Blog 472: Art for Art’s Sake

Over the last eleven Wednesdays (bar one as a holiday), I attended the City of Glasgow College to further my education. I paid a fair sum for about 30 hours of art training. “Drawing for Beginners”.

I decided that, in order to further my presentation of concept art for the likes of Y4, it might be wise to learn to draw objects that actually exist before trying to articulate those that don’t.

So, I’d like to invite you in to take a look at some of the delights I produced during my education…

Don’t Look At Me In That Tone of Voice

The moral of the story is tone. Week one threw us straight into chalk and charcoal, because colour confuses everything.

We drew peppers. I wasn’t particularly successful at this, but, in my defence, the studio had strip-lights that washed out the light/dark areas and cast strange shadows. And I picked the least pepper-shaped pepper.

The world's most lop-sided pepper.

After that first dip into the world of drawing, there was a lesson in structure. Using some gloopy ink stuff and a rectangle of polystyrene, peppers were rendered in little stamps. While I do love the idea of constructing everything from rectangles, the sticky stuff just didn’t do it for me. But it’s always good to try new things.


Next, the complexity was upped — several peppers, and some of them cut open to reveal their (by this time) supurating insides.

And we did this one with pen and wash. I much prefer the chalk and charcoal because mistakes are only a smudge away from perfection, and adding water to paper never seemed like a good idea to me either.

Those other bits were just me getting used to the materials, bitch.

The perspective lesson was a strange one for me. As a man of 3D modelling, it could have gone either way — I should have been great at it, since I spend all day looking at perspective pictures, or I might have been totally terrible because I always let the computer do all the work.

Either way, I drew the arse-end of a stool.

Look, I even put some shadows on the imaginary table surface the stool was on!

So once we had all the basic techniques beginning to pour out, shit got seriously still life.

Composition is another thing I quite enjoy. It’s not about drawing everything, an entire object, anymore. It becomes about drawing the most delightful subsections, the relationships between objects. And this is really another thing I do every day — I spend hours positioning doodads just so in all my Warcraft maps, so that one stack of crates has the correct relationship to the barrels next to it.

Since the still lives set up on each table were communal, though, it wasn’t matter of positioning the objects so much as finding a good angle to look at them from. And then zooming in on the best bit.

Yes, that on the left is a very, very skee-wiff plant pot.

The following lesson was pretty much the same, except for one little change.

We did tone… but with colour.

I exchanged greyscale for bluescale and drew the same rock again. Yes, see those smudged between the wine bottle and the “plant pot” in the picture above? They are a rock. A really awkwardly shaped rock.

I'm blue da ba dee da ba die...

Next week continued the same theme and I drew a chain of melons.

Can you tell what the middle object is? It's that BLOODY ROCK.

After that, we finally got onto drawing real colour. But, armed with all our knowledge of tone, we drew real colour with shading!

Too add to the fun, all the piles of objects were assembled on rumpled drapes. That’s what all the funny blue swirls are. Folds in a drape. But you didn’t need me to tell you that, right?

The interesting part of this lesson was the black cap on the little ink bottle. The lesson is that you never actually use black to draw black, because it eats the rest of the image — instead, you use all the darkest colours together, with a tiny hint of actual black, to create a very solid dark that isn’t quite actual black and so doesn’t disrupt the rest of the colour palette.

The more you know! Though as you can see for yourself, I didn’t quite manage it.

I discovered a love of long, thin compositions.

The week after we did a double whammy. The first half of the lesson took us back to pen and wash, but with coloured pens, and the second half returned to the ohm sweet ohm of coloured pastels.

I edited out the barnacles that were strapped to the scallop.

And after wailing on colour for so long, we went right back to the ground — pure pencil.

The idea was that, instinctively when drawing with pencil you go straight for lines and ignore tone. As you can see me doing in these thumbnail sketches.

Years of training and you're still all thumbs.

Thumbnail sketching is what you do while you’re trying to find that elusive perfect composition to draw. I took to this really well because it actually is how I normally work. When developing a concept for a new vehicle or structure, I will cover a page in drawings of it from different angles, or with different little details, trying to articulate and home in on the perfect design. Obviously most of the designs change even more when I get to actually making them, but it’s the thought that counts.

So once you’ve settled on a thumbnail, you scale up to the real drawing — preserving the correct proportions and positions and all that, while adding in all the details and better tone.

That mysterious shape in the bottom left is also a rumpled drape.

So, after all that, we finally reach the finale. The assemblages of objects got massively complex, with plastic flowers and all kinds of annoyingly detailed objects.

But I fell in love with this little chess piece as soon as I saw it. I wanted to draw it cheekily nestled between the leg of the stool and that orange vase (who followed me around much like the rock but was far more satisfying to draw), but could never quite get it right… So I took the easy option and removed all detail and complexity.

Fuck off, I’ve always been a minimalist.

Take a rook at this piece.

The Verdict

I really enjoyed working with pastels. So many times, when I started the picture, I thought I’d cocked it up bad — but after an hour of building up and smudging away the mess of dusty colour coalesced into something nice (even if it didn’t quite look like the real life).

And then there was the whole three-hours-of-relaxing-drawing-after-work thing, which was well worth disrupting Wednesday bath night for.

Sadly, there is no “Drawing for Slightly Less Than Beginners” follow-up class, or else I’d totally have signed up for that.

And you tell me...

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