Monday, December 31, 2007

Why Should the Kids Have All The Fun?

As I've reported numerous times on this blog, my girls love, love, love to do artwork. Doesn't matter the medium: regular pencil, colored pencil, crayon, marker, finger paint, watercolor, tempera, play-doh, sand, you name it--they can't get enough of it.

And we, their parents, have been trying to give our little princesses as much time and work with these media as is reasonable. After all, we don't want to quench their little spirits, right? We could have budding Michaelangelos and Da Vincis here!

But, but...

But they have all the fun.

Why do they get to have all the fun? Whoever said that crayons are only for kids? Why is it that only kids get to draw in the middle of the sermon?

...well, aside from the fact that we adults are supposed to be listening to the sermon, and all. But that's a minor point.

Anyway, my wife recently picked up this book with the intention of starting the Pillowfight Fairy soon on a more rigorous, systematic program of art method. I looked through the book, of course, to get a sense of what the artistic method is and how we will be teaching it. In a greatly reduced nutshell, it involves recognizing the component shape elements that make up the object to be drawn, and rendering those. Here's what I mean: if I decided to draw a person by, well... just grabbing a pencil and drawing him, I'd wind up with a stick figure. But if I looked closely at the person who was my model, and identified all the angles in his face, and in his hairline; and looked at the curve of his forehead, and the curve of his nose; and if I rendered each of these shape elements faithfully on the paper, I could knock out a reasonable facsimile of the model. Well, that's the theory, anyway.

During our late trip to Papa and Grandmother's house we frequently found ourselves hanging around without a whole lot of energy, and without a whole lot to do. So to pass the time I decided to pick up a Magna-Doodle they happened to have lying around, and sketching whatever I happened to see. Occasionally it would be the face of one of the adults, who just happened to fall asleep on that sofa over there; then I would erase that, and grab a toy, and do a still life. I managed to scratch out a reasonably good impression of a toy Esmeralda (from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame) that they had lying around for the girls to play with. I did a lot of little things like that.

So, yesterday I was sitting in church, bored. Yes, I admit it. Forgive me Father; Mea Maxima Culpa, and all that. In my defense, I was singing Bass on mike yesterday, which meant I had to sit through the same church service twice--same sermon, same songs, same jokes.... (And the songs I got to sit through three times, because we had to practice them before First Service. My voice was shot by the time we were done at 12:30.) So, I picked up a blank slip of paper from the hymnal rack in front of me, and grabbed a pencil, and started sketching the preacher (with the podium).

I did a pretty good job, actually! It looked pretty close. So (at the urging of the very pretty young lady sitting next to me) I signed it, and then presented it as a gift to the preacher. He commented that it made him look a little more slender than normal, for which he was thankful. And I wasn't particularly happy with the way his arms and hands came out; I still haven't gotten the hang of forshortening. He looked a little like those pictures you see of Kaiser Wilhelm II, with the slightly shrunken arm. Still, it was pretty good. (Sorry I can't show you a scan of it; the preacher has it.)

So, feeling pretty pleased with myself, I decided to try another one last night. We had popped in a video--which happens to be one of the few ways we can keep our girls still long enough to bang out a decent sketch of them. So I grabbed a pencil and paper, and tried my art upon the unsuspecting Pillowfight Fairy:

Well, I can't say I'm particularly satisfied. It's not bad, considering that I've never really done much drawing. And the girl in the picture is recognizable as such, which I suppose is good. But it doesn't actually look much like my daughter. The girl in the image looks like she's nearly a teenager, for one thing; her face is a bit longer and narrower than the sweet thing serving as my unwitting model. (In fact, this could be a point of similarity between this sketch and the one of the preacher. He did say it made him look thinner. Could this be a systematic feature of the way I draw? Hmmm....) And I suspect I'm going to have to work a lot more on faces and hands before I'm really satisfied with them. And getting fabrics (clothing, curtains) to drape and wrinkle right is tricky. And I'm not yet experienced at doing shadows, and all those other things that give a picture depth.

Still, I am satisfied this far: I can now scratch out a fairly realistic portrait of something interesting! I couldn't do that before--or rather, I wasn't aware that I could. This is something I'm going to have to pursue. My older brother recommended yesterday that I look into getting a copy of this art method text, which I understand has become something of a classic. And I might have to start swiping my daughters' crayons or watercolors from time to time....

Or even get my own... now there's a concept.

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