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Archive for the ‘faces’ Category

RumpTower
In these blog ruminations on how to look at paintings I’ve never said anything nice about “the verbal mode.” The idea is to turn that thing off, so that you can take in the painting (or drawing) in as pure a visual mode you can muster. I’ll stick to that, but I do occasionally go verbal and when I do, I get fascinated by the origin of words.
When I was walking along the river recently, I looked up and saw the word “RUMP” on a building. How odd, I thought, to put such a word and in such an aggressive size on a building. One sometimes sees that word with a T in front and I wondered if there was an etymology that would lead back, not just to card-playing lingo, but to “triumph.” Given the current presidential race, wouldn’t that be appropriate.
I pulled the OED, always a good read, out of its case, and combed through twelve columns trying to find out what was up with “triumph.” Much of what I found spoke to political ambition. 1) One corruption of “triumph” is used to designate a “playing card so that any one such card can TAKE any card of another suit. Take that! 2) Over centuries, since the Romans, “Triumph” became “trumpet,” both the instrument and the person “who or that which proclaims, celebrates, or summons loudly like a trumpet.” Loudly, really? 3) A thing of small value, a trifle, pl. goods of small value, trumpery.” Trumpery is good. If these presidential ambitions lead to frustration, the next tower could have the word TRUMPERY in humongous, therapeutic letters on it.
But wait, the best is yet to come. The Middle English (12th-13th centuries) version of “trumpet” was “trompe.” Now, this is truly precious because tromper in French means to fool, deceive. Je trompe means I deceive. What a find!
But what about “rump?” Predictably, more windblown towseling. “With rump and rig, with rump and stump.” STUMP would be good on a building, wouldn’t it. Later. But wait, “rump” as a verb means “to flog or scourge.” No-no. If you say that, YOU’RE FIRED! How about YOU’RE FIRED on an office tower!?
Combing through the OED leads from one thing to another and I sometimes overcomb. We shall overcomb.


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15Jan2a
In whatever drawing you’re working on, try darkening the outline (=contour) of the shapes arbitrarily. If it’s a figure, darken the outline of the forearm. See how that affects your perception 15Jan2bof depth. Or press your pencil down harder when you’re outlining one side of the face. Immerse yourself in how this feels.
In the drawing shown above, the artist indicates the upper arm with a heavy line, while the forearm is drawn faintly. We immediately get the sense that the upper arm is in shadow and the forearm catches the light. She achieves this effect without classical anatomical drawing, using gradations of shadow and reflected light. But you can see that her coarse use of lines is actually based on an understanding of anatomy.
Drawing by Gaby Edgerton, aquarellable pencil on gloss paper, 17”x11”
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FaceHand
When we have a model in drawing class, I sometimes can’t resist and I join in for a quick study. I love drawing hands.
Stabilo Aquarellable pencil on Gloss paper.
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StLaurant4

To get a fresh view of your drawing, you can enlarge or reduce it on the Xerox machine. It’s StLaurant1best if you make a drastic change in size. For example, here are some drawings by Gaby Edgerton. She made very small studies, only about 1½ inches high. Then she took them to a duplicating machine and blew them up to about 12” high. I’m showing the enlargements here. Where before, in the tiny drawing, you could only see the general form of the drawing, now in the enlargement you can see the drama of her markmaking. Where the small drawings looked rather delicate, now you can see that the lines are bold and energetic.
Working small can be quite easy. If you see your drawing suddenly large and impressive, you may be encouraged to work with greater daring the next time, whatever size you work in.————-

StLaurant3 StLaurant2
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Soldier4Face

I brought in photos of soldiers taken before, during and after their tour of duty in Afghanistan and suggested that the face studies be drawn on one page. The emphasis was not to be on realism, but to allow the drawing process to get messy so that accidental marks and smears would possibly bring out greater expressiveness. Messy is difficult, believe it or not. Students most often want to produce neat drawings that will please others.

Soldier2small
Here were faces of men in anguish and doubt. They could, of course, be drawn academically as a study in how features change over time and in different 14Soldier4Facemoods. But the photos invited an approach that in itself carried the expression of their torment. I gave a demo(right, click to enlarge), using the Stabilo pencil on gloss paper.
Though the photos came in sets of three, I suggested that there be four faces drawn on one page, with a fourth being synthesized by the artist.
This assignment came the week after our trip to the Wilmette Library to draw Michelangelo’s David. The David is idealized, he’s beautiful, perfect and worth studying. But perfection is not expressive. Perfection is momentarily satisfying and restful, but, as you can see from the David example, perfection Soldier3Faceinvites parody. Perfection, really, is a lie. To approach a feeling of truthfulness, you have to allow yourself get gritty.

(Drawings by Gabrielle Edgerton, Katherine Hilden and Barbara Heaton)
For more photos of soldiers to work from, see http://news.yahoo.com/photos/soldiers-portraits-before-and-after-war-1368743423-slideshow/
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14EmergingHead

When we talk with people we tend to look at their eyes.  Involuntary twitches often offer a clue to  deeper, unverbalized feelings .  Small wonder that when we draw faces we zoom in on the eyes and we tend overdraw them.

MedardoRossoI encourage my students, when drawing a face, to put in the pupils last.  Let the other features and the quality of the markmaking itself, carry the expression. Put in the pupils with a flick of the pencil.

This requires self-restraint and students seem to find it hard to follow this advice.

What a surprise, then, to see the above drawing in class.  I asked the class what they thought of it, at this stage, without any eyes at all.  Approval all around.  Everyone found it moving, as is. One person said, the expression was “tentative.”  A good description.

This drawing by Laurel reminded me of Medardo Rosso’s heads of children.  He often sculpted in plaster and then delicately poured wax over the plaster form.  The effect is one of extreme introversion.  In his faces he does not emphasize the eyes, in fact he often veils them in wax.  But the face does not appear “eyeless” at all.  Instead the face conveys deep feeling .  Medardo Rosso’s faces are MedardoRoss2also tentative in the sense that they appear to be quietly paying attention to everything around them.

In 1892, Rosso sculpted this head of a boy after he merely glimpsed the child, not by having him pose. Rosso described the head as “a vision of purity in a banal world.”

Medardo Rosso, 1858-1928.  http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1990.304

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14MaggyGrannyDaughterThe assignment here was to do two drawings from the same subject.  In the first drawing you work to get everything right; you study the shapes, the anatomy.  After you’ve worked up a good sweat over all these details, you exhale and tape a fresh piece of paper on your drawing board.  Now you do the second drawing.  You’ve worked out the hard parts and are thoroughly familiar with what makes this subject interesting to you.  Now you relax and draw for the sheer pleasure of drawing.  You let loose.  Your pencil skates across the paper.  Not that you’re glib or shallow.  On the contrary, you now draw the whole subject.  All at once.  You’re not bogged down by any details.  Been there, done that.  This second drawing will go fast, much faster than the first.  But, paradoxically, even though it does not work out details, your second drawing—the developed drawing–will suggest depth.  The viewer is pulled in and sees more than you spelled out.

14MaggyGrannyDaughterPhotoThis drawing by Maggy Shell is the second stage, the developed drawing, done from a magazine cover. We get this kind of image in the mail all the time and tend to toss it away as junk mail.  Take another look.  Your waste paper basket offers a wealth of inspiring subject matter.

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