Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life Drawing - Renewing The Energy!

In the order they were done:

I decided to play around with just the graphic quality of this image.  There is something I am trying to capture here that I am just not quite getting.  Using just any old ink pen that supplied black ink, I played around with lines and hatching and flow.  I just wanted to see what it would look like in high contrast and low contrast.  I think what I am ultimately working towards is a vagueness about the seperation between mother and child.  I want just enough lines to indicate that there is, in fact, two seperate people, but at the same time the work is about the oneness of the two of them together.  This picture is haunting me and begging to be done until I get what I am looking for. 

The next sketch is just me playing with pushing and pulling things forward and backward with lines.  Contour lines, heavy lines, incomplete circles, etc.  Once I got on the thought about contrast, my mind just kind of wandered around and I copied a few bones out of my new book while I let my hands do the thinking.

Of course once I started copying bones, I turned the page and made a cleaner copy, just exploring the shapes of the bones.  I used my hands to feel my own arm to see how the bone twists and curves and turns like the one in the picture.

I got the notice that there was going to be a model at the Lafayette Atelier Monday morning.  It was so strange to be sitting with a model in front of me again.  As soon as I sat down, that inner critic started whining in the back of my mind.  I almost started to count the years since I sat in front of a model, but I stopped myself.  Then I discovered that I had left some of my supplies at home, like sandpaper to sharpen my charcoal, my skewer to measure with and my blending junk.  I almost told myself I could never make a good drawing without the important supplies.  Then I remembered someone saying "A real artist can make something out of a stick and some dirt", so I pressed on.

There is something very energizing about looking at a model and using your hands to record what you see.  I can't think of anything else like it in the world.  Although my goal is to be very good at representing the subject matter, the real point of drawing a model from life is to be there in the moment.  Breathing in, looking, breathing out, marking.  There is a rhythm to it, like a song or a dance.  If I can let go of all those stupid thoughts that keep me from hearing the soft rhythm, I can find it.  It just exists quietly in there somewhere all the time.  I think that is the "zone" or the "flow" that I hear about.

After getting this drawing home, I noticed that my attitude about our model was staring me square in the face.  My first impression of her as she got into place was that she looked like a queen.  The way the light shined on her from my angle and the way she sat so straight and poised made her regal.  She was quite beautiful.  I fell in love with her chin and the way the shadow hugged around it.  Because of that, I overworked it and did not leave well enough alone.  There is a time to let go.  I find that I understand that after I have gone past that point.

Even though there will always be an underlying attempt to be correct and realistic with my drawing and painting, there is always going to be a piece of myself, my inner workings, merged into my art.  I can tell you that there are some issues with proportion on this piece.  I see it.  I will go into my next piece knowing I need to pay attention to these things, but now that this one is done, it is just kind of nice to appreciate it for what it is.  This is where I was.  This is what I saw.  Now that I look at it, I see things differently, but at that time and in that place, this is what happened.  Those arms had a long way to go to make it to the top of her torso.  Those legs stretched way out in front of her.  Her chin lifted in a very confident manner.  It is kind of a nice memory to have captured.

This next sketch is of my daughter, Toni.  Instead of watching TV she writes.  She has book after book that she has filled with an unending desire to get the words on the paper.  She sat at one end of the table and I sat at another.  Her pencil was going as fast as her brain/hand would allow as mine did the same.  The only sound from either of us was the sound of a pencil shedding off it's layers onto the paper.  Though we were getting much different results, we were essentially doing the same thing.  It is a bond we have.  Compared to the next room where people were talking and the television was blaring, it was quiet.  Somehow I focused on the sound of our pencils in choir together as we pushed them along separately.

I have been watching a lot of Art 21 on Hulu.  Even though nothing I have seen on that show has made me want to go do what those artists have done, I find myself getting addicted to the idea of getting addicted to an idea.  That is essentially what most of the artists on these shows are doing.  They are finding energy in returning to basic ideas and displaying it in new ways.

This morning I woke up to an email asking me to check out a link with The Art Department.   There are some fantastic previews about sketching and developing an idea that goes along with everything I have been doing and thinking about lately.  I am a big fan of the guys over at Conceptart even though I have no desire to become a freelance illustrator.  The sketching tutorial by George Pratt hit the mark with me this morning.  He gives a lot of great sketching advice.  His bottom line is to not worry about being accurate.  Worry about getting down an idea.

Something that seems blatantly obvious to me over the last few days is that it isn't my duty or obligation to lead the viewers of my art in any particular direction. I can't possibly know what kind of thoughts go through their minds as they look at what I have to display any more than that model had on me while I saw her as a queen.  I certainly have no control over it even if I make a close guess.  What I can do is put down an idea, as accurately as the moment allows, and let nature take its course.  It is absolutely pointless to concern myself about what someone else might find pleasing or displeasing.  I believe that has always been my barrier between showing my physical art in the public and just uploading a picture of it on the internet.  I fear the thought that someone will see only the flaws that I see once the work is done.  In truth, I am keeping my genuine response closely guarded so I don't have to face being wrong.  What is wrong with being wrong?  If I learn something from it I can free myself to be wrong about something entirely different the next time.  You see, once I do figure out how to get it right I move on to the next thing I am doing wrong anyway, so it is a silly fear. 

I read this in Art and Fear well over a year ago, but it is just now sinking in.

Quick Link Review:
Lafayette Atelier
Art 21 on Hulu
The Art Department

Monday, January 11, 2010


Years ago, I knew her as Myltia when we played online roleplaying games.  After the baby was born, she died of  cancer.  We are still friends with the family and though we drift here and there, we still manage to keep in touch. It is a nice addition to my sketchbook. A sketch and a memory tied together. 

This is a sketch from a photo for a larger drawing.  I am working out ideas and getting my blatant mistakes out of the way.   I am not sure what the final drawing will be.  I need to make sure this is on something that will ship well.  The final will be heading to Canada.  I have lots of options.  Copperpoint, Graphite, Fixed Charcoal, Ink. Sometimes the possibilities are overwhelming.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cyclopedia Anatomicae

The girls and I took a trip to Barnes and Noble.  We shopped for books, bought some coffee and sat at a table in silence.  Toni had to observe a stranger and write a fictional background story based on what she observed for a writing assignment.  Tori purchased a new sketchbook and a set of colored pencils, so she started drawing.  I sketched in public for the first time.  We really enjoyed our day.

Sketching in public is intimidating.  I was worried the whole time that people were aware that I was looking at them.  As I sketched, I hoped that they would not be offended, or come to see what I was doing.  I must admit that the overall experience was not nearly as terrible as I assumed it would be.

Next time I go, I want to take pens or markers or something that will make stronger marks.  My intimidation shows up in my sketches.  Bolder marks, bolder intentions, bolder work!  That is something that will have to come with practice I think.  Getting past the first time was the hardest part.

While I was there, I found a book on the 50% off table called Cyclopedia Anatomicae by Feher/Szunyoghy.  The list price was $14.98.  There are tons of illustrations in this book!  It covers individual bones and bone groups of humans and animals.  It also covers muscle groups and motion.  I have been looking for a book on anatomy for quite a while.  There might be better anatomy books out there, but for the price this book packs a lot of punch.

I am looking forward to doing some anatomy studies and get some composition studies done for my January Painting.  The year seems to be starting out nicely!

Quick Link Review:

Friday, January 08, 2010

Self Portrait #4 and #5

I tried a double mirror pose so that I would be facing the right direction in my self portrait.  The disadvantage to that is that it is very hard to measure.  I tried first with the conte crayon, but between fighting the crayon and getting disoriented in the double mirrors, it was just too frustrating.  I pulled the page out of my book and then picked up my handy dandy mechanical and went to work getting it figured out. I was much happier with the results.  I have places on my paper that is just not accepting graphite.  I am not sure if it is my lead or the paper.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The First Sketches from 2010

These are sketches from my sketchbook in the order they were done.

The last three are self portraits. I used conte crayon for the first few and a plain old mechanical pencil for the last. I probably don't have to say that I was frustrated with the crayon. I think that shows. As I progressed, it seemed less bulky and more controllable. I won't give up. I will get this media figured out. I want to dig out some of my other paper and test it on different textures.

I must have been feeling young today. My self portrait reminds me of a young girl I once was. It brings memories to mind every time I look at it. It is nice to have those little reminders. It is energizing.

There is a much larger tonal range in the graphite vs the conte crayon. I have not practiced mixing the different crayons for tonal effects, but that is my next task. I am not a fan of the blended look in crayon as much as the rough texture it creates in hatching and scribbling. (At least on my sketch paper) My biggest complaint is that I crave a sharp point in the crayon and it wears down so quickly that its very difficult to maintain that sharp edge. It will be interesting to see the difference between these first few sketches and some I do in a month or in a few months.

My daughter and I have challenged each other to do a page a day. As a writer, she must write a full page. As an artist, I must produce a page of sketches. These are going to go in my "Saturday Check Up" where we swap books and check up on each other. There is no quality requirement. This is a quantity requirement. It is a little experiment we are doing to stop the self editing problem that creates block for us. This is an idea I got from Art and Fear. We will see how well our quality improves after a year.

Quick Link Review:

Happy New Year - Some links to get going!

To be honest, I have produced less finished art this year than any year in the past and I am quite disappointed with 2009. With that said..

Like most people, I have some goals for the upcoming year that I hope to achieve. I made a short and sweet list on 43 things. I like 43 things for a lot of reasons. You can set up reminders for yourself to stay motivated. I like that you can share your goals with like minded people as well as those who would support you. It is simple to use and sets up in just minutes.

Some of my goals are:

Make better use of my website and blog - At the end of this post is a list of fundamental art skills I found in a post on Concept Art. I like this list because it gives a lot of room to play, while creating some sort of focus. I plan to use at least part of this list as a guide for my work this year. I will also use this list to categorize my blog.

I am still brainstorming theme ideas for monthly and daily posts. My deadline for this is January 31. Sometimes schedules can be motivating. I would like to at least try to come up with a tentative schedule to blog by. This is taking my blog to the next level. Up to this point, my blog has been a rambling whimsy of mostly art related content. The journal blog has been fun and I never want this blog to feel like work. I have learned how to sit down and write every day. Now it is time to learn how to write with a purpose. I think it is going to be an exciting challenge.

I want to start really picking through the online museum at Art Renewal Center, Artcyclopedia and some of the many online resources that I regularly visit to highlight art that fits my current focus. Along with giving my blog a focus, I want to give my viewing habits a focus as well.

A Painting a Month - There will be a lot of focus on producing long study/finely finished work this year than I have done in the past. The quick studies have been absolutely wonderful. I value every lesson I have learned by doing them, but my focus went from learning to grinding. Grinding leads to burn out, which leads to less and less art production. Because of that, my goal is to produce 12 nice paintings this year. I don't want to eliminate the quick studies completely. I think it is good to continue to explore ideas. I just want to get out of the instant gratification habit that I have formed by only doing art I can finish in a day.

Figure Study Group - Hopefully, Thursdays will be showing off my results from Wednesday night Figure Study group. Unfortunately, the session last night was canceled. Drawing figures from life is such an important opportunity.

Sketching! 2010 is going to be the year I take my sketchbook into the public and draw! I have always been very intimidated at the thought of someone watching me sketch. I swear I am going to do this if it kills me. I have 3 locations that look like great sketching sites mapped out. There are some amazing little shops in my town. This is yet another resource I have not taken advantage of. My goal is to fill a sketchbook. That isn't hard to accomplish. There is a very good list of suggestions on Conceptart regarding drawing from life that is worth mentioning HERE.

I am looking forward to 2010. I don't see my goal list as doing more than I have done in the last year as much as focusing my list to more specific things.

I am copying this from a post on Conceptart:

Fundamentals of visual art

  • Relationships
  • Contrasts
  • Similarity
  • Hierarchy
  • Proportion
  • Relationship to the image area
  • Line
  • Flats (filled in shapes)
  • Shape
  • Shape-Identity (pointy, rounded, etc)
  • Silhouette and negative spaces
  • Orientation
  • Balance
  • Symetry / Asymetry
  • Formal and informal composition
  • Cut-offs (part of shape falls outside image area)
  • Directness, readability vs ambiguity

  • Horizontals
  • Verticals
  • Diagonals
  • Curves
  • Tonal use
  • Lowkey / Midkey / Highkey tonal setup
  • Tonal contrast and tonal range
  • Use of color
  • Color contrast
  • Color harmony

  • Contour
  • Cross-Contour
  • Types of line, line-identity (ragged, smooth, textured, uniform, etc)
  • Line/Stroke economy (using allot or using little)
  • Hierarchy within line (thickness, texture, etc...)
  • Sponanity or precision?

  • Mechanical / Architectural
  • Organical
  • Rythm
  • Relationships between shapes (contrasts in identity, repetition of shape, etc... tied in to composition)

Basic shapes such as...
  • Triangle
  • Square
  • Rectangle
  • Circle
  • Elips
  • Polygonal shapes with more sides
  • Irregular shapes (noisy, organic, etc)


  • Spatial hierarchy
  • Overlaps
  • Horizon and eye-height
  • Vanishing points
  • Size
  • Perspective based on overlaps (eg. Egyptian art)
  • Atmospheric perspective

Field of view / Cone of vision
  • 1-point perspective
  • 2-point perspective
  • 3-point perspective
  • Isometrical perspective
  • 4-5 Points curvilinear perspective

  • Shadowcasting
  • penumbra
  • distortions
  • optical illusions
  • organical shape construction etc etc...

Basic shapes such as...
  • Cube and beam (right word?)
  • Cillinder
  • Cone
  • Sphere
  • Egg
  • etc...


  • Relationship between shape and form
  • Cross-contour
  • Soft vs hard surfaces
  • Drawing-trough / Thinking trough
  • Construction

Form and light

  • Light adds up
  • Planes in relationship to tone
  • Local value
  • Cast shadow
  • Specularity
  • Form-light and form-shadow
  • Core-shadow and highlight
  • Specularity and specular highlights
  • Mid-tone
  • Reflect-light
  • Rimlighting

Basic lighting on cube, cillinder, cone, sphere...

Value (tone)

  • Tonal scale
  • Tonal range
  • Tonal range of picture
  • Tonal range and tonal hierarchy within an object
  • Lightest lights, lights, midtones, darks, darkest darks and their relationship to the tonal range

Composition based on relationships of light and shadow
Composition based on relationships between the local values of the objects in the scene.


  • Optica and physics
  • The human eye and how it works
  • Frequencies within the visible color spectrum
  • Extraspectral color

Primary color...
  • Optical primaries
  • Psychological primaries

Additive color mixing
Substractive color mixing

Range of a lightsource
Relationship between distance between light and object and penumbra.


  • Value in relationship to color
  • Inherent value of a specific color
  • Relationship between form-light and form-shadow and the role color plays in this
  • Saturation
  • Chroma
  • Chroma in relationship to form
  • Difference between brightness and lightness

  • Temperature relationships
  • Hue
  • Warm vs cool color

Compositorical systems...
  • Color contrast
  • Color harmony
  • Color circulation / Color balance
  • Color based on tone (as a working method)
  • Hierarchy in color-intensity
  • Transitions based on color-value (eg. dark to light as in blue to yellow)
  • Transitions based on hue
  • Transitions based on chroma / saturation (eg. highest chroma in midtone etc)
  • Spatial pulls trough colortemperature
  • Color temp within perspective and atmospheric perspective (see above)
  • Color variance
  • Color variance within white light, color variance within specular highlights
  • CIElab vs RGB
  • Palette building trough addition of hue
  • Palette building trough substraction of hue
  • Color palettes and their relationship to the highkey, midkey, lowkey tonal setups
  • High chromakey, mid chromakey, low chromakey


  • 4-5 edges principal
  • Hierarchy within edges
  • Depth of field trough lenzes
  • Blur and motion blur


  • Texture approached from materials used (painterly approach)
  • Texture approached from surface of object (photographic approach)
  • Texture trough tonality
  • Texture trough hue and color temperature
  • Coarse vs fine texture
  • Texture by papergrain vs texture by brushstrokes

Simplification and abstraction

  • Abstraction based on contour
  • Abstraction based on form
  • Abstraction based on movement
  • Abstraction based on light and shadow shapes
  • Abstraction based on local tones and colors


  • Rythm
  • Contrast and exageration
  • Caricaturisation
  • Proportions
  • Exagerated perspective
  • Diagonals
  • Light-play
  • Direct vs difuse lighting
  • Mixing the above to into a hybrid approach?
  • Emphasising the materials used
  • Keeping the directness/sketchyness alive
  • Cut outs (having something only partially within the picture frame)


  • Fantasy vs reality
  • Irony and provocation
  • Conceptualism and philosophy
  • Playing out contrasts
  • Climax and anticlimax
  • Style-figures

Quick Link Review:

43 Things
Art Renewal Center
The Lafayette Art Meetup
Dpaint's Drawing from Life Survival Guide