Archive for the ‘Drawing’ Category

Alphabet Action Pose

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Letter C - M-J Kelley (charcoal)

Letter C – M-J Kelley (charcoal)

Quick action poses just speak for themselves; energy, grace, motion. The one I have included here, I just love. I call it the “Letter C” because it simply looks like that.

This only encourages me to ask the models to pose for the whole alphabet. Maybe I will.

Quick Sketches: Hand and Foot

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

It’s fall and the local figurative drawing session has started back up…yay! Here are some quick sketches.

Hand Holding Arm of Chair by M-J Kelley (charcoal)

Hand Holding Arm of Chair by M-J Kelley (charcoal)

Underside of Foot by M-J Kelley (charcoal)

Underside of Foot by M-J Kelley (charcoal)

Watermelons in the Grass

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Watermelons in the Grass by M-J Kelley (pen and ink)

Watermelons in the Grass by M-J Kelley (pen and ink)

I quickly drew this when I was at a an art show in Sacramento, California. It was unbearably hot and everyone just seemed to move slowly through the thick air.

The pile of watermelons were lying quietly on the grass, undisturbed by anyone. They were a beacon of summer refreshment and an intriguing visual image – one that a Canadian doesn’t see very often. So here’s to summer and piles of refreshing watermelons!

The Magical Dance of Quick Sketches

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Image of M-J Kelley's quick sketch: Portrait of Emily (charcoal on kraft paper) 2012

Portrait of Emily by M-J Kelley 2012 (quick sketch/charcoal on kraft paper)

Every figurative drawing session that I have ever attended begins with quick sketches of the model. They range from 30 second to 3 minute sketches. For some, I think it’s a bit like an athlete stretching. This isn’t really the case for me. I try to be warmed up before I attend the session.

Instead, it is a bizarre combination of loose lines, accurate proportion and line quality — housed within these early sketches that tell me whether I will be drawing well or not. I am at that place as an artist. This is a great place to be.

My long-time friend Ken used to say that “drawing well was like magic dancing from your fingertips.” So right he was.

And that is what this image is for me — a quick sketch where all was right and the magic was dancing. The lines are loose, the line quality is good and the proportion is accurate.

And when it all comes together, as this sketch did, I get to do one more thing that makes what I do so special for me: I get to breathe life into it with an expression or a look.

Figure Drawing with Charcoal and Pastel

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Figure drawing of Emily (charcoal and pastel) by M-J Kelley 2012

Figure drawing was the basis of my art training and continues today as a way of keeping my skills sharp. It also happens to be my most favourite thing to do.

Both images are of the same model – Emily. I always bring with me a few sheets of smooth newsprint and a few sheets of Canson Ingres paper. I warm up with one-minute poses drawing them on newsprint and then switch to the Canson paper for the longer poses.

In addition to several charcoal pencils, I brought a few colourful pastels with me to this session. I intentionally brought odd colours. The blues are soft pastels and the orange-yellow is a hard pastel. Though both are pastels, each is extremely different to work with. The soft pastels are easily the most luxurious, but also the most difficult to work with. They “paint” the paper. You merely touch the pastel to the paper and a deep rich colour is left behind.

The poses are not very long so I really only have time to lay down a smattering of colour, but it is enough to bring out the idea of cool light or warm flesh.

Figure drawing of Emily (charcoal and pastel) by M-J Kelley 2012

New Year’s Fish

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

New Year's Fish (pencil, sketchbook) by M-J Kelley

It’s a new year, and I am happy to see it.

I filled up my old sketchbook in a somewhat timely manner so as to be able to start a fresh one on the first day of 2012. I even added a new pencil and eraser.

A blank page is hard enough, but the first blank page in a brand new sketchbook … well words like honour, reverence, trepidation come to mind. Still, you have to just dive in, and for some reason the phrase “sleeps with the fishes” drifted into my mind while I was drawing.

This, in and of itself, is why it is good to draw from your imagination. Because you never know what you might be thinking and to borrow from Joan Didion’s 1976 essay on Why I Write, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”

Therefore, it is of no great surprise to me that I took a blind left turn only to end up drawing a sleepy fish instead of creating a Godfather-like-thug- whacking illustration. To be honest, I know myself well enough not only to trust those left turns, but also to count on them. It makes my life interesting and allows me to see my thoughts even when I begin with a starkly blank white page.

BIG IDEAS

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

I love BIG IDEAS. Somehow, I magically come up with a plan for something and move in that direction. When I do that, I give it my all. I dig deep and research, ask questions, stay up late, get up early and do the hard work needed to achieve my goals. This behavior is a constant as long as I have a BIG IDEA.

For the last several years, I have had a BIG IDEA for my artwork. I have worked hard and some of that has paid off. But some, quite frankly, has seen me throwing precious energy into the wind only to watch it fly away.

The latter is unbelievably frustrating.

And so, here I am, reassessing my BIG IDEA. In fact, I’ve been doing it since late September, which is the main reason why I haven’t posted a blog since then. Reassessing BIG IDEAS is a bit paralyzing. It’s a mental transition that seemingly affects all of me. I am no good without a BIG IDEA. The transition takes time, but fortunately, I always seem to be able to move toward another BIG IDEA.

My new BIG IDEA begins with a return in the New Year to my traditional figurative roots. I was never very far from it, but it is hard to do everything I like to do. I have spent the last several years exploring my imaginative work with my surreal art. It will continue on its creative storytelling journey even as I take a more traditional turn. And as for my wildlife drawings, I have opted to only draw a few of them this year.

The biggest thing I am axing from my last BIG IDEA is the art show circuit. I want to focus on being a better artist ― strengthening my knowledge, honing my skills and just enjoying the process. Sometimes the art show preparation is so demanding that it is easy to forget that I paint or draw not for others, but for myself ― for the simple goals of expression and enjoyment.

I have other ideas tucked into my BIG IDEA but for now I think that is a good beginning to the New Year.

Bug Week

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

My art shows are over for the year – and to be honest, I’m somewhat relieved. As fun as they are for meeting new people and developing relationships with other vendors, they can be a grind.

But I’m not idle. I am now on to teaching. I teach three classes in painting and drawing. Two classes for 6 to 10 year olds and one for 11 to 14 year olds. I am also teaching my comic art class and an art portfolio class. Needless to say, I am a bit busy jumping back and forth. Teaching the various mediums isn’t the hard part. What is difficult is having such a range of students (age, maturity, accomplishment) in one class.

I base my teaching on the Ontario Arts Curriculum. The curriculum basically tells a teacher that a student in grade 4 should be able to do this or that by the end of the year. What I’m finding is that the “accomplished range” is not as high as it should be – particularly for drawing. Of course there are exceptions, but overall there appears to be a systemic issue that is concerning and challenging.

As a result, I have had to become inventive. In addition to poor drawing skills, the kids have incredibly short attention spans. So I’m trying to incorporate contemporary, pop culture references into my lesson plans to keep their interest. I am going to use “hip-hop” dance imagery to demonstrate contour, gesture, and movement for the older class. And for the younger class it is going to be “bug week” so I can teach repetition, form, and depth.

But with all that said, I think it is me who I am mostly teaching.

Currently working on…Eleanor

Friday, August 12th, 2011

"Do one thing every day that scares you."  – Eleanor Roosevelt. (graphite sketch) by M-J Kelley

Eleanor’s full title is "Do one thing every day that scares you." – Eleanor Roosevelt.

I love that quote.

I’m not sure if I do that. I think if I did that it would require me to climb tall ladders and stand on roof tops or (gasp!) be enclosed in small spaces. No thanks, I’d rather be an artist. To some that is pretty darn scary. Actually, I think it is not so much about being a full-time "art-creating person" that is scary, but more so the fear of being a "financially destitute person" that causes people to avoid or delay a vocation in the arts. I don’t blame them. It’s touch and go.

About Eleanor…the image shown here is a drawing. I draw everyday in my sketchbook – which is where all these crazy surreal ideas come from. Mostly I begin a drawing and something forms and then I think about where it is going and what I have been thinking about, or have seen and then I guide my drawing in that direction. The process is rather organic. It is a bit like being a mother duck trying to get her ducklings in a row. I use that type of movement to coax a drawing into a meaningful vision. In Eleanor’s case, I believe I had a moment of darkness. I chose to push one of my flowers overtop of a pointed rock-like object. But then it occurred to me that the flower may have chosen to do so. It made me think of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote and its importance of reminding all of us to leave our comfort zone to become the people we are meant to be.

This drawing is dear to my heart, so I decided to turn her into a painting; a 16 x 20 full colour gouache painting which will be ready for display at the Cabbagetown Arts and Crafts show this September.

Art on Steroids

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I recently listened to a 60 Minutes podcast reporting that Lance Armstrong”allegedly” used performance enhancing drugs in order to win the Tour de France races. The basic premise of the story was that a cyclist had to blood-dope – because everyone else was – if he even wanted to possibly have a chance at winning. And if he didn’t? Well, forget it.

We have this too in the visual art world.

At a recent art show, I was once again reminded to what lengths an “artist” will go to produce salable artwork. At the show there was an “artist” there who painted on top of a photograph to create realistic looking animals. I believe this to be a performance enhancing art aid. A photo is taken, sent to a printer and printed on canvas. The “artist” then adds paint and sells it as if it were an original piece of art in the traditional realm of high realism.

I mentioned this technique to a 13 year old student of mine. He said, “Don’t they know that’s cheating?” and “So it’s about the product and not the process for them right?” Right.

Before I get into why this technique is wrong, I would like to mention that photography does have its place in the visual arts either as photography or as reference material for visual arts and illustration. But when an artist blurs those lines for the sake of making money, there are several issues:

  1. The “artist” isn’t being truthful to his/her customer because the “artist” is not disclosing that he/she has painted over a photograph. The purchaser of such work believes he/she is buying a “painting.”
  2. Juried shows love traditional realism. Rarely do jurors ask about the art making “process.” As a result, the shows accept the cheating “artists,” while rejecting those who have worked hard to learn their craft.
  3. The work is usually priced far lower than a work created from scratch by another artist. This is because the time, energy, and knowledge spent to create artwork goes into the pricing structure. This creates an unlevel playing field.
  4. The “artist” misses out on the true reason why one creates.

I am incensed by the nature of this type of work and by the “artists” who practice this procedure. I just don’t understand why these so-called artists wouldn’t want to learn – truly learn – how to paint and draw well.

As always, comments are welcome.