I attended an "open studio" life-drawing and life-painting session tonight. No instructor; just a monitor. We did an hour's worth of short poses, then a two-hour long pose. I had a lot of fun with this one.
It’s been a very busy September at work, and I hadn’t touched a paint brush for two weeks until today, so I felt a bit rusty. Still, this two-hour figure study, painted in life class, turned out better than I expected.
I should have a bit more time to paint in the coming weeks, so I hope to post a bit more frequently!
My teaching responsibilities resumed a couple weeks ago; hence the slower rate of posting on this blog. But today was another back-to-school day: Life class resumed. I decided to ease into things by drawing rather than painting. These first two sketches were 10-minute poses. Sorry about the ghosted lines in these photos; I was using thin newsprint for practice, and I didn’t realize it would be semi-transparent, heh.
This longer pose turned out okay, except that I had trouble shading smoothly. Partly this was because my first stick of charcoal broke and I had to switch to a different type of charcoal mid-stream. Partly it was that I’m out of practice with charcoal and tried shading by hatching instead of just using the side of the charcoal. Still, there’s some nice stuff going on in this drawing.
I decided to embark on a larger, multi-day painting, but I’ll post each day’s progress as a new “daily painting.” This is me at the easel — facing a giant mirror, heh. I’m actually standing indoors, in a room with blue-green wallpaper, but I may end up situating myself outdoors, which is my most common painting pose. Obviously a lot to do, but I like the torso so far. Also, I like that paint (unlike photography) allows one to trim a few pounds from the subject…
It’s always fun to paint someone working on a computer or phone, because they tend to stay still. Here I was especially interested in the three different light sources: the computer screen and the two interior lights in the background.
I don’t know what possessed me to try to paint a figure in an extremely foreshortened pose! The result is not my best work, lol. Normally I wouldn’t post a flawed effort like this, but the idea of daily painting is to share your failures as well as your successes. If nothing else, this principle usually induces me to work harder to avoid failures! But today I was tired and declared victory as the sun was setting. At least the warm light is kind of cool. :)
I started this little painting very late, and it got so dark that I could no longer see what I was painting. I was interested in the light streaming in from behind the deck.
Today’s life class featured a man wearing a turban and billowing pants, and brandishing a blade. A very fun pose to paint!
I did yet another scene from my neighborhood, as I’m limiting my driving as my back heals. (It felt a lot better today.) It was a gorgeous day, but I had trouble seeing my panel because I was standing in shade looking toward a very bright light source. Perhaps not coincidentally, the painting is less daring than my best pictures. I’ll have to think about better ways to keep light off my canvas.
Also, this is not a wonderful photo. In the actual painting, for example, the background is more green. I might re-photograph and re-post it later.
Today after life class I stupidly left my easel and painting in the studio! Fortunately, my instructor noticed and stored them for me. But that means I don’t have a photo of the progress I made. I do have this photo I happened to snap of the lay-in after maybe 45 minutes of work. It’s sort of strange, as you can see, but interesting too. Obviously I hadn’t figured out where that left foot is!
Once I recover the painting and easel, I’ll try to bring order to the chaos in our next session, next week.
Life class finally resumed today, after a too-long layoff, and I was definitely rusty. But it was great to work on figure and portrait drawing and painting again. I did this quick study in about 90 minutes. The model posed right against a white wall, which made for interesting shadows.
In life class we almost always have a nude model, but I almost always paint the portrait, not the full figure. I do draw the full figure in our warm-ups, but for a painting, I am generally most interested in the subject’s face. This time, though, the reclining pose really called for a figure study. I did this in about an hour and forty-five minutes.
While in New York, I made my usual pilgrimage to the Art Students League for a figure-drawing session. I brought a fountain pen, a waterbrush, and a Pentalic watercolor sketchbook. These pictures were from 1-minute, 2-minute, and 5-minute poses.
I spent the afternoon in a smelly alley behind a gas station. (Quite a change of venue after painting the National Cathedral the other day!) I was initially drawn to the scene by the way the light slanted across the scene, but as I sat there, I appreciated other things: the many people who visited the dumpster; the large tangle of pipes, wires, and utility poles behind the building; the various shades of green on the dumpster itself; the mysterious lights inside the doorway at the end of the alley.
I did these two charcoal figure studies in life class today. This first one took about 10 minutes. For some reason, some sort of watermark showed through while I was shading! Can you spot it?
For the second, we had only five minutes. But by golly, when I shaded, I uncovered another secret message! I have no idea what's going on with the sketchbook I was using! But I'm gonna keep using it because it's sort of hilarious. :)
These are three five-minute sketches from life class. I made myself put them all on one page, which meant I had to vary the size of each. A good exercise, and some interesting results.
At my life-painting session on Saturday, the room was crowded, and I found myself painting the model from this somewhat awkward angle. A bit racy! I considered just painting a portrait, but her face was pretty far away, so I thought about how to make a full-figure study that would be tasteful. I decided to use lots of soft edges, for a blurry look. Our instructor also suggested I emphasize the light on the figure against the very dark background.
At the very end of the session I started sketching in the pillows and drapery supporting her. I'm not sure I'll leave those in; we'll see next week.
What does math have to do with drawing? A lot, actually. In today's post, I thought I'd highlight two different approaches to drawing. These are time-honored methods that I've encountered in many books and art classes. They overlap, and I don't think one is necessarily superior to the other.
The first approach is taught by the instructor in my Saturday life session. He urges artists to start their drawing with straight lines, not curves. Part of his approach partakes of geometry. He emphasizes plumb lines to line things up, and he urges us to check angles and proportions constantly. And part of his approach reminds me of derivatives in calculus. To describe a curve, he suggests drawing the tangent to it in several spots, then gradually refining each tangent until the series of angled lines becomes a smooth curve. He discourages any shading until the basic contours are right. In this approach, you draw from the outside in.
Here's an example of one drawing I did with him on Saturday. You can still see some of the construction lines I used at the start. This was a short pose; I don't remember whether it was 5 or 10 minutes, but it was no more than that.
The instructor at my Friday life session emphasizes a different approach. She urges us to mass shapes in without drawing contour lines at the outset. She wants light and shadow from the start. She encourages us to draw gesture lines with curves, not straight lines. She wants us to draw and paint from the inside out, not the outside in. Charles Sovek, in his fantastic book "Oil Painting - Develop Your Natural Ability," urges the same approach. This reminds me a bit of integration in calculus, in which you find the mass or volume under a curve. Or of the pretty curvy graphs you make in trig. OK, the connection to math may be more tenuous here, but I hope you get the picture (so to speak).
Here's an example of this more curvy, intuitive approach. This was a VERY quick gesture sketch -- 1 or 2 minutes, tops. So it's not really a fair comparison to the "linear" sketch above, which was a 5- or even 10-minute drawing. But I hope you get the idea.