Man of the Moors

Join professional UK artist Robert Dutton as he demonstrates in this short film how Nitram Charcoal is an integral part of his creative expression with his richly layered atmospheric paintings of the wild South Pennines of England. Exciting outdoor and
indoor studio mixed media paintings explored in all seasons!

Robert offers a wide range of inspirational Art Workshops and Painting Holidays throughout the year at a number of locations to include: Rydal Hall and Higham Hall in The Lake District, Parcevall Hall and Cober Hill in Yorkshire in the UK and at ‘Dalvaro Art’ and ‘Paint Andalucia’ in Spain.The emphasis for all is where the objective is to offer a relaxing holiday with an emphasis on enjoyment.

To learn more about these exciting art holiday experiences
visit: http://rdcreative.co.uk/art-holidays

Filmed by: Richard Littlewood
www.richard-littlewood.com

Have a look at a few of Roberts pieces included in the video:

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pennine_mixed_media_robet_dutton_nitram_charcoal_lrg
pennine_ruin_1_robert_dutton_nitram_charcoal_lrg

If you would like to see more work by Robert using Nitram with his exciting mixed media drawings and paintings, please visit Robert’s website at: www.rdcreative.co.uk

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Contemporary Charcoals:
Nic De Jesus

Capitalizing on the versatility of the charcoal medium, South African artist
Nic De Jesus plays powerfully with atmospheric perspective in his work, blending his photographer’s eye with his innate innovative approach to artistic production.
De Jesus generously took the time to answer our questions about his art, the responses to which are featured in this week’s installment of the “Contemporary Charcoals” interview series. For more information on De Jesus, including additional examples of his work, please visit his
website.

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Nitram Charcoal (NC): What is the last art show that you saw? What did you take from it?

Nic de Jesus (NJ): Here in Brighton, we have a festival called “The Artists Open Houses.” It affords the opportunity to go into artists’ ateliers, homes, studios, garages, and so forth. I love it – It’s like going to many art shows in one day, and you get to have great conversations with the individual makers. I recently went to a local artist Dion Salvador Lloyd’s show during this year’s festival and I absolutely loved the way his show was curated, even if it was just in his home. The presentation, literature and the benefit of chatting with the artist made the whole experience wonderful and left me inspired to develop even more within the presentation of my work.

NC: What is your favorite collection to visit? What collection/museum in on your visit wish list?

NJ: At the moment, I really enjoy visiting London’s National Gallery – in particular the 17th century collection. I would also like to return to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

MI_Canto I.II_nitram_charcoal_nic_de_jesusMI Canto I.II

NC: In your opinion, what sets charcoal apart from other artistic media?     

NJ: It’s just a wonderful medium and I never get bored of it. I don’t have to wait for it to dry, I can work wet if I want to, and I can mix other mediums into it.

NC: What is the greatest challenge to working with charcoal?

NJ: Pretending not to see all the charcoal powder that’s left around the studio after a session in front of the easel! Then tracing back around the studio, all the black finger prints I’ve left throughout the day…

MI_Canto I.IIIMI Canto I.III

NC: What is one thing you cannot live without in the studio?

NJ: Natural light.

NC: What is the strangest response you’ve ever received for a piece?

NJ: To be honest, I’ve not received responses to my work that I would consider ‘strange’. There’s always something exciting about feedback – something slightly scary too!

NC: Do you collect art? Whose works hang on your walls?

NJ: I would love to collect art and I do have a list of artists whose work I’m looking forward to collecting in the future. Right now, though, space is a premium.

MI_Canto I.IV_nic_de_jesus_nitram_charcoalMI Canto I.IV

NC: If you could buy any one work of art, what would it be, and why?

NJ: It would have to be Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride. That touch, that delicate yet emotionally charged touch: there’s a quietness to the painting, between the handling of the paint and the nuanced control of Rembrandt’s limited palette. Personally, It’s a reminder of the difference between empathy and sympathy, love and the power of vulnerability. I’m just in awe; I have a visceral response to the work.

NC: What inspires you in the studio?

NJ: I like to listen to music, but it depends on the stage I’m at with a composition. I also listen to podcasts and audio books.

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NC: Tell us a bit about your background. What do you consider your greatest artistic accomplishment?

NJ: I’m originally from a surfing community in South Africa and was introduced to the world of image making while working for sports publications and assisting a sports photographer. I then emigrated to the UK – on somewhat of a creative pilgrimage. Photography was to take up much of my journey with a body of work titled Till Then.. Drawing has always been an integral part of my artistic structure and at the beginning of 2015 I began another body of work titled Mare Incognitum. It was presented in the form of a solo exhibition in Brighton, UK. The show was accompanied by an originally composed album titled Seascapes by James Fiddes Smith. I would say this is my greatest artistic accomplishment.

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NC: What do you define as “being creative”? How to seek that creativity in your work?

NJ: For me, ultimately it’s about knuckling down and making something. As for seeking creativity, I find it extremely beneficial to have a pretty strict routine to my day. It’s not for everyone!

Figure Drawing Process at the Barcelona Atelier of Realist Art

figure_process_helena_loga_nitram_charcoal
In what follows, we will offer you a short insight to the methodology and figure drawing process with Helena López, a student at the Barcelona Atelier of Realist Art. Let this serve as an introduction to the values you have to search, the order you have to follow and concepts you’ll come back to throughout the drawing process.

first step

First Step:

Things to consider

  • Sight-size
  • Proportions
  • Gesture
  • Rhythm
  • Abstract geometric forms
  • Center line
  • Bony points
  • Comparative measurements

-The Sight-Size method consists of the exact triangulation between the student, their drawing and the model. The artist draws the subject from a fixed vantage point so the subject and the surface have exactly the same size.  It’s a method that will make it easier to put the figure on the paper and it’s a good way to compare your drawing on one to one scale with the model and spot the differences.

-DO NOT mark a lot of points! With a standing pose you’ll only need the top of the head, the pit of the neck, the bellybutton, the pubic area and the foot of the standing leg.

-Next step is to search for the simplest straight lines with direction, also check out the gesture lines and the general rhythm of the pose.

-You can check if the proportions are right by looking for bigger abstract geometric forms. Some gestures or a pose in general may be best communicated by drawing the shape that it fits into.

– These lines must be soft and flexible, so all the mistakes can be erased easily.

-At this point everything will be related to the centerline of the body. This is an imaginary line that we will use to separate the right part of the body from the left part of the body to make sure that the proportions are right. The centerline runs from the pit of the neck to the pubic area and down to the weight-supporting foot (or feet). Centerline reflects the flow of the movement.

-Centerline will help us to understand the proportions and relations within the figure.

 

Important

-You need to work on the rib cage, pelvis, upper leg, lower leg, feet, upper arm, lower arm, hand, neck and head. In the next step we will focus on the elbows, shoulders and knees, but for now the previous list will do.

-It is also important to look for the bony points like the acromion, clavicle, pit of the neck, elbow, sternum, pelvic point. When we relate these points with the centerline, we can check if our figure drawing looks adequate and isn’t deformed.

-You can also check the accuracy of basic proportions by using comparative measurements. It might prove useful! For example, the length of arm equals two and half head lengths, the human figure is eight times the height of the head, the width of the pelvis equals one and half heads etc. As these “relations” between body parts are unlikely to change, it might be used as unit of measurement during the drawing process.

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Second Step:

Things to consider

  • Abstract forms
  • Rhythm
  • Comparative measures
  • Construction
  • Big masses
  • Gestures
  • Body type
  • Quality of the line

-Look for and compare the abstract forms, geometric shapes and possible relations between the proportions of the whole body.

-Compare the different tilts and angles searching for harmonic abstract shapes.

-In order to the abstract forms we drew before to make sense, we should think in a constructive way (the planes of the form). It’s important to keep in mind that every decision MUST be checked in both constructive and abstract ways.

-It is important to think about the big masses of shape and tone: the light and the shadow. Later we also work on the halftones but for now we keep our drawing flat. For example, if the observed dark area isn’t uniform, we describe it through one value. We have a tendency to drift towards developing the details, but at this point it’s more important to look at the overall concept than to see the specifics.

– Take a moment to consider the body type of the model and if it is reflected in your drawing.

– Be careful to preserve the gesture and the rhythm of the pose.

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Third Step:

Things to consider

  • Anatomy
  • Construction
  • Quality of the line

-At this point we start to be less generic and turn to more specific knowledge. We need to verify the proportions with the help of our basic anatomy knowledge.

-At the beginning, understanding of the body as big mass is more important. As we proceed, understanding the anatomy becomes essential so you can describe those big masses more specifically. Depending on the model and his/her body type, this study will be more or less obvious (if he/she is more or less muscular).

-As you are still at the beginning, the lines must remain flexible and soft.  We’ll introduce the sharp edges at the end and add accents to our focal point in order to describe specific parts where we want to put more structure (like bony points). The quality of the line will improve throughout the drawing process.

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Fourth Step:

Things to consider

  • Quality of the line
  • Value
  • Visual impression

-Visual impression of the light and shadow. At this step we will start putting a light value in the shadows. Keep the shadows FLAT and make the shadow line a bit darker. Thanks to this value we will be able to compare the abstract forms of the light and the shadow and have another option to check the accuracy of the proportions. This way we are looking for the visual impression of the light and the shadow.

– It is crucial to keep turning back to abstract forms, the constructive way of looking, the anatomy, the proportions, the sight-size method during the whole drawing process.

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Fifth Step:

Things to consider

  • Background
  • Quality of the line
  • Visual impression

– Establish the light value of the background as it will help you with the visual impression and it will make it easier to read the drawing.

-You need to keep in mind the quality of the line and make sure you DO NOT lose the drawing.

-You should draw the feet, hand and face before moving on to next step.

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Sixth Step:

Things to consider

  • Darken the lines
  • Work on the contour lines
  • Form
  • White chalk

-With the background done, now we need to recheck that all the previous references (proportions, construction etc.) are correct and then we can start to work on the contour of the figure. But we need to keep everything as simplified as possible. We can now make the lines a bit darker so they stand out from the background.

-If you are more advanced we can start to think about the variation of the lines. Sharper and contrasted lines are reserved for more radical changes of planes and the focal point, while softer and less contrasted lines are for milder forms and far from the focal point. Playing like that with the quality of the line might help you to follow some patterns or rules but every artist will use it the way he/she considers adequate given the situation.

-Now we need to think about the form and how it works so the construction and the anatomy start to make more sense.

-We can put a bit of white chalk on the highlights in order to improve the visual impression which in turn will help us to find the abstract shapes more easily. When we start to construct inside the light we will be able to see the shape of the light clearly and make all the necessary corrections.

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Seventh Step:

Things to consider

  • Form contour
  • Shadow line
  • Quality of the line
  • Construction
  • White chalk
  • Composition
  • Key Values
  • Highlight

-You need to continue working on the form and construction, but being more specific and less generic. Work on the shadow line and the quality of the line, adapting it to the changes in the form. (It is very important that the articulation of the line is not affected by the visual impression. The more we advance the more constructive and less abstract the line will be.)

-With the white chalk start to draw the falling light

-With the charcoal you can start to darken the shadows keeping them flat. (Inside the shadow we can add some notes to explain important forms, but in general the shadows must be rather atmospheric and carry less information than halftones and light.)

-Keep in mind that when a change of planes occurs it produces a change of value. It is important to understand why this is happening and try to capture it in the best way possible so it can be read more clearly. These changes of planes can be soft or sharp. The soft changes of value mean that there is not a big change of planes and form, so it is subtle. If there is a sharp edge or a big change of value means that there is an important change of planes and form.

-It may be beneficial to define the key value (the darkest black and the lightest white) so you can relate all the other values with this scale. Doing that you’ll drawing will acquire some important final touches.

– Work on the relation between the figure and the background. Our aim is to find points where the figure separates from the background and also where they become one. From now on it is really important to define the range of variation between the figure and the background. This will help us to create a sensation of space.

 

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Eighth Step:

Things to consider

  • Key value
  • Specificity
  • Contour
  • Accents
  • Focal point
  • Construction planes
  • Structure on the halftones

-By now the figure MUST have the key values defined so every relation that we draw from now on will have the correct value. Keep in mind that the falling of the light is like a shower: the top parts of the figure will have more light than the legs (standing pose).

-Also keep in mind that you will probably put more contrast where the focal point is.

– It will be very beneficial to think a lot about the focal point, and put a lot of effort in that part to make sure it is well constructed. It is recommended to place your focal point off-center in your composition.

– To be able to play a bit more with the focal point we can use accents. Accents are little lines that vary in size and value that help explain better how the form works and also it helps with the composition. We can find them not only inside the figure but also in the contour. Make sure you don’t do every little accent in the same way as this will make a boring reading of the figure for the spectator (use variations like different value, size, play with charcoal and the eraser, different placing). Basic places where you put accents: change of planes, bony points, variation in the contour, the articulations. It is important to put structure on the halftones.

-It’s important that all the decisions that we make are specific. This means that we need to think about the specific form, anatomy and construction of the model. Try to be less and less generic!

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Ninth Step:

Things to work on

  • Finishing Touches
  • Accents
  • Background

-By now the figure drawing will be almost done, you will only need to draw a few more accents so everything is well explained. Define your focal point and make sure it is the main character of the drawing. We are also interested in defining secondary focal points relevant to the drawing as everything else will remain more in in the background.

-You should make the background to work in your advantage. When changes at the level of abstract composition are needed in order to improve the drawing, make them!

-When you feel that some modifications will improve the reading of the drawing, make them! It might seem irrelevant to the construction of the drawing and the planes, but it’s not.

 

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Alphonse Mucha: The Master of Art Nouveau

There are few names as synonymous with the Art Nouveau era as Alphonse Mucha.
Born of Bohemian spirit near the midpoint of the 19th century, Mucha would go on to revolutionize artistic production by fully embracing the age of Art Nouveau design through the myriad projects he undertook. He dabbled in interior design; he collaborated with colleagues to conjure contemporary jewelry; and he developed an approach to the graphic arts that secured his status as one of the most celebrated artists of his day. What unites his diverse range of production is his plethora of drawings. From studies for future paintings to detailed renderings of interior and object designs, Mucha’s drawings showcase his remarkably talents as both draughtsman and artist.

study_for_medea_nitram_blogStudy for Medea, c. 1896
(image courtesy of author)

A native of relatively rural Bohemia (part of the modern-day Czech Republic), Mucha rose to prominence during an age of revolution in eastern Europe. In many ways he channeled that sense of revolution into his art, a spirit that would fully manifest itself upon his arrival in Paris in 1887. The City of Lights was, at the time, completed enveloped in fin-de-siècle fervor, an energy that the young artist absorbed readily. He fed off of the enthusiasm for artistic innovation alongside the rich colors and modern forms of the late 19th-cenutry world, as arts were embracing the “new art” of Art Nouveau, one that blended ideas of art and design and emphasized the importance of the creative process.

Alfons_Mucha_GismondaGismonda, 1894 Lithograph – 216 by 74.2 cm

Mucha was catapulted into artistic stardom following the release of his promotional poster design for famed French actress Sarah Bernhardt’s lead role in Gismonda in 1894. The sheer success of that novel poster transformed Mucha into an artistic icon seemingly over night. He gained the admiration of Bernhardt herself – she subsequently signed a six-year contract with Mucha for her future posters, including that for Medea in 1898 – and soon his work became known as the epitome of the Art Nouveau aesthetic. Part of Mucha’s appeal, though, was his ability to adapt his approach for such a wide array of implementations. From jewelry designs with his close friend Georges Fouquet to the entire interior design of Fouquet’s flagship boutique on Paris’ rue Royale, Mucha was an incredibly versatile figure whose style lent itself to a remarkable range of market in turn-of-the-century Europe.

Designs-Decoratifs_nitram_blogPencil and Wash on Paper – 52 by 39 cm
(image courtesy of the Mucha Foundation)

While Mucha’s acclaim spread internationally during the early 20th century, his later shift in focus toward more patriotic themes and his clash with the rising powers in Germany on the eve of World War II brought a subdued close to an otherwise brilliant career. To make matters worse, Mucha’s art was mired in obscurity for decades following his demise in 1940. The 1960s and 1970s witnessed the first renewed interest in the artist through international publications and exhibitions, and in the early 1990s Mucha’s descendants established the Mucha Foundation, which has grown over the past several decades to become the chief champion of Mucha’s artistic genius. Thus, Mucha’s acclaim is back on the rise, with new fans of his style constantly emerging.

Gallerie-Fouquet_nitram_blogInterior of Boutique Fouquet, Design for the Fireplace with statuettes, mirror, and the ornamental details of the wall, c. 1900
(image courtesy of the Mucha Foundation)

Are you a fan of Mucha’s body of work? A superb retrospective of Mucha’s career is currently on view at Rome’s Complesso Vittoriano until 11 September 2016. Have you had a chance to visit it? Tell us about it here!

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Contemporary Charcoals:
Stuart Fullerton

From the art and archaeology of the ancient world to the immediacy of plein air painting, Stuart Fullerton’s artistic interests are remarkably varied. What unites these interests, though, is a passion for both painting and working in charcoal. Fullerton was kind enough to be our latest participant in our ongoing “Contemporary Charcoals” series, so this week we are sharing his insights into the artistic process as well as some of his favorite artists of both the past and present. For more on Fullerton and his work, please visit his website.

Stuart Fullerton - Nitram Charcoal

Nitram Charcoal (NC): What is the last art show that you saw? What did you take from it?

Stuart Fullerton (SF): Last summer I saw the [John Singer] Sargent show at the Metropolitan Museum. It was inspiring and so humbling at the same time. There were a few of his charcoal portraits in the show. His portrait drawing of William Butler Yeats was especially powerful for me—direct, rich, dark, and evocative.

Stuart Fullerton - Nitram Charcoal

NC: What is your favorite collection to visit? What collection/museum in on your visit wish list?

SF: There are so many favorite museums! In 2009, though, I visited the [Joaquin] Sorolla Museum in Madrid. It made such an impression on me to visit his studio and to see his easel, his brushes, and even some of his unfinished work. What I realized from seeing his unfinished work is that the greatest painters in the world still work from the basics, just as we lesser mortals do. They happen to be vastly better at it, and can take things so much farther, but it’s still the same basic ideas: drawing, value, color, edge, composition. There is solace in knowing that we are on the right track. Sorolla lived there, too—he painted murals in his dining room—so you get a glimpse of what he was like, what kind of husband and father he was.

NC: In your opinion, what sets charcoal apart from other artistic media?

SF: Charcoal is so versatile. It’s capable of painterly application on the one hand—loose edges, broad treatment of the subject, masses of light and shadow—and on the other hand it can be as delicate and precise as you please. It’s that combination of the painterly and the precise that makes charcoal so satisfying.

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NC: What is the greatest challenge to working with charcoal?

SF: One has to keep in mind that charcoal is malleable: you can erase it, push it around, and wipe it out. So, don’t be afraid of it! That’s something I remind myself of quite frequently. Also, keep a sharp point on your charcoal; it can quickly get dull. I love the Nitram sharpening block for that purpose.

NC: Do you collect art? Whose works hang on your walls?

SF: I collect work by friends and by artists who were members of the Palette and Chisel in Chicago. I have paintings, drawings, and etchings by a number of them. One of the pieces I love most is an astonishing etching by Gerald Geerlings, who was the grandfather of an old college friend.

One of my best purchases was a demo drawing by George Bridgman. It’s five feet by ten feet—too big for my apartment—so it’s now hanging in the room at the Palette and Chisel where I teach my drawing class.

Stuart Fullerton - Nitram Charcoal

NC: If you could buy any one work of art, what would it be, and why?

SF: One piece? John Singer Sargent’s Lady Agnew of Lochlaw (National Galleries Scotland). It’s everything I want in a work of art—liveliness, color, drawing, and mood—and it represents to me a lost world that I so admire. To be able to see it every day would be such a treat.

NC: Who is your favorite living artist?

 SF: Mary Qian. She’s an amazing painter, a good friend and always an inspiration.

Stuart Fullerton - Nitram Charcoal

NC: What inspires you in the studio?

SF: Studio practice is about showing up. I think there is great force in routine. We improve by the square mile, as my instructor used to say. But then there will come a time when your gut won’t let you alone. That is the sort of time when you wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself working because you can’t not work. You’re on fire with an idea, and you have to get it down at that moment.

When I’m painting outside, there are times when the painting seems to fall off the end of my brush—it’s all so clear and seems so easy. Where that comes from, I don’t know. Maybe it comes from a slow build up of half-realized ideas, maybe it comes from a flash of pure joy, of pure happiness. Either way, you need to be prepared for it, and the only way to prepare is to put in the miles.

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NC: Tell us a bit about your background. What do you consider your greatest artistic accomplishment?

SF: I didn’t go to art school. I went to Harvard College, studying Greek and Latin, then went to Harvard Law School and became a lawyer. I work full time as a federal prosecutor in Chicago. I began learning to draw and paint later in life, and I hope to continue learning as long as I live.

My greatest artistic accomplishment is a life lesson: learning to be pleased with small accomplishments. It’s so difficult—we all want instant gratification—but it’s so important. After all, a string of minor victories, over time, will amount to a major victory.

Stuart Fullerton - Nitram Charcoal

NC: What do you define as “being creative”? How to seek that creativity in your work?

SF: A work of art is a statement, just as a novel or a play is a statement. It’s a statement about the subject, of course, but it’s also a statement about the artist, and his or her vision. What the artist chooses to say is very revealing, about both the artist and the subject.

When I approach a subject in art, I desire to make a statement that reflects the best of both myself and the subject. We all have blemishes; this world is full of imperfection and ugliness. But I don’t want to hold the imperfections of a subject against it. I’m looking for something in a portrait or a landscape by which I can make a larger statement, something more important than exactitude. Certain subjects cast me in mind of stories, or settings, or moods. It’s hard to pin down. But I’m at my most creative—I respond best to the subject—when I can capture that elusive something that goes beyond the actual thing or person that is in front of me.

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