A friend and I who had similar Decembers and Januarys in many ways were talking the other evening. We both confessed to not having painted for nearly a month. His mother had passed away a few weeks ago after three weeks in hospice. He had developed simultaneously crippling arthritis and his partner had put him on notice that their relationship was pretty much untenable.
I had been in the hospital with chest pains and a subsequent angiogram that had shown no cause for concern but it took about two weeks to fully recover from the procedure. My mother, meanwhile, had become suddenly severely disabled with dementia and I had to spend nearly a month going through 80 years of things she was unable to throw out - and then I had to move her from one location in her building to another that offers assisted living - my mother lives in Dubuque, Iowa. All this while trying to prepare lessons for a new drawing course that began on MLK day and my two web design courses that began the day after.
So - the question I pose here is - WHY IS IT ALWAYS OUR ART THAT SUFFERS when our lives hit the fan? WHY DOES PAINTING TAKE A BACK SEAT to everything else?
My buddy said, "Well it's hard to paint when you're depressed". True - but shouldn't our studios be the first place we seek out when it all comes tumbling down?
I pose these questions as food for thought. I don't expect there is an answer that makes complete sense. Painting requires focus, patience and time. I find it nearly impossible to paint when there is a nagging monkey on my back and I wonder - are we all like that? Am I just being self-indulgent?
We were talking this out before our life drawing session began on Thursday evening. Our model was C, a beautiful woman who has been sporting dayglo magenta hair for the past several months. It is now transitioning to white and is currently a kind of blue violet with metallic pink and lilac. I've painted her at least three times prior and each time was unhappy with the results - while the paintings weren't necessarily bad - the likeness just wasn't there. This week I nailed it. Finally - here is C.
I just want to elaborate a bit on what I began talking about last evening. The method that we are learning consists of the following steps:
1. Define the picture plane
2. Parse out the space, measuring carefully, drawing very lightly (taking notes rather than drawing objects)
3. Draw without commitment, at this early stage you are feeling things out: learning about the things you are drawing.
4. Develop the entire picture plane - move around and do not focus on a single area.
5. GRADUALLY bring the entire thing up in value until you have an accurate skeleton upon which you can hang your value map.
6. Map out your drawing in terms now of the shapes of values you see when you squint - you should limit your values to about three or five shades of grey.
7. Once the values shapes are noted in on your drawing, then and only then should you begin rendering in any detail.
8. The drawing should take shape before your eyes rather like a photograph coming to being in a tray of developer.
Here is a video that shows this process in time lapse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBVZwWqXmmk
The photos below show what your process should look like up to the point where you are ready to start mapping value shapes upon your skeleton. They are from the Curtis book. Enjoy! and I'll see you next week. You can always email me with thoughts and questions at email@example.com
This site is both the chronicle of my recent sabbatical - the theme of which was "a sense of place" and my ongoing work in life after sabbatical. I try to share thoughts and insights about my work and the practice of painting that others will find useful and applicable to their own work. I hope you enjoy your visit!