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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Cheery Cheers

Gently putting my pencils down for this year but not without a wee cheerio, a heap of seasonal greetings and great big THANK-YOU.
So many of you have visited my studio blog and showed support throughout another fascinating year.  Looking forward to sharing more of my art world in 2013!

Cheery cheers!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The dissimilarities between professional and amateur

A couple of days ago I mentioned, in passing, being a professional graphite artist and a amateur photographer. 

This led to: how do I draw the distinction between being a professional artist and an amateur photographer?

Now this turns out be a question laden with serious food for thought (and a rather long blog post)!

A pro is paid an amateur is not.
Rubbish answer.

After another quick head rummage, it became clear that this question had a mass of tangents to get lost down and that no straight forward answer would be possible.

Let’s go back to the question: how do I draw the distinction between being a professional and an amateur?

Let’s see.
·       As a professional artist I draw for money as well as enjoyment.  As an amateur photographer for enjoyment alone.

·      Success, customer satisfaction and results are how I judge my graphite work whereas when I photograph participating is more important than the actual result.

·      I draw full-time, spend long hours in the studio; as an amateur photographer I shoot in my spare time.

·      I have to draw when commissioned but choose to shoot when I feel like it.

·      Drawing is my work, photography my hobby.

Where then does the line dividing being a professional and being an amateur lie?

Being a professional graphite artist has meant I have become more pragmatic, learned to have better perspective with a more systematic approach.
As an amateur photographer I still get easily lost in being over perfectionistic; sometimes overworking to the point where these improvements would not be worth the time and effort in the professional world.

As a pro I have also learned to make deadlines a priority. For many amateurs submitting work on time is far less important than perfectionism.
Being professional has also taught me how to accept criticism and how crucial this criticism actually is for my artistic growth.
I know many an amateur hostile to it.

As a professional a certain skill level is expected, not true for the amateur: there are no expectations. 

Once you start accepting money to draw you have to maintain high standards.
You have to stay in the game
This means keeping up to scratch, constantly improving and honing on skills be it by following workshops, self-teaching, reading, experimenting or interaction with other professionals. Never resting on your laurels.

Turning professional is one side of the coin, remaining professional the other.
You have to grow up, surpass mediocrity and stay focused.
You have to mature in both your work and as a person, deal with the lows just the same as with the highs, do the boring jobs as well as the fun ones.

Producing work with a “wow” factor is important, a passion that goes well beyond reason fundamental, but having the maturity to keep aiming for that end goal is crucial.

The line between being professional and amateur is complex, not as clear cut as I initially thought. 
It's a line that underlines a whole series of points aside from skill level (maturity, pragmatism, focus, resolve, integrity …)

In my case, I have drawn this division between my drawings and photographs simply because I am not ready to inflict the cold side of business, the performance pressure, the workload stress, encountered in my artistic career, onto my photography.
I don’t yet feel strong enough and consistent enough in my photography work to bring it into the professional world.
Sheltering, it behind the “amateur” shield gives me freedom and nonchalance never affordable as a professional.

"Past to Present"
Graphite on Paper

Sheona Hamilton-Grant. All rights reserved

While choosing to keep my photography on an amateur stand overindulging in the hunt for that perfect shot; it has to be underlined that I adore being a professional graphite artist. 

For over 15 years, my scribble friends and I have worked hard, grown strong, learned to take the pressure and thrive under scrutiny.
We are still chomping at the bit, ready to carry on up the sinuous twists and turns that make up the realities of our professional world.

p.s: for all of you now wondering what my photos look like here's a link that can help :D

Monday, 26 November 2012

Absent blogger - busy artist

Still a blogger and still drawing!
(If anything I've been scribbling my wee friends blunt!)

Been an absolute age and so it is with a "shy hi" that I return to my wee blog.

Many drawings have been started (and finished) and until THE Christmas Present act of secrecy is lifted in January 2013 my posts will have to remain well... limited.

However, there is one "on the go" and unaffected by any secrecy act .

A drawing all about contrasts, lines and trust.
A drawing that big & delicate.
A drawing built around memories.

"Untitled and still in progress"
Pencil on Paper

to be continued ...

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

This is Finntje: small, bubbly and immortalised

Some wee dogs are so much bigger than the mother nature intended.
They ooze personality and their character is boundless .
Finntjebelongs to that clan.
She's the size of "thruppence a-penny" but only for the initial minute after which her presence takes over and size becomes "so last season!" (yep there's a tween in the house and it's having quite an impact on my outlook on life ;D)
I am very happy to have more wonderful pics of her and will no doubt find her back on my drawing board.

Pencil on Paper
Sheona Hamilton-Grant. All rights reserved.

Back to mummy duties... I believe they involve the use of beautiful smelling green liquids, colour sorting and programming a digitalized screen...

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Last week-end, signed!

Limited, numbered and signed ... double!

Met up at the NRW Landgestüt with Georg Frerich alias Georg August Schulte Quaterkamp where we both carefully signed all 99 of the newly produced Limited Prints of "Dicke Tour."

In between a few jokes and even more laughs, concentration was the name of the game...

Thursday, 20 September 2012

How my latest drawing of stallion Hurricane, "Dicke Tour", was drawn.

Dicke Tour
Pencil on Paper, 50x46 cm
Sheona Hamilton-Grant. All rights reserved.

Limited Edition Prints available. (Run of 99)

This tutorial is dedicated to all of you who have asked so very nicely and waited so very patiently all these very long months for an answer to the question “how do you do it?”

So without further ado and with great rejoicing (include sharp drum roll here*) I present the various steps that led me to my latest commissioned drawing “Dicke Tour.“


Produce a drawing for and of the North Rhine Westphalian Stud’s annual stallion show. Third image in a series of five.
To be produced as a Limited Edition Print. Run of 99 quality Fine Art Prints.

Mellotex paper (large sheet)
Staedler pencil 2B & HB
Staedler Clutch F & 6B
Blue Tack
Derwent SuperPoint pencil sharpener

Large (for added impact) 50x46 cm


Stage 1
Work out drawing & composition.

Below are some of the various reference pictures used.
All were shot by my faithful Canon (at different times) and feature the same gorgeous charismatic equine stallion „Hurricane “and his rider Georg August Schulzte Quarterkamp doing what they love best: entertaining the crowd. 
None were perfect but all had important ingredients.
All had a little of what I was looking for (character traits, conformation pointers, movement of the mane, expression, light...)

From the offset I knew that I wanted to have speed, power and movement feature heavily as well as the presence of drama, angst and quirkiness.

I was up for the challenge, through the subtle use of hard contrasts/delicate lines and a wide tonal range, of rendering these emotions as well as making both Hurricane and his well-known rider (Georg Frerich) feature realistically.

Using my photos as reference a layout is sketched out.
A light 2b line drawing which acts like a map.
This stage is crucial in forming an understanding of the various shapes, in defining the placement of these shapes, discovering the intricacies of the portrait and adjusting the overall harmony of the composition.

My favourite reference picture was good but lacked a hind leg and a tail.  Meaning I would have to work harder and dig deeper to add the missing left hind (complete with brand mark) and the tail.  However I was excited because I felt that by adding an upward movement to the tail I could add to the speed and drama.
Once the sketch was done and looked well proportioned the drawing fun begun.

Stage 2
Render eyes and establish darks.

This stage is all about establishing presence and expression.
I always start with drawing the eyes.
In my experience if they are not right I can never get the portrait to work out well.
Taking them as a starting point is vital to the way I work.

After the eyes came the rest of the head and the mane.
The darkest darks have to be drawn at this point in order to get my values right.
These are the dark shadows under the mane and in the nose. The lightest values being found in the forelock and highlights.

I drew using 6B (for the very darks) and 2B for the medium to light values. 2H was used in the light hairs of the mane and for the metal.
Working in layers, I drew the initial depth gradually building up to more and more detail.
No blending.

Eyes rendered, blacks established.

Stage 3, 4 and 5.
Add contrast and build muscle structure

Because I’ve given myself an idea of the darkness of Hurricanes’ coat (which is the most present in the drawing) I have now been able to get more contrast and value established in his conformation. The darkest dark is still to come and I know I will have to re-adjust accordingly. Due to the size of the drawing I have to keep going from left to right to keep the paper clean and can’t draw the darkest dark part (hind leg shadow) until much later on as I would risk smudging.

However, the depth and the darks added to the throat and neck area are giving both the texture and feel I am looking for.

These stages are slow (but great fun) and are made up of layering of graphite to get the contrast and darks needed. For instance very little layering and graphite is used at the front of the shoulder, as this is where the light has caught the coat and shine is apparent. More is needed in the shadows and the legs.
Important: black shadows are not opaque black masses; they have subtle variations in the dark hue.

 Throat and neck area are giving both the texture and feel needed

Progress is slow but quite good. A 2B Staedler pencil has been used with various strokes: some harder some softer but all short and crisp for the muscle and shoulder area.  The darker areas in the legs and shadow under the rein and throat lash are rendered in 6B and layered with 2B.
No blending.

When drawing, especially horses, it is important to always draw in the direction you would stroke the horse.  This really helps in getting the feel and shape right.

As the values build up the piece takes on more depth.
The fabric in the shirt has been rendered using lighter graphite pencils. I used a B for the dark in the folds and 2H & HB.

At this stage I have also reached the inner side of the right hind, which provides me with the darkest value. I am now able to rebalance all the greys in accordance.

As work is done on the shoulder and the front legs, the light begins to play a bigger and bigger role in shaping the muscles. Remember the light source and using it’s highlights is how the muscles were shaped and richly textured. 

Stage 6
Establish the hind leg, tail and cape.

This is the stage where my knowledge of the equine anatomy was really required tested.
Hurricane’s left hind was missing from the main reference photograph.
Various reference pictures were used as guides and my knowledge as a pillar.

By establishing a soft line drawing, which could be (and was) easily corrected (It is so light that it did not scan.) and slowly drawing-in the shadows and shapes, I was able to refine them with each layer, mould them into rendering a believable leg in movement.

The leg was drawn by creating a darker layer using a 2B, it was then later refined with an HB, nothing more.
The heavy shadowed area is laid down with several layers of 6B.

Technically I pushed the barrier a little more by drawing the foot, fetlocks and not having them disappear into mud, dust or grass.  Their impact above ground very much needed in creating the illusion of speed and strength.

Because I wanted to render the impression of speed and movement little detail is drawn. This maintains the illusion of speed.  
Had more detail been added the foot would have “frozen” and not had a “I’m-on-the-move-pounding-the ground-full-speed” feel.

Start of shadows and shapes refined and then moulded into believable leg in movement. Traces of very light drawing visible.

Tonal re-balance: all the greys are in accordance with the darkest black. See how the whole has become more contrasted and interesting…

Hurricane’s tail is big and bushy.
A perfect “accessory” in creating added impact
The sheer size and volume provide an effective way of adding speed and drama as well as symmetry to the overall composition. The strong flowing shape created leads the viewer up and back into the picture.

Major dark areas (between the strands of hairs) were mapped out with a 2B.
HB & F were used to create the medium values (found in the strands) and a 2H was used to sharpen and define the lighter values.  All layers were worked until the desirable effect was achieved.

The cape adds drama and had to be drawn that way.
I decided to use strong honest contrasts and lots of folds.
Nothing soft and “wishy washy”.
Again I used a touch of 6B in the darkest parts of the folds and took the tone graduation from dark to light using a 2B and finishing off with an HB.

The ground is depicted by adding circular strokes in a spontaneous movement , this anchors the foot and creates impact. Detail is not needed.

Stage 7
Add a touch of human expression

Adding expression – identifying the character.

The expression, correction, the multitude of various expressions on the riders face are a crucial element to the show number that is “Dicke Tour” and necessary to the authenticity of the overall drawing. 
This human element must not however steal the show. 
Hurricane (the stallion) is the leading “man”.

All that has been drawn are marks and shadows combined in a way to make the viewer believe and accept that this might very well be the rider “Georg August Schulte Quaterkamp”.
All shapes and tones were drawn using an F lead mechanical pencil darkened through layering or lightened in small dabs using blue Tack.  The eyes and mouth were drawn using a 2B.

marks and shadows combined in a way to make the viewer believe in a human expression

Why leave this stage to last?

Hurricane had to be fully drawn, as he is the main character, the main focus of power and movement.
This is the best moment in which to work on balancing the harmony between man and equine.
Leaving drawing the face to last also meant that I was able to have the facial expressions blend in and act as a support and not take “main stage presence”.
Look closely and you can see life and feelings. Look from a distance and the whole blends into one.

Stage 8
Spray, sign and catalogue

Once the drawing is finished to my satisfaction it is signed, sprayed with fixative for protection, scanned and catalogue into my database.

This tutorial has attempted to demonstrate how I work ongoing beyond the mere mark making of drawing, into communicating all that my subject is and all that I feel it is…

It  has been a good exercise and has made me discover just how little I can explain because so much of what I do is based on "gut feeling"....
So much of how I draw is based on “instinct”.
The light has to feel right.
The composition has to feel right.
The values have to feel right.

Trial and error as well as hours of experience with graphite enable me to straighten out a phase until (dare I say it?)… it feels right.