For the last few months I have been obsessed with figure drawing and shading. I’ve been doing a lot of short, 20-30 figure studies and mainly experimenting with shading techniques using graphite or colored pencil. What I’m really searching for are ways to go beyond technique, and add story, emotion and meaning to my drawings. We’ll talk more about that in future videos and lessons. In the meantime, check the demo video above to see a recording of one of my morning exercises.
This is a two part series. Part 1 shows the drawing process, also known as the lay-in. Part 2 shows the shading and rendering process. I’ve also written a detailed text version with two high-res handouts in this month’s Newsletter.
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These drawings were done while watching the Daily Life Drawing Session #17 from the New Masters Academy youtube page. The images were timed so it simulates a live life drawing session. The poses are 1 minute (x5), 2 minute (x5), 5 minute (x2) and a 10 minute.
The medium I used are carbothello black pencil, smooth newsprint and kneaded eraser.
Life drawings part 1, 1 minute, 2 minute and a 5 minute pose (lower right)
Life drawings part 2, a 5 minute pose (left) and a 10 minute pose
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These drawings were done while watching the Daily Life Drawing Session #20 from the New Masters Academy youtube page. The images were timed so it simulates a live life drawing session. The poses are 1 minute (x5), 2 minute (x5), 5 minute (x2) and a 10 minute.
The medium I used are ballpoint pen, Strathmore toned paper sketchbook and white carbothello pastel pencil.
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Studying tonal composition is one of the ways I work on my painting when I’m not at an easel. The practice of observing and recording the world as dark and light shapes trains my eye to not only compose pictures but to simplify the world. This ability to simplify helps me to communicate visually. Even though these studies are done in pen, and marker, the practice of seeing in dark and light abstract shapes improves my ability to paint in any medium.
In late February, 2015 I began a journey to study Russian Academic drawing. I chose 2 of the most well known masters of the art, Ilya Repin and Nicolai Fechin. Repin was a 19th century painter who helped to establish a tradition of realist, academic art in Russia and brought Russian art into the mainstream of European and western culture. Fechin was a painter and sculptor who moved to America where he became an admired and celebrated artist.
My reason or purpose for studying these Russian masters was to satisfy a curiosity and of course, for the mileage. What I wanted to know was how these men thought and worked. ‘How did they approach head drawing?’ and ‘how did they execute their drawings?’ were the questions I wanted answers to.
In the next 5 weeks, I studied their head drawings almost every day. During that time, I was able to record 2 of the studies (see video below):
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For a detailed breakdown of the month long (36 days!) journey,read below.
Feb 22, 2015 – Day 1
I begin this journey by looking at Repin. I have been a fan of Repin for a long, long time. The West Coast / Reilly tradition that I inherited is heavily influenced by Russian academic drawing. So in a way, I was paying homage to the source of everything I had learned and come to love about realist drawing.
At first my goal was simply to observe and understand Repin’s technique and look. I love the way Russian artists draw heads and figures and how they approach form, edges and rendering. They’re use of straights and clearly defined planes is a hallmark of Russian academic drawing and that’s exactly the look I wanted to perfect in my own work.
As you can see in the image above, the first drawing on the left turned out o.k. The drawing on the right was not as successful in my opinion. The lesson I learned here was that it will be extremely difficult to reproduce the effects Repin achieved in his charcoal drawing by using ball point pen which is my current favorite medium.
To stay true to the master, it’s best to use the original medium. But I made a judgement call in the moment and on this day I paid the price for that decision.
Feb 24th – Getting Comfortable
As a look study, I feel these were successful. The drawings feel closeto the chiseled and hatched look I wanted.Although the drawings are emotionally flat and lifeless compared to the originals, I was starting to feel comfortable using the pen to match Repin’s charcoal effects.
The purpose of this challenge was to copy Animated movie stills for 30 consecutive days. This challenge was completed during the same time period as the 30 day plein-air challenge. Needless to say, this was a month of tremendous growth.
The intent behind this exercise was to study the color, design and composition from two of my favorite Animated movies, Kung Fu Panda and Puss in Boots. Of course I’m a little biased to Puss in Boots because of Nathan Fowkes, who was the lead color stylist for the film, and was also my painting teacher. In fact, I have to credit Nathan for inspiring me to do this challenge. He always credits his color skills to hours of consistent master studies.
I’ve also described my thought processes, color choices, material choices and general tips below for those who may want to take this challenge themselves. Scroll down to read more about the insights and lessons learned during this month of intensive color studies.
One of the best ways I’ve found to develop my skills is to copy a master Artist. J.C. Leyendecker is the king of hands in my humble opinion. He also has really sexy edgework. Not a bad illustrator to emulate.
If you like his work or would like to know more about him. I recommend this great book available on Amazon at a good price. Full of gorgeous pictures and personal bio.