‘Close-Ups’ is a theme many Art Teachers present to their students. It encourages students to look at the world in a different way – from different perspectives and angles. Arranging, zooming in, cropping and observing detail are all part of the creative process. I was pleased to speak to the following artists to learn a little bit more about the close-up work they produce. There is a link to a free presentation for Art Teachers to use in their teaching at the bottom of this post.
Working with rich Prismacolor pencils, Sherry Egger’s close-ups will inspire those students who love drawing detail. There is something wonderfully obsessive about this work. Taking photographs of boxes of objects is an obvious starting point for a project inspired by this work. I love the way one shell breaks the border. You would need some good quality pencils for your students to produce work like this.
“The best art teachers were the ones who spoke their mind and didn’t hesitate to be helpfully critical.”
“My advice to aspiring artists is to not give up!! Every artwork or project has an “ugly stage” where you wonder what in the world you were thinking! Keep working and revisiting that initial inspirational thinking and it will come to fruition. Be flexible and let it change direction if instinct dictates. Art is a passion, it’s consuming and it’s almost obsessive. Accept that.”
See Sherry Egger’s Facebook page here.
Italian artist Ester Curini is a hyperrealistic painter who paints animals. She is self-taught as when she grew up, there were no art classes in high school in Italy. When asked what advice she would give to students who are using her work as inspiration, she said “I would encourage them to visit animal conservation centres and to enjoy taking pictures of the particular animal which interested them. I use acrylic colors and very thin brushes to paint each hair. It requires many layers of paint over an extra smooth canvas and several months to complete a large painting. So, patience and perseverance are highly suggested!”
“A large painting may take up to six months or even more to be completed.”
“My paintings are based on photos that I use as reference. I can spend hours out in the fields waiting for the magical moment of connection with the animal. During the editing process, I choose only one image among many. This will be my reference for the actual painting.”
If you are looking for an alternative to Georgia O’Keeffe I would definitely recommend the beautiful, dissected images photographed by globe-trotting botanist Robbie Honey. This would make a great cross-curricular project as well as fitting into the ‘Close-ups’ theme. If I was planning to get students to photograph flowers in this way, I think I would run this as group work as you will notice each image has a complete flower as well as one dissected into its component parts.
I was pleased to learn from Honey, that he didn’t think it would be too hard to dissect a flower in a classroom environment. He suggested choosing a robust but intricate flower. Something more complex than a daisy. It would involve scalpels and he also uses rulers, tweezers and a jewellers gem picker. He warned me of the issue of sap which can mark the paper and ruin an image. He uses grey paper as a background to his images.
“I keep creativity alive by doing something creative every day”
A note to your students who take 5 pictures and think they are done: Honey takes about 50 photographs, using an iPhone, constantly changing the composition in order to get one shot he is satisfied with. He suggests having more material (plant parts) than you need.
To learn more about Robbie Honey’s work visit his website and Instagram.
British portrait artist Brian Scott creates these incredible coloured pencil close-ups. It is interesting to note that he is a self-taught artist. Students who love drawing eyes will really engage with his art. They way he crops his image down creates a striking composition of an often tender moment. He often uses Faber Castell Polychrome pencils.
Close-ups of dahlias and succulents are a feature of the work of American artists Linnea Tobias. Interested in art from an early age, she remembers when her grandfather built her an easel when she was only 5 years old. When asked if her art teachers in school were an influence on her she replied “I had several teachers who influenced me- one in particular in high school had a great sense of humour and imagination. One memory I have is one day we taped a fellow student completely to a chair. He was covered with masking tape like a mummy. We put him out in the hallway to display as a piece of living art. Our art teacher thought this was great fun and so did the guy taped to the chair!” High jinks indeed!
“I sketch out ideas for painting in a sketchbook. When I work I find it helpful to sketch out my idea first to work out any issues. When I’m satisfied I transfer the drawing to a wood panel to paint..”
Photorealistic, British painter Sarah Graham gives art students a wonderful array of still life subjects to pursue. Toys, sweets, marbles and cakes have been carefully photographed with bright lighting and high contrast. Graham says she has an obsession with colour and often paints objects from her childhood. When asked if she had an art teacher who was an influence on her she replied: “Yes, Mr Tompkinson, he was brilliant and really encouraged me.” I’m sure he would be enormously proud to read these words.
When asked what advice she would give to art students who are making work inspired by her, she stated:
“Don’t be afraid, really look hard at what you’re working on, look for the pattern of reflections, most of all, enjoy it!!”
“Contrasts between focus and blur have become a key element in my work.”
The artists above make an excellent starting point for an art project. Click the image below to access a free presentation which features these artists. The presentation includes a script making you the instant expert!
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