Sunday, May 31, 2009

100 Heads: Head #64

Here is a copy of the Mona Lisa, made in charcoal. I had two purposes in making this copy:

  1. To improve my observation skills, and
  2. To study the planes of the face.

The copy is not perfect, but I am getting tired of making copies so I am going to call it quits for a while. Does making copies improve observation skills? I don't know. It improves skills for copying a two dimensional image. I cannot say if it improves observation skills for real life, though. Copying a flattened image is easier than drawing from life. And of course, copying, whether from a 2D reference or life, is not art. It is a technical skill.

For a change of pace, I am going to switch to more imaginative work in June. I plan to create art inspired by moody movie stills, study and invent costumes, and work on some sequences. I also plan to do a lot of sketching from life. Not drawing from life, as I am inclined to do, but quick & dirty sketching. I am also working on an oil painting in an oil painting class.

Here is my copy side-by-side with the real thing. OK, not the real thing, but a black & white photo of the real thing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Starting Over

Christopher and I got all of our unwanted oil paintings together and gesso'ed over them, so we would have lots have fresh panels. We went out on the patio on a beautiful Texas Memorial Day, spread our paintings out, and painted over them with Dick Blick Master Gesso. It is thick, gooey, and oh so satisfying. This is the first time I have used gesso; I will report in a future post how oil paint takes to the surface. The Gesso label says it is for acrylic painting, but my oil painting teacher says it works for oils too.

We left the gesso'ed panels on the patio to dry in the sun. It only took a hour or two. A few unfortunate bugs lost their lives on the gesso surfaces, but the thick oil paint should make the tiny insects unnoticeable.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Angel of Faithfulness

This is a sketch from life. No pencil, just a pen. I find drawing with a pen strangely relaxing. If I make a mistake, I let it go, cuz there no erasing. The drawing is what it is. This statuette is the Angel of Faithfulness from a Jim Shore collection. I never tire of drawing her.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

100 Heads: Head #63

This is my mom. I sketched her on Saturday. She was uncomfortable and was shifting positions a lot, so the position of her head was shifting too. Nevertheless, the sketch resembles her. She says I make her look like she is frowning. I do not think she looks mad; I think she looks thoughtful.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

100 Heads: Head #62

This is my husband Bob. I drew him last night, while we were watching episodes from Heroes Season Two. (We are always a few years behind on TV series.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

100 Heads: Head #61

This is my copy of a self-portrait by Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945), a German artist who specialized in print making and whose work highlighted the plight of the poor and oppressed. I used medium vine charcoal to outline the face and then used compressed charcoal for tone, on Strathmore charcoal paper.

In my last post, I mentioned I copy master portraits in order to improve my observation skills. Here, I was also trying to expand my toolkit of techniques. This portrait is an example of modeled drawing. Darker tone is used to push the form away from the viewer, and lighter tone is used to bring the form towards the viewer. The range of values do not represent the range of lights and darks that result from a light source shining on the subject. I like the exaggerated angular features and the way the texture of the paper is incorporated into the portrait. The resulting portrait is very expressive.

I think Kollwitz outlined the face in charcoal and then used a piece of charcoal on its side to quickly model the head. This technique is quick to execute, but requires great skill to do well. It must take years of drawing practice to get to the point where the tones are laid down correctly on the first try. My copy is 9" x 12", which I found to be a little small. I think a larger size paper would make it easier to vary the pressure and resulting charcoal tone in one sweeping arm movement.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of my drawing and Kollwitz's. I am going to try a self-portrait using this technique.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

100 Heads: Head #60

This is a copy of one of Rembrandt's self-portraits. The original is in oil; my copy is in charcoal and pastel. I used Winsor & Newton medium vine charcoal, Conte H, HB, B, and 2B charcoal pencils, and a Pitt white pastel pencil on Strathmore charcoal paper. Why copy a portrait? I am trying to improve my observation skills. If I copy portraits and consistently get a likeness, I know my observation skills are improving. I am also practicing my approach to portraits: Start with the general and work down to the specific.

I check my work by putting my drawing and the original side-by-side in Photoshop Elements. I learned how to do this here.

The likeness is not terrific. This portrait was not as easy as I thought it would be. First, older, flabby faces are tougher than young, lean faces. Muscles and bone structure help. Second, I discovered there are a large variation of values in the dark areas. At first, I tried to render the dark areas with a uniform value. It did not work. Third, the texture of the older face was a challenge. Rembrandt effectively used oil point to render the roughness of his skin.

I have a new appreciation for Rembrandt's work. His portrait is beautiful and so sensitively rendered. It is something to aspire to.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

100 Heads: Head #59

I did this portrait of my mom this afternoon. I spent 30 - 60 minutes on it. Mom was a good sport about sitting still and not moving too much. A perfect model. I still struggle with the back of the head. How big is it? What is its exact shape? I need to do more skull studies to internalize the shape of the head. In this pose, mom was leaning the back of her head against the back of the couch. Don't know why I didn't think to draw the couch.