Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Urban Sketching in Paris (part 1)

Last year (2012) in March, I officially joined Urban Sketching Singapore. Being in the group assisted greatly in my initially fear of sketching outdoors.  Being in the group allowed me to NOT focus on the curious by-stander scrutinizing my work, and furthermore, I could also receive advice and tips from the veterans. 

About a year ago, I was sketching in France. But the south of France where I began my very long sketch walk on the Camino Frances in St Jean Pied du Port.  This year, I am up north in France, in a city you might have heard of - Paris. :) It's a winter break from school and my schoolmate invited me to join him and his family in the La Defense area. Homestay and home-cooked food from Bangalore everyday… what a deal! Initially, it was a 7 day trip, there was so much to see, I extended it to 2 weeks! I had been to Paris before as a backpacker tourist for a couple of days. But to live and breathe the Seine, do grocery shopping at Auchan every other day and cook, that's nearly as close as being a resident here. Here's sketching the world, one city at a time.  :)

Here are my ink sketches using my trusty Hero pen!!
(All images are 21cm x 60cm on a Moleskine A4 watercolor sketchpad.)

I misread a message by Mr Tsunehiko and waited for him ON the street level of Luxemborg Station instead of meeting him IN the Metro line. My bad.

We finally met and he brought me to a wonderful location to sketch by the river Seine.

This sketch session was organized by Kim - who looks after USKParis. This is Le Musée des Arts Forains in the Bercy area. It's a turn of the century amusement park that is opened to the public once a year. The restoration work is astounding. And another bonus... someone offered me a free ticket.

This piece need no introduction. I come from a place where it averages 27 degrees celsius all year round. Sketching outdoors in the chilly weather has been challenging for me. 

(To be continued…) 

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Art of Subway Sketching

Sounds like confession by it's been more than a month since I last posted. :) The workload at school got a little heavy towards the end of the term. But now I'm in Paris enjoying the company of a schoolmate whose family invited me over for a visit.  What a deal!

The Metro or subway in Paris reminds me of what I used to do in the local Singapore MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). All I need is a small A5 sketchbook and my Hero pen with ink that flows faster than you can say "ink that flows faster than"… ok that was silly.

But since school is out and the local beaches during this cold winter climate is a no-no for model sketching, I look to the subways for train system sketching practices. It helps me focus on gestures because you never know when your model has to alight, looks in another direction or when the train gets so packed like a tin of sardines you don't need to hold the handles for stability because the people around you are pressed up so tightly against you. :)

Sketching in the subway also trains (no pun… really) you how to keep on track (Ok, this one I tried too hard for the pun) quickly at your model as many of them will be very conscious that you are drawing them. So if you are ever doing this and your model happens to be within a 3 metro range, start by looking elsewhere. When you peripheral vision tells you that he or she is not looking at you, glance at your model for a couple of seconds, and if you if your model will be looking back at you… casually turn your eyes away. :)  So far only about 5% of the people are sketch are comfortable with me sketching them and no I have not been fined for stalking people. That's why it's an Art. :D

Enjoy! And have a restful and peaceful end of the year festive season!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cast Away!!

I earned myself a spot in the cast room somewhere during the 3rd week of the term and was introduced to a handful of new materials.  It's goodbye to the bargues... for now. ;p 

The process of drawing from a cast is similar to that of working on a bargue, and yet different. Firstly, there's a lot of walking up and down involved. Secondly, no strings for measuring are involved, just a razor-edged set of eyes which will sharpened even more during the process. Thirdly, we use the sight-size method meaning the size of the cast is exactly the same as what you see on paper. And lastly, we use expensive paper. :)

Check out the finished artwork and a soon to be released video clip here.
But for now, I'm getting ready to move onward to the next cast.

Nitram charcoals 

After tracing the contours, a one-tone 'black' is filled in. 

Working on the finishing touches of David

Sunday, October 27, 2013

All About Bargue (finale)

And so I'm finally done with the mandatory bargues and have moved on to greener pastures. (Pause) Nah, I'm pretty sure I'll be doing more of these on my own.  They have been really helpful. I'm beginning to see the subtlety in the things around me and being more meticulous in precision. But of course, it's a little step I make on this very long road.  The bargues slowed me down a lot, and rewired a lot of my thought process. And I'm glad I it did. Sharper. Clearer. More focused. I'm ready for the next set of training in charcoal and very expensive paper. :)

Next stop: The Cast Room. See you there! 

Here I am doing the finishing touches of the last bargue.

Bad picture. I know. I'm beginning to appreciate a lot the beauty of original art. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chapter 2 - Looking forward

So summer officially ends and the Fall Trimester begins tomorrow.  This week will begin with a BIG LOUD BANG!!!  New term, Schoolism workshop and group exhibition this coming weekend!  Yes, all in one week. :)

I am posting this unfinished holiday piece that I worked on as a gentle reminder to myself where I am today.  I started this piece in my first trimester and the project was to learn the copying process of the masters.  Looking forward to completing this soon.

Seated man, 48 x 33cm
Graphite on Canson paper

Schoolism is sending two guest speakers to Florence on Wednesday. What a deal!  Gesture Drawing with Pixar's Louis Gonzales and Realistic Creature and Character Design with Blizzard's Anthony Jones. I have signed up for the morning session with Gonzales. If you happen to be in the vicinity and are interested in the workshop, do sign up now. http://www.schoolism.com/workshop-florence/?lang=en
:) Looking forward to meeting Bobby and Kei again! 

In conjunction with the week long World Bicycle Championship here in Tuscany right now is the Bicycle Film Festival from 26 -29 Sept 2013. I was invited to exhibit 3 of my latest urban sketches with a bicycle theme (but of course)! If you are a bicycle geek, love saving the earth and enjoy watching a good flick, head on down to Leopolda in Florence for some bike fun! Details are here: http://www.bicyclefilmfestival.com/city/firenze/ Those living in Firenze, please brace yourselves with the crazy traffic and detours!!! 

Here's a peek at one of my pieces. Every street has its character and because of this, the way bicycles are parked are so telling of the street its on.  This one was right outside my favourite Mesopotamian Kabab that sells my favorite dolmas on Via dell'Oriuolo. 

Looking forward!!!! (x3)

In fila, 20 x 50cm
Ink on watercolour paper (framed)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Heading South (part 2)

I met up with my schoolmate, Roberto, in his hometown, Latina. Together with a bunch of hiking fanatics we spent the weekend camping in the National Park Abruzzo - about 80km east of Rome. About 10 of us met at the camping point of Le Quiet, nearby a village called Villetta Barrea, to pitch our tents.  I really love those 2 second tents from Quechua btw. 

In the evening of the day one, there was the annual Folk Festival in another nearby village called Civitella Alfenda which was about a 25 min walk from our campsite. Sure, the performances were traditional, and nobody really practices them nowadays but it sure did draw in the crowds! I love exploring all these tiny villages amidst the mountainous terrain, because you never know what to expect! :) 

One of the performances of the Folk Festival that involves a walk around the entire village.

Villetta Barrea celebrating their feast day with a procession around the village.

The next day began at 7.30am with a warm-up walk leading to a 1,900m ascend to the top of Monte San Nicola. (Yes, Santa Claus! :D) I enjoyed the entire climb up and down.  It took nearly 6 hours and a timekeeper from the group clocked the total distance covered at 65km. It reminded me of the Camino. But my longest day was only 40km then. This trek was extremely relaxing as I was just following the crowd. In fact, I didn't even know I was going to do a climb with a long lunch break at the top, so I didn't bring my food. 

Breath-taking heights, panoramic views, good company!!! 

Lunch at one of the highest points of San Nicolo.
My team and I heading up to Monte San Nicolo.

And I tried to stop once in a while for a sketch.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Back to School

Summer is nearing its end. Everyone is returning back to the city from their holidays. The art shops, the cinemas, some restaurants have begun dusting their windows, and welcoming their patrons back.  At first chance, I made it to a local theatre screening Monsters University this past week, and even though the movie is in Italian! And boy did I miss out on some of the jokes and puns, but it was worth it! Most of us who are into it know the gist of the story. It's a prequel from the 2001 movie where Sulley and Mike are learning the ropes of scaring while they still in University. 

So why am I trying to be like a movie reviewer by blogging about this?  Well, it's just that the movie spoke to me at different levels and I have to find a place to document this. :) 

First thing is that I'm back at school - for the long haul. Not just a week or a couple of months, but a full academic programme. Exactly how long it will take will take depends on how fast or slow I learn.

I would love to think of myself as, Sulley, the champion scarer of Monsters Inc. But as the film unfolds, I realise how I'm so like Michael Wazowski. How he tries so hard to be in the scare programme, how works his butt off on his assignments, how serious he gets about school as he had been working his entire life to get into the programme in the hopes of joining Monsters Inc.  Even though he was expelled from school, he tried! Right before the last scene when Sulley catches up with him on the bus, he says to him, "Mike, you're not scary, not even a little. But you're fearless. And if Dean Abigail Hardscrabble can't see that then..." I almost felt that Mike was talking to me. That's how and why I love these Disney animated movies, and would like to be a part of them one day!

And the last scene in the changing room locker of Mike, we see the photos that traced all the job positions he had before getting that dream job of his. This reminds me that you've gotta keep trying and try different routes! And work from the bottom up if needed. In our time and age where we can retrieve information almost instantly, we lose sight of the need to take time to do things. I just I'm writing this to remind myself of believing in the 10,000-hour theory - that if you spend 8 hours a day for 10 years honing your craft, you'll eventually become very good at it. :) 

Looking forward building theme parks for Disney and creating endearing animated characters and of course watching more movies by Disney that inspire! (Yea, no one from Disney paid me to say this.) 

Michael Wazowski.
Gouache on watercolour paper.

Inspired by the short before Monsters Uni is The Blue Umbrella. 
Gouache on watercolour paper.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Heading South (part 1)

A little more than a week ago, I traveling south of Florence to immerse myself more into Italy. I stayed a night in Rome, and early in the following morning, I journeyed to San Giovanni Rotondo in Pulglia. There lies the body of Padre Pio in the basilica up on a hill where he spent the last 52 years of his life serving the community there.

Next stop is the sea town Bari. I met my Camino friend, Luca, who showed me his hometown. Very lively city filled with warm friendly and beautiful people. Next I journeyed across the country to Latina to meet schoolmate Roberto and friends to trek at the Abruzzo National Park.

(To be continued...)

A friar in a Magic Shop. That's something you don't see everyday!
What am I doing in a Magic Shop anyways?

Famous Column of Marcus Aurelius. Piazza Colonna.

Body of Padre Pio, San Giovanni Rotondo

Streets in Bari Old Town

Monday, August 19, 2013

Self-watering Summers

We're more than half way past summer, and people are still travelling. For those of us who grow our own food, plants, fruit, etc, here's a very simple way to keep our pots or gardens watered while we're out of town exploring the rest of the planet. I've made some recently as I am getting ready to head south soon. There are plenty of these on the net, but I thought I'd share this in a less-than-a-minute digestible format. Enjoy earth, we've got just one of 'em!  =)

Here are the things you need: 
- Empty mineral bottle
- Plastic tubs from the DIY store
- Screwdriver

Puncture the bottle caps and make them wide enough for the tubes.

Make sure they're a snug fit.

Fill the bottle with water, cap it and place it in your pot or greens in the garden. Once the soil feels dry, water will self feed itself to keep the dirt moist. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

PLANE and Simple

Yes, the latest Disney movie called Planes is out.  Made by the team from Pixar who created Cars, I'm pretty sure I'll be seeing a lot of cameos!  : )  By the way, I'm still waiting patiently for Monsters Inc 2 to play here in the theaters on Aug 21. 

Well, the reason for this post is more about what I am focused on these days. Planes. As in facade. From the summer workshops I took, I realise how unfamiliar I am with about the miniscule changes of the human body surface. And yes, this includes the planes of the face too. And so timely because my summer homework is to study copies from the Bammes Anatomy book. This book is about body parts broken down into simplified segments. If you are interested in chiseling and fine-tuning this aspect of your art, check out some of the contents of the book here.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

D.I.Y. Art Board Stand

This past week I got to try out my new homemade art board stand in the beautiful city of Pisa in Tuscany. About 80 km west of Florence, the ride took about one hour on a fast regional train. It was a day trip and my very first to this city with the famous tower that leans. I've posted my works in my usual slot at https://www.facebook.com/alvinmark.art

In case you are interested in making yourself one of these portable stands to hold your paper while you are sketching, here's a step by step on how it's done! Being out there urban sketching on a touch and go basis, I find this contrivance very light and quick to set-up. Having a sturdy board like this frees my other hand to hold my palette if the terrain does not accommodate sitting down like in this case when the ground is wet. 

1) I bought a camera tripod from the local street vendors. Next, I removed the mount.

2) Find a thick and sturdy enough chip board. The one I bought is 3mm thick. 
3) Also get a small piece of wood that is similar to the height of the tripod mount and shave that down to size. I used a good pen knife for that and sandpaper to even out the edges.

 4) Last but not least locate the middle of the board and super glue the little piece of wood down. And Waaaa-laaaah!  You have got yourself a practical and economical art board stand. :) 

Baptistry, Pisa
Gouache on watercolour paper.

Here's one of my favourite pieces from that day.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Figuring it out

Two weeks came and went.  It was premature, but I got my hands dirty in the art of painting with a live model. New paints, new brushes, new mediums, and of course, a new canvas. We started from scratch. Drawing with a pencil, and then sketching using the dry brush method.  Next, a grisaille (which means a painting done in shades of grey), and finally moving on to painting in colours.  Boy was it intense! But very, very fruitful for me to be able to see the entire process of what I will be learning in the next few years. What's great is that I know what to focus on for my foundational year and I will be looking at the bargues from a different point of view, leaving me less frustrated. :) 

Can't wait to get back to the bargues again this Fall. Looking forward, ahead and beyond!

Grisaille piece of Rebeca.

This quick exercise is known as Planet Saturn. :) 

Dry brush sketch of Cadavid.

 Here's doing the big form modelling of the figure. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bargues in Detail

Ciao guys!!

I've been asked to share a more detailed process of copying Bargues. For those who are unfamiliar with this word... Bargue the last name of French artist who devise a drawing method with the same name. Read a little more about him here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Bargue

What's great about this foundational drawing exercise is that it's like a pencil sharpener for your eyes! The more you do, the better you get with your drawing and painting skills. 

And so here it is:

These were the materials I used on top of my pencils.

Draw a plumpline on your a good quality paper, then mark off the highest and lowest points using a ruler. (This will be the last time you use a ruler.) Next, get a piece of thread and use it to locate the coordinates of every single point. How you go about it is to measure a point using the string you would like to mark off from the top most point from photocopy. Then immediately translate the coordinates to your working sheet using that same string. (Careful as you might over stretch the string will result in an error while plotting out the coordinate.) 

OK, that was a mouthful! 

The idea is to cover the large shapes first, and then work to find the sub or smaller shapes. Once the points are confirmed (precision is key), you can used those newly confirmed points as a way of double checking other coordinates. 

This will take a while... give yourself some weeks.  So listen to an audiobook or music on your iPod... 

Once you are 100% sure of your shapes [at school, you have trained instructors to guide you :) ], you start filling in the a 90% black for the shadows. Flipping your bargue 90º or even a 180º every now and then allows you to see better your errors. And trust me - there will be! :)

Once the black shapes are in, you do the big form modelling in on your copy ingnoring the details.
See the snout of the horse on my work in progress? Can you see it as a cylindrical tube? That's what Big Form Modelling is all about. Here, you are still not concerned over the details, hence the name Big Form Modelling.

Get as many trained eyes as you can to look at your bargue. After the BFM, you work on the variations of the shadows and lights and take it to an accurate finish.  This is when you focus on the smaller details... this should be therapeutic for most people. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Art of Copying

For the bulk of one of my workshops "17th, 18th and 19th Century Painting Methods", I'm doing a copy of Dali's Christ of Saint John of the Cross. From the 6 pieces I could choose from, this one had the most anatomy.  Here's posting a work in progress.  Can't wait for the new week to begin so I can continue with this piece.  :)

Getting the sketch down with burnt umber on the Campitura. I chose to use the grid-method as oppose to the tracing method. 

Blocking off the entire dark area with a dead black. Already, the painting begins to pop right of the canvas.

After working on the bottom scene a little, I started to adjust the anatomy of the figure as accurately as possible.