Gurney Journey | category: Figure Drawing


Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

Otto Greiner (German, 1869 - 1916) sketched from life, and those observations informed his imaginative work. 

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

Here he sketches his self portrait in a mirror. His legs are crossed to raise his drawing board. He seems to have a drawing tool in each hand.

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

This imaginative etching shows Christ (at center) being led to Golgotha. A convict is bound to the cross at left, and there's a grotesque figure of death with a scythe at right.

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

Here's Greiner's portrayal of his drawing teacher.

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

This one is a study for the Triumph of Venus (1909), and seems to be painted from life with the angel wings added. 

Speaking of winged figure, here's a tall vertical image of Ganymede:

Otto Greiner: Observation and Imagination

Ganymede in Greek mythology was "the most beautiful of mortals, abducted by the gods, to serve as Zeus's cup-bearer in Olympus."
More examples online:

Fashion Illustrations of Constance Wibaut

Constance Wibaut (1920-2014) was a fashion illustrator from Holland who reported from Paris in the 1960s on the new styles by Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent. 

 Fashion Illustrations of Constance Wibaut

Constance Wibaut (1920-2014), Sketches from Paris, 1966

Her drawings are spare and direct, with bold colors, clear shapes, and strong silhouettes.

Fashion Illustrations of Constance Wibaut

According to the European Fashion Heritage Society, "She moved to New York with her husband just after the Second World War. There, In 1946, she found a job as fashion illustrator for the magazine Women’s Wear Daily. At WWD she developed her signature style, drawing ready-to-wear clothes on a hanger for the magazine." 
Fashion Illustrations of Constance Wibaut

"The need to be precise and to include all the details, from the buttons to the stitchings – as they were important for sales – would have influenced her future illustrations, which were characterized by elegance and easy legibility."

Fashion Illustrations of Constance Wibaut----

More in the book 100 Years of Fashion Illustration 

Pet Peeves about Sketch Groups

Pet Peeves about Sketch Groups
Drawing of a fellow artist in a sketch group
On Instagram, I asked: What are your pet peeves about figure drawing groups?
Here's what you answered:
asidesart Often unimaginative setups or setups that flatten out the figure entirely with lighting. The one I frequent has several overhead lights that not only flatten it but create several conflicting shadows going across the model.

doraspaintdrips I wish I HAD a sketch group to go to!

madillstudio I don't have so many pet peeves but I sure wish I could find more time to study the figure. I used to be in a self-run figure drawing group; we used ourselves as our own models, volunteering each night we could meet.

b.l.phillips_art Not enough of them

michaeljamesmonaghan Not lighting the model!

artloader Having to draw ...

artloader@artloader Just kidding by the way, I love drawing!

fulford841 Jostling for easel space!

jowillart Being so far away you can’t see any details.

drifting_diatom I can't afford to go consistently :/

theartofjustinmiller When people talk while the model is posing

dupuis.chantal Being looked down the length of people’s noses when they see your sketch and realise you are not as good as they are. If I ever go back to that group I think I will just draw a stick man/woman and have fun with their snob reactions!

kimxromano When other artists, typically male but not always, want to sexualize the pose. I live in Texas.

g.l.garcia Sensitive models 🤷‍♂️

g.l.garcia@asidesart build a canopy from cardboard and or fabric 🤷‍♂️

g.l.garcia@asidesart also use cheap pluming tubes from a diy store for frame. No glue so its not permanent 🤔😉👍

lordbrenner I second Garbage Lighting. That and lazy models. When the breaks get longer and longer.

zipchip Models that talk

_grajo_Too much/not enough time spent on warm up gestures. I'm a slow starter.

elarosny Sudden boners. That shadow wasn't there before!

misslyndamay When people aren’t sensitive towards models 😉not an easy job just sayin...

kunst_und_fechten You using conte here?

misslyndamay Other pet peeves: bad lighting, lazy setup, bad music, unprofessional behavior, boring poses (you can tell when the model doesn’t try very hard but again it’s a physically challenging job)

alradeck Slight but constent movements that turn the post into something else

dannysabraDo you have any tips for starting a sketch group?

pursuingkairos@kimxromano Would you say some areas of the country experience more male/female artist disparity than others?

beezyknowsbest People who draw things other than the model—once someone was drawing me (and other people in the session) instead and it was so distracting. Also why pay for a model to draw people who aren’t sitting still?

asidesart@g.l.garcia hard to do if those are the only lights used for the model, and they’re clustered together. I’m also not the one running the session. Mentioned it before but they’re ambivalent towards it

markorenko So elegant!

wykbce As an artist and a model, unprofessional coordinators. You're here to keep things safe and professional for everyone. I'm not here to run your class.

eddywardster That sometimes you have the sudden urge to look at your neighbors figure and then get envious of them. Focus on your side of the field. Always.

g.l.garcia@asidesart yeah i stopped going to the local life drawing club after 10 years b/c of bs 🤷‍♂️ i hire my own models now

bbendelson@elarosny LOL!!!😂

willjbailey My loval life drawing classes are brilliant, but I do wish the lighting was better...

jamesgurneyart@beezyknowsbest Guilty as charged. But sometimes the other artists are more interesting than the model.

jamesgurneyart@dannysabra 1. Agree up front on the length of poses and the lighting. 2. Agree also on the music or lack of it. 3. Be sensitive about oil fumes; some people are allergic. 4. If you're running your own sketch group, be ready for no one to show; you may have to pay the model fee yourself.

cricketcaitlyn_@sarahnicolekc reminds me of your art

grafips My personal pet peeve is that we seldom have enough male models. I think about 90% of my sittings have been with female models. I love the female form but for learning some more men would be fine ;)
tony_stencel_artist Tall people sitting in front! 😜

tony_stencel_artist@doraspaintdrips agreed

doraspaintdrips A great male model in college had big wild hair and brought great props like spears and tree limbs. Those were great days..

doraspaintdrips@doraspaintdrips I wrote ‘great’ too many times-sorry

dannysabra@jamesgurneyart thanks! I'm excited to get something going! I find it's pretty tough to find other artists near me interested in observational art.

armandchughes Just the lack of professionalism of the models or the people running the group. At least where I live its hard to find well thought out life drawing groups. Its good to have fun and hangout with artists and the models but the setup or quality of the group shouldn’t be sacrificed. Life drawing has a purpose beyond just hobby. Or multiple purposes.

thisisnicolesart I remember one particular class where my prof (a woman) actually started nitpicking/complaining that I was making the model (also a woman) less attractive by drawing wrinkles n' flabs and whatnot. I was like... are you serious right now? I'm just drawing what I see, isn't that the point?? XD

cemeryposh 1.)No chatting! 2.)Only the model can pick the music and no music without asking first! 3.) oil painters must use Gamsol odorless thinner, and/or Res-n-gel. No old artschool mediums containing turps! 4.) better yet, dry media only!

benj_artiste@doraspaintdrips I thought it was great!

doraspaintdrips@benj_artiste haha!

perrijs My pet peeve is that there aren't any sketch groups near me!

maiabwsanders Every one in my area is short nude poses only.

susanrankinpollard I used to go to a weekly life drawing group, but I stopped because the music was _always_ flamenco/salsa! Sometimes it was fine, but every time was just too much.

I’ve now moved and am looking into either sitting in on a college class, or starting a group once the studio reno is done.

kimxromano@pursuingkairos I think so (?) I’ve only been to life drawing studios in NYC, Seattle and now Austin

hikaruisaves Lack there of, or a very long drive there.

kathykellerbauer When the model lays flat on the ground so your drawing looks like a dead person.

brigidmaryschutz I once joined a new life drawing group at a gallery in Johannesburg. The model, a man sitting playing a guitar, made his pose include direct eye contact with one artist; Me. Every time I looked up, or looked at him or tried to focus on one feature to draw, his eyes would find mine. It was really disturbing and distracting. Even when I shifted places, they found me. I put my head down and turned the drawing into a man/tree: his fingers and hair and the guitar melting into branches and vines and leaves. I could still feel his eyes on me all night. It felt weird and creepy. I threw the drawing away and never went back to that class.

nicoettlinart I just started to go to figure drawing groups and draw with a live model and i loved it! It is so much fun!

sketchingtom Peeves? Poorly organized events in terms of space, time control management and lighting. Models—regardless of body type—who believe the job is to sit still while naked without regard to the substantial history and range that can be brought to a posing Repertoire. Model’s pay, which inexplicably remains flat. How can we expect models to be professional when many make only a few dollars above minimum wage. Attendees who simply ogle the model rather than attempt to draw them. Seating/stools/easel setups could use some work in a few venues I’ve drawn at over the years. Currently, I draw the model in a studio context twice a week. Could add more, but these are the big ones.
Follow me on Instagram

Tribhanga Pose

Tribhanga is a classic stance in Indian sculpture that emphasizes the flowing, sensual line of the figure. 

Tribhanga Pose

Like the contrapposto pose of European sculpture, it involves an uneven distribution of weight and a shifting of the axis through the pose.

Tribhanga Pose

Tribhanga literally means 'three parts break,' the breaks being in the neck, the waist, and the knee, giving the pose a gentle "S" movement.
Tribhanga on Wikipedia
Recommended books: 
Tribhanga Pose

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
William Bouguereau in his studio. Note preliminary studies displayed at left.
This is Part 2 of 4 of an article from 1901 called Evolution of a Picture: A Chapter on Studies by academy-trained Edgar Spier Cameron.

Yesterday's installment discussed how major paintings begin with compositional sketches drawn from the imagination. Today we look at studies, facial expression, and drapery.

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
Studies by Jean-Paul Laurens
Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
Studies of Costumed Figures by Fritz Roeber

Commencing the Picture: Studies or Études
"From this point in the production of the picture there are various ways by which the artist may arrive at the completion of his work. He may either arrange his models in relation to the accessories as nearly as possible like his composition and paint directly from them, or he may "square up" or in some other manner transfer the lines of his composition to his canvas and proceed by painting portions of his picture directly from nature or from studies.

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
Study squared for enlargement by Eugene Carman
"Making important changes in a picture after it is commenced is not productive of so good results as a rapid execution preceded by mature preparation.

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
Study squared for transfer by Frank Brangwyn
"It is for this reason that most artists who paint figure subjects make careful drawings of the various figures of their compositions, and many fragmentary studies of heads, hands, or other portions in which the expression of a pose or movement may play an important part of the picture.

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
Mr. Byam Shaw criticising a student's work
"Studies of drapery, of accessories, of architecture or landscape which may constitute the setting for the figures, are other important elements in the preparation of a picture.

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
Portrait Studies by Friedrich von Amerling
Facial Expressions
"Facial expression also requires much study. There are models who have sufficient of an actor's ability to enter into the spirit of an artist's conception and give him a pose or an expression which may be literally copied, but they are rare; and in order to secure exactly what he desires in this respect the artist often becomes his own model with the aid of a mirror.

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
Studies of facial expression by M. Hayman
"The studies of facial expression shown here are parts of a series thus made by a young artist of Paris, who possessed considerable histrionic ability. They were published by him as a guide to artists and students.

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
Frank Brangwyn Study squared for Enlargement
"It has been frequently remarked that the technical qualities of the painting of some students is superior to that of many artists who are accounted as great masters, yet their pictures are valueless except as examples of technique. The reason of this is that they have not learned to use their knowledge, and what is learned in an art schools is but a small part of what an artist has to learn. Some masters, of whom Puvis de Chevannes is a striking example, have learned so well how to express their ideas that they dispense with technical elegance in their painting. Of Puvis de Chavannes it is sometimes wrongly held by immature critics that he was an incapable draughtsman.

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
Drapery study by Frederic Leighton
Nudes First, Then Drapery
"Many artists, in order that the figures in their pictures may express more fully the sentiment of a pose, begin by making a careful drawing of the nude over which drapery or costume is afterward drawn from the draped or clothed model.

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
Jacques Louis David - The oath of the Jeu de Paume
"There is preserved in the Louvre a large unfinished picture by David, "Le Serment du jeu de Paume," in which all of the figures are carefully drawn in the nude and only the portrait heads are painted. It excites the risibility of most visitors to the gallery, but it is of interest to artists and students."

Evolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and Drapery
Drapery study by Degas
"For the study of drapery they are also invaluable. An effect of flying movement may be given to drapery by laying it upon the floor and drawing it from above or by arranging it in suspension with strings, but a more effective model may be made of paper, which is sufficiently stiff to retain its folds long enough, without support, to permit it to be drawn. Its folds are sharper than those of cloth, but it has the advantage of more natural effects, and is possible to find in tissue paper colors approaching almost any shade desired a painting, or to tint or decorate it as one may wish with watercolor.

"Portrait painters frequently use large lay figure upon which they place the costumes of their sitters, rarely for the purpose of making studies, but to serve as a substitute for the sitter in painting directly on the portrait. Other artists make use of the lay figure to make studies of elaborate costumes or uniforms.
Yesterday: Evolution of the Picture, Part 1: Compositional Studies.
Tomorrow: Mannikins and Animals in Motion

Sources and More Info
Evolution of a Picture: A Chapter on Studies by Edgar Cameron in Brush and Pencil Magazine
Vol. 8, No. 3 (Jun., 1901), pp. 121-133

The author is muralist and critic Edgar Spier Cameron (1862-1944) from Chicago. He studied at the Art Students League in New York and the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His teachers were Dewing, Inness, Cabanel, Lefebvre, Boulanger, Laurens, and Benjamin-Constant.

You can find more about these methods in my book Imaginative Realism.

Paul Richer's Artistic Anatomy

It's Friday the 13th, so let's start with a spooky image.

Paul Richer's Artistic Anatomy

Paul Richer (1849-1933), a French teacher of anatomy, produced this demonstration of what lies behind the face.

Paul Richer's Artistic Anatomy

Knowing about the structure and position of the skull helps make a portrait look solid. 

Paul Richer's Artistic Anatomy

Richer also wrote books on anatomy, most of which are still in print.

Paul Richer's Artistic Anatomy

He was a leader in trying to understand the physiology of human movement.

Paul Richer's Artistic Anatomy

He visited patients in mental hospitals, sketching the writhing subjects, and working with doctors to understand why people moved as they did.

N.C. Wyeth's Study from Bargue

N.C. Wyeth's Study from Bargue
N.C. Wyeth study (left) and Bargue Plate (right)

Blog reader Andrew Sonea discovered that N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945) studied from the Charles Bargue: Drawing Course:
"I was looking through the Brandywine River Museum's online Catalogue Raisonne for NC Wyeth and made a small but interesting discovery. One of his early studies done at the age of 18 (before his studies under Pyle) is a copy from the Bargue Drawing Course! Even the curator seems to have overlooked this as there is no mention of it on the page and it was previously presumed to be drawn from life."
"I've attached an image with a side by side comparison of NC's drawing on the left and the plate from the Bargue Drawing Course on the right. This is the first time I have ever come across anything connecting Wyeth to Bargue! I'm extremely interested in how different artists have influenced each other, especially across generations, so I wanted to share this neat connection with others. It also shows that he was trained in traditional academic draftsmanship to have a solid foundation before he started applying it to storytelling under Pyle"
The curator at the Brandywine River Museum says:
N.C. Wyeth's Study from Bargue"This drawing is representative of the type of work the artist did as a student before joining the Howard Pyle School. It could have been done during Wyeth's spring semester at Massachusetts Normal Art School (1900) for class described as "Model, charcoal," or done at the Eric Pape School during fall 1900."

New Portrait Book from Nathan Fowkes

New Portrait Book from Nathan FowkesMany of us have been following Nathan Fowkes on the internet, both for his landscape gouache studies and his portrait studies.

Yesterday I received a copy of his new book "How to Draw Portraits in Charcoal," and it's every bit as beautifully produced as I hoped it would be.

I had the honor of writing the foreword to the book, and here's what I wrote:

This book presents a welcome opportunity to study Nathan's dazzling charcoal portraits in beautiful detail.

Nathan’s portraits overflow with virtuosity. Sweeping, energetic strokes dance across the page, as if animated by a master conjurer. The lighting is so brilliant that it seems to shine brighter than the paper. Shadows are soft and mysterious, concealing more than they reveal.

The student or fellow artist looking for the precise recipe will rejoice, for Nathan generously lists all the tools he uses and all the procedures he follows. There are plenty of step-by-step sequences showing how the drawings develop, and those process images are beautifully shot and printed.

New Portrait Book from Nathan Fowkes

If the book stopped there, it would still be a valuable contribution to a shelf of portrait drawing books. But it goes far beyond style and surface. Nathan delves deeply into the thought and planning that lies behind his drawings.

New Portrait Book from Nathan Fowkes
Beneath the painterly strokes lies a firm armature of line drawing, using an adaptation of the method taught by Frank Reilly (1906-1967), an instructor at the Art Students League. Having that diagrammatic foundation gives the drawings the structure that holds them together. The basic plan is: 1) a simple construction drawing, 2) simple masses of value to describe big forms, and 3) design hard and soft edges.

Nathan explains his principles of construction, lighting, planes, and edges. His insights are like gold: “I’m much more able to render complexity when I look for the simplest shapes first.” A recurring theme is that drawing is not a literal representation, but rather an interpretation of what we see.

Although he is specific about his methods and principles, he is not dogmatic about them. He invites the reader to question. He doesn’t want students to copy his outward style. Instead he encourages his reader to try out his way of drawing, and if they wish, to apply it to their own work.

New Portrait Book from Nathan Fowkes
Nathan shows compassion for his subjects. They are not nameless models, but rather human beings. He is not just documenting someone’s physiognomy, but rather creating probing studies of character. He tells the story of one of his models, Clark, who had a successful career as an actor until several tragic setbacks changed the course of his life. Nathan’s drawings of Clark express both the dignity and resilience of the man.

New Portrait Book from Nathan FowkesThis book will become a cherished classic of portrait drawing, and I can only hope that we’ll see more books in the future that take a similar look at Nathan’s observational painting and imaginative work.
How to Draw Portraits in Charcoal
Nathan Fowkes website
Nathan's gouache landscapes on Instagram

'Fundamentals of Drawing' Now in English

'Fundamentals of Drawing' Now in EnglishThe 2007 Russian drawing textbook Fundamentals of Drawing is now available in an English-language print edition.

I first reported on the book when I encountered it as a Russian-language text.

The book is by the Russian master Vladimir Mogilevtsev. He is the head of the Drawing Department of the Russian Academy of Arts (aka Repin Art Institute) in St. Petersburg. The book has been a bestseller in Russia and beyond.

It's one of the best ways for those of us outside Russia to understand how drawing is taught in the Academy there.
'Fundamentals of Drawing' Now in English

Mr. Mogilevtsev combines accurate observational drawing with a sensitive appreciation of old master sculptures, paintings, and drawings. The book provides plenty of relevant examples by masters of the past.

He documents the production of two drawings: a female portrait and a male standing nude. Along with each step is an explanation of the thought process that helps lead to success, along with warnings about common mistakes. For example: "Common mistake: A knee of the supporting leg is accentuated instead of the protruding knee. As a result, the supporting leg appears bent at the knee."

'Fundamentals of Drawing' Now in English
I am impressed with the way Mr. Mogilevtsev emphasizes the importance of identifying a personal response before commencing with a drawing. He says: "A work of art creates its own emotional environment, and little by little, unobtrusively, it exerts its influence on a viewer."

The book is large format, hard-cover, and beautifully printed. It is a welcome addition to the methods taught in the Charles Bargue Drawing Course, which is used as a text in many American and European ateliers.
Fundamentals of Drawing (English Edition)
Previously: Russian Academic Books on Drawing and Painting

Three Steps in Blocking the Hand

The teachers of the Famous Artist's School correspondence course were good at drawing hands, especially Al Dorne, who I believe did these examples. 

Three Steps in Blocking the Hand
They had a useful three-step process for approaching the challenge: 1. Gesture, 2. Construction, and 3. Refinement.

Three Steps in Blocking the Hand
1. Gesture. The first pass shows placement and action, using curving or straight lines. This should be sketched lightly so that you can erase it later.

2. Construction. The second pass conceives the fingers as solid block-like forms. Be aware of relative size of forms.

3. Refinement. Add small forms using lighting that reinforces the structure. Don't lose the large gesture and simple forms worked out in the previous two steps. 

Three Steps in Blocking the Hand
Here are some quotes from the course materials:

"It is helpful to think of the hand as being composed of three masses—the palm, the thumb part, and the mass of the fingers."

"The block method of construction is particularly useful in working out foreshortened views of the hand because it is easier to imagine what happens in perspective to a cube than a finger."

"The nail fits into the top plane of the finger and rises slightly toward the tip. Note how the top plane slants downward from the knuckle to the nail."

"You need never be at a loss for hands to study. Even when drawing, you have another hand to serve as a model at any time. If you place a mirror in front of yourself to reflect your free hand you will have an infinite variety of poses to choose from."
Copies of the Famous Artist School binders appear in the used-book market from time to time. The links below take you to a couple sets on Amazon. Make sure the editions of the binders are from the 1950s, as the quality of the drawings goes down in later versions.

Famous Artists Course 3 binder set
Famous Artists Course Lessons 1 - 24

Many of the same lessons on hands (and heads and figures) were reprinted in a single volume book: The Figure: An Artist's Approach to Drawing and Construction
Otto Greiner: Observation and ImaginationFashion Illustrations of Constance WibautTribhanga PoseEvolution of a Picture, Part 2: Studies, Faces, and DraperyPaul Richer's Artistic AnatomyN.C. Wyeth's Study from BargueNew Portrait Book from Nathan Fowkes'Fundamentals of Drawing' Now in EnglishThree Steps in Blocking the Hand

Report "Gurney Journey"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?