Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Quote of The Day

A rational study of various master's working methods them to be preoccupied with efficiency. Their goal: Produce the highest quality artwork in the least amount of time. Thus, they enthusiastically embraced any useful method, tool or new device -such as the camera oscura. Camera oscura means "dark room." Oscuro means dark, not obscure. Years ago, the artist went inside a room with a lens installed in the wall facing the subject. The image was projected (upside-down) onto the opposite wall. The artist could trace the image, saving hours of toil.
In later years, the camera oscura became smaller and evolved into a portable box with a lens projecting the image onto a mirror which was fixed at 45 degrees. The image bounced off the mirror onto a piece of glass, like the viewfinder in a modern reflex camera. The artist would draw on the glass or transparent vellum. A later development, the camera lucida (light chamber) consisted of a prism held above the paper and aimed at the subject (more about that, later).
Today, we have an astounding array of aids for the production of art. Photography, projectors, Xerox, computer generated graphics, and rub-down type are just a few of the new tools. It's interesting to ponder how the Old Masters would have made use of these new tools. One thing is certain, as working professionals, they would have no qualms about using them.
There are still some artists who equate Art with a sporting event. They try to impose arbitrary rules, as though Art was a game of volleyball or bridge. They say you can't use photographs, or tracing is cheating, or a real artist should be able to draw solely from the model. Rubbish!
Remember, unlike volleyball or bridge, there are no rules for producing art. Yes, plagiarism has a bad odor to it but there can be no such thing as "cheating" at drawing. The truth is - the better you can draw without visualizing aids, the better you can draw with them. Many unskilled people try them only to be shocked and disappointed by their results. They draw as badly with the aid of a visualizer as without one. No mechanical device can compensate for a lack of skill. You just can't fake it!
The 35mm SLIDE PROJECTOR is the most commonly available visualizing device. The model we use is Kodak's CAROUSEL with zoom lens and remote focusing. Rather than move the easel back and forth towards the projector, the zoom lens allows us to easily enlarge or reduce a slide. The remote focusing option allows both focus and advance to the next slide. When the projector is positioned 20 feet away from the easel, remote focusing can save many footsteps. We always have some lights on in the room when drawing from a projected image. It's more important to see how the drawing is progressing than to see the nuances of the reference slide.
When projecting the image we don't get carried away trying to fill in all the details. After the drawing is blocked in, you will want to be able to refer to the slide. Hand-held slide viewers require you to 1) stop, 2) lay down your brushes, 3) pick up the viewer, 4) look away from the canvas, 5) re-focus your eyes and peer through an eyepiece. If that doesn't slow you down, nothing will! Frequent re-focusing will fatigue your eyes.
The best way to view your slide is through a rear-projection screen. You can use a sheet of frosted glass for that purpose but we tack a sheet of tracing vellum next to the canvas. In that way the image is projected on the tracing paper and you can draw of paint alongside it. If you're interested in maximum detail, slides yield sharper images and more accurate colors than color prints.
The stand-alone visualizer- the LUCY, looks like a photostat camera. Indeed, you could use a photostat camera as a visualizing device. Like a photostat camera, the Lucy has a copyboard, a lensboard with attached lights, and glass plate for viewing. By adjusting the distances between those three elements, you can enlarge or reduce any opaque image (photos, books, etc.) onto the reverse side of a piece of tracing paper. Small 3 dimensional objects can also be accurately traced. A number of manufacturers produce their own version of the Lucy. The most common are complex, oddly designed chain-driven affairs which frequently slip out of focus. They're very expensive. The best designed Lucy is the Lucygraf. The 18"x22" work surface is bigger than most. It's half the price of its competitors and, in 20 years of service in our studio, it's never slipped out of focus...never!
Electricity and photography have allowed us to turn the camera obscura inside -out. The opaque projector looks like a camera obscura with a light bulb on the inside. The image is projected outward, rather than gathered inward. High -quality opaque projectors range in size from the eight-foot tall ARTOGRAPH 1000K to the ASTRACOPE 5000 (which is not much bigger than a toaster). Our preference is the Artograph DB400 which mounts to a drawing table.
The features to look for when buying an opaque projector are; (1) a high quality lens, (2) a front-surfaced mirror, (3) high output lights, (4) an internal fan (to keep from burning your reference photos and drawings). There are opaque projectors designed to project horizontally onto an easel. Others are designed to project vertically onto a desk or drawing board. Some can do both. Before you buy any opaque projector, test it in a partly lit room. Is it bright enough to allow you to see the image while some room lights are on? Don't try to scrimp on the price of an opaque projector. Nobody ever got rich by saving money on an opaque projector, it will quickly repay its cost.
The lowest priced opaque projector that I'd recommend is the ARTOGRAPH SUPER AG100. The lens is serviceable and the 2-200 watt lamps provide adequate illumination. The Super AG100 has an optional stand and reduction lens to allow it to project vertically, onto a drawing table.
The ASTRASCOPE 5000 and the ARTOGRAPH MC 250 have superior quality lenses, powerful halogen lamps and 6"x6" glass copyboards. They're similar in capabilities but the German-made Astracope 5000 is somewhat more expensive. At the top-of-the-line is the ARTOGRAPH TH 500. It has a larger copyboard (8"x8") and a super-powerful 500 watt tungsten halogen lamp, and a tack-sharp color corrected lens. The cover is designed to accommodate books and 3D objects. It's the best horizontal opaque projector.
Distortion can occur when the horizontal opaque projector and easel are not aligned. Our eyes naturally compensate for any distortion. Thus, the image might look correct when it's being projected, but when the projector is turned off to view the drawing, distortions become apparent. Many illustrators go for years not understanding why they get unwanted distortion in their projected images. The cure for distortion is simple - just put a grid on the copyboard. Here's how we do it. We project the reference onto the drawing surface, getting it properly scaled and in focus. Then, we replace the reference with a 1/4" grid. The grid makes any misalignment apparent. If we're projecting onto an easel, we shift the easel until it is in perfect alignment with the projector. Once they are aligned, we remove the grid and replace the reference. The grid also shows any distortion inherent in the lens (remember to bring a grid when shopping for an opaque projector).
Overhead, or Vertical Projectors do not require frequent alignment. The best models are solidly made affairs which are aligned at the factory. Artograph dominates the market. Their top line model is the giant (8 feet tall) 1000K VERTICAL ART PROJECTOR. Unlike earlier models, which needed to be attached to the wall, the 1000K is free -standing. The 1000K has two powerful 500 watt tungsten halogen lamps, two fans, a 12"x12" copyboard, and a color corrected lens. At well over $10.00 a pound, this 200 pound projector represents a considerable investment.
My favorite is the ARTOGRAPH DB 400. Evidently, most illustrators agree with me, because it's one of Artograph's best selling models. The DB 400 has a range of 300% enlargement to 33% reduction with a 10 12"x11" copyboard, 2-200 watt lamps, a fan, a five element lens and a viewing light. The 38 pound DB 400 attaches to the drawing table. It can be projected onto the floor for an 800% enlargement. The hinged copyboard will allow you to project opaque artwork, transparencies and 3 dimensional objects. The DB 400 does not slip out of focus during long drawing sessions. Since getting a DB400, I seldom use any other opaque projector. This tool will boost your production and accuracy more than any other tool in the studio. It will pay for itself in a very short time.
The camera lucida creates an optical illusion, making the subject appear to be projected onto the drawing surface.
The CAMERA LUCIDA consists of a prism which has been mounted on an adjustable arm. By looking down through the prism the illustrator can transpose an image onto the drawing surface. It's something of an optical illusion and takes a bit of practice to master. The Camera Lucida consists of a prism, an adjustable arm, and a series of lenses packed in a velvet lined box, it's elegant!
The Camera Lucida boasts a feature which no other visualizer can; the artists can draw directly from the subject. No interim photographs are needed. It's portable and it's FAST! Besides allowing you to draw directly from the subject, you can draw the subject reversed in mirror image, or create anamorphic distortions. The Camera Lucida also lets you enlarge and reduce photographic reference (this takes some practice). The Camera Lucida is a valuable addition to any illustrators studio. Previously made by the LEON company, the remaining supply of Camera Lucidas is distributed through HOLBEIN.
Rob Howard: Some people get all bent up when artists use anything other than a burnt stick on a cave wall, so a computer is a definite no-no in their eyes.
William Whitaker: ...I have a 17" video display which I use on the road.
My main studio display is the 23" version.
It is incredible and has really changed my life. I come up with new ways to use it practically every day.
For those of you who have been living in a cave and drawing with a burnt stick, take a look at Bill Whitaker. He draws and paints like an angel."

-Rob Howard

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