Sunday, December 30, 2012

Some great Christmas presents and a burst of life-drawing inspiration

Got a whole passel of art instruction books for Christmas - all straight from my wish list, so no duds in the bunch!! It's amazing how much better Christmas got thanks to Amazon and the almighty internet.

Imaginative Realism and
Color and Light, both by Gurney,

Other Worlds by Kidd, and

Figure Drawing by Ryder.

Of the 4, the only one I was unsure about was Figure Drawing, as it seems to demonstrate the atelier system of painstaking measurement and super-careful values and shapes - in other words the kind of course where you spend years precisely drawing from plaster casts. But I threw it on the list anyway, intrigued by a system so different from the classical system I'm learning - and I do understand that stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning things that are different is the only way to shock the system into actually growing.

The main reasons I don't favor this approach are that it's expensive and troublesome to always get models to work from, and because I dislike artwork that conveys the listlessness and passivity you generally see in models who have to hold a pose for a long time.

Gurney's work has that quality - as excellent of a painter as he is, his figures (human and dinosaur) look more like bored consumers standing in line at the mall than anything dynamic. So it wasn't too suprising to learn from his books that he goes in for a lot of research for his paintings in the form of arranging for model sessions and photographs, as well as travelling to locations and buying props. It's a bit amazing to discover illustrators really go to that kind of length for their work, but it does make sense.

That same problem is apparent in Ryder's work as well - fantastic, perfectly rendered drawings of lifeless maniquin-looking people in the kind of torporous poses that people assume when they know they have to remain there for hours.

This is not the way I want my work to look - not at all!! In fact, I want just the opposite. That doesn't mean I regret any of these books - quite the contrary. They all contain excellent art (just because it's not the way I want to paint doesn't mean I don't enjoy looking at it when it's well done) - and also they all contain information I'm finding extremely helpful - many things I've never encountered before and probably wouldn't have otherwise. And, even though I dislike the lackluster appearance of artwork done from posed models, I do realize the importance of learning to work from models and from photographs, and I need to learn how it's done (it's all about the gesture). Ryder's book is one big step in that direction.

In a related note - as I've said several times on the blog already, I always feel like I'm only as good as my last drawing. And unfortunately my most recent work has been a group of terrible gesture sketches. One bad one can leave a bad taste, but a dozen bad ones just makes me want to quit.

However, I happened across an amazing sketchbook thread on Conceptart that I just discovered is by a student of Ryder's (taught by him at the Art Academy of San Fran, and now teaching there himself) that shows it doesn't always have to look so listless and bored:

Even though the poses themselves are still dull as dirt for the most part, his work brings a sparkling energy and dynamism that mostly transcends that. I still plan to work from imagination, but damn - if doing a lot of gesture work can do this for an artist, then count me in!!

I also had a related thought tonight - I used to do what I call VCR Sketches - which are essentially quick poses done while the VCR is paused for 5 minutes - that gave me a definite time limit. At first they were pretty lame, but as I went on I got better at it. In fact it was probably pretty instrumental in my development at that time. Having that experience in my background gives me the confidence to go ahead and plunge back into gestures with the hope that in time I'll get better once again.

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