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Julie Meyers
The Mysterious Drawing

graphite & charcoal
24″ x 18″


Clara Lieu, RISD Adjunct Professor

Clara Lieu

Art Prof & Partner

Alex Rowe, Illustrator & Children's Book Artist

Alex Rowe

Illustrator & Children’s Book Artist

Lauryn Welch, Painter & Performance Artist

Lauryn Welch

Painter & Performance Artist

Artist Statement
“This drawing was completed for an advanced drawing class. The assignment was called ‘Density,’ and the challenge was to make a drawing with objects that weren’t fully realized.

An eraser was a key component to it, just as much as a pencil was. My drawing was obviously inspired by Jules Verne and I wanted it to have a heavy feeling, as if you were underwater and viewing an aquatic scene.”

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Partial Video Transcript

Prof Lieu: “I think what I really like about this charcoal drawing is that the artist really took advantage of charcoal as a medium. They really embraced those velvety rich blacks that charcoal is so good at. They also have these really bright luminous areas.

For example, the octopus in the lower left-hand corner really feels very very intense. You’ve got those very very extreme opposites of that dark dark and that super bright light and that’s so beautifully established in this drawing.”

Lauryn: “I also really like the glow. I feel like glows are so hard to do. I personally have a hard time doing that kind of glow. The transitions are really really nice. I feel the light is moving through the water. I also really like how whimsical it is. The octopus, to me it is just like fwoooo, I think that’s so cute. It reminds me of the movie The Life Aquatic, where they met all of the imaginary animals.”

Alex: “I think the application of the medium, for me charcoal’s a medium that’s all about addition or subtraction. Whether applying the charcoal or removing with an eraser or a rag. This one’s really doing a good job of knowing when to do both of those things to make this space kind of come to life.”

Prof Lieu: “It’s great, I think there’s a range of textures in this piece. The octopus really does look rubbery, and the ship in the upper right hand corner does have these little spiky spots on it. Then it gets really silky and soft, like you feel like you could just run your fingers through it. I like those textures.”

Alex: “The really black tentacle shapes beneath the ship in the background, that’s my favorite part of the drawing it just feels so smooth and vibrant.”

Prof Lieu: “I think it’s a really ambitious composition, there’s a lot going on. I also think that because it’s such an ambitions composition, one thing that I would think about a little bit more is how to get from one part of the composition to the next.

For example, towards the bottom you have the octopus in the lower left hand corner, but then the lower right hand corner feels almost like another drawing. Stylistically the way it is draw, it feels very scribbly compared to the octopus. The octopus feels so elegant and refined, then I look at the lower right hand corner that looks totally unfinished to me by comparison so I’d think on that more.”

Lauryn: “I think it’s okay to have multiple ways of working within one piece but you’ve really got to be aware of how those different ways of working are working together and how they work as a whole within one piece. You also really gotta be careful with your sources. Like where is that scribbly mark coming from, what is that referencing. Where are you getting your source material for your octopus because that’s totally gonna change how the piece looks based on which piece or what image you’re working from with the octopus.”

Alex: “I think that the contrast is getting some really intense points of dark darks and white whites, but for me there’s a lot of whites in there and getting more of that subtlety and balance of the greys would really set the scene well for that underwater environment. We think of this light source under the ocean and how quickly the water can absorb that light. Look up some reference photos of lights beneath the ocean and how shockingly dark it can get and get that believable look to it.”

Lauryn: “If you have access to an aquarium, if that’s something in your area. It’d definitely be worth going. When I was doing work with cuttlefish, I would go to the aquarium and actually look at the cuttlefish. If you even if you don’t have that in your area, you can—”

Prof Lieu: “Watch videos online, like look up cuttlefish and watch cuttlefish videos.”

Alex: “I think videos are definitely an important thing because still pictures, you get that problem of basing your composition off the picture rather than finding a picture that suits the composition.”

Lauryn: “Also, on top of videos you can go to the store and they’ve got, not every place has octopus that’s available to just buy, but there are in a lot of places canned squid tentacles in oil.”

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3 responses on "Group Art Critique: Julie Meyers"

  1. There are some great textural moments in this piece, very ambitious scene. You’ve really captured a serene and almost dreamlike mood through the silky treatment of the charcoal.

    It would be great to see the same focus you applied to the octopus into the environment- like the bubbles. You have these three stark light studies in the piece and the rest is a dark gradient. I would love to see that underwater lighting touching every nook and cranny of the scene. Personally I found it challenging to create underwater lighting like ripples. When a client suggested it- I was very nervous but what really helped me was viewing underwater scenes in films. (Unfortunately i didn’t have a nearby aquarium to visit) Viewing how the lighting interacted with environment was inspiring. The Pixar team found it challenging too when they created Finding Nemo.
    Embarking on more underwater experiments would really challenge you to focus on an entire scene and less on a few elements. Move around through your paper like the lighting and subjects do in the water.

  2. You have so much energy in how you’re working with charcoal/graphite and the marks your making! I can really see the excitement you had while making this piece through your strokes, which makes me excited to look at it!

    I would encourage you to explore the relationship between light and water further, perhaps at an aquarium like Alex, Lauryn and Professor Lieu suggest! The area in which the light is breaking though the surface of the water and hitting the kelp (top left) is so mesmerizing. I wonder if some of these light streaks would also cross on top of, or behind, the kelp, rather than solely forming a halo around it? Exploring light may also help you create a greater sense of depth and space in this piece. Perhaps we would see light streaks very faintly in the distance, behind the ship, giving us a sense of how large this body of water really is. These light rays could even act as a compositional element, helping draw our eyes around the page. Who knows, the possibilities are endless! I would definitely encourage you to find all that this rich relationship could provide you with!

    Great work creating a piece so full of energy and life! I can’t wait to see what’s next!

  3. It’s exciting to see someone experiment with charcoal in this way! You capture so many different textures in this image, and give us such a nice range of values to enjoy.

    Speaking to Alex’s point, I think you could push that value range even further to give us more of a sense of depth, as well – as that’s really what I most associate with underwater imagery. In this drawing I don’t have as clear a sense of that immense depth, and in particular I’d like to see you put more intention into resolving the relationship between the squid that is so much the focal point and the ship on the right of the composition.

    In addition to building up those really dark shadows, I would also suggest having the different elements of the piece overlap more. This composition feels a bit segmented, as is, and some overlap would also clue us into the way in which you are (or are not) playing with scale. When I think of Jules Verne I think of giant squids, but in this drawing it’s not clear to me how big that squid truly is… Your handling of the tentacles is so awesome, just think how much more impactful they would be if those striking, subtractive shapes overlapped with the dark shapes of the seaweed at the bottom of the ship!

    You have an excellent grasp on the medium of charcoal, and in particular how powerfully subtraction and erasure can be used to create contrast and recreate lighting. Keep it up!

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