30 December 2009

More Zorn Master Studies

Two more Zorn master studies today, started during a class at Watts. Both paintings are 10 x 8 on stretched canvas. Painted with cad red light, cad yellow deep, ivory black and titanium white, plus a bit of alizarin crimson on the shadow side of the red fabric in the second image. Zorn painted the portrait of his wife Emma (top) in 1887, at the start of his transition from watercolor to oil. (He was self-taught in oil, by the way.) The second image, painted 15 years later in 1902, displays his mature style. This image also illustrates the type of complex lighting arrangement he often employed.

As a starting point, I focused on edge control and brushstroke quality during these studies. Wherever you look in these paintings you see Zorn's preference for the soft edge, achieved by working wet-into-wet. By contrast, most beginners favor hard edges, which tend to flatten the form. The lesson I learned here is to keep edges soft, adding the hards sparingly, and only as needed for the composition. Zorn also favored long, flowing brushstrokes, especially in his later work, which gave his images a sense of volume, form, and energy that I really like. The look is loose and spontaneous, but I'm sure each stroke was carefully planned and placed. Hard for a novice to reproduce, but very good practice.

My reference source for these studies was a book on Zorn, printed in China without English subtitles, purchased from Nucleus in LA. If you're a Zorn fan, I recommend this book for it's beautiful, large reproductions and extensive catalog of paintings, etchings, and watercolors.

Copies of copies from the Chinese Zorn book, for comparison. Click to enlarge.

19 December 2009

Head Drawings - Fall 2009

Here is a sample of head drawings from the fall term at Watts, which ended today. Let me preface by saying these are my drawings, combined with critical improvements by the instructor, Meadow Gist. Meadow's changes always make the images sing a little more (sometimes a lot more).

This is my 4th head drawing class, which means I've drawn around 35 heads. I figure I need at least 4 more classes. I see improvement here, compared to my head drawings from early 2009 . Going back further...take a look at my first head drawing from the model, shown below, drawn in January 2008. That first life drawing was really exciting, but the result was flat and lifeless. It's okay, I can admit it. Comparisons like these encourage and remind me, and hopefully other students, that skillful drawing is a thing of value, partly because it takes so much time, effort, and persistence to acquire.

All drawings took approximately 2 hours, from life, using a Conte Pierre Noir 1710B charcoal pencil on 24 x 18 smooth newsprint.