Archive for February, 2010

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“Imagine 2010” Exhibition

February 27, 2010

Getting back to the subject of art today, I was fortunate to have three of my artworks entered into a local exhibition, “Imagine 2010.” Below are a few snapshots taken by me of the reception which took place last night.

Imagine 2010 Exhibit


A potential customer!


My section.


View from 3rd floor.


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The show is being held at the Texas State University Higher Education Center, which is a large 3 floor complex, and an excellent exhibition space. It will run until May 19th. There was a huge crowd last night; always a good thing to see. My heart-felt applause and gratitude to Anne Phillips and the Round Rock Arts Council for all their hard work.

Links to artworks:
Oscar Plays Guitar
Asleep At The Beach
Emerald Cove

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Redesigning the Hot Dog

February 26, 2010


Okay, not art related. Nonetheless, nothing bugs me more than things that are poorly designed. Recently a newstory made the rounds from a USA Today report that hot dogs were a serious choking hazard for kids. The director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy said that he’s certain that some savvy inventor will find a way to redesign them.

At first I thought this was one of those phony internet stories, but apparantly it’s authentic. Okay, is there a problem teaching kids how to chew? Does food need to come with instructions now? However, in the interest of good design, allow me to submit my proposal for a better shaped hot dog. Clink this link for the reveal…

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Understanding How Wood Shrinks

February 18, 2010

Wood makes a very stable surface for paintings, but can have problems with curling, splits or surface defects. There are ways to minimize this problem by how the wood is cut (either veneer sheets in plywood or solid planks,) and choosing species that have low shrinkage characteristics and take paint well.


Source: USDA Handbook Chapter 3, “Physical Properties and Moisture Relations of Wood”

How wood is cut:
Wood cuts are made lengthwise in one of two ways, tangentially or radially. Tangent cuts are sometimes referred to as “plainsawn” and radial cuts as “quartersawn” or “rift.” Tangent cuts are the most common at mills since there is less waste and is therefore less expensive, but this type of cut is more likely to lead to warping problems. As such, a radial cut is a better option for the surface of a wood panel. Potential drawbacks of a radial cut is that there is less surface area so they tend to be smaller in size, depending on the size of the tree, and for some species a radial cut may not accept paint as well as a tangent cut. Also, at most mills a radial cut option is not offered for many species.


How wood shrinks:
Wood is made mostly of tubular cellulose fibers that run through the inside of the trunk (picture drinking straws stacked side by side.) When wood absorbs or loses moisture those cell walls expand or contract and this action is what can cause the panels to curl or twist under the stress. Splits and cracks can form from the rays that emanate from the center. The greatest amount of stress occurs in a circular fashion, following the direction of the rings. Since a tangent cut has that stress at the sides, it’s more prone to warp. Radial cuts shrink at about half the strength of a tangent cut, and most of the stress is limited to the depth rather than the face, and is less noticeable. Splits or checks on radial cuts will not appear on the face.

In the image below the bottom panel is raw poplar, and sitting on top of it is a solid ¼” birch panel. Both are tangent cuts. The birch was painted with an acrylic primer and you can see how much it curled after drying. Even the poplar panel has a slight curl to it just from humidity, but the thickness helps lessen the distortion.

One interesting thing to keep in mind is that when trees grow at an angle instead of vertical, such as with large branches or split trunks, they tend to have more inherent internal stresses that can lead to later warping problems, regardless of how it’s cut. This trait is referred to as “reaction wood.” It’s not the sort of detail that is easily available, but it can cause a good type of wood to behave poorly.

This Wood Explorer site has a very thorough database that lists various wood species characteristics, including shrinkage and painting. Some hardwoods that take paint well and have low shrinkage are river birch, white ash, and yellow poplar. There can be differences in behavior within some species types (not all poplars are identical, for example) but they still tend to be rather close, usually depending on where they come from.

Composite panels made of high or medium density fibers (hardboard or MDF) have a more uniform smooth surface than solid wood, but they can still warp, and there’s no way to deal with it other than building a back bracing frame support. They can also have other issues, such as being made of low quality wood and a tempered surface that doesn’t paint well. Solid wood or plywood made of species with low shrinkage ratios, radially cut, tend to react very little to changes in humidity. Bracing is still a good idea, but a simple frame along the back edges (strainer) is usually all that’s necessary.

Other Links:
USDA Forest Service Documents
USDA List of Hardwoods

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Figure Drawing: Connect the Dots

February 17, 2010

I wanted to take a moment to show how I translate a figure to the page. This finished drawing below was made a few years back, 12 x 16 inches in graphite. I’ve recreated a rough sketch based on that drawing to show how it began.

Rough sketch


Finished drawing

The first thing I determine is where the center of the figure lies, which in this case is approximately where her left knee is, and then I mark the top and bottom extremes of the whole pose. I can see that her left toe almost sits halfway between her knee and the right toe point. This distance is approximately the same as a point from her groin straight across to her left arm. Using extreme measurements such as this I can roughly block out where to place things on the page. Once I set a firm measurement, such as toe to toe, I try and use that same distance at several places in order to keep it constant. As I become confident that the larger points are in their proper place, I can break it down into smaller distances if necessary.

The measuring is done with the ‘tried and true’ system of using a long pencil held straight out with the arm fully extended, holding the pencil either horizontal or vertical. I then use the tip of the pencil and thumb aligned to the points I see in front of me. It’s not a perfect measuring system, but close enough is fine in this case. No one will be testing me later.

It’s helpful to look for other visual clues too, like the extended curve of the hand along the side of her cheek, or how the bottom curve of her hips lines up with the right arm. Notice how the neck lines up with the inside of her breast, and you can extend that imaginary line to her right hip. Look at “negative” shapes also, such as the shape between her arm and left hip.

Don’t start shading too early. If you haven’t placed everything correctly first, then shading it will only give you more marks to erase.

Another tip about extemes, just as with measuring you can concentrate on exteme values as well. This is particularly useful on timed poses in a figure drawing session where the model may move at the end of the pose before you get everything nicely shaded. If you start with the darker values and softly outline the shapes made by the lighter values first you can more easily shade everything in without even needing the model in front of you.

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Walter Foster “How To” Art Books

February 11, 2010

When I was growing up in the Piney Woods of East Texas I was starved for an art education, reading every library book I could find and buying what I could afford. Among the first I collected was a series of books published by Walter T. Foster. These were tall tabloid sized paperbacks that cost only $1 back then. They were only around 30 pages so the amount of information covered was limited, but the books covered a wide range of material, from figure drawing and landscapes to animation and lettering. Over 100 books altogether of which only a few of mine still survive. Their book on casein was the first time I had ever heard of it, and it became a favorite medium of mine.

The Foster Publishing company is still in operation. I don’t have any of their latest books so I don’t know for certain if the content is exactly the same, and they’ve added new titles as well; although, the price has gone up some, as with most things. You can still find copies of these older books on eBay as well. To a young kid desperate to learn all he could about art, I am grateful for how they got me started.

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Drawing Study of Figurine: Part 3

February 4, 2010

The figurine is now completely drawn. The detail area shown here is about 5 inches square and the whole page is 12×16.


Detail

The idea I have for a background is a mass of intricate vines and flowers. I’ll contemplate that for awhile, however, before I do anything more.

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Drawing Study of Figurine: Part 2

February 3, 2010

Making my way down this drawing. Here’s the latest version with a closeup:


I have some thoughts on the background, but will concentrate on the figure for now. I’m getting a hang of using these pencils. Just have to keep the tip sharpened.