Pencil Sketching - Was Jack McDonogh Australia's Best Teacher?
By: Richard D Williams
Jack McDonogh (1916-1994) believed that it an essential part of being an aspiring artist was the ability to draw scenes in pencil before painting them in watercolour, oil colour, or any other medium. Jack believed in the importance of practice as he used to say "practice, practice - forever practice" as he believed that there was no such thing as an instant artist.
Sketching the Australian landscape presents a challenge as there are certain fundamental rules that must be followed. Jack believed that there were many ways to sketch with a pencil and his methods were just one way that worked well for him. Some of the fundamentals that Jack covered in his book "An Introduction To Pencil Sketching" included; composition, perspective, geometrical solids, architectural details and sketching the element of a landscape. Jack developed an easy to follow step by step approach to teaching his students.
Jack believed that perspective was probably the most important aspect of drawing landscapes. You may be able to draw well but this will be undermined by a drawing that is badly composed. Jack believed that all drawings have a centre of interest eg a shed or a gum tree. Jack believed that it was best not to place the centre of interest in the centre of your picture. It is best placed just off centre to either the left or right. Jack believed that it was also necessary to avoid symmetrical arrangements of the items in the drawing both in their quantity and size. Imbalance is the desired outcome for the composition rather than balance and symmetry.
Jack believed that in order to become a competent sketcher you must gain a basic knowledge of perspective. He believed that an incorrect perspective in your drawings was the sign of a poor artist. Before you start drawing it is important to establish the vanishing point. To help find the vanishing points for your sketch Jack recommended the use of "angle sticks" . The angle sticks you can make yourself by cutting two thin strips of plywood each one measuring 30cm x 1.5cm (two wooden rulers are also good). Using a small nut and bolt join the two sticks 5cms from the ends. Using a wing nut allows you to tighten the sticks so you can easily position the angle of the sticks.
Jack used the sticks by holding the sticks with an out stretched arm in the horizontal position and at right angle to your line of vision. Keeping one stick on the horizontal position move the other stick until it lines up with the part of the subject you are drawing to show the angle of the vanishing line. Becoming proficient with the use of these sticks will give you a good indication of where the vanishing lines are and allow you to find them quickly. Then by holding the sticks near the paper you are sketching on you can transfer the angles onto your drawing.
Jack recommended his students practise drawing geometrical shapes. He believed the ability to draw them easily would be a great help in drawing buildings. He recommended his students draw a; rectangular prism, square prism, triangular prism, square pyramid, cone, cylinder and cube. By combining these shapes can assist you to draw buildings.
Jack believed that it was very important to put straight into action what the reader was learning from his book. Jack wants you start sketching straight away, so he suggests you start to draw simple items that you find around the house eg a box of matches, a spoon, banana, etc. Starting on small simple items is best as they are easier and quicker to draw. Once you have mastered these items you can progress onto larger and more complex items.
Jack had another useful tool to develop the students drawing skills. This tip involves the use of a 35cm square sheet of glass (with smoothed edges and duct tape along all the edges to avoid cuts) and either a felt tip pen of a piece of chalk. Place two (kitchen style) chairs three meters apart. Sit on one chair and place the other at an angle to you. Place the sheet of glass on your knee and keeping your head in a fixed position, with the felt tip pen trace the outline of the chair onto the glass. Now put the glass tracing to one side and from the same position make a freehand sketch of the same chair. Next compare the two drawings to see if your sketch resembles the glass tracing. The glass tracing will be perfect in its perspective and proportions so it can be used to check your freehand drawing. The glass can then be cleaned off with a cleaning agent and used over and over again.
If Jack was not Australia's leading teacher of pencil sketching I certainly believe he was amongst the first to publish a step by step book and no doubt one artist that has influenced many of todays leading Australian artists.
About the Author:
Richard D Williams,
I have now re-released two of Jack's publications a pencil sketching book for beginners or established artists looking to hone their skills. The book is now available on a CD as a pdf and the DVD on Watercolour painting as an instructional guide.
Jack was held in high regard in the Australian Art World as he spent more than forty years as an art teacher, artist and author. Through the many years Jack spent teaching he developed very easy to follow steps for the begginer level artist for both pencil sketching and watercolour painting. Jack specialised in painting Australian landscapes. Jack's contribution to the art world was recognised in 1992 when he was awarded an honorary Masters of Arts degree and in 1993 when a new building was named "The McDonoghs".
I hope to in the near future also convert Jack's other two publications on watercolour painting onto CD. Jack's DVD is region free so can be played on most modern DVD players or computers fitted with a DVD player anywhere in the world. The pencil sketching CD is a pdf document that can be viewed with acrobat reader, abode or similar. I used experts to scan the original book so to ensure the highest quality publication that you can either view on your computer or print out.
I have obtained copyright and publishing rights to be able to bring you these sought after publications that have been out of print now for many years.
Please visit http://www.howtopaintandsketch.com/
Jack McDonogh Master Artist
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