Hard lessons to live by.

Lesson 1. Draw every day.
I find this lesson comes up over and over and over again. And despite any excuse I can come up with regarding my job, my family, my regular studies can not hold a candle to the truth that when I do not draw, the number of days in between make it incredibly difficult to get back into the groove. Travelling for a wedding? Guests from out of town? Eleven-hour workday with 1.5 hr commute? No excuse. Get creative. 15 mins to draw before passing out is enough to retain a little bit of sharpness. How about on the train? I'd rather sleep, but I could also use this time for drawing.

And it will only benefit in the long run.

A transparent attempt to appear substantial

I'm gonna go for quantity over quality here. I still think I can't go wrong with more eyecandy.

Here's some more from about a year ago...not connected with school. These were just for fun.

This was for school. I'm posting this just cuz I found the picture and it was a really damn cool project. Build the box and then draw it. It was autobiographical. In other words, everything in that box is either from my life or is representative of something from it. Some people bought their boxes and then got to spend their time on more valuable pursuits...like drawing it. Not me. I'm no sissy. I bought planks of wood and did the rest on my porch with hand tools. Come to think of it, I never got to finish that drawing...I wonder why?

A lamentable lack of substance

I wanted to post something much more substantial than this but, I simply haven't had the time to put it together. So, I am gonna give you what you want. Pictures. Yeah another boring retrospective. This time it's figure drawings. So here ya' go.

2005 or so.



Portrait Study

Well, it's another tough, jam-packed week at school so far...art school has such ups and downs to it. There are many classes which are going wonderfully, and I feel like I'm making great leaps and strides...but just as soon as that happens, I'll feel like I'm hitting a brick wall with another project and I just can't seem to get anywhere with it.

Anyway, on a lighter note, here's a little portrait study I did in Al Gury's portrait class last week.

I actually really let myself have fun with it, and for once, I felt like the whole process came along quite smoothly. I did the whole painting in the one three hour class session--the goal of the class right now is to do alot of quick little studies so that we begin to understand the most basic things about portraiture and the difficulties of capturing a likeness. Obviously it's not as well-finished as I personally like my paintings to be, but for what it is I think it was relatively succesful. I do think it's good sometimes to really vary your process and try to make yourself work differently than you normally do. For me, since I love to work painstakingly slowly, this means working much quicker and cranking out little studies and exercises. I'm hoping to try and do more of these in my other classes as time allows.

Out in the wild.

So to speak.
On 9.13.08, a group of us (you may see adjoining posts on this blog) ventured into the outdoors for a bit of landscape painting. Not only was this a well spent afternoon, but also a reminder for some basic painting lessons. I began the day with a limited color palette, however quickly realized that I should have focused on a monochrome value study, as I was not ready to add the complexities of color. Here again, the importance of laying in the appropriate shape and value of each area was a lesson for the day. Working under constantly changing light conditions adds to the equation, however I believe this can be accommodated by maintaining relationships and practicing observation skills.

A photo of two of our setups is included to the left, in which a portion of my block-in can be discerned.

Overall, for anyone studying painting I highly recommend regular work out-of-doors, as it can only serve to hone observational skills and decision making.

Go figure.

First thing, let me apologize for some of these images...no I'm not talking about the paintings themselves, just the photography. I'm breaking one of my cardinal rules and instead of photographing them outside in natural light I have taken some of these photo's inside. Besides... with these paintings, the quality of the photo is really not going to make a difference.

Once again I'm strolling down memory lane and attempting to gain some perspective on just how far I've come. This time I'm reviewing figure paintings. Even more so than still life, this is a genre which I feel compelled to explore and which I am fascinated by. I am also quite frustrated by it...which is quite obvious form these examples.

These first four were done at Uarts... in this order during my class with Rob Matthews. In some ways I think this very first painting is better than the majority of the ones that follow. It was done with a palette knife, black and white.

Of course once I am given color things start to go downhill. Still working with the palette knife, in restrospect, kept me working broadly which is a lesson I wish I had carried with me later on.

My first self portrait. This was described to me as "nothing more than a colored drawing". At the time, I didn't know what that person meant.

Fast forward a little bit. Here I am, struggling through this all over again at PAFA. These next five are from last semester in my class with Doug Martensen. There are a variety of mistakes in here such as: overblending, virtually no grouping of value, incorrect value relationships, incorrect warm/cool relationships, incorrect brushes for the surface, inappropriate paint thickness (too thin and/or too thick)...etc.

Toward the end here, I started getting better at handling the paint and drawing with it although I was still too tied to the idea of linear drawing.

Here my sense of color seemed to become much more daring and realistic. It may seem a bit chromatic here but, it is a marked improvement over the chalky fleshtones I had been using previously .

I have two figure painting classes this semester. One with Renee Foulks and one with Carolyn Pyfrom. This is the first study of the semester. I think it is a large improvement over the work I produced previously and I expect the paintings that follow to bring larger leaps forward.


Hello all!

Well, it's been another extremely busy week at school! The number of different projects I've got going now is pretty overwhelming, and I'm having a little trouble focusing, figuring out exactly what needs to be worked on and when. Art school often seems to be a bit of a juggling act; with nine or ten different classes going on at once, it's a quite an exercise in learning how to balance your priorities and manage time well.

One assignment I received last week was to do a mastercopy of a portrait by any classical direct painter. The practice of doing mastercopies is a very old one; for centuries, artists have been learning their craft by studying and copying the works of their masters in the art world. For instance, Sargent,the great American 19th century painter, copied the works of artists such as Frans Hals, Velazquez, and Rubens in order to learn their techniques. PAFA has also upheld this tradition; students are generally assigned at least one mastercopy their first year, and many of the faculty strongly encourage their students to get into the habit of doing mastercopies frequently.

I was required to do a mastercopy for Al Gury's life painting class my second semester during first year. I chose to do a detail of a portrait by Frans Hals. You can see the painting I was originally copying it from here.

Then, since that was so much fun, I did two more mastercopies this summer. The first is of an unfinished sketch by the classical 19th century British painter, John William Waterhouse. This was a study he did for one of his mermaid paintings (you can see one example here).

I also did another copy of a Sargent portrait. You can see the actual painting I was copying it from here.

Finally, I was assigned last week to do a mastercopy of a portrait for my Head Structure class. I chose another Sargent painting. I began by tracing the image and transfering the drawing to my canvas which was previously prepared with a nice beige toned ground. Then I did a quick underpainting with burnt umber, just strengthening the drawing and massing in the shapes and values.

Next I began in color. I used the specific color palette that we've been using in that class, which is a limited earth palette. Here's a shot of what the set up looked like:

From left to right the colors are: titanium white, yellow ochre (earth yellow), raw sienna, burnt sienna (earth orange), venetian red (earth red), mars black (earth blue), and an earth green (made from mixing an earth blue and earth yellow). Also, here's a picture of what my studio set up looks like, just for fun:

And here's the final finished copy!

The goal was to make a sketch copy, so it's supposed to generally approximate the original but not exactly match it. Over all, I'm pretty well pleased with it! Anyway, that's all for now, but I've got lots of other projects at school that I'll be posting about as well as a possible future commission...so stay tuned, folks!

Color Observations

Working from the topographical example in post dated 9.9.08, one can continue the exercise with the use of color. The study below was completed a few years ago, where each segment of the surficial topography was broken down in order to observe changes in color and value. For each segment, an attempt was made to identify and mix the appropriate color, irrespective of the neighboring segments (to various degrees of success).

This is much like the exercise completed with cubes or other geometric forms, applied to a more complex subject. It is my hope and aim in studying both form and light to improve observational skills and execution of accurate value and color application.

Boy, am I lucky...

I think one of the better ways to accumulate and appreciate good equipment is to make it yourself. Last summer I built an easel that I use nearly everyday. It isn't perfect... but, neither am I. Besides, I know exactly what that easel is capable of doing, I am not afraid to change it to fit my needs and I never have to worry whether I have voided the manufacturers warranty. This year I made a wooden palette. I tried a design of my own invention which failed miserably. Then I wised up and emailed a guy who knows what he's doing and asked him. William Whitaker was generous enough to provide me with a design and instructions for this palette. Another student in one of my classes remarked that my palette looked like the painter's equivalent to a rockstar's guitar. Not only am I pleased with the result but, I am also very thankful that I have the opportunity to speak to artists that I admire, through the internet, and that when I have, they have all been so generous with me. I feel quite lucky to have opportunities like these.

I'm also fortunate enough to have found a group of fellow students who I admire and enjoy spending time with. This weekend I did my first ever landscape painting with some of those friends. NJM, Mike, Judy and I all went out to a cemetery Saturday and painted, sweated and sweated some more. It was pretty cool. I painted the front of a masoleum...I mention that because it might not be obvious ....I'm lucky, not especially skilled just yet :)

Studying "Head Structure"...

Hello readers!

Well, I've been at back at school for about a week now, and this school year has certainly gotten off to a very busy and exciting start! It looks like it's going to be a really wonderful semester--lots of excellent new classes and teachers! The workload now is slightly overwhelming; I have a lot of major projects to get up and running plus little extra assignments to work through as well.

One class which I'm particularly enjoying so far is called "Head Structure". It's basically a class where we study the form and structure of the head in depth through drawing, painting, and finally sculpture. At this point, we're still just in the drawing stage. The professor did a brief demo in the last class, showing us the method he uses to set up the head and the proportions of the features correctly. I did a brief little sketch illustrating his method:

As you can see, he begins by drawing a circle and then working all the proportions off of that...

The assignment from that class for this week was a self-portrait in white chalk on toned paper. I used the same method to set the drawing up, and here's how it turned out:

One particular lesson the professor wanted us to be working on, was to "load the light mass" first after working up the initial drawing, meaning that I began by adding in the white chalk first for the light side and then used charcoal for the "dark mass".

I think I'm pretty pleased with it over-all, especially considering how much I hate doing self-portraits. Anyway, I'll bring it in to class this Thursday and see what the teacher has to say about it!

The Importance of Measurement

I have begun exercises in individual parts of the body, to study overall shape, contour, and foreshortening. Firstly, after replication of the contour and comparison to the original, I realized that had I been successful upon any of my tries to duplicate this through approximation, upon review of the contour I would not have been able to convince myself that it was correct (below, center). Secondly, this may have led me to make corrections that would lead toward an inaccurate end.

This stresses for me more than anything the importance of measurement. Having an accurate overall dimensional structure is crucial in capturing the subdivided shapes. Subsequently, an exercise in identifying shapes and angles capturing the form was completed, so assist in recognizing these and capturing them in the future (below, right).

Once these have been established, progression to the final form can be completed, which is aided by study of the topography of the subject, and following the curvature of the form (bottom, left).

Subsequent exercises can be completed which use this topography to study the effects of light on color and tone.