A Life Drawing
Female portrait – for practice – charcoal on newsprint
One of my goals this year was to take a life drawing class – working from a live model. I’ve drawn from models on some other occasions but i was never close enough to get a good look at the head, and the models were nude which encouraged drawing the whole form, not just the head. They were also uninstructed events with short to medium length poses, not conducive to a slow study.
So this was the result from class 2, as far as we took it. We worked for about an hour or so because some of the time was spent in demo and lecture and some breaks. With more time I would have made this a more refined and corrected image, but when the model is done, time’s up. For scale, the top of the head to base of the neck is about 10.5 inches.
By far the hardest part for me was the seeing. My eyesight was poor as a child and hasn’t gotten better as I’ve grown up. And although I’ve tried many different kinds of glasses with a variety of magnifications, there’s always some compromise. I was about 8-10 feet from the model, I’d guess. If she had been sitting at arm’s length or 4-5 feet I think I could have done considerably better. The model was strongly lit from the top and to the right (camera right, not her right) which gave good shadows to work with and model form.
Eventually I think we’ll be drawing her unclothed and I may or may not post them, it depends upon whether or not that’s ok with her. She is a patient and friendly person and holds a pose remarkably well. She was very pleased to have a looking down position because it allowed her to read a book last night!
My objective with this, of course, is to work into oil portraiture. But as I’ve been reminded by the teacher, all practice drawing shape and value helps improve any kind of painting – including landscapes and still life. It’s additive and no practice is every wasted.
Octavia at the Getty
Today was a not so terrific day. I’m still getting over the tonsillitis/flu or whatever is camping in my throat and making me miserable – and I’m probably going to have to go see the doc about it tomorrow. It’s been almost a week and I’m just plain tired of it and going around whispering. Add to that a problem sending email and I’ve been crankier than usual. Thankfully Steve the Eudora genius solved it quickly – apparently a corrupt email was stuck in the queue and wouldn’t let the others go out. Kudos to Steve at Qualcomm for solving it. Qualcomm, if you’ve got a Google alert on blogs and you’re reading this, give Steve in Mac tech support a raise, he’s good!
Anyway, I didn’t get around to painting anything new today, so I decided to scan a sketch of Octavia, sister of the triumvirate consul Octavian, as captured in marble. This sculpture is upstairs in one of the galleries at the Getty Villa, which I visited a week or so ago. If you’re watching Rome on HBO, you know that poor Octavia hasn’t been lucky in love. Apparently her bust wasn’t too lucky either, because somewhere along the line she lost her noble Roman nose. I’ve heard that Rome is only going to last two more episodes, which is a real shame, because it’s an excellent series and I was really looking forward to seeing Nero, Caligula and all their pals.
Bronze Nude – Getty
Torso after Maillol – 9 x 12 charcoal on toned paper
In the sculpture garden of the West Pavilion are several Maillol bronze nudes, two of which I had time to draw. In many ways this was more challenging than the interior marble sculptures because of the dazzling bright sunlight and the dark reflectivity of the of the form. For this surface I switched to a vine charcoal to suggest the contrast.
Recently on the everyday matters list a question was asked “what do YOU do to really get yourself going when you feel
I guess I’d say I take a preventive approach to that question. I don’t usually get to the stalled point because I’m constantly changing gears in what I hope is a spiral path of growth. Here’s what I wrote in response to that very good question:
When tired of drawing in a sketchboook, draw on some big sheets of paper
If you usually paint big, paint small.
When you’re tired of using watercolor, try pastel or acrylic.
Always work in color? Try black and white.
If you’re getting bored painting landscapes, paint people.
If you usually paint people, try a still life.
Always draw with pencil? Try charcoal.
If you always draw with a dip pen and ink, use a brush pen instead.
When you get weary of doing finished works, do a series of quick studies.
If you always paint tight, loosen up.
If you always draw on white paper, try drawing on toned paper.
Always gravitate to bright colors? Try a subdued palette.
Too weighed down with reality? Try a fantasy scene from your imagination.
Tired of realistic representation? Have a little fun with abstraction.
Everything feel like same old, same old? Go to a museum or some
galleries and get fresh inspiration.
Try an old subject in a new technique.
Try a new subject in a familiar medium or technique.
This ‘shake things up’ approach may not work for everyone, but it keeps me from ever feeling bored. Give it a try!
Juno – Daily Drawing
“Juno” 9 x 12 drawing on toned paper – charcoal and white chalk
Here’s another in my figure drawing expedition from Friday at the Getty. This is also based on a work by Joseph Nollekens was drawn from the same low sitting angle as yesterday’s Venus. Because this statue was much closer to me, I opted to just concentrate on a portion of her torso. This was about a half hour drawing. Taking longer might have helped avoid many of the mistakes, but I wanted to experience a number of different works, so that’s the compromise I made.
If you like to practice draw people, I strongly recommend visiting museums and drawing from the statues. Unlike live models they don’t need breaks and they are happy to hold the pose as long as you require. The lighting is usually wonderful, the better to understand the volume of the form. I would imagine that this experience is not unlike the drawing from plaster casts which classic atelier students did, and still do.
When I visited the Getty villa for a drawing class several weeks ago, our instructor advised us that when drawing folds to not try to draw every one, but to simplify the form, so I’ve tried to apply some of what he shared with us.
The Getty is a great treasure for learning and pure enjoyment. My gratitude is renewed every time I visit.
I have two more drawings to post, based on sculptures by Maillol … coming soon.
Baby elephant walk
At the Wild Animal Park in San Diego we road a tram around a wide open savannah styled area, and at one point passed by the elephant territory where this baby was tossing hay into his mouth. Due to a tram breakdown in front of us we paused for a little while there, but not long enough to get a detailed drawing, so this was drawn later from a photo my husband took for me. I prefer to draw animals from life if they hold still, but that’s just not always possible. Still, I learned something from this experience that will help me the next time I encounter a live elephant and am not passing by at 10 miles an hour.
More often than not these days I’m trying to match the paper and art tool to the subject matter rather than drawing in one journal consistently. That’s why I have so many different books going, I suppose. For example, yesterday’s Hollywood and Highland jazz concert was drawn in a very smooth paper Moleskine with a brush pen. Using a brush pen on coarse recycled paper would have made it difficult to get fine detail. Trying to draw an elephant with charcoal on the “toothless” Moleskine would have been equally challenging. The native palms I posted a few days ago was done in a journal with white paper that accepts wet media. So I always have to remember to date the drawings to provide some sort of chronology. I don’t have one journal, I have a journal group or cluster that move forward like a mooing herd . It’s an odd system, but it works. And the variety of paper and media keeps me challenged and experimenting. And what’s more fun than that?