Thursday, March 31, 2011

Portrait of Restaurant Owner: The Budapest

I attended the Al Hyter Portrait Group on Saturday morning and created these two portraits. The model's name is Robert and he is the owner of the restaurant, The Budapest, on Monroe Street in Toledo, Ohio.

Seems like creating art or in this case drawing portraits always has an adventure and a journey. Every month the Al Hyter group has two new models and we, the artists, get to meet and learn about interesting and unique people that we probably never would come across or have met on our own.

Meeting Robert was interesting to me because I pass the Budapest restaurant when I go to my Wednesday night figure drawing sessions. The restaurant is in an old brick building. It’s a diner style restaurant, and always has a warm and cozy glow when I pass in the evenings. So whenever I pass by I’m intrigued and often think about someday visiting. Well I made a portrait of Robert, got to know him and felt it was fate, I had to visit his restaurant. I had lunch at the Budapest and really enjoyed the food, the environment and the company; the place has a lot of character. I highly recommend visiting the Budapest.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Portrait of Sara

I attended Saturday morning's Al Hyter Portrait Session and produced these two nice pieces. The model's name is Sara, she modeled for the month of March and did a great job holding her pose still.

I really enjoy drawing portraits, they are incredibly challenging. Of course the big challenge is capturing the likeness of the model and I believe these two drawings look just like Sara. But one element I can’t capture in a group portrait session is the model's true character.

I say this because in a group environment of portrait artists, we have to compromise the model's pose. The model arrives at the studio nicely dressed, sits on a podium so everyone can see the model with a lamp turned on to highlight the face and gives us a simple pose so that all the artists attending can have a nice and beautiful view of the model. Here's where we lose some of the model's character and all the artists know and understand this. We use this time to practice our skill, to have the opportunity to produce art, and to take time out of our busy lives to be amongst artists and friends. It's a compromise all the artists understand and accept.

So how can we capture a model's character in a portrait? Well, the other day I saw Sara at a local mom-n-pop style restaurant. She was working there taking food orders from customers. Sara looked appropriate for the working environment: casually dressed, hair bundled up in a pony tail, wearing eyeglasses with a beautiful decorative frame and when I saw Sara smiling, talking to customers and taking orders on a notepad, the first thing that came to mind was, “this is the type of portrait I want to capture”. Here is were I believe a portrait artist captures a person's true character, when people are themselves in their environment.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sweeney Todd and Still Life Drawing

Not too long ago, I was hooked on listening to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince while I created my still life drawings. Now while I draw, I’m hooked on listening to the Sweeney Todd movie sound track, The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street. This movie is directed by Tim Burton, with actors Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter. I’ve seen this movie, it’s intense! But the soundtrack I find pleasant to listen to and has a good tempo for me to create art.

So I listened to Sweeney Todd sound track while I created this piece. The scene is from my mom’s kitchen. Most of the objects were already there, I added a few items and took some things out to simplify it. What caught my attention in this scene was the tile, I like the effect tile gives my drawings, and I also like how these objects are together but don’t relate.

But the main reason I sat down to draw this scene is that it tells a story, there is a lot going on. The toys, tomatoes, cleanser, windowsill, faucet and tile gives us clues and a feeling of what day to day living is like in this environment.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Palm Tree Drawing, Redlands California

I’m often thinking about the next pieces I’m going to share on my blog. Usually it’s one I recently created and I have a lot of those, but lately I’ve been looking through my work from the last three years and I came across some summer urban landscape drawings that brought back nostalgic memories of drawing in beautiful warm summer days in southern California.

I remember clearly creating this piece, one of my favorites. I had this one hanging next to my bed, It was the first thing I looked at in the morning, I would lay in bed looking at this piece and think about the next drawing locations for that day. This scene is located in Redlands, California, corner of Fern Ave and Cajon St, a great town with a lot of beautiful historic homes.

I remember having perfect weather for drawing, a good spot for setting my lawn chair and a lot of palm trees. That summer I sketched a lot of urban landscapes; all the drawing had the iconic southern California palm tree. I was on a palm tree kick, but I couldn’t draw a palm tree by itself, it had to have a good environment; so buildings, houses, streets, old cars, next to palm trees were often scenes I found provided a good visual environment to draw.

I sketched this in three sessions, late afternoon on a clear sunny day. I would sketch for about 2-3 hours, around 3pm to get lower light and cast shadows. It was also a little bit cooler at this hour and the summer days are long so I had plenty of light. I sketched in 2-3 hour sessions because the shadows would change as the sun set. I would patiently sketch for a couple hours and come back the next day until completion. This one took three days. I used a big art pad, 17” x 21”.

Looking at this piece really makes me miss California. I’m looking forward to going back someday with my drawing pad, pencils and lawn chair.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Portrait of Young Woman

I attend Saturday morning Al Hyter portrait group in Toledo, Ohio. They have two new models, but since it’s a two-hour session I focused on drawing one model. I first created the ¾ view then created the profile. It was cold in the room so my arms and hands felt a little stiff but I still had a good time drawing these two nice pieces.

I feel all my recent drawing is paying off because I felt comfortable drawing these portraits. I was confident creating the cross hatch texture, proportions, sighting, and composition. It’s a good feeling for me. I’m looking forward to next Saturday’s portrait session; I’ll focus on drawing the 2nd model.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Drawing Foreshortening is Fun

This was the long pose for Wednesday night's open figure drawing session at Geiger Studios. We had a male model and this was my view of the model when the pose was chosen, a lot of foreshortening!

Foreshortening is fun and frustrating at the same time. The fun part is in the accomplishment and in the problem solving of drawing the body going away from you while communicating that to the viewer.

The frustrating part is the challenge: drawing the objects closer to me bigger and the drawing the objects farther from me smaller. I know the feet aren’t that big on the model and I know the head arms and hands aren’t that small but I have to let go of reason, make my proportion measurements, and focus on drawing what I see, not what I know about the human body. So I draw the feet bigger because they are closer to me and I draw the head arms and hands smaller because they are farther away from me and trust it will work out at the end, and it does. Visually, this drawing works, you understand a human figure is lying down. It’s so cool.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

How I Cheat In My Drawings

I had a great drawing session at last Wednesday night's Paul Geiger Studio figure drawing session. We had a new model. Paul started the session with a few short 5-minute poses for the crowd to warm up. Then a long pose was set up on the high platform. I like the visual effect of when the model is positioned high for drawing. The drawing usually has a grand feeling, as if you’re looking up at a building or mountain.

The model's pose was on a chair. I like the model seated for several reasons: first, the pose fits my drawing page; I can draw the scene bigger. If she was standing, then the pose would take up more of my page and I would have to draw her smaller to fit. Another reason is I liked the chair the model was seated on because I can use it as a tool for getting the proportions to the model correct.

This is when I feel like I’m cheating because the chair makes drawing the model so much easier. I use the negative shapes of the chair (the space between the legs of the model and legs of the chair). These shapes help me determine the proportions of the model easily. Sometimes people will say “Wow, that looks difficult; you're a good artist” and I usually respond “It's easy. I’m not drawing the model, I’m drawing the negative space”. If I draw all the negative shapes correct, then the figure starts to appear and I continue by drawing in positive shapes (the model).

These two drawings are of the same pose but from different angles, 30 minutes each. They were fun and rewarding to create. Plus Paul played good tunes starting with classical music, then some Dave Brubeck, and ending with Elvis Costello.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Drawing Still Life with View Finder

Here’s a recent drawing I enjoy looking at. I’m still trying to find interesting ways to draw my nephew’s shoes, and this is a drawing that I think works. It is a busy scene. I like that, and I like how all the simple shapes of the fruit compliment the child’s playful shoe.

Drawing a scene like this can be overwhelming because there is so much I want to fit on the drawing page in a certain way. I wanted to make sure I got the left side of the shoe in, the banana and only part of the fruit bowl. I decided to crop the fruit bowl because if I sketched in the entire bowl, it would have made the shoes and other fruit proportionally small on my page.

So how do I decide how to crop the scene? There are several ways I do this. Lately I’ve been using a viewfinder that is proportional to my drawing page. (See sample picture below). I like this little artist tool; it’s quick and easy. If the scene is overwhelmingly busy and I want to only focus on a certain part of the scene then looking through this tool to determine sections I want to focus on really works. It helps me see the compositions within the page size in mind and helps me see the positive and negative shapes that come to the edge of the pages.

Here’s a picture of how I use it. It’s an easy tool to use. You move it forward and back to see how the composition will look on your page. There are many other ways to do this: sometimes I just visualize the edges then just start drawing and wait for final result. Or I can stretch out my arm, close one eye and visually align my pencil along the top, bottom sides of still life I want to draw, or I’ll us my hands to make a square with my fingers, this sometimes works. Whatever it takes, I just want to pick that composition so I can start drawing.