Archive for category Author: Joseph Zbukvic
This is a film about looking, seeing and refining. It’s less about the mechanics of painting and Joseph spends quite a lot of time walking around Rome in search of subjects, rejecting the obvious, the pretty and the main tourist sites – “Don’t start just because it’s beautiful”, he says.
He begins with a short lesson in the basic shapes of composition and shows how these guide the viewer in and balance the elements of the picture. This leads on to a watercolour sketch in a quiet back street that demonstrates the use of shapes and tones: “I don’t think about colour, I just think about tone … warm, cool”.
Rome is a busy, bustling city and Joseph is at pains to show you how to find and isolate a subject in the middle of crowds and confusion. He is looking all the time for shapes and edges and the time spent not painting in this film contains some of the most important lessons. He is insistent about understanding and absorbing a place in order to commit it to memory: a photograph takes a moment and isn’t a real memory, he explains. Joseph is also insistent on the importance of working and sketching all the time: “Not matter how good you are, you should practise your craft”, he reminds us. The result of this is that he is able to produce pencil sketches quickly and accurately, although he also emphasises the importance of not getting bogged down in detail and accuracy: “Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to put it in” is perhaps the most sound piece of advice in the whole film. Details can overwhelm both the composition and the viewer.
This film comes from a different perspective to many, but Joseph is an astute observer and an excellent communicator and his message: observe, practise, simplify comes across loud and clear.
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The first review I did of this was for a magazine and I was limited to 150 words. You have to be pithy in that length and the challenge now, when I can write as much as I like, is to capture the joyful simplicity of this delightful film while at the same time taking the opportunity to tell you a bit more about its content.
I was captivated in the first ten minutes. In that short time, Joseph demonstrates how to capture figures from stationary to full exertion in just a few brush strokes. He also shows the importance of structure and proportion – how the rest of the body is always seven and a half times the height of the head and how you should be able to achieve that without measuring. It just looks right. Change it and you either have a Martian or a child. It’s engaging as well as a forehead-slapping moment – “Of course!”
The body of the film is shot on location and Joseph paints and sketches a variety of figurative compositions – at a market, roadworks, a harbour and a café as well as grape-pickers in a vineyard. In the course of these, he explains how to identify your subject, then to assemble the figures that will go in it and, finally, to simplify. He also has valuable advice on the structure of the whole work – “Foreground takes you in, middle ground’s the stage with your figures and the background’s just a pattern. Don’t over-work it.”
The important thing throughout is that these are not portraits, they’re figures that are there to do (and are doing) a job and they need to fit, both in terms of action and proportion, into the scene as a whole.
It’s a hugely informative film, but done with such a light touch, both artistically and in terms of presentation, that you’ll hardly notice you’re learning.
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