Thursday, July 30, 2009

Drawing 3 Started

With two drawings 80% complete, I've begun drawing three. After two crouching poses, I chose a standing pose for this one. The arms over the head were a challenge to work out. Crossed arms are always difficult to get to look correct and not like they are broken. As I worked on the exterior contour line, the legs and feet needed many adjustments. I want this figure to look like she is about to lose her balance, but not quite. She is on the precarious line between balancing the weight of the rock and having it knock her over.

This is approximately six hours of drawing. I've completed the contour outline and started the shadows.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Comparing Drawings 1 and 2

I have finished the first two drawings to about the same point. They are not completely finished, but close to 80% done. I plan to finish the six drawings at the same time. Both are 75 inches tall on gray paper. Currently they are both on display at my studio as you see them here.
Both are crouching poses, but slightly different. The figure in the drawing on the left (drawing 2) has been pushed back on her heals by the weight of the rock. This drawing has an anguished look compared to the first drawing. In the left drawing, the shadow of the rock cast on the ground is much stronger as the rock is looming closer to the ground. I am pleased how the foot stands out from the cast shadow. Also, the shadows on the stomach muscles came out well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Demonstrations Exhibition

The image above is one a did a few years ago at a creativity seminar with Andy Braitman. This figure study was done on 300lb arches paper. First, I brushed on watercolor paint with a 2 inch brush. Finally, I drew into the wet paper with white and black charcoal pencils. I love the drips! I have taught figure drawing for the past nine years and I show this technique to my students during final weeks of class.

During July, an exhibition at the Art Institute of Charlotte called: Demonstrations includes this and other drawings my me and the other figure drawing instructors. The drawings range from quick one minute gesture drawings to longer more details poses. Stop by the Art Institute and see the show! The show includes drawings by these great artists: Mike Watson, Rea Legrone, Roger Hicks, & Don Michael.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Drawing 2 Detail

This is a detail of the second drawing in my series called: Weight. Technically, I had to adapt the proportions of this figure a great deal from my reference material. In my sketches, I used pose books as a mentioned previously. For the large drawings (this one is 75 inches tall) I am using a model. I couldn't ask my model to hold a rock over her head for hours, so I had to take photos. So this drawing is based on a photographic reference. However, not entirely. Photos are a distortion or interpretation of life, not reality. So I use photos as a reference, but not gospel. I adapt my drawings: increasing the foot size, elongating parts of the arms and legs, etc. I do this so that the figure is correctly proportioned. People will accept things in a photo that do not look correct in a drawing.

Drawing 2 Begun

I finished drawing 1 and started drawing 2. The facial expression on this drawing is more pained. The first drawing the face had a neutral expression. As the series progresses I may change the expressions to become more harsh. The reason that they are not in complete agony now is a comment on our society. We take the pressures we face with a great amount of stoicism. We don't want anyone to know that we are in trouble of being crushed by the rock suspended over our heads! As I read the paper, I am amazed that our society works so well in spite of all the hardships faced by everyday citizens. Due to my background, these are American figures. Developing countries face more pressure than we do in the U.S. This figure is determined to overcome her obstacles.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Detail of First Drawing

I received a lot of support from people who came by the studio while I was working. They helped spot several problem areas. Initially the legs were to short, feet too small, and face to shrouded in shadow. Thanks for the critique! Many of my students dread critiques; I welcome objective suggestions! I stopped short of finishing the drawing completely until I have all six planned drawings complete to this level. Then, I will finish all six at the same time to gain consistency. Or at least that is the plan now!

First Drawing Started

The first drawing is now about 80% complete. I went like gang busters on this one. I had been thinking about starting this series for so long, that once I started I worked on it for two straight days. I did not get any progress photos. Sorry, I'll do better on the second drawing; I promise. On my way to the studio, I looked at the hardware store for a door and decided buying a new one was too expensive. I didn't know how I would proceed when I arrived at the studio. I was a little bummed, thinking that I would be delayed. As I walked into the Charlotte Art League, where my studio is located, Bobby Underhill asked me if I had any use for the old door her husband had just removed from the bathroom! So, I rearranged my studio to accommodate the door and started drawing!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The sketch above is the last preliminary sketch I executed. I asked myself what would happen if the rock began to win? I like to ask myself questions and answer them in my art. My metaphorical person is losing the battle to the pressures of society. So, I drew the rock coming down a quarter of the way into the drawing. When I show the sketches to people, they like this one the least. After this one, I felt it was time to begin the large scale drawings. I mentioned a pose book for artists in a previous post. I looked up the title of the one from 1966. The Human Form in Action and Repose by Phil Brodatz and Dori Watson. I see poses from this book all the time, even today. The artist Mobius used poses from this book for his drawings in Heavy Metal magazine. The word repose is so nice, but not too commonly used today. Here is a quote from the introduction: "Artist have endlessly labored to translate the facts of experience into the realities of art." Is there any reality besides art?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lines and Shadows

One thing I have done over the years lead to the concept for this series. I try to get to my studio as often as possible. I usually have some painting or project I am working on, so I always have something to do when I get there. However, sometimes the spirit is not in me to work on the project that is pressing. So, when that happens, I work on my figure studies. I have hundreds of sketchbooks full of figure studies now. These studies lead to my drawing the figures holding things and eventually rocks over there heads.

For this series, I have decided to use a thick, dark line to outline the highlighted side of the figure. Where the shadow meets the edge of a drawing, I will usually not use a hard line and let the dark values do the work of the line. Because of the rock being overhead, much of the figure is in shadow. Also, the rock and figure will cast a shadow on the ground. But this shadow will be minimal and hopefully not overwhelm the drawing.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

Starting a new drawing is easy for me. I just start putting marks on the paper. Beginning a new series of drawings, however, requires many, many decisions. What type paper do I want to use? As with everything in life today, the choices are almost endless. I decided to use gray paper for my larger drawings. It is a light gray so that graphite shows up well. Also, I may decide to use white charcoal or color pencil on these drawings, so gray allows for that. I wanted a textured paper, so I chose one with a slight texture. I paint on rough paper and I did not want to use paper that was too rough. In the above sketch, I experimented with color charcoal or conte. I like this effect on white paper, but it did not look as good on gray.
The composition of each drawing calls for making decisions as well. In this sketch, the figure is 'winning' against the rock. She is pushing the rock up and off the top of the page. I will experiment with this choice in my composition as the drawings progress.
The number decisions we face in everyday life or as artists can become overwhelming. That is one of the weights we face in our society today. I wanted to limit the number of decisions I faced with this series. This lead me to drawings over paintings, to simplify the number of decisions I faced as an artist each day when I walked into the studio.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Concept

I just returned from my studio in the Charlotte Art League building. Today is nice and cool for summer, but it's still hot without any climate control. So, I have a lot of fans blowing the hot air around. I scanned a few pages from my sketch books. They show the very first concept sketches I made for this series. Pretty rough. The one with the rock almost crushing the person is a little gruesome. I may not do that one with any more detail. The more finished drawing is 18 x 24 inches on paper. I did not use a real model for this; I used a photography pose book. I have a collection of figure drawing pose books going back to the 1950s. I use the pose book for the general idea and then modify the pose to fit my drawing. I also went out into my back yard and took some photos of rocks for reference. My references Rock! In all my drawings I start with the line. I draw the outside or exterior contour line, then the shadow or interior contour lines. Then, I start shading, adding the darks. I draw the lightest shadows first and work from light to dark. As I draw, I gradually use darker and softer pencils. I usually begin with a B pencil and end up using a 6B or 7B pencil to finish the darkest shadows. Notice the line boarders around the edge of the paper on the more finished drawing. I will use that element in the larger drawings as well. Also, notice the ropes tying the person to the paper or ground. I don't think I will use that idea in the larger drawings.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Series of Drawings

Hello! I've earned a sabbatical from teaching full time at the Art Institute of Charlotte. So for the next ten weeks I will teach classes only on Wednesdays. I am using the majority of my time the next few weeks to begin a new series of drawings.

In my art during the last decade, drawing has been part of the process: the starting point for a painting. Drawing was not the final result. I'm returning to the beginning of the process for this series.

The subject of my drawings will be the human figure. The human form is endlessly interesting, leading artists to return time and again. I have studied and drawn the figure since my first comic book in 3rd grade. I studied the figure further in many of my art classes at the University of Georgia. I have continued to learn and draw the human figure as an figure drawing instructor at Ai-Charlotte since 2000.

My drawings will have a theme: the weight of society on people.

Society puts tremendous pressure on its citizens. The pressure to succeed weighs on the public and individuals. There is great pressure to consume as well; we are all pressured by market forces, peer pressure, family obligations, and demanding jobs. Instructors for example, are pressured to be subject experts, industry leaders, class room disciplinarians, administrators, and entertainers. If societal pressures are not enough, we also pressure ourselves to advance in our careers in addition to being perfect children, parents, spouses, friends, etc. In other words, we pressure ourselves to “have it all.”

In the midst of this weight, it is important for art and artistic concepts to maintain a place in society at the conscious as well as subconscious levels. How can art to address the pressure in our lives? How do these demands on me and those around me become art? Does art add to or alleviate the pressure? What metaphor can be used to show the weight on people in society? Who in society carries the most and least weight?

In this series of drawings, I will explore the figure and its role in the context of today’s pressure-cooker society. Through a series of drawings, I will attempt to address the above questions, reflecting on our society. The series, called “weight,” uses the figure as metaphor to explore the weight that society places on us. The series will, hopefully, be a metaphor for our lives.

I have drawn and painted the figure throughout my career. However, I have never undertaken drawings on a large scale. Large scale drawings will hopefully have greater impact on the viewer, but are much harder to execute successfully than small drawings.

So please enjoy the drawings and the process I will show in this blog.