This week Ivan Zhidov joins me for a discussion on teaching creativity in the classroom. Originally from the Ukraine, Ivan is a computer programmer, painter, mixed martial arts champion, a father, and an all around good guy. The discussion centers around whether or not it’s possible to teach creativity in a classroom.
The lovely and talented Gina Zhidov (http://www.z-artscene.com) joined us in studio during Midnight at Oasis. If you’re not familiar, on Friday nights we gather at Oasis Studios & Gallery for an arting. We snack, we art, we dance, and we talk. We submit topics of interest and everyone, including the online audience votes on which topics interest them. You can vote on as many topics as you like. The person whose topic garners the most interest then joins me on camera to record the Midnight At Oasis podcast.
In this episode, Gina’s topic of “How do you fight to keep creativity in your daily life?” won the most interest.
Gina is a photographer most known locally for her published work As I See It.
Gina confesses that she struggles every day, not only for herself, but for other artists to fight to maintain levels of creativity. My personal experience is to try to do something creative every day. Go watch the interview and then answer the question, “How do you fight to keep creativity in your daily life?”
Of course, I wasn’t quite cool enough to hit the “RECORD” button during the interview, but I did manage to capture it on the Ustream broadcast of The Artistic Biker Live!This is what I managed to pull out of that broadcast. Also, as an aside, when doing video like this, it is always important to know where your Picture in Picture is!
I like to do critiques here every Friday to share my learning experiences with you. I learn as much from giving the critiques as I do from getting them. I hope that you learn something as well.
Jeff Knecht of Jeff’s Blog and I have led parallel lives in that we both gave up the pursuit of art for the pursuit of career and family. Both of us even ride bikes except that I ride the motorized kind because if I rode the pedal kind like his, I would collapse in a heap at the side of the road gasping for air like a goldfish on the counter top. Both of us have found our way back into the art world via the Everyday Matters group on Yahoo. A few weeks ago, I asked Jeff if he would be interested in an online critique session and he replied with a resounding YES! We had such a good time doing that, and it was such a success, that we decided to do it again. So, without further ado, I give you this week’s Friday Critique with our very special guest Jeff Knecht! Blade21292: Woot! Man, that was a fast two weeks! Blade21292: How’ve you been?
Jeff_Knecht: not as productive as I would have liked
Blade21292: You and me both, buddy. I had HUGE plans for this past week and this three day weekend. NADA!
Jeff_Knecht: been spending my time working on some digital photography and a little bit (ok, a lot) of programming
Blade21292: Now see, that’s creative to. For work or pleasure?
Jeff_Knecht: pleasure… it was a hobby that turned into a career, and then stayed a hobby too Jeff_Knecht: the fact that I get paid to do what I love is a just a giant joke to me Jeff_Knecht: I’d be doing it for free anyway ;)
Blade21292: That’s how I felt when I was in sales. Meet someone new, take ‘em to lunch and maybe golf… checks are direct deposit. ;) Blade21292: What have you been programming?
Jeff_Knecht: just working on a reminder system for myself Jeff_Knecht: I’m not happy with what any other program I’ve used will do for me, so why not make something customized to my own needs Jeff_Knecht: plus I’ve been wanting to try out some ideas with respect to user interfaces… this is a decent vehicle for that Jeff_Knecht: anyway, it’s a huge time-suck. 6 hours can just disappear
Blade21292: That’s right, my friend, it’s all about what works for you. I keep a hot glue gun handy at home and work just because I am constantly customizing something. Beyond HTML though, I’ve never really dipped into programming. Blade21292: And yeah, I know all about the time suck
Jeff_Knecht: I just got done reading your post about mowing the lawn… good stuff
Blade21292: I have been in trouble all weekend for not doing the yard work and such and I really did just now finish mowing it.
Jeff_Knecht: it’s nice to have a hobby that helps justify procrastination :D
Blade21292: Thank you very much, btw. Blade21292: If my hobby were model trains, I doubt I would get as much support from my ART TEACHER wife. ;)
Jeff_Knecht: but mostly, I loved the gesture drawing of the mower… great feeling of movement in that little sketch
Blade21292: I love doing those quick little sketches like that. Like a chinese ink brush or zen drawing. I love the way they look and I love trying to do them Blade21292: I’ve got a little giraffe that I did at the zoo today in that style
Jeff_Knecht: I saw one you posted a while back – a zebra and giraffe… wonderful little guys Jeff_Knecht: They reminded me of the animal sketches picasso did, where he tried to capture the essence of the animal in as few lines as possible Jeff_Knecht: you should do more. those are some of my favs that you’ve posted
Blade21292: Yeah, but picasso could really draw too. I have to get there before I can pass off the stylized work. Blade21292: Just like the first time I heard the guys from Metallica on acoustic instruments, I was astounded when I saw the realism works of picasso and warhol etc.
Jeff_Knecht: Ha ha… you sound like me Jeff_Knecht: If nothing else, when you hear/see an artist do something that you normally attribute to “classical” artists, it helps you really appreciate that their style is a choice and not just the only way they knew how to do it Jeff_Knecht: Either way, they elicited a response in me…
Blade21292: The biggest advantage of those drawings are that you can capture a lot quickly. I desperately need to get faster at people and animals and this is a really fun way to do it. I use a brush pen that I learned about from Russ Stutler at http://sketching.cc Blade21292: So, carbon pencils eh?
Jeff_Knecht: yeah… carbon pencils… Jeff_Knecht: I was having a hard time getting darks that I was happy with. These babies are (almost) black as night
Blade21292: how do yo handle gray tones with ‘em?
Jeff_Knecht: but as far as the grays… I didn’t use the carbon pencils for most of the grays. only the dark stuff
Blade21292: Have you tried them for the midtones?
Jeff_Knecht: if I were to use them for midtones, I’d have to create a Jeff_Knecht: “carbon farm” and then use a tortillon to pick up the color and move it in very carefully Jeff_Knecht: carbon doesn’t really erase, so if you go too dark, you’re stuck
Blade21292: That’s the problem for me with brush and ink is getting midtones. Can you not pick it up with a kneaded eraser? I’ve never tried these, as you can probably tell.
Jeff_Knecht: no – the kneaded eraser is just about useless Jeff_Knecht: The nice thing is that the carbon and the pencil blend pretty well together
Blade21292: At least with ink, you can water it down Blade21292: I will have to try this!
Jeff_Knecht: six bucks for a 4-pack: B, 2B, 4B, 6B
Blade21292: You know, when I get to go to figure drawing group I have been using china markers. Same thing, if you’re wrong or want mid tones, well that’s just too bad.
Jeff_Knecht: That kind of drawing suits me pretty well – I rarely erase anyway (I attribute this to inertia — I just don’t want to stop, put down the pencil, pick up the eraser, clear the bad line, start again) Jeff_Knecht: If I erase at all, it is usually at the beginning of a drawing, where I can just delete the whole thing and start again
Blade21292: I read that on your blog. That’s one of the reasons I decided to do it that way. Blade21292: LOL delete it! It’s easy to tell where your mind has been.
Jeff_Knecht: something about flying without a net, though, gives me a little rush Jeff_Knecht: lol. woops… when worlds collide, huh?
Blade21292: Happens all the time around here too. Blade21292: So, do you have anything in particular you want to look at this week? Blade21292: I’d go for the candle, but you’ve already critiqued it pretty well
Jeff_Knecht: there’s even less to choose from than last time. But I’m actually pretty happy with the charcoal sketch of the harbor (though, it’s probably a bit TOO gestural to do a decent critique) and the candle. Jeff_Knecht: You?
Blade21292: I like the chapel and the bell
Candle on Rocks
Blade21292: For the candle, I think you pretty much nailed it in your self critique. I love the detail of the stones and the contrasts in the glass bottom. You’ve really used the darks to bring out the depth of this drawing and give it some dimensional attitude. The carbon pencils seem to work will for you here. You are right when you say that your elipses are off a little. Also, on the shading technique, in some places it’s blended well and in others it’s more of a hatching. The hatching works to provide texture for the river stones. It contradicts with the texture at the bottom of the glass though. The top is smooth because of the blending, so what texture is at the bottom? The distortion of the candle through the rounded glass is great! Was that on purpose? ;) Also, did the wick not come through under the curvature? I really like these close cropped still lifes and I can go on and on about them. I’ll stop here except to say that this a good example of composition and contrast. I think we ALL need to work on our elipses.
Jeff_Knecht: Ha! Thanks for pointing that out… I adn’t realized that I had cross-hatch the sand and not blended it properly. Now that I look at it again, it really stands out Jeff_Knecht: and yeah, the ellipse… I don’t know what happened there. All was OK with the top of the vase until I went in with the blending stump, and I managed to hose it all up. Jeff_Knecht: By the way, some of the crosshatching on the rocks was not on purpose… as well as the carbon pencil blends, I couldn’t get these to smooth out properly in some cases. In other cases, I was hesitant to blend too much for fear of causing them to go too dark. Just something to keep in mind when you try them yourself
Blade21292: Well, the hatching on the rocks works with the blending to give them that smooth striped appearance that river rocks often have.
Jeff_Knecht: with respect to the bell, I think you’ve captured the shape exceptionally well — one look, and this is instantly recognizable. The reflectivity of the bell is lost in some fairly soft transitions between light and dark. Reflective objects have almost no transition between light and dark, and the contrast is usually pretty stark, so I would push the darks a little more and leave more whites. I don’t get a sense of different materials between the bell and the ribbon (?) that is leading off to the left side. Again, more contrast in the reflective surafaces would help distinguish. Also, I know you don’t typically blend with a stump/tortillon, but you might consider using one in one texture and not the other to help differentiate. The bell “turns” pretty well — you did a good job of presenting a 3-dimensional object.
Blade21292: I have always shied away from drawing shiny things because they intimidate me. My style has always been to capture the essence of the podlings and then flesh it out later at my leisure. I haven’t been able to do that with shiny things because the contrasting reflections are what make them appear shiny. The journey is what it’s all about though, so I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and drawing more and more reflective surfaces.
Jeff_Knecht: I hear ya. Shiny things are really hard to get right, because not only do you have to draw the thing itself, but you have to capture all the things it reflects Jeff_Knecht: But one thing I like about reflective surfaces is that that it forces you to really LOOK at what you’re drawing. You can’t just draw what you think a glass, ball, bell, or whatever looks like — most of the time, you’re not dawing the ball at all; you’re drawing the stuff reflected by the ball. And since that stuff is distorted in a very particular way, you are forced to concentrate on what you SEE — not what you THINK you see.
Blade21292: Exactly, I have a student now that I just took through the lesson of drawing what’s really there.
At this point, I accidentally closed the window of chat. Jeff still had his open but basically all that was not already here was he and I saying our goodbyes and agreeing to meet again in a couple of weeks. I can’t stress enough how great it is to get to work with Jeff. I learn so much from his critiques and he is just an all around interesting guy to chat with.
Open invitation to critique Fridays.
If you would like to participate in Friday’s critiques, please contact me and I will be more than happy to set it up.
A few weeks ago, I sent the following letter to Jeff Knecht of http://jeffknecht.com:
You and I seem to share a similar background. Just like you, I did a lot of artwork when I was much younger (20+ years) but I let life get in my way. I actually married an art teacher and she told me that the reason I was so unhappy is because I was denying myself the art that I loved so much. For the record, she’s always right. Since I started the EDM challenges, my life has improved every day.
I was wondering if you would be interested in critiquing some of my EDM challenges. Mostly comparing draftmans…draughtsman… drawing, composition and design from the first 4 or so challenges, to the last few challenges. Even better would be if we could chat about the EDM and how bringing art back into our lives after such an absence has impacted us. That would be something we could both post.
Jonathan “Blade” Manning
Jeff responded with a resounding Yes! After a few scheduling issues we managed to meet online for the following chat:
We were scheduled to meet at 10am and I didn’t appear until 10:30…
Blade: And then the electricity went out
Jeff Knecht: lol
Jeff Knecht: seems about right, huh?
Blade: That’s the way things are going
Blade: How are you, sir?
Jeff Knecht: very well. and you?
Blade: Alive and kicking! I have the whole house to myself for a few hours so I have guilt free internet time.
Jeff Knecht: your latest blog post had me literally laughing out loud
Blade: A little play on the phrase “Cheating on my diet”
Jeff Knecht: nicely done
Blade: Thank you! I’m an admirer of your site as well, which is why I thought you might be interested in this exchange.
Jeff Knecht: Cool. I’m glad we had this little get-together planned. I’d been slacking, so it was a nice kick in the pants
Blade: Yeah, it’s a little nerve racking when go public with your intentions ’cause now you know they waiting for it.
Jeff Knecht: indeed
Jeff Knecht: So… how do you want to proceed?
Blade: Tell you the truth, we already are proceeding. This is exactly what I had in mind. A couple of friends chatting, sharing a little info about themselves and a little constructive criticism.
Jeff Knecht: Why don’t I start by asking how you found the EDM group?
Blade: That would be great!
Blade: I found the group over at sketching.cc. There was a cat posting his last few sketches of the initial 200 challenges.
Blade: I went through that thread more than ten times image by image thinking how marvelous it was that he could make these common items so interesting.
Blade: So, I followed the links he provided to find out more about Danny Gregory and his books.
Jeff Knecht: Hey cool! Just noticed that your blog is listed over on sketching.cc. Nice.
Blade: Yeah, if you become a member of the sketching.cc forum, you can ask Russ to list your site there as well.
Blade: How about you? How did you “stumble upon” the Everyday Matters group?
Jeff Knecht: Me?
Jeff Knecht: I think I was just searching for a list of things to draw
Jeff Knecht: When I first picked up my pencils after a long layoff, I need a little direction. And the EDM site was perfect for that
Blade: It seems the hardest part of every day practice is finding something to draw. EDM takes that problem away. Today, you should draw THIS.
Jeff Knecht: Yep. And I’ve got to tell you I really admire that you’ve been able to make time to do something just about every day.
Jeff Knecht: After you posted your 100 days recap, I went back to my blog and did a quick count you’ve more than doubled my output
Jeff Knecht: … and that shows in the progress of your work. NIght and day difference between post #1 and post #100
Blade: Thank you. It is not easy, but it does become a habit. If I miss it, it’s just like wondering if you locked the door before you went to bed. It just eats at you until you do something about it.
Jeff Knecht: I’m not sure that I see that same progress in mine.
Blade: I’ve noticed you expanding into different mediums and experimenting. That’s wonderful! That’s what keeps it interesting and alive.
Jeff Knecht: yeah, I’m a bit of butterfly
Jeff Knecht: I don’t know if “bored” is the right word… but I just always have to be doing something different
Blade: I will come to a challenge and so desperately want to do it in watercolor! But for the EDM this time around I have set the parameter for myself that it shall be graphite unless the challenge dictates otherwise.
Jeff Knecht: I keep thinking I should do that. I boldly predict that, for example, “march is watercolor month”; and then I pick up a stick of charcoal.
Jeff Knecht: it’s like the complete opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy
Blade: LOL. Or how about when you go to the art store and there’s a new pen, or you discover some way to make a mark you’ve never done before? I just have to try that.
Jeff Knecht: exactly
Blade: Just like lately, I’ve been following your progress in charcoal, then you put up two latest posts in watercolor, the hand held game and the bike helmet. Great work on helmet btw.
Jeff Knecht: thanks – I’m not happy with that helmet at all
Jeff Knecht: so… direct question… what are your art goals?
Blade: Art Goals… I’ve never been that organized. After this huge break in my participation in art, I really just wanted to elevate it to the foreground of my life. I don’t know that I want to be a professional artist, as much as I want to be an artistic professional. Whatever I do, fill it with creativity.
Jeff Knecht: perfect – that’s exactly what I was asking
Jeff Knecht: I was just talking about this with a friend of mine yesterday…
Jeff Knecht: and he was saying how his goal is just to spend some time getting lost in doing a drawing
Jeff Knecht: for me, I just want to get better…
Jeff Knecht: I really want to get to the point where I can make something appear almost photographic. Then I can CHOOSE whether to do something more stylistic rather than being forced into it by my lack of ability to do otherwise
Jeff Knecht: which is why, i think, i’m usually not thrilled with most of my work
Jeff Knecht: but as long I see some progress, I can stay motivated
Blade: What were you doing before you jumped back into drawing?
Jeff Knecht: I was trying to write a novel
Jeff Knecht: Like I said, I’m a bit of a butterfly…
Jeff Knecht: After I stopped doing visual art, I picked up a guitar and did that for about seven or eight years
Jeff Knecht: then I started running, and that took up all my hobby time
Jeff Knecht: ran a marathon, wrecked my knees, and suddenly I had free time again
Jeff Knecht: so I thought, why not try my hand at writing?
Jeff Knecht: turns out, writing fiction is really, really hard
Jeff Knecht: but more importantly, when I had free time, I found myself doing everything EXCEPT writing
Jeff Knecht: then in September or October last year, we were painting our bedroom. And something about the sound and feel of the brush on the wall just flipped a switch in my head, and I HAD to draw
Blade: LOL! I’ll bet if you could have recorded speach to text while running, you would have two novels by now.
Jeff Knecht: probably not… my problem was coming up with a plot
Jeff Knecht: I could write a few decent pages, but I never had any idea where the story was going.
Blade: No plan beyond the immediate scene, huh?
Jeff Knecht: nope. i got nuthin’
Jeff Knecht: over the course of two years, I think I actually wrote less than a hundred pages of fiction. so, it just wasn’t my thing.
Blade: I know your type, Jeff. Two or three years from now, you’ll sit down and pick up a pencil to draw and end up writing 100 pages.
Jeff Knecht: lol
Jeff Knecht: you’re probably right
Jeff Knecht: I’ve noticed your drawings are getting more contrasty lately
Blade: Yeah, I’ve really been trying to “push the darks” as my wife tells me.
Jeff Knecht: I think it really helps your pics “pop”
Jeff Knecht: was curious if you scan your drawings or snap a pic with a camera
Blade: I scan everything smaller than 9″x12″. That’s as big as my flatbed goes
Jeff Knecht: the whites don’t always look completely white, and I’ll bet the darks don’t look as dark as they do in real life either.
Jeff Knecht: then again, maybe you’re drawing on paper that isn’t quite white?
Blade: True, and I am loathe to edit them on the PC because I don’t want people to think I’m touching them up and not posting the raw work.
Blade: Well, most of the time the paper is Strathmore and it’s a touch gray to begin with.
Jeff Knecht: I don’t think there’s any problem with making an adjustment as long as you’re making it look as closer to the way the drawing looks in real life
Jeff Knecht: now, cranking up the contrast to make it look even better… that would be cheating
Blade: Exactly. If I were doing this as a professional illustrator trying to meet a deadline, I would have no problem at all with that. But as I am just trying to improve and allow others along on the journey, there’s no point in cutting corners.
Jeff Knecht: fair enough
Blade: Shall we post a few pics for critique, or run with what we have and do some actual critique next week?
Jeff Knecht: you have stuff other than what’s on your blog?
Jeff Knecht: (I don’t everything I do gets posted)
Jeff Knecht: but sure, we can do a quick one
Blade: Not really, I have some stuff that I’m not willing to share and I have some stuff that is not finished. But for the most part, everything’s posted.
Blade: I’ve got the figure drawings of my lovely bride, but that’s not going online.
Jeff Knecht: :D
Blade: Just out of curiosity, did you have a subscription to Highlights magazine when you were a kid?
Jeff Knecht: No. But I remember pouring through them at the doctor and dentist
Jeff Knecht: good old Goofus and Galant I wonder if they’re still around
Blade: I wonder how many of us Gen-x were influenced by the illustrations in that magazine? Oh yeah, my kids have a subscription.
Blade: So which of your works are you most proud of this week?
Blade: and not necessarily done this week
Jeff Knecht: well, since I only did 3 things, that’s not a hard choice
Jeff Knecht: Those illustration friday challenges are so far outside my comfort zone that I am always impressed to see what people do with them
Hierarchy of Love
Jeff Knecht: I like the composition on the hierarchy of love how the outer circle gives the impression of the father wrapping the mother in his arms. Very nice
Jeff Knecht: If I have any criticism at all, it would be the word “love” written all the way around. I think I would have preferred to infer that from the image alone.
For Jeff’s critique of EDM 107: Draw a light bulb,click here!
Blade: I initially intended the “Love” to work as a shading around the arms. It didn’t work out as intended, but that’s what makes art fun. I’m with you, though, if I did it again I wouldn’t add the writing.
Blade: The top of the dryer is really very nice illustration. Your mixed media approach adds different textures to the planes. You use just enough splash of color to difine the object and it’s shading without coming down and writing “Spray-n-Wash” on the bottle.
Blade: Very loose and well done. I would like to see your lines get a little bolder. There are a few places where it’s obvious that you weren’t happy with something and your line gets … sketchier. I also would like to see a bit more shadow. I think you have a great start on the atmospheric perspective, but I think you were a little afraid to fill in the darks and making mud of your labels. I can see where you started, but backed off on the front two bottles. I do really like close cropped still lifes, and I think you captured a beautiful angle for this.
For Blade’s critique of the handheld basketball game, click here!
Jeff Knecht: Well, cool. Thanks for the crit.
Blade: Now that wasn’t so hard was it?
Jeff Knecht: This was great! I really appreciate the feedback. So much of what I get on my blog is just “nice job”. This was much more helpful
Jeff Knecht: You’ve given me some good things to keep in mind for next time.
Jeff Knecht: I hope I have too but it’s been so long since I’ve done a critique I’ve almost forgotten how
Blade: Oh yes! Constructive criticism is always appreciated!
Blade: You and I have so much in common it’s ridiculous.
Blade: all except for the running.
Jeff Knecht: you wait and see… I didn’t start running until after I lost 40 pounds
Jeff Knecht: (yet another thing we have in common)
Blade: Yesterday, at the zoo, I found myself running up the hills just to see if I could. And I did and wasn’t winded at the top.
Blade: I’m sure my running as recreation is one of the signs of the apocolypse
Jeff Knecht: yup – that’s how it starts. Next you’ll be going to the end of the block, then around the block, then down to the park, and before you know it, you’re registered to run a 5-K and you’ve spent money on shoes designated just for running.
Blade: One step at a time.
Jeff Knecht: :D
Blade: Shall we do this again in say, two weeks?
Jeff Knecht: checking the calendar…
Jeff Knecht: yep – that should work. but might need to be later in the day/evening
Blade: Is 8pm too late? That’s when Girl2 gets her bath.
Jeff Knecht: that’s perfect
Jeff Knecht: thanks so much for putting this together
Blade: No problem. I think because we are almost at the same place in our lives, this would make a great regular feature.
Jeff Knecht: Most excellent
If you would like to participate in a chat and critique, feel free to contact me here and I’ll be happy to arrange it.
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