Thursday, May 03, 2007

I held back posting this photo on May 1 -- everyone knew. If you didn't, you're sound asleep. Sleep on.

Mission is Not Accomplished, of course. And I'm not just referring to the Iraq War, or the war in Afghanistan, or the War on Terror. What the present architects of our nation have brought upon us -- whether intentionally or not simply no longer matters -- is the End of the Empire. We have seen the clear signs -- Hurricane Katrina is still the most devastating and visible landmark, though most continue to ignore it, just as we're right this moment ignoring the silent, invisible, inexplicable devastation of the honeybee hives presently underway. We are amid the process; we can ignore or deny it, but it is happening. The May 1st photo is a mere moment in that process, but a vital one nonetheless.

I put it to you that what we are amid is nothing less than the eve of the collapse of the Empire -- a major change in US history, unprecedented and certainly unlike anything the present generation has experienced or even entertained, outside of dystopian sf.

An essay well worth reading (thanks to Jean-Marc for steering this link our way):
  • "Closing the 'Collapse Gap': the USSR was better prepared for peak oil than the US" by Dmitry Orlov

  • "My talk tonight is about the lack of collapse-preparedness here in the United States. I will compare it with the situation in the Soviet Union, prior to its collapse. The rhetorical device I am going to use is the "Collapse Gap" – to go along with the Nuclear Gap, and the Space Gap, and various other superpower gaps that were fashionable during the Cold War..."

    Get ready, folks.

    Still, teaching must go on. We must draw. Yesterday's CCS Drawing Workshop was a two-part affair, building on last week's two-part session: last week, we were visited by botanical illustrators
  • Bobbi Angell
  • and Susan Riley, both making the old drive from Marlboro to White River Junction, VT, a drive I know well. Bobbi and Susan presented a two-hour workshop on observational drawing of plant life, which most of the freshmen jumped into with enthusiasm, though it'll take time to build the observational skills essential to the task(s). Bobbi and Susan were terrific.

    After that, we spent 90 minutes or so constructing a cardboard city -- a miniature, but for that fairly expansive: about 10' x 9' x 3', with a faux mountain overlooking the village like something out of a Guy Maddin film.

    For yesterday's session, both were followed up with:

    (1 PM - 2:45 PM)

    Building on last week’s session with BOBBI ANGELL and SUSAN RILEY, we are spending the first part of today’s session DRAWING OUTDOORS. I have lots of WOODS behind my house -- it’s all yours to draw in until 2:35 PM!

    THEN -- leave Bissette house at 2:45 PM, reconvene at the VERIZON BLDG., DOWNSTAIRS at 3 PM for PART TWO of DRAWING WORKSHOP.

    EXERCISE TWO, May 3, 2007 - Drawing Workshop!

    Composite Cityscapes

    This is a two-step process of drawing an imaginary cityscape from a constructed miniature -- our cardboard city -- and then customizing your drawings referencing from the real buildings, streets and sidewalks of White River Junction. You should end up with three drawings, completed in either pencil or ink, depending on your preference. These should be tight drawings, suitable for use in a comic, as illustration, or as tight reference.

    1. ROUGH OUT no less than THREE city areas from any view -- and please, choose three different observation points (from above, from street level, etc.) -- modeled from the constructed miniature.

    Be sure to use lighting to rough in the forms of the structures and a cohesive light source; we have enough lights for each group to create its own light source, or move them as needed once one group is done.

    These roughs should have no surface details -- no windows, doors, signage, fire escapes, etc. -- beyond what the constructed reference provides.

    Be inventive, be imaginative -- this doesn’t need to be a ‘realistic’ contemporary city, as much as an environment that looks ‘lived in’ and seems believably three-dimensional in construction. Perspective can be roughed out -- this is not an exercise in perspective per se.

    2. The three roughs will now be ‘fleshed out’ and COMPLETED from LIFE REFERENCE in and around our White River Junction neighborhood.

    Open your eyes, and complete your miniature-referenced buildings, streets, etc. with the details of LIFE. Add building textures (wood, brick, stone, glass), add attached structures (fire escapes, building signs -- including those painted ON buildings -- canopies, etc.), doors, windows, sidewalks etc. to create three fully detailed, rendered city scenes.

    I followed up with a short talk, which essentially said the following:

    Building on today's Part Two session, though this was a tight exercise timewise, the principle is simple:

    If you need to create a convincing urban scene, however small the town (e.g., White River Junction) or metropolitan the city (e.g., Tokyo, New York, Chicago, etc.), create a simple miniature for yourself using cardboard or board -- just to create the building forms, which you can then light for shadows -- then 'wrap' a more realistic or representationally convincing detailed street scene around those forms.

    Photo reference is invaluable in this process --
  • check out a standard Google search for city street scenes
  • and extend the exercise in your sketchbook to fully grasp the principle -- pick a city to reference, and turn your original cardboard city roughs into an imagined street from a specific city.

    This, after all, is what theatre set designers, special effects creators, miniature experts (still used for movie special effects, amusement park rides using '3-D' holographic imagery, like the Universal City Back to the Future ride, or for CGI creations for films, games, etc.), and many artists do.

    In comics, this is the kind of thing Gerhard used to do for Cerebus, Herge for Tintin, Richard Corben for his comix and comics stories, etc. -- construct models (usually out of matte board or a similar stiff, cutable board) of specific settings, interiors and exteriors, and use them for reference in creating their drawn panels and pages. I used to visit Dave Sim and Gerhard in their Kitchener, Ontario, studio, and Gerhard occasionally constructed very detailed miniature reference 'sets' for portions of Cerebus -- especially if it was an interior set (like Rick's Tavern) or exterior that would be in play for an extended portion of the narrative.

    I know this seemed a 'play' session, last week and this, but don't underestimate the value of the lesson, and the principle. It may serve you well in the future!

    OK, off to work. I have a heady morning with the seniors, and a relaxing afternoon savoring two back-to-back sessions with Ivan Brunetti teaching.

    Ah... until the Empire collapses, we will draw. After the Empire collapses, we will still draw. We may eat dirt, but we will use our spit to draw with it. It's what we do.

    Have a great Thursday.

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