Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Watteau: The Drawings Review

On the Cover
Detail of cat. 73
Detail of Three Bust-length Studies of Women (1718-19) 
Seated Male Figure Holding a Staff.
Red chalk on cream paper.

Semi-nude Man, Seen in Three-quarter View and Turned to the Left, Lifting a Glass.
Red black and white chalks on beige paper.

Seated Young Woman Holding a Basket in Her Left Hand.
Red, black and white chalks on beige paper.
Detail of Head of a Boy and Two Half-length Studies of a Flute-player.
Red, black and white chalks on buff-coloured paper.

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) was one of France's greatest draftsmen. He had the ability to capture a natural gesture and used a light, subtle line. He was very adept with the trios crayons technique which uses red, black and white chalks to portray the value ranges. He has always been considered a better draftsmen than a painter (a belief he, himself, shared).

Watteau The Drawings was published by The Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2011. The book itself is of good quality and the reproductions well done. There is a good selection of subject matter and it will make a good addition to my collection.

On the matter of Watteau, himself, and where he ranks in my personal hierarchy of histories draftsmen? Probably only mid-range in my top 20. He certainly doesn't break into the top 5. Of course, he died at the age of 37 (the same age at which Raphael passed away). It would be very interesting to see how his drawing might have matured if he had only lived longer.

Monday, 27 August 2012

On Michelangelo's Shoulders

Study of a Seated Young Man and Two Studies of the Right Arm
Michael Whynot (after Michelangelo)

"If I have seen further than other men, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

There is a long tradition going back to the renaissance of copying after master drawings by students as a way of learning the art of drawing. With the resurgence in interest in realistic and representational draftsmanship, we need to reacquaint ourselves with these methods from the past. Drawing from classical casts as a way to understand form and light, drawing from the live nude as a way to internalize the infinite gestures of men, and copying after master drawings as a means of understanding how a master sees.

I cannot speak with these long-dead masters, cannot pick their brains for their secrets, but I can hold onto their hands as they draw across time; I can still see through the master's eyes.

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Sunday, 26 August 2012

Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Raphael.

Michelangelo-Study for the Libyan Sibyl
                        Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
                        Studies for the Libyan Sibyl
                        red chalk
                        Metropolitan Museum of Art

Leonardo da Vinci- Cartoon of the Virgin With Saint Anne
                     Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
                     Cartoon For The Virgin With Saint Anne And Saint John
                     charcoal heightened with white
                     National Gallery, London
                      Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520)
                      A Combat Of Nude Men
                      red chalk over stylus
                      Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Welcome to my blog. I thought in this first post I would look at three of the greatest draftsmen who ever lived: Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael Sanzio.

Throughout this blog I will be exploring drawing, painting and artistic anatomy. I will be posting some of my own drawings from time to time, done both from life and the imagination (a topic I will discuss in a future post). Look for ongoing posts on the basics of drawing and posts devoted to the basics of human anatomy. I will review any art books that I find interesting and we will look at the great artists of the past and the present.

I selected the three drawings above because they are three of my favorites. Although each of the drawings are different, stylistically, all three show a wonderful sense of volume. Each of the artists had an uncanny ability to draw around the form. Michelangelo used very fine hatching which merged into almost solid tone over the right scapula and on the shadow side of the 7th cervical vertebrae.

Leonardo da Vinci used mostly tone to achieve his effects in this drawing through a technique he called sfumato (a blending of tones to achieve a very smooth transition from light to shadow), although he was able employ a lovely, fine line when he chose to. His choice of this technique in this particular drawing may have had something to do with its being a full-size cartoon (54 3/4"x39 3/4").

Raphael Sanzio used a coarser hatching than Michelangelo which flowed around the contours of his forms in certain places, almost like a computer wireframe model.

Achieving a sense of volume in a drawing is critical to its success(as are gesture, proportion, modeling, perspective...). In a truly fine drawing I like to get the feeling that if I were to lean to one side, I could peer around behind the figure occupying the space in front of me.

Remember, even though you are drawing on a two dimensional surface, life is lived in three dimensions. Learn to measure not simply the height and width of your figures, but their depth as well. Draw as the sculptor sculpts; feel the volumes swell and contract beneath your pencil as it caresses the living, breathing form.