Studio Corner

The piece that I am working on now is based on this charcoal drawing.
*please note the value scale at the bottom of the drawing. Using a value scale is a good way to make sure you are working within a full value range.

This corner of my studio has changed somewhat since this drawing so I had to make new thumbnails. I will keep this same composition. I am attracted to the zig-zag pattern that directs my eye through the drawing.

I also want to focus on the light from the window and how it affects the walls and table tops differently depending on which direction they face relative to the light source.

When I begin a new piece of work it starts with a group (5-10) thumbnail drawings done in charcoal on newsprint. I try to work small enough that I can't get too detailed but big enough that I don't feel cramped for space. Generally I work with charcoal pencil and a piece of vine or compressed charcoal on newsprint. I begin with a line drawing. While drawing I think about how to use the edge of objects to lead the eye around the piece. This work leads to a new group of thumbnails where I begin to block in shapes.

Working first with charcoal helps me to build my ideas on the paper. I can work through the idea from one thumbnail to the next trying to push it, pound it, poke it. This gives me a chance to clarify what I am trying to say. I constantly ask myself "Is this really how I see it?"

So here I am working away doing pages of these thumbnails and NOTHING seems to be working. Nothing feels to me like the initial drawing. I decide (after sitting down with my head in my hands) to do a blind contour of the same space. Wamo! Everything begins to loosen up. When drawing blind I am no longer concerned with things being "perfect". The feeling of space is there and that is more important. I do work back into the drawing with a a peking-contour to connect some of the areas. Other areas I leave alone.

In this drawing I notice that the parts of the corner that I am most interested work better in a vertical format. 

Preliminary Washes- ACRYLIC
At this point I switch to art board size 8X10". I lay a thin flat color of cad. yellow light down because I want to work with cool light / warm shadow. Next I pick up a graphite pencil and start my blind contour on the surface of the board. When my pencil runs off the page I just bring it back and start in a new spot. Next a peking-contour to connect the shapes. 

Yes, next time I will take a photo of this step.

Unity in Shadows
I mix up cad. orange with a lot of medium so it will work to as a glaze. I paint in all the areas in shadow. This helps me to describe the major light-dark pattern of the painting. Also this color is warmer than the yellow of the underpainting so this reinforces the idea of cool light-warm shadow. 

At this point I decide to work with complementary colors- cad. orange and ultramarine blue + zinc white. I have had some trouble lately thinking about warm/ cool and color as value. By cutting down my variables to 3 colors it will hopefully help me work these ideas through.

However I must remember NOT to think that blue is only cool and orange is only warm.  Each color can be BOTH. 


1. I have continued to work the values according to the idea that my shadows are warm and the light is cool. In some places the light is a cool orange. You can see this the best on the far wall and the color of the bottom of the windowsill. 


2. Here I begin to add to the scene just outside the window. I have taken this picture to include part of a value scale (EVERYONE should have one! ). I am careful to work only in the 2 lightest values on the scale (looks like I may be creeping into that value #3) and keeping it the coolest temp I can-blue cool. 


3. Working on the value of the walls-especially around the window.  A new idea I am working with (from Charles Reid): when working with white in shadow it should only be 1 value more than local color. In this case it should be a #3. So far this theory seems to have helped. 

*note: Reid also explains that value of shadow shapes is an artistic decision. Another artist may prefer more contrast and make the shadows darker.


4.  I made a warm grey (French grey) value chart using ultramarine blue, cad. orange + titanium white. This made a big difference. 

I had to work the surface of the walls with a couple layers of warm grey paint before the color started to look right. Color is relative to what surrounds it so I had to adjust other colors too.

This painting is finished. I have learned what I needed to and must move on to the next step of the process. I decide to work directly from the blind-contour/contour drawing (see above) instead of looking directly at the corner of the studio. I want to paint my "perception of the corner" and not the corner itself. 

Perception- definition: the way you notice or understand something using one of your senses. 

I tape the drawing on the wall and turn my easel to face it instead. I continue thinking about the shapes and how they best fit on the page (composition). I am working on a larger piece of artboard 16X12".


5. You can see the light pencil drawing underneath. I worked a light glaze of orange over the surface in the shadow areas. This unites shapes in the piece.