Teaching Drawing: Demo Portrait

Portrait of Tom
Graphite in Paper, 8×5″
This is Tom, a former student of mine who models for my life drawing class now. It is nearly midterm. I have recently presented to my class the anatomy of the head and shoulders. So this is what I drew while they drew. I have to stay out of their hair somehow. 
Most beginning figure drawers are terrified of hands, feet, and facial features. The only way to get over that is to draw hands, feet, and facial features early on. In knowing that practice is the route to skill, not having unrealistic expectations also makes the process less daunting. Practice for excellence, not perfection. Whatever the hell is perfection, anyway?
I always have the feeling that I am flying by the seat of my pants when I teach this course. It seems much more fluid in terms of levels of skill. I have to be prepared to revise my plans depending on skill levels and degree of progress. I find my figure students are much more skilled and, gratefully, much more dedicated than my basic drawing students. I think that is as it should be. Figure drawers/painters are usually more practiced and, as a natural consequence of that, more dedicated to developing their abilities. If someone has worked enough to have a certain degree of skill, it is evidence of an equal degree of dedication and work. Repetition is the key to learning. If a student does not have the determination to learn from a lot of failure, that student gives up in frustration. 
What I consider my favorite work is no more than 10% of my production. Another 20% might be acceptable for show. That means the remaining 70% is tucked away or culled in my annual clean out of work. (I have only so much space to store my stuff.) Some work is saved because it has a certain resonance for me in that it has a certain importance for my future work. It may never be shown but I save it as a document of my process.

T F m
February 28, 2013

Teaching Painting Demo: Painting

Fast Portrait
Oil on Linen Panel, 16×12″
This is a demonstration piece done in class last semester to show some of the techniques I learned from Doug Braithwaite at a workshop in Utah. He begins with a dark under painting using a very thinly applied layer of paint. He then wipes away the areas to be lighter in value until the image appears as a study with a complete value range. Then he begins painting in layers of increasing stages of viscosity. I used a dark violet, as did he, but I imagine any dark color that won’t contaminate the layers of color on top will do.

I think this is a much better approach than making a linear sketch. It provides so much more information. A linear sketch soon gets lost in the painting process and gives no direction in terms of value. Having a complete value study with a full value range has all the information for a finished product. 

This was done over two class periods of about two hours each. Class is two hours and forty minutes. Setting up and cleaning up take up the rest of the time. It usually takes me twice as long for these. Hence the roughness of it.

T F m
February 17, 2013

Painting from a New Model

First Pose
Watercolor on Masa Paper, 10.5×7.5″

This is the very first pose, as a model, for this beautiful young woman. And a very good model she is. I have always believed that the model is a collaborator in the creation of a work. As such, models deserve some credit and the greatest respect for what they do. I always try to take the best care of my models possible. Some models inspire a ho-hum and some models make one cheer as they walk in the door. Posing in the nude exposes more than skin. One is at their most vulnerable without clothing. Some models reveal something of themselves beyond the superficial. Some models do not. 

I have had models who were not emotionally present and even though she or he might have been beautiful, that je ne c’est quoi was not there. It’s the I-don’t-know-what, that makes that person a person for whom it is making a work of art is possible. This woman has the I-don’t-know-what. I knew it the moment she took this pose and 15 minutes later I created this watercolor. Each time I encounter her she will have me glad she came in the door and I will make my most satisfying work.

T F m
February 7, 2013