Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Gallery Update

This week I received a present that “made my day” from a friend who had recently returned from China. It is a LingBi scholars' stone (shown below) and it’s superb! A few posts ago I discussed the key attributes of a good stone— viz. shou (thinness); zhou (wrinkles); lou (hollowness); tou (penetrated); and, qi (life force)
(see http://www.printsandprinciples.com/search/label/scholars%27%20stones)—and this one meets them all. The reason that I’m sharing my surprise with you is that the gift was accompanied by photographs (shown further below) of where the precious LingBi stones are found.

I had imagined that such stones would have come from a rocky landscape where the stones were gathered from an exposed rock strata, but I was mistaken. From what I now understand, the stones are volcanic and their weirdly wonderful shapes are the result of being blasted into the air in a molten state and their ultimate shape is determined by how they fall and what they land on (i.e. water or soil). As a consequence of their eventful origin, the stones are scattered and have a characteristic rough “skin”/surface on one side—I guess that this is the side that the molten mass landed on—and rounded edges, textures and hollows on the lustrous viewing side arising from their once molten state. For those that love LingBi stones, the true test of this stone is to hear the clear metallic sound once the stone is struck. No wonder the stone has featured in ancient Chinese musical instruments.

Scholars' Stone: Fire
LingBi stone
(height x width x depth including base) 37 x 27 x 12 cm




Backhoe excavation for the stones
Manual digging for the stones
Cleaning the stone
Some on-site examples of the stones
Regarding what I've recently posted in the galleries (these may be found by clicking on the strip of links at the top of the page), the Architecture and Ornament gallery now has a set of three magnificent engravings of monumental vases by Jean-Claude Thomas Duplessis (1699–1774). Interestingly, his son, Jean-Claude Duplessis Thomas Chamberlain (1730–83) worked for Sèvres and followed the neoclassical style during Louis XVI’s reign.

Seeing that I was in the mood for displaying neoclassical works I have also posted in the Architecture and Ornament gallery two exquisite etchings by Pietro Aquila (1650-1692) of some of the decorations in the Galleria Farnese. The first of these etchings is rare to find intact as often the individual panels are cut and sold separately. What amuses me about these “cut” panel prints is that they are described as having been “cut within the platemarks.” Although this description is true, what is not explained is the extent of the print remaining—it’s huge!

The second of the Galleria Farnese etchings is after Annibale Carracci’s wall paintings. For me it is a slice of opulence that speaks of notions of grandeur from a long past age. I’m also fascinated how images like this one of a bas-relief invite the eye to leap from slabs of architectural detail into populated pools of deep space. I guess that this is why I also like digital formats as, again, there is an invitation to leap from one pool of reality to the next with the click of a mouse.

Keeping with the theme of Carracci prints, I have listed one by Agostino Carracci in the Figures and Fauna gallery. It’s one of his important prints and you only have to look briefly at it to see why. The image has a rock-solid composition and, like all great artworks, it almost commands a viewer to be silent in front of it. What a marvellous print!

Also in the Figures and Fauna gallery I have showcased two prints by the famous French printmaker whose reputation is built upon reproducing the drawings and paintings of the early masters, Bernard Picart (1673–1733). The two prints listed are etchings of Raphael’s studies of women. From the perspective of any artist fascinated by interpretative prints, these are wonderful demonstration pieces showing how a skilfully laid network of lines in a print can reproduce subtle transitions of tone. From a personal viewpoint, however, they are simply gorgeous and the warm plate-tone left lightly on the prints gives them an aura of being precious.

For the Landscape and Flora gallery I've listed two extra large etchings by Jan Luyken (1649–1712). If ever there was an artist who gives value for money in terms of filling an image with masses of people he must come close to the top. In fact, when I was selecting details to scan I couldn't stop. Instead of displaying the usual four details, with the first Luyken print I ended up with EIGHT details that I simply had to share. Before I did my scanning of the two etchings I had the misconception that Luyken's style of drawing was a bit raw and schematic, but after examining his drawings of sheep, goats, dogs and horses in the first print my opinion changed as I could see how truly skilful he was as a draughtsman. In fact I think that he could almost draw a goat or a sheep as well as any of the Barbizon group (see Jacque’s drawings of sheep for instance: http://www.printsandprinciples.com/2012/07/jacque-sheep-and-shadows.html). Before heaping too much praise, however, Luyken had a problem with understanding animals’ legs. Sadly, he wasn't very good at drawing cows’ heads either. Nevertheless, he did draw a convincing horse in the print and anyone that can draw a good horse should be praised. Of course I may be way off-target with my view about Luyken’s animals so please let me know what you think in the feedback section below.

Now that I've lightly touched upon the topic of bucolic imagery, in the Books gallery, I've decided to showcase a book featuring 17 original etchings by Frédéric Jacque (1859–1931)—one of Charles-Emile Jacque’s (1813–94) sons. What is interesting about these prints is that they are focused on Jean-François Millet (1814–75) and the Barbizon district near Paris that Millet and Jacque made famous.

In the final gallery, Objects and Artefacts, I have listed for sale the two casts that a friend made of my hands featured in my last post, Figure Drawing. The intention behind making the casts was for the same goal that all the other plaster casts featured in the Objects and Artefacts gallery were originally made: they were designed to be drawing subjects for my classes.

I’ve been contemplating what I should post next as the next discussion in this blog. Although I haven’t received any feedback on my last post I have decided that the last discussion only lightly “skimmed the surface” concerning principles used in life-class drawing. So very soon I’ll put my thoughts together for a second part to the discussion about figure drawing.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Figure Drawing (Part 1): Brown & Carmean

Beyond the fundamentals of how to apply sight-size measuring devices to gauge a figure’s proportions, what are some of the more subtle principles guiding an artist’s hand when drawing a figure?


Sometimes the best way of explaining the solution to a problem is to begin by giving a practical example of it and then discuss how the problem may be rectified. Although this is a simple and a sensible strategy, in the visual arts such an approach is not always easy to apply as it means that an artist’s work needs to be critiqued in a public forum with the stigma that the artwork “is not right.” Clearly, not every artist would be happy to have their faults showcased publicly. Fortunately, my approach to drawing has always involved a serious dissection of shortfalls in my art practice and I receive a genuine pleasure when I discover ways of improving my work. With this spirit I have decided to use one of my life drawings, Reclining Nude with Outstretched Arms (shown below), as a way of explaining and illustrating weakness and to use drawings from the superb artist, Harry Carmean (1922–), to show how his use of key principles could improve my drawing.

Let me begin by briefly outlining my intention when executing Reclining Nude with Outstretched Arms. This drawing was part of an exhibition presented as a component of my Master’s degree (1990) focused on portraying the male nude in different contexts. At the time, my interest in this drawing was fairly straight forward: to use contour lines (i.e. strokes describing the form of a subject) to portray a figure without relying on the figure’s surroundings to give spatial depth.

With hindsight, however, I succumbed to the indulgence of many struggling artists: use of more visual devices than are really necessary. By this I mean that if my interest were to portray form through contour marks I should have stuck to that aim and I should not have introduced outlines (i.e. non-contour lines) to “muddy” the purity of my original purpose. Now that I have chastised myself there are many other issues beyond clarity of purpose that show weakness in rendering three-dimensional form and these I will address in the following discussion.

James Brown (blog author) (1953–)
Reclining Nude with Outstretched Arms, 1990
Graphite and gesso on cartridge paper
99.3 x 84.7 cm



One of the notable shortfalls in my drawing lies with capturing the figure’s skeletal and muscle structures beneath the skin. For instance, compare Carmean’s (1922–) study of an arm (shown below) after one of my favourite draughtsmen, Adolph Menzel (1815–1905). In Carmean’s drawing the hand is represented as having a block-like form with a top plane—the palmar surface—and side planes. Carmean’s approach to drawing the hand and his vision of what lies beneath the skin is illustrated very well by the schematic sketch of a single finger displayed on the upper-right side of the sheet. Here, the highly stylised three bones of the finger are portrayed as simple rectangular blocks shaped into fingers by an outline. Note in particular how the shaping of the finger’s outline takes into account the subtle swelling of the finger bones at their joints without losing the broad view of the finger bones as simple blocks (i.e. Carmean keeps the “big view” rather than being distracted by an “intimate view” of superficial details like finger joints).

Admittedly the portrayed hands in my drawing are in a pronate position which is different to Carmean’s supinate view, but the shortfall in my drawing of hands remains the same: the hands’ block-like structures have not been visualised properly resulting puffy, sausage-like forms. In short, what is needed is Carmean’s blocking of the palm and fingers and this blocking would have given the hands a greater dimension of solidity.

Harry Carmean (1922–)
Study of Arm after Adolph Menzel, 1977
Charcoal on wove paper
56 x 43.5 cm
Condition: A small mark/stain (approximately 1 cm) on the middle-right edge, a light fold mark on the lower-right corner and light off-set of another charcoal drawing (verso); otherwise in fine condition.
I am selling this drawing and the five other Carmean drawings discussed in this post shown below (i.e. Study of Arm after Adolph Menzel; Study of an Arm and Legs; Study of an Arm; Small Study of an Arm; Study of a Leg) for a total cost of $198 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. These are large drawings and will be posted in a tube. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown below.







To help illustrate what I mean by the principle of “blocking,” the image shown below on the left is a detail from my drawing. Compare this original image to the digital version abutting it on the right where I have tentatively reshaped the sausage-like form of the fingers and palm with tones and marks suggesting a block-like hand structure. No doubt there are many highly skilled artists who would love to enhance my digital version even more and I welcome any contribution.

Sadly, after contemplating my digital exploration (shown above) I now see another shortcoming: I should have given greater emphasis to the directions of the skin folds at the knuckles. In short, the creases at the knuckles of the two smallest fingers should be angled to the small-finger-side of the hand and the crease separating the fingers on the thumb side should be angled to the thumb-side of the hand (see photo of two casts of hands below with red lines denoting the directions of the key creases).



In an attempt to remedy the knuckle crease error I have amended the former digital image of the hand (shown on the left image below) with more digital changes (shown on the right image below). Hopefully, other interested artists will help refine the image still further but now I need to move on to the next principle resting heavily on my mind.


At the time I executed Reclining Nude with Outstretched Arms my artistic heroes/mentors were Mario Dubsky (1939–85) (see an example of his drawings at http://www.guyburch.co.uk/images/ArtWork/Mario%20Dubsky.htm [viewed 6 June 2014]) and Euan Uglow (1932–2000) (see an example of his paintings and drawings at  http://paintingperceptions.com/figure-painting/euan-uglow  [viewed 6 June 2014]). Both of these artists have visually arresting drawing styles and both exhibit subtlety of line phrasing (i.e. varying the tone, opacity and thickness of line within a stroke), but neither guided me to a way of representing how muscles and tendons are anchored to the bones. This is where my more recent “discovery” of Carmean’s approach to portraying anchoring points could have been of real assistance.

What Carmean uses as a device to show key points of anchorage in an arm or leg, for instance, are small zigzag gestures at both ends of critical muscles as can be seen in Study of an Arm and Legs (shown below). Not only are the key points accentuated with a zigzag stroke but the shape of the line in the zigzag is curved to visually explain the body's curvature. For example, in the first detail of the arm (shown further below), note how the curves in the zigzag denoted as “A” relate to a similar curvature of the lines describing the rounded contours of the figure’s shoulder. Likewise, note how the curves in the zigzag denoted as “B” relate to the contour marks describing his elbow.

© reproduced with kind permission of Harry Carmean

Harry Carmean (1922–)
Study of an Arm and Legs, 1969
Charcoal on wove paper
56 x 43.3 cm
Condition: Fine condition.
I am selling this drawing and the five other Carmean drawings discussed in this post shown above and below (i.e. Study of Arm after Adolph Menzel; Study of an Arm and Legs; Study of an Arm; Small Study of an Arm; Study of a Leg) for a total cost of $198 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. These are large drawings and will be posted in a tube. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown above.












As with my earlier digital explorations, I have again tried to adjust my drawing and this time I aimed to introduce the principle of anchor points as may be seen below with the digital modifications shown in the right image. Hopefully, once again other artists will assist me with further enhancements to refine the placement of the anchor points and the phrasing of the zigzag gestures.



Of course, the use of tensions created between anchor points is not the only way that Carmen adds what Robert Beverly Hale describes in his now classic book, Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters (1964), as “landscape” points within a figure. Similar to artists like Baccio Bandinelli (1493­–1560) who use squiggled marks to accent critical muscle attachment/insertion points (see for example http://drawingdetail.tumblr.com/post/35124089307/baccio-bandinelli-1493-1560-male-nude-from [viewed 8 June 2014]), Carmean also marks critical sites within the figure with heavy lines. For example, in Carmean’s Study of an Arm (shown below) and even more noticeable in his Small Study of an Arm and Study of a Leg (shown further below) he almost maps his subject with nodal spots that help to explain the inner workings of muscles.


Harry Carmean (1922–)
Study of an Arm, 1966
Chalk on tan wove paper
54.4 x 45.4 cm
Condition: Fine condition.
I am selling this drawing and the five other Carmean drawings discussed in this post shown above and below (i.e. Study of Arm after Adolph Menzel; Study of an Arm and Legs; Study of an Arm; Small Study of an Arm; Study of a Leg) for a total cost of $198 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. These are large drawings and will be posted in a tube. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown above.




© reproduced with kind permission of Harry Carmean

Harry Carmean (1922–)
Small Study of an Arm
Chalk on tan wove paper
(unevenly cut sheet on right side) 34.6 x 23.5 cm
Condition: light smudging of the signature and the right side of the sheet is cut unevenly, otherwise in fine condition.

I am selling this drawing and the five other Carmean drawings discussed in this post shown above and below (i.e. Study of Arm after Adolph Menzel; Study of an Arm and Legs; Study of an Arm; Small Study of an Arm; Study of a Leg) for a total cost of $198 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. These are large drawings and will be posted in a tube. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown above.



© reproduced with kind permission of Harry Carmean

Harry Carmean (1922–)
Study of a Leg, 1968
Chalk on tan wove paper
51.3 x 30 cm
Condition: Fine condition.

I am selling this drawing and the five other Carmean drawings discussed in this post shown above (i.e. Study of Arm after Adolph Menzel; Study of an Arm and Legs; Study of an Arm; Small Study of an Arm; Study of a Leg) for a total cost of $198 AUD including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. These are large drawings and will be posted in a tube. Please contact me using the email link at the top of the page if you have any queries or click the “Buy Now” button shown above.





In future posts I will return to this discussion about figure drawing as the topic is such a rich field of different artistic practices and where the use of subtle principles can make a large difference to how an image is viewed by an audience. In the meantime the following video featuring Harry Carmean’s teaching is very interesting and helpful.




Harry Carmean on Drawing the Figure (posted on YouTube by Miriam Slater)