It’s that time of year when the Marla Bea Benefit auction gears up, but sadly I hear from Jason that the benefit will be put on hiatus next year. This is the last time for a while that I’ll have images up for auction, so those of you who might have any interest, keep October 12th circled on your calendars! Additionally, those of you who remember the first year I did this, my mom was the winning bid (thanks mom, could you make me look more like a pampered twit?), so I have to warn you… she’s in the US! Unlike last year when she was on vacation in Italy, this year she’ll be out there, circling, like a falcon… waiting. I’ll do my best to keep her off ebay, but you never know with her.

I did two images this year, and below are the pencil version of the images. If you’d like to see the final versions, jump over to the Marla Bea Benefit site. The day the auction starts, I’ll post the final art here as well. First off is Lady Jaye by herself—

… And a group shot of Scarlet, Lady Jaye, and Cover Girl (original cartoon version).

Again, this is the last auction for the Marla Bea Benefit for a few years at least. Most likely it’s the last chance to get an image from me unless you see me at a show. These images tend to be more labored over than my con sketches, because I have more time put into them. It’s a great cause, so please show your support, if you can.

When I go to drawing sessions, hell, since I went to art school (insert Star Wars opening here) there is one comment I over hear from other artists that drives me insane… “What a lousy pose“. Wrong. It’s not a lousy pose, there are no lousy poses, nor bad ones, lame ones, dull, or boring. It’s your job as an artist to make any subject into an interesting image, not the model’s. I don’t think Ansel Adams ever stood in front of a mountain and said, “What a lame looking pile of dirt“.  It is what it is, and an artist finds the framing, composition, or angle that best explores the subject. What most art students, or even professional artists, really mean when they look at a pose and say this is, “I don’t LIKE this view.” There are two easy solutions for this—

A) Shut up about it.

B) Move. (not the model- you!)

It drives me nuts to hear artists start filling the air with grumps and sighs after a model sets in. You hear it most when artists end up with a heavily foreshortened view from their vantage point, or when they aren’t seeing the figure flat on. By that I mean a position where the model is straight up and down, or laid horizontal side to side, with little (or no) foreshortening; something like this…

More often than not, I hear artists make these comments just before they whip up the most pathetic images one can imagine. What they really mean is that they’re seeing the model before them in a pose they know they can’t draw, or worse yet, can’t make interesting. Either the head is angled towards them for a view they don’t often address, or the body is placed in a Mantegna type of foreshortened view they don’t want to be challenged with.

Mantegna "Dead Christ"

They’ll often take that foreshortened figure and draw it as how they “think” it looks from the angle they’d rather be drawing it from, which is usually flat on with no challenge, and in their artistic comfort zone.

For example, one of my favorite models returned to our drawing sessions recently (the girl with the jet black hair) as seen in my previous post. She set herself into a reclining pose (see below) and I was seated closer to her feet with a view up her leg, to her reclined head. Granted it wasn’t as extreme as the painting above, but it was similar to that challenge— and it was just that, a challenge. The guy next to me, obviously an art student (and kudos to him for doing figure drawing sessions on top of his normal school load) sadly began squirming in his seat, and grumping. The poor kid next to me not only finished his 20 minute pose in around 6 minutes, but managed to draw it from an angle he could not have been seeing it from. As ALL artists do, we tend to look from side to side to see what others around us are doing. (sometimes out of a competitive nature, but more often to see if someone has solved a problem we’re also facing but with more success). He had drawn her straight on from the side, and without acknowledging the change in vantage point. I’ve approximated what I saw, but keep in mind this isn’t his actual image; people rarely volunteer their drawings as examples of what “not” to do. I do remember that despite flattening the figure to a straight on side view, the artist in him still slightly exaggerated the proportions of the feet and legs (as if refusing to ignore subconsciously the foreshortening). Again, this is my interpretation of what he did, not the actual image.

What gets me so upset is that these are people are not facing these challenges during a professional assignment where it has to be correct (as I often am in my work), but rather during a practice session, let me repeat, practice session. You know, when you allow yourself to make mistakes, when you try to perfect your craft, when you deal with problems you don’t normally face; and for what reason? To learn from them! Does this mean you’ll nail that drawing of the model’s head from the odd angle? No. (Case in point)

The following image is what the young man (mentioned above), and I, were attempting to draw. Note the foreshortening of the legs, but also the slight elevation of the viewer’s vantage point. We’re not looking straight on at the figure, but slightly down at it. Sometimes I crank out a drawing that I wouldn’t be afraid to show my old figure drawing teacher Mr. Brekke. Granted, it may not win awards, as the feet are slightly too small, but it doesn’t suck bong water either.

So next time you’re in a drawing session, don’t start swearing like a sailor when the model gets into their pose. It’s not them who has the problem, it’s you. You’re the artist, there’s the problem, now solve it, and shut up about it. Sheesh.

NGA: Update

September 14, 2011

So I got back to the NGA recently and cranked out a couple more images. Those that read this blog (hand count?) will remember my bit about drapery, and how I study paintings, and sketch sculptures for practice with that particular beast.

As I mentioned before, one sculpture that I truly love is Bust of a Veiled Woman, by Albert-Ernest Carrer-Belleuse from 1865, and one drawing of it can be seen in this previous post. I mentioned I would post additional drawings from other angles, done in my effort to learn from “drawing in the round”. So here’s one for comparison—

For those of you not living in the DC area, or unable to get down to the NGA, here are some pics I took of the sculpture so you can get a sense of what the original actually looks like.

While there I also got a chance to draw the painting “Marchesa Balbi” by Sir Anthony Van Dyck from 1623. I’ve drawn it before, and it’s interesting to me to see what I paid attention to one time, got right once, or failed with. It’s all about practice, learning, and studying. Like a hockey team, you can beat a team one week, and then lose to the same team a week later.

First try, about a year ago…

"Marchesa Balbi" by Sir Anthony Van Dyck

This time, similar, but different. Better? Worse? Good? Bad? We’ll let ALCOA be the judge.

On an unrelated note, I’d like to point out that I’m new to the iPad world, and because of that I’m never sure how a page will appear in that format. The WordPress blog has a neat feature for the iPad where it formats the last five posts into chronological order ,with the most recent at the top and the four previous ones below it. It also includes a swipe of the first image appearing in each post, but there’s no way to control what section of the image it picks. Sometimes it looks really neat, other times… well you be the judge. I’d just like to point out, I have no control over this, so to any female readers- my apologies; I’m not really as big of a perv as my iPad implies.

Hair-de Hair, Hair

September 11, 2011

As I posted recently, I’m really trying to stay in touch with drawing from life, as to avoid falling back on the same solutions over and over. One of my gripes though, has been that they never use drapery, not because I’m a prude or anything, but it’s a great artistic challenge. Trust me, as I leave the house for my drawing sessions the word “boob” gets tossed out… a lot. “Enjoy your booby session”, “Show ’em your boobs hun!”,  “Have fun— Ta-Ta for now!” Blah, blah, blah.

Seriously, though, in lieu of drawing drapery, one of the best challenges is hair. Like drapery, it has it’s own properties, it’s thin, single strands, but it tends to form groups. This concept has been one of the biggest challenges for CGI animation (Pixar/Dreamworks). Early on many tried to animate thousands of single strands, but when Mighty Joe Young was remade, they realized that animating larger groups of hair, or planes of hair, made it look and flow more naturally. It can be a huge challenge, and inexperienced artists often make mistakes with it. They make it too stringy, and in a drawing that comes across as dirty and oily. The other problem is that if it doesn’t move correctly, you create the appearance of being caught in a whirlwind, with clumps going in all different directions. For me, it’s a challenge and something that I always want to work on.

The nice thing about the studio session I go to, is that there are several models they cycle thru, and a few who come in for a one off session to help out. I won’t include names here for safety reasons, but there are those I favor.

Two that I’ve enjoy most, I did so for how they used their hair; as it became a prop or even a type of drapery during their poses. Just as some models use objects to achieve the same thing, these use their hair. It’s not that theirs is super long, but it’s how they treat it. They know when to let it down, when to put it up, or how to arrange it so it becomes a another focal point in the pose. They don’t pull it back so tight that they drain all the energy out of it, but rather they let it set naturally and loose, to become part of the overall image. Like a pattern on a kimono in a japanese print, it’s not repeated everywhere, but when you see it, it engages the eye and feels placed with a purpose.

Recently, a new model came to a session, with beautiful Afghan features, and thick, jet black, hair. Again even when it was pinned up, she knew how to use it in her pose.

I must admit though, when she had it down, it quickly became a prop for her to work with.

And then there were the times she used it as a make shift veil, or scarf.

So as the song goes…

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy
Shining, gleaming, streaming
Flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka-dotted
Twisted, beaded, braided
Powdered, flowered, and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!

But it’s still a pain to draw!

Going back to NGA- undercover

September 4, 2011

Ok, those that follow the blog (yes, I know I’m only talking to two moms, a wife, a sis-in-law, one nosy lawyer, and a couple of ex-co-workers) will remember the post about my run-in with a rent a cop at the National Gallery. Despite that experience, I snuck back into the museum and attempted to do a little sketching. I kept to the main rooms, and tried to be quick about it. Part of me didn’t want to attempt this, but I felt I was only hurting myself if I didn’t.

As much as I enjoy life drawing (see previous post) my one gripe is that they never drape the figure. It would be so much fun to face the challenge of a robed figure. I know there are those who are against it on artistic principles – we’re there to study the form, you can’t draw clothes without understanding the form – Yea, but you also can’t draw drapery if you don’t practice drawing it either! Folds are organic and they never happen the same way twice. They’re altered by the thickness of the material, the humidity in the air, how the body is shaped, and the slightest variation in motion when creating the fold.

One of the things I enjoy most about going to the National Gallery is studying how the great, classically trained, artists resolved problems of drapery. By doing sketches the way I do, it’s not so much about copying their work as it is forcing myself to examine what it is they were doing.

Being fearful of another confrontation, this was more of a guerilla run into the gallery. Quick and straight to the point.

First was this painting by Adriaen Hanneman of Henry, Duke of Gloucester from 1653.



Notice the folds in the slashed sleeves, I’m not an expert on terminology of fashion, especially not of post-Tudor times; but it’s apparent that the outer garment sleeve is of a thicker material, where the under/interior shirt is of a lighter, thinner fabric. These are the types of challenges that you don’t normally get in a figure drawing session, and for illustrators, I think it’s incredibly important to know these differences. A linen shirt, a tweed jacket, and a thick wool overcoat, will not form folds in the same way, nor will they react the same when wet, or worn. Thick wool will make fewer, larger folds, and linen will make smaller, multiple, finer folds. It sounds obvious, but the visual contrast can be stunning, and when those same materials are wet, they are even more dramatically different in their response to creasing. Again, something you never get to experience in a simple, figure study class.

One of the best, and traditional practices in art is to draw from sculptures or plaster casts. It was a way for young artists, who couldn’t afford a model, to draw “in the round”. You could see the image from multiple angles, and therefore get a better understanding of how the image changed depending on what your vantage point was. One of my favorite sculptures to do this with is by Albert-Ernest Carrer-Belleuse’s Bust of a Veiled Woman, from 1865. I love this one for several reasons, obviously a beautiful woman, but I love being able to study the drapery from various angles. I’ve drawn this one many times, and will probably do so again. Next time I do, I’ll post it so you can see how a simple turn can change an image so dramatically.