Thursday, July 16, 2009

Life Drawing #3: Line

Many of the students in my class know how to draw well already, but I've noticed that most have a rushed and sketchy approach. Either that or a heavy-handed quality. So I assigned the venerable "Blind Contour" lesson, where you draw slowly and carefully without looking at the paper. I wish I'd thought to photograph these results as they had a wonderful Picasso-esque quality. Then I relented and let them look at the paper for the rest of the afternoon, which in some ways led back to hesitancy, erasure and dissatisfaction. But the point is just to go slow and observe more carefully.

We had Poni modeling for us, a wonderful Hawaiian maiden with natural grace. Of course having a good-looking model can sometimes make a class harder since one then has an anxiety about doing justice to such beauty.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Portrait of Phillip Paul

Phillip Paul is an art collector whom I've known for many years. He has a nice group of works by Douglas Simonson, who is an artist I admire. Phil recently bought a big (3' x 7') painting I did of Hanalei Valley, on Kaua'i, and has been stopping by on occasion to make periodic payments. Needless to say I think he is wonderful. So I corralled him into sitting for a portrait. I'm not sure it's finished yet; it has a strangely stiff quality, like a Russian icon. Maybe I'll get him to bring it back down so I can soften it up and inject more life....

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Drawing Joe Lake

Joe was a wonderful model, a fine specimen of the bodybuilder's art. He put a huge amount of effort into the session, actually going through the strict dehydration regimen those guys do before a competition. Like all really superb models, though, he left me wishing that I myself had been in better form, equal to the task of interpreting and recording all that evidence of muscle under skin.

Afterward he was kind enough to assume the Lohi'au pose for my lobby painting-in-progress for the Princeville hotel. In exchange I did this big quick sketch portrait for him to take home to his wife Fawnette. As John Singer Sargent once famously said, "A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Life Drawing #2: Proportion

How do you introduce the study of anatomy in one short lesson? Personally I get a bit tongue-tied at the challenge. So I stood our model Neil up on a pedestal (sorry I forgot to take photos) and showed the classic proportional trick of using the height of the head as a measuring device. Adult humans are generally about 7.5 head heights tall, but if you want to make them look heroic you make them 8. In other words you make the head smaller, for whatever that says about our concept of heroes.

Oddly enough I got different head heights when I turned Neil to different angles. I hate when that happens. I guess it has to do with how the measurement is taken in the first place, and a one-inch change makes a big difference over the course of the whole body.

Next week: LINE; I'm looking for an interesting, maybe voluptuous model with whom we can trace outlines in a sensitive manner, in soft pencil on white paper.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Morgan saves the Day

Our scheduled model Wailana did not show up and so we pressed our youngest prettiest member into service as a substitute model. She had never done it before but likes to do new things, and as it turned out she was a natural. So beautiful and graceful that Matisse for sure would have loved to draw her!

Our model for next Saturday is a great and very well developed body builder named Joe, and so I am thinking of changing my plan for our Thursday afternoon class. I think I will lead a crash study of anatomy and the way the muscles attach to the skeletal structure, to help keep students from getting lost in the array of fine bumpy muscles that Joe will present.

(Materials will be provided)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

First Life Drawing Session

I began my five-week life drawing intensive with an exercise in seeing negative shapes. If you can recall the coyote (from the roadrunner cartoons) punching through a wall at high speed, and leaving his exact shape as a hole in the wall, the solid wall would be his negative shape. These can be very helpful in composing a drawing, and getting the shape of the body to fall into place on the paper.

So I cut some large cardboard frames, and had Neil model on a table behind them so you could only see parts of his body, surrounded by various-shaped glimpses of the white wall behind. Then I had the students draw that rectangle in careful perspective (a challenge in itself!) and then sketch the white areas in white conte. As the group struggled with this concept I berated myself over a really bad way to start the class, but by the end of the 2 1/2 hours they were getting it and producing some great drawings! And overall they agreed that it was a helpful lesson.

Next week I plan to review the gesture drawing and why it is part of our usual life drawing practice. I'll also give a quick review of anatomy and human proportions.

Register for this class (Thursday afternoons for the month of July) by calling me at 965-7642! Or email me at

We also have a non-instructional session Saturday mornings at my studio from 9-11:30 AM, model fee by donation.