Week 5

Our model today was Dalana Miller. I did a quick demonstration of drawing hair. I often see people draw hair using a bunch of lines meant to represent strands of hair. Similar to drawing trees or anything where there is a collection of a lot of little things we first need to address all the hair as a volume.

The hair is generally a spherical volume like the skull. I started by identifying the light source and blocking in the highlight and shadow as if I were drawing a ball. Once the hair is a convincing volume (consistent with the light logic you have have established) then you can start adding some lines to represent the texture of lots of individual hairs. See the video below for a more in-depth demonstration.

I also took took the opportunity to mess up many of your drawings by scrubbing them thoroughly with a dry paper towel. This is something I regularly do with my beginning drawing class and it is also part of my normal drawing process. Three reasons I gave you for this being a helpful practice are:

  1. It spreads some value into the negative space (background) of your drawing so when you start adding highlights they will actually be highlights because the area around them will be at least slightly darker.
  2. At the beginning of a drawing when you are trying to establish correct proportions and contour lines you will tend to draw several lines close together or makes excess marks. Scrubbing your drawing will blend those repeated lines together and the average of all those lines will often be more accurate than any one line by itself. It is easier to see what you are doing when you get rid of some of that visual noise. 
  3. I personally feel the act of scrubbing a drawing helps keep me from getting too attached to any one part of the drawing. This is especially important at the beginning of a drawing. This will make it easier to see and correct problems. It will also keep you from getting too detailed too soon because the scrubbing will get rid of most of the details. 

Thanks again for an excellent 5 weeks. I was very happy with the progress I saw you all make. Today was the best day yet. See you in the fall. 




Week 4

Our model today was Peggy Moore. Last week someone requested that I do a demonstration using chalk pastel so for the demonstration today I walked you through some basics. A couple things worth repeating here:

  1. Drawing on toned paper makes it easier to quickly establish highlights because the paper itself isn't the lightest value. With white paper your highlights won't really be convincing until you cover every bit of paper that is not a highlight with a darker value.  
  2. Start your drawing by putting down a thin layer of a mid-value warm neutral (brown). Having some chalk on the paper to start with will make it easier to blend subsequent layers of color. Brown is a good middle ground for skin tones that won't get in your way as you develop the drawing. 
  3. Periodically, especially at the start of a drawing, I will take a dry paper towel and wipe down the whole drawing. This helps get rid of the noise that can build up as I am figuring out proportions and adjusting contour lines. It also has the psychological effect of keeping me from getting too attached to things at the start of the drawing. Finally it is a good way to start building up more chalk on the paper which you need to get smooth blending and a good range of mid-tones. 

Great drawing today! Remember next week is our last class for the summer.





Week 3

Today our model was David Abercrombie. In my demonstration I showed you a relatively new paper made by Arches (see link below) which is 100% cotton and made specifically for use as a surface for oil painting. This is unusual because traditionally painting on unprimed paper is a bad idea for many reasons. It also works well for acrylic but there are other papers that are also nice and a lot cheaper that work well with acrylic. I will list some of them below as well. 

First I demonstrated drawing with charcoal then adding acrylic medium to essentially turn the charcoal into paint. There is a really nice ghostly quality to the black lines when you work this way. You get a nice combination of line and brush strokes. Then I continued to paint into this drawing with white acrylic paint to bring out some highlights. There are many variations on this you could use - more acrylic colors, semi-transparent and opaque layers etc. You could also use chalk pastel instead of or in addition to charcoal. 

Next I talked about "drawing" with paint. By that I am suggesting a different way to think about drawing. Drawing with a brush and paint gives you a wider range of line thickness to the point that I was able to draw the whole torso with a single stroke with a large brush. This allows you to approach the various parts of the body as masses or shapes rather than seeing them as contour lines. This isn't better or worse really - just different. It can help you see relationships between parts of the body more clearly or at least in a different way. 

After blocking in the figure as interlocking shapes using a dark value, I used a smaller brush to add general areas of highlight. Once I have these basic proportions and values blocked in I am ready to refine the drawing with more detail. 





Week 2

Today our models were Patty Arquette, Valentino, Max and Oliver Twist. For our critique at the end of class I spent some time focusing on establishing over-all light and shadow. Specifically I mentioned the seemingly obvious fact that a highlight looks like a highlight because it is the lightest value in the drawing - so it follows that everything that is not a highlight needs to be darker than the highlight. Sounds obvious but not many of you are doing it. It is easy to get caught up in smaller features and miss the larger light logic of the scene. 

In the first few minutes of the video below you can see a much more thorough demonstration of what I was talking about. He talks in terms of primary, secondary and tertiary forms while I tend to think of it in terms of "global" highlights and shadows vs. "local" highlights and shadows. The point is the same - you've got to establish (and maintain) the big picture before you get to the details. 




Week 1

Today was our first day of class. Our model was Fiona Garrett.

For a demo today I went over some of the basic drawing materials we will be using in this class. One of the things I find people often don't know is the difference between vine and compressed charcoal.

Vine charcoal is made from an actual vine (you can also buy willow). The pieces of vine are heated in an oxygen free environment until they turn to charcoal. So when you use vine charcoal you are rubbing vine dust onto the paper.  There is not adhesive mixed with the vine dust. This makes it easy to wipe off but difficult to get really dark values. It can also be difficult to achieve a range of mid tones because when you try to blend or soften a mark or gradation the dust comes off. 

Compressed charcoal is made from black charcoal dust mixed with an adhesive. The mixture is extruded into either blocks or pencils. The adhesive in the mixture helps the charcoal stick to the paper so it doesn't wipe off as easily and you can achieve darker values and a wider range of mid tone. 

I also demonstrated gesture drawing and then how to develop a drawing by identifying the relationships between major anatomical landmarks. See the video below for a review. 




Week 17

Today was our last day of class for this semester. Our model was Fiona Garrett. For a demo I showed you three drawings done by people in our class. There are three things I wanted to highlight with these drawings. 

1. We are very accustomed to using line to separate the various elements in a drawing. There is nothing wrong with this as a way to start a drawing or even as a stylistic decision for a finished drawing. When our goal, however, is to represent what we see as accurately as possible it is important to realize that there rarely (if ever) are dark black contour line around the objects and people we see around us.

The way we perceive where one visual element ends and another begins (without a dark black line to separate them) is contrast. For instance we might see a change in value or color where the edge of our subject matter is, where we start seeing the background. In a figure drawing class I think it is an important shift to learn to define form using shifts in value rather than relying wholly upon contour lines. 

See the examples below. When I get rid of the dark black contour line the figure seems more three dimensional and more integrated into the over-all composition. 

There is nothing wrong with line drawings as a stylistic decision but they don't represent what we actually see. I think it is important to know the difference between using lines because we like how they look - a decision of preferred style, as opposed to using them because we don't know how to accurately depict what we see.  

2. Depicting the volume of hair is more important to a convincing illusion of human form than getting the detailed texture of hair. The hair is usually a spherical volume that needs to abide by the same light logic as everything else in our drawing in order to create a convincing illusion of three dimension. 

3. There is a strong tendency to leave a halo of white paper around the lines of a drawing because we don't want to mess up the lines and/or we don't want to mix the black charcoal in with colored pastel. Leaving this halo of light value around or inside your contour line usually creates contradictions with the light logic in your drawing and will flatten space and form as a result. Leave no halo's. 






Week 16

Our model today was Rachel Maestrovich. She was especially good at holding a pose so I wanted to take the opportunity to have two long poses. 

I didn't do a demo or critique today but make sure you take a look at the images below. Excellent drawing today across the board. I have been really impressed with you work the past few weeks. Great work!

Next week is our last class for this semester. Feel free to bring food or drink. Our model will be Fiona Garrett who is an excellent model as well. 



Week 15

Our model today was Victoria Swan. We had a lot of excellent drawings. I was most encouraged by how many of your spent time drawing her portrait.

One thing I mentioned during critique that might be worth repeating is that we need to be careful the contour lines of our drawings don't contradict our light logic. In some of your drawings I saw contour lines get thicker and darker around highlights rather than getting thinner and lighter.

The quality of your contour lines can be a very effective way to suggest or enhance the source of light in a scene. Line quality can also contradict highlight/shadow relationships and flatten your drawing out if you are not paying attention.



Week 14

Our model today was Trace Devai. Instead of a demonstration I showed you the video I posted online last week. I will post it below this week as well. 

There are many ways to simplify the human form in order to see gesture and the interaction of various anatomy. The interaction between torso and hips is usually the core of a poses movement. If you can get that relationship right you will usually capture the essential gesture of the pose. With that in mind I think the approach outlined in the video is worth considering and practicing. 

Take a moment to watch the video and I would suggest practicing the exercise with some of the reference photo's available at their website: www.proko.com




Week 13

Our model today was Ariella Cohen (and...me for the first 15 minutes). Walking around during the first long pose I noticed a lot of you were not getting the nice curving gesture of the pose. I have talked a lot about focusing on the position of shoulders and hips in relation to each other - these landmarks will often help you see the gesture of a pose. Another way of talking about gesture is in terms of "stretch" and "compress".

This is an idea focused on a lot in animation. Whenever a person is not standing straight up you are going to find a side of the body that is being stretched and the opposite side being compressed. The challenge some of you faced is that you were looking at the curve from the side so really you did not see a curving gesture line. You did however see either the compressed side or stretched side of the pose.

Giving some indication of that stretching or compressing will help imply the curving gesture of the pose even from a side view. The youtube video I am imbedding in this post talks about stretch and compress and suggests a good way to practice seeing and drawing the gesture of a pose. 

Excellent drawings today. Our model was a little late so I didn't want to take any time for a demo or critique. I saw a lot of great drawings though. Take a look in the image gallery below. 




Week 12

Our model today was Diana Briscoe. No demonstration today but I did put up many drawings in the 2nd floor display case, so make sure you take a look. I've been hearing  a lot of compliments about our class work. Great drawings everyone! 

I didn't get pictures today because my phone ran out of storage. 

Week 11

Our model today was Jonathan Beck. In my demonstration I talked about "skin tone". In my opinion it is not very helpful to think in terms of "skin tone". Colors in skin change dramatically depending on environment and light source. Obviously different races also have dramatically different colors in their skin but even individuals in the same race can be very different. 

I showed you two different artists: Lucien Freud and David Hockney. Early in his career Freud painted very monochromatic skin. It looks to me like raw umber and white. The skin in his paintings seemed to get increasingly more diverse over the course of his lifetime but even the early paintings were perfectly believable as skin tone. 

The point I wanted to drive home in class today is that I think the majority of you would be more satisfied with your "skin tones" if you focused on getting the value relationships correct. As I showed you with Freud and Hockney you can use very unusual hues (colors) and have the skin still be convincing as skin if you get the light and dark relationships (value) right. 

If you focus on trying to understand how the three characteristics of color : hue, value and saturation relate to one another you will have more success than if you focus on learning recipes for skin tone.

After I said all this I did give you a recipe though. Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Titanium White mixed in different proportions will get you off to a pretty good start for most skin tones. If you don't understand value it won't matter what recipe you use - the colors won't look right. 




Week 10

Today our model was JB. I decided to challenge you all a little by having JB hold a reclining pose for 40 minutes. For many of you this meant drawing extreme foreshortening.

In class I mentioned the book "Drawing from the right side of the brain" which is a book that focuses on the importance of learning how to turn off the meaning-making side of our brain so we can focus on drawing what we see and now what we know.

Extreme foreshortening presents us with a very distorted view of human anatomy which helps to confuse and shut down the side of our brain that wants to tell us how to draw general human anatomy. Instead we are forced to pay closer attention to what we see - which is hard work. I think it is a good exercise. 

After the reclining pose I had JB do a few short gesture poses to hopefully help relieve the stress of the previous drawing - a warm-down perhaps. I also think it is important to try and develop both the close observation you practiced with the reclining pose and the ability to see over-all movement and gesture. Somehow we have to do both simultaneously. 

In the critique I talked a little about how the thickness or thinness of line (line quality) can be used to reinforce highlight and shadow. I also talked about how points of high contrast create focal points which can be a good way to lead a viewer through your composition (it can also create confusion if you emphasize something seemingly unimportant or emphasize too many things equally). 



Week 8

Today our model was David Abercrombie. 

In my demonstration I wanted to introduce you to a new product that I am really excited about. It is a paper made by Arches that can be painted on with oil paint without needing gesso or any kind of primer. Normally you wouldn't want to paint on raw paper with oil paint because the oil is acidic and will ruin paper over time. This paper has been created in a way that protects the paper fibers from oil medium. 

I also wanted to demonstrate "drawing" with paint. With a paint brush you have a much wider range of line at your disposal than you can get with pencil or other traditional drawing implements. One of the things this allows is the ability to address whole shapes or masses at a time instead of drawing contour lines. 

In my demonstration I used a 1/4 inch brush with thinned out Burnt Umber. With the brush I was able to do the usual stick-figure and anchor-point approach but I could also paint in the whole shape of the arm in with one stroke of the brush or even scrub in the whole shape of the torso. In this way I can see see proportions in terms of shapes instead of lines. It is a different way of seeing and approaching a drawing. 

Once I had blocked the whole figure in as solid dark shapes I used white paint to start modeling the specific anatomy within those shapes. Oil paint dries slowly so you have plenty of time to blend colors. 

We don't do very long poses so it is not practical to expect to finish a very polished painting but it is a great way to draw. 



Week 7

Our model today was Fiona Garrett. In my demo I talked about some of the basic facial proportions that are helpful to be aware of as you draw. It is important to remember that they are generalizations and will not replace the need to draw things as you see them. 

Two of the most common mistakes in drawing portraits are: 1. Making the distance between the eyes and top of the head too short and 2. Making the distance between the eye and ear too short when looking at the face in profile. See the diagram below for the basic proportions that I talked about. 

I also mentioned that when I draw a face always begin with a circle. The top of the head is a sphere so no matter what angle you see it at it will be a circle in a 2D drawing. After drawing the circle I find the center line of the face - a line that would pass between the eyes, middle of the lips and middle of the chin. Then I extend the circle with a jaw line to match the height and width proportions I see. Having these guidelines will make it easier to place the eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Eyes are especially tricky to foreshorten. 






Week 6

Our model today was Diana Carey. As a short demo today I made a drawing and just blocked in the large highlight and shadow. I worked on the drawing a little more after the demo but what is important here is, once again, over-all highlights and shadows need to happen before "local" highlights and shadows. After the demo I went in to the over-all shadow and added some more "local" or specific highlights and shadows but I was careful to not allow these highlights in the shadow area to get as light as the highlights in the over-all highlight area. Doing so would contradict the light logic I set up when I blocked things in.

Another point worth emphasizing is that it is important to guard your lightest highlights. There are usually very few places on the figure that will be the lightest light. 

I also mentioned to several of you today that it is difficult to achieve a wide range of values with vine charcoal. It is too delicate. Smudging it at all will remove most of the charcoal. Vine is good for the beginning of a drawing when you want to be able to remove lines without leaving much of a mark. If you want really dark values and if you want a wide range of values, I would suggest that you finish your drawing with compressed charcoal. 



Week 5

Our model today was Dalana Miller. In my demonstration I showed you three different artists: Fuseli, Degas and Harry Carmean. The books I had were mostly rough sketches and studies. I wanted to show you how these artists address composition even in sketches and studies.

It is common for artists in a figure drawing class to disregard the composition of their drawings. Focus is primarily on proportions, anatomy, likeness, form and line. It is easy to overlook how the figure relates to the over-all format of the paper the drawing is on and the relationship between positive and negative space. 



Poor composition makes a poor drawing.  I showed you three different artists who I feel were always very aware of composition but addressed it in very different ways. Fuseli's drawings are the most developed of the three. He draws a lot of the environment surrounding the figures. Degas drawings are primarily focused on the figure but he also gives some indication of the context the figure exists in. Harry Carmean gives very little information in the negative space of his drawings - a line or a scuffle but nothing very recognizable.

No matter the level of detail or amount of information given in the negative space of each artists drawings, all three were very conscious of how they composed (arranged) the figure on the paper. They were aware of how the figure was positioned with in the format of the drawing and in relation to other elements (including empty negative space) in the composition.

I am not suggesting that you need to spend as much time drawing the space around the figure. We have a limited time to draw with each pose and we are there primarily to draw the figure, however I do expect you to always show evidence that you are attempting good composition. It doesn't take much extra time or effort as much as it requires simple awareness and intention.


Almost no marks are made in the negative space...

but the shapes created in the negative space add interest to the composition.



Week 4

Our model today was David Abercrombie. We didn't have a demonstration today but a couple things that came up while I was walking around:

  1. Pastel or charcoal blends better when you have a layer of pastel already on the surface you are drawing on. When you draw on a fresh piece of paper and try to soften an area you are not really blending as much as you are smudging. If you have a layer of chalk dust already on the surface and you try to soften an area you have material there to blend into. Both blending and smudging have their uses but for smoother skin surfaces blending will usually get the best result.
  2. Practice seeing and defining over-all highlight areas and over-all shadow areas. In order to get the feeling that the figure has volume (and is not just a relief sculpture) you need to establish those larger value relationships before you get to more localized highlights and shadows. All the lighter values in the shadow area of the drawing rarely/never get as light as the lightest values in the highlight area of the drawing. If they do your "light logic" will fall apart and the drawing will look flat. 

Please let me know if you have a big piece of fabric that could be used to cover the model stand. I am looking for solid color or simple pattern fabrics - nothing busy or brightly colored. 




Week 3

Diana Carey was our model today. In my demonstration I showed you a "subtractive drawing" technique. I started by covering my drawing paper with an even coat of charcoal. With a charcoal still you will have to find the convex edge so you don't mark up you paper with a bunch of parallel lines. I did there or four coats of charcoal, smoothing out any texture with a shammy. 

Next I used a pencil shaped eraser to rough in my usual gesture and stick figure. I drew in contour lines with a charcoal pencil and used my various erasers to erase out highlights. In the early stages of the drawing I usually will use the shammy to almost completely smear out my whole drawing. This helps me keep from getting detailed too quickly, helps me see more general issues with proportion and gesture. Wiping out a drawing also has the added benefit of creating a richer variety and layering of values.

After wiping out the drawing I would go back to erasing highlights and using more charcoal for shadows. This same technique can be used with soft graphite if you don't want to use charcoal. This technique is a really great way to get more three three-dimension in your drawings because you will tend to get a wider range of values. 

Remember your highlights will not feel like highlights unless everything else (including negative space) in your drawing is a darker value. 

See the video below to see how charcoal powder is used. I don't want anyone using charcoal powder in the classroom, but some of you might enjoy playing with it. You can buy it at Blick but be careful using it - you don't want to be inhaling a lot of it.