Visit to Swan Coach House

May 9, 2011

When I was trying to figure out where I wanted to visit for the required off-campus event/gallery/visit/thing, I started thinking about how I know I want to work in a museum in some capacity, and how a large part of what I want to do is try and make art accessible in some way (a very vague goal, I know!). None of my friends are art history majors and I think a lot of them (and just people in general) are under the impression that you need some sort of mystical knowledge or, really, any knowledge to ‘understand’ or enjoy art and I really, really don’t think that’s true. At all. So as I was thinking about that, I started looking around for galleries that are more ‘accessible’ and found the Swan Coach House which, as indicated in the link, is having a show titled “The Price is Right” wherein they showcase art for sale from little-known artists; all the art costs under $1000. I think they do a really, really good job of forcing you into the art; the gallery is basically just one room and it is a tiny room–bigger than my dorm room, but not by a lot. And, there’s a freestanding wall towards one end that further cramps the space. But the cramped-ness is, I think, really effective, simply because it pushes you so close, you can’t help but be immersed. The paintings (almost all paintings, with just a few pieces of sculpture) are arranged salon style, too, so you really feel like you’re completely surrounded by the art. A few pieces/arrangements stood out to me in particular. Example A!

I’m not sure if you can tell me from my picture, but this piece was glass set in a frame and then painted over; so cool and gives a really remarkable effect when (you can’t tell this in the picture) you can see the shadow of what was painted reflected in the wall behind it. These two also stood out to me:


As you can see, the two works that have the most in common are at opposite corners; I thought this was really cool because when we (as a class) were arranging our art in the Dalton gallery, I know my group went for a similar effect as we were setting up the still life drawings; in our case, we used pieces with similar compositions at opposite corners, but I think the governing principle–using similar elements to draw the eye across the entire wall of work–is the same.

That said, by and large the arrangement of the work was fairly simplistic (and I don’t mean that in a negative way). Broadly speaking, artists would have similar works and those works would be presented next to or at least near each other, like so:


Not necessarily overly complicated, but certainly effective in demonstrating to the viewer what a given artist’s style is.

Self portrait critiquing/reflection

May 8, 2011

On Friday we had our self-portrait critique and I really thought it was just such a great, fantastic critique. So many commonalities in our experiences; I think for all of us (and we talked about this), this was really the project where we drew on each other’s work and leaned on each other for advice and encouragement and I think it’s so important that we did this at the end of the semester–I, at least, was not nearly so comfortable with other people in January, and this is all ignoring how what we’ve (or, well, I’ve–I’m not sure what it was like for people with more experience) learned all culminated in this project. So rewarding! I really enjoyed learning that from the critique, and I also really liked how we had the time to go through each person’s work, find out what they thought was weak, and react to it. It’s so interesting to see how some people (including myself!) can be completely off-track with what’s wrong; I know in my case, it was a relatively minor error that I had focused on to the exclusion of all else, so I didn’t notice the larger, more significant mistakes. For example, Polly said she didn’t care for how the area under her eyes:

But I actually thought that part was especially well done; since the rest of her face is relatively pale, I think the shading under the eyes works really, really well. I also thought it was fascinating to see the different techniques; I knew that I had ended up going much, much blurrier than others, but I thought this sort of dappled effect that Elle did was amazing:

It really looks like the light is just gliding across her face, and I think it looks beautiful. I also want to talk a little bit about whose portraits I looked at for help, because I think that was such a crucial and valuable part of this experience. To start with, I looked at Kirstein’s hair for inspiration, for a few reasons. One, I’ve been sitting near/across from Kirstein for a while now, and I really, really like what she creates. Two, most other people didn’t even have room for hair, and those that did (when I was looking) had light hair. What I was particularly struggling with was the fact that the light didn’t hit the hair on one side of my head at all and since my hair is black, I didn’t know how to depict that. So I looked at Kirstein’s work and asked her about it:

 and she explained to me that she had drawn very, very subtle highlights and I took my cues from that; my end result wasn’t nearly as delicate as hers, but the advice as invaluable. Going back to the critique, Kirstein said that she didn’t like her eyes and I disagreed with that as well, I think her eyes are phenomenal; so arresting, and absolutely what they look like in real life.

Talking of hair-related things, I also struggled with my eyebrows, due to shape (which I eventually figured out) and the light patterns. And, again, I looked to others for inspiration, particularly Ellen:

And, again,ridiculously helpful; I didn’t mimic the shading so much, simply because her hair is a lot lighter, but I found observing the ‘brushstrokes’ she made to be really, really useful.

I also want to talk about Phoebe’s, because it is in many ways the antithesis of mine:

As I have blogged about extensively, I have (well, had, I got better towards the end) very little confidence in myself in this class and this always manifests itself in the size of work; i.e., very small. So the fact that Phoebe had the bravery to go all-out and create such a massive piece is really impressive to me. And it is exquisitely rendered. I love it.

To go back to the critique; pretty much the moment we sat down I realized that my neck was all wrong; I’d done it the morning of critique-day and that was obviously a mistake because I’m fairly certain that if I had given myself more time to think about it I could have fixed it (and I think I will almost certainly do so when I finish my last final). My concern with my portrait was the left side of my face, because I thought that eye was askew; no one else seemed to think so, but it still looks off to me! Nell pointed out that what was askew was my face getting wider towards the bottom; I think this is a result of my overdoing my sideburns (yes, I have sideburns. At least they’re not muttonchops.) and again, I will try to correct it if I have time after my last final.

This won’t be my last post, as I still have to get up my off-campus gallery visit, but since it will be my last reflective-type post…this is the single most terrifying class I have ever taken. At the risk of sounding very vain, I am usually an intelligent person; in the classes I’ve taken that are required for my other major (Ancient Greek and Latin), I am usually considered someone who knows what she’s doing and who has all the answers. And I was so, so scared of coming into a class where not only would I not be anywhere near the top, but I wouldn’t be able to even get to the top, because I had convinced myself that any artistic talent would be in-born and I just didn’t have it. And I wasn’t completely wrong; there are so many incredibly talented people here and I will never be a great artist. But even though I have been intimidated by my classmates, I have also learned so, so much from them and even though I will never create anything strikingly original, unique, or breathtaking, I can at least create something passable–which sounds weak, but it’s so much more than I ever thought I would accomplish. So yes, this has been the most terrifying class, but it has also absolutely been the most rewarding; at one point I seriously considered not majoring in Art History because I would have to take this class and I am so, so glad I didn’t make that decision!

Portrait completion (maybe)

May 6, 2011

I didn’t get a chance to blog about what I did yesterday, but mostly what I did was focus on my forehead and eyebrows. I actually did okay with my right eyebrow:

I did smooth it out a little bit later, but I think it looks recognizably eyebrow-esque. The left eyebrow, on the other hand, just seemed ridiculously difficult; I couldn’t get the shape right and then once I got the shape the proportions were off. At one point I had this, which looks sort of like me by way of Frida Kahlo:

In an effort to fix it, I just made it as mechanical as possible; I measured the right, correct, eyebrow in every possible way and then translated those measurements to the other side of my face. So when I left on Thursday I had this:

I basically looked like an evil baby with really strong eyebrows. Today, my first order of business was working my neck, in an effort to make my face look a little less like it was floating. I didn’t find the neck overly difficult, because the shading mimicked the light in other parts of my face, and I didn’t have enough room on my paper to draw the curve (which I suspect I would have found very difficult). This is what I ended up with neckwise:

Then I moved on to my hair and…egad. So, so difficult. For starter, there are vast portions of my hair–specially on the right side of my head–that the light doesn’t hit at all. And my hair is black. So I wasn’t at all sure how to address that. I decided to start on the other side of my head, where there was at least some light:

And, while I don’t think you can tell at all from this photo (or, indeed, any of the other ones I took–well done, self) what I basically did was draw the light where it reflected, and then leave the rest of it alone. You can tell a little better what I did here:

You can sort of tell that the area on the right side of my head is still a little murky–that’s the part where there wasn’t really any light that I could tell, but I still wanted to distinguish it from the pure black.

Having done that, I moved on to putting the charcoal straight on the page. I ultimately decided only to do it for my eyelid crease; it wouldn’t have looked natural anywhere else and I think just using it there gives enough definition. As I am stupid sometimes, I only took a picture of it over one eye, but:

I think it was effective. I put the ‘maybe’ in the header because there is no guarantee I will not freak out before critique time and hastily edit something/smooth something over/do something else. But! I am happy with it as it stands right now,because I think it’s really evident that I poured a lot of work into it.

Hey! It’s me! Kinda!

May 5, 2011

When I came back to my portrait yesterday, I was completely convinced that I would start right in on my eyebrows. But when I started looking at my portrait and measuring, it seemed like the space I had drawn between my eyelid crease and the bottom of my brow was way too small. And then I measured again and it seemed like the space was correct. And so on. So, in my usual can-do fashion, I gave up on that part and decided to work on my cheeks instead. I was really, really nervous about getting the curve of my jawline and chin correct, so the first thing I did was make a bunch of measurements and mark up my page. You can sort of tell from this picture, but basically what I did was take a unit measurement from the center of my face to the ‘edge’ of my face, at various points; so, I measured from the tip of my nose to the edge, from the bottom of my nose to the edge, from the bottom of my philtrum to the edge, and so on. You can see in this picture some of the marks I made (for some reasons the pictures aren’t working; I tried it again, but it’s possible that all that’s showing up is a bunch of html. I will try and fix that):

I then started working on my right cheek, since I had already done a lot of work there, and ultimately got this:

You can sort of start to see there all the grief my chin caused me. I then started working on the other side of my face, which just seemed much, much more difficult:

If the photos are showing up, you can tell from comparing the two that I had major chin issues; it was much, much smaller on my right side than it was on my left. So, after more remeasuring, I determined that the left side was correct, adjusted the other side accordingly and ended up with this:

And I’ll do my eyebrows/upper-eye area today. Excited!

(In unrelated news, wordpress is being godawful about letting me upload post photos. Writing this post was like tearing my hair out and I’m not even sure if the images showed up.)

Even more portrait!

May 3, 2011

When I got to class on Monday, I at first thought that I would more on the left cheek I had previously neglected, since I felt I could see the light a lot better–but then I decided I would much rather work on my eyes in class, with Nell to correct me should I completely derail, than work on them by myself. But then I started on my right eye and…it ended up not being nearly as agonizing as I had anticipated. It was seriously the nicest surprise I have had in a long time:

Surprisingly eye-like, no? I then turned to the other eye and was so, so glad that other people were having trouble with one eye too because for some reason it just seemed a million times more difficult. I don’t know what caused it; I will say that I were to start this over again, I would arrange my easel a little differently–throughout this whole process drawing the left side of my face (with my right hand) has felt really awkward and I think that’s partly due to arrangement as well as partly due to my own general awkwardness. My first order of business with the other eye was to realize that all the shading I had done under it was off; according to what I’d done there, my eye was much too short. So I made a mark where the outside corner of that eye should fall:

And then, in all honesty, I spent a good chunk of time staring at and remeasuring that blank space. It just looked so impossibly large, like I would end up with one normal-sized eye and then this one would be the size of a boat. Once I’d stressed myself out enough over that, I took the plunge and reshaded:

 And then I did the eye itself: 

It looked kind of off to me, especially when compared to the other eye:

 And I wasn’t sure if that was because a) one eye is slightly larger than the other or b) the lack of shading above the second eye was throwing it off. Just to be sure, I redid it; this time I measured each eye (on myself) and realized that while they are slightly different sizes, the proportion of white to iris to white is the same in both. So I carried that knowledge over to the page and go this:

Which I think it a slight improvement? The under-eye shading it still a little off, but I think I can tell what I need to do to fix it.

You can also see where I started to work on the area just below my eyebrow on the first eye. Little nervous about that (and would be lying if I didn’t say that I briefly considered filling in my eyebrows before class just so that the skin wouldn’t be visible and I wouldn’t have to draw it). I’m also thinking a little bit about where I want to put the chalk; right now I’m thinking I’ll definitely use it for the line between my lips and I’m also contemplating a line above my eye because my eyelashes create a really dark line that is not currently on the, but I’m less sure about that. Will have to experiment and see!

What I did next

May 1, 2011

I think I’ve made a little progress on the portrait. My first order of business today was to a) finish my nose (I’d done the right half but not the left) and to roughly demarcate where each eye would be, so I could start to work around them. This was the first result (those horizontal lines are where I estimated the lowest point on the bottom curve of my eye would fall):

The difference looked much more dramatic in person, but basically where I had drawn the curve was quite a bit lower than where the curve belonged. Before I started correcting it, I also made a mark where the inner corner of each eye would be, because I thought that might help me get a better sense of the shape around the eye. So this was my new guideline:

And I think that sense it wasn’t an outline it wasn’t cheating? Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. It’s what helps me sleep at night. Anyway, having re-marcated, I attempted the eye-area again:

And…then I kind of skipped the cheek on that side, which I realize sounds bizarre but when I was looking at it today it looked (to me) like that entire cheek was almost a uniform shade of light, but I logically know that that can’t be correct. I am also aware that right now the eye area looks a little stripe-y, I did blend it later. Having done that, I started the other eye and then, like the genius that I am, forgot to take a picture just of that and only have a picture of that eye along with that cheek:

As you can obviously tell, the lighting there is a little dubious; this is mostly because I had started to draw that cheek from the mouth up, but when I started on the eye I realized that what I had done there was completely disproportionate; I erased quite a bit of it, but not all of it and some of the awkwardness is from where I tried to reconcile the two, which I think might have been a lost cause. In any event, I feel somewhat okay about what I got done today (which either means it went well or that I inadvertently created something that looks more like a garden gnome and just don’t realize it yet. Could very easily go either way.).

More self-portrait

April 30, 2011

(I am obviously running out of ideas for witty post titles, if indeed I ever had any.) So, I ended up not blogging about the work I did between Monday’s and Wednesday’s classes because I wasn’t all that pleased with it. When I started class on Wednesday I had this:

As I hope you can tell, I’d focused on the mouth and particularly on the shading of the mouth. It’s weird–when I went to work on my mouth outside of class, it was completely dark outside so the shadows on my face were significantly more dramatic than they are when I’m working in class. But I think that actually made it easier for me to see the more subtle shades; sometimes in class I look at all the different light gradients and sort of want to give up, but when I was working at night I looked at the light and knew that it wasn’t as stark a difference as it looked–the fact that it looked more simple made me more motivated to see the complications. I am not sure that paragraph makes any sense, but I’m going to go with it.

Anyway! So, in class on Wednesday Nell pointed out that my mouth was out of proportion to my nose and equally important (to me) that the size I had drawn my mouth was more appropriate to the tools we’re using–I had kind of felt like I was spending a lot of time trying to get my eraser into the smallest point possible and it’s always nice to know I’m not just being paranoid. So, I set about correcting the mouth:

I am fairly pleased with it now. Having done that, I started working on all the shading around my mouth, primarily on my chin. There’s this one triangle of light that cuts down and across my chin that I’m especially struggling with; it does definitely get darker, but it’s certainly lighter than the shadow from the lip above and the shadow below. I did try to get it here, but I’m not sure that’s clear:

I think you can tell that the above part is darker, but I’m not too sure about the shadow beneath it. I did start to work a little on my cheek as well:

So today and tomorrow I’m going to work on that. I’m not sure about whether or not I’ll have to do my ears (what I’ve done is small enough that I’ll almost certainly have room for them, but they look kind of complicated). I do sort of like the mask-like quality I have going right now, it’s so creepy.