Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Improve Your Painting - plotting the lights and darks

One of the early lecture lessons in Lorser Feitelson's painting class at the Art Center School was analysing how the masters plotted out the lights and darks in their paintings.
Who better to look at than Caravaggio.  Here is breakdown of   'The Crucifix of St. Peter."

Desaturated to reveal the grey scale

Reduced to three values
 - light - middle - dark

 You can rotate your value study 180 or 90 degrees and flip back and forth to isolate your view to lose the subject matter and concentrate on value spotting.  Does it work in all directions?  One quick studio method is to hold up a small mirror to your eye and view your composition while in the process of painting or drawing..The errors usually leap right out at you. See other example at Sundblom.

Let's use the three major values dark - light - and middle and work with them from now on to put together small thumbnail sketches.

 I have below some cuts from Ted Kautzky's terrific book on watercolor 'Ways with Watercolor' still available.
 I added the value blocks Foreground, Middle, and Background with the appropriate value arrangement to help you design the same pictorial elements you see on site (or photographic reference) and create an interesting painting.

I hope that simplifies the constant struggle to make your work better and better - when in doubt -KISS
"Keep It Simple Stupid"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lorser Feitelson and Harry Carmean at the Art Center 1960-63

Two teachers at the Art Center School during the 60's Lorser Feitelson and Harry Carmean not only had a heavy influence on their students but I believe on each other..

Lorser Feitelson giving a crit

Harry Carmean teaching a drawing class

This is a video of Harry demonstrating figure drawing from a master painting

Old school painting practice..copying the masters

Feitelson also advocated copying old masters after studying the composition and brushwork of old masters such as Frans Hals.
Frans Hals. Gypsy Girl. 1628-30. Oil on wood, 58 x 52 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Malle Babbe, c.1630. Oil on canvas, 75cm by 64cm. Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Below are the studies done in his class at the Art Center School.
(Close but no cigar) 
Valuable lessons in time management and brush technique.
I regret that I did not photograph these exercises with greater care.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

DIY Adjustable Drawing Table, quick and cheap!

Here is a simple and inexpensive way to get up and running in your studio space with a few simple tools and cheap parts...3/4" PVC pipe, 2 hinges, a few feet of thin chain and some scrap lumber.
The pics are self explanatory.  I'm sure you can do work-a-rounds for the hardware and use what ever works for you..

This drawing table can accommodate larger drawing pads, canvases, your picture reference, whatever and is very adjustable re: work angle.

You can fold this unit up and store it in a tight space and best of all it is cheap to make.

IKEA sells a table top (AMON) in white for under $6 and legs for about $15... You can buy one or two tops if you want a self supported separate table. 


Make sure that you dry fit the PVC first to get it square...I suggest that you leave it dry for while as you may want to change a few things..The legs as shown are about 10" (not including the elbows or rubber tips)
You can vary the dimensions to suit whatever you are able to come up with re: your current workspace table

The tops are apparently made in a mold with wood stiffeners in each corner to screw the legs need to stay in this reinforced areas for your hinge attachment or your screws will pull out.  You can paint the underside of your board and wood base if you find the bare wood unsightly..

Friday, December 7, 2012

The 8 best ways to improve your drawing

There must be a gazillion books and blogs regarding drawing but this series of posts is going to try to pull together and boil down the key approaches towards improving your drawing.
  1. Surround yourself with really good examples of great drawing.   
  2. When you look at your subject ask yourself "what is it the most?"
  3. Establish a vertical line (plumb line) mentally or even visually next to the subject.
  4. Find and fix in your mind the negative space or spaces that exist surrounding your subject.
  5. Understand what you are looking at...Think about the subject in the round or cross-section.
  6. Use your line or mark to express what you see..thick and thin line - straight and curved.
  7. Look for the opposite surface visible from the surface you are beginning to render with your line and consider that your new line will amplify the total form. 
  8. Follow the form surface with the shadow lines or texture.
The following books are highly recommended and cover all of the above in great detail..

The Vilppu Drawing Manual...(Excellent start and Art Center Graduate)
Bridgeman's Complete Guide to Drawing from Life

Loomis pen and ink



Paul Kley - pen and ink



Monday, October 22, 2012

War Draw - Ivor Hele - Aussie Artist 1912 - 1993

self portraits

Ivor Hele is one of those great draftsman that you probably never heard of...An Aussie that served in the war and chronicled daily drudge.. He was also enormously prolific and completed more commissioned works than any other artist in the history of Australian art. His front-line responses to war, sketched and painted for the Australian War Memorial, the portraits that won him the Archibald prize an astonishing five times during the 1950s, his exuberant nudes (Ivor and his wife swam nude at Maslins beach long before it was fashionable or legal to do so) and his magnificent landscapes of that rugged coastline south of Adelaide - where he lived as a recluse - combine to make up a prodigious body of work.
Read more about Ivor Hele here.

red crayon on toned paper

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fred Pfeiffer - Illustrator - 1940 -1995

      Fred was a close friend all through our training at The Art Center School now known as the Art Center College of Design.  We remained close until his untimely passing in 1996. We shared a studio in NYC for several years where he executed beautiful covers for a number of top publishers notably Bantam and Dell.  He took over the Doc Savage covers from James Bama when Jimmy left for Wyoming and a terrific second career as a chronicler of western life.

You can view an enlarged view of each painting by clicking on the image.

I started a search for anything that I could find on the web and came across an excellent dedicated site  by two true fans Courtney Rogers and Scotty Phillips.  I have been in contact recently with them and submitted whatever I had in my files re: correspondence, photos and anecdotes.  Fred had a great sense of humor and a very dry wit that could cut to the quick.  His life ended much too soon for all of us.

 I have included a few of his covers generously provided by Mr. Rogers in this post including this promo rendering from a publicity still which I animated.


 This is Fred using an opaque projector to transfer and refine the model shot for the cover below.
If you look closely at the projected image you will see Steve Holland with his foot on a few books to replicate the rock below.

 Here is the finish from the model shot (superimposed on the above to show the garment refinement and character changes to suit the storyline.)

original model shot

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Death Of Drawing?

   This recent article in the New York Times by Michael Graves
Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing - parallels a theory that drawing of any sort can enhance one's thinking process when searching for solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.  Making a plan... in graphic terms... block diagrams... flow charts... ie: a graphic list ... showing what fits and what doesn't... taking a mental overlay and translated to a visible pattern to discover what is not seen at first reading... (the negative spaces) - not just in graphic terms but what one may not have thought of in the original plan).  These hand to eye to hand tools develop the connections in the brain for problem solving and creative thinking.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

End of Part One

I want to thank everyone who I have worked with successfully and also those who gave me a hard time... without which I never would have learned to cope with the ins and outs of the commercial art world.
I am closing off all of the outside work and just deal with a few new inside projects.  Looking forward to new posts that focus on specific tools and advice that I hope will advance your drawing and painting skills. Emphasis on short to the point tutorials (often opinionated) that aim to get you there with the least amount of wasted energy.... See you all in the next post.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Whitney Houston Portrait

Offering for the untimely death of Whitney Houston... This small portrait sketch was created for a promotional several years ago that never reached the light of day...