Tuesday, December 25, 2012

27~ Mural 2012: Unflattening the Calf

The calf had been bugging me for over a month now. He was too flat and his hooves were just a vague hint of hooves. Details like that need modelling. I'd laid him in quickly at the beginning of the project; kind of happy with him at the time. I did realize that he looked a little flat. That is one of the things I have to watch, and is a holdover to the early days of self-teaching. Student work often will be flat looking, even if the student has used shading to indicate form. Many things about drawing come naturally, but many other things come of studying, looking, and learning; something that good artists do on their own anyway; but, specifically, it helps to learn within the framework of traditional art, and the body of knowledge that has gone before... Modelling is not the easiest thing to understand. Even in college classes, we'd only gotten a smidgen of an idea of it, only a little practice ~ not the hours and hours on end (presumably) that artists in professional studios of previous centuries would have had. By now, I knew how to model the calf, but my careless habits of youth will pop up sometimes, and I briefly "forget" all that I "know."

A few days before, I had taken a swipe at the calf, knowing I planned to work on him. The picture (left) shows that he's not as flat, but he's pretty rough looking. Finishing him would mean mixing paints and paying careful attention. I was on some other project at the time and wasn't prepared to focus; maybe tired. I knew it had to be done. I guess hitting it a lick was wishful thinking. I once had a professor who warned us, "don't be tempted to just clean off your palette at the end of the day, by swiping 'mud' onto your painting." This was kind of the same thing. But it was also a reminder for myself ~ leaving it so obviously unfinished ~ that said, "now you'll have to finish it; you won't be tempted to leave it as is."

That was a pretty bold "gotta do it" reminder; because, at that point, I had two days left before the wedding: one of those, a half day. During the week, I had left print-outs of hooves and several other "model" pages taped on the walls here and there: projects that must be finished by October 31st. So, now, the 30th, I went back and fattened that calf up, gave him some wrinkles and meatiness. Really, all it took was thinking out the mass of the calf, imagining its three-dimensional, beefy form, painting around that form by adding some appropriate contour lines, and giving some TLC to the tonal values needed. That meant mixing several tones of brown and cream paint on a proper palette and doing it right, not just slopping it on. If you're an artist, you already know that "contours" are not just "outlines." For a non-artist, if you just want to appreciate: an outline is like a flat drawing in a coloring book. A contour drawing features a line of varied width, that appears to curve under, over, and around the form, following its natural contours. Tonal painting uses a range of tints and shades. The finished piece here combines those concepts. I finished the calf's hooves, using a close-up of split hooves I'd found ~ I just wanted them to look natural. Could've covered them with grass, instead...

Before and After: Flat and Unflattened Calf

Mural 2012: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 (Unflattening the Calf)

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