Monday, June 25, 2012


As you know,  I really like drawing with close observation to convey the true character of object(s) being drawn.  I recently did a post about  understanding simple linear perspective as a tool in that endeavor.  Here, however, is a house drawn frontally (from the back actually) with no use of perspective at all, - none needed!  I like the graphic aspects of it, the emphasis on the shape of the building and the design aspects of the drawing itself,  e.g. the repetition of shape, line and texture. All this adds up to a nice little drawing but..........

Sometimes it's fun to play a bit!

Often I will use my memory of a particular place or object to produce a quirky interpretation that's fun to do and at least as fun to look at. The one here on the left was not hard to conjure up at all.  It is a federal style "townhouse" built about 1845, my happy home for many years. The other, just as loosely interpreted, is based on my mind's eye picture of another nice house on the same street. Neither are this misshapen or so rickety looking. It was just a few minutes playing with the shapes while enjoying the quality of the pencil line that resulted in these happy works.  They are the kind of simple drawings that might have been illustrations for a children's story book. (One of my not so secret fantasies!)  They could have been ink line rather than pencil or perhaps wood or linoleum block prints. While we as artists spend endless time "learning to see"and honing our skills as draftsmen, many times there is great satisfaction and profit in letting loose to produce less academic work, - pieces of  more poetry and less sweat!

As I often do, I end this short post encouraging you to draw, - but while you certainly have to work at it, take a deep breath and make sure you enjoy your work.  Do it!

"If It's not fun you're doing it wrong"  George De Carlo

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Linear Perspective

O.K. Here I am running late in my regular schedule and talking about the running lines of linear perspective, particularly in drawing man-made structures.   Buildings can be fun to draw especially if you have an interest in architecture or history and know just a bit about perspective. The old building on the left is a nineteenth century water pump station still in use today. 

The blocky structure to the right is a modern stone filled wire mesh retaining wall for a new commercial parking lot.  As a drawing problem an important aspect is the obvious linear perspective.  You can tell that our eye level is well below the base of the building with roof lines and even windowsills running downhill (right) toward an unseen horizon while the horizontal lines of the retaining wall are running left toward the same horizon, some below and some above our eye level. I remember in an earlier post pointing out that eye level and horizon are essentially the same. 

In the drawing on the right, done from a high hospital window, you can follow the obvious lines of perspective in the building's window wall converging on the vanishing point on the far horizon. Our eye level being far above the house and street below, all horizontal lines there run steeply uphill toward the horizon.

Below, in a typical street level view of a house, the roof lines (above our eye level) point down toward the horizon. The lines of the porch slightly below our eye level are running uphill. If I were a good instructor I would have superimposed color "Vanishing lines" over the drawings to emphasize those ideas but as I said, I'm running late! 

Once you can visualize the horizon as a line running across your view at your eye level, you will have solved half of all problems putting believable buildings on paper. The other half is in recognizing that vertical lines of the structure are (almost) always actually vertical in your drawing.  Don't let them lean as I did with those porch pillars.

There are always exceptions but in realistic conventional drawing keeping those simple rules in mind will save quite a bit of interpretation. Keep looking! Keep on drawing! Have fun!

"Line is the most powerful device in art."   John Sloan

"In (drawing) you must give the idea of the true by means of the false."  Edgar Degas

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Let He Who..."

These simple sketches reference a particular two years in my young life when we lived in a very small oceanside community where I knew every single kid my age.  It was a peninsular cut off from the world by a mile wide salt marsh, a river wide enough for a high drawbridge and hemmed in by a four lane highway.  The residential area was one block deep, squeezed between the ocean and the highway, and six or seven short blocks wide.  It had  been a summer cottage settlement once but urban pressures and proximity to a nearby war production plant made it a bedroom community.

We kids knew of the war by the air raid drills, the huge carbon-arc search lights around the sand-bagged anti-aircrft gun emplacements on the salt flats near the bridge. We visited soldiers who lived in large tents there and saw armed coastguard patrols on our sandy beaches at night.

This military atmosphere must have seeped into the local kids' collective psyche because moving there from my more genteel home town we found this small "village" divided into two gangs of belligerent kids , - my street the border between the two.  Those in my close neighborhood usually supported the south side believing the north was much more numerous and aggressive.  I say that but I remember chasing a "tough" kid right into his own home where I blackened his eye in front of his mother and her coffee club!  I was a small nine year old but he'd run for a reason!

We fought over everything: Beach space in the summer,  flotsam after nor'east storms, "stuff" like K-rations washed up from (we thought) torpedoed ships. A rumor had a small German submarine grounded not far from our own local beach. Our most contentious fights were over the numerous oak trees around town that yielded huge sacks of green acorns, the ammunition for bigger battles when they were in season each year.

What seemed like almost daily dustups were mostly fought through alleys and backyards but one time an "enemy" and I were trading missiles across an empty lot when,  ducking away from "incoming" I caught a fist sized stone on the back of my head .  It knocked me senseless for a minute but I managed to stagger home with a gashed scalp and ringing ears.  My mother immediately dragged me the two blocks to my attacker's home where my blood soaked hair and clothing were exhibit "A".  Not long later his mother dragged him crying and swollen eyed to my house - exhibit "B", witness to the serious beating she'd given him.  I remember that war in the works above -  some from an illustrated "Minor Disaster" series  still in the making.

"My paintings come with a message of pain."   Frida Kahlo

"Affection is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it."   John Donne

Friday, June 8, 2012

Modeling Again

In my previous post I introduced a new model, a young lady who'd never modeled for an artist before. Now I want to talk about more experienced ladies, those who have been working for a number of years. Women who for one reason or another find themselves on the modeling stand a few years beyond the time you'd expect. I have seen many models who continue working beyond the prime years of early twenties who because of talent and experience bring more than a fresh body to the artists attention. They know the poses the artist wants, have trained themselves and their muscles to hold long poses, - they have what it takes!  

But I'm not talking about those! This group represents the other end of the spectrum. Each of the ladies pictured here were well over seventy when they "took the stand" for us. The first above, drawn with ballpoint pen, was a tall and truly elegant woman who I'm sure had been a fashion model.  She moved as if in heels and a long gown.  I didn't ask but I'll bet she had an interesting story.

The second, done with ordinary pencil, was a nice woman, very competent, - did a great job.  She obviously had modeled somewhere before. I don't know much more about her,  just the fact of her age .

The last, the one below drawn with Prismacolor pencil, was an "accidental" model. We'd had a regular model scheduled for the group and she was late. In fact, she never showed up that evening. We started to do what we usually do in that circumstance, taking turns doing short poses for each other (clothed!) when this "young lady" put down her drawing materials and volunteered to model for the evening. She'd modeled nude when younger she said and was sure she could still do the job. He husband was there, part of the class and he backed her up, saying she had modeled for him and would be fine. Here she is, well past the usual age for female models, doing her bit for art!

"There's many a good tune played on an old fiddle."  Proverb

"Age is strictly a case of mind over matter, if you don't mind, it doesn't matter."  Jack Benny

"The secret of staying young, is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age."  Lucille Ball  

Friday, June 1, 2012

New Model

Here is a new model, - new to me, - new to modeling. I'm amazed at how easily she has taken to the rigorous "being still" aspects of sitting for an artist. She seems to like the work (it is WORK!) and she works hard at it!  Even with regular breaks, at the end of our two hour sessions she can really feel it!

Yes, I'm working at it too!  It has been 18 months since I last drew from a live model and I'm decidedly rusty. I tell her not to be concerned that these are not accurate portraits. While I want a likeness, I'm mostly interested in basic structure and the aesthetic aspects of the drawing.  My hospitalizations and subsequent bed rest recoveries have kept me close to home with little but the TV or an occasional foray to the car-wash for figures to sketch - good practice working quickly but hardly a good substitute for actual models. My accuracy will return with continued practice and as I become more familiar with her face and form.  She and I are learning together.

This second image from another session was done just a few days ago.  Here I'm back in student mode, trying to regain some old competence and at the same time moving a step away from that simple line-plus-white-highlight mode.  I'm working loosely, trying to render the form in simple terms then working back over it with line to help make the figure more coherent. Starting the drawing with a nude pose helped establish basic form and geometry. The model then donned simple clothing and re-established the same pose so I could draw the clothing over the body with a better understanding of the relationship between the two.  It's time I did more like this but working more slowly, doing more measuring, paying more attention to either actual or classic proportion. This work does not have the consistent "look" I want but that will come too.

"Draw, as much and as often as you can. When drawing lies fallow, the skill diminishes?  Gene Black

"Creativity flourishes when we have a sense of safety and self-acceptance."  Julia Cameron