Monday, 28 January 2013

Antonio Mancini: Nineteenth-Century Italian Master. A review.

Antonio Mancini: Nineteenth-Century Italian Master. Cover photo.

Antonio Mancini. The Street Urchin, c. 1868. Oil on canvas.

Antonio Mancini. Scugnizzo with Crucifix, c. 1875. Oil on canvas laid down on board.

Antonio Mancini. The Saltimbanco, c. 1877-78. Oil on canvas.

Antonio Mancini. Sir Hugh Lane, c. 1906. Oil on canvas.
Looking back on my previous posts, I find that I have neglected painting and, to a lesser degree, sculpture, at the expense of drawing. This is owing not to a preference for any of these mediums, but due to my belief that drawing is the foundation of the other two.

Regardless, I would like to rectify that omission with a review of a book I have recently acquired. Antonio Mancini: Nineteenth-Century Italian Master by Ulrich W. Hiesinger was published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007 and is, unfortunately, out of print. Second hand copies are expensive, but Mancini is a neglected painter who deserves more attention and the book is a worthwhile addition to any painter's library.

Mancini was born in 1852 in Rome. During his lifetime he was a celebrated painter who John Singer Sargent referred to as "the greatest living painter." High praise from a genius such as Sargent. Mancini flirted with mental problems during his thirties and financial problems most of his life. But he overcame these obstacles to produce a wonderful body of work. At his best, Mancini employs a mesmerizing understanding of light and a keen insight into his subject that rivals Sargent.

Mancini led an interesting life with numerous problems and I was intrigued by his story as well as his painting. It's a pity that this book isn't more widely available.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Life Drawing Session: January 27.

Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2013. Red chalk with white highlights.

Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2013. Red chalk with white highlights.

I'm posting two drawings from this mornings life drawing session. Both were twenty minute poses and the model earned his pay, indeed, as the heat was not working well.

During the break, I was asked about my feelings concerning measuring when drawing. I've written a previous post on the subject, but the most often neglected and difficult measurement to gauge in drawing is depth, since perspective and foreshortening play such a major role in its calculation. Once again, this is a measurement that you must learn to take by eye. But the key to describing depth is learning to see the overlapping forms. Concentrate on which form is in front and which ones are behind. By emphasizing this overlapping of forms, the depth will become clear to your viewers. It is the illusion of depth that will give your drawings a sense of volume. Two dimensional seeing, leads to two dimensional drawing. Learn to see in three dimensions.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Michelangelo and Bernini: Poetry Verses Drama.

Michelangelo. David, 1501-1504.

Bernini. David, 1623-1624.

Michelangelo. Moses, 1513-1515.

Bernini. St Longinus, 1638.

Michelangelo. Pieta, 1498-1499.

Bernini. Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, 1652.

I fell in love with the work of Michelangelo Buonarroti at an early age, and in love with the human form earlier still. A boy's preoccupation with the heroic figures in comic books led to my discovery of the fantasy drawings of Frank Frazetta, whose mastery of the human form led me directly to Michelangelo - his drawings first of all and, ultimately, his sculpture. I was awed by his confident David, quietly standing in contemplation a moment before facing Goliath, the beautiful line of the gesture flowing through the form; relaxed power in every muscle. It was years before I was aware that any other sculptors existed.

And then I found Gian Lorenzo Bernini. I readily admit to being seduced by the movement in Bernini's sculpture, the glorious drama of it. His David was caught in the midst of the action, impassioned determination chiseled upon his face. Was the gestural line flowing through his figure any less beautiful? It certainly reverberated with more energy.

And, therein, lies the difference between Michelangelo and Bernini: one was an introvert, the other an extrovert, and this difference in character shone through in each man's work. Was one a better sculptor than the other? It comes down to a matter of taste. Poetry or drama; implied action or explicit action. You can see this dichotomy in all the works compared above. Michelangelo's poetic calm verses Bernini's dramatic theatre.

At the end of the day, they were two of the greatest sculptors who ever lived. With Bernini I can see the man's mind at work; his dramatic thought process as he labors to entertain us. But, with Michelangelo, I catch a glimpse of the poetic workings of his soul. He bares a measure of himself that Bernini could not. And its radiance never ceases to move me.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Life Drawing Session, January 20.

Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2013. Red chalk with white highlights.
Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2013. Red chalk with white highlights.
Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2013. Red chalk with white highlights.

I'm posting three figure studies from this mornings life drawing session. All were done in red chalk with white conte highlights and all were thirty minute poses.

The model was a circus performer who was not only able to hold her poses well, but understood what a good pose looked like and was very aware of her body. She had that poise and grace that you so often see with dancers and performers.

A good draftsman should be able to draw any model in any pose, but a good model makes everything much easier. When you discover a good model, you will wish to draw him or her again and again. Especially the ones who put a lot of themselves into the pose; the ones who seem to be able to recreate themselves with every twist and turn of their form.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Figure Study.

Michael Whynot. Figure Study, 2012. Red chalk with white highlights.

Just posting a life drawing done before Christmas. Red chalk with white conte highlights. I'll try to post some more life drawings tomorrow from my Sunday life drawing session.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Drawing of the Day.

Michael Whynot, 2013. Portrait study. Graphite.

Draw something every day. Don't compare yourself to anyone else. There will aways be some some draftsman who is better than you are. Down this path lie feelings of inadequacy.

Ask yourself one question: Is your work better today than it was yesterday? Your goal should be steady improvement. Save every drawing; date them. You will be amazed at your progress when you pull out last years drawings and compare them to your current work. Persevere.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Homage to Frazetta.

Michael Whynot, 2012 (after Frazetta). Graphite.

Frank Frazetta (1928-2010) was, arguably, the greatest fantasy illustrator of the 20th century. His paintings sell for fine art prices. But, as good as they are, I believe Frazetta will be remembered as one of the greatest draftsmen of all time. His pen and ink drawings are, quite simply, some of the best ever done. Some critics dismiss him because of his subject matter, but if they can see past this, they will find a draftsman on par with Michelangelo and Raphael. Students should study and make copies after his works just as they would the renaissance masters. There is a wealth of technique to be learned here. I will post some of his drawings in a future post. Above is my study of one of his sketches.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Facial Study.

Michael Whynot. Facial Study, 2013. Charcoal.

A facial study, done this morning from imagination in compressed charcoal. This is a medium I don't use very often as I have always struggled to get the effect I'm looking for. So easy to cross the line and overwork the subject. It can become messy very quickly. I continue to struggle with it, though.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Marginal Drawings.

Michael Whynot. Pencil drawing, 2013.

Michael Whynot. Red chalk drawing, 2013.

Michael Whynot. Pencil drawing, 2013.

Michael Whynot. Red chalk drawing, 2013.

I strive, daily, to be a better draftsman; all of us who draw do this. It is in our nature. We all endeavour to do better, that which we have a calling to do. It is the trait in human nature which spurs us on to great things.

In the course of writing this blog, I began to notice that I was drawing in the margins of my notebook - no great works of art, to be sure, but I believe that it says something about the mindset necessary if we are to improve our abilities. We must draw constantly (or sculpt, or paint). Practice is the surest path to improvement. Drawing must eclipse all else. It will always be easier to watch television, or read a book, or even write a blog than to put in the necessary time practising. But I know of no other way: practice, practice, practice.

Draw without ceasing; never concede. Draw, even when you can't draw, your mind as your pencil, your memory the paper.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The Study: Foundation of the Creative Process.

Michael Whynot. Head study, 2013. Red chalk.

Design, or as it is called by another name, drawing, constitutes the fountainhead and substance of painting and sculpture and architecture and every other kind of painting and is the root of all knowledge.  (Michelangelo)

Just posting a quick head study (3"x4") done this morning in preparation for a clay figure. Sometimes it is faster to find the pose in chalk than to work directly in the clay. There is such an economy of effort with drawing which allows the artist to explore a range of possibilities he might otherwise neglect. And, it is the process of exploring different concepts in the drawn form, from which can spring a totally unique idea. The act of creation is mysterious, indeed, but I believe drawing plays a fundamental role.

When God created man, I like to imagine that He began by first exploring His concepts for the human form through a series of loose, preliminary drawings before ever committing them to flesh and bone.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Fascinated By Faces.

Michael Whynot. Facial Study, 2012. Red chalk.

Leonardo Da Vinci. Head of a Girl, c. 1483.

Rembrandt van Rijn. Self-portrait in a cap, with eyes wide open, c. 1630.

Pietro Annigoni. Mr. Rydy. Oil, 1949.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Innocent X

The aim of the artist is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. (Aristotle)

A face is not well done, unless it shows a state of mind. (Leonardo Da Vinci)

To be fascinated by the form of the human face is to be fascinated by emotion - for it is through the attitude of its anatomy that emotion is conveyed more readily than through any other part of the body (see my post on hands and feet).

The face is a complex form, made more so by the extensive variety of expressions produced by the facial muscles, and may take the artist years to master.

Structure and likeness are the two aspects of the face most easily studied. Likeness is all about comparative measurement, one feature against another, and, as such, can be distilled down to a mechanical process. And structure is built upon the skull - the boney foundation of the face - and lends itself to anatomical study.

But careful measuring and understanding of the form, while producing an accurate rendering, is not enough. The result may prove unsatisfying if the artist ignores the, less tangible, aspect of emotion; state of mind; expression. The artist must endeavour to understand the state of mind of the subject if they are to produce a work that is more than run of the mill.

And here is where many of us falter, since rendering a state of mind has no easily studied rules and does not lend itself to learning or teaching.

But, having said that, I believe that a fundamental interest in human nature is a fine jumping off point from which to embark. Also, time spent watching the sitter (no measuring allowed) will prove beneficial. A final tool (which you may or may not be able to cultivate) is a sensitive temperament, a trait I believe can be nurtured only by studying yourself, not the sitter. But, when taken seriously, the rewards may be manyfold.

A great work of art is universal, for in it, sitter, artist and viewer each glimpse themselves.