Friday, April 24, 2015

New York Report 3

On one weekend in the city I attended a 3 day still life workshop at Grand Central Atelier.  Even though I have a lot of experience with still life, the instructor, Katie Whipple, caught my interest. In her mid-20's, she is already an accomplished painter and draftswoman. I like the intimacy and simplicity of her work. In the workshop I learned how organized and meticulous she is in the design and execution of those simple pieces.

When she showed us a selection of fruits and vegetables. I picked the Romanesco cauliflower. I have always wanted to paint one. Now that I have tried, I still want to paint one!

This was a preliminary effort. I hope this summer I can snag a nice one, with lots of pretty leaves, at the South Anchorage farmer's market, and give it the full treatment.

Thanks to Katie, I did a passable sketch. She helped me understand what I was looking at, since all the little fractals hypnotized me to the point of near blindness. With her help, I was able to see the essential forms. Then it was possible. Next one will be better!

New York Report 2

In addition to studying at the Art Students League in March, I spent time sketching in the Metropolitan Museum. For some time I have been fascinated by the figure of the Virgin in this stunning Annunciation by Memling (1465 - 75). Her face has a subtle expression of someone listening with utmost calm, unusual in an Annunciation.

After several unsuccessful attempts to draw her face, I sat on the bench in front of the painting and analyzed it geometrically.

 This is the result (still not quite perfect, but close!)

Most faces would not line up this way, but as I looked at other Madonnas, from the earliest icons to the Renaissance, I kept finding these proportions: long oval, long nose, small mouth, delicate chin. This face carries layers of meaning, century after century. Other depictions by other artist gradually became more naturalistic, but, even in this Picasso etching, the woman in the window with the white bird seems a distant echo of the ancient face.
Finally, another famous face. Here is a drawing of Alexander the Great from a Greek bronze bust in the Metropolitan Museum. As I stood drawing this I heard a lot of stories about Alexander. Parents, pastors, docents, teachers, they all had a version. Some were quite fanciful! I love the Greek bronzes, so much more lively than the most of the Roman marble statuary, many of which are copies of Greek bronze originals.

New York Report

I spent all of March, 2015, in New York city, where I immersed myself in studies, including figure drawing, figure painting, and still life painting. I also made several visits to  the Prints and Drawings library of the Metropolitan Museum. Here is just one of the many great drawings I got to see with nothing between me and it but a few centimeters of air. It's by Tiepolo, 18th c.

The librarians are wonderful, and you can request to view any of the thousands of original works they have in safekeeping. I learned so much by getting up close to Rembrandt etchings and drawings, works by Rubens, Tiepolo, Fragonard, Durer, Van Gogh, and Picasso, among others. I will incorporate my memories of those etchings and drawings in my own work from here on.

The weather was really cold! And I got the flu in my first week, with the result that I did not bring anything I started to completion. Perhaps that was as well, since the point of such a trip is to form new skills, not to make masterpieces. My main concentration was on rendering the figure.

If I had the time and energy the image above would have become a painting. However, the opportunity to work with this wonderful model over a few days was a privilege in itself. 
I got going with color on my next effort, below. With the encouragement of my teacher Daniel Thompson, who is known for his daring use of color, I let loose a bit. Sometimes less caution can be helpful, at least in terms of color decisions.  

My approach to color in figure painting moved forward with this piece, I want to do more experimenting.

I worked on the piece below in a class taught by another terrific instructor, Michael Grimaldi. Taking his classes has inspired me to make a serious study of anatomy. To that end, I spent a week last August at the Stanford University dissection lab, in a class taught by Michael Grimaldi and Daniel Thompson. It made a great difference in my perception of the human form, and I want to go back for more.

This drawing looks dark because I toned the paper with charcoal before I began the work. This was never going to be a work of art: it is  an investigation of the figure, its construction, movement, and relation to light. I would have loved to keep working on it for several more days, but I had to fly home. You can see that I was struggling to find the right forms for that left arm! It comes down to more study, more observation. Beside the figure is a drawing of the skeletal substructure to the pose, and another of the lights and darks on the model and in the background, with a dark-to-light scale drawn along the left border.

The models at the Art Students League are extraordinary. This young woman held this pose for 15 hours a week for 4 weeks! ( I'm sad that I only got to draw her for about one week.)

More about my studies in NYC in my next post.