Saturday, May 31, 2014

Atelier Studies

Just finished up Head Phase I over at the Watts Atelier, so now I'm moving into Head Phase II. I probably took more time than I should have during Phase I, but I really wanted to make sure I understood the concepts and construction of the head before I moved further along. Being methodical is paying off pretty big currently, as I'm noticing larger jumps in progress than in the past.


Joe P said...
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Joe P said...

Nice studies Andrew! So what made you decide to move onto Phase 2? I have been struggling with the concept of moving on since starting at Watts.

In my opinion I really feel that Phase 1 and 2 of Head need to be done somewhat simultaneously. I think it is wise to spend time with Phase 1 on its own, but you should definitely be continuing phase 1 while you work on 2. I came to this conclusion after guessing that in Jeffs actual classes I am pretty sure he has students drawing from casts/photos/life almost immediately while they are learning the planes/abstraction/Loomis construction. I could be wrong, but I believe that's how they do it. Thats why I thought it made sense to begin applying the information sooner than later.

I have also spent a ton of time on Phase 1 and learned so much, but I feel like my skills have really jumped even more by including Phase 2 at the same time. For example learning the planes of the head makes so much more sense when you are not only drawing from the Asaro cast, but also finding those planes on actual photos or in real life.

My plan is to continue to combine the two phases and make the connections. Studying the Phase 1 stuff on its own seems great for memorization which is obviously essential, but the addition of actually applying the concepts has been a huge help for me (not to mention a breath of fresh air from the repetitive studies) :)

Let me know what you think about this, Id love to hear your opinion.

Keep going man, youre doing great.

Drew said...

Ah, to be honest it pretty much was a gut feeling. I'm fairly good at recognizing when I've internalized certain concepts and methods and when I'm still a bit weak on stuff, so I didn't move forward until I really felt I had a handle on certain things that seemed to trip me up.

Now granted, that doesn't mean that's that and I don't focus on it anymore, it just means the majority of my time spent on classwork is refocused on the next phase while the leftover time is used to keep doing previous studies.

I'm also at an advantage of having some decent experience under my belt as is, so certain concepts and such were either already in place or close to being fully developed. I suspect that as I move closer to painting the time it'll take me to move from one phase to the next will be longer since that's far more unfamiliar territory for me.

I thought about doing Phase 1 and 2 of the head simultaneously, and decided against it. Reasoning I had for it was the two phases together are really just one uber class. Phase 1 covers general basics and structures and gets you going on nailing the overall feel and shape of a head and its complexities, while Phase 2 begins it focus on separate features, before it brings it all together in the latter half with photo and cast studies. It's a good approach of Very General>More Specific>Specific Features>Application of everything you've learned.

Joe P said...

Great points.

So heres a question for you (something thats been bugging me for a while):

For someone like me who isnt a professional and obviously doesnt have 'must do' art work, how would you spend your drawing time... or even.. how do you spend your time? You said you were doing Phase 1 Head, so does that mean you spent all of your 'art' time doing those exercises?

I have been having trouble deciding how to best utilize my time. I am also currently at Head Phase 1/2, so I am trying to keep a balance of those exercises plus constantly revisiting still lifes in order to continue studying light on form, edges, etc.

So basically, if you were me would you have a 'classwork' time and then just time to draw whatever (photos, imagination, etc) or would you devote all of your time to Watts studies? I just wonder if going ahead and doing things beyond what I am currently studying will cause me to just develop bad habits.

This program has done a great job of laying out all of the information for us, but I am struggling with how to put it all together into some sort of plan. I dont like just coming to the easel and picking a random thing to study from for the session.

Thanks Andrew!

Drew said...

At this point for me, I have art I do as part of my day job, then everything after hours, which is pretty much this, plus whatever side projects I burn and work on.

For the Watts stuff, I typically spend 4 evenings during the work week doing whatever the latest thing is that I need to work on, plus Saturday morning in a 3-4 hour block. Saturday evening and all of Sunday are always terminally busy for me with family/friends/chores, so I know better than to try and work time into there.

Sometimes I'll have to take a break to tackle some fresh freelance or a side project that had been bugging me - for instance, a couple weeks back I finished sculpting a dinosaur for a private commission, so that took up most of my week nights for about a week and a half. Even then though I tried to get in about 30 minutes to an hour of Atelier studies - typically right after dinner, I'd just throw on a tv show I hadn't seen yet or something on netflix, wheel the easel into the living room (which for me is connected to my studio so it's not an annoyance at all to do such a thing), and sit and draw. Having the show on for me helps since either A) I get a good idea of how much time I've spent studying so I know when to get up and get some of my other work done or B) I get lost in doing studies and having the TV on in the back is just nice white noise.

So, now to answer your question. I think I'm a bit of an oddball because I LOVE to do these sorts of studies - this kind of academic stuff has always been a drug for me, so feeling burnt out on repetition of it has never been an issue for me. But you're more or less in the sort of spot I was when I first started college where even though I drew a lot my formal education was scattershot and really only propped up by one or two nice art teachers and whatever I could scrounge from books and interpret myself.

Were I in that position again, I'd use as much of my time I have scheduled for art to be atelier stuff - primarily keeping it structured and within the confines of the phases I'm taking at the moment. This is the formal, I-sit-down-and-work stuff you gotta do, and that's what that time can be best used for. Treat the atelier like a freelance job - you just gotta put your hours in to earn your pay, which in this case is a larger skill set.

On the flip side of that, keep a sketchbook and carry it around. Draw if you're in the coffee shop, draw during your lunch break, doodle while you wait for food at the restaurant or if you're just chilling with friends and not doing a whole lot of anything (which friends do more frequently than anyone cares to admit.) Keep that sketchbook as your carefree one - draw whatever the hell you want in it. If you want to do studies in it great, if you want to do stuff from your imagination, go for it, just keep drawing.

The reason you should keep a freewheeling sketchbook is because it's VERY easy to get completely entrapped by academic studying, and find that your imagination muscles haven't been flexed at all. Keeping one while you do your formal studies keeps your imagination toned and ready to go once you're more experienced.

I will also say, TAKE YOUR TIME. Don't feel pressured to jump ahead too early. If you need to take a year of doing nothing but still life studies, then you need to take a year. It sounds crushing, but that's what it takes, and that's why it's beneficial to keep a sketchbook around so you don't get bored. So like, starting out from square one? I wouldn't even be touching gouache until I felt confident in my drawing skills - maybe a year or two out? For myself, I'm planning to be painting in gouache by the year's end. I may arrive sooner, I may not, but that's my current goal.

Drew said...

I'll also say, since starting the atelier I've had to find my balance again between studies/fun. I'm right now leaning a bit too much on the side of studies and classwork, but as I go forward I'm going to make a more conscious effort to do some more free sketching.

It all starts to make more sense and becomes easier to grasp if you compare it to the sort of training regimens athletes maintain - it's long hours and a lot of work to give the spectators those brief, dazzling moments.

Joe P said...

Andrew, that was about the most useful answer I have read in a really long time.

So in your honest opinion, if I have 6 hours a day to spend at my easel, I should spend the vast majority if not all of that time doing the Watts studies? I was originally thinking that was the way to go, but not having anyone in real life to talk to about this... I really didnt know if that was an absurd notion or not. Jeff stresses to repeat, but I just wasnt sure how much really.

At this point I am a full on student of art with obviously no commission or other stuff to do. So youre saying if you were me you would just go full on with the studies and only stray from them when I find myself using sketchbook time or whatever? I just want to make sure I am constantly moving towards my goal, and not just become trapped in my studies like you mentioned.

The point about starting gouache is very interesting, as I have also been thinking about when would be a good time to start painting. In the past, I have almost always moved too quickly and paid for it by sucking.. So I really want to take my time with this. It is VERY enticing to start painting....

Thanks again for chatting with me. Studying this stuff on my own is proving to be very difficult.. not so much because the concepts are hard, but because without the structure of being in a class I constantly find myself lost in a pool of 100000 things I need to learn.

Any other advice/wisdom you have is always appreciated and welcome.


Drew said...

You should ideally spend as much time as your willpower can give you. If you can manage 6 hours a day doing studies, then by the gods more power to you because that is outstanding. If you can't, no big deal. I typically get in anywhere from an hour to 2.5 hours a day, except for Saturday when I can set aside my morning (about 3-4 hours.)

The real question is if it's meaningful practice or not. 6 hours of meandering walking isn't going to get you trained for a marathon, but pounding the pavement at full sprint will blow you out if you were to go that long. It IS taxing practice, so you need to be aware of how long you can go before you realize you've slipped into autopilot. You may not be able to keep it up for a long time initially, but as it goes on you'll find yourself being able to go longer and longer with intense focus.

And it doesn't have to all be long form studies of like, 3 hour drawings and all, though those are good. You can get a lot of mileage out of breaking up that block of time into doing smaller, concentrated studies - shadow mapping one object, practicing free handing perspective all over one page, etc. That's what most of my studies are, I just fill a page with as much info as I can cram on there, and I'll sometimes notate stuff next to it when I notice something off or if I check it in a mirror. On one of those pages full of eyes, each of those eyes must not have been more than 5-10 minutes, some less than that.

Drew said...

Oh, right, forgot to mention about the sketchbook. I really would try and keep your atelier stuff scheduled. Say to yourself "This is my time table for these classes, and during these blocks of time I work on this and this alone." Outside of that timeframe though go wild - if you want to do more studies feel free, but you don't have to feel guilty if you want to just sketch wildly in your sketchbook.

Joe P said...

Well 6 hours is pretty much how much time I have each day totally free of other things to do, so I try my best to use it for drawing (about 2 hours before work and 4 hours after work).

The difficulty for me has not been spending those 6 hours drawing, because I love it. It has been exactly HOW to spend those 6 hours drawing. I started by taking Jeffs handouts and copying them to death. Then I got my hands on some foam shapes, a skull, Asaro head, etc and pretty much threw a really bright light onto them and studied those (and continue to do so).

And that is pretty much where I stand right now. I am about 2 months into the program and I am just becoming more comfortable with Phase 1 Head. I am having trouble knowing how to split my hours into meaningful study where I am hitting all of the important things I need to hit. Even within Fundamentals 1 and 2 and Head 1, there are a TON of things to do.

I kind of developed a master list of study items and I try to iterate over them as often as possible. This includes things like:

Still life (lines only)
Still life (up to 2 values)
Loomis heads
Planes of the head

Is this a good idea? I find that its the only way I can continue to hit all of the areas without neglecting anything.

Thanks again for the advice Andrew. It is invaluable to me, really.

Drew said...

For what you're going for, yeah. I'd say treat it like a workout regimen. You have leg day, core day, arm day, etc...

Probably the most fruitful method would be to split it up like that, versus doing a bunch of things in one session. So say, Monday, Wednesday, still life studies (tonal or line); Tuesday, Thursday simple head studies and loomis studies; Friday, Saturday skull and asaro head. Something like that, and keep it in a steady rotation like that for awhile. Eventually as you progress you can drop out certain stuff and add in new things - so like when you go into Phase 2 of the head, maybe drop Still life down to once a week and have studies of individual features take up its old slot.

There's a lot of dexterity work that has to be developed - in the arm, in the eye, in the mind before the lessons make complete sense and you start to discover certain things on your own and you have the means to faithfully execute those revelations.

Once you start to hit a certain plateau in development, you'll find you can catch onto concepts quicker and don't need to put in as much time to figure it out, because you're more savvy and can discern problems and solutions much more readily than at the beginning. But that is a ways away, and I wouldn't be too hung up on asking "am I there yet?" Ultimately as you progress you'll get a good sense of your skills and where you lie and what you can move forward on (providing you keep a clear head and open mind. If you fool yourself one way or the other you won't be able to keep the self-discipline needed to progress.)

Joe P said...

Thanks a million times for that Andrew. It was really the missing link in my studying. I felt like I was in total control of where I was heading, except for this part.

I am going to do it that way from now on (anyways I was already working like this for the most part). Also I will feel less bad about doing the same things over and over again. I guess I never fully understood how much repetition it really took. After drawing my skull model 20 times, I began asking myself if I was doing the same drawing too many times.

It seems as though the answer is I should draw it so much that I can eventually draw it from my mind in any viewpoint perfectly. And that goes for pretty much every part of the training.

Thanks again for the help Andrew, its been great chatting.