sketching week 3 depth (and unprocessed food on top!)

Foreground, middle ground, background, mean depth in a picture, it’s the very magic of drawing: a flat piece of paper looking like it’s got depth! Making that guy look like he is further away that this guy in the drawing, when in fact both are stains on a flat piece of paper!

That’s our topic  and quite a topic it is! Glenn prepared for us, as usual, a lot of video material, not just course but also demos, explaining each of his choices, each of his decisions while he draws and watercolours – 2 hours of video. Someone once said nothing is as boring as watching paint dry, well when Glenn draws or paints even the drying time become a highlight of your day!

I watched the video several times (in part for the sheer pleasure, in part to “get” the depth thing). We are in sketching class, so we are not trying to do anything smooth looking and finished, so rough and fast is ok. (which doesn’t mean sloppy and rushed!!!)

Copic markers had been good to me last week, so I stuck with them (and wore clothes with more pockets :-D).

I decided to be brave and go where I dared not go last week: where things move all the time, namely: the traditional bi-weekly street market. Want unprocessed food? Want hand-picked mushrooms from the woods when its the season? Farmers products? Sketching while going mad ‘cause that guy moved right when I was….. oh yes: I know it’s part of the game and art of sketching, but sometimes, you really feel like screaming “will you stop the hell moving all the time! stand still! stop breathing! and that goes for the wind too – stop blowing, you are shaking the trees!”

Of course you can’t say anything, being stealth is important or some people will turn away if they realise you are drawing them (in France anyway, I can’t understand why, as they pose very willingly for pictures, when asked by cute Japanese female tourists – ok, I don’t look cute, I get it – plus I look fat with all those Copics in my pockets!)

Here is the “thing”, as I keep on calling my assignments:


assignment sketching week 3 marie codine


The one of the lower right is directly inspired by Glenn instructions of using alternating light and dark zones to get depth, I also played with warm and cool (it worked last week).

Glenn liked it, particularly the one I just mentioned. And interestingly, I realised part of me thought: “Oh com’on all is cool grey except the guy who is the main character, who is warm grey… how quaint can you get? This is SO last year”. Well, it’s not, I may know exactly what I did: cool, warm blabla, but a standard viewer will just get his eyes caught by the warm guy without knowing why.

I am beginning to get why Hitchcock said making pictures (he was a draughtsman by trade before they invented talking movies) was “manipulating” the audience. And there is nothing wrong with that, when you go see the Sixtine Chapel you are more than willing to get you mind blown off, when you go see Alien (the original one) you are more than willing to be scared to death and fascinated by the images.

Glenn often talks about going further, exaggerating, reminding us that even classic old masters did not do realistic portraiture, they exaggerated some features.

In love, war, and art is all fair? It would seem so. We tend to forget that, spending our days with fellow artists, reading about art, working on art, eating art, dreaming art, we know all the tricks of the trade, whether we can use them or still need to work at some of them. But the audience doesn’t know all that, has a more innocent eye and is saying to us “please trick me, please fool me and tell me a great story!” they don’t want to know how we pull the rabbit out of the hat, they are fine just marvelling “oh look: a rabbit out of a hat!”.

One student once asked Glenn during our fantastic two hour weekly video chat-drawing session: “I always draw the heads too big, what can I do” Glenn answered: “just draw the heads smaller!”

He then laughed but there is a lot of truth and depth there: we see and create complications where there are none.

We don’t trust in our art enough, we have to learn that trust. And it’s not just a drawing/painting thing. I chanced not long ago on youtube on an interview of Beatrice Arthur, in which she gave the following advice to young actors (outside of “never give up”): go further, far, far further than you think acceptable – you play a deadpan cynical woman? Make her more deadpan than anything you’ve ever seen. It’s a character for a comedy? Think Chekov! Be a Chekov character in that comedy, it will be a start. And that doesn’t mean hamming it up, hamming is faking, sincerity is the key in all arts.

Gosh I use big words these days!

Now go back to your drawings and have fun!

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