- Lesson details
World-renowned painter Steve Huston draws a back view of a female figure using charcoal, conté crayon, blending tools, and erasers. Steve will take you through each step of his process, from a light lay-in using a stump loaded with charcoal powder to resolving all major forms of the figure in full value range.
- Conté Crayon – Black
- Alphacolor Char-Kole Square
- Alphacolor Soft Pastel – White
- Blending Stumps
- Sandpaper or Emery Paper
- Electric Eraser
- Plastic Eraser
- Kneaded Eraser
- Cut Paper Scraps
- Paper Towel
- Strathmore Bristol Paper – Vellum
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painter Steve Huston as finally acquiesced.
In this lesson, Steve will demonstrate on the back view of a female figure using charcoal,
Conté crayon, blending tools, and erasers. Steve will take you through each step of his
process, starting with a light lay-in using a stump loaded with charcoal powder.
After that, you’ll learn how to establish a clear core shadow in charcoal and then create
the shadow side of your drawing by scrubbing in a gradient away from that core.
Next, you will develop the major forms using halftone, core shadows, and a darker contour
line in Conté crayon to contain the volumes.
You will also learn to resolve all major forms of the figure as well as scrub
in the environment using dark tones.
torso just to work out the issues. We’re going to do a tight rendering with it.
We're going to use a selection of tools I’m going to show you in the moment. It’s a beautiful
technique that I actually developed out of looking at Sargent drawings over the years.
Let me show it to you now.
So here are our materials. We have charcoal, two different charcoals. We have Conté sticks,
the Conté charcoal sticks. I take an Exacto knife or any kind of utility knife and scrape
down until you get the tip into kind of a conical shape there. I always do a couple
of them because as I work there’s a good chance I’ll break one, and then I don’t
have to stop. Then I’m going to use Alphacolor. It’s a fairly inexpensive charcoal stick.
They come in various colors. Here’s white. They’re this shape when they come out new.
I end up breaking them in half usually when I use them so I can it as a nub and work.
This is going to be our workhorse for what we’re going today. It’s a really deep,
black, black charcoal. It goes down nicely. It blends nicely. Works great. So we’re
going to get our full values with that. This is where we’re going to do our finer drawing,
our little shapes, our lay-in even sometimes.
We have a stump here. You can see both are rather dirty.
They start out as a light gray and they get dirty with chalk.
All a stump is—you can see a little bit here—it’s
rolled paper rolled tightly and it creates a pencil out of paper so then
you can come in and blend your stuff there.
It’s a rendering tool and a drawing tool. I usually use
this to do my lay-in. What I’m going to do is when I need to blend the pigment that is already
there I’ll just attack it. When I need to add pigment I’ll take a little piece of
sandpaper (In this case it is emery paper) and just take my Alphacolor,
do that and dip into it and do my drawing.
I’ll also use the emery paper if I get the paper stained
with pigment. I can come back and I can erase it with the emery paper or a light sandpaper,
say 100 grit sandpaper or even it could be all the way to 320 sandpaper.
Anywhere in there is fine. So here is a clean piece.
Here is a little dirty sheet to use. I’ll work those as I need it.
The sandpaper erasing technique can also be replaced with an electrical eraser.
The electric eraser is a little dremel-type tool. Instead of a metal bit you’ve got an eraser bit,
and the eraser spins and blasts out that pigment. It basically abrades it like sandpaper. Then
we have our erasing tool. So we’re going to be doing the additive and subtractive method
today. We’re going to add pigment through these tools. We’ll subtract pigment through
these tools. We have just a hard eraser. You can use a pink or you can use a white.
The only problem with pink is you want to check them. Sometimes the pink, if they’re cheaper,
you erase on your paper hard and it stains it pink.
You want to make sure it doesn’t do that.
Most of the erasing is going to be done with a kneaded eraser. They come in little squares,
you buy them, and they’re like putty. You can work them around, and what will happen
as you use this is that it’s going to get really dirty.
What you do is you just pull it apart like silly putty.
You can even break off little pieces. Then you can shape them,
so you create a little finger to erase a little edge some place,
or you can clean up the edge so you’re not smearing. so you’re not smearing.
If I have a really dirty edge of eraser when I do this
on the page it’ll be putting down dirty charcoal rather than taking away the dirty charcoal.
The fact that this gets dirty as you work it is going to be very useful in our rendering.
When I say rendering typically we’re concerned with working with gradations. What I’m trying
to do then is get the gradation of values, whatever the pigment is. Whatever the medium
is, I should say. Whether it’s paint, say oil paint or charcoal, in this case pastels,
all those things. How do I create a hard edge, a soft edge, and a full gradation? That’s
basically how I control my medium, and so usually the hard one is a gradation. The longer
the gradation lasts, the more difficult it is to sustain. Hard edges most of the time
aren’t difficult in most mediums. It’s the soft and really the gradated planes in
space, forms turning in space that are giving us a tough time.
The last thing I have is a little cut out of paper here. You don’t have to have this,
but I’m going to show you this tool just as another choice. It’s a little template.
I cut just a generic S-curve here. What I’ll do then is I’m trying to erase the dirty
background that got smudged up against my nice clean rendering of say the back of the
hip or the knee or the cheek so something like that. I’ll lay this wherever it needs
to be, and then I will erase up to it. Notice this again is dirty. I’ll go over off my
surface where I’m rendering, and I’ll come back and I’ll clean up.
You can see how it cleans that right up.
So this can be useful. You don’t have to worry.
You can come up to the edge, but you might smudge into a rendering part or such. This creates
a template. It’s like the old airbrush artists used to use. They would use templates. You
can also buy erasing shields. You can usually buy little rectangles of different size.
They may come in different shapes. Back in the day when I used them they were just little
rectangles. Then they have cut circles, lines, curves, and you can use any of those
as a template to do the erasing.
So anyway, those are our materials. Let’s move those out of the way.
Put them off camera where I can grab them.
Then I’m going to get my paper here.
Okay, now my lovely paper here.
I’ve got one more tool. Here it is; a paper towel. You can use chamois too. Now,
the problem with chamois is that they will only put down a certain—it’s kind of like
vine charcoal. If you’ve ever worked with vine charcoal you can’t get very dark with
vine charcoal. It’s just kind of a middle value. The vine charcoal won’t put any more value.
With the chamois is the reverse, well, not really the reverse. You put down a value
and then once it gets to a light middle value it actually wipes away any more pigment.
So you can’t get really dark with a chamois. So I just use paper towels.
They’re cheap, endless supplies. I’ll fold it up like this.
Then I’ll use my finger, this stump, and the paper towel a lot to scrub and blend.
I’ll show you—with this technique we’re
going to do you have to be very aggressive, really work that pigment into the paper and
blend it in across the paper. You can’t, it’s not a light touch kind of technique.
It’s a very physical technique and it’ll wear out your fingers sometimes rubbing so
much if you’re doing a big painting or a big drawing, I should say. So I’ll use that.
So there’s the last tool. Those are my tools.
Let’s get started. Here is my reference. I just cropped in on it so we could just do
a section. That’s what I’d suggest in this demo for you when you’re first learning
the technique. Don’t try and do a full figure with fingers and toes and likenesses and stuff.
Just pick a section of the body or even a little still life, eggs or something like that.
Just draw simple shapes learning to create the rendered gradation. What’s light?
What’s shadow? Halftone, all that good stuff. Work out the mechanics of it and then get
more ambitious of the subject matter after you get control of the technique. So we’re
going a little bit of that. I’m just really working with the torso for the most part.
We’re just going to get those several forms working together
and see what we can do in terms of putting down
something that’s lovely and nice and fun to play with.
This is a fun technique. I really enjoy doing it.
Notice I’ve got my stump here. You can also do it with a little Conté, but that creates
little lines that grab. It cuts into the surface a little bit more.
It’s a little bit harder to erase if it’s something you need to get rid of. This stump—nice light, ghostly...
sketch and it doesn’t create any problems later. As I work, or as I said, you need to be quite
aggressive as you’re rendering those values. You’re going to lose your construction.
You’ll want to come back and rediscover it a few times as you go. You want to lose
your construction. You don’t want to be rendering around your construction lines.
It’s going to be like a paint-by-numbers, and the work is going to suffer. You need
to draw through, work over, let it get lost and found. Trust yourself that you can find
that hip or that eye socket again if you need it.
So you just take a moment to lay this in like I would in a 5-minute figure drawing class,
just sketching in the basic shapes, not trying to render anything. I’m not drawing a contour.
I’m not even drawing a simplified contour. I’m drawing a constructed shape instead
of all that stuff, instead of that anatomy.
I’ve got that off camera a little bit.
Each time I’m just dabbing into that and picking up that major structure.
Here's the triangular shape, kind of a sailboat shape in a way of the shoulder blade.
Pick up the simple shadow shape.
Here’s the oblique, the spare tire muscle that is prominent on the male
and creates the upper pad of the hip of the female oftentimes, especially in this area
where we’ve got the rib cage and the pelvis
binding up at that point, a little bit of compression going on.
That makes that ball of form pop out.
Those little things are really fun to render with this technique.
You can take your time on it, but don't take the time to refine it much. Keep it fairly crude.
These things I almost always correct as I go. I don’t want to get too exact.
You fall in love with it and you don’t want to change it, and you kind of draw around it rather
than using it and abusing it as it should be. It’s a tool to be used. It shouldn’t
be something that’s sacrosanct, that’s precious.
At the beginning of your work you don’t want precious.
You want useful.
When it outlives its usefulness I move on.
I change it. I remove it.
Okay, so that gets me started.
lay in in line looks very different when you add value and/or color to it. I want to be
ready to change the shapes of this. All these connections are just vaguely put in. This
clearly needs a little bit of work on it and stuff. That kind of stuff I’m not worried
about. I don’t want to get too precise with it personally. I will draw as I go, and I’ll
correct as I go. A full-volume egg for that hip is going to look very different and have
a different aesthetic need, let’s call it, kind of fancy words for saying it’s going
to look wrong maybe when I render that in tone when it looks okay in line.
So when I start adding full values of core shadow, knocking down those shadows dark,
all that kind of stuff, I need to be flexible. I want to make it a little bigger, a little
smaller, shift things around. Squeeze that hip structure up a little bit or bring that
maybe the shoulder line down a little bit. It’s needed. This beginning is something
that I’m looking to change. I’m assuming I’m going to change it as I go. Where I’m
going to start, I’m going to start in the hips because it’s the easiest area. I have
two or three big eggs to work with and not much else. Eggs are a great way to practice
our technique here because we said gradation is going to be the biggest issues. Eggs are
a nice simple way, we have a short span of gradation from shadow over to the other edge.
Let me show you what I’m talking about. What I’m going to do now is use my Alphacolor.
I’m going to go not the edge of the form, I’m going to the core shadow. So my process
then is to draw one side of the form and the other side of the form. Draw two sides of
the form, two opposing sides. Not the whole form. In construction you may lay in the whole
form. But as you render just do the two opposing sides.
The reason for that is if we look at any particular form we’ll see that it’s long and narrow.
It doesn’t last very long this way. Even the torso doesn’t last all that long to
get from this side to this side. Notice what happens. Here we have contours on the side,
but if we try and think of this say as an egg, the top of the egg morphs into something
else, the bicep. The bottom of the egg blends into something else, the wrist. How it changes
from top to bottom is this vague morphine complication that we’re going to see clearly
that egg or maybe a series of eggs and other little forms. Basically, those forms have
define limits going across, and they don’t last very long. So we’ll work across and
down, across and down all the way through the body. So I’m going to work across and
down, across and up in this case all the way through the body. So, two sides of the form
then the shape of the shadow on the form. That is going to be my two-step process for
rendering. Two sides, opposing sides of the form. Sometimes you’ll end up with more.
Say if we were doing the top of the head, we’re going to crop the head off here because
it’s just a torso shot. The top of the head might have three and even four sides if it’s
a contained shape, say a breast, something like that, something that’s bulging and
breaking away from the rest of it. It might show more. But we need at least two sides.
Especially if we’re not understanding or if that form is morphing, changing from hip
into leg in this case. We don’t want to disconnect the hip.
We want to blend the hip into the leg eventually.
Here we go. Two sides of the form. Shape of the shadow on the form. Look what I’ve got
here. I’ve got a blunt end and I’ve got a soft rounded end. It’s not—I haven’t
shaped it. It’s just what it is from working. I’m just going to use—I’ll actually
use the more chiseled end. I’ll turn the tool against the stroke. The stroke is going
to go this way; the tool is going that way. With any tool that you use, if you turn the
tool against the stroke you’re going to get a softer, thicker edge more likely. If
you turn it in the direction of the stroke you’re going to get a crisper edge. Let
me switch to this. Softer edge, thicker edge; crisper edge, tighter edge. Those are going
to be my two ways to work. If I want a crisp, contour-type line I want to track the direction
of that tool in the way I’m pushing out that line or dragging out that line.
Notice how I’m going to turn as I go. If I want a soft edge then I’ll do the same thing,
but I’ll keep it at that orientation that way. That gives me my control.
So with the shadow, the beginning of the shadow is going to blend down into all that shadow
stuff. It’s going to blend back up into all that light stuff. It’s going to be characterized
by gradations. I want to do a soft edge that I can build out of it.
There’s my core.
If I were to now come and try and hatch in or blend in my core oftentimes you end up
starting with that white paper those hatch marks you can never get out.
So I’m not going to do that.
I could carefully blend it but that takes more time.
I'm going to lay that down strongly. You can see how powdery this charcoal stick, the Alphacolor stick is.
Watch. [Blows at dust]. It sits on the surface. Now I’m going to scrub it into
the surface. Look how dirty my fingers are getting. I’m going to come in and move in
the direction of the stroke. The stroke when this way. I’m going to stroke in that direction,
and I’m going to drag that tone back and forward. That way is going to be halftone.
That way is going to be shadow.
If I do that on this paper, and I don’t think I mentioned
the paper. If I did, I apologize, but I’ll say it again. This is Lana paper. The manufacturer
is Lana, and it’s 120 lb paper. You can get 90 lb or 120 lb.
I use 120 lb, but it doesn’t matter too much.
It looks almost like a watercolor paper or an etching press
paper, but it’s made for drawing. It’s a little tougher than those, and so you can
really work it. You can see as I started the gradation—see the pores? See that the texture
of the paper creates pores, and that looks very much like the skin tone or the skin surface.
Another demo I did in another lecture I used Strathmore paper, and I used the kid or the
vellum finish. Kid finish is a little rough. Again, it had that slight roughness. It creates
a nice texture like the pores of skin, like I said. More importantly, that textured paper
grips your values and allows you to get really dark. If you go to a slick paper, a plate
or hot press paper, those are so slick you’ll never get a really dark value. They’re fine
for ink and marker and things like that or for light tone, but for charcoal where you
want to get real dark and rich they don’t work as well.
Look at what I’m doing. I’m scrubbing along the direction of the stroke. My rendering
is always a zigzag motion. I start along that border between the two values, and then I
zigzag tight or more loose and painterly. It can be a hatched zigzag—or just a zag,
let’s call it—or I can be scrubbing it in. You can see now how I can work a tone.
You can also maybe see on the camera how the pores come up. I’m abrading that surface.
I’m damaging that surface a little bit. That’s quite alright because it’s not
going to tear on me like a cheap paper. You absolutely cannot do this technique on newsprint.
It’s just not going to work. It’s just going to crumble to pieces.
You can see how I’m starting to get the value in the shadows. I’m working shadows
first because that’s my pop. That does most of the work for creating form. The Chiaroscuro,
rendering in light and shadow. The shadow does all the work. If you get those shadows
dark the lights are light by default. In almost any medium you’re usually better off doing
the darks first. Now, I’m just drawing with a soft edge.
I’m just drawing my core shadow shapes.
You want to understand the forms of the hip or how to render form or the mechanics
of creating three-dimensional form. Look to my drawing lessons.
I go through all that difficult stuff in great detail
and kind of walk you through the theory of form,
how you create volume and all that good stuff.
All we’re looking at is getting that two-dimensional
separation of light and shadow and then scrubbing the heck out of it. Then playing with the tones,
as I’ll show you here as we ago, you’ll end up getting that three-dimensional look.
I’ll show you why.
So now I’m loading up the core shadow again, dragging it back. Notice how I can only get
so far before I run out of pigment. I don’t want to come in here and do it because then
it’s going to create—that stroke is going to show up, and then I’m going to have to
fight that and I lose my perfect gradation. But if I stay right at that core my gradation
is preserved. It happens naturally, doesn’t it? I’m scrubbing like heck.
You can hear it on camera.
And what happens is as I take that load of charcoal and rub it, it embeds
and then there is less and less left of the charcoal powder to stain the paper. As I go
then, less charcoal does less damage, darkens the paper less and less, we get a natural
gradation. So if you use that zigzag technique the gradation takes care of itself. That’ll
work in any medium. Oil paint: Load up your brush with the oil paint. Go down in the area
where you want the strongest statement of dark or light or whatever is on that of red
paint, let’s say. Then scrub back and forth. Zigzag and that red paint. They’ll be less
and less red paint on the brush. It will put less and less red paint on the canvas.
You'll have a natural gradation.
Notice I’m not messing with the light side. I’m getting
the shadow side. Now, I’ve got a form or actually a couple forms. Every time you see
a wobble or a stair step you’re seeing a new form coming into the picture.
Now I'm going to come back to that and feel the connection. I want this rhythm.
There’s a natural harmony, natural rhythm to art.
The music has its beat. The dance has its rhythm.
The stories, there is a rhythm scene to scene and from line to line. Everything has a rhythm,
how things are flowing together. That’s really the difficult job of the artist, how to fit the
stuff together. Anybody can see a dark and a light, but how the dark and light relate.
Anybody can see three or four pieces of fruit, but how those fruit connect into a still life.
That’s the difficulty in art, how things work together. So I’m constantly checking
the relationship. This is only right if it’s in the right relationship to these other things.
I’m going to go back to my initial two-step process. Two sides of the form, shape of the
shadow on the form. The third step was adding a value in the shadow. We did that.
The two-step drawing process became a three-step rendering process.
Two sides of the form, shape of the shadow on the form; give it a value.
Now, I’m going to come back to those two sides. I want to feel it in relationship right there.
I want to feel that part. That’s all of the ball I can see under that wobbly contour.
I want to feel that in relationship to this. Try to come all the way over to the other side.
Notice it can be a loose painterly line. It can be a relatively crisp or a very
crisp perfect contour line. Or if you’re not sure of that, or your style doesn’t
demand that, as mine doesn’t, really, you can come over and draw several little construction
lines. By drawing it several times you’re getting a feel for it. As I draw this I’m
looking over at that. As I draw this several times I’m looking back at that. As I draw
it several times I get into a rhythm. I get into a groove where I feel that area. Then
I’ll start eventually to commit to one of those lines, or I’ll decide they’re all
a little off and kick it over to the other side.
Let’s do this.
If we complete this with tone, you know, the two sides that I drew the audience feels that blended ball.
They’ll feel the connection. In other words, they’ll help you out. You did only this
much, dot, dot, dot; audience will do all this. They’re going to do more work for
you if you let them. They’ll do most of it.
I’m feeling this over here. I don’t have to commit and probably shouldn’t commit
to a specific contour at this point. I’m just trying to feel this against that. Notice,
and you can run back—one of the lovely things about the lectures on the site is you can
rewind. You can say, now, what he’s doing now I don’t quite get how that’s working
compared to what he did before. How does it compare? Rewind the tape here. Go back and
look at my initial lay-in and notice how this egg shape has refined from my initial crude
statement of it. My understanding is better. My intention is more focused on it. My goal
is more precise. It’s a better shape. It has a better personality.
It fits our problem better.
Now there are really two balls here. Two big balls. There’s more than that.
The other is the gluteal fold here, where the buttock splits into two smaller eggs.
Now, again, I wouldn’t have to draw that as a finish line. I’m going to do it here,
though. I want to say the best way to work this technique is to start at the border.
Drag your pigment off into the shadows to establish a shadow and a quite nicely rendered
gradation all at one. So it’s doing a lot of work for you, that initial statement.
Beyond that, you don’t have to do anything. I’ll explain the whys of that a little bit later.
as a dark idea and the light side as a light idea. That’s what I have to have. That’s
that Chiaroscuro idea. Beyond that, if there is information in the shadow you want, all
you have to do is do a line drawing. That’s what I did here. I just drew a line that showed
me the right buttocks. I can do a lot more than that. I can do a perfect rendering of
those shadows. I don’t have to though.
What we’re really doing, the why of that, what we’re really doing is we’re saying
that in my world life breaks down. The world breaks down into two basic values.
There is a shadow value.
And there is a light side value. If I define the shadows as a dark shape
with a dark value and just relatively darker, that’s not a super dark value, is it?
But it’s darker than that. A relatively dark value in the shadows. A relatively light value
in the lights. You get a box. So if you look here for a second. If I render or if I draw
a sketch, whatever I’m doing, if I make this thing the same value as this thing it
will look flat. If I give this a different value it’ll look like that.
So if I do that shape of shadow and give it its own value
and/or I do that shape of light and give it
its own value, it does that. The first rule of a realist painter or a realist artist, draftsman in
this case, is different value, different plane. If I make this side of the box dark and this
side of the box light. The audience will see that even though it’s flat paper. Remember,
we’re not creating form here. We’re not creating a torso. We’re putting down our
idea about the torso. The audience has the same or similar idea about that. They’re
going to understand through experience that if they see this side of the rear end dark
and this side light it’ll turn. Then we’ll just have the problem of not making it a perfect
box but rounding that off. So even if you’re doing balls I want you to think in box logic.
This side in shadow is all dark. This side or sides in light is all light. Different
value, different plane. If I start making the shadows the same or similar values as
the light, here’s what happens to my form. I might do a lovely construction of that form
or those series of forms on the figure. The audience won’t feel it if they don’t feel
and see that value change. Distinctly dark shadows, distinctly light lights.
You're telling a story about that form.
It’s like characters in that movie. The heroes have to be the good guy. Villain has
to be the bad guy. You have to establish that distinct moral difference in the beginning,
or the audience doesn’t get the drama. We have the same problem with form. We have to
feel the drama. We have to feel the distinct difference. In my world, shadows are very
different creatures than light side areas.
The form then breaks into a two-value system.
Whenever I render, I render in a two-value system.
There might be all sorts of aesthetic reasons. It’s really pretty. But functionally,
it’s that different value, different plane idea. Different value equals different plane.
If you look to my painting lectures you’ll see some
other formulas. This is a formula of nature. It’s a formula of perception.
Now, when I say that—let me put this in here. Local color—I might have a dark shirt.
I might have light flesh. I might have white hair. Those might all be different local colors.
Within that one object that apple, that orange, that nude flesh. That’s where we’re talking
about the different value, different plane and establishing that two-value system. What
about rendering? Because you’re looking at this and you go, but Steve (I can almost
hear you), “There are no two values in here. There’s a gradation in here, so that’s
an infinite number of values. What the heck does that mean?”
So let’s go over here and simplify what we did. Here’s the ball of hip. Two sides
of the form, shape of the shadow on the form. Give that shadow a distinctly different value.
In this case I’ll make it black or the closest thing to it. That’s what we’re doing.
Now, we have a more complicated world that we’re dealing with than this. That’s going
to be most of the case unless I’m working in a graphic cartoonist style or something
like that. What does that mean then? Once we start rendering, once we want to pick up
some of or all of the nuances of life, then the two value system becomes two value ranges.
Once you start rendering then I’m going to end up with two value ranges:
A range of dark values and a range of light values.
It’s just that simple… and that hard. Simple doesn’t mean easy.
It means that we’re reducing the world down into manageable bits, manageable problems
to work with. Different value, different plane. I want a dark value. I want a light value.
Now, why the gradation in here? Why do we need a gradation? Well, let’s do a quick
laws of light talk. I’ve got a couple different version of that information on other lectures.
One in landscape, which is much more simplified, then a very careful talk about it a drawing
and I think even in painting we have one. We want to know where the light source is
coming from. In this case it’s coming from the up and right direction, upper right.
We can use a little arrow or cone to show that. It’s important to know where the light source is.
Especially in this. There is a lot of glancing light going across that back. That’s
going to create issues in trying to figure out what’s light and shadow. If I don’t
know what is light and what is shadow I won’t know what to make dark and what to make lighter.
That will start to confuse me and that will confuse my audience. If I start to confuse
what shadow it’s going to leak, it’s going to be like a little hole in the balloon, and
your form is going to leak out. It’ll confuse your audience. They won’t be satisfied.
They won’t feel that Chiaroscuro in their gut, in their toes as they should. The whole
piece of work will start to fall apart. We want to know the direction of the light source,
and we want to know what is in light and what is in shadow.
Shadows are going to be dark things.
Specifically we want to know the beginning of the shadow. That’s what we defined here.
It has all sorts of names for it. I’m just going to call it the beginning of the shadow.
More specifically I’m going to call it the corner of the form. The beginning of the shadow…
is the corner of the form.
Now, it may end up being a very round corner. That’s not going to be a problem at all.
You can kind of guess how we’re going to round it out now, but I’ll talk about specifically
a little bit. Rounding that corner is no problem at all. The eye sees this.
Now the eye sees this.
The corner may round a little or may round a lot. The corner may not round at all.
That will based on the character of the form that you’re trying to capture. We need that
corner. Once I establish that corner and then give a value range, different value, different
plane two-value system. Give a dark value or a dark value range for the shadows, a light
value and light value range for the light. Then I get that pop, that fundamental understanding
of the form, that gut reaction to the form that I want from the audience as opposed to
a schematic like this where it’s suggesting. It gives the intellectual idea of it but you
don’t feel it. In art you want to feel it. You want that toe to tap when you start hearing
that song. You want your body or your soul to feel it. You won’t feel it without that
Chiaroscuro, that light and shadow rendering, that two-value system. The corner, beginning
of the shadow. The end of the shadow then we’ll just call the end of the shadow. Very
creative name. Or the cast shadow, end of the shadow.
So if it’s just a form in space like this is,
the end of the shadow is the end of the hips. If it’s a head up here,
let’s say this does this—We’re not really concerned with the head—then the cast shadow
might go all the way across the neck and some of the back.
You just do that for the moment.
There’s the cast shadow. Let’s say it finishes like that. There’s the end of the
shadow. We want to know the beginning and the end of the shadow to contain the shadow.
The end of the shadow is either on the form or casting off the form onto another form.
We give it this two-value system. Beginning and end, that’s all we need.
The light side is just halftone and highlight.
Anything that’s not shadow and not highlight we call halftone. It’s halfway between light
and shadow. I guess the genius who thought of that name, that’s what they were thinking.
Highlights we’re not concerned with at the moment. Halftone is everything that’s not
the highlight. Halftone we’re going to attach to the shadows. One of the problems we’ll
have is our piece of art is going to get spotty if we start putting halftones everywhere or
highlights everywhere or shadow shapes everywhere it gets spotty and messy. We want to make
it simple so I’ll show you how to do that.
Back to highlight. Highlight tells us how light bounces. If you see a highlight on a
ring, depending on where that hand moves or if the hand is fixed, depending on where you
move, looking at the highlight will move. Light is reflective. It bounces off that ring
to your eye. You see that bright spot. Same way with the shadows. All these lights hit
and bounce to our eye. Light is reflective. Light bounces. That means if light bounces
to our eye, to your eye, light will bounce off other things, say a wall or a floor over
here, and bounce into the shadow. We have a secondary soft bouncing light coming to
the shadows creating value. If there was no secondary light, no bouncing light, we’d
have dead black shadows. Your artwork won’t look as real if you make it dead black. Intuitively
they couldn’t explain this to you, but intuitively your audience knows there is two light sources.
There is the direct light source that blasts the light, the direct light source that never
touches the shadow. But then that light hits other things, the floor and the wall, the
chair, the environment, and mounds of sand in the beach. It bounces that weaker light,
that reflected, that indirect light back into the shadows. We’ll get a natural gradation here.
The core shadow will be the point, the border, the edge where not direct light reaches it.
The core shadow will also be the part of the light that faces less directly generally
to the bouncing light. The direct light is coming from above on the light. The reflected
light is coming from below and oftentimes from the left. It’s a reverse angle.
The form has turned slowly away and eventually at some point no longer receives light. We
call that the beginning, the corner of the shadow.
It’s getting no light. But now, that form is getting
no direct light source, but it’s going to turn down this way and
catch indirect bouncing light. So that relatively dark core shadow or beginning shadow is going
to get lighter and lighter and lighter as it moves into the body of the shadow as it’s
catching that reflected light. We get a natural gradation in both directions.
Let’s do a gradation here a little bit.
It gradates towards the light source as that form turns up towards the light.
It gets lighter and lighter and lighter. As it turns down into the shadows
it’s now going to get lighter and lighter and lighter. We get a natural gradation in
both directions. That’s a problem of rendering that becomes no problem at all with this zigzag
technique. If you start at the core it’s going to be the darkest shadow. Then I just
gradate back down, gradating in both directions. It’s catching no direct light source, catching
very little or no indirect light source. It’s one of the other, and we have that natural
gradation. So with the zigzag technique I drag down into the shadows and back up into
the lights, and I get a natural gradation in both directions. Because I’m building
my pigment at the core shadow that’s what makes it work. If I fill the shadow then I
have to come back and try and erase this back. It can be okay, or it can be a lot more work.
I find it more work. Also, I can ease this into a darker and darker statement so I can
come back and come over this again. I’m not going to do it at the moment. I can come
over this again and push it darker. But you can see how light and airy the shadows are now.
More to be said on that, but let’s move on.
Now I’m going to come up here and pick up the back. In this case I’m going to draw
to draw let’s say the corner first.
Again, I can feel not a blister starting, but I can feel
my skin wear out against this rough paper, so this helps nicely. You can do this on 400
or 500 Strathmore, get the vellum. Strathmore is a wonderful quality paper.
Illustrators have used it for years.
I’m not sure of a European equivalent, but in America or around the world for that matter,
but in America Strathmore works great. Lana works great.
Go talk to your art stores about a local solution to that or order it online. Go online and order it.
Okay, so I started at the corner in this case.
Now I’m going to come back and feel one
side of the form and the other side of the form. I want to feel it. Feel that rhythm.
Think of being an orchestra conductor, and you’re trying to get the rhythm, percussions,
and the brass, and little string and get in all those separate sections and all those
separate sounds within those seconds to all work together. That’s quite an endeavor.
That’s what we’re trying to do here. All these things are working in relationship to
all the other things. And so I want a process that supports that. So I actually do this
kind of rhythmic move. You can see the strategy now. I’m working across for a bump or two,
a curve or two. Then finish across and then move up or move down. Finish across, move
up, move down. Notice I could complete the form, all the rendering all the way across,
or I can just get the first biggest form or the first couple big forms and leave the smaller
forms for later. It doesn’t matter which.
Obviously, if you keep the big forms and don’t deal with the small forms you can plot the
whole thing out quicker and get a sense of the overall relationship, making sure everything
is kind of aligned and fitting together, proportioned. If you render across then you’re kind of
stuck with what you got. There is less room for connection, for finishing up. Also, if
you keep it simpler it’s a little more abstract, a little more removed from what you’re seeing
in your reference. It just depends on which way you want to go.
Just pick one. It doesn’t matter. It’s the comfort level, whatever works for you.
In this case let’s go ahead and do this spine. We’ve got in effect on the rib cage
like a shotgun barrel, a double-barrel shotgun we have two cylinders squished together.
We have a shadow coming down the spine. That’s one side of the form. That’s going to play
against this same side that I drew before. I’m going to use my soft edge and create
that curve. Then, same process.
Move along the border. Rub it in.
Notice that it's spilling over. That’s what my eraser will be for. I haven’t used the erasers at all.
I won’t for a while. It’s a little form that gets mushy like that where I can’t
get this crude tool in it I’ll go ahead and let the halftone have its gradation right off the bat.
In this case, this is a form that’s contained. It separates at its base here. This oblique
area, upper pad is separating here against the hips. It’s bouncing over.
I want to create that separation.
In other words, the cast shadow edge...
is going to extend around that base.
Notice I made that little mark down in the anterior,
and now it’s a problem. I’ve got a little variation there that may bug the heck out
of me. I have to get rid of it. It may be something that’s just painterly I don’t
mind. Or, it may be a problem, but it no longer is perfect as it was.
Now, let’s go ahead and do a little bit of erasing.
I’m going to take my kneaded eraser and I’m going
to shape it. I’m going to let it stay dirty because I don’t want to take very much off.
See how I was taking a little bit off. If it’s cleaner it’ll take more off.
This is scrubbed in, but it’ll take more off. I want to have to work at it. Notice that
it is a job. I have to really work and scrub on those tones to get them to gradate. I want
to have to work to erase too. The harder it is to make the change the more careful I can
make that change. The more control I’ll have over that change. It’s going to go
slow, in other words. I can see it’s a little too much, so now I’m going to come back
and blend over that and dirty up that surface a little bit because I don’t want this to
be as strong as this. I don’t want that to be as strong as that. This might be dirty,
need to go dirtier yet. That’s good enough for now.
Notice how this cast shadow formed distorted over that little egg, that sacral, it’s
the sacrum in there, the little sacral egg. Notice here I can find two sides of the form
on this too. One side of the form, that’s where the form turns, the corner of the form,
and I’m going to find the other side of the form way over here. Maybe I’ll make
a little bit of a mark. Remember in the shadow is just a line. It gives me all I need in
the shadows. I can do more, but for now I’m not going to more, and I may never do more.
Look at Rembrandt, Sargent, all those Brown School painters. A lot of them used line in
the shadows, and so I’m going to do the same thing. It becomes a shortcut. All the
rendering is where light meets shadow at that darker core shadow and then at the darker
and middle halftones. That’s where all the work, the illusionistic work, the feeling
of it being real, the Chiaroscuro is working.
Okay, so again I could stop there. Notice that this is open-ended. I haven’t figured
out how that finishes out. I have figured out how that finishes out. I can work on that
or I can move on. Take your pick.
Let’s go ahead and take it all the way across here. I’m going to draw a cast shadow edge here.
This is where the rib cage is tucking under from underneath the shoulder blade.
It caps it. It’s tucking under and binding against that little hip area. It’s tucking
out a light. It’s losing light, so it’s going in the shadow. So we have the base of
the shadow. That’s the cast shadow edge or the end of the shadow.
The beginning is over here.
Notice also that the end of this shadow is the beginning of this form.
Here is now the other side of the form rendered.
Now, I have a problem here because I started with the cast shadow which
should be a fairly crisp, little bit harder-edged idea. The core shadow should be that softer,
thick belt or core of shadow for the rendering.
But the cast shadow edge is fairly long.
I don’t want to do the gradation that way because I can’t load up that cast shadow
with a lot of pigment. It should be just a little accent if anything at the end of it.
Basically a contour line is the stylized way most draftsman will do it.
It's the way I usually do it.
What I’m going to do is I’m going to switch tactics. I’m going to take my sandpaper,
emery cloth, and I’m going to sand off some pigment off my little drawing tool, the Alphacolor.
Then I’m going to take my stump and I’m going to come right to that edge and I’m
going to blend it this way. Notice now with the stump since it’s soft paper it’s not
going to abrade the paper like a pencil using any of the chalks would do. But also, look
how slow that is trying to get that whole area up here is going to be a lot of work.
I can switch tactics again and use a paper towel.
Dirty up the paper towel.
I screwed up. I didn’t give us the beginning or the edge of the shadow, but that’s okay.
I'll come and find it later, and I can erase whatever shouldn’t be there.
Okay, so now I have my tone established, although the shape is not established.
Notice the difference between a strong shape. This is beautifully rendered, if I can say that.
We have these lovely gradations here.
Despite all the rendering it’s got to have a strong shape.
We have to feel where the shadow begins and the light ends. We need that accent, that core of shadow.
When you make that shadow beginning that shadow corner a little darker it emphasizes the corner,
tells us where the form is going to turn. That’s our two-value system. Where does
the form actually become shadow? Right there. Then the halftone will round it.
There is a corner. Halftone will round that corner, but we still need to feel that this is all
shadow. This is all light. We don’t feel that limit, the limits of the form, where
the form begins and ends in the environment, where the form turns in relationship to the
light source. If we don’t get to limits of the form it all falls apart.
This is showing us a value of the shadow. It’s not showing us the limit of the shadow.
Even though it’s placed more or less correctly, it’s not defined. It looks like smoke, doesn’t it?
The form leaks out of that. It’s not doing us much good then, so we have to correct that.
So let’s come back here for now. We’re going to now define how the cast shadow moves
down the hip. In this case it rolls down that way casting across just a little bit of the
anterior of the hip, anterior contour of the hip right there.
Look at how messy I got. It smeared out beyond it. I usually wouldn’t do it now, but just
so you can see I can stroke this back or take this harder one. See how dirty is gets there?
Clean it off so you’re not putting down a dark smudge. Every once in a while you’ll
get a really dirty eraser. Especially if it gets moist. If it’s a hot day working and
your fingers get a little bit moist then the sweat, which is a little oily gets on there,
and then when you make a mark it can stain that paper, and you’ll never get it out.
One of the things about working with the charcoal, look at how stained with charcoal my hands
are. That’s going to seal the pores. That’s not going to sweat out. So it’s actually
safer. Even though I can dirty up the surface it’s not going to stain and ruin the surface.
If it does then we have to go and sand it off either with a light sandpaper, fine sandpaper,
or our erasing electrical eraser that’ll buzz it out. But in any case, I can come back
and correct this. This might be where we want to use a shield, let’s say.
I want to get that precise so I’ll use my little shield, my little template here.
The thickness of the line will allow us to have slight imperfections.
You know, this is not going to track perfectly with whatever I drew, and that’s okay.
It’s close enough so we can work all the way along that like that if we felt the need.
Okay, so that’s that.
If I come back here I’m going to start, just like in my charcoal I start at the darkest,
where I want the darkest tone and then fade into the middle tones. Same way with the eraser.
I’m going to start with the lighter tones. Fade into the middle tones. I want to clean
off that, and then I want to dirty eraser to take less and less pigment off the surface.
I might need to lighten my touch. I lightened my touch there. I pressed hard. I put force
in at first and then I slowly lifted away so it was barely grazing. Barely grazing at
the end. I’ve started like this, scrubbing it away. I ended up brushing it back. Between
the tool getting dirty and my touch getting lighter, it did that gradation for me.
I come back and smudge the highlights back into the halftones a little more carefully if I need to.
Then this is pulling out here. I’m getting a soft edge.
A little bit of binding stuff in that tummy area, creating that.
We might as well finish this tone off. Now, when I
look at my reference this just kind of fades off and it just gets lighter and lighter and
lighter. It gets very hard to feel or see where the shadow actually ends. But as the
artist, you’re the one who has to decide those things.
You have those tough decisions to make.
I’m going to pick it up here. If you look you can kind of see where it ends
if you look carefully. But you don’t have to be super accurate with that. What would
happen if instead of ending it here I ended it here or ended it here?
Who cares? If I ended it way over here probably a problem.
If I ended it way back here probably a problem.
But anywhere in here is just fine. You’ve got room for error on that stuff.
So, beginning of the form, end of the form, corner of the form. Beginning of the form,
end of the form, shape of the shadow on the form. Same thing. Shape of the shadow is the
corner. Give it a value. Now this is actually not the end of the form. I’m lying a little
bit. That’s the cast shadow. This egg has cast a shadow over this littler egg. And so
the end of the form is actually somewhere in here.
You might want to make a little notation in there, a little line.
You can see it’s actually up there binding against those erector
muscles of the spine. So you can make a little mark like I did here. Make a little mark and
the audience then will feel where to begin, where it turns, and where it ends. That’s
a good story, isn’t it? That’s drama. Where does the story begin? Where does the
story turn? Where does it get worse or better? The major change, the climax of the story.
Where does that story end? How does it resolve? Good storytelling has a beginning and an end
and a middle that’s dramatic, that has a dramatic change in it. If it’s a complicated
story it might have several dramatic changes, which is what we have as we get into these
more complex areas. We’ve got not just one big form; we have two forms. We don’t have
one dramatic change; we have two dramatic changes. Here we have it again.
Here we have it again.
Okay, so it’s just a good strategy is what I’m saying to find the finish even
if it’s just a little—like that. Oftentimes I’ll do a little double mark, and that’ll
say that some form has ended and another form has begun. You don’t have to say anything
more than that. There can be some rendering. There can be a lot of rendering that goes
in to describe that in value changes. You don’t have to do that at all. Just mark it.
Okay, so that’s that.
Okay, halftone. Notice we’ve been using quite a bit of halftone because it’s glancing
light. That gives us that lovely roundness. Halftone, the beginning of the shadow turns
the form; it’s the corner. The halftone rounds the form through gradation.
Gradation is the big hurdle to get over in any medium. If we can’t gradate the medium we can’t
control the medium. Hard edges usually aren’t a problem. Sometimes in oil paint because
everything stays wet your hard edges get mushy. But in general hard edges there is no problem
in any medium. It’s the soft gradations and not even a soft edge is all that difficult.
But a gradation that lasts any length of time, a half-inch, a six-inch gradation in a piece
of art, that’s a lot. It takes a tremendous amount of work oftentimes to get that just
right. Gradations are the problem. We have a technique here then, and I use this
in every medium, that helps create the gradations. They don’t take care of themselves, but
they are easier than not, than they certainly could have been. What I’m doing also by
gradating and rounding the form I’m also attaching all of the halftones to the shadow.
That’s a huge problem with tight realist painters. They’ll have a big area here,
and they’ll have a shadow shape, let’s say. Of course, they’ll want to round the
form, and they know that on whatever level. They know that, and so they’ll create the
gradation/halftone coming out of it. Terrific. They’re right with us on that.
But then they’ll see the spine and the subtle breast bone and a little rib form and the six-pack
of the stomach muscles. They’ll attack these little floating gradations to get that extra
little bit of detail. What happens oftentimes is they can get too dark.
You're trying to make that little form turn. If I add more and more value it’s going to feel like it
turns more and more. If I keep it a more subtle value it’ll turn less and less. At some
point we’ll figure out if we go dead black that’s no good. But still, we tend to get
darker than we need to. Any little form we want to turn, if you want to make him a real
heroic muscular character, let’s say, or whatever is going on. You push those little
things darker and darker and darker, and it starts to look spotty. You’re better off
leaving those things out or making the little linear notation of them, or try and make as
many of those attach to the core shadow as possible. Work it out of the core shadow.
So notice we haven’t done any halftone that is not attached to a core shadow except here,
and it’s attached to a cast shadow. It’s coming out of the shadow. It’s just softening
the edge of the shadow. It’s not disrupting stuff inside. So that’s the best way to
use halftone. Now, halftone rounds the form. Also, it completes the circuit for us. So
if I’ve got two sides of the form, shape of the shadow on the form,
if I blend that out around the form, but if I blend that across I’ll connect the two sides of that form.
See how that’s created now a sense of the third side of the egg coming through. That’s
what I’m going to do here. Here this little pad pinches against this bigger ball, and
it binds up this way a little bit. Need a little construction line in there. Binds up
that way against it. So we have that upper flank, that ball pushing down. This lower
hip, that ball pushing up, and they’re fighting. They’re getting in an argument and squishing
against each other. They’re starting to separate in value. I’m not going to come
out here and start rendering. I’m going to come over to the edge of my shadow. I’m
going to push that way. I may need to load up—I’m going to look at my reference here
a little bit. I may need to load up that core shadow again to get the pop of value I need.
See how that keeps the cohesion. Everything is still attached to the shadows as I was
recommending. Now we’ve completed that ball. That ball binds up and starts to separate,
becomes its own character and starts to fight away, pull away from the horde, the rest of
the shadow, the rest of the stuff.
Look how, again, how aggressively I’m working. I’ve got so little tone that’s not embedded
in there. I’ve got to work really hard to move what’s left around. It doesn’t want
to move. That gives me more control. This actually softens. We have this similar argument
going on here with this little sacral pad. Okay, fine tuning. I can always come back
and load up that core shadow. I have more pigment to drag out. But keep it attached
to the core shadow. It keeps your gradations truer. You don’t have to fight them. It
keeps your piece from getting spotty. It has a nice, clean design. Notice now how I can
also make more sophisticated or scoot that shadow shape over a little bit. I just reloaded
that edge, the core shadow edge, the beginning of the shadow or corner, scooted it over and
wobbled it around a little bit.
Every time I get a wobble it’s really two little forms fighting, so that’s a place
where I may well see halftone sneaking out and helping to separate as I do there.
So anyway, that gives us the ammunition we need. We can take that from the core shadow.
That’s going to be our base of operations. We can make ever more sophisticated, ever
greater number, ever more refined. We can correct and adjust all the stuff that goes
in here or most of the stuff. At the very end if you’ve got a few floating shapes
you want to put in there, and you’ve got a good cohesive design then there is no problem
at all with that. Usually what we do is we go to those little things. We get seduced
into the little stuff too quick, and the big stuff suffers.
Notice if I want to give the sense of the ball of the hip separating slightly from the leg,
I can drag it out this way.
That’ll give a little bit of that form. Now we can do shortcutted—shortcutted?
Is that a word? It is now.
Shortcutted versions of this same technique.
There’s my line, carefully rendered contour or laid in contour as I’m doing here. Here is my other line.
Same thing. I tend to rub those, embed those down into to it too so they’re not so gritty looking.
Since this is such a buttery style, I don’t want this—you can see especially
if I don’t dig in on the line—I’ll dig in a little bit later—it gets real rough,
a real rough texture. It doesn’t quite fit into this. This has the pores that I like
so much. You can see as I scrub, there is beautiful texture on that.
I hope you can see that on camera.
But, this is too rough. It kind of overwhelms this soft buttery, it’s
craggy. Oftentimes I’ll rub it down a little bit. We’ll do a little more of that later.
Here is my chalk. I’m shortcutting this. I’m going to go right, just move quick to
show you how quickly I can go.
Working from the base of operations that is our core shadow,
working down into the shadows first, and this is going to go into that back leg eventually.
And then back into the halftone. Now let’s say this leg drops off in value.
It drops off out of the light and starts going into ambient light, from direct light to ambient light
to shadow, I can come off the surface where you can’t see and put a load.
Let's say this is off the border where I’m going to frame it. I can come in here and put a load
of pigment and gradate that whole thing.
Again, if I don’t worry about the background, the environment
I can always clean that up later. I can come back and clean that up later. Look
what happens. I really get aggressive. See how that cleans up but not real well? I can
sand that back. I’ll show you that in a little bit, or I can leave that. I really
like that kind of abraded texture. I tend to do nudes that are more passive traditionally.
But the work I do has an aggressive quality to it. There’s action. There’s movement.
There’s kind of a dominance.
There’s kind of a will to succeed, to fight gravity, all that kind of stuff.
of, I’ll build up paint in a form area and I’ll overbuild it way more than it needs
to be. Rembrandt would do that too. I’ll think of that as scar tissue. Here’s a little
scar, and that’s a little ridge. When it healed it keloided; it overhealed basically.
Rather than a smooth mending you get a ridge. The scar shows off. I’ll think of that thick
paint as scar tissue. I like things that are kind of rough and abraded. Life has a glorious
beautiful side, and it has a rougher side to it. Then we could come back and lighten
this. Notice I’m just stroking. I’m not pressing real hard. I’m stroking lightly
over this. Again, you can see how that the pores are being raised when I do that. That
can be a real problem, or it can be a real asset. For me it’s a real asset.
For you, if you’re doing a pristine, perfect piece. The three P’s; pristine, perfect
piece. You might have to be careful on where you get sloppy. If these needs to be perfectly
white you may not want to get any tone or a little smudge of tone and you can get out.
You don’t want to have a rough attack of the tone like I did here.
See how this now creates a gradation over the top of it.
I can gradate that all the way up so that it
is in more ambient light here. It’s going to be a brighter light there to set up.
Here is the sandpaper, or I take my electric eraser.
I’m actually sanding away the value, as you can see.
I can sand it more and more and more. I’m not going to do that at the
moment because I’m not sure what’s going to go on down there. I’ll show you later
where I’m going to attack it and actually wound, as in injure, wound the surface.
I got that idea from Jim Dyne, who in the 80s he had a series of figure drawings and he
would sand into them. They were fairly classically done. He was a tried and true blueblood modern
artist, and then he made a famous foray into figurative work. They weren’t classically
graceful work, but they definitely drew from those classical roots. He worked on a paper
similar to this. I don’t know what kind. Maybe it was the same even. He would use sandpaper
and sand back into that and actually destroy the form. Destroy the drawing in areas.
I use it to do highlights, and then I can use it when I’m doing a boxing drawing. I can
use it to show a little bit of violence going on in the action through a little violence
on the surface of the drawing. It gives a little concept.
You’re a method actor in away; that’s the way I think of it. A method actor is someone
who prepares for the part. They have all this background work, all this reasoning, all these
justifications, rationale for why they’re doing what they’re doing on screen or on
stage. The script didn’t give him any of that or very little of that. They did all
that research, all that justification themselves to get whatever emotion they want out of that
dialogue. The dialogue says what it says. The actor oftentimes will bring what’s called
a subtext. They’ll bring a different emotion into that scene that the dialogue doesn’t
suggest at all. Let’s say we have a family in crisis, and the husband says, “Pass the
sugar, please, honey.” That’s a very innocuous and maybe even an affectionate statement,
but the actor can say that in such a way that you realize that guy wants to strangle his
wife. He doesn’t want the sugar. He wants to get of the marriage. That’s subtext.
I’m always looking for that in art. I’m looking for a way to put down the mark, a
way to design the imagery, a choice of imagery that has subtext. It is open-ended enough
that the audience, better yet, the audience can bring their own subtext into it, not just
my subtext but hopefully the audience’s subtext. They can bring what they need into it.
Doing these kinds of things can be just a lovely texture. It is, to my mind. The pores
coming up is just beautiful there. It’s much more appealing to me than having a perfectly
slick surface on slick paper. This roughness that creates this slight variation to a relatively
perfect gradation is very, very cool. You’ll make other choices and you’ll see it other
ways than I see it, but that’s method, my subtext.
Now, there is a real problem with this thigh. Let me see; I’m hoping you’re feeling
it even though you didn’t think to say anything because “the teacher did it, must’ve been
right.” Usually the student defers and doesn’t trust their instinct on these things. That’s
a badly drawn, badly rendered thigh. It’s not finished. I’m not talking about finishing
it out so it’s more perfectly real. I could care less about perfectly real. Real is a
starting off part for me. It’s not the finish line.
The problem with this is two things: When I drew this side of the contour it looks almost
exactly the same as this side. Let’s go over here and draw it. I came down like that.
On the other side I did almost the same thing. See the symmetry there or the near symmetry
there. You don’t want near symmetry in dynamic forms. When you have muscle in an arm or a
leg, this muscle contracts. It contracts that form.
This muscle extends that form. The quadriceps
extends. The hamstring contracts. This is the biceps of the leg. That’s the triceps
of the leg, so the arm would be the same thing. They have different functions. They do different
things, and they’re going to be in a different state of tension. If one is working the other
one is going to be relatively relaxing unless they’re a muscle-bound body builder who
wants to show off all his muscles at once. In general, if the biceps is working the triceps
is going to relax. If the biceps is working that means it’s going to fight gravity.
Something that is relaxing means it’s going to give in to gravity. That means there is
a dynamic difference between. There is an active/passive relationship going on.
We want to pick up that dynamic difference.
Also, life is imperfect. It doesn’t oftentimes create perfect symmetry. If you try and draw
a face and draw perfect symmetry from eye to eye it won’t look like the person. One
eye is going to smaller. One eye is going to be bigger. One cheek is going to be higher,
one cheek lower, ears. All those things will be slightly or greatly out of symmetry, and
we want to pick up that. There is a balancing act between symmetry and symmetry that really
creates the beauty and the drama together. Symmetry is beautiful. We love symmetry. The
periods are symmetrical. A mountain is not. It has a general symmetry of a pyramid, but
then it has a asymmetry, and it’s frankly more beautiful. It’s certainly more interesting.
All of life, if you want to show life and nature, you’ve got to balance the symmetry
with the asymmetry. She’s on two legs but she’s leaning more over one leg than the
other. Let’s come back then and make these two contours their own critters. They’re
generally symmetrical because there are two sides of this tubular bulbous leg, but they’re
in a dynamic difference and they have a dynamically different function to them. Let’s come back
and pick up. Need to get a different—there we go. If you saw that—assume you saw that.
See that dark line? That dark line. That’s a harder charcoal. I just grabbed one, it’s
the Conté sticks again. This happens to be harder. It’s maybe an H or an HB. This is
probably a 2B. The 2B is going to give me a darker line. It’s going to be less work
to draw it, so I’m going to use that.
I’m going to work very hard especially as it’s cropped. When you get things cropped
then you can’t show their whole personality. If you only get one scene in the movie you
can’t really show off how complex that character is. You need several. You need a length of
time to do it. When you crop those lines in. It’s a little harder sometimes to show off
that difference if you need to.
See how that feels a little better? I’m going to settle in that line. Okay, what’s
the other problem? We had a symmetry of contour lines that we had to fix. Now we have a symmetry
of shadow. See that core shadow doing more or less right down the middle? Notice that
it starts in the middle. Here it’s near middle. Here it starts in the middle and it
stays that same distance all the way down. Again, that is bad design, and it’s probably
something you wouldn’t see in nature. There’s a dynamic twist. You can look at the bones
of the arms, legs. There’s a subtle twist to those. They don’t run straight down.
This muscle starts here. It comes over here. That natural rotation out—
think of wringing out a wet towel or a rope.
As you go down the form you wrap around the form.
The muscles and the bones, forms tend to do that. As we go down that form I’m
going to maybe go towards the front of that form.
Let’s get that settled in there so you can’t see the technique,
but you can see the rendered reality, if we can use that.
Can you see how that’s a little more satisfying. We start fat and go thin. It’s better design.
It evolves. It changes as it goes. That’s what we want life to do. As life proceeds
it changes. We change as people. Life changes in evolution.
Notice—dang, I screwed up there.
Having several lines is not a problem at all unless it’s a problem for you. You
can just leave that stuff, or you can come back and erase it. If you really dig in the
line the way I did, you’re probably not going to
get it completely out unless you sandpaper it.
Now it’s ghostly. It’s a ghosted version of that. I don’t have a problem with that
at all, personally. I kind of like that. We can maybe even drag over the finish line to
let that vary, let that ghost at times get darker and lighter, so it varies
a little bit. We can play with that.
This is a drawing so I don’t try and hide the line idea, and I don’t try and hide
them in my paintings either. I love line. Line contains forms. It’s expressive. It
has a personality. It’s not real, and what we’re doing is not reality, and so it starts
to show the process. It gives the audience and insight into the process.
For me it’s kinetic. I can show you a time lapse.
I can show you where that hip was a moment ago.
I can master time which is always an issue in art.
Most art tries to freeze time. That’s what impressionism did especially.
They tried to catch a moment in time. At this moment
the light hit that cathedral in just that way. Monét’s famous statement is you never
spend more than 20 minutes painting a scene outdoors because the light will change. They’re
not trying to show the evolution of that cathedral,
They’re trying to freeze that cathedral in time.
That’s what sculpture does, generally. Sculpture is freezing that moment of perfection. The
perfect pose with the perfect body at the perfect moment.
That is Greco-Roman classical idea.
and faster. So that’s part of my artwork is showing the speed lines of life.
Art is not the art of rendering the object. Art is a metaphor. Art is an idea. In other words,
what I’m doing here is an excuse to talk about something, about life to escape from
the troubles of life to show the beauty of life to show the dynamics of life. Whatever
the heck it is. It’s an excuse. The better artists, the great artists of history knew
why they had that excuse. Why they picked that thing, they had a plan.
They had ulterior motives.
You can see how much fun it is.
In all the years I’ve done art I still get a charge in making the form come off the page.
I make the big deal about talking about how this is just a flat piece of canvas or a flat
piece of paper. When you’re doing your work and you’re not really created the form.
You’re putting your idea about the form, all that kind of stuff. That’s what your
head says. Your gut says, wow, look at the come out at you. Look at that beautiful form
lift and separate and twist and turn and be in dynamic tension against something else.
It’s a glorious feeling when you put that down and it just pops. It just comes at you.
You can see here I played it up a little bit while I was talking.
Almost all the time you’ll start getting little imperfections in the gradations. You’ll
get a perfect gradation for a while, and then it will goober up on you somehow. Those little
imperfections, I’ll use some of them. Some of them you just say that’s in the way.
It’s an imperfection, and I’m going to get rid of it. It’s a flaw that attracts
attention to itself. Quite often they become little possibilities. I’m always looking
for that stress of life.
For example, as I started to render this down just by happenstance I got this cross-current
of tones. These hatching—and that’s natural to form. Form is going to, you’re muscles
are going to attach down the length generally of the form, but the dynamic tension if those
forms start to fight against each other the tension lines go this way. The wrinkles in
your leather jacket, the wrinkles in the wrist here. Wrinkles in the thumb going across.
That’s what that is showing. That form is coming down. That form is coming up. We have
this tension, this squishing, and the structure, the tension lines go that way. That shows
the stretch lines, the dynamic action that’s going on right there. Notice if I want, I
don’t really want one, but let’s put one in. If I wanted to get a highlight going all
the way down here. I could then come over that with the same strategy I used before
and put a gradation to that highlight. There are a lot of nice things about this. I love
this technique. But one of the nice things about it is because you’re so aggressive
and you’re so imbedding the tone into the paper then when you put on new things it’s
almost like wet over dry oil paint. You’re doing no or very little damage to your rendering
by doing something new over the top of it. I can come over this, and I’m not really
damaging this rendered area at all. But now I’m scrubbing a slight gradation onto that
highlight, letting the highlight move.
Okay, so you can see the process. We’re going to pause there for just a moment. If
you’re doing your own thing based on this or doing your own thing after you’ve seen
this or however you’re doing it, or you’re working on something and this is playing in
the background. Doing about this much is a good place to stop in your first few attempts
at this because when you have your teacher do something that they’ve been doing for
years you go, oh, that’s not so hard. That makes sense. I see how you can do that. I
can go do that. I can handle that. Then you get into it and you go, oh my God; what’s
going on here? I put too much down. Oh, I smudged that. Oh, I have to move that whole
thing over. How did he do that again? I can’t quite remember. You get flustered. You get
overwhelmed with stuff.
What I like to do is take a little egg. You can just make it up out of your head or put
an egg on a table cloth with a desk lamp on it. Just render and egg, or take reference
of a figure and just do one or two forms, three or four forms, maybe. Five or six forms.
Don’t do 50 forms though. Just get a few simple forms, a simple egg or a simple boxy
structure, whatever. Work it out. See if you can get a gradation. See if you play that
gradation all the way up when you put a highlight or a halftone on there. See if you can get
the nice soft band of shadow and work in both directions. Make sure you picked out the right
material. Maybe you thought you got the right paper or the right chalk, and it’s completely
wrong. You have to go back to the art store and figure it out again. Don’t finish everything
out. Just make it a study. Make it a progress report. Then do it again and see if the next
time you can’t do it a little better. Then maybe the third time or the 10th time you
take it further. Then do that again and then you take it further. What happens is you end
up that way with your own how-to. This is how you do this technique. You start here.
I did a few starts. Some I screwed up. Some look pretty good. I started again. It turned
out great, and I took it a little further then that one screwed up. I did it again.
Each time do it three or four stages. Then you’ve got three or four attempts, and then
you’ve got several stages of how you progress. How you move through. You’ve really kind
of codify that in your head. This is what you have to do to make that early stage work.
This is what you have to do to make that middle stage work. This is what you have to do to
make the ending of it, the end stage work.
At this point, I’m going to kind of reevaluate the lay-in of the shoulder to make sure it’s
where I want it to be. I’m going to come back and just kind of feel through, that orchestra
conductor bit where I play this side of the room against that. This section against that
and feel how they connect, how they make the song together. As I look at that I can feel
that the buttocks here should really be moved over. I’m going to scrub this back. I can
come and erase it out, but it’s a sketch. For me I like to see that kind of kinetic
edge. We’ll do some more of that. I’ll take that idea even further when we get towards
the end of this and talk about it a little bit more. Those kind of corrections I don’t
mind at all.
Okay, so starting on that shoulder. Let me pull this back a little bit. That armpit went
in there too deeply. Correct that and then come back over and hide that in the shadow.
It’ll get lost. I’m going to take my paper towel and really scrub that away. Not worrying
about it bleeding off. It’s not going to even be a charming part of the drawing the
way it just kind of bleeds off in there. I don’t mind that at all. I’m not going
to try and turn this into a full composition where there is a foreground, background relationship
where there is an environment that’s been carefully developed. It’s just going to
be a figure on a ground, and I’m going to put in a little bit of value in here.
The reference doesn’t show it, but I’m going to put in a background. Okay, now you
look at—let me scrub this before I talk. Look at this arm that I drew on here. I put
it down here and that looks fairly close to what’s up there. Then we look at the negative
shape. Then we say, boy, that’s a nice negative shape. Nice negative shape up on the reference
between the arm and the stomach area. In my area or in Steve’s drawing there is little
or no negative shape. I screwed up. The fact is I did screw up. What is down here is not
what’s over there on my reference, and so I screwed up. But is it a deal breaker? Does
it ruin it? No.
What you want to do is you want to look at the attachment points. If I’ve got my hands
on my hips here, or I’ve got to do something where the feet sit on here. It’s a guy on
stilts and the stilts are set. I have to get the guy’s feet on the stilts. The guys feet
and legs also have to connect to his hips. Let’s get it this way. We’ll do it like
this. We need to have his hips here. We need to have his feet there. I’m in big trouble
there because if I move the feet he’s off the stilts. If I move the hips he’s off-balance
or disconnected with the rest of the body. It falls apart. I’ve got to be very, very
careful to make everything connect. In this case, though, we have her model that has her
hands folded down way down by her knees. Her shoulder is where it is. The arm has to connect
to the shoulder. Wherever else it goes to, behind the stomach or behind the
hip or behind the leg it doesn’t matter.
You can say I like this better than that. You can change it that way. It’s not going
to be a deal breaker. So if I have hands on hips I have to get the hands on the hips in
a certain spot. I have to get the arms attaching at the shoulders at a certain spot. The elbows
can be any place they want. I can move the elbows around. That would change the negative
shape to make sure my proportions are good. The fact that the negative shape changed from
the reference does not hurt anything in that case because the elbows aren’t touching
anything. They’re not connected to anything. The arms flow through those and so that spot
can move around as the proportions of my drawing need be. We look down here and we say, well,
almost no negative space or none at all, something like that. I don’t like that. I want to
change it. That’s fine. But we don’t have to change it. Just keep that in mind.
We're going to leave it for now. Having said that I may well change it later. We’ll leave
it for now. The thing I don’t like about it is the thickness of the forearm is almost
in a perfect tangent with the edge of the stomach here. That’s kind of bothersome.
I’d rather have it well behind or opened up a little bit so I see a
sliver of negative space like I saw before.
I’m going to come back now with my stump. We haven’t used the stump much. It will
get its turn here pretty quick. Right now I’m just going to come back, get a little
bit of charcoal dust on there and sketch out my shadow shape here.
Pull that over a little bit farther, I believe.
Okay, now remember a zigzag means those forms are fighting against
each other. They’re separating out. Their own personality is coming into the surface,
literally, or almost literally, I guess. We need to then respect that.
The zigzag is a chance to show more energetic form.
Zigzags are very descriptive of form because they’re
stepping around the borders and crossing over the volume of the form. They’re showing
the volume as a rounded contour or whatever it’s doing. They’re moving around the
form to show the limits of the form. Once they separate, think of the Loch Ness monster.
The hump comes up and then it floats back down.
So we to find how it separates. That is that core shadow. The zigzag over the core shadow
is showing the separation. The shoulder, shoulder blade,
shoulder blade from the spine and the rest of the back.
Then it comes down into the ribcage...
onto the oblique that we already worked out.
and along that shotgun barrel of the spine.
You can see that beautiful buttery tone that I think is so beautiful and so buttery.
I’ll say them both twice.
together and binding at the spine. They don’t quite get along at the spine, and so we see
that roll of forms. I’m going to take my, let’s put that down.
I’ll take my charcoal. I'm going to take my stump.
I'll pick up some pigment on there.
I’ll turn it down so it lays, so if this was the paper surface this will lay here,
and I can get that whole breadth of the paper edge on there and make a thick line. I’m
going to do that. I’m going to turn this at a slight angle.
Looking more carefully at my reference there.
Here’s a little bit of a wobbly line to show these vertebrae.
There is an edge. We had a little leak in our form there, the core shadow didn’t complete
over well. That little bit of opening is absolutely fine. It wouldn’t matter. You know like
here there’s a little leak there where the cast shadow doesn’t come back and meet the
core shadow. There is the tiniest leak there. Those kind of little leaks don’t matter.
I’ll guess we’ll grab this again.
I’m going to take this up.
There's a little leak there.
Take this up.
Okay, now, here’s a little tone in here. This is where the trapezius
sits on top of the shoulder blade structure with all the various muscles in there, teres
major and minor coming across, that kind of stuff.
I want to feel that trapezius coming here.
I see a little tone right here. Let me just mark it subtlety right there. That’s
a floating tone. I have two strategies here. I can go ahead and draw that floating tone
and tie it in, loop it right over and feel that volume there because it does that in
the reference. Or, I could make it do because it’s a good idea. It connects it back actually
to the contour then. It’s tied back to the edge to the beginning. That’s what we’re after.
Or I can drag it back over through halftone to the core shadow, or I could do both.
Now, while I was thinking so hard about that problem
that, dog gone, I made it too dark. No problem at all.
I’ll dust that back and maybe here
it all but disappears or even does disappear for that matter. It’ll be the little jump.
The audience will make that connection over for us. It wouldn’t be a problem at all.
Push that core shadow back a little bit. You can see how I can correct this with very little
trouble, those kind of little connections. But I’m always thinking of the whole
composition, the connectivity. I can’t say it enough.
That is the main job of the artist to make the separate things come together. How do
you make an orange and a blue look beautiful, accurate, appropriate together? How do you
make a pinch and a stretch work together? How do you make a dark and a light work together?
How do you make three or four or five or six objects work together.
So that’s our job.
Most artists seem to say, now that’s a problem and that’s a problem and that’s a problem.
It’s one big problem to be solved. That means it needs one big idea behind it.
One theme behind it. For example, I’m going to use the zigzag S-curve theme,
and that means that each form is going to have its own qualities. It rises and falls into the mass.
Sometimes it will be more energetic and aggressive. More angry. Sometimes it’ll
be more relaxed, submissive, pleasant, but it’s going to do that. That’s what’s
going on here. All these things are zigzagging and S-curving around, and so they feel like
they’re the same thing. Despite all the individual muscles under the individual dynamics,
they’re working under one aesthetic idea. Those S-curves or zigzag is just a compressed S-curve.
So what is it about what you’re doing that makes it feel a piece altogether? So if all
of a sudden I started to take this and started to add these kind of shapes,
it wouldn’t feel right would it? This is a whole different character and a whole different story.
These soft shifts of form that moves into these dynamic shifts of form match these soft shifts
of value that change into these dynamic shifts of value. It’s all one world.
Then it can be soft shifts of color.
Then every once in a while dynamic shifts of color. See how that
idea is carried through? Soft, soft, soft with a note of dramatics.
That might be a philosophy of life.
You know, that’s how most lives are. You have quiet, simple lives.
Every once in a while you get a bang for your buck.
The old story about being a police officer,
it’s hours and hours of boredom punctuated
by moments of stark-raving terror.
That might be the basis of a compositional idea or a story idea.
Okay, so I’m just imbedding this tone, losing it into the background like so,
and I'm going to take my trusty paper towel.
Alright, let’s do a little bit of highlight work.
We haven’t done any highlights. You don’t need much. Most people nowadays put way too
many highlights in. Most of your work should be done with your shadow, those shadows separating
from the light. Then you’re going to use the halftone to fine-tune
that form, round it off, set it back.
Highlights can give you extra form, but if you depend on them it gets
spotty. They don’t have near the bang for their buck that a shadow shape does.
Oftentimes you’ll see work where they have put so much stuff in the shadows in terms
of rendered values that it doesn’t really separate from the lights. Then they try and
put in a lot of highlights. They put the halftones down fairly dark so they can get a pop of
a highlight on there. What you need to do is redesign your shadows in relationship to
your halftones so they read better. Then you can add highlights, and that’ll add to it.
Or you can leave them out, and it won’t detract from it. You’re not dependent. You’re
not desperately struggling to get an ounce more form out that situation.
In talking about the shadows. Notice that the lightest shadows are really about the
same value as the darker and middle halftones. That’s generally a problem because then
they start to compete We start to feel like this is a real airy shadow, and we should
see more detail in there. We get disappointed when we don’t see it. Also, it makes it
subtle and more dramatic, which may not be a problem. This is a very soft pose. It’s
a gentle pose. The forms are rather gentle. There’s a pretty dramatic light source in
them already, so maybe we don’t need to add anything more to that on that point, so
it just depends. If I keep them this light then I have to be very careful that I’ve
pushed a good border all the way through. If it starts to get soft or lost—too many places.
Here that border is getting very soft. Here it’s getting completely lost.
The form is going to leak out, and it’s not going to work.
If it gets too strong everywhere or most places then it’s going to start to look like chrome.
We don’t want that. We want it to be soft, gentle flesh. So the nature of the material
puts certain demands on us as well as our intentions, the subject matter makes certain
demands if we’re going to make it look realistic. So realism has lots of issues. It puts us
in a strait jacket in a lot of ways. We have to be careful about it.
What's better is to go ahead and push...
the shadow a little darker or a lot darker.
I’m going to put it on here.
Or, I could use my sandpaper and see how I can darken that down now.
One good strategy you could do, I just thought of; I don’t think I’ve ever done it myself.
You could tape your own process of doing work and then replay it and see at what point it
got better or what point it got worse and then kind of analyze—now why did it get
worse all of a sudden. Oh, I’ve got too many values in my shadows. When I first laid
in that shadow it was nice and simple, and now towards the end or at the end of the piece
it’s gotten really complicated and it just, we’re not buying it anymore the way we used to.
Notice that as I render that I need to come back and re-effect the core shadow possibly.
Squint at that. Don’t look at it open-eyed. Squint at the screen and see what you’re
seeing there. See the big picture. If I open my eyes and see all that beautiful detail—oh
I did a great job rendering that. That looks terrific.
If I squint I don’t see the little stuff. I just see the big stuff.
The dark shadows against the middle to light value lights.
it's going off into a fog.
I’m vignetting that out because there's not much there.
It crops it not in an awkward place but in an uninteresting place just above the knees.
It could be awkward if we made too big a deal out of it.
I just let it fade off to let it be the sketch down there that it is.
Sometimes I’ll have to—it’s starting to tear a little bit here. Sometimes I’ll actually
have to change the tissue, the paper towel to another
paper towel because I keep going to different areas and I wear it out.
Now if want to pick up some detail in the shadows…
I’m going to try and do the same strategy.
I’m going to try and attach it to the core shadow. So now we have the base
of the sacrum. It’s attached off that same core coming off here, and those two little
marks that I made here were set up for that.
Maybe I didn’t know it at the time, but I know it now.
There we go. It’s working pretty well, huh? Say yes.
Okay. Let’s say we’ll come down here we’re going to pull a shape off that.
Not every halftone, not every reflected light detail can be tied back to that core, but the more
you can do the better off you’ll be. Any of these lines I do, these wandering lines.
It can just be the tendinous connections and muscles. Notice how I’m actually drawing,
I’m leading your eye up to another area.
The audience is going to track. You’re going
to run along the contour, run along the contour. Also, you’ll go outside and come inside,
and that’s the mark of a good, well-structured series of forms because what I’m really
trying to is I’m trying to get you to move over the form. If you can feel the movement
over from this side to that side, then you’re going to feel the volume. Notice when I did
this little halftone here…let’s do a little line here just for the heck of it.
A little line there. Tone here, tone over here. Notice how that leads me over to the other side.
This little volume in here...
bumps over, leads me over to that side. Notice there is a lot of things that are getting
me all the way over to the other side.
Maybe even just a—oops, wrong one.
The place where the line is darker as opposed to lighter.
There. Dot, dot, dot, dot. Feeling it across that.
Look at how this connects to that. You can feel that connection there. Knowing that, knowing
that I want you to move this way,
that sense of vibration and movement. So for me it’s
always about energy, the energy of the piece, the movement, the kinetics, how I can make
a still object move. Working out of that…Muybridge is an early photographer. Muybridge did a
series of stop action photographs of a person running, a horse trotting, all that kind of
stuff. They’re very famous. They had a huge impact on the artists and other areas. That
idea of how we take a moment where someone has moved in position and give the sense that
they’ve just gotten there. They’ve just gotten to that position, and then they’re
going to pass through that position to another person, that idea of energy. You think how
a model stands still for you so you can paint her.
The landscape holds still so you can paint it.
The sun keeps moving, but you pretend it’s standing still, so you draw in the
shape of the shadows really quick, and then you paint in the color of the shadows as they
stay about the same for the next 20, 30 minutes.
You come back the next day and do it again if you’re an impressionist.
But in art we’re always trying to capture that moment, that iconic moment.
The famous Myron piece, the Greek piece, the discus thrower Discobolus is that perfect moment in the
torquing of that athlete before he unwinds and flings that discus off into eternity.
We’re always looking for that perfectly composed moment as an artist. The world is in flux. It’s
in motion. It’s evolving, it’s changing. Moving on. We’re passing through. Time is
transient, all that kind of stuff. I tried to bring a little bit of that in to my art.
The world we live in is a fast paced world. It’s constantly changing, constantly moving.
Look at the computing power, every two years I think it is the computational
power of computers in general doubles.
We’re constantly changing. We’re going from the stone age to the steam age to the
nuclear age to the space age, and now beyond that—quantum age. We’re not in a place
where things stay the same. You can track this actually through art history.
Go back to Egypt. In Egypt the arts stayed the same more or less for 3000, 4000 years.
Then we look at a movement like the high Renaissance.
That lasted—whatever it lasted, say 20 years.
Then you go to the impressionist period, French Impressionism. That lasted five or six years.
Then you go to futurism. That lasted three years. Bad art in New York lasted six months.
It’s that kind of thing. As our world changes more and more quickly the art movements change
more and more quickly. Now we’ve moved so fast that for the 30, 40 years there have
really been no art movements of any note. There are little pockets where they’ll do
something for a while, but they’re all really kind of doing variations that are quite different.
In general there are no art movements that catch the world or catch a pocket of society
in any substantial way because the society is changing so quickly. The immigration, new
people with new cultures are coming. Old people with old cultures are moving out. The population
shift of the old guard dying and a new group coming in. That stuff is changing so quick
that you can’t capture a moment that is going to last much more than a moment. That
sense of time and movement and flux is a very interesting one to me. So I try and bring
that in. Drawing several lines rather than one line picking up the speed lines, little
kinetic lines like a comic book might have.
All those things are things I’m interested in.
That colors this demonstration and any demonstration I do, of course. My prejudices
and my preferences are going to affect the knowledge you get from me. I’m trying to
deal with some universal ideas. Different value, different plane. Those kinds of things.
How I expound on it and how I demonstrate it for sure is going to be heavily colored
by who I am and what I’m after. That’s going to be different from who
you are and what you’re after, so buyer beware.
You can see as I’m working I’m talking to you guys, but I talk to myself when I’m
working. You’re justifying. Now, why am I doing this? Well, the form needs such and
such. What’s the idea behind it? Is there something deeper in there that I can find
meaning in? I’ll create a mythology. I’ll create a superstitious explanation for it.
I’ll build that up around it and make it a big deal in my head, really. I really develop
a whole back story to this work, to my work in general and a particular piece specifically.
Trying to justify how those strokes can be not just strokes of technique, not just flashy
technique or functional craft, but it can become a metaphor, an idea, an icon for something,
a symbol of something bigger. That’s what we want.
We want an image that transcends itself,
that says something more. Not just a pretty girl, pretty picture. There’s nothing
wrong with that. But art in its best sense does more than that.
We’re searching for that all the time. Maybe we never find it but just the search of it
makes it funner. When you spend three or four hours or 20 or 30 hours on a piece, hundreds
of hours on a piece for some people, what are you going to do with your time? You’re
just plugging away at it. You know, you got to think about something. Think about some
of these big issues. You know, why are you doing it to begin with?
Why are you so drawn to that light and shadow or those zigzagging strokes
like I love those zigzagging shapes.
What is it about that is so interesting?
What mythology can you build around it that makes it interesting?
If you can get three or four people who are very different in stages of life and character,
and they all can find something in your work that grabs them, that evokes, that moves them
some way or challenges them, that’s good stuff. You’re doing your job there.
You deserve a pat on the back for that. You’re helping.
Since it’s going to be a dark full background there I can just lightly stroke that charcoal
over the top and then scrub it in. You can see a little bit of the scribe lines from
some of that construction information I was putting down. You can see how my rag gets
a little dirty. I’ll clean it up if I want to pull some of that out. I’m just going
to dust it right over up against the dirty part of the thigh, and then be more careful
as I approach the rendered part. The nice thing about this is I’m bringing that gray
background into a gray arm and a gray thigh. I don’t have a bright colored cheek or hip
or something I have to fight against. If I had that then I would probably use that little
erasing shield that I made. So just scrubbing that in.
Need a little bit more juice in there.
Stroke it back over lightly so I’m not scribing into the paper and scoring the paper and then
just work around. Let the strokes move around the contour and draw it in. Now, as you rub
in there you might rub against the contour drawing and have to come back and make a crisper
statement on that contour line. Those are easy fixes we’ll do as we decide we need
it. Let me dust a little bit of that off. We got a little bit of the torn paper from
the scrubbing. Okay, here we go. Just finish it out.
Notice now as we get darker in the background how the lights in the figure, it’s a fairly
subtle statement. It’s glancing light all the way down that back, glancing light taking
that thigh down into a shadow, kind of soft middle shadows, not real dark, deep shadows.
It’s all kind of a middle value, kind of a soft focus bit. By pushing in some of these
darks I’m going to get more bang. Those highlights as I pop them out now here again
are going to be stronger. We’re going to get a cleaner looking figure because of that.
So I’m just going to come back and do a few little corrections there.
Notice what I did, too. This is a Brown School technique. You’ll see it in Rembrandt and
Rubens and Van Dyke, all those folks. I go dark in the background against a light back.
I go lighter in the background against the dark arm. The right side gets lighter in the
background, and then I grade presumably behind the figure to get to the dark side. That gives
me the contrast. I jimmy that background value so that it is giving me the contrast against
the foreground that I want to make that foreground pop. I’m just coming back and rediscovering
some of those lines that might have gotten smudged away, losing their crispness, adding
a few little gestures. I like to do those little speed lines, of course. It’s the
idea of drawing the figure into the ground, so they have a relationship that kind of ghostly
sketch of the arm fading in the background. It kind of draws the eye off and in and gives
a vague sense of integrating the background with the figure even though we really have
a nonbackground background.
This is the kind of thing that Velazquez would do in big full-figure portraits. He’d put
a nonbackground in there even without the gradation or at least a strong gradation.
Manet picked up on that. The idea that you can do a beautiful painting without a beautiful
environment to stick them in was something that Velazquez really made famous. Then Rubens
and Van Dyke and the rest picked up on that. Then Rembrandt, of course.
So now you can kind of feel those rhythms back and forth, those little gesture lines.
I’ll lay in the vertical. I’ll lay in the horizontal. I’m just kind of searching
for whatever else I want to do here. Then those give me kind of the baseline. I’ve
got a strong vertical, a strong horizontal. That gives the sense that if I were to put
a background in then the background, maybe the architectural elements would play off
this organic figurative element. The figure is leaning. Everything is an angle. There
are almost no verticals or horizontals in any of it except a momentary pause on an outline.
And so bringing maybe an architectural idea in can make that organic seem more organic.
She is going to see more lush and fluid and alive maybe if I don’t put other fluid forms
in the background, but I place something simple and square against it. I do those oftentimes
in my sketches just as notations to myself of this against that.
Now here’s another way to get some line: If I want to get some white line in there
or light in an area I can scratch it in. So it’s almost like scratchboard. I can scratch
back. It actually abrades the surface. It tears into the surface a little bit. You’re
going to get kind of a—you can see that kind of mottled line that it creates. It’s
a whole different line that the rendered line we do. It’s not just something you do after
out of a tight eraser line, you know, erasing away. You get a nice little variation. I’m
always looking for a technical difference to play against,
you know, something that surprises you.
It’s not just a white line. It’s a white line that got scratched in there. Playing
those things in there. I can actually come in. I’ll do here, maybe. Come in with a
sandpaper. I could come in and put that in there. Just sand that whole area back and
let that shoulder just get blasted out with sandpaper and just rough it up that way rather
than just erasing it. Let’s maybe try that.
Now I’m taking some of that tone off, but I’m doing it by a more aggressive,
and I can be more and more aggressive and do more and more damage,
really more and more injury to the surface.
That can add to the overall feel, the overall motion. You can see if I push real hard it
actually tears into that paper. This is something I got from a modern artist, a 20th century
artist Jim Dine. He did these drawings where he’d actually sand into the paper probably
just like this. Work that in. It’s just another way to get information down. You know,
how many ways can we bring paint or charcoal or pigment, bring our medium together? The
light against the dark, the warm against the cool. Can we do it in a way that’s interesting?
A hard edge instead of soft edge, a lost edge. Using line rather than tone. Adding dark around
it or pulling light away from it with an eraser or sanding the heck out of it or beating it
with hammer. Whatever works. Whatever is surprising and interesting and doesn’t draw too much
attention to itself. We don’t see that right off. We see that later as we spend some time.
Now I can get a lost edge on that shoulder by sanding that paper in. Also, notice it
creates kind of a mottled because of the strokes and just the nature of the tool, it creates
a mottled background. You don’t get a perfect gradation. There is movement in there almost
like an air current. And now here I’m getting a sharp line—instead of that razor blade
idea, I’ll use the folded edge of that sandpaper and create a nice crisp line. Another way
to show movement and energy. It’s all in service of the move. What I’m trying to
do is get into emotions. Not anything that may be specific in terms of telling a story,
but just a state of mind or a feel that I want the audience to get or that I’m trying
to get as I’m working on it. That’s really the artist’s job. As you take the foreground
you take the background environment, and you try to emote. You try to emote. You try and
show the audience feelings that maybe they haven’t felt for a while,
or you are a surrogate for them.
That’s an actor’s great job. It’s to feel publicly the emotions that we can’t
display usually publicly. We have to keep in private. Let them see great joy where they
make a fool of themselves or show great sadness where they just crumple in a heap and just
let the pain wash over them. We can’t allow ourselves those things quite often to show
what it would be like if life was really changed in a fundamental way. That’s what the artists
do for the audience. That’s what the actors do for us in a film. That’s what the novelist
does in the story. All those characters feel great feelings and go through great events
and oftentimes are affected by great change. That’s an incredibly valuable surface for
us to offer the public. So we’re doing here that isn’t a complete story. It gets the
dialogue started. It gets the emotions churning. I’m going to do something for the reasons
I do them. Then if I’m fortunate enough to keep the art open-ended maybe you come
in there and get what you need out of the art. I did the art.
That's what I needed to get out of it.
Now it’s your turn. I’m going to shut up, and you’re going to get to pull out
of it what you need out of it. So anyway, that’s some of the thinking I go through
when I do those pieces. Of course, the technique was the main thing here that we started with.
I hope you get something out of it. This kind of thing if you try and take it this far—this
is pretty well finished. I’d frame something like this and put it in a gallery. I wouldn’t
have any problems with doing that. Don’t be that ambitious in the beginning. Do a start.
Do a couple simple shapes, you know, a hip and a thigh or a couple eggs on your desk
table with a desk lamp on it. Just do some simple shapes where you can draw the shapes,
draw the shadow, the core shadow, then blend it aggressively as we talked about into the
shadows and the halftones. Erase it back. Refine it over. Just kind of build a basic
couple balls or tubes, some simple series of shapes. Start a drawing like this and only
take it maybe 20, 30 percent of the way. Break down the hip and the waist area and sketch
in some of the rest and leave it. Pick one or two forms where you render it a little
bit more. Stop there. See how you did. Do it again with that drawing, that reference
or something else. Then see how you do two or three times trying that out,
just learning how to start the process.
Anyway, I hope you had fun with it. I sure did. I’ll see you next lesson.
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13m 1s4. Using corners to separate light and shadow sides
16m 43s5. Developing core and cast shadows
15m 6s6. Rendering the forms through gradation of halftones
14m 8s7. Using sandpaper to erase values and perfecting contour lines
15m 58s8. Gradation of highlights and recognizing attachment points
14m 47s9. Using the paper stump to create forms and redesigning shadows
14m 18s10. Refining the forms and laying in background tones
12m 56s11. Finishing the background and final touches