Sorry for the delay in posting this week.  It’s been a crazy week so far and I haven’t been able to blog so far.

Monday, I wasn’t feeling well so I took a day off.

Tuesday was a bit nuts because I was preparing for my trip.  The trip I am on now.  I started out with business study, in which I watched several little podcasts on photography.  I hope this improves my sucky product photos.  So far, most of the podcasts have been about different cameras (none of which I possess) and the history of cameras.  This is all interesting background info, but hasn’t really helped me yet. One podcast that did help me was about the rule of thirds in composition.  I had heard of the rule of thirds but didn’t really understand it, so this was a great explanation.  Basically, on a picture frame, things look really good when you divide the surface area into equal thirds and base your subject(s) in one or two of those areas.  You can divide the surface horizontally, vertically, or even diagonally.  The spots where horizontal and vertical thirds intersect are especially interesting points onto which you can place an important feature (such as eyes in the case of a portrait).  I am not yet sure how this knowledge will affect my product photos, but I hope it will in the future.

In design, I finished the chapter about shape.  I looked at proportions and economy.  Sometimes artist will break a work down into planar shapes, perfecting each layer of work before moving onto the next.  This helps the artist understand the relationship of all the shapes to each other.  Shape can also be used for expressive content.  Viewers react with different emotions to different shapes.  Sometimes these reactions are shared with other viewers, and sometimes they are more personal. The meaning of shapes can be altered by the shapes themselves, by their colours, or by their values.  In three-dimensional work, shape not only means the actual shape of the object, but also the shapes of the negative areas that are left by the work.  Shapes can depend on the shadows they cast.  The shapes also depend on the viewer’s position.  A shape to take into consideration is the silhouette of the work.

Wednesday, I was in transit for most of the day so my studies were limited by that.  I listened to a podcast about a French gardener who has a sort of dyestuff demonstration garden.  He works with a botanist to try to grow every kind of plant that is used for dyeing, or at least as many as possible (henna, for example, doesn’t do very well in his climate in Provence).  His garden is the main tourist attraction in his tiny village.  A lot of his work with the public is about educating people on the uses of his plants.  Different dyes can be used in different ways, and artists are always coming up with new and innovative ways to use the plants.  Often, the traditional recipes can’t be used anymore because that is no longer the way dyes are used (he didn’t explain what he meant by that, but it could have something to do with increased safety practices over time, or the availability of different products that have to do with dyeing).  His garden receives some funds from the government in the form of grants, and also from the dyeing association he belongs to.  In this part of the podcast, he was looking for additional ways to raise money, and he was pretty sure he didn’t want to open a gift shop and sell traditional Provencal gift shop items such as lavender and goat cheese!

In design, I studied the chapter on value.  I was excited about this chapter, as I am only sort of familiar with the concept of values.  Value means, basically, relative degrees of lightness and darkness.  The chapter mostly looked at black and white (and infinite shades of grey) values, also called achromatic values.  The chapter includes a value scale that I can photocopy and use to help with my drawing.  The lighter shades, from white to middle grey, are known as high-key values, and the darker shades, from middle grey to black, are low-key values.  It will probably take me a little while to remember which is which.  Some works use a limited range of values for dramatic effect, such as using only low-key values to create a somber mood.  Different values can be achieved with different media, such as pencil, charcoal, or chalk, wet or dry, direct or blended, with lines or with shapes.  Etchings can create strong contrasts between light and dark, as can woodcuts and screenprinting.  The use of different values on a two-dimensional work can create the appearance of three-dimensionality.  These are referred to as plastic values.  Cast shadows are an important part of the composition of a work, as cast shadows in the wrong places can create a mess out of the image.  Similarly, when there are not enough cast shadows, the image looks flat (which may or may not be a desired effect).  The technique of gradually blending contrasting lights and darks is called chiaroscuro.  This effect creates spaces that recede in the works.  Tenebrism is extreme or exaggerated chiaroscuro, such as in the works of Rembrandt.  Some art deliberately uses different values in such a way that they create a shallow space, as you can see in many traditional Asian artworks.  Value pattern is a way of using dark and light values to create a pattern on the surface of the work, and can be used as a compositional element.  Sometimes it is difficult for artists to see what kind of values they are using in colour, and when the work is translated to black and white, the values can be too similar (although that might also be a deliberate decision.)  A closed-value composition means that values are contained within shapes which are used to contrast with one another.  An open-value composition means that values cross over one another.  Values are used in three-dimensional works in the shadows that they cast, or by the paint on the surface of the work.

I will not be able to do any surface design while I am on my trip.  I have brought up some drawing tools, as well as my business book, my podcasts, my design book, and a little knitting.  I hope to keep working on these subjects while I spend time in Canada trying to keep my status as a visitor in the United States legal.  I can’t yet afford the fees for a spousal Greencard but I am chomping at the bit to get one so I can stop pissing myself every time I cross the border.  I really hope I get back in again, as my husband and my stuff are stateside!

bonnie derr
9/18/2011 01:59:35 am

I have been reading your blog and getting a real feel for the process of not only Uncollege, but also the steps in creating, whether it be the picture of the ball of yarn, or the scarf and gifts.
Catch your breath while you are in Canada.


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