- Lesson details
Steve Huston demonstrates his charcoal drawing technique on one of his most famous subjects: the boxer. Steve will take you through each step of his drawing process, from the initial lay-in to the finished presentation drawing 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
- Large, Soft Paintbrush
- Strathmore Bristol Paper – Vellum
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technique on one of his most famous subjects, the boxer.
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 learn how to resolve all major forms of the figure as well as
scrub in the environment using dark tones.
view of a boxer, a painting of mine. I figured it would be fun to kind of reverse it. Rather
than doing a sketch for the painting, I’ll do a sketch, or really a pretty finished drawing
from a painting. So anyway, we’ll have fun with that. You can see a little bit too how
I change things. I never draw the same thing or design the same thing twice the same way,
so you’ll see and be able to compare how the muscle forms change from the painting
to the drawing as I work on it. Anyway, we’ll start today with the charcoal technique, and
let me show you the materials we’re going to use.
Then we’ll get into the process that we’re going to do.
Let’s start with the paper. This is Strathmore 400 grade, and it’s Bristol paper. It is
fairly thick, kind of a cardstock thickness to it. It comes in big sheets, and it’s
vellum. The vellum means a medium texture. If it were kid or cold pressed it would be
a little bit rougher texture. You could use that too. It’s a little bit rougher.
If it was plate it would be slick as glass, and you don’t want to use plate. The plate just
gets so slick you can’t get a big dark value on it is what I’m trying to say.
It's just so slick it doesn’t grab the pigment. It stays ghostly. That’s not what we want.
That’s fine for a very light graphite sketch. Pen and ink works great for that kind of stuff,
but not for charcoal where you’re using the charcoal to get those rich darks.
We're going to work with a full range of value. Pencil you can’t do that, but with charcoal
you can. We can get down to blacks or close to it, and we’ll go all the way
up to the white paper, so full range of values.
Have nice quality paper. Do not get a newsprint, something cheap like that. Newsprint is fun
to work on. It’s a really nice surface. You can get nice, simple gradations. It’s
hard to get real dark on it. The paper just, you know, it’s just newspaper. It just tears
apart. We’re going to use a very aggressive style where we’re going to erase and scrub
those tones a lot. It won’t get as dark as you want on newsprint. It’ll tear.
If you happen to get a beautiful piece of work out of it, it’ll turn yellow and fall apart in a few years.
So get a good quality paper. It’s a lot more expensive than newsprint, but it's worth it.
We’re going to use a couple different erasers. We’re going to use just a hard eraser.
You can pick anything of your choice. If you get a pink version, sometimes—especially if
it’s been sitting around for a few years, you’ve got your grandmother’s art supplies.
Those pink erasers can start to rot out a little bit, and you erase and you’ll get
a pink stain across the page, and then you’re stuck. You can’t get rid of it. Then the
kneaded eraser, it comes in a little square package, and it’s like silly putty or Play-Doh.
It pulls apart and you can do this to it and get rid of the dirty charcoal and get back
to clean edge. Then you can shape it erase around in a tight area on your drawing. Kneaded
erasers are fantastic. They’re really great for this. You can’t get back to a pure white.
You need the hard eraser. But, for working around little areas, working little gradations
and for other things, as we’ll see, it works great. Then we’re going to use—the other
erasing or subtractive tool we’re going to use is sandpaper, actually. We’re going
to use sandpaper so that we can take our charcoal and create a charcoal powder to use. I’ll
show you how we do that. And I’m going to use sandpaper like it’s an eraser. So I’m
going to erase away areas. Sometimes because it got so stained with the charcoal tools
that I used that I can’t get it back with a simple eraser. I’ve got to really dig
that pigment out. This sands away some of the paper, and it take the pigment with it,
of course. The other choice you could use is an electric eraser. It’s a little dremel
tool. You push the button, and it buzzes like an electric toothbrush. It spins a little
tube of eraser material and it’ll buzz out your highlights and stuff. That’s great
for getting a little dot highlight on the nose or the hip or something like that, or
edging out around a contour. In this case I’ll fold it, and I’ll use the edge here,
the little knife edge to erase away, or I’ll use the flat edge to erase bigger areas. This
is sandpaper, as I said. This is an emery cloth-type sandpaper,
a 360 grade sandpaper, 420, 360. You could use all the way down to say a 180 would be okay.
Then the charcoal. We’re going to use Conté charcoal. You want to use a 2B. If this is
about an HB or an H, I think. If you want to use a harder charcoal, that’s good at
times, but it’s going to more like graphite. It’s not going to get a real deep, dark.
Most of the time we’re going want to use this deep, dark fellow here. So that’s a
2B. They come in long sticks like that, usually in the multipack, two or more in there. They
come in different colors. We just want black, of course, for what we’re doing now. You
could do this same technique in brown if you wanted to or sanguine or something.
Alpha color is going to be our workhorse for this. This is how we’re going to get those
deep, rich darks. It’s just a cheap pastel, and it comes in a stick this in a pack of
different colors, but you can also buy a pack of all black and probably in some art stores
you buy them by single. They’re fairly inexpensive so it’s a good investment. I usually break
them in half and use them that way. We won’t use that at all.
And then a stump. A stump is paper tightly rolled, and it creates a pencil of paper that
you can dip into your powder and draw line, or you can use it to blend as a blending tool.
We’re going to have actually three blending tools. We’re going to have our stump. Some
people will have several different stumps of different sizes to work with. I’m just
going to use that. I’ll use my finger. You can see that it’s already dirty from picking
up these things just a little bit. I’m going to get really dirty. They’re going to black
by the time I’m done. That’s a second blending tool. The third blending took is
just a paper towel. Get a paper towel and fold it up, and you’re going to use that.
We’re going to be very aggressive in scrubbing that tone in, and this is going to help blend
it nicely. If I have to scrub too much with your fingers sometimes you’ll get a blister
on there. This does a better job at different times. If I’m working in a broad area your
fingers get a little sweaty it it’s a warm day or something. It’s not as smooth working
those big areas. Little areas, like a turning a hip or a bicep or something like that, I’ll
use my finger. If it’s real small I’ll use a stump. Bigger stuff, broad gradations
that cover two, three, four inches or more, I’ll use this. And then I just have a brush
just to brush off any little flecks of pigment that are in the way. You can see that alpha
color powder dusted this and got this a little dirty. That’s okay. I can scrub that back
with an eraser when I need it, or it’ll just get lost in my tones. In fact, here’s
a little area here I was testing the pigment for a drawing that I was doing at another
time, so that’s showing that. That’s not going to be a problem at all.
The last thing you may you want to use is called an erasing shield. You can buy them
out of metal, little sheet metal, thin metal, and they’ll stamp them out. Usually they’re
in some kind of rectangular shape. Then they’ll have circles or curves or straight lines that
are of various sizes and length. You can use that to erase it. For this I just cut a generic
S-curve with an Exacto knife, and then if I’ve got a tone down that I need to get rid of, but
maybe I’ve drawn a hip or cheekbone or something there, I can use this as a guide.
I may have to change it several times. I can use that as a template, as a mask to save and protect
the area that’s important to protect and give me access to the area I want to get rid of.
Little erasing guide. Let’s move these off and let’s get started.
I’m going to go ahead and start with my stump. You can just use a graphite pencil.
You could use the charcoal Conté sticks. Any one of those will be fine.
We're just going to do our little boxer here.
Just in terms of the basic drawing, I’m looking
for the gesture line, the main movement, the most beautiful flow, the greatest number or
the biggest forms to feel how we move from form to form or from place to place in the
composition. So from the back of the head down the center of the spine we get this beautiful
rhythm, this beautiful gesture, and that’s what I’m going to use as the
foundation for my constructed shapes.
As I draw these things I’m looking for the outs.
How do I move from here to here? I do it this way. I do it this way. I do it this way.
Feeling that out is what I call it.
How do we show off that structure, that particular beautiful dynamic form,
and then how do we get out of that and move back into the greater whole?
How do we show off the glory of that beautiful part, and how do we respect and come back
and integrate that separate dynamic part into the song, the dance, the story, the dynamic
composition that we’re trying to sell—trying to tell. Freudian slip there, we’re trying to sell.
I moved this over a little bit just so I had that arm in there inside and make sure you
guys can see it nicely on camera. I can finish it out for you.
You can notice I’ve pushed this over. He’s a little more dynamic. When you get these curves look to where
the curve is vertical. That’s going to tell you how to plot that. In the original the verticality
was way up here. It started way up here. I leaned him over a little bit more, made a
little bit more of an action pose, little more dynamic.
That’s good enough.
I say that then I start adding more in. Alright.
Now I'm going to go ahead and start my rendering process here.
In this instance I’ve got quite a bit of light, two-thirds are in light.
In the order I’ve done them the other demos I’ve done
it’s been mostly shadow, you know, over half shadow shapes and not as much light.
Now we have more light, so it’s going to give us more halftone ground to cover, which
is good because we can talk about that. It’s actually harder in a way. The shadows are
kind of non-evanescent in a certain sense because we’re going to draw the shadow shape
core, the beginning of the shadow, and then fill it in with just a simple gradation.
There is no real rendering process we half to do. We can do it. I did a little head study
where I did some reflected light working that, but you don’t have to. Whereas in the halftone
you usually have to do some work to explain things. That creates issues.
Let me go ahead and attack this, and then when we come to those big areas of halftone
I’ll show you how I deal with them.
I’m going to work down a ways here.
Then I'm going to rub it with my finger or the paper towel.
I’m going to fill the shadow first with the tone because that should be the darker tone.
Then what’s left over I can use towards my lights.
You’ll see how aggressively I’m working to scrub that stuff in.
Then go to the next area and lay in all those shadows all the way through.
Or, I can pick one area, render across, and then do the next
area and render across. Do the next area, render across. So either way is fine.
By the end of the process you just need to have made all the points, made all the statements and
found all the moments that have to be there to show what you’re trying to show. That
form, that gesture, that foreground/background relationship, whatever it is.
The character of a cast shadow—whoops, wrong one.
That was an H. Let’s grab the 2B. The character
of a cast shadow has a couple interesting things about it. One, it continues to be more
like a contour line, a crisper line. The shadow abruptly is cut off and then the light begins.
More accurately, the form is cut off by the shadow of another form, and so it’s either
shadow instantly or light side instantly. Now, you can have a soft light for all sorts
of reasons, but in general, generically speaking, it’s going to be crisp or relatively crisper.
Also, it’s going to tend to be slightly darker at that moment and potentially on the
light side slightly lighter. It’s an effect called simultaneous contrast where if you
put a light against a dark, the light looks lighter, and the dark looks darker. If you
put a red against a green the red would look redder and the green would look greener. By
putting it against its contrasting neighbor, it’s opposite, it’s going to in contrast see more.
If you want someone to be a great hero give him a great villain to fight in a movie. That’s
why they say the hero is only as a good as the villain because you can’t show the great
qualities of the hero without having his opposite in effect there to challenge him and force
him to those great heights. That’s what’s happening with simultaneous contrast. We see
the light against the dark, and by comparison they look more starkly different. The eye
actually invents that difference. It pushes. You can have a card of perfect black and a
card of perfect white, put them together. You’ll see this little gray. It should be
a card of dark gray, card of white, put them together. And at the edge, the edge of that
gray, that perfect gray will look darker and gradate quickly in. The edge of that perfect
light will look lighter here and be slightly less light over here. It’s a cool effect,
and it’s a useful effect because that means I can use when I have those things coming
together, those kind of contrasting things, I can pop the value or pop the rich color, whatever it is I'm after.
Again, pushing it. You can see how that form is starting to turn. You can see that bicep
there is starting to feel pretty realistic. It’s kind of fun. I still get a charge out
of that, getting something to look real and to pop off the page in effect. It’s cool.
That’s doing well. This isn’t doing so well, is it? I have better gradation, better
technique here. I spent more time on it. But that’s not the reason. The reason is I have
a definite beginning of the form and a definite beginning of the shadow and then a definite
value difference. Even though there are tonal changes here and tonal changes here, these
are in the light range and these are in the dark range. The darks stay dark, the lights
stay light. We don’t compete and we feel that pop, that Chiaroscuro effect. Over here,
we have a good, solid shadow shape. It’s not as beautifully done. That’s not the
problem. The problem is we don’t have a clear beginning of the shadow and a clear
end of the shadow. If I did a clear beginning of the shadow that would help. It wouldn’t
solve the problem because it’s so far away. We have that broad back in the way. It would
help tremendously, but we really need both sides. Here we do not both sides, and we get
away from it because these are close together. This drops into a shadow environment. We know
by experience when things go into that murky water into that non-light environment, into
that shadowy nothingness, the void, all that kind of heavy stuff. Things get lost.
Shadow is the absence of light in effect in a way. We buy into the fact we don’t see it.
Notice what will happen here. If I come in—let’s take a look at my reference here. It’s a
little tougher to see. If I do this and pick that up it’s even better, isn’t it?
Now I I have the beginning and the end: beginning, middle, and end. You’re telling a story
in that sense. Once upon a time something dramatic happened, and then everything
finished off in a happy or sad ending.
We want to make sure we complete the circuits, tell the story, whatever metaphor or cliché
you want to use is fine for that.
Now, by design this is a fairly,
this is going to go fairly quick. There’s not much there. There’s no face.
Barely an ear. No fingers. Just a broad back. There’s a little bit of shoulder blade action,
latissimus action, a little bit of the oblique separating out. We’ve got a little bit of
action on the back of the arm. Not much going on there in terms of difficult detail or a
lot of detail. We’ll finish this off fairly quickly. We’re doing something where it’s
a portrait of a head. I guess if it’s a portrait it is a head, isn’t it? If it’s
fingers, a hand, you know, it’s a scene with several figures, several people or several
objects, costuming with a lot of textural or pattern differences.
That stuff takes a while, but this will go pretty quick.
Notice how I can, my stuff is about action, so it gives me a great excuse. In that sense
my job is going to be easier than yours. If you’re just showing us this figure in static
position, you’re probably going to feel more obligated to show everything carefully
and not cheat too much. I can cheat quite a bit. I can try and get that top of the back
just right and know I screwed it up and try again… And try again. It’s just going
to feel like speed lines in this boxer as he takes a punch or moves away,
ducks a blow or whatever it is.
Knowing why or what you’re about, what you’re after can tell you where you can edit. Where
you take shortcuts, where you can save time, where you can add style, make it personal.
Make it your own. These speed lines are something I do. I’m sure there are people—Jerome
Witkin does a little bit of this stuff. In a different way, but he does it. Nobody else
I know of is doing this in fine art. Maybe there are a ton of them, but I don’t know
who they are. In comic books they do it all the time. That’s where I stole it from.
I took it from the Jack Kirby and Neil Adams and John Buscema and those guys.
I grew up on that stuff.
I got the beginning of the end of the form. Now, if you’ll go to my beginning drawing
lessons on form, on structure and gesture, how to draw stuff. Or, if you go to the earlier
lectures on this technique I spend more time. In the earlier lectures on this stuff I spend
some time in the beginning. How to draw sections of where I talk about structure and gesture.
Go to the structure sections, and I’ll spend a lot of time explaining how you get form,
all the strategies for creating form. I’m not going to do that here. I’ll allude to
them, but I’m not going to do them. I refuse to do them. How’s that?
The biggest thing on form—let me say this much about it is that beginning, middle, and end.
You know, where does it begin. The beginning of the form, the end of the form, the shape
of the shadow on the form. That’s what we’re after. That gets you most of the way, and
then gradations around the form. The beginning of the shadow acts as a corner.
The gradation acts as a means of rounding that corner. Even if you’re doing it a ball think of it as
a corner, so you find that clear shadow shape. You don’t want to miss that shape.
Okay, in here this is darker half-tone. At some point it probably becomes shadow. We’re
not sure where. Certainly down here it’s shadow. Up here it’s probably shadow. Up
here it’s probably not shadow. I have no real clue. I don’t have the original reference
in front of me. It doesn’t matter. So when you’re doing your artwork just keep telling
yourself it doesn’t matter. Whatever happens it doesn’t matter. I can make any of this—the
fact is, it’s a relatively darker value than the surrounding half-tones. That’s
all we care about. I’m going to go ahead and give it, most of it a shadow shape.
I always start where I did the load of charcoal, or I laid down that charcoal.
That's my beginning point. Then I blend out of that to create the shadows, or in this case, halftones,
whatever the heck it is. We can’t decide.
You can hear how aggressively I’m scrubbing that form. You can see how beautifully and
how buttery it makes those tones.
Okay, remember our storytelling technique. I know where the shadow begins.
I have to show where it ends. Let’s show where it ends.
Okay, now, that’s a little more pigment than I want there. I’m going to rub it back.
Clean spot, rub it back.
I’m pushing it back into the shadow to take a little bit off the paper. Now I can blend
that back out. I always want to keep in mind that life is organic.
It's ever changing and never repeats the same way twice.
These two little lumps right here, they were a little too equal for my taste.
I’m going to make one sit up a little higher
and one pinch off a little bit lower.
I’m just chasing after a few shapes that’ll suggest without having to do—
then I’ll just make a couple little marks here.
I’m just trying to pick out enough to suggest.
You know, this is back behind—there’s no chance to see the face. In fact, it was designed specifically not
to see the face, which is my MO. I want this kind of stuff anonymous. But if you go look
at some of my demos where it did the nudes. They are not as active, obviously.
Compare the energy there.
A lot of this stuff is there but not as kinetic.
But, these kind of painterly marks are all but gone.
The subject matter liked to have—it told me, it whispered
(You can’t hear it on the audio track, but I heard it distinctly). It wanted to have a
little more action going on, and so I through a few painterly flourishes there at the end.
It just felt like it needed it. There was nothing in the reference that suggested it
should have that. Nothing really in the, or very little let’s say in the painting I’m
working from that suggested that, but it seemed to work.
These are just little abstract ropes.
Now, I’m going to go to my trusty eraser (i.e. sandpaper)
and get an edge that works here.
I’ve used that a few times, so I’m going to fold and get a different edge.
Those little things, I love that kind of, you know, painterly. If you tried to render that you
just couldn’t do it. If you play games with the materials, play a nature materials game.
Oftentimes you can get these really lovely, what should call them, just organic reactions
that are surprising. I love to surprise myself and even more the audience where they wouldn’t
have thought, or other artists for that matter,
so they go, “How did you do that?” Then I charge them a lot of money to tell them.
I’ve bought a lot of ducks for my farm revealing these secrets.
I’m just kind of searching for how much face to show. That's better.
The head is tiny compared to what it should be.
That is appropriate for this superhero, though, so I’m fine with that.
Then let’s go ahead and let’s come in here. I’m going to take this same thing.
I’m going to go over these lines now, kind of burnish them and scratch them.
See what it does.
Notice I haven’t used any of the erasers yet.
I’m about to do that. This area here is still, the core shadow, see how weak that core shadow is.
It feels like it's laid in, whereas this has a high level of stylization and
high level of technique in other areas.
It’s got an extra pop of value. All that stuff says I cared more about this
than that, and I don’t want that. Whatever happens in terms of whether we see it much,
much later, or whether we see it very soon, I want you to feel like I cared about it.
If I don’t care about it, you’re not going to care about it. I think Vidal Sassoon said that first.
I’m going to come back and pick up that core shadow and anchor those tones.
Look at what I’m doing here. I’m going to drag that halftone, blend it over
around the back, and then I’m going to take it around to feel the form,
let it drag over to feel that form. I can also do it with a
stump. You can clean off your stump and adjust those.
See how I’m taking some off now.
We had a lot of action going here in terms of flamboyant technique.
Nothing in here, a little bit in there, so that’s
why I added those few little lines. They can just be little speed lines or it can be scar
tissues, little cuts and scrapes from training days, you know, who knows.
But, they seem appropriate.
Okay, so now I’m going to come in and do a little bit of erasure work, subtractive.
One thing I notice is I want to have a drop off here. Notice how from the top of arm down
it gets slightly darker. Let’s knock that down just a touch. It’s darker, darker,
darker. Here these get, other than this little blast up top, this value gets very close to
that. I’m going to drag some of the tone out of the shadow, knock that down a little bit.
I’ll maybe hatch a bit. I’m going to turn. I did that four or five hatches,
whatever that was, six, seven hatches. It got real dirty. It wouldn’t do any more,
so I’m going to turn and come up. I can knock—as my finger is getting too dirty,
I’m kind of smudging that. Too much stuff. Get that little dark accent out.
You can see how I, these little mistaken goobers I call them, oftentimes they become little forms.
So this little thing, this little thing: this, this, this… This was reference based. This
was stylization. This was just little things that happened through the course of doing
a painterly technique. Those are things that I can use, same up in here. Actually, that
little one I drew, I think. Up in here or anywhere I’ll find little things that will
happen because of the process I didn’t plan but I like and seem appropriate to what I’m
trying to do. Don’t be too quick to fix. Sometimes you’ll do something and you’ll
want to go, oh, I want to change that. It’s not “right.” Well, wait. Maybe that thing
is just what your painting needed sometime later. Let’s come back here. Look at my
reference here. Pull this out. Kneaded eraser. You have to work harder to get the tones off
that white paper. If I do that it gets really dirty, and I can actually drag some of that
in to the rendering.
Then I’m going to use my, let’s see here, my emery cloth sandpaper again. We’ll do
a little bit of a highlight, a subtle highlight for the hair. Let’s see here. I’m going
to blast this out. Okay, pulling those back out, and then a little too strong… Dust
it back. Settle it back in. Then I could spend as much time as I’ve already spend just
coming in and playing with these little things. Do I really need that? Maybe I need ever more,
just playing “what if” games or trying things.
The advantage for you as I do some of these “what if” games is you can rewind, go
back and say, now, was it better before? Did he overdo it? Or is it better now that he
added or subtracted or made whatever change it was? So really valuable teaching tool.
You know, I wish I could have watched Rembrandt pain, John Singer Sargent paint. We have some
records explaining his demo process, but what a thrill to watch your favorite old master,
whomever that might be, paint. But, even if you did, you’d be watching him and you’d
be going, wow. Isn’t that cool? That’s amazing. You’d certainly learn things, but
you wouldn’t remember hardly anything. You’d remember 2%, 5%; if you’re a genius 15%.
Most of it you’d forget. You’d go back into your studio and try and replicate it
and be a bloody mess. In this case you can go—you can say, well, there are some areas
that I really could learn from and really liked in that demonstration. Now what were
those? I’m going to watch it three, four, five times and really see how he did that.
What kind of touch did he use? Which tool did he use? What were the steps before and
after that made that work? How did he screw up?
How did he go from something that I would've paid him top dollar for something that I went, “eh okay.”?
You know, where did it get lost?
That happens too. In some ways that’s more valuable than the successes to see how
mistakes develop and how to avoid them or how to dig your way out of them.
I hope you take full advantage of these lessons by not just watching them once. If I do 60
hours of lessons, don’t just spend 60 hours looking at it. Take each one and spend quite
a bit of time parsing it out, looking at it. Having it in the background doing, stopping
it at a stage and trying that yourself. Coming back and comparing, see if you got it right.
Then go to the next stage and building, you know, doing it four or five times.
Each step at different stages before you go onto the next, to the finish. Rather than just sitting
down doing a finish and saying, well, that’s it. I got what I could out of that.
He probably got a 10th, a 20th, a 54th out of it. Learning is repetition.
It’s modeling your behavior after something that works for you.
It’s repetition, and the repetition to master what
I’m doing here for you, but also the repetition then to break beyond the bonds of what I’m
doing here, so it becomes your own. It’s your version of this. This is my version of John
Singer Sargent’s portrait drawings. That’s where I got the idea from. That’s what I
tried to steal from. That’s what I developed. Then as I went along I put together the materials
that were as close as I could guess without trying to do any research, just looking at them.
That’s what I want you to do with every lesson out there, from every instructor out
there is try and take it and internalize it. Don’t just view it like it’s a full season
of True Blood that you’re going to watch over and over and over again or watch once
and enjoy and throw it away. Sit down and break it down piece by piece, lesson by lesson,
and parse out those lessons. Really savor it and soak it in.
We’ll see you next time, and I hope you got something out of it.
I’m going to make sure this one changes its character.
I’m going to pull that halftone out. Notice I can go back and forth and back and forth.
Every time I come and scrub I make the halftone darker. It makes the shadow lighter.
That’s good and bad.
Notice as I work this little area here
I’m going to blend the halftone over. I’ve already done that pretty nicely. I’m also
going to drag the halftone down. I can show that erector muscle of the back by dragging
the half-tone in the direction that that muscle, that form, that rhythm,
that dynamic gesture of the body goes.
We can use that tone to round the form and to direct the gesture, the movement.
Go down and then across that belted area.
Notice how I’m getting a different effect and making much more dramatic shadows.
Another way to go here is I can take my charcoal, my alpha color and rub this so that this nice,
soft powdery charcoal so it comes off nicely and easily.
I can accent that.
Maybe it comes up in here.
I like to do these buttonholes. See how I’ve done a circle of tone, darker tone
around the lighter, like a little mound, a little crater. You can see different versions
of that on the painting, actually. You get that when you get real taut muscles that are
lean, not a lot of fat, and they’re working hard.
Obviously, you have both when we got an athlete here.
You can make up muscles. Michelangelo did it. That’s where I got the idea. And from
fantasy comic book muscle on muscle. Rubens did it. You take what’s there and you double
it up. Notice that if I’m moving in rhythm it feels like it’s tracking over the surface
like an aunt would crawl across the surface. If it’s coming out of the muscle form that’s
naturally there or moving down the gesture that we can sense is there. The audience is
The audience is going to buy it completely.
Alright. Now, here’s that rhythm. I’m sling-shotting out of this into that. Think
of a roller coaster ride. There’s a visual out, a way to flow out of that one thing into
that next thing. That’s what we’re looking for. As long as the audience feels that, doesn’t
feel like it’s lifting off the form but is tracking with the form, they’re going
to buy into that. That’s a crazy bunch of stuff that’s got very little to do with
the real anatomy. This is picking up a little bit of the construction of the shoulder blade
where the muscles are of the trapezius here. You know, this is maybe picking up a little
bit of the top of the trapezius or the teres major or minor, the latissimus. You know,
you can argue that there is some stuff there. For the most part none of that is real.
It's all just an invention based off the rhythms.
You know, it’s a fantasy world. A place where you can fly—
fish fly through the air rather than swim through the water or whatever.
You know it’s flash Gordon. But, it rings true.
Notice where I’ve got really dark tones.
I can actually wipe some of those tones away with my stump.
I like to be kind of loose and painterly.
A lot of these, I go back, like if I spend a full regimen of time on this, and I’ll
go back and adjust these shapes, refine them, edit them out. A lot of stuff I’ll put in
at the beginning, and then I’ll take it out. It’s too much. It’s too Rococo, so
I’ll take it out. You kind of play it back and forth. But you start out with all these
choices, a buffet of choices, and then you can always back off later.
You can do the reverse.
You can keep it very simple, clean, by the book or simplify it and stylize and
formalize, like say a neoclassical. Something where you’ve simplified, you’ve reduced
it down. It’s more utilitarian say, where it’s only the stuff that needs to be there
to make the point. Then once it’s working at that simple stage then you can come back
and add some flourishes. You know, so either way, whatever works for you.
I’m just going to make the boxing gloves an abstract statement. It’s just a vague,
dark shape in a dark world. It sounds like the opening to some 1950s thriller or twilight zone.
A dark shape. We’re all dark shapes in a dark world.
Notice once you’ve gained the confidence of your audience.
We’ve done our work on that back so it looks pretty
realistic and such. Then I can do things like the belt and the glove
and make those just abstracted shapes.
You know, all art is an abstraction. Realists sometimes fool themselves into thinking
they’re really drawing a boxer or an arm, or they’re really capturing the light.
You're not. You can’t grab it. You can’t touch it. It’s an abstraction of reality.
Maybe I’ll make the trunks and the glove just this abstract statement and let you do
the rest of the work. You the audience, you do the rest of the work for me. Give the audience
something to do. They’ll usually thank you for it.
Notice as I do that, as I scrub with my eraser it gets dirtier and dirtier and dirtier, and I take
less and less pigment off. I have to work harder and harder to do that, to get the pigment off,
so that creates a natural gradation.
Okay, I lost or I did lose my lay-in, come back in and find it.
Now I’m going to contend with that little ear.
I’m going to go to my finer tools.
I’m going to get some powder on there and lay that in.
Just putting down charcoal and moving it around.
As I scrub it, it gets a little lighter, so this area I want particularly dark. I want that black
hair to get lost into the black background or more or less black.
Then let it fade down and catch a little bit of light presumably because that other arm
is working away, cutting through or jerking across because of the action,
whatever the heck is going on there.
That’s for you guys to figure out.