Thursday, March 26, 2015

On rhythm in the human figure

by Chris Brizzard
Level One student

In studying human anatomy, there are many great books and resource materials available. Some of the books used at Studio Incamminati include Stephen Rogers Peck’s "Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist," Dr. Paul Richer’s "Artistic Anatomy" and the works of George Bridgman. Sometimes looking at this material, we get overwhelmed by all of the diagrams of the muscles and lose sight of a critical element: rhythm. There is a rhythm that flows through the human body that can be captured with just one line, as when starting a gesture drawing, to the gentle S-curve found flowing through the standing figure.

Gesture drawing controlled by one dominant line

The S-curve in the standing figure. (Image from Edouard Lanteri's book "Modelling and Sculpting the Human Figure")

As an example, let’s look at the leg on a standing figure (and also assume it is the weight-bearing leg). In looking at this picture.below, from Stephen Rogers Peck, we can see all the muscles and tendons that comprise the leg.

Leg anatomy diagram from Stephen Rogers Peck

But before we start drawing in all the muscle groups, it is important to first get how those groups are controlled by basic rhythm lines that flow through the leg. For example, in the standing (weight-bearing) leg above, we can reduce everything to four basic rhythms. The major muscle masses align themselves along these rhythmic lines, and help give the drawing more unity and cohesion as a result.

Rhythms controlling the forms of the leg

Here is an example of how this might work in a structural sketch:

rhythms/forms of the leg

To sum up, I think it is important that we look past the surface of what we see and try to understand the controlling factors that lie beneath. Rhythm is an important example of this and it flows throughout the figure, still life and landscape. Learning to find those underlying rhythms help give flow to the work and is one of the artist’s many tasks.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Another Tuesday in the life...

of a Level Two student
by Wendy Wagner

Yes, my last post took you through my Tuesday, however, we are in a new semester, with a brand new Tuesday. So tag along while I explain my Still Life day with instructor Robin Frey.
The class begins in the cast room, where each student has his or her own booth. We spend the morning on a black/white value study while the afternoon is spent doing a color version of the same objects.

9:00 am: We start setting up our still life. I was surprised at the amount of time it takes to get a cohesive setup. What may seem like the perfect object(s) at home may look totally different under the warm lights.
We peruse the shelves for two to three objects that work well together. Robin offers suggestions on composition and helps those undecided as to which direction to go. It is a team effort, but ultimately the student has to respond to the arrangement, as she/he is the one who has to look at it for four weeks.

10:15 am: Finally get to start on the value study.

Noon: Time for lunch. The beauty of working with objects is that we can take a shorter lunch break and return to the cast room to work.

Although these photos aren't from the first day, they are an example of the value vs. color paintings on which we are working. Also note that some people were still working on their paintings when the photos were taken, and to get a decent view of the painting, the set-up is a little washed out. You get the idea.

12:25 pm: I start painting the color version a little early, as class doesn't officially start until 12:45. It is interesting how the introduction of color can throw off your perception of value. In my setup, I have a shiny magenta fabric. Is the color of the fabric in the light a higher value just because it is more chromatic? That is up to me to decide as I compare that color to the others surrounding it.

In speaking with other students, I have learned that some prefer working in value, while others prefer the color.

3:15 pm: Class ends a bit early today for a special event: we were invited to visit founder Nelson Shanks in his studio. Today is reserved for students in my level, and of course I am taking advantage of such an opportunity.

Nelson graciously allows us to come into his private studio to see his current project. How cool is that? Very.
As a student, to see him in the process of working on a current painting is truly inspiring. He has finished work sitting around for us to inspect, and will answer any questions we may have about his work, process or palette. A teacher accompanies us and explains how what we are learning relates to Nelson's methods.
Not many people can have learning experiences like these, and it inspires me as an artist and a student.

6:00 pm: Back to the cast room. We are stoked after visiting Nelson's studio, and seeing his progress up close, so a few of us decided to continue working with fresh eyes.

8pm: Time to leave. Tomorrow will come soon enough.

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The true formula for success - learning to see

By Carolyn Gabbe
Level Four student

I’m writing this blog post as an expanded conversation that started on Facebook with Dorothy Voss, Ricky Mujica and myself, a fourth-year student in Studio Incamminati’s Advanced Fine Art Program. The conversation touched on art instruction and, in particular, if Studio Incamminati has a formula or an approach.This led to the rumor that we start with an entire year of drawing.

Well, yes, we really do start with almost a full year of charcoal and graphite drawing because we are learning to see first. Within all the drawing that first year, full-time Studio Incamminati students undertake, there is a focus on gesture, proportion, value, and anatomy. You must learn to see it in order to describe it. Once you can see it, you can begin the effort to describe it with line, mass, value, edges.The wonderful intricacies of color come later.

Another foundation of the program is developing strong starts. If you begin without the gesture, with proportion problems, with anatomical impossibilities, you have little chance of success. So we undertake thousands of starts. Really – thousands. And that is another blog for another day.

Back to drawing, since we are visual people, here are some examples of my student work that I think illustrate the benefits of such a program and approach because it shows where I started and how my drawings evolved in less than two years.  I understand that the French Neoclassical Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres said it takes 30 years to learn to draw and I believe it! 

Charcoal figure drawing prior to starting the  Studio Incamminati  program.

Charcoal cast drawing, done part way through my first year of the full-time program.

Graphite figure drawing from late in my second year at Studio Incamminati.

Graphite cast drawing from my second year in the full-time program.

The second aspect of the Facebook conversation was whether or not we have a formula.  We do not. However, the Studio Incamminati curriculum focuses on teaching to see and think. It focuses on building skills, working large to small, getting the big things in correct relationship before moving to the small things, capturing the gesture, feeling the energy of a pose, seeing the planes and how they relate to the light with color and value, learning the anatomy of the human body, understanding value relationships and turning form with color and value, managing edges, composition and feeling. These skills enable us to move forward with our own artistic visions with strong foundations to build upon.

David Hockney, in a recent interview in Harper’s, said “ They don’t teach drawing in art schools anymore. It’s criminal. Teaching drawing teaches people to look.”  

Well, it certainly is taught at Studio Incamminati and to the great benefit of all of us who study here. As founder Nelson Shanks says, “We train to be enabled by competency not restricted by inability.”

So, off to draw!