- Lesson Details
In this lesson, Leo Mancini-Hresko will introduce the Sight-Size approach to drawing. He will go over the tools and the materials you will be using, such as pencils and charcoals (And their hardness), as well as different types of drawing paper.
Academies and ateliers around the world are increasingly teaching an American realist approach to drawing and painting known as sight-size or classical realism.
Hosted by Florence Academy of Art founder Daniel Graves, this massive course is the most comprehensive breakdown of the sight-size approach ever produced online.
By the end of this course, you’ll be an expert in the approach and be ready to take on Sight-Size Painting Course, scheduled for a 2020 release.
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breadth, that sensibility, is so crucial to the way in which we see. Our eye actually
sees the world that focuses on one thing and then everything else is out of focus.
Sight-size is a technique for working in one to one scale with a really great deal of
accuracy. Where we’re standing from our viewpoint,
whatever we see through this little window is what can be transferred across to our canvas.
And when we step back at a distance all we do is flick our eye back and forth between the two and try to just figure out where ever point and angle lies.
It feels, in the beginning, very uncomfortable like you've been drawing for years and you haven't
been drawing in sight-size and all the sudden someone is asking you to start using a
string and measuring and all this thing feels very awkward, very mechanical and you think I'm
losing all my freedom of expression or whatever.
But if you look at it as a tool and if you look at it as
a kind of language in the beginning that you're just learning the grammar,
it will kind of set you free.
If you take the time to immerse yourself in this course of academic study,
you'll find that your knowledge of tone and your ability to render a light effect will
And so many of them have asked me in the past,
so what do I have to do to become a great artist?
The most honest answer is to become a great person, study
like crazy, understand the humanities, understand what it is to have the power to influence people
through your art and the significance of that.
One of the biggest challenges that all of us face is that of being true to
our own vision, that we often are swayed by the sales of other painters or the
techniques of somebody who is doing something really outrageous,
but getting a lot of notoriety.
The real challenge for young people today is to stay true to what they hold closest
to them because that's your real voice.
That's what you were born to say to the world.
It's like a songbird, you know,
they have a very specific song and they need to be able to express that.
My name is Daniel Graves, I’m the founder and director of the Florence Academy of Art.
Sight size is the method or the system of seeing or the system of measuring that
we use. You set up your drawing and the subject next to each other so that
you can see them together at the same time from distance. It allows us to compare the
model or the subject to their work at exactly the same size.
And this is an incredibly efficient way to see whether you're seeing the proportions correctly.
The idea of standing back gives you the perspective, it goes back to Leonardo. Leonardo talks
about proper viewing distance. He recommends that you stand back two and a half times the
greatest distance. So if you're looking at a 6-foot figure you would go back two and
a half times that distance. Some of the challenges in learning sight-size are the way
in which you set up so that your easel is completely perpendicular to the ground, that
you're standing back the exact distance that you need to stand back.
If it's a cast you want to make sure the lighting's correct,
you're not getting too much reflected light, the kind of paper use, you need to know
what limitations are and what its advantages are, the type of charcoal you're using, everything
from the plumb line, the mirror. Everything it feels in the beginning very uncomfortable,
very awkward, very mechanical, and you think up this is not for me.
I'm losing all my freedom of expression or whatever.
But if you look at it as a tool and if you look at it as
a kind of language in the beginning that you're just learning the grammar,
it will kind of set you free instead of having to measure a million times or
have your proportions completely off,
this will allow you to set up your subject and have it pretty darn accurate from
the get-go. So give it some time, give it a chance, and just kind of don't
fight the system in the beginning until you feel comfortable with it.
And eventually you just don't to measure nearly as much as you do in the beginning.
Your eye gets trained, your eye is far more accurate than the finest measurement that you
can do. So you eventually learn to rely on your eye and that does set you
free. Then at one point setting up sight-size is not required. The idea is to learn
the skills. My entire life is been directed toward the Arts.
It was the thing that I excelled in when I was very young and it was
a natural direction for my life.
I started training at the Maryland Art Institute in Baltimore,
Maryland and then went to Florence, Italy, went to The Graduate School of Fine Art Villa
Schifanoia, and then studied with a couple of individuals. Nerina Simi and Richard Lack.
Richard Serrin was my major influence.
I think at Villa Schifanoia.
And then I got to know Pietro Annigoni and criticism from him.
Those were the major influences in my years of study.
I paint a variety of subjects, from landscape, still life, portraiture, interiors, and I like to
mix it up. I like to have a lot of different subjects going all at the same
time. But my main emphasis is the figure and portraiture.
I started off obviously in college painting the figure and was really fascinated by that and
I think the painters that I’m most influenced by are those that are mainly painting
the figure, it brings us closer to who we are, it really does force us to look
at the things about ourselves that are interested and try and express that in some way.
I came to Florence the first time in 1968 and saw Florence for the first time
and I realized that this was the most beautiful place on the planet and I knew
I had to come back.
I wasn't sure exactly why or what was going to bring me back
but I knew that it was really really important.
These people and this culture somehow just felt like it was right and I was learning
the things that I was desperately looking to learn, how to draw, the material,
the techniques of the Old Masters, art supply stores here and even just plain old
that were still engaged with the materials of the past and the link had
never been broken and that for me was really fascinating. Whereas in America,
everything was getting reinvented and all these new products were coming out.
I was interested in the ones that had never really died out.
I just put down some roots and decided to stay.
I discovered the Bargue lithographs, well one lithograph in the late 70s in
London at an antique store and I was really surprised at the quality and asked
all about it, antique dealer had no idea really just said it was a lithograph from
the 19th century, it was probably French. But it really rose my curiosity and so I started
researching and looking around to see if I could find any reference to it or any
other information and eventually a few years later
I found more of the lithographs and then found out that there was a complete three-volume
book in the Victoria Albert Museum in London.
So at that time was very difficult.
I didn't have much money to travel to London and made an appointment, found the books,
looked at them, and I realized this was amazing and photographed as much as I could.
I didn't have that much film but I photograph the ones I could, took them back
to Florence and started to show them to students and friends and so forth and they
all were pretty excited by this.
It was a great asset. I started using them full-time when I started the school in 1991,
Florence Academy of Art and we have not looked back since. It’s been a tremendous tool
for young people. You can identify weaknesses in their own skills and address them early on
without complicating with color and working from three dimensions and perceptions of three dimension.
It's very matter-of-fact and if your hand-eye coordination is somehow missing and or there's just
an ability of putting down tone that's missing,
you can catch it early on and work with a student to improve those things.
Charles Cecil and I were good friends at the time and we thought it would be great idea
to start a school. So we opened our doors in 1983,
we had one student and there were two teachers. Studio slowly grew to around 35 and eventually
we split up and I started the Florence Academy of Art.
But the idea of passing along the information that we were putting together from the shards
of the past was really exciting and there was so many people that were really interested
in what we were doing and we were kind of making it up as we went.
The early days you can't believe how little information there was out there.
It was so exciting from day today.
You’d learn something, you’d find a new artist, and it would become part of our vocabulary
overnight and now many of these people, so many of them that were not known to
us then are just common household names now and that I think is kind of an
achievement for all of that kind of pioneers and I consider myself a bit of a
pioneer. I was able to afford, by developing the school, things things like the Bargue drawings,
the anatomy class, écorché, art history, these all became firsts because the people like I said,
were offering things that were just pretty much basic drawing and painting information and I really
wanted to create an environment where all of the needs or all of the interests of
the artist were met. And so slowly this is how the school is developed through the years.
One of the beauties of the Florence Academy here in Florence is that you've got the
whole city surrounding you with amazing artworks to inspire you every single day and we
get out and we really look at them and we really talk about them.
This is the nourishment for the artist’s soul.
The vision I had for the Florence Academy was quite simple that I wanted to teach principles that could
be used in a number of different styles.
This is a bit in reaction to my own education,
which was to some degree formulated by the teachers I studied with wanting me or directing
me to paint like they did and I really wanted to avoid that continuation.
I wanted, like in the 19th century, where the instruction was based on skills and principles
that would allow the student to realize their own way of painting.
I think the example is that out of the late 19th century
there were so many styles developed. People diversified in so many different directions and that's
a great achievement that not everybody is painting in the kind of Rubenesque style or
the period of mannerism when everybody was painting in the manneristic style. They were painting in many different genres, in
many different ways. And so we have fractions of various painters coming out of the
late 19th century and it was something to be applauded and that to be continued, not to
go back and repeat the mistakes of the past.
So that was foremost in my mind because that's the kind of education that I wanted.
I wanted to be able to paint at a high level,
but the way I wanted to paint and I think that's what I wanted for everybody
else. I wanted all my students to be able to, once they study the basics and
studied the skills that are absolutely required, it’s like the grammar where the scales or however
you want to describe them,
finally be set free so that they can actually express their artistic side.
As you gain knowledge and as you are able to produce images that you didn't think
you could, it opens up new horizons and new possibilities.
So I think all of us, all the painters out there, as we get new tools
in our toolbox we’re able to say things that possibly we weren’t able to when we first
started out and that's kind of the excitement.
That's the thing that keeps moving us forward and keeps us changing.
You have to work on so many different aspects of your life to gain the
skills to become a painter.
And I think specifically the one I would underline along with all of that is tenacity
to be able to just really work hard and work through all your problems.
If you don't have a tremendous capacity to just get in there and work, whether you’re
feeling badly, whether your friends are going out to party or whatever it is, that alone
I will definitely bet on students that are tenacious.
This kind of art requires that you focus on something for really long period
of time for it to make sense.
It's kind of like reading philosophy or studying a really difficult piece of music that you
just have to keep going over and over and over it until your muscles have actually
been trained to be able to do something.
So in terms of challenges,
it's almost like meditation. You need to focus on something for a long period
of time. My recommendation to young people today in learning this craft is to block out
all the distractions as much as possible and focus for long periods of time
on learning these skills because once you have them you can build on that skill
and add some things even more difficult.
Michelangelo and Titian were all challenged by the same things that you are, that you need
to be able to interpret the three-dimensional world and put it onto a two-dimensional surface and
to understand how that translation of the world around you is a personal one and
make it a unique translation, a unique way of seeing the world.
Sight-size has been used throughout history, sometimes consciously, sometimes maybe less so. One of the
significant painters of the past that really taught us how to see in breadth and at a
distance was Velasquez. You can see it in his work.
You can see that the effect was definitely had breadth and a kind of unity to
the whole, which many of his predecessors did not have. This way your eye is able
to see the entire subject without moving.
If you get too close to the subject,
then your eye has to move from the feet to the head to be able to
see all the aspects of the figure. Velazquez really set the standard and many many
painters after that very much taken by his ability to see the big image, the big
effect of what he was looking at. This system used by Sargent and probably many of
the portrait painters of the 19th century.
I’ve used this method since I first started teaching and I just haven’t found anything that
works better than that. I think the online course that the New Masters Academy has put
together should give the student a really good overall idea about how to approach sight- size
and what are some of the skills that you're going to need to acquire a good
working method. This is a step in, this is a road into being able to learn the skills
that are required to make accurate paintings skilfully, home drawings, and sculptures.
So if you've enjoyed this course and you’ve learned something from it and you're interested in
learning more, please look us up online Florence Academy of Art or we have a website
which will give you all the information you need in terms of enrolling in courses, workshops, and
so on and good luck and hope
see you soon.
I'm an artist from Boston, Massachusetts.
I live and teach there and I went to the school called the Florence Academy of
Art. I was first a student and then a student teacher
and eventually by the time I left I was running the program that I taught in.
The value based exercises that I did at the school are the same that I will
share with you. The concept of being able to create something that has a lot of
contrast, presence, and atmosphere is really at the center of what I started learning years
ago and what I've been teaching and doing ever since. If you take the time to
immerse yourself in this course of academic study,
you'll find that your knowledge of tone and your ability to render a light effect will
immensely increase. So join me in studying the techniques that I learned at the Florence Academy.
Most notably working sight-size. Sight-size is a technique for working in one-to-one scale with
really great deal of accuracy, working back and forth.
We'll go through all the steps necessary for you to set up in sight-size in your
home studio and how to use it to your benefit whether doing a two-dimensional copy, a
three-dimensional cast copy, or even a figure or portrait which was of course slightly in motion.
Sight-size has been a great tool for me in working.
It is one of the many tools that I use in my personal artwork,
but as a student it was perhaps the most central aspect of me learning to work
accurately from nature.
So let's get into the nuts and bolts of what sight-size is, why it's beneficial, and how you
can use it in your own studio when it’s set up correctly.
I wanted to take a moment to try to explain the main principles of sight-
size to you. This is a technique that many people are unfamiliar with however,
especially for doing projects like the cast, like the Bargue drawings, certainly like portraiture in the
figure, they are immensely useful.
The reason why we use sight-size at the Florence Academy and at many schools throughout the
world is that RH Ives Gammell in Boston taught sight-size to his students as the best
way to get really accurate working from the exterior in representations of a model or a cast.
The concept for sight-size is relatively simple.
The whole idea is that our subject and our easel are right here next to one another
on a horizontal axis. And then we start back at a distance
all we do is flick our eye back and forth between the two and try to, on
a horizontal sense, just figure out where every point and angle lies.
Remember our most important drawing tool for most of these projects will be our plumb line.
And the way to the plumb line is going to work is from our fixed position, that
is only back there, we will hold out and try to find a true horizontal to
figure out where the top of the cast would intersect with our paper.
We would then hold out the plumb line again
and figure out where the bottom of the cast intersects with our paper. Now,
of course, this only works or makes sense from our observation point. In reality it is
that observation point that we are drawing from. When we come forward
we are only putting down the information that we have mentally recorded from where we are.
So let me make you a quick example.
We would find the top of the drawing, come up,
and make a mark. We would make another observation of where the bottom of the drawing
would be, walk up, and make a mark.
After double-checking those two are correct
we might find a middle point,
say the bottom of her chin. Again
from a distance find the point,
walk up, make a note on our paper, and step back once again.
In doing so we started registering almost like a cookie cutter where the outside of the
cast will be. So we don't end up in a situation ever wear the cast is
half off the page. No, we start from a sense of the entire whole large shape that
encompasses it. It is important to remember that the plumb line also works vertically.
So we would find a point somewhere on the cast, down in the base
perhaps the end of an angle or where the chin intersects with a neck. A point like that
would then reference with maybe in the eye or the back of the head giving us
a sense of what is to the right or left of that line. We would make
a straight line on our board and then record those same distances.
So we're sorting building our drawings in this technique from the outside-in.
You'll see me do this starting in the Bargues,
you will see me do this in the cast,
you will see me do this when we work with a figure and the portrait. It’s
based on this simplification of the big shape and how we then attack everything within it
within this horizontal context. So I'm going to stop back stand near the camera and show
you a few of these angles that I'm looking at and how am I carry them
across on my paper and after that I'm sure it'll be a lot more clear to
you. I know that this is a lot to digest it seems very different than any
other drawing techniques, but I think I quickly with these examples you'll see how useful it
can be. So I’ll step back to my observation point. So if I am standing here,
I find but the top of her head intersects perfectly with my paper right here.
I would walk up and make a mark.
I then find where the bottom of the cast would intersect.
Again, I would choose to take a moment to walk up make a mark and then
double-check it. Sometimes we get it right the first time
and sometimes we got it wrong on the first
try. It is important we get a guess up on the cast and then double-check that
our mark is correct. Then I would find a mid point in the cast. The midpoint in
this case I believe should be the bottom of her chin.
I would figure out where the bottom of the chin is,
hold out my plumb line, come across, and make a mark.
So those three marks, just one, two,
and three, those three marks are the single most important thing to get right.
That is the basis of the entire rest of our drawing. Now,
they're just three lines, but next we will do a vertical, hold out first perhaps on
our drawing, figure out where a vertical should be.
Then I would hold out on my cast and say on
right that point that touches there I find that it touches the corner
of her mouth and the inside of her eye.
So with that vertical line, which I then put also on my paper,
I can have a sense of what things
might be on the right side of that line and what things would be on the
other side of that line.
That way on my paper
I can start to sort of imagine where the overall shape would be.
This is a memory building technique as much as it is a drawing technique.
I am trying to visualize the overall shape and space of that cast on my paper.
The next thing that I would do is find long, simple angles that clearly show what
is happening on the cast.
So the first angle would be this. This is very visually dominant.
I can see that very clearly. And I would bring that across,
I put a mark on my paper
there at exactly the same angle.
Then I would find a mark for the outside of the cast.
Again same concept, same angle. I would find another
here or here again across. In effect what we are trying to do is draw this
cast in its entirety again with just ten
or so straight, clear lines. Then something that compasses the head. Perhaps this angle.
Bring it across. So with these marks made in post-production,
I think you can see that if I was to flick my eye back and forth
quickly between here and here I can sort of immediate sense of whether something is too
big or too small. This is a easy way for me to imagine the overall sense
of the cast on my paper before I've even done the drawing.
Now I'm going to walk back up to the board for a second because I want
to talk to you about something else. This technique only works because we are not changing
any variables. In most of drawing, most techniques of drawing, as people are working
they might think maybe the arm is too long,
maybe the head is too big or too small and start to make all these changes.
Instead I'm going to ask you to on the page keep those horizontal measurements exactly where
you put them and they will always work as long as your easel stays in the
same position, your subject stays in the same position, and your observation point does not move.
These are a lot of variables to lock down. It lowers the amount of questions.
You need to ask yourself,
you know, the general size of that drawing will be and you work within that framework,
but I want to make a couple of examples of what happens if we do decide
to switch those variables. Right now, compared to my board,
The cast is just a little bit behind it.
So it's very close to life-size,
but I'd like to show you what happens if I push the cast back just ever-so-slightly,
how much that changes in terms of shape and size on our drawing, right. We quickly
showed where everything would be but if I push this back just a few inches and
come back again to my mark, now as you can see this
is the new top and this is the new bottom.
I hope you can see that these two marks are far smaller than the previous two.
What happens if I again push her back in space just a few inches.
Let's find out. And I come back to my observation point. This is my drawing point.
I am not drawing when I'm at my board.
All I'm doing is I'm recording the things that I see and what I see from
here is that now the bust is even smaller. All of those angles that I looked out before,
those remain true, but even though those angles are true
the size is no longer the same.
So those horizontal measurements remain the single most important thing in sight-size.
The concept is difficult as you start to know to work at a distance away from
your work and that when we are at our board,
we are only recording the information that we have observed,
but in effect we are drawing from back here.
So I'm going to bring this back up
to our first observation point. So here's the thing, if we move just a little bit
to the right or to the left or if we move our observation point forward or
back, we start to get some significant aberrations.
What I would like to point out to you is that you don't need a lot
of space to do sight-size.
You just need enough room to step back. And stepping back from your artwork
frankly is a good thing.
Most of us have had the experience of working away on our drawing and spending too
much time and sort of overworking something. The periodic stepping back is about mentally stepping back
from your work as much as physically. Although this is a lot of walking back and forth,
all we need is to be two and a half times or even two times the
greatest distance away from our work in order to be able to see it clearly.
At your home, all you would need to find is a run of space where you
can walk back and forth.
Maybe it's only a few feet.
Maybe it's more than that.
That would be dictated by the size of your project. Luckily most task projects are rather
small, so you only need to step back a few paces and walk forward a few
paces. Let's take a moment to now see that we're back in our original
bottom and top. This is working.
Okay. Let's see what happens if we bring our observation point forward just about a foot
or so. Even this has an effect.
So as you can see this and this no longer line up perfectly with our previous
marks. So I'm going to walk back up to the board for a second.
I know that this is a lot to take in.
This is relatively complex, the amount of information that I've sort of tried to put forth
in a short video but have faith. Once you see me run through these steps in
my drawing I think it's going to make a lot of sense.
One of the things that you need to pay the most attention to is this constant
stepping back and forth and to never be tempted while we are here working on our
drawing to look at our subject because of course we're seeing it in such a different
point of view. Our drawing should only look and look the most true from when we
are at our observation point.
This is about as simple and short as I can explain the side size process. Sight-
size is an extremely effective means to getting a portrait down, a figure down,
it is a way of conceptualizing the entirety of the hole and then comparing just on
pure visual similarity between your subject and your work on your paper.
Now that was covered the basics and I'm sure that there's still some questions that you
might have. Let's get into the actual process and when you see me run through the
steps in the drawing, I'm sure it will make more sense to you and you'll start
to enjoy seeing the power that sight-size has in developing greater visual accuracy.
I was a student at the Florence Academy of Art and these are essentially all the
materials that we've been using and we will be using throughout my time here at New
Masters Academy. I have a variety of different stuff here on the table and will try
to run through it sort of piece by piece and give you enough information about each
of our drawing tools, our
drawing accessories that we will use throughout some of the accuracy tools that are important to
us and the techniques that we use for sharpening and maintenance of our kit throughout. As
you'll see working in the sort of academic method is very - it is very important that
you take good care of the instruments that you are using.
We are trying to attack everything with surgical precision.
We want really fine tips on our charcoal and pencils and we want to throughout
be conscious of even a millimeter difference here or
there so the maintenance of our tools becomes really important.
The first thing I want to deal with and talk to you about is our graphite
pencils. So there are many many many different types of graphite pencil brand.
These are Derwent. They're fine.
I like most different types of graphite.
What is important to point out to you is that I have them arranged from a
variety of different hardnesses from hard towards soft.
So this is a 4H.
This is a 2H, an HB, a B, and a 2B.
Now depending on your natural sort of hands, the way that you
like to draw, the way that you are used to drawing you might find yourself more
comfortable drawing with a softer or sharper pencil. The pencil that I would recommend for like
all use, kind of
most things is probably this an HB.
It's right - it’s HB stands for hard and bold.
It's right in between the two and the issue is a graphite, the softer
it is the more of a greasy residue the graphite leaves behind.
So notice that I don't have any
3B, 4B, 5B, 8B, any of these really dark waxy bold pencils aren't of great use
to us in this technique because we're trying to layer our tones slowly.
So the HB and the to H when I was a student were the two that
I used the most often.
I do have some harder pencils here also,
but the advantage is if I have an HB and a 2H,
I can use one for lighter finer work and the other one for sort of every
day general use. Notice that I have everything sharpened at a really long sharp point.
This gives me not only a point which is just super sharp to work with, it
also gives me enough of a side that I can sort of work across the edge
of the pencil just a little bit to make softer marks. This also prevents one of
the most common pitfalls of somebody coming to drawing from from different backgrounds, everybody's used
to writing and holding their pencil like this and if we hold our pencil like this,
we hold it all the way up at the front and makes small little moves. By
sharpening at the way that
I'm about to show you, we’ll hold it back further
naturally. There is no way to hold it all the way up at the tip here.
And in fact, if you do you will break it.
So much of learning to draw in graphite is about learning a sense of line weight
and pressure, how how much you sort of press down as you’re working and how much you
work your way up towards the tip.
So we'll talk more about that.
But first let's talk about the proper way to sharpen.
Let me grab my HB pencil and I usually have people sharpen with a knife. You
can use a box cutter, right, just normal disposable box cutter of any type or an
X-Acto blade either will work fine.
What is important is that it's actually sharp.
I know that chefs in professional kitchens say this it is actually the duller knives that
will cut you more, you need to have a sharp blade so
you're not fighting with it.
And I'll tell you what what a lot of people do that is an error is
they try to to sort of work the pencil like they're whittling and make a really
long, hard mark and it shoots everything forward.
The way that I'd like you to sharpen is actually using this thumb.
I hold my pencil like this and I press rather than moving my right arm at
all. I'm pressing with my left thumb and pulling in my hand,
I'm pulling this backwards. Okay,
so it's this this motion.
That way I'm extremely sensitive and I can feel even the exact point
that I'm down to graphite and see the line, that's sort of the level of precision
that that technique gives you.
I remove all the wood on the outside.
This way I'm using almost no pressure.
So that gives me a nice,
long point like the other ones. It is still blunt
but that's a nice long point.
I'll do that for a number of pencils.
Let me do that for the 2H also.
One word is that it's kind of nice to not get pencil shavings everywhere in your
studio. So I either do this above a trash can or on a piece of paper
that I can later clean up.
Perfect. Okay, so although I have a nice long leads on both, that is still quite
blunt. So I'll toss my shavings.
So we have a couple of really nice so sharpened pencils but they don't have
a point on them. And the next sort of piece in the puzzle that is worth
talking to you guys at home about is our sharpening block.
You can just buy a sharpening block from a hardware store.
But I always like to make one that holds - that I can hold in my
hand and I just glue with wood glue a bit of sandpaper to it.
And if you want you can put two different grades of sandpaper,
but all that’s important is a nice big surface that I can sand with.
They do sell things like this at the hardware store and companies like Nitram, who makes
the charcoal that we will use, they also make a sharpening block. But I want for
everybody who's doing this sort of study to have as large of one is possible.
The reason is we want to hold our - this is our 2H pencil - we want to hold it right
up against the edge. So that has a nice point and what I'll do is I’ll just
make sure to clean it afterwards.
You can see that leaves quite a bit of residue from the powder on it.
So that's a nice point.
I mean that really looks like a weapon and I think that's a nice degree of
sharpness to have. Put that there for a moment.
Let me also sharpen the HB.
Periodically as I’m sharpening, I’ll just tap off my sanding block and make sure I have that nice
tip on it. Remember, this is something really easy to make on your own. All this
is is a sheet of foam core with I think it's 200 or 220 grit sandpaper glued
to it with wood glue and left with something heavy on top
so that dries really flat without any bubbles.
I made one as a student at the Florence Academy maybe in
2000 or 2001 and I used it for about 11 years non-stop.
It's not like it's something that you're going to wear out and need a new one.
So the sanding block I've been sharpening pencils around the side.
We're also gonna use this for sharpening our charcoal.
And my charcoal, now we have a very nice
sharp pencil I want to show you a couple different ways that I use this.
So keep in mind I don't really recommend that you come up here and try to
do, you know, write a letter to someone.
The reason is if we hold our pencil back,
you can see my posture also that sort of keeps your arm a little bit straighter
and we'll keep me using
the side of it just a little bit. Practice drawing
just straight, long flexible lines and then if you need to after using the side right
in this fashion like this,
I'll switch my stance to holding it a little bit more like I would a pencil.
And using the point I can then
sharpen or accent any part of that that's necessary.
I also really recommend to students to practice cross-hatching.
You know, I'm an artist that likes
a good deal of visible hatching and it is as much as a artistic skill,
it is a motor skill to be able to do this.
So practice just hatching a long, straight,
parallel marks that really help you too.
Now here's another thing I want to talk to you about.
Let's say you're sharpening a pencil
and it snaps on you.
The important part is that we remember where that point is.
We can sharpen back down to that point
right away. Now, I do this work when I'm on a break
or in the morning while I'm having coffee,
you know before I actually start drawing and painting.
Also to take some time to prepare my materials for the day.
Same trick. I want to show you a slightly different way of doing it.
I will actually put my finger and hole right at the edge
to prevent me from putting any sort of pressure that would, you know, crack a pencil.
As you're learning to do this it might be just a little bit safer to keep your
finger out from time to time.
Same deal as the other pencils, even though this is starting to get shorter
I hold it all the way out of the back and I can use this to
make long, straight, simple marks and try to track along the same mark again
just to practice that hatching concept so that when it comes time for you to
do some cross hatching, you’ve been working to develop that motor skill as well.
So I'm sure there's more to reference about pencils, we’ll think of something, but this is
a good general background and just like maintaining them.
My pencils sort of live on my easel while I'm using them and at the end
of the day, I might put them away in a pencil box or something like that.
But I'm very cautious throughout the course of my time working that I'm not putting him
down flat, that I'm not breaking them, because we spent so long getting a really nice
point on here, it’s just going to stay sharp for a really long time.
And that's what we want.
We want to sharpen them really well once or twice so we don't have to sharpen
them again often. Before we talk about our charcoal,
I thought it might be nice to speak a little bit about the eraser.
There are two different types of erasers.
We are going to use a kneaded eraser
and a white gum eraser. Now,
these are useful for two different tools and two different uses.
First a kneaded eraser. Each of these three things is a kneaded eraser.
This is a brand-new kneaded eraser in a package.
This is a slightly new one.
And this is an old one. One of the common errors that I see students make
is that they use in a kneaded eraser indefinitely and these actually have a shelf life.
They don't last forever. This is a Prismacolor kneaded eraser, the design kneaded eraser erasers are
also really nice. What you want is when you feel a kneaded eraser,
you actually knead it in your hand
that doesn't feel sticky. So one way we can tell is just by color, right.
I can see clearly on camera which of these two is darker
and which of them is lighter.
The other thing is that the newer kneaded erasers are less sticky.
As we’re drawing we sort of hold them in our hands and they're almost like a like
a stress ball, everybody sort of moving them around and kneaded them.
Not only does it absorb your charcoal,
it absorbs all your hand oils.
So this is just stickier.
It's not going to pick up as much stuff.
The other way you can tell is by the way that it kneads. So a
fresh or fresher kneaded eraser you'll be able to knead into long strings and really
clean it. I hope my mic can pick that up
also, that snapping sound. That's the sound of a fresh kneaded eraser.
Let's compare that with the old one.
And it just doesn't knead the same right?
It's not as stringy and although it does get a little lighter it keeps a sort
of waxy look. Either one will work.
Either one is a kneaded eraser, the newer one
just the erases better. Not only does this have more charcoal and pencil graphite in it,
it's also got your hand oils in it,
right? It's sticky because I've been sweating and sort of kneading it in my hand.
This is a fresher one,
which we can use to just very quickly lighten
or completely erase a mark.
That said these aren't the strongest eraser that we use. We will use this for most
uses. We will pinch it into a blade at times so we might even draw so
I have a point like this that I can go and erase the line
out of a shape that I've created
or I might take it and roll it up
like a little sausage and I might just lighten the whole pass so I can see
it. But if I want to completely erase something the best tool is a white eraser.
Okay, this white eraser works completely differently.
It will erase to paper marks that a kneaded eraser
can’t. I think you can see with the camera though that this is one problem
this creates is it makes little dust everywhere
as the gum eraser comes apart.
So although these are wonderful erasers,
they're not as good as a drawing tool because of that residue thing and I think
they are a little bit more aggressive.
This is a little harder on your paper.
This is a little bit more gentle on your paper.
There's one more issue. These guys we can pinch into a nice shape
and make sort of a blade or a point that you can use to
erase or unify. This is more of a drawing tool. These will erase but as you can
see they get really worn down on the edges.
And the nicest time to use one of these is when they're brand-new.
I don't like these soft edges.
So a trick that I've come up with over the years as I will actually sharpen
my kneaded eraser, I’ll take a whole little slice off
from time to time so I have a really nice corner to work with and I hope you can
see that, especially right there.
That's like a perfect corner to draw with. So if I need to - oops, see I broke a pencil - if
I need to erase all the way to pure white I'll simply make
a mark or two with that corner and this erases really nice, clean sharp marks.
So it's a great tool that just the two erasers require slightly different maintenance and remember
each of these you need to know the advantages of using a new one.
Either one you can sort of work into stuff but the sharp edge you got from
this is really unlike the kneaded eraser. I think that covers everything I wanted to say
about our two different types of erasers we’ll be using. Let me erase this just
a little bit more. And then if you can still see that ghost image there,
use that to clean it up. Get all that residue off and it's quite a bit
cleaner. So they have a little bit of different jobs. One is for drawing with more
and the other is really for cleaning up your kit.
we went through breaking a tip a couple times.
They do require a little bit of maintenance but pencils are fairly straightforward.
Let's talk about charcoal, which is slightly more complicated.
We will use mostly two different types of charcoal. One is the just normal vine charcoal
that is commonplace, exists in basically every art store, in every country I've ever been to
you can always fine vine charcoal.
It is either grape vine or willow or one of the other very small branches of a
tree that then get cooked down into charcoal and they are generally speaking
quite soft. Vine charcoal is nice because it's cheap and it is ubiquitous, it exists
like I said everywhere I've ever gone to an art store
I can always find some wine charcoal. And because it's inexpensive if we need to sharpen
it we can either just break it so we have a really sharp edge and I
can use that for detail work.
Or I can use the side and make really soft -
this is a fairly soft - a fairly hard piece,
but I can use that to make sharp
little marks with. I also do sharpen my vine charcoal. Sometimes I just break it off
if I want a clean little bit but I will also with vine take it, put
my finger against it just like that and try to sharpen,
oh, I don't know a good bit of it, almost have finger length of it at
once. So this is a piece of charcoal I’ve sharpened only on two sides.
So here we have a flat edge okay with two points, a point here and a
point here on either side. So I can use this on my page to do that
sharp detail work or I can use the side of it to create a softer sort
of look. Let's call this a chisel shape to sharpening charcoal.
You can also sharpen it.
to a point. Here we go, so this is a nice sharp end piece of H or
hard vine charcoal. So this we can make really really - when we had a hard spot
like that - you can use that to make very - and that's why we sharpen it
on all sides because if I lose the tip I still have a sharp edge.
So this is the harder vine charcoal.
This is a particularly hard little bit.
It does make some nice marks.
Let's also grab some of our soft vine charcoal.
Show you sort of the difference. So the softer vine charcoal
comes nice long piece. If I want I can do the trick where I break it
to find a sharp edge if I just want to make a few
bolder marks at edges already gone
you see the first line that I make is very thin and by the time I
get down here, it's making a very bold wide line.
It can also go pretty dark pretty quickly compared to the H. I also sharpen these.
Here we have that really nice
super sharp edge. The issue though is of course,
this is very soft so that edge is going to work down very fast.
I think you can see
the difference on the tip in just a few marks like that and that's why I
really recommend sharpening the vine charcoal mostly on two sides.
So that if one side wears down,
we still have the other side sort of like that Samurai sword, scalpel like effect.
So either of these are fine.
I will sometimes be using the point on one, the pointed side and then I'll switch,
use the back, just use it to make some general easy marks
to start with. Again this stuff erases really nicely. If I need to go back in
and find a shape I can always erase back into it, remembering that if I want
my cleanest look possible to use the white eraser and remove the residue.
So, this is our everyday charcoal.
This is the one that you can find
everywhere, but there's also very special charcoal which we use.
It looks a bit different.
It’s called Nitram. And the Nitram charcoal comes in three different harnesses just like the pencil.
We have the green color that you see here is the softest of the three.
The red color next to it
is the medium, the HB charcoal.
And the blue is the H.
As you can see on this package, this stuff is literally designed for academic study cast
drawing, precisely the sort of stuff will be doing in this course and it is so
designed with the intention of the Florence Academy in mind,
not only is this a Florence Academy of a drawing that's here done by a guy -
I know I remember this cast drawing from years ago -
it also has a quote from my teacher the guy that started the Florence Academy,
which says we encourage our students to use only the best possible drawing materials. Nitram is
the preferred charcoal of the students and instructors of the Florence Academy of Art, its
quality and consistency meets the high standards we demand .So this has been the charcoal that
the Florentine academies has used for ages and it's actually got a really interesting backstory. When I was
a student the packaging was completely different.
It was a small company run by a guy called Mr.
Nitram around in France and we would all go and buy boxes and boxes and
boxes of the stuff. And we needed it for our cash drawings, for our figure work.
This was always the main charcoal that we would use at school.
And I remember one day we went to our local art store in Florence,
we ask for a box of Nitram and the guy said I'm sorry,
we don't have any and a panic went out between all the schools because, as I'm
about to show you, you can't do the same detail work
with the vine charcoal. It's just a very different look over all.
This stuff is so consistent -
It’;s still made from natural wood, it still has hard spots and soft spo,t the spots
on the charcoal but this variety and its hardness gives us a degree of control that
is really unlike other charcoal.
So the story goes that we're all young art students.
We need our charcoal and everybody in Florence is scrambling to try to find the last box.
We're literally young art students going to every store in town trying to buy up the
last few boxes. And when we ask what's happened they said well Nitram, the guy
in France, he doesn't want to do it anymore.
So our local art store tried to make their own it was pretty good,
but not the same. My teacher Dan Graves,
he started make his own, actually quite good but still not the same.
And then randomly we hear that it's going to come back and not only hasn't come
back, but it's come back really with the attention,
excuse me, on the academic approach that we, that I studied at the Florence Academy and
that I still teach today.
What happened was there was an atelier a student in Canada who was going to class,
taking some art class and he all the sudden just like me realized he couldn't find
the charcoal anywhere. You couldn't mail order it.
There was there was no information to be had.
So he ends up writing to Nitram in France.
Nitram will not respond to him and eventually through sort of like persistent contact Nitram
agrees to meet with him and this Canadian art student flies to France and spent I
think a month or a series of weeks making charcoal with him everyday and bought
the company from him and this charcoal is now made I believe in Canada and it's
available everywhere. The Nitram charcoal is a little bit more special and a lot more expensive
than the vine charcoal. It's slightly harder to find. It comes in a very long, very
consistent stick. Okay. So this the red is the HB.
And it is just made of a different quality of wood with a different quality and
attention to how they make it. So let’s sharpen a piece of this.
Notice I'm using my finger on top, just like that pencil technique I showed you before. Some
of the students at the school will get frustrated, get sort of frustrated after a while
to not have all the stuff that we’re sharpening off they felt like they paid
for it and it would actually keep the charcoal powder in a bag to use for
later for filling up backgrounds.
I've always just thrown the stuff away.
What's most important to me is just having a nice point.
Nitram, since they rebranded and did this whole nice new packaging,
they've also - I spoke with the owner a little bit earlier this week.
They make a bunch of new products now, they have a branded Nitram sharpening block
like this. They have I think a couple different types of charcoal.
These are the three that I used when I was a student
so these are the three I still use today.
I think they have a bigger softer one like this big sort of block thing now
too. Interestingly they almost lost the company in a fire
I think it was last year, 2 years ago,
but they have everything running again.
And I guess when a charcoal factory catches fire the blazes are pretty big.
So this is that same chisel, flat on one side, sharped on the other end.
This is great for my sort of highest detail work. As you can see it makes
it even neater line than the vine charcoal did. I can also use this to do
very tight little hatching. The HB is probably the one that I use the most.
Let’s sharpen an H2 so
you can see the difference.
Perfect. So I sharpened this one on all sides.
It's a nice point because it's harder.
It'll hold its point a little longer.
I can use this for all my most.
It just makes a different mark than
say the HB. A tool we haven't talked about yet that I use often
when I am charcoal drawing is a fan brush. Fan brush is really useful to remove what's
there to soften what's there. What's like the shape that I made, the sort of random
patchy mark. I just use that to turn it into something a little bit softer.
And if I want to make it - take a mark that is very dark I
can just use that and just remove it. It's a nice unification tool to take away
any lines that I see.
But it does make dust so I'm going to blow it off from time to time.
Let me do one more here just so you can see how we have all these
lines going back and forth all very lightly go over it.
And it makes it a little bit more palatable.
Sometimes I then need to go in and re erase next to it
just to be able to see where the edge of something is, switching between erasers if
I need to. So the - in general with charcoal I'm using mostly this Nitram brand.
I will use - I will start a drawing with the B charcoal.
I will do most of it with an HB and I will do finishing work with
an H. This is not dissimilar to how I use my pencils.
I'll use a HB pencil, switch to a 2H, use a 4-H sometimes, a 2B
if I really want something bolder I use charcoal in the same way.
I think about the job that I'm doing and what's most appropriate for that job,
but I will often - and you'll see me do throughout the course that I do here
at New Master's Academy - I will use vine charcoal to start a drawing to
do something very very quick in and fast and easy and I'll sort of put something
down with vine charcoal very lightly, wipe it off with a brush,
so it's not so noticeable and then I will go in and clean up with my
Nitram on it if necessary. So that's the sort of pattern I'm going to be using for
most of the drawings I'm doing here.
There's a few other drawing tools
I want to get to but first
let's talk a little bit about accuracy tools.
The first one is a mahl stick.
So for those of you not familiar a mahl stick is actually German.
I think it's taken from for a painter's stick.
And the way that we use it is holding your non-dominant hand as low as possible and you
would use it to brace your forearm
so you don't mess up your work as you're going along. There's a fabulous, very small,
things about this big, Rembrandt’s self-portrait of him
when he was young working on a picture at the easel and he step back and see
the mahl all stick very clearly.
So if this was something I was working on I didn't want to brace my hand
and smudge anything with it,
I would take my mahl stick, put it across and then I can very easily
say sign a picture if I need to. I can go in and do lighter detail work.
And I'll switch at that point perhaps from the side or the softer part of my
charcoal to the very point of it.
So thinking always about how I'm sharpening something and how I'm softening something.
I don't want my hand to come down on it and soften something unintentionally.
You can of course keep your pinky out while you're drawing too.
If you don't have a mahl stick you can sort of train yourself to use your pinky or your
knuckle as you're going to brace where you would draw.
I hope that's clear on video.
This is a good trick too, you just always need somewhere to put your finger.
I will not always but sometimes pick up a piece of compressed charcoal.
Now the charcoal we talked about up until now is all natural wood charcoal.
That means that it is literally just pieces of wood that they cook until its charcoal and
then with all the knots and natural fibers that exist throughout the natural wood,
it has these varying spots of hardness and softness within it from the woods cell structure.
Compressed charcoal different. It's called compressed charcoal because it is compressed wood wax into a
perfect baton shape. The problem with compressed charcoal is because it has this wax content, we
can get really really wonderful dark marks, more like that 2B pencil but
unlike the other charcoals that we use, this stuff is not really erasable.
As you can see it just sort of smudges and spreads out even with our - so to compare
that I'll make a dark mark here.
That comes off almost entirely, even my darkest mark.
So I just took a break for a moment and washed my hands.
I'm sure that you were able to see my hands just you know,
from dealing with this thing, from dealing with the charcoal just get stuff all over them.
I have joked that I wash my hands like a doctor through out when I am
working on a drawing. I want my hands to be clean so that my paper stays
clean and I am hyper concerned about making little marks and stuff where I don't want
them. Charcoal’s loose on the page so you can always just wipe it off or erase
it but if your hand oils mix with it and those natural oils that are just
on your skin. It makes it harder to erase.
So that's why you might often see me coming back, sort of wiping myself down.
I want to speak a little bit about white chalk.
We have two different types of white chalk we will be using.
One is the white chalk pencil,
which is not unlike a normal pencil.
Now the white chalk pencil is really nice because you can sharpen it just like the other ones.
There is one major difference which sometimes happens in a graphite pencil,
but not all the time.
If you are to drop this on the floor and it falls and sort of cracks
around a bit you can shatter the inside of the pencil before sharpening it. It’s happened
to me many many times. What you want is apencil that hasn't been dropped and
let's see how this one sharpens.
We're going to sharpen it just like we did our pencils.
So I bring it all the way down to that visible line, okay. I do the same thing
on each side. And it did crack.
That's one of the reasons why I sharpen them rather big
is the stuff is sort of tricky. Clearly
there's like a fracture or something that it happen naturally in there,
but I still have completely enough here for sharpening. On my sharpening block
I'll sometimes keep a corner
that's just for white chalk to not mix charcoal and chalk together. This stuff is relatively soft.
And again, I clean it off and as you can see there's a lot of residue after
sharpening. This is a nice tool because this is fairly precise.
I can do something like the thinnest sort of work possible
and what's nice about white chalk is let me try to turn this a little
bit for the camera. Sometimes you pick it up more or less
it's a really interesting look on the page.
It's great for highlights in the eyes, great for highlight on the chest and you
can do full value modeling with white chalk.
I also will use from time to time a charcoal stick and this is similar in
concept to our compressed charcoal stick.
Just a little bigger and a little softer.
And this will make a really nice
mark even lighter than the other one.
So this is a wonderful tool for putting down white chalk,
but just like our compressed charcoal
it's fairly bold and it wears down really quickly because of how soft it is. You
can sharpen it just like I did at the other pencil,
but sometimes I'll just break one in half, which gives me a really nice clean
edge there. See that little point?
That will help me if I need to to make something very light and very very
thin. So those are the two different types of white chalk.
I sort of used these for more flexible
sort of here and there work, but if I need to accent something or put a little highlight.
conte stick. Between these two rules
these are the sort of drawing tools.
We have remember we can always use the Eraser to manipulate slightly,
say take down the center of this,
make it a little less bright.
That'll work. if we want to take and do the same trick with fan brush, it
certainly works. Makes it a little softer, little more unified, less noticeable.
If we want to we can then work on top of that.
You should be able to see just ever-so-slightly a lighter mark on top there.
So what we're going for is control and subtlety. And that's why I'm spending so long
talking about simple drawing materials here.
I want for you to be able to achieve the maximum amount of control out of
these very simple media. This is the central portion of my drawing kit, these you know,
basic white chalk charcoal pencils, brush, sanding block.
I always have some masking tape on hand, it will be useful if we need to tape
something down, tape a piece of paper to the drawing board,
but these are our basic drawing tools.
Now, let's talk about the accuracy tools a little bit more.
I sort of glossed over it when I talked about the mahl stick. The mahl stick is a great
great place to rest your hand
but the mahl stick isn't exactly an accuracy tool.
It's a place to sort of rest as you're working.
A mahl stick is really easy to make too. I've seen people use just like a cane
like a walking stick or cane that they hook over the top of their easel.
I don't like that because canes are typically - they have some weight to them.
This is just a 3/4 inch dowel from the hardware store. It’s got some newspaper packed on
the top and then a bunch of tape to keep it in place and this ball
doesn't really damaged my drawing as I'm working.
It's a really simple sort of bit a kit that I can just push on the
charcoal wherever it is. You know if I have a large black area I need to
work into, I can rest it on there and unlike my hand which were removed so
much of it, as you can see,
this is a little bit more delicate. So a 99-cent dowel wood with some paper towel
and newspaper and some tape on it is fine.
But there's also really nice hand-turned hardwood versions of these you can buy for hundreds of dollars.
It's a simple bit of kit that goes way way back in art history and is
useful. Let's talk a little bit more about that concept. The plumb line you will hear me
reference again and again throughout this process. A bit like the mahl sick in the sense
that this is a tool that is something you can make for less than a dollar. All it
is is a piece of string with something heavy
at the end of it so when you hold it up straight out ahead of you
it will always find where pure
vertical is. The only people that use plumb lines today are carpenters.
Frankly carpenters still use them in order to find verticals rather than using a level from
time to time. So this is a fancy carpenter's plumb line,
but you can literally just buy a couple of washers, use some fishing line, tie on
And you want I don’t know about 3 feet, 36- 40 inches of string in order to hold it up
like this and be able to always find a vertical.
This is really useful when we're drawing the figure because we might want to notice how
close in vertical a model’s feet are to the pit of their necks. If the
feet are way off the left or the right it doesn't look like they're standing up.
And the plumb line’s been recommended for artists for all of the history of art
books. Another thing that we’ll be using a plumb line for is training our eye to see pure
horizontal. So holding out the plumb line as far as we can and really trying to feel
with our hands where pure horizontal is. The eye is good at recognizing 45°,
horizontal, and vertical but we struggle a lot of times with finding more subtle angles and measurements.
So this is a great tool for us to at a minimum recognize where these verticals
and vertical relationships are throughout our work that we will do. It’s also a measuring tool.
So I will use a plumb line wrapped around my fingers a couple times then hold
out at a distance my thumbs and find a measurement and then rock across to sort
of relate something in sight-size
that I’m measuring from here to here, from here to here, and I can do
that in any direction not unlike the knitting needle that I think is really popular in art
studios music, you can use the plumb line in the same way.
John Sargent and you’ll probably hear me say this a couple times throughout the class said that
a plumb line should never leave a student's hand.
The good news is as you use the plumb line throughout the years you will get
better at recognizing verticals and vertical relationships.
Imagine a grid through the model.
If I'm leaning on one leg,
right, my standing leg is sort of under the pit of the neck and my other
leg goes way way off to the side.
The plumb line is a great way to figure out exactly where that is.
The measuring is super useful and this is another kit just like our mahl stick that
you can make yourself for,
you know about a dollar. The other kit for accuracy that I really think should not
leave your hand is the mirror.
Now this is just a simple hand mirror.
There's nothing special about it.
The hand mirror should be of a size that you can sort of keep it in your
back pocket as you're working and from time to time when you're looking at the model
or you're looking at your work and you want to get a fresh perspective,
you’ll take the mirror out.
And there's a few different ways you'll use it. We’ll clean it, then we might look
straight up in the mirror at our subject.
And that gives me, upside down
of course, the thing that I'm looking at. Everybody has a different way that is comfortable
for them. Other people might look at it down like that,
to the left, or to of the right.
Whatever is comfortable for you at home.
That's fine. But I want for you to have a mirror around so you can see
the reverse true image of what you are working on.
I sometimes will look in the mirror at my subject and my painting or drawing together.
And sometimes I will just look in the mirror and look at my painting.
We've all had the experience of getting a fresh eye and coming back in a painting
that you thought was really good,
you thought like wow, I'm doing a great job on this, you come back like ew,
who did that? And everybody jokes if there's studio elves around that are going and ruining
people's paintings while they're sleeping.
The truth is is our eye gets tired when working.
This is one of our simplest tools to trick the eye into seeing things just the
same way that they truly are without our ego and our impression of how we think
it looks. So our mirror is extremely valuable and probably should go on living in part
of your drawing kit. No matter what sort of project you are doing it is always
useful to me. The other tool that I'd like to talk about is the black mirror.
So the black mirror, similar to the mirror, is a reflective piece of glass but it's
actually made of welding glass.
Right. So this is something that if someone’s doing metal welding they’ll wear the helmet
so that the sparks don't damage their eyes.
This is a bit of welding glass.
That's not the only way you can make one. People take a normal piece of glass
and paint the back with really deep black paint. Claude Lorraine
the French landscape painter used what was called Claudian glass to see values in his landscape
and for him, he would just take a piece of glass and smoke it on a
flame until it was dirty with soot and use that. Welding glass never comes off.
So I always buy welding glass from Amazon or wherever hardware store you can find it.
You need to ask for the stuff
they put in a welding
helmet. So the way that we use the black mirror is not dissimilar to the way
we use a normal mirror.
However, the black mirror is designed for seeing value.
We will put it up to our eye and look at the reflection and what we
are trying to see in the black mirror is not just the impression of the reflection,
but how the values come together, right, that they are -
how similar are all the shadows, how similar are the lights?
It is a tool to trick ourselves into not seeing color,
but seeing tone and value.
A quick word on how to use this.
It is slightly different than the mirror.
When I am looking in the black mirror,
I am looking at both
my subject and my artwork next to it,
right, but I do not want to trick myself into thinking that I should make my
artwork look good in the black mirror. The trick is to look at the impression here
what you see and make our painting look the way that we see there with our
eyes open. In other words,
I don't just flick my eyes back and forth looking at the black mirror in my
work. I look in the black mirror,
I recall that image, I look at it again, and I trying to make my painting
look like the impression of light that I see in the black mirror when I have
my eye is open looking at my drawing or painting because this is a piece of welding
glass also and works slightly differently.
If I turn around that is even more distance to come over my shoulder and see
their reflection. So the values come even more together like this.
So I notice even less difference between the different shadows, the different lights, and that light
impression is even stronger if I turn around this way.
The danger is we don't want to always be looking at our painting or drawing in
the black mirror, we want to use what we see in the black mirror to help
us see how we should perceive our painting or drawing.
Another quick word on the black mirror.
It is 2018 right now, all of us, basically all of us are walking around with
a piece of glass in our pocket, a piece of black glass.
Now one of these phones first came out and I saw some people using them up
to their eyes just like a black - got to turn it off - just like the black
mirror, right? Look at that same impression just like when I use my welding glass, I
thought they were crazy because you know,
this is a very very expensive black mirror, that said this is always in your pocket.
So if you can't find a piece of welding glass, if all you have is your
phone that's in your pocket,
it is actually a very useful tool for this accuracy concept.
It works just the same way
as a normal piece of welding glass. It's just a lot more expensive and if you
drop it, you're not going to be as happy.
I believe that covers the basic drawing materials here.
And the next thing I want to do is just clean up a little and we’re going
to start talk about paper and how we can use our paper for a couple of
these different jobs and treat our paper in a couple ways for different types of drawings.
So let’s take a minute to do that.
you here at New Masters Academy.
The first paper that I want to talk about is called Stonehenge paper. Stonehenge paper is
another one of the integral materials to the course of study at the Florence Academy of
Art. Stonehenge is or was a printmaking paper primarily,
but people found that it was of a texture that you can use a pencil across
it and work it and rework it and it wouldn't really tear up the texture of
the paper. It is a nice,
hard-working, erasable sheet of drawing paper.
They now sell Stonehenge paper and pads in large sheets and it comes in a variety
of different colors. So this is a figure drawing
I pulled out of my portfolio and you can see it's relatively smooth,
but I am able to work on this for hours in graphite, right, graphite pencil without it
getting too built up, too waxy and certainly not tearing up the surface of the paper.
So I have a few Stonehenge graphite drawings here that I just pulled out to show
you guys sort of the the look or effect of it.
I want to show you quickly as we're doing that's how I treat the edges of
my paper so we get a nice natural look.
So here's a few drawings.
I’m gonna put these away for a moment.
Stonehenge comes in a variety of colors, that's really useful to us here because we'll be
doing some Charles Bargue drawing. Bargue plates come in color and there
Tthey're behind me over my shoulder also.
So this color value of Stonehenge paper is almost perfectly matched to the Bargue plate to
copy. This is of real used as you're working.
Imagine if you had a dark gray paper or a white sheet of paper it might
be harder to copy some of the same
values, these same tones and modeling throughout the Bargue.
So we have our nice sheet of paper that almost perfectly matches the same value of
the Bargue. Since I have the sheet ready to go
I just want to show you how I bring this down to a more manageable size.
You can of course, of course use a straightedge and a blade sort of cut to
whatever size you want. But I really like this live outside edge like the paper has
here because it it shows off that it is something handmade, looks a little bit more
artistic in my eyes, and I do sometimes frame my work in a floating frame to
show off that edge. So all I do, it's relatively simple,
I will bring it corner to corner,
corner to corner, and I will very gently and very carefully find where the opposite edge is.
And that's why I was talking about how clean it is important to have your hands
because just a little bit
of a stain there you will regret.
Lost my Bargue. You'll regret later.
So I creased the dge and it is useful
sometimes to have something to burnish it with. I could use the soft edge of this.
I flip it again. You can see the paper start to open up on its own, then
I can just very soft and neat come across. It’s that easy. Now a reminder, the Stonehenge
I think it's really really great for graphite.
I'll use this all day long working these very very soft and subtle transitions and even
a relatively dark mark. It is always easy for me
to erase back to zero. I do not
damage this paper with erasing it the way that you do some cheaper papers,
but the good news is Stonehenge is still fairly inexpensive.
It is not a very expensive paper.
It comes in a variety of different tones, white,
this is a cream also the Stonehenge paper.
I love the stuff. I think it's fantastic.
Let's do one more, just for fun.
I will bring it across, find where the corner is,
bring across the other corner, find the corner and slowly crease.
Use something to burnish that edge a little, it'll only make it easier
to rip it afterwards. Fold it back the other way again.
The edge is starting to open on its own at this point.
And what's nice about the Sonehenge is frankly either side of it is beautiful. When I was a poor art
student I would use both front and back
of my Stonehenge paper. The other thing that you can do is over the front edge,
I’m gonna use the front edge of the table for a moment, if I lean it
across there and rip along the edge it will make a really nice clean rip
also. That said I always find myself in these situations where I'm sort of doing it
by hand, I don't have a table, I’m in someone else's studio.
I've just learned to do it through folding and then ripping lightly along that fold.
So that's our Stonehenge paper that we like for graphite drawing.
I’m gonna put that aside with the Barge. This is Canson paper.
It is Canson Mi-Teintes.
I've heard people mispronounce it as may tientes. Canson Mi-Teintes is kind of ubiquitous.
This would be a like second choice to Stonehenge.
It is not double-sided meaning it has a different texture.
The front is smooth. Let me use a softer bit.
The front is smooth. But the back is textured. So one of these sides I prefer
much to the other, this has sort of a honeycomb texture.
I always tell students to use the side with the sticker on it. The sticker on
it. That is the other side.
It is sometimes hard to tell what is smoother with the naked eye. Now this paper
is very inexpensive the Canson, it costs even less than the Stonehenge.
So it's a good drawing paper.
But as you can see it's not really as resilient as the Stonehenge. I do treat
it similarly and I'll fold it over, rip-it, same idea.
But the Canson is nice for some pencil drawing, some light charcoal drawing. We’ll do a
couple of sort of shorter charcoal projects not at full value.
It's great for that. But this is a really easy to find, good enough drawing paper
for most purposes. This is our Canson Mi-Teintes, it comes in white and many many different colors. It comes in
gray. It's a nice paper.
Also, I do use this for either pencil or charcoal.
Wheraes the Stonehenge I really just used for graphite.
So that covers the papers that will be using for the Charles Bargue projects and any
sort of smaller sketching that we're doing, a nice inexpensive versatile paper. This paper is not
inexpensive. This is to paper
what the Nitram charcoal is - it is the same difference between this Nitram charcoal and other
charcoals as is this paper and other papers for cast drawing. Each of the ones that
they at the company put on the front and back, each of these casts are definitely
done on the Roma paper. Roma paper is made by Fabriano.
It is a really wonderful textured paper.
It is not smooth in the same way that the Canson or the Stonehenge is. I
want to hold up a sheet.
You might be able to see a little bit this texture across at as we are
moving it around. It has a nice
ragged edge and this very light line texture throughout. This paper is designed for long-term charcoal
drawing. It has a very slight amount of texture.
I'm going to do a little bit of charcoal just so you can see what the
natural texture of the paper. And so
as you'll see there's a very natural deckled up and down undulation to the weave
of the paper itself. This is done on purpose because this paper is meant to have
more surface area than other types of drawing paper.
The fact it has more surface area,
yes, it will take you longer to work a tone to really get
into the surface of the paper but you can erase all day long without it damaging
the paper itself. It is super resilient and because of that effect of it having
texture and that sort of hills and valleys throughout we can get the greatest amount of
tonal differences. A full value spectrum can be done on this paper unlike other papers.
Roma paper has always been a bit expensive frankly. You do need to order it
online in most of the world, it's not something you can pick up in your local
art store. It is a specialty
drawing paper for charcoal in this approach. Roma paper comes in a couple of different colors.
This is the darker antique white.
There's also greys and blacks and frankly
I wouldn't use but might be useful perhaps to a pastel artist or somebody that wants
that really dark starting point
but still the versatility that the paper allows.
Roma paper is fairly expensive as well.
I remember when I was an art student,
I would ride my bike home from the art store and I would got the paper
rolled up like this, a bigger role as possible
so it didn't damage it because of course if papers rolled up and you just poke
your finger once it's going to get damaged.
I was riding my bike home,
I bought three sheets of Roma something and was quite a lot of money for me
at that time and the wind blew and blew the paper into the spokes of my
bicycle. Just absolutely trashing the paper.
I will never forget it.
I recommend keeping your paper flat whenever possible.
If you receive it rolled up like this, the first thing you should do - and what
we did with the paper here New Masters Academy and lay it flat so that unrolls
and flattens itself out. That's a really nice way to get it back to a natural
look. Now the Roma paper has two sides.
Both of the sides frankly are good for drawing.
Okay, so there's a watermark here and the water mark’s a great way to tell which
side of your paper your drawing on, actually it looks like it might be a little
bit hard for you to see here on the antique sort of beige paper.
Let's see if the white is more obvious for the camera.
Let's see. Yeah, it looks like maybe you guys can see that a bit.
There's an oval watermark which has Romulus and Remus feeding from its mom and it says
Roma underneath it. The important thing is that when I was a student at the Florence
Academy, we always drew on the back.
So if we saw it,
Roma right there we’d turn it to the back side
and this would be the side that we would drawn.
However, I've heard since some students really prefer the other side to me
it doesn't particularly matter. The important thing is that when I show you how to join
two pieces of paper together that we used the same side for both.
So the white is the color of Roma paper will use for most of our value
charcoal drawing. We want to use the white and then sort of build our whole myriad
of tone so we can see full range of values.
And what's nice is this paper allows us to do that.
However, I'm fully aware that the Roma paper is not only expensive.
it's also hard to get in parts of the world.
So a really nice alternative, if you can't find this Fabriano Roma paper
where you live or if it's just too expensive for you, I would recommend sticking with
simple cold pressed watercolor paper.
This is Arch, A-R-C-H-E-S, arches or arch
paper, it is a cold pressed watercolor paper.
Arches comes in three different grades, the extremely rough cold pressed, the middle rough cold pressed,
and then hot pressed very smooth texture,
but it is much, much much much better than your typical Canson or lighter-weight typed
drawing paper for work in charcoal.
You can work a long time, and I've had many students to really beautiful cast drawings
on this stuff also. I would say this is a perfect backup paper if you don't
have the availability to get Roma paper or if it's for some reason just the stuff
is not what you want to use.
This is something that is a great happy medium.
So I want to show you guys also how we're going to make these larger bits
of paper that I'll use for my figure drawings here.
I can tell you that many of the cast drawings
I know that the one on the B, both the one on the front and back,
both of these we're done with this technique
I'm about to show you.
It's it's really quite simple,
but you do need to be a little extra cautious about cleanliness on your hands and
have tape, a straightedge, which is the length of the whole paper, one or the
other, and a really nice sharp knife all ready to go.
So I have my X-Acto knife, my tape, my straightedge, and my paper.
So let's do the antique white.
I think that would look really nice. And what I'm going to do
as I bring both sheets of paper over,
I just want to double check the watermark. So that watermark here is backwards.
As is this one. So two backwards watermarks.
I like the backwards watermark, the back of the paper, for my drawing technique.
So I'll turn it around this way.
I found the backwards watermark,
so that could be my front.
The two sheets of paper I line up as well as I can but I am overlapping
them like this. Okay, this spot of overlap I make however small I need it to be
but this is where my straight edge will go and I will cut along here.
I will remove the flap of paper from this side.
I will remove the flap paper from this side and by cutting I'm going to have
exactly the same age on either side.
I should come together perfectly.
So I will grab a piece of tape.
And just as a reminder do this on a surface that you're happy cutting on.
This is just a you know,
an old drawing board, nothing special.
Make sure that you haven't put some so that you're not going to cut both at
the same time. You want to make sure that your straight edge is overlapping both bits
of paper. Just a word on working with straight edges while you are cutting pieces of
paper. Be careful, especially if it is a smaller one like this.
I always try to position my fingers a little bit away from the blade.
I have had friends that have two fingernails on a single finger because it jumps the
blade and cuts the artist’s hand. I am super cautious when I set up my straightedge
of my fingers out of the way and that if it was to jump that
my hand is sort of safe for it is less of an issue with this big
level. I am going to put it all the way there,
I'm pressing down really with quite a lot of force on this hand,
I'm just going to do a single strong cut.
You really only got one shot. So let's say a little prayer.
Gonna put this to the side for a moment
and I'm going to remove carefully
this flap of paper. And then it looks like the other flap of paper is going
to come off just perfectly.
I don't want to move this stuff at all.
I keep it right in place because that's my cut. It should match up perfectly.
Well, then the smallest amount of difference possible and hopefully on camera you're seeing this edge almost disappear.
I use one single piece of tape.
I do not use a bunch of little pieces of tape because I don't want to
have any texture behind my drawing surface.
I'll use my fingernail and just burnish
along there, so we got a really nice seal.
And it's the moment of truth.
Let's take off her excess,
which has been sort of holding it in place too, and let's turn the paper around and
see what kind of seal we have.
As you can see that is an almost non-existent seam and I now have a sheet
of Roma paper, which is one of the most beautiful drawing paper as possible,
which is nearly as big as I am.
So this is a this is a nice way to - really
you can treat any drawing paper like this,
but since this stuff really is the best for this work
this gives us the ability to work much larger than we could with a single sheet
at a time. This is another Florence Academy trick that when I saw it I go
wow, that's so simple, I can't imagine that working and yet it works every time. You
do need to be a little bit cautious as your drawing over the scene,
but this will give you an almost imperceivable difference between this side and this side
and the good news is if you use acid-free artist tape on the back that will
last as long as it possibly needs to. So that is our really nice large drawing
technique that we could use for anything larger and I think one of the drawings I'll
be doing here at least will be with two pieces of paper together.
I am really wanted to take some time to get set up to do that grey
paper demonstration that we talked about.
I love these handmade bits of paper and to remind you
this is the one that I'm talking about.
This exists within a myriad amount of different color greys you can get and certainly a
different amount of stripyness if you want to. As I mentioned I go for a
bit of stripyness on purpose because I like that scatter and sort of play in
the background but I've seen students do this where it looks like a perfect gray piece
of paper. So for years I - since I was a little kid actually I’ve seen people
stain paper with different stuff.
And you know, everybody's young and they stain paper with like coffee
or tea I remember doing a treasure map like that when I was a little kid. What
was interesting when I got to the Florence Academy was I saw that Dan Graves was
doing a paper preparation technique that he could actually erase on all day. And the
trick is pretty simple. We use India ink. And Indian ink is a carbon black ink.
You want it to be specifically called India and because that indicates it is not just
a black ink, it is a black ink that is either with glue or shellac like
varnish in order to make the color sealed.
India ink is one of the only forms of waterproof ink.
Ao I've seen watercolor artists use India ink
in their under drawing and then paint washes on top. In our case
it's a great color tool in order to get the white off this page.
However, if any of you were familiar with limited palette painting at home,
you know that in our use black is essentially considered a blue. And if we were
to only use black to stain the paper it would come out quite blue. In order to
make it neutral I got another bit of brown India ink.Tthe brand doesn't particularly
matter to me, but what I always liked is to have two of them because of
the mixing and intertwining of those two colors make for a very beautiful grey.
I have had students use bright green and bright red
India ink, those are complementary colors.
Those will also make a very interesting grey.
I have seen students use bright blue and orange India ink, also that makes very interesting
grey. But for student use I think this is like a really good place to start.
So what we have here is a piece of our Arches watercolor paper, the same one
as before. The only thing different here is I wet the paper slightly before putting it
down. You can see it's a little buckled, that shouldn't matter. As you saw my other
sheet dried pretty much perfectly flat,
but it is humid. I wanted to let it as I was putting it down.
I'm wearing one glove on my hand.
That's only because the India ink sort of gets in your fingernails and cuticles and really does
stain your skin for a while.
A sponge, this is just a simple household sponge.
We're not going to use the scrubby side at all.
We're only going to use what used to be the soft yellow side of the sponge.
And we have some water. So I'm going to do for starters is pour the water.
This is a fair amount of water.
So I know I'll need a bit of ink just to color this. And as I'm
getting started I want to tell you a little bit about the technique.
I'm going to attempt to not
to really going and scrape over
my page a lot of times. Instead what I want to do is sort of
put some moisture and let gravity take it down,
to not force it because I don't want to mess up that hair fibers.
And for those of you that have experience in watercolor,
this is a wash technique right?
I'm going to use gravity
in order to to have my gradation look nice and clean and again for watercolor centric
people I think you can see a bead form in here,
right? That's a little bead of color from the dirtiness of the water in the sponge.
This is not wet enough, the one I go across the top the color should run
down nice and smooth and easy.
So being familiar with this ink, I know that in terms of tinting strength,
they are not equally tinting. In other words
if I put 50/50 it's not going to give me straight grey, neutral grey.
It'll give me a sort of brown.
So I'm going to put more slightly of this than this. That’s what I did on
my last sheets. Luckily the India ink stuff comes with a dropper,
So I'll fill the dropper
and I'll put just a little bit of India ink.
Let's do one, two, three,
four, five. I’m gonna do droppers full in here. If I did find droppers of black
I want to do slightly less than that of brown.
I'm going to do four of brown.
As you can see, if you have a camera in there just a little bit,
the color is sort of mixing around.
It looks very black and grey and brown kind of mixed together.
I'll swirl it with my sponge.
And I just want to squeeze out any excess and let's see what color we come up
with. There's a fair bit of water here.
So I don't yet know how dark this is going to be.
I'm always trying to let gravity do as much of the work here as possible.
Let that bead work its way south just by gravity. Remember talking about hand oils before,
we're going to see if any spotting shows up in this just naturally throughout.
We're just going to let this film for a second
and see it naturally working itself down the page. I think you can slowly see that color normalizing.
It's looking a lot less streaky.
Now what you will notice as this page dries, is because of gravity
we want to let it to drive facing one direction or the other.
It'll be a little lighter the top, slightly darker at the bottom.
So I always recommend to students to at least two passes.
One this way, let it dry for oh 10-15 minutes just for it to set up and see
all those streaks sort of disappearing.
So that’s starting to look like a nice neutral grey.
We’ll wait one more minute and we’ll do one more pass the other direction, see
how that looks. It is interesting as I'm doing this I'm able to see some of
this on the monitor. It is sort of smoothing out in real-time.
So I tell students learning this process not to stress out too much about the wash. Some
of what happens in the paper is just going to happen
naturally. If you look up here in this corner, zoom right in right here in this corner.
We have some light spots.
These are from where something touch the page.
There's also a light spot right here in the center.
These are natural things that happened in the wash because of how the paper was treated.
It's not necessarily ideal, but it may come out on the next pass. So I’m gonna tap
it just to let that bead fall off the paper a bit then we’re going to go the
other way. And I’m gonna double check.
Yeah, can you perceive I hope it's easy to see it is in fact
lighter and darker as we move our way down.
We’re gonna do one more pass.
And if we weren't for some reason happy with the color that we achieved here, that's
simple enough. We would just add another dropper or two of ink to our existing
water bath. Because it's all wet
I can trust that gravity is going to even this out.
Let's see. Please notice if we zoom in right here, that white spot is persistent.
It looks like that's going to stay.
So this is why we talked about keeping our hands clean, if you
remember me going back and forth washing my hands, joking that I wash my hands like
a doctor, those little handles really do make a difference.
But the good news is it won't make a paper look any less beautiful or hand
done. Personally I really like the little white spots showing up here and there I like
a bit of darker spots and the occasional little white thing showing up as long as
it works compositionally in my drawing
I don't mind it. I have started doing this on sheets of paper that had just
some really weird pattern, or an obvious spilled something on them,
you know, maybe somebody spilled something in the factory or the artist, I have
thrown sheets away, but this doesn't take that much effort or time.
I can do 10 or 15 sheets in a day
easily, leave them dry around my studio and then I have hand stain paper
ready to go. So I'm going to let this dry like this and because I only
did two passes you will see that it will be a little darker on one side
than the other but just remember that's because the gravity would let it dry up a
bit more and then go the other way again by not a berating the paper with
the sponge, by never really scrubbing across it,
we're preserving the Integrity of the weave the paper and that allows us to be
able to draw on it for just as long, with just as much gusto as if
it was a white piece of paper.
Free to try
1. Sight-Size Method Course Trailer1m 32sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Interview with Daniel Graves, Founder and Director of the Florence Academy of Art16m 36s
3. Introduction to Sight-Size Drawing17m 24s
4. Tools and Utensils Overview (Part 1)23m 11s
5. Tools and Utensils Overview (Part 2)41m 15s
6. Drawing Papers35m 43s