Friday, March 21, 2008

Drawing from me head!

I have been working on a a program that would develop in students the ability to create and draw the figure from imagination. This an area that is overlooked in the drawing programs of many currents art schools where students are taught to copy and render the model without analyzing it in a way which allows them to create figures without a model. The ability to compose wothout a model is a necessary skill not only for fine artists but more so for students wishing to work as illustrators and concept artists with the film and gaming industries. ( Both of which offer many opportunities). I am consolidating ideas from a number of sources including: The Angel figure drawing program, Andrew Loomis' books, Glen Vilppu's drawing manual, Leonardo's notebooks, the sketchbooks of Adam Hughes, Bridgman's Drawing manuals and Strength Training Anatomy by F. Delavier. The first student of this program is me. Below are some of my sketchbook pages:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Portrait of a Woman

Ingres once asked 'Is there anything more difficult than painting the portrait of a woman?'. Indeed it was Ingres who I took as my model when completing a recent portrait.
The subject was a lovely Florentine lady, so I decided to try and interpret her in the Florentine 'sweet' style so familiar in the works of artists such as Perugino, Leonardo, Botticelli, Raphael and finding it's ultimate expression in Ingres. The basis of this style focuses upon the conceptualization of the subject. Big basic forms are clearly expressed with smaller details subdued. Smooth, luminous modelling and architecturalization of features (modelled on prototypes of classical sculpture) are evident. One can see this clearly in Ingres, who was emulating Raphael. It is also seen in the work of Bouguereau.

Here is my result :

When the subject came to see the portrait she asked "Pero, non e' finito, vero?" (It is not finished, is it?). She explained that she was flattered, but she wanted to look older. And so my experiment came to an end. Time for a repaint.
Since the painting as it was had been painted with an emphasis on the big simplified forms and smooth modelling adding age was relatively straight - forward. When she is happy with the result I will share the final result, and that of the companion portrait.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


For this first time ever I will be giving a workshop in my hometown Calgary, in addition to my yearly ones in Florence. Professor Gregory Scheckler from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts recently reviewed my workshops on his blog:

Calling all serious art students and art professionals: you can learn as much in a two-week intensive workshop as you can learn in most college art courses. Why? Your time and attention is focused on just one main goal, which you’ll work on carefully with expert feedback for about 60-80 hours in a row. As a student you aren’t distracted from painting by taking three or four other classes at the same time, plus you have the camaraderie of other students in the workshop who are as committed and interested in fine art as you are. A good workshop is the fine art painter’s heaven; a real chance to extend and improve one’s skills.

My colleague Martinho Correia notes that he is again offering workshops this summer in Florence, Italy and also in Calgary, Canada. Martinho’s an exceptional teacher with a great eye – an accomplished figurative painter and one of the lead instructors at the Angel Academy of Art. I can attest from my own experience taking Martinho’s workshops that they are extremely helpful, concrete, and well-planned.

Interested? For Calgary check here:

Yikes and other small suggestions!

Comic book great John Byrne had some advice for me when I asked him how to achieve success as an artist:

"Treat it like a job. Start at the same time, break for lunch at the same time, end at the same time. And remember, time working is time working, not time listening to DVDs, or watching TV, or any other timewasters/distractions.

And then he added this little rhyme:

Busy doing nothing,
Nothing the whole day thru.
Trying to find
Lots of things not to do.

Busy going nowhere,
Isn't it just a crime?
I'd like to be
Unhappy, but,
I never do have the time.

There really are a million excuses not to work. I like to think of myself as a craftsman rather than an "artiste". My father was a carpenter and my grandfather a shoe maker. Working in this tradition is much easier than waiting for my muse to show up. I have to get out of bed, drink some coffee and get to work.
Somewhere around the time of Leonardo and Michelangelo, artists went from being craftsman to being divine. Of course the ultimate conclusion to this way of thinking has lead to anyone who decides to call themselves an artist is an artist. And look what we we end up with: conceptual art and websites full of bad painting. I have a student who is a brain surgeon and wants to be a painter when he retires. It is a strange coincidence because when I retire from painting I was thinking about taking up brain surgery.