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Posts Tagged ‘Michelangelo’

celinefrown

The non plus ultra of drawing is the face. Well, maybe not of Drawing writ large, but almost certainly of drawing students. They approach the face more ferociously than anything else.  It has a way of talking back, you know.

Western Art is full of beautiful faces, meaning idealized faces. It’s hard for us not to be haunted by them: from the Venus de Milo to Botticelli’s Venus to Raphael’s insipid Madonnas to Michelangelo’s pouting Madonnas to Sargent’s celinefrownphotogossamer heiresses.  In the 19th century women started looking more interesting.  Think of Degas and Manet.

Imagine my delight at finding ads for Céline products (handbags, though you’d never guess) where young women, having left the house without running fingers through their shapeless hair and without bothering about makeup, scowl at us.  Take that! Now draw me and don’t make me pretty.

In this drawing by Maggy Shell, notice how powerful the eyes are even though no anatomy is indicated. No eyelid, no iris.  celinefrowneyeThis face & head study goes deeper than mere anatomy.  You understand the anatomy without seeing the face anatomically.  Instead, what intrigues you is the expression. With an uncanny economy of means the artist draws us into the mystery behind the face.

Maggy Shell, Céline Frown, charcoal on paper, ~16” x 14”

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michelangelodrawusd

More precisely, drawing from photos of sculpture.

michelangeloupsidedownIf you think of drawing as translating, then drawing from sculpture is easier than drawing from life, because the sculptor has already done the half the work for you. He or she has simplified the forms for you.

Taking this a step further, drawing from a photo of a sculpture means that two-thirds of the work has been done for you.  The photo takes the additional step of flattening the three-dimension orm into two and two dimensions is where your drawing functions.   Piece o’ cake.

Well, no, not exactly simple.  You still have to get over naming what you’re drawing because naming—the whole verbal mode—gets in the way. To that end, we turn things upside-down.  And to turn a Michelangelo sculpture up-side-down, it’s really handy to have a photo of michelangelodrawingthe humongous thing, especially if the original is in Florence.

Drawing by Jeanne Mueller, graphite on paper, ~14” x 11”

michelangelo-tomb-lorenzomichelangelo

Michelangelo Buonarotti, 1475-1564.  The Medici Chapel, 1520-1534

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/drawing-on-the-right-side-of-the-brain-by-betty-edwards/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/ptolemy-in-ulm/

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LorrieMooreBlog
I haven’t worked on the caricatures for my facefame blog since, oh my, January. In the winter and spring months I was up to here in printer’s ink, modifiers, press settings, the ol’ hot plate, solvents, exhaust fans and periodic printshop fatigue. Printmaking is not for the faint of heart or lungs. In five months I pulled (that’s how printmakers talk) 152 prints, and many more if you count the rejects. But more on that later, much later. This past week I finally summoned the courage to see if I could get back into the facefame-caricature mode. (facefame.wordpress.com)
I like reading Lorrie Moore. I pulled up the Google images for Lorrie Moore on my 24” computer screen, leaned the customary drawing board against my desk and drew her with the customary Stabilo aquarellable pencil. Twenty minutes, maybe all of thirty, and there was this intelligent, witty face on my paper. I was rather pleased. Well, I thought, the hiatus on facefame has just ended. I love drawing like this and there are plenty of writers and other artists (maybe even politicians in this presidential circus) that I’m eager to draw.
The next day, the drawing didn’t look good any more. It looked pleasing, you know, goody-goody. It said “look how well the artist controls the medium; a little ironic, but at the same time it has that classical feeling; being done in sepia, it alludes to the mighty Renaissance and who doesn’t love Leonardo and Michelangelo.” Time to put it aside, reconsider.
How can I bring this drawing into the 20th century, ok, the 21st? To do that, the drawing needs to be a bit edgy. Maybe adjusting the size will help. I took it to Kinko’s and shrunk it, from 14×11 to about 11×9. Now, loosely tracing that size to my aquarellable paper, I was less tempted by detail and literalness. I leaned into the pencil, deposited a lot of black stuff, smeared with a damp paper towel, LorrieMooreReyetextured the paper (in printmaking that’s called tone) and found my caricaturing zone. I knew I was in it when I drew her right iris with a flick of the pencil. That cranked up my courage and then adding the color patches was a sure thing, easy in the sense of “hey-it’s-my-drawing.”
This happens all the time, this wanting to please and then realizing the next hour, or the next day, that what you really need to do is summon your courage and do strong work.

LorrieMooreBlog650
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cvggo_dorm
By the middle of the 16th century the Protestant reformers were raging against Catholic dogma and inspiring their followers to ransack old churches, destroying stained glass windows, murals, paintings, statues, tapestries and candelabras. The Catholic hierarchy fought back and stood its ground. The battle of the Counter Reformation was so serious that the pope convened his cardinals intermittently for about twenty years. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) hammered out numerous dogmatic formulations and, interestingly for us, enlisted the Caravaggio-Crucifixion_of_Peter1arts in the fight. They declared that art should illustrate the dogmas and saints of the Catholic faith to the common people in an emotionally intense way.
The cardinals became very specific about how this end was to be achieved. They decreed that religious images were to be clear and dramatic, bodies were to be rendered to appear three-dimensional, physically real, emotionally intense, with vivid color and contrasts between light pauland dark–so as to draw the viewer emotionally into the scene and close to the biblical character being depicted. Appropriate and approved themes were: grandiose visions, ecstasies and conversions, martyrdom and death, intense light, and intense psychological moments.
Since, at the time, the pope and the clergy were the major commissioners of paintings, sculptures and other decorative objects, artists perfected their skills to conform to the church’s taste in art. The artists who opposed the church’s dictates were called the Mannerists, because they worked in the manner of the late Michelangelo, who as he matured (he died in 1564) became a skeptic about the faith he had been raised in. The Council of Trent’s decrees directly opposed the highly individual styles of the Mannerists.
What about Caravaggio? Caravaggio shared the church’s taste for high drama. Death, torture and falling off your horse were subjects he related to personally. To make these scenes emotional he painted the bodies (so much flesh!) and the drapery (so much drapery!) very convincingly, very three-dimensionally.
Well, now, class, how did he achieve these effects?
Everybody in unison: reflected light!
Verrry good. Everybody gets a gold star.

ReflectedLight
I do this demo on how to make a curved surface look convincingly three-dimensional , every term. People look over my shoulder as they unanimously pick out the cylinder that looks good and the one that is drawn wrong. Somebody brings up Caravaggio. Everybody loves Caravaggio, so amazing, and everybody knows that he was a master at reflected light and that reflected light is what did the trick for him.
Below, a passage from “The Death of the Virgin,” showing rims of reflected light, without which the shapes would look flat.

The-Death-of-the-Virgin-(detail)-1605-06Analysis
Now, you would think that all these Caravaggio-lovers would go home and practice drawing round objects, say an egg, a pear or an apple on their kitchen counter, using the reflected light trick. You would be wrong. Why is that?! Why do art students love the illusion created by Reflected Light, but don’t practice how to achieve it?!
(Btw, lest you think Caravaggio was a humble and obedient genuflector, he used a drowned prostitute as a model for the Madonna in this painting. Artists tend to be complicated characters.)
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1571-1610
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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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14DavidWilmette3
The Wilmette Public Library has a life-size replica of David’s head. It was a gift to the library some 14DavidWilmette4years ago and then the library didn’t know what to do with it. Who knew!? Well, very few people. It’s in an acrylic case, in the basement, behind the elevator.
What a treasure! Anybody can go behind the elevator with a drawing pad and a pencil, pull up a chair and treat her-himself to a couple of hours of studying that head. I took my drawing class there recently. Drawing from plaster casts 14DavidWilmette1was standard practice in art schools through the 19th century and well into the 20th. I can’t think of a better way to study the anatomy of a face. Look at the eyes, for example, you can clearly see how the eyelids wrap around the sphere of the eyeball.
Of course, Michelangelo’s David is an idealized, heroic figure. The fate of all heroism in our age is parody. I have my own mild caricature of dear old David, from about thirteen years ago.

01MyDavidSpoof

For a few more, see
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syVGfnuDXDE
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14LizzieBrughesMadonnaFineThere are many ways to practice drawing.  A very convenient source of things to draw is sculptures. For example,  sculptures in a park. If that’s inconvenient, try photos of sculptures.  Specifically, Michelangelo’s sculptures.  All forms are dramatically worked out by him, as if for a drawing lesson.

For my drawing class I brought in photos of Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna and his figures for the Medici tomb.  Photos of these works are readily available in books and online.

14MichelangeloHeadThe Bruges Madonna (above) offered abundant challenges in rendering curved shapes convincingly.  The Medici head (left), seen from below, presents a frustrating foreshortened view of the face.  Both challenges were admirably met in these two student drawings.

(Click images to enlarge.)

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