A More Complete Drawing

On the Floor
Ball Point Pen on Paper, 5.5×8.5″

This is a drawing done with a time allotment of thirty minutes. The previous drawings were given a time allotment of five minutes. At the end of the time allotment it was not as complete as shown here. At home I added the dark background and the dark areas of the fainting couch. I also added the plaid pattern to the cloth on which she is lying to repeat the pattern from the pillow on the fainting couch. I then deepened some of the shadows of the upper cloth as well. Having more time to complete such details doesn’t mean I didn’t quickly draw the figure. It is always good practice to quickly place everything essential to the drawing a generalized manner. I quickly placed the figure, fainting couch, and the fabrics making sure I had enough information to complete drawing later. The pattern on the cloth and the pattern on the carpet are invented to complete the space.

If you enlarge the drawing, you can see the notations made during the quick, generalized drawing process. You can see the center line of the body and the face; the mark indicating the arc of the ankle of her left foot and the arc of the knuckles of her left the hand. It is critical to locate joints and to indicate the direction of the limbs. The joints are key to this as they are the points of movement. An anatomically correct stick figure can do that very well and express what the model is doing. By an anatomically correct stick figure I mean a stick figure with shoulders, a pelvis and joints; not the typical stick figure with a basketball head; a vertical line for a body with arms and legs attached directly to it. It usually has no hands and feet either. Drawing a naturalistic figure requires a naturalistic stick figure as a basis for beginning.

The initial, quick gesture lies at the heart of this drawing. It is just more developed than the drawings of the last post.



T F m
January 4, 2017

Gesture Drawing of the Figure

Five Minute Gesture Figure Drawings
Ballpoint Pen on Paper, 5.5×8.5″

I taught drawing for nearly 13 years at my local community college. I taught very a basic drawing to absolute beginners. Some of my students hadn’t done any kind of artwork since third grade. A few had never heard of the primary colors. I was immersed in drawing as a teacher but not as an artist. I rarely drew. Watercolor has been my primary sketch medium for over 20 years. I made a very concerted effort to be able to paint with watercolors without using any preliminary penciling. I felt if I was confident enough in my drawing skills, I could paint images directly and leave drawing out of it. Drawing is more linear while painting is more about shape. You can see the contours of these figures as lines. My watercolor figures suppress line for the contours of an entire shape. The places where the edges of different shapes come together are implied lines. These are edge relationships and the quality of those edge relationships can be varied. They can be sharp and crisp, or soft and gradual.

With drawings, the edges are defined by line and the variations of line weight which reveal differences in pressure. Greater pressure can indicate contours within shadow or places of greater distance. Light pressure or lines which disappear show a spot which is closer or an area in bright light as on the arm of the figure second from the left. The closer upper arm has no contour at all except for the one we read into the whole from context.

I started to make drawings with ball point pen to make a point with my beginners: You don’t need an eraser. Erasers, for beginners, inhibit the ability to build drawing skills. They are so worried about doing something ‘wrong’ or making a ‘bad’ drawing that they erase more often than they draw. Errors can be corrected in the course of the drawing process. I work the entire figure. Trying to draw from the top of the head down to feet is counter-productive. It’s better to quickly draw a generalized whole in need of correction than to try to draw the whole with no corrections from top to bottom. It’s not possible. If you can draw lightly at first, each time you come back to an area with your pen, a little more information can be added or a  correction can be made. A continuous refinement of the whole is the desired working method.

As one gets more skilled with practice, this can be achieved with speed. These four drawings were each drawn in 5 minutes or less. They are gesture drawings. The gesture refers to both the gesture of the model and the drawing gesture of the artist. A short time frame of 5 minutes or less demands generalization. You don’t care what the model looks like only what the model is doing. After a lot of practice, a great deal can be achieved in a very short time without stopping the flow of the drawing process with obsessive erasure for correction. Any extraneous marks can be subsumed by the mounting information that is part of the completion of the drawing.

This is a very hard lesson to learn. The compulsive need for detail at the start and the need to finish by creating a portrait are very difficult to leave behind. Leaving both behind is the way forward!



T F m
December 29, 2016

Drawing From Life

Ballpoint Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″

The title of this post has a double meaning. This was drawn as it occurred. It is not photo derived. So it is drawn from life. It is also part of my life’s experience. So it is drawn from life. My life. This my mother getting a haircut.

The beauty parlor is a good subject for art. Such places deal in fantasy. There are the images of young, impossibly flawless, Photo Shopped woman plastered up everywhere. Then the real people walk in the door and are confronted by those images. The contrast presented by my 99 year old mother and those false images is flabbergasting!

I remember seeing a show years ago with women who were competing to be Mrs. America. All were married and had children and were very youthful looking (of course). They had to be paraded around in swimsuits. In essence, it was a meat rack thinly veiled in the superficiality by a well paid public relations firm. When I think of all the courageous women who would not have met the narrowly shallow ideal represented on that show, it makes me want to scream!

I thought, “Why can’t my elderly mother be Mrs. America?” She was married to my dad for 63 years. When she married my dad he had the clothes he stood in and little more. She raised 4 children all of whom have been self-sufficient. All of us have maintained our marriages for long terms. She has been a wonderful grandmother and now great grandmother. So I nominate my mother to be Mrs. America.

T F m
April 11, 2014

Drawing on Unexpected Changes

Waiting and Dozing and Moving and Dozing
Ball Point Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″


I was drawing this woman at the eye doctor before the dilation solution in my eyes took effect. She was as antsy. She coped by alternately dozing and shifting the position of her right arm. Between snatches of near sleep she would alternately clasp her left hand or prop her head against her fist. I had already drawn her hand in one position when she moved into her other position. So I drew it again. That’s why she has three arms.

How else does one draw and acknowledge such changes and the passage of time? Picasso’s cubism provided a means for doing that. He really did acknowledge the passage of time by representing people and things from many points of view. It was a new metaphor for representation. Since the Renaissance the metaphor was that an image was to be a window looking out onto another world at a single, still moment in time. With Picasso, image became a flat object with snatches of the subject represented all at the same time. He was very influential.

The practitioners of Futurism took Picasso’s cue and ran with it. His multiple, simultaneous mode of representing the world suited their glorifications of the machine age, speed, and violence. They reveled in the continuous motion and energy of the modern industrial age. 

They had a dark side. They were part of a nihilist fringe who longed for a “cleansing” war. (That ethos was present all over Europe and in the United States.) They were irredeemable misogynists. Some were Fascists. 

Well they got their war. Most were killed during World War One.

T F m
April 1, 2014

Good Drawing Time

Waiting at the Dentist
Ballpoint Pen on Paper 5.5×4.5″

This man was a very good model even if he didn’t know it. And he wasn’t even absorbed by a cell phone! The fact that I could catch his hands says something about his stillness. He did move around a little but seemed to come back to this position. It was just enough time before he had to get up and go into the dentist’s chair. 

I have a dentist who is always late. Something always delays him. I have resolved to wait only 15 minutes for him in future. The only thing that would cause me to wait longer is some good drawing time like I had with this man.

T F m
March 19, 2014

Waiting Room

Waiting for the Birth
Ball Point Pen on Paper, 5×4.5″


My first grandchild was born last November. (Grand he is!) While we were waiting for his arrival, other people were waiting for arrivals of their own. Since I draw while I wait, I drew this young man as he waited for his new family member to arrive. 

People who play with their cell phones are such good models. They are so absorbed by the activity their positions do not vary much. Then, if they do get up, I can work on the context. 

I found this arrangement of furniture in front and the furniture in back to be, spatially, very interesting. I find situation in which the viewer has to climb over obstacle to find the center of attention to be particularly appealing. It’s such an interesting technical problem to me as an artist. It may mean more than that but I’m going to leave that to you, dear reader, to figure out.

T F m
March 12, 2014

Profile Portrait Drawing

Ball Point Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″


This is a profile portrait of a friend of ours. Of the portrait views, the profile seems to me to be the least difficult. This was done while sitting at the counter in the kitchen during conversation. I really like to draw when the sitter isn’t actually sitting. I think it produces a more naturalistic result. I guess it’s the speed factor again. Working fast helps keep the inner critic quiet. Working fast means there is no time to heed the critic. Getting everything down is all that’s possible.

I have been told that drawing people without their knowing is a bit of risktaking. Yes, I could make a mess of it, but so what? I just move on to the next drawing. I have an infinite number of drawings in me. Let them pour forth. My satisfaction with the result is of no consequence. The activity is all that matters.

I started doing ball point pen drawings to show my students that an eraser is an inessential artifact when drawing. I think it’s an obstacle to drawing as it encourages the notion that mistakes are to be addressed immediately. Rather, it is best to make corrections on the fly. Using an eraser only interrupts the rhythm of drawing.

T F m
March 2, 2014

The Allure of Pattern

Asian Screen
Ball Point Pen on Paper, 8.5×5.5″


I am a sucker for pattern and color. Since color is not an issue for drawing, pattern becomes the important additional element. Pattern seems to enliven the drawing. It renders a drawing more believable. If I can draw the pattern as it appears to undulate across the fabric, it helps give the fabric its form. It doesn’t matter what the pattern is. It could be stripes, or flowers, or plaid. Each provides the same believability.

In this case a white kimono with Japanese calligraphy is the fabric providing the central pattern. It’s loose gestural quality is contrasted by the rigid geometry of the screen. The painting on the wall behind her on the left finishes the geometry with a linear perspective. The space seems complete. 

In my previous post, I said that invented spaces seem unsatisfying their contrivance. This observed space makes the contrivance of the invented space more apparent. This has some alteration of my view, but as a directly observed setting, this is so much better to me.

T F m
February 19, 2014

Waiting and Hiding

Reading While Waiting
Ball Point Pen on Paper, 6.5×5″


It seems that waiting is such large part of of our lives. At least it has been for me. Waiting for family to come home. Waiting at the orthodontist for the kids. waiting for my usually late hubby. Or waiting for my usually late younger son, waiting for a response to e-mail, text, or voice message. Oy! waiting, waiting, waiting! I have almost screamed from excessive waiting.

Since I have made it a habit to take my sketch book with me pretty much wherever I go, waiting has been transformed into a time to draw. I keep my skills sharp and even come up with some nice pieces. Waiting has become more than just tolerable. This drawing was done while waiting for the eye doctor with my mother. While she was seen to I did my drawings in the waiting area. 
This man was coping with waiting by reading the newspaper. I think having a newspaper up in front one is also a good way to hide. Just prop the paper up in front of you and it’s your own little world. My drawing or someone else’s playing with a smart phone is not much different. Each activity isolates the users from each other. But the paper is a real physical barrier screening one from view thereby making the isolation more complete. 

I think the themes of waiting and self-isolation in a contemporary context are interesting to explore. I don’t know what will come of it but maybe something good.

T F m
February 15, 2014

Long Hiatus

Ball Point Pen on Paper, 8.5×5″


It has been since last June that I last posted on this blog. I have been posting work to my painting blog for most of that time. I just decided to do more drawings and I also went through my sketch book and found all kinds of drawings to post.

Also, since I became a Grandma, I am in thrall to my adorable grandson. He has taken much of my creative attention. I have been sewing baby clothes for him. He doesn’t need much now so I am making larger sizes for him. Besides, I just can’t help myself.

Sometimes it’s good to go back to basics. Drawing is foundational to an observational artist. When I draw all I need to worry about besides a certain stylistic naturalism is value range (light to dark). When I paint I have to keep track of hue, color temperature (cool, warm), in addition to value range. That’s a lot more to juggle. Without the complications of color I can concern myself  with just structure. The structure of this is merely the structure that communicates a particular female form. I would rather that it had included an indication of context but the time allotted and the circumstances of the drawing environment precluded any of the surroundings. 

I have often invented a context in previous works but they don’t seem satisfying.  The contrivance seems to be too obvious. So viewer, take them for what they are. Fast studies. Having limited time is beneficial as it encourages a swift execution which forces one to just observe and draw. With no time for the inner critic to interfere with the process, the drawing can just happen.

More to come.

T F m
February 10, 2014