Posts Tagged ‘pencil’

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.

What Did You Learn?

Monday, July 25th, 2011

This blog is about learning. I am asked numerous questions about: how to draw, how to paint, creating characters, drawing animals, how to use watercolour and gouache, what kind of pencils I use, what crosshatching is, and how to do perspective. The list goes on.

People have many reasons for wanting to learn an art form. It may be because they want to go to an art school and so they tell me that they "need to learn everything!" One person I talked with wants to learn how to draw dogs. Another wants to finally understand perspective. Yet another wants to eventually teach art and give back to the community. These are all completely understandable reasons for learning art.

I graduated with a degree in Art History and decided that I wouldn’t be a very good art historian if I didn’t know how to draw or paint. And so I enrolled in a figurative drawing class. I spent the next four years learning how to draw the human form. By year five I dived into painting. By year twelve I was learning about comic art and cartooning. I am now in my twenty-second year of art learning and it will continue. Every year I take a course on something that is interesting to me and that forwards my learning. I also spend a lot of time reading books about painting and drawing and about specific materials.

At this stage of my career, I look for the little nuggets of wisdom in a class or a book. For instance, in an Extreme Anatomy course I learned that the space between the fourth finger and the pinky was slightly bigger than between the other fingers. Understanding that little bit of information allowed me to improve my hand drawings in both traditional drawing and comic drawing. It is these little nuggets that are so important.

At the start of every class I teach I ask my new students who have taken drawing before: "What do you remember from your last teacher?" The most common answer is: "nothing." Wow. They remember nothing of what they were taught. I find this totally unacceptable.

In teaching core fundamentals, I strive to teach elements that the students will remember. My teacher – 22 years ago – taught me these things and I in turn, teach my students.

  1. Draw lightly
  2. Draw general to specific
  3. Learn to draw through your mistakes

Obviously, there are more lessons that I teach. But these are the three elements of basic drawing that I repeat over and over again. I hope if my students are asked by another teacher: "What did you learn from M-J Kelley?" they will remember these three elements.

The Dreamcatcher

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Dream Catcher (gouache on board) by M-J Kelley

I begin my paintings with full drawings. In the long run it makes my life a lot easier than trying to sort out tonal or structural issues on the canvas. What I found interesting about The Dreamcatcher was that I drew it with no real image in mind and no in-depth knowledge of what a dreamcatcher was – other than the basic premise. It just kind of came to life. So when I showed a friend of mine the drawing, she said, “what colour are you painting the feather?” I said that I didn’t know. “Well,” she continued, “it means something.” Oh, ok. So off I went in search of the meaning of the coloured feathers.

What I discovered was it wasn’t so much the colour of the feathers, but from whom the feather came. So if a dreamcatcher had crane feathers, then it represented wisdom and knowledge. Feathers from a dove represented the offer of love. Based on the design of the feathers in my drawing, I realized that I drew feathers similar to a hawk or an eagle. Both birds represent protection.

Then I continued my research. I found out that the size of the “sacred hoop” is the size of the dreamcatcher’s maker’s left hand. And sure enough my painting’s hoop is the size of my left hand. There are other iconographical symbols in the piece that were created by accident, but interesting to point out. These would be the seven spokes or Seven Sister (Pleiades) which is the nearest star cluster to Earth, a hole for the spirit guide, and the added fact that the feather is not tied in a downward fashion. A feather tied upside down is for children – so the good dreams slide gently into the child while they are sleeping. It strikes me that this dreamcatcher was intended for adults.

When I actually figured out that I was drawing a dreamcatcher, I asked myself what would happen if a dream was caught and what would or should one do with it once it was caught. I think the feather design solved the mystery for me. Protect it.