I'm taking a break from my Bargue plates, and drawing something new. I've spent around twenty hours on a portrait of my sister, working from a photograph I took in December 2011.
For the first time I'm drawing upright on an easel (rather than horizontally on a table), and on a big scale. I'm working at A1 -- whereas my Bargue plates were smaller than A4 -- and I'm using correspondingly heavier paper. At 300gsm it is twice as weighty as my Bargue sketchbook pages, and it is able to take much more aggressive erasing and re-working. This gives me confidence to lay down lines that I know can be altered later, and the large size allows me to be much more expressive when sketching out the initial form.
As the paper is so large I have drawn guidelines to separate it in to thirds to make sizing easier. I am currently refusing to use a ruler or tape-measure to precisely map the enlargement from source image to final drawing, as this feels like cheating. I instead measure relative lengths against a small paintbrush.
Here is the sketching and rendering so far. I need to fine-tune the facial features, which are distorted at the moment, but I'm happy with how the shading on the fabric is going so far; see the image below for a close-up.
Here is the original photograph from which I am working. I desaturated it and printed it at A3, and have it taped next to the drawing to use as a sizing reference. Unfortunately the printed version has lost a lot of the tonal depth, so I use the digital version on my laptop as the source for values and detailed areas.
I've been working on this Bargue plate (number 38 in the sequence) for several weeks now, and I've found it increasingly tedious. When I came to draw in the fiddly bits of hair (which I foolishly left until after I had started shading the face), I found that they didn't slot in to their proper places easily. I found myself having to distort and elongate strands of hair to accommodate increasingly apparent errors of alignment on a more fundamental level. I have conceded defeat and abandoned this plate as "unfinished".
Whilst I like the smooth gradients on the face, I find it difficult to look beyond the horizontal distortion that caused me so much aggravation when I came to put in the details.
The composite image shows my drawing against the silhouette of the original plate, illustrating very clearly how my attempt has gone wrong. The original is significantly thinner.
I made two attempts at Bargue Plate 37, the "Head of Horse, Parthenon", and neither of them got it right. I spent a combined 40-50 hours on these; I've lost count. I don't know if I can stomach a third attempt, but I know that I should try!
I measured the first one reasonably well initially, but got sloppy and made some pretty poor judgements on the internal features. It seems I usually only measure-up the outline, and then fit internal bits in with much less rigour. Even then, the outline isn't perfect. Here's the first attempt:
Frustrated with the first attempt, I rushed in to the second without properly sizing it up. In fact, I did everything by eye, taking no measurements whatsoever. The results might *look* okay, but it is actually quite unlike the original plate. Angles are incorrect almost everywhere, and overall it is a very poor reproduction.
To make matters worse, I managed to spill a bit of tea on this, which I ended up removing with sandpaper. You can't see it terribly well in this image, because the brightness of the scanner's light has washed it out, but there is a good deal of rough paper where I have erased mistakes too many times. Here is the second attempt:
Today I deleted all of my Google accounts, in advance of the privacy changes which come in to effect on 1st March. I've been with Gmail for eight years, and have been using Google search forever.
Deleting my accounts was a big move, precipitated in part by the policy changes, but motivated primarily by a growing sense of unease about the centralization of such a large amount of information about me.
Through my willing use of Google's services like Web History , Google chat, Gmail, Android SMS backups, Google Reader and Google Calendar, I have provided Google with a phenomenally vast amount of data over the years.
Gradually I have allowed Google services to penetrate almost every single aspect of my life -- from the minutely detailed statistics of my web servers' traffic to the complete logs of my viewing history for all of the videos I have watched on YouTube -- and I have suddenly become very uncomfortable with the ease with which everything I have said and done online could potentially be reconstructed, indexed and interpreted.
Although individual emails, search queries and photo uploads will be inconsequential, the collective sum of all of the data that Google holds about me could produce a fabulously detailed (but admittedly desperately tedious) minute-by-minute documentary of pretty much everything I have done online and offline in the past eight years, both in public and in private.
Whether this kind of reconstruction and profiling ever takes place or not is moot. What worries me is the fact that such an abundance of information exists in the first place, but it is worth remembering that profiling people and tailoring adverts to users' interests is precisely how Google make their money. This data is, in a very real sense, extremely valuable to them.
Aside from any processing that takes place within the bounds of the new privacy agreements, all of this sensitive and valuable information is vulnerable to the abuse of employees, dedicated hackers, and the demands of the state, and I don't like the idea of not being in control of it.
To try and reduce the likelihood and ease of this happening, I resolved to leave Google entirely. This decision required me to liberate as much of my data as possible -- download my emails, RSS subscriptions, photos, calendars etc -- and find good replacement services for all of the Google software that I have come to rely on so heavily.
Over the next few days I will write up how I went about migrating away from Google and taking control of my online privacy to aid anyone else who happens to be interested in pursuing a similar scorched-earth policy.
Lots of the compressed files I download come in the form "project-name-1.2.3.tar.gz", and contain a directory within them named in the same format, so when you untar it creates a directory like "project-name-1.2.3", with all of the project files below it. As most of the time I seem to be already working in a new directory where I want the file to untar, I don't want to have to bother about moving the contents up a level and then deleting the old directory. The tar switch
--strip-components=1 addresses this problem by removing the first directory on extraction.
man tar | grep strip-components .
In an OpenAtrium 6.x-1.0-alpha11 on Drupal 6.24, a custom logo uploaded through
/features would not load. This is because the directory
/sites/default/files/imagecache/designkit-image-logo/ had not been automatically created, as documented here: https://community.openatrium.com/documentation-en/node/2226. The solution is to enable
ImageCache UI from
This is where I have spent most of my time drawing over the past fifty or so days. It's far from optimal for the Bargue studies, as it does not allow me to use the sight-sizing approach that the course recommends. Instead, I work in a sketcbook on a horizontal surface, taking references from the plates held vertically in the easel. I work at a different size from the plates, so leave a lot of room for errors to creep in.
One and a half-months in to my 1000 hours of art challenge and I have just passed the 150 hour mark. It has been difficult keeping up the pace alongside a full-time job, freelance work and the vestiges of a normal existence, but I have settled in to a productive routine which gives me time to enjoy both the process and the progress.
I know my materials better now, and have manufactured several guidelines which I use in my workflow for the Bargue plates:
- Start the initial sketch with a hard-grade pencil, say 3H, and work with very faint lines. These are much easier to erase later than heavier lines made by softer pencils, which tend to leave a shadow no matter how hard they are erased.
- Keep light areas light by dabbing the putty-eraser to pick up loose graphite.
- Don't over-work the dark areas, otherwise they will be spoilt by a reflective sheen.
- Don't start shading dark areas with 2H's and above, as it is hard to lay softer and darker grades on top of them.
- Keep all the pencils seriously sharp, so that line quality is tight and inconsistincies in shading (perhaps caused by the grain of the paper) can be addressed at the smallest level of detail.
Almost a full month in to my 1000 hour challenge, and I have completed 100 hours of Bargue drawings. I have most enjoyed Plate I, 24 - Arm of Moses by Michelangelo, which is the first drawing in the course not to have a helpful preliminary sketch to work from. I made two attempts at this plate, the second of which is below.
The plates which look simple, particularly the legs, are boring to do, and the easiest to get wrong. There aren't very many internal reference points in these, and it's easy to get angles slightly off and ruin the whole thing. I tend to lose interest in this kind, and don't have the discipline to go back and re-do them -- hardly the level of rigour the course intends!