Thursday, November 26, 2015

Analyzing Faces in Planes

"Planar analysis" is what my life drawing instructor calls this sort of scribbling, which makes it sound pretty darned impressive.

Basically, the notion is to see the human face as a collection of planes and tones. 
Supposedly it helps with proportion and proper shading. 

My first efforts drawing from a live model showed how hard this is--at least for me. My brain kicked and screamed. And screamed. 

So then a friend of mine and I thought that maybe our brains would grasp the concept better if we drew the planes on top of photographs. 

We loaded some photos into a wonderful iPad app called Paper by 53. Then we drew over the planes, using the color picker to match colors. 

Then I used a photo editor to make it black and white so I could study the tones more clearly. 

This really did help my understanding of the planes and tones in a face. 

The next step seemed to be to try another drawing.  Instead of plunging into another with a live model, I thought I'd try drawing this piece first. 

The result showed me that I still have a lot to learn about proportion. 

I will try again soon!

There is so much to see!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

First Experience with a Nude Model

I had never drawn from a live nude model before so I didn't know what to expect from the experience. What would it feel like to be in a room with a totally naked person?  What would it be like to draw a totally naked person?

Honestly, it was no different than drawing anything else. I looked so hard and worked so hard and got so completely lost in he work that I forgot about the presence of any nakedness. 

We did some quick gestures and some longer drawings.   

Yes, our model practiced yoga. 

I very much enjoyed the fast gestures.  I feel like they have an energy that's true.  Real scribbling.  Real spirit.

When I work on longer poses, I feel like I get lost in the details.  I guess this is because of all my sketching in the last two years.  I'm used to emphasizing lines.  Tones just stymie me (at least so far).  

I really like that last one. The energy again--I don't really know how to describe it but I feel like I can see how I felt when I drew it. 

I can't wait to carry some of these new techniques on other subjects soon. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Responding to the Paris Attacks

I saw a lot of beautiful artwork in honor of the victims of the Paris attacks on November 13, 2015.

I didn't know quite what to draw.  I felt a little stalled by the horror of it all.

I think what really struck me was the juxtaposition of the anti-humanity agenda of the terrorists and the celebration-of-humanity activities they disrupted:  sport, music, breaking bread and sharing wine together. 

It should be so simple...

Anyhow, I scribbled this little drawing, both in remembrance and as an attempt to capture my own response. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More Life Drawing

Well, I've looked more closely at human beings in the last few weeks than perhaps ever before. 

And I've scribbled more of them than ever before. 

It's hard. For me, so hard to draw a person that looks like a person. 

But holy cow, I've really started to appreciate how beautiful humans really are. 

The thing I find most fascinating:  the realities of proportion. And how what we think we see is so remarkably inaccurate!  

Probably a life truth there. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Life Drawing Session with Friends

Nothing like getting together in a living room warmed by a fireplace on a blustery November day to set up some easels, drop some tarps, and scribble with charcoal on newsprint in an attempt to learn how to capture a reasonable likeness of a human being on paper.

I had a lovely time today at some friends' house.  Jack volunteered to model while he workshopped some poetry.  Julie and I practiced seeing shapes of tones and trying not to draw too many lines.

Easier said than done.  At least for me...

In this first one, things went pretty well.  I forced myself not to see my friend, or even a human being (at least at first) but just chunks of very dark and very light.  Then I added more midtones, and at the end, some lines to clarify.

I liked this a lot, though, as usual, I got the head too big for the body.  I guess that's a common mistake, since we look at each other's faces so much, we tend to understand them as bigger than they are.  Yet another lesson in trying to see more clearly.

So for the next sketch, I scribbled very fast, less than three minutes, and tried to capture proportion more accurately.  I spent a lot of that three minutes measuring.

 It was fun to compare the size of his head to the size of the foot that was much closer to me!

Next I wanted to try the shapes of tones approach to more of a portrait.

I'm quite pleased with how the shirt came out.  Not so pleased with the face.  My friend has a white beard, and I just didn't do a good job of capturing that tone or texture.

Finally, I got tired of charcoal (even though I really like the way it looks) and switched to a big fat stick of 6B graphite.

By this time my patient model had fallen asleep.  After all, we'd had the poor guy sitting there for nearly an hour.

For me, this last one was all about capturing the shapes and shadows of the tilted head.  You simply can't let your brain think "face" or "chin" or "eyes" when you try to draw something at this angle.  I mean, nothing looks like it is "supposed" to on a face when a head is tilted backward like this.

I appreciated that the graphite made much less of a mess than the charcoal, but the darks never got quite as dark as I'd hoped.

So this was my first ever "hey, friend, will you sit and be my model" scribbling session!  I think it went pretty well.  My fellow sketcher and I were both pooped after an hour of drawing.  The model got some work done, and a nap to boot.  When we quit the art work, we all had a donut.

Life is good.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My First Ever In-Person Art Class: Life Drawing!

Life drawing, charcoal, looking only at shapes of tone... it's all new to me this week and, whew!  Talk about scribbling!   My eyes can barely see what the instructor is talking about, and I just love it.

I can feel my brain expanding.

We look at the model (clothed so far).  She tells us to draw, but not to use lines!

Seriously!?  If you've looked at my blog at all you know I'm addicted to my pen lines.   I think in lines.  I've been sketch-scribbling with lines for two years.   I've worked my butt off to make my lines occasionally look like something.

I'm just coming down from Intober, which was almost all lines!

Now, no lines??

This, of course, is exactly what I took the class.  To take me back to scribbling.  To playing with tools in ways I haven't before.

Anyhow, we are looking at human models and drawing only shapes of different tones, in charcoal.  I've never picked up a piece of charcoal before this.  My first impression:  very messy!

(I wish I'd taken a picture of my hands, my face, my shirt... charcoal everywhere!)

Anyhow, here are my first two charcoal drawings from my first night of my first ever in-person drawing class.

You can tell they are people!  So... not too shabby!

This is a wonderful exercise in seeing for me.  To not see my idea of what is in front of me (nose, hand, jeans, chair), but to actually see light and shadow.

And all those angles and curves and straight lines and parts!  People really are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Stay tuned for more adventures--my class lasts six weeks.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Recommending "Four Stories of the Heart"

Sharing a wonder-full piece by Richard Johnson in the Washington Post, in which a common ball point pen in the hands of an attentive artist captures uncommon intimate, human moments.

A compelling essay, made even more so by the presence of hand drawn visuals.   And the level of attention the artist paid to these people and their stories.  I can't stop thinking, wow.  The sacred and spiritual touched by such attention...

It has led me to think even more about the different impacts of photography--which I also practice and love--and sketching.  And the combination of such visuals with writing...

You can read and see the whole thing here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Inktober 29 Through 31


I have completed (and posted ) the #Inktober challenge for 2015.  Thirty-one drawings in ink in thirty-one days.   I think it is the first day I've done of of these "every day for a month" type drawing challenges, and I liked it a lot.

Maybe I'll try another some time!

Anyhow, here are my final drawings of the month.

Number 29 is drawn and colored mostly in ink, with gouache for the eyes and blanket.  This would be a portrait of my cat, Hattie, Queen of All She Surveys.  And yes, her head is in proportion to her body.

The interesting part for me in this was seeing how my ink, diluted with water, could still indicate shadows and light on a solid black cat.  I need to practice this a lot more.  I know I would do better if I just practiced a LOT more.

Drawing 30 is what I like to call "A Tommy Kane Drawing."  You can learn more about Tommy and his fascinating work online here (and on Instragram).  He creates drawings of incredible detail (which mine below actually is not).  So why is this "A Tommy Kane Drawing?"

I name such drawings after Tommy Kane because he taught me one of the most important lessons I ever learned about keeping a sketchbook and learning to draw: "Always finish your sketch."

Tommy gave this advice during his class at Sketchbook Skool.  I urge you to check that out if you haven't already.

Anyhow, the gist of the advice is this:  once you put your pen down and start a sketch, you have to finish it, no matter how badly you think you might have screwed up.  Figure out ways to work around the mistakes.  Incorporate them into the drawing.  This practice would bolster your confidence, he said, because you'll quickly learn how to recover from just about anything.

One of his examples: he occasionally miscalculates how tall a building will be and so has to bend high towers or steeples to fit them on the page.

Obviously, I had to do this here, in a sketch I did from a photograph I took of a church in west Ireland.

I wish that was the only mistake I made in this scribble, but, of course, it isn't.  I actually got lost in the shadows of the photograph and misdrew the directions of two of the walls!  Completely.  Suddenly, I was creating some sort of Escher-esque drawing!  Not what I intended.

Two years ago, I'd have ripped the page our of my book.

But this time, without a hiccup, I thought, how can I fix this?   And started messing around with shadows and directions of bricks, and so on.

Is this an accurate depiction of the church?  Not in a photographic sense, no.  Nope, nope.

But do I like the drawing?  YES!! A great deal.  Not only because it actually reminds me of the church and the time I spent there taking photos, but because of the creative journey it represents.

Really, check out Tommy Kane's stuff.  It will blow your mind.

The final drawing of Inktober, number 31, is not a great climactic piece.

Just a quick (five minutes, tops?) sketch in sepia ink of one of the tall maple trees in my back yard, clinging to its last few bright golden leaves.  Added gouache for color.

There is something about spending time--even five minutes--looking at that wonderful color combination of gold and's a palette that only shows up in autumn.  And only on the clearest sunny days.  And only if there hasn't been a big wind lately.

Inktober was a blast.  I definitely plan to do it again next year.

I have a new adventure planned for November:  my first ever in-person art class.... in life drawing!