Friday, September 22, 2017

Winslow Homer by Kyleigh Andries

Winslow Homer, an American painter, is considered one of the greatest pioneer artists of the late 19th century. His paintings brought life and color to the American wilderness for those who had never seen it, and his dramatic paintings of man interacting with nature inspired countless landscape artists after him. His paintings depicted daily life in the Americas, the Civil War, life on homesteads, the Northeastern wilderness, and the rough Atlantics seas. A specialty of Homer’s was to paint life “as it happened,” not just the stillness of a scene. This technique makes his artwork more compelling than a typical landscape scene.
Homer was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1836. His mother was an amateur painter, and it was she who first taught him the basics of painting. When he was a teenager, Homer found work as a lithographer’s apprentice, where he further refined his drawing skills. Eventually, he was able to attend the National Academy of Design in New York, where he began submitting his artwork to Harper’s Weekly magazine.
Harper’s admired his talent, and when the Civil War erupted in the American South, the magazine commissioned Homer to follow the Union campaign across the nation and sketch military life. The drawings Homer created during the war were later turned into paintings, and became realistic recordings of life on the war front. Below are some of his sketches of the war.

Water Call, 1864. Lithographic card 
Surgeon’s Call, 1864. Lithographic card


These early sketches are somewhat satirical and humorous. Critics believe this style of Homer’s was intended to be humorous to provide a sense of relief from the seriousness of the war. In Water Call and Surgeon’s Call, the settings remain true to the realities of the war, but the subjects are somewhat exaggerated. In contrast, in his later paintings of the war, Homer illustrates the heaviness life in the camps, achieved through the combination of dark, still scenery with the reserved dispositions of his subjects.   

The Bright Side, 1865. Oil on canvas

After the war, Homer returned to his New England roots. His subsequent paintings have a strong focus on man versus nature, and depict the powerful beauty of the wilderness surrounding humble subjects. In the majority of his later paintings, the contrast between the single subject and the vibrant scenery around him is evident. In paintings like the one below, the power of nature holds much of the viewer’s attention while the subject remains the center. This stark contrast of darks and lights aligns with Homer’s interest in the power of nature.


The Gulf Stream, 1899. Oil on canvas

Throughout his painting career, Homer used both oil and watercolor as mediums. At the time of the Civil War, watercolor was viewed as an “amateur’s medium,” while oil was seen as much more sophisticated. Winslow Homer is credited with the rise of watercolor’s popularity as a professional medium, with his intricate forest and river paintings done entirely in watercolor. In the painting below, Homer once again uses color and light to contrast the power of the landscape with the humble subject.

Old Friends, 1892. Watercolor

I chose to study Homer because I enjoy landscape paintings. Homer’s paintings are special to me because of the way he uses color to portray the shadows and highlights of the landscape. I also like that his paintings are very realistic and detailed, which is something I hope to have in my artwork. I also enjoy working with watercolor, and by studying his paintings I can learn new techniques for this style.

Works Cited (MLA)

Greenhill, Jennifer A. “Winslow Homer and the Mechanics of Visual Deadpan.” Art History, vol. 32, no. 2, Apr. 2009, pp. 351-386. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1467-8365.2009.00671.x.

Cole TB. The Bright SideWinslow Homer. JAMA. 2016;315(24):2650–2651. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.14333

Muente, Tamera Lenz. “True-hearted men: Winslow Homer’ s Adirondacks watercolors reveal both kind and cruel men grappling with nature at its most primitive.” Watercolor Artist, Feb.-Mar. 2012, p. 62+. http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&u=duke_perkins&id=GALE|A342767712&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon&authCount=1#



Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thoughts on Drawing-- Krysia Sikora

From a young age I had always loved drawing and expressing myself in creative ways.  In high school I took both ceramics and studio art where I first was introduced to specific artistic techniques.  And when I entered into college I had told myself that I wanted to continue learning and enhancing my artistic abilities, but both my studies and athletic career got in the way.  It wasn't until four years later, during my last semester of college that I finally fulfilled my promise to myself to take an art course at Duke.

Coming into this course I was extremely excited.  Art (especially drawing) had always been something that I loved, but it was that I was not able to partake in as much as I had liked in the past four years.  I came in with high expectations for myself, as in high school I remembered being a fairly good artist.  Yet if there is one thing that I learned from this course it is that (similar to soccer) it is practice and time that makes perfect.  And drawing is no exception to that rule.

I am going to be completely honest, but I was rudely awakened by (not my lack of skill) but my lack of practice in the arts.  I had come into the course expecting to pick up where I left off in high school, even though I had not persistently practiced drawing in four years.

Overall I think this course definitely opened my eyes to the different techniques that can be used to enhance my drawing.  I had never used charcoal before, and in various drawings I experimented with using it along side regular pencil.  Additionally in the past I primarily done line drawing so when we started implementing shading and value to drawing, it felt very new to me and is something that I didn't completely feel comfortable with.  In the future I hope to continue working with shading and value, because when I did successfully do it, I think it completely enhanced my work.

I look forward to continuing my artistic learning in the future!

Thoughts on Drawing - Jessica Zhang

Taking this drawing class this semester was a fun experience, especially since it is my senior year. The last time I drew so extensively was back in high school when I took art classes, and this class was an interesting flashback to some of the techniques I used back then which included predominantly pencil drawings and still life. While still life is not one of my favorite methods to draw, it is definitely satisfying to replicate a scene on paper with an eye to the small details. It is also nicely meditative in small doses.

Moving on from still life, what I enjoyed the most about drawing was the ability to take different objects in life and insert them into a scene, with no concern of whether or not they would be there in the first place. This was the concentration of the latter part of the semester and it was great because I really got the opportunity to use the techniques learned while still being creative.

That being said, the process can also be frustrating. I do not have the concentration and patience necessary to work on art extensively. I tend to focus a lot on smaller details and the need for variations in "color" and depth. I say "color" here because while all our drawings were in greyscale, I wanted to strive to show that the objects were of different colors and this color changed depending on the distance from the viewer and the lighting. This of course was a struggle and resulted in a decent amount of frustration in which I oscillated between "this is not dark enough" and "this is not light enough", and frequently "why do all these objects look like they have the same color". Definitely a good learning experience, but most of my drawings would end up taking longer than I expected and even when done, the more I would look at them, the more I would see things I could nitpick and change. This brings drawing from a relaxing meditative and creative experience to more of a "I have to fix this formatting in Word because the alignments are off."

I do intend to continue drawing as a hobby, but I don't think I will work on many more rendered pieces. Sketches tend to be more fun and stress-relieving, and I will probably stick to those. (The semester-long sketchbook was great!) 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Thoughts on Drawing - Varun Gudapati

I started drawing sophomore year just for fun. I would take a photograph and try to draw it as realistically and true to the picture as possible. While I enjoyed making these drawings and looking at the finished product, I always wondered if there was a practical purpose to them because a photograph captured the same material with more detail. My mom has drawn her whole life as a hobby and recently went to art school and started working in design. Back at home, I looked through some of her sketches and drawings and noticed that they were very natural. Rather than making sure that every line and shape was perfectly made, she just approximated everything yet the final result would come through effectively. More importantly, these sketches and drawings had a purpose. They were a means of putting ideas on paper in a matter that drawing could do better than any other medium. I wanted to take this class not just to develop my fundamental drawing techniques but also to learn from the ground up with a different perspective.

Right off the bat, this class had me drawing from real objects, which I had never done before. I was forced to make approximations and get used to the fact that I could just exactly measure and scale every line I drew. This was the first step in changing my perception of drawing.

One of my favorite moments this semester happened as I was sitting in front of the law school, doing my empirical perspective drawing. After finishing up the sketch of the building, I started taking some photographs with my phone to use for shading later. I immediately noticed that the pictures on my phone had a noticeably different perspective from my drawing. No matter where I positioned the phone, the top and bottom of the buildings seemed to slope towards the center much more aggressively compared to what I was seeing in person. Though I was bugged at first, I quickly became excited that I had experienced a fundamental quality of drawing: it is a opportunity to capture things just as the eye sees them, which is something that many photographs cannot do. In many ways, my unshaded sketch was more true to what I saw than the fully-colored high-resolution picture on my phone. I finally found my "practical purpose."

Most importantly, this class finally gave me the ability to draw "naturally." It took me until the last assignment, but I was able to put the ruler away and make many rough and approximated objects that came together cohesively as I had seen in my mom's drawings and some of the demo drawings from class. When I was drawing the trees, I used very rough scribbles for the leaves, which is something I would never have tried earlier on in the class. Standing back, these scribbles took form and made better representations of leaves than any of my previous more deliberate attempts to draw them. Likewise, when shading, I ditched the obsession of trying to blend things into a super smooth, uniform color (which I was usually unable to do anyways) and instead made rough lines and strokes that followed the contours of the object. Again, when looking at the whole picture, this shading had the effect that I wanted. Beyond any drawing techniques, to me this assignment had meaning in its content. I was using a collection of images to create a fictional narrative. I was turning my imagination into something concrete.

This class has transformed my perspective of drawing in ways that I had never expected. I learned the better techniques that I hoped to learn and improved on fundamentals, but also, I finally discovered a way to put purpose into my drawings. In this sense, I am leaving with tangible improvements to how drawing a part of my life in both a creative and functional sense.

Thoughts on Drawing - Eric Jiang

As a computer science major, I find the overlap between computer vision and drawing fascinating. I've learned that drawing is not just a physical process but also a mental process, which is perhaps more vital. In order to achieve believability in a drawing, the drawing must also elicit immediate recognition. That is to say that it must contain enough clues and information that our brain can immediately recognize the represented object. These clues include value changes, texture, shapes, and patterns.

Similarly, computer algorithms that interpret images look for "features" in order to generate a certainty or confidence in the identification of a subject. These features can include patterns, edges, and points. If anything, taking a computer vision class before this drawing class allowed me to approach drawing with

On a less technical note, I've learned the incredibly meditative nature of drawing. It's forced me to observe the interplay of light on various surfaces, topologies, materials, and volumes. I was surprised by how easy it is to express myself through drawing. Subtle manipulations of light, shade, and texture allow me to express vastly different atmospheres and moods.

Thoughts on Drawing--Elizabeth Anne Brown

Drawing is of course a means of self-expression, but for me, drawing serves moreso as an intimate way to interact with the world around me than a means of externalizing my internal joy/turmoil/existential crises. Drawing forces me to slow down and truly look at my subject in a way that I don't seem to make time for outside of the context of art. Like many of my colleagues, it appears, I used to spend a lot of my free time sketching hands, my friends' faces, etc until the academic demands on my time made it all too easy to put drawing on the back burner. "Legislating morality" for myself by taking this class--making myself accountable for a return to drawing--has been so cathartic for me. I had forgotten how rewarding I found the process of making art, and honestly it was pretty difficult to get back into the rhythm again--I find that drawing is the exact opposite of binge watching Netflix (with Netflix, you enjoy it viscerally in the moment and are a little frustrated with yourself afterwards). This is the first formal training I've had since I was around 11 and it was fascinating for me to learn I have such a light touch, which I only realized when I saw my assignments hanging on the wall next to my classmates'. It's pretty antithetical to who I am as a person (I'm the archetypal type A kid) and was surprised to see I'm pretty timid with my markmaking. Despite a conscious and concerted effort on my part throughout the semester, I've only been able to ameliorate that specific element of my drawing little. Though I should definitely still keep my day job, I feel I've improved in leaps and bounds this semester, particularly with landscapes, which I'd never worked with before at all and hope to pursue in the future. I wish Professor Fick could chase me around for the rest of my life and demand study drawings and final drawings on that floppy board so I'd be accountable to someone other than myself when it comes to drawing, but I guess I'll just have to ride the momentum I have going now into the sunset!!

Thoughts on drawing - Akhil Ghanta

I enrolled in drawing without knowing what to expect. Initially, I was overwhelmed by my perfectionism, requiring that each line be perfectly straight and the proportions of my drawings be exact. As a result, my drawings ended feeling rigid and cold, lacking the realistic "feel" that I would see in professional drawings. This left me frustrated and wondering what it was that my drawings needed. Even so, I kept at it, and I noticed a steady development of my skills. Instead of outright rejecting the imperfections in my drawings, I began to embrace them and conform the image to meld with them. I stopped wasting thought at the straightness of a line and instead used the fuzzy edges my hand carved out to give my drawings emotion. Although it took me until the last drawing, I finally was able to bring out my drawing style. But of course, this is only the beginning. Now that I've found my footholds, I can really begin exploring the world of drawing. I stepped into this class apprehensive towards drawing, but I'm leaving more motivated than ever to continue expanding my drawing skills.