emotions: excitement, tiredness, pleasure, interest and wonder. But all in all, it was a lot of fun! I especially enjoyed learning different techniques (negative drawing, drawing by subtraction, etc.) and applying them to our drawings.

It was a nice learning experience. Before taking this class, I believed I had a quite trained eye (through the study of paintings, photos and films), but here I learned a completely new way of relating to the image, incorporating a new kind of observation: the one that doesn’t focus on the idea of the object, but on the perception of it.

Although I’m far from being a visual artist, I do hope to incorporate drawing as a more present habit. It is not only pleasant, but it can also be a way of opening our sometimes routinely minds. Even without technique, drawing can help us relax, focus, think, create new ideas and materialize existing ones.

Hieronymus Bosch by Steph Matthiesen

Hieronymus Bosch was a Dutch artist who lived from 1450 to 1516. Because of the time period in which he lived, little is known about his personal life. He was, however, born in the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and he lived and worked there for most of his life.

I was first introduced to his work by my father. Something in a project I was working on reminded him of a part of Bosch's most famous work, The Garden of Earthly Delights. He had seen Bosch's work at the Prado when he had studied in Spain. I had never heard of him or his work, and so a Google search ensued.

The Garden of Earthly Delights
I found Bosch's paintings remarkable. The dark, surreal way in which he portrayed his subject matter very much caught my attention. His paintings are so wonderfully filled with the kinds of small details that are capable of keeping you staring at a single painting for hours on end.

Details from The Garden of Earthly Delights

His work is all the more remarkable when considering the historical context behind it. Some of his surreal imagery seems very futuristic in nature, and his style is reminiscent of Dali. Yet Bosch was producing his work nearly 450 years before Dali was even born, and Bosch's surrealist style is hardly typical of Renaissance art. His incorporation of symbolism into art is also fascinating to regard.

Thoughts on Drawing from a Photographer

I never, ever considered myself even capable of traditional art until about two years ago, when I took my first art class as a junior in high school.

Photography and graphic design are my media. I have been taking serious photographs for eight years and have been designing and developing websites for almost seven. I had fully accepted that I was not good at any kind of traditional art, and was okay with that. I was taking this class in order to join the National Art Honor Society, but once I'd done my requirement I figured I could just go back to doing my same old thing.

As a detail-oriented person, thinking about the details of technique is what has often hindered me in my pursuit of drawing. I couldn't understand how anyone could take so much visual information and so easily translate it into strokes of graphite or paint.

But in the past two years I've found that blind confidence, above technique, is the most important part of being a successful traditional artist -- and artist in general! The most important part of drawing is being willing to put aside those, "How am I supposed to draw this?!" thoughts and just DRAW it, without thinking about the difficulty of what you're doing.

I used to say I couldn't draw to save my soul. I couldn't imagine how in the world any portrait artist could do his or her work while I could only claim to draw very proportionate stick figures. But once I set aside the "Oh my God, I'm supposed to draw X, how am I supposed to do that?!" attitudes and was forced to draw in accordance with a schedule and deadlines, I realized that not thinking so much is the way to get things done and improve.

Liam Engels

Writing about my experience drawing this semester reminds me in a way of the thoughts I drew on my sketchbook lately, since sketching with words is almost the exact opposite of writing about drawings.

The first thing I that springs to my mind when I reflect about either skills is the creativity involved in connecting ideas and transferring them onto a sketchbook in a presentable manner. In other words, what I'm about to write is not entirely clear nor is it hardly an easy task to realize. But this is where the beauty of art lies! This semester has taught me how to combine certain techniques we learnt in class, such as smudging to create shades and values, with the scattered spray of ideas that lives in my mind. If a list were given of the things I learnt from this experience, the first is that drawing and creative writing both amount to a similar degree of effort, dedication, and inspiration. I personally have come to realize that art cannot be made for art's sake, for there is no such thing to me. Although both are equally time consuming under normal circumstances, drawing requires a higher level of dedication and appliance, while writing is more about the sudden bursts of inspiration.
Also, as an English major who appreciates art for his own sake, I consider this class has given me the necessary instruments to judge artists and their work more competently. To be honest, though, I used the opportunity we were given earlier in the semester, whereby we had to do research on any artist of our choosing, to study my favorite one of all time: Hergé. Not only did I find him amusing and his comic books fantastic as a child, but now I also acknowledge the effort, dedication, and inspiration that conduced him to such levels of excellence and creativity. I very much enjoyed learning about his influence on the popularity and style on the comic books world of art, for now I feel that I can empathize with him almost as well as any other Tintinologist. Although I most certainly will never reach his level of competence, in either writing or drawing, I aspire to work my way towards it.
Lastly, but certainly not least, throughout this semester I've expanded my horizons by reducing the creative and increasing the attentive, perspective, and empirical elements in my drawings. As a child, I hardly received any formal drawing education, which is why most of my experience has been centered on anime and use of imagination. Encouraging me to draw mostly from observation (on top of the aggregated skills and techniques I developed throughout this semester), say for instance, Baldwin Auditorium, has given me the confidence to go out and explore new fields of possibility. Realism, surrealism, foregrounds, backgrounds, and so forth, are entirely new concepts that I hope to further explore while I develop in more depth other skills I acquired to draw.
On the whole, the three things I enjoyed the most about this class was first, the opportunity to do research on an artist of my preference, Hergé; second, work on my sketchbook and develop a skillful combination of poetry and drawings; and thirdly, getting if at least a preliminary feel for "classical" art and the possibilities it creates for better creative enterprises. That is, the last two final drawings I made illustrate a synthesis between a realist setting and a fictive narration (the one before last not as much as the very last, although the inserted objects are figments of my imagination). If I were to re-take this class, the two things I would change would be first of all, quit rugby to avoid any head injuries that may cause me to lose my original sketchbook and a final drawing, and secondly, I would seize more opportunities that I let go by, such as the Art Annex and the Nasher Museum. Upon my recent visits, I have been inspired by certain things in both places, which I wish I would have discovered earlier in the semester. As a final note, although I may or may not follow a path that borders along the lines of art, I will always look back at this class with a smile for it has been the best 'studying' experience I had at Duke, because if homework is doing what you would like to do in your free time anyway, what is the reason not to be happy?

Thoughts on Drawing

by Fei Chen

I was pretty artistic and creative as a kid - my mom always enrolled me in drawing classes, and I spent hours upon hours drawing, writing, painting, designing clothes for my Barbies. When I moved in fifth grade, my teacher gave me a sketchbook to fill. But as I got older, other things became priorities - prep school applications, AP classes, extracurriculars, SAT prep, college applications - and art was a hobby that didn't make the cut for my busy schedule. I'm glad that my senior year of Duke, I was finally able to take a drawing class, not to fulfill a requirement or to boast about it on my resume, but simply because I thought it would be fun.

I enjoyed this class because it reminded me of how much fun it is just to draw. This class also taught me that art and drawing is a labor of love - the more time you put into it, the better a result you're going to get. I used to think that people were borne with artistic abilities and that this was an impossible skill just to learn. While I still believe that in a way, this experience also taught me that patience is the most important asset to creating a good drawing. It is impossible to cram for a drawing or rush because the difference between a drawing you spent 3 hours on and one you spent 10 hours on is stark and noticeable. I'm not sure what role art will play in my life after I graduate, as I'm sure other career-related priorities will once again get in the way, but I'm grateful that I had this semester and this class to force me to devote at least a couple hours a week to drawing.

5 Things I Learnt In This Drawing Class

A bit of background: I first picked up drawing to imitate Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's illustrations at 6th grade. Frustrated with my first few attempts, I started to self-teach myself how to draw. I was going to take AP Art, but gave up due to time commitment. I was confident that I can draw anything reasonably well if I set my eyes to it, but did not have a burning desire to draw anything.  I was more an amateur artisan than an amateur artist. Prior to coming to Duke, I mostly sketched popular subjects such as pretty faces and slim female figures.

1. Pencil for markings, charcoal for tones, erasers for highlights/details.

Time was my primary concerns every week. Drawing with pencil on a board this large was infeasible for me. Hence I mainly used pencil to lay the mark for later.

Charcoal was my favourite drawing tool this class. It was quick to fill a large canvas with sticks and sketch basic tones. It allowed me to be lazy: I almost never need to draw details since it is impossible; but it also forced me to step back and look at the big shapes and tones.

To touch up fine details, I tried charcoal sticks and pencils. Not as good as pencils. During the negative drawing assignment, I discovered kneadable erasers were very effective at picking up charcoal pigments. I also tried white charcoal for highlighting in the drawing+photography assignment; it was not as effective as erasers for diffused highlights, but good for concentrated/flat highlights, found mostly on artificial objects.

2. Start from middle tone.

I always starts with a basic 3 tone sketch. It was easy on my brain to identify light and dark areas then to identify dark and darker areas. With a hard white convas glaring at me, I often under-estimated the value of shade and drew it too light. The drawback to this approach is that the whitest area needed to marked and left out in advance. I found that to be a fair trade.

3. Charcoal is better for portrait than pencil in term of effect/time.

With pencils, I can draw the finest details of each hair and eyelash. Charcoal is not good at this, but can capture the smooth transition on the forehead and cheek reasonably well in far less time than pencils. Somehow my brain can reconstruct the details as long as the tones are right on the face, but not the other way around.

4. Smudging with finger darkens, smudging with stumps lightens.

My intuition for this was that my fingers were oily, so that they do not scrape off charcoal pigments like paper stumps do.

5.The larger the canvas, the better.

It simply allows me to be flexible: a wobbly straight line was not as glaring on a large canvas. I am always willing to trade time for more room of mistakes.

thoughts on drawing

        Art has been part of my life since I was a young child. It has always been a creative outlet for me. On days when I was overwhelmed with stress or rigidity of school I would relax by picking up a pencil and just doodling. Slowly those doodles became sketches and sketches became final pieces.
        I haven't been drawing much since I been to Duke, and I really missed it which is why I decided to take this drawing class. I felt that I needed to do something else besides just studying natural science classes everyday. Although there are days when drawing homework feels like a burden, but on most days being able to engage myself completely in drawing feel as if I'm out of the Duke bubble. I really wish I had more time for each of the projects in this art class because I have so many ideas and I'm a perfectionist with details, in addition I hate being rushed because then I feel like my passion for drawing has been destroyed completely. It is a very time consuming class but I have to say that it helped me to reconnect to art again.
       I feel like drawing in general should be something expressive and not copied. By that I mean, I don't feel the emotions or the intentions of the artist in the drawing if the drawing is simply a pretty portrait of a person or nice replication of a scenery. With simple replication of scenes or people, there might be great artistic skills shown but I don't feel like there is too much room for creativity. Since I believe that the best art is interpretive art, my favorite style of art is surrealism. I think it captures the interest of the audience while inspiring a different story with every different viewer. It's able to combine excellent artistic skill with the touch of ambiguity for imagination. In addition to the importance of the selection of subject matter for artworks, I believe that the media is also very important. How expressive a drawing can be is partially determined by how flexible the media is. I started out working in pencil, but I have developed a liking for charcoal and acrylic. I really like charcoal because the contrast is so strong and the effect of the drawing is so intense. Same with acrylic, there is just so much you can do with it.
       I have had a wonderful time in this drawing class, although, I just wish that we had a little more room for expression earlier on in the class.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sargent John Singer

John Singer Sargent was a famous portrait painter in the early 20 century. You can read about his biblography at Wikipedia. This post is mostly about me telling how awesome his sketches and oil paintings are.

I first encountered Sargent's work in an illustration textbook. His early paintings of girls in exotic costumes (seen above), with the knowledge that he always drew from life and never used photograph, were impressive feats.

Sargent's guide on how to paint, compiled by others, has been a great influence on how I draw. It is for this reason I write about him in this post.

Reflection on Drawing - Emily Schon

I really enjoyed having this drawing class this semester.  I've missed drawing and art so much since getting to college, and it was nice to take a formal class to learn different techniques amidst my other subjects.  I took a lot of drawing classes in high school - I followed the AP Studio Art path, completing a final portfolio of work to be judged at the end of my senior year, but I realized through this class that this training left huge gaps in my knowledge.  

Before this class, I had only drawn strictly from observation, and only did still-lifes.  I never used charcoal, never drew buildings, people, animals, or landscapes, and definitely never used photo references.  Looking back on high school classes, I'm sad that I was never pushed to work on subjects I was uncomfortable with - to draw more than fruit and french horns in colored pencil and water color.  This class was eye-opening for me in this regard, realizing there were other paths and methods to follow in art.  I worked on bigger paper than I was formerly comfortable with, working at a much faster pace to finish pieces in one sitting that I normally would have agonized over for weeks.  And I realized I could draw more than I knew. I loved sketching the Duke campus, and imagining narratives and capturing them in graphite.  

My favorite drawings this semester were the value still-lifes (something I was comfortable with before this class), and the Fiction drawing (way outside my comfort zone, with landscapes, architecture, people, and photo references).  It was very fulfilling to see my journey from being stuck in one genre to spreading out and learning new techniques and subjects.  I felt free in my art for the first time, letting my creative imagination run wild.  I feel like my sketchbook also reflected this journey, going from doodles and still-lifes to attempts at people's faces and landscapes.  

I hope to keep sketching and drawing for fun after this class.  I feel it opened me up to the possibilites of subjects to draw all around me.  I'm very glad I took this class, and hope to take more art classes my final year at Duke. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thoughts on Drawing - Shutong Zhan

I have vastly enjoyed my drawing class this semester. I found it soothing during drawing while listening to music, and highly fulfilling after I finish each piece. I like to finish my pieces in one sitting, especially for the large assignment.

I used to take some Chinese brush painting lessons when I was in elementary school. Later I took a class in oil painting during high school. I enjoy painting and like the flexibility to manipulate brush and color. I did not have much experience in drawing with pencils, except some doodling of Japanese Anime characters when I was young. I have always preferred painting than drawing before, simply because I thought I can achieve a better visual effect with a brush. 

However, the drawing class this semester changed my thoughts on drawing, because I was introduced to a great new drawing tool – charcoals. I have to say, I still do not like pencil as much. On the other hand, I have fallen in love with charcoals ever since the third week of class when we start using them. I found that I can almost “paint” with charcoals. I have the ability to draw lines, shade areas, and create textures with charcoals. The visual effect can also be different based on the way it is created. I have learned different techniques in creating textures with pencil and charcoal, through my instructor, classmates, and Youtube videos. I felt my drawings were improving every week, especially on how to create different textures. I also found other great drawing tools, such as erasers, Q-tips, or even paper towel for creating a smooth layer of pigments. 

My favorite large works this semester are the Subtractive Drawing with an eraser and the Fiction Drawing. I explored the ability of erasers during subtractive drawing, and found they are VERY useful in creating different shading and texture effects. My last drawing is my favorite drawing of the semester. On one hand, I devoted the most amount of time in it, with planning and perfecting. I also pay much attention to little details in this assignment, with the stones, trees, and water. On the other hand, I found the image I try to draw is highly enjoyable. I have enjoyed walking to West campus through Duke Garden almost every weekday for the past two years. I have decided to draw the pond in Duke Garden ever since the first week of drawing class. 

With graduation coming up in a few weeks, it is nice to conclude my life at Duke with this drawing class.