Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ranting and Raving

"Nature Lover" - 4 x 9" colored pencil on paper.
Copyright 2007 Maggie Stiefvater.
Click here to bid.

Another work in progress sequence of a quickie (boy, I oughta get me some great google hits off that phrase). This sucker was probably an hour and three quarters from start to finish.

Again, the key to my technique is using the painter's technique of going from rough to detailed -- so I lay down messy color first, in light layers, and then with each consecutive layer, I tidy, until I'm where I want to be.

May I take a moment to rant? It's about colored pencils, so it's relevant. Sort of. When I was at the CPSA exhibition this year, the docent urged us to enjoy the show and then offered us magnifying glasses, the better to see the detail the colored pencil artists put in there.

Let's take a moment here, shall we?

The ideal viewing distance for an average-sized piece of art, say 11 x 14", is ten feet. That's where most people look at art from. Then, if they're curious, they sometimes draw in closer, to one foot or closer, to look at a detail or two. But for most of a piece of art's life, it's going to be enjoyed from a bit of a distance. Say, while its owner is sitting on the couch, thinking, boy, I'm glad I bought that piece from Maggie Stiefvater because it makes me Happy.

Why in the world are these extremely talented artists spending 200 hours on a piece of art, only to put in details that can be seen with a magnifying glass? Wouldn't their time be better spent exploring more subjects and pieces and really populating the world with their art?

I love detail. But not that much detail. So for me, my messy layers work because from ten feet away, my 11 x 14"s look like a million bucks. Heck, from even a foot they look pretty darn good. But I can guarantee you that all you'll see through a magnifying glass is pencil strokes on mine. And that's how I like it!

Nature Lover 2


Candy Barr said...

Nice composition looking up at the cat looking up.. mad cat you say. It's just great Maggie. Reviving colored pencils! Here here.

Jo Castillo said...

Maggie, the magnifying glass really works well on the computer!

I love seeing how you work. You know I am impatient.

See ya,

visioneerwindows said...

There is much to be said for your 'distance' approach to a work, tho the ones viewing my works in the tent do it from much closer than 10 feet, rest assured..... yet - there is also something to be said for the 'Harnett' approach, which is not all that different from Vermeer's - it involves seeing the technique on which when seen at the distance allows such wonderment..... and again, it all depends on the subject....

Katherine said...

I like pieces where they present well at anything from 6 to 50 feet - and then, when I get up close, make me wonder how on earth they can LOOK that detailed when in fact they're not at all. Try looking at a Velaquez and those gorgeous paintings of elaborate clothing that he manages to do. Mind you, he is painting big! I wonder how long for a work 6 feet x 3 feet in coloured pencil?

If I want to marvel at detail and get out a magnifying glass, then I go to a show by miniaturists.

I do wonder whether there is an issue about size and coloured pencils which needs to be debated.

And Miss Maggie - I see you lay in all your rough layers etc AFTER you've done a wonderful drawing of Moose's head! Seems sensible to me - plus I do like an approach which focuses detail into one area - as this is so much more akin to the way we 'see' naturally. I know that I for one do not have hyper detailed views of everything within my view. What I'm actually looking at is always the thing most in focus. Detail draws the eye - and too much detail can leave one wondering where to look.

Rita said...

Maggie, I am so glad to read that someone else feels that way!
I can appreciate nit-picky detail as well but y'know what? I don't need a magnifying glass to inspect someone else's artwork in order to appreciate it.

I have a whole theory on this but I'll leave that least until I update my own blog. ;)

I need orange said...

Is it for seeing detail, or is it for seeing clues as to technique?

Kathy C said...

I couldn't agree more. EVERY piece I do looks better 10 feet away.

Katydid said...

Your piece is just beautiful. I love seeing your WIPs too!

Tracy said...

Only just recently learned about your site. Lovely work and great commentary.

As for the whole magnifying glass issue, I think colored pencil lends itself to more detail than other media. I work in pastel and oils, and I'm with you on this matter.

I also agree with Visioneer that maybe those in the biz may like to get "up close and personal" to catch technique. Also ditto Katherine about how "too much detail can leave one wondering where to look." I try to use detail in the parts I want the eye to go and leave the rest a little less so. It's a battle I constantly fight as I work from my tighter past to my looser future.

Thanks for your blog!

Chumplet said...

I can't help it. It's a sickness. I HAVE to paint every single hair, every eyelash to the best of my ability.

I use an almost-dry watercolour brush, with colour on the end of each bristle to get the pattern of hair on a horse's cheek, muzzle, etc. I build it up in layers, like you.

Needless to say, I don't do quickies.