Just returned from a three day workshop with my all-time favorite teacher, Christopher Schink, along with some wonderful friends. It was held at Sylvia Megerdichian’s Art Box Studio in Upland. The majority of people in the workshop are accomplished artists, so it was a bit intimidating. However, I had the good fortune to sit next to Ruth Ellen Hoag, whose work I greatly admire. I had already begun to experiment with black lines, so watching her take it farther with india ink was inspiring.
The title of this year’s workshop was “Designing Figures and Shapes.” As artists, Toph says, we need to develop our own graphic language (form) to convey our intent, ideas, and emotions (content). This workshop focused on using shapes and figures to convey the content. Toph encouraged us to regard the figure as just another shape, as an element to be incorporated into our overall design.
In order to get us to attend to the figure as a designable shape, our first exercise was to do two or three paintings of the same subject with different types of distortion or stylization. Here are my three.
Next Toph taught us about arranging figures in pictorial space as an important part of the design process. One thing to consider is the “background” or “negative space.” The figure always seems so important, but the background must be designed with just as much care as the figure. It should also have interesting shapes, along with the same type of painting treatment as the figure. OR we can make the figure really large, eliminating most of the background as an issue.
Here is my attempt to integrate figure and background into an overall design:
I think I prefer this attempt to make the figure very large:
As Toph kept reminding us, paintings done in workshops are PRACTICE, and when you first try something new, it will probably not be very good. I will try these ideas again and incorporate what I’ve learned.