Sunday, July 31, 2011

Two "Babes"

 Here in two drawings is what was the smallest kitten from one of the most nusual litters you've ever seen.  The mother we called "Choppy" came to us pregnant and soon settled in a cardboard box away from kids and household traffic in the quiet of our back cellar.  We should have known her offspring would be different because her tail barely existed.  (Any less and she would have to have been a true Manx), but the group was as diverse in that department as possible.  Naturally one kitten did inherit it's mother's barely there stump while a second  made up for that deficiency with her more tail than most condition, almost twice the normal length!  Seems to me there was one almost normal kitten squeezed in there somewhere, but I have no clear memory because the last two were stranger still.  How about a pig-tailed male, normal length  tail but twisted in a tight  cur!?  It's true!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Big Foot

This ample lady gave me wonderful opportunities - two tough poses with real problems in perspective and foreshortening. As you can see these were separate but similar poses, the one on the left being first.   This is a case where in contour drawing the old admonition to start with those parts closest may really be the best tactic.  In the first drawing I started with the head and upper body working down toward the feet, missing the very strong difference in size between foot and head.  While it is otherwise a decent representation of the pose, the  lower left leg and foot are much too thin and compressed, missing the dramatic contrast seen in the second. There I started at the feet working my way up to the head, being sure to note and emphasize the contrast between parts close and those at a distance.  In that respect this is a much more successful drawing than the first! 

I do wish it were possible to show that  second drawing complete here but unfortunately, it is just too large to fit in my scanner. I wonder if one of those hand-scanners that you move over the work would be a solution? 

There's another aspect of this drawing that I find attractive.  I've said in a earlier post that line  is an  reflection of reality but in the end, the product is a work of ART!   The line quality of the second is a bit more abstract, less naturalistic.  That, combined with my use of emphatic color in the line  makes the whole piece more graphic.  This  isn't at all a large departure, but it is a recognition of the creative freedom possible.  I intend to pursue this more actively in the future.  Stay tuned!

BTW, you may have noticed that I rarely post a drawing without being critical.  Why "Diss" my own work?  I've spent almost 40 years as a teacher and it's difficult to ignore my natural instinct to share whatever insights I may have regarding my art , - or any art.  As an artist I feel an obligation to those without experience and those who may be interested  in an  art  career, professional  or personal.  I want to help in any small way I can.  Even  those with only a casual interest should know what they are looking at and how to look when drawing.

Kurt Vonnegut said, "To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow."

Thursday, July 21, 2011


They live on here, left and right, one quite simple and the other tightly rendered.   They appear here separate simply because my copier cannot accommodate both together. I drew them side by side, deliberately different just for interest. (I may revisit that decision later) These two have been joined in my studio by several other pair, waiting their tun to be drawn, painted and possibly part of a series. 

BTW, there's no photographic intervention here, the drawings were done directly from the gloves as they lay on my desk.  I enjoyed the time I put in working on the highly finished one, (I DO like to draw!) but these days I'm more attracted to the simpler one.  I love the mark, the evidence of a hand at work. 

In a recent New Yorker article, art critic Adam Gopnik tells  about learning to draw. He says, "Drawing, I now think, need not be the bones of art, but skill must always be the skeleton of accomplishment."  (Thanks Rise!) 

Perhaps you'd like to weigh in on that in the comments area below.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


A good model makes a real contribution to the artist's ultimate success. In general it's the professional model who provides solid performance due to her body awareness, muscle control, stamina, and creativity. The young woman here did an excellent job even tho' she had no previous modeling experience at all. She had approached us saying she wanted to try nude modeling just to see if she could do the job, - perhaps only to be able to say she'd done it.  She spent three hours one evening sans clothing, sitting quietly as we looked intently at all aspects of her. In the end, she dressed, - we praised her, thanked her and paid her. She left saying that it was a great  experience, glad she'd done it, but felt no need for a repeat performance.  Most ordinary people wouldn't have done it at all!  Hats off to her! 

People often ask what it is like to model nude but then almost more often, speculate on the artists' side of the room.  How, they ask, can you sit calmly looking at a "naked" woman (or man) without discomfort and dismay?  The answer of course is that the work is paramount.  As an artist you pay attention to line, form, color, etc. As you work to portray the model accurately, creatively or expressively, you are so involved that there's no room for speculation or fancy thought. Drawing well demands complete concentration!

There is a story I like to tell, which in a funny round-a-bout way, explains the situation.  We had a lovely long-legged young lady posing one evening and when it was break-time she put on her robe and stepped down from the modeling stand.  She and I struck up a mundane conversation, - weather, driving conditions, job stress and such.  In the course of our exchange she mentioned her day job, some sort of retail position, where as she moved about serving customers, she'd constantly banged her hip on a counter edge.  "See," she said, " Look at the bruises!" , pulling  her hem right up to her hip!  I was dismayed!   Here I'd been staring at her bare skin for an hour and now I was taken aback by the sight of her exposed thigh!   It was almost as if she'd pulled up her skirt to show her lace panties!    Context is the operative word here!  

 "Concentration is the secret of strength."   Ralph Waldo Emerson 

"I've known painters who never did any good work ...... instead of painting their models they seduced them."    Renoir

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Back on May 26th I posted a drawing of an imagined bird titled "Chicken Man".  Among the comments I received later was a tongue-in-cheek "jab" from a friend saying that the bird  should have had  more feathers. Even tho' and possibly because I have little experience picturing our feathered friends, I decided to take up the challenge.  My answer here may not be quite what he had in mind but here it is!

 In most of the works I've shown here in earlier postings, the drawings were done "live", - drawings of fellow music performance patrons, doctor's patients or  work straight from the artists' model.I like the immediacy of those works and for the most part avoid working from photographs. (Note: I do use my own photos in doing landscape paintings, simply because of difficulties working outside from my wheelchair)

Like most of my favorite painters, mostly "Plein Air" types, I enjoy working directly from nature but in this case I needed reference.  Online I found a great photo collection of the birds I find most interesting (crows and ravens) and made several preparatory pencil sketches, trying to capture their essential "feathered" characteristics.  Then I turned to ink.  So that the images became mine as opposed to being mere copies, did a few drawings in which I exaggerated those ideas. With more time the exaggerations could be pushed more but for the moment here are some of the results.  

"Art not only imitates nature, but also completes its deficiencies" (Aristotle)

"Art is an abstraction; as you dream amid nature, extrapolate from it and concentrate on what you will create." (Paul Gauguin)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Drawing the Line!

Here we are again in my usual figure drawing mode, - contour line with added highlights, - all with Prismacolor Pencil.  I like it!  In this drawing I particularly enjoy the sense of depth shown in the twist of the torso, - right shoulder faded away, left hand nearer than the right, left leg pushing out toward us. There are some small problems but let's Ignore those for now while we talk about line.

In drawing, line is abstraction rather than reality, a most elegant way to describe a subject, especially the human figure. in contour drawing we concentrate fully on each individual line while reproducing that line on paper. For the most part I'm talking about edges rather than "outlines", - edges as seen from your unique physical viewpoint. Forget for a moment the subject, the model, - in this mode you "know nothing" and see only line.  You may pay some peripheral attention to other factors such as shape and proportion as you progress but line is really it!  A good variation: try drawing the subject in contour mode without ever looking at the drawing until finished. The distortions might be wild but you'd be learning to "see", - not a bad thing! 

For a more practical variation, look back and forth as you draw, but look at the model only when not actually drawing. Make comparisons often as you work.  You can enhance the drawing by varying the weight of the line, -  darkening the line with more pressure as it ends, when it changes direction or where in in shadow. You might go back and carefully strengthen those parts as I did here, still, mind you, keeping an eye on the subject. 

John Sloan said, "Line is the most powerful device of drawing."

Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot by watching."