Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Swan

Victorian style swan fainting couch.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Fair Lady

That's my attempt at a clever title. You see these 2 drawings were started as unofficial demos at the Thousand Oaks Art Fair last weekend. I was there with my good friend and fellow teacher at the California Art Institute, George Paliotto, promoting the school and our artwork. Not being sure how busy our booth would be I wanted to do something that would not only be informative for the people attending but help me pass the time. Because there was no way to control the light I did them both from photos. Both of them were done in charcoal and are 9x12.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Figure Study

8" x 11"
Charcoal on paper

The intital block-in with main values established.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saturday Drawings

I find it helpful to experiment with materials and approach on occasion just to keep from getting in a rut. I normally just work with charcoal pencil to do the entire drawing so I decided to also work with vine charcoal for the demo in this weeks portrait class. I started much looser with the lay-in knowing that I would be able to move things around in the early stages of the drawing. One of my goals in using the vine was to get a more painterly look. As the drawing progressed I started using the pencil to tighten up some of the details.

Another drawing from later in the day. This one also started looser and tightened up in the end. Much more than I had planned.

Friday, May 13, 2011


As a follow up to the previous post, here are examples of block-ins in the early stages. At this stage there are two main goals. Spacing and placing - not looking for detail, but trying to stay simple with the shapes. The other goal is establishing the light/dark pattern. This doesn't mean going black. My light value will be the paper and my dark will be a middle gray. Often I stay fairly light with this dark pattern knowing I will later need to go back and strengthen the pattern once I'm comfortable with my placement. Blacks will be reserved for later in the drawing if needed. These were done as demos in my portrait drawing class. Each one is about 20 min.

These drawing are examples of block-ins taken a little farther. About 1 - 1.5 hrs. The big light/dark pattern should still be clearly evident.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Learning to See - Pt. 2

Following up my earlier post, here are some examples of the light /dark pattern being used in drawings and paintings. I should say that there is one simple rule to follow to make sure your pattern holds together. It is this: NOTHING in the light can be as dark as anything in the dark. Conversely, NOTHING in the dark can be as light as anything in the light. At the beginning stage this idea is exaggerated so the pattern is extremely clear.

Here are 2 pages from the Charles Bargue book (link to the book on the right.) On the left, a simple foundation drawing with the light and dark pattern clearly defined. At this stage it isn't about the detail, but accurate placement using simple shapes with the light/dark pattern clearly defined. On the right, the light and dark pattern has been filled in and the shapes have been refined. Treatment of edges has also been started.

This drawing is more finished but the pattern is still clear.

In these paintings by David Leffel who seems to favor strong chiaroscuro lighting, the light/dark pattern is very evident.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Learning to See

One of the most difficult things for beginning artists to overcome is interpreting what they see before them and then putting that down on paper or canvas. Learning to see like an artist. My goal isn't to copy exactly what is before me, we have cameras for that, but to make my version. One of the first steps is simplification. Getting something down that can be used as a foundation and subsequently built upon until I decide it's finished. To begin a drawing I typically follow two main steps. Spacing and placing- getting a simple foundation down where my proportions are accurate and all elements are in the correct place relative to each other. The other main step is separating my light/dark pattern. The school I teach at, and Typical for most places, uses a spotlight as out light source for the model. As a learning tool this is beneficial because it gives us a nice light pattern to work with. It should be noted that I'm not saying shadow pattern. The shadow pattern is only part of the overall dark pattern.

For this post I'm going to focus on the light/dark pattern. In a school type setting like I am discussing you must be able to keep from being distracted by all of the information you are seeing, simplify things, and quickly establish your light and dark pattern. If you can't get this pattern right from the start your drawing will never work. It will look messy with light and dark patches all over and your construction won't read properly. The key at this stage is to squint. This will help reduce the detail, which can be distracting for most, and help us see the overall pattern more clearly.

There are so many values going it helps to simplify just to get started. We need to reduce everything we are seeing to just a few  values. We will start with 2. 

In this case we need to see/think like a camera. It doesn't know what it's looking at or have preconceived notions. For example, the "white of the eye" isn't necessarily white. It will depend on the specific situation. Here we will use Photoshop to squint for us. This is our 2 value pattern. 1 for the light and 1 for the dark. In our drawing we don't want to go all the way to black at this stage in our dark pattern. We want to reserve our darkest darks at this point.

Keep in mind that unlike a camera we can alter our light dark pattern if we see a shape we don't like. There may also be a situation where our construction isn't reading clearly and we need to, for example, push a shape that is part of the dark into the light so it reads more clearly.

No matter how much of a finish we eventually decide to take our drawing, this basic light/dark pattern we have established needs to hold together.