- Lesson details
In this third charcoal drawing session, Steve Huston creates a beautiful rendering of model Brant. He gives you a couple chapters on preparing materials and tips for mark-making before showing you how to work with the model to find a pose that’s both pleasing to the eye and comfortable enough to hold for multiple hours. You’ll also learn about two value systems, value control based on the planes that make up the forms of the body, and finishing techniques. As always, Steve’s teaching style and narration strike a wonderful balance between instruction, philosophy, whimsy, and personal anecdotes from his many years in the industry. We hope you enjoy this lesson!
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Hi I'm Steve Huston. Today we're
gonna do a long pose demo with Brant. We're working in charcoal. We
actually have Brant in the studio with us so I'm gonna show you how I set up the model,
figure out a pose that's comfortable for him, that's dynamic for me.
I'll set the light then I'll sit down and get going. Steven Huston
is an internationally renowned painter and draftsman who has worked for such clients
as Caesars Palace, MGM, Paramount Pictures, and
Universal Studios and has taught drawing and painting at Disney,
Warner Bros., Blizzard Entertainment, and Dreamworks Studios.
We'll see how far we can take it in the time we have together and I will see you on the other side.
using and how we use it.
Then we’ll be able to do some really fun things with this.
This whole drawing style is not really the style.
I draw the way I draw, but the technique is based on looking at Sargent charcoals, those
beautiful, rich charcoal drawings he we do.
I found the contemporary materials that best matched that,
the richness of those charcoal drawings.
So the basis that I’m working with is the alpha colors.
You can find others, but what they are is a nice square.
This is broken a little bit.
They’re a little bit longer.
It’s a nice chunk of charcoal and it’s nice and soft.
So when I lay it down there it puts down a lot of pigment quick, and it gives me the
ability to blend and work it and turn it into these rich values of dark, darks and light
lights and beautiful, smooth, rich kind of buttery gradations.
I just love them; they’re great.
And they’re cheap.
I love them for that too.
You can actually get them in any color.
I’ve got the black here, obviously.
You can get them in white which we won’t need.
We’re going to use an eraser.
We’re going to use an additive process.
We add pigment and then with the eraser we will use a subtractive process, taking some
of that away.
I won’t use it today, but you can actually use an electric eraser to kind of zip back through.
I’ll show you some play that we do with the erasers.
Anyway, alpha color.
When I do some of my lessons, my New Masters or Art Mentor lessons, you’ll notice me
doing big drawings oftentimes in the lecture stage of a lesson, and I’ll be working with
big colored chalks and creating two-tone drawing of an eyeball or a torso or something.
I’m using alpha color there too.
I’m just using a package that will have a rainbow set of colors.
There will be different packages of different color types.
I’ll use those.
But for now, black.
The other black tool I use is Conté of Paris.
Let me show you the package on that.
They come in—this is a multipack.
You can get little packs of just two charcoals.
They come in different colors: White, various versions of sanguine, and a rusty orange and
black and brown, so in kind of that limited range.
This is an old standby material.
If you look at Watteau drawings and Boucher drawings, you’ll see Conté drawings, basically
two-tone black and sanguine.
Again, we’re just using the black as opposed to the browns or whites on them.
But anyway, great stuff.
The difference between, so one of kind of the helpful parts of the technique, this alpha
color is pure charcoal.
This Conté is chalk, and chalk is a slightly waxier version.
It’s charcoal with a binder, basically.
It’s a waxier version so when you use it it’s not going to blend as well, and it’s
not going to smudge as easily.
It will a little bit, but it’s a littler waxier.
So for really tight detail, if I have to dig in under an eyelid or if I need—mainly for
contour line I will use that.
Anyway, I’ll create my rich shadow shapes and values with the alpha.
I’ll do some of my fine detail and my contour lines with the chalk.
There are my two additive tools, my pigments.
I should say a little about the paper.
The paper itself is Strathmore.
It’s a high-quality and pretty expensive paper, and it comes in a big sheet.
They are packaging a little bit differently now.
It used to come in loose sheets, and you’d have deckled edges, so kind of torn edges,
kind of torn edges.
Now they’re starting to put them in small packs.
This came in a pack of four, and I don’t even know how much it cost in US dollars,
but it’s pretty expensive.
It’s a few bucks a sheet.
But you have a nice big one.
Oftentimes, I’ve got it on camera filled up here, but oftentimes I’ll fold it in
half and then work in a smaller format, or you can just cut or fold it in half.
Then you can get four sheets out of this maybe.
That’s the paper.
It’s Strathmore 500 series.
What we want from a paper is something that has a little bit of a tooth.
You can see as I lay down the charcoal, you can see the texture in here.
Now, as I start to render and blend, I can force that pigment down into the fibers and
lose the little white coming through, background white, and so I can dig down into the fibers
and into the valleys of this surface.
This is a Bristol finish.
There is hot press.
There is cold press.
Hot press is plate finish.
It’s called that sometimes.
Cold press is kid finish, and kid finish will work.
Bristol is slightly smoother.
If you use the plate it’s super smooth and it’s so slick the pigment won’t hold.
You need to have a paper that has a little bit of tooth to it so it will hold the pigment,
and then I can blend out so I can render it so that I lose the surface texture.
The paper doesn’t destroy the illusion of the gradation.
I can come back because it’s got good texture.
Come back with darker pigment on top of it, and it will hold a ton of pigment.
We want that tooth just to be able to get our deep darks in there.
The other thing I like about it is notice when I don’t render it, don’t blend it
super aggressively, then we’re going to get a little bit of the pores of the paper
coming through, and that feels a little bit like the pores of your flesh to me.
It feels more alive than just a clean airbrush gradation from old airbrushes or in computers,
Creating that slight texture to me is critical to kind of bring humanity into your drawing
so you get this really lovely sense of the pores of the flesh if you’re doing a nice
big head or whatever.
So that’s that.
Now, let’s see here.
Let me show you two of my supportive tools.
Just any kind of sandpaper.
What I’ll do is I’ll take my alpha color and I’ll just scrub it against the sandpaper,
and it will let some of the pigment come off, and I’ll take what’s called a stump.
A lot of you have probably heard of it.
But a stump is just a pencil.
Instead of a pencil with lead or charcoal in it, it’s a paper that’s just rolled paper.
By kind of rubbing it into or dipping it into that little of pile of pigment we’ve created,
now I’ve created a tool where I can make marks like the Conté,
but they can be much lighter.
And they are in the charcoal as opposed to in the waxy chalk.
Then where I really use this is I can then use the stump to also do gradations.
They’re particularly useful if we have to get into a little area, you know, that that
big, chunky alpha color is not going to let us do.
It’s too big so I can lay that in there and pull that back and do subtle gradations.
I use my finger a lot to make corrections and to create gradations.
Again, the finger is a big, crude tool.
The stump is targeted.
You have a little point there and you can really get into little areas like so.
So sandpaper stump.
There are different sizes, different tapering that goes on.
There are variations.
I like this one but any of them will work fine.
And then to subtract, I have two different erasers.
I’ve got a kneaded eraser.
This is Faber-Castell brand but there are other brands.
Kneaded erasers and they come in wrapped cellophane or they’re starting to come in these neat
little packs like this.
It’s basically eraser clay you can turn into any shape.
And so you can take this and come back and drag it in there and create a little finger
of an eraser or pencil of an eraser and get in there and touch up.
You can see how you can make fine detail or subtle, just subtly lifting the pigment off
It’s a soft eraser so it’s not going to, I’m not going to be able to get this darkened
area back to white.
If I want to get in there and be more aggressive then I can use this.
I use the Staedler but any hard eraser would work.
Don’t get the pink ones because the pink pigment can actually stain your page.
Now I can come in there and erase back aggressively and bring it back close to white.
You can see how it’s dirtied up there.
Get it back close to white.
Then to get it to white I can use, as I alluded to before, an electric eraser, which I’m
not going to use today.
Or you can use any kind of razor blade or X-Acto knife and actually scrape it back.
Notice how I’m actually damaging the fibers of the paper to do that.
That will allow me to get back to a white highlight or something.
Also, the reason I got into using the razor blades and X-Acto knives, when I did the boxers
I would actually scrape back the paper to create highlights on the boxer’s flesh or
just on the composition, and to me that was kind of scarring.
I was damaging the paper as these characters were being damaged in their endeavor.
They were trading blows, getting punched for a living.
In some ways, in some senses it was kind of performance art in a way.
I was trying to create a technique that was wounding just like the subject matter was
wounding, so kind of a method drawing as opposed to method acting.
That stuff can get silly or it can be irrelevant, or it can be a great motivation
so whichever it is.
You don’t want to do it if it’s just going to be just kind of silly and obvious.
You do want to do it if it helps you get into the mindset of your work and to help built
the concept a little bit.
So that’s that.
The last thing I’ll use is a paper towel.
And so for the bigger areas I’ll just use a cheap paper towel and just work it over.
So that’s that.
In any medium, when you have any medium, what happens is if you can get a hard edge, a graphic
shape, let’s call it, of pigment, whether it’s oil paint, or in this case a pastel
If you can get a graphic shape with hard edges and you can get gradations, soft blended edges.
Hard edges, gradations, you’ve got mastery of your technique, basically.
Any material, if you can make beautiful gradations and you can make really solid, crisp, hard
edges, you’re in control of that material.
The only other thing you might want to do with that material is create textural differences.
For example, you might have a library of strokes
on how you put down the paint to show different material surfaces.
If we want to make oily skin I might use thicker paint, longer, looser brushes.
If I want to show kind of shaved hair on the scalp I might use a scrubbing technique or
even a wet-over-dry scumbling or dragging technique of the brush, so the brush stroke
might change quite radically depending on what I was trying to create,
burlap as opposed to silk.
Flesh as opposed to grass.
It might be a short little hatching, wispy strokes, maybe even splaying the brush out
There are all sorts of tricks you can do with the application that will help create a textural
difference within the piece.
That’s the only other advanced technique, but you can do just fine, and a lot of painters,
especially alla prima, wet-into-wet painters, kind of in the tradition of the Sargent school,
which is huge worldwide.
All the ateliers kind of come out of that.
That’s big and it’s been a big influence on me.
This technique is out of Sargent.
The knocks on Sargent’s work from the moderns, the impressionists and post-impressionists
was that everything looked like silk or satin.
Everything was so juicy and lush.
There was no surface differences in the paint.
In the rendering it all looked the same.
Silk had its different value range and it was tailored into the shape of the dress of
the costume and hair had its color choices and all that kind of stuff.
He would identify through the drawing and by the color and value ranges, but that was
a different, and by the context, that’s hair on the head.
That’s a mustache and not a lip.
That’s flesh and not costumes, that kind of stuff.
But the actual movement, the gradation of dark to light didn’t change really from
material to material.
It was all lush.
And Sargent did pretty well in his career.
You don’t have to have that third aspect.
You can just have hard edges and gradations.
You don’t have to do the rest.
But, I even alluded a little bit to the surface by talking about the pores of the paper.
It’s one of the reasons I chose this particular paper.
We’ll deal a little bit with that, but for the most part we’re just going to deal with
our two ideas: How do we create a hard edge and how do we create a gradation?
Now when we go back to our chalk, notice that it’s a rectangle.
It’s a little block, and so it’s got a corner that creates a nice hard edge.
If it’s not hard enough, crisp enough, we can come in with our Conté stick and sharpen
that right up and get a nice hard edge.
At any point, we can decide to turn that hard edge into a soft edge, and that soft edge
into a full-gradation and/or a lost edge by using the zigzag technique.
They call it the zigzag technique.
What that does is two things: As I go along the long axis of that tone, for example; if
I’m going to draw a tube here, then I’m going to go down the long axis of that tube
with what we call the core shadow, the beginning of the shadow and mark that off.
One of the hallmarks of this style and this lush range of values, these rich darks on
the white paper, is I’m going to have a shape of form.
I’m going to draw a simple construction of the form.
Then I’m going to draw the shape of the shadow on the form.
Specifically, I’m going to go to the beginning of the shadow, the core edge, and that’s
the point where the form turns out of light and goes into shadow.
I’m going to make a mark to find that core edge by the long axis.
Now, if I come back with any number of tools, in this case just my finger, and started zigzagging
back and forth along that long axis and slowly move, in this case, to the right as I do it,
notice what happens.
I get a beautiful, rich gradation pretty easily.
Now, notice when I go down that long axis it’s going to be pretty easy for my tones,
my blended tones to overshoot my form.
This is where the tube was supposed to begin and end, and I overshot it.
Of course, that will be then where I’ll do one of two things.
I’ll let another shadow shape hide that bleed that I didn’t want, and I’ll zigzag
into that to make sure the rough hatching of applying that value onto that end of the
tube looks nice and clean.
Then I’ll use my eraser.
Since it’s a dark against a nice, crisp light on kind of the non-background of the
paper, I’m going to use my hard eraser.
I do a lot of blowing to blow off the extra pigment and to blow off the eraser, spillage
of the eraser, the little bits that come off, like so.
Notice when I put in my shadow, I get a beautiful gradation, but I didn’t get good coverage
I might need to come back several times and in several different ways.
You’ll see those several different ways as we get into our actual drawing.
I may need to come back in and add more pigment to fully cover.
What I’m going to do is I’m going to make sure that I’m designing my structures off
a two-value system.
The shadows are dark and the lights are light, and I don’t want the two to compete no matter
how nuanced, beautiful, expressive, artistic, whatever adjective you want to use.
No matter how much of that I put into it later in the rendering, I want to make sure that
it’s a two-value system.
The easy way to make sure it’s a two-value system is just to squint at it.
If I squint, I’ll notice that all of the shadows grouped together against the lights.
Notice that the way I’ve drawn this form, constructed it, it was a tube.
It was round across.
The way I’ve rendered it, it’s actually a box.
It’s square across.
I’m going to render everything like it’s a box.
I’m going to give it a two-value system, and I’m going to make sure that the core
shadow sits at the corner, the perceived or imaginary corner.
In this case, it’s an imaginary corner.
Since it’s a tube there is no true corner.
I’m going to consider it a corner, and I’m going to break it into that two-value system.
Then, if, as I almost certainly will, want to make it rounder, I’ll do that as a second step.
What I’m going to do then is I’m going to draw the shape of the form, the construction
drawing like I would in any 5-minute constructed drawing exercise.
Then I’m going to draw the shape of the shadow on the form.
Then I’m going to give the shadow a nice, dark value.
It doesn’t have to be dead black or super dark like it is here.
I’m just doing that for construction purposes.
It just has to be dark enough that when I squint at it I get that two-value system.
The shadows are dark.
The lights are light, and it’s clear to the audience which is which.
There is no confusion.
We use the squint test to double-check that.
Very simple four steps there.
Draw the shape of the shadow.
Draw the shape of the form.
Draw the shape of the shadow on the form.
Give that shadow a value, and it can be, notice it can be shape of the form, shape of the
shadow on the form.
It can be hatched in like a pen and ink artist or cross-hatch.
It can be in any technique, but that would be the—and then I squint to make sure that
this shadow value separates from that light value.
Even though this is very subtle compared to this contrasting statement, when I squint
all the shadows from the most part group together.
All the lights separate.
That’s all we want.
Once I have that, then I can come back to my core shadow, and I can use whatever tool,
the stump, my finger, I’ll use the paper towel in this case.
I’m going to do the same zigzagging technique and I’m going to slowly go into the half-tone.
By the time I finish those half-tones, I want to make sure that I squint again.
Make sure that now the dark smudges of the half-tones don’t compete with the light
side of the, the shadow side of that form.
I want to make sure that the half-tones, as dark as they are, when I squint at it and
I’m squinting at it now, when I squint at it, all of the lights separate from all the
Notice by coming back and forcing that border a little darker as I did earlier on and then
gradating out of that.
It started at the core shadow.
It leaves a little core of darkness which is truthful.
In nature we actually have not one light source.
We have two light sources.
We have the direct light and we have the indirect light.
The indirect light is the bouncing or reflected light that comes off the floor or the wall
in the environment that the object is in.
The light strikes the object.
It’s also striking the tabletop and the wall around the object.
Then that bounces light back into the shadows, but not as strongly.
It’s a secondary light, a much weaker light than the initial,
than the main direct light source.
Now what we can do is come back and give stronger reflected light.
Now, here is what happens with our kneaded eraser or any of the erasers.
Look at what I did.
I erased a little bit and it dirtied up my eraser.
With a kneaded eraser, what you do is you just fold that under and get a clean spot
and go again.
There we go.
It’s starting to dirty up again, isn’t it?
This time I’m not going to clean it.
I’m going to go ahead and start in the area of lightest shadow and then go towards the
Notice as I go toward that dark core shadow, more and more pigment dirties up my eraser
so the eraser can take off less and less pigment.
We get a natural gradation.
Let’s do it again over here.
I’ll start here.
I’m just going to keep erasing it.
I’m going to slightly lighten my touch as I go, but because that eraser gets dirtier
and dirtier, I’m taking less and less pigment off and I get a natural gradation.
There we go.
Now, here’s the problem.
When we start doing that, getting in our nice half-tones, we can get our background in here,
You can see very quickly a quite realistic statement.
It can also start to look metallic like a water faucet pipe and also get that same technique
of dirtying up my surface of my heart eraser and get a nice gradation.
Work it back and forth.
Notice that the lightest shadow is very similar to the value of the middle and darker half-tone.
That’s a little dangerous.
You can get away with it because I’ve got a really good core shadow.
There is no confusion.
I’m going to clean off some of that.
There is no confusion about what’s shadow and what’s light because I’ve got such
a strongly drawn shape.
In terms of the value range there is confusion because some of the shadow is the same value
as some of the light, and that’s going to start confusing us.
In nature that happens all the time, but since we’re not in nature, we’re working on
a flat surface and only giving the idea of form.
The idea of the form is that form is a two-value system.
The reason we’ve reduced all of nature to such a simple model is because our audience.
We understand as artists that our audience, as we, will see different values
as different planes.
So if I've got...
Two values here.
The audience is going to see two planes.
We can make—if it’s three values it can be three planes
Different value, different plane.
If we make them the same value, if we start to make the half-tone a similar value to the
shadows, it’s going to look flat.
We want to make sure that the shadows group darker and the lights group lighter after
all the rendering.
There are times where we can cheat on that.
There are times when nature won’t show us that.
But if we want to get the most bang for our buck out of our rendering of our flat paper
then make sure that the light side overall
looks consistently lighter than the shadow side.
So back off on your half-tones a little bit.
Back off on your reflected light a little bit.
Then it’s going to be, it’s going to read better.
You’re going to get a tonal composition where things separately graphically.
We won’t have a fully rendered ball with all the values against a fully rendered table
with all the values against a fully rendered background with all the values because then
they’re all going to compete for attention.
They’re all going to be wanting to be the main character in our story.
Instead I will design it so that if a dark ball on a light background or a light ball
on a dark background or a full value ball on a limited value background or vice versa.
Notice each of those designs stages the realism in such a way that the object, the foreground
has a different value or different value range than the background, and that creates interest.
We’ll do it in two or three value systems.
Then that’s going to give us the most bang for the buck.
That’s basically our technique.
Let me show you a couple other things, one that I neglected.
If you’d prefer not using a chalk, a stick, but you’re more comfortable with a pencil,
I’d still recommend you get the pastel chalk, the alpha color because you want to be able
to get coverage, fill in big areas of shadow.
But for the fine work, if you’re working real small or you get the contour lines and
those little detailed shapes, you can switch to any kind of charcoal pencil.
This happens to be Conté of Paris.
It’s brown but you’d want to get black.
Of course, you could absolutely get a brown alpha color and get brown pencil and do it
any color you want.
I don’t recommend bright colors.
Don’t get a bright colored red pencil because the bright color confuses the eye of the viewer
Shadows are supposed to be kind of the absence of light.
Color is the presence of light, and so if we have a bright color in the shadow it can
happen, especially outside.
When you paint outside like the impressionists it can happen.
We’re programmed to think of shadows as kind of an absence of light.
And so if we take out most or all the color in the shadow it’s going to feel more shadowy
and we’re going to get a better pop of form.
If we put in a bright color in the shadow it’s going to feel like it’s the presence
of a strong light source, and our eye views bright colors as lighter in value than they
It’s going to steel away quite a bit of your value range, potential value range.
For that reason, when you’re doing these kind of exercises, work in black and white
or very limited Brown School colors, kind of rusty burnt umbers, burnt sienna, that
kind of stuff.
You can absolutely use a pencil instead for application and detail.
The other thing is—give me a second here.
When you get your Conté chalk, I want to turn it into a pencil shape, but it’s going
to start out as a brick, a block form like that.
What I’ll do is I’ll take my X-Acto knife, and I’m going to whittle it down just like
a would a piece of wood, and for a setup here I’m going to do it on this just so dust
doesn’t go in my lap.
I’m just going to scrape off those corners basically.
I’m going to start about a half-inch back.
You can start way back.
Some people start way back and make this long, tapered beautifully sharpened conical shape.
I always break those.
I’m too heavy handed to do that so I like to do about a half-inch or so.
It’ll get stubby and worn down.
This one is just beginning to be.
Then you just take a break from your drawing and keep sharpening it just like you would
a pencil in a pencil sharpener.
I’m just going to keep whittling that down.
If you push hard you’ll break it so you want to be fairly gentle.
Keep whittling and whittling until you’ve got it.
You can get it beautifully sharpened just with this technique.
Or you can get it roughly shaped and then switch to your sandpaper.
I just grabbed sandpaper from the hardware store, but you can buy little sanding pads—most
of you are probably aware of them—from the art store.
They’re just more expensive but they’re more convenient too.
They’re just several sheets stapled on a little flat stick, kind of a tongue depressor
type of stick.
I’ll just keep rolling this back and forth, just roll it back and forth as I’m sharpening it.
You can see how quickly I can work out a stubby or a long beautifully tapered.
There it ends up being about a quarter-inch, and that would be fine, too, for the way I work.
Then I’ve got my nice crisp line.
Notice I can start out really light like so.
That's our materials.
And that's how we use our materials.
That gives us a good basis to start with our wonderful models
that are going to show up here
and get on stage for us, and we'll come back and get that going in just a second.
charcoal drawing. We've got some lovely materials if you go to the
earlier section you'll see all about the materials, how I use
them. But we're gonna take a few minutes now, set up
Brant our model into some situation that looks good,
find a nice pose, and we might - in the studio I might take an hour or so
doing that. Just finding the right pose, moving the light source
around. We'll do a much more truncated version of that and kinda settle
maybe even a little too soon on the pose but we'll get a good pose because
we got a good model. And we'll find something that's gonna work for us. And when I'm setting up
I'm looking for some dynamic pose, or interesting pose,
subtlety dynamic or just flat out dynamic, and then
interesting light and shadow shapes on that. I'm interested in
kinda the labyrinth of forms that happen through those
tones. How the half tones turn into shadows and the shadows break
against the lights and the highlights pop away from that. All that good
stuff. And we've got a nice, rich, fun medium to work with. So
let's go ahead and get started and find that pose that's gonna make for
hopefully a successful demo. Alright so as we
set up the pose here, I wanna make sure I'm working - your camera
angle is very close to my sight line. I'm down below you
four or five feet, but I'm at the board down here
and what I want to make sure of, or if I had to be real careful about
it, and I should be. If I'm setting him up - or her up -
I would get down at my eye level, where I'm sitting at my
bench, or up at my eye level where I'm standing at with my easel
and make sure I'm doing that, rather than saying oh that looks great
and I'm setting him up over here but I have to draw or paint over here.
So it's important to pick that out. And when you're working in a classroom, I
don't see students or professionals do this near enough. You're sitting down,
there's a ring of other artists around you maybe
and you're trying to draw eyelids and eyelashes
and all the convolutions of the ear, and he's far, far away
and if you were to look at that, that eyeball that you see
is maybe a 32nd of an inch in size when
you sight it from where you're at, ten, twenty, thirty feet away. So what
you should do when you're working on those little structures,
trying to get control of them, get down on the paper, rather than staying back
in your seat and drawing, and really, really, really making it up in
effect, get up, come around, figure out
exactly the angle you're working and come up and look
and see now how exactly what's the
curvature of that eyeball. And really check it out. And even come over
here and see how it changes.
How the curvature changes as you move around it. One of the advantages of being a teacher
you get that semi circle of angles on
that figure so as you're drawing the back, you're already very aware of
what the front's doing because you've been over there helping another student. Alright so let's go ahead
Brant and give it a shot.
Okay are you gonna want -
shall we lay some cloth over the top of that for your wrist?
So before you settle into that
do a mighty twist, like a 30 second pose.
Something crazy wild. So you might go god I like
that, if you could do that. But we have to make sure we're working with our
model and know - he's gonna be here for three hours. I think it's three - is it three
hours? Three hours. He's gonna be here for three hours. And if you're
torqued up like that, all the sudden your innards
start to go on you and the muscles start to stiffen up and you 're gonna have to slowly
pull out of that pose over the course of the session or you're
gonna end up in great pain. So you have to make sure you find
not only a pose that's beautiful but a pose
that the model can hold. And so when you have them up doing
five minute poses, or 30 second poses, they can do all sorts of
crazy things. If they're in something that's gonna have to go
for a while, either have to give them a tremendous number of breaks
or you have to have something that seems dynamic
but is a little easier. And any twist on the torso, any
great twist I should say, often times spells trouble
for the later in the sessions. Okay so
yeah, that's actually great.
Okay so what I'm looking for
is variation. We have some twist in there,
the muscles of the torso and the flesh of the torso, it's like wringing out a wet towel.
There's a lot of torque going on there, like my fabric would.
That's interesting. We've got some nice shapes of shadow
and take a deep breath. And then
relax it. And then take a shallow breath
and expand your ribcage. And then suck in your stomach
push out your stomach. See how those
shadow shapes change as he goes? Also he's gonna take a
break in a half hour, more or less, he's gonna come back and he'll be in a slightly
different position. He'll take a break and he'll be in a slightly different position when he comes back.
We can tape it off so he stays as close as we can -
as close as humanely possible, get him back
in the same pose, but it's still gonna vary a little bit. And so those shadow
shapes will subtly be different. So what I'll do is I'll
lay in the big structures and then as he comes back into his new
poses, I'll say, you know, I like the tilt of the torso even more there
and I'll tilt it over a little bit more. Or I like the shape of that
shadow better than what I did and I'll alter that shape.
And I'll show you how to do that. And so I'm constantly looking for the
best possible choice. if I were really after
a finished piece that was the best I could do
I could do things like work his torso from here, but
then maybe move the light source slightly around him
or even scoot over a little bit here and get a slightly different angle,
a more attractive, or more dynamic, or whatever angle of the head.
And then I'd do another one and I'd have him
find exactly the right position for a beautiful hand
instead of just a fist, maybe he'd end up like this.
And so I would, in the primary drawing I would draw him as is,
but I'd leave this fairly unfinished because it's like that and I'm gonna end
up turning it like that. And so I would kinda piece together areas
as well. Alright, and I'm gonna kinda walk around here just to get a
That's gonna get tired. Yeah, I thought it might, okay. Okay.
Yeah that could work.
about that arm, bringing it back like this again?
Does that work at all?
How about bringing it across like this?
Does that work? Okay, that's nice.
Yeah let's do that. That's great actually.
Yeah right there is great. Excellent. And
actually the added bonus, it's the advantage of having a good model
to hire - look at how beautiful his hands are.
They're both - if we were just gonna do a hand, those would be really nice hands to draw.
And that can be hard to find a pose where the hands don't end up being
clunky in some way or another. Often time in my
own work, I'll shoot the hands completely separately and piece
them in there as something very different, just to get exactly the right
hand position. And also I'll
tweak the shading. But right here - I'm always thinking
of architecture. I'm thinking the architecture
basically blocks - so we can see
this side, from the index finger to the thumb
is a facet basically. And then we have a facet here, and then the
shading here is a facet. So one, two, three.
And then when we come down here, the knuckles become a facet.
The fingers pop out and catch light. If we were to pull those back, they're all gonna
drop off. So basically the shadows are gonna break, bump
at that knuckle line, kinda half way through the knuckle. This all then becomes
a down plane, turn to the side for you,
as opposed to the up plane. So we can now break this down into one, two, and
probably smart, three planes. This'll be a different value range of
half tone. This'll be different, probably lighter, and this'll be darker,
basically shadow with the fingers popping out, catching light. So I'm thinking
of that box logic as I light it. The shadows I'm gonna
treat as a corner. This is a plane that drops off. I have a plane here, a
plane here, two, three, four, planes, that kinda thing. So I'm trying to light in
position things in such a way that that's set up already for
me and it's gonna make the rendering go much easier.
of my good friend Brant. I've been drawing him for probably
25 years. So it's - and I haven't
done it for a while, many years actually. But it's fun to
get back to kinda old, familiar shapes. But again
we haven't hung out for a while let's say,
so it's gonna take me a little bit to warm up into my materials
to get a feel for the personality I'm
drawing, to remember that personality, or
rediscover it, or find how it's changed over the years.
So it's just - it's very much like
meeting a friend that you haven't seen for a long time.
That's drawing now, I'm gonna get to know these shapes again and we're gonna have a dialogue
and those shapes are gonna tell me what they want me to do and
then I'm gonna tell them aesthetically what I would like them to do and we'll find
a compromise. And for years I did -
several years - not years and years but
for several years I did movie posters and
video covers and I did a lot of likenesses and I got
kinda tired of it actually. Not because it's not
a thrill and feels good to get something to look like
what's in front of you, but I would prefer to take those shapes
and stylize them and push them in my own direction. That's what one of the great
lessons I got from Michelangelo, is to
you know, create a piece of art where you probably couldn't
recognize the person on the street. You know, it was a
Michelangelo figure, it wasn't Fred who posed for Michelangelo.
So same thing here.
I want to, you know,
take the shapes in their nice, rugged, beautiful
shapes and you got that strong three quarter highlight source
and such and so I wanna take all those things. I set it up
the way I set it up so that it was something I like. But then I wanna
push it a little bit. Square them off, simplify,
multiply, make more complex, whatever strikes
me. You know, my style tends to be kind of
clunky, just in the sense of not clunky but
gesture. I work hard to make it fluid that way. But the shapes themselves, there's lots of
stair steps. I love - it's just a joy to me to
be able to turn a form and make it feel volumetric
and get a strong contrast and a strong
reaction or understanding, sympathy from the viewer of the
yeah that's something that's coming off the page. I can feel the solidity. I don't want them to be
fooled. I'm not trying to do Trompe-l'œil realism
but I kind of think of it as a hyper realism. I really
force the value range quite strong usually
and then I'll play games and fade it out in other areas. But I really try and use
the full limits in spots
of value, light and dark, and foreground, background, all that kinda stuff.
So and I exaggerate the shapes.
I exaggerate the values usually. I really push those
core shadows so we get that strong sense of reflected light.
So that the really chiaroscuro style that
Rembrandt would have or Van Dyck or
Velasquez. And then as always
in everything I do, whether it's a drawing or painting,
whether it's quick sketch or long form, I'm going to
lay it in like I would a five minute figure drawing.
And then I'll come over it with my
nice buttery tones. And one of the lovely thing
about these tones - this medium really
is that you get these really lush, sensual tones that feels like
flesh. So once I laid it in, now I'm gonna come back
and I'm gonna go right to the core and cast shadow. Especially the core shadow, I'm gonna draw a
thick line. So in this case the core shadow runs through the
hair of the eyebrow basically. And I'm gonna draw a thick line
and then that gives me -
that gives me the
loaded up pigment on the paper that I can then come back with my finger
or a stump or a paper towel and blend in
and get that shadow shape and nice, dark value. So I get immediately a two value system.
And work that off. There we go. I'm using a stump
because it's a small, little eye socket rather than the big pectoralis let's say.
And then I can drag at it. I go back to that core shadow I put in and
that becomes my load source. I'll come back and grab
my tones out of that. Now I went back to the charcoal stick
Put that in and then I'll come with a paper towel or my finger
and push that down so that's it's
pretty even, or scrub it in so it's perfectly even. And I'm doing both.
And I let that foreground just bleed into the
background knowing that it's gonna be a dark background. It's gonna end up being kind of a Rembrandt
non background, background. It's quicker that way, it focuses on
the figure and especially
for something has a pretty limited amount of a time, this is a
I dunno, a two hour, two and a half hour pose,
maybe three hour pose if we slowed it down into
real time. So I'm just loading the core
and then blending that core into the shadow to get my two value
system. Blending it back into the half tone to get that
turning, slow turning of the form, or to get the
blood in the nose so I can pop the highlight on later.
When I think about half tones I always want to set up
the half tone for the highlight. Is it dark enough to get a highlight
on there if I'm gonna put a highlight. If I don't need a highlight then
I'm just gonna bleach out the light so it's not an issue. But if I wanna pop that
highlight then that nose in half tone has to be pretty dark so I've got room to
get a nice, strong highlight. Again, I'm just using
the stump to put in those little, tiny
I'm thinking at this point I'm gonna kinda blast out the chest
and that'll be the first read. And so that's one of the reasons I'm knocking that half tone down
so dark. I'll keep the
contrast of the face a little
subtler. The light side'll be a little closer in value or a lot closer in value
to the shadows and the background. And then I'll make it
less interesting. The eye always goes to the area of greatest contrast.
And that's contrast in any form. But value is the most
powerful tool you have in always any aesthetic situation.
Any picture making situation. The lightest light against the darkest dark.
That's what we're gonna see firm, more than color almost always.
More than, like, simple to complex, background ,
shadows gonna be very simple. The foreground, light area, half tone
are is gonna be very complex.
The shapes of the body are gonna be, maybe
real boxy and architectural. Maybe you have, you know, the organic tree shapes
in the background. So organic against architectural. Shallow
space to deep space, three dimensional to two dimensional. I'll make
the figure very sculptural and the background very flat.
I can use thick paint in the foreground, thin paint in the
background or reverse any of those. So I have a whole series.
Many shapes in the foreground, very few shapes or no
extra shapes in the background. And I'm trying to make each
shape look like it's more or less representing what it's
representing. A sternocleidomastoid or
a clavicle or a deltoid, whatever the heck
it is. And yet be unique from the last shape. It'll be a
little hooked shape or a slightly bent
shape or kind of a triangular, shadow shape. But I wanna make it different
than the last triangular shape I did, the last hook shape that I did.
So that each - each of them feels like their shape
that would fit on a human body, but each
also has a personality. So they're the same and yet they're different.
It's a balance between the foreground and the background.
Okay so I'm just gonna work on down the body now.
And just step down those shapes and
just kinda create this interesting - every shape I wanna have
energy to it, and it's going to, of course, have
the sense of proportion and structure. It's
the corner of a form, or it's the top of the form, that kinda stuff. But also just
I wanna make it an interesting journey so as we come
off the face, into the neck, and off the neck into the shoulders,
and off the shoulders into the torso, the chest and ribcage.
How can I make that interesting? So dramatic changes
of direction followed by subtler
nuances of direction. You know, make a swing out
of the skinny neck way out to the wide chest. And then make a
pretty lazy transition down from the top of the chest to the bottom of the
chest. And then a little more energetic down from the
chest onto the ribcage.
I loaded up that core shadow, and I think of that core shadow
is not just the beginning of the shadow. So we have two values,
the shadow and the light. The shadow's dark of course the light side's
light and those two values represent two planes. If I do some
rendering, some gradation and detail, it might be several planes on the
light side and several planes on the shadow side. It starts out with this box logic.
Light side and shadow side, two values, two planes.
The beginning of shadow, the core shadow or form shadow
is the corner between those two planes.
If I use half tone, it will round that corner, like
carpeting a stair step or I can round it perfectly into an egg or a
tube from the boxy idea. But it gives me that
corner. And then what I think of when I do a real, nice, thick shadow
a nice, thick, core shadow - I think of it as a beveled
third plane between the two big planes.
And so here the same thing. These are smaller forms so they're gonna get
a smaller, little core shadow. But it's a little, tiny bevel
and that bevel rounds off when I soften it with half tone
blend it and stuff. So notice I do these little, kinda hooking shapes down the center of the
chest and then I blend it over so that it rounds over so that it feels like
a round, organic idea. But also I blend, out of the form,
and go down the length. And then that's gonna
take that little spot of value - spot of shadow
and integrate it into the next spot of shadow.
Or back into the last spot of shadow. That neck area.
And that way they're not, as I said in the earlier drawing, they're not
spotty but they integrate. They have a place
to go. They go up into the neck or down into the bottom of the chest.
So I'm constantly thinking the character, the proportion, the position,
of every particular structure and then how that
structure, through its gesture, through its long axis it
flows into, plays against,
or breaks away from the next gesture and structure.
That way I'm thinking of individual parts and I'm thinking about the community
of those parts. The great composition, how they
work together. And notice I'm getting
the chest, the pectoralis muscles and then I'm
up higher, but I'm getting the pectoralis muscles
but I wanted that whole chest structure,
not the two pecks separately but the whole chest
structure together. The bottom of that is gonna be darker and the light's gonna be lighter
so I did a gradation from the bottom of the chest all the way up, across all the
rendering I did. The analogy in painting would be to let that paint
dry and then glaze a darker gradation from
bottom to top to glaze that. So you always try and think of the big
structure. I want both of those peck muscles to be
one, bigger wedge first and then only secondarily two, lesser
wedges, or two eggs, or whatever it is.
So as big as possible.
So if I was drawing that whole -
that neck there, those little structures of wind pipe
and top of the - inside of clavicle, top of the sternum,
sternocleidomastoid. I could add all that stuff
but - and have - but I want it to sit on that bigger tube
of the neck. Always look for the big as possible. So I'm knocking that face back a
little bit farther so it's not quite so contrasting
against the chest. I pretty well decided that chest is gonna be the
biggest contrast, the first read.
So load that up. If you load that up
then you're getting those - that two value system right
off the bat. And when you gradate, you actually -
you're moving the figure over the form. So
you're going - the stroke is down the long axis but that
gradation over the short axis, or the hatching, it doesn't have to be a perfect gradation
over the short axis. So I have this clear
box logic for everything. And so
it has this peculiar proportion in shape
but the rendering of it is always the same process.
So if I get in trouble I can back up along that process
but it more than likely is
gonna make me move must faster through those processes.
So notice how half tone
integrates. It can always confuse and hide the little things. There are -
or hide the big - destroy the big things by emphasizing the little things,
but at its best it integrates those big things.
Because as we drag a half tone it's creating
a very nuanced relationship of the dark tone,
back to the light. By rolling back into the fuller light, or going
down into another shaded form.
So it really helps to create a
sophisticated series of relationships, rather than that simple,
just two value system, it becomes two value ranges
that can be very realistic. In this case I'm calling it
heightened realism because everything's kinda exaggerated like a
Baroque. It's bigger than life, usually he's gonna have bigger muscles and a
firmer chin and sharper shapes and more dramatic
values and even more dramatic technique. You know, I'm not gonna hide
the technique so much. I'm gonna make really buttery, rich,
marks and expressive line in the tone and so it's kind of
a heightened, stylized reality. Which to me is funnest. Just
straight reality doesn't interest me that much because that's camera work.
And there's all sorts of technology that can do that better.
But making it somehow poetic, or aesthetic,
or different, is
there's a real blast to doing that.
cage, and so I’m going to want to make sure I get the value.
The cast shadow is going across that corner plane, that B there.
That abdomen is across the front of the plane, the A, and then the other core shadow is over
on the other B side.
Then the full sides of the rib cage are lost to the left side or are deep in the shadow
on the right side.
I’m thinking that symmetry.
How can I make the left corner make the audience aware of the left corner and the right corner
as they frame that central front abdominal area.
I’m going to want that whole front area to curve over a little bit of a curvature.
As I sat from underneath the wedge of the rib cage, wedge of the pectoralis, the chest
muscles, I want the rib cage to push out and catch more light and then drop down the front
of the abdomen and catch less light.
That’s why I did that tone all the way across just above where I’m working now.
I’ve got that lit up front.
Now all those pinching forms—I’m refining the chest shape a little bit—all the pinching
forms of the stomach are going to track across that front plane at the same perspective angle
as the two corners of the pecs, the nipples if you can see those.
The thrust of the rib cage out and the pinching abdomen going down and across.
All those things are going to work at the same angle so we get that kind of box logic,
and that’s going to make it feel more real and more dramatic and ring true.
Now I’m going to show the wide waist and obliques squeeze out and catch some light
as opposed to that tight inner side of the abdomen.
I’m going to do the stairstep of logic as the inner abdomen steps out.
We move out from that into that wider waist, and they catch new areas of light.
I want to make sure that half-tone, as dark as it is, doesn’t feel like it competes
with the shadows.
The very darkest half-tones can get as dark as the light or reflected light, but the overall
shadow shape should be darker by far, significantly darker, let’s say, than the overall light
area or half-tone area.
That’s minus the core shadow, the dark accent of the core shadow and minus the light accent
of the highlights generally, but just the overall half-tone to shadow
should be distinctly different.
You’ll know it’s distinctly different if you squint at it.
Just use the squint test.
Always use the squint test.
Notice that every time I blend the shadow I’m using a pigment and it gets a little
bit lighter, and so I have to come back in oftentimes and reload at the core shadow that
value, and then I can blend that into he half-tone or into the reflected shadow area and pop
my accents, make it more dramatic and heightened.
Again, heightened stylization of that reality.
At this stage, I’ve got some work to do down in the bottom stomach and hips and legs
area, but at this stage everything is set in there, and it’s just playing with the shapes.
Redesigning them, making them more dramatic, making them less dramatic, chiseling things
out, forcing the big planes.
Make sure the little rendering didn’t destroy the big plane.
Redesigning shapes, making a stronger contrast a little less contrasting or vice versa.
You’re just kind of playing games on a lesser, just what if I make it, push this more or
what if I back off some and just kind of deciding at this point just how much I want to get
away with, how much I want to force it.
Now I’m coming back and finding again that constructed side and now turning it into much
closer or right into a contour there.
Again, if I really want this to pop then I wouldn’t draw a contour line there at all.
I would draw a background behind it that was a different value, probably darker value than
the reflected light side of the torso.
Again, just kind of garden-hose shape of the pinching stomach, you know, like your shirt
sitting down as I am at the moment recording, the shirt bunches up into little folds.
Just being consistent.
Every time it turns down it gets darker.
Every time it turns to the right it gets darker.
Every time it turns up it gets lighter.
Every time it turns to the left it gets lighter.
That’s going to be true on the nose, on the belly button, on the bicep, on the sternum.
Everything is going to have that same consistent logic.
I always kind of think of a fantasy or a fairy tale.
A good fairy tale will have some internal logic to it.
Frogs can talk and be turned into princesses.
Witches are ugly and eat little children.
Whatever it is.
You know immediately in a fairy tale if you see someone ugly they are bad.
If you see somebody pretty they are good because it was a stylization.
It was symbolic of the soul.
A good soul is beautiful.
We’re going to make it a beautiful golden-haired girl, not because blondes are nicer than brunettes,
but because gold and lighter and younger and healthier suggests God’s favor, I guess.
Gold suggests untarnished and pure.
We attach these meanings to it, but there is some internal logic that’s not necessarily
the same as real world logic.
You can meat a lot of mean blondes, I’m sure, out there someplace.
That’s what we want here.
We want to just kind of make sure that we have a consistent logic, that there is a worldview
and the rules are clear to understand, and the audience, once we’ve explained them,
will buy into it.
In my world, to show the end of a silhouette I use line rather than tone to show the details.
In the shadow I use a lot more line to show the details.
In the light I use a lot more tone.
In my world, shadows are dark and simple in detail and somewhat flat.
The corner doesn’t make it flat, but within the body of the shadow like that arm leaning
on the side of the mule, the drawing mule, is pretty flat.
And in the light side it’s very sculptural.
I create this logic to the extent that I can make it consistent they will accept it.
We can’t depend if they’ll like it or not because everybody has their own opinion.
Some people don’t like realism.
Sometimes some people don’t like nudes.
They like landscapes better.
So that we can’t really control, but we can control them saying that for all the things
I don’t like about it, yes, it is consistent.
It has a consistent craftsmanship and a consistent vision to it.
I can depend that if I think it’s beautiful, there is probably going to be a significant
Not everybody, but a significant number of people who agree and will like it too.
Notice by doing what I just did, that made it too light, and it made it the same value
as the light side.
What I’d rather do if I want to make that side of the rib cage lighter, I’m going
to push the front corner of the shadow of the rib cage darker.
If I want to make that side of the rib cage lighter, I’ll push the background darker.
What I try and do when I’m rendering away and trying to finish things off, moving towards
the finish or in the last third of something, I’ll make sure that I don’t add light
marks to describe the shadow.
I’ll try and add ever darker marks to it.
Other than that initial dark half-tone that I do on the light side, I’ll make sure that
if I want to bring more detail into the light side.
I’m using light marks, light paint or an eraser to go back to the light paper, that
kind of thing.
Dark half-tone, we need to push that pretty dark to show a subtle transition maybe out
of the light, although we don’t have to.
Zorn oftentimes wouldn’t.
He’d blast out the light in his figurative oil paintings.
But if we want that rich, buttery, soft light that’s dropping out, soft tones that are
dropping out of light, then we’ll have pretty dark half-tone.
Once we get up into he middle to lighter half-tone that’s out in the middle of the structures,
the dark half-tone is going to attach to the shadows.
Then I’ll make sure that I’m using an eraser to lift those up lighter and lighter
As I render then, the light side gets lighter and lighter for the most part, and the shadows
get darker and darker and darker, for the most part.
That will make sure that I maintain that two-value logic that, again, has those fantastic rules
that are consistent.
You know, it’s just flat paper.
It’s just smudges.
But if we have a consistent rule to it, then we’re going to more likely buy it and more
likely like it and then maybe literally buy it.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Now I’m just kind of playing—most everything is there.
There is a few little corrections that I’m going to make.
Now I’m just playing with the detail.
Do I want to add stuff?
Do I want to take things away?
Do I want to simplify some areas that maybe got a little too complicated?
Do I want to lighten the silhouettes so the overall light side doesn’t get spotty with
little half-tone details?
So oftentimes—I didn’t do it on this because it was a demo.
I actually had a class group with me, and I didn’t want to spend too long on it.
But, typically what I’ll do, if this was something that I was planning to show, that
I wanted to make sure that it deserved a frame and a place in a gallery then I would spend
a little more time and I would consider what to take out.
What could I simplify?
I might want to bleach out some of those secondary forms in the chest a little bit more.
Maybe I’ll slightly lighten all the half-tone in the chest and upper rib cage and make it
a little simpler.
Consider those kinds of things.
I’m not going to end up finishing that arm.
I most certainly didn’t.
But I wanted just not to stop.
The safest thing to do, not the only thing to do, but the safest thing to do is to have
that slowly fade into less and less finish and move from tone into more and more line,
let’s say, so that there is an evolution.
It’s a trip.
I mean to go from the city out to nature this weekend, and so there is going to be a transition
between as I drive or walk or ride my bike from the city into the forest where we’re
going to get less and less buildings and more and more trees.
Eventually they’ll be no buildings and all trees.
I want to do that with this too.
This is a study, a demonstration.
It’s not going to end up being finished, probably.
But I do want it to be aesthetic, so at whatever point I leave it, I don’t want it just to
be stopped but slowly evolving from a finish into unfinished into a central, considered
composition into a faded out and lack of composition.
Now I’m just going to detail that eye and refine those shapes.
Making him more steely gazed, maybe.
I like melodrama.
I grew up loving comic books.
In fact, me and some friends saw the Avengers last night, and that’s just fun stuff.
I like that stuff.
But I always wanted to be a comic book illustrator when I was a little kid, and so I still like
that heroic thing.
I’m still a little kid, I guess, in a lot of ways.
I like to have these firm, strong shapes.
Not all the time, but oftentimes, for the males especially, I think of them as kind
of superheroes in a way.
I want to make heroic shapes or masculine aggressive shapes, or whatever it is.
When I have a female, I’ll back off that and make them less architectural and more
smooth and buttery, as I’ve done in other areas of these kind of lectures, showing off.
Anyway, so I’m coming back and making stronger shapes, more beautiful shapes or maybe removing
a couple of shapes, showing how that eye socket moves over the cheek down towards the jaw
and how the tip of the jaw moves up the bridge of the nose and then meets the bottom of the
eye socket or goes out into the mouth and down to the chin or jaw.
How do I get from here to there.
What is this thing?
How does it relate to those other things?
I’ll get in that ear in there.
I could maybe leave that ear less dark.
Keep it softer value so that we look at the eye more and don’t look at the ear as much.
I want all of the ear.
It’s only a few inches away from the eye to be the same value range.
Crisping up the cast shadow.
Accenting the core shadow so it feels like we have reflected light in there without really
having to do the work of reflected light.
it’s a good idea to set the light source in such a way that you have a good chunk of
light and a good chunk of shadow, and that way you can deal with that corner idea.
The shadow shape is a corner against the light shape.
The beginning of the shadow shape, the corner is the light shape.
Pick up the hair.
Not worrying about the individual hairs but the grouping of hair.
That kind of thing.
The subtle eye socket, how wide the cheek is and stuff.
I’ll go back and forth several times seeing just how much information—I don’t want
a lot of information in the shadow.
Should I get the darker socket and eyelid, eyeball area where it’s a darker front plane
of that cheek in shadow, or do I want to make a more linear.
I’m starting to get kind of a front plane that’s darker and a shadow.
Down plane above the upper lid that’s lighter.
This again I was looking at an angle, and we measured it, but I would have swore that
the screen was distorted.
I looked at the screen, and he looked really fat and wide, so I wanted to trim that back.
I think that it was a good choice.
I thinned off a little bit of that arm to make up for that camera distortion.
We measured and we couldn’t find a camera distortion, but it feels like it.
It reminds me of a child.
I’ve got a bunch of kids, and oftentimes your teenager will look bigger before he or
she actually starts to grow.
You’ll go, “God, you look bigger today, you look bigger this week.”
You measure them and they are the same height, but then two days later or a week later, more
likely, all of a sudden they’re a half-inch taller or something.
That was kind of this too.
We measured it.
It’s one of the reasons I like to work on proportions more intuitively.
You can get the calipers out like a sight sizer would an Atelier and measure it out.
It can still feel wrong even though it’s mathematically accurate.
Everything is, you know, the tallness has been measured down, how many heads tall, how
far apart, how many eyes apart are the eye sockets?
How wide is the head?
Five eyes wide, that kind of stuff.
It can all be measured and yet doesn’t feel right.
If you look at say a Sargent portrait or a Van Dyck portrait, they are idealized, and
their heads are small and their bodies are big, and their legs are long, and the eye
sockets are deep, but it feels right because they’ve taken the aesthetics.
They’ve filtered the proportions through some aesthetic choice, some ideal canon or
whatever it is, idealized canon.
That’s what I like to do.
Rather than saying, this is exactly how long it is, you should do one nose up to the hairline
and one nose down to the chin.
Exaggerate it a little bit, maybe a little shorter for the hairline, a little longer
with the chin.
A little thinner for the waist, a little wider for the shoulders like the Greeks would do.
It doesn’t have to be superhero proportions, but it can be just pushed in one direction
or the other.
Notice we tend to do that in our fashion.
Women will wear high heels and high cut swim trunks and low-cut dress and long fingernails
and hair is pulled up into an updo so the neck looks longer, and the mascara is put
around the edge of the eyelids so the whites of the eyes look bigger.
We tend to have certain areas of the body that we find more beautiful if they are proportioned
in a slightly different way.
The longer usually, bigger as you go down, the head is a little smaller than it should be.
Look at Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.
Look at how small the head of Christ is compared to his body.
Typically, the average person is a little less than six heads tall.
If they’re really tall sometimes they are six or 6-1/2 even, but generally they are
less than that.
But, those Michelangelo’s were nine, 10, or 11 heads tall.
I remember measuring it at some time.
It was a lot.
It was superhero proportions.
I prefer to push those proportions in one direction or another.
I’m just playing with all those little folds.
There is an endless variation of how we could do those folds.
I’m just playing with those to show that tension there and bring in some little linear
shapes, long stringy shapes, rather than these blocky wedge shapes in the rest of the body.
This kind of stuff you could do forever, going back and forth.
I can erase it back, put it in again, erase it back 6 or 8 or 10 times, finding just the
right combination of beautiful little shapes.
Not too many, not too few, not too contrasting, not too subtle.
Letting it sit for a day.
Coming back to it and get with fresh eyes.
All of that doesn’t add tons of extra time.
Maybe a four-hour drawing adds another hour, but just kind of living with those choices
and trying to push them a little farther.
I’ll do stuff like this in that little pinching area of the lower stomach inside and might
spend half an hour or so doing all that and realizing it was better before.
Then going back and simplifying that or taking out some of those areas.
Anyway, that kind of stuff is fun.
Just kind of playing, you know, arranging the pillows on the couch like a designer might.
It doesn’t matter really at all to most people, but it does to her or him.
Just fluff it up a little bit more.
Scoot it over a little bit more.
Add a little extra pillow in front of those big throw cushions.
That can be fun.
Maybe losing the side of the face in the background there a little bit.
Experiment with that.
I might go back and forth doing that several times.
Just blasting it out so you can’t find the detail very easily in the shadows there, and
that keeps you more in the light or where light meets shadow.
At this point, it’d be nice to be at an easel or not recording at the time with the
camera because I’d get up.
I’ll have oftentimes a chair, all the time a chair 10 or 20 feet away from my easel or
my drawing board, and I’ll go sit in the chair and drink some water, eat my lunch,
or just sit there and look and just be in the audience for a while.
Just kind of imagine walking into a gallery seeing this and doing the tan line on that
leg, and a drop off of light.
Just looking over it, and I’ll come back and I’ll work on that leg.
I’ll add a few little strokes in there as I’m doing now.
A little painterly strokes with the eraser.
Etching out a few and exiting a few little forms.
I’ll go back and forth and I’ll go back and sit down, look at it for another half-hour
and come up and change a couple of things.
Just take your time.
Now I’m moving that hand.
It’s either because I put it in the wrong spot—I never make mistakes, it couldn’t
have been that—or he’s adjusted a little bit over the course of two or three breaks.
I like to make big hands anyway.
It’s more heroic, but also that hand is coming out of that forearm in deep, deep perspective.
If I make it a little bit bigger than it should be, then it’s going to feel like it advances
more like a fish-eye lens.
If I make it a little smaller, it looks like it’s going back.
It may make it look less masculine, but also it could make it look like there is
no form at all.
When I have something foreshortened, I make it wider than I think it should be to make
sure it doesn’t get just short, but it feels like it’s a receding form that’s in a
I remember he moved that hand a little bit at the break so the finger was in a different
spot, and so I was kind of drawing what I remember, the nice position that I remembered
of that finger.
Then I’m pretty sure later on I decided that that’s just too curvy from the knuckle
down the fingernail, and so I backed off that curvature and straightened out that finger
a little bit.
It just wanders off to the right a little too much.
It feels kind of strange, kind of stylized like a real finger couldn’t quite be in
Then I just come back and correct it a little bit.
I’m not even sure I corrected it enough when I looked at it afterwards.
That’s the advantage of having the time to have fresh eyes.
Take a break and have lunch.
Look at it tomorrow.
Take some reference photos from the live model if you can.
Look at it the next day or the next week.
Make a couple of corrections.
If I’m doing a one-man show or a group show, I’ve got several paintings going in, I will
work on say a couple of paintings, get them pretty well finished, and I’ll just set
them down and start other paintings, of course.
But, as I get into four, five, six, even 10 paintings, then I start to get a feel of the
personality of the show, that grouping of work.
You know, what do they have in common?
How do they relate?
By the time I get to the 5th painting, I may well go back to the first two or three or
all of them, and make little corrections that pushed the value range, to ghost out an area,
to simplify some detail because I’ll have a sense of the aesthetics of
what the whole show.
It’s like having a bunch of scenes, and then you start writing kind of freeform a
bunch of scenes, and then you realize seven or eight scenes later you’re doing a murder
mystery or a love story.
Then you need to go back and kind of insert some of that into some of the clues and some
of the heartbreak of being along and and the excitement of hoping to meet that significant
other, and then you kind of come back and tweak that earlier stuff so it’s in line
with what the finish, of where the overall storyline is going.
I’ll do that with the show.
Coming back and pushing that core shadow.
Oftentimes, moving a core shadow off, centered off to the right say, the last core shadow
of that will give me a little stair step of a knuckle or a tendon pops out suddenly
to catch light.
Making sure the bottom of that finger, the bottom phalanges are darker
than the top phalange.
Letting that little spot of light pop out but making sure it’s not super light
because we want it to be catching glancing light.
Then I might, you know, in a couple minutes, any second here or tomorrow, if we decide
to get rid of it, that’s too much, take it out.
Then a little while later, no, actually I do want that.
I’m going to put that back in.
Go back and forth and play these what-if games, especially with the details once you get the
big stuff in there.
Notice the hand overall is darker than the chest, and so it’s going to feel like it’s
farther frame the light source in the chest.
It’s more tan in the chest or has more blood in it, but that different, that darker half-tone
values can have it settle into the surrounding shadows a little bit more.
Make it less contrasting.
That’s all a good thing.
We don’t have it competing.
I’m lightening up that area so it’s catching strong light or smoothing out a smudgy down,
and then I plan to pack down.
I can go back and forth several times.
Back and forth.
Little subtleties that in some ways don’t matter because I have the big stuff down.
In other ways it’ll make all the difference because it adds nuance
and layers of information
that keeps the audience member with my work a little longer, or keeps that collector not
being able to forget it.
Every time I look at it I see something new and it makes me want to buy it,
that kind of stuff.
It makes it as Bill and Ted, that old move, they’d say more excellent.
The valley kids in California were excellent.
They used to say that in the 90s.
Here I’m doing a little one because just felt that overall I was dealing with too much
I wasn’t thinking of the big stuff.
He came back over, did it again.
I’m not sure it ended up any better, but it was, got its mileage and drew that hand
twice, the second time trying to get more Big Picture stuff.
My intentions were absolutely correct.
Maybe it made it better.
Maybe it didn’t but I was building good analysis skills, good willingness to correct
and try again.
You know, I was really trying to think of it as three planes, I think.
The side plane with the thumb is lighter, the top plane.
With all the knuckles and tendons it’s darker on the far right plane, and the shadow is
So three values there, two in light and one in shadow.
Lay in a little more background around that hand now so it gets lost in the folds,
and you can kind of hide out that other little hand there to feel its values, to feel those
three big values.
Then come back and use that information to make changes or inform the main drawing.
The old master’s used to do that.
That’s where I got that from.
Now you can see how that hand gets lost in those little ribbons of dark value,
these kind of painterly variations ark values, so he tried being in light and shadow of the
tendons and knuckles and stuff.
It kind of breaks up.
There is no big field of value like there is on the chest and so we’re going to see
that much later.
We’ll see the chest and the head and then the arm and then the leg and then the hand,
probably in that order.
0:20:36 That’s about it.
I’m just playing with it.
I could play at this point forever, but I’ve got pretty much everything I want or everything
I could feel I can do before the model leaves, and sometimes I’ll keep working a half-hour
or an hour after the model leaves, but not in this case.
Alright, that was our session with Bran.
I hope you enjoyed it.
It was fun to play with the medium, see where the piece took me and see what we ended up
I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Thanks for joining me.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview57sNow playing...
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2. Materials for Charcoal Drawing13m 9s
3. Tips for Mark-Making24m 31s
4. Steve and Brant Choose a Long Pose10m 56s
5. Long Pose Demo - Part 117m 15s
6. Long Pose Demo - Part 217m 2s
7. Long Pose Demo - Part 321m 20s