Inspiration, Instruction, Musings
Copyright © 2019 Sherry Barrett
All rights reserved.
All rights reserved.
Three point, or oblique perspective, is helpful when drawing a very tall building from ground level; or, when looking down from a very high vantage point. Three-point perspective often reveals 3 sides of an object with the help of 3 vanishing points. Two of the vanishing points are located on the horizon line and the third point is located either above the horizon line for a worm's eye view or below the horizon for a bird's eye view. The horizon line is always placed at the the viewer's eye level. Place the horizon line near the top of the paper to present your bird's eye view or the bottom of the paper to get the worm's eye level. Keep in mind, there are no horizontal or vertical lines in 3-point perspective as every line recedes to a vanishing point.
Practice 3-Point Perspective:
1. Draw the horizon line at your eye level and vertical line closest to you.
2. Draw the angle from the top of that line to the vanishing point to the left on the horizon line. Next, draw from the bottom of that line to the same vanishing point.
3. Determine the slant from the right of the vertical line and draw a line from the top of the vertical to the horizon to determine the right vanishing point on. Now, draw the lower line on the right.
4. To determine the vertical vanishing point, decide the width of each side of the cube and the angle of those lines. At the intersection you will find the third vanishing point. It will be perpendicular to the horizon.
Two point perspective is also known as angular perspective and can be observed by standing in front of the corner of a building. From this "street" view we can see the left and right sides of the building but we can’t see the top or the bottom. We observe two sets of parallel lines receding to two separate vanishing points on the horizon.
Practice Two Point Perspective:
One point perspective can be very dramatic when used to effect as I did in my painting #Me Too-Hope In Release. Today, I explain the basics of one point perspective as you might use them in drawing a fish tank, a box of crackers or a road vanishing in the distance. Get out a ruler and have fun creating fantastical images using one point perspective.
One day, while zooming down the stairs of The National Gallery in London to see a collection of Gaugin paintings on loan, I was stopped in my tracks by a famous painting. I had never cared to see this painting because I had seen prints of it in art books and on dorm room walls; and, frankly, I wasn’t impressed. But, here, in it’s original splendor, on the landing of a stairway, I was transfixed.
The painting was Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. I could not believe how beautiful it was, how vibrant the colors were, the background looked like real gold, and the flowers almost seemed to dance on the canvas. I could feel the warmth from the colors in this painting. I was humbled and captivated by this painting. The description informed me that Van Gogh intended this painting for his guest bedroom where Gaugin stayed for some time.
I later recounted this encounter as a secular-religious experience until a friend informed me there is no such thing as a secular-religious experience. She made the point that I had encountered the divine in the mundane. I have another friend who told me nothing is mundane, everything belongs to God. Just like God to be everywhere and reveal himself to us in countless unique ways.
Has this ever happened to you? Think for a minute, have you ever encountered God in the mundane? Do you have a story you tell over and over because it was such an unusual occurrence? Jot down any thoughts that come without judging them, like a brain storm session.
When my friend told me I had encountered the divine in the mundane, I was sad that I didn’t know it at the time. I was concerned that maybe I had missed a golden opportunity. Fortunately, God is not limited by time and space; so, I prayed and asked God, “Why did that painting strike me? What would you like to reveal to me through that painting?”
It came to me that when we encounter God, we know it on some level whether we have words for it or not. And, God is more vivid and captivating than any cheap image the media might try to give us of him. In life, don’t settle for the cheap imitations of God the world will offer, such as an old guy in a robe smiting people. There is a world of difference to be found in the real thing. Finally, God is warmth and light and something tells me he has the most inviting guest bedrooms ever.
Try this mental exercise I created:
You may be disappointed, or delighted, to learn that I fly through art museums. I have a short attention span so I need to get in and see all the good stuff before I get bored by the boring stuff. I scan the walls of a room to see what the general vibe is and if I like I enter; if not, I move on. I am not interested in all art. It may sound very illiberal and close minded of me, but let’s face facts, there are millions of artworks in this world and I have better things to do with my life than learn to appreciate art that makes me want to throw up. I don’t want those images stuck in my mind giving me nightmares. Also, I have seen enough Renaissance art and portraits to last me a lifetime and I don’t have 15 minutes to watch the video of your plastic bag floating in the wind. I choose not to interact with these images and artists because life is short, brain storage is limited, and I can meet you in the next room. If you still want to visit a museum with me, I will share with you my practice.
In 2010 I had to figure out what faith looked like so I could paint it. I was creating a series of paintings inspired by the life of St. Nicholas for a church of the same name. While summarizing my research the word faith kept coming back to describe how St. Nicholas lived his life. I couldn't get around faith so I had to dive into it. I now teach the method I used to find my image and I call it The Devotional Art Process. I still practice this process when I am trying to create an artwork to help me understand Biblical truths, solidify important life lessons learned, or remember things I don’t want to forget. I think you'll find this method useful if you too are trying to come up with an original work of art that will communicate more than a mere representation of things that already exists.
The Devotional Art Process
1. Ask God for help. Whenever I begin a new task I say, “Here I am God, use me.” In this way, I am inviting the divine to reveal what he will to me. I am letting inspiration know that I am sitting down to work and it may visit me any time, the sooner the better!
2. Flesh out the concept. I never have trouble with a blank sheet of paper because I just do a brain dump first thing to try to see what I already know or can know. A brain dump looks something like this:
4. Create the final image.
5. Share the final image with others and receive feedback.
In my “Faith” painting (pictured above), you see an anchor firmly caught in a cloud to represent St. Nicholas’ faith pointing others to God. I decided on this image because you can't really see "faith", you feel it. It made me think of boating. You can’t see if your anchor is holding onto anything under the water but you can feel it’s found something to hold because you don’t drift away with the tide or current. Likewise, when believers cast the anchor of their faith into the heavens, they learn that God holds them steady through the currents and tides of life.
Every art teacher has their own opinion on the subject of art supplies, but I'll tell you what has worked well for me. I like to begin with what I already have on hand and so I started my first oil painting class with one of those gift box sets of oil paints and brushes and a Bob Ross paint kit. Those two kits served me well until I knew enough to choose new supplies for myself.
When gathering supplies to begin oil painting you'll need:
Newspaper - to protect tables and floors
Smock or Apron - to protect your clothing
Linseed Stand Oil - to create medium
Turpentine - to create medium and clean up oil paint
Oil paints - red, yellow, blue, black, white
Paint Brushes - Variety of sizes (2, 4, 6) and shapes (Filbert, Liner, Flat, Round)
Wooden Pallette or Tear-off Pallettes - for mixing paints
Two small jars - one with turpentine the other with turpentine linseed mixture
Rags or paper towels - for wiping excess paint off brushes
Canvas - You can gesso cardboard or wood; or, use a canvas board
Table top easel - Makes long painting sessions more comfortable
***Gloves and Low Odor Thinner - I am allergic/sensitive to everything so I prefer to use Low Odor Thinner in place of turpentine and wear disposable gloves when I paint with oils. It's also a good idea to wear gloves when using Flake White paint which contains lead. (We know lead is what made artists crazy back in the day and let's face it, we're crazy enough these days without assistance).
When purchasing oil paints, I recommend Winsor & Newton or Daler Rowney brand because they are affordable and have a great range of colors. When trying a new color, purchase a small tube (22ml) in case you don’t like it. Buy large tubes to replace colors as you run out of them. It's good to have a variety of warm and cool colors and you will learn that certain colors are transparent (Ivory Black) while others are more opaque (Flake White).
Beginning palette of colors:
These are the brushes I reach for every time I start an oil painting. You may notice I have several of the same size and shape, that's because there are times when I use one brush per paint color to keep my colors from getting muddy. Above pictured I have:
Signet Robert Simmons 42, Filbert, 6, 4, 2, 1
ProArte Series B Hog, Filbert 2, 1
Winton, Round Fine Hog, 4
Winton, Short Flat/Bright Fine Hog 4
Langnickel, Filbert 4, Round 2
College Oil Brush, Filbert 1, 2, Round 2, Filbert 12, Flat 12,
Bob Ross Script Liner, 1” Landscape, 2” Background
If you need to buy brushes I would recommend buying these hog hair brushes:
Oil painting takes some time to perfect, but the color richness makes it well worth it. Unlike acrylic and water color painting, oil paints are slow to dry. When living in England I had to wait a full week between layers of paint. You may be thinking what do you mean layers of paint? That's the magic of oil painting, around layer three, the layers of color begin to show through each other creating a beautiful depth and richness. Oil painting is one medium where I suggest you must get a book from the library or take a class. There are so many tips and tricks and ways of using this medium.
One tip I learned in class that I'll share with you involves acrylic paint of all things. It was a one day class painting in the tradition of the Old Masters and he had us begin by painting a greyscale version of the still-life using acrylic black and white. After we completed the black and white acrylic painting, which dries in minutes, we began adding layers of colored glazes over the oranges, bananas and plums. It was like magic as we placed the color and added highlights! So, if you're in a hurry, like me, consider an acrylic underpainting. But, you must never paint acrylic over an oil painting because the acrylic (which is water based paint) will not adhere to the oil (which is oil based paint). You know what they say about oil and water repelling each other!
Anyone can draw a person and get everyone to say, “Oh, that’s a person.”
O>-< See, I just did it using a keyboard. You might even say the person is lying down. But, you wouldn’t say it looks like anyone you know. It’s a symbol for person. Our brains are full of symbols for trees, flowers, rainbows and many other things that allow us to draw quickly when playing Pictionary and get the desired answer. But, these symbols are unsatisfying when we are trying to achieve the likeness of a family member. So, how does one get to the point of drawing things as they look to the critical mind? Here are some tips to get you moving in the right direction.
#1: Work from photographs you’ve taken.
From my experience, realism requires drawing from the real thing. I’ve been drawing off and on my entire life and I cannot whip out a realistic anything from my mind. I can make some cute cartoons or caricatures, and I’m an excellent Pictionary partner, but, if you want realism from me I need to be in front of the thing; or, better yet, a photograph. Photographs are helpful when learning because they can’t blink or move out of place and the lighting won’t change with the movement of the sun. The photograph also does the hard work of translating the 3-D object into a 2-D form.
#2: Draw on a large sheet of paper .
Trust me, you do not want to draw a full length portrait in a 4”x6” journal. You would need the steadiness of a surgeon to place every mark where it needs to be. I once did a small pencil drawing of my daughter and she looked crazy in the 6” x 9” sketch. I kept looking and looking trying to see what I did wrong. I had to erase the corner of her eye and draw the corner with one pencil dot. With one dab of the pencil it was perfect, but, I had to remove the dash that was wrong so I could place the dot to get it right. A DOT! Larger formats are more forgiving and provide more room for error.
#3: Spend more time looking at the subject than your drawing.
Don’t dive into drawing right away. Sit there and really look at what you’re drawing for a minimum of 5 minutes. Set a timer. Spend that time tracing every line you see using your imagination. Where are the darkest darks and the lightest lights? Is this composition short and wide or tall and thin? Plan how you will put it on the paper: horizontal or vertical? Will you use a 2B or 6B pencil to draw a baby? What part of the image do you want at the center of your paper? What do you like most about what you’re looking at? Don’t lose that! What is in front and what fades into the background? Really map out the drawing in your mind.
#4: Realism requires questions, corrections, erasers, and rulers.
For realism to blossom, your perspective lines must be spot on, your horizon needs to be level, the walls of your house need to be straight, and the person’s face must be in proportion to itself. Break out your library card and check out books on perspective, proportions, and drawing realistic faces. Erase errant marks and straighten wavy lines. You must keep looking at the original and compare it with the marks you just put on the paper. Does your line have the same slope? Correct it. Is the house really taller than the tree? Yes, it is a newly planted tree. Reassure yourself because your brain might try to make the tree to tall.
#5: Draw something, or someone, to whom you aren’t emotionally connected.
We are often unsatisfied with subjects we know very well because we are experts on the subject and emotions can complicate things. Our logical brain says, "Something isn't quite right with this drawing.” Our pet can look like a stuffed animal instead of the warm, charming critter we know them to be. While you are learning to draw more realistically, maybe avoid friends, family and pets for subjects. If you simply must draw a precious subject, consider turning your picture upside down and doing the drawing upside down. It somehow tricks that bossy, doubtful side of your brain so it doesn't quite recognize what you're up to.
#6: Practice and patience lead to improvement, not perfection.
As you practice drawing you are building your visual vocabulary of how you create various 3-D objects on a 2-D surface. You don't need to be as perfect as a camera because you are not a piece of machinery. But, with enough practice, you just might trick the human eye. Artists are playing an instrument that requires practice and tuning. Just like musicians, artists must practice 8 hours a day to perfect their performance. But even musicians who play a piece perfectly as written, can sound a little different. That’s the magic of humans and snowflakes, no two alike. Artists put a bit of themselves on the paper and that’s okay, even in realism.
It takes patience and persistence to achieve a realistic replication of an image and the artist must push through the moment when they most want to quit because that is often the moment they are on the verge of a breakthrough. Remember, what you draw tomorrow will be better than what you drew today because you never stop learning and improving.
A student from my alma mater was writing an article for The Chimes about Calvin Alumni who entered ArtPrize this year and saw my name listed on Calvin’s website. She asked me to answer the following three questions; and, although I didn’t get back to her in time for her publication deadline I thought I’d share my answers with you.
-How did Calvin College impact your journey as an artist?
My Calvin education taught me to care for our culture and contribute to the redeeming work Christ is doing in my sphere of influence. I take that charge seriously and hope it informs my work. On a practical level, photography and graphic design classes I took really inform my process as an artist.
-What inspired this installation and what is your hope for how the public interacts with it?
I was deeply touched by the #MeToo movement and the number of people it has affected. A few years ago I drew the image of a woman on a pier tied to a barge of trash for a friend. She was sexually abused as a child and this was an image that came to her in her healing process. The meaning, she discovered, was that she should forgive her grandfather and let go of those memories so she could move forward in freedom and not have those past events define her. It didn't matter who put the rope around her neck, she could take it off. She suggested the image could be improved if I painted my own trash and what freedom would look like for me. I was not eager to undertake this project and was avoiding it until I saw a Facebook video on forgiveness that gave me the title for my painting. I realized art could begin a journey for others who need to find healing for their past through forgiveness. They may not find justice, but they can find freedom. On my website I have links to many tools for working out forgiveness that I've come across since undertaking this project. My hope is that this painting will provide a way forward for those who are still held hostage to painful memories tied to them by un-forgiveness.
-Have you entered anything in ArtPrize before?
This is my first year participating in ArtPrize. I chose to enter ArtPrize so that this painting might contribute to the conversation around #MeToo in our country. These problems won't be solved in the courts or legislature; but, by individuals taking courageous steps to heal their fractured identity.
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Sherry Barrett is an active artist who takes inspiration from great works of literature, historical figures, and wise people.