Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

100 Heads: Head #32

These drawings are copies of a Leonardo da Vinci study for Leda. The original is pen and ink over black chalk. The first drawing uses a variety of sizes of Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph pens and an Ebony pencil. The second drawing uses a .01 Micron pen and an Ebony pencil.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Illustration Friday - Opinion

Although Mildred appreciated her daughter-in-law's efforts at hosting Thanksgiving dinner, she was unable to hide her opinion of the tofu turkey.

In the US, today is National Day of Listening. If you listen to National Public Radio (NPR), you hear a StoryCorps interview every Friday, where an ordinary American citizen interviews someone close to them. The results are amazing. Everyone has a story to tell. Some of the StoryCorps interviews are collected into the book Listening is an Act of Love. The results are in the tradition of the late great Studs Terkel. National Day of Listening extends the StoryCorps program to every household. So grab a loved one and interview them. Maybe Mildred needs to listen more and judge less!

This is head #31 in my goal of drawing 100 heads. This was practice drawing a character. What does an opinionated person look like? I went for an upturned head, pursed lips, slits for eyes, and raised brows. My husband says she looks worried, not opinionated.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

100 Heads: Heads 28-30

I am practicing head rotations. No, this is not a scene from The Exorcist. And it is not a mug shot. Rather, this is practice drawing heads in different positions from imagination. The grid helps me size the head and place the features on the face. This exercise requires a good understanding of anatomy and a lot of practice. This is my first attempt. I am not too good at it yet. There is so much to remember: the skull, muscles, planes of the face, standard proportions, and male vs female variations. I can't keep it all in my head yet. I am going to switch between drawing from imagination and drawing from life and photographs. Drawing from imagination tests my knowledge and skills. I realize what I do not know and as a result I start to observe more as I draw from life and photographs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rape of Europa

This is one of the most moving World War II documentaries I can recall seeing. Many World War II documentaries focus on battles, leaders, and military strategies. This documentary, in contrast, looks at World War II from the perspective of culture and art. In doing so, it makes clear the great human suffering of all affected civilian populations.

The documentary focuses on Nazi Germany's obsession with stealing all the masterpieces in European museums that it deemed worthy, and destroying all art and culture it deemed inferior or degenerate. It also highlights the contribution of European citizens, museum workers, and the US Army's Monuments Men in saving European art.

The narrator, Joan Allen, has a very soothing, calm voice, which provides a balanced background to the emotional content of the film. The film includes interviews with people who lived through the events, which adds to the authenticity and emotional impact of the film.

The film examines controversial questions and allows different sides to present their case. For example, is a soldier's life or a great work of art more important?

Perhaps the most moving part of the film is the look at restoration and reparation. There are still many pieces of art missing. Some may have been destroyed, but many are in a collection somewhere, waiting to be discovered. The film also highlights the effort of one German man to try to identify the heirs of Jewish religious items stolen by the Nazis; he returns the items to the heirs so they can be used in religious ceremonies once again.

The only negative thing I can think to say about the film is that it might lead the uninformed viewer to think World War II was solely caused by Hitler being rejected from art school and wanting to acquire a good art collection. But that is nitpicking. This is an awesome documentary with a unique point of view. Rent it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

100 Heads: Head #27

This is another portrait inspired by a Wisconsin Death Trip photograph. You can see photos from the book here and here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

100 Heads: Head #26

This portrait was inspired by a photograph in Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy. Wisconsin Death Trip, published in 1973, is a very, very strange book. I love it. The book provides a pseudo-scholarly look at the dark side of 19th century American life. It is a collection of Wisconsin photographs and newspaper articles from the late 1800's that chronicle suicide, disease, death, murder, and insanity. The book is divided by year, but beyond that, photographs and newspaper articles are random. The reader has no idea what photo goes with what article or exactly what the photos are depicting. Here are a few articles, to give you a taste of the book:
"Judge Perry sentenced Mrs. Ira C. Miller of the town of Irving to the Mendota insane asylum ..."

"The body of Mrs. Ira Miller was brought here from Mendota asylum on the early train Sunday morning ..."

"At Ahnappe 5 new cases of diphtheria were reported, and every precaution is being taken to prevent the spread of the disease. No deaths have occurred and the schools are still open."

I quickly tired of the articles, but I love the black and white photographs. There are family portraits, funeral scenes, advertisements, and individual portraits. Here is the photograph I used for my drawing. I was struck by the graphic quality of the image. Who is this young man? I can see his image as a basis for a Greek statute or for a 1960's pop star.

Here is one more photo from the book. In many of the photos, the humans are separate from one another. They remind me of Hopper paintings.

I have the book out from the library but will have to return it because another patron wants it. I don't know if I will be able to part with it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Illustration Friday - Pretend

Kids love to pretend. My husband took a bunch of photos of my son Christopher dressed up as a lawman from the old West, in different action poses. These drawings were inspired by these photos. The top drawing is a free-hand contour drawing (no pencil), and the bottom drawing is a pencil drawing inked over. I like the top drawing best; I think the lines are more expressive in free-hand drawings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

100 Heads: Head #24

Here is an attempt at copying the Mona Lisa. I didn't particularly like the painting when I started (too dark and dreary), but it grew on me as I copied it. I guess to know a painting is to like it. The model's face is fleshy, which makes it interesting to render. I think I am starting to approach achieving likeness in portraits, but am not quite there yet. Achieving a likeness requires precision, precision, precision, which requires excellent drawing skills.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Forger's Spell

I just finished The Forger's Spell by Edward Dolnick. It was a page turner. I got it from the library on Friday evening, and I finished it at 11:30 pm on Saturday. The book tells the story of Han van Meergeren, a Dutch artist who forged Vermeer paintings at the time of World War II. The book weaves together several threads:
  • The Nazi occupation of Denmark.
  • The Nazi obsession with acquiring (a.k.a. stealing) European art treasures.
  • The science and craft of forgery (e.g., purchase a mediocre, relatively inexpensive painting from the correct time period and paint over it, so scientific tests on the canvas will check out).
  • The psychology of forgery (e.g., Art historians really, really wanted to believe they had found a lost Vermeer. This enabled them to completely overlook the fact that the forged paintings were pretty bad.)
  • Art collectors' obsession with rarity over aesthetics (e.g., Wealthy art collectors sometimes want a painting so no one else can have it and for the prestige, not because the art speaks to them in some way.)

Rather than copying a known Vermeer or creating a "lost" Vermeer in the style of Vermeer's mature period, Van Meergeren created "lost" Vermeer paintings in a new style that could plausibly be between Vermeer's early and late periods. Because there are so few Vermeer paintings, there could be a whole period of lost paintings. The fact that so little is known about Vermeer made the forgery easier. Van Meergeren managed to sell a number of fake Vermeer paintings before he was caught. Interestedly, once Van Meergeren sold one bad Vermeer, it was easier for him to sell more, since they were all in the style of the first one. Van Meergeren essentially created a standard by which Vermeer paintings were thereafter judged for authenticity!

After the war, Dutch investigators investigated Van Meergeren because his name came up in conjunction with selling Vermeer paintings to Hermann Goering. He was charged with collaborating with the enemy, which was a serious charge. The Dutch investigators accused him of selling Dutch art treasures to the Nazis. Van Meergeren defended himself by saying they were forgeries, not real Vermeer paintings. Because his forgeries were so successful, no one believed him. He had to work very hard to get collectors and art historians to believe the paintings were fakes.

I found the discussions on the psychology aspects of forgery to be the most interesting part of the book. Overall, I recommend the book highly.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

100 Heads: Head #23

This is a 30 minute sketch of my 9-year son Christopher, drawn before our Sunday morning breakfast of homemade strawberry pancakes. Christopher watched an educational video about the Middle Ages while I sketched him.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

100 Heads: Head #22

This is my son Christopher, drawn from life. Sleeping children make reasonably good models. Even during sleep they move around a lot, but at least you can get a 10-15 minute pose. I spent 30-60 minutes on this drawing. Christopher shifted during that time, where upon I adjusted the drawing or drew from memory (which ever was easiest).

I prefer drawing from life over drawing from photographs or master drawings. I am finding, however, that copying master drawings is improving my life drawing. And if a model is not available, a photograph is better than nothing.

Christopher was a great help to me over the weekend. He loves to help with chores. He wanted to wash the floors. At first I said no; I thought it would be easier if I did it myself. But then I came to my senses. My son wanted to save me a lot of time and effort. Who am I to deny him the opportunity to be helpful? So I told him he could wash the living room floor (it is tiled). Christopher's response? "I've washed that floor before, and boy, was it fun!" He did a great job. I drew.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Illustration Friday - Wise

Mature trees seems wise to me. This pen & ink drawing is from life and imagination. I started with a real tree, but exaggerated the knots and bark to create a face.

My last Illustration Friday entry was in July. Wow! I took a one week break because I was overwhelmed by my job, and it turned into a 3 month hiatus. I love Illustration Friday, because it exercises my creativity muscles. I believe artistic development requires both technical skills and creative skills, and they need to be developed in tandem. Technical skills are required to effectively express creative ideas, and creative ideas are the whole reason for acquiring the technical skills in the first place.

I am back on the saddle, so to speak, and vow once again to contribute to Illustration Friday every week!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

100 Heads: Head #21

This is a copy of Leonardo da Vinci's well known self-portrait. This drawing proved an opportunity to practice bags under the eyes.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

100 Heads: Head #20

This is a 30 minute self-portrait, done in the style of the Degas drawing I posted yesterday.

Friday, November 7, 2008

100 Heads: Head #19

This a copy of the drawing Giovanna Bellelli by Edgar Degas (1834-1917). I love how the features on the left side of the face are suggested by masses of tone. This is a very painterly drawing.

I just returned from a business trip to Kansas City. I stayed up late Tuesday evening watching the election returns, and then got up early on Wednesday and did this drawing. Tuesday night was too exciting to do any artwork! Both McCain's concession speech and Obama's victory speech were moving, and it was wonderful to see excited masses of people celebrating across the United States. I am so proud of my country.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

100 Heads: Head #18

This is a 10 minutes sketch of my son Christopher sleeping on the couch. Christopher shifted after the first five minutes, so I had to draw from memory.

Monday, November 3, 2008

100 Heads: Head #17

This is a copy of the drawing Study for St. Bartholomew in the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519). 4B pencil in my Strathmore 400 Series Sketchbook.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

100 Heads: Head #16

This is a copy of the drawing Portrait of a Young Lady of the Court of the Infanta Isabella at Brussels by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). When I copy, I do not mindlessly copy using a grid. Rather, I construct the head using one or more of the methods described in books on portraiture and figure drawing. For this drawing, I put the head in a cube in an attempt to get the correct perspective on the features. I think about the underlying structure of the skull and muscles and study how the artist renders this structure. I also am studying the facial features (i.e., eye, nose, mouth, ear) and seeing how the artist renders each one.

I plan to re-do these master copies periodically to help gauge my progress.

4B pencil in my Strathmore 400 Series Sketchbook.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

100 Heads: Head #15

This is a copy of the drawing Portrait of Lute Player Mascheroni by Annibale Carracci (1560-1609). 4B pencil in my Strathmore 400 Series Sketchbook.