Saturday, March 3, 2018

"Tributary" (Greenhouse: Spring 2018)

I've been recently tasked with looking at, thinking about and talking about (which includes a written component) art more critically. So after waking up to another twenty-something-below morning it was sooo therapeutic to take the 8am Beginning Drawing class on the semesterly field trip to the tropical greenhouse… Gorgeous orchids were icing on the cake.

Bonus puppy snuggles from the adorable Nina-Schnitzel who was in-house for some training socialization. Just kidding, as I think everybody spent about as much time playing with the puppy as they did drawing in their sketchbooks (myself included). When not gamboling about the greenhouse she was quite the enthusiastic sketching assistant.

One of my demo sketches evolved overnight into a bit more than I originally intended. It'll have some commercial application in the near future I'm sure (make for a nice sticker or label or flyer etc.) and also gets some usage as a signed thank-you print for folks, and most importantly as a gift to the Significant Otter. But in the meantime here's a brief but wordy navel-gaze "artist's statement" where I reverse-engineered some observations.


From a field-trip for reference sketches to an upcoming critique piece due from Beginning Drawing students. We sharpened our observation and visual note-taking skills, practicing the “sampling/remixing” approach to creating a finished piece. Also a meta-point about the simple pleasures in finding a world of wonderful subjects to draw from when one focuses on the smaller everyday - and so often overlooked - details we are surrounded with.

Even though it is based on an in-class exercise that emphasizes contour line + composition (through the manipulation of fore/mid/background elements + use of a border as a cropping device), there are a couple other aspects that add more to this illustration.

The title suggests “tribute,” which this is, given the horticultural background and greenhouse experience of my partner. Both as an artist and a scientist, she has the eye and experience to appreciate the drawing and all the extra meaning that has been, uh, grafted on.

It’s all about the extension that branches off of the main stem where it was clipped. This focal point is a metaphor that deals with the bullshit my wife keeps having to put up with: when life deals her a hard hand somehow she always gets around such obstacles, and reaches even greater heights. It’s about growth despite any temporary setbacks. It also can’t be restrained by any arbitrary border or imposed limitations that try to confine and restrict.

Plus there aren’t any clich├ęd “four-leaf clovers,” symbolizing the fact that luck isn’t involved here at all – you make you own breaks in life.

The pen + ink portion utilized a thick, organic black line weight to set off against the thinner one for the background elements (atmospheric perspective). The gestural quality of the foreground plant is reinforced by leaving some negative space around it, which also doubles as providing some visual breathing room – empty in the top third of the panel.

Lastly the palette was restricted to one primary hue (4 different colors of varying brightness & intensity). Value was employed to enhance contrast in certain areas so as to help better differentiate between the layers.

The textured filter (Photoshop: Sponge) was the last step, as all of the other visual components were needed to provide a solid foundation to build upon, and, as with color, the digital effects should not overwhelm the core of the drawing. That still leads to the one, main criticism I personally have, that the subtle lighter highlights on the leaves of the primary plant are too muted, which was exacerbated by the filtering process. So lost some depth + contrast - this was really evident when I had a dozen prints made down at the printers on two different machines as in comparison the version as seen here is the best by far.

*For more backstory on the semesterly greenhouse field-trips see posts from 2017, 2015, 2013, 2010, and 2009

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