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.
Minerva – 9 x 12 graphite drawing on pastel paper – after Nollekens
Yesterday I had the opportunity to return to the Hillside Getty in Sepulveda Pass for a little drawing practice. I just had time for two drawings this time – This first was this Minerva, the Roman equivalent of Athena, goddess of war. Unlike the Malibu Getty where there are numerous seats for viewing the sculptures, at the Hillside Getty they want you to keep moving so drawing means standing and balancing the sketchbook on your arm which is what I needed to do here. I much prefer the stability of working on my lap, but sometimes you just need to make do.
There were throngs of people, as usual. I started drawing this from one angle which was completely unsatisfactory and I turned the page over to begin again. A group of women walked by and asked if they could look. Rarely, I say no, but this time I did. “Is it bad luck?” one asked. “Yes, I said, it’s bad luck.” Gotta remember that one. Later another woman asked to see and I was far enough along that I was happy to show her the drawing in progress and we chatted for awhile about both Gettys and their Friday evening drawing class which happens twice a month. The gallery guard stopped by periodically to see my progress, too. He was a really nice guy and seemed to enjoy seeing the drawing take form. He said that an artist occasionally draws upstairs in the painting gallery but he scowls at anyone who attempts to speak to him so that says to me that people generally don’t know what kind of reaction they’ll get from someone who’s drawing. If I’m drawing indoors with plenty of time, I don’t mind stopping and chatting. But if I’m chasing the light with a watercolor outdoors, whoa, that’s a different story and I’m guessing my body language communicates that, too.
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.
Goddess – Daily Drawing
“Venus after sculpture by Joseph Nollekens” – 9 x 12 charcoal and chalk on paper
Today’s daily painting is actually a drawing done yesterday in one of the galleries at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles – the one in the Sepulveda pass, not the villa. This is another view of Venus a marble by Joseph Nollekens. So as not to block the view of the visitors, I sat along a wall to the left of the statue and quietly drew using charcoal and white chalk on toned paper. The light was coming in softly from the skylight, which made the roundness easy to visualize.
I drew five of six sculptures while I was there … slowly, and with a lot of visual measuring of proportions. I liked working on the toned paper because I didn’t have to create all the midtones to suggest a feeling of volume. I will be posting other drawings this week and probably doing more studies in preparation for taking a life drawing class when my watercolor class ends.
Something winged this way comes
I am frustrated today because my Yahoo email is bouncing and every reactivation request I’ve put in is not working. I get error messages back that reassure me that Yahoo is working hard to upgrade its sites to serve me better and if I don’t hear anything after 4 hrs to get updates here (and then it shuttles me to a generic FAQ page. Updates? Hah! Nada.) I don’t know what else I can do now but wait. I’ve followed all the steps including trying to reactivate myself from a group I moderate.
So this lack of results has put me in a rather peevish mood, but since it’s Halloween and the time for the thinning of the veils and such, I’ll tell you a story of synchronicity.
Many years ago, oh best beloved, my dh and I were on an expedition in Egypt searching for ancient artifacts using remote viewing. It was tiring and hot but we loved nearly every minute of it, and cherished the moments that we could see other parts of that beautiful and fascinating country. One early evening, our drivers took us out to Saqqara where we watched sunset near the bent pyramid of Zoser. We sat on a hillside covered with loose rocks and rubble. I put my hand down and picked up one rock, turned it over, and there was a hieroglyphic of an ibis, headless. But the body clearly told me what kind of bird it was. That was a rare moment, holding a piece of history in my hand, rescued from what looked like a landfill.
Flash forward ten years or more, to another turbulent time. We were working on a show that had to do with native americans and the settling of the west, and I was looking for some props to use in filming a sequence. A chance visit to a garage sale (unrelated) turned up a bead loom with a bead weaving half completed. There was the ibis-like wading bird, again … but this time, without a tail. It felt like a visitation from an old friend.
Ibises in art seem to speak to me in some way. A benign, good way, even if they are headless. So, today when my dh had a meeting in Beverly Hills and offered the opportunity to ride along and go to the LA county art museum, I jumped at the chance. I had HAD it up to here with bouncing emails, thankfully a rare occurrence. On Halloween the museum was empty. I had the place to myself and I reveled in it. You can imagine my smile rounding the corner into the Egyptian gallery and coming across this beautiful bronze of an ibis which may have once been on a royal standard. I just had to stop and draw it, head, wings, tail and all.
When I got home tonight, I did a little research on the ibis and its symbolism. The bird is sacred to the Egyptian deity Thoth, the civilizer of men, who taught music, medicine, writing and magic and was associated with speech, literature, the arts and learning. And most appropriate today, on all hallows eve, Thoth was the author of the Book of the Dead, and he who helped or punished the departed as they made their trek to the underworld.
On these days when some believe the veil between worlds may thin, who knows what power ancient symbols may still hold – even if only to grant a smile and a moment of relaxing drawing pleasure.
“Fall Guys” 6″ x 6″ pastel on paper.
A good art buddy brought me this lil punkin last week when she came over to visit, and I thought it was so cute i paired it with a little striped gourd that I had hanging around. It has a Mutt and Jeff quality that I like and it was fun to paint (in pastel.)
This was done on a dark brown Mi-Tientes paper, which shows through in the texture here and there. I used the rough side.
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?
At the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Avenue, there’s a big shopping complex where jazz concerts are held on warm summer evenings. You can buy a glass of wine and listen to great music, and then stroll around the shops. I didn’t draw it in this view, but the whole center court has a Babylonian motif. No, I’m not kidding …. take a look at: Hollywood and Highland. I think my favorite “faux sculptures” are the two bas-relief Mesopotamian winged creatures that flank the facade of the Victoria’s Secret store. They both have purses or shopping bags in their hands. Gotta love it.
Anyway, while others were facing the musicians, I listened with delight and found a seat behind a potted “kangaroo’s paw” plant and drew the crowd.