Donatien. Graphite on paper, 8″ x 20½”.
My current assignment from Graydon is to spend a couple of hours per day just drawing simple blocked figures from reference photos, trying to identify the major body masses within the forms, and develop better fluency with that. This is not easy for me. I wish I had x-ray vision so I could see the skeleton inside figures. I don’t know if I have a harder time with this than is normal, but I find it very difficult to see the pelvis, especially, inside the figure, and imagine how it’s “sitting” under the skin. The pelvis is a complicated bone (three or four bones actually, depending on how you count), and one of the most difficult things to draw, but even simplified versions are hard for me to grasp.
So, I built one I could literally grasp. This is obviously not an ecorche-style reproduction, more a simplified “skin” that you would get if you stretched it over the ribcage and pelvis, but just trying to see the major masses in relation to each other. This took me quite a few hours to make, starting with crumpled tinfoil masses, working clay over it and getting it into the right shape, cross-referencing it against various anatomical resources to get it as accurate as I could, then firing it solid, and finally mounting the two masses with a length of braided wire and a glue gun. The result is pretty solid, and hopefully if I draw it a few hundred times from a few hundred different perspectives, I’ll have an easier time seeing it within figures.
(If I were doing it again, though, I’d use 18-gauge wire instead of 16, which is a bit rigid.)
I don’t usually do drawings in one sitting anymore, even quick/unplanned ones like this one, but I think I’m leaving this one alone. It’s small, around 3″ square. 4B graphite on paper. It’s too bad you can’t see how blue her eyes are.
A growing realization I’ve been having over the last little while, which is one of those utterly obvious-sounding concepts that conceals a much deeper possible level of understanding, is that a huge part of art is just plain looking, really hard, at what’s in front of you, and trying to understand it well enough to render it. And that if you’re having trouble rendering something, it largely means you’re not looking close enough, and not understanding it.
It is amazing how complex a “simple” hammer is. I could have spent a month on this and still not gotten everything.
The other possibility, of course, is that your rendering difficulty is due to a lack of fluency with your materials, and the only way to improve that is to practice. Right now I can feel some of the early seeds of learning beginning to sprout tiny shoots; I have problems I don’t understand well enough to even articulate yet. I don’t even know what questions I need to ask. But that knowledge will be formed by experience, and I can already feel that after another 5 or 10 of these, I should be able to articulate much better questions about painting than I can now, and hopefully be in a position to understand the answers.
Next up: a jam jar, I think.
(Also: if I hadn’t nuked Steam yesterday, I probably would have spent the bulk of this evening playing Plants vs. Zombies instead of painting.)
Deleted Steam off the machine tonight. No more Plants vs. Zombies. Getting sucked down videogame rabbit-holes is not conducive to putting in the time needed to become a fine artist.
Yes, it hurt. But seriously, what do I want on my grave? “Got really good at Plants vs. Zombies”? Or “Made excellent art”?
Honestly, it’s bad enough I have a computer in the studio. I do need it for art-related things. I just sometimes wish there were a way to make it unable to do anything not directly related to producing work or building skills. That remains an unsolved problem. Getting games off the goddamn thing is at least one step in the right direction, though.
One down, 23 to go. Giving myself one year with four “bye” weeks for 24 black & white paintings, I’ve already burned one of my byes, and am a week late for #2 of 24. It’s due next weekend.
Perfection isn’t the point with these things… it’s learning about pushing paint around, blending and rendering, trying different mediums and grounds and whatever else might be a variable I want to control later on. I sweated this first one because I wanted to make a good start. I hope in a year, I’m looking back on this one and going “ugh.”
Tim’s dog. Be glad this thing isn’t sharp. It’s bad enough that it’s propelled by twelve pounds of psychotic, apocalyptic fury.
Click for full size, if you dare.
This is not a perfect likeness of the subject, but it is still a doodle, and you’re supposed to draw everyday, right? It’s too f***ing hot, for the fifth night in a row, to contemplate anything like digging into that long-overdue Bargue plate I’m supposed to be working on.
I used to do more of these. Mostly when I didn’t have a better sense of the harder-core things I should be studying to actually learn things that will accelerate me quicker. But they’re fun, and we should never lose sight of the fun of it all. The list of things I should be doing is a mile long. I still jump around too much. But so goes the process of being human, and trying to hack one’s way through a jungle that is still far too dense to see more than a pace or two ahead in.
I bought 24 9″x12″ canvas boards last week. The goal: do 24 black and white (well, blue and brown) paintings on them by the end of next summer. That’s one every two weeks with four weeks slack. That should be doable. I want to see some real progress by this time next year. They’ll be simple, and I’ll try not to spend more than about 10 hours on any of them to start. The goal is to improve my paint handling, get better at perceiving value, and better at turning forms. Nothing too complicated, and no other hues. Very low chroma, basically monochrome studies.
This is 1 of 24. Start off with a sphere. Probably better than any that I’ve rendered so far, but still far from perfect. I’ll do the funnel next week. The hardest part for me is rendering the core and the way it lightens into reflected light on the shadow side, and into the dark halftone on the light side; I always end up with a band that’s too tight and dark in the center, and my efforts to smooth it usually result in a prickly texture to the paint that I find hard to get rid of. Maybe by the time I’m tending to that, the medium is starting to tack up (50/50 stand oil/turps) and the brush starts tearing paint off instead of smoothing it down, even when I’m going in as delicately as I can with a clean, dry sable brush. This is the sort of thing that I hope 24 practice paintings will help me to find a solution for.
I picked up a copy of George Bridgman’s Life Drawing at a used bookstore a little while ago, for cheap. 7th printing hardcover, 1951. Look what was on the inside page!
Not only autographed by him: autographed by him to his daughter. This book was in the family. I’m no autograph hound, but I think this one is rather special. Hanging onto it.